Monday 29 March 2010

Two Bar Crossbill

A short and sweet post as I have to dash to pick the kids up from school. I rounded off an unbelievably good weekend of birding with a quick dash to The Lodge, Sandy, Beds, where I caught up with the Two Bar Crossbill amongst a flock of 40 Common Crossbill. Poor light, drizzling rain and a stiff breeze meant digiscoped pics were not possible. Who cares, I am still on a high from yesterday's bonanza day in Suffolk.

Lesser Kestrel, Pallid and Alpine Swift - wow what a day!

After dipping the Pallid Swift at Kessingland (just south of Lowestoft, Suffolk) on Saturday afternoon with Bradders Jnr and dirty twitcher Jono Lethbridge, on news that it was showing well, with an Alpine Swift back in the same area on Sunday morning, I was heading back up the A12 with Shaun and Dick.

All the way up Birdguides confirmed both birds were showing well above the local caravan park. Surely we'd get them, and in particular the Pallid Swift, a life tick for all three of us. Arriving we were quickly onto the Alpine Swift (my 2nd in 3 days) and enjoyed great close views as is swooped over our heads. However, the Pallid was no where to be seen. The birders on site informed us it had been showing well just 5 minutes earlier. 5 minutes turned into 10, then 20 and 30 and we were starting to get worried. Then after a 40 minute wait it appeared from nowhere over the roof tops. (life tick 366) We enjoyed great views a lot of the time with the Alpine Swift in the same field of view. We watched the birds for 30+ minutes before heading back to the car to head home happy.

Me, Shaun and Dick.
Pallid Swift

We stopped off a few miles up the road to look for Stone Curlew, where we had seen 2 on the way home on Saturday but this time there was no sign.

Happy with the tick we were back on the A12 heading south not far from Ipswich when Shaun's mobile rang, it was Howard. Via the hands free the short conversation went something like this:

H: Where are you?
Shaun: On the A12, in Suffolk just north of Ipswich, why?
H: Turnaround, there's a adult male Lesser Kestrel at Minsmere, it's a MEGA, you've got to go.
Us: No way! Cheers H!
Shaun: What shall we do?
Me & Dick: Turn around!

So there we were just 30 minutes from jamming in on a mega. The mobiles starting ringing, checking where we were. Hawky provided regular pager updates every 5 minutes, confirming it was still sitting on a fence post. Just 5 minutes away now, surely we'd get it. Hawky called again as we approached the site, just a few hundred yards away, this time though the news was different. The bird had been flushed by a female common Kestrel and had disappeared. Noooo! We were 2 minutes away.

We parked and decided it probably hadn't gone far. Birders were pouring into the area by the minute. For once it appeared common sense was prevailing and everyone was spreading out and checking all the surrounding fields. An hour passed and it wasn't looking good. Then a car sped passed us at high speed the driver shouting out of the window that the bird had been relocated. We sped after him but it soon became apparent we were on a wild Lesser Kestrel chase, and 10 minutes later we were back where we began. By now though birders by the dozen were running through a gate heading out on to Westleton Heath. Literally, dumping the car in a bush, so not to block the narrow lane we gave chase. About 3/4 of a mile later, we arrived to find a good 200 birders and 1 Lesser Kestrel. Yes! (life tick 367) It was quite distant but sitting up out in the open. Birders continued to poor in as we enjoyed perched and flight views for 30 minutes or so.

Lesser Kestrel

We left the crowd to it as we were concerned about getting away due to the log jam of cars in the area and being already 2 hours late home with a 2 hour journey to come, we had some grovelling to do for the respective Mrs'!

What a traffic "jam-in"and exciting end to the day!

Friday 26 March 2010

Cromer Alpine Swift and other Norfolk stuff

Just back from an exhausting day in north Norfolk with Hawky. Our 350 mile round trip began at 4.30am when I picked Hawky up in Barking and got onto the M11. Conveniently the M11 was shut near Stanstead so we carried on cross country adding 20+ minutes to an already long journey. By 6.30am we were 4 Barn Owls to the good as we approached Wolverton Triangle. To our great suprise we found 3 male Golden Pheasants feeding on the verges, quite close the main road.

Next we made our way to Hunstanton, adding another cracking Barn Owl on the edge of town, where we hoped the roosting Alpine Swift would be up and about. We gave it an unsuccessful hour and a half, before deciding to head right the way across the north Norfolk coast to Cromer where a 2nd Norfolk Alpine Swift was apparently showing well. An hour or so later we arrived. Hawky immediately had it around the church whilst I looked for a parking spot. Eventually we found a space just out of town and headed along the coastal path. We immediately picked up the bird again and enjoyed great views, sometimes just 20 or 30 feet above our head, for more than an hour.

We began the journey south, with a 90 minute drive to the Brecks and Stone Curlews. Just 2 showed distantly which was a little disappointing. Our final stop was to be a short drive away at Cavenham Pits where 1 and now possibly 2 possible Canvasbacks were apparently showing well. Well the only thing that was in fact the pits was the directions, or lack of them on RBA. We drove up and down every lane and road, down muddy tracks and asked every local we could find. No one had a clue where Cavenham Pits were. After more than an hour we gave up looking and headed home. Not happy. The silver lining came later when it was confirmed that neither bird is a pure Canvasback; one is a Pochard hybrid and the other a Pochard.

I saw this sign in the pay and display car park in Hunstanton. Spoil sports!

Tuesday 23 March 2010

Ingrebore Valley

Had a day off yesterday. My first thought was to have a day at Minsmere to hopefully see the flock of Penduline Tits currently residing there. Something told me though not to bother though and have day locally, visit the local sites and see what early spring migrants I could find.

To cut a long and boring story short, I spent the best part of 2 hours at "the valley", and saw, well, not a lot really. Kicking myself that I had not gone up the road to Leyton Flats for the Alpine Swift I headed to Cely Woods to brighten the day up with a Lesser Spot or two................ or none. Heading back to the car I dodged the tumbled weed and went home, feeling slightly robbed. At least I hadn't gone to Minsmere where there was no sign of any pendies.

I'm off Friday and Monday again thisend week so perhaps I'll give this local patching another go. Yeh right. With precious few free days I think I may just end up having a day out somewhere, hopefully somewhere with some birds to look at.

I take my hat off to you local patchers. I hope you find something on your patch very soon to reward you for all your effort and of course so I can twitch it!

Monday 15 March 2010

Mother's Day at Sunny Sarfend

With the sun shining the Blowmonkey clan headed to Westcliffe Sea front for a stroll in the last afternoon sunshine on Sunday. The only Rossi I had managed to get good views of was of the mint choc chip variety. Having already seen Rossi the Ring Billed Gull twice this year not much time was spent trying to locate the yankee bird to be fair. A lovely slow walk along the front was rounded of nicely with cod, chips and mushy peas. Superb.

It's been a long cold winter but at last Spring is in the air, Wheatears and LRPs are arriving, and the first returning Osprey appear to have hit the southern counties of England. So lads put the thermals away and dust off your shorts, let the tick fest commence!

Weird Looking Bird Seen at South Weald

It was late afternoon on Saturday when I saw it. I have never seen such a strange looking bird. From a distance I could see it was no juvenile, it was a bit worn, with a strange shaped beak. Eventually as it got closer I could at last work out what species it was: Jodie Marsh!

Unfortunately I could not get a digiscoped picture, so just in case you can't find her in your Collins, even the new edition, here is a reminder of what the species looks like.

Classy eh.

Jodie aside I managed of note only 3 Goosander (1 drake), pretty quiet otherwise.

Monday 8 March 2010

Buffleheads my way

At 7.50pm on Saturday evening I was happily tucking into my curry, sipping my 4th Cobra beer of the evening with friends, by 8pm, after a call from Jono, I was getting my stuff ready for a 5am start and the night's boozing had come to an abrupt end! This time the target was an adult drake Bufflehead on the Fleet in Dorset.

Picking Hawky up at 5.15am, we headed to Jono's place in Wanstead where we were picked up in the new Bradders - Jnr -mobile! Very nice. Some 3 hours or so later we arrived at the Fleet, surprisingly to find very few birders. Having not been many more than a dozen previous British records, we expected many more. Perhaps the hoards were waiting on news. At first that seemed like a sensible option as there was no sign of the smart yank. A Red Kite glided passed through and half a dozen Scaup bobbed around among the Abbotsbury Swans, as we contemplated where to start looking for our main target bird along the miles of the Fleet. We decided to head east looking for any footpaths that would allow us to head down to the Fleet as we went we stopped at the next village to look at the map. Just at this moment the pager bleeped and said something along the lines of, "hey guess what lads, the Bufflehead has been found and you are parked in exactly the right place, get out and head along that path you were going to take anyway!" Result.

A mile and a half later we arrived at the Fleet. The Bufflehead was sticking closely to a group of Red Breasted Mergansers. It was some way off towards the far bank, with very poor hazy light allowing only poor digiscoped record shots. Half an hour or so later we headed back to the car very happy.

Next stop was a brief one again on the Fleet for a Black Brant but there were no geese full stop. Then on to Portland we braved the freezing winds to look for Auks. Razorbill and Guillimot were straight forward but there was no sign of the reported first returning Puffin. It was quiet bird wise with just a passing Red Throated Diver, Shag and Fulmar of note.

Chesil Beach

After a stop for provisions we headed north up to the New Forest. The blue shies and breeze we ideal for Goshawk. At our first site at first we wondered whether it was a bit late at gone 2pm but with patience and the distraction of a pair of Woodlark and a showy pair of Crossbill, we were rewarded. Like London buses you wait for ages for four to come along at once. We had four Gos up together showing as well as Gos do, some way off but providing good scope views.

Picture by Hawky

Our final planned stop was another Goshawk site not too far away. Again we were lucky with one distant view. Two and a half hours and major road problems on the M25 later we arrived at Rainham Marshes in almost darkness. From a lay by on the A13 Hawky manage to pick up the two Bewick Swans that had been reported earlier that afternoon. Poor but adequate views were had of the rare for London birds.