Sunday, 22 June 2014

More of the Eagle with supporting cast

I travelled alone this morning to get another fix of the Snake Eagle in Ashdown Forest and wasn't disappointed. It wasn't long after arriving that the bird was spotted sitting on top of a tree from Gills Lap car park and minutes later I was in place enjoying good but distant views. I walked to the far side of the valley to get a better view without the sun in my face and was rewarded as when the bird finally left the tree it flew south and although quite high it drifted right over my head.


I moved back to Long car park and walked the trails enjoying the supporting cast of Redstart, Stonechat, Tree Pipit, Woodlark, Buzzard and Redpoll before leaving after filling a memory card with Stonechat shots.
I was lucky enough to have a family come to me as I sat watching Buzzards as is often the case the longer you sit still the more comes to see you.

Tree Pipit
Juvenile Stonechat
Female Stonechat
Newly Fledged Stonechat

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Nightjar in the Brecks

We gave up Brazil v Mexico tonight in order to make our annual visit to the Brecks in search of Nightjar.
Arriving in the woodland clearing at around 9pm we enjoyed a displaying Woodlark for a while as the sun went down behind the trees and a Buzzard flew to roost. At 10pm it was still light and we had good views of ten Woodcock as they flew over the clearing some were calling well too. Tawny Owls called around us and several large Bats hunted over the trees. At around 10.15pm we heard our first Nightjar churring and shortly after had one flying around above our heads as the light started to fade away.
Another successful night and the year list moves along to 227.

Whilst eating dinner this evening the birds in the garden went into a frenzy and thanks to the visitor below the world has one less Starling in it.

Sparrowhawk with juvenile Starling in the garden this afternoon

Sunday, 15 June 2014

The Eagle has landed!

I missed the Short-toed Eagle in Dorset due to family commitments the day it roosted and couldn't get down to Hampshire to connect either then a bird (seemingly a different bird) is reported in Essex but isn't tied down so when another is reported this morning I'm quick on the blower to the Jims to arrange the trip.
Ten minutes later I'm in the car heading towards the M25 with one Jim (The old fella opted out). We make the 60 mile journey in good time despite leafy lanes and a brief hunt for diesel which was a bit too close to a dry tank for my liking but we made it.
Short-toed Eagle in Ashdown Forest East Sussex
Arriving at Ashdown Forest we found the hill car park that the bird had been reported from and a small group of birders including Harry and Mick D. A couple of Common Buzzard were seen here before we headed off in search of a better view of the valley. We pulled into a car park near the visitor centre just as news broke that the bird was now at Long car park. We raced off in a little twitch convoy and pulled into the car park a couple of minutes later. A short walk and we find another group of c50 birders (Paul R, Gary B, Dave B to name a few) all watching empty space where the Eagle had been a few minutes earlier. Within a few minutes the shout went up....Got it!
The twitch!
The bird was sitting at the top of a pine tree right out in the open and we all managed to get on it with terrific scope views before it took to the air again circling over us as it drifted away.

Short-toed Eagle Ashdown Forest
We walked further down the track leaving most of the gathered masses behind and found a nice spot to scan the valley. After a few minutes I spotted a couple of Hobby in the distance then a Buzzard and then another birder calls it again....EAGLE! and sure enough the bird is flying over the tree tops towards us and once again circles over our heads before gaining height. A Buzzard comes up to meet it and as we scope we realise we have a Honey Buzzard, both birds had a brief interaction before drifting off and out of view.

Honey Buzzard

A terrific day and another place we'll be sure to return to.
Year list now 225 and Life list now 343 (The Eagle was my eighth lifer of the year)

The Eagle sitting in the pine (poor attempt at Phone and Scope combo)

Friday, 13 June 2014

Black-winged Stilts breeding in Kent


With our changing climate it had to happen sometime soon and it seems 2014 is the year when Black-winged Stilts decided to breed once again in Britain and long may it continue.

Stilts breeding in Kent 
Little Egret has to be one of the most successful breeding additions to British lists as the first ones decided to breed in Dorset back in 1996 and look at them now, you can't go out in the southeast without seeing them. (Even a regular fly over on my garden list).

UPDATE: Now three chicks and all affording 24 hour RSPB protection!
REVISED 14th June: Kent pair now have four chicks
FURTHER UPDATE 14th June : Another pair now have three chicks in West Sussex

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Birding East Kent

I'm in the mood for Honey Buzzard and nearly set off north with that in mind this morning but the other half of my brain got the better of me and I headed off to Kent with Jim (leaving the old fella nursing his dodgy leg)
First stop was Grove Ferry where Jim found himself a nice Turtle Dove. We added Marsh Harrier, Common Tern, Cuckoo, Reed-Cetti's and Sedge Warbler, Bullfinch and Whitethroat along with Reed Bunting before moving on to Stodmarsh.

Here we had Bittern, Cuckoo, Marsh Harrier, Buzzard, Hobby, Bearded Tit and a few others for our trouble. Cuckoo's seem to be doing really well this year as do Bullfinch.


We spent some time scanning the sky hoping for something a bit special and have to admit twitching a little when news of the Short Toed Eagle in Hampshire came through but being 155miles and likely to move on as soon as the thermals were good enough we decided to stick with Kent so we moved on to Elmley on our way back up the A2 and here we found good numbers of Lapwing and Redshank with young and they too seem to have had a very good year in Kent. Marsh Harrier, Skylark and Yellow Wagtail made up the numbers here.

Little Egret

News of two Honey Buzzard at Wykeham this morning and one over Leyton had me wanting the bird just a little more if that were possible.

No ticks today but a decent day with Jim down in Sunny Kent and at least he picked up a tick with the T Dove.....and Honey Buzzard remains on the "to do" list for this year.

Friday, 6 June 2014

Reviewing my poor 2014 list

I was thinking my numbers were a bit low this year so thought I'd take a look back against last year and found that I'm 26 down on this time last year.

These 34 are missing year on year

2014 Missing list

 Some you can understand......

Lesser Canada Goose (A bit plastic anyway perhaps)

Dusky Thrush, Buff-bellied Pipit, Pied-billed Grebe.....Not expected annually but the rest all possible if I had more money and time to go looking for them.

Some are almost givens for me later this year and some I could pull back given a little luck and a bit more effort but I feel a few have slipped away for sure like Caper and Ptarmigan as I can't see a Scotland trip happening again this year.

On a positive note I have seen a few new birds this year with a few lifers thrown in for good measure

Baikal Teal (Perhaps a little premature to be included but we live in hope)
American Coot
Red-rumped Swallow
Hume's Warbler
Spectacled Warbler
Blyth's Reed Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Hoopoe (Didn't get one at all last year)

A few more shots from Wales this week

Common Buzzard
Herring Gull
Female Pied Flycatcher 
Male Pied Flycatcher
Check out the below link for trip details

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Wales and the usual suspects again

Our annual Welsh pilgrimage took place this week and didn't disappoint.
Common Buzzard
First on route to Skomer we stopped off at the Wetlands Centre in Newport (a 7 mile detour) and after walking the wrong way around the reserve costing us an additional 3km we finally found the target reeling away a few hundred yards from the car park. The bird showed really well and down to just a few feet away.

Savi's Warbler
We moved on to the Deer Park at Marloes and I booked on a round island boat trip as landing on Skomer was fully booked. (Tuesday is always tricky as they don't run boats on Monday)
We walked the headland finding first Wheatears then a pair of Chough flying over calling. Ravens then took our attention before a Fulmar came along to Jim a much needed year tick. From our vantage point on the Deer Park we scoped the see to find it full of Guillemot, Razorbill and Puffins. Gannets hunted and both Shag and Cormorant flew past. I boarded the boat and headed off around the Island in calm waters and enjoyed close waters of the auks feeding and a pod of Dolphin drifting along.

Puffin in flight
We checked in to our digs and then headed off to Strumble Head where we watched as the Manx Shearwaters returned from a day at sea. Gannets and more Dolpin also entertained us here.
On route we had diverted to find Dipper at Blackpool mill which usually pays off and did again this year but we had an added bonus with a Buzzard taking advantage of the gardeners strimming which was obviously moving a few rodents for the bird to feast on. The photo opportunity was too good to miss.

Common Buzzard with kill
This morning we headed off early to Dinas RSPB. The weather was against us with grey skies and constant rain but we soldiered on and managed to find our target birds. Pied Flycatchers were visible coming and going from there nest boxes and five pairs of Spotted Flycatcher was seen along the boardwalk area.
Plenty of Wood Warblers called and one showed very well for us. We had to walk a bit further to finally find our first Tree Pipits of 2014 but we did find a couple calling which showed high up in the branches. Redstarts seem to have had a bad year here and only a couple were seen. On exiting I had a chat with the guy that reports on breeding performance at the reserve and he travels up from London to spend a month each year ringing etc which I suppose is a tough gig but someone has to do it.

Wood Warbler
Our final trip was up to Gilfach Farm where the rain again made for a rather damp experience. Although the Redstarts where coming and going and a pair of Pied Fly had set up nest in the car park the camera didn't much action. Pip explained that the reserve management have put in new rules this year.
1) No tripods or monopods to be used around the forecourt
2) No feeding the birds on any part of the reserve
3) No playing of tapes or recordings to lure birds

All three sensible rules brought about I suppose by people over stepping the mark on all fronts.
I totally agree with the recording part as these are breeding birds but can't help think they've missed a trick with regards to photographers. Most would pay on site to feed and make a donation for being able to set up in the courtyard to enjoy the stunning birds on site. Good for the Photographers, good for the birds and good for the trust you would have thought????

Anyway a good trip that has moved the year list on to 223.
I can't wait to return.

Monday, 2 June 2014

Spectacled Warbler at Burnham Overy

We decided to try for the Black-headed Bunting at the pig farm in West Runton today and arrived on site at 7am to find a group of around fifteen other birders already there but reporting negative news. We waited over two hours noting several Whitethroat, Goldfinch, Linnet, Dunnock etc but no sign of the Bunting.
A Barn Owl came out to hunt the field in front of us and break the boredom.

Barn Owl dive
Barn Owl
Barn Owl
We headed across Norfolk stopping at Choseley where we found Grey Partridge but the reported Turtle Doves failed to show so we moved on to Titchwell where a nice walk out through the reserve gave us good views of Avocet, Godwits, LRP's, Red Crested Pochard and Spoonbill to name a few.


As we headed back down the track the pager bleeped into life with news of a Mega at Burnham Overy.
A Spectacled Warbler had been reported and within half an hour we had pulled up at the layby on the A149 and started the long walk down to the dunes. We made the boardwalk and could see a couple of birders close to Gunn Hill so headed of west towards them arriving to news that the bird was in the bushes n fron of them and straight away we heard it calling. Within a couple of minutes we were enjoying good scope views of the lifer. The bird them flew off back towards the boardwalk were we sat and waited with a crowd swelling towards the fifty or so mark. Once the bird flew back to Gunn Hill we left it to the gathered crowd and made our way back along the track were we enjoyed good views of Little Tern.

Distant record shot of the Spectacled Warbler
The Twitch (this within an hour of the news breaking)

a cracking result after the mornings dip.

Year list now 213