Monday, 28 October 2013


The forecasters got it spot on as the storm raged across the south east today with winds of up to 99mph recorded sadly taking at least four lives. Over a hundred flights were cancelled and the rail network was at a standstill on the back of what was the most dramatic storm since 1987. My post is short and just a record  of my condolences to those that suffered loss today on the back of the severe weather.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Strong winds ahead

3rd Winter Herring Gull
Weather warning!
Strong winds and heavy rain predicted from a low pressure storm arriving tonight from the Atlantic.
Stay safe!

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Tornado on Hayling Island makes the Semipalmated Plover a memorable twitch

I hatched a last minute plan to visit Hampshire this morning. First stop was Keyhaven Marsh where despite an early report we failed to connect with the Long-billed Dowitcher. We grafted for it walking from the car park along the sea wall through Keyhaven Lagoon, Fishtail and Butts Lagoon several times but the bird wouldn't show despite the tide pushing large numbers of waders our way. By the time we left we'd seen large groups of Grey and Golden plover, a single Little Ringed Plover and Knot, Lapwings, Black and Bar-tailed Godwits, Snipe, Redshank, Turnstone, Greenshank and Dunlin.
We drove through to Milford on sea and quickly located the Red-breasted Goose swimming with a few Brents. (279) A Rock Pipit gave the camera a brief workout before the rain came in to stop play.

Red-breasted Goose
Rock Pipit
Rock Pipit
From Milford we headed over to Hayling Island and parked up at the Eaststoke beach car park. Walking east along the beach footpath we found a group of birders on the shingle scoping what we hoped would be our target bird. We covered the 800 yards in no time and quickly got on the bird. A Semipalmated Plover (280) sitting amongst Ringed Plovers and Sanderling. We were busy scoping and working on the ID features of this  rare vagrant bird when the heavens opened and the back end of the earlier Tornado hit us. I can honestly say I have never seen so much rain fall so fast. The dash back to the car was faster than the dash to tick the bird but resulted in us all getting a real soaking to the point were I needed a change of clothes for the drive home. This was one of those days that will live long in the memory not only because it delivered a lifer for us all and took my 2013 total passed last years 279 but more for the extreme weather we encountered.

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Parrots in Essex

Over the last few days I've heard discussion about Parrot Crossbills building up in numbers across Scandinavia and talk of a possible explosion as these birds head to our shores in search of food. Whilst in Norfolk yesterday with the Jims news came through of four Parrot Crossbills arriving in Essex so early this morning I made the trip down the A127 to Shoeburyness where I eventually found Mess Road on the new Garison estate. Parking at the end of the road the two small pines were obvious, surrounded by a number of birders including Harry & Barry and Wanstead's Mr Lethbridge amongst others. I spotted the Crossbills feeding without leaving the car but still got out to enjoy closer views despite the constant rain. Two stunning red males and two females feeding on the still green pine cones. The large size is really evident when you see these birds up close, thick necked, thick billed, long winged and I can't see too much difficulty having these accepted as a long awaited record for Essex and sticking on my list as bird 278 of 2013.

Parrot Crossbill
Parrot Crossbill in Gunners Park Shoeburyness 
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Saturday, 12 October 2013

Norfolk delivers the goods again

We headed to Sheringham this morning on the promise of strong North Easterlies and expecting good passage movement of seabirds from the shelter on the seafront. We expected to get wet with the forecast rains and driving winds but to our surprise the wind was slight and although it rained heavily on our drive up the A11 it was dry as we arrived at the shelter around 7.15am. Highlights were six Bonxies, five Red Throated Diver, a couple of Auks good numbers of Cormorant, Gannet, Scoter, Wigeon, Teal and Brents.
I saw a single Shearwater and Petrel but too far out to call to specific species to my disappointment.

Long Eared Owl at Cley
News arrived that a Long Eared Owl was showing well at Cley so we packed up and headed along the A149 to find the bird sitting on the shingle ridge outside Swarovski hide. I grabbed a picture at some distance and Jim policed joggers and dog walkers in an effort to save the bird from being flushed. The pager goes off again telling us the Pallas's Warbler at Old Womans Lane is showing so we headed across the road but after an hour decided the mission was taking too much of our precious time so we headed back to the car and made our way along the A149 westwards only for news to break of another Pallas's showing well at Warham Green. We parked at Stiffkey and walked back along the coastal path eventually finding the Pallas's in the hedge line about a mile from the car park. This gave the Jim's a life tick and added a year tick for me. (276)

Little Egret at Stiffkey

With the news of a Dusky Warbler 12 miles away at West Runton we made the short journey and found a small gathering on site. The bird was "tacking" and showed briefly (277) before being flushed and heading into deep cover of the largest bramble bush nearest the cliff top. As the rain started to fall we decided to head home but not before a Great Grey Shrike was found at the same site. 
The closure of the A11 gave us and eventful journey home but Norfolk had delivered the goods again.

Turnstone at Sheringham

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Red-breasted Flycatcher back at Warham leads to a day in Norfolk

With news that a Red-breasted Flycatcher has again decided to stop over in Warham we decided on that destination this morning. A two hour stop at Lynford on route gave the Jims another go at the Two-barred Crossbills. Despite up to forty Common Crossbill being present and showing really well no Two-barred were encountered. (Two males at Lynford would later be posted  adding to the frustration of my passengers)
We headed on up the road and parked up in Garden Drove at around 10.15am. The small copse where the Flycatcher has settled was just at the end of the drove a short walk down the track. On arrival a small group had gathered and we quickly enjoyed reasonable views of the RBF giving me a year tick (275) and the Jims another llifer. (Thats another beer they owe me).

Migrant Hawker
Red Darter
We then drove to Titchwell were we spent the rest of the day. A Jack Snipe was located by Jim giving a small crowd reward for their journey as the bird showed well from the first screen on Pats pool along with eight Common Snipe. Back on meadow trail we failed to hear or see any Yellow-browed Warblers but did enjoy the volume of dragon fly stopping to see if the camera would allow a shot of one or two in flight.
On Freshmarsh we found two Little Stint and a single Curlew Sandpiper whilst on the next lagoon we enjoyed cracking views of Spotted Redshank, Greenshank, both Black and Bar-tailed Godwits, Curlew and Grey Plover to name a few. A Peregrine kept all the residents on their toes but seemed to be learning it's trade as several passes were made without a kill.  The day gave up several photo opportunities as you'll see below.

Black-tailed Godwit
Common Snipe

Curlew Sandpiper
Little Stint
Peregrine Falcon
Spotted Redshank
Spotted Redshank

A 120mile drive home saw us arrive back around 12 hours after leaving so a decent day in what was great weather for October. News broke of a Lesser Grey Shrike late on down at Capel Fleet in Kent so I reckon the Jims will grip that back on Sunday if it sticks.