Sunday, 19 November 2017

Dartford Warblers at Dungeness

An early morning trip to Dungeness was the order of the day.

There had been reports recently of a Dartford Warbler seen in the scrub around the Britannia Pub. Arriving shortly after 7am and with the likely looking areas bordering the road, we decided to scan from the car. A period of driving, stopping and scanning followed. Eventually, I located a Stonechat in the gorse and thinking the Dartford Warbler may be feeding in their company we concentrated the search in this area. A pair of Stonechat popped up onto the top of the gorse and then Brian spotted the Dartford Warbler feeding low in a channel close to the roadside.


Stonechat


Dartford Warbler







A second Dartford Warbler had also been reported earlier in the week and it eventually appeared close to the bird we were watching, but it failed to show well enough to grab a photo of both birds together.




On the way home, we stopped at Elmley and tried to locate the reported six Jack Snipe. The report had said "At least six on the right after the last cattle grid towards the car park" But this area was clearly not suitable. We drove back down the track scanning more suitable areas,  but we failed to locate any of the birds. Several Buzzards were seen perched on various posts either side of the entrance track, and a Marsh Harrier and Merlin were also seen. At the entrance, a small covey of Red-legged partridge were seen feeding in a recently ploughed area of the field. 



Monday, 13 November 2017

Norfolk Seawatching from the "Cley Beach Hotel"

The weather forecast yesterday evening was predicting North Westerly winds blowing up to 50mph. So with that in mind this morning we headed for Norfolk.
We parked up in the Cley Beach car park and joined the assembled Twenty plus birders already present. With the shelter fully occupied we joined the line of birders outside on the East side. The winds had not yet picked up in strength and were more Westerly than North Westerly. There was very little movement at sea for the first couple of hours but a flock of 25-30 Snow buntings were a very welcome distraction in the bitterly cold conditions. As the wind grew in strength we had our first and only views of a Little auk as it headed East.
With the winds twisting round more towards the North and the rain beginning the fall, we headed for Cley Visitor Centre for much-needed refreshments before heading back to the beach.
Back at Cley, we managed to squeeze into the shelter and found bird passage had improved somewhat from this morning. Several groups of Kittiwakes (Adult & Juveniles) headed West, Bonxies were seen at regular intervals, a group of four headed East to West and flew past the shelter at close range. 
The bird of the day though had to be the juvenile Glaucous Gull that flew along the beach straight past the shelter just a few metres away.



Sea passage was not as we had hoped for, but along with the single Little Auk, Kittiwakes, and Bonxies several other species were noted including Little Gull, Common Scoter, Guillemot, Great Crested Grebe, Oystercatcher, Dunlin, Red-breasted Merganser, Goldeneye, Red-throated Diver, Brent geese, Wigeon and a single Bar-tailed Godwit.

On route home, we managed to locate the two Cattle Egrets in the flooded field South of the A149.

Monday, 6 November 2017

Dusky Warbler: Sandwich Bay, Kent

Not sure of which direction to take this morning, we eventually decided to head towards Kent and hope the Dusky Warbler had remained overnight. Two hours later we arrive at Sandwich Bay. This being a private estate there is a toll charge to enter. A normal day ticket is £7 per car, but if you are going to the Bird Observatory it will only cost you £1.

Toll Hut

Helped by directions from the previous day. ("c300m North of the Chequers pub and just North of golf course reservoir by Ancient highway"), Having quickly found the area, we gained some height by using the large sandhill overlooking the area.Almost immediately the "tak" call was heard and soon afterwards the bird was seen. It regularly gave it's "tak" call allowing us to narrow down its location. For a skulking bird, this individual showed extremely well. It would flit around among the gorse and ground vegetation, but would regularly visit an Elderberry among the gorse allowing for some superb views. 

Apart from a couple of Brambling calling overhead the only other highlight was a Woodcock that flew low overhead and seemed to land among the gorse near the roadside.

Dusky Warbler


Before heading for home we stopped off at Oare Marshes and with the tide in on the estuary, large numbers of waders were roosting on the flood. Hundreds of Golden Plover, Dunlin and Black-tailed Godwits were present. Brian picked out a Purple Sandpiper among the Dunlin and we managed to get a local group on the bird. The Long-billed Dowitcher was still present and spent most of its time asleep, but did wake and start feeding eventually. 



Along with the usual Avocets, Lapwings and Redshank several other birds were found among the large flocks including four Greenshank, several Grey Plover and single Spotted Redshank, Common Sandpiper and Bar-tailed Godwit. The sight of the large flocks of Dunlin and Golden Plover in flight was a fitting end to the days birding.

Sunday, 29 October 2017

Common Rock Thrush: Pwll-du, Gwent

An afternoon dash along the M4 on Saturday 20th proved to be very frustrating. Despite reports throughout the morning and continued reports on route, we arrived on site to learn that the bird had been flushed and had flown from it's favoured feeding area and was last seen disappearing into the valley opposite the quarry. Despite prolonged searches throughout the afternoon and into the early evening we headed back along the footpath in darkness without any sightings of the bird. 

Brian unable to sleep made the 360 mile round trip again on Sunday morning and after another search was rewarded when the bird made an appearance in the 3rd quarry.

I thought my chance of seeing this bird had gone, but Brian gave me another chance when he decided to make a third trip this morning!
After remembering the clocks were due to go back we left home at 4.30am and arrived three hours later to find plenty of cars already parked up. After a brisk mile-long walk along the edge of the quarry, we joined the assembled group of birders to find the Rock Thrush feeding on a grass bank just feet away!  



We enjoyed stunning views of the bird throughout our 5-hour visit. 



The Rock Thrush seemed to follow a routine of feeding among the short grass, then visiting an area where someone had left some mealworms and then returning to the rocks to rest up for short periods only to repeat the same routine a short time later albeit with a visit to one of the small puddles left by overnight rain.




So thanks to Brian making the trip for a third time, just the1080 miles! I finally managed to see this stunning bird.


Monday, 9 October 2017

American Wigeon: Rutland Water, Leicestershire

Leaving at 5.30am this morning, with a plan to head Northward along the A1 and if the Scops Owl was found roosting we could continue up to Ryhope and view the bird.

Arriving at Rutland water nice and early, we headed off along the footpath towards Smew Hide. The hide looks out across Lagoon II, and the American Wigeon was quickly located feeding among a flock of Eurasian Wigeon.


American Wigeon




With no news on the Scops Owl, we decided to have a search for Willow Tits at a site we have had success with on previous occasions. On the walk down to the first hide, Brian and I heard a Willow Tit calling. Your best chance of seeing Willow tits here are when the feeders have been filled-up. While waiting we were entertained by a Kingfisher that landed on the posts at the water's edge. A Snipe emerged from the reeds and two Green Sandpipers dropped in.



The trees around the feeders are frequently used before the birds drop down to feed, plenty of birds were visiting. All the usual suspects were regularly seen including Great Tit, Blue Tit, Robin, Dunnock, Wren, Chaffinch and a stunning male Bullfinch made a brief appearance.




It took an hour and a half, but eventually, we were finally rewarded with a visit from a Willow Tit!


Willow Tit

Saturday, 7 October 2017

Long-billed Dowitcher & Wilson's Phalarope in Kent

A little bonus trip this afternoon, and after braving the mid-day traffic we eventually arrived at Oare Marshes. Normally on our, dawn visits, there are very few cars and parking is easy. Today the place was packed!
Water levels had dropped considerably from our last visit and there were large numbers of birds taking advantage. Both the main target birds, Long-billed Dowitcher and Wilson's Phalarope were quickly found with both happily feeding in front of the viewing area on the West side along the entrance track. 





Alongside these two North American vagrants, there were plenty of supporting cast members with 2 Curlew Sandpiper, 3 Little Stint, 2 Ruff a single Greenshank and Water rail. Large flocks of roosting Dunlin, Golden Plover and Black-tailed Godwits were very obvious along with good numbers of Ringed Plover, Avocet, Redshank and Lapwing.

Thursday, 28 September 2017

Red-throated pipit, Landguard NR

At 9.45am yesterday morning a Red-throated Pipit was found at Landguard NR. It remained at the Southern end of the common throughout the day. With only four accepted records of Red-throated pipit in Suffolk, the last of which was at Minsmere in 2001, this individual had many Suffolk birders hurrying to Landguard to bag a very welcome county tick. 
With heavy overnight rain forecast, we thought there was a good chance of the bird still being present this morning. Light rain was falling on route but it had ceased by the time we pulled into the car park along View Point Road. Leaving the car we headed along the path in front of the Observatory and made our way towards the Wardens Cottage. As we approached, we could see a small group of birders including LGRE scanning the shingle and grass near the boardwalk. The bird had been heard calling and had been seen briefly in the company of a couple of Meadow Pipits. As we started scanning the area the bird flew directly overhead calling. It dropped down onto the short grass and began feeding close to the concrete blocks.
It fed on the common for 15-20 minutes and then relocated to an area a short distance from the warden's cottage. I managed a couple of record shots using the phone held to the scope.


Red-throated pipit