Friday, 31 May 2013

Garden Starlings

I don't get many Starlings in the garden usually but today they have brought their young in to feed so I grabbed the camera and fired off a couple of shots.


Thursday, 30 May 2013

Savi's Warbler Lakenheath

I drove to Lakenheath this morning in an effort to connect with the reported Savi's Warbler.
Being only seventy miles from home I was parked up at 4.30am and made the long walk out to West Wood where the bird had been seen last. I heard three Grasshopper Warblers along the way but soon found an area where the grass had been trampled so guessed it would be worth a stop, look and LISTEN.
I wasn't disappointed as the Savi's Warbler obliged climbing the reeds giving good views and reeling away happily allowing a good comparison between it's deeper tone and the lighter call of the Groppers.

A Golden Oriole gave me two notes of it's call and a couple of Bitterns "boomed". A Tawny Owl calling was a surprise and a dog Fox was being very noisy in the farmers fields. Lot's of Marsh Harriers on the wing and a few Hobby were seen both sitting and in flight but I didn't manage to locate the Red Footed Falcon on this occasion. The Savi's gave me tick 248 for the year and moves me into fourth place on the Bubo listing site but I doubt I'll stay there as believe it or not there are people that do more birding than me and I'm sure they'll catch up during the rest of the year. I did bump into Lee Evans again today after seeing him Monday in Scotland. He is running a round Britain tour with a group of eager beaver birders grabbing daily ticks as he rushes around with them all over Britain.

The current Bubo rankings
ps. Savi's Warbler is also a new addition to my life list and moves that on to 321 in four years

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

More about Scotland

A few more photographs from the weekend in Scotland

Crested Tit Loch Garten
Hare in the Findhorn Valley 
Hare in the Findhorn Valley
Little Grebe at Loch Ruthven
Red Grouse at Lochindorb
Red Grouse
Red Grouse
Mountain Goat in the Findhorn Valley
Black Guillemot at Oban
Coal Tit at Loch Garten
Scotland......I'll be back!

Tuesday, 28 May 2013


We made the planned trip to Scotland over the weekend and here's the trip report.

Friday: Flew out of Stansted at 8am landing in Glasgow at 9.10am and we've picked up the hire car to make the road before 10am driving up the west coast along the banks of Loch Lomond before making our way out to Oban where we picked up five Black Guillemot in the harbour managing to grab a couple of shots of the birds resting on the water before finding Hooded Crow on the tide line.

Black Guillemot Oban Harbour
Hooded Crow
Corrieour Chalets
From Oban we moved on through Fort William and took the scenic journey across Cairngorms national park stopping to enjoy many of the vistas along the route. We then drove the Whiskey trail to our accommodation in Dufftown near Keith.
Our chalet was clean and comfortable and well placed for our birding trips over the weekend.

A full moon meant that it didn't want to get dark and at 11pm it was still quite bright but we eventually took the opportunity to grab a shot of it.
Full Moon
Saturday: We woke early on Saturday and made the 30 mile trip to Loch Garten and had a little drive around Nethy Bridge and Abernethy Forest hoping we might spot a Capercaillie but if any were about we missed them. We did find lot's of Roe Deer around though. We drove down to Forest Lodge in Abernethy Forest and had a short walk ensuring we didn't stray from the footpath. Forest Lodge is an RSPB reserve and can be found by taking a gravel track from the road that leads from Nethy Bridge to Tulloch. We heard Crested Tit but failed to see any here. By 9am we had driven back to Loch Garten and after checking the Loch for Divers we were back at the ticket office watching the feeders when a Red Squirrel came in to feed.

Red Squirrel at Loch Garten
 As we stood enjoying the Coal Tits and Siskins waiting for the centre to open I heard another Crested Tit calling and we were all delighted when it landed on the feeder giving us the opportunity to grab a photograph.

Crested Tit with Siskins

Ospreys at the nest (Loch Garten)
The reserve opened at 10am (opens at 5am when the Capercailie are lekking ) and we made our way to the Osprey viewing hide enjoying a few more Red Squirrel along the way. As we entered the hide we quickly spotted the female Osprey sitting on the nest before seeing two  other birds in flight prompting the female to leave her nest to see off the third bird. As she left the cameras revealed that one of her eggs was hatching which was nice to witness on the trip.

The weather was great with clear blue skies so we decided today was the day to try Cairngorm for Ptarmigan. We drove to the platform which is a terrific drive up the mountain and decided to walk a way up without committing to going all the way. Jimmy had what he thought was a Dotterel but his view was short as he moved from his binoculars to his scope the bird had moved out of site and we failed to find it so he remained unsure of his find. We heard two Ptarmigan calling on the way down but again just could not locate any in the scopes. The walk was pleasant but after an hour we decided to return and take the train to the top. For ten pounds the train takes you to the summit in eight minutes and on our arrival at the viewing platform we were delighted to see the local ranger had a female Ptarmigan in his scope and he was kind enough to put us onto it.

Cairngorm.     There is a female Ptarmigan in the centre of the photograph.
Delighted with the lifer we celebrated with a pint and a rather odd "smoked" haddock in batter meal which I won't be rushing back for. From here we set off for Lochindorb which is a fantastic moorland habitat with the Loch itself having a very picturesque castle on an island where we located breeding Black throated diver. Four Osprey flew over together while we visited proving the success of the RSPB project in Scotland.

Osprey at Lochindorb
The moor was alive with Red Grouse and held breeding Curlew and Lapwing.

Red Grouse
I think Golden Plover and Red Throated Diver are often encountered here but we failed to see them. We did see Cuckoo but left before the Short Eared Owl and Hen Harriers made an appearance as we'd planned to look for Black Grouse back in Tulloch. We arrived in Tulloch at 7pm and made our way down to Tulloch Moor were we eventually located the Black Grouse viewing hide and quickly found a single male bird displaying and calling so we gave it a few minutes and left him to it as we went in search of supper.

Sunday: Today we were heading north in search of Eagles and made the short trip up the A9 stopping at layby 151 to enjoy a pair of Ring Ouzel and several Mountain Hare before moving on across the Findhorn bridge where Dipper obliged and then down the Farr road to Loch Ruthven to connect with summer plumage Slavonian Grebe. After Ruthven we returned to the Findhorn Valley where we parked in the car park eleven miles down the single track road and walked a distance further down the track. Here we located a female Ring Ouzel and enjoyed good views of up to nine Buzzard, two Peregrines and a possible Merlin before a large BOP came up which we identified as a juvenile Golden Eagle. Shortly after two more Golden Eagles were spotted and we managed good scope views for ten minutes or so before they drifted off and so did we after about four hours in the valley. We popped back top Loch Garten more in search of dinner than birds but did locate another Crested Tit which gave the opportunity for a photograph.

Crested Tit
Monday: The last day of our four day whirlwind trip and we're up early and leave after I've made breakfast, loaded the car and had a quick tidy of the chalet. Our target bird today is Capercaillie and we're heading for Loch Garten again more in hope than expectation. We drive through Nethy Bridge and the Abernethy forest with no sighting so decide we'll try Forest Lodge then park up and see if we can hear anything. With no luck at the lodge we head back towards Nethy Bridge and strike gold as Mike Doughty is parked up and has a male Capercaillie in view some way in the forest and he kindly puts us on it.
Male Capercaillie
From our car we managed to see the bird before leaving it alone to continue to feed. We did witness a brief display and even heard it pop a few times which was a real pleasure. Capercaillie numbers are falling in Scotland and it's feared they now number less than 2000 birds. This was a fantastic encounter and the first time we've managed to see one. Whilst there we had a few Scottish Crossbill fly through.

We left delighted  and made our way south to the airport stopping at Corran for more Black Guillemot and several vistas and waterfalls down the road giving us good views of Spotted Flycatcher, Eider, Goosander and Red Breasted Merganser. We boarded the plane and made the journey home in under two hours from Glasgow to my front door in Essex.

Easy Jet looked after us again

A really enjoyable and  rewarding trip
The life list boosted by three and the year list nine ticks better off too.

If you haven't visited the area I'd recommend you do, if not for the birds do it for the scenery alone.

You might also like to see the 2014 trip report :

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Golden Oriole Lakenheath

Another 140 mile round trip this morning to Lakenheath in search of one of Britains rarest birds, the Golden Oriole. I've been to the reserve four times now in May and today in a six hour shift I finally got to see my first Oriole (238) of 2013 as the bird flew across to Trial plantation. The big surprise is that they don't seem to be calling at all this year yet despite reports of both male and female being seen. Last year saw no breeding so hopefully they might do better this year. The Red Footed Falcon continues to show well with a couple of Hobby at the end of New Fen and I also saw Bittern, Grasshopper warbler, Cuckoo and Marsh Harrier today. Turtle Dove appear to be nesting near to the visitor centre and Cranes were seen today from Joist Fen viewpoint but I didn't venture that far myself.

Lakenheath is a special place and is well worth the visit if you are ever in the area.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Lea Valley Terns

A short trip to Lea Valley this afternoon to check on the Grebes resulted in me finding an empty nest with a single Grebe fishing near by but no sign of any chicks. I got the camera out despite the overcast  conditions.

Common Tern

Cormorant (Check out that green reptile eye)
Great Crested Grebe
Grey Heron

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Red Footed Falcon at Lakenheath

I made another trip to Lakenheath today hoping to tick Golden Oriole but also aware that the Red Footed Falcon has been showing well for a couple of days over New Fen giving better views than I had a couple of weeks ago over Joist Fen. On arrival I walked around to New Fen and sat at the hide but with a lot of grass strimming going on I decided to move to the other end of New Fen and this paid off as I quickly found the Red Foot sitting in a tree before a Hobby came in and the two birds hawked over the reeds giving me the chance to grab a few photographs of each. By the time I left several hours later I'd had great views and had the bonus of four Bittern, a Marsh Harrier and a Cuckoo but unfortunately I didn't manage to pick up even a call from the Oriole so will need to return again.

Red Footed Falcon
Red Footed Falcon
Red Footed Falcon at New Fen Lakenheath

Saturday, 18 May 2013

MEGA ALERT " Dusky Thrush at Margate cemetery for it's third day "

I woke on Saturday morning with the intention of taking the Jim's down to Reculver to see if we could find the Montagu's Harrier. I've been following local patch worker Marc Heaths blog and thought our chances would be good but checking for any bird news before we set off the message posted at almost midnight on Friday read "MEGA Dusky Thrush at Margate cemetery for it's third day" now Dusky Thrush don't land in Blighty very often, this would be the tenth ever record for Britain and you'd have to go back a few decades to find the last "twitchable" one so this bird was going to bring out the birding community on mass and it did.

We arrived at 7am after a little postcode chase when we got there and found the cemetery alive with birders probably three hundred or so and we had the bird from the path without entering. (235) We then entered and spent two hours distantly watching the bird mostly in tree tops above the mass of twitchers below some being very well behaved, some standing back in a dark corner hoping the bird would come to them and some not so well behaved chasing the bird from tree top to tree top but this was a bird to excite everybody.
Jonathan Lethbridge was there for his 400th lifer accompanied by Dave Bradnum both local guys we see around a lot. Mick Southcott was there waiting patiently away from the crowd hoping the bird would come to him and pose for a photograph, Lee Evans and Gary Bagnall were seen with a host of other birders who are known more by face than name to me but it was good to say hello to lot's of the faces.

The Thrush should be in Siberia so is a little lost. It took three days to get the news out as the finder wasn't sure what he'd found with Redwing being his initial thought I'm told and I suppose also there must have been some dilemma about putting the news out knowing that thousands of twitchers would descend on the town over the weekend but I think the magnitude of the bird took away any debate and the news had to go out.
Thankfully we saw the news which enabled us to see the bird probably the only one I'll ever see so a big thank you to the finder and let's hope the community respects the bird and the venue, after all it is a place of rest.

I managed a poor record shot as evidence of the twitch.

Female Dusky Thrush Margate cemetery 18th May 2013
From the cemetery we made our way across Kent some ten miles to Reculver where we parked below the towers and had the Montagu's in the scope from the towers within seconds (236) this is how birding should be every pull up and there's the bird waiting for you to see it. We walked out past the Oyster farm to get a better view and enjoyed great views as the bird quartered the fields around us. We spend a few hours watching in the company of local patch worker Marc Heath which was nice then reports came in of yesterdays Red Backed Shrike being located about a mile further down the track so we took a slow walk towards it enjoying the Harrier some more on the way and with the surprise of a Short Eared Owl and a male Marsh Harrier along the way.

Montagu's Harrier
Montagu's Harrier 
Short Eared Owl
We didn't find the Red Backed Shrike despite a good few birders looking for a couple of hours.
On the way home news landed of a Cattle Egret which according the the postcode meant a two mile detour so we decided to try for it. The postcode on the pager took us to a railway gate at the back of Shorne Marsh RSPB only to find the gate welded shut then a second message on the pager this time giving a street name so we moved on down the road two miles and parked up to make the two mile walk back to the locked gate and about 400 yards beyond to view the Cattle Egret distantly feeding not surprisingly in a field of cattle. Tick 3 for the day and 237 for the year with 317 now on the life list as I chase down the magic 400 whilst sticking to that soft two hour twitch rule I have self imposed as a sense check on this mad hobby.

What a day. It'll live long in the memory for sure.

Friday, 17 May 2013

Wales : THE BIRDS!

Without too much detail about the holiday itself I have listed below the year ticks and where I got them along with a few photographs taken in Wales over the last week.

Birds seen for the first time ever: BLACK HEADED WAGTAIL
This cracking male bird was found at Marloes Mere on one of four trips in the week. Very pleased with the find although it didn't result in a tick as the bird is grouped under the heading of Yellow Wagtail.

Other year ticks were found with Glossy Ibis (225) at Marloes Mere (the only one currently in Britain) , At Strumble Head I found a single Arctic Skua (226) and thousands of Manx Shearwater (227), Puffin (228) were seen from the deer park at Marloes and Chough (229) were present on the deer park itself, In Powys I ticked Tawny Owl (230) before locating my first Pied Flycatchers (231) of 2013 at Gilfach Farm where I also saw Tree pipits (232) had Wood Warbler (233) on call, a bird I would later get good views of at Dinas RSPB and a Spotted Flycatcher (234) was found on route to the Red Kite feeding station on the A44.

The year list now sits on a healthy 234 with a trip to Scotland planned for this coming weekend so I may just keep my nose in front of my 2012 list by the end of May if the trip goes well.

A few pictures of the birds seen this week.

Chough (The Deer park Marloes)
Whinchat (Lynn Brianne Reservoir)
Wheatear (The Deer park Marloes)
Stonechat (Abereidy)
Stonechat (Strumble Head)
Redstart (Gilfach Farm)
Pied Flycatcher (Gilfach Farm)
A cracking break in Welsh Wales where we enjoyed some great scenery and wildlife.

One disappointment was that I dipped the Black Guillemots in Fishguard Harbour, despite several looks I just couldn't see them but hopefully I'll see one or two in Scotland next weekend.