Tuesday 26 May 2015

Red Backed Shrike, Fairlop Waters, East London

Is there a smarter scarce visitor to our shores than an adult male Red Backed Shrike? If there is I can't think of it. This one very helpfully turned up just 20 minutes up the road too.

Arriving late afternoon there was just 3 birders on site when I arrived (inc. Dirty Dick) and that soon became one, me. I pinned the bird down and had it all to myself for about 20 minutes until Lee Brown and his Dad turned up. 

Great stuff.  

Tuesday 19 May 2015

Greater Yellowlegs Twitch - phew!

All day Friday and Saturday the Greater Yellowlegs at Titchfield NNR (Hants) had typically been showing well when I couldn't go. So Sunday morning I was awaiting the news that it was still playing ball and was raring to go. By mid morning the inevitable message came though, "no sign", typical. Oh well back to the DIY. I just got out my tools, when, another message appeared " Greater Yellowlegs still"! I was quickly on the phone to Shaun and Hawky, looking for a partner in crime (I am not too keen on solo twitches thsse days). Hawky had been out bashing Rainham Marshes RSPB all morning and Shaun was also DIYing. Bugger. Back to the DIY myself. 45 minutes later, Shaun had cracked, and was on the phone. Not giving him the time to change his mind I said I'd pick him up in 15 minutes. And we were off.

 Two hours and 10 minutes later, at around 3pm, after a very smooth journey we were pulling up at the nature reserve. A departing birding advised us that the bird was showing well on the south scrape, it was looking good. We hot footed it to the visitor's centre to pay our £4 entrance fee. I popped to the loo as Shaun sorted out the money. I rushed back to be greeted by Shaun, "It flew off 15 minutes ago, message just came through to the visitor's centre on the radio"....."ffs". We weren't the only ones to arrive just too too late. We decided to head to the south scrape and hope the bird would come back. On route, we met Dave, a birder I had chatted to on previous twitches and had seen the bird fly off. He suggested we head round to a hide on the other side of the reserve, where the bird had been seen in the morning. About 1.5 miles and 25 minutes later we were in the hide, the bird wasn't there. By this time another Greaterleg-less birder, John, had joined our group. We decided to head back round to the south scrape, via another 1.5 miles and 25 minutes frog march. John suggested he head off to check another site a few miles away where the bird had been seen previously and we carry on to the south scrape. As we departed we decided to exchange phone numbers and keep each other posted.

 In the hide looking out at the south scrape it was obvious the bird was not there. After 10-15 minutes of scanning I dropped John a "no sign here" text, almost simmulataneously a text popped up " Found the bird! Call me for directions!" I advised everyone in the hide and we were off. I called John who gave us great directions. Three birders jumped into the back of my car and we zoomed off up the road. Ten minutes later we were speed walking to find John. He gave the thumbs up as we approached, the bird was asleep on the flash, c80 yards in front of us. After a few minutes it decided to play ball, woke up and provided great scope views. Phew. The walk back to the car was much more relaxed, with plenty of metaphorical back slaps etc. We dropped everyone back their cards, all shook hands on a good job done. Many thanks, particularly to birder John for the news. It's good to talk!

Not our bird but one on Sanibel Island, Florida (2013)  

Monday 11 May 2015

Here's what I have been up to in recent weeks

Around three weeks ago Shaun Harvey and I made a dash after work to Bowers Marsh RSPB for a pair of Blacked winged Stilts. These birds are becoming very regular with it becoming quite straight forward to catch up with them each year. Two birds showed quite distantly as the sun set.  

I spent much of April visiting the stone barges area of Rainham Marshes which proved to be quite rewarding with numerous Wheatear, Hobby and 2 early Cuckoos.

The first big twitch in a while came at the start of May with news that Britain's 3rd Hudsonian Godwit was still at Meare Heath in Somerset. Five of us crammed into the new Braddersmobile for the three hour drive. Mega ticked we also bagged Bittern and at least 3 Great White Egrets before finding a local pub for a celebratory pint and lunch. On the way home we had a quick stop off for my 6th UK Green Winged Teal.    

I spy with my little eye something beginning with H

Yesterday, Hawky and i decided to go south to the south coast hoping to connect with the now long staying and very erratic Greater Yellowlegs. The bird is being seen every now and then at Titchfield Haven in Hampshire, but when it does show it seems to be available all day. We placed ourselves at Thursley common to await news. We did get news, but it was not about about our bird. Britain's first mainland Citril Finch has been found in north Norfolk. We were 30 minutes walk from the car and around 3.5 hours drive from north Norfolk, plus a good 30 minute walk the other end to Burnham Overy dunes. 

The decision was made. Thursley was cracking, we'd spend the day birding (not driving) and hope the Greater legs would reappear. We'll half of our plan worked. We walked miles and had great views of all the key heathland species, including: 7 Dartford Warblers, 4 Redstart (3 males), Tree Pipit, 2 Nightingales and a number of showy singing Woodlarks.                 

Dartford Warbler  


Tree Pipit


I took all my gear to work today hoping the Citril Finch would do the decent thing and allow an after work twitch however it was not to be. Hopefully we'll  connect with the Greater Yellowlegs before too long. Watch this space.