Monday, 28 April 2008

Dungeness, Kent. 27th April 2008.

Black Redstart
Sedge Warbler

We planned a day trip to Dungeness today and an early morning departure from my home with Roy and Keith on board meant that we would get a good couple of hours sea watching before heading off to the RSPB Dungeness reserve and no doubt bumping in to the Berkshire Ornithological Club who were also on a day trip.

As we drove through Skirmett on the way to the M40 a Little Owl was perched in one of it's favourite haunts starting the day off well. We made good time and after a quick coffee stop headed off to Dungeness, as we approached the sea front we could see the lighthouses in the distance and looked for a parking place.

Parking up by the old lighthouse we headed up the beach passing the nuclear power station, I commented that it might be worth having a look on our way back for Black Redstart and on we continued. At the first hide we joined a dozen or so birders that were watching the sea, we were greeted by a very friendly couple who told us what had already passed through out at sea, they regaled us with sightings of Great, Arctic & close views of Pomarine Skua passing off shore, suddenly the shouts went up "Great Skua" and we soon got views of our first Skua as it passed by in good view. With Dungeness having a large nuclear facility it didn't take long before we had a visit from the local Police on the beach, it did come as a surprise however that they were armed but after a short chat and some good humour they continued on their patrol. Over a 2 hour spell we watched Gannet, Great, Arctic & Pomarine Skua pass by with good views of rafts of Common Scoter that included Velvet Scoter flying by and later on the surface far beyond "the patch", a pair of Red-breasted Merganser & a small group of Whimbrels flew past and Common, Arctic & Sandwich Tern were all seen.

After spending 2 hours sea watching we made our way back towards the car park and soon heard a Black Redstart singing nearby, it stopped so we got in the car and slowly drove along until we located it again. we parked up and jumped out and watched a fantastic male Black Redstart singing on the perimeter fence, it soon crossed over the track and behind a nearby cottage giving only teasing glimpse's before heading back towards the facility buildings. It remained around the buildings singing from the rooftops and at one point we thought we heard perhaps two singing. Fantastic bird to see and I was delighted to have had such a good view of it as we all were.

At RSPB Dungeness we met up with the Reading Ornithological Club who were also spending the day here, we said hello to a few familiar faces and entered the visitor centre to gain entrance to the reserve. A quick read of the sightings board and a look round the shop and it was out into the reserve stopping at Firth Hide first, these pools were probably the busiest with the commoner waterfowl and the best birds being 2 Little Gulls and both Common & Arctic Tern. A Cetti's Warbler burst in to song next to the hide, Sedge Warbler & Whitethroat were also present.

We continued along the path hearing more Cetti's & Sedge Warbler and Whitethroat and after a short wait we had also seen them all with the Cetti's obviously proving much harder to see, the wait paid off as we started to continue along the path a female Marsh harrier drifted over giving excellent views as it slowly cruised over the reedbeds, passed the hide and out of sight.

Continuing along the path there was a hive of activity going on both sides of us, Common Whitethroat & Sedge Warbler being seen and heard at almost every step, plenty of Reed Buntings & Meadow Pipits, the odd Linnet here and there and again Cetti's Warblers singing. My first year sighting of Swift came near the Christmas Dell Hide as they wheeled over the freshwater pits, again the Marsh Harrier appeared over the pit and was soon chased off by Lapwing & Crows. Further along the path we stopped to view the floods seeing Whimbrel and a single Greenshank and soon saw our first Wheatears of the day, 2 cracking males which continued in their search for food very close to where we were standing.

We entered the Denge Marsh hide were a RSPB guide was hosting a group trip round the reserve, we squeezed in to a few available spots and tried not too disturb them. I unzipped my scope and looked through the lens and out on to the water, the first thing I saw was a male Garganey sat in full view, I called to Roy & Keith that I had found a male Garganey and before long the whole of the hide were watching it, as many were without scopes I offered them a chance to get a close up of it and headed to the other end of the hide where Roy had spotted a Hobby hawking over the far side of the lake, a stock dove was feeding in the fields and again the Marsh Harrier made an appearance and again it was seen off.

We had a chat to the RSPB guide who thanked us for pointing out the Garganey & Hobby and in return showed us the best place to see Bearded Tit, we waited at the viewpoint watching the reeds and listening for it's metallic "pching, pching" call. Roy got a glimpse as one flew round in front of him but it soon disappeared through the reeds and we waited in the hope it would return, moments later it flew back in to the opposite reedbed coming to rest in the front of the reeds, a fantastic view showed this bird to be a male.

Further along the path heading back towards the car park we stopped to view across the sheep fields, Roy soon found a wagtail that was standing underneath a Sheep, we knew Yellow Wagtails were present as we had already seen and heard two flying overhead earlier in the day and now perhaps we would get a better view. I have to say the moment it was in view I thought it was a Yellow Wagtail but there was some deliberation from one of the BOC members as to it being a Grey Wagtail, it certainly had the features of Yellow wagtail, yellow throat, olive-brown back, short tail and longer legs than the Grey but with a grey head and cheeks, black eye stripe and white supercilium. It wasn't till later that I realised that it was in fact a male Blue-headed Wagtail(Motacilla flava).

After returning to the car park we made our way by car back to the beach at Dungeness again with the news that an Iceland Gull had been seen at "the patch", unfortunately there was no sign of the bird but still good Skua passage out at sea. We wandered back towards the car park by the lighthouse again stopping to watch and listen to the Black Redstart. Stonechat, Wheatear and a few Meadow Pipits were also seen around the car park and nuclear facility and a quick stop off at the RSPB reserve again before we left gave us a good view of a male Cuckoo sat on a fence post.

Added To My Year List

151. Gannet
152. Arctic Skua
153. Great Skua
154. Pomarine Skua
155. Common Scoter
156. Black Redstart
157. Marsh Harrier
158. Greenshank
159. Swift
160. Hobby
161. Bearded Tit
162. Blue-headed Wagtail

Friday, 25 April 2008

Dotterel (Charadrius morinellus) - Bury Down, Berks. 25th April 2008.


Mid-afternoon I received the news from the excellent Berksbirds website that a male Dotterel had been found on Bury Down, Berkshire, a quick call to Roy Rose and I was off heading towards the M4. A quick stop off to pick up Roy and we were on our way to Bury Down, on arrival at the car park a single Corn Bunting was perched on a fence post and moments later a flock of Linnets passed over.

We met up with both Ken Moore and Roger Stansfield who had been watching the Dotterel and after a few pleasantries we headed off West from the car park. We soon met up with a number of birders viewing the Dotterel and were soon watching it as it scurried about on the field. Despite close views the bird would often dissapear on the undulating field before coming in to sight again. By the following morning Jerry O'Brien had found 4 Dotterel, 3f & 1m which soon departed and were not relocated by 07:15. This is the same location as the 2004 Dotterel and another good record for Berkshire, the last record of Dotterel in Berkshire was in 2005 when 2 male & 1 female were found at Burnthouse Lane.

After braving the cold winds that blew across the downs we decided to head to Theale Main Pit. We soon found a Nightingale singing in the hedgerow and after listening to it for sometime we headed towards the pylon hearing both Chiffchaff & Willow Warbler singing nearby, as we stood and watched the bramble thicket a male Blackcap appeared at the top of a bushes before dropping back into the undergrowth. Walking back to the entrance we stopped again to listen to the Nightingale, while listening a Chiffchaff flitted through the bushes followed closely by a female Blackcap, we watched them closely as they followed each other through the bushes and then I noticed another bird in close attendance, It was soon evident that it was a Garden warbler and probably gave the best views i have had as it slowly made it's way up through the undergrowth and in to view.

Added To My Year List

147. Corn Bunting

148. Dotterel

149. Nightingale

150. Garden Warbler

Monday, 21 April 2008

RSPB Otmoor & Farmoor Reservoir, Oxon. 20th April 2008.

Yellow Wagtail
Yellow Wagtail
Farmoor's New Tern Raft

Roy Rose and I decide to take a visit to RSPB Otmoor today and although the day remained overcast and foggy it turned out to be a good days birdwatching.

As we parked up at Otmoor a Chiffchaff was in full song from the car park followed by a Willow Warbler which emphasized the feeling of Spring in the air. As we approached the entrance to the reserve the "reeling" of Grasshopper Warbler could be heard from the adjacent field, walking along the track towards the main field a good sized flock of Golden Plover in Summer Plumage were busy in the fields and by the time we reached the bird feeders at least 2 Grasshopper Warblers were "reeling" from the car park field, we waited and watched and eventually had brief views as a single bird flew to one of the bushes.

It wasn't long before a Cetti's Warbler burst in to song and minutes later my first year sighting of Reed warbler as it flitted through the bottom of the reeds, Sedge Warbler soon followed. As we walked towards the first viewing screen Whimbrel could be heard calling but despite looking across the fields they couldn't be found. At the first screen the male Garganey finally appeared from behind the reeds and continued to swim with pace from one side of the water to the other. Good numbers of Swallow, Sand & House Martin circled overhead and a single Redshank was out in the main field. Plenty of Willow Warblers and Chiffchaff calling from the trees that border the track as well as Reed Bunting and the odd Curlew calling.

At the second screen the water levels were high and there wasn't a great deal to be seen so after a short stop we headed back along the track and towards the car park stopping to view the car park fields one last time, a single Grasshopper Warbler was still "reeling" from the corner of the field and as I left Roy to see if he could locate it I scanned the fields behind us. I soon spotted 2 Red-legged Partridge and the Summer plumaged Golden Plovers still feeding in the field but beyond them were 2 Whimbrel. Whilst we waited for the Grasshopper Warbler to show itself a Common Whitethroat appeared at the top of a bramble bush next to the bird feeders and made it's way through the trees and out of sight, another couple of bursts of song from the Cetti's Warbler and it was time to head off.

We then headed off to Farmoor Reservoir where the weather slowly began to improve, the Sun made a decent attempt to penetrate the clouds before giving up and in the end taunting us with a glimpse of it's warmth from behind the clouds and the cold breeze that swept across the reservoir. As we approached the causeway we viewed the water treatment works where a number of Pied Wagtails were accompanied by a single Yellow Wagtail, a female Wheatear showed briefly before disappearing down the bank by the water treatment works. Out on F1 reservoir at least 3 Little Gulls were busy feeding across the waters surface in close attendance with Common Terns and at least 1 Arctic Tern. The causeway was busy with Wagtail activity including Pied, White, Grey & Yellow Wagtail and I have to say I don't think I have ever seen all the commoner Wagtail species together in one go, the female Wheatear appeared again on the causeway before flying off as passers-by flushed it.

Added To My Year List

134. Grasshopper Warbler

135. Cetti's Warbler

136. Reed Warbler

137. Sedge Warbler

138. Garganey

139. Water Rail

140. Whimbrel

141. Common Whitethroat

142. Yellow Wagtail

143. Wheatear

144. Little Gull

145. Arctic Tern

146. White Wagtail

South Bucks, 19th April 2008.

Despite the weather turning wet in the afternoon a visit to Higginson Park, Marlow on Saturday brought good views of a pair of Mandarins, 2 Ring-necked Parakeets, Reed Bunting, 2 Pied & 2 Grey Wagtails.Further along the towpath heading south-east 4 Lapwings on the floods to the right of the towpath, 2 Chiffchaffs and 2 pairs of Great Crested Grebe on the river displaying to each other.

A short drive to Medmenham during light showers gave views of 3 Swallows passing over the river Thames heading in the Marlow direction, another 2 Chiffchaffs in good voice and more Ring-necked Parakeets.

I then made my way home through the countryside towards Rockwell where 2 Grey Partridges were feeding alongside Red-legged Partridge and Common Pheasant in the fields, I had seen many variations in the Pheasant species throughout the nearby countryside but as I continued along the road I noticed a very odd individual female that passed across the road infront of the car and into dense cover in a wood adjacent to the road, by the time I had parked up and returned to have a look it had disappeared but it certainly didn't look like a female Common Pheasant. My first thoughts led to one of the rarer Pheasant species, perhaps Golden or Lady Amherst's Pheasant or perhaps a hybridised species, I will certainly have another visit in the hope that I might see it again. Whilst trying to locate the unusual Pheasant a Common Buzzard drifted over and whilst watching it I was amazed to hear a Cuckoo calling from a nearby field, my first of the year and a uplifting sound which carried across the countryside and a timely reminder that it was Spring and not Winter which the weather suggested.

Added To My Year List

132. Mandarin Duck
133. Cuckoo

Monday, 14 April 2008

Little Marlow Gravel Pits, Bucks - 13th April 2008.

A late afternoon visit to Little Marlow Gravel Pits, Bucks today bought my first year sightings of a number of summer migrants. I arrived amongst a torrent of Hailstones and rain and after waiting for a break in the weather made my way from the car park towards the lake, as I viewed the Lake it was very apparent that the wet weather had brought large numbers of Hurindines down, Swallow, Sand & House Martins were busy feeding over the waters surface with frenetic pace. I headed on passed the viewing area by the spit and headed off to the Tern rafts, again the rain started to fall and finding a spot under a tree I looked out towards the rafts, 2 Common Terns were sat on the rafts alongside a Black-headed Gull and a rather sorry looking Common Gull, a Pied Wagtail and a Canada Goose added to the collection on what looked like Noah's Ark.

The rain slowly eased off and I decided to carry on along the path stopping to view the fields by the train track and the river, Greylag & Canada Geese feeding in the fields alongside a Feral Snow Goose & Feral Barnacle Goose but little else. Further along the path I came across a small Tit flock which consisted of Blue, Great & Long-tailed Tit which were busy in the tree tops, as I watched them a pair of Chaffinches joined them shortly followed by a Willow Warbler which flitted it's way through the trees stopping once on a tree branch in front of me, a quick preen and shake of it's feathers and it was off again. A large clap of thunder followed by lightning quickly persuaded me to turn back and head for home and I made my way back to view the spit, I met Alan Stevens who is a local birder at the usual viewing point by the bench and had a long chat while watching the spit, 2 Ringed & 3 Little Ringed Plovers were present on the spit but not a great deal more. As we made our way back to the car park a male Blackcap broke in to song and gave brief views as it made it's way to the top of a tree and as we reached the car park a Chiffchaff followed suit.

Added To My Year List

128. Swallow
129. House Martin
130. Common Tern
131. Willow Warbler

Thursday, 10 April 2008

The Liverbird - 8th April 2008.

Best sighting of the week had to be the Liverbird flying off with the glory at Anfield, better luck next time Gooners. Bring on the Chelsea.

When you walk through the storm
Hold your head up high
And don't be afraid of the dark
At the end of the storm
There's a golden sky
And the sweet silver song of the lark
Walk on, through the wind
Walk on, through the rain
Though your dreams be tossed and blown

Walk on, walk on, with hope in your heart
And you'll never walk alone
You'll never walk alone

Walk on, walk on, with hope in your heart
And you'll never walk alone
You'll never walk alone

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

March's Local Sightings.

March was a funny month, moments of bright sunshine and relative warm weather gave the feeling that it could be an early spring, Daffodils had long since flowered and now showed a recline into a dormant state as the weather turned cold. The evenings started drawing out and it certainly felt that Spring wasn't too far round the corner but little did we know only a few weeks later that snow would be on it's way.

There were signs that bird species were beginning to pair up, many of the Tit families were already inspecting nest sites and boxes, a female blackbird was collecting nest material from the garden at the end of the month and even Red Kites were seen soaring overhead with sticks in their talons, both Crows & Rooks were well underway with reconstruction of their noisy dwellings. The single Marsh Tit continued making daily visits to the feeders throughout the month along with a pair of Nuthatches that are often seen together in and around the garden, Goldcrest are now regularly in the trees by the garden and their contact calls can be heard almost day-long. 2 Male & 1 female Great spotted woodpeckers are regular visitors to the nut feeders and a Song Thrush has been in good voice throughout the month. A pair of Red-legged Partridges have been seen on a number of occasions around and in the garden and the Male Pheasant now has a harem of 4 females with him and has taught at least 2 of them to use the bird feeders. The Jackdaws have returned to their early morning assault on the bird feeders as they seem to around this time every year, love them to bits but their noisy arguing at 6am it's getting to me, so if it's not the Squirrels it's the Jackdaws. Both Kestrel & Sparrowhawk regular sightings around the garden.

After hearing Tawny Owls calling most nights at the beginning of March they soon fell silent, perhaps an indication that they have already paired up and are ready to breed, there seems to be a good Vole & Mouse population here at the moment and hopefully this will aid all the Owls this year. The resident Little Owls have been laying low again, only a few sightings and the odd call heard, probably for the same reason as the Tawny Owls but they don't seem to be using the nest box i put up. The pair of Little Owls at the top of Shogmoor Lane are still present often sat on top of the barn roof. I finally managed to locate one of the local Barn Owls at the end of March near Parmoor, this now means I know of 3 locations where I have seen them in the past few years and it will be interesting to find out if these territories are all occupied during breeding season.

On the 31st of March I was lucky enough to find a Chiffchaff calling from the end of the garden, no doubt a migrant and my first this year in the garden.

Areas of the flower beds have been dug up to expose bulbs and a few holes left in the lawn leads me to believe at least one Badger has returned, a small hole in the centre of the earth where the grass has been removed usually signifies where a worm has been pulled from the ground, the damp weather has obviously brought the worms to the surface making easy pickings. As fast as i covered the soil over in the flowerbeds the faster it got dug up again, i gave up in the end.

Sunday, 6 April 2008

Ring Ouzel (Turdus torquatus) - Linkey Down, Aston Rowant, Oxon. 2nd April 2008.

I returned home to find that the first Ring Ouzels to arrive at Aston Rowant this year had been seen that morning, with the now lighter evenings I decided to make my way there with the hope of seeing them before it got dark.

Upon arrival I was joined by another birder who had the same intentions and we made our way on foot to Linkey Down, this is a favourite stopping spot for Ring Ouzel on their spring migration as they head to their breeding grounds in Northern England, Wales & Scotland. They are often found at the bottom of Linkey Down feeding around the Juniper bushes and adjacent thickets here SU726964

After searching every bush and thicket I finally spotted a black Thrush sized bird perched in the side of a tree further along the down but before i could clearly identify it it flew off, shortly followed by another bird. I watched them come to rest next to a Juniper thicket and soon identified both birds as male Ring Ouzels. They continued to make their way across the downs towards us and began feeding amongst a row of Juniper bushes that are directly beneath the path towards Hill Farm and probably 150-200 yards from the metal gate. We had great views as both males began feeding often pulling large worms from the ground beneath them, perhaps the recent damp weather aided their success rate as with nearly each attempt they made a huge worm was soon devoured in front of my eyes. I continued to watch them for over an hour as they fed below me until a low flying Red Kite spooked them and they flew off to the far side of the down.

Added To My Year List.

126. Ring Ouzel

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

West Berkshire. 29th March 2008.

With the poor weather covering most of the UK we decided against a visit to New Fancy Watchpoint and instead headed into West Berkshire to look around some of the local sites.

Our first stop was Greenham Common near Newbury SU503651 where we soon saw Skylark, Meadow Pipit, Stonechat amongst others. As we headed towards the fire plane 3 small waders could be seen flying in the distance and as we approached we could see that they were Little Ringed Plovers, whilst watching them the skies turned grey and we decided to head back towards the runway to minimise the chance of getting soaked, hearing a Chiffchaff singing in the process. By the time we had made it back to the car the rain was starting to fall so we jumped in the car and drove round to the feeding station near the control tower car park, here we found 4 Bramblings using the feeders amongst the commoner birds and also got excellent views of a pair of Larks.

Next stop was Woolhampton Gravel pits and a walk around the pits brought me my first year sighting of Chiffchaff as one called from the trees in the wood by the Kennet canal. Good numbers of Sand Martins were busy feeding over the lake and 2 Shelduck were also present.

Finally we headed off to Padworth Gravel Pits where again Sand Martins were feeding over the waters surface, another Chiffchaff was heard calling and the male Scaup and Aythya hybrid were still present.

Added To My Year List

123. Little Ringed Plover
124. chiffchaff