Saturday, 15 July 2017

Vagrant Emperor: Minsmere RSPB

While dipping the Roseate Tern at Minsmere this morning, we came across this Dragonfly very close to the footpath soon after leaving the South Hide while heading towards the sluice. After returning home I checked several online sites for an ID. Unable to confirm the species I posted the photo below on Twitter asking for help. The replies all seemed to confirm it to be an Vagrant Emperor! 

Vagrant Emperor
The photo was taken at 9.41 this morning and I have included two maps below of the reserve and the area where I took the photograph using my iphone.

PS: I was asked to submit the sighting to the  "British Dragonfly Society Migrant Dragonfly Project & Suffolk Dragonfly Recorder" Adrian Parr.

Below is the reply I received from Adrian.

Hi James,
Many thanks indeed for the photo and information. Yes, this is a female Vagrant Emperor - congratulations on the find! Nationally, there were several individuals of this rare migrant seen back in the early spring, but things then went quiet for a while. The last few days have however clearly seen a further small influx (in addition to your sighting, a male was reported from north Yorkshire a few days ago). It's interesting how the most recent arrivals of this primarily Afro-tropical species have been at a time of relatively nondescript weather.
Thanks again for everything, and all best wishes. Have a good summer.
A.J. Parr
(British Dragonfly Society Migrant Dragonfly Project & Suffolk Dragonfly Recorder)

PPS: The Vagrant Emperor reported today on Birdguides.

Insect News: Sufffolk, a female Vagrant Emperor dragonfly at Minsmere RSPB yesterday

Dipping the Roseate Tern at Minsmere

Arriving at Minsmere early this morning, we made our way to the Public Hide and began scanning the South Scrape for any sign of yesterday's Roseate Tern. Unfortunately after several scans of the whole scrape there was no sign of the birds presence. There was however plenty of other birds around. Little Gulls were resting up on the scrape, The highest total I managed was 22. A single Little Tern was also found among the Little Gulls. Common Terns were numerous and busily flying back and forth between the scrape and sea feeding youngsters. Med Gulls seem to have had a good breeding year here as well, with several pairs feeding young. 3 Kittiwake were resting on the scrape along with large numbers of Sandwich Terns.
Several waders were noted including Common and Green Sandpiper, Black-tailed Godwit, Ruff, Dunlin, Redshank, Spotted Redshank and Avocet.

Swallows were present around the sluice allowing for a few photos.

Although we dipped the Roseate Tern (Thankfully this does not happen very often to us) we still had a very enjoyable day. With the added bonus of finding a Vagrant Emperor Dragonfly, Even though we didn't know it at the time!

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Marsh Sandpiper at Cliffe Pools, Kent

A Marsh Sandpiper had been reported at Cliffe Pools in Kent late on Wednesday evening, and with several positive reports today, we decided to make the trip.
Brian having taken his wife's 4x4 decided to drive the track down past the Black Barn towards the second viewing mound. The track is very uneven and deeply pot-holed in places but with care can be driven along. If not you can park in the Salt Lane car park and walk to the viewing mound. A walk of maybe 30-40 minutes.

The Marsh Sandpiper remained distant throughout our visit, preferring the back edge of Black Barn Pool 4. Viewing was made more difficult with the heat haze, but once the sun disappeared behind clouds the viewing improved allowing some nice scope views of the bird. It would feed along the back edge of the pool but favoured the far corner and would disappear out of view frequently. As well as the Marsh sandpiper the Black-winged Stilt adults and youngsters were showing superbly. A Barn Owl hunting the rough grassland in front of us was a nice ending to the evening.

Sunday, 9 July 2017

Bonaparte's Gull, Oare Marshes NR

Saturday evening, a full moon, it seemed perfect for a visit to The Brecks searching for Nightjars!  We waited in our chosen spot and as the light faded and the moon appeared the first "churring" Nightjar was heard. As the churring stopped the first views of a wing-clapping and calling bird appeared close by. This was to be the pattern for the remainder of the evening. Several birds would start churring from nearby trees, then silence, soon to be followed by the presence close by of a calling bird in flight. Along with the Nightjars several Tawny Owls were also very vocal.

After a couple of hours sleep, it's another early morning outing. This time to Oare Marshes NR hoping to connect with the returning Bonaparte's Gull. we parked up along the road and scanned the East Flood for the Bonaparte's. 

View across East Flood from the road.

There's no sign and with the tide out on the Swale it's more likely to be feeding out on the mud until high tide. Before heading towards the slipway, we are distracted by the sound of a Turtle Dove "purring". It's soon found sitting on top of a telegraph pole. Another bird is also heard calling a short distance away.
After several scans for the Bonaparte's from the slipway, we are told by another birder that the bird is feeding on the mud further West and closer towards the hide. Another scan and the Bonaparte's is quickly found among the Black-headed Gulls. Below is the record shot I managed to grab by holding the phone to the scope.

Feeding out on the mud of The Swale

Luckily Brian had his camera ready when the bird took flight and headed for East Flood. Grabbing the image below as it crossed the sea wall.

Returning for it's fifth year at Oare Marshes and arriving back yesterday on exactly the same date as last year! The first sighting of presumably the same individual was back in June of 2013. 

Saturday, 1 July 2017

Bee-eaters in East Leake Quarry, Notts

With a more favourable weather forecast today, we decided to head North and take a look at the Bee-eaters that had been present since the 25th June.
Heading along the A6006 we soon spotted the roadside sign directing us to the temporary car park set up in a field close to the site. (£5 per car of which half goes to the RSPB and half to the local farmer.) Without the temporary car park I would imagine this would be a very difficult area to park near. It's a busy road so take care when crossing it as cars seem very reluctant to slow down.

Hard to miss the car park!
Crossing the road from the car park we stopped at the first gate and got distant views of one of the Bee-eaters perched up in the large Ash tree. Walking on we went through the second gate and around the first pit and joined the growing number of birders/photographers already present. I would say there was an 80% - 20% ratio in favour of cameras to scopes. 

Just some of the many birders/photographers present

The Bee-eaters were very active and constantly flying from the Ash tree to catch various insects. Bees, dragonflies and moths were all taken, with an almost 100% success rate. During our four hour visit I managed to see six of the reported seven birds. 

Below is a very brief thirty second video of one of the Bee-eaters.

This was a well organised event with a real mix of people present, from birders to photographers to curious locals. I shared my scope with a couple of locals who had seen the Bee-eater sign the previous evening and come down to see them. It was also great to see so many youngsters present during the morning.

Monday, 26 June 2017

Turtle Dove, Titchwell

An early morning trip to Titchwell was rewarded with an empty car park and superb views of a single Turtle Dove. Frequently heard "purring" it was quickly located perched up in a nearby tree.

It would spend it's time either perched up and calling from the trees or picking grit from the car park gravel. Allowing us to stay in the car and take a few photos without any disturbance to the bird.

On the reserve itself we headed along the main path and found the majority of Thornham Marsh covered with water from the high tide. 

Thornham Marsh

A scan of Freshwater Marsh produced a welcome year tick when a single Spotted Redshank dropped in. Three 1st summer Little Gulls were feeding close to the islands and four Spoonbills were soon joined by another two individuals. A small flock of Knot were also present along with Black and bar-tailed Godwits, Avocets and single Ruff and Little Ringed Plover. 

4 of the 6 Spoonbill present on the Freshwater Marsh

One actually awake!

Monday, 12 June 2017

Elegant Tern, Church Norton

On the 7th June a colour ringed Elegant Tern was reported at Hayling Island in Hampshire, it flew off around 11.30am. Only to be re-found early evening on the 9th at Sandy Point. On the 10th it re-located to the harbour at Church Norton. This individual is reportedly the same bird that regularly spends each summer at Banc d'Arguin, Gironde in France, It's been DNA tested in France and proven to be a pure Elegant Tern. 

Brian had planned to make the trip Saturday afternoon but severe back pain ended that idea, So it was a nervous wait hoping it would stick around until Sunday and that Brian's back pain would ease enough to make the journey possible.
With the bird still being reported among the tern colony at 9.20 Saturday evening, we set off at 5am hoping for news on route. Shortly after 6am news breaks that the bird was still present. Taking a chance we drive down to the church and find a parking space right next to the footpath. Shortly after 7am we're Heading down the footpath to join around thirty other birders already on site. The bird is not showing but we're told it's among the tern colony in the longer grass. Following the directions of other birders (pink house, find the basketball net on the wall, come down directly in front of that to the tern island and that's where the bird went  down)
With the scope trained on that area, soon the shout goes up that the bird is in the air. It proves surprisingly easy to pick out among the other terns and gulls. It shows well in the scope flying around the island and along the electric fence line for some 10-15 minutes and then drops back down on the island in exactly the same place as before. This would be the pattern for the next hour until it suddenly flew out to sea and would not return to the harbour until mid-morning. 

Elegant Tern

Large numbers of Med Gulls were present on the banks in front of the fenced area and a flock of 25-30 Little Terns were seen and several of these dropped in to fish in the harbour. Among the many Black-headed Gulls I managed to pick out a single Little Gull feeding among the muddy margins for another year tick. A more unusual sight was a pair of Peregrine sitting among the short grass a short distance from the tern colony close to a group of Cormorants. By the time we left the thirty or so birders present on arrival had grown in size to nearer 300! 

Some of the assembled birders.