Monday 31 March 2014

MEGA Mother's Day - Baikel Teal, Fen Drayton RSPB, Cambridgeshire

With it being Mother's Day on Sunday, Hawky, Lee and I hatched a plan to get out for a day's birding on Saturday, so that we could all be at home and due our Mother's Day duties i.e. breakfast in bed, flowers, cards etc, on Sun. Saturday was hard work, we headed to Kent where we spent 1.5 hours looking for the over wintering Hoopoe at Snodland golf club, to no avail.

We headed off for the obligatory McD's breakfast before heading back to give the Hoopoe another bash. This time we were lucky. Someone located it in fields where it showed distantly in trees before it provided better views as it flew towards us, and then disappeared! After a 30 minute search we gave up and headed to Reculver to try and find some of or own birds. Reculver was dead! We spent a couple of hours on sit with little more than one fly by Black Throated Diver and a distant flock on Common Scoter worth a mention.

With no new birds reported in Kent we drove the short distance to Ramsgate Cemetery to look for yet another over wintering bird, Hume's Lead Warbler. Lee and I had already seen the bird back in January where it showed well, this time, it was a pain and could not be located after an hour. It was now mid afternoon. News had broke of a Baikel Teal in Cambridgeshire and it was too late to get there that day. I needed a plan!

I played it cool Sunday AM after checking that the teal was still there. Julia loved her present and card, and I baked my mum a cake to take round. I picked my moment perfectly when Julia said she wanted to go to her parents for an hour or two and then pop to the gym later in the day. I was in! After a nice lunch with my mum it was time to hit the road. The drive was very straight forward, up the M11 via the M25 and onto the A14. An hour and 10 mins later I was pulling up at Fen Drayton RSPB. A 20 minute walk later I was in the hide scoping the smart little duck approximately 80 yards ahead of me. 45 minutes later it was time to head home to cook my wife a lovely Mother's Day meal.

So another bird added to the pending list hopefully to be ticked from my armchair sometime in the near future. Three ticks in three months - 2014 is looking tick-wise so far. Long may it continue.

Tuesday 4 March 2014

American Coot - a bonus tick

Our fantastic trip to Scotland included a bonus life tick for me too. We booked the weekend away back in late 2013 and before the now long staying American Coot was found on Loch Flemington, just a few miles from Inverness Airport, where we were flying into. Just 10 minutes after leaving the airport we pulled up at Loch Flemington, and there it was - tick. I now have as many ticks in the first 9 weeks of 2014 as I had in the first 9 months of 2013!       

A few more Highland highlights

A last few pics from last weekend's trip to bonnie Scotland.

Red Grouse up Cairngorm

Record shot of a Golden Eagle in Findhorn Valley
Crested Tit - Loch Garten

Red Squirrel - Loch Garten

Snow Bunting - one of c60 in the car park at the Cairngorm ski centre

Mountain Hare

Another highlight from our trip to the Highlands of Scotland last weekend was getting up close to this Mountain Hare. It didn't seem to be bothered by us as it snoozed in the afternoon sun.

Monday 3 March 2014

Ptarmigan - ptastic in the Cairngorms

On Saturday I spent an amazing morning up Cairngorm, in the Highlands of Scotland with Shaun Harvey, Dave Morrison, Paul Hawkins and wildlife photographer, guide, and as we discovered, generally good bloke, e-birder; Marcus Conway. See

Stomping up Cairngorm in winter is not for the faint hearted and you need to be prepared for a hard slog in you want a chance of seeing the iconic winter plumaged Ptarmigan. After walking for approximately an hour we got to the spot where Marcus had seen a small flock of the birds the previous day. Eagle eyed Hawky, lifted his bins and predicable was straight onto one, then two, and possibly more. We were looking up a steep slope, to Windy Ridge, it looked not very far away, but it would take 45 minutes plus to circle our way up to reach the height where they could be found.

We spent the next couple of hours finding more and more Ptarmigan, some singles, some in twos, but often in double figure flocks. Not far from the highest point of Windy Ridge we spotted a bigger flock, of what we initially thought was at least 20 individuals, then as we approached more and more appeared in front of us. We estimated we had at least 50 birds gathered in a super-flock. By taking our time the birds were quite approachable, allowing some nice shots.      

Spending quality time with these beautiful birds was one of my favourite birding experiences in the British Isles and one I will never forget. 
Further posts to follow from our trip to Scotland including catching up with most of the Scottish specialities as well as a lost Coot.