Thursday, 28 February 2013

Fight for the right!

Tufted Duck
Wood Pigeon
Carrion Crow
I watched this fight for a female tonight.....not sure  if the girl was worth it but it was interesting to watch them battle it out.
The winner let everybody know he was the man!

A loud and proud Mallard
The proud winner

Monday, 25 February 2013

Black Redstart at Rainham

I returned to Rainham and struck lucky with both Male and Female Black Redstart. (180)
The male is a cracking bird with it's flaming red tail and while there I witnessed it working in partnership with a brown Rat to feed amongst the rocks on the foreshore from Ferry Lane. Also here was a Grey Wagtail which seemed to boss the Redstart and a Common Sandpiper dropped onto the foreshore briefly on two occasions.

Black Redstart Rainham
Black Redstart and Brown Rat
A strange partnership

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Couple of quick ticks at Rainham

I spent the morning at home today after yesterdays mega trip. I was entertained by the fight for my garden feeders. The Squirrel is the daddy but when it comes to a straight fight amongst the birds the Blackcap seems to be the boss. He sits the the bush near the feeders and rushes out to defend his territory from all comers. He was challenged today by Goldfinch, Greenfinch and Chaffinch, Siskin, Great & Blue Tit, Dunnock and House Sparrow but he definately comes out on top.

While the dinner was cooking I dashed over to Rainham for an hour. Nice to make a journey of just 15 miles for a change. No sign of Harriers, Owls or Black Redstart that I'd hoped for but a walk along the foreshore presented Redshank, Oystercatcher, Lapwing, several Snipe, Teal, Gadwall, Mallard, Shelduck, lot's of gulls (mostly blackheaded) Meadow Pipit, Water Pipit, Wren, Cormorant, and I spooked a Common Sandpiper resting on the rocks to give me my 178th year tick before catching my 179th when a Grey Wagtail was seen feeding on the bank.

Grey Wagtail


I hatched a mad plan to twitch the Pied Billed Grebe down in Somerset and whilst down there try to find the time to catch up with some of the birds in Devon that I have long wanted to see. So the plan was to leave home at 5am making the 170 mile drive to Ham Wall then move down the M5 to Devon (Plymouth) then back up the M5 stopping on route as we climb back up towards Essex. So I share the plan with the boys and they're up for the cup. 5am and we're in the car heading round the London Orbital, across the M4 and down the M5 and we're in the car park for Ham Wall around 7.30am.

We've walked to the second viewing platform on the left (about half a mile I suppose) and bingo we're on the bird straight away. The Pied Billed Grebe (173) is seen in the open and even catches a fish as we watch.
Now we've seen a lot of Pied Billed Grebe in the States but this is a British list lifer so we move on happy with the tick and by 8.30am we're back in the car having seen Bittern, Marsh Harrier and three Great White Egrets along the way. I was persuaded reluctantly to come off plan and try for a Temmincks Stint. We drove across to Steart (about ten miles) and walked the sea wall to scan the mud flats, lot's of waders some very small but with the tide out all are distant so we make a quick call to move on as we had other targets for the day. Down the M5 and we stop after 50 miles to find Darts Farm. A quick check with the RSPB visitor centre for directions and we made the short walk to the viewing screen to find the American Wigeon walking in the field with about 100 Wigeon. Year Tick 174 for me and the boys second lifer of the day.
Next stop is 5 miles away in Exminster. We pulled into Milbury Lane and I left the boys in search of the bird. After a walk around the churchyard a few Starlings started to come in and amongst them was the target, a Rose Coloured Starling (175) A phone call to the Jims and they're along side me in minutes ticking this rather dark juvenile. Time to continue with the plan....back in the car we head down to Plymouth which is now only 50 miles away. We park in Lakeside Drive and walk down to Ernesettle creek. We scan the muddy banks around the old barge to find nothing but Curlew and Redshank so I leave the boys and head up river.
I find Greenshank and two Spotted Redshank  before I strike gold and get on the Lesser Yellowlegs (176)
Long yellow legs, a clean underside, long thin black bill what a cracker. Again a quick call and the boys are running up the footpath to get on it. A local guy joins us and says he's been looking for over an hour so he's delighted with the find too.
Back in the car we were now running out of time but decided we couldn't head home without a quick stop at Broadsands to see if any Cirl Bunting are showing. We pull in, pay & display then walk through to the second car park to find about twenty birds feeding. This is my hat trick of lifers for the day and a bird I've read about as a child and always wanted to see....that's now been achieved with tick 177 for 2013.
Just the small matter of getting home now...250miles making the round trick over 500miles today but well worth it. We're out 14 hours with over half of that in the car. A crazy plan, chasing a crazy hobby but we had a blast and the day will be long remembered.

Cirl Bunting
Cirl Bunting
Cirl Bunting
Cirl Bunting

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Waxwings in Kings Langley

I couldn't resist a few minutes with a group of Waxwings in Kings Langley today.
The troop had found a fruit tree and were busy filling up for the journey home.
Just one of those birds you never get tired of seeing and always feel lucky to have been with.


Monday, 18 February 2013

Food Thief

This little guy along with a couple of his mates have been visiting my garden and stealing anything left out for the birds.

They have feasted on Peanuts as you'd expect...taking the lot and hiding them for a rainy day all around the garden.

They've taken a liking to the apples I've been putting out and are now raiding the feeders having taken to the sun flower hearts.

I can't say I object as I quite enjoy watching them going about their stealth operation each day.

Sunday, 17 February 2013


With the weather forecasting a bright slightly breezy day we headed for Thetford today. An early stop at Nunns Bridges so Jimmy could catch up with the Dark Bellied Dipper that's made the small stream here it's home. The bird is a real gem giving crippling views as it swam under water picking grubs up.
Dark Bellied Dipper
Whilst there Jimmy found a Treecreeper and managed to get me on it giving me that elusive tick for the year. (169) After an hour here we moved on in search of Goshawk as planned. Arriving at the location we heard what we considered to be Woodlark calling but didn't see the bird. We walked the mile or so towards the clearing that the Goshawks favour and I spotted the resident Red Tailed Hawk sitting in a pine tree on the way. The bird flew off and gave good flight views too.

On arrival at the clearing all was quiet for about an hour when we located a small flock of Crossbill. (170) Following the Crossbill in the bins a large raptor came into view and was very quickly identified as Goshawk. (171) A huge bird with strong wings clearly the guvnor of this part of Norfolk. The small gathering of fellow birders got on it as the bird circled round for a few minutes in front of us. A little later another Gos flew across the trees and gave decent views before a Sparrowhawk also flew in and gave good comparison of the wing flap. A Woodlark then showed itself sitting on a distant bush which was great taking away any debate from the one heard in the car park. (172) I couldn't get Jimmy on it as we had the slight distraction of a Goshawk in flight.

A cracking mornings birding with Jim spoilt only by the old man being missing.

A few mores pictures of the little guy at Nunns Bridges.

Dark-bellied Dipper
Dark-bellied Dipper
Dark-bellied Dipper
Dipper dipping

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Penduline Tit Stodmarsh and a Pied Billed Grebe dilemma

Penduline Tit
Penduline Tit Stodmarsh
I set off this morning as planned all week to see the Penduline Tit at  Stodmarsh. I had vowed to get down there if it was seen on the Friday but what I didn't bank on was the Pied Billed Grebe being posted on Friday night as a possible sighting in Somerset. On arrival at Stodmarsh we quickly located the Penduline Tit (167) feeding on mace and the pager then bleeps to confirm the possible Pied Billed Grebe has been re found and confirmed. Checking the route it's just too far to allow me to get home at the promised hour so it's going to have to wait for another day. We enjoyed good views of the Penduline Tit a couple of times for several minutes and were quickly joined by a small group of birders. We tried for Treecreeper but failed so we moved on to the nearby Oare Marsh where there were lot's of waders and ducks about but nothing of much note.
Our next stop was Cliffe Pools as we made our way back up the A2 towards home. Here I located a Greenshank (168) and the place was alive with ducks and waders with Wigeon being present in the largest numbers but the volume of Little Grebes was surprising as I counted over 40. Last stop of the day was Littlebrook where a wintering Slavonian Grebe has been staying on a small pool by the power station for a few weeks now. We should have visited this site earlier but on arrival we had the pool and bird to ourselves so sometimes it pays to wait. The weather wasn't particularly kind with grey skies as I tried to catch a photograph of the bird but I think under the conditions we faced I did get a few half decent record shots.

Slavonian Grebe

Slavonian Grebe


Now will that Pied Billed Grebe stick around for me to find time to make the 3 hour journey to break my 2 hour rule and try to connect with it?  Here's hoping!

Friday, 15 February 2013

Sandy revisited.

A few pictures from my recent trip to Sandy in Bedfordshire at the RSPB head quarters.
Birds seen at the feeders in the car park include: Mealy and Lesser Redpoll, Siskin, Brambling, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Dunnock, Robin, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Coal Tit, Long Tailed Tit, Nuthatch, Great Spotted Woodpecker and Blackbird. A Green Woodpecker was heard but not seen.

Long-tailed Tit

Mealy Redpoll

Mealy Redpoll


Second time lucky

I managed a stop at Goldhanger this week and was lucky on this visit to connect with the Velvet Scoter there. (166) Also found a Black necked Grebe and a pair of Merganser. Lot's of Dunlin about too.
I parked outside the church in the village and walked down the lane to find the public footpath to the sea wall. On the way I couldn't help but take a picture of the street sign below.

It's a shocker but gave me a giggle and I think that says a lot about me.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Bonny Gull and Firecrest fest!

I pulled into Princes park Eastbourne as it got light and scanned the gathered gulls to find plenty of Black Headed Birds in various plumage from first winter to adult, all being dismissed by the bill shades from orange through reddish black to red.. A few Herring Gull were easily dismissed on size and a peregrine flew over as Swans begged for food along the edge of the pond.

After half an hour of searching through the gulls I finally found the smaller black billed bird and had another tick for 2013 with this little cracker...the Bonaparte's Gull.(164) I grabbed a picture as it floated around in the middle of the pond but I had to dash back to work so couldn't wait for it to come in closer.
(It did occasionally stick it's head up to reveal that slim black bill)
A sleeping Bonaparte's Gull
A quick fly back up the A21 and into London for a days work where I stopped in at Middlesex Filter Beds as it was only two minutes from my place of work today.....It's literally in the back yard so a rare half hour lunch break was in order. From the entrance I walked across the small bridge and twenty yards to the river only to find three Firecrest (165) feeding in an Elderberry bush with one coming out as I grabbed a couple of pictures which wasn't easy as they were constantly flicking about in the bushes.
Great little birds and a real pleasure to spend a few moments with them before returning to work.
Right enough blog work as I have a big presentation to put together for work tomorrow.

Black Headed Gull

Mute Swan
Coot splash landing