Sunday 29 January 2017

Pine Bunting at Murston NR Kent

Arriving at first light and walking the extremely muddy track down to the sea wall we spent the next 3 hours scanning the bushes around the shooting pool hoping for a glimpse of the Pine Bunting.

I had the briefest of views as it walked about with a Yellowhammer feasting on the seed put out by the shooters. Another guy had a similar view before the shout went up that somebody had it sitting up on the far bushes and he kindly shared his scope with us so we could get a pointer for it. I managed to get on it in my scope but it dropped to the floor and out of sight so we left with the cold now setting into the bones.

With a fifty mile detour on the way home we landed in Beachy Road Broadfield and were straight on the Rose-coloured Starling that's wintering here. The bird came down giving good views in gloomy light and is starting it's spring moult so we may still get to see it in the pink.

Rose-coloured Starling
Rose-Coloured Starling at Beachy Road Broadfield
Rose-coloured Starling

Cold and tired we headed home with the two year ticks and the Lifer in the bag.

Year list now 147 
Life list now 382

Sunday 22 January 2017

Lapland comes to Scotney

First stop this morning was an easy Red-necked Grebe at Camber although with temperatures of minus six as we arrived the small lake was frozen forcing the Grebe to the far side.

Next stop was Scotney where we failed to find the wintering Black-necked Grebe and with the Geese not present we decided to walk the footpath out behind the the lakes. It was cold but with very little wind not as biting as it could have been. As we reached the very end of the footpath we found the Geese flock and scoping them delivered a year tick with a couple of Tundra Bean Geese. Pink-foots and Brents were also in the Greylag flock and the feral Barnacles, Egyptians and Snow Geese added to the days goose count.

As we watched the Geese the Lapland Buntings flew around us landing occasionally in the grass but always out of sight keeping company with Reed Buntings. Two Peregrines flew across scattering the ducks before we left for a brief taste of Dunge where the Tree Sparrows entertained us for a while and we recorded no fewer than nine Great white Egrets on ARC pit.

Last stop of the day was Hythe to pick out a Purple Sandpiper for the old man as it was missing form his 2016 list. We quickly found one feeding on the rocks in front of the Imperial Hotel but with the tide in and the sun in our face we settled for snapping the Turnstones instead and left happy with todays four year ticks moving the 2017 list to 145.

Tree Sparrow
Tree Sparrow
Pied Wagtail
Song Thrush
Tree Sparrows
The Jims trying to get on the Purple Sand!

Sunday 15 January 2017

Lynford and an Iceland Gull in Thetford

A very wet grey day in Lynford ended with a very wet grey twitch for the Iceland Gull on Thetford tip.

At Lynford I heard Crossbill in the car park but failed to see any. I did find a single Hawfinch sat in the Hornbeams in the paddock and another two flew straight over in the rain. Huge flocks of Siskin noisily flitted about overhead and I found Coal Tit, Marsh Tit, Nuthatch and Treecreeper by the bridge. A Water rail walked along the edge and three Bullfinch added a touch of colour to a very grubby day. A Great-spotted Woodpecker gave another year tick before the weather got the better of me and I left for the short drive to Thetford where an Iceland Gull had been seen this morning.

On arrival there was no sign of either the Iceland or reported Glaucous Gull but after a while the smaller white winger flew in to feed on some scraps at the tip so I grabbed a few shots in the rain to record it and then left to get home for lunch.

Iceland Gull
Iceland Gull at the tip
Iceland Gull

juvenile Iceland Gull

Year list now 140

Saturday 14 January 2017

DNA delivers a blow

So we've given the Stejneger's Stonechat at Dungeness three goes. We got a a good soaking got blown away by the wind and then today walked around in freezing conditions. The good news was that today we finally found the bird and enjoyed good views of this very GREY individual. The bird has been the subject of much debate with a poop sample being collected and sent to Aberdeen for testing apparently labeling the bird as Stejneger's and starting a whole new level of interest.

So imagine having finally found it the same day the DNA results are revisited and the bird is now thought to be a STONECHAT so will be coming off many a list as I type but fair play all those that voiced the doubt even with the DNA seemingly offering proof of it's pedigree.

The Grey Stonechat
Still a great bird!

Before the Stonechat we enjoyed a cracking sunrise and bagged a few Kittiwake for our trouble and a Great White Egret from the causeway to give another year tick.

Sunrise at Dunge
At Scotney we failed to find any Bean Geese amongst the Greylags but did pick out four Pink-feet and four feral Hybrid Geese.(Snow / Emperor / Barnacle? ) The feral Barnacles were also there in good numbers as usual.

Feral Hybrid Goose

So with a few Ruff on the reserve and added to the Little Owl picked up in Havering during the week my year list now stands at 133

Sunday 8 January 2017

Great visit to Wallasea Island

Sometimes a days birding can deliver very little and then sometimes days like today come along where it all seems to go right.

A Barn Owl as we pulled into the track to the reserve followed by two Short-eared Owls hunting at first light then a male Merlin flashes across us and sits out on a small mound giving superb scope views. Corn Buntings and Skylarks fly around calling before the main attraction comes out to play.
A male Hen Harrier hunting the marsh and wow do we get good scope views as it stays out for over half an hour before being joined by the female bird. Lots of Kestrel and a single Marsh Harrier showed before we stumbled on a Mealy Redpoll keeping close company with the four Twite wintering at Wallasea. A Green Sandpiper and couple of Snipe flew over and good numbers of waders were on the mud banks of the estuary.

A tip off gave us Shag and Eider at the Marina where we picked up a Green Woodpecker too.

As we were close to Southend we took the detour and picked out several Med Gulls on the beach and found a smart Kingfisher using the jetty to fish the shoreline. We then headed for Pitsea and connected with the Waxwings outside Mcdonalds with a small mixed gathering of birders and interested shoppers all getting a little more birding experience which can't be a bad thing.

Med Gulls at Southend
Kingfisher on the beach at Southend
I dropped the Jims off and headed off into Epping Forest with my son for a quick bit of local birding.
Treecreeper, Nuthatch, Goldcrest and Mandarin were all added quickly and we found a nice male Brambling which is a good bird here. I couldn't find Jimmy's Firecrest so that'll have to wait for another day.

Heron in Epping Forest

Add the mid-week Parakeets (Highams Park and in the garden) and Mistle Thrush (Abridge) and the year list now sits at a healthy 128.

Monday 2 January 2017

Norfolk and another Glauc.

Day 2 2017: Norfolk!

A Barn Owl in semi darkness on the way up and a Woodcock in semi darkness on the way back framed the day nicely. In between we had enjoyed Twite at Thornham, Velvet Scoters, Long-tailed Ducks, Great Skua, Eider and Water Pipit at Titchwell. A massive Glaucous Gull dropped in whilst we were looking for Snow Bunting at Salthouse and a Peregrine took a Pigeon out at sea but had to release it not having the strength to carry it ashore. The Pigeon made it ashore too but fell into the grass not to be seen again. Good numbers of Gannet were a surprise for this time of year in Norfolk but I guess the cold north westerly winds helped with that and the Glauc for that matter with this being one of three to arrive in Norfolk today.

We dipped the Waxwings at Cromer but managed good views of a couple of Ring-tailed Hen Harriers at Stiffkey before heading home.

The Glaucous Gull at Salthouse
A proper brute of a gull.

Year list now 112 

Sunday 1 January 2017

Wet start to 2017

We headed down to Dunge today as the weather guys forecast a little less rain in the south than further north although you wouldn't have noticed as it was grey and wet all day with a cold wind coming in off the sea too.

I picked up a Marsh Harrier as my first bird of the year before setting up for an early sea watch where conditions were poor with a sea mist hampering views. We did however pick up Red-throated Divers and a single Great Northern along with plenty of Gannets and Guillemots. Two Razorbill were a little harder to find but eventually gave themselves up to the scope between the waves and the sea also had good numbers of Great-crested Grebes and Cormorants. Three Brent Geese flew up and two Common Scoter flew down before two Great Skuas came in close to the shore bullying the Gulls. Turnstone and Oystercatcher flew down and we picked up the usual gulls too although the expected Kittiwake eluded us. As we packed up to leave another birder drove up and asked if we'd seen the Glaucous Gull which we hadn't so we followed him to the other end of the point were the Glauc was still sitting on the water to give an unexpected tick. At the fishing hut we managed to find both the adult and 1st winter Caspian Gulls.

At Lade we found the Slav Grebe but couldn't locate the Stonechat despite a good search in the rain along with a few other year listers. One guy gave nearly five hours up today without success despite the bird being reported three times between 9am and 2pm.

On the reserve the ticks included Tree Sparrow, Ring-necked Duck, Smew and Water Rail whilst a trip to Horsebones farm delivered Bewick Swan.

The days total reached 74 which was a real struggle in challenging conditions but at least we're up and running and looking forward to what the year will bring.