Sunday, 15 January 2017

When is a Stejneger's not a Stejneger's?

Another visit to Dungeness started with a seawatch from the beach hide. Hundreds of Black-headed Gulls were streaming through. Gannets were present in good numbers and several Guillemots were resting on the sea. The only addition to the year list was Kittiwake when 2-3 were seen heading down towards the fishing boats and another individual was found on the sea. After failing to found any Black Redstarts around the power station boundaries we headed for Kerton Road and a search for the supposed Stejneger's Stonechat. Having failed on two previous attempts to locate this very pale Stonechat, we had better luck today, when it was located along the fence line of Lade GP. A very striking bird.

We already knew that there was much debate surrounding this bird, many still having plenty of reservations even after a sample of the birds dropping's had come back from a DNA test as positive for Stejneger's. With the sample now going through a re-test, we returned home to negative news. The sample had been mixed up with a sample from the Spurn bird!
So it's a Stonechat of either rubicola or hibernans form. It won't now being making it onto the year list and plenty will be removing it from their lists in the coming days. But given this news, it was still a very striking bird and I'm still pleased to have seen it. 
Cook's Pool just inside the entrance of Dungeness Reserve failed to produce a sighting of the Ring-necked Duck (later to be located on Burrowes Pit) but did hold good numbers of Ruff, Lapwing and Golden Plovers in the surrounding fields. A Great White Egret flew into the reeds at the edge of the pool as we watched the Lapwing and Plover flock swirling above.
We ended the day at Scotney GP's and failed to find the reported Bean Geese or the Black-necked Grebe despite several lengthy searches for both. 

Monday, 9 January 2017

Sparrowhawk visits the garden

While having breakfast this morning a female Sparrowhawk suddenly appeared in the Willow tree. It stayed for 30-45 minutes allowing a few photos. I'd prefer it not to take any birds from the garden but it also has to eat to survive.

Sunday, 8 January 2017

A special morning at Wallasea Island

With the weather not looking good for Dungeness we switched plans and decide on a visit to Wallasea. As we approach the entrance track a Barn Owl is seen quartering the roadside fields. 
Having parked up in the car park we headed out and quickly picked up two Short-eared Owls in the half light. As the light began to increase a Male Merlin zipped past and landed on a grass mound, allowing close scope views. On the walk back towards the car a Green Sandpiper flew up from the water channels edge and several Corn Bunting and Skylark were found.
We took the main footpath below the sea wall and soon had stunning views of a male Hen Harrier searching for food across the marshland. It was joined by a Ringtail soon afterwards and we watched them for an hour before they dropped below the grass and out of view.
As we headed back along the footpath we got lucky when a Mealy Redpoll that had been keeping close company with four wintering Twite flew in and landed on the wire fence along with the Twite.
A tip from another birder, saw us head for the Marina and after a bit of searching found both the female Eider and the Shag frequenting the River Crouch. While scanning for these a Kingfisher flew from the bank and added another welcome year tick.
A couple of stops on the way home,  firstly at Southend-on-Sea, where we located several Med Gulls along the foreshore and a second Kingfisher of the morning, this one was fishing from the jetty.
Last stop of the morning was to Pitsea where a flock of Waxwings had been reported earlier. We arrived to find a healthy flock perched up in treetops on the central reservation. Then flying down onto trees within the Macdonald's car park.
A fantastic mornings birding!

Saturday, 7 January 2017

Waxwings and local birding

After spending the first two days of the new year in Kent and Norfolk, It was very much local birding for the next four days.
The 3rd was spent at home where a garden watch produced three additions to the year list, with a Redwing snapping up the remaining berries from the Holly along with House Sparrows and Ring-necked Parakeets regularly visiting the bird feeders.
I spent the morning of the 4th trying to locate the local Little Owls, but despite a walk around all the normal areas I failed to find them. Great-Spotted and Green Woodpeckers were seen with a pair of Mistle Thrush the only other additions.
With the weather showing signs of improving we spent the afternoon in Epping Forest, visiting a small pond that regularly holds good numbers of Mandarin Duck that have dispersed from their usual lake for the winter months. Several pairs were again on show as we approached. The surrounding woodland was alive with birds calling, and a walk deeper into the woods came up trumps with Nuthatch, Coal Tit, Treecreeper, Goldcrest, Jay all heard and seen at relatively close quarters. Walking back to the car I  heard a Firecrest singing from within a  patch of holly. I caught a glimpse of movement low down, but failed to get a clear view. I walked into the forest to scan the area from the other side and this paid off when the bird began foraging in a clearer area. The habitat has always looked perfect for Firecrest and this year I finally found one!
We dipped Waxwings in Norfolk earlier in the week and with news breaking of a flock only ten miles from home, we made the trip on the 6th. On arrival there was no sign, we drove around the surrounding roads trying to locate them. We started searching for likely areas the birds might come into feed and found just two suitable spots. We parked up and waited, and after forty five minutes three birds flew in and landed in a tree close to the berries. The three birds took flight but circled high and as they re-emerged they were joined by the rest of the flock. We watched them for over an hour happily flying back and forth from one tree to another. 

One of the flock of 23 birds counted.

Monday, 2 January 2017

Norfolk beckons

Having delayed the Norfolk trip because of heavy rain forecasts, we made the trip this morning, leaving at 5.15am. the first bird I encountered was in semi darkness when a Barn owl flew very low across the road in front of the car. 
A quick stop at Thornham added a small flock of Twite and my first Brent Geese of the new year. From here we continued our day with a seawatch from the beach at Titchwell. This produced large flocks of Common Scoter and several Velvet Scoter were among them with one individual showing extremely well relatively close in. A small flock of Long-tailed Ducks were also seen along with two Eider and several Red-breasted Merganser. The shoreline held good numbers of Sanderling and Turnstones and a Peregrine hunting, catching and releasing a Pigeon was fantastic to watch. It certainly made the freezing conditions and light rainfall much more tolerable.
Several more birds were added on the walk out and back, Water Pipit, Ringed and Grey Plover, Greenshank, Dunlin and Brambling to name a few.
We failed to locate any Bean Geese or the Red-breasted Goose among several flocks of Pink-footed Geese, but a bonus came in the shape of two Red Kites flying low over the hillside as we searched through the geese flocks.
A stop at Salthouse at first failed to find the reported flock of 50 Snow Buntings, despite walking the length of Gramborough Hill searching for them. As we headed back towards the car a juvenile Glaucous Gull dropped onto the pool at the end of Beach Road. A second Glac Gull  in two days! A couple we were standing with headed off towards Cley and as luck would have it they flushed the flock of Snow Buntings which promptly headed back towards Gramborough Hill directly over our heads.
A late dash to try to find the Wawings at Cromer proved fruitless, but a Woodcock flushed from the roadside on the way home was a very nice end to the day.

Sunday, 1 January 2017

Slow start to 2017 at Dungeness

With the weather forecasts saying Norfolk would have heavy rainfall for almost the whole of the day, we decided on a trip to Dungeness to start the new birding year. Light rain was falling on route and it would only become worse as the day progressed. 
We started the day off with a seawatch at the fishing boats, a heavy sea mist made for challenging conditions, but we still managed to find several good birds moving through. Red-throated Divers and a single Great Northern Diver headed  up towards the point with large numbers of Guillemots resting on the water along with a handful of Razorbill. Gannets were numerous and two Great Skuas close in were a real treat. Just as we were about to leave another birder drove up to us and asked if we had seen the Glaucous Gull? We hadn't, so we followed him towards the point and were soon watching the Glac out on the sea. We didn't get the birders name but we were very grateful.
A brief stop at the fish hut produced both Adult and 1st winter Caspian Gulls, but we were not so lucky locating the Stejneger's Stonechat off kerton Road. With heavy rain falling we managed to pick out the Slav Grebe on Lade GP before heading for the car.
As we headed through the reserve gate we quickly found a small flock of Tree Sparrows in bushes near the farm house and the drake Ring-necked Duck was still present on Cook's pool.
Heavy rain was still falling as we made our way towards the dipping pond hoping to connect with the Long-eared owl. We wasn't disappointed as it was awake and showing extremely well. At the Arc pit we managed a single Goosander and two female Goldeneye, but I somehow managed to miss the redhead Smew that was present on Burrowes Pit!
Heavy rain and freezing conditions made it hard work throughout the day, but we still managed to see some good birds nonetheless.

Thursday, 29 December 2016

Blue Rock Thrush, Stow-on-the-Wold Gloucestershire

Blue Rock Thrush, escaped cage bird or genuine wild bird? After the accepted record of Chinese Pond Heron who can take the chance!
Leaving much later than normal, it wasn't surprising to hit a bit more traffic on route. Most of the traffic was around the town centre. We still made the 100 mile trip in good time, and after several trips around the car park we finally managed a parking space and headed off towards Fisher's Close.
As expected plenty of birders were already present, and the bird had been seen 10 minutes prior to our arrival.We decided to split up, Brian headed off along the surrounding roads, while I stayed with the masses in case it re-appeared.
An hour or so later Brian managed to re-locate the bird on a chimney in Maugersbury Park. I joined the masses and headed towards the cul-de-sac, but on arrival the bird had disappeared, Then suddenly it popped up on the roof of a neighbouring house. It stayed in this area for at least 30 minutes, flying from rooftops to chimney pots of the surrounding houses. 

The bird disappeared and so did the majority of the birders. As they headed back towards Fisher's Close, we decided to stay put and hope it returned, as luck would have it we were soon rewarded with cracking views as it foraged among the rooftop moss.
Escape or wild it was still well worth a trip to see the bird, and if it is deemed genuinely wild by the BBRC in the future, it was even more worth while!