Sunday 27 January 2013

Another trip to see the Slavonian Grebe

With Sunday AM free I couldn't go too far today. Shaun had not seen the showy Slav Grebe at Dartford, Kent, so we thought we'd start there and see what happens. The grebe again showed amazingly well down to probably 12 feet. Also again seen were ring Necked Parakeet, and a small number of Redpoll.

After 20 minutes with the bird, the heavens opened so it was time to leave. We looked for the Bittern on the bigger lake but again no joy.

We spent the next 90 minutes looking for Firecrest at Dagenham Chase LNR (No sign), then we tried find Waxwings in Collier Row and Harold Hill, but we couldn't track them down. I was back in doors by 11.30am, brownie points bagged!    

Saturday 26 January 2013

Scouting for Waxwings

It doesn't much better than this! This morning I dropped Jamie off at his scouts camp in Elm Park, about a mile and a half from home, as he is away for another weekend  away with then. I parked around the corner, packed him off an returned to the car. I started the ignition and was about to head off when, right in front of me, in an apple tree in a back garden, a single Waxwing. Turning off the car. I jumped out and noticed a man, the resident of the house, leaning out of his bedroom window.

"Waxwing", I mouthed and pointed
"Sorry?", the man said, cupping his ear
"A Waxwing, in the tree" I said
"I'll come down" he said.

And come down he did. I was invited in, where we stood in the garden for 15-20 minutes, admiring the Waxwing, talking about birds, no more the 8 feet from the bird, which was continuously feeding on some of the biggest apples I have ever seen! Also present a male Blackcap.

I had no camera or binoculars, but luckily the man kindly said  could come back later. I popped home, had a bite of lunch and went back. The bird was still there but unfortunately the man wasn't. I popped into the garden for a few minutes and got a few shots, but the bird had moved from the closest apple out in the open to a more obscured fruit. I rattled off a few shots and left.

The apples really were the size of grapefruits! 
Later, I went back again with Shaun. This time the man was in, but the bird had gone. We had a quick drive round other local sites, Berwick Reservoir where the Ross' Goose was still present and a Buzzard overhead; passed a frozen Berwick Pond (I'll check that out for Bittern tomorrow). No sign of Little Owl at any of the not-so regular sites, onto Stubbers where there were hardly any birds on the water but many Fieldfare and Mistle Thrush, and another Buzzard perched in a tree. Ad that was that. Had planned no birding today, and have thoroughly enjoyed finding the Waxwing and  being invited into the garden etc. I'll check it again tomorrow.  

Monday 21 January 2013

Slav Grebe, Dartford, Kent - lunch break twitch

It's been a good few days. Following the weekend's Waxwing-fest, today I worked from home as Jamie's school was shut. When news came through that the showy Slavonian grebe was still on a small pond just the other side of the QE2 Bridge, Thurrock, we decided to head over at lunch time.

The site was easy to find although anyone going needs to be careful as the pond is on a road that is for buses only, although when accessed from the west there are no signs to say that. I got a telling off, and hopefully there's no ticket to follow! I did apologise profusely!

The bird showed well, down to about 15 feet from the rear of the pond. After 10 minutes we had to leave to get back. We had a very quick look for the Bittern on the lake behind the Management Centre but couldn't find it although 3 Ring Necked Parakeet were a colourful and noisy year tick.

Sunday 20 January 2013

More Waxwings and other local stuff

Another day, lots more snow and yet more Waxwings. In fact they were very probably the same flock of Waxwings that I had yesterday. My friend John called to ask if i was going out and if so could he join me.We headed back to Harold Hill hoping the Waxwings would still be around. As with the previous day we drove around checking out trees and TV aerials, and after about 20 minutes we came up trumps, 23 birds all crammed onto one TV aerial, on the roof of a house.  

A quick scan around and we could see a berry tree in a nearby front garden, so guessing they were raiding the berries we move nearby as waiting. 10 minutes later our plan was proved right.

After stuffing themselves with berries for 2 minutes they were off back to the TV aerial, and we decided to head back to the car to warm up. Next stop was Harrowlodge Park to check out the ducks. The only birds of note were 3 Egyption Geese.

Next stop was Dagenham Chase for a female Smew, a site tick for me. Unfortunately, despite spending almost an hour checking out the water it could not be found. Vince, who found the bird, late told me it had flown a short while before we arrived.

Our last stop was Berwick Ponds. On route we stopped for a large flock of Redwings and Fieldfare in fields nearby before walking down the frozen reed bed. We walked the route where in the passed I have flushed a Bittern but it was all quiet, no Bittern, in fact no anything!  

Saturday 19 January 2013

Waxwings, Harold Hill, Essex

Last week there were reports of Waxwings in Harold Hill, Essex, about 3-4 miles from where we live and where my wife's parents live. So this afternoon when my Mrs suggested popping over and seeing them, I thought I'd take the bins and the camera just in case.

After a quick cuppa I jumped in the car to scour the areas where birds had been reported in the week. I pretty much stayed within a square mile, checking out areas I knew had berry bushes etc. Half an hour and 3 small flocks of starlings later, I decided to call it a day. But wait, just as I got back to their road, hey presto, 25 lovely Waxwings sitting in a tree in someone's back garden, less then 200 yards from my parents-in-law front door.

As you can see from the photos, the light was total rubbish, but I didn't mind. I stood there in the sleet, freezing my bits off, in ca watching them for 15 minutes. Even my father-in-law came out to see them!

You can't knock a Waxwing.       

Tuesday 1 January 2013

Waxwings West Thurrock Essex - Happy New Year!

There's no better hangover cure than a flock of Waxwings showing down to 6-8 feet just 20 minutes from home. Shaun and his 11 year old nephew, George, joined me for an 8am start at Lakeside retail park, well before the masses of shoppers would arrive. We arrived in poor light but found a flock of 20 Waxwings immediately in the car park of Costco. The birds were pretty mobile but with patience we got a few half decent shots, baring in mind the light.

After a short while they were up and off into the distance. Over 100 had been reported the previous day so we set off to find the rest. We drove around for 20 minutes before finding a larger flock of 70 in Grays. We spent the best part of the next 2 hours finding and photographing birds at a number of sites in no more than a square 1/2 mile.

After around 3 hours enjoying the birds, we headed home, in time for lunch. What a cracking way to start off the 2013 birding calendar!!