Saturday, 30 November 2019

More Short eared Owls

Yesterday I spent an afternoon at Burwell in Cambridgeshire watching the Owls.

Shortie at Burwell
Only a couple of Owls were on view along with a pair of Marsh Harriers, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, Common Buzzard and four Grey Partridge.

I have a real weakness for Owls as they just have so much character, it was great to see them hunting at Burwell again this year although it has to be said that the road in has got a whole lot worse and I'd recommend anybody going to use the car park by cock-up bridge and walk round or simply view from the bridge.

The year list has stalled and remains at a frustrating 299.

Monday, 25 November 2019

Nothing local

As you can see the search for year ticks is getting harder. A few about today but distance is still a factor.

Isle of White
Papa Westray
North Uist

not exactly on the doorstep but five of them would be life ticks so never say never.
Tick 300 will have to wait for now.

Saturday, 23 November 2019

Tick 299 with the Glossy Ibis at Thornham

I dipped Glossy Ibis at Newport earlier this year and have resisted chasing another until today when I drove up to Thornham to get my 299th bird of the year just a few steps from the car park at the harbour. A young dull bird seen in very wet, grey gloomy conditions wasn't a great site but it's nudged me one closer to the 300 so I'll take it anyway.

Gloomy Glossy Ibis at Thornham
Thornham harbour
We enjoyed a chat with fellow year listers Graham, Geoff and Frank at Wells whilst watching a distant Rough-legged Buzzard and we watched a young Red-throated Diver in Wells Quay after spending four hours searching for the reported Lesser White-fronted Goose. We found two very large flocks of Pink-footed Geese but both were fly overs around Binham but despite seeing them coming down into the distance we couldn't connect with either group on the ground so failed to find anything in the flocks but hopefully the flocks will settle into a routine and we'll get another chance to see the Lesser.

Red-throated Diver at Wells
Red-throated Diver

A brief search for Golden Pheasant on the way up and down at Wolferton and Euston failed to deliver the 300th tick so that search continues.

Year list now 299

Sunday, 17 November 2019

Return to Wallasea Island

I decided to make a return trip to Wallasea Island this afternoon after enjoying yesterdays visit so much. Again I connected with two Hen Harrier, two Great Egrets, six Short-eared Owls and a Merlin.
Marsh Harriers, Buzzards and Kestrels added to the raptor count to make the whole experience fantastic again. I grabbed a few images in the fading light but the conditions were a little challenging as I tried to keep up with the birds in flight as the light dropped which is never easy but I do have a few keepers from today.

Year list still 298

Love the way they make eye contact with you
Short-eared Owl at Wallasea Island
It's behind you
Seeing off a male Kestrel
Hunting at dusk

Wallasea.....I'll be back!

Saturday, 16 November 2019

A ticking day off at Wallasea

I took a day out from chasing year ticks today and spent the afternoon birding at Wallasea Island in Essex. I had at least five Short-eared Owls hunting the marsh and all seemed very territorial as they chased away anything coming into their path.

I saw two Hen Harriers but could have been the same bird twice at different ends of the reserve. Both ringtails but always great to watch. Several Marsh Harriers,  a Common Buzzard, a few Kestrels and a probable very distant Merlin added to the spectacle. Out on the marsh with the many Grey Herons and Little Egret were two Great Egrets which I think are my first at Wallasea.

Never a dull moment when you're in the company of Hen Harriers and SEO's. This was my first visit to Wallasea this autumn but I hope to return for more of the same soon.

Year list still 298

Short-eared Owl at Wallasea

Thursday, 14 November 2019

298 Little Bittern at Amwell

Lunchtime news of a Little Bittern fifteen miles away at Amwell had us meeting up for the short drive up the A10 this afternoon. With first reports saying "from viewpoint" we thought it might be one of those dropped into a reed bed never to be seen again but we got lucky when we were put on the bird straight away by the small group on site. Within a few minutes it had dropped and then flown back out of view and wasn't seen again today. I must admit I had one eye on the Titchwell bird and didn't expect to be seeing one this close to home today.

Year list now 298

Little Bittern
Little Bittern
Little Bittern at Amwell
Little Bittern 
The Bittern was resting deep in those trees

Tuesday, 12 November 2019

297 Isabelline Wheatear at Cley

At this time of year new birds are hard to find so with an Isabelline Wheatear being reported at Cley yesterday and with the overnight weather on our side we set off this morning to find the bird. Arriving at 7.30am we walked along the Eastbank and then walked east along the fence line of Arnolds Marsh to look for the bird but by 8am we'd not connected then another birder said he'd seen something drop off a post so I walked back along the fenceline and at 8.30am had found the Wheatear out on the marsh just below the fenceline. The bird flew closer and gave good views before flying to the top of the dunes at which time I walked up and positioned myself a good distance away in the hope that the bird would come along the dunes and I got my reward as it did indeed walk along the ridge and came quite close before taking flight back onto the marsh.

Isabelline Wheatear at Cley
Isabelline Wheatear
Isabelline Wheatear
Isabelline Wheatear
Isabelline Wheatear

On the walk out we had a quick look on the pools and found a single Long-tailed Duck and on the shingle a small group of Snow Bunting added to the day.

On our way along the coast road we stopped between Wells and Holkham and eventually found the Rough-legged Buzzard a bird which I always enjoy and this one showed well at distance flying along Lady Anne's drive and over the new visitor centre.
Also here we had Peregrine, Kestrel, Sparrowhawk and Common Buzzard.

Rough-legged Buzzard over Lady Annes Drive
Rough-legged Buzzard
Tick 297 of 2019
Something about Wheatears......
The year list moves another notch closer to the 300 and now sits at 297

Three to find but a quick look at the news services will show that there's not much out there I haven't seen. There's a few I've missed but not many to go after as this map of todays reported birds shows. (as at 5pm)

 I can't see me making the monster trip for the Eider or the questionable Pipit but the Titchwell Bittern might be a target later in the week or even the Stonechat as I search for the final three ticks to hit my target.

Sunday, 10 November 2019

296 Eastern Yellow Wagtail at Walberswick

I had a family thing on this morning so was late setting off up the A12 to Dunwich but pulled into the beach car park around 12.15pm and started the long 2.5KM walk along the shingle ridge to the general area the Wagtails had been reported at this morning. On arrival we joined the twitch and found a single Yellow Wagtail which was quickly ID'd as Western feeding in the grass with some Reed Buntings and Meadow Pipits. A group of eight Snow Buntings dropped in to feed and after about an hour the Eastern Yellow Wagtail finally returned to feed. It gave good views before flying off south again.

The bird has been around for a couple of weeks now but only ID'd from sound recordings yesterday which prompted our trip.

Year list now 296
Life list now 410

Eastern Yellow Wagtail at Walberswick
A few of the others that made the long walk today
The view while we waited
So the 300 challenge is starting to look more likely with just four required for the rest of the year but as you can see from my recent activity I'm putting in a bit of effort to close it down.

Saturday, 9 November 2019

295 after a decent day at Spurn

Yesterday saw Spurn reporting Bluethroat, Dusky Warbler, Pallas's Warbler and Hume's Leaf Warbler so it had to be our choice of destination today. We arrived around 8.30am and started with a search of the pub car park where the Pallas's Warbler had been reported and within minutes we found the little gem as it fluttered around doing a circuit of the bushes bordering the car park.

The Pallas's warbler that gave the Jims another year tick
We then walked the canal path to the Warren and picked up a year tick when a Lapland Bunting was first heard then seen feeding on the shore line keeping company with good numbers of Yellowhammer, Reed Bunting and at least one Twite.

One of several Yellowhammers present
Our next target was to look for the Bluethroat that's been entertaining the locals for over a week.
Unfortunately despite a good search we couldn't find the target but did get a nice consolation with a very confiding Snow Bunting and a very close fly over Woodcock.

Snow Bunting
Snow Bunting
Snow Bunting
Snow Bunting
Snow Bunting 
The Dusky Warbler was another no show but we did find the Hume's Leaf Warbler feeding in bushes along Peters Lane Easington and it showed well through the scope but was a bit distant for the camera. The bird was heard to call a few times before flying further down the lane when the householder pulled up on his drive and entered the garden.

A cracking days birding ended with a Merlin chasing a Skylark above us and the year list has ticked over again and now stands at 295 and leaves me just five to find by the year end for that 300 goal I've set myself.

The Dunwich Wagtail looks to finally have been confirmed as Eastern on call so I'm now hoping it'll wait for me to connect with it in the next couple of days.

Year list now 295

Tuesday, 5 November 2019

Fantastic sea watch at Cley

With the wind switching today to include a northerly bias I decided on taking the Jims to Cley for a seawatch. We arrived at around 9.30am having stopped on the way up to dip Golden Pheasant again.
Around thirty birders had already established territory around the coastguards hut so we squeezed in and started the watch.

Hundreds of Gannet and Kittiwake were the obvious birds with a scattering of Auks and a Gulls which made up the initial counts. A few Red-throated Divers flew east before the first decent bird in the form of a Pomarine Skua. The wind increased and with it came more movement to the east of Auks whilst Scoters and other ducks including Pintail, Eider, Tufted and Wigeon all moved west. Then the Skua passage picked up with a count of 27 Poms, 9 Great and at least 4 Arctics all moving east in front of the turbines. Mid afternoon and we got a shout of "Little Auk" and managed to get on two of the five that flew close in from the east to give my second year tick of the day.

A Merganser flew past then a Great Northern Diver headed west along with a small group of Little Gulls and a large flock of Great Black-backed Gulls to add to the fabulous spectacle unfolding in front of us. Waders were represented by Grey Plover, Turnstone and Sanderling andlater in the day we added three Velvet Scoter to the day list and a single Manx Shearwater.

I thought today would be a good day but it proved to be one of my best ever sea watches from Cley.

Year list now 293 and only 7 short of my 300 goal

Cley sea watch
Artwork at Cley
Fisherman at Cley
Watching the sea