Monday 31 January 2022


For some reason I finally found the motivation to travel the short hop up the M11 to Comberton in Cambridgeshire today and after a short search managed to connect with the wintering Great Grey Shrike. The bird remained distant  but I did manage to find a couple of Grey Partridge for a bonus year tick whilst there and had good views of several Fieldfare feeding in the grass before leaving. Whilst in the area I nipped into Milton CP and searched for the Yellow-browed Warbler but the views were too brief and too distant to confirm so I may return for a longer look. The car park closing at 4.30PM didn't help today.



Great Grey Shrike (a true record shot)

As I often do to feed my need for data I've looked at where I stand at the end of January against my biggest years without an agenda to actually chase a big year in 2022 at this point.

My biggest year was 2019 when I saw 303 species and in that January I connected with 152 species and in this January that's seen me sitting on 148 species I have missed eighteen from the 2019 January total. My top 2022 targets according to Bubolisting are.... Barn Owl, Shag, Tawny Owl, Tree Sparrow, L. Redpoll, Purple Sandpiper, Eider, Slavonian Grebe, Dipper and Ring-necked Duck. (Still can't believe I haven't seen a Barn Owl this year)

My best January ever was 167 species back in 2020

Year list now 148

Now my attention is drawn towards February, a month which generally delivers twenty odd year ticks and very few life ticks but we live in hope and that Belted Kingfisher just won't go away so who knows it may still tempt me.

Saturday 29 January 2022

Lincs day out for Jims birthday

With my brother celebrating his birthday today we decided we'd have a good day out birding and lined up a run up the M11/A14/A1 into Lincs. We arrived at Deeping lakes for first light this morning and walked out to the hide searching for a year tick in the shape of Long-eared Owl, a bird we didn't see at all last year. Four Goosanders and a Bullfinch were the highlights as we searched in vain for the Owl until I decided to check out the areas around the poo stained branches and bingo I had the LEO in the bins and managed to get the boys on it along with four other birders that were on site searching. We missed the opportunity to add Barn Owl and Little Owl and made our way up the road to Frampton. The wind was blowing hard now and there was no hiding from it as we walked the whole reserve. Our reward for the effort in challenging conditions was a single year tick with six Ruff seen as we got out of the car. A Peregrine, a Marsh Harrier and an obliging Kestrel were the raptors seen along with large numbers of waders ducks and geese. Six Whoopers were seen before we left but we failed to find the reported Little Stint or Spotted Redshank.

On the way home we took the short diversion to Eldernell where we found three roosting Short-eared Owls and a Glossy Ibis. Great White Egrets were seen as we searched for Cranes. Hundreds of Whooper Swans came and went and we picked out a Ring-tailed Hen Harrier with several Marsh Harriers hunting over the reeds. As the light faded the Cranes started to come in with a group of four then another four and then a larger group. We missed the Barn Owl leave the barn so this remains my top target at this point.

A very enjoyable day if not a little breezy and the year list now sits at 146.

No getting away from Brent Geese at the moment

Glossy Ibis at Eldernell

Kestrel at Frampton



Long-eared Owl at Deeping lakes

Short-eared Owl at Eldernell

Wednesday 26 January 2022

Essex: Wild goose chase

I've been watching the movement of the Essex Red-breasted Geese since they arrived in the autumn and I visited Wallasea the day after they crossed the river but it was a one day affair and they weren't seen again on the reserve. News then broke that one had moved to a field in South Woodham Ferrers and this didn't involve the 10k walk required to connect when they first arrived. The bird was reported this morning so I decided to give it a go and called the Jims to arrange the visit.

We parked at the Marsh Farm CP car park and walked about 400yards to view the flock of Dark-bellied Brents feeding in the field which numbered a few hundred and we began the work of searching through for the unusual. The Red-breasted was easy and showed very well at the front of the group. Next a very smart Black Brant and then lastly the Pale-bellied Brent. Before we left we spotted another Black-Brant. The birds were very settled and were not disturbed by walkers and cyclists but would become very alert when Crows flew over or from loud bangs from the farm sheds close by which at one point put the whole flock up and onto the river but thankfully they returned to feed within a few minutes.

A Black Swan was feeding on the river with the Mutes and the wader count gave up Black-tailed Godwits, Curlews, Lapwings, Dunlin, Redshanks and Oystercatchers. A friendly Robin took seed from my hand too which was nice and made for a very enjoyable few hours watching birds.

Year list now 141


A Black Brant in the Dark-bellied Brents

Spot the Brant



Check out that collar

There's a Pale-bellied and a Brant in there

Three forms one species


Brent Geese

Brents coming in

Brent Geese

One with a pale belly

Red-breasted Goose

Red-breasted Goose (and a Black Brant)

Red-breasted Goose and Black Brant

RBG and BB in the DBB's


A goose with a Red Breast

Red-breasted Goose

Not a life tick, not even an Essex tick but a year tick and well worth the eventual effort to see it.

Friday 21 January 2022

Lynford and some birds to point the camera at

A short trip up the A11 this morning to Lynford allowed me to connect with my top target for the year with two pair of Bullfinch in the bushes by the feeding station gate. My new target is Sparrowhawk but that's for another day. Also at the feeding station were at least ten Yellowhammers and a couple of Marsh tits both new for the year. Brambling numbered around ten with the Chaffinch flock and the odd Treecreeper entertained us. We didn't spend long looking for Hawfinch but instead enjoyed time watching the many Nuthatch and Siskins present. 

We picked up a bonus Woodlark locally before heading home for lunch.

Wednesday saw a very short visit to Rainham which rewarded us with a very distant and difficult to locate Dartford Warbler followed by another first for 2022 when a Rock Pipit was found from a walk along the wall.

Year list now 139

Blue Tit

Carrion Crow

Coal Tit

Coal Tit


Marsh Tit


Stonechat at Rainham


Monday 17 January 2022

Smew in the Lee Valley

I set out this morning intent on finding one of the three Smew that are wintering in the Fishers Green area of the Lee Valley after not finding any so far this year despite a few good searches. I had luck on my side today as I approached the far corner of Seventy Acre lake I saw the female redhead Smew. I called the Jims who were waiting for news and got them on the way then enjoyed the smart little duck for a while. After about half an hour I noticed the drake Smew swimming in and of course it took my attention away from the female. The Jims arrived in good time to enjoy both male and female and a few birders and walkers were able to enjoy the smart ducks before we left.

Stopping at the Bittern watchpoint we were rewarded with a Kingfisher that dropped in for a quick preen before carrying on down the river. My last stop was down at the farm where a few Brambling remain in with the Chaffinch flock. There was also a single female Linnet in the flock.

Year list now 133


drake Smew

The Redhead

a Kestrel posed for me too 

Sunday 16 January 2022

Getting the run around at Lee Valley

We walked the valley again today picking up an unexpected year tick with a pair of Red-crested Pochard viewed from Grebe hide looking over Holyfield lake. We walked around the the weir and completed a slow lap of Seventy acre lake but failed to add any new birds for the year list. Three Smew are present and two have been seen by others today but we seem to be missing them on our visits. No Bullfinch yet and no Bittern despite another reported sighting today. Year list now 131

Female Goosander

Male Goosander




Distant record shot of the Red-crested Pochard pair

Friday 14 January 2022

Bramfield church Hawfinch

I almost headed to Lynford today but changed my mind and made the local trip to Bramfield church in Hertfordshire. On arrival there was just one other guy there with a long lens set up on the yew trees. We didn't have to wait long for the Hawfinch arrival with at least six birds dropping in to feed from time to time. I year ticked Goldcrest too with a few making their way around the churchyard on their feeding circuits. Redwing, Fieldfare, Mistle Thrush, Song Thrush and Blackbird made up a nice list of Thrushes present and Nuthatch and Greenfinch made up the best of the rest.

Year list now 130





Mistle Thrush

Mistle Thrush