Sunday, 23 February 2014

Whooper Swan (Cygnus cygnus) - Beenham, Berks. 22nd Febuary 2013.

Thetford and RSPB Titchwell, Norfolk. Febuary 2013.

I decide to take a day trip to Norfolk with the intention of seeing the Black-bellied Dipper at Thetford then heading on to RSPB Titchwell. It was a very cold morning and after de-icing the car I headed off to Norfolk.

The day started off well when a hunting Barn Owl passed across the road right in front of me as I left home, I stopped to watch it quartering the roadside verge for a few minutes before it flew back across the road and in to a nearby wooded copse. I continued on soon spotting both Red Kite and Common Buzzard before reaching the motorway.

I arrived at Thetford and after parking the car I headed off over the bridge and towards the area the Black-bellied Dipper had been residing. A very short walk and I arrived to find the B-b Dipper sat on the opposite side of the small stream preening, to be honest it was probably one of the easiest birds I've ever been to see.
Black-bellied Dipper

Black-bellied Dipper
It wasn't long before it began feeding in the stream, it was quite approachable giving pretty good views as it continued along the stream. A few ropey digiscope attempts later and I decided to head off with the battery on my camera giving up due to the cold.

Black-bellied Dipper
A few miles from Tichwell I encountered a covey of Grey Partridge as they ran across the road in front of me, a good few flocks of both Fieldfare and Redwing were scattered across the countryside and a much larger flock of mixed Thrushes at the entrance to RSPB Titchwell.

At RSPB Titchwell I left the car park and headed in to the reserve, after paying in the visitor centre a Water Rail could be seen feeding in the ditch next to the path, I have seen them on previous visits in the same spot and stopped to watch it as it crept along the ditch before heading in to dense cover and out of sight.

I wandered out along the West Bank path heading to the sea deciding to start there and work my way back towards the hides and then back to the visitor centre to warm up from the brisk chill in the air. Arriving at he beach a hive of activity could be found on the shoreline, Sanderling, Knot, Dunlin, Turnstone, Grey Plover, Curlew, Bar and Black-tailed Godwit all on view. At sea Common Scoter, Eider, Long-tailed Duck and Goldeneye being the highlights.


While scanning the sea I picked up on a small flock of birds flying overhead, their calls almost being drowned out by the wind briskly blowing in off the sea. I watched as they continued their flight overhead and further along the beach before they dropped down in to the dunes, I was pretty sure they were Twite by the muffled calls that I had heard so grabbing my scope I walked along the dunes towards where they had landed. I approached carefully so not flush them and was rewarded with a flock of 14 Twite feeding amongst the dunes, I hadn't seen Twite for a few years so it was an added bonus to see them and at such close range.

The marshes held a good number of waders which included Avocet, Ruff, Spotted Redshank, Greenshank and Redshank to name a few and looking out across the fields to the west found Greylag, Brent and Egyptian Geese. A Red-crested Pochard showed well as did a passing female Sparrowhawk whilst watching the R-c Pochard. At the feeding station near the visitor centre Chaffinch, Brambling, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Siskin, Linnet and Lesser Redpoll all were found on and around the vicinity of the feeders.


Pallas's Warbler (Phylloscopus proregulus) - Moor Green Lakes, Eversley, Berks. January 3rd - April 18th/19th 2013.

Pallas's Warbler © Jerry O'Brien
Berkshire's amazing end to 2012 and start of 2013 continued with another rarity. At Queen Mother Reservoir the Buff-bellied Pipits remained and were showing well between QMR and Horton GP's regularly, and at Eton Wick a small flock of overwintering Chiffchaffs contained at least one Siberian Chiffchaff. Then on January 3rd Berkshire birder Ian Paine found Berkshires first Pallas's Warbler at Moor Green Lakes near Eversley. 

Having never seen Pallas's Warbler and eager to do so I arrived at Moor Green Lakes on a cold overcast winters day, grabbed my gear and headed off towards the River Blackwater in search of it. A good number of birders were gathered in groups along the Blackwater and viewing the trees either side of the river but the Pallas's hadn't been seen for the last few hours. A couple of tit flocks passed through the trees and a number of Goldcrests were also visible but no sign of the Pallas's. Seeing a few familiar faces along the footpath I stopped to chat and try and get an idea where the bird had last been seen, with little news I continued along the footpath eventually finding Jerry O'Brien.

Pallas's Warbler © Jerry O'Brien
While chatting, waiting and searching for the Pallas's a Barn Owl was a welcome sighting, it sat at the entrance to it's nest box peering out across the fields but didn't venture out. The regular wildfowl was present with the highlight being 2 Goosander but still no sign of the Pallas's.

Standing next to the river it soon got incredibly cold and the longer the wait the colder it got, a good few hours passed but the bird didn't reappear. So my first attempt ended in nothing more than near frostbite and trench foot, a horribly cold day with no further sightings by the time I left.  

I returned a few times and despite having the briefest of views on one occasion I still hadn't had a really good look at it so planned to go again.

Pallas's Warbler © Jerry O'Brien
The cold month of January brought snow, and to be honest I thought my chance to get a proper look at the Pallas's was gone. I really believed that the bird would leave or at the least succumb to the inclement weather that now gripped the UK. 

Amazingly the bird was found still on site giving me another chance to see it once the weather cleared up a bit. 

I returned to Moor Green Lakes and made my way along the River Blackwater spotting a few birders further along the footpath, they were looking down towards the rivers edge which was an encouraging sign. My pace quickened as I approached them with me arriving just at the right time as on the other side of the river, in a small bush, there sat the Pallas's.

It was lit beautifully by the sun as it perched at the top of the dense vegetation at the side of the river, from here it hopped in and out bushes and began to drop down towards the waters edge. Searching for insects it showed for a good five minutes or more, often disappearing deep in to the vegetation and then reappearing in a different spot. The yellow central crown-stripe and supercilium, black eye-stripe, bold wing bars and yellow rump all showing incredibly well, a really cracking little bird.

Pallas's Warbler © Jerry O'Brien
So eventually I got some amazing views of this fantastic little leaf warbler, It remained at Moor Green Lakes well in to April when it is believed to have departed on or around the evening of the 18th/19th

Unfortunately I didn't get any photos but Jerry O'Brien has very kindly given me the nod to use some of his fantastic photos of the Pallas's. Cheers Jerry.
Jerry's reports on the Pallas's are below
More of Jerry's amazing photos can be found at his "Birds of Berkshire" website and his rare birds in Berkshire wordpress site here