Thursday, 30 October 2008

American Green Heron (Butorides virescens) - West Hythe, Kent. 28th Oct 2008.

More photos and a short video of the American Green Heron at West Hythe, Kent. The video can be watched in high quality on my YouTube channel here, simply select the video clip and then click on "watch in high quality" under the video player screen.

American Green Heron Video

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

American Green Heron (Butorides virescens) - West Hythe, Kent. 28th October 2008.

With the news that an American Green Heron had been found at the Royal Military Canal in West Hythe I decided to drive down and see it, I had seen many of the fabulous photos taken of the Heron on previous days and felt that It would be a fantastic bird to see so I set off for West Hythe on a brisk but sunny morning. Little did I know that by the time I made it home again I would have to endure rain, thunderstorms, sleet and then snow.

The Green Heron is a small Heron of North and Central America, it is a extremely rare vagrant and has only been recorded 5 times in Britain before with this first-winter bird being the 6 record, the last record was in November 2005 at Red Wharf Bay, Anglesey.

I arrived at the Royal Military Canal in West Hythe at 1.15pm and joined 20 or so birders watching the Green Heron next to the canal dam. I couldn't quite believe how close it was, as it was sat in the water presumably standing on a sunken log and motionless for 5 or so minutes giving amazing views some 20ft away. It was obviously looking for small fry in the water and remained very calm and oblivious to the fact that everybody was watching it and at times almost seemed to enjoy the attention. It flew to beneath the bridge and perched on the concrete footings below the onlooking observers but soon crossed back over the canal and perched halfway up the reeds, it remained in the reeds for a further 10 minutes before flying west along the canal and out of sight. It was found 500yards further down the canal and an hour later at 2.27pm it returned to the dam and again showed extremely well. After standing in the water in almost the same place as it was earlier it flew to a nearby overhanging tree bow and crept up the bow to the top and scanned the water below, there must be a good supply of small fish/fry around the dam as every 10 or so minutes small numbers broke the waters surface followed by the large splash of what could only be a Pike chasing it's prey, this continued all afternoon. At about 3pm the Green Heron moved in to the reeds and slowly crept through them until it stopped and remained motionless, watching the water intently it suddenly lurched forward and pulled out a Perch which it soon devoured head first, Roy Woodward managed to capture this and the photos can be seen on I was surprised at how quickly it dispatched the perch especially with the amount of spines that Perch have on their dorsal fin, it went straight down and after a few bobs up and down and a quick almost burp like action it was swallowed. At 3.30pm the Heron was still sat in the reedbed where it remained till I left at 3.45pm.

During the time I watched the Green Heron it successfully caught small fry/fish from around the dam end of the canal, a few insects where also taken when it was in the reedbed and then later the Perch. A number of observers had also seen it catch a Perch earlier in the day. It doesn't seem to have any problems catching food and is probably in a prey rich environment, lets hope a Pike doesn't get it!

Fantastic bird and you couldn't wish for better views, it was so close and times I was beginning to believe it was feral!

Added To My Year List.

214. American Green Heron

Added To My Life List.

306. American Green Heron

Lapland Bunting (Calcarius lapponicus) - Dorney Lakes, Bucks. 27th Oct 2008.

The Lapland Bunting that was first reported at Dorney Lakes on the 20th Oct was still present late afternoon today. I watched it briefly from the causeway as it searched for food along the edge of the shingle/waters edge between the 500m & 750m markers on the reserve side with 10 Meadow Pipits. It soon took flight with the flock of Meadow Pipits and circled above the return lake and disappeared into the long grass on the top of the ridge, within 10 minutes the flock took to the air again and flew to the long grass/ridge on the reserve side at the 1000m marker where they remained until I left at sunset. As I was leaving a few more Meadow Pipits dropped into the tussock grass on the edges of the Rowing Lake where I presume they were going to roost.

Added To My Year List.

213. Lapland Bunting

Sunday, 26 October 2008

Farmoor Reservoir, Oxon. Foxcote Reservoir & Linford NR, Bucks. 25th Oct 2008.

Male & Female Gadwall

Arriving at Farmoor I made my way to the fishing hut near the boat club to renew my Thames Water permit and after doing so headed off along the causeway. The reservoirs were very quiet and with few birds to be seen I continued along the causeway passing a number of Pied Wagtails that took to the air from the waters edge and flew up and over me. As I approached the wooden huts in the centre of the causeway I again viewed the reservoirs, 2 Cormorants perched on floating buoys were so far the best birds to be seen and it wasn't till I had got almost to the west side of the reservoir did that change. The call of a Pipit alerted me to it's presence and after scanning along the waters edge on both sides of the causeway I found a Water Pipit searching for insects, a very clean looking individual showing a obvious pale eye-stripe and two white wingbars. After viewing it as it fed along the waters edge I attempted to digiscope it but due to the ferocity of the wind blowing across the reservoir it became impossible, on a number of occasions the wind did it's best to blow my scope over and when it did die down the Water Pipit flew up and over me and headed off further down the causeway.

I then headed to Foxcote, Bucks, to catch up with the returning Ring-necked Duck that is usually faithful to the Foxcote Reservoirs at this time of year. I arrived at the hide just before a rain shower passed over and finding myself the only observer in the hide started the search for the Ring-necked Duck. I soon found the Ring-necked-Duck in the same place I had seen it in previous years, it was tucked up alongside the reeds on the western side of the reservoir asleep and I had a strange feeling of Déjà vu, every time I have been to see the Ring-necked Duck at Foxcote it's always asleep on the western side of the reservoir and in almost the same spot.

After waiting a good thirty minutes the duck finally started to preen and shake it feathers free of the last passing rain shower that had now cleared and brought with it a stiff breeze that whipped the tops of the water. The Ring-necked duck bobbed up and down whilst preening and at last I got some good views of the bird, the white banding to the bill and around the base of the bill, dusky grey flanks and the peaked crown were now clear to see and for at least five minutes it remained in full view. It was all to good to be true and it soon resumed it's usual posture as it put it's head back under it's wing and went to sleep. Fantastic Duck but my memories of it will always be that every time I saw it, it was asleep. The reservoir had good numbers of Wigeon present along with large rafts of Coot. Gadwall, Shoveler, Pochard, Tufted Duck, Mute Swan, Great Crested Grebe, Cormorant and a single Ruddy Duck were also present.

Off to Linford Nature Reserve, Bucks next where I was hoping to catch up with another long staying Osprey. Having "dipped" on the Piccotts End Osprey on 3 occasions the news that a Juvenile had been sighted a number of times in a tree behind Blackhorse Lake made it perfect sense to go and have a look whilst in the area. Viewing from the overflow car park with a number of birders including Lee Evans we waited for the bird to return to it's pre-roost tree, sadly after nearly 2 hours the Osprey didn't show. I left feeling a bit disappointed but the sight of 2 Barn Owls quartering the fields near the overflow car park soon lifted the sprits.

Added To my Year List.

211. Water Pipit
212. Ring-necked Duck (Foxcote Reservoir, Bucks)

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Goldcrest (Regulus regulus) - Henley-on-Thames, Oxon. 10th Oct 2008.

On Friday I received a call from my mum telling me that some close family friends had found what they believed to be a cage bird and were looking after it. I called Dorothy and she told me her husband Les had found the bird laying on the pavement in Station Road, Henley-on-Thames, after moving it and believing it to be dead Les took it home with him to avoid any cats getting hold of it or anybody treading on it. The bird slowly came round and started twitching and within a short time was sat on a table, it soon took flight and made itself at home in their kitchen. I asked what it looked like and Dorothy gave me a brief description of the bird over the phone and I was pretty sure that they may well have found a Goldcrest.

I finished work and made my way to Dorothy and Les's house in Henley, If the bird was alright it would be best to release it as soon as possible, I didn't want to wait till morning as birds can get stressed very easily and providing it was healthy the sooner we set it free the better. By the time I arrived the Goldcrest was perched on the fireplace before it flew down to a plant in the living room window, Les told me it was sat on his head before I arrived and after watching it fly to a number of picture frames, bookcases and other numerous items of living room furniture It was clear to see that it had no problems flying. It perched on a book giving me a good chance to look at it without handling it and it looked fine, no wing damage and no blood around the bill or head area. Given a clean bill of health I decided it would be best released before it got dark, as it was being released only a few hundred yards from where it was found I was sure it would be able to relocate itself. I used the tea towel method and gently put it over the Goldcrest, I was terrified that I would hurt this delicate and tiny bird and as I picked the tea towel up it was impossible to know if it was inside because it was so light. I did a quick Goldcrest call impression and felt the Goldcrest twitch under the towel so it was out in to the garden to let it fly. I put it down on the garden bench and we watched as it flew to a tree in the bottom of the garden, it took a quick look round to get it's bearings and then flew off.

I can only assume that the Goldcrest hit one of the office windows in Station Road and fell to the ground where it laid till Les picked it up, without his quick thinking god knows if it would have survived. Dorothy and Les, job well done.

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Great Grey Shrike (Lanius excubitor) - Ivinghoe, Bucks. 8th Oct 2008.

With news that a Great Grey Shrike had been reported at Ivinghoe, Bucks I made a mid-afternoon visit to see if I could catch up with it. I made it to Ivinghoe and parked up in the car park, meeting a couple of departing birders I was informed that the Great Grey Shrike was still present and showing well. I made my way across the road and up the public footpath and soon found myself walking alongside a stubble field, just as I was wondering where I had to go a gentleman appeared from next to the hedgerow with camera in hand and I realised I was in the right spot.

As I peered through the hedgerow I soon spotted the Shrike perched in a tree in front of me, it slowly made its was along the hedgerow towards where we were viewing it from, by the time it had come in to close range I had set my scope and camera up and began snapping away. My experiences with Great Grey Shrikes are rather slim and with the exception of a single bird at Wishmoor Bottom on the Berks/Surrey border which showed quite well, all my other views have been across fields and distant hedgerows, certainly nothing to write home about and almost impossible to digiscope well because of distance and poor weather conditions. I was hoping today would be an exception, the afternoon sun was bearing down and it highlighted the Shrike up beautifully as it flew closer to us before perching in the hedgerow some 30-40ft away, close views gave me a good chance to see the faint barring on the breast and of course fantastic views of its black "Zorro" like mask and white eyestripe, a very striking individual indeed. As the bird sat quietly I resumed taking a few more photos and was unaware that I had caught it regurgitating a food pellet, it wasn't till I looked quickly later did I realise I had a fairly decent photo of what I thought was it eating something. With the Great Grey Shrike feeding on Insects, Mice, Voles and small birds they often regurgitate insect casings, fur and other indigestible items in a small pellet, they also store surplus prey by impaling them on a sharp thorn or even barb wire returning to feed on them later, these are known as "larders". The Great Grey Shrike then moved off flying along the hedgerow often perching at the top of a few dead tree branches, continually scanning the ground beneath it continued along the hedgerow away from us and then flew over to the east side of the hedge. A few steps to our right and we were back watching it again and it continued hunting the hedgerows for sometime, catching what looked like both a Beetles taken from the ground and also a Bumble Bee caught out of sight.

A familiar face in Mike and Rose Collard appeared at the bottom of the footpath and after viewing the Shrike from further down the path they walked up and joined us. The Shrike moved along the hedgerow towards us again and showed incredibly well often scanning the ground for prey before swooping down in an attempt to catch it, it then disappeared and whilst waiting for it to reappear we spotted both a Fox and single Fallow Deer on the far side of fields. The Fox looked incredibly bright and clean with a red and amber glint as the sun shone down on it and we watched as it wandered off along the fields before it was lost to view. The Shrike then reappeared on the far side of the hedgerow and we watched as it dropped down to some bushes at the foot of the tree, it was here where we got a glimpse of the Shrike eating prey from it's larder, although the views were partly obscured it certainly looked like a Vole or Mouse that was being partly devoured. It didn't seem to feed for long so my assumption would be that it didn't eat everything and would return later, it soon returned to the top of the trees where it cleaned its bill and preened before moving along to the next perching point. At one point it flew to the public footpath hedgerow and perched in full view and later was joined by 2 Mistle Thrushes who were intent on feeding on the Hawthorn berries in the same tree, a quick stand off ensued with the outcome being the Shrike seemed undeterred and remained perched at the top of the tree, one Mistle Thrush flew off and the other dropped down to feed on the berries. I left at 5:45pm with the bird still showing well. The Great Grey Shrike is best viewed from public footpath next to the stubble field, peer through the hedge at a number of spots to view the Shrike. SP950157

I left the car park at Ivinghoe and followed Mike and Rose to Startops Reservoir where we watched the 2 juvenile Little Gulls which were flying low over the water catching insects. Great views of both Little Gulls which showed the black "W" markings across the upperwing.

The sun was now starting to go down and I had just enough time to drop in to Wilstone Reservoir on the way home. The 2 feral Whopper Swans were both present and circling round and round the lake, Little Egret in the cemetery corner, 2 Dunlin, Lapwing and Golden Plover all present in the south corner, no sign of either Ruff or Spotted Redshank present earlier in the week.

Added To My Year List

210. Great Grey Shrike