Wednesday, 30 June 2021

Black-browed Albatross at Bempton Cliffs RSPB

On Monday evening a Black-browed Albatross was reported as having spent time at Bempton during the day and into the evening. I didn't get the news until around 11PM just after the France v Switzerland game in the Euros so didn't take too much notice. Tuesday morning and the bird was reported again and reports continued throughout the day. The bird concerned has been spending time at Bempton over the last few years but was thought to have fell victim to a couple of Sea Eagles in Denmark so it has taken the birding community by surprise.

I hatched a mad plan with the Jims to leave at 12.30am this morning and at 4.30am we were looking over the cliffs along with around 300 other like minded fools. The bird had moved from its roost area of the previous night and so we walked the cliff to search for it. The crowd grew and by 7am there was still no sightings when all of a sudden the shout went up "there it is!" It wasn't as easy to pick out in flight as I expected but once I got my eye in it was a lot easier to find as it flew around the cliff edges for the next couple of hours before setting down for the day on the rocks with the Gannets.

The Albatross is a bird I never expected to see in the UK as although this particular bird returns each year its appearance on our east coast is usually brief. It was truly fantastic to see such an impressive beast performing and has to be one of the best bird encounters I have experienced. The sanity of a dawn raid is questionable and not without risk in time, money and reward but on this occasion it was without doubt worth the risk.

My images don't really do it justice as I spent more time looking though my bins and scope than my camera but I did grab a couple of records shots. 

Year list now 206

Life list now 423

Saturday, 26 June 2021

Roller at Icklingham in Suffolk

Wednesday a Roller was located in Suffolk and I couldn't resist a trip to see it having only seen two previously in the UK.

The Jims had other plans so couldn't drop everything as easy as me so this was a solo run and on route the bird went missing but within the hours drive it was refound at Icklingham so a small diversion and I was back on track. Lee Evans was on site and had taken on the role of parking supervisor so directed me up a small road and said the Roller could be seen on the wires above the sheep field. I turned around on the hard standing and parked up at the bottom of the lane and managed fantastic views of the Roller through the scope and even managed some reasonable images although it was at a challenging distance for my newly repaired 400mm lens.

The local farmer wasn't pleased with parking arrangements and has since asked people to not use the lane. I showed the farmer the bird through my scope and explained why people wanted to see it so much and this calmed him a little and he agreed it was a smart looking bird. He agreed the cars parked could stay but asked Lee to stop more cars coming in giving an alternative car park about 800yards further up the road which Lee asked RBA to include in future messages. The walk along the A1101 is dangerous with no path and traffic moving much faster than the 50mph limit. The police were in attendance ticketing anybody parking on the main road and asking people to walk in single file as it really is an accident waiting to happen. I hope everybody attending appreciates the danger and applies adequate caution. 

I returned on Friday as the Jims were now in a position to travel and we took Rob along too as he needed Roller as a life tick. Parking was easy as we found a spot in the layby opposite the field and simply crossed the road to view for an hour or so. You cannot describe the beauty of this bird in flight it just has to be seen to be appreciated fully. My images do not do it justice.

Year list now 205

June has delivered for sure!

A life tick with the River Warbler followed by THREE Collared Pratincoles, NINE Bee eaters and a Roller.

Bee Eaters at Breydon Water

 On Tuesday I watched NINE Bee eaters at Breydon Water

They flew around lots, sat in the bushes for these pictures and constantly called and it was magnificent.

Year list now 204

Sunday, 13 June 2021

Seconds of the River warbler at Ham Wall

When I travelled to Ham Wall last Saturday to see the River Warbler the Jims couldn't come with me. My brother had a poor reaction to his first vaccine and had his second last Friday so was advised not to travel for a couple of days after so all week he's had one eye on the River warbler hoping I'd find the time to take him and yesterday I did just that.

We arrived just after 7am and made short work of the walk out towards the gathered birders. The bird was heard as we walked down and seen within seconds of stopping at the two wooden seats. For the next couple of hours it played to the crowd often sitting very close but obscured by vegetation before going missing and quiet for about thirty minutes between each display.

River Warbler

River warbler

River warbler

Came close but was difficult to frame

Very vocal

Not a bird I expected to be ticking this year

We saw Bittern, Cuckoo, Marsh Harriers and Great White Egrets whilst watching it before leaving at about 11am. On the way home we stopped to have a couple of hours wandering around Thursley Common where we had great views of a few Redstarts, a Woodlark, several Hobby and lot's of Dartford Warblers. Colin and his mates were in fine voice but we didn't make it to the Cuckoo field.

Jim has now picked up two lifers this year as he nudges closer to the 400. He's also dipped two this year with the Tawny Pipit and Eastern Subalpine Warbler and missed a couple as the earlier covid restrictions prevented us travelling together when I twitched the Mockingbird and American Herring Gull. If I have my math's right he's looking for three more for the 400 now which should be achievable this year with a planned trip to Porthgwarra hoping he can finally see some more Petrels and Shearwaters. Sadly there were no ticks for me this weekend but I still enjoyed the day out.

I currently have my lens with Canon for repair so used Jims Sigma for the above images. I'm hoping the repair will not be too expensive.

Monday, 7 June 2021

Collared Pratincoles at Dungeness RSPB

I offered the Jims two choices today....go for the River Warbler which I did a solo run for on Saturday or have a longer more local days birding in Kent and they chose Kent.

We started at Dungeness where the reserve and point were covered in thick sea mist on our arrival at 6.30am. We walked out to ARC pit and despite the thick mist managed to see the Glossy Ibis and a couple of Cuckoo before turning to walk back to the reserve. Dungeness is one of those reserves that doesn't open until later in the day but despite the gates being locked you can walk out onto the footpath. We joined three other birders and waited for the mist to get a little thinner. Great White Egrets were seen before the warden drove down to us to let us know a Pratincole had been seen in the sheep fields. As soon as we got the the fields we have eyes on first one then two Collared Pratincoles hawking over the field. As the mist cleared more birders arrived and before long a third bird was seen to make it a very memorable experience. To see these three birds flying around with three Hobby for company was something special.

We moved to the sea watch hide but by 12pm the mist remained at the beach and the bouy wasn't even visible. We did pick up a single Sandwich Tern to give the Jims a tick but left soon after, stopping at Oare Marsh on our route home. At Oare a local pointed out a Turtle Dove which we managed to scope for a late year tick and we managed to find a male Eider sitting out on the shingle bank at the mouth of the creek.

Year list now 203

One of the Collared Pratincoles 

Sunday, 6 June 2021

River Warbler at Ham Wall RSPB in Somerset

News arrived too late on Friday for me to make the twitch down to Somerset for the reported River Warbler but I had intended on visiting Acres Down on the Saturday so I headed off thinking if the warbler was reported before I made the A303 junction on the M3 then I'd divert and that's what happened. I arrived at the RSPB car park around 6.30am and started the walk out to the reserve. I could hear the River warbler long before I got to the gathered birders and very quickly had my scope up for excellent views as it sat almost the whole time on a small bramble patch singing away. A delightful bird full of energy and hope but I fear it's efforts to attract a mate are all in vain.

River Warbler

River Warbler

The twitch (not quite sure what that is in the blue ?

Ham Wall RSPB 

Whilst watching the warbler I saw a Barn Owl, a Bittern in flight (lot's of distant boomers) at least five Great White Egrets, a Cuckoo and three Marsh Harriers.

I departed at 10am and made the very slow journey through holiday traffic to Acres Down where I climbed the hill and sat scoping for the forest for a couple of hours before walking the woods. On the walk up I had a Tree Pipit and from the view point I picked up lot's of Common Buzzard, two Hobby, three Goshawk (female and two males) and a bonus fly over Hawfinch. A Cuckoo called on and off throughout my stay. In the woods I had a couple of males and a female Redstart before finding a Spotted Flycatcher further down the track. Sadly I failed to hear Wood Warbler from the track and due to the sensitive nature of this now rare breeder I didn't wonder off the track in search. (It's reported that we now have only five pairs in the New Forest.)

Acres Down

Having made a couple of more local excursions in the week to to tick Quail at Wallington Herts and Nightjar at West Stow my year list has finally clawed its way to 200 and the life list moves to 422.

Now can that Red-necked Stint stick around until I have the motivation and energy for the trip? or will it be a second trip to the River warbler for the Jims to connect as they were unable to join me yesterday.