Saturday, 27 May 2023

Garden birding

Well since I got my hopes up in mid may about finding more time to myself things have returned to normal and I'm in demand with the usual caring duties with the grandchildren taking up a lot of my time which of course I don't mind in the slightest save the lack of time left for birding. I haven't been birding since 12th May save a brief visit to Rainham, other than that the garden has kept the interest burning and given me the odd little fix.

Corn Bunting


I've messed around with the Merlin ID sound app and whilst it's pretty good the local Starlings seem to be giving it a challenge as It's ID's them as Lesser-spotted Woodpecker on a couple of occasions. I've had Mute Swan ID'd on it and although I've seen them fly over I'm surprised its able to pick them up on sound.

The local Lesser-black backed Gulls are often called out as Yellow-legged gulls by the app and it's picking up Tree Sparrow amongst the House Sparrows when none are present but otherwise it's done OK.

I've a particularly stunning Sparrow visiting the garden at the moment and although it's much more wary than the regular birds I have managed a few images of it. The bird is a Melanistic House Sparrow where the lighter grey pigments have been replaced by browner tones.

I've been putting an apple a day out and whilst I put it out for the Blue Tits it has attracted up to four Parakeets to visit daily so I've enjoyed taking a few images of them too. So far this year the garden has seen juvenile birds from Starling, House Sparrows, Magpie, Robin and Great Tit. The Blue Tits can't be far away now.

Juvenile House Sparrow

I'm still hopeful the Grey-headed Lapwing will turn up closer to home but as it's travelled from Northumberland into Scotland and now west into the western Isles I fear my chance of connecting with it may have been the six hour drive to Northumberland which I declined mainly due to being too busy and of course because it's six hours there and six back!

The pointless year list has well and truly stalled!

Anyway onwards and upwards 

oh and my grandson drew this picture for me......Its him and me birding and we're watching (in his words)...Parrots, crows, pigeons, Blue tips and red birds. 

Birding with Grandad by George aged 5

Friday, 12 May 2023

Yet another day out

Not sure what's going on but I managed another day off today and with a last minute call to the Jims we hatched a plan to find a few year ticks.

First stop was Welney village where we heard a Corncrake (my first outside of Scotland) Despite a good search from the gate we failed to find it but it was good to hear the constant calling. We also year ticked Garden Warbler here. When we arrived I found a rucksack and it had a camera in it so appeared to have been left by accident and as it was dry I guessed it had been left by somebody birdwatching this morning.

I put out a tweet asking if anybody knew who may have left it hoping the owner might get to see it if he searched ''Corncrake Welney''.  I then planned to leave it with staff at Welney but they didn't open for a while and the road to the reserve was closed so I was going to have to take it with me and hope to get in touch with the owner later but as we got to the car another birder pulled up and asked if we'd found his rucksack. He was relieved as was I because I no longer had the drama of what to do with it and how to contact him.

We moved on stopping at Choseley where Dad surprised us and himself by finding the Dotterel for us. At Titchwell there was no sign or sound of the Great Reed Warbler from last night but we year ticked Little Gull and enjoyed views of Spoonbill, Ringed Plover and LRP to name a few. It was freezing this morning more like winter than spring and after some time scanning from the hides we left stopping at Thornham to tick Wood Sandpipers for the pointless year list. By now it was raining hard with a cold wind making it very unpleasant so we headed for the car. We now had a call to we head home or up to Freiston shore RSPB and try again for the Blue-winged Teal we missed at Frampton earlier this week. 



The coin landed on heads so we found ourselves heading north into Lincolnshire. At Freiston we found the screen overlooking the reservoir with two other birders but negative news on the target. I found two Garganey on the distant flood and a couple of Yellow Wagtails and then after half an hour or so I found the BWT. It had appeared on the reservoir out of nowhere to the delight of everybody present.

The day delivered some decent birds despite the grey damp cold conditions.

Year list now 202 (with the heard only Corncrake) 

Wednesday, 10 May 2023


We were due to visit Frampton on Sunday but things got in the way so we delayed the trip until Tuesday.

Arriving around 7am we scanned the marsh from the car park finding lots of Ruff with most of them reeves. Lots of Avocet, Redshank and Lapwing along with a distant group of Blackwits which appeared to have a Spotted Redshank with them but distance prevented ID. Ringed Plover and Little Ringed Plover were present along with small numbers of Dunlin.

Brent Geese, Wigeon and Teal remain in small numbers with the regular summering ducks. A Hobby buzzed through with the Swifts and Swallows and the place was alive with Skylarks and Warblers. 


Common Tern

Orange Tip

Sedge Warbler

Sedge Warbler

From the seawall we found the Black-winged Stilts out by 360 hide and scanning a large flock of Dunlin and Ringed Plover revealed two Little Stint. A Wheatear was seen along with a couple of Yellow Wagtails and three Whimbrel showed well out on the marsh too. As we completed the loop we watched as a large female Sparrowhawk took a Lapwing.

Oh and I can recommend the Cheese, bacon and red onion Scone in the new cafe.

On the journey home we stopped at Wallington church but failed to find the reported Spotted Flycatchers but did watch a nest building Treecreeper and had fly over Hobby, Sprawk, Kestrel, Buzzard and Red Kite. We also saw Black Squirrel which I'm told aren't that rare in the area.

Year list now 196

Leaving the trip until Tuesday cost us Curlew Sandpiper, Wood Sandpiper and Blue winged Teal opportunity but this disappointment aside Frampton always has plenty to enjoy and today was no different.

Saturday, 6 May 2023

I found some time

I'm pleased to say that I have this week found a little time for myself and have used it to get a few local birding adventures in.

Firstly a trip to Abberton followed by Wrabness 

At Abberton we quickly located the reported Pec Sandpiper on the flood opposite the parking area for the Wigborough bay screen and we also year ticked Greenshank with four on the flood and another nine in Wigborough Bay. Also on the flood were eight Ruff and three Ringed Plover. From Layer Breton we found a sleeping Spoonbill and two Common Sandpipers. A fly over Hobby was another first of the year. Wrabness was alive with the sound of Nightingale and Turtle Dove but both proved elusive giving the briefest of views.

We popped over to Rainham when the White-winged Black Terns got reported but missed them by a few minutes and I returned the next day on my own to see the Black-winged Stilt. I found a female Whinchat on the old tip whilst watching the Corn Buntings and had another Hobby sitting on Butts hide.

Today saw us twitching yesterdays Short-toed Treecreeper at Dungeness but sadly as we half expected the bird had moved on. A sea watch was hard going but we did year tick Sandwich Tern and Arctic Skua. The Poms came through either side of our visit and we missed a reported Arctic Tern.

At Oare marsh we found three Whimbrel and a drake Garganey along with two Cuckoo and a Hobby. On the way home I drove the Jims round to the Serin mound at Rainham were they year ticked the Stilt. 

After this recent activity the pointless year list now sits at 195 but sadly I seem to have lost the ability to point the camera at anything hence this wordy post.

Thursday, 27 April 2023

White-crowned Sparrow at Hope Gap in Seaford

Yesterday we headed down to Seaford in East Sussex where a White-crowned Sparrow has been reported since Saturday. It's been elusive since Saturday but having dipped one in Cheshire back in 2016 I was determined to take the chance of moving this bird off my dipped list. We arrived at 8am and quickly found the area the bird has favoured. The crowd of twenty birders/twitchers had split with some watching from the centre path some from the top path and some watching the area that had been seeded the previous evening. At about 9am Alex B saw the bird and although I was stood next to him I couldn't react fast enough to get on it. The next sighting was at 12.15 whilst we'd taken a short break for drinks. We sat it out at the seed from 1pm until 3pm but after seven hours on site we headed home. The bird came to the seed at 4.30pm and visited frequently all evening. 

We added Rock Pipit and Lesser Whitethroat whilst at Seaford.

This morning after being gripped off by all the images on the socials I called Jim and told him I was going back today. He was up and ready but Dad didn't have the energy after yesterdays jaunt. We left at 7am and arrived shortly after 9am and this time as we joined the small crowd we were delighted to see the Sparrow sitting out in the open waiting for us. We watched it for another hour or so and managed to get some images as it came to seed every fifteen minutes or so but would often be obscured and remained quite skulky at times.  A walk down to the sea gave us a bonus year tick when Jim found a female Common Redstart. 

White-crowned Sparrow

White-crowned Sparrow

White-crowned Sparrow

White-crowned Sparrow

White-crowned Sparrow

White-crowned Sparrow

White-crowned Sparrow

On the drive home we made the three mile diversion to Thorndon CP paid the £2.50 for an hours parking and walked down to the lake. Luckily other birders had the Night Heron in their scopes or we may have struggled to find it as the bird was in deep cover and very obscured. Good to see Dave and Matt there but we didn't hang around too long as the bird was asleep and my sofa was calling me.

a nice fly over at Seaford

The Night Heron....honest!

Thorndon CP

Hope Gap (a very mobile Redstart in those bushes)

The seven sisters...very fitting as I'm one of seven brothers 

Year list now 183

Life list now 438

catching up

I haven't blogged since 13th March so thought I'd do a quick catch up.

As is usual now my time has been divided into caring for Suzanne, the grandchildren and the father in law and continued to help my youngest with landscaping and maintaining the garden of his new home.

But I have done some birding on the rare days off.

I dipped an Alpine Swift on the patch at Fishers Green on 24th March but year ticked Sand Martin.

Silver Wood Duck still surviving in the valley

A yellow-billed Pintail keeping the Wood duck company

The 25th March saw us travel down the A13 to Tilbury where we connected with the Green-winged Teal and added our first Little-ringed Plovers of the year too.

7th April and we had a morning at Abberton which allowed us to year tick Yellow Wagtail with at least twenty birds around the farm. A male Balckcap was a first for the year and a single Common Tern was also a year tick. We also saw another pair of LRP.

On 10th April I headed down to Devon to spend a few days with the grand children. A lovely week with very limited time outside playing with them but I did stop at Labrador bay on the way down where I saw a Cirl Bunting and my first Swallow of the year. On the 12th I managed another view of Cirl Bunting at Broadsands and a Shag at Brixham whilst playing pirates with George.

The 22nd saw me laying turf at my sons and allowed me to year tick House Martin.

A couple of hours at Lee Valley on 23rd was enjoyable allowing us to tick Cuckoo, Nightingale, Sedge and Reed Warbler along with  Whitethroat and Swift also new for 2013.

24th and we had an hour at Wanstead where we managed to find ten Wheatear, a Whinchat and a Willow Warbler but we failed to see the Little Owls again.

the year list at this point is just 178

Monday, 13 March 2023

Waxwing at Cranfield in Bedfordshire


Just a few images from the single visit to the apples during my visit to Cranfield

Sunday, 12 March 2023

It's been a while

I haven't been out birding since 15th February save the half hour trip to Bramfield on 16th Feb for Hawfinch. The usual family duties coupled with a rather nasty chest infection have taken all my time, sapped my energy and I've found it difficult to find my mojo too. The weather has been pretty poor which hasn't helped with my motivation to get up and get out but following a course of antibiotics I find myself feeling better and with a clear day in the forecast I decided to make the half hour trip to Stanborough Lakes in Hertfordshire hoping to see my first Little Bunting for the county and it couldn't have been easier arriving to find Matt and George M had the bird in their scopes. I watched it come and go for a few minutes at the feeder but didn't hang around long as views were distant and into the light so took the county/year tick and moved on.

Little Bunting and Reed Buntings at the feeder

I decided to drive further up the A1 to see if the Waxwings at Cranfield would show and again on arrival they were sitting in the Crab apple tree so I grabbed a few images before they flew back to their watchpoint tree. The birds didn't return to feed for the next hour or so at which time I left glad to be back out and pleased to add the year tick with the Little Bunting.

Waxwing at Stanborough Lakes

Lets hope I don't have to wait another month for my next trip.

Year list now 159

Thursday, 16 February 2023

At last a day out

I hadn't managed a day out since 29th January mainly due to man flu and my continued care duties but with a clear day on 15th I decided I'd head up to the Brecks and try to find some Goshawks as the weather looked ideal. The Jims wanted to come so we all headed up the A11 and landed at Lakenheath for first light. A walk up to the washland view point delivered nice views of a Great Egret and four Whoopers before an Otter was spotted in the river which is my first ever at Lakenheath. Two more Great Egrets were feeding along the river bank and we scanned the Geese for the reported Tundra Bean Geese without luck.

As we walked round the reserve we encountered several Marsh Harriers with a short display from one pair. Lots of pinging from Bearded Tits with a couple of distant views for a late year tick and the Jims ticked Water Rail at last. As we returned to the river I noticed the Goose numbers had picked up and located the three Tundra Beans but they all took flight before the Jims caught me up due to a river dredger passing them, luckily they flew back and Jim picked them up as they landed on the washland. A Kingfisher sat out in the open below the viewpoint which was a nice way to end our visit.


Marsh Harrier

Tundra Bean Geese

Whooper Swans

We next headed up to Cockley Cley and plotted up for a session, news from the guys on site was that it had been quiet as they packed up to leave but shortly after they left we had a single bird fly over then a pair got up and although not a full display there was some interaction between them before they both roosted up in the distant pines for a while. Two Peregrine and at least ten Buzzard entertained us as did the boxing Hares and a singing Woodlark. We also enjoyed the company of Toby an enthusiastic eleven year old out showing his Mum the birds of the Brecks. Great to see young people enjoying the hobby, I remember seeing my first Spoonbill at Minsmere when I was his age and I've been a bird nut ever since although work and raising a family became bigger priorities as they do for most of us.

Goshawk at in the tree..views were much better in the scope than the camera.

On the route home we had to pass Lynford so decided to try again for Hawfinch but failed to see any despite waiting until 3.30pm. A disappointing end to the day although Jim picked up a year tick with Brambling at the feeding station which seems to be up and running again.

16th Feb.....Went to Bramfield church and saw a Hawfinch  (year list now 158)

Sunday, 29 January 2023

A little Canada goose in Norfolk

Back in 2012 we saw a Richardson's Cackling goose at Cley and assumed that was that but the bird failed to get accepted so didn't make our list and has haunted us ever since. We don't twitch the islands and this isn't a species easier seen on the mainland especially in the south so when James M found one this week in Norfolk we planned to give it a try at the weekend and hope for it to stick.

This morning we headed north up the A10 stopping at Welney where we year ticked Tree Sparrows among the House Sparrows and then connected with Cattle Egret as three birds flew up and over the bank as a cyclist passed. A Barn Owl was seen on the fence outside the main building and it was nice to see and hear the thousands of Whoopers. News came through that the Little goose had been seen so we packed up and headed north again. We arrived at the concrete pad in Brancaster and joined the guys on site. Graham J kindly allowed us to view the Goose in his scope for the tick before setting up our own to get longer views. The bird was distantly feeding in a field with c3000 Pink-footed Geese. 

From here we went to Holkham with Graham and managed to jam on Firecrest as we entered the boardwalk area. A sea watch delivered a few more year ticks as a small raft of Common Scoter drifted west with at least one Velvet Scoter. Lot's of Mergansers and a single Long-tailed duck were seen and Graham found a Red-necked Grebe. 



We stopped at Abbey Farm, Flitcham on the drive south and year ticked Yellowhammer but failed again to find the "resident" Little Owls.

Year list now 153

Life list 437