Saturday, 24 September 2016

Western Swamphen, Alkborough Flats

The first sighting of the Western Swamphen was at 2.05pm on Sunday 31st July on the Girder Pool at Minsmere. But the first opportunity to visit would be the following Sunday! Left hoping the bird would stay throughout the week it was still being reported at 8.40pm on Friday evening. I started to think there was a good chance it would stick around for our visit, Unfortunately there were no sightings on Saturday and not surprisingly we failed to connect on Sunday.
Almost a month later it would be reported at Alkborough Flats in Lincolnshire and with the bird still being reported yesterday Brian finally cracked and this morning we were on the road heading up the A1. Leaving at 4.30am it was an uneventful journey and we were on site and joining two Kent birders in the first hide around 7.30. we were still sitting there some five hours later having had no sighting of the Swamphen! 

Plenty of waders were present on the pool in front of us with Greenshank, Spotted Redshank, Redshank, Ruff, Avocet, Black-tailed Godwits, Lapwing, Snipe and Water Rail all present. Three Marsh harriers were seen hunting over the reedbeds along with a Kingfisher and a small party of Bearded Tits. The highlight for me being five Spoonbills that circled the area and then landed on the pool in front of us giving nice scope views.

With no reports of the bird all morning we decided to head back up the hill and scan the pools from a much higher vantage point along Sandpit Lane. Two birders were already present and joining them we began to scan the much smaller square pool directly behind the pool we had been watching and found the Swamphen  walking along the fringes of the reedbed.
Having put the word out to the bird services it was amusing to see the hide below empty at pace heading in our direction. Unfortunately the bird disappeared out of sight before they reached us and would not be seen again until some three hours later, by this time we were already well on our way home.
Will it make it onto the British List? The wait begins.

Saturday, 3 September 2016

Osprey: Panshanger Park, Hertfordshire

Normally a trip to Scotland or a trip to the Birdfair at Rutland would guarantee an Osprey. Unfortunately neither of these trips have taken place this year, so with time running out to see one this year we took a trip to Panshanger Park, hoping it's three day stay would be prolonged by at least one more day. A short trip of 20 miles along the M25 getting off at junction 25 onto the A10 and along the A414 on to Thieves Lane. 

We visited each of the three lakes before returning to the Western end of Osprey Lake and took up a position on the small viewing platform.
We scanned the skies and all the trees bordering the lake without any sign of the bird. Then shortly after 10am an elderly lady pointed out what she thought was a Buzzard, high above the trees in the distance. Having managed to find it in the scope it soon became apparent that it was the Osprey. It circled round behind the trees only to re-emerge above the trees mobbed by a Buzzard! The Osprey drifted away to the East and was lost to view.
We were just thinking of making a move for home when the Osprey re-appeared. This time somewhat closer, it drifted close enough to get some nice views through the bins and I managed a couple of rather poor efforts with the camera after I remembered I actually had the camera with me!


Thursday, 1 September 2016

Pectoral Sandpiper, Blue House Farm EWT

Living in Essex, there are not that many of the better known nature reserves in the County I have not visited at some point in the past. Today was such a day, with a visit to Blue House Farm EWT. 

Some 34 miles from home, the reserve had been host to a Pectoral Sandpiper for the past three days. With plenty of road works on route and not leaving until midday the journey was quite slow.
We eventually reached the car park and set off across the permissive footpath. On route we were told that the bird was still showing from the 1st hide. As we entered the hide the Pec Sandpiper was busy feeding on the small island to the right of the hide.

Pectoral Sandpiper

Pectoral Sandpiper and abundant insects to feed on

 We spent the next couple of hours in the hide with half a dozen other birders watching it feeding in the company of two Ruff. It seemed settled but would then take flight and head to a different part of the scrape without warning, but would then fly back across shortly afterwards. A single Green Sandpiper was found along with good numbers of Little Ringed Plovers and a single Yellow Wagtail dropped onto the small shingle island right in front of the hide.

Yellow Wagtail

 The journey home avoided all the road works and thus went much smoother and quicker. A new reserve visited and probably had my best views yet of a Pectoral Sandpiper.

Sunday, 28 August 2016

Baird's Sandpiper: Reculver Lagoon, Kent

Heading to Reculver this morning hoping we didn't encounter any knock on effects from the M20 bridge collapse the previous day. Having left at 5am we arrived at the pay and display car park at Reculver Towers around 6.30. We headed up the slope passing the medieval church towers and started the mile or so walk along the sea wall towards the lagoon the Baird's Sandpiper had called home for the previous two days. 
The walk out produced good numbers of Ringed Plover and Sanderling among the shingle banks, along with smaller numbers of Turnstone and a single Wheatear. More of a surprise and a much over due year tick was the presence of a Whimbrel at the water's edge, three more were seen in flight as we headed for the lagoon.
The last reported sighting of the Baird's had been at 7.50pm the previous evening, with no news of the birds presence this morning we were left hoping the clear skies of the previous evening had not persuaded the bird to move on.
As we reached the lagoon the worries ended, as we found three birders already present and watching the Baird's as it fed among the stones at the waters edge. It was showing extremely well in the company of a Little Stint and two Dunlin, seemingly unconcerned by the constant stream of birders, joggers, dog walkers and cyclists during the 2-3 hours we were on site. 
My last sighting of a Baird's Sandpiper was at Holland haven on the 7th October 2010, that was a rather distant individual, In stark contrast today's bird was the complete opposite, showing down to a few feet.

Baird's Sandpiper (B Anderson)

Little Stint

We moved on to Dungeness and drove along Galloways to find good numbers of Whinchats and Wheatears present. We drew a blank finding any Wryneck and there were no reports of anyone else having better luck with this species in the area.
Best birds reported from the reserve were of a single Glossy Ibis on Hayfield 2 and Wood Sandpiper from Firth Hide along with a Garganey.
As we left for home a Kestrel was perched on a nearby fence post and on the opposite side of the road a Buzzard had the same idea although at a much greater distance from the road.

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Seawatching at Dungeness and Bonaparte's Gull at Oare Marshes

An early morning sea watching session from the comfort of the hide at Dungeness produced three year ticks in the form of several Arctic Skua's, three Manx and two Balearic Shearwater. Also noted during a two hour session were large numbers of Gannet along with single figure counts of Common, Black and Sandwich Terns plus Common Scoter, Great Crested Grebe and Fulmar.
Moving on to Oare Marshes we found the water levels on the East Flood to be the best they have been for quite a while, and we soon located six Curlew Sandpiper for another year tick. Two Little Stints were also seen plus large numbers of Black-tailed Godwits and Redshanks. Among these large flocks were 20+ Ringed Plover, Dunlin, Golden Plover, Lapwings 4 Knot and single Greenshank, Spotted Redshank, Turnstone, Kingfisher and Water Rail.
As the water levels rose on the creek, the gulls started dropping in on the flood, and eventually the Bonaparte's Gull was found among them. 

Now minus almost all of it's summer plumage Black hood it proved difficult to pick out among the large flocks of Black headed Gulls and difficult light conditions.

Thursday, 4 August 2016

White Stork, Beddington Farmlands

A White Stork first reported at Beddington Farmlands in London on the 22nd July, was still being reported intermittently throughout the week and again yesterday. 
So we decided it was about time we paid the site a visit. Setting off at 4.30 this morning for a  relatively short trip of 30 miles. It's a site I have never visited before, and with no access to the site unless you happen to be a keyholder, I wasn't even sure how much of the site would be visible through the fence from the public footpath.
Parking up in a designated parking bay along London Road, we headed off along the footpath off Mile Road and crossed the railway bridge. The fence surrounding the main site and lakes was right in front of us, and we were surprised by how much of the main lake you could actually see from this viewpoint.
A quick scan of the shingle islands produced several roosting Grey Herons and at the left hand edge of the main lake stood the White Stork.

Not looking forward to sitting for hours in London rush hour traffic, we decided to head in the opposite direction and go searching for the Bonaparte's Gull at Oare Marshes.
Upon arrival there were large numbers of Black-tailed Godwits and Golden Plovers and smaller numbers of Dunlin and Ruff along with at least three Green Sandpipers feeding along the edges of East Flood But there was no sign of the Bonaparte's.
We decided to head down to the boating ramp and give the creek a scan. Scanning through the Numerous Black-Headed Gulls the Bonaparte's suddenly appeared in the scope!

An enjoyable morning's birding.

Sunday, 5 June 2016

American Golden plover, Rye Harbour NR

Another early morning meet up with Brian and we head off towards Rye Harbour. Parking up in the car park we head off along the footpath towards the "Black hut with the red roof" to scan the scrape opposite.
Although partly hidden the full summer plummaged individual is quickly found on a small shingle island. It soon becomes more active and gives great views.

American Golden Plover

Two Med Gulls flew across the scrape and Ringed Plover, Redshank, Dunlin, Sandwich Terns were all seen along with several Little Terns either roosting among the shingle islands or flying over the scrape. A single Wheatear was also seen.

Little Tern

Dungeness proved to be very quiet but a drive along the entrance track did produce great views of at least five Hobby.