Monday, 22 June 2015

Turtle Dove - Grove Ferry, Kent

Had a few hours spare today so decided to go try and find a  Turtle Dove as I had not seen one well for a number of years. Grove Ferry NNR is a reliable location each summer, for these dainty birds, so off I went.

Nothing was doing at first. But after a walk around the reserve on my way back I struck lucky. At least 2 individuals were purring away on the left hand side of the path, as you exit the reserve, at the Grove Ferry end.

One showed really well to just 15 feet for a few seconds, but long enough for me to nail a good shot. It sat up ok further back, partly obscured by foliage, providing superb scope views. I had forgotten just how smart these birds are up close. I hope I manage to catch up with them more often from now on.              


Yesterday was my Dad's 80th birthday! We had celebrations planned for Friday at my house and 17 of us were going away Saturday night. Twitching was not not high on the agenda. It was only when we got home after lunch time on Sunday (yesterday) that I checked Birdguides for the first time over the weekend and discovered that what is possibly my most sought after bird, a Terek Sandpiper, was at Church Norton.

It was 2pm by the time I decided to go for it. Shaun was up for it and he needed the Hudsonian Whimbrel too that was still on site although acting a lot more elusively as time has gone on.

The journey was good and the bird was playing ball, that was until we checked Birdguides when we were just 20 minutes away to read the dreaded "No further sign" message. Sure enough on arrival we were told it had not been seen for an hour, but the Whimbrel had been seen around half a mile along the coast. We headed off for that, found a small group of birders who had seen it, but it was currently out of view in long grass. After 15 minutes of staring at movement in long grass, I checked Birdguides. The Terek was back! Shaun stayed to look for the Whimbrel and I speed marched back to where I had been standing just 20 minutes earlier.

Our chances looked even bleaker when I got back to be told I had missed it again as it had just flown out of view. Noooooo. I called Shaun, who had still not seen the Hudbrel and told him to stay there. I was now really up against the clock. It was Father's Day and we had a meal planned for 8pm!! I must leave by 5.45pm. I have thirty minutes max. ten minutes passed, nothing. Then, boom! The shout goes up that it's just flown in onto the shingle bank in front of us (80 yards away). What a cracker! I immediately called Shaun and as it rang a text arrived from him, he'd seen the Hudbrel. It was all falling into place. I enjoyed excellent scope views of the smart little wader, as did Shaun when he mad it back after 15 minutes or so. We really were jammy. It could have easily been very different with neither bird seen. I wonder what will turn up next at Church Norton? A Stilt Sandpiper would be nice.  

Again no photography prizes to be won here!  

Hudsonian Whimbrel Twitch

June is certainly living up to its tag of mega month. It can be a frustrating time for em with family birthdays taking priority to twitching, meaning I missed the Black Eared Wheatear (ouch/!) and to be honest I probably wouldn't have ventured to Bardsey Island (north Wales) via Lee Evans Boat tours inc. anyway for the bunting that I cant even spell.

So what have I seen in between birthdays, parties and a wedding. Well, having seen the Hampshire Greater Yellowlegs with Shaun about 3 weeks ago, I found myself just up the road at Church Norton (West Sussex) about 10 days ago as I luckily had a days leave to take so pre booked the day for some birding. Luck was on my side when the day before a Hudsonian Whimbrel was found. My partner is crime on this occasion was Lee Brown. New to the birding scene, he has seen a few megas, including 2 this day, yet he's still not seen a Razorbill!

Via Twitter I got very early news at 5.10am that the bird was still there. We had to wait for Lee to do the school run and then we were off. 2 and a quarter hours later we were parking up and making the shirt walk to the reserve. The bird was showing immediately. The tide was out so we had prolonged views as it fed on the mud with some other less rare Whimbrel, allowing us to compare the difference. Unfortunately the bird was too far out for any pics.

We were somewhat against the clock as Lee needed to be back so we hot footed back to the car to drive the 40 minutes to Titchfield Haven for hopefully better views of the Greater Yellowlegs than I had 2 weeks previously. We did. We had cracking scope views as it constantly fed just 50 yards in front of us for 10 - 15 minutes, before deciding it was time for a sleep. It was time for us to head home.


Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Red Backed Shrike, Fairlop Waters, East London

Is there a smarter scarce visitor to our shores than an adult male Red Backed Shrike? If there is I can't think of it. This one very helpfully turned up just 20 minutes up the road too.

Arriving late afternoon there was just 3 birders on site when I arrived (inc. Dirty Dick) and that soon became one, me. I pinned the bird down and had it all to myself for about 20 minutes until Lee Brown and his Dad turned up. 

Great stuff.  

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Greater Yellowlegs Twitch - phew!

All day Friday and Saturday the Greater Yellowlegs at Titchfield NNR (Hants) had typically been showing well when I couldn't go. So Sunday morning I was awaiting the news that it was still playing ball and was raring to go. By mid morning the inevitable message came though, "no sign", typical. Oh well back to the DIY. I just got out my tools, when, another message appeared " Greater Yellowlegs still"! I was quickly on the phone to Shaun and Hawky, looking for a partner in crime (I am not too keen on solo twitches thsse days). Hawky had been out bashing Rainham Marshes RSPB all morning and Shaun was also DIYing. Bugger. Back to the DIY myself. 45 minutes later, Shaun had cracked, and was on the phone. Not giving him the time to change his mind I said I'd pick him up in 15 minutes. And we were off.

 Two hours and 10 minutes later, at around 3pm, after a very smooth journey we were pulling up at the nature reserve. A departing birding advised us that the bird was showing well on the south scrape, it was looking good. We hot footed it to the visitor's centre to pay our £4 entrance fee. I popped to the loo as Shaun sorted out the money. I rushed back to be greeted by Shaun, "It flew off 15 minutes ago, message just came through to the visitor's centre on the radio"....."ffs". We weren't the only ones to arrive just too too late. We decided to head to the south scrape and hope the bird would come back. On route, we met Dave, a birder I had chatted to on previous twitches and had seen the bird fly off. He suggested we head round to a hide on the other side of the reserve, where the bird had been seen in the morning. About 1.5 miles and 25 minutes later we were in the hide, the bird wasn't there. By this time another Greaterleg-less birder, John, had joined our group. We decided to head back round to the south scrape, via another 1.5 miles and 25 minutes frog march. John suggested he head off to check another site a few miles away where the bird had been seen previously and we carry on to the south scrape. As we departed we decided to exchange phone numbers and keep each other posted.

 In the hide looking out at the south scrape it was obvious the bird was not there. After 10-15 minutes of scanning I dropped John a "no sign here" text, almost simmulataneously a text popped up " Found the bird! Call me for directions!" I advised everyone in the hide and we were off. I called John who gave us great directions. Three birders jumped into the back of my car and we zoomed off up the road. Ten minutes later we were speed walking to find John. He gave the thumbs up as we approached, the bird was asleep on the flash, c80 yards in front of us. After a few minutes it decided to play ball, woke up and provided great scope views. Phew. The walk back to the car was much more relaxed, with plenty of metaphorical back slaps etc. We dropped everyone back their cards, all shook hands on a good job done. Many thanks, particularly to birder John for the news. It's good to talk!

Not our bird but one on Sanibel Island, Florida (2013)  

Monday, 11 May 2015

Here's what I have been up to in recent weeks

Around three weeks ago Shaun Harvey and I made a dash after work to Bowers Marsh RSPB for a pair of Blacked winged Stilts. These birds are becoming very regular with it becoming quite straight forward to catch up with them each year. Two birds showed quite distantly as the sun set.  

I spent much of April visiting the stone barges area of Rainham Marshes which proved to be quite rewarding with numerous Wheatear, Hobby and 2 early Cuckoos.

The first big twitch in a while came at the start of May with news that Britain's 3rd Hudsonian Godwit was still at Meare Heath in Somerset. Five of us crammed into the new Braddersmobile for the three hour drive. Mega ticked we also bagged Bittern and at least 3 Great White Egrets before finding a local pub for a celebratory pint and lunch. On the way home we had a quick stop off for my 6th UK Green Winged Teal.    

I spy with my little eye something beginning with H

Yesterday, Hawky and i decided to go south to the south coast hoping to connect with the now long staying and very erratic Greater Yellowlegs. The bird is being seen every now and then at Titchfield Haven in Hampshire, but when it does show it seems to be available all day. We placed ourselves at Thursley common to await news. We did get news, but it was not about about our bird. Britain's first mainland Citril Finch has been found in north Norfolk. We were 30 minutes walk from the car and around 3.5 hours drive from north Norfolk, plus a good 30 minute walk the other end to Burnham Overy dunes. 

The decision was made. Thursley was cracking, we'd spend the day birding (not driving) and hope the Greater legs would reappear. We'll half of our plan worked. We walked miles and had great views of all the key heathland species, including: 7 Dartford Warblers, 4 Redstart (3 males), Tree Pipit, 2 Nightingales and a number of showy singing Woodlarks.                 

Dartford Warbler  


Tree Pipit


I took all my gear to work today hoping the Citril Finch would do the decent thing and allow an after work twitch however it was not to be. Hopefully we'll  connect with the Greater Yellowlegs before too long. Watch this space.     

Monday, 9 March 2015

Brecks Birding

At last a full day out birding. Free time has been pretty scant so far this year, with opportunities to get out and spend some time birding limited. But Sunday I was free and I wanted to see birds, so where better to head on a sunny March day than the Brecks.

First stop was at the usual Stone Curlew site just off the A1065 but alas none could be located. A short hop up the road and we were at Lynford Arboretum. Here we had much more joy with at least 3 possible 4 Hawfinch providing good scope views as they fed on the floor among the fallen leaves. Brambling and Nuthatch showed well on the feeders and we were now on a roll.

Next we headed to Santon Downham where we had all too brief views of Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, before heading off to look for the long staying Great Grey Shrike. A lovely walk along the river adding Grey Wagtail and Kingfisher to the day list, before we arrived in the area we believed the shrike favoured. We walked along the river bank scanning fence lines and bushes without realising the bird was actually in a tree just in front of us, only noticing it when we accidentally flushed it just 30-40 yards in front of us. We spent the next 30 minutes watching as it caught plenty of beetles, all on our own, not a person in sight. It certainly was nice to have the bird to ourselves, quietly enjoying it.        

Marsh Tit

We headed to the local Goshawk view point which proved disappointing. Distant views were had which we were not happy with. We headed a mile up the road hoping to find a better view point and luckily managed to get one half decent view of a bird having a disagreement with a circling Buzzard.

The weather had now turned. It was windy, overcast and the temperature was steadily dropping. We ended the day at Mayday Farm, which was full of mountain bikers and walkers and empty of birds! We spent our final hour at the drinking pool watching common species at close quarters coming down to drink, hoping we'd be treated to a Crossbill, but it was not to be.        

I'm looking forward to many more bird filled days out in the near future.