Saturday, 31 May 2014

A walk around the valley

Saturday morning and a stroll around the Lee Valley for a couple of hours delivered a nice mornings birding with plenty of Blackcap and Garden Warbler singing along the footpaths, joined by Whitethroats, Cetti's, Willow, Sedge and Reed Warbler. Treecreeper and Bullfinch were seen along with Green & Greater Spotted Woodpeckers. A couple of Hobby hunted over seventy acres along with the Common Terns and a Cuckoo was heard.


Thursday, 29 May 2014

Blyth's Reed Warbler Wanstead

A good find by Nick C on his Wanstead patch and well published news of it meant that I had no alternative than to spend all of Thursday evening standing on Wanstead flats looking at a bush listening for the sound of said bird. After a couple of hours in good company of like minded people the bird finally delivered with a very brief glimpse but a very full song. 

I returned early this morning hoping for more of a show but the bird seemed to have moved on.

Sunday, 25 May 2014


I set off ridiculously early this morning arriving at the locked gates of Elmley NNR in Kent at 6am finding a sign saying "reserve opens at 8am" So with this unexpected problem I headed down to Selling to kill some time and luckily found myself a Turtle Dove that had managed to make it back to our shores without getting shot on the of the lucky ones! I tried for Spotted Flycatcher without success before heading back up the road to Elmley where I parked up along the track to enjoy breakfast and watch the wildlife of Elmley go about it's business......

Hare race along the track at Elmley
Little Egret

Little Egret
Little Egret at Elmley

Hares entertained as a couple chased each other around my car, a little Egret feasted in a road side pond, a Grey Heron was mobbed for over half an hour by Lapwing and Redshank before finally giving up and flying off, a pair of Marsh Harrier and a Kestrel hunted the reserve and Swallows came to the pool to collect mud for their nests. Skylarks and Yellow Wagtail were present and as the tide came in Oyster Catcher, Avocet and Ringed Plover all moved onto the marsh. A Little Owl was seen by the roadside and a Stoat ran across the road in front of me.

Redshank chick
Yellow Wagtail

A decent morning after the frustration of finding the gates locked at first light.

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Dipped Great Reed Warbler at Nene Washes

Whitethroat at Lakenheath
Yesterday saw us head to the Lea Valley in search of a reported Red-footed Falcon without success finding only a few Hobby for our trouble so today Jim and I headed up the A11 arriving at Lakenheath around 6am. We walked the length of the reserve hoping for a few good birds and we weren't disappointed as first three Cuckoo flew over calling then four Marsh Harriers flew across giving us no less than four food passes to enjoy. Bitterns were booming and then we picked up three distant birds in flight and to our delight they drifted right up to us before turning to head back into the reed bed. Bearded Tits pinged and were seen several times and a Cetti's warbler and Whitethroat competed for our attention giving me my best ever views of Cetti's just a shame the light failed to arrive in time for the camera to catch the moment well. A kingfisher was seen twice at both ends of the reserve and a single Hobby passed through but remained high in the cloud. We watched a Cuckoo coming to the path to feast on caterpillars and enjoyed good views of both Sedge and Reed Warbler. No Orioles were heard whilst there but they must surely be on their way now with one reported yesterday at Titchwell.

Marsh Harrier
Cuckoo, Bittern, Barnacle Geese, Cetti's Warbler and Marsh Harrier

As we got back to the car news came through that the Great Reed Warbler reported earlier at Nene Washes had been "re-found" so we headed in that direction in optimistic fashion only to arrive to hear that the report was erronious (or stringy) and the bird hadn't been seen or heard since around 9am. Whilst at Nene we picked out two Crane and a Red Kite so not a total wash out (if you pardon the pun)

The ticks are getting a little harder to find now but surely Quail, Grey partridge, Turtle Dove, Spotted Fly etc etc are just a round the corner's hoping!!

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Finally: Red-rumped Swallow at Thamesmead

Sitting at home this morning and news breaks that Rich Bonser has located a Red-rumped Swallow on Southmere lake in Thamesmead. Having chased a few of these rarities over the years and with this one only 18 miles from home I jumped in the car and within 30 minutes I was enjoying my first ever views of the little cracker. A quick call to the Jims to ensure they know it's here and I'm back to the bird where I tried in grey overcast conditions to get a half decent record shot. (Apologies now for the quality but they'll do me for a record) Good to see Mick on site along with finder, Harry & Barry, and a few other familiar faces all enjoying the London tick, Year tick or in my case LIFER!

Red-rumped Swallow
Red-rumped Swallow
Red-rumped Swallow with Swift
The lake was alive with hirundines, mostly Swift (with one bird showing a white under tail and slight paleness to the rump) Swallows, Sand & House Martin along with a few gulls, ducks and Geese.

The Jims arrived and I dashed around to the car park to drive them around to the far side of the lake having already agreed access with the fisherman owing to Dad having ripped his thigh muscle whilst away last week.
As I left the bird to run around to them a Hobby dashed through and put all the hirundines high and as we arrived on the far side all the birds had disappeared. We waited and they all returned apart from one bird.... Had it departed or had it become Hobby lunch? (I hope not)

Year list now 209 Life list now 340

Monday, 5 May 2014

Red Kites in the Chilterns

A little trip with the family today gave me the opportunity to snap a few Red Kites as we passed through Stokenchurch.

Red Kite
Red Kite
Red Kite
Red Kite
Red Kite
Red Kite
Not the best light today but I still managed some quite pleasing images.
The Kites come into town in search of food as the locals and a particular cafe feed them which supports local populations but does give some concern that the birds won't spread out from the site after getting dependent on the supply. I must say the concerns seem a little unfounded as you don't go out many places these days without seeing Red Kites so the reintroduction seems to have been a great success all round.

A nice bank holiday weekend.

Billy and Gemma 

Sunday, 4 May 2014


I spent the morning "gardening"  and what that means is I cut the grass, then sat with a coffee and my camera catching a couple of images of the locals.
Starling and Californian Lilac
One of the young Starlings from the first brood of 2014
Look up!
Trying to get to the feeders without Tia hearing.
Starlings have now had their first brood and the locals are defending my garden against other troops fighting for the scraps I put out for them with real determination but then they have to back off when the local Magpie decides he wants to feed too but it's interesting to watch the fight for garden territory domination. The Squirrel also gets involved and seems to have pretty much first picking until of course Tia sees him and then there's only one winner and she quickly reclaims her little piece of Essex.

Cracking birds when you take the time to look at them 

Saturday, 3 May 2014

Weeting Heath & Laken-Heath

We made an early morning stop at Weeting Heath and enjoyed good views of a pair of Stone Curlew and a couple of Woodlarks before driving over to Lakenheath where we walked the reserve to find a Crane calling  as Marsh Harriers hunted above it, several Cuckoos and Bitterns along with Bearded Tits and various Warblers including a tick for the Jims with a Garden Warbler in the car park. An Oriole had been reported but was only seen by one person and not heard by anybody else but the sighting is encouraging. At the far end of the reserve we had good numbers of Swift and a couple of Hobby along with Kestrel and Buzzard and a Kingfisher flashed over the pool by the visitor centre so all in a all a decent morning but we failed to find any Gropper or Turtle Dove so have a couple to get when we go back for the Oriole next week????

Cuckoo at Lakenheath
Had a close encounter with the Cuckoo above but unfortunately the weather was shocking and the light just didn't do the bird justice but it remains a memorable encounter.

Plenty of Sedge Warblers singing their hearts out today

My visit got me thinking today......why is Weeting Heath two words but Lakenheath only one?
Then I got into a long debate with my daughter-in-law (who happens to be head of literacy at her school) about compound words and why they become compound words but I can't say I have much more understanding but I moved on to Woodpigeon & Turtle Dove to make the debate a little more interesting without really understanding the reasons for the merged words.

Anyway that aside time for a curry to celebrate the Arsenal getting into next seasons Champions League.

Year List now at 208

And on the subject of Heaths I found this link too regarding disturbance on Dunwich Heath and thought it was worth publishing

I like to think my ethical code is quite strong and that getting a photograph always comes second to any thought of disturbance but it's something all birders & photographers should question on each field trip especially when looking for the more delicately balanced species like Dartford Warbler.