Wednesday 30 April 2014




Something needs to change and hopefully enough people will take the time to write to their MEP's and force them to take up the issue and challenge Malta and the aged culture they have in shooting anything that flies over the island.

Sunday 27 April 2014

Dunge delivers

We headed down to Dungeness this morning hoping that yesterday's weather and good sea passage would be repeated. The forecast was for quite strong south easterly winds but on arrival the wind was more southerly and if you like "right in your face" so standing on the beach at 6am was quite testing as we started our sea watch. The patch was alive with Common Terns and large numbers of Arctic Terns moved through too. We had five Arctic Skua and two Great Skua in the couple of hours we gave to the sea watch one of each coming in really close giving excellent views. Hundreds of Common Scoter flew west and were joined by three very close Eider Ducks. A small group of Barwits and Knot made up the wader count. A pair of Peregrine kept coming to the patch trying to catch a Tern for lunch but failed on the visits we witnessed. Four Red-throated and a single Black-throated Diver flew west before we moved on to the RSPB reserve. On ARC pit we had two Black Terns in with the commics and a Little Tern gave us another year tick. A Buzzard flew over and was chased off by the local Crows.

Black-winged Stilt at Dungeness
Grey Heron
Black-winged Stilts
Wood Sandpiper
On the reserve we found two Black-winged Stilts and they were accompanied by a bonus bird in the form of a Wood Sandpiper, on the walk back we saw a pair of Ravens display and a Marsh Harrier hunting. We popped into Scotney GP's on the way out and picked up two smart adult Little Gulls and then made our way to Elmley where we enjoyed good views of some smart birds but with the poor light on offer the camera was struggling. (or my technical ability was left wanting) A smart day again at Dunge etc. and here's hoping we manage to catch a little bit of the Pom passage expected in early May.

Lapwing chick
Marsh Harrier
Yellow Wagtail

206 on the year list now

Monday 21 April 2014

One for two ton!

Well the Easter weekend if closing in and it's been quite good to me. Dotterel and Ring Ouzel the undoubted highlights but also good to catch my first Sand & House Martins, Common Sand, Common Tern and Yellow Wagtail. My year list has jumped to 199 leaving just one to get to 200 inside four months.
This mornings little amble around the King George reservoir in Chingford gave up the Terns, Sandpiper and Yellow Wag before a brief stop at Sewardstone marsh on the way home delivered a single House Martin and my third Cuckoo of the weekend too. The Common Whitethroats are in and seem to be everywhere now whilst it also seems a good year for Lesser WT's too. Reed and Sedge warblers are in and I've also had my first Garden Warbler of 2014. Blackcaps are now seen around every corner and Nightingales are singing in the usual spots around the valley. What a difference a week makes!

Starling in the garden
Back at home and I'm trying to get a couple of close ups of the Starlings in the garden when a Sprawk comes over. To my surprise the Starlings ambushed it and drove it away.

Sparrowhawk over the garden

Right now where can I get that 200th tick????

ps...The special one was ten today!

Tia.......The special one.

Sunday 20 April 2014

Dotterel at Kessingland

We set off this morning with a plan to stop at Landguard and check for any migrants that may have dropped in and whilst there wait for news on yesterdays Dotterel in Kessingland. Landguard was dead save a fly over Red-rumped Swallow that we managed to miss. At 8am news came through of the Dotterel having stopped over night so we jumped in the car and headed north up the A12 arriving in Kessingland around 9am. We parked in the caravan park and walked out to the beach. Luckily a small group of birders already had the target in scope so we joined them a few yards up the shingle and enjoyed the bird as it wondered up and down feeding happily in the grassy edges between the shingle. We moved on towards the sluice and bagged no less than five Ring Ouzel here along with several Wheatear and plenty of Linnets and Whitethroats etc. A small group of Swallows were busy over the cow field but after scanning I only found a Sand Martin for my trouble but no sign of a Red-rump I'd hoped for amongst them.

Dotterel at Kessingland
Ring Ouzel at Kessingland
On the way out we stopped to check out the Dotterel again with a few other birders and again it looked very settled and was giving plenty of visitors good views. As we left I thought I'd let a dog walker know what the small crowd was doing as he was about to let his dog run straight through the patch. "Excuse me" I said politely.." There's a bird in that patch of grass that all those people are watching so you may want to take your dog behind them to avoid flushing it" The request was not what I expected and I quote..." I walk here everyday and I'll go where I (insert suitable expletive) want."  My reply was as follows "I wasn't telling you what to do and don't care what you do, I wasn't rude to you and don't expect you to be rude to me all I was saying was the route behind the birders rather than the one you are about to take might result in the bird staying put for others to enjoy but do what ever you want to do just don't try to provoke an argument when I simply asked you to consider the other people on the beach"
He put his big macho tail between his legs and walked off BEHIND the birders.....He could have just thanked me for pointing it out and then walked behind them and saved me having to put him right twice.
On the flip side I bumped into a guy with four dogs all on leads who asked me what the crowd was about and then after chatting went on to enjoy views of both Ring Ouzel and Dotterel so It's not all dog walkers that act like Tw*ts it's just that some Tw*ts walk dogs!

Redshank at Minsmere
Anyway that little drama over and we drove back down the A12 stopping briefly at Minsmere where the Sand Martins colony seems to bb thriving. A cuckoo was heard and several deers came close enough for a photo opportunity. No Terns yet at Minsmere which surprised me but I guess they'll be in at some point in the next few days. So just the three year ticks for me today taking my year list to 195 The Jim's however bagged a lifer with the Dotterel so went home even happier than me. Arsenal beating Hull made for a pleasant journey down the A12 home too.

Red Deer at Minsmere
Sand Martin at Minsmere
I had a go at digiscoping the dotterel too adaptor just held my phone to the scope and tried to cover the lens to restrict the light......the result was the image below which I didn't think was a bad effort.
Next I'm going to make a jam jar lid this space.

Digiscoped Dotterel

Saturday 19 April 2014

Lee Valley and less is more

A quick dawn raid had me sitting in prime Nightingale territory ready for the dawn chorus this morning and I wasn't disappointed as five or more birds started to sing their little hearts out at first light. A couple showed but not whilst any light would run through my camera lens so I kept it tucked away and enjoyed the song.
Blackcaps, Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Wren, Robin, Blackbird and Song Thrush all competed as the chorus got into full voice.

My first Garden Warbler of 2014 was followed shortly after with my first Common Whitethroat.
A walk further round the track and over the bridge brought me back on the path towards Friday Lake where I stopped and spent some time scanning the bushes. I picked up a smart pair of Bullfinch before a pair of Linnets decided to drop in. Linnets are not something I've seen before in the park so that was a nice tick and then the best bird of the day appeared, a very smart (until a Sprawk flew overhead) and vocal Lesser Whitethroat. The walk back around Friday lake to the car park gave me several Reed and Sedge Warblers for yet another two year ticks which took my 2014 list to 192


Nightingale in full song
And after a little work with PS!

Back at the car and I find Jimmy has arrived and parked next to me so a quick phone call let's him know what I've seen and where in the hope it might give him a couple of year ticks too.

Friday 18 April 2014

Finally found the elusive Baikal Teal at Pymoor Cambridgeshire

We decided to head up the M11 this morning intent on searching for the Baikal Teal that the Jim's dipped on a week or so ago, On route I headed off on a short detour into Hertfordshire where I'd had a tip off regarding Lesser spotted Woodpecker activity and sure enough within a couple of minutes of our arrival we were looking at our first LSP for a year.
Lesser spotted Woodpecker
The little cracker showed really well giving us our best ever views. With distant record shots taken we returned to our planned route up the M11/A10 into Pymoor Cambridgeshire. On arrival a small group of birders had the target in scope although quite distant but before we could climb the bank the bird had exited the pool and was now back under cover of the reeds. We watched for a while as Teal, Shoveler, Shelduck, Pintail, Wigeon, Mute Swan, Cormorant and Lapwing came and went but eventually the Asian visitor came back out to reveal it's splendor to the small crowd and with a bit of scope sharing we all managed a view before it sloped back off to the cover of the reed bed. Satisfied with our distant views of this lifer (allowing for it's acceptance onto the British list which seems likely) we headed back to the car and made the 20 mile drive across to Lynford.

Scanning the drinking pool by the visitor centre we found a small group of Common Crossbill before a male Two-barred came in to the trees. This seemed to be the moulting bird not the full adult we'd hoped to connect with. We walked further down the track and had good views of a Hawfinch sat high in the tree tops and then to our surprise heard our second LSW of the day. We walked along the footpath into the woods and found the little woodpecker although our view this time was only of it flying away. Grey Wagtails came in to visit the drinking pool and Goldcrest looked to be nest building as a pair gathered material.
On the walk back we were delighted to find the adult male and female Two-barred Crossbill in with a group of Crossbill. The male then isolated itself on top of the trees to give splendid scope views.

Two-barred Crossbill
We returned then to the car park and made our journey south with four year ticks and a possible lifer should the teal get it's expected acceptance.

Grey Wagtail
Red-legged Partridge

Sunday 13 April 2014

Quick trip to the Valley gives the year list a boost

Having had a day in doors or gardening to be more accurate I managed to slope off for a couple of hours for an evening walk around Lee Valley. First off I had a nice pair of Bullfinch fly along the river before the Lon-tailed Tits came along to entertain me for a while.

Long-tailed Tit
Further up the river and I found my first Willow Warbler of 2014 although it was outnumbered by the very vocal Chiffchaffs. As I arrived at the weir a Grey Heron flew across and as I scanned the hill behind the farm I found at least five Buzzards circling overhead and a Sparrowhawk also flew over.

Grey Heron
As I was watching the Buzzards I noticed my first Swallows of the year flying high above Holyfield lake and then started my return leg. A distant Cuckoo was heard calling and after sitting on the Nightingale bench by the power station I managed to hear a single bird although five had been heard earlier today but it's great to hear them again. I'd hoped for a Sedge Warbler, Common Tern and Whitethroat but these all failed to show today however I'm sure i'll connect with them by next weekend.

Back at the car and a Pheasant was showing off so I grabbed a shot of it before heading home. Also got some good info on a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker location which I'm sure will pay off in the next week or two.


Friday 11 April 2014

Britains first Black-winged Stilts of 2014 drop in at Bowers Marsh

News broke today of a couple of Black-winged Stilts making it across the channel and dropping in for a stop at Bowers Marsh so we headed off down there after work. The car park in Church Road was closed so we parked in the approach lane and walked to the main pool on the RSPB reserve where a couple of locals had the two Stilts in view across the far side of the pool. We enjoyed an hour or so watching them and the company of Harry & Barry before passing Lee B on the way out. Great birds to catch as a bonus year tick and whilst not quite up there in mega status with Rutlands Pied-billed Grebe or Flamboroughs Crag Martin they were a nice local evening tick for us.

Two Black-winged Stilts at Bowers Marsh
I think these are the first Stilts to visit our shores this year making the tick a little more special.
Year list now at 179

Wednesday 9 April 2014

Hoopoe at Snodland

Having picked up a Blackcap at Lee Valley on Sunday afternoon for tick 177 I moved the year list on again today by catching up with the over wintering Hoopoe at Snodland in Kent.

Hoopoe at Snodland in Kent 
I had two work meetings in the Brands Hatch area so thought it would be rude not to give the bird a go. I parked up in the Golf Club car park and walked the length of the first hole along the tree line to the right of the car park. Turning right at the end I headed through a small orchard to the sand pit where the bird has been seen on occasion. With no joy here I headed back down the lane to check the gardens and paddocks behind the vets office. I then checked the small footpath behind the barn and was about to give up when I saw another public footpath sign taking me up behind the farm. I thought I'd bump into somebody else with it being half term and all that but in my search for the target I didn't encounter a single birder but I kept left intent on checking the garden and after a short walk I found a small track through the bramble that looked to have seen some recent traffic so gave it a try. As I reached the fence of the farms garden I scanned away from the farm towards to top of the garden and BINGO...HOOPOE feeding under the trees. I watched it for a while and even grabbed a few distant shots before heading back to work with tick 178 for 2014 in the bag.


Sunday 6 April 2014

A few more images from Scotland

Song Thrush
Mistle Thrush
Hooded Crow
American Coot
Red Grouse
Red Grouse showing the insulation on the legs

Hen Harrier