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.

Sunday, 9 October 2016

A Wet Warbler day in Norfolk!

Heading towards Norfolk this morning we decided to start the day at Holkham and try our luck with the Radde's Warbler. As we headed along Lady Anne's Drive a small covey of six Grey Partridge were seen feeding close to the fence line on the right.
Shortly after leaving the car the first Yellow-browed Warbler was heard calling from a nearby pine tree. Taking the West path we made our way to the crosstracks, and what we thought was the area the Radde's had been seen in. As we scanned the area the rain fell and the first soaking of the day duly followed. We then discovered we had been scanning the wrong area! Two hours in two wrong locations, we eventually found the right area and were soon rewarded with a showy Yellow-browed Warbler that dropped into the brambles. Another downpour and another soaking followed but as the rain eased the Radde's started calling from within the same bramble bushes, it briefly appeared near the top, giving decent views through the bins but quickly took off and headed lower and deeper into thicker cover.
Heading towards Cromer, we made a brief stop at Walsey Hills and found a couple of Jack Snipe busily feeding along the back edge of the reeds.
A Dusky Warbler at Cromer was to be our final destination of the day. We parked up close to Cromer Golf Club and headed up to the lighthouse and down the bank on the other side to join  a small group of birders already present. The Dusky Warbler was heard almost immediately, The hard teck, teck call ringng out, then the rain came and the heaviest soaking of the day followed! Eventually the rain eased and the bird started calling again. Several flight views were had as it moved through the vegetation and then some decent views of the bird perched and flitting about among the branches followed. 

A decent if wet day with three additions to the year list, the Radde's Warbler also moving the life list up another notch.

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.