Tuesday 18 January 2011

Target Birds No 2: Black Crows (Corvus)

When targeting a number of species to see in a year roughly a hundred are regular birds that you could pick up anywhere.  Only the probability of actually seeing them will vary by each month because of their seasonal movements, breeding habits and seasonal habitat changes.
In my mind I like to deal with these species in their families, so this entry is dedicated to the “black crows” or Corvus.  In East Anglia you can easily see Rooks, Carrion Crows & Jackdaws. They all frequent the roadside verges; therefore they are good en-route ticks when you head for a site.  Specifically you will spot Rooks in large number, soon, at their nesting sites, Jackdaw are often found around rural properties, enjoying the warmth from a chimney and Carrion Crows tend to be more of a loner, but are common and can be seen feeding on the grounds almost anywhere.
Identification is all about looking at the bird’s head, as illustrated below.
East Anglia Year Count: 85
Life bird count: 399. Year bird count: 85. Month bird count: 85.
Photo: Rook (Corvus frugilegus); Jackdaw (Corvus monedula): Carrion Crow (Corvus corone)

Thursday 13 January 2011

Essex – Mistley Walls– 3rd January 2011

Watch out for: Waders, Pintail, Common Gull & Swans.

To be honest we hit this site all wrong because we had not looked at the tides, defiantly a lesson to be learnt there for when you are visiting any site where you want to study birds feeding on the silt.
However, on the positive side it did lend its self to some opportunities to photograph ducks on the water quite close (see previous Goldeneye post).

Getting down to business there were, as predicted, quite a few Goldeneye and Pintail on the water, Black & Mute Swan very close on the road side and on a small watery margin a couple of Knot & Oystercatchers, you will see many more and Godwits when the tide is out.  Finally we checked out the Gulls to find Common & Lesser & Greater Black-backed.

East Anglia Year Count: 81. 
Life bird count: 399. Year bird count: 81. Month bird count: 81.
Photo: Lesser Black-backed Gull  (Larus fuscus)

Tuesday 11 January 2011

Essex – Abberton – 3rd January 2011

Watch out for: Geese (including Bean), Sawbills, Pochard & Tufted Duck.

I’ve spoken highly of viewing off the causeways across this reservoir before and this winter it has been quite productive. For  a few weeks the water has been heavy iced over, which has had the effect of pushing a lot of the wildfowl to the last remaining ice free water which is conveniently close to the road.

On the water we found Greylag Goose, Canada Goose, Egyptian Goose, Pochard, Tufted Duck, Mallard, Mute Swan, Goosander & Teal.  The reported Tundra Bean Geese were feeding on near by field with Greylag when we were there, you can spot them by their smaller dark bills and slightly slimmer appearance.  We saw nothing of the previously reported White-fronted or Barnacle.

Also of note were the high numbers of Curlew grazing in other adjacent fields, look out for them as you journey between the causeways.  Finally check out the Cormorant colony in the trees on the Layer de la Haye end.

East Anglia Year Count: 75
Life bird count: 399. Year bird count: 75. Month bird count: 75.
Photo: Mute Swan (Cygnus olor)

Thursday 6 January 2011

Target Birds No 1: Goldeneye

In January and February try looking out on any estuary or reservoir for these birds.  They are winter visitors to East Anglia, more than likely coming from Northern Europe – Scandinavia.

Look out for the attractive interaction between males, as illustrated in my photographs.  The female birds are a less attractive overall brown plumage.

I captured these at Mistley Quay, but I’ve seen them on the Naze and Orwell estuaries, Abberton Reservoir and off the coast at Titchwell.

East Anglia Year Count: 68 
Life bird count: 399. Year bird count: 68. Month bird count: 68.
Photo: Common Goldeneye (Bucephala clangula)

Wednesday 5 January 2011

North Norfolk Coast – 1st January 2011

Watch out for: Corn Bunting, Fulmar, Eider, Long-tailed Duck, Sanderling, Scoter and Marsh Harrier.

I always like to get a productive trip underway on New Years Day and there is no better place to start than the Norfolk coast. We decided to centre on Titchwell but on arrival it was raining quite hard and the forecast was for things to improve, so we decided to postpone the reserve till the afternoon and use the car to get our first few target birds of the year. Choseley Drying Barns are just inland from the main A149 and are renowned for Corn Bunting. On arrival there was flock of twelve birds in a near by tree and as a bonus, from even closer cover six Yellowhammers flew out and sat up on a hedge, finally looking out on the wires there were two Song Thrushes, a great start. Next on the list were the cliffs at Hunstanton (about a 10 mile trip), these always provide good views of Fulmar and an opportunity to check the open sea, we quickly had six or seven of these stiff winged birds on the sea as well as an Eider and several Great-crested Grebes. By now the rain had stopped, but rather than heading straight back to Titchwell we took the opportunity to visit the Norfolk Wildlife Trust reserve at Holme. We checked out the board as we booked in, there were reports of Long-tailed Duck off shore. We had to walk the beach for quite a while, but just off Gore Point there were about ten birds. En-route we saw Sanderling on the shore line and Oystercatcher past. Looking around the scrub there was a large folk of Fieldfare feeding on the Buckthorn and on the lagoon a good collection of Ducks and Grebes. So finally early in the afternoon we were walking out on the RSPB site at Titchwell (so were the world and his wife for that matter but not to worry). To the east over Thornham there were three Marsh Harriers and on the Brackish Marsh were Curlew, Lapwing & Little Egret. Moving up to the coast more ducks on the water along with Black-tailed Godwit, a single Bar-tailed, Redshank, Dunlin & a Ruff. We ended up on the beach and looking out found a Velvet Scoter on the sea and a Guillemot going passed. Finally on the walk back a ground feeding Bearded Tit was pointed by another birder on a similar day one mission. Counting all the species seen whilst travelling and detailing all the wildfowl and Gulls we were listing over sixty birds.
East Anglia Year Count: 68
Life bird count: 399. Year bird count: 68. Month bird count: 68.
Photo: Oystercatcher (Haematopus ostralegus)

Tuesday 4 January 2011

Happy New Year!

Hi there and a Happy New Year to all my readers. With the New Year upon us I thought I’d change a few things about the Blog content. My idea is to do a running theme of aiming to see 200 different species in East Anglia through 2011, so at least once a month my aim is to talk about targeting some particular species either because of a location to visit, the time of year or generally where you should look for those elusive year ticks. This will be threaded amongst my normal birding activities, my overseas trip reports and supported by as many photographs that I can manage to take whilst in the field. So without too much “a do” lets get birding.
East Anglia Year Count: zero!
Life bird count: 399. Year bird count: 0. Month bird count: 0.
Photo: Waxwing (Bombycilla garrulus)