Sunday, 26 January 2014

Waxwings at Martlesham Heath & Snow Buntings at Landguard

With the ridiculous weather forecasting yet more heavy rain today we had a small window of opportunity this morning so headed 70 miles up the A12 to Martlesham Heath arriving at first light quickly finding the Douglas Bader Pub and the Rowan trees in it's courtyard where Waxwings had recently been seen. The trees held a Blackbird a single Redwing and three Fieldfares. A small group of Starlings flew over giving us a false alarm before I spotted a second group which were to be our target. They landed in a tall birch and sat for a while "trilling" before coming to feed on the Rowan berry crop. A total of seven birds were seen in really poor light but the camera came out for a couple of record shots anyway.

Birds of Martlesham Heath
We moved on to Landguard in an attempt to find Snow Buntings before the rains arrives from the west.
On arrival we walked the beach to the point and around to the cafe doing several laps before a coffee break.
By the time the coffee was finished the rain had started but we agreed on one final walk to the point and got lucky when a flock of ten Snow Buntings flew up in front of Jimmy giving us great close views spoilt only by the grey wet weather. Gull numbers at Languard were good as we noted Little Gull, Kittiwake and Med Gulls in amongst the other more common flavours.  A diver was seen passing before we left wet and cold but with three more year ticks in the bag.

Med Gull at Landguard
Snow Bunting at Landguard

2014 Year list now at 128

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Elmley, Capel Fleet and Oare Marsh

We decided to head down the A2 in search of sunlight rather than any particular birds. First stop was Elmley where the fields are soaked giving the birds all the water they need but keeping most distant from the track. We connected with a Marsh Harrier as we drove to the farm and a pair of Barn Owl hunted briefly before returning to the roosting box behind the toilet block. The pool held large numbers of Wigeon, Shelduck and Teal and around the edges were volumes of Lapwing and Golden Plover but little else of note. The drive back gave up Skylark and dozens of Curlew.

Barn Owl at Elmley
Barn Owl 
Going to roost
After Elmley we paid a visit to Capel Fleet and found Kestrel, Sparrowhawk, Common Buzzard,  Marsh and Hen Harrier along with the ever present Corn Buntings.

Mash Harrier
Reports had now come in that yesterdays pair of Glossy Ibis had been seen across the water at Oare so we made the drive only to discover they had flown back over the Swale. We waited a while and before long I connected with the birds flying high as they circled over the marsh before they departed high to the south. Oare held Ruff, Dunlin, Golden Plover, Lapwings and Little Egrets along with what has to be the quietest Cetti's Warbler I've ever heard.

Glossy Ibis
The year list has now moved to 125 with Egyptian Goose also seen at Elmley.

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Wallasea Island and Abberton Reservoir

We decided on a trip down to Wallasea Island in South East Essex today hoping to connect with a few raptors for our trouble. Arriving at dawn we were quickly on to a single Short-eared Owl that soon dropped out of site although could be heard calling for a while. A Marsh Harrier then quartered the fields before we connected with our first of two Ring-tailed Hen Harriers. Kestrels hovered overhead and a Peregrine put up the Lapwings for a while. Scanning the fields I located a nice Merlin sitting on a fence post which then flew off low at pace giving good views as it did. Corn Buntings continue to do well here and a few obliged the camera sitting out in full early morning sunshine despite the sub-zero temperatures.

Hen Harrier hunting over Wallasea Island at dawn
Hen Harrier at Wallasea Island showing just how fragile the habitat is.
After a while watching the Harriers we moved on to make a short trip up the A12 to Abberton. At Leyer Breton causeway we watched as a couple of really smart male Smew fished close to our end of the reservoir before located three more at the opposite end (2 males and a female) Two male Red-crested Pochard swam with the numerous Common Pochard here too. We looked through the Greylags for reported White-fronted Geese but failed to find any, not helped by the fact that most were sleeping and had no heads. Snipe were added to the year list before we moved to the new causeway by the reserve centre. Here we bumped into Nick C. Goldeneye, Pintail were the highlights here although what appeared to be a couple of Goosanders flew over too. We paid a quick visit to the new reserve centre and I enjoyed a nice Chicken Tikka Panini and a coffee before stopping off at Leyer Breton once more where Nick had by now found the White-fronts grazing and he obligingly put us on them before then finding a pair of Scaup to share with the group. Thanks Nick!

Black-headed Gull
Common Gull

Nice day in the home county today, frosty and cold but nice to see a bit of blue in the sky for a change.
Year list now at 120 thanks to the above and a fly over Green Woodpecker.

Saturday, 11 January 2014

Rainham Marsh

I popped into Rainham on the way home from work today where I was lucky to get on a distant Caspian Gull roosting on Wennington Marsh. A Marsh Harrier hunted and the reserve held many gulls, ducks, geese and a large flock of Lapwing with several Curlew. Herons as always were hunting in good numbers and a Little Grebe fished in the pool from Serin mound whilst Goldfinches were in good voice.

On the walk along the sea wall I had a pair of Stonechat and a single Rock Pipit for my trouble but I failed to find the White-fronted Geese reported as being present.

As I left the car park at the stone barges I noticed a Fox snoozing on a lump of concrete so stopped to take a couple of photographs. He lifted his head to check me out and then went back to sleep enjoying the sunshine.

A nice visit giving me four year ticks taking this years total to a healthy 111.

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Hume's Leaf Warbler at Dungerness

During the week I have stopped off at Connaught Water a couple of times to get my first Smew, Mute Swan, Canada Geese, Great Crested Grebe and Mandarin Duck of the year along with RN Parakeet as a fly over from the car park at work.

Today though we visited our favoured spot in Kent. We started well with a Great White Egret on ARC pit as we drove towards the beach at Dungeness bagging a Kestrel too further down the road. From the sea watch hide I located a single Fulmar and Razorbill along with good numbers of Gannet, Common Scoter and Great Crested Grebe. Lot's of gulls had gathered to feed on the patch and a few Kittiwakes were picked out here.
The pager bleaped to say that the Hume's Leaf Warbler was showing well in the trapping area so we made the short drive to the bird observatory where we packed up and headed out beyond the moat towards the bushes of the trapping area. The place is flooded and wellington boots are a must if you plan a visit as the water in the trapping area is up to 10 inches deep in places. On arrival we found Dave B. hiding in the bushes and then heard the elusive warbler calling before Dave kindly helped us get on to it for a very brief view. We were to see the bird a couple more times but it never stopped "flitting" along n the bushes so photographic opportunities were zero. I found my first Chiffchaff of 2014 here too.

Back at ARC we scanned the opposite pit (New Diggings) and found two Black-throated Diver a female Goosander and a single Little Gull before parking at Boulderwall Farm to watch the Tree Sparrows for a while where a Peregrine buzzed the large flock of Lapwings present and Marsh Harriers hunted the reeds.
On the reserve we found more Goosander and I watch a Gt Spotted Woodpecker fly across the pit. A Smew briefly appeared but we failed to find the reported Black-necked Grebe.
We then drove through Lydd and found a small group of Bewick's Swan and Stock Doves before making our way to Scotney Gravel Pits in search of a reported Long-tailed Duck. We found a diver on the pit that had been reported as Black-throated but it looks to us like a Great Northern and I think the pictures back that change up so have at this point listed it as GND. back at the Kent end of the pits we were put on the LTD by some locals and then added a final tick of the day when a Buzzard was seen as we drove back up the M20.
Year list boosted by 20 today and now sitting at 107 after five days AND our first lifer of the year also bagged with the Hume's Leaf Warbler.

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

A wet start to 2014

After checking the weather I abandoned my plans to head down to Devon this morning, the wind the rain and the distance all factors along with the only part of the UK promising a dry morning being Norfolk.
So I collected the Jims and we headed up the A10 towards Titchwell for our first day listing for 2014.

On the way up the A10 we connected with three Barn Owls thus for the third year running it has been our first bird of the year. At Titchwell we headed along the footpath towards the sea ticking at a good rate as we walked. On the beach we located  several waders whilst the sea held Common Scoter, Goldeneye and Red-throated Diver. After Titchwell we moved on to Brancaster Staithe before the rain started to fall and proceeded to get heavier and heavier in wind that got stronger and stronger. We headed for cover at Sculthorpe Moor and located several good woodland ticks including a nice Tawny Owl sitting on top of it's nest box by Fen hide. I also found a Treecreeper here which pleased me as last year it proved a little difficult to find my first one. Our last call was to visit Edgefield where a Glaucous Gull and Parrot Crossbill had been seen today but we failed to connect with either bird due to our late arrival and the appalling weather but I did have Common Crossbill fly over whilst at the Parrot site. So I've kicked off the year with 81 birds seen today which in the conditions is not too shabby a start but I'll be out again at the weekend trying to push it through the 100 mark quick time and hoping the weather is a little kinder.