Wednesday 27 January 2010

2010 Tick-fest off and running - Black Throated Thrush

The first life tick of 2010 came via a gruelling 5 hour drive to the frozen north for the now long (ish) staying female Black Throated Thrush (#363) in a front garden in Newholm (Nr Whitby North Yorkshire).

The bird continued its good form by showing well. Unfortunately the light was appalling and combined with sleet did not make ideal digiscoping conditions, as you will see from this poor record shot.

From here I headed to Scalling Dam to view the feeders outside the hide, for Willow Tit, which I didn't have to wait long for. 10 minutes later I was up on top of the frozen moor, searching for Red Grouse, once my eye was in I was spotting them regularly, probably half a dozen in total.

Heading south I arrived at Anglers Country Park, West Yorkshire, about 1.5 hours later. None of the dozen or so "birders" on site seemed to seen the Ring Necked Duck, so from the hide I duly went about trying to locate it. To my surprise it was in front of the hide to the left just 50 yards away. I suppose it helps if you actually look rather than drink tea and have a chat.

Next I headed further south to Hoveringham Gravel Pits for a Red Necked Grebe. Eventually I found the site, with light fading. Unfortunately there appeared to be half a a dozen pits with no obvious access, so I decided to call it a day and head to Derbyshire to stay over night with friends.
I was at Cromford Meadows first thing looking for Hawfinch. I only had an hour at most before I had to head to Derby for a meeting. No Hawfinches were found but I got some more precise gen from some local birders I met as I left which should be handy next time I am in the area.

Leaving Derby at 3pm I had at most 2 hours of light to play with. I managed to get to Rutland Water by 4pm and luckily found the area where Long Eared Owls have been roosting. A local pointed me in the right direction. I speed walked the long muddy walk (1.5 miles) to the trail leading to the Fieldfare Hide where the owls were easily located in dense cover. Finally with the light now really fading I made the 20 minute journey to Eyebrook Resevoir hoping to jam in on the Green Winged Teal and grip off Hawky. As you can see it was just a bit too dark by the time I got there.

Sunday 24 January 2010

Slav Grebe at Rainham Marshes

Apart from being grebes and being little, Slav Grebes and Little Grebes have very little in common.

So when a "little" (small) grebe popped up in front of me, in the dyke running along the side the path west of the Serin Mound, it didn't occur to me that it was anything but a Little Grebe. Even as I said to Hawky, "Little Grebe in front", I was thinking "why is that Little Grebe white?" Not, "bloody hell that's not a Little Grebe, it's Slav! Let's face it they don't even look a like, it was a case of saying what I expected to see there, not what was there. Anyway, whilst my brain was still trying to work out why the little grebe was white, Hawky, jerked my brain into gear, with something along the lines of "that's not a Little Grebe, it's a bleeping Slav!" Der, of course it is. Anyway, the stunner showed very well, feeding continuously on Sticklebacks allowing good views to the many birders on site. The large Glaucous Gull had showed well but distantly earlier and combined with the 2 Tundra Bean Geese it meant a good scarcity haul at Rainham today. A fleeting and only probable view of the Serin couldn't be counted meaning 4 weekends in a row I've not caught up with one, but who cares.
A stop off at Berwick Ponds failed to produce Bittern on the way home.

Sunday 17 January 2010

No Bittern this time

My third visit in 8 days to Berwick Ponds, this time with my father in law, Rob, failed to produce a Bittern. Shame. All the usual suspects were out in force; Water Rail (calling), Green and Great Spot Woodpeckers plus Redwing and Fieldfare and again a Sparowhawk hunting over the reed beds.
My mate Phil's house over the reeds at Berwick Ponds, where he has seen Bittern from his kitchen window on many occasions.

Bittern at Berwick Ponds again

We went to our friends' house yesterday evening who live right next to Berwick Ponds, and have seen Bittern from their kitchen window many times. Although a non birder, my mate Phil, shows quite a bit interest and therefore joined me for an hour searching the ponds for Bittern.

The ponds are defrosting but are still mostly frozen. When we arrived some fishermen checking out the lake told us a Bittern had been walking on the ice (in front of the fisher men's car park) 5 minutes earlier, and had walked out of view into the reeds. We walked to the far end, to where I had had one at close proximity that week, but no sign this time. We headed back to the car park area as dusk drew in to see if, as they had done last week, any Bittern would fly to roost in the same spot about 50 yards to the left of the car park. 20 mins, 1 Sparrowhawk and several calling Water Rail later, a single Bittern took off from the reeds in front of us, where the fisher men had said they had seen one earlier and landed in the same roosting spot as last week. Great stuff. We headed back to Phil's for a well deserved beer or six!

Sunday 10 January 2010

Berwick Bittern Bonanza

On the back of Shaun's report of a Bittern at Berwick Ponds earlier today, Jamie and I headed over late afternoon.

The pond is completely frozen over with just a trickle of moving water at the road end. On the small wooden bridge at the road end we stopped to check out the Bittern (?) prints on the ice where Shaun said he had seen a bird on the ice, when from just 10 feet in from of us from the edge of the reeds on the bank a Bittern took flight and headed away, landing in the reeds about half way along the reeds. Pleased with that we headed back along the back positioning ourselves roughly opposite where the bird landed to keep an eye out for the last 20 minutes or so of light.

Within 5 minutes or so Bittern #2 took flight from the far end (not the road end) and flew along the reed bed landing in the same sort of area where the 1st bird had landed, and then within a minute Bittern #3 took off from the reeds in just about the same spot from where #2 had emerged and again flew over the reeds landing again in the same area. 3 Bitterns in 30 minutes - superb!

Earlier in the day a brief visit to Rainham Marshes saw us jam in on 3 Red Breasted Mergansers on the Thames. A walk on the fore shore failed to produce Jack Snipe but a showy Grey Seal was a nice suprise. However yet again the Serin could not be located.

Monday 4 January 2010

Six Go Mad in Essex

Had a great day out in deepest Essex on Sunday 3rd January with some of Essex's finest........... oh and Jono, Bradders Jnr, Hawky, Shaun and Redsy! We were at Abberton Res. at the dam before first light and had located the now long staying Spotted Sandpiper within minutes. Some of the lads used there best field craft skills and expensive penis extensions, sorry cameras, to get much better shots than my slightly blurry efforts from my 10 x zoom Canon digital camera, which you will find on:;; and/or

Moving on to the causeways we added Spoonbill; Smew (1 redhead and 3 drakes); Goosander; Whooper Swan and Red Breasted Merganser.

Next we headed to Mersey where we added many waders to the day list including of note Spotted Redshank and Greenshank! We were disappointed not to find any Snow Buntings on the island itself, and moved on to Rolls Farm.

Up to 6 Great Northern Divers showed distantly, with around the same number of Slav Grebes providing better views. A single Red Throated Diver was added to the day list and Shaun and Hawky done well to spot a distant Barn Owl roosting in a tree some distance away.

We moved on to Braxted Golf Course hoping for Hawfinch, but none could be found. We made the 40 minute journey to Southend so the lads could year tick Rossi the Ring Billed Gull. Having been the previous day it was my second to Rossi in 2 days. From the sea front at Westcliffe a Black Throated Diver showed very distantly, and a few Med Gulls were seen.

The highlight of the day though had to be look on Jono's face after discovering he had kneeled in dog sh*t to take yet another photo of yet another Turnstone. Classic.

Tick that mate!

Saturday 2 January 2010

Oh I do like to be beside the Rossi - side

Today was the day of my annual January visit to Westcliffe to visit Rossi the Ring Billed Gull. Having failed to locate him on my last 2 visits in late 2009 I was not optimistic. Today however Rossi decided to play ball and show well. With the sun in my eyes I was struggling to locate him on the water, that's because he wasn't on the water, he was behind me, oh no he wasn't, oh yes he was....... on a lamp post. Very nice, very quick and very very cold. Also seen on the brief visit on route to friends were Turnstone and Sanderling.

Happy New Year! Short Eared Owls at Rainham

The busy Christmas period drawing 2009 to an end saw just one outing at the silts at Rainham Marshes looking for Short Eared Owls. This visit was unsuccessful with only a small party of Ring Necked Parakeets and a large flock of 100+ Fieldfare found. I returned as the sun was setting on Jan 1st. Up on the silts I found Sir Les of the Garrison and eventually a Short Eared Owl! Also seen were Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, Stonechat and 16 Parakeets noisily heading south over the Thames. We were soon joined by Jono Lethbridge, Bradders Junior and Paul Whiteman who had been out all day busy listing and no doubt freezing! A second SEO was seen towards the Ferry Lane end of the silts before heading home.