Sunday, 11 March 2018

Snowy Owl: Snettisham, Norfolk

Mid-morning on Saturday and with the Snowy Owl already re-located at Thornham, Brian is keen to make the trip. It would be a lifer for dad but he already has alternative plans and is unable to go, so the trip is delayed until today.
Leaving at 5am the plan is to put ourselves in the area and hope it's re-found at some point during the day. Arriving around 7am our first stop was to Hunstanton Cliffs to tick Fulmar before moving onto Thornham harbour. After a lengthy scan, and with several dogs running about on the beach it wasn't a surprise that there was no sign of the owl.
A brief stop around the drying barns at Choseley produced my first Yellowhammer of the year before we moved on to Titchwell. Several Med Gulls were present on the Freshwater Marsh for another addition to the year list and from the beach we enjoyed good views of Red-breasted merganser, Scaup and Long-tailed Ducks. Then as we were scanning the channels for any Red-Crested Pochard news broke of the Snowy Owls presence at Snettisham!
A quick dash back to the car and we are soon parked up in the car park at Snettisham Two miles and 35-40 minutes later we reach the Southern end of the reserve. Sitting on a grass mound in a fenced off area behind Shore Hide is the fantastic sight of the 1st winter female Snowy Owl some 80 metres away! It remained there throughout our visit, sometimes dozing but always aware of its surroundings.

The Snowy Owl had found the perfect spot to rest up, surrounded by a fence with a boardwalk running right along one edge that allowed superb views for all without any disturbance to the bird. There was no hint of anyone trying to cross the fence or encroach closer while we were there.
The RSPB volunteer on site has to be congratulated for the way he handled several dog owners with free running dogs. Respectfully pointing out the situation and asking them to put leads on their dogs. All did so without any problems.

Some handheld phone scope images below.

Friday, 23 February 2018

Ross's Gull at Radipole Lake, Dorset

Having met Brian at 5am we arrived at Ferrybridge just after 8am. As we were parking the car news came through that the Ross's Gull had dropped in at Lodmoor! A quick turnaround and we are on route to Lodmoor. Pulling into the car park we found just a handful of cars. This did not fill us with any optimism, and sure enough, having re-checked the pagers report "Adult on West scrape then flew West over North end possibly towards the Fleet".  We drove back to Ferrybridge and joined the long line of birders already taking shelter from the bitterly cold conditions below the path. A couple of hours later I had added a Rock Pipit to my year list, but although welcome it wasn't exactly what I had hoped for. Red-breasted Mergansers were present in good numbers and Ringed Plovers seemed to be everywhere  I looked. But there were only small numbers of gulls present and with no sign of any movements incoming we headed for Radipole and some much-needed refreshments.

After a coffee and a bite to eat we returned to Lodmoor and after scanning from the Bandstand we quickly located the Two Spoonbills for another year tick.

Then news broke that the Ross's Gull was present at Lodmoor. A brief panic followed before the pager bleeped into life again with another message saying that this report was erroneous and the bird was in fact at Radipole Lake!
A quick three-mile dash along the seafront to Radipole Lake followed and we thankfully find the Ross's Gull resting on a small shingle island close to the reserve centre.

Ross's Gull

It's only the third record of this high Arctic species recorded in Dorset, with both the previous two records (an adult bird in1967 at Weymouth Bay & an immature individual in 1974 at Stanpit Marsh) being recorded in August.
According to many of the birders we talked to the bird had been very erratic the previous day, only showing briefly and giving plenty of them the runaround. This morning it was looking like a repeat of yesterdays events until it dropped in at Radipole Lake and remained on that small shingle island for 40-45 minutes!

A lot of happy birders scanning the small shingle island

Before leaving for home we dropped in at Lodmoor once more and found the 2nd & 3rd winter Glaucous Gulls resting up together on a small spit along the Western side.

2nd & 3rd winter Glaucous Gulls

Monday, 19 February 2018

Spotted Sandpiper: Holme Pierrepont, Nottinghamshire

A Spotted Sandpiper at Holme Pierrepont, was first reported on the 22nd January but had apparently been present several days prior to this having being reidentified from photographs taken on an earlier date.
Leaving home at 5.15am and with 130 miles ahead of us, we made good time, despite hitting quite a few mist and fog patches on route. We parked up by the toilet block in the White Water Course, Rafting & Kayaking car park and headed off along the canoe course footpath searching for the 750m marker and bridge. As we approached the bridge what we thought was the Spotted Sandpiper was seen immediately, however, on closer inspection, this turned out to be a Common Sandpiper! Not what we were hoping for but it did provide a year tick all the same.
After a short search further along the slalom course, we headed back towards the bridge and found the Spotted Sandpiper on the concrete path bordering the course. It spent a short time feeding on the grass bank, but soon returned to the path feeding either side of the bridge.
It's a lifer for dad as he had missed the Heybridge Basin bird that Brian and myself saw in December 2011.

Spotted Sandpiper (B Anderson)

Heading back towards the car park we scanned the rowing course for the 1st winter drake Long-tailed Duck that had been present since the 7th January and found it close to the finishing line sign along with a male Goldeneye.

Long-tailed Duck (B Anderson)

On the way home, we stopped at Kelham Bridge hoping to add Willow Tit to the year list. We added an overdue year tick with three pairs of Bullfinch but failed to see or hear any Willow Tits.

Luckily While at Holme Pierrepont we were told by some locals of another site that could provide sightings. Having found the site easily enough we had some trouble finding the right hide and feeding area, but eventually, we did find the feeders and sure enough, after a short wait a Willow Tit came down to feed among the Great, Blue, Long-tailed and Coal Tits.

Sunday, 11 February 2018

Penduline Tit & Wild Boar in Glocestershire

An early start again this morning, saw us on the road at 5.30 heading towards Plock Court, Longford in Gloucestershire. A Penduline Tit present since the 16th December had found two small pools right next to the A40 attractive enough to overwinter there. Upon arrival,  it was showing extremely well perched up in a small tree at the side of the larger pool.  It soon flew to the Greater Reedmace and began to feed. After feeding for 30-40 minutes it took flight to the boundary hedgerow before returning soon afterwards.
This individual has chosen a site just three miles from the two males that were present at Horsbere Flood Alleviation Pool between January-march  2016.

Penduline tit

An early morning stretch

With limited time we reluctantly moved on towards The New Fancy Viewpoint, on route Brian jokingly said: "Keep an eye out for wild pigs" Amazingly five minutes later we spot four foraging close to the road. It was a photo opportunity too good to miss!

Wild Boar

The viewpoint didn't disappoint either, with at least five Goshawks seen allowing for some superb scope views. Two of which were seen displaying just above the treetops. Ravens were also frequently seen with two noisily calling as they drifted overhead. A brief stop at Park End produced sightings of three Hawfinch but with numerous cars, dog walkers, cyclists and even Horses being walked we didn't stay long.
The only disappointment of the day came when we failed to find the Great Grey Shrike at Crabtree Hill. But that was more down to our lack of site knowledge rather than the bird's disappearance.

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Black-necked Grebe, Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve

A Black-necked Grebe has been present at Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve since the 14th January. With the bird's presence continuing to be reported, I made my first ever visit to this reserve this morning. The Grebe had been favouring the East Lake and that is where I headed for upon arrival.

Sevenoaks Reserve Centre

Several hides line the Southern edge of the lake and after failing to locate the Grebe from the first three hides it was eventually found at the Eastern end of the lake from the Tower Hide.

Tower Hide

A stroll around the remainder of the reserve produced sightings of Blue, Great, Long-tailed and Coal Tits and several Goldcrests and Siskins. A walk along the banks of the River Darent produced sightings of two Sparrowhawks perched in the same tree on the opposite bank.

Sunday, 4 February 2018

In search of Short-eared Owls, Eldernell, Cambridgeshire

Having struggled throughout January to locate any Short-eared Owls at several normally reliable sites we decided to travel North this morning and visit Eldernell in Peterborough. Arriving at the car park shortly after first light we joined a small group of birders already present and began scanning the flooded grasslands.
Several Marsh Harriers were seen quartering the area along with Common Buzzards and Kestrel, but no Owls were found. After another scan, I located a very distant Short-eared owl perched on a wooden gate. then after a brief rain shower, a second bird was seen on the path at closer range. It quickly moved back into the long grass and was lost to view. The grasslands held impressive numbers of Lapwing and Golden Plover their flock sizes becoming obvious when flushed by a hunting Marsh Harrier.
Cranes proved much easier to locate with three birds seen shortly after arriving and before departing we had views of nine individuals feeding together.

Before heading for home we dropped in at the RSPB's headquarters at The Lodge in Bedfordshire and were entertained by twenty plus Brambling feeding around the feeders adjoining the car park and surrounding area. The feeders also attracted good numbers of Great, Blue, Long-tailed and Coal Tits plus Chaffinch, Nuthatch and Treecreeper.

Friday, 26 January 2018

Coues's Arctic redpoll, Hazelwood Common

A trip to Suffolk this morning started with a visit to Hazelwood Common. Arriving at first light we were the only birders present. There had been no reports of the Arctic Redpolls presence for two days and we were hoping this was due to the awful weather conditions of the previous two days rather than the bird's disappearance. My optimism waned a little when I stepped out of the car to find the fields opposite the sailor's path had recently been ploughed. However, as I reached the bend on the path a small flock of Redpolls flew up from the field and perched in the hedges bordering the path. Almost immediately the Coues's was found among them! We watched the flock of 20-30 Redpolls for a couple of hours, picking out all three Redpolls Lesser, Mealy and Arctic among them. The Coues's regularly perched up in the hedges giving some nice views of the almost unstreaked white rump.

Coues's Arctic Redpoll

Mealy Redpoll

Lesser Redpoll

A walk towards Hazelwood Marshes located another flock of Redpolls with one maybe 2 more Mealy Redpolls among them. 

The hide overlooking Hazelwood marshes

A Glossy Ibis had been seen feeding in a flooded field at Eastbridge earlier in the morning. First seen on the 17th on Minsmere's West scrape, it had now relocated to this field and we had spotted it before we had even parked the car. After initially showing at close range it flew to the back of the field and remained distant throughout the rest of our brief visit. 

With limited time we made our way to Dunwich Heath searching for Dartford Warblers. Two were found after a short walk along the paths among the heather.

Dartford warbler

On route to Dunwich, we searched the fields along the whole length of Lymballs lane but failed to find the reported nine Bewick's Swans. 
A quick walk around Minsmere added another couple of year ticks with a Marsh Tit coming to feeders at the reserve centre and several Bearded Tits "pinging" from the reedbeds in front of the Bittern Hide.

Before leaving for home we drove along Lymballs lane once more in search of the Bewick's Swans and found them in a field opposite Charity farm.

Bewick's Swans