Monday 30 May 2022

The juvenile Starlings arrived today

Lot's of House Sparrows have been enjoying the garden of late with many youngsters involved, I've had two young Magpies and three Great Tit juveniles plus the sad juvenile Robin that didn't see more than a few hours of life but today the Starlings arrived with their youngsters. Starlings don't feed in my garden as a rule until they have young then it's a free for all and one which I enjoy each year when the time comes.

I'm now waiting on the first Blue Tit's to emerge from the nest box at the bottom of garden but today it was all about Sparrows and Starlings.

Sardinian Warbler test

With another rare day off I took the Jims down to South Foreland today in the hope we could see our first ever Sardinian Warbler. We parked up in Beach Road and I stopped to ask for directions in the cafe only to find Jamie P getting a coffee so who better to ask and bingo we were now just a short walk away from the area he had found the target in and more importantly had just heard it calling there again before coming down for his coffee.

The Sardinian Warbler was in here somewhere

During the morning we were joined by quite a few birders. One guy fell down a rabbit hole and damaged his knee so ambulances were called and attended him whilst we continued to look for the bird. A Spitfire put on a bit of a show along the white cliffs which was good to see, a Hobby flew through the valley, Fulmars flew along the cliff edge and we had four views of at least two Peregrines. Jamie P joined us and straight away the bird called as if it knew he'd returned. The bird then gave a little sub-song before a fleating glimpse as it flew between bushes. The bushes contained both Whitethroat and Lesser Whitethroat which added to the fun although these too were quite elusive and did catch a few of us out at times, me included. A dash across the field to some guys that "had it" eventually revealed a Lesser Whitethroat before we returned to the bushes again only to hear more calls but no views save one guy that got on it just below where I'd previously seen it. 

By now people had decided to get the phones out and play the call which the bird didn't seem to respond to but it made it a little harder to know if you had the bird calling or somebody on their phone. We were joined by fellow Essex birders Shaun H and Martin B and we walked back around the bushes we picked it up on call again but seeing it was still proving difficult with limited movement being picked up deep in the cover.  A Whitethroat flew in and then the Sardinian Warbler flew out low and crossed the path. The Whitethroat also flew out but higher up. There followed some debate with the guys closest saying they had seen it well enough to be 100% sure on it and the guys around us that have seen Sardinian before also thought it safe. We gave it another couple of hours and heard the bird a couple more times and had a very similar brief flight view along with plenty of "was that it?" action. 

In all a very long and frustrating day but in a lovely spot with good company. We spent six hours on site heard the bird a dozen times both calling and singing and had no more than three very brief flight views. I've never seen Sardinian Warbler before which made it a little harder with the poor views it gave and I have to say this is one of the most elusive birds I've ever twitched. The bird is on my list as heard very well but seen really poorly and I really would like to see one better than this one day for sure.

Year list 212
Life list 431

Friday 27 May 2022

Eleonora's Falcon at Worth Marsh

Two years ago I travelled to Winterton the day after an Eleonora's Falcon was spotted and of course I dipped as these birds never stick around and only a handful of people have the falcon on their UK life lists. Yesterday in similar circumstances to the Winterton bird news came via a photo of a Hobby that was then identified from the photo as an Eleonora's Falcon. Some twitched it yesterday and many dipped it yesterday and I thought it was just another of those "You had to be there to see it" birds but bring on 9.54am today and somebody saw the bird again at Worth Marsh in Kent. An hour later it was found sitting on a post and so it began more news more sightings more photos and it continued to pull at my twitch nerve and I continued to drive my wife crazy with each report that came in.

It being a Friday would take me about two and a half hours to cover the ninety miles required, Dad had a commitment too but eventually we managed to meet up and set off around 2.30pm arriving at 5pm to news that the bird was still sat in a tree so we marched around to the gathering of scopes and within seconds had ticked the Eleonora's Falcon. A first for Kent and a first for me. We watched it for over an hour and it made three short flights before going back to the tree to rest.

Distant record shot of the Eleonora's Falcon at Worth marsh Kent

We left and drove down to Worth where we saw the Red-footed Falcon and then had better views of the Eleonora's Falcon sat out on the marsh on a plastic post. It was distant for my 400mm lens but gave fantastic scope views along with Hobby. I've been hoping for this something special to get me out again following a month where I've only managed one local birding trip and I couldn't have asked for a better bird and only 90miles from home too.

As always thanks to the guy that took the photo of the "Hobby" the guys that refound it today and to all the staff on site for arranging parking and giving directions with a warm smile. It was a very pleasant twitch and we played our part by getting many people onto the bird too.

Onwards and upwards!

Year list now 211 - Life list now 430

Wednesday 25 May 2022

I used to go birding

I used to go out birding!

I was a birder from a very young age living in a house very close to the river Roding I'd often be found walking the field enjoying the birds from a very young age. Back then we'd swim in the bomb holes of the Roding and I was a child when the M11 was build and remember spending many a happy hour swimming in the gravel works which is now the Roding Valley lake. We had no fear back then. The lake was eventually opened once the motorway was completed and we were promised all kinds of local events and past times. A guy used to come and use the lake for Windsurfing lessons and the owner would encourage a couple of us to use the boards to encourage others to pay which was good as we got free time on the boards almost daily. 

The RAF camp where the the David Lloyd centre now sits was another source of entertainment as we'd go down into the old bunkers often finding the odd item of interest in them. We'd dig the sand pits from the old disused firing range and always found a few spent shells to take home along with the odd live round or two which again worried us not. This was our life and it was always outdoors, we went home to eat and sleep but if we could get out we were out. My old Chopper bike was almost a part of my anatomy I spent that much time on it.

As I started work, got married and had children my birding days were forgotten and although the interest never left me my time was taken up working and running my boys to various sporting events and I managed a football team for ten years too with all the after work and weekend commitment that involves.

So the above hopefully illustrated that A) I have always had the birding bug and that B) I put the boys before my birding for almost two decades. So they've grown and they've flown the nest and since 2010 I've been year listing and enjoying the trips the ticks and not so much the odd dip but I've had more time and it's been great seeing some lovely places, great birds and the odd bit of company along the way has been great too. Move on a bit and my wifes health starts to fail needing more time and care from me, my mother in law moves into a care home and my father in law now needs more of my time. Then my children start to have children and my time now is very much split between caring for my wife and my father in law and playing with the three grandchildren I've been blessed with and my birding is now once again falling way back down the list. 

I'm left instead enjoying the garden wildlife and dreaming of finding more time to get out and about again. 

This year the House Sparrows have been successful and the first broods are out pumping up the numbers coming to my daily offerings. The Robins managed to get a single fledgling but sadly it collided with a window on day one and they have started a second brood. The Magpies now have two fledglings and the Blue Tits are busy in the nest box so I hope for some youngsters soon. The Foxes are visiting the garden more regularly and earlier in the evenings allowing for some images to be captured but we're still waiting to see the youngsters. All this is giving me a small fix to keep my eye in with nature and that's where I'm at!

I'm a lucky man to have these drains on my time I know but I really would like to find the time and to some extent the motivation to get back in the saddle with my birding adventures. Maybe a decent life tick is what's required or maybe just a really good day out like Bempton time will tell.

Oh and I've been sketching again, I'm not particularly keen to share the results but here's a couple of teasers..........


Now where's that day out I'm so desperate for?

Monday 9 May 2022

All happening at home

So it's been a busy time at home recently.
First my second grandchild Emily was born on 16th March then my youngest and his wife had their first child and my third grandchild on 30th April, then on 1st May I celebrated 40 years of marriage with Suzanne and of course I have my grandson who celebrated his fourth birthday with me yesterday.

As you can imagine all the above along with my care commitments has seen my time for birding very limited. I did manage a walk around the valley recently where I dipped three valley ticks in the form of Glossy Ibis, Barwit and Spotshank but I did pick up a year tick with my first Lesser Whitethroat of the year along with enjoying many singing Nightingales.

I also managed to get away yesterday morning for a short walk around Rainham RSPB. I added two year ticks here with four Wood Sandpipers from Butts hide and a Hobby on the return leg of the reserve. Two Cattle Egrets, a Great White Egret and a Cuckoo among the highlights of the 70 species seen on the visit.

Year list now 209 

40 years! ("It'll never last")

Cattle Egret

Cattle Egret

Marsh Frog


Common Whitethroat


Canada Goose in full defence mode