Sunday, 3 December 2017

Searching Pines for Parrots

Yesterday saw a five hour dip on the Santon Downham Parrot Crossbills. We heard a group moving through but failed to locate them and despite news coming through of some being seen we failed miserably to connect with any.
A nice chat with BW, GM & MM helped kill the time along with a few long searches of the Pines.

Today the birds were reported all day while I stayed home apart from a very brief fix in the hide at Lee Valley where both Bittern and Water Rail showed in the grey damp light.

Year ticks are getting harder to find and 2017 has that fizzle out feeling to it now.

Bittern at Lee Valley
Bittern at Lee Valley
Water Rail

Sunday, 26 November 2017

Quick catch up with the Roding Valley Red-necked Grebe

I haven't been to see the Grebe on our local lake since late September so two months on I thought I'd check out the plumage difference and with nice light managed a few images of the bird as it moves into first winter plumage.

1st winter Red-necked Grebe on Roding Valley lake
Little Cracker still looks sharp
Growing up
where;s that Red neck gone?
And how he looked back in Spetember

Horned Lark at Staines in the bag for ron.

A quick trip round the orbital car park this morning provided good scope views of the vagrant American Horned Lark at Staines reservoir.

We scoped through the fence from the public causeway but in three hours the bird didn't venture too close instead feeding in the sun light on the west bank with Mipits and Linnets. The only other bird of note was a fly over Peregrine.

Good company with a few Essex birders on site and good to catch a chat with GJ again.

Reading up on the taxonomy of the Horned Lark I found the useful link below on the BBRC site

https://www.bbrc.org.uk/species-information-riact/larks-to-hirundines


So we await the split on this one which will provide a nice armchair tick when it comes.


The view up the west bank the lark just under the first pilon.
The Fence on the causeway!

Sunday, 19 November 2017

A day at Dunge with a couple of guys from Dartford

Arriving at Dunge for 7.30am this morning we had a quick search for the reported Dartford Warblers.
Jim spotted a pair of Stonechat and thinking they may be keeping company with the Dartfords I scanned the area finding first one Dartford then the other and managed to capture a few images before moving on. A scan of the gulls at the fishing boats gave up just nothing but the expected.

Dartford Warbler
Dartford Warbler
Dartford under cover
Little Cracker
At ARC we watched a Marsh Harrier take a bath and two of the Great White Egrets dropped in to feed. A Kingfisher called a flashed by a couple of times and a Peregrine flushed everything before we left for Elmley.

Great Egret
Great Egret
Great Egret
At Elmley Six Jack Snipe had been reported but we failed to find them. We did see a Marsh Harrier several Buzzard and a Merlin.

Stonechat
Red-legged Partridge
Herring Gull
Marsh Harrier at Elmley


Thursday, 16 November 2017

Unexpected Noteable

Didn't see this one coming

Noteable?
Always nice to see the noteable tag on an image but although this is a great bird I'm not sure it was that noteable as far as the image goes but I'll take it.

The original

Sunday, 12 November 2017

Watching the Sea at Cley

With 50 mph North Westerlies forecast for Norfolk today we headed up to Cley for a full days sea watching session.

On arrival the coastguards car park was pretty full and around twenty fellow fools were already on site. The wind was moderate but more West than North but it was bitter cold as we huddled around the shelter eventually managing to get in the shelter as the first birders left.

By around eleven the rain started as the wind started to pick up and twist more from the North so we took brief shelter in the Cley visitor centre where coffee and toasted Bacon sandwich helped take the chill out of the bones before we returned for a little more sea watching before heading home.

Glaucous Gull at Cley
Glauc!
Juvenile Glaucous Gull 
The fruits of our labour today included a single year tick in the form of a single Little Auk.
A juvenile Glaucous Gull flew west down the beach giving the chance of a quick couple of images for the blog as I left out into the rain and wind as it flew by. (I took a bit of a battering)

Great Skua were seen in groups of two, three, seven and then four as well as a few singles and they came very close for a change. Gannets were present in good numbers and Kittiwakes flew west at steady intervals in good numbers and these groups included a good few juveniles.
A couple of Little Gulls plenty of Common Scoter,  larger Auks (mostly Guillemot) and the following others........

Great Crested Grebe
Red-breasted Merganser
Red-throated Diver
Bar-tailed Godwit
Dunlin
Oystercatcher
Shoveler
Teal
Shelduck
Mallard
Wigeon
Brent Geese


A flock of c30 Snow Bunting flew back and fourth in front of the shelter during the morning but retreated to cover as the wind picked up at lunchtime.

A decent day but in truth it didn't quite live up to the one I'd thought possible looking at the forecast yesterday.

Year list now 271


Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Lynford and Cley

A trip to Norfolk on Monday delivered very little in terms of excitement. It was bright and the tide was really high and quite choppy. After failing to find any Barn Owls I stopped at Stiffkey where two Cattle Egrets were seen before I headed up to Cley.

Gannets flew by and Seals poked their heads out to see the fools standing on the beach watching them. A Great Skua bombed the Gannets and a couple of Red-throated Divers flew east as large flocks of Common Scoter headed West.
On the beach there was no sign of Shorelark or Snow Bunting but a few linnets, Skylark and Mipits kept me entertained as I searched for them. The Turnstones at Salthouse were present and feeding well at the top of Beach road and a Marsh Harrier flew over.
Thousands of Pink Feet gathered and I managed to pick out the Black Brant from the gathered Brents too although the group was quite distant. The biggest movement seemed to be Starlings and Thrushes with Redwing and Fieldfare all moving in big flocks.

I drove home stopping at Lynford where I managed to see a single Hawfinch and found a Firecrest as a little bonus. A Yellow-browed Warbler was reported with the tit flock but when I found the tit flock I failed to locate the warbler seeing just Long -tails, Blue, Coal, Marsh and Great Tits along with Chiffchaff and Goldcrest. Whilst scanning I found Treecreeper and Nuthatch too.

An enjoyable day but with little in the way of real highlights.

Nuthatch at Lynford (dark background is provided by a distant fir tree)
Onwards and upwards!

Sunday, 5 November 2017

A weekend visit to Woburn Safari park



Right out of the Lion King
 A little bit of photoshop 
American Black Bear
Zebra

A Dusky Warbler at Sandwich

We left home at 5.30 this morning and paid the toll to cross the Thames and then the toll to get through the barrier of the "private" road at Sandwich.

We quickly found the mound behind the bushes near the Chequers Inn and within seconds had heard and seen the Dusky Warbler. As far as Dusky warblers go this was a very showy bird, never really sitting but it continued to fly around and called all the time to give us a clue as to it's location.
A nice twitch in good company but freezing cold standing on the mound facing the westerly wind.

Dusky Warbler
A Woodcock flew in while we watched and a couple of groups of Brambling flew over but we didn't find anything else of interest here.

We left after a few hours and made the short diversion to Oare Marsh to find the flood full of waders as the tide was in.
Hundreds of Golden Plover, Black-tailed Godwit, Redshank and Dunlin along with good numbers of Lapwing and Avocet. Four Greenshank and singles of Barwit, Purple Sandpiper and of course the Long-billed Dowitcher made this a memorable stop. If you can get down to Oare on hide tide one afternoon just do it. It won't disappoint. 

Golden Plover
Waders....say no more!
Long-billed Dowitcher
Long-billed Dowitcher



Year list now 270

Saturday, 4 November 2017

Twenty years on.

I celebrated my 54th birthday this week and it's a bit of a thing for me to be honest.

In 1997 and at just 34 years old I was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma after visiting my GP with what I thought was a hernia. I'd even put off going until the end of the football season as I wasn't looking forward to the op. The GP did her bit and sent me for a scan the next day and the same day I was in front of a consultant being told I had the big C.

Treatment would be day visits to the hospital for Chemotherapy which I tolerated well often returning to work after the sessions. The glands started to respond and we thought we'd sorted things out after the years treatment but unfortunately the disease wasn't yet done with me and returned with more aggression.

My consultant started a more intense run of Chemo and during this I would stay in hospital and needed to as it was very testing on the body which had just gone through chemo already. We supplemented the chemo with regular radiotherapy sessions and when things became more stable I was taken to Cambridge and given a Stem cell transplant which meant quite a stay in hospital and a bit of prep leading up to the transplant with daily injections etc.

The transplant didn't work for me and the combo of Chemo/radio had only halted the disease and bought me time. The consultant at Cambridge sent me home and pretty much said that's your lot.
Back at Harlow and my consultant oncologist said that if I had the stomach and energy to try one more option he'd see if he could get the funding. Of course I said yes and he somehow managed to get the funding. Within an hour of his pitch for the funding he was putting the wonder drug into me.
This new drug was actually antibodies grown in a foreign body and transferred to me to assist my immune system in fighting the disease itself and the rest is kind of history.

I was due to take six sessions but the body had tolerated all it could after four so treatment was stopped and it was enough for me to beat the thing. I believe I was the first UK patient to try this drug and this additional support is now offered to other people in their own personal battles against this type of illness.

So having beaten that after having been told I wouldn't see my 40th birthday I now had a future again.

Then when things were settled and we thought it was all passed us I contracted Legionella (The old immune system had taken a beating at this point.) I visited my GP for the second time in my life thinking I had a bad flu within minutes she'd organised a crash team to be on stand by for me at Harlow and I was rushed in. I spent three weeks in an induced coma before my body found the strength to bounce back again.

So reaching this mile milestone of 54 means more to me than the 50th as it's now 20 years since that first visit to the GP.

My wife and family sat by my side throughout and gave me reason to fight but you'll understand why I'm such a fan of the NHS! and in particular the consultant who walked every step with me and who I could never thank properly save using the time he's given me well.

I chose to use that time taking in as much of the great outdoors as possible so thank you again
Dr Faris Al-Refaie for making this all possible for me.

Things like this!
and this 
and this 
and this 
and this
And this.....and so much more!
And they also gave me the opportunity to spend the last thirteen years with Tia and I'll be for ever grateful for that and still miss her madly.

My Girl!........trying to pretend she's not actually in the pond.

Sunday, 29 October 2017

Getting the Jims on it!

Having missed the Rock Thrush on my visit with the Jims only to nail it the next day on my own it was only a matter of time before I headed back to see if the Jims could get the life tick so taking advantage of the clocks going back we headed off west this morning arriving at the quarry just after first light.

and yes they got on it!

Common Rock Thrush
Common Rock Thrush
Rock Thrush
Rock Thrush
The Jims watching a little bird of special interest.
Little cracker!!!!
Glad I went back?......OH YES!

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Mad weekend with a certain Rock Thrush in Wales

I say mad but how mad?

With work commitments Saturday morning I had kept one eye on the news and with a mid morning sighting it was all systems go provided I could arrange things with my good lady. With that bridge crossed as I left work I contacted the Jims and arranged to meet them and we hit the M25 at 12.30 to make the 170 mile drive into Wales. As we drove up the news was still good and as we parked up the bird was again reported as showing well. On the walk down to the quarry  we passed people that had just left the bird and it wasn't until we arrived at the gathered group that we found out the bird had just flown.
We searched all over picking up a Black Redstart, Wheatear and a couple of Raven for our effort.
We hung around hoping the bird would return to it's roost site but only added a couple of bats to the day list before the long walk back in the dark followed by the long drive home.

Now this is the mad bit if the above wasn't mad enough.
I laid in bed thinking the weather would have kept the bird down and that there was a reasonable chance it would still be there but if I didn't go I'd never know. Having dragged the Jims up yesterday on a wild goose chase this time I'd go solo to keep the risk on just my shoulders. I got up at 4.30am and drove back up the M4 arriving at the Quarry for first light. The twitch was about thirty strong and with the group split and intent on searching it looked interesting. I searched the first Quarry then the rocky area beyond it then the second Quarry then as I was walking down to the third Quarry I saw two birders already down there showing signs of excitement with waving arms and running good indicators so I got another two birders interested and we set off with added pace.
As we approached two motorcross bikers came over the hill and spooked the bird before we saw it and it again had the feel of Saturdays dip but with a little work and the help of the gathering birders I eventually got on the target.

Rock Thrush 
Never close but showed well at distance
Rock Thrush and Robin
Rock Thrush 

I had decent views for an hour, enjoyed some good banter and was even gifted lunch by an especially friendly group from Yorkshire. I managed to get a string of other birders on the bird before leaving for the 170 mile drive home.

A great bird but with 680 miles covered in two days for it I suppose it needed to be good.
One I'll remember for a while.

Year list now 269
Life list now 382