Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Mediterranean at the Warren

Sitting in the West hide, a very faded looking 1st summer MEDITERRANEAN GULL flew in and landed upon one of the islands. Wanting to get some photos, we then headed towards the East hide, where, despite the oncoming sun, we should be closer to the bird.
After some wait, the Med emerged from behind a tussok, but the back lighting was dredful.

As i said, a very tatty bird, as you would expect a Med to look in late June, with very worn tertials, secondarys and Primarys. In flight this led to a very bleached pattern where the black markings on the upperwing were faded.

Also here was a Gadwall with 7 chicks, 3 Teal a Pochard,6 Common Terns and a Cetti's Warbler calling.

Moving down onto the Flashes, one of the LRP broods had hatched, and a single chick was running around accomponied with its parent.
Also great to see was the return of Green Sandpiper to the flashes, with 2 being present in the many channels around the pools

Saturday, 27 July 2013

Some fill in's

A trip down to the Capital to the London Natural History Museum had a spot of birding as we headed down the motorway. 30 Red Kite were counted as we drove through the Chilterns, with the first 3 being found hunting Oxford services, including one bird which was perched up on a Motorway-side lampost. On the return journey, a single Hobby was also seen at the very same services, with another about 15 minuites further up the motorway.

While visiting my 'secret woodland site' i recieved news of two 'mega' birds at Sheepwash. Wanting to get over there, we quickly left the site, catching a series of busses and lots of walking. The main highlight was this stunning wader which was perched on the rocks within the pumphouse pool, showing very well.
Oystercatcher is always a stunning bird!

The other two birds were a pair of BARNACLE GOOSE, which were associating with the Canada Geese. Always a nice bird to see, the fact they were present within June is simply irrelevent.


Again, for the protection of potential breeding birds i have to hold back the site location for the following day.
After meeting someone on site i was told the news that a BARN OWL had been showing the previous night, and so therefore, i stuck around untill dusk to try to locate it. Without much effort, at 9pm out flew a BARN OWL, which continued to show for an hour or so following, including once dropping into tree's to perch.

Superb flight views were had as it flew around the field.

A nice patch visit was highlighted by the two drake Mandarin Duck which are currently moulting along a stretch of the river, they often give stunning views as usual with the patch Mandarins.


In other bird news, the first returning Common Sandpiper of the year was showing, as was a single Grey Wagtail and Kingfisher. An escappe Zebra Finch was also found feeding adjacent to the quarry with the  Greenfinches.

3 Mandarin, the two eclipse drake and a female were showing on the river.


Wednesday, 17 July 2013


The group from the last excursion out East had again planned to visit Lakenheath RSPB in search of Golden Orioles, however, some bad fortune had 2 of our group dropping out, leaving just the two of us to head east and scour the Marshes.
Again, a 5am start had us arriving at Lakenheath before 8 am, and we were soon standing adjacent to the Black Poplars in the hope of catching a ear-full of melodious Golden Oriole song. With the strong gusts, it made listening very hard, with the rustle of the leaves constantly drowning out the birdsong. Our optimism wasn't particularly high, the birds had been very elusive for much of the spring and there had been no sign for days! Never a good sign when on the search for Orioles. After slowly walking past all 3 of the Poplar Wood's, and having drawn a blank, we walked towards the Joist Fen viewpoint.
Similarly to the last visit, MARSH HARRIER did seem to be hunting over every section of reeds possible, and at one point, 7 birds were up at once, a stunning sight!
In my mind, Marsh Harrier must surely rate as one of the best Raptors, such graceful flyers, and actually very good looking also. 

We were setting into a regular routine of scanning the reeds once we had reached the viewpoint, dodging the rain by moving to the other side of the wall. In one of these avoiding rain sessions, a female CUCKOO landed on a bush in the middle of the reeds.

Once another rainstorm had passed, i quickly walked to the other side, and had a scan, as i panned two birds 'got up' out of the reeds briefly, small, long tailed, and very quick. Within a second, they were back down. A short wait ensured, and one of the birds flew up again, long tailed, orange bodied and blue headed.


Quickly we both were onto the birds, and we had sporadic views for the next 30 minuites or so, before strong winds pushed them down into the reedbed.
2 BITTERN got up out of the reeds, one only very briefly, but the other up for a good 15 seconds or so as it flew a fairly long distance across the reedbed. Similarly, a Egyptian Goose also did the same, before dropping into the reedbed.

My companions phone bleeped with a bird news update, and upon opening found it to contain that dreamed for first word.


The thing that really got us going though was the next word, SUFFOLK!


The inevitable look followed, part shock, part fear, and probably part desire, and it was clear what was going through both our minds, and the expected question soon spilled out "We gonna try?"

"Hell yes!"

There is simply no excuse not to try, but the odd's were well and truly stacked against us, been the furthest point from the car park (almost 3 miles), and then we had to find the location in the SatNav, and then drive to the site, the chances didn't look amazing, furthermore, the fact it was a Swift we were twitching seemed almost idiotic, knowing that literally any second the bird could fly, never to be refound.

But off we set, with a fairly brisk walk back to the car, in which time i managed to ask for updates on the bird. Misreading the reply i took in the walk from the carpark to the marshes at Trimley to be 1.5 miles each way, as the text said 3 miles total...

How wrong i was...

With the SatNav set, and reading 1 hour to the carpark on Cordys Lane we went...

The scene upon arrival was fairly manic, with the small carpark and almost half the length of Cordys lane covered in parked cars. Twitchers running past, legs whirring, swearing and sweating.

Rather than choosing the rather steriotypical twitcher type, we took the decision to have a fairly brisk walk to the pools, but not to break out into a sprint, and a good thing too, because that supposed 1.5 mile walk turned out to only the one track, and it was a full 3 miles to the bird! Agghhhh

Even just 'brisk walking' a sweat started to develop on the brow, the humid conditions obviously not helping. The paths just seemed to go on, and on, but the end never seemed to get any nearer. Only once i had reached the gigantic cranes on our left hand side did i finally start to crack, we must be getting closer now? Cant be much further?, maybe just up the tempo a little?.

My upping the tempo pushed my 'brisk walk' to nearly the pace of a slow jog, and finally i started seeing the Marshes, "Up onto the Sea-wall" was uttered to me as i passed the first hide, "Not much further!" and finally, as i rounded the final bend, the typical 'scrum' had developed, but it was still a further few hundred meters, aghhhh!
Soon i found myself clambering up a fairly slippery grass sea-wall before being hammered by a series of directions, "Going left, Now right, low down, Climbing, back against the sky, over the Shelducks, Low down".

Just training my bins on as many Swifts as possible, i briefly glimpsed a white rump.


In my rush, i had left my partner behind a good way, and having had a decent view of the bird signaled him to scrambled here quick!

Ecstatic, elation, relief!

Not long after, we were both enjoying great views of this superb Asiatic Mega as it hawked low across the open water of the small estuary-side marsh. Having looked at Pacific Swift ID following the Spurn Bird i tried to recount plumage feature. White rump, easy, check, larger white throat patch, check, better defined throat patch, check, longer and more forked tail, check. That was all i could remember, but i was soon picking the bird up head on, and i kept doing it. Why?

The reason became apparent after some scrutiny, as it became clear that the bird had a slightly broader head and longer wings that Common Swift, creating a 'thinner' bodied look, while in fact it was just an illusion due to the birds head size and longer tail. 
Wanting a photo of my first true 'MEGA', i grabbed for my scope, to which a few 'You'll be lucky to get one" and "Good luck" comments were made, but i started snapping away. Soon, the birds habits became obvious, and with some help from the birders around me, they often called out when the bird was feeding low over its favored area of open water, allowing me to 'spray and pray' that the bird would be in one of the pictures.

An hour or so later, mixing periods of photo taking and studying, and simply watching, i managed to get a few shots.

Having been watching the bird for about 1 1/2 hours, the bird suddenly shot off at 3pm, seemingly flying towards the docks and disappeared, soon after, an almightly rainstorm hit, drenching everybody, my raincoat suddenly came in handy after moaning about carrying it all that way in boiling heat on the way down. Soon through, it was leaking, and my jacket and jeans became soaked. With the bird having been gone for nearly 30 minuites, we decided to part from the site to escape the rain.

Getting back to the car, soaked to the bone, cold and shivering, could i care less?

Not at all, 

A 7th for Britain, and a practically untwitchable bird in the past, with the last gettable bird been decades ago. This was made even better when just as we approached the car park, a friend who was in the crowd (who arrived after the birds had gone) text to say that the bird was again showing.

Brief scans around the Marshes also revealed a male Marsh Harrier, 2 Black-tailed Godwit, 16 Avocet and a fly over Little Egret!

But No! It didn't end there. Stopping in a layby not far away to have some food, i heard a few familiar notes ring out from the scrub beside us. That sounded like a Nightingale....

And then it belted out its distinctive song from right beside the car, a male NIGHTINGALE!

After a little bit, we had brief views of the male, and also a presumed female bird in the verge hawthorns, what a way to end the days birding!


Friday, 12 July 2013

Post holiday birding

Well, it must be said that the birding started immediately upon our arrival back in Worcestershire. News came through of a GREAT-WHITE EGRET at Upton Warren, so, after a few hours rest, and with continued presence of the bird we decided to go for it, having dipped the last Upton GWE in spectacular fashion.

Arriving at the Sailing Pool, we were informed that the bird was still present, but could be elusive tucked up in the corner of the 3rd flash.

To cut a long story short, we eventually saw the bird as it emerged fully from the reeds, but was always obscured by the bank between the two flashes, but we had decent views of the bird.

The reason for the bird being so elusive? Every second it was in the open it was mobbed by breeding BHG, and it was harassed until it moved back into cover.
A 'Great' grip back!

Heading out onto patch was fairly rewarding. My own personal highlight being a family party of Willow Warbler, which were found being fed by its parent's, calling loudly. In total, the 2 parents were feeding 6 young, by the looks of it, very recently out of the nest!
With the ongoing northwards shift in Willow Warblers range, it makes occurrences like this more and more unusual.

A single Mandarin was found on the river, and the 2 Lapwings continued to frequent the quarry.

A quick drop into Upton Warren again.
The reason?
A stunning 1st winter LITTLE GULL had been found, and we enjoyed good flight views of this minute Gull from the West side, where it was hawking over the pool for insects. I have a particular fondness towards that black 'W' pattern on its upperwing, and i always find it a pleasure to have a study of this maritine Gulls plumage, always having ever so slight differences between individuals.

Later the same day, at the Gardening job in Earlswood, we heard a Cuckoo singing from the Garden, which proved a nice distraction from the somewhat tedious work, but it was only when leaving did i pick up the best bird. While driving near Earlswood train station, a stunning RED KITE flew over the road, and we stopped and watched the bird as it slowly circled higher and higher until eventually being lost to view.

I find it somewhat humorous, that every year for the last 5 years, i have seen a Red kite back in the midlands the weekend after returning from our Welsh holiday, maybe they just follow us back?


Wednesday, 10 July 2013

"The best days birding I've had in Pembrokeshire.... Ever"

That above statement proves so true! I have never found a decent bird on holiday in Pembrokeshire, so to find two superb birds in a couple of hours was amazing!
But first, here are the few days running up to that final days birding.

While returning from a trip into Tenby, we returned to our staying location to find a superb RED KITE hunting over the meadows adjacent in a howling rainstorm. There is just something special about seeing a 'true' Welsh Kite hunting over a Welsh meadow, a real conservation success story!

A walk on the cliffs behind our accommodation revealed a Whimbrel and 4 Gannet offshore, as well as the expected Meadow Pipits.

A trip to the Beach with The Girlfriend revealed a flock of 5 Chough, as well as 2 Wheatear. A small flock of Gannets were hunting offshore and an Oystercatcher was on the offshore rock stack.
In the surrounding woodland i found singles of Pied and Spotted Flycatcher, and a male Redstart.

So it bring us to the day, the big one!
The keener eyed of you may have noticed that was last visit to Marloes Mere was painfully quiet, and i had a date with an old friend.
With the tide just being on the turn we dropped into The Gann first in the hope of Waders and did it produce!! Near the outflow of the river stood a flock of 40c Waders, a mixed flock of Dunlin and Sanderling!
With the wind being exceptionally strong, with resulting sand blasts of rocky stones and sand i decided to hunker down and get some photos or some summer plumaged Sanderlings.

A couple of birds joined the flock, so i had another scan of the flock. Bloody hell, LITTLE STINT! How on earth did i miss that he first scan because the two that just flew in were a Dunlin and Sanderling. While just grabbing the camera the entire flock, including the minute Stint took flight, the reason? A Peregrine flew through, causing mayhem, and in the confusion the Stint was lost to view, and we presumed that the bird had followed the larger flock of Waders (30c) and flew northish.

With these flocks now gone, we checked the lagoons in case the bird had dropped onto them, but all we could find was 6 Dunlin.

Moving out into the wider estuary, out list of waders for the day kept increasing, Whimbrel after Whimbrel until at least 20 were located feeding on a muddy shore. These birds were fairly distant, however a couple were close in on the newly exposed rocks as the tide dropped.

The Bar-tailed Godwit from the last visit was again showing, intermixing with the large flock of Whimbrel and Oystercatcher.

So it was onto Marloes Mere to meet an old friend.

Grabbing my Beach chair, scope and Bins, we positioned ourselves near the Barbed Wire gate, and waited, and waited, and you guessed it, waited. The old friend was proving late. With the time now approaching 4:20, and only 3 Shoveler, a pair of Ravern and a flyby of small waders hope was dwindling, so i decided to stand up and have a stretch, tilting my head back to stretch my neck.

"That looks a little dark and rakish"

Bins up



A dark morph adult, showing a extended central tail feather (or two??) and white comma's on the outer wing accelerated low and fast over out heads. It turns out that very same wind that i had been cursing all afternoon     helped me find one of my highlights for the day as it pushed the Skua overland due to the high winds.

Having got my dad onto the bird, i tried to signal the two birders walking away from us towards the hide, not getting their attention, i ran to the hide to tell them the news, and then made my way back to my scope, picked it up and sped it along the path overlooking the bay adjacent to Marloes Beach, where the bird had flown to. After about 20 minuites scanning, it became obvious the bird had flown straight through. Small numbers of Kittiwake and Gannet were feeding in the bay.

That certainly picked things up a little bit, a rare occurrence for a Midlander to find an Arctic Skua, despite it being the commonest.

A short spell in the hide revealed a short flight view of a Black-Tailed Godwit.

So now it was to wait for our old friend. We walked the path, where we found 1 Chough, and had a chat with a woman from 'up north' who said she was looking for an LRP as they were hard to come by up by her! Its hard to put that into context when your used to seeing them every week. We turned around and started walking back to our viewpoint and in doing so spotted my old friend flying in over the Reeds.


With the sun shining, its metallic plumage at times looked almost silver, before the bird dropped into the area where we had been waiting for the previous couple of hours. We hot footed over there to be greeted with ok views of the bird feeding at the back of the flash.

Having certainly gone through a change in maturity since i saw it almost a year to the day before, back when it was a brown and speckly 1st year bird, it looked almost pristine in colour, with stunning shades of green maroon and blue, not forgetting those orange thighs.

A small crowd had developed, and while watching a small flock of 5 Black-tailed Godwits dropped in beside the Ibis, and started feeding together! Awesome! Mission done, it was time to head for some well deserved supper.

But that wasn't the end of the birds!

Ok, there weren't any birding days from now on, but just a few highlights from being out and about.

The last full day in Wales, so i decided to spend the day with the Girlfriend. In Tenby i found a Rock Pipit and a Shag, the Pipit showing on the Beach weaving in and out of the sun bathers.

Moving onto Manorbier Beach, 2 Chough were the best, and both Gannet and Fulmar were offshore, with an Oystercatcher on the exposed rocks while Rockpooling.

The saddest day, because it was time to head back. However, one thing to look forward to was the Red Kites, and they didn't disappoint, with 52 seen, including a single flock of 25! 2 Yellow Wagtail were also seen in roadside fields once we had reentered the Midlands.