Monday, 31 May 2021

I've still not seen an Eastern Subalpine Warbler

After the split of Subalpine Warblers I reviewed my previous sightings but all were Western or had been left as "species" and not recorded as Eastern or Western. I had seen an Eastern at Landguard but my view of it was so brief I decided at the time not to accept it on my lists so when news came through that one was showing really well at Spurn it grabbed my attention. Unfortunately I had obligations that kept me from travelling until yesterday. The bird had been on site three days and was seen into Saturday evening so I called the Jims and we headed north Sunday morning.

As we passed Kilnsea wetlands car park Jim checked on news of the warbler and noted that a Purple Heron had just flown over the triangle. I could see a Heron approaching so pulled over and sure enough the bird was indeed a Purple Heron and it dropped into the wetlands behind us. As we left the car park it was spooked by other birders and flew over our heads chased by a Grey Heron. It circled and dropped into a ditch giving really good views before being lost to view. We headed out towards the point and stopped at the general area where the warbler had been but sadly our target had moved on. The spurn area has provided good memories for me over the years but I have also dipped Brown Shrike, Collared Flycatcher and now Eastern Subalpine Warbler. 

The Jims picked up a couple of year ticks with Turnstone on the beach and a couple of Great Northern Divers flew through which we picked up at distance with just bins too far out to ID but the obs guys had them scoped as GND. Otherwise the place was very quiet with just a Wren and a very busy pair of Mipits to keep us entertained during our vigil.

Meadow Pipit

The Purp being chased off by the Grey

We decided to move on and as Bempton was our original destination we headed in that direction pulling into the car park at lunchtime just missing ten Beeeaters. Tree Sparrows were active in every bush with lot's of fledglings making themselves heard. We had a brief encounter with the resident Barn Owl who popped out of the nest box for a couple of minutes as we reached the viewing platforms. The reserve was extremely busy but we found some space and enjoyed watching the spectacle of all the sea birds. Thousands of Gannets, Guillemots, Razorbills, Fulmars, Kittiwakes and Herring Gulls with a smaller scattering of Puffins. We had a fabulous few hours watching the birds at close range going about their business before leaving for home.





To break the home run we diverted to see Ospreys at Rutland Water. It was good to see the birds on the nest feeding a youngster as we viewed from the bridge over looking Manton Bay.

The year list slowly edges forward to just 192 and the life list is still missing Eastern Subalpine Warbler and remains at 421.

Wednesday, 12 May 2021

Dorset dipping

I'd been watching the news of the Tawny Pipit in Dorset recently with various accounts of how difficult it was and a few accounts of people dipping but with a constant stream of close up images I gave in and made the difficult call to travel and give the twitch a go fearing that the bird may even have moved on over night.

one of several Rock Pipits seen at Portland

I stopped off at Longham lakes on the way down parking at the main road end of Green lanes and walking down the narrow lane to the lakes I found I was at the wrong end and had to walk the total length of the two lakes to connect with the bird but it was a decent view and only my second ever Whiskered Tern.

Longham Lakes

Cogden beach

Back in the car and I made the hours drive down to Cogden beach and started the walk down the steap hill from the car park. I walked that beach for about three hours on shingle for a good three miles or more and my reward was a Skylark, a Dunnock and a few Linnets on the actual shingle. A couple of Reed Buntings and a Cetti's Warbler the only other birds. I had again dipped Tawny Pipit!

A stop at Ferrybridge gave us a year tick with nineteen Little Terns and at Portland we jammed onto my first ever Dorset Chough and it was very pleasing to see so many Rock Pipits on territory singing and parachuting.  On the sea we picked out a Fulmar and a Gannet along with large groups of Razorbill and Guillemot (remarkably my first of the year).  A few Wheatears were noted around the lighthouse before we heard news of a Roseatte Tern at Lodmoor but sadly it had gone before we arrived.



A cracking day out by the sea and a refreshing reminder of the fabulous places this crazy hobby can take you to.

Year list ticking away and recovering to 187

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