Saturday, 31 January 2009

SHEPPEY 30/01/09

A day out to the Capel Fleet/ Harty Marshes area with Laurence Pitcher proved very sucessful, with all the Sheppey specials giving themselves up one by one. A classic winter days birding!
As we were walking down from Mockett's to the marshes, one of the area's Rough-legged Buzzards, a juvenile, hove into view at 1150. We had fantastic views at first as the bird circled at close range. Over the course of about 7 minutes observation the bird slowly gained height and drifted off North eventually being lost to sight over the Swale. What a cracker!
We saw at least 2 ringtailed Hen Harriers on the marshes, in fact there was usually one on show for what felt like most of the time today! Very close views were had.
A couple of Peregrines made frequent forays across the area. We witnessed some real life and death chases as one adult male laid into a flock of Starlings. This bird pulled some moves worthy of the Red Arrows, including an almost complete loop-the-loop, something i've never seen before.
Other great birds included 1 Short-eared Owl, up to 3 Barn Owls, 67 White-fronted Geese, and about 20 Marsh Harriers.

We had a quick look at Shellness at high tide and were rewarded with great views of roosting waders including, Knot, Dunlin, Grey Plover, Ringed Plover, Oystercatcher and Bar-tailed Godwits. Amongst the flock of the latter species was 1 full summer-plumaged bird!

Monday, 26 January 2009


Popped down to see the GND found on Saturday by Walthamstow regular Lol Bodini. The bird, a juv, showed very well on West Warwick, which also held 8 Goldeneye. An added bonus was a Water Rail swimming around in the margins like a strange phalarope! Other birds on the Southern group included, 2 Sparrowhawks, 52 Teal, 25+ Shoveler, 3 Shelduck and 20 Redwings.


Adult Iceland

Ring-billed doing the funky chicken

Ghostly 3rd winter Iceland

Friday, 9 January 2009


It's up there!
Mark has a very small bittern perched on the end of his finger.......
OOP.. there it is!

Got a call from Mark around 11.30 saying a member of the public had reported a Bittern sat up a tree on the Lea Navigation by Springfield Marina! Surely bollocks says I. An hour later Iam watching a Bittern at crippling range. And yes, it is up a tree next to the Lea Navigation by Springfield Marina! What the............??!!
Amazing views were had of this strangely reptilian beauty as it sat about 20 feet up, right above our heads. The bird seemed completely unconcerned by people passing underneath to get to and from their boats. It's only worries seemed to be the occasional harrassment by crow, gull and....... pied wagtail! What a bird! What the fuck!???


coming soon.......

Tuesday, 6 January 2009


Goosander- male on No.5 res
'sinensis'- better than a kick in the gulars
Aythya weirdness

I covered the whole group today from 1100 til 1430. Cold, clear conditions with a light Northerly breeze. Most of the reservoirs were ice free except for No.2 and a bit of No.1. Highlights were drake Goosander on Lockwood, and a particularly confiding one on No.5, 2 Lapwing flying North over Lockwood, large numbers of Teal and 3 Jackdaws west over No.5.
Goosander 2
Goldeneye 9
Lapwing 2
Teal 112
Shoveler 10
Ruddy Duck 14
Jackdaw 3
Shelduck 5
GBBGull 3
Kingfisher 2
Sparrowhawk 1 imm.
Water Rail (calling from West Warwick)
Little Egret 1

Also of interest was this aythya duck on No.3 res shown in the photos above. The bird shows an obvious peaked crown but no crest, reminiscent of Ring-necked Duck or even Lesser Scaup. The bill seemed slightly broader than that of a Tufty. It was a very dark horn colour with a narrow grey subterminal band. The distal area beyond that, including the nail, was black. In some of the photos the nail appears pale. This is a trick of the light caused by water on the bill tip reflecting sunlight.
The cheeks of the bird showed a dark bronzey or purplish sheen. The undertail coverts were dirty white. It's obviously a hybrid but what the hell is it?? It looks like a Pochard was involved somewhere along the line. I'm going for Pochard x Lesser Scaup! Seriously though, I don't know a great deal about aythya hybrids so if anyone out there has any idea what this is please drop me a line or post on londonbirders forum; i'd be very grateful.


EAST NORFOLK 03/01/09-04/01/09 with Mark Pearson


Monday, 5 January 2009


RB Merg

The continuing cold snap inspired Mark Pearson, Tony Butler and myself to have quick look at KGV this afternoon. We unearthed a few interesting goodies.

1 Red-breasted Merganser (redhead, prob. imm male)
1 Scaup (female)
1 Dunlin
1 Goosander (redhead, flew North up Flood Relief Channel)
3 Shelduck
4 Wigeon
27 Teal
25 Goldeneye
18 Ruddy Duck
6 Shoveler



I always try to spend a few days in Norfolk at this time of year if I can. It's pure medicine it really is. This time clear, anticyclonic conditions meant Easterly winds, brutal cold and fantastic sunsets. I went in my campervan, it was ****ing cold!



No Twite in evidence this year at Thornham Harbour. Good views of all the expected commoner waders on the ebbing tide, 25 Skylarks and a Ruff on the flooded field and brief but close views of a stoat! Holme NWT held 1500+ Pink-feet, 1000 Wigeon and 1 drake Pintail. Nothing unusual on the sea today, but still 1500+ Common Scoter and a few Red-throated Divers.


A cracking male and 3 ringtail Hen Harriers at the roost this evening. I narrowly missed out on a Short-eared Owl apparently!



A nice long walk along the shingle then down the beach road and a bus back to the van in Salthouse was in order this morning. 3 Snow buntings gave crippling views near the car park and the 1st winter Glaucous Gull was still in residence on the beach. At least 20 Red-throated Divers were offshore as well as Gannet and Guillemot. Cley North Scrape held Black-tailed Godwit, over 40 Pintail and 44 Avocets as well as myriad Teal and Wigeon. On the Eye field I was surprised to find a Pale-bellied Brent amongst a small flock of Dark-bellieds. I later found out this bird had been around for a while. I was also surprised to find the beach shelter at Cley (also fondly known as the Beach Hotel, yes i'm that old!) is now almost engulfed by shingle. Won't be long now.........


Finished up here again this evening. Good views of the male Hen Harrier again but only 1 ringtail in evidence. Also had a distant immature Merlin sat on a post out on the marsh and a Barn Owl hunting in the fields behind me.



I decided to go here to check out the dawn flight of the Pink-footed Geese this morning. Also, with high tide just before dawn, there was a good chance of some serious wader action. I arrived before light and what unfolded before me took me by surprise and completely blew me away.
Even from the car park you could hear the noise from the geese, which were more than 2 miles away, it was like the rumble you get from a distant football stadium! On reaching the sea wall I set up my scope. Out of the slowly dissolving murk I could make out a raft of geese out on the Wash about the size of 2 football pitches! ( This roost consists of about 35,000 birds).Incredible! I must add at this point that conditions were flat calm which made the sounds I was hearing all the more clear and intense. Suddenly the birds started to take off; not the whole lot at once, but huge chunks of the flock would take to the air every few minutes. Each time a new wave took off there was an incredible roar, of calls and wings, like a goal being scored at aforesaid football stadium! It has to be one of the most incredible avian spectacles Britain has to offer and one of the most enthralling things I've ever seen. Not only that but right in front of me was a flock of over 10,000 Knot. Every so often they would take to the air, again with a mighty roar of wings that sounded like breaking surf, and do their mesmerising, shape-shifting thing over the mudflats.
So next time you're getting a bit down about the state of your London year list or whatever, do yourself a favour, jump in the car and go to Snettisham,....or Caerleverock, or the Dee Estuary or wherever, and remind yourself why birds are so ****ing amazing!!
Also noted were 30+ Snow Buntings, 1500+ Bar-tailed Godwit, 3 Barn Owl, 20 Goldeneye.


After Snettisham I took a drive through Ringstead to Choseley to check out farmland birds. About halfway between the two villages I made a random stop and what I saw was like something out of the old days! A mixed flock of 40 Corn Buntings and many more Yellowhammers buzzed between the hedge and the set-aside. The rolling field was studded with Lapwings and Golden Plover as far as the eye could see, an army of tchacking Fieldfares advanced across the grass and everywhere loose groups of Grey Partridges and Brown Hares were visible. All of England's farmland must have been like this at one time! A beautiful but also slightly poignant moment.


Finshed the day here. A nice roost of Pink-feet on the freshmarsh, plus fantastic views of Barn Owl and a very confiding Treecreeper in the pines.