Tuesday, 4 May 2021

year list update as we move into May

The year list sits at 181 which I suppose under the circumstances is very reasonable given the travel restrictions we have endured for most of the year.

I'm down around 40 species on birds usually seen by this time of the year with a good few wintering birds moving on before the relaxation of Covid related restrictions. Summer visitors are coming in and I'm awaiting my first Tree Pipit, Whinchat, Redstart, Arctic, Little or Black Tern but these are all realistic targets and hopefully I'll pick up some of the missed winter birds later in the year when they return. I rescued the life ticks with the relaxed lockdown rules last month picking up three life ticks in April with Mockingbird, American Herring Gull and White-throated Sparrow but I've missed a few good birds that would have been twitch targets in normal times.

The Sociable Plover in Bude, Cornwall would have been a lifer and is the biggest miss so far this year along with the Eastern Subalpine Warbler at Treev Moor in Cornwall which would also have been a life tick having not had good enough views of one at Landguard a few years back but I'm not sure this one would have me making the long journey down to Cornwall and back. I'd also have liked to have seen The Nottingham Two-barred Crossbill, the Lodmoor Laughing Gull and Desert Wheatear and of course the Sheffield Long-tailed Skua (One for the camera).

Things in the UK seem to be improving as far as the pandemic is concerned with cases falling and vaccinations continuing at pace. I have my second on 20th May and we're set for further relaxations on 17th May before the end of restrictions which is planned for mid June and I'm even considering getting away for a break at some point in the future.

It's great to be able to get out again and the fact that the liberty has been removed for so long makes the most basic of days out so much more memorable and enjoyable.

Onwards and upwards

Monday, 3 May 2021

Woodchat Shrike in Rochford, Essex

As I drove back from Frampton yesterday I was half tempted to divert to Rochford but I was simply too tired so went to bed last night hoping the reported Woodchat Shrike would stay another day and sure enough it did. 

On arrival the safe viewing distance had been established by others so I set up the scope and enjoyed very good views of the smart adult bird but because of the distance the camera was only used to produce a record shot or two. The bird was sheltering from the wind so sitting low down in the Blackthorn to launch the occasional attack. It's always nice to bump into a few of the local guys but as a small crowd slowly gathered some started to set their own new shorter safe distance so I decided to call it a day and headed to Wallasea just a couple of miles down the road. Time was limited but I did pick up a few views of Corn Bunting for another year tick and from the sea wall just a single Whimbrel of note.

Corn Bunting at Wallasea

Corn Bunting

Woodchat Shrike

The small twitch we left behind

Woodchat Shrike (and this is after a heavy crop)

Home for lunch with the year list now sitting at a recovering 181

This was only the second Woodchat I've ever seen in Essex and the last one was taken by a Sparrowhawk (Rettendon 2011) so I'm hoping this one does better. My last UK Woodchat was September 2017 (Chipping Sodbury) so I was due one but it's great to have one in the home county again.

Sunday, 2 May 2021

A refreshing morning at Frampton marsh

Arriving at Frampton marsh for 7am this morning it was calm and bright with hardly a ripple in the water where Avocet, Dunlin and Ruff fed close to the rear car park. From the mound opposite we found a sleeping Jack Snipe but our main target was Dotterel so we climbed the bank and started the long walk to the far corner finding Whimbrel, Short-eared Owl and Marsh Harrier along the way. A Wood Sandpiper was close to the fence line so we paused to enjoy that for a while before marching on before we found the Dotterel in a small flock of Golden Plover and Ruff but it remained a little distant. Two Yellow Wagtails and a flock of Brents made up the rest of our interest on this half of the reserve.

Back on the main track we again saw the Jack Snipe but this time it was feeding as I found it when looking at a splendid ginger Ruff through the camera. Further around the reserve and we found lots more Ruff, a flock of some 150plus Dunlin and over 30 Ringed Plover. Jim spotted a distant Spoonbill to give me my third year tick of the day and on the main pool we found both Black and Bar-tailed Godwits along with more Avocets to round off a lovely days birding in Lincolnshire.


Year list now 179




Jack Snipe



Spoonbill 😉

Distant but a real Spoonbill

Wood Sandpiper

Wood Sandpiper

Thursday, 29 April 2021

First visit to Titchwell since September

I visited Titchwell yesterday with the Jims for the first time since September last year. We stopped at Hunstanton for an easy year tick watching the Fulmars from the car park but by around 7am we were walking along the path to Patsy's Pool at Titchwell hearing Willow, Reed, Sedge and Cetti's warblers and Chiffies along the way. At the viewpoint we heard a Gropper reeling so stopped scanning and walked the path to find the Grasshopper Warbler sitting up reeling away. It was a little distant but still the best views I've ever had of this species.


Marsh Harrier

Back at the viewpoint we found both Common and Green Sandpiper before another birder put us on the sleeping Jack Snipe which was in the reeds closest to the screen. It sat bobbing for a while before we left to walk the reserve. The water levels are high and the volume of birds was disappointing.  On the beach I added Knot to my year list but the high wind made sea watching very difficult. A single Barwit was on the beach with two Oystercatchers but it was very quiet. We had a single Bearded Tit whilst scanning the reed pools and two more Groppers reeled as we walked back to the car park.

Jack Snipe

A quick trip to Choseley to search for Dotterel was a failure but the Jims added Whimbrel and Yellowhammer to their lists for 2021. Brancaster was waderless so we made our way to Wells north pools where we quickly found Wood Sandpiper. I added Ruff to the year list before finding a second Wood Sandpiper and a probable Green Sand that popped up distantly harassed by Gulls.

Wood Sandpiper

On the way home we stopped at Lynford to break the journey and I finally saw my first Marsh Tit of the year whilst Jim got his first Coal Tit. I struggle to hear Firecrest but luckily Jim doesn't and with him hearing one we scanned the Ivy clad trees to eventually get a decent view before seeing another at the feeding station which posed really well for us. The year list is recovering now we can get around a little more although I'm still trying to limit my days out. 

Year list now 176

Tuesday, 27 April 2021

A weekend at Startops and Rainham

I revisited the Nightingale pair at Fishers Green and found another singing male by the bench which is promising. I followed the Fishers Green walk with a long walk around King George V on Friday where I found a Common Sandpiper, Wheatear, Black Redstart and lot's of hirundines but no Swifts. The Terns on the reservoir were disappointingly all Common.

Saturday saw me head out to Startops reservoir where I picked up a fly over Whimbrel before enjoying first a flock of Twenty Little Gulls then another flock of eight in four hours watching. Terns passed through but were again all Common. Whilst watching Red Kites, Buzzards, Sprawk and Kestrel I picked up my first Swifts of the year when four birds flew through with the mixed hirundines that contained Sand Martin, Swallow and a single House Martin. Kingfisher, Yellow Wag and Grey Wag the only other birds of note.

Little Gull

Part of the flock of twenty Little Gulls

On Sunday I met the Jims at Rainham where a walk along the river gave us a pair of Grey Plover that I original called as Golden in a strange trick of the light. Eight Bar-tailed Godwits were on the mud with three Ringed Plover and some Avocets. There were some Terns fishing on the far side of the river but were too far out to be anything but Comics to me. Jim picked up a White Stork out on the reserve as we scanned looking for Spoonbill. The bird flew out across the river mobbed by gulls and shows no wing damage so is a different bird to the Lee Valley encounter we had a while back.

On the reserve we scanned for Jack Snipe without success but found ten Common Snipe and a coupe of Greenshank flew out calling from Purfleet scrape. Swifts started to move to give the Jims a year tick and as we walked around we found a couple of Lesser Whitethroat for another year tick.

Mute Swan

Year list now 166

Thursday, 22 April 2021

A few common firsts

 A trip to Abberton and Old Hall marshes in the week produced a few expected additions to the year list.

First off was a Green Sandpiper that I flushed from LDLH causeway where a pair of LRP have set up territory. A Kingfisher was seen from LB causeway and a Black Swan was with the large herd of Mutes. Two Nightingale sang and showed briefly along the old road where I also picked up my first Willow Warbler of the year. I heard a distant Cuckoo then saw it when it flew into trees along the edge of the reserve. Six Common Tern were seen in difficult conditions with the early mist.

Little-ringed Plover at Abberton

Old Hall is only three miles from Abberton and as I parked the car I enjoyed views of Barn Owl that was later to be seen on a couple of other occasions. A Cuckoo called and I added Whimbrel, Bar-tailed Godwit, Turnstone and Spotted Redshank to the year list. Whitethroat, Sedge Warbler and my first Reed Warblers were all encountered walking around along with numerous Cetti's and some Reed Buntings but surprisingly I still didn't hear or see any Bearded Tits despite the calm warm weather. Back at the car park I saw a Stoat cross the field which scattered a large Linnet flock.

Barn Owl

Barn Owl

Reed Bunting

On Tuesday I managed to see the three Black-necked Grebes that spent a couple of hours resting on Roding Valley Lake which is a first for me on the lake. It's hard to think it was around forty years ago that I used to windsurf on the very same lake shortly after it was built as part of the M11 gravel excavations and my parents home is only a few yards from the path to the lake. The Grebes left overnight.

Black-necked Grebes at Roding Valley

The weed dance


Today I walked Gunpowder and found an influx of Common Whitethroat and a single Sedge Warbler before heading of to Fishers Green where I found a pair of Nightingales by the gate to the power station. Although very vocal they are difficult to see although with patience they can be seen if they're given some space. Hobby, Swift and Arctic Tern have all been reported in the valley this week but I saw none today. I'll try again tomorrow.

Year list now 162

Saturday, 17 April 2021

White Stork at Hall marsh scrape

A White Stork was seen late on Wednesday evening at Hall marsh scrape and it was too late for me to make the short journey but on Thursday I was on site as is usual very early at first light and the Stork was still there having roosted on the marsh. The bird was un-ringed but does have some damage to one wing which looks to have been clipped at some point. Whatever the credentials it was lovely to see such a smart bird on the marsh and it'll form part of my years list noted to reflect the likely hood of it being an escaped or released bird. (I'm a bit fussier with life ticks 👀)

White Stork

White Stork

White Stork

Cetti's Warbler

The Garganey sleeping 

The Garganey remains on site and a White-fronted Goose was noted by a visitor but I haven't noticed this bird as of yet. I'll look harder on my next visit. Lot's of Sedge and Cetti's Warblers now singing along with the many Whitethroat, Blackcaps and Chiffchaff but I'm still to hear a Willow Warbler.

Year list now 152

Tuesday, 13 April 2021

Finally had a day at the coast

My last visit to Dungeness was August 11th last year so I've been waiting for these latest restriction easing measures and today I made the trip down the M20 to see the sea.

The patch

I stood on the shingle bank next to the hide, four locals had positioned themselves in front of the hide so I kept a good distance away from them and the hide and started to scan the sea in anticipation.

Lot's of Gannets were immediately apparent and were a very welcome sight. A few Porpoise arched out of the waves and a number of Great crested Grebes and Cormorants sat on the water. My first Brent Geese of the year came flying through followed by many more groups in the couple of hours watching. Common Scoters came through in varying sized flocks and the Iceland Gull dropped to the patch with the crowd of mixed gulls. Sandwich Terns flew up and down constantly and a couple of Common Tern were seen flying up one being mobbed by a pale phased Arctic Skua. Red-throated Divers flew in both directions but quite distant and a single Great northern Diver flew high down the point. 

On the way out I saw both Wheatear and Yellow Wagtail and on news from the locals I drove down to Greatstone-on-sea where I found a Treecreeper which is far from common here. The locals excitedly checked it for Short-toed but alas it was a Common Treecreeper but I picked up a couple of tips on ID for the future should I ever bump into a Short-toed. We eventually found the male Pied Flycatcher and enjoyed singing Blackcaps and Chiffchaff.

On the reserve I saw the Glossy Ibis in flight away in the distance behind Cookes Pool and had lot's of singing Cetti's and Sedge Warbler but still no Bearded Tits. A Bittern boomed whilst I was sitting waiting for Beardies and a pair of Raven flew over kronking away.

It was great to be on the the estate at Dunge today and I really hope it's not eight months before I get to see it again.

year list now 151

Monday, 12 April 2021

Recovering those missed lockdown opportunities

 On 14th February I wrote about the missed opportunities lockdown had produced this year.

They included the over wintering Social Lapwing in Cornwall. This bird was last reported on 20th February so looks like I've missed my chance to see it.

I also mentioned the Devon Mockingbird. Well the bird hung around until the government allowed us to travel again so I was fortunate to add this to my life list and picked up a bonus lifer in Cornwall on the same day with the American Herring Gull.

The White-throated Sparrow that was seen in Kent and suppressed moved to East Sussex and although reported during lockdown was quickly suppressed to stop the temptation for people to travel during lockdown. As lockdown was released the bird moved to a more public area and news was again released so I managed to recover this tick which was great. 

I missed the Warwickshire Bufflehead due to travel restrictions and the Kent Eyebrowed Thrush that was suppressed during the lockdown despite being present from 14th January until 3rd March.

Other birds I may have travelled for outside of lockdown include Black Scoter and Pacific Diver although the Diver in Cornwall has only been reported once this year.

All in all a decent recovery from lockdown with three life ticks so far this April.



White-throated Sparrow

Sunday, 11 April 2021

Rainham Ring Ouzel

Another Sunday morning walk at Rainham and again just the river wall. I found a Ring Ouzel on my early walk and again Cetti's and Sedge Warblers were singing along the route. Last weeks Whitethroat has been joined by more birds now too. On the river Common Terns were seen feeding and a Yellow Wagtail was heard to fly over. On the tip I found a male and two female Wheatear and a few Skylarks. 

A decent walk giving up a couple more year ticks in this strangest of years.

Year list now 143

Tomorrow we take another step out of lockdown and edge closer to the new normal.