Sunday, February 16, 2020

16th February 2020 - Staying local

I ventured in this morning in the Worthing Uber Patch after what had been a wild night weather wise with very strong winds and heavy rain. My first port of call was Widewater Lagoon where I found two drake Red-breasted Merganser, three Little Grebe, two Herring Gull and a Black-headed Gull whilst on the beach were two Turnstone. Next stop was again the exposed sand below the Harbour Club where I found 16 Herring Gull, 14 Great Black-backed Gull and an Oystercatcher.

With not much doing I headed back to Goring and called into the Gap where I spent half an hour and found a Lesser Black-backed Gull, three Herring Gull, three Common Gull, four Great Black-backed Gull, 17 Dunlin, eight Ringed Plover, two Pied Wagtail and 29 Skylark.

Saturday, February 15, 2020

15th February 2020 - Staying local

A short trip out on the morning of Storm Dennis remained dry although was pretty windy with the worst of the weather arriving late afternoon/over the night.

My first point of call was the No Man's Land area where I found a Common Buzzard, two Yellowhammer, c20 Skylark, a Corn Bunting, seven Pied Wagtail, a Meadow Pipit, a Red-legged Partridge, three Blackbird and 528 Starling. My next stop was Upper Beeding Flood Relief not a site I have ever visited before and on the small pools of water here I found seven Mallard, three Canada Geese, a Greylag Goose and a Grey Heron. A Raven passed overhead and there was a male Kestrel sat on a nearby telegraph wire. 

I headed down to the coast and had a look at Widewater Lagoon where I found three Red-breasted Merganser (2 drakes and a female), two Mallard, two Little Grebe and four adult Herring Gull. Afterwards I drove down to the Harbour Club and had a look on the exposed sand at low tide and the only gulls of note I found here were two adult Lesser Black-backed Gull. Last stop of the morning was Brooklands where I found seven Mute Swan, four Coot, six Moorhen, eight Teal, five Mallard, two Cormorant, a Grey Heron and a Stock Dove flew overhead. 

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

4th February 2020 - Iford Brooks

A trip out after work was rewarding with a Siberian Chiffchaff down the lane. It showed reasonably well but always remained quite low in a patch of brambles. The Brooks themselves were very quiet with just four Mute Swan and 41 Rook being noted on the meadows. The duck pond still held c200 Wigeon and two drake Shoveler. A Kestrel and Common Buzzard were noted overhead and a couple of Song Thrush were heard in song distantly as well as a drumming Great Spotted Woodpecker. On my way back to the car a flock of c100 Starling headed south-west shortly followed by c200 Woodpigeon and seven Pied Wagtail headed North along with ten Linnet and a Grey Heron.

Monday, February 3, 2020

3rd February 2020 - Coalhouse Fort, Essex

A sunny but blustery visit to Coalhouse Fort today on a dropping tide proved to be rather quiet with a few nice bits in the mix. Wader numbers on the mudflats were not at their best but this is to be expected during low tide as the birds spread out across Mucking Flats as well as some birds using Mucking Bay up at the Thurrock Thameside Nature Park.

On my way to my first counting point I found a pair of Stonechat in the SSSI as well as 20 Linnet and three Meadow Pipit in the horse paddocks. There was also a single Redwing in the hedgerow bordering the paddock, a species which has been scarce here this winter. A bit further up the sea wall I came across my first Skylark of the day, both birds flying over head calling. The next field held 13 Moorhen as well as three more Skylark and nine Meadow Pipit. The ditch near my counting point held a singing Cetti's Warbler and three Reed Bunting. Out on the mudflats were c900 Dunlin, 99 Grey Plover, 32 Shelduck, 21 Curlew, three Common Gull and two Oystercatcher. The saltings held 50 Linnet but there was no sign of the Twite amongst them although they were probably hiding away somewhere. Also of note from here were two Canada Geese which flew down river and a flock of eight Cormorant

A walk through the SSSI back towards the fort produced a Green Woodpecker and a further three Skylark. The moat around the fort held three Coot, five Little Grebe and three Black-headed Gull. Next check of the mudflats was from the radar tower, where I found a roosting flock of 1650 Avocet, by far the highlight of the morning and not a species which is always present during low tide. Also noted from here were 118 Teal, 118 Black-headed Gull, 25 Shelduck, 13 Ringed Plover, six Curlew, four Redshank, four Mallard and two Common Gull. A walk back towards the car park produced another pair of Stonechat and five flyover Canada Geese presumably different birds to the ones earlier? The only birds of note around the car park were two Greenfinch

Paul H text me to say he had the two long-staying female-type Common Scoter on the river as well as 13 Bar-tailed Godwit just a bit further east from my area. 

Sunday, February 2, 2020

2nd February 2020 - Combe Haven and West Rise Marsh

I headed over to Combe Haven with Mum and Dad this morning to look for the four overwintering Scaup. We parked at the entrance to the landfill site and walked around the perimeter fence following the extremely muddy footpath up onto the hill which overlooks the flooded fields where the birds are to be found. On our way up we encountered a male Kestrel and three Song Thrush. We started scanning for them but there was no immediate sign although we did find c50 Wigeon, 41 Teal and 34 Pintail with a supporting cast of 23 Lapwing, 21 Canada Geese and c20 Greylag Geese. We walked to the far side of the hill to scan the other side of the flooded fields where again there was no sign of them although here we found a male Marsh Harrier, 35 Redwing in a bordering hedgerow and a flyover Grey Heron. Starting to feel pretty despondent and wondering whether they had gone to the lake on the Northern side of the A2690 (where they have been seen once) we had a final scan of where we originally looked and again Dad and I couldn't pick up anything new other than two adult Lesser Black-backed Gull. Mum had veered off track and ended up lower down near some bushes bordering the flooded fields and started waving at Dad and I. Mum had found a female Scaup which showed well but we all agreed it seemed strange it was by itself, a couple of Black-headed Gull were giving it a hard time constantly dive bombing it. Then just as we were leaving Dad spotted three ducks in flight which turned out to be the other three and they flew in and joined the single bird. We then enjoyed great prolonged views of this scarce winter visitor to Sussex. Much harder than we expected but a rewarding morning. On our way back to the car we added a Goldcrest and two Bullfinch.

A quick stop at a very windy West Rise Marsh on our way home produced flight views of a single Water Pipit. Also c30 Common Snipe and a Cetti's Warbler.

3 of the 4 Scaup, Combe Haven, East Sussex

Saturday, February 1, 2020

1st February 2020 - Halstow Marshes, Kent and Ashdown Forest

I met up early morning with Dave Morrison and Paul Hawkins and we ventured out onto the North Kent marshes for what was to be my first ever visit to this remote and very windy location. First impressions of the area were very good with lots of nice habitat on offer. The general feel of the area reminded me of Pevensey Levels back home in Sussex. As we made our way down the track towards the starting point of our two transects we found a Corn Bunting, a Common Snipe and 25 Grey Heron whilst Dave and Paul who were ahead of me flushed a Woodlark off the track which we couldn't relocate. When we got out to near our starting points we found a Little Owl which was nice to see. Dave then split off from Paul and I and as we headed around the new bund we had 45 Golden Plover flyover as well as 20 Brent Geese east along the River Thames. First point of call was to count the waders in Egypt Bay where we found c2800 Dunlin, 75 Knot, 40 Grey Plover, 14 Curlew, seven Oystercatcher and a Redshank. Just as we had finished counting the waders, Dave gave us a call to say he had the long-staying Richard's Pipit but we couldn't go back to look for it as we were now mid-survey. We walked round to view St Mary's Marsh where we found little other than a few Greylag Geese. The new reservoir near the boarded up house held c750 Lapwing, c100 Greylag Geese and two Brent Geese as well as hundreds of Wigeon which were all spooked by a Peregrine which flew over causing mayhem. On our way back to Egypt Bay we found two Egyptian Geese, 12 Mute Swan, c250 Starling and a Kestrel. When we got back we spent some time looking for the Richard's Pipit but we could not find it, the conditions weren't ideal with the wind being very strong. A special thanks to Dave and Paul for having me along on this visit!

Lapwing, Halstow Marshes, Kent
After a very interesting morning in North Kent, I headed off to Ashdown Forest where I met Max in the Gills Lap car park to look for the Little Bunting which had been reported earlier in the week. There have been conflicting reports during the week of where the bird was actually seen but luckily Max met a Kent birder earlier in the week who had met the finder who told him exactly where to look. We headed off to the pony enclosure on the eastern side of the road and after big search the best we could come up were c25 Reed Bunting, 15 Linnet, two Woodlark, two Meadow Pipit, a pair of Stonechat and singles of Goldcrest, Dunnock and Coal Tit. During our stay a Common Buzzard and three Raven passed overhead whilst another birder in the car park reported a ringtail Hen Harrier which managed to elude us during our visit. 

Reed Bunting, Ashdown Forest, East Sussex

Sunday, January 26, 2020

26th January 2020 - Day 2 in Norfolk

We enjoyed nice accommodation overnight at the Manor Farm Guesthouse in Wells-next-the-Sea which had comfortable beds which were most welcome after what had been a tiring first day. Before breakfast we headed out for a short walk around the town where we saw a Sparrowhawk over the harbour near the old granary whilst the only other bird of note was a singing Goldcrest in the Catholic Church of Our Lady churchyard. When we got back to our accommodation we were served a nice cooked breakfast which set us up for the day nicely. 

Our first stop was a flying visit to Lady Ann's Drive at Holkham where we found nine White-fronted Geese on the western side of the road accompanied by a few Pink-footed Geese. After getting some nice views of these we headed off to RSPB Titchwell and over the A149 on our way there we had more Pink-footed Geese as well as a Red Kite. We arrived at Titchwell and it was still pretty quiet (not many cars) and we headed straight to the beach. Offshore we found seven Long-tailed Duck of which at least five were stunning males also associating with them were three Goldeneye (2 drake and 1 female). After watching the sea for a while we also added a single Great Northern Diver which flew east as well as a Red-throated Diver which went the same way. Along the tideline were several Bar-tailed Godwit and a couple of Sanderling. We headed back onto the reserve where we had a scan of the scrape/s where the highlights were ten Avocet, a flock of Knot and lots of Golden Plover. A quick trip around the back of the reserve added a female Stonechat, three Siskin and a female Reeve's Muntjac

Rather than retracing our steps from the day before and going to look for the three Tundra Bean Geese at Burnham Overy and Shorelark at Holkham Gap we decided to head south towards Welney WWT. As we were approaching Welney we came across our first Whooper Swan these were a herd of 15 at Ten Mile Bank. We arrived at Welney and were greeted with c10 Tree Sparrow on the feeders around the car park, whilst out on the washes we found a Great White Egret and nine more Whooper Swan. We got very lucky with two Common Crane passing over the visitor centre, a case of being in the right place at the right time! The whole area is extremely flooded and the water levels are very high this meant that only the main hide was open. The only birds from here were a few Mallard, Tufted Duck and Pochard

Whilst on site at Welney I checked Birdguides to see if there was anything nearby we could go and see. Five Smew at Needingworth Quarry Lakes caught my attention but this was a site neither of us knew anything about but we thought we would give it a go anyway as it was only a 40 minute drive away. Enroute we came across 400-800 Whooper Swan, nine Bewick's Swan in an arable field near Gold Hill in Cambridgeshire and eight Kestrel. After a short while we arrived at Needingworth Quarry Lakes and were greeted with a tiny car park in a very bleak location, the rain was starting to settle in and we had no idea where the birds were. It didn't have a good feel about it when we first pulled up but we put on our waterproofs and headed off down the extremely muddy path. We were very fortunate to bump into a local birder who informed us of where the Smew were and where was best to view them from. After more mud bashing we got to where he said and instantly found a drake with two redheads, we walked a bit further down the track and were thrilled to find a total of eight Smew (2 drakes and 6 female), what a fantastic way to the end what had been a brilliant weekend away! Also of note at this site was a drake Goldeneye, an adult Lesser black-backed Gull, a vocal Chiffchaff and a Great Spotted Woodpecker.

Two Common Crane, WWT Welney, Norfolk

Four of the eight Smew (drake and three redhead), Needingham Quarry Lakes, Cambridgeshire