Sunday 30 June 2019

End of June update

So June is nearly done and I'm sitting in a decent place with 264 on the year list up seven on the previous best result. I've bagged five lifers so far this year with White-winged Scoter, Ortolan Bunting, Whiskered Tern, Black-headed Bunting and Little Bustard all finally making the list.

I'm still chasing my best ever year of 286 with a desire to hit 300 for once.
July is traditionally a quiet month for new birds but should see a few early returners like Little Stint and Curlew Sandpiper along with a few more vagrants.

for example.......

2018 saw me get just three July ticks. Honey Buzzard, Red-necked Phalarope and Curlew Sandpiper
2017 saw just five ticks with Bee Eater the highlight
2016 saw just three ticks including Common Rosefinch and Sabine's Gull
2015 saw three again with Icterine Warbler and Ring-billed Gull included
2014 saw six ticks including Collared Pratincole and Great Knot
2013 saw nine ticks in what was to be my best year list total of 286 
The nine ticks included Caspian Tern, Baird's Sandpiper, Pectoral Sandpiper, Two-barred Crossbill and Pacific Golden Plover

So you can see whilst numbers are generally low the quality can be very high and with my best ever end of July total being 265 I don't have much to do to better that and so a sensible target of 270 by the end of July will see me maintaining my best year challenge.

Onwards and upwards.

Year list now 264
BOU Life list now 404 

Sunday 23 June 2019

Little Bustard at Slimbridge WWT

After a heavy morning in the garden I was just about ready for a nice afternoon resting in front of a bit of sport on the TV but that was before news arrived of a Little Bustard being found at Slimbridge.
A quick call to the Jims and we arranged a meet once we'd established the reserve would remain open after hours so we could actually get in.

We got to the car park at 5.05pm with the reserve closing at 4.30pm but the volunteers had arranged to take us in after hours for a £10 fee. They were giving an escort at 5pm 6pm 7pm and 8pm and we'd just missed the 5pm run but fortunately another volunteer turned up and kindly took us and by 5.30pm we were stood on the sea wall looking at our first ever Little Bustard. It was distant and gave just pop up head views until about 8pm when it walked out in the open and gave virtually a full body view to make the tick a lot more acceptable.

There was a steady crowd of people coming and going in the escorted movements and I'd guess around six hundred people came and went while we were there including a good few familiar faces from Essex and beyond.

Year list now 264 Life list now 404

One of the escorted parties leaving
The general area the bird was seen in during our 3 hours on site

Tuesday 18 June 2019

Black-winged Pratincole at Frampton

With the Jims needing Black-winged Pratincole for a life tick I thought it worth the trip today so we set off around 1pm and arrived to find the bird roosting on the grazing marsh which is under quite a bit of water following the recent rains. We watched the bird sit in the grass from 3pm to 6pm when it suddenly took flight and after a few minutes hawking it flew over the sea wall and was lost to view.

Nice to chat with Graham again and it was a good crowd and an enjoyable twitch.

Year list now 263's in there but may take a little finding.
Some of the crowd

Monday 17 June 2019

Great night with Nightjars in the Kings Forest

We travelled up the A11 last night and found our usual forest clearing with ease. We plotted up and waited hoping that with the full moon shining we might get some early Nightjar action and we weren't to be disappointed. At 9.10pm we had our first call then a brief churring. A Woodcock flew over and Owls could be heard calling in the distance. Large bats came out to play then by about 9.25pm the real Nightjar action started. We had both male and female birds flying around our heads, calling, churring wing clapping and making that noise they do as they fall from the perch. We had one bird sitting up on a nearby tree on several occasions and we left at around 10.30pm having had the best ever Nightjar experience and bring about tick 262 for the year list.

Image from 2014 and my only daylight sighting of a Nightjar

Friday 14 June 2019

Found a Cattle Egret at Elmley today

Not much about but I did find a Cattle Egret at Elmley today.

Cattle Egret
Cattle Egret at Elmley
Cattle Egret in flight
Year list still 261

Tuesday 11 June 2019

Lesser Grey Shrike at Horsey

I planned to visit the Suffolk Norfolk border yesterday but the weather put that plan on hold until this morning. I decided to stop first at Hazlewood  Common and it proved a decent shout as we quickly connected first vocally and then visually with the Quail that's spent the last few days there. The bird seems to favour the field on the left about a hundred yards after the houses but was seen in flight heading to the pea fields on the right of the footpath.

From here we headed twenty miles north to Kessingland and started a two hour search for the Woodchat Shrike without joy. The bird appears to have moved on but with only seven people looking it could simply just be playing hard to get.

Our final destination was a further twenty miles north were we parked at the top of Nelson Head track and walked all the way to the green shed. The weather had closed in by now and we were happy to take shelter behind the shed to scan the fence line were the Lesser Grey Shrike eventually showed.
I picked up the bird in flight into the trees and managed to pick it up again taking refuge from the wind and rain but it remained a little distant.

year list now 261

Lesser Grey Shrike at Horsey
Lesser Grey Shrike (a true record shot)
The Green Shed

Sunday 9 June 2019

Black-headed Bunting at Flamborough Head

We couldn't make the trip yesterday but set off this morning hoping the Bunting would stick for us although we were still smarting from the previous dip on the Brown Shrike a few weeks ago. As luck would have it we had positive news come through around 7am which helped us press on with the four hour journey arriving at Flamborough head around 9am. There were around a hundred birders on site and some had seen the bird whilst some missed it so we set about relocating it and before long Jim had picked out a very distant yellow blob in the hedgerow at the far end of the fields. After checking it to rule out Yellowhammer we put up the shout and the march along the footpath started. We got to within a few metres of the hedge row and managed to get really good scope views and a couple of record shots.
Black-headed Bunting
Black-headed Bunting
Black-headed Bunting
The Black-headed Bunting twitch
The Lifer was in the bag so we drove down to the Lighthouse car park and walked over to the golf course where about forty birders had created a ring around the willows hoping the Subalpine Warbler would show and after about an hour it did. Lesser Whitethroat, Whitethroat, Chiffchaff, Blackcap and lots of Tree Sparrow kept us busy as we scanned the bushes but we did see the target and I think everybody got on it eventually.

The Subalpine Warbler twitch
Waiting for the warbler to show
We broke the journey home with an hour at Welbeck watchpoint but failed to find any Honey Buzzards.

A nice twitch in good company and a warm welcome given by the locals who seemed more than happy to share their patch for the day.

Year list now 259
Life list now 403

ps.. Black-headed Bunting has now been removed from my dipped list after I missed one in Norfolk previously. A difficult bird with chances to twitch on the mainland few and far between.

Thursday 6 June 2019

Great Grey Shrike at Needingworth Gravel Pits

I drove up the M11/A14 today to look for the Great Grey Shrike that's being reported at Needingworth Gravel Pits. I've never visited these pits before but easily found the Ouse Fen car park to begin the long walk around the pits towards the entrance to the working pit. I heard numerous Turtle Dove and a single Yellowhammer as I walked the paths. I got lost and then found the correct path but even on the right path this is a long walk (at least 4.6km as a return walk) but the prize was worth it as the Shrike chased dragon flies from the security fence by the pump station and would fly within a few feet of me before sitting in a willow just a few feet away to feast.

Year list remains at 257

Great Grey Shrike
Great Grey Shrike and a darter
Great Grey Shrike
On the wires
Great Grey Shrike and a hawker
The long walk
The prize ( A real stunner)

Tuesday 4 June 2019

Dipped the Broad-billled Sandpiper again

After dipping the Broad-billed Sandpiper at the weekend and seeing it showing well all day yesterday I decided on another go this morning so we set off early and arrived at Orford Quay around 6.30am this morning. I walked over a mile twice up and down the estuary and for my trouble I found Dunlin, Ring Plover, Turnstone, Curlew, Oystercatcher, Redshank, Barn Owl, Marsh Harrier, Skylark, Reed Bunting, Sedge Warbler, Whitethroat and Swallows but after four hours had to concede that the Sandpiper was not around. The rain was now falling and the tide almost in so any chance of finding the target had long gone so we set off back down the A12.

On the way down I offered to Jim the chance of trying for a London tick with the Ring-necked Duck on Seventy Acre lake. We walked all the way around and eventually found the bird in the distance from the Bittern Hide. It was right under the bridge separating the two lakes

It remained quite distant but did fly over to the far side possibly disturbed by a school party on the bridge. Jim left pleased with his London tick.

Year list still 257

Ring-necked Duck at Fishers Green

Ring-necked Duck 
Ring-necked Duck
Peacock on guard at the farm

Sunday 2 June 2019

Getting the Jims a lifer

I drove the Jims to Dunwich this morning and we very quickly found the Iberian Chiffchaff down by the Centenary pond to give them a much wanted life tick. In the bushes by the pond we also found Dartford Warbler, Whitethroat, Garden Warblers and a Chiffchaff along with the target which gave good bursts of its Iberian song to help us find it several times.

Iberian Chiffchaff at Dunwich
We had a quick look at a few more Dartford Warblers on the heath before driving around to Minsmere where we found a good variety of expected birds and a bonus Grasshopper Warbler but no sign of the hoped for Little Stint. On the way home we tried for the Broad-billed Sandpiper at Orford but with the tide in we had little chance of finding it. It was later reported on the airfield before returning to the exact spot we'd visited at lunchtime so we may end up giving this little guy another go.

Year list still 257


Stand off

Saturday 1 June 2019

Year list update as we move into June

As mentioned previously I'm hoping this year will be my best ever year list.
To achieve that goal I need at least 287. I sit on 257 at the end of May and my best ever June total is 256 so things are looking ok but I'm counting no chickens.....everything else just no chickens.

So I move into June taking anything as a bonus being ahead of my best June already but the goal I'm setting is to be at 265 moving into July so just the eight ticks in four weeks and the fun starts tomorrow as I drive the Jims to Minsmere with them both needing Iberian Chiffchaff for life ticks. Looking further ahead one tick a week gets me to 287 but with 257 in the bag finding these extra 30 ticks will bring me some real challenges but I'll be giving it a go.

I've had a few people tell me 300 is easy but I've been trying for nearly ten years and I can say that it's proving a proper challenge to me and at this stage I'd take the 287

Onwards and Upwards and now where's the next tick?

I'd take a Little Stint for starters.
Year list still 257

A week in Wales with my grandson

We had a cottage booked in Laugharne (famous for its connections to Dylan Thomas) for last week and luckily our grandson decided he'd come too so we enjoyed a lovely week with him exploring Pembrokeshire with us. We visited Skomer Island for the round island boat trip which George enjoyed and he especially liked the Puffins on the water. I found a couple of Chough up on the Deer Park with Rock Pipit, Raven and Wheatear. Out at sea we saw Peregrine, Razorbill, Guillemot, Gannet and Fulmar but no Shearwaters. I managed a couple of images but spent most of the boat trip clinging to the little guy making sure he was safe.

Puffin in flight
I slipped off twice during the week to find the Iberian Chiffchaff at Pantmaenog which was only about twenty miles away. First hearing the bird call in heavy rain and then the following morning hearing it and this time getting good views although the heavy early morning mist made it difficult to grab a record shot. Whilst waiting I also had Cuckoo, Willow Warbler, Bullfinch, Siskin and a nice pair of Willow Tits which I don't see too often so that was a nice find.

My second ever Iberian Chiffchaff 
We had a couple of lovely coastal drives taking in places like Tenby, Saundersfoot, Wisemans Bridge, Fishguard, Abereiddy (The Blue pool) Solva, St Davids and Newgale.  We made a trip into town at Haverfordwest to give the girls a little retail time and found a decent Weatherspoons in the shape of the William Owen.  We also visited Castle Coch and the Abbey at St Davids but the Blue pool at Abereiddy proved a family favourite. (I found nesting Rock Pipits and Fulmar...#always birding)

On the last day we made the near annual pilgrimage to Dinas where we enjoyed good views of the usual suspects including Pied and Spotted Flycatchers, lots of Wood Warbler and a single Garden Warbler.  We found several Redstarts but struggled to see or hear any Tree Pipits. A Merlin, Cuckoo and Raven made up the rest of the cast. If you're ever in the area make time to visit this wonderful reserve.

Pied Flycatcher
Pied Flycatcher
Pied Flycatcher
We encountered dozens of Red Kites on our travels as you'd expect.

Red Kite
All in all a very special week watching our little lad have a good time.

George enjoying the Bluebells at Dinas
Year list now 257 (best ever May total was 248)