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.

Saturday 10 April 2021

White-throated Sparrow

News filtered through Thursday evening that the East Sussex White-throated Sparrow was still around this had me contemplating a twitch. This bird has been around a few weeks but the locals had asked that it be suppressed due to lockdown guidance and intrusion as it was in a private garden and even during lockdown was attracting lots of attention. Move on a few weeks and we now find ourselves slowly moving out of lockdown measures and the bird has also moved to a public park so the locals have now put out the news of its continuing stay. Some people are moving out of lockdown faster than others and I'm keen to find a balance between acting responsibly and looking after that much talked about mental health benefit of this hobby we share.

As I went to bed I wasn't committed to going for the Sparrow. The Jims were going to travel for the Mockingbird should it be reported so I went to bed thinking if they go I might meet them there then go for the Sparrow. Upon checking the mornings news the Mocking bird had not been seen but the Sparrow had then I saw a great image of the bird and that was it I was in the car and on the way down the M23 in no time at all. The Jims decided against making the trip.

Arriving at the recreation ground I parked up in the small car park and walked to the bottom of the park finding a couple of other birders but the bird hadn't been seen since that very early sighting as it left the roost. Suddenly a very keen eyed sixteen year old birder picked up the bird and managed to get us on it. We watched it move through the trees for around ten minutes before losing it and we didn't pick it up again in the following couple of hours before I left. A stunning bird and really nice to get out and see some like minded people. It was especially pleasing to see the young lad enjoying the hobby and we have to remember we all started young and some of us are lucky enough to grow old. 

The other good news was that I was home in time to make Suzannes lunch. 

This April unlike the last has been kind to me with three American vagrant life ticks thus far.

White-throated Sparrow (there will ne better images but this is my only effort)

Barcombe recreational park

Barcombe allotments

Monday sees a further easing of lockdown restrictions and we can then stay overnight again so maybe I'll be able to book a week away at some point soon but the biggest hurdle for me is to get the Jims back in the car with me so they too can enjoy these new birds and some proper coastal birding again. I'm also hoping Scotland and Wales will soon open up to English birders again.

Year list now 140

Life list now 421

Lakenheath Sea Eagle

I decided to take a break from the Lee Valley CP today and headed to Lakenheath for a change of scenery. The reserve is open but the hides and shop are still closed. I walked up to the Washland viewpoint but couldn't find anything of note. On the next pool I found two drake Garganey six Avocet and three Redshanks. A Barn Owl was seen quartering the fields and as I walked along I saw a couple of Marsh Harrier and then a single Bittern flew up and back down into the reeds. I reached Joist Fen and was told by the volunteering work party that one of the IOW Sea Eagles had roosted over night and hadn't yet left. I waited for about thirty minutes before continuing east on my long walk along the public footpath. 

About 200 yards into the extended walk I had Common Crane and then noticed a lot of excitement towards the far end of the reed bed and sure enough the cause of that was the Sea Eagle ( yes I'm counting it on my year list for now 😉) leaving the roost. It flew high and over my head, crossing the river and then heading north over the farm. I turned to get the work party on it but they had left moments before. Introduced or not it's still a spectacular sight. There was no sign of the presumed escaped White Stork that's been hanging around for a month now and surprisingly I didn't see or hear a single Bearded Tit. 

On the way home I added Stone Curlew and Wheatear at Cavenham. Here I also saw Woodlark, Skylark and Stonechat. A nice day out with the added joy of finally connecting with one of the introduced Eagles after missing one that flew over the Lee Valley earlier this week.

A White tailed sea Eagle



Sea Eagle over Lakenheath

Year list now 140

NB: I reported the Eagle sighting to the IOW team and it appears to be a female from 2020 numbered G466 and she's now on the east Norfolk coast (Saturday) 

A few days local birding

 After Thursdays mega trip to the West country I've been local again trying to catch a few additional expected year ticks.

Friday saw me have a day off to recover and take care of Suzanne having neglected my domestic responsibilities yesterday.

Saturday and I was up early walking the sea wall at Rainham bumping into Howard on his pre opening walk. I picked up an early tick with a Whitethroat singing not far from the top car park and then walked the wall. Sedge Warblers singing in the reedbeds gave another year tick as they climbed to the top of the reed to announce territory. The walk revealed lots of Cetti's warblers and a single Blackcap, it's hard to think of times when we would have to make specific trip to hear a Cetti as now they are everywhere. It was high tide and on the rocks and small remaining mud I found a single Curlew, two Oystercatchers, three Avocet and a few ducks. A single Ringed Plover flew in as I watched the Curlew to add another tick. Scanning the reserve from the bank I failed to find Garganey but I did find Snipe, Dunlin, Redshanks and more Avocet. With the reserve not opening until 9.30am I left for home frozen from the bighting northerlies on the exposed marsh.

On Sunday I walked Sewardstone marsh hoping for an Ouzel but had to make do with a flock of 30 plus Sand Martins for my only year tick of the day. As I crossed the bridge I flushed a drake Pintail which flew up and over the King George V reservoir. Greenfinch are doing well on the marsh and there's a few Chiffchaff, Blackcap and Cetti's around too. Back at Fishers Green and the highlights were a pair of Kingfishers and a couple of singing Sedge Warblers. 

Monday was just a short local walk with nothing new to report but on Tuesday my local walk was highlighted by the first Swallow of the year over Friday lake.

On Wednesday Jim called to see if I fancied a walk around King George V reservoir. This would be Jim's first walk after coming out of hospital so I had to be there to enjoy it with him and we met at the gate around 9am and he managed the walk so well we got the whole way around both basins. South basin was almost empty of birds as the sailing club were doing their thing but the north basin was a bit better. We picked up lot's of Sand Martins and Swallows and eventually found some House Martins  amongst them. In the distance I saw a couple of  Common Terns but they moved through to the north before we got to their end of the basin. Goosander, Goldeneye and Scaup remain and the drake Pintail I saw on Sunday was now on the reservoir. As we walked around we saw Buzzards, Kites, Sparrowhawk and Kestrel but the best bird was a single Kittiwake. A couple of Oystercatchers gave the Jims a year tick before we left.

It was great to be out with Dad and Jim again and pleasing to see them both get around the long walk ok. After our goodbyes I stopped off at Cornmill meadow where I found a couple of Little-ringed Plover and a pair of Lapwings look to be nesting. I counted no fewer than sixteen Snipe around the edge of the main pool which is noteable.

Kittiwake on the King George V reservoir


Long-tailed Tit

Long-tailed Tit

The year list now a very modest 134

Life list 420

Sunday 4 April 2021

American Herring Gull at Newlyn

 A few more of the cracking gull from Newlyn in Cornwall.

Fabulous bird