Thursday, 31 December 2009

Essex – Abberton – 28th December 2009

On this day the reservoir was so calm and the sun very watery indeed, making it easy to spot any bird activity in areas where the ice had melted.

From the Layer causeway there was a large collection of ducks; Pintail, Tufted, Pochard and Widgeon. Whereas from the Breton crossing there were Smew, Merganser, Whooper Swan, Mute Swan and a distant Peregrine Falcon sitting on an electricity pylon

Life bird count: 389 Year bird count: 245 Month bird count: 72

Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Essex – Mistley Walls – 28th December 2009

A bright sunny but cold day with the tide well out, leaving many waders and wildfowl in easy view on the mud bank shores of the river Stour. 

Right out were Avocet, Black-tailed Godwit, Redshank, Curlew and Shellduck.  Further in were Oystercatchers, Knot, Dunlin and Pintails, with Canada Goose, Mute Swan and errant Black Swans feeding nearly on the Walls them selves.

Life bird count: 389    Year bird count: 244   Month bird count: 66

Saturday, 26 December 2009

Suffolk – Bawdsey – 26th December 2009

We took a run out to the coast this morning and the first stop is the estuary at Bawdsey Manor where, on the shoreline there were Redshank and Dunlin along with Shellduck.

We then took the short drive up “the lane” to the pits where there were Pochard, Widgeon, Tufted Duck, Mallard, Shoveler, Gadwall and Teal. All enduring a cold wind off the North Sea.

Finally on our way home we catch a Merlin skimming along the hedge row.

Life bird count: 389 Year bird count: 244 Month bird count: 52

Monday, 21 December 2009

Suffolk – Snowy Gardens – 20th December 2009

Not to make too finer point of it but it hasn’t been the weather to be doing much travelling in East Anglia this weekend, so viewing has to be restricted to one’s local patch or in my case the back garden. In a couple of hours watching we had the following species; Blackbird, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Dunnock, Wren, Robin, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Starling, Collard Dove, Wood Pigeon, Carrion Crow, Jackdaw, Magpie, Black-headed Gull and Lapwing over. What a pleasant way to while away a Sunday morning!

Life bird count: 389 Year bird count: 244 Month bird count: 39

Saturday, 28 November 2009

Essex – The Walls, Mistley – 22nd November 2009

A long time ago an RSPB Warden said to me, when I was talking about different types of waders seen in an East Anglian winter, that the best place to brush up on my ID skills was the shore line at Mistley. That fact still holds true today.

Within ten minutes of being there we had seen Knot, Black-tailed Godwit, Turnstone, Ringed Plover, Curlew, Lapwing, Oystercatcher, Avocet, Redshank and Dunlin along with Mute Swan, Brent Goose, Canada Goose, Shellduck, Widgeon, Pintail, Mallard, Great Crested Grebe, Cormorant, Common Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Black-headed Gull and Little Egret.

All just on the proverbial doorstep!

Life bird count: 389 Year bird count: 244 Month bird count: 58

Monday, 26 October 2009

Suffolk – The Strand & Bawdsey – 24th October 2009

With the weather not too predicable and rain in the air we decided to visit a couple of local sites and catch up on how things were changing now summer is well on it’s way out. From The Strand looking out across the river Orwell the regular waders Oystercatcher, Curlew, Turnstone and Lapwing, were joined by an increased number of Black-tailed Godwits. No doubt these, along with other species will soon increase as winter approaches. Out on the river there were two Shags, a Little Egret and a larger gathering of Cormorants. On driving over to Bawdsey, on the pit the Widgeon had arrived and there were assorted other ducks and a large number of Meadow Pipits feeding around the tamarisk along with Stonechat. Further down, near the picnic site, there was a flock of tits mainly Long-tailed and Blue but amongst them was a Yellow-browed Warbler, a great find! Life bird count: 389 Year bird count: 244 Month bird count: 56

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Yorkshire – Flamborough Head & Bempton – 27th September 2009

For our last day in the area we headed north up the coast to try our luck at the “Head”. Unfortunately fortune was not on our side and apart from a small flock of inbound Linnets and some passing Gulls, Shags and Rock Doves there was not a lot to be seen, a fact confirmed by other birders in the area casually shrugging their shoulders.
So for the final push we drove up a little bit further to the famous Bempton Cliffs renowned in the breeding season for their quantities of sea birds. Out of season things are a lot quieter, but there are still plenty of Gannets to be seen, incoming after feeding, along with Gulls and interestingly in the water there was a “swimmer”, no not a energetic girl or guy struggling to stay of the rocks but a juvenile Gannet that has departed from it’s nest too young to take flight. These birds will swim for while, then, as they loose weight, will take flight and proceed on their first migration, more than likely to the west coast of Africa, amazing! Life bird count: 389 Year bird count: 243 Month bird count: 92

Monday, 5 October 2009

Yorkshire – Bridlington RSPB Sea-watch Cruise – 26th September 2009

We found this event advertised a few months ago and decided it would be focal point of our visit to East Yorkshire. The RSPB run several such cruises on the MV Yorkshire Belle though the late summer, early autumn, with idea of getting good view of Puffins and Gannets (earlier events) and Shearwaters and Skuas on the later events. We set sail from Bridlington harbour at nine in the morning and slowly worked a meandering path up the coast and further out in the North Sea, dispensing “Chum” from the stern to attract birds.
Quite quickly a good number of Gulls come in on the chum we saw Black-headed, Herring, Mediterranean and Greater & Lesser Black-backed. Soon a number of Gannets were off the ship and providing excellent photographic opportunities. Passing us, further away, were a number of Shags and Cormorants and the odd Kittiwake, Red-throated Diver and Eider. In the water Harbour Porpoise, Grey and Common Seal were not too difficult to see and some lucky people saw a Sun Fish surface! However for the birders the best views were of an Arctic and Pomarine Skua in the middle distance. Returning at about one in the afternoon, we can not recommend this experience enough. It is a great way of getting views you just can not achieve on land and so close to some of the species. Life bird count: 389 Year bird count: 240 Month bird count: 89

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Yorkshire – Spurn Point – 25th September 2009

This was our first visit to this site therefore our only familiarity was from books and previous site reports, but, for those who have not been, it is a very narrow peninsula on the north side of the Humber estuary stretching out in the North Sea. Driving up to the light house on the Humber mud/sand flats we saw hundreds of waders and gulls including Knot, Oystercatcher, Ringed Plover, Dunlin and Redshank. As the tide moved out these birds frequently took flight in large formations blackening the sky. We eventually parked as close to the lighthouse as permitted and walked "the point" which includes a trapping area. Here a Lapland Bunting perched in easy view on top of the trap, where we also saw a few Reed Buntings, Meadow Pipits and a number of Dunnocks. Life bird count: 389 Year bird count: 240 Month bird count: 79

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Suffolk – Landguard – 19th September 2009

As mentioned before, this is a great site to visit at this time of year with migrant ticking in mind. However, on this visit I have to prove the point with a "dip", in that a Greenish Warbler had played a blinder and disappeared during the Friday night. During a 4 hour visit on Saturday morning I did however see 10+ Wheatear, 10+ Meadow Pipits, 50+ Swallows, 2 Pied Flycatchers, Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler. Plus a number of the more common residents including a large flock of Starlings that proved to be very obliging photo subjects. Life bird count: 389 Year bird count: 239 Month bird count: 71

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Norfolk – Cley– 5th September 2009

Looking at the calendar, its sea watching time again and as per last year we decided to get out early to the beach at Cley. On arrival there was already quite a gathering and talk of a few sightings, in our two hour stay we had Fulmars close in, Sandwich Terns continually fishing, four Great Skuas and a distance they half filled the scope and two Arctic Skuas at about the same. Also going past were Scoter, Teal, Oystercatcher and Turnstone. Not a fantastic species list, but nice to see birds closer in. We then took the opportunity to visit the reserve and queued for short glimpse of the Ortolan Bunting. Then on the scrapes we had very good views of 6 Spoonbills as they were dodging cattle moving around in the water. Also in the scrapes was a Curlew Sandpiper, White Wagtail, numerous Black-tailed Godwits, Ruff and Dunlin. Life bird count: 389 Year bird count: 239 Month bird count: 59

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Suffolk - Landguard - 30th August 2009

This is a good time of year to be visiting this site right on the entrance to Felixstowe dock and renowned for migrants making a day stop over’s. Unfortunately our visit there was spoilt by high winds, forcing any birds present to be taking cover in the low lying bushes.

We only saw Meadow Pipit and Wheatear in any number plus a single Willow Warbler. Not the best day but undoubtedly a situation that will change day by day as the autumn passes through. Life bird count: 389 Year bird count: 233 Month bird count: 71

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Essex – Abberton – 16th August 2009

A mild summer’s morning and its now time to see if bird movements have started. Being a reservoir Abberton is a typical place that these early signs might be detected and we were not disappointed. The fist thing of note was the large gatherings of particular species, c200 Coot, c100 Greylag Geese, c100 Canada Geese and c50 Little Egrets all pointing to the fact that these birds had left their breeding sites.
Then in the margins a few incomers; 2 juvenile Little Ringed Plovers, 5 Ruff, 3 Yellow Wagtails, Common Sandpiper and a Barnacle Goose (suspect I know!). Added to this there were Mallard, Shoveller and Pochard, all in eclipse and a flock of juvenile Goldfinch feeding off the turned over Hog Weed on the waters edge.
Life bird count: 389 Year bird count: 230 Month bird count: 63

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Suffolk – Sizewell – 11th August 2009

As mentioned in the previous account, things can get pretty quiet this time of year but I think one exception is the Tern. They all begin their long migrations and it is relatively easy to pick up most species en-route, often loitering around feeding or rest areas. One such area is the outfalls off shore from the Sizewell Power Station and this weekend we were not disappointed. Right on the shore line was a gathering of mixed aged birds, mainly consisting of Common Tern, then a number of juvenile Arctic Tern and finally two adult Black Terns still in summer plumage. These birds all continued to fish then return to the shore line for a good hour making long term identification study easy. Off shore there was the odd Sandwich Tern, the harder to identify Little Gull, as they were mixed with a larger population of juvenile Kittiwakes and adult Kittiwakes mainly roosted in the outfall towers. Interestingly, as the population of Herring and Black-headed Gulls grew the terns did move on, but reports the next day did show the same behaviour pattern.
Life bird count: 389 Year bird count: 226 Month bird count: 42

Monday, 10 August 2009

Out the Back – In the Garden – 2nd August 2009

With little opportunity to head out this weekend we looked no further than the back garden to see what was going on. As always this time of year one notices a remarkable drop in bird activities as fledglings no long need feeding the tired adult bird recover some body weight, often moult and change appearance heading to winter plumage. (Wildfowl appearances in the eclipse period can be particularly deceiving). So in the garden, no Tits at all, a juvenile Blackbird still hanging on to be fed by its parents who were becoming increasingly frustrated by its laziness, a Song Thrush still singing most evenings, Swifts still overhead (but not after the weekend) and sporadic feeder raiding parties of House Sparrows.
However all is not lost, because on the insect front things have gone ballistic and most impressive are the butterflies; Small and Large Whites, Tortoiseshells, Peacocks, Painted Ladies and Speckled Wood all seen in a very short space of time. All close to hand and captured on camera with the aide of a step ladder! (Makes note to cut buddleia back a bit further this autumn).
Life bird count: 389 Year bird count: 222 Month bird count: 18

Monday, 3 August 2009

Spain – Clot de Galvany (Fresh Water Marsh) – 7th July 2009

This is a full blown reserve sandwiched in to a fairly built up area, but quite large and well worth the time to explore. Although our main viewing was focused around the considerable pools there is a lot of open “bondo” and wooded areas to walk through and explore, in these we saw Wryneck, Black Wheatear, Spotless Starling, Southern Grey Shrike, Woodchat Shrike and Fan-tailed Warbler. Moving to the waters and right in front of us on the edge from one of the hides we had the most amazing views of Purple Gallinule along with Marbled Duck, White-headed Duck, Black-winged Stilt, Wood Sandpiper, Red-rumped Swallow and Great Reed Warbler.
Life bird count: 389 Year bird count: 221 Month bird count: 68

Monday, 27 July 2009

Spain – Santa Pola (Salinas) – 4th July 2009

These Salinas lay on the side of the main Alicante road and make for an easy lay-by stop, on the one side there is a large expanse of water leading off to the Hondo reserve area and on the other it is more of a salt marsh before the coast line. We saw an abundance of species so I will detail only those of more interest; a large colony of Greater Flamingo is ever present (over 100 birds), Purple Heron, Squacco Heron, Glossy Ibis, Marbled Duck, Black-winged Stilt (breeding population), Collared Pratincole (larger number of these can also be found nearer La Marina), Audouin’s Gull, Yellow-legged Gull (often feeding on the Black-winged Stilt chicks), Slender-billed Gull, Little Tern and Whiskered Tern, to name but a few. As a side note, in the evening, heading north of Santa Pola on the same road we took turning to the lighthouse and after several unsuccessful years saw Red-necked Nightjar in the late evening light along with Little Owl.
Life bird count: 389 Year bird count: 217 Month bird count: 59

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Spain – Gran Alicant (Woodland) – 2nd July 2009

This particular site was given as a tip to us just a day before we left as a good area for Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin and the information was spot on, in fact it was one of those sightings that was so easy that you were left a little disappointed that there wasn’t more of a chase.
As things worked out we did an afternoon recce to find the exact spot. I jumped out of the car, took my bins to survey, walked about ten yards into the wood and one of the chaps flew right across me and sat in a tree! Fantastic.
We returned to the same place a day or two later and alas had no further sightings but did see numerous Hoopoe, Spotted Flycatchers, Serins and heard Wryneck. Life bird count: 388 Year bird count: 209 Month bird count: 40

Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Norfolk – Salthouse & West Newton - 20th June 2009

We took a late afternoon drive up to the coast, with the intention of viewing a few sites, taking an evening meal and then looking for Nightjars. The first stop was Salthouse, quite quiet with Avocet in the field, Curlew over and Sandwich Terns off the shore line. Next in line was a stop at Blakeney and just before the footpath heads out of the village we took the time to view a singing Nightingale along with Jackdaw, Coot and Moorhen. Taking our evening meal in Thornham with House Martin, Swallow and Swift over, we then set off to a wooded area near West Newton. After a short walk through the wood we waited till the dusk appeared, in the twilight two Woodcock went over, then the Nightjars appeared, very close, but uncharacteristically moving off, probably to better feeding areas, as I noticed we didn’t suffer too much from being bitten. None the less good views! Life bird count: 387 Year bird count: 204 Month bird count: 68

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Suffolk – Landguard & Trimley Trout Lake - 6th June 2009

Bright early mornings at this time of year are always good for birding; things are settling down with all the summer visitors here and breeding, thus making locations and habitats more predictable. Landguard was flush with feeding Linnets, Blackbirds, Meadow Pipits, Starlings & Ringed Plover. There was also a party of Juvenile Pied Wagtails and a couple of grazing Oystercatchers moving across the open areas. At Trimley it was a story of breeding ducks Mallard & Tufted, plenty of Mute Swans and Greylag, plus Common Tern over and feeding Reed Warblers in the margins. Up in the surrounding woodland, again feeding were Whitethroat & Chaffinch.
Life bird count: 387 Year bird count: 202 Month bird count: 57

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Suffolk – Lakenheath Fen – 30th May 2009

Another early start in order that the day be as productive as possible and a drive out to the RSPB site at Lakenheath Fen which as undergone great change over the last couple of years. Known primarily for its breeding population of Golden Oriole (a species that eluded us to day), it does have a great deal more to offer. On the water margin Reed Warblers are very active and with them come the threat of infiltration by the parasitic Cuckoo. Two birds give us great views as they fly across the reed bed looking for suitable nests. Further along the path, the population changes from Reed to Sedge Warbler interspersed with Reed Buntings and on the water there are two very elusive Garganey, Great-crested Grebe, Coot, Moorhen & Shoveller.
Finally overhead in the gap between the two placations a pair of Marsh Harriers hunt and to the north of that over the water way several Common Terns fish.
Life bird count: 387 Year bird count: 201 Month bird count: 93

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Norfolk – Snettisham, Holme & Titchwell – 2nd May 2009

This west end of the north Norfolk coast is always worth a visit once the migrants start arriving, especially the heath and small marshes along the Norfolk Coastal path from Snettisham. Numerous Willow Warblers & Sedge Warblers singing from the low lying wild apple trees, far more than previous years. Plenty of Whitethroat & Linnets, both species nest building. Plus! and one of the prime reasons for visiting this area, a population of singing Grasshopper Warblers. Out on the beach, there were summer plumage Grey Plover & Golden Plover. Next, we stopped at Holme and driving through to the visitor’s centre caught sight of a Whimbrel feeding on the grassland. Finally after a drive around the Chosley Barns area and taking time to view a hunting Marsh Harrier we ended up at Titchwell, packed as it was with weekend visitors, there was plenty to see. Highlights were; three species of Tern, Common, Little & Sandwich, a drake Garganey, summer plumage Sanderling, Spotted Redshank, Bearded Tit and none breading Eider just off the coast. Life bird count: 387 Year bird count: 200 Month bird count: 90

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Morocco – Sous National Park and further south – 31st March 2009

Undoubtedly this is the best site we visited and well worth a second day. We headed back to the village of Arhbalou but this time went straight through to pick up a track to the right. Once again here you can drive as slowly as you like and no one bothers you, the road sides are full of Thekla Lark and the occasional Northern Wheatear, we also saw Spectacled Warbler and Laughing Dove (which are local to this particular area). We soon reached the river where numerous Coots were loitering along with Little Grebe and we could hear Water Rail. Two Purple Herons fished for a while before moving deeper into the reed bed, then a Hirundlinidae flew over and was immediately identified as a Plain Martin. In the trees around there were also Moussiers Redstart, Serin and Chaffinch, commuting around in the reeds were a few warblers but we only managed to positively identify Reed Warbler. We drove back to the village the way we had come but turned south to head in to more hilly areas. The road follows the river in some places and here Turtle Dove were evident and appeared not as illusive as normal. Up on the hill side we come across two Little Owls and they allow a prolonged close view. Eventually heading back before joining the main road we stop to take in the terrain and to finish the day we find a small colony of Bar-tailed Lark scurrying around the scrub not far from the road side, a Lesser Kestrel on a wire and two very confiding Woodchat Shrikes. T’end Life bird count: 387 Year bird count: 188 Month bird count: 137

Monday, 4 May 2009

Morocco – Paradise Valley and the foothills of the High Atlas – 30th March 2009

Our plan for this day was to do the trip carried out on day one in reverse, thus allowing us to give more attention to the Paradise Valley area going up to the village of Imouzzer. The beauty of this valley should not be understated, steep sides dotted with trees and vegetation, running water and plenty of scope to pull over and take it all in.
The whole trip was alive with Bulbuls and Nightingales calling from deep in the foliage. In places we also found House Buntings, Great Tits and Moussier’s Redstart. As we gained height Black-eared Wheatear and Crested Lark become more prevalent and we saw Barbary Partridge take flight from the rock face. Alas no raptors today. As we dropped back down to the coast it was evident that an off shore wind had really picked up and there was a large passage of Lesser Back-backed Gull and Yellow-legged Gull moving north. To be continued..... Life bird count: 384 Year bird count: 185 Month bird count: 132

Thursday, 23 April 2009

Morocco – Inland onto the Plain of the Sous – 29th March 2009

Heading inland on the road to Taroudant, the route was not too inspiring and the traffic conditions did not lend themselves to too much viewing until we had past the town of Taroudant. Shortly after here there is a track leading to a small airfield, the site is mentioned in the Dave Gosney’s book on birding in southern Morocco. We drove up and past the outbuilding, eventually ending up on a track following the path of a dry river bed. Here we saw Bee-eater, Swift and Swallow over. Then we watched a Black-winged Kite see off an eagle, now identified as a Bonelli’s, there was also a Kestrel in the trees. Back onto the main road we saw many small birds on the wires, usually turning out to be Chaffinch or House Sparrow and on one such identification stop turned around to first see a loitering Black Kite then a slightly more distant Rough-legged Buzzard. That day we took one further detour off the main road to Taliouine, to find numerous Bulbul plus more Finches and Sparrows, before turning round and heading back to Agardir. To be continued.....
Life bird count: 380 Year bird count: 146 Month bird count: 106

Monday, 20 April 2009

Morocco – Afternoon to the mouth of the river Souss – 28th March 2009

This site is just outside the southern suburbs of Agadir and borders right by the side of the Royal Palace, so access can be an issue. To get there we drove down the Tiznit Road and take the turning sign posted to the “Golf du Soleil”, you will soon see the river and marsh. We saw a fair number of Little Egrets feeding on the open water and mixed gulls (Black-headed, Yellow-legged and Lesser Black-backed) flying up and down the river. We then drove further down until we came to a security post, here two guards approached for a friendly chat about what we were doing, as with most people broken French is the best tack and after some exchanges of views on camera equipment we had their blessing to take a wander. We walked down from the palace road right to the foreshore getting good view of a flock of Spoonbill going over us on the shore line and on the mud bank there were Oystercatcher, Dunlin, Grey Plover, Ringed Plover and distant Flamingo. Our intention for the afternoon was to hang around till dusk and try for Nightjar so with some time to spare we headed off back up the river and take a right across a bridge we found, here there were more Ringed Plover and Black-winged Stilt both feeding on the waters edge. Driving on, we went through quite a large eucalyptus forest seeing nothing and arrived in another village which appeared to be a dead end. So we ended up turning back and doing the same route in reverse. This time however we first saw White Storks flying down the river, then, one cut in land and took to landing just off the road we were on. By the time we were back at the bridge the waders had gone but the air over the river was teeming with Swallows. En-route back to the Palace wall we found Orphean Warbler, then dusk fell and whilst we heard the chug chug of Red-necked Nightjar we had no sightings, however on driving out picked up a foraging Stone Curlew in our head lamps. To be continued..... Life bird count: 379 Year bird count: 141 Month bird count: 99