Sunday, 29 April 2018

Green Heron Llan-mill Pembrokeshire

After leaving home at 4am this morning we found ourselves walking down the lane to the old mill in the village of Llan-mill in Pembrokeshire by 7.30am. As we approached the MP Simon Harts home we were greeted by another birder who directed us into the back garden which overlooks the large flooded pond where the Green Heron has set up home.

Green Heron
We enjoyed great views straight away as the visitor from across the pond enjoyed the hospitality of this small Welsh pond as did we when Simon and his wife came out to provide tea and coffee in what must go down as the best twitch I can remember. To open your garden to a group of strangers (and we are a strange group) takes something special. We made a point to thank them for there hospitality and hope that all visitors respect the fact that they're in somebodies back yard.

As for the bird...well it was a bit of a star!

Green Heron
Green Heron

Green Heron
After we'd enjoyed the Heron with the gathering and of course a little banter we moved on first picking up a pair of Dipper at Blackpool Mill before driving the twenty miles to Marloes where we managed to get a few ticks all of which proved far more difficult than the Heron and included Chough, House Martin and Puffin. I picked out a couple of Manx Shearwaters distantly between the islands.


Year list now197
Life list now 395

The Garden
Arrow pointing to the Heron
And with the help of a 400mm lens and a heavy crop.

Great bird, great twitch in a great location and in good company what more could you ask for?

Coffee I suppose but even that was provided today!

Sunday, 22 April 2018

Nightingales in the valley

After a very difficult week at work I needed a little birding therapy this morning without the driving so an early run over to Fishers Green gave me just the wind down I needed.
The dawn chorus was in full swing as I arrived with at least three Nightingales singing and waiting for the girls to arrive. A Cuckoo called constantly with a female responding on occasion.

Blackcaps were present in good numbers but I failed to find any Garden Warbler. A Lesser Whitethroat called and a Common Whitethroat showed well as it called. Common Terns are now present and a surprise was a single first summer Little Gull from the watchpoint.

All in all a very pleasant walk and home for breakfast by 9.30am and a continuance of the wind down.

Year list now 190

Nightingale in full song
Not easy to see most of the time
Egyptian Goose
First Cuckoo of the year
Heron on look out

Thursday, 19 April 2018

Big up Swarovski

I purchased a pair of Swarovski Binoculars about six years ago and they have served me well since but last weekend whilst at Carlton Marsh the eye cup worked lose and the rubber end fell off. I put it back on but it was not a good fit and would come off with little persuasion.

I emailed Swarovski and the following day in the post came two new eye cups which I easily fitted and the bins are now good as new but what excellent service and worthy of a mention here on the blog. Well done Swarovski keep up the good work as there's no denying the quality of the product but all to often service lets companies down and you've set a high bar and I'm extremely pleased I decided to invest in your product.

Saturday, 14 April 2018

American Bittern at Carlton Marsh

As I said last Sunday today would be my first chance at the American Bittern due to work commitments so it was good to watch the continued reports of it showing all week despite poor weather and as the weather looked a little better for today we jumped in the car and headed up the M11/A11 arriving in the car park just before 7am this morning.

We walked towards the area favoured by the Bittern I guess a half mile from the car park and picked up a reeling Gropper not far into the treck. Shortly after getting to the watch point Jimmy picked out a Ring Ouzel to give me another year tick followed by booming Bittern and plenty of Marsh Harrier nest building activity. Two Common Cranes flew over our heads and a couple of Whimbrel dropped in behind us. Up to three Barn Owl quartered the fields until about 10am and a single Wheatear dropped in too. Sand Martins and a few Swallows hawked overhead before the star bird flew in from the right dropping right in front of us but out of site in the reeds. This was now almost 11am and was the first sighting of the day. We watched that reed fringe for the next hour or so and got just a couple of Water Deer for our effort before the phone rang to say another border had it in a field 500 yards to our right so the crowd twitched as one and we then got ground views to add to the amazing flight view already had. The crowd was joyous and the bucket was rattling again. On the walk back we picked up our first Willow Warbler of the year too.

American Bittern  (not the easiest bird to find and even harder to get an image of)
American Bittern
Yes it's there.....a proper record shot!
The life list has bulged for the second time this year and now sits at 394

On the way home we made as short stop at Cavenham Heath were I year ticked Stone Curlew and the Jims added Woodlark.

A decent days birding with or without the lifer in good company. The twitch seemed to be enjoyed by all and was as complete a contrast to the Burnham PGT twitch as you could get.

One of several gatherings along the footpath

Year list now 186
Life list now 394

Sunday, 8 April 2018

Ouch...American Bittern in Suffolk

Could have.....should have....but didn't!

Instead of heading up the A12 we headed down the M20 arriving at a very murky Dungeness at first light. We attempted a short seawatch but the mist  was a real problem as was the rain and lack of wind. We had a few Auks, Gannets and Sandwich Terns along with a single raft of Scoters  and several Porpoise before we gave up and headed back out to the reserve picking up our first Wheatear of 2018 by the RNLI shed.

On the reserve we collected another year tick with many calling Sedge Warblers along the track and from Dengemarsh bridge we found the Slav Grebe which is now almost in summer plumage.

We decided to head over to Oare and give the Long-billed Dowitcher another go (our third try this year) and we walked down the creek before heading back up to view the flood from the sea wall picking out a Common Tern for our trouble. The Blackwits had flown in to roost on the banks of the flood and as we headed off thinking we'd failed a call back from  two other Essex birders had us on the bird as it sat amongst the Blackwits. We thanked them and offered up a pair of Little Owl in return which was well received.

Our final stop was Elmley where we watched as a pair of Marsh Harriers collected sticks and the Hares lazed about along the track whilst the Lapwings battled the Redshanks for nest sites and Skylarks sang above us.

Mute Swan
Marsh Harriers
Redshank swimming
Territory battle
Still kicking myself for going south and missing the chance of connecting with the American Bittern at Carlton Marsh. Here's hoping it decides to stay until next weekend as that'll be the first chance I get to go after it now.

Year list now 178

Hares at Elmley
Hare in the grass
Marsh Harrier in the mist

Saturday, 7 April 2018

Third first of the year

I got home tonight having picked up two year ticks at Hollesley Common with a single fly over Crossbill as I walked down to the trees and a singing Woodlark. As I arrived home it was a surprise to find a smart Lesser Redpoll  on the garden feeder and as it flew up into the tree with several Goldfinch I scanned trying to find it only to come across a splendid pair of Brambling sitting in the tree. Now they are not particularly rare in Essex during the winter but having lived here thirty years it has to be a bit special when they drop in for the very first time. With Red Kite and Reed Bunting added to the garden list last week I didn't expect another addition so soon.

Hollesley was a bit disappointing with nothing visiting the puddles apart from me John R.and Sean N. but good to chat while we waited for the non event. A single Dartford Warbler was seen along with several Siskins and Redpolls. An Arctic Redpoll  was being seen but I failed to connect with it and a Black Redstart was reported behind Redlodge but with the gamekeeper giving a couple of guys a hard time I decided not to bother looking for it.

Garden list now 64
British Year list now 173 

Monday, 2 April 2018

The ban driven grouse shooting petition ends today

100,000 signatures needed for a parliamentary debate.
click the link below for more details

Sunday, 1 April 2018


Somebody said we'd sprung into spring well it sure doesn't feel like it. I walked around Minsmere yesterday and saw hardly any spring migrants and very little sign of courtship activity save the pictured male Reed Bunting who was trying his hardest to put a brave face on it and sing his heart out hoping to attract the interest of a female.

Reed Bunting
We picked out a couple of distant Jack Snipe in North Hide along with several Commons but otherwise it was dead quiet. No Sand Martins or Swallows yet, no singing Willow Warblers, no Wheatear. Even the locals stayed down with not a single Bearded Tit seen or heard and only a very distant calling Bittern that the Jims missed. The Harriers made one very poor effort to display but otherwise just sat about a lot. The Wader count was very low too with nothing of real note and certainly nothing new in.

We popped down to Eastbridge to watch the Ibis for a while but it never came close so we left stopping at Hazlewood to watch the Arctic Redpoll again as it fattens up for the journey north which must be just around the corner for it.

A little bit of the Arctic 
Just to break the return journey get the old man a year tick we stopped at Landguard where he quickly found a couple of Purple Sandpipers which we papped for a while before heading for home still without a Wheatear.

Purple Sandpiper at Landguard
Purple Sandpiper
Another of my favourite birds ( I have a few)

Year list now 171