Sunday 29 March 2015

Alpine Swift at the Virgin Atlantic building in Crawley

The Jims wanted to make the trip to Gatwick this morning hoping yesterdays Alpine Swift had roosted over night. We arrived at first light parking in the car park in front of the Virgin Atlantic building before being politely asked to move by their security guy. I duly moved the car and walked back to the building to join the small twitch which now included LRGE. We stood in the light rain for a couple of hours before deciding a local nature reserve was a better attraction. Ten miles away we pulled into the car park at Warnham LNR and paid the £1.50 entry donation. A Jack Snipe had been seen but despite very distant views of "a Snipe" we couldn't get enough on it to clinch ID. A Kingfisher called and then landed on the tern rail in front of the hide and a pair of Grey Wagtails visited. We moved on to the next hide and enjoyed views of Great Spotted and Green Woodpecker, Nuthatch, Treecreeper, Reed Bunting along with Tits and Finches. (A smart little reserve worth another visit when time permits)

Alpine Swift

Alpine Swift
Alpine Swift
Alpine Swift over the Virgin Atlantic building in Crawley
The local Brown Rats have made a tunnel network beneath the feeding station here and entertain as they come up and down to feed and a Mouse also visited to steal a cheap meal. Whilst enjoying the cover of this hide news came through on the pager that the Swift had been seen again leaving the VA building. We left and made the ten mile return trip in less than fifteen minutes to rejoin the small twitch. (ten to fifteen people)
The bird had vanished but within the next ten minutes we were treated to great views as it flew over the building and low across the road before landing on the side of the building to roost again. We managed to get a very quick record shot before the security guy asked us leave (but not before taking a look at the bird and extracting a little information to tell his employers what the strange group in their car park had come to see.) He very nicely said we could all take a quick look as we'd been waiting a while and then politely asked us to move back to the main road. (Good job by the guy who managed the situation well and although we'd all have liked a longer look at the roosting bird he at least allowed access for a quick view which was appreciated by all the cold wet birders on site)
My third Alpine Swift and not for the first time my year list has Alpine Swift before Common Swift.

Brown Rat
Brown Rat
Now think this is a Bank Vole (Thanks Lucy for the correction)

Year list now at 165

Wednesday 25 March 2015

Another work trip brings it's birding rewards

Two days "up north" for a work related conference and as always I try to break the journey with a little birding on the way. My first stop was about half way up the M1 as I pulled into the small parking area by the signs for Kelham Bridge. I walked to the first hide and plotted up to watch the feeders. A Brown Rat took advantage as Great, Blue and Long-tailed Tits enjoyed the fatballs provided. Dunnock, Reed Bunting, Wren, Chaffinch and Song Thrush visited before the target bird arrived. A single Willow Tit had it's fill then sat calling in the nearby tree which helped me nail the ID (I grabbed a poor record shot of the target but as the bird was directly between me and the bright sun the quality of the shot isn't great)

Willow Tit at Kelham Bridge
Long-tailed Tit
On the walk back a pair of Buzzard displayed noisily overhead allowing a couple of shots before I continued north towards Preston. I took the short detour to New Brighton to take a second look at the Laughing Gull and enjoyed a couple of hours watching it on the Marine Lake. The pontoon held nine roosting Purple Sandpipers, a single Dunlin with good numbers of Turnstone and Redshank.

Common Buzzard at Kelham Bridge
Laughing Gull
Pontoon Roost 
On the way into Preston I took a quick detour to the Moors where Red Grouse were present but in small numbers and stayed elusive. Again the Buzzards performed and the fields are now full of Curlew, Lapwing and Oystercatchers as they set up on breeding grounds.

Red Grouse Yorkshire
Common Buzzard
A visit to Bolton Abbey before this mornings meeting produced good views of a pair of Dippers as the went about building their nest. Grey Wagtails were nesting in the same tree and Mandarin and Goosander battled in the fast moving water.

Goosander at Bolton Abbey
Dipper and the nest they've built on the branch
Overall a good "work do" Oh and had a team talk from Mark Webber (Ex F1 Driver) too which was quite good. He flew in and out in his helicopter.....tough at the top!

As I approached home I stopped to let traffic pass in Englands Lane and with the window down heard my first Tawny Owl of the year as it Kivvick'd away in a tree by the road side.

Year list now 164

Sunday 22 March 2015

Lakenheath RSPB

An early start saw us looking at a drake Garganey from the washland viewpoint at Lakenheath before 7.15am this morning. As we walked the public footpath towards Joist Fen we spotted two Whooper Swans on the river with the Mutes and had good views as one decided to fly towards us to join it's mate.

Whooper Swan at Lakenheath
As we reached Joist Fen we noted five Marsh Harrier and two Common Buzzard soaring over the reserve and as we watched another smaller raptor came in to harass them but with the distance involved it was hard to pin down the ID. Then something incredible happened, rarer than the recent solar eclipse and this too had us out in the middle of nowhere looking at the sky in anticipation and then it happened.......the old fella called a bird and called it right!   Common Crane!!!  two coming in from the left and sure enough two Common Crane came flying over before landing at the far end of the fen.

Marsh Harrier
Behind Joist Fen hide we found the Fudge duck that's been hanging around here for a while (Thanks Steve for the tip off) and the walk back gave up a couple of Beardies and some noise from a couple of Bittern warming up for the season although you'd be hard pressed to call it "Booming" At the visitor centre a guy had just arrived having picked up a dead Barn Owl at the entrance which sadly appeared to be one of the reserves birds probably hit by passing traffic. The feeders were alive with Reed Bunting.  As we left we found a Great White Egret just over the border in Norfolk and pulled over to grab a couple of images from the car. On route to Santon Downham we found a Great Grey Shrike and enjoyed a fly over Goshawk too which was the real bonus of the day. I picked out a Woodlark in flight before we moved on but time had ran away as we enjoyed the Goshawk and we only had time for one final stop as we searched for new arrivals in the Brecks and managed to find a single Stone Curlew giving decent scope views to add the the days totals.

Great White Egret 

Year list now at 161

Saturday 14 March 2015

Rainham closed! Elmley open!

Despite the frustration with opening hours at Rainham (9.30am - 5pm) we managed to enjoy some decent views of several birds today during a walk along the sea wall at Rainham and a drive along the track at Elmley (doesn't open until 8am and closes at 5pm) The camera came out as I tried to capture the moment in pixels.

Skylark at Rainham

Reed Bunting at Rainham
Goldfinch at Rainham
Little Egret at Elmley
Little Egret
Marsh Harrier attacking Coots at Elmley
Common Buzzard at Elmley
Hare at Elmley

Sunday 8 March 2015

Blue Tits and apples

I spent an hour in the garden this morning watching the Blue Tits feeding.

Blue Tit

I have been putting apples in the bushes all winter for them and they love em!.

Cracking little birds that are taken for granted a little but great to watch.

Blue Tit
Blue Tit
Blue Tit
Blue Tit

Sunday 1 March 2015

Glaucous Gull in Dover Harbour

Destination Dover and we arrived in the pay and display car park at 7.15am
A short walk along the pier and we're scanning the gulls on the old disused hovercraft ramp without joy.
Luckily we came carrying bread and on the very first throw the target came flying into view. The camera came out we enjoyed an hour papping the gull as it flew up and down the length of the pier searching food.

Glaucous Gull at Dover
Glaucous Gull
It's a gull!
A seal popped up close to the shore and managed to catch a large flat fish or two. Three Purple Sandpipers were found on the concrete rocks and three Turnstone came walking along the pier to feast on the breadcrumbs we'd supplied. A cormorant and two Shags were feeding in the harbour with a couple of Great Crested Grebes and a single Diver put in a very brief appearance. Moving on we popped into Oare marsh where the water levels were high and wader counts very low save a few Lapwing and Avocets. The higher water had attracted good numbers of Pintail and a Marsh Harrier flew over too. As we scanned a Cetti's Warbler was heard. On the route home we diverted  to Elmley and found a pair of Grey Partridge as we pulled in off the main road before driving the track.  From the track we had a number of Lapwing,Redshank, Ruff, Blackwit, Curlew, Golden Plover, Skylark and a single Harrier.

Turnstone on Dover pier
Little Egret at Elmley
Grey Partridges at Elmley

Year list now at 153