Monday, 30 October 2017

RSPB Arne :: 28 October 2017

After a nice walk down Branksome Dene Chine and along the promenade, we set off for lunch at Morton's Hotel in Corfe. From here we drove down Soldiers Road to Arne Road, both single track. We parked in the overflow card park and headed onto the reserve, stopping at the Visitor's Centre to see if we could see the reported female brambling - no such luck.

We set out across the reserve and noted the large number of family groups enjoying the woodland; perhaps this might be why we saw few species or deer on out way to the coast. Even on the coast there were few species of note and it wasn't until we were well on out way back to the Visitor's Centre that we saw goldcrests in a holly bush.

When back at the car park there was a muntjac deer feeding in the corner of the field, quite relaxed about the group of people stopping and taking photos.

A slightly disappointing visit from a birding perspective but a pleasant walk never-the-less.

Sightings (21) included: blackbird, blue tit, carrion crow, chaffinch, coal tit, cormorant, curlew, dunnock, goldcrest, goldfinch, great black-backed gull, great tit, herring gull, little egret, long-tailed tit, oystercatcher, pochard, robin, shelduck, woodpigeon and wren.

Branksome Dene Chine :: 28 October 2017

We were due to be picking Eilidh up at 11.30am and so after breakfast FirecrestCharlotte and I opted to walk down Branksome Dene Chine to the beach and have a stroll, while Ailsa rested in her room.

We dropped down about 1/3 of the the way through the trees and took a photo for the 7 days in B&W running on Facebook. Above we caught sight of tits and a single great spotted woodpecker and were remarking how many species were around when I heard and then saw a goldcrest ... buses eh! I stopped and listed again and thought I could hear firecrest (described to me yesterday on FirecrestBrownsea by one of the volunteers). I opened the bird identification app on my phone and played the call to confirm. This had the added benefit of drawing in a bird which turned out to be a firecrest [#168]. There turned out to be three and at one point they flew past me so close that I could hear the wingbeat. I ran back to the car to get my camera and managed to get a single photo, not my best but then again not my worst!

Charlotte and I then had a nice stroll along the promenade and on the way back up the hill added a raven, calling loudly from the treetops. Sightings on the Chine (10) included: blue tit, carrion crow, firecrest, goldcrest, great spotted woodpecker, long-tailed tit, magpie, pied wagtail, raven and wren.

Brownsea Island :: 27 October 2017

It has been two years since we last visited Brownsea Island and it was going to be a hard act to follow - then we were spoilt with achingly good views of red squirrel and some photos that did them justice - we were under no illusions that the same would happen again. As it turned out, we did see a couple of red squirrels but somehow not in the same displays as before. The day wasn’t all about the squirrels this time!

We set out on the 10.00am ferry and arrived on the island in glorious sunshine. It was to be set fair for the whole day. As we landed we looked out over the lagoon and it appeared that the water was further out somehow and the birds more distant. A small group of redshank fed within range of our bins but most birds were really quite distant. We could see avocet, black-tailed godwit, teal, cormorant and little egret.

Off we set towards the Low Hide. Looking out we could see how low the water actually was, and again how distant the birds were. After a short while we moved on to the Mac hide, hoping to catch sight of some spoonbills.

SpoonbillFrom the Mac Hide we could see a group of about 20 large white birds and initially assumed that these may be the spoonbills; in fat they were all little egret. With a few more scattered across the lagoon, it is probably the largest congregation of little egrets that I’ve seen. We wee pointed to some reeds to the left of the hide where a female kingfisher was resting, and had been for a good five minutes. Tried some photos but it was really too distant for anything other than a record shot. A small flock of meadow pipit passed by one of the closer islands, one resting on top of some chicken wire, protecting the tern nesting site from predation.

We set off again, headed for the Villa. Last time we were here there were only coal tits visiting the Kingfisherfeeding station but this time they were joined by great and blue tits and chaffinch. On nearby trees we had siskin, redpoll and goldcrest [#166]. Having not seen any goldcrest this year I then went on to see more on three separate occasions as we circled the Dorset Wildlife Trust trails. Buzzard circled overhead as we turned to head for lunch.

ShagAfter lunch we headed back to the Mac Hide to see if any spoonbills had been pushed back to the lagoon by the rising tide. To our delight three spoonbills [#167] had turned up, but other than preening, the had their bills under their wings and perched on one leg. Talking to one of the volunteers, they reported that two little stint had been feeding on the small islands on the scrape just ten minutes before but had headed left - I scanned the area and could see possible candidate birds but without a scope it wasn't possible to confirm a sighting - on return home though I had photos to crop and could see the little stint [#168] dwarfed by dunlin and larger species. We had another, better sighting of the kingfisher as it landed and fished from some nearby poles.

Time for picking up Eilidh we headed back to catch the ferry back to Sandbanks, seeing shag as we left.

Sightings today (40) included: avocet, black-headed gull, black-tailed godwit, blackbird, blue tit, buzzard, carrion crow, chaffinch, coal tit, cormorant, curlew, dunlin, goldcrest, goldfinch, great black-backed gull, great tit, greenshank, grey heron, herring gull, hooded crow, jackdaw, kingfisher, lesser black-backed gull, little egret, little stint, long-tailed tit, meadow pipit, nuthatch, oystercatcher, redshank, robin, shag, shelduck, siskin, sparrowhawk, spoonbill, teal, wigeon, woodpigeon and wren.

Thursday, 26 October 2017

RSPB Otmoor :: 25 October 2017

The first sunny day of my week off (half term) and feeling a bit better after my Russian cold. Charlotte and I headed to a sun soaked RSPB Otmoor to find an almost full car park. We set off and enjoyed the pair of great spotted woodpeckers as we passed the feeding station. Golden ploverWe haven't been for a while and it was a stark contrast as we walked along the path to have relative quiet following the departure of the sedge and reed warblers. Looking to the skies we had a distant fly-past from a peregrine [#164] which bizarrely is a first for the year. As we reached the turn for the hide we could see distant large flocks in the skies; to the right some starlings, but to the left and ahead very large numbers of golden plover [#165].

From the hide we saw an unusual sight of a kestrel sitting in the grass, albeit slightly camouflaged by the brown of the stems. The usual suspects were feeding on seeds beyond the gate, joined by larger numbers of chaffinch than normal - unfortunately no brambling amongst them.

SnipeDown at the first screen we found 20 snipe with large numbers of resting mallard and teal; a single widgeon joined them at the far end.No sign of hen harrier, water rail or even marsh harrier but a late flight from a bittern raised the adrenaline.

Given the time we had to turn back here and return home, seeing my first redwing of the winter as we did so. A late treat was a marsh tit at the feeding station as we passed again.

Species recorded today (40) included: bittern, black-headed gull, blue tit, buzzard, canada goose, carrion crow, chaffinch, coal tit, coot, cormorant, dunnock, golden plover, goldfinch, great spotted woodpecker, great tit, greylag goose, jay, kestrel, lapwing, linnet, magpie, mallard, marsh tit, moorhen, mute swan, peregrine, pheasant, red kite, redwing, reed bunting, robin, rook, shoveler, snipe, starling, teal, tufted duck, wigeon, woodpigeon and wren.

Saturday, 21 October 2017

Farmoor Reservoir :: 21 October 2017

Just back from two weeks in Kamensk Uralsky with a stinking cold. Undeterred I decided to pop down to Farmoor Reservoir to see if I could see the 3 common scoter mentioned on the Oxon Birding Blog.

Walking in a very brisk wind throughout I set off round F2, heading first across the causeway. I saw two rock pipit who were very skittish, strangely though not on the sheltered side as I might have expected; odd but no other birds sheltering there either. The causeway was just about as quiet as I’ve ever seen it. I talked to a couple of guys coming the other way and they said that they hadn’t been able to find the scoters. After a full circuit i hadn’t seen them either, but did see the 100 or so barnacle geese [#162] in some distant fields, joined by good numbers of greylag.

When I got back to the Visitor Centre I could see a couple of birders along the causeway, stopped and looking out onto F2. I decided to head back across the causeway and found that it was the three common scoters [#163] Common scoterthat they were watching. Unfortunately the birds remained distant but I was glad to have avoided the Saturday morning jinx and pleased I’d been patient enough to cross the causeway for a second time.

Today’s species (21) included: barnacle goose, black-headed gull, carrion crow, common scoter, coot, cormorant, great crested grebe, grey wagtail, greylag goose, lesser black-backed gull, little grebe, long-tailed tit, magpie, mallard, moorhen, mute swan, pied wagtail, rock pipit, rook, tufted duck and woodpigeon.

Sunday, 8 October 2017

Pitsford Water :: 07 October 2017

Charlotte suggested that she would come along on this mornings walk but that she would go and take out some cash, pay for her Mum’s papers, and drop in to see her Mum first. After a shower I thought I’d quickly fill the feeders as I will be in Russia for the next two weeks - as I stepped out the back door I felt a slow drizzle, not what was forecast. With some time left to kill I then filled up the car as it was running on vapour. Got to Pitsford Water at 10.45am and started off clockwise, round the Wildlife Trust managed site, in sunshine. All the usual suspects plus a flock of tree sparrows and a single stonechat. StonechatWe moved along and could see a young lad watching something from his scope. He came back towards us as we walked the other way. We stopped to chat and he said that he’d been talking with someone in a hide further up the trail and that there two whooper swans reported. Sure enough, looking through his scope, there they were [161].

We stopped at the next hide and found the chap who had spotted them on his way in. By then we checked Twitter and could see the news was out. Great white egretHe had been in the hide for a little while and could point out dunlin, ringed plover, little ringed plover and he didn’t need to introduce the great white egret. As we looked through his scope we also added a single ruff. The sky started to cloud over but there wasn’t any threat of rain, indeed we had to take off our waterproofs as it was getting close.

Charlotte and I decided to continue on to do a full circuit and to see if we could get a better view of the ruff. Although it looked close, we had seriously underestimated the time it would take to get there round the path. Once at the opposite hide there was little improvement in distance and a proper photo was out of the question.

Now committed we pushed on encountering flocks of red legged partridge and pheasant, plus muntjac and roe deer. Taking a rest in a hide overlooking Walgrave Bay we watched a great white egret being mobbed by a small flock of black-headed gulls, Whooper swanlooking quite deranged at times as it warned them off.

From the bank we also had the chance to see the whooper swans, this time close enough for a photograph.

As we eventually got close to the fishing lodge car park we were treated with views of two jays, although in flight and heading away. When we got to the car park Charlotte opted for rest on the benches while I continued on to the road and across the causeway to collect the car. Martin Swannell (@alanthetortoise) asked if we had seen the Whoopers and had his camera trained on them - I’ll look for his photos later.

Sightings today (38) included: black-headed gull, blackbird, blue tit, canada goose, carrion crow, common gull, coot, cormorant, dunlin, gadwall, goldfinch, great crested grebe, great white egret, jay, lapwing, lesser black-backed gull, little egret, little ringed plover, long-tailed tit, magpie, mallard, moorhen, mute swan, pheasant, red-legged partridge, ringed plover, robin, rook, ruff, shoveler, starling, stonechat, teal, tree sparrow, tufted duck, whooper swan, wigeon and woodpigeon.

Sunday, 1 October 2017

Draycote Water :: 30 September 2017

Just back from a business trip to the USA and a bit miffed that I missed the red phalarope at Farmoor Reservoir earlier in the week.

I noted last night that two little stint and a ruff were at Draycote Water and so I went up for a look. From previous experience the likelihood it that clockwise is likely to result in earlier finds, particularly the stretches before the valve tower - nothing doing though and by the time I got to the tower I decided the only thing for it was a full circuit.

Passing the golf course there was a lot of commotion as a mixed flock of rooks and jackdaw were forced into the sky by four circling buzzards - the buzzards calling frequently.

I met a chap from Wolverhampton (@Dean_A_1975)who was visiting site for the first time - Kestrelhe’d come to see the wheatear, and hadn’t been disappointed. He had a talked with a few of the other birders, as I did later, and no one had seen my target species. There were reports of a black tern but again none of us had seen it - @Cymbelinelister reported it and I presume he was there before the flotilla turned up.

At this point I managed to step on the edge of the tarmac and twist my ankle.. only two miles to go ...

When I got to the hide I found an old chap in there with a picnic chair, flask, lunch and a few musical instruments - a saxophone and a clarinet I think. He didn’t play while I was there by others suggested he might be playing Wheatear‘Stranger on the shore’ when alone.

Continued to see large numbers of little grebe and a large flock of greylag geese. Little egret in the end totalled 8.

The final treat of the day was a single wheatear flitting from the lower slopes to the Reservoir perimeter wall. A final chat with a chap carrying binoculars - really into photography and much to say about some of the new Olympus cameras. Interesting.

Time for home.

Sightings (33) included: black-headed gull, blue tit, buzzard, canada goose, carrion crow, coot, cormorant, dunnock, goldfinch, great crested grebe, great tit, grey heron, grey wagtail, greylag goose, kestrel, lesser black-backed gull, little egret, little grebe, magpie, mallard, meadow pipit, moorhen, mute swan, pied wagtail, robin, rook, starling, teal, tufted duck, wheatear, woodpigeon, wren and yellowhammer.