Saturday 31 January 2015

Serins at Gunners Park Essex

A call from the Jims today had me meeting up with them on the way to Southend. We arrived at Gunners Park around 12pm ish and the news was that the birds hadn't been seen since the early morning reports.
I took a walk around the place leaving a small group of birders at the car park waiting and hoping for the Serins to drop in. I was papping a Redshank when Jimmy called to let me know the Serins had returned so with a little sprint jog I was back at the car park and soon had both Serins in my bins and even managed a record shot of the little crackers.

Serin at Gunners Park Essex
The birds moved on and so did the gathered birders so I took the opportunity to move down for a couple of shots of a Little Egret. We moved back along the sea front and located at least nine Med Gulls on the beach opposite Rossi's. Also feeding on the shore were Sanderling, Turnstone, Redshank and hundreds of Dunlin.
On the water were large numbers of Brent Geese.

Little Egret
Our final stop on this whistle stop tour was Wallasea where we found large groups of Linnet and Corn Bunting before spotting the Rough legged Buzzard hovering in the distance. As the snow fell the bird showed really well as it hunted the entire length of the marsh arriving at the white gates where it sat on the bank giving fantastic scope views. We had a very brief SEO as one poppoed up to interact with the Buzzard.

Med Gull at Westcliff
So a nice afternoons birding giving us our best ever views of Serin and an Essex tick to boot!.

Year list now at 136

Thursday 29 January 2015

Scotland 2015 trip booked!

Our annual trip to Scotland has been booked

Thursday 2nd April we board an Easyjet flight at Stanstead heading to Glasgow where we pick up the hire car and make our way north into the Highlands. Staying in Fort William we'll be searching for those Scottish specialities all over again.

Can't wait!

A once in a lifetime experience from 2013's trip

Monday 26 January 2015

Image printed in Birdwatch magazine

Front Cover
The postman delivered my copy of 'Birdwatch' this morning and as I skipped through the pages it was nice to notice one of my images printed on the pages.
The magazine had asked for some of my Cattle Egret shots from Dunge but hadn't made any commitment to use them so it was pleasing to see they'd chosen my shot for the spread.                                                                        

The Spread

The original

Sunday 25 January 2015

Surf Scoter at Wrabness ESSEX

The view from Bradfield
I've watched the reports of Surf Scoter coming in for a while now as the first winter drake seems to have decided it's an Essex bird so this morning we headed off up the A12 to Bradfield arriving at first light we parked on the main road and walked down Shore Lane to the estuary shore. We scanned and scanned in the freezing conditions and found lots of Goldeneye, Brent Geese, Mergansers, Great Crested Grebe and a couple of small Grebes (probably Slav's). The estuary was full of waders with Avocet, Dunlin, Grey Plover, Lapwing, Ringed Plover, Curlew and Oyster Catcher a few of those encountered. With no joy from this vantage point we returned to the car and drove to Wrabness parking in the wildlife reserve car park and walking the tarmac path to the bird hide which overlooks the estuary. On arrival a couple of birders were already scanning but had not seen the Scoter. As I raised my bins I spotted a dark duck on the near side of the water and quickly put the others onto what I suspected was our target. To their delight and my relief it was indeed the Surf Scoter and it gave us all great scope views as the light improved.
I took a record shot.

Surf Scoter.
On the walk back to the car we found a small group of Bullfinch for another year tick and I had a fly over Peregrine for tick number three for the day. We moved onto Abberton and from Layer Breton causeway Jim found us a Bittern in the far reed bed and three Smew (two drakes) which again remained distant. The Island held a group of Snipe and despite reports whilst there we failed to connect with the White-fronted Geese.

Grey Goose
Year list now at 134

A have a few birds from last January's total still not seen this year and with only one more Saturday in January these could all remain missing. I have seen a few more than last January's total at this point so so not all bad news. I think overall I'm up six!

Sunday 18 January 2015

Lynford for Hawfinch

A nice morning in Norfolk with a first stop at Lynford Arboretum in search of Hawfinch. As we walked down to the paddock we enjoyed our first Marsh Tits of 2015 and then Jimmy found our target in the Hornbeams of the paddock. The single bird sat on top of the tree but soon moved lower to feed so we watched for around 40 minutes as it performed and gave great scope views.

Marsh Tit
Several Goldcrest were heard and a single bird was seen. A large flock of Siskin flew high in the Alders and a group of Redwing were also seen here. Further down to the second bridge and I found a single Brambling whilst the Jims were off enjoying good views of Kingfisher. As we walked back along the path I had a second Brambling feeding with Chaffinch and Siskin but a dog walker flushed it before the Jims could get the tick. Back at the house and despite Brambling being seen earlier by other birders we found none having to settle for a Grey Wagtail as our prize here. Greater spotted Woodpecker, Treecreeper and Nuthatch were all added to the days totals here.

Coal Tit
With the Jims now even more determined to tick Brambling today we headed off to the car park at Santon Downham where we did eventually find the target amongst a large tit flock containing many Coal Tits.
Another Treecreeper was seen before we headed off and a quick stop at the layby gave us distant views of the wintering Great Grey Shrike. Once seen we had to make the 400m walk to view at closer quarters but the bird remained distant during the visit.

A nice mornings birding adding five year ticks and bringing the year list to 131.

Saturday 17 January 2015

Epping Forest Fox

An afternoon stroll around a very frozen Connaught Water and then the Epping Forest Centre at High Beach delivered little in terms of birds. A Sparrowhawk and Nuthatch being the highlights but as I walked the trail at the Forest centre a Fox came walking towards me. He stopped looked me up and down weighed up a detour to the left or right then decided to stay on his track and walked right on passing within a couple of feet of me. A nice encounter especially as I had the camera in hand and managed to grab a few images.


Thursday 15 January 2015

Date for the diary


That's the day the people of Malta get to vote on ending or continuing with the annual spring hunt.
The spring hunt currently allows the hunters (estimated at over 11,000 people) to hunt kill thousands of Quail and Turtle Dove as they pass over the island on migration.

Let's hope the rest of the island finds the strength to vote for the ban with the government promising that a negative vote would stop the shooting and save tens of thousands of birds being killed this spring.

You never know we may even get to see of few survivors making it all the way to our Island where they'll be greeted by the camera and not the gun, not that we don't have a few lessons to learn ourselves, did somebody say Hen Harrier!

Anyway fingers crossed for the vote and here's to a decent weekend of birding ahead.

Sunday 11 January 2015

Windy Wallasea

We enjoyed a windy visit to Wallasea this morning where it was freezing cold with the strong winds biting into the skin as we stood scanning from the sea wall.

Corn Bunting
Our reward for the session was Merlin, Rough-legged Buzzard, Hen Harrier and Marsh Harrier. Large flocks of both Corn Bunting and Linnet flew around the reserve and a big group of Starling were also seen.
Two Stonechats gave the camera a workout around the edges of the car park and on the wader front we had Lapwings, Golden Plover, Redshank and a heard only Greenshank.

Starlings on the move to avoid the Merlin
The Merlin was seen hunting Starlings and then sitting in the green field by the car park before taking flight again in pursuit of a flock of Buntings. The Rough Leg was distant as it hunted along the far bank but the Harriers came a little closer. Disappointed not to see any Peregrine on this visit.

Stonechat and Owl pellet
I didn't notice the Owl pellet until I looked at the image at home.

No Owls were seen on the visit but we did have one fly across the A12 on route moving from Bedfords Park towards the woods across the road. We first thought Short-eared but more likely would be Long-eared which would have been a nice tick should we be more certain but I guess the chances of a Shortie in Bedfords park are more slim than LEO.

A nice mornings birding and the year list now sits at 126

Saturday 10 January 2015

Connaught Water

I popped into Connaught Water on the way home from work today and bagged a few year ticks and a bonus pair of Goosanders which even in the gloom of todays weather had me running back to the car for the camera.

The island at the back of the lake now holds over twenty Mandarin where last week it was hard to find a single bird. A cracking pair of Goosander are wintering on the lake and the female is a little more approachable than the male who likes to hold territory in the middle of the lake although I did witness him making a couple of sizable catches. A short detour into the forest by the picnic table delivered several Treecreeper and Nuthatches along with a Tit flock that contained Long-tailed, Blue, Great and Coal Tits along with a few Goldcrests. Two Great Spotted Woodpeckers were seen, a Green Woodpecker was heard and a Buzzard came over before being chased away by the local corvids. Ring-necked Parakeets flew noisily over the lake but I found no sign of the Smew that has been reported. Plenty of Tufted, Teal and Pochard were seen.

A cracking hours birding taking the year list to 121

Monday 5 January 2015

Slavonian Grebe at Wanstead for lunch

With news from the Jims that the Slav Grebe was still at Wanstead I took an early lunch break to make the short journey to Northumberland Avenue and parked up by the gates to Heronry Lake. Luckily the Jims were still on the bird and I quickly added it to the year list along with Long-tailed Tit which I'd also seen in the car park at work today. This was my first visit to this other wise unknown part of the flats but it just underlines what a great patch this is for the locals to work and work it they do. Well played again Nick and thanks for putting news out for us to bask in the glory of your find. (Great bird for the patch!)

Slavonian Grebe
Slav Grebe.
A little overcast today which didn't help the camera but I grabbed a few shots at high ISO so they're a little grainy but too good a bird not to give the shutter a little work.


Sunday 4 January 2015

Norfolk day trip

The Jims and I headed north this morning arriving at Wolferton at first light where we gave far too much of our valuable time looking without success for the probably soon to be un-tickable Golden Pheasants.
Disappointed we headed off without seeing our target although I had added Barn Owl Pink-footed Goose and Red-legged Partridge to my year list on the way up the A10.

Brent Goose
Next we pulled into the harbour car park at Thornham and very quickly found a very large flock of Twite.
Brent Geese, Linnet, Rock Pipit, Golden Plover, Grey Plover, Skylark, Red-breasted Merganser, Knot and Sanderling to add to the year list before moving to Titchwell.


At Titchwell we added Water Pipit on freshmarsh, Bearded Tit, both Bar & Black tailed Godwit and Avocet. We found over twenty Snipe and two Water Rail giving the Jims needed ticks. Coal Tit visited the feeders and we bumped into Nevill and Stuart here too as they also enjoyed a tour of Norfolk today.
A quick drive around Choseley gave good views of Fieldfare, Redwing, Song Thrush , Mistle Thrush and Blackbird all feeding in the same field which gave me three year ticks to boot. No Brambling, Siskin or Redpoll were seen to today but maybe this current cold snap will push a few more south for us to enjoy.

We heard news of a large flock of Snow Bunting at Holme so made the short journey walking across the golf course to the beach where we very quickly found the Snow Buntings (around 20 or so birds) feeding with a large (60+) mixed flock of Linnet and Godlfinch. Amongst the flock were some summer plumaged stunners but we failed to find the reported Lapland Bunting.

Last call was a stop at Burnham Overy on the way home. We pulled into the layby where a small group had gathered as is normal at this year ticking time. No news of either Short-eared Owl or Rough-Legged Buzzard but after a quick scan we found a SEO sitting in the field and it soon took flight before being joined by a second Owl. Another scan and we found two Common Buzzard sitting on the gates around the Goose fields and then two Rough-legged sitting in the fields giving our best views of sitting RLB's to date.

A terrific days birding and with a couple of local ticks on Saturday added to the mix the year list has jumped to 115 species which is respectable after four days.

Mute Swans


Thursday 1 January 2015

2015 off to a decent start

We changed the venue for our annual New Years Day Bird race this year and instead of heading to Norfolk we drove to Dungeness in Kent arriving on the beach at first light. We bagged Gannet, Guillemot, Razorbill, Fulmar and Red-throated Diver to name a few before moving on to Denge Marsh to catch up with the Cattle Egrets. On the way we located a couple of Great White Egrets as we drove past ARC pit. After we'd spent some time with the Egrets we headed off to Walland Marsh and quickly found the Bewick's Swans and Bean Geese although the single Whooper Swan evaded us.

Next stop was Scotney Gravel Pits where we eventually located Scaup and Black-necked Grebe.
Back on the reserve and we found Kingfisher, Bittern, Tree Sparrow, Goosander and Smew to mention a few. A Pallas's Warbler was reported but despite arriving within minutes of news going out we failed to locate it.

We drove through Chilham on the way to Elmley and found the Great Grey Shrike very obliging sitting on the wires as we pulled up. At Elmley we found a single Redshank, Kestrel and Pheasant to bring the year list up to 81 which mirrored last years day one total.

So I'm off and running and chasing ticks again.