Sunday, 31 March 2013

Spring is in the air II

It's a beautiful morning, frosty first thing but that's cleared away and the birds are really getting into full swing. Dunnocks and greenfinches are leading the way, with robins acting as a good back-up chorus. Even a pair of song thrushes in the garden seem to gathering a bit of nest material. Our resident pair of long-tailed tits are spending a lot of time in and around a large bush in Colin and Starr's garden next door, so hopefully me might get a family later on!!   

Saturday, 30 March 2013

Harbingers of Spring?

Despite all evidence to the contrary, some birds are heralding the arrival of spring.One we get coming through our part of the county are wheatears, and one place to connect is normally Woodoaks Farm. There had been two or three birds reported over the last days, so decided to take a detour on my way to Maple Lodge. Not much else around, although I did get some very smart yellowhammers, which were my first for the year.

Notrmally the birds hang about near the "muck heap" and this year was no different. One ewas hopping about on the path, the other was feeding on the heap, and shoiwing on top of the heap where i took these photos.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Bluethroat at Portland

I love going to Dorset. Got some really great birds over the years, and spent quality time especially at Lodmoor, Portland and Radipole. However, this was a day trip, mainly (well entirely) to visit the in-laws. John, my father-in-law, was in hospital and Rita (m-i-l) was on her own, so we needed to see she was all right. Still, I kept an eye on the ipad when we got to Weymouth, and not only was the white-spotted bluethroat that Martin Cade had rung on Saturday still there, but a Kentish Plover was at Ferrybridge: both would be lifers!
Being a good son-in-law and husband I only slightly mentioned this ti Judith without pushing it. Fortunately though, visiting hours at the hospital weren’t till 3pm and we were pretty much over with lunch by 1, so a plan was hatched to go to the hospital “via” Ferrybridge and Portland!!!!!
First off, at Ferrybridge, no sign of the K-p. Apparently a kestrel sppked it and the ringed plovers about 10.30 and no sign since (btw I hadn’t got my scope with me, so was struggling with the distance there). After 10 minutes I cut my losses, and thinking about Judith and Rita getting cold in the car, sprinted back and Judith drove me off to Portland. At the observatory there were, as usual, a few birders wandering around and they pretty mcu put me straight onto the bluethroat. It was pottering about on a muddy path, and came to within about 10 feet – again, why don’t I always have my camera in the car!!! Only problem was when Martin Cade came round the corner of the path and flushed it!!!! Back to the car with a cold wife and m-i-l and a quick stop at Ferrybridge to confirm the k-p was flown.
So, although it wasn’t really a birding trip in any way, one lifer and few more “common” year ticks wasn’t a bad haul. Year is getting better for the UK but still about 30 behind last year and that had Shetland to come!!! 

Monday, 18 March 2013

Back in harness

Well, after taking pretty much the whole of February off in Antarctica (more to follow on that) it was good to get back to doing to some serious UK-based birding. After consulting the weather forecast and trying to avoid the worst of the snow still plaguing these isles, I took a day off to hit the road.
First stop was Ham Wall for the long-staying pied-billed grebe. Fortunately Judith was up early anyway to go off to Prague, so I was on the road by about 6, and got to Somerset by 8ish. Nice views of Stonehenge on the way past, but otherwise I was surprised by how cold, frosty and snowy it was. So it was a pleasant surprise in the car park to find it almost feeling spring-like in the sun (helped by wearing my Antarctic warm-clothing though!!).
Never having been here before I struck out in what I hoped was the right direction, and after about 5 minutes came across a local photographer looking out over a misty pool. One of the great white egrets (part of a group of up to 9) was mooching around in the sun - nice start. I found out the grebe was normally on the next lake down, so off I trudged, now to the sound of bitterns booming and water-rails screaming in the reeds around me. 
The lake was pretty large, with numerous ducks, including pintail, and quite a few dabchicks on it. After 20 minutes or so of trying desperately to make dabchicks into pied-billed's a strange but handsome bird drifted out of a patch reeds and trundled across into another patch 30 yards away. No wonder it can disappear for some time, but, a lifer nonetheless. Took a couple of long-distance record shots.
There had been reports of a ring-necked and ferruginous duck lurking around as well, but despite hooking up with a couple of locals and locating the area they're normally seen, 30 minutes got me no sniff so I called it a day there as I had more stops to make.
Back in the car, it was supposedly only 30 minutes to Steart where a Temmincks stint was lurking (same plaice I dipped on a white-rumped sandpiper last year). Took me more like an hour-  do not believe you can get through Bridgwater one-way system in under 20 minutes!!Once I got there it didn’t look good - there is A LOT of restoration work going on in the fields, bulldozers and diggers were zipping around and the noise wasn't good. However, on getting to the top of the river-bank I met a birder coming in the other direction who got me onto the bird pretty much under my nose in what was really a muddy puddle!!!! Scoped it for about 5 minutes before it moved off so back to the car and onwards with my journey.
Nothing else local so I decided to go for a couple of reliable year-ticks and one nicer bird on the south coast by Portsmouth. Didn’t look too far on the map, but cross-country it took best part of 2 hours. First stop was Warblington Church (cattle egret in 2012) for a glossy ibis. I knew exactly where it was, but it was still a surprise 9to both of us) when I came round a bend in the track and it was about 10 feet away. Really should have the camera ready at all times! It moved off up the field giving pretty good views, and got my first chiffchaff of the year as well in the hedge. 

Back in the car, I decided to grab to ring-billed gull at Walpole Park in Gosport. Pretty straight-forward as ever, there is was on the boating lake with all the black-headed's. Really shouldn't have wasted a £1 on the car-park as I was only stopped for 5 minutes and it was raining.
Finally, I went to Farlingham marshes for amongst others, red-breasted goose, which I got in 2012. Bird guides were also showing slav grebe, water pipit, whimbrel and spoonbill!! Marched across the marsh first of all. Three flocks of brents needed working through before I picked up the red-breasted goose, pretty distant but good looking bird. Loads of curlew but couldn't turn any of them into a whimbrel. There were no other birders on site, so I had no idea of where to find any of the birds, so I took a walk along the sea-wall. Only bird of note was a water-pipit in the strand-line, but no sign of grebes or spoonbill.
Good day all round though. One lifer, and quite few year ticks, including 3 good birds. So, we're off on the trail of a better list again.