Saturday, 8 October 2016

Eastern Promise..........

A long overdue trip was loosely planned a few weeks ago, dates were set but final destination was to be decided, the favoured place was Spurn in East Yorkshire with any Cornish valley the next choice depending on what the weather was predicted to do. As it was the weather pointed towards the north east coast and my first visit to Spurn, staying in the newly refurbished Obs. We set out around 2.30am Tuesday 4th October, we being, pretty much lifelong birding friend Stephen Message and myself.
Around 7.50am after skirting the Humber for a while we arrived at the Warren, one of the trapping areas at Spurn. A short walk along the point brought us to the breach that has washed away the access road to the point itself, here were plenty of waders and a few Robins flitting around, small flocks of TREE SPARROWS headed south, with plenty of pipits and thrushes for company. Without major excitement but with plenty of promise we headed back with the intention of dropping stuff off in the Obs, we were delayed by the arrival of lots of locals at the ringing station where a Blythi  type LESSER WHITETHROAT was being shown. At the Obs the garden held loads of Thrushes and 2-3 YELLOW BROWED WARBLERS, the local pub garden of the Crown and Anchor just about out did the Obs with 4 Yellow Broweds, we added another at the Church and ended up with at least 10 for the day. Bags dropped we got out for a longer stint in the field. Thrushes continued to drop out of the sky these included 1 FIELDFARE and loads of SONG THRUSH and REDWING, We added a new bird to the Obs garden list when Stephen picked up a RING OUZEL as it descended out of the bright blue sky, one of 6 seen during the day. BRAMBLINGS were also arriving in lesser numbers although these numbers grew over the 3 day visit.Along Beacon Lane a strange Pipit called reminiscent of Red Throated but could not be relocated and a bird flushed by a dog walker appeared to disappear until Stephen flushed it, it called and immediately this Bunting was obviously something more interesting with a few brief views for confirmation we had just found a LITTLE BUNTING.. nice within just 2 hours of arriving! The day continued to produce some nice birds a RED BREASTED FLYCATCHER played hide and seek in the pub garden  until it gave some nice but brief  views a HAWFINCH whizzed over as we waited for the RB FLY. Later on a couple of miles away we saw ROSE COLOURED STARLING in Holmpton a few PINK FOOTED GEESE were heading down the coast. A surprise bird caught Stephens eye as a LONG TAILED SKUA headed out of the Humber to the sea. The variety was good and expectations high. As the day wore on news broke of a real gem of a bird about 90 minutes away, a decision had to be made.........
Blythi type Lesser Whitethroat

Roe Deer just for something different

Yellow Browed Warbler in Pub garden

Ok seems like a no brainer to anyone wanting to see good birds and new species but we're passed that stage after years of chasing other peoples birds so that was it, Spurn was where we were going to look for and hopefully find our own birds like the Little Bunting yesterday. So it was, a drive to Canal Scrape a look in the hide and great views of JACK SNIPE in the bag. Next was a search of the bushes to the south, a WHEATEAR flew up from the field and I noticed a bunting very close grovelling very close to the entrance to the field, after a couple seconds the bird showed again and LITTLE BUNTING no.2 was in the bag, this also made honours even as Stephen had found yesterdays bird! Next Stephen got reasonable flight views of a Pipit that which looked interesting, it became more interesting when it called like a TREE/OLIVE BACKED? unfortunately we think it disappeared over the sea wall and remained unidentified. A quick look at the sea and a chat with a local birder talking about the still present tempter to the north, suddenly that little voice in our heads said "lifer still there... 90 minutes.........." Away we went!!!

After an extremely windy Colin McRae style drive and almost exactly 90 minutes later we were at Bempton Cliffs RSPB, staring into a small copse which held the treasure. A short wait and the EASTERN CROWNED WARBLER  showed not well for me, so I was after better views, unfortunately we got distracted by the news of a Black Browed Albatross which had gone south before we arrived apparently seen heading back north, a dilemma again so 20 minutes was spent staring out to sea waiting for it's appearance, it never did.. so back to the Warbler and finally some fantastic views of this Mega bird, just the 4th for the country 3 of which have been on the east coast Mainland. After all the excitement a visit to Flamborough seemed like a bit of an anti climax as yesterdays birds had moved on and the wind made viewing tricky, we left with adding REDSTART to the list and a couple more YBW's. Food and the Crown and Anchor beckoned.
Little Bunting find...

Lots of shadow removal!!

Wow.. just stunning  EASTERN CROWNED WARBLER

As Above


Day 3, we walked from the Obs, a YBW called again in the pub garden and after trawling through loads of crests and Chiffchaffs we finally found a FIRECREST just passed the pub, a SHORT EARED OWL flew over head, the first of three for the day. We added RING OUZEL at Beacon lane and a couple flocks of BARNACLE GEESE flew south, meanwhile BRAMBLING and ROBINS were everywhere. At Canal Scrape 5 JACK SNIPE and 3 DUNLIN gave great views and more surprisingly a PURPLE SANDPIPER dropped out of the sky and started swimming amongst the WIGEON!!! eventually it saw sense and flew to the safety of the near bank. We spent the whole day re-doing the circuit to try to find something different which almost certainly lurking somewhere waiting to be found. Just as we were ready to leave a Rustic Bunting was found in an area only accessible to Friends of Spurn we stepped a few feet inside but decided as the bird had flown and a 4 hour drive ahead we'd head back and get our stuff for the journey home. There was one last stop at Sammy's Point where one of my favourite birds showed well as they generally do once tracked down GREAT GREY SHRIKE, great end to a memorable introduction to Spurn what a fantastic place, we were lucky we caught the winds right and as I write so more great birds are being reported shame we couldn't stay longer...
Purple Sand - Canal Scrape

Loving Jack Snipe :-)

Spot Fly near Obs

Great Grey finale

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Cornwall to Oare

I set off to Falmouth on Saturday morning at just before 5am, excited at the prospect of the day ahead. A delay of an hour and a half didn't dampen my spirits, I arrived with 30 minutes to spare and ready to get aboard my ak wildlife cruise.
It was a steady start as we headed 25 miles east before heading straight out to sea, the highlight of the first couple of hours were MED GULL (several), immature LITTLE GULL and SANDWICH TERN for the birds in the water were many COMPASS JELLYFISH and a single OCEAN SUNFISH. As we headed further out a couple of MANX SHEARWATERS appeared and lots of GANNETS. The Gannets were key, as we spotted a large flock diving on the horizon, Captain Keith headed towards them and from a distance we saw something large break the water and splash down, loads of Manx Shearwaters appeared our first STORM PETRELS showed as we got closer, next it was COMMON DOLPHINS, before the shout of WHALE! rang out a 19ft MINKE WHALE was lunge feeding around the boat we waited and watched and managed to see the whale at least 5 or 6 times at one time passing right under the boat. Really exciting stuff and whatever happened after that didn't matter.
As it was we soon had a couple of SOOTY SHEARWATER on the list plus GUILLEMOTS, RAZORBILL, ARCTIC SKUA and lots more STORM PETRELS. Everything calmed down eventually and the after checking a couple more feeding frenzies we headed back I did have a brief siting of a single BOTTLE NOSED DOLPHIN, unfortunately it didn't re-surface. An ATLANTIC GREY SEAL high up on a rock was the final addition to the list as the sun started to disappear behind The Lizard, a very enjoyable 7 hours.
Ocean Sunfish

Loads of Gannets

Manx Shearwater

Inquisitive Common Dolphin

Storm Petrel

Storm Petrel


Atlantic Grey Seal

The following morning it was a case of where to go, with the report of Roller on the Lizard, I decided to give it a go, setting off from the National trust car park, I was again drawn by the sea, plenty of MANX SHEARWATERS were pouring passed after nearly an hour I picked up a large Shearwater, CORY'S SHEARWATER came close then headed out to sea a real bonus, they were being seen at Porthgwarra but I didn't really expect to pick one up myself, I tore myself from the sea and watched many SWALLOWS over the fields and found 2 CHOUGH further along the cliffs. a small cove produced several CHIFFCHAFFS, WHITETHROAT, 2 WHEATEAR a couple STONECHAT and that was about it. I found that i had missed Ortolan and Icterine Warbler, although i did manage a few minutes with a local birder looking for them but to no avail. I headed back to Kent.
Restronguet Creek - No Pelicans

Cornish Chough

With the afternoon of the Bank holiday Monday unexpectedly free for me I headed to Oare Marshes with the prospect of lots of waders, I wasn't disappointed, highlights included 13 LITTLE STINTS, 19 CURLEW SANDPIPER, 3 SPOTTED REDSHANK, LITTLE RINGED PLOVER, 4 WHIMBREL, GREENSHANK, BAR TAILED GODWIT plus all the regulars. The cast was added to by several YELLOW WAGTAILS, SAND MARTINS, SWALLOWS and HOUSE MARTINS.
Bird of the day though was an OSPREY seen heading along the Swale and then turning south, other raptors included MARSH HARRIER, HOBBY, SPARROWHAWK, KESTREL and BUZZARD. A really enjoyable afternoon in good company meeting Rob of Robs Birding blog and twitter and a couple of birders from London, enjoying a day out in Kent.
Golden Plovers

Little Stint

Sunday, 3 July 2016

Good Birds.....poor pics!

Over the last few weeks in my quest to reach 400 species in the UK before I'm 50 (without going really mad) I have gone just a bit further afield. Norfolk to be precise with the draw of GREAT KNOT and CASPIAN TERN, two birds I was yet to see in the UK. The plan was to go to Lincolnshire in fact and look for the Caspian Terns then head onto to Titchwell to look for the Great Knot. This plan didn't quite come to fruition as the day in question the Caspian Terns disappeared. I did however catch-up with and was very happy to join the small crowd on Titchwell beach and watch the Great Knot most of the morning of the 19th June, it never came close but good scope views were more than adequate to pick out all the necessary features, in amongst the 100's of Knot gathered on the beach. So 395 was now the total of my British list. It was nice to see several LITTLE TERNS, LITTLE GULLS and a large flock of COMMON SCOTER on the sea during the morning.
With half a day left to meander through Norfolk and no sign of the Caspian Tern, I headed off to do something I had been meaning to do for years and that was to look for SWALLOWTAIL butterflies at Strumpshaw Fen near Norwich. It was easier than I thought and busier than I thought, just as I approached the visitor centre a group of camera clad enthusiasts were clicking away at two of these special insects, I gladly joined in, a few hundred shots later, my thoughts turned to another insect I had never seen NORFOLK HAWKER, a short stroll into the meadows and several of these beauties were found patrolling their own little stretches of water filled ditch. The meadows were dotted with Southern Marsh Orchids to add to the Bee Orchids I'd seen close to the Swallowtails. An hour or so in the hide looking over the marsh produced a couple of HOBBIES, MARSH HARRIER (3) and a few flitting BEARDED TITS.
That evening I returned home to the news a Caspian Tern was seen at Breydon Water. Thankfully after disappearing for a couple of days it was refound and on the 26th I headed back up to Norfolk. Once I found the ASDA car park, I was soon watching this brute of a tern, firstly through a bit of heat haze but eventually after a bit of time close enough for the haze not to be a problem, again not amazingly close but great scope views. this time on the way back I popped into one of my favourite places Dunwich heath and watched a few feeding parties of DARTFORD WARBLERS and STONECHATS.
The local patch has been a bit neglected so still on 101 for the year. I did however head up to the Isle of Grain yesterday and enjoyed good views of the RED BACKED SHRIKE that has been there for a week or so now, it was also nice to bump into Sean and Barry while there and have a quick catch-up.

Heavily cropped Great Knot!!!

Swallowtail - Strumpshaw Fen

Southern Marsh Orchid

Norfolk Hawker
Caspian Tern

Caspian Tern

Dartford Warblers

Young Stonechat

Red Backed Shrike

Red backed Shrike

Sunday, 15 May 2016


The patch again produced with 2 RINGED PLOVERS another first for the site for me, other highlights included my 4th COMMON TERN of the year, COMMON SANDPIPER, LRP, CUCKOO, TURTLE DOVE and good numbers of SWIFT. A FOUR SPOTTED CHASER was seen as were a few BANDED DEMOISELLE were on the wing.
This afternoon we headed to Hollingbourne for a walk one of our favourites, it was fairly quiet although 2 NIGHTINGALE sung from the old quarry and a RED KITE flew west, a few butterflies were on the wing and I managed to catch up with a BROIMSTONE that landed briefly.
Ringed Plover


Turtle Dove


Strange Cow............?

Saturday, 14 May 2016

7th - 14th May

With a free day on Saturday 7th, Stephen and I headed for an early seawatch at Dunge, with the promise of Pom Skuas, after the large numbers from the previous day.........The reality was not quite what was hoped for, 3 and a bit hours later the highlights turned out to be a couple of WHIMBREL and a BLACK TERN. There was a Skua, I thought it looked reasonably heavy but we couldn't see any 'spoons' so ended up going down as Artic. We stopped quickly at the end of Kerton Road and found the reported WHINCHAT and heard a LESSER WHITETHROAT. So onto the reserve and a walk round the circuit was fairly quiet but still, lots of SEDGE were singing a BITTERN was seen from the ramp as were the first 2 HOBBIES of the year for me. BEARDED TITS 'pinged' and a GREENSHANK called as it flew high WNW.
A change of scenery took us to Rye Harbour a bit of an old favourite. Timing was ok with the high tide only just receding, There were plenty of birds including a good number of 'tundra' RINGED PLOVERS. Other waders included DUNLIN, SANDERLING, WHIMBREL, AVOCET, BAR TAILED GODWITS and a couple of nice summer GREY PLOVER. Three WHEATEAR were also seen and best of all good numbers LITTLE TERNS hopefully on the road to some sort of recovery here. Still with plenty of time we headed back to Dunge, an unsuccessful search for Grizzled Skipper was followed by our final stop of the day at Arc Pits, we headed towards the Water Tower and found our only new grounded migrants of the day a smart male COMMON REDSTART and a SPOT FLY. On the way home I added HOUSE SPARROW to patch list!

Sunday morning started cool and back the local on patch almost the first bird seen was a WHIMBREL flying up from the edge of one of the lakes, great start. There were a few SWALLOW, SWIFT and HOUSE MARTIN, a CUCKOO called for most of the time I was there and was seen briefly and REED WARBLERS were constantly in earshot. As I approached the lower lake a I picked up a bird prey instantly recognisable as RED KITE, new for the year and for the patch! it got lower and lower then disappeared. A few minutes later it re-appeared and headed straight towards me, pretty much circled directly over head and drifted off north towards Maidstone. Yet another year tick was added when as I headed back to the car and a TURTLE DOVE called from near the car park. During the the week a couple of patch visits produced 2 OYSTERCATCHERS, REDSHANK and COMMON SANDPIPER.

With chores to do today I thought a quick patch visit would be the extent of my birding but I did better than expected so chanced my arm with a trip to Abberton Reservoir in Essex which was rewarded with long views, if not close views of the FRANKLINS GULL that had been present for the last few days, a new bird for me anywhere in the world, there were good numbers terns which included 4 BLACK TERNS. This was my first visit to Abberton, it was really nice and took only an hour and twenty or so to get to, also met a good guy from Norfolk who kindly bought me tea as I rang him to say the Franklins was showing, thanks Dave and really nice to talk to you and share a few birding stories :-)  Random pictures from the week follow.......
Sedge Warbler

Reed Bunting

Small Copper

Red Kite - checking me out!

Common Tern - Abberton Reservoir
Mute Swans