Thursday, 29 September 2011

Watermark testing

Wheatear Snettisham RSPB

Snow Bunting Holme Dunes

Short-eared Owl Snettisham RSPB

Purple Sandpiper Dungeness Kent

Monday, 26 September 2011

Visible Migration

Ask any birder about there most memorable birding experience, and theres a fair chance it will involve migration of one kind or another. Seeing large flocks of Brent geese wintering on the Norfok coast may be a familiar site we almost take for granted, but to see these birds on migration, moving past the south coast on calm spring days, adds a whole new element of exitement. As it would turn out, my most memorable days at Dungeness have not been those involving rarities or twitches, as you might expect, but the days of seabird passage, when flocks of Terns and Little Gulls, mixed groups of wildfowl, and high flying lines of Whimbrels and Bar-tailed Godwits have all been passing offshore in large numbers.

As well as the falls of grounded migrants further along the coast, one of my personal highlights of the autumn is the visible migration of passerines, moving south through Snettisham Coastal Park. As the place is deserted by birders during the autumn, it is very rare that I see anyone else there during a morning watch, other than the occasional dog walker. With Saturday taken up by social duties, a sunday morning watch, from 07:00 till 08:30 managed to produce the following (all flying south)

Golden Plover 10
Lapwing 32
Snipe 5
Collared Dove 4
Great Spotted Woodpecker 1
Sand Martin 2
Swallow 24
Meadow pipit 80
Pied Wagtail 10
Dunnock 4
Starling 13
Tree Sparrow 6
Chaffinch 43
Linnet 35
Redpoll 4
Goldfinch 8
Greenfinch 65
Yellowhammer 5
Reed Bunting 8

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Grafham double

A return visit to Grafham water was rewarded with excellent views of both the adult Sabine's Gull and the two Grey Phalaropes, which were feeding together off of the dam, sometimes all three in the same telescope view!

Grey Phalarope Always exiting to see, no matter how many times you see them.

Adult Sabines Gull My 1st inland Sabs, and only my second adult, following the summering bird at Lowestoft in 2003.

The bird originally started off, feeding in the bays at the NW corner of Marlow car park, where it spent a lot of time on the wing, dropping down to feed in typical Tern like fashion, passing to within a few feet of the shoreline. Once at the dam, it spent most of its time sat on the water, picking food off of the surface, just out from the breaking waves, but also came in to rest and preen on the dam wall, above the shoreline. An adult Arctic Tern (my first ever inland bird!) made regular close range circuits, and a Peregrine was seen over the surrounding fields.

Little Bittern

Little Bittern Titchwell Norfolk

Although generally elusive, a bit of luck and patience was eventually rewarded with some very close and prolonged views, on the edge of the 1st reedbed pool, where the above images were taken. Difficult to get any pictures through the scope, due to the high viewing angle on the bank and tightly packed crowds, but enough room to stand and get excellent views, just with the bins. The bird is just about visible in the lower image, sat on a floating bulrush stem at the base of the reeds, where it sat in the open fishing, for several minutes.

The juvenile Buff breasted Sandpiper showed well, in the company of a single Ruff and Dunlin on the Brackish marsh, and a Juvenile Red Kite gave some impressively close views, flying low over the grazing fields and circling overhead above the main reedbed.

Friday, 9 September 2011

Garden Surprises

A couple of unexpected treats this week, starting off with a Hummingbird Hawk-moth feeding on the Red Valearian outside the front door, quickly followed by our 2nd garden Reed Warbler of the year, feeding in the overgrown wilderness of the back garden. Our sixth garden record, but the first to stay for longer than a day (no sign yet this morning, which would make it five days in a row!) Pretty remarkable considering that it is in a completely urban area. A female Blackcap was feeding on Elderberries, growing amongst the Apple tree (probably our first September record) and a group of nine Meadow Pipits flew over Friday morning, whilst checking the moth trap.

Inspired by the Warbler/Flycatcher double act of late July, I have now set myself the target of finding a Yellow-browed Warbler in Bedford park. Given the numbers that now invade Britain each autumn, and the widespread scattering of inland records, there has to be a chance... Watch this space!

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Wash Waders

Mist netting out on Terrington Marsh

A welcome change of luck, with a mixed catch of 60 birds (mainly Knot and Redshank) following a week of failed cannon netting attempts! Ken Hill Marsh produced a successfull catch of 17 Curlew, though all other efforts, either on Snettisham Beach or inland fields around Terrington or Holbeach, failed to deliver.

Taking down the hide on the sea wall, looking over the stubble fields

What do you get when you have 400 Curlew, and six stuffed decoys together in a field? Two inquisitive Marsh Harriers and an equally bold juvenile Peregrine... If you want to get close views of raptors then youre in for a treat, if however, you want to catch the Curlew that are there, you might have a problem. Both Sparrowhawk and Barn Owl were also seen, sat in an Elder bush along the bank, no more than 30 yards from the hide.