Tuesday, 15 August 2023

Black Stork Down #451

 At bloody last. Black Stork is one of my nemesis birds, having dipped 4 previously. They are notoriously difficult to pin down, and this one in Kent seemed no different being reported ranging widely across the county over the weekend. 

On Monday morning however reports came through that it had been been seen at Capel Fleet the previous day and it was still there Monday morning! By mid morning further reports stated it was showing well, and I was on my way with Steve Bacon for company. 

Just over an hour later we were pulling up on site and this time it all went to plan as it was on show immediately, sat preening in a field.  


Photos by Steve Bacon

After 45 mins it hadn't done much so we upped and left stopping just up the road at Capel Fleet where there 3 Spoonbills and a Great White Egret on show. 

It's good to finally get Black Stork under my belt, maybe I can get Arctic Warbler this year, another bird that I have dipped multiple times and by far the easiest bird I have not seen.    

Monday, 24 July 2023

Black Winged Kite, Felixstowe, Suffolk - BOU450

I'd been keeping a close eye on news of Britain's 2nd ever Black Winged Kite, that was found on the evening of Monday 17th July at Horsey Mill in Norfolk. A pattern emerged, with it coming into roost mid evening and viewable early the next morning, but in the main, flying off and not seen during the day. 

The first opportunity I would have would be Friday 21st, so I hoped it would stick and I'd have to drive through the night to ensure I was on site by about 5am. Apparently parking on site was limited adding to the logistical issues. On Thursday 20th morning it was still on site, so a plan was needed and Andy and I discussed the various options; leave 2am to get there for 5am, go earlier and sleep in the car etc. By late afternoon to complicate things further, Andy informed me that his car had failed it's MOT so he could no longer drive and was getting picked up by Garry Bagnel. Garry wanted to leave early around 9.30pm. This didn't really suit me so I decided to bail and decide what to do the next day. 

Around 7.30pm I checked Birdguides to see if the kite had yet returned to roost, only to see that a Black Winged Kite was now being reported in Felixstowe, Suffolk! A much closer (1.5 hrs) and easier place to get to. It had headed south!      

News kept coming in until dusk and it had gone to roost.  I spoke with Andy and said I would see him there the next morning. The alarm was set for 4.30am but luckily I woke up earlier and was up and on the road by 4.30am. The sat-nav said it would take 1 hour 20 mins. 

About 15 mins from the site I called Andy for an update to be told it had flown but was still on show. It was now about a 1 mile walk from the car. Luckily I found a parking space quickly and speed marched along the river wall. I could see a large group of birders gathered in the distance and for insurance purposes I asked people who were plotted up on route if they could see it, until one fella about half way to the bird said he had it in his scope and let me look, just in case.

More relaxed I continued towards the bird until I reached the main crowd. The kite done the decent thing, sitting up nicely on bare branches no more than 150m away providing great views, and over the course of the next hour flew around and hovered over fields, always returning to its favoured perch. 

Sadly not my photo as I forgot my camera. I was kindly given permission to use it by Mike Alibone
The kite was mostly in the trees to the right hand side of this photo
I caught up with Andy, Saw Dave Bradnum as well as some other birders I had got to know over the years. Happy I headed back to the car and was home by 8.45am. 

Interestingly the bird continued to follow a pattern and disappeared around 9.30am only to be picked up further south, ironically in Essex (Colne Point) that evening, allowing more people to see it there. Again it disappeared around 9.30am, and despite a couple of reports of it in flight it has not been pinned down since.  As it has been heading south for 2-3 days there is a good chance it may have hopped over the channel, back into mainland Europe.   



Monday, 10 April 2023

The Falklands, a bonus day and bonus Macaroni Penguin

When we arrived back from our Volunteer Point trip, we were advised that our holiday rep wanted to speak with us. Our flight home had been bumped back 24 hours. Apparently this is not uncommon with military flights to and from The Falklands. For us it meant and extra day to our trip, and a chance to book another trip. We'd still not caught up with Macaroni Penguin and there were a couple still in the Rockhopper colony at Kidney Cove, which is about 1.5 hours from Stanley. 

We booked a half day trip, to allow us time to visit the museum in Stanley when we got back.  

Rockhopper left / Macaroni right


A bonus was a Sei Whale blowing off shore from our vantage Point at the Rockhopper colony. The final two bird for the trip list were fittingly both penguins; 50. King Penguin and 51. Macaroni Penguin.  

It was a long journey home, around 26 hours door to door, but it was so worth it. The trip was so much.  better than I had envisaged. 

Falklands, Volunteer Point King Penguin colony

 I had been looking forward to visiting the King Penguin colony at Volunteer Point from the moment we arrived on The Falklands. Today was supposed to be the last day of our trip, and what a way to end it. It turned out we stayed and extra day and night. 

We had an early start to get to Volunteer Point. All credit to Falkland Wildlife Holidays who looked after us whilst there. They were aware that a cruise ship was due in and that meant the hoards would descend on Volunteer Point, but if we could get there early we would hopefully have some time on our own with the King Penguins. 

From Stanley it's a 2.5 hour drive to Volunteer Point, with 1.5 hours of that off road across very bumpy terrain. 

We were the first vehicle to arrive on site. We had to colony to ourselves. I am so glad we did it this way, as when the cruise passengers turned up 1.5 hours later, it would have been  a very different experience.  


We headed away from the colony to the nearby pristine white sand beach. There were still no other day trippers so again we had the whole place to ourselves. 

Watching me, watching you 

In the distance we could see a large convoy of vehicles heading out way, so we headed back to have one last look at the colony 

Falklands - Sea Lion Island, day 3 - Orcas!

We only had until about 3pm before we were due to fly back to Stanley. We decided to spend the time we had on the two main beaches closest to the lodge, enjoying the penguins and seeing what else we could find.   

To get to the north beach we had to walk through a mixed colony of Gentoo and Magellanic penguins. The Gentoos are particularly inquisitive and will come up and say hi.

Once at the beach we plotted up somewhere comfortable and just enjoyed our surroundings for a couple of hours. I managed really good views of a number of Snowy Sheathbill, a weird pigeon type looking seabird. There were hundreds of penguins, mostly Gentoo, on the beach, plus lots of Black Browed Albatross and Giant Petrels.  

Snowy Sheathbill

Gentoos in the surf

Black Footed Albatross

We then gave south beach a go, said hi to the Elephant Seals again, and it was then we stumbled across a large skeleton on the beach. Initially we thought it was a cetacean and said we'd take some fellow guests to the beach to show them after lunch.    

It was actually an Elephant Seal skeleton, minus the skull

Back at the lodge, we were informed that Lars, a Danish guest, had seen an Orca distantly off south beach this morning. Damn! We'd already planned to go back to look at the skeleton so the plan was to plot up in the dunes with a great view of the sea and keep out fingers crossed. Julia sat up in the dunes and I went to show the skeleton. I left the other guests looking at it and headed back to Julia. As soon as I got back Julia says that she thinks she's seen a large fin distantly. We keep scanning and boom!

Initially there were distant 

Two orcas initially distantly (1/2 mile) off shore. Over the next 20-30 minutes they steadily appeared to be getting closer to the shore, and as they got closer more fins appeared, there were 5 of them. They cruised just off shore, around 50 metres out providing superb views for the next hour.   


We we having so much fun that time had ran away with us and we had to make a hasty retreat back to the lodge as our plane was due in 30 minutes to take us back to Stanley. Our short stop over on Sea Lion Island had been truly magical. A must be anyone visiting The Falklands. 

Birds added to the trip list on Sea Lion Island were: 45. Snowy Sheathbill; 46. Magellanic Snipe;       47. Sooty Shearwater; 48. South American Tern and 49. Brown Hooded Gull