Tuesday, 17 December 2019

Winter morning at pits

Reed Bunting

It was back to the patch on Sunday teaming up with Jon for the monthly WeBS count. Pophills was very quiet other than the regulars. The water levels continue at record levels and we keep hoping the deeper levels may attract a diving duck or even a diver. It's actually had an adverse effects as the Wigeon, Pintail & Teal have found new areas in the Avon Valley to feed.

The best bird of the morning was a Stonechat by Marsh Farm which looks to be over wintering with us. As we reached the far end of the pits a pair of Peregrines stormed the meadow causing mayhem. You could really see the size differences between the birds.

The best sighting of the morning was without doubt an Otter on the central lagoon. The rain was lashing down at this stage so we opted to watch it swim towards the reeds rather than try & get a photo. This was the first record on this side of the pits. Only previous records were on Pophills.

Full count was as follows:- 16 Little Grebe, 3 Cormorant, 6 Mute Swan, 175 Greylag, 6 Gadwall, 1 Teal, 2 Pochard, 44 Tufted Duck, 395 Mallard, 10 Buzzard, 1 Kestrel, pair of Peregrine, 86 Coot, 180 Black-headed Gull, 20 LBBG, 8 Herring Gull, 2000 Woodpegeon, 100 Stock Dove leaving roost in Ennister Wood, 6 Meadow Pipit, 1 Grey Wagtail, 1 Stonechat, 80 Redwing, 5 Coal Tit, 1 Jay, 1 raven, 15 Reed Bunting, 1 Roe Deer & 4 Brown Hare.

Sunday, 15 December 2019

Christmas come early with Bedfordshire Black-throated Thrush

Photo taken the following day by Patrick Earith
Black-throated Thrush
Black-throated Thrush
Quite a crowd
Black-throated Thrush
 Different angle
 Red Kite
Red Kite

Hovering above me 

The species Black-throated Thrush holds some bed memories for me after dipping one twice in North Wales in very cold conditions and a very long way away. Drives home always appear longer when you carry the disappointment.

I didn't take much notice of a reported Black-throated Thrush reported at Whipsnade Zoo midweek as the locals were unsure whether it was a genuine report. Negative news followed the previous day yet on Friday amazing photos & multiple sightings were reported. With daylight against me on Friday I decided to make the unusual decision to go on Saturday without news and try and see the bird early as I knew as soon as news did emerge there would be alot of interest which could then push the bird out of sight.

The last hour of the jouney the rain got worse and I did think to myself what am I doing! However once parked up I was focused on task in hand. About twenty other birders had the same idea, all parting with the entrance fee before walking towards the favoured area around 600 yards away. 

As soon as we walked around the corner the Thrush was there sitting in it's favoured tree. Much easier than expected. Despite the light being very poor and it raining it allowed some super close views but taking photos was impossible. The rain then picked up pace again making everyone take cover in the indoor soft play centre. As news hit the birdlines more and more birders arrived, it looked like a few tight arses waiting on the car park for news before parting with their cash.

There was the normal one photographer who was talking that loud about every foreign trip they had every been on made the time go even slower. The bird returned to that tree another once before flying slighter higher towards the elephant enclosure. 

Most people stood staring at the tree but a few of the birders headed off in different directions. There was a sighting on the back car park but I stuck with following the Redwings. This proved fruitful as I picked the bird up by the miniture railway where it was feeding well on the berries, occasionally dropping on the ground to feed. In the scope it look seriously smart and definatley a contender for my bird of the year.

Black-throated Thrushes breed in eastern euorpe & siberian pine forests. This male bird was very distinctive with solid black from it's neck to it's breast with a greyish black tail. The bird was fantastic to observe in flight.

After two hours of watching the bird on and off I decided to head for home to make the most of the day and be ready for the double header of watching Southampton lose on the TV & of course the Strictly Final. 

Heading through a village about 45 mins from the Zoo I picked up a flock of Red Kites so I diverted and parked up. It looked like they were being fed from a garden, there was up to 50 Kites  all in the air together swooping down to feed. 

An excellent day especially to record a lifer in December it was a genuine Christmas bonus.

Slimbridge sightings

Wigeon flock
Severn view
Water Rail
Bewicks Swan
Golden Plover
Water Rail
Skies above
Holden Tower

I had a very pleasant morning at Slimbridge on Sunday. Clear traffic both ways and a bit of sunshine, just what the doctor ordered. But most of all thousands of birds to see at every angle.
The new Holden Tower was brilliant offering outdoor views behind glass from the top floor and inside views with fantastic easy to open windows a floor down offering similar views but also over the Tack Piece.
Six Pink-footed Geese were perhaps the only unexpected sighting but were only visible at very long range whilst the rest of birds noted were as you would expect.

Winter thrushes

Flooded main pit
There is still very little to blog about at the pits I'm afraid. The water levels have receded some what but it's still very wet. Only one of our normal islands is visible. We are hoping the deeper water on the main pit and Pophills might attract a diver or duck to get excited about.
What you can enjoy at the moment is the abundance of winter thrushes, you can't miss them there are that many especially around the orchards where they are feeding on the fallen autumn fruit.
Other highlights from the weekend were 2 Wigeon, 4 Lapwing, 5 Gadwall, 35 Greylag, 20 Canada, 4 Herring & 1 LBBG, 4 Buzzard, 2 Pied Wagtail, 1 Water Rail, 1 Pochard (Pophills), 15 Yellowhammer & 2 Shoveler at Kingley.

Tuesday, 19 November 2019

Eastern Yellow Wagtail puts end to poor Autumn

Eastern Yellow Wagtail 
 Eastern Yellow Wagtail 
Bearded Tit
Snow Bunting
Through the marshes
Snow Bunting
Wagtail crowd waiting

I've found this Autumn particularity frustrating with the pits being under water and very poor counts, whilst birds I've wanted to see elsewhere haven't stuck around. On top of this we have had the Lesser Kestrel and Paddyfield Pipit ID saga ongoing. We haven't had enough good days this year with the car full of friends, good birding taking in a rarity with good coffee or a pint pending time of day.

After doing the pits on Saturday, 3 Pochard were the only birds of note, I spent the afternoon researching the family tree and debating a jolly out on Sunday. Norfolk appeared favourite yet the reported Eastern Wagtail in Suffolk looked feasible as a pattern of it's appearance certainly gave hope.

Walberswick is a solid 3 hours 45 minutes from home so I was expecting a long day behind the wheel. However if I scored early there were a number of other local sites I could explore including Minsmere.

The journey was long despite being free moving. Parked up I duly headed towards the coast starting on heath land before the marsh started which then edged into shingle beach, where the Wagtail had been seen.

As I edged past the Windmill there was a flock of Bearded Tits pinging their alarm call. I'd never seen so many together. There must a have been a deer moving the reeds that was setting them all off. I managed to get a couple of photos but it wasn't easy as they were swinging on the reeds.

There wasn't any problem tracking down the Snow Buntings as I picked a couple up straight away when reaching the beach. This flock of about twenty were around the whole day feeding within 20 yards on many occasions.

The Wagtail had flown south an hour before I arrived and it was case of staying patient and hope that it returned. Whilst waiting I noted a Great White & Little Egret, 2 Snipe, 5 Dunlin, Great Black-backed Gulls, Meadow Pipits, Snipe, a Yellow Wagtail(my latest ever) and flocks of Wigeon on the sea.

After three hours of waiting my patience was wearing thin in all honesty. It was cold and I was ready for something warm to eat and drink. Just as I had the thought of "I'll give it ten more minutes" the Eastern Yellow Wagtail duly landed on the front edge of the pool showing well before heading to the grass to feed & fly catch. There was in all honesty very little yellow showing in it's current plumage, the upperparts were dark grey and underparts whiteish with a hint of yellow. Its dark ear coverts & dark lores which are the reported diffences to a Yellow Wagtail. It's call was a stand out difference being loud and raspy. 

Just after being completely satisfied with my observation the bird took flight again south down the coast. 

Sunday, 10 November 2019

Water levels reach new highs at pits


The main spit and stint island have now disapperared under water completely. In all the years I've been visiting the pits I've never seen the water level so high. Whilst this shoud be good for water fowl, the local shooting are having a genuine adverse effect on wintering ducks.

Bird of the week is a Short-eared Owl flushed by Mike Inskip from the channel between the old working and the central lagoon. A very valuable year tick for us. Mark did head down after work to try and relocate the bird but had no luck.

My own visit on Saturday was very disappointing and extremely wet.

The best counts over both days at weekend were as follows :- 21 Little Grebe, 25 Cormorant, 3 Grey Heron, 5 Mute Swan, 585 Greylag, 505 Canda Geese, 1 Greylag x Canada hybrid, 4 WIgeon, 2 Gadwall, 7 Teal, 370 Mallard, 1 Shoveler, 5 Pochard, 35 Tufted Duck, 6 Buzzard, 1 adult male Peregrine, 10 Water Rails, 105 Coot, 18 Lapwing, 1 Green Sandpiper, 1 adult Caspian Gull, 4 Common Gull, 25 BHG, 120 LBBG, 3 Herring Gull, 1 Kingfisher, both Woodpeckers, 120 Skylark, 185 Meadow Pipits, 7 Pied Wagtails, 1 Stonechat, 40 Blackbird, 60 Fieldfare, 110 Redwing, 2 late Chiffchaff, Treecreepe, Jay, 4 Raven, 2 Brambling (1 Marsh Farm hedge), 30+ Goldfinch, 100 Linnets & 30 Reed Bunting. 

I also had a couple of visits to the fields down at Abbots Salford which host Lapwing & Golden Plover. My only birds of note were 18 Lapwing, 1 Grey Heron, 1 Jay & a flock of Redwing.

Sunday, 3 November 2019

Common Scoter at Tardebigge Reservoir


A bit of a bonus birding on Sunday morning on my summer cycle route when a female Common Scoter was found by Bromsgrove birder Gert Corfield on Tardebigge Reservoir.

Very jealous given how we are really struggling for any decent ducks at the moment. Other birds present included a Great Crested Grebe, Tufted Ducks, Mallard & Black-headed Gulls.

Scillies - Day 6 - Early depature needed

Black Redstart
Black Redstart
Black Redstart
Blyth's Reed Warbler (Whats App Group)
Whooper Swan
Tresco from the air
St Marys from the air

It always interesting to note how birds just appear on the islands. Reaching Portcressa there were four Black Redstarts whilst on all my previous days on islands I hadn't seen one.

A Whooper Swan had appeared at Porthloo which was in the bay close to the beach where the Oystercatchers were feeding.  I picked up a present in the town for Mrs D before waiting for the taxi to the airport. We swung past the recently found Blyth's Reed Warbler, found by Adam, before being dropped off. 

I'd never flown on this service before and I must say I'd highly reccomend it. The 14 minute flight gave me great views of the islands, upon landing my transfer to Penzance was waiting for me. Top class service. I'd certainly consider this in the future. 

Another great break on the Scillies in great company for a very reasonable price.  Many thanks to house captain Paul Freestone for his continued hospitality. 

Scillies - Day 5 - Grey Phalaropes at sea & quiz night

Grey Phalaropes
Grey Phalaropes
Grey Phalaropes
Bishops Rock
Adam & Paul
ID round on the pool table
Anagrams proving too much for our Brad

I was on the boat yet again on day 5 with no new arrivals on the island. The boat was full indicating a lot of birders had the same ideas.

The best bird on the way out to Bishops Rock was a Sooty Shearwater which raced past the stern of the boat giving brief views. We saw two Grey Phalaropes at distance flying away from us but that was as good as it got.

Bishops Rock is in the Guinness Book of Records as the smallest island with a building on it. The present building was built in 1858, which was an amazing engineering feat.

As we edged around the Western Isles we picked up a few Turnstones on the rocks and some Great Black-backed Gulls loafing on the waves.  Turning back towards the islands was when the Grey Phalaropes started appearing in good numbers.

Whilst I'd seen individuals on the sea I'd never flocks like this. We recorded 20-30 birds in total, as many as 15 together in one flock close to the boat where I was thankfully positioned.

Upon landing we headed straight to Pennis Head where there was a mobile Dartford Warbler whizzing around. The bird was much too mobile to try and get a record shot but it was a Scillies first for me.

I did my regular circuit during the afternoon seeing another Yellow-browed & Firecrest before heading to Porthloo. On the beach were a flock of Sanderling that I just watched from the bench behind the beach. After watching for around fifteen minutes the Sanderlings made an alarm call as a Peregrine dived into the flock to pick out an afternoon snack as easy as I had selected my lunchtime pasty.

Paul (Freestone) held the annual Quiz on the evening which our Lower Strand team finished joint 3rd. This was as always a good evening.