Saturday, 29 November 2014

East coast Birding- Curlew Sands and a Shrike


With migration now well underway and large numbers of migrant waders building up on the east coast, it didn't take much of a discussion to think where we would be heading for the weekend.

Frampton Marsh RSPB was our first destination, a new reserve for me, and I very quickly became impressed! Walking from the car park to the sea wall, a small flooded pool held a pair of juvenile Little Stints and a great flock of 8 Curlew Sandpipers. Both of these species were very well represented on the reserve, with a good number of 4 Little Stints, but the real highlight was the outstanding count of 30+ Curlew Sandpipers, which were plastered on every puddle on site!
This was part of 16 wader species that were present on site, including 4 Spotted Redshank!

Little Stint 
Curlew Sandpipers 
Curlew Sandpipers
 The long staying Glossy Ibis put on a brief showing as we were on the sea wall. The marshes were packed with waders! Away from passerines, great numbers of Yellow Wagtail were flicking about in the late summer sun and a Wheatear flicked off the track in front of us.
I was very impressed by the reserve, the only downside being that I only managed 'untickable' views of the Barred Warbler on site, which after a brief flight view, and a bit of calling, completely disappeared!

With a Bonelli's Warbler having been seen at Kelling in Norfolk, we next headed there, but we were in for a dip (and didn't see much at all!) so we moved around for a quick look at Cley before deciding what to do.

A flock of 5 Spoonbills were viewable distantly from the carpark but we didn't venture any further and went to Salthouse, again with no reward.

So, having had a phone call from Jim Almond (who was having a rather good day!) saying that a juvenile Red-backed Shrike was still present at Blakeney Freshmarsh, and so we headed that way to salvage something from the latter part of the day. 
My first Red-backed in the UK, and it showed superbly sitting on Reed stems and small hawthorn bushes in the Reeds. It flew around a few times, each time more distantly, and it was around this time we decided to cut our losses and head back.

Red-backed Shrike
Red-backed Shrike
Red-backed Shrike

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Birding the Beacon- Autumn 2014

As I'm sure many local birders would now be aware, I have attained somewhat of a bug for birding Sedgley Beacon.

There are many reasons for it, but the main one being that it has became clearly obvious that the Beacon is a regular stopover for migrating thrushes, and during the correct winds, can result in some rather spectacular vismig.

Perhaps the most significant 'discovery' has been the string of Ring Ouzels I managed to find. Through the autumn, I managed to connect with 4 of these scarce migrant Thrushes,  3 adults and a juvenile as they paused (however briefly) on the hill. The first day of October brought the first two, combined with a fair bit of vismig, as both a male and a female stopped briefly within the Hawthorn valley on the NW side of the hill. Both of the birds were picked up in flight as they dropped down calling, their harsh chacking call being very distinctive. It was by call that both the birds on the 15/10 were also picked out, but the SW winds on this day revealed a significant movement of Thrushes, with about 2500 (of various species) noted by me flying over in the morning. Further watching by another observer later in the day added another 1500 birds, so the passage was certainty sustained throughout the day (and the night by the sounds of hundreds of migrating Redwings flying over my house). The first bird dropped into the NW valley to feed, as did many of the Thrushes it was migrating with, but the juvenile flew very low along the entire length of the hill (just above head height!) before dropping into bushes below the masts.

I'm sure more regular watching over the coming years could lead to more records as I'm pretty sure it must be a regular stop over site for the species!

Female Ring Ouzel- Despite being a poor photo, note the very pale wings and if zoomed in, the pale edging to the belly feathers.

As already mentioned, I also logged all the regular thrush species, and often in good numbers, with the 15th proving to be by far the best day!

Vismig was regular, and included my first Golden Plover for the site (15/10) and regular movements of Meadow Pipit and Wagtails. This included 2 Tree Pipit (3/09),11 Grey Wagtail (1/10) and the first real 'finch push' of the year, with 70c Chaffinch, 2 Brambling, 40 Linnet, 2 Redpoll sp and 5 Siskin going over on a 9 'finch species day' (15/10). A single Hobby gave stunning views on 1/10 as it migrated at eye height over the plateau of the hill at about 30ft range. As you can imagine, leading to some rather stunning views as it glanced at me as it barreled past.

Tree Pipit (Trust me!)

Away from vismig, there was also a good number of Passerines, with Redstarts present on 3/09 (x2) and 15/09 (1) with a Spotted Flycatcher also present on the latter date (And another nearby but off the Hill) 


A pair of Stonechat appeared on the 15/10, giving great views from my vismig point.

Male Stonechat

Combined with decent movements of regular species, it often led to some very enjoyable birding, so rest assured, I will continue birding the site!

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Marsh Sandpiper- A 1st for Gloucestershire

With news having emerged that a bird very high on my wish list had been found the night before, hasty plans were made to head down the next morning to see it if it had stuck around.
The bird in question, a rather stunning looking juvenile Marsh Sandpiper had been found the previous morning, feeding on a flash that had developed in the corner of a flooded field adjacent to the Severn Estuary just outside Frampton on Severn!
Needless to say, I was rather pleased the bird had turned up so close to home, being just over an hours drive away, and when news came up about the birds continued presence the next morning, we were soon on our way.
An hour and a half later and the flash was in view and a quick scan across the flood revealed a rather distant diminutive looking wader. The MARSH SANDPIPER!
It was actually everything I had hoped, a very pleasing and good looking bird. It's delicate bill and legs matching to well to its dainty posture and gaint, completely unlike that of the adjacent Greenshanks and Ruffs around it!
Infact I would compare it to be more like a Lesser Yellowlegs then any of the other more common European wader species! Unmistakable.
Juvenile Marsh Sandpiper flanked by 2 Ruff
Marsh Sandpiper and Ruff (On the deck) with Greenshank and Ruff (Flying)

 Marsh Sandpiper, showing slightly more detail to it's plumage

With the target bird having been seen, we were also entertained by a good variety of other birds. The rare Tringa was associating with a very good sized flock of waders, with 9 each of Greenshank (My largest every flock size) and Ruff alongside a Green Sandpiper. 3 Pintail joined the Teals in dabbling the shallow water.
Scanning of the estuary led me to pick up a juvenile Mediterranean Gull, sitting out on one of the exposing sandbanks as the tide dropped.
While we were watching the waderfest, news came through that a Black Tern had been found at Upton Warren, and as one of our group needed it for the year we decided to head back up there.
To cut a long story short, we broke down, we were left by Jarad who went on to successfully see the Black Tern as we were luckily being followed by Rob (who we had met at Frampton) who ferried him the last mile to the Moors Pool as we awaited a car fix.
A few hours frolicking about the Motorway, and later the Mcdonalds and we were on our way.
Guess what.
We saw the Black Tern in the end!