Wednesday 31 March 2010

A day in Suffolk

Pallid Swift - Kessingland sewage works

Alpine Swift, Lowestoft

Alpine swift

Alpine Swift

Alpine Swift

Alpine Swift

Pallid Swift

Pallid Swift

Pallid Swift

Lesser Kestrel, behind Gorse at 10 o'clock. just visible- Honest

The Gallery at Lesser Kestrel
Tuesday 30th March 2010
When Lee Johnson texted so see if I was interested in going to see the Lesser Kestrel in Suffolk I jumped at the chance, with a strong supporting cast there was a potentially a good days birding to be had. By the evening though doubts were emerging, the Kestrel had gone missing and the weather forecast wasn't encouraging. It was decided a plan B was appropriate and that a later start and a visit to The Lodge, Sandy to see the female Two barred Crossbill would be good with the option of moving on to Suffolk if necessary.
We arrived at Sandy in the rain but it eased off as Lee and I made our way round the various stands of pines to look for the main flock of Crossbill. Finding the flock was quite easy and after a few minutes we picked out Two-barred amongst them at quite close range. It was slightly disappointing though that there werent more species to be seen on the newly developed Heathland.
With news that the Lesser Kestrel had been seen again on Westleton Heath. We decided to go for it. During the journey there was a continual stream of information on the Kestrel and Swifts in Suffolk. Its there, its not there da da. Whatever the state of showyness of the various birds we decided to start with the Lesser Kestrel and work our way north from there. We arrived on site at Westleton and had to wait 15 minute before the bird was spotted perched low on the edge of the woodland. It was distant, very distant but the beautiful powder blue head stood out like a beacon. Over the next hour we watched the bird as it flew, perched low and fed on the ground. Its behaviour was often more like a Shrike than a Raptor. A matter of 80 yards or so from our viewpoint was a Great grey Shrike.
The weather was improving greatly as we moved on to Kessingland sewage works. Where again, right on cue a Pallid Swift performed above our heads. The bird frequently disappeared for long periods but we had timed it to perfection. Again at Lowestoft an Alpine Swift was flying low over a small park as we arrived. It was some display as it flew over adjacent rooftops before going to roost on some flats just as it started to rain again.
So, what a day. Plan B had worked to perfection, we'd cleaned up, Lee had picked up a couple of new UK birds and all done without screeching tyres!

Friday 26 March 2010

Redshank, Brandon Marsh N.R.

Common Snipe

Friday 26th March 2010

Took my Dad for a coffee at Middleton and had a stroll down to the farm. The reshaped pool in the Cow field looks promising and the Herons and Little Egrets were taking advantage of the bare earth. There were a total of 4 Little Egrets. After taking dad home I moved on to first Bagington where 3 Wheatears had taken up temporary residence, and then to Brandon. With heavy showers forecast it was as good a place as any to see if anything would drop in as the weather worsened. Nothing did except a handful of Sand Martins.
Total of species reported in Warks so far in 2010 - 139

Wednesday 24 March 2010

Eggheads watch out.

Wednesday 24th March 2010

No. of species reported so far in Warks. in 2010 - 137

Wednesday 24th March 2010
A rather more dignified form of Birding today. I dropped in on the Tame valley for a couple of hours on the way back from Sutton Coldfield. Coton was the first stop and as I opened the window a female Wheatear flew up and landed in a Bramble bush to the left of the hide. It remained there for some time before dropping down into the rough grass in front of the hide again. Quite a surprise in such a confined area, hardly the open spaces you usually associate with Wheatears. Nothing else of note except Green Woodpecker and Chiffchaff. Numbers of wildfowl appeared to have dropped considerably. Moved on to Kingsbury/Fishers Mill. Counted 7 singing Chiffchaff in the area but little else.
The real excitement, however, was to come later. You may recall I reported the last Church End Brewery Quiz night when our team, the originally named Thursday Club, came a veery(sorry wishful thinking), a very respectable 2nd. Indeed had we had recourse to a third umpire we would have won. Anyway it was Quiz night again. Unfortunately I had to to turn down a Tame Valley Old Contemptables Curry night in Coleshill. I would miss the banter, the insults, the mixed Kebabs and Julian's tales of twitches past. No I had a long arranged commitement to the Quiz. 'Well go on, how did you get on ' I hear you ask. Well, we only 'WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS' went and won. Chuffin ekk ! I wont make a big thing of it but for most of the lads it was the nearest they'll ever get to walking out on to the Wembly pitch on Cup final day.
So well done to: Chairman Bruce, Lettuce, Mike, Foggy, Twitcher Steve and Ben. A result.

Tuesday 23 March 2010

Great Skua at Draycote

Tuesday 23rd March 2010

It was another early start, getting to my Dad's place before work started on replacing his central heating system. It was clear there would be quite an upheaval so it was best to find somewhere to go while the work was done. Cue Dennis Woodward closely followed by Steve Seal, 'there's a Bonxie in the middle of Draycote Water' they said. Cheers said I. Just the place for a drive out. So off we went. As we arrived a small group of local enthusiasts could be seen looking out over the water. It was a promising sign. I carefully parked up in the nearest temporary car park and joined Richard Mays, Dennis Woodward, Andy Hale and Terry Southgate for a quick look before re-parking and walking back for a longer look. Expensive cameras hung limply from shoulders, redundant due to the Skua remaining out in the centre. Although the 20 or so Sand Martins darting low over the dam wall should have provided some sport.
When we returned it was clear all had not gone to plan with the installation, something to do with stop cocks and freezer kits. Anyway it took 2 hours longer than it was estimated but a minor inconvenience, Dad and I had enjoyed our day.

Monday 22 March 2010

Losing ground

Monday 22nd March 2010

ok just got a few minutes to find something interesting to talk about between episodes of Coronation St.
Well, nothing interesting happened today thats for sure and Im not going to do a retrospective on the dog incident at Bempton. No, I'll have to go on about trying, unsuccessfully to claw back the Warks species I missed by going to Yorkshire. I hadn't planned on doing any birding but the intended work on my Dad's place was put off so I didn't have to stay all day. I checked out Blindpit Lane for the Wheatear but it was long gone. Next a trip down the M42 to Alcester for a Black Redstart, another blank so I thought I'd make it three of a kind and go for the reported Firecrest at Draycote Water. As I got there the heavens opened and yes you're right, no sign of the Firecrest. I did see a Chiffchaff and a single Sand Martin(116). So there I was sitting in Morrison's car park wringing wet, eating a Salmon and Cucumber sandwich. Its moments like this that sorts out the A List birders from the alsorans - should I go to Brandon Marsh in search of LRPs or should I go home and cry?

No. of species reported in Warks so far in 2010 - 135

Sunday 21 March 2010

A visit to Tophill Low N.R.

Barn Owl, Watton, East Yorks.

Barn Owl

Sanderling, Hornsea

Gannet, Bempton





Sunday 21st March 2010
Had to tear myself away from all the excitement of the Midlands birding scene and spend a couple of days in East Yorkshire visiting Jan's mum. I usually find time to visit some of the areas where my fascination with birds, particularly birds rarely seen in the Midlands, really began. On Friday I just pottered about Hornsea and Atwick. Each time I go to Atwick more of the cliff top and much rough grassland has disappeared due to coastal erosion. There were a few Skylarks and Meadow pipits but little else except a pristine White wagtail. On the shoreline a few Sanderlings and a couple of Dunlin were constanly on the move.
On Saturday it rained all day. I visited Tophill Low N.R. between Beverley and Driffield. Based on a Yorkshire Water pumping station Tophill Low shot to prominence when an Amur Falcon was belatedly identified there. The nature reserve and the adjacent Watton N.R. have been developed to provide a variety of habitats and attract a good variety of species. The first bird of the day was seen from the approach road. Two Barn Owls were watched at quite close range. Other birds seen during the morning around the reserve were a red head Smew, Brambling, Tree sparrows, a Common Buzzard and another Barn Owl.

Sunday was a glorious day in complete contrast. A walk along the cliffs at Bempton seemed a good plan and it was clear that many Seabirds were already establishing territory and engaging in courtship. Kittiwakes were on the cliffs in huge numbers whereas Guillemots formed large rafts on the sea with smaller numbers of Razorbill and a few Puffin. There were also good numbers of Gannets, all adult birds, some on the cliffs but many wheeling about effortlessly. It was great to watch so much activity going on.

Wednesday 17 March 2010

More images of the possible Mew Gull

Possible Mew Gull, Albert Village lake

Possible Mew Gull

Possible Mew Gull

Possible Mew Gull

Possible Mew Gull

Possible Mew Gull

Tuesday 16th March 2010

Tuesday 16 March 2010

Whose a push over?

Great spotted Woodpecker, Ladywalk N.R.

Ladywalk N.R.

Red Fox

'I cant see any birds' - I wonder why?

'Oh look darling, Fido's pretending to be a Duck'

Little Egret, Fishers Mill

Tuesday 16th March 2010

After all the excitement of yesterday, it was back to the reality of the Tame valley. I still had gull fever and tried my hardest to find a Mediterranean Gull among the increasing numbers of Black headed gulls on the various pools at Kingsbury Water Park. No luck but great day weatherwise. Went to the usual haunts but no sign of any early migrants again. Significant numbers of Wigeon about 41 on Cliff pool, Kingsbury and 24+ at Ladywalk. Little Egrets at Cliff and Fishers Mill. Somebody must do something about people walking between the pools at Fishers Mill, no excuse really you can see the birds perfectly adequately from the canal or the river tracks. While I'm having a go: Kingsbury WP gets more depressing every time I go. Dogs again today, swimming in Canal pool. The concept of a Nature reserve is a bit of a joke. While we're on the Grumpy Old Man thing I might as well get it all off my chest. Dogs, I love dogs. Theres almost nothing I'd like more than to have a Springer but I couldn't give it the lifestyle it would need and the birding would have to take second place. No, it not dogs but some dog owners that I find hard to understand. I was trying to photograph a moth in a bit of woodland this afternoon when I got pushed over by a puppy, worse than that the moth disappeared before I could get it in focus. I could hear the owner screaming for Gemma or Jemima or what ever it was to come back, and then the 'Good girl' when the dog reappeared having found me no further fun. The dog owner was completely oblivious to the havoc the dear little thing had caused. It didnt spoil my day though, having watched Common Buzzards jousting, Great spotted Woodpeckers drumming, Crossbills and flocks of Lesser Redpolls with Peacock and Brimstone butterflies on the wing it had been a good day.

Monday 15 March 2010

The Leicestershire Gull

Possible Mew Gull, Albert Village lake, Leics.

Possible Mew Gull, Albert village Lake, Leics.

Possible Mew Gull

Monday 15th March

It was a question of unfinished business really. Having made the effort to go and have a look at this odd gull on Saturday and failed, when news broke it was still around I had to have a go. Not that I could have contributed much to the great debate but there certainly wasnt much else doing. Even the Waxwings at Wilnecote had gone missing. The gull performed well and I hope the couple of half decent images I managed to get will help clarify the issue one way or the other.

Saturday 13 March 2010

Not so Common Gull

Mediterranean Gull, Albert Village lake

Mediterranean Gull

Saturday 13th March 2010

Albert village lake is the Leicestershire version of Stubbers Green near Walsall, West Mids. A good place to watch gulls as these pre-roost sites are relatively small bodys of water compared to the main roosts at Foremark and Chasewater reservoirs respectively. I'd never been to Albert village and when news of a possible Mew gull there broke I didnt feel the need to charge off. It was Dave Gray's enthusiastic report and photos on his blog which finally got my backside into gear. The lake was very easy get to on the A444 but having waited until the weekend I knew I'd reduced my chances of seeing the bird whatever it was, as the tip wouldn't be working at full tilt if at all, so that Gulls wouldn't follow their normal behaviour pattern. I joined a mixture of Gull enthusiasts, local birders, insurance listers and those who were simply curious. Unfortunately, the bird was only seen briefly mid-morning and did not reappear by late afternoon. I also missed a Kittiwake which had been present in the morning. An adult Mediterranean Gull did put in an appearance though.

Thursday 11 March 2010

Quiet day

Treecreeper - Broomey Croft, Kingsbury W.P.
Wednesday 10th March 2010

Bit of a tour round looking for something new. Started at the old spoil heaps at Picadilly for very early migrants but apart from Green Woodpecker and Common Buzzard there was no sign of anything else not even a Skylark or Meadow pipit. At Coton lakes again nothing new. Checked the areas of rough ground at Hams Hall but nothing except Polish lorry drivers and a Peregrine. Ladywalk was doing a roaring trade judging by the car park. I had a look in hide B. A Curlew flew over the trees at the back and the Tawny Owl was on station. Oystercatchers were heard but not seen. Cliff pool, Kingsbury had a Green Sandpiper while at Broomey Croft were a pair of quite confiding Treecreepers. On the way home I picked up Little Owl (114) for the year near Polesworth.
Species recorded in Warks so far this year : 127

Tuesday 9 March 2010

Left overs

Temminck's horned Lark - Tagdilt

Temminck's horned Lark

Temminck's horned Lark

Temminck's horned Lark

Temminck's horned Lark

African Desert Warbler - Tagdilt

Woodchat Sous valley

Greater Flamingo

Black Redstart - Oukaimeden

Birder's Lunch - anywhere, actually a healthy, practical and safe alternative to Pork pies and Hula Hoops.

A common street scene throughout Morocco - an opportunity to stock up on Bananas and Sardines.

The group

Tuesday 9th March 2010

A few omissions from the photographic record of my recent Birdfinders trip to Morocco. As Temminck's horned lark was one of the most delightful birds of the trip and African Desert warbler one of the most difficult to find they had to be included with a few other bits and pieces.