Thursday 24 October 2019

291 Pallas's Warbler at Thornham Point

We headed up to Norfolk this morning with our first stop at Cley where we picked up a year tick for the Jims with a single Velvet Scoter among a small group of Commons. A Black-throated Diver sat on the sea west of the car park along with several Red-throats and a few Guillemot. A single Med Gull, lot's of Gannet and ducks including three Eider made up the best of the rest. We walked to East bank hoping to find a Lapland Bunting but failed and the only thing of note was a Peregrine sat on a gate out on the marsh which gave us terrific scope views.

Thornham Point Titchwell
A message came through of a Pallas's Warbler at Thornham Point so we made a quick call to drive down to Titchwell and give it a go. We walked to the beach and then marched along to the point. The weather was gloomy with rain in the air but we set about trying to find the target which had been seen just before we arrived. A group of around twenty or so birders had set up where the bird had last been seen and shortly after a guy called it just as I saw a tiny bird fly up and away from us. Whilst everybody sat it out I was convinced the bird that flew was the Pallas's so I walked off and slowly made my way around the bushes to the far end. I watched a group of six Goldcrests move through the bushes and whilst watching jammed on the Pallas's Warbler which gave good but very short views.
A quick call to Jim to let him know it was at my end and the group all followed him to me but unfortunately only one guy managed to connect with it.

After another two hours it was seen on the back of the bushes but it proved very elusive and as the rain increased the Jims decided to concede defeat and we headed for home.

Year list now 291

Wednesday 23 October 2019

Ten ticks in ten weeks

So I sit here on 290 after almost ten months and need another ten ticks for that magical (at least to me) 300.

So what targets have I got left to go for.............(forgive me for thinking out loud here.)

Lapland Bunting............ Should be able to find a wintering bird somewhere
Taiga Bean Goose..........The wintering Cantley birds hopefully in late November
Little Auk.......................Right time of year to get them passing the south east
Pomarine Skua...............Still a chance of a late bird whilst looking for Little Auks
Long Tailed Skua...........Slim chance
Ruddy Duck...................Getting harder to find each year
Snow Goose...................Would be a lifer but a few in Scotland that might be achievable
Black Scoter...................Will it return? will I go for it? will I see it if I go?
Pacific Diver.................. As above
Capercaillie.....................Haven't given up on finding one IF I get back to Scotland this year
Golden Pheasant..............Still a chance (have had them in Nov and Dec before now)
Barred Warbler................Been quiet in the south east for these this autumn but still possible
Rosy Starling...................A couple about but not local enough for me, never say never
Desert Wheatear..............Still possible along with Isabelline and even an outside chance of Pied
Parrot Crossbill...............Might still find one if the lucks on my side.

Currently some good birds about too....
Citrine Wagtail, Red-breasted Flycatcher, Red-flanked Bluetail, Spotted Crake, Rock Thrush, Lesser Kestrel to name a few.

And of course there's always other vagrants to consider.....
Like these I've had in November and December over the years.

Spotted Sandpiper
Western Sandpiper
Lesser White-fronted Goose
Red-breasted Goose
Buff-bellied Pipit
Pallas's Warbler
Brunnich's Guillemot
Isabelline, Desert and Pied Wheatear
Blyth's Pipit
Forster's Tern
Cliff Swallow
Crag Martin
Glossy Ibis
Pallid Swift

So you can see it remains a realistic but challenging goal.

Ten weeks to get myself ten ticks but having said that my best ever Nov/Dec total is 2014 when I got eleven ticks. (Unfortunately I already have nine of that eleven)

2015 wintering bird
Brunnich's Guillemot from December 2013
Be a poor effort if I don't find one of these this year
Last years November gift in the form of a Pallid Swift at Cromer

No doubt something unexpected will turn up too, but will I be lucky enough to connect with it?
Here's to a good bit of birding in the next ten weeks and a good luck message to anybody else chasing a good finish to the year.

Water Rail at Stodmarsh

Water Rail
Water Rail
Water Rail
Water Rail
Always a nice to see

Grey Phalarope at Cuckmere Haven

Grey Phalarope
Grey Phalarope
Grey Phalarope
Grey Phalarope
Grey Phalarope
Grey Phalarope
Grey Phalarope
Grey Phalarope
Park at seven sisters walk the footpath along the river until the left turn over the cattle grid for the farm bird was on the flooded fields circled 

Sunday 20 October 2019

A late hat trick

At this time of year the ticks are a little harder to find so we hatched a plan today to chase a couple down in Kent. First we stopped at Stodmarsh and made our way to Reed bed hide. We happily watched a Water Rail as we checked out the flock of Greylag Geese hoping to find the reported Tundra Bean Geese. The Tundra's weren't in with the Greys but before long another flock of Greys flew over from the Grove Ferry direction and behind them two smaller geese that I quickly called as the Tundra Geese but they didn't stop instead passing over the hide to the fields behind us. On the drive out we stopped to check the Greylags feeding in the muddy field and found both the Tundra Geese among them.

The Tundra Beans with the Greylags at Stodmarsh
Tundra Geese
From Stodmarsh we headed across Kent to Dunge and for the second day running bumped into Graham J. The Sabines Gull was our target but although reported this morning it wasn't at the patch as we arrived. We started to scan with the gathered group with some needing the bird for a life tick and after about fifteen minutes I picked up the bird coming into the patch where it flew for a couple of minutes before landing in the surf. I managed to get the group on it and put out the news quickly so those that had left could return. A successful start and middle to our trip now we just needed a good ending.

All looking for the Sab.
Distant record shot of the Sabines Gull
We pressed on to our final stop moving across the county line and into East Sussex. We parked at Seven Sisters country park and walked along the river bank to the flooded field where we very quickly found a small group watching the Grey Phalarope. We joined them and managed a few images as the bird waded around the field quite close to the fence. I'd started to think I could miss this bird in 2019 so it was both a joy and a relief to finally see one. Cuckmere Haven was alive with tourists and dog walkers many of whom showed great interest in this little visitor and why wouldn't you.

The flooded fields
The Grey Phalarope
Grey Phalarope
Grey Phalarope 
Year list now stands at 290 and the target of 300 now looks achievable but the list of possibles is getting smaller by the day.

I still have a couple of probables to find before the years out but will need a few surprises too if I'm going to break the 300 this year.

The Water Rail at Stodmarsh

Saturday 19 October 2019

Dipping the Bobolink

News yesterday of a Bobolink in Lincolnshire had me wanting to jump in the car and go get it. Unfortunately the news broke at 3pm and the journey would take a good three hours so with sunset at 6pm the twitch was a non starter. I called the Jims and said I'd be making the journey in the morning and they opted in so the three of us made the 150 mile trip and arrived at first light this morning.

Theddlethorpe St Helen
The car park was full as we joined the group of around a hundred birders in the search for the Bobolink. We had a Short-eared Owl fly over and watched the local Skylarks, Reed Buntings and Meadow Pipits but as the morning went on we conceded that the clear night had probably assisted the bird in moving on. We left for home but decided to stop at Rutland on the way back down the A1 and try to add a year tick with the reported Lesser Scaup. After a while I picked the Scaup out tucked in behind the large island on lagoon one. Unfortunately it took another ninety minutes to get the Jims on it but eventually it moved out enough for them to get the scope on it. We had good views of a Yellow-browed Warbler in the bushes outside the visitor centre and then left for the journey home.

The Lesser Scaup was my 287th bird to make the year list my best ever.

Sunday 13 October 2019

Red eyed Vireo and a Great Snipe in Yorkshire

We set off this morning with a plan to see the drake Hooded Merganser at Titchwell and then make our way north if the Red eyed Vireo was still at Easington. On arrival at Titchwell it was raining heavy but we set off to check the reserve for the duck. I found a Yellow browed Warbler to give the Jims a year tick but the duck wasn't to be found. We toyed with the idea of walking to Thornham point for a Grey Phalarope but then news came through that the Vireo had been seen so we turned and headed for Yorkshire. The drive was nasty with road closures taking us through Hull but we arrived around 1.30pm and got straight on the target. For the next couple of hours we watched the bird return to feed on Elder every half hour or so and filled the gaps with good views of more Yellow browed Warblers and a Pied Flycatcher. At around 4pm news started to filter through via the locals walkie talkies of a possible Great Snipe at Kilnsea then within ten minutes the ID had been confirmed and the panic set in as 90% of the Vireo crowd set off on the short journey to Beacon Lane. We walked up the lane to find a small gathering had the footpath blocked as the Great Snipe was sitting on the footpath and they'd set a protective boundary for it. We set up the scopes and after a bit of a tumble I managed to get on the bird for my second lifer of the day.
What a day!

Year list now level with my best ever total of 286
Life list now 409

Red eyed Vireo at Easington
Red eyed Vireo
Red eyed Vireo
The scramble for the Great Snipe

Friday 4 October 2019

Ross's Gull Image included in the British Birds annual round up

British Birds emailed to ask if they could use my Ross's Gull image and of course I was delighted to agree and received a free copy of the October issue too which was nice.

The delightful Ross's Gull
The cover
The October issue gives a very detailed summary of all of 2018's rarities including the beautiful Grey Catbird that I was fortunate enough to see down in Cornwall. There's also some very nice images of other rarities I connected with including the American Bittern at Carlton which proved very difficult to catch on camera so it was nice to see it showed well for at least one lucky photographer.

Wednesday 2 October 2019

A Noteable Sprawk

My image of the Sprawk in the garden last week has received a noteable tag on Birdguides which is always pleasing.

The link to birdguides:

The shot was taken laying on my kitchen floor at which point I squeezed the lens through a small opening in the french doors. The bird was resting on it's prey but wasn't spooked by the door opening.
My challenge then was to light the image as it was 7am and the garden was in dark shade. I set the ISO to 2000 which still only gave me a shutter speed of 1/320 but luckily I held still and the bird froze in it's pose enabling me to get a nice sharp image.