Friday, 25 November 2016

Dipper. Bassingbourn, Cambridgeshire

We made an early morning visit to Bassingbourn in Cambridgeshire today hoping to connect with the Dipper. It was first seen in late April of this year and has remained faithful to this site since. 
Having encountered isolated fog patches on route, we arrived shortly after first light to clear skies.
We managed to park the car close to the bridge running across Brook Road. From here it was a short walk from the car to the beginning of the stream. This was not your typical Dipper stream. There was no fast flowing water in sight, however the water in the stream became crystal clear the further downstream we went. Suddenly a flash of white on the far bank alerted us to the Dipper's presence. Having spent a couple of hours watching it feeding and preening, the calm was broken by a dog owner who decided to throw a stick into the water, the splash was quickly followed by two dogs! Seeing me further along the bank with camera in hand didn't stop him from throwing the stick in another couple of times!
At this point I gave up and headed for the car.

Sunday, 20 November 2016

Birding Dungeness with Storm Angus

We drove along the M20 on route to Dungeness this morning not really knowing what sort of weather conditions we were heading into. Storm Angus was predicted to hit much of the East coast overnight and into the following morning.
We encountered very little in the way of storm damage on route, but you could feel the car being buffeted around by the strong winds and after parking up along the entrance track at Dungeness RSPB Reserve we couldn't even open the car doors, the winds were that strong.
Luckily we were parked up close enough to scan the pools by Boulderwall Farm. The drake Ring-necked Duck was found almost immediately as was the Cattle Egret. The Ring-necked Duck must have thought it was on the sea! 

Ring-necked Duck

Ring-necked Duck

Cattle Egret

We decided on a brief seawatch at the fishing boats, and soon found out just how strong the winds were. Forcing the car doors open we tried to make our way to one of the boats, but the winds were hitting us from every direction. It was impossible to walk in a straight line and you just had to walk in the direction the wind took you! While I hung on to my scope, Brian ran off along the beach front trying to recover his hat before it reached the sea. We tried to take shelter in front of one of the fishing boats, but the winds were whistling through the double hulled boat intensifying the strength of the winds! There wasn't much movement out to sea, with several flocks of Common Scoter along with Gannets, Great Crested Grebes, Kittiwakes and a couple of Red-throated Divers being the highlights! A couple of Turnstones and a single Sanderling were noted along the shoreline.
There were plenty of large gulls roosting on the shingle and a few scraps of food bought them in closer. Unfortunately there was no sign of anything rare today.

Before heading home a Buzzard was watched feeding on worms and perched up in nearby trees and fence posts and four Bewick's Swans were found among a group of Mute Swans.

Saturday, 19 November 2016

Forster's Tern, Mistley Essex

Breaking news early this afternoon of the presence of a possible Forster's Tern at Mistley in Essex, The possible turned into a positive ID at 1.45pm.
A mad dash around the house duly followed and after meeting Brian around 2.30pm we set off up the A12. The race against the fading light began and luckily there were no hold ups on route. We reached the Quay to find only two other birders present. Both had seen the bird only minutes before we arrived, and told us that it had flown out towards the two green buoy's in the distance.
The car park quickly filled with cars and birders were soon lined up along the Quay side. I decided to train the scope on the area around the two green buoy's and the large boat between them, and I was rewarded when the 1st winter Forster's Tern suddenly appeared over the right hand buoy heading straight towards us! A quick call to the gathered birders got them on it,  before it turned and flew low across the water's surface heading towards the two boats that were moored up. With the light fading fast this was to be the only views we had of the bird, but we stayed at the Quay side until the light had completely gone.

Today's individual is only the 2nd record for Essex, the first being in 1998 when another 1st winter frequented the West Mersea, Hamford Water and Tollesbury area's from the 16th November until the 24th April.  when it crossed the Essex/Suffolk border today it also became a first record for Suffolk! 

Another very welcome if unexpected addition to the life list.

Friday, 4 November 2016

Norfolk Waxwings

A trip to Norfolk this morning in search of Waxwings, started with a 2 hour seawatch at Cley. Almost immediately a single Little Auk was seen flying low and fast heading West towards Blakeney. It would be the only one seen during the 2 hours. 
Long-tailed Ducks were seen and close scope views were had of a pair as they dropped down onto the water relatively close. Plenty of Red-throated Divers were seen flying East and and 2-3 sat on the sea close to the shore. Small numbers of Gannets were also seen along with five male Eiders providing another welcome year tick.
We left Cley and headed towards Burnham hoping to connect with some Waxwings. The reported birds around Burnham Overy Staithe failed to appear so we set about trying to find our own. Which we duly did when we reached Burnham Norton. Driving the back roads we came across a flock of 20+ birds perched on telegraph wires and nearby trees.
Light conditions were terrible, very grey overcast conditions with light rain mixed in, but that didn't stop us trying to get a photo.

A brief stop at Brancaster, with the usual Turnstones and Redshanks present. A single Grey Plover was also busily feeding on the exposed mud.

A stop at Ttichwell for coffee allowed a brief seawatch from the beach. Producing 3 Velvet Scoter among a flock of Common. Several Red-breasted Mergansers were also seen close by.
There was plenty of activity along the shoreline with Sanderling, Black-tailed Godwits, Grey Plover, Knot and Oystercatchers all present.

Before heading for home we took another drive to Burnham Norton, but the Waxwings had moved on to feed elsewhere. We did the same!

Monday, 24 October 2016

Isabelline & Desert Wheatear, Burnham Overy

The day after returning from twitching the first mainland record of Siberian Accentor at Easington in East Yorkshire, an Isabelline Wheatear was found just a couple of miles away near the Easington boatyard!
As luck would have it another Isabelline was found five days later at Burnham Overy in Norfolk. Being 90 miles nearer to home this looked much more appealing. Having left at 5.30am we arrived on site shortly before 8am. Taking the footpath towards the sea wall news broke that the Isabelline was still present 400m West of the boardwalk at Gun Hill. On route we found a Northern Wheatear close to the sea wall and took this as a good sign.Unfortunately as we arrived the Isabelline had been lost to view! After joining the other birders in scanning the dunes and surrounding bushes the bird was soon found happily feeding among the short cropped grass.

Isabelline Wheatear

Having watched it for nearly an hour flying back and forth between the dunes and short grass it flew up the bank towards the horizon and was lost to view.
We took this as a sign to head on towards the Western end of Gun Hill in search of the Desert Wheatear, but as we were about to set off, a Radde's Warbler appeared at the top of the dunes. It sat out long enough to get the scope on it for dad to see his second lifer of the morning!
At the Western end we joined a small group of birders trying to locate the Desert Wheatear, it seemed to favour an old log at the bottom of the dunes, but would frequently fly up and investigate rabbit burrows. As we scanned the dunes and surrounding beach a second Wheatear appeared at the far Eastern edge of the dunes. Tail patterns and shape in flight confirming we had a Desert and an Isabelline! 

     A) Isabelline                   B) Northern                C) Desert   

Before leaving for home we had a brief stop at Burnham Norton in search of two reported Waxwings. We met the finder in the car park. but the walk out to the sluice and subsequent search proved unsuccessful. 

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Ring-necked Duck: Wilstone Reservoir

An early morning visit to Wilstone Reservoir today hoping to connect with the Ring-necked Duck that was reported yesterday morning.
Arriving at first light we climbed the steps and headed towards the jetty, scanning each and every bird as we went. Several Grey Wagtails were seen feeding at the waters edge. But as we reached the jetty there was still no sign of the target bird. Two Water Rails emerged from the reedbed to the left of the jetty in Cemetery Corner and a Rock Pipit flew onto the concrete banking.
We were just about to head off and scan other areas of the reservoir when dad thought he had seen it. It had dived before a positive id could be had, But as it surfaced the id was confirmed!

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Siberian Accentor, Easington: East Yorkshire

News broke on the 9th October that a Siberian Accentor had been found on Shetland! Fantastic bird but with no chance of getting to Shetland I didn't give it much thought thereafter.
That was until news broke that a second bird had been found, this time in Easington in East Yorkshire, The first chance to travel would be Sunday, so we were left with an anxious wait. The bird was still present throughout Saturday but the forecast for clear skies Saturday night were not what we were hoping for.
A 4am start and a 200 mile trip lay ahead of us, Worried the clear skies had encouraged the bird to move on we headed up the A1 less than confident. However we were a little more encouraged when we began encountering thick fog patches. 
Eight miles from Easington the pager bleeped into action with the news that the Siberian Accentor was indeed still present! Parking up in the field off Seaside Road, we headed off along Vicar's Lane to find a small crowd already watching the bird. It was busily picking insects from among the moss covered tarmac.

A superbly well managed twitch, full credit must go to to all those involved. Having watched the bird at close quarters for a decent amount of time the bird flew towards the gas works, and after adding to the donation bucket we headed off in search of any other migrants.
A Shore lark was found by the sandy beaches at the end of Easington Road and an elusive pallas's Warbler was eventually found in the trees in the Crown & Anchor pub flitting between branches on the East side. Before leaving for home a flock of Bean Geese were seen in fields North of Kilnsea Wetlands car park.