Friday, 4 January 2019

Seamill & West Kilbride :: 02 January 2019

Our festive trip to see the folks up in Ayrshire allowed me to indulge in a spot of birdwatching, Red-breasted mergansermostly from the beach outside our hotel. Unfortunately sunrise is 30 minutes later than back in Banbury, and sunset 10 minutes earlier. So heading out before breakfast resulted in very poor light and very high ISO to get any shot.

Firstly, I hoped to pick up the dippers in the burn beside the hotel wall. Nothing doing. In the seaweed there were two meadow pipit and beyond were numbers of wigeon, teal and herring gull.

As I walked on I had a flypast from a drake red-breasted merganser and a few seals bobbed close to shore. A pipit flew left to right and I took a photo, Water pipitassuming it was a rock pipit - reviewing later it turned out to be water pipit.

Pairs of eider cruised well offshore, joined by cormorants - none that showed as shag. At the point I saw a handful of redshank which drew me to three turnstone feeding nearby. I was just admiring them when I noticed an intruder to the party - on closer inspection (ISO 5000) it was a purple sandpiper [#38] - never managed to find one of these before.

Time to get back and join the rest of the family.

The next morning Eilidh had a hair appointment in the Purple sandpipernext village (Fairlie) and as we entered the village we could see a number of birds on the shore - ducks and some small waders. Having dropped off Eilidh I headed back to the car park at the point, and parked up. Gulls dominated at the point but redshank fed in several groups, wigeon glided on the water, accompanied by several teal and a single shelduck. A single little egret fed at the end of the burn.

One wader caught my eye, being larger than the numbers of redshank. I managed to get a bit closer and found it was a Greenshank greenshank [#42].

Back round to the car and I added curlew [#43]. As I tried to get in position for a photo, and to the brow of the hill, I saw the red-breasted merganser again. Much better view this time.

Sightings totalled 32: black-headed gull, blackbird, buzzard, common gull, cormorant, curlew, dunnock, eider, great black-backed gull, greenshank, grey wagtail, herring gull, house sparrow, jackdaw, kestrel, little egret, meadow pipit, mute swan, oystercatcher, pied wagtail, purple sandpiper, red-breasted merganser, redshank, robin, rock dove / feral pigeon, shelduck, teal, turnstone, water pipit, wigeon, woodpigeon and wren.

Monday, 31 December 2018

WkWT Brandon Marsh :: 31 December 2018

Last day of the year and Charlotte suggested we go out again for a spot of birding, and some fresh air. There were reports of the caspian gull again at Brandon Marsh, plus a common scoter yesterday, so we decided to go there for lunch and then a quick circuit. Caspian Gull

As we approached the Wright Hide we saw a small flock in the tops of the alder trees; a mix of siskin and lesser redpoll (#151). They soon moved off and back towards the Visitor Centre. We then dropped into the hide and after a brief scan found the caspian gull (#152). There were fewer greylag geese on the water today but a few more black-headed gulls. Not much else out there that was different.

I couldn't make out the caspian gull from the East Marsh Hide but did get a brief view of a water rail as it crossed the narrow channel to the left of the hide. Jay

Back at the Visitors Centre we watched great spotted woodpecker, nuthatch and an array of tits feed from the various stations. We were also treated with a jay passing through.

Sightings today (38) were: black-headed gull, blue tit, canada goose, carrion crow, caspian gull, chaffinch, common gull, coot, cormorant, dunnock, gadwall, great black-backed gull, great spotted woodpecker, great tit, grey heron, greylag goose, herring gull, jay, lapwing, lesser black-backed gull, lesser redpoll, magpie, mallard, moorhen, mute swan, nuthatch, pied wagtail, reed bunting, robin, shoveler, siskin, teal, tufted duck, water rail, wigeon, willow tit, woodpigeon and wren.

Saturday, 29 December 2018

WkWT Brandon Marsh :: 29 December 2018

Needing one more species to progress to 150 on my year list, I read with interest that a drake smew had been spotted at WkWT Brandon Marsh yesterday. It was reported to have still been present at dusk and so I left home to arrive at first light.

When I got to Swallow Pool there were a couple of people already running circuits but there was no sign of the smew - another curse for Saturday morning birding. Whooper swanThe bird wasn't located all morning and appears to have moved under cover of darkness. While running my own circuits I did manage to find centi's warbler (#150) and so not all lost, although I could find any redpoll either; I did disturb a small flock of likely candidates but they flew off against the grey sky and I didn't manage any ID.

I spent the rest of my time in the East Marsh Hide but didn't see anything of consequence and the bittern didn't show, despite recent performances for massed crowds.

Sightings (33) were: black-headed gull, blackbird, blue tit, canada goose, carrion crow, cetti's warbler, chaffinch, coal tit, common gull, coot, cormorant, dunnock, great black-backed gull, great tit, grey heron, greylag goose, lapwing, magpie, mallard, moorhen, mute swan, reed bunting, robin, shelduck, shoveler, starling, teal, tufted duck, whooper swan, wigeon, willow tit, woodpigeon and wren.

Friday, 28 December 2018

Pitsford Water :: 28 December 2018

It has been about six weeks sine I last got out and so I thought I'd try for a couple of year ticks. There had been some sightings at Pitsford Water and so I thought I'd head there. Charlotte decided to tag along for the fresh air (and the offer of lunch).

We stopped in Brixworth at The Coach & Horses for lunch - the BLT baguette came with so many chips and salad that Charlotte didn't manage to finish it all.

Back at the reservoir we put on our walking boot and both commented on how cold it was, Stonechatdespite the 9°C outside temperature displayed on the car. The lapwings were spooked by our passing and a small flock of about 40 rose and flew out across the water. Some goldeneye joined the wigeon and teal out on the water. Not far on, we came across the group of 11 whooper swans; two juveniles. As we reached the feeders at the end of the gated road we found numbers of chattering tree sparrows. They were joined by reed bunting, blue/great/coal tits and a couple of blackbirds. On the fringe of the reeds was a single female stonechat.

When we got to the Bird Club Hide we scanned to see what lay amongst the numbers of ducks and Whooper swanswildfowl on the water. Amongst the teal, wigeon and pochard was a female scaup (#149). Behind this we picked out 5 drake red crested pochard, plus four females - there may have been more. We also saw just the single great white egret.

Heading round to the Scaldwell Hide we picked out a pair of goldcrest, followed by a pair of treecreepers. At the hide we didn't spot anything new, other than a distant large gull which we couldn't be sure of the ID with just bins.

To finish, we walked both sides of the causeway, spooking the lapwing again but this tome considerably more than 100 of them.

Just one more this year and I'll be happy.

Sightings (35) included: black-headed gull, blackbird, blue tit, canada goose, carrion crow, coal tit, common gull, coot, cormorant, fieldfare, gadwall, goldcrest, goldeneye, great crested grebe, great tit, great white egret, lapwing, magpie, mallard, moorhen, mute swan, red-crested pochard, reed bunting, rook, scaup, shoveler, stonechat, teal, tree sparrow, treecreeper, tufted duck, whooper swan, wigeon, woodpigeon and wren.

Sunday, 18 November 2018

WkWT Brandon Marsh :: 17 November 2018

So, having failed with the pintail at Pitsford Water and having seen that there was one at WkWT Brandon Marsh, Saturday afternoon's outing was sorted. A quick lunch before we headed out meant we could get straight onto the reserve.

Only having around 2½ hours to play with we headed out to East Marsh pool, Pintailstopping first at the Baldwin Hide. There we a few people in residence - they had been watching three whooper swans and a single black swan. The whooper swans were resting just to the right of the scrape and apparently hadn't moved all morning. Initially the black swan was feeding near the bank, past the Wright Hide, then it decided to have a nap too.

Quite a number of moorhen out on the scrape and around the perimeter of the East Marsh, not so many coot. Growing numbers of teal and wigeon were largely outnumbered by a significant greylag goose presence. A pair of little grebe fed on the far bank to the left of the Baldwin Hide.Pintail

On to the East Marsh Hide and as soon as we sat down we could see the pintail [#148], working right and soon out of view behind reeds. It eventually showed again working left until it again disappeared from view.

We wandered round past Carlton (nothing to see again) and into the Ted Jury Hide. As we talked with the other occupant, a sparrowhawk flew over and out low across the reeds. A single moorhen, and two trees full of woodpigeons were all that we found.

From the visitor centre we added great spotted woodpecker and willow tit. A nice hot chocolate and coffee in a crowded tea room was accompanied by a shared banana and toffee muffin.

Sightings (37) included: black-headed gull, blackbird, blue tit, carrion crow, chaffinch, common gull, coot, cormorant, dunnock, gadwall, great black-backed gull, great spotted woodpecker, grey heron, greylag goose, herring gull, kingfisher, lapwing, lesser black-backed gull, little grebe, magpie, mallard, moorhen, mute swan, pintail, reed bunting, robin, shoveler, sparrowhawk, starling, stock dove, teal, tufted duck, whooper swan, wigeon, willow tit, woodpigeon and wren.

Sunday, 4 November 2018

Pitsford Water :: 03 November 2018

A flock of c30 goldfinches, viewed from the upstairs "office", enticed me out today. Charlotte was off to play tennis in the afternoon so we grabbed an early lunch an parted, me to Pitsford Water in Northants, Charlotte to Charlbury in Oxfordshire.

The car park at the far end of the causeway displayed a notice indicating that the gates would be shut at 4.30pm and so I opted to park on the verge up the hill. I dropped down to the causeway and onto the northern circuit. Lots of wildfowl on the water with wigeon and numbers of teal, gadwall and pochard; there seemed to be quite a large count of pochard compared to my usual expectation. From here I also added a single yellow-legged gull.

I started round and as I went I picked up what I think are my first goldeneye of the winter. Across the water were four great white egrets. Large numbers of cormorant rested on the opposite bank. I scanned the swans, only to find the few dozen I could see from this point were all mute.

As I passed the first hide I had a small flock of tree sparrow [#146] in the bushes on the waters edge, opposite the gated road where the feeders are usually situated. I couldn't see any sign of feeders in place but a small flock of c10 collared dove landed in the big tree beyond the gate; a couple made there way onto the lane. Soon after I had great spotted woodpecker over.

I reached the next hide and from here could see the whooper swans [#147] up at the most northerly point.

Whooper swanOn to the next hide and I was able to get a better view of 11 whooper swans, two first winter, feeding in Scaldwell Bay. A great white egret had relocated and was stalking the water to my right. The numbers of coot had increased from only a handful further back, to dozens here. Two moorhen worked their way passed from south to north.

Time to head back and only a lone yellowhammer to add until I reached the road. A short walk over the causeway added little egret and c50 golden plover over the water.

Didn't manage to pick out the pintail ducks reported the previous day. Annoying as they are probably still around.

Sightings (36) included: black-headed gull, blue tit, Canada goose, carrion crow, collared dove, coot, cormorant, gadwall, golden plover, goldeneye, great crested grebe, great spotted woodpecker, great white egret, grey heron, greylag goose, lapwing, lesser black-backed gull, little egret, long-tailed tit, magpie, mallard, moorhen, mute swan, pheasant, pochard, rook, shoveler, starling, teal, tree sparrow, tufted duck, whooper swan, wigeon, woodpigeon, yellow-legged gull and yellowhammer.

Wednesday, 31 October 2018

RSPB Minsmere :: 26-28 October 2018

A few days away in Suffolk and so it would be rude not to visit RSPB Minsmere. It had been a bit wet as we set off but by the time we arrived the sun was out, although it was cold. We had a spot of lunch and then set out onto the reserve.

BitternAt the crossroads Charlotte convinced me that we should go over to the Bittern and Island Mere hides to see if we could see a bittern; there might also be an outside chance of a bearded tit. The Bittern hide showed very little and the reeds in the pool were in need of a trim. A young family entered and noisily discussed looking for unicorns. After some time we decided that we would retreat to Island Mere. As we passed the hill on our right we saw a jay fly past, but nothing else caught our eye.

No sign of bearded tit from the boardwalk into Island Mere but the hide was bustling with people. This was for a good reason - a bittern (#144) was Bitternstanding fishing in some thinly spaced reeds not far from the hide. It was difficult to get much of a photo from where it sat but we watched as it caught a total of four fish (3 x roach, 1 x perch). We sat / stood for a good while - as we waited we had views of great white egret and marsh harriers as they passed by.

Eventually after two hours the bittern walked a circle round open ground, in failing light, and back into the reeds once more. A great choice by Charlotte! It was getting late and so we headed to our hotel to check in.

The next morning the forecast was for better weather but gradually deteriorating through the day. After a full BitternEnglish breakfast we returned to the reserve, heading for the sea and the South hide. It was much colder and the wind stronger too. Out to sea we could sea great black-backed gulls and 200+ common scoter. From the South hide we found 5 avocet and an array of ducks. Quite large numbers of great black-backed gull were resting here too.

There had been reports of three Dartford warblers along the dunes but they refused to show. While looking around likely habitat a few stonechat spun around in the air catching flies in the more sheltered spots. We saw kestrel and then a muntjac deer as we headed back to the Visitor Centre for lunch.Bittern

Charlotte popped to the toilet before we went to Island Mere to try our luck with the bittern again. As I waited I had a goldcrest in the trees overhead. Back to the Island Mere hide and we had a repeat performance from the bittern. It was getting on so we decided to leave and had a wander around Snape Maltings and a cream tea.

The next morning we checked out and decided to have another stroll around the reserve. On the entrance road you could see how much rain had fallen overnight. The reserve was damp but not really we or muddy. We headed for the sea again - we saw common scoter again and a gannet far out to sea. Nothing extra at the South hide but we stopped on our way onwards to talk with three guys watching the passage of birds with scopes and bins. They had noted a single velvet scoter and two red-throated divers - unfortunately earlier and not visible now.

As we approached the sluice we came across the stonechats again. As I was trying to get a photo I noticed one of the birds was in fact a Dartford warbler [#145].

It was getting on to lunchtime and we decided to make a last detour to Dartford warblerIsland Mere for one last bittern encounter. Another great show from the bittern plus the appearance of a single male goosander.

Sunday lunch at the Bell, Middleton finished off our stay. We must try and arrange more of these long weekends - great fun.

Sightings (53) were: avocet, bittern, black-headed gull, black-tailed godwit, blackbird, blue tit, carrion crow, chaffinch, common gull, common scoter, cormorant, dartford warbler, dunnock, fieldfare, gadwall, gannet, goldcrest, goldfinch, goosander, great black-backed gull, great spotted woodpecker, great tit, great white egret, green woodpecker, greenfinch, grey heron, greylag goose, herring gull, jay, kestrel, lapwing, lesser black-backed gull, linnet, little egret, long-tailed tit, magpie, mallard, marsh harrier, meadow pipit, moorhen, mute swan, pheasant, pied wagtail, reed bunting, rook, shelduck, shoveler, snipe, starling, stonechat, teal, wigeon and woodpigeon.