Sunday, 21 April 2013

Nice morning but.....

Friday and Saturday had been really good around Ricky, with pied fly and gropper in the aquadrome. So, in a fit of madness i got up at 5.30 to get the dawn chorus and try for the gropper at Stockers Lock. Needless to say with years theme of "day after" neither were around, or were got by anyone else that day. I did get the Little Owl by the flooded lake and a really nice Sedge Warbler singing away in a bush (year list 145).
On the upside though it was a gorgeous if chilly morning, the blackcaps et al were singing really well and it felt good to be out, although i was really ready for a coffee by the time i got back!"!

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Relatives can be useful

A second theme this year, after going the day after a bird was around, is the number of birds seen on trips to relatives.This time it was to Martin in Guildford for his sons 8th birthday party!! WE combined it though with a visit first to Thursley Heath, which is only about 10 minutes away. Really spring-like and warm, and quite a few cars in the car park, but the place soaks up people.
Judith had never been here before so after a bit if orienting we set off down the boardwalk. Three people ahead of us were intently studying the sky, and it soon became obvious why. Tow or possibly three hobbies were already here, hunting quite high.  We carried on through the dragonfly glade and almost immediately got onto a lovely male redstart, a target for the day, singing from the bushes and trees. Bit far but we did get a few record shots. Apparently there were whinchats around as well, but i only got a few stonechats singing away from the top of the gorse.
On the way back to car park we came across a family staring into a pool. They'd spotted a number of common newts swimming just underneath the surface. Great spot and something you rarely see nowadays. Coincidentally Judith had asked of the pools were good for newts earlier on. They also put us onto a raft spider, which we'd never had seen otherwise as it was really well camouflaged on the surface of the pond. As we were about to move on, i saw a "hawk-like" bird settle in a tree a couple of hundred yards away. Thinking it was a hobby i got the 'scope onto it, and got my first cuckoo of the year!!! Year list 144....

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Lunchtime twitching

Lovely day so decided to try the scrubs. Had been really good (there is a theme starting here, should go when a bird there not after it has gone!!) with redstarts around but recent reports. Paths were still quite damp and the scrub by the railway had been cut back REALLY hard lmiting the available habitat. There was one possible redstart in the "reserve" area but way to brief to claim. Only decent bird was the first whitethroat of the year, and a few mipits but it was a gorgeous day to be away from my desk for at least an hour.

Monday, 15 April 2013

They're here

One personal highlight of the year for us is the return of the house martins, and today they were back. Three birds skimming around over the house - welcome home....

Sunday, 14 April 2013

South coast revels

Weekends can often mean a trip to the south coast and Weymouth, and this time we made it just a day trip. To combine parental visiting with doing something fun, we got up REALLY early and were at Ferrybridge by about 7.15, just after dawn. The journey down even got a barn owl, really close and perched to within 20 feet as we parked up in a lane after seeing it hunting in the verge. Always a lovely bird to see at any time.
Ferrybridge was pretty empty, so we pretty much went straight down to the bill. The wind was off the sea and it wasn't just us who thought the sea might be productive as there were already about 20 'scopes pointing out from the monument. Nobody had seen much though, and neither did i in about 20 minutes, apart from guillemots, razorbills and shags going in and out of the breeding cliffs. One lone fulmar and a kittiwake did bulk up the year list, but no skuas.. Judith had gone off photographing waves so i trotted off after her, picking up purple sandpiper on the rocks, as well as wheatears and rock pipits.
On the way back to Weymouth we stopped off at Radipole to get the long-staying (and controversial) hooded merganser, which was looking particulalry smart. There were loads of swallows swooping around together with a few sand martins but no sign of med gulls in the car park. One last bonus was a single willow warbler in John and Rita's garden. Year list up to 135.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Return to Otmoor

After a successful reconnaissance on Saturday, i took advantage of being in the area to revisit Otmoor. Target species were the ferruginous duck, garganey and anything else that was around. One thing changed by Wednesday, there were many fewer people around . Another thing that was very obvious was that the site is pretty large, and what we thought of as the "first screen" wasn't. The actual first screen was a lot further round, and the second was even further - and that was where the fudge duck supposedly was.
So, i trekked round to the far end of the reserve, about 30 minutes i should think, but the weather was gorgeous so it didn't really matter. There was one other couple doing the same journey, so we both watched the same area of water for 20 minutes or so, with no sign of anything interesting in the duck world. We did get my first swallows of the year moving over, and a water rail calling in the reeds, but otherwise nothing new. Same back at the first screen as well. If the was there it has plenty of dead water  behind the reeds to hide in.
Last stop therefore was the hide, which we had mistakenly taken as the first screen on Saturday. There was one local in there already who pointed me in the area of where a garganey HAD been. I couldn't see anything though. Oh, and there were 7 white-fronted geese at the weekend, but they were AWOL as well. I was about to give up and go home when a last scan across the pools got me a lovely male garganey lurking in the reeds. Too far for a photo, but always a great bird to get. Filled with renewed enthusiasm i worked my way through the 200 or so geese on the far side of the marsh and finally got a few white-fronts as well. Really far off, and probably the 7 seen before but they never all came out into the open. Still, a nice afternoon, spring in the air and 3 new year ticks. The list is starting to get some respectability now at 124....

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Spring has sprung

A beautiful weekend. Lovely blue skies, little wind, and even the air feels a little bit warm. down the reserve at Maple lodge on Sat morning. Nothing exciting by way of birds, but lots of song. Greenfinches, great tits, robins, song thrushes all giving it full volume. Strangely though, there were still good  numbers of both fieldfares and redwings on Lynsters Farm (along with the usual 7 or so Egyptian Geese). You could almost see the blossom coming out as you watched it.
In the afternoon I took a trip out with Derek. Firstly to Gallows Bridge Farm, a new reserve, where there was a stone curlew. Took about 40 minutes getting there. About 10 birders on site scoping a hedgerow at long distance. This is where the nice weather didn't help. The heat haze over the bare field made it really hard to make anything out (Derek was watching a lump of mud for a few minutes before he realised it wasn't the curlew!). The photos hopefully make the point.

After this we crossed the county to go to Otmoor. Surprisingly I hadn't been here before, but a ferruginous duck was present, plus a few other tasties like hen harrier and garganey - and we dipped them all. well, really we didn't have time. By the time we got there we only has about 30 minutes on site and the birds were at the far end. Nevertheless, it was a gorgeous afternoon for a stroll, which many of the locals seemed to be enjoying as well. At least I've got an idea of the layout now, so perhaps I may be able to fit in a trip later this week if the fudge duck hangs on.

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Which numpty was that then....

Just a small rant. About 3.30 birdguides showed 48 hawfinches in Hayes! Well, a goodly number, but there have been 90 in Surrey so. Finishing my last call at about 4.40, quick nip out, tap the address into the sat nav and off through the early rush-hour. and....
Arriving at the junction, there were 48 medium-sized birds on an aerial. 48 waxwings nice birds, showing really well and coming down to a cotoneaster bush, but not hawfinches. Ah well, you can but dream.
Adding insult to injury birdguides had corrected to waxwings by the time I got home, but no apology. At least I knocked off work early!

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Wind, wind, wind

Late on Easter Monday, after the relatives had gone and the weather improved slightly, i nipped uot to Staines reservoir. Why is it always so windy there? Getting on top of the bank you almost get blown back down again, and its about the least photogenic place around, what with the constant stream of planes and cars!!!
Anyway, 2 target birds - slav grebe and long-tailed duck. Everyone (well, about 4 with scopes) seemed to be at the far end, so off i trudged. Two blokes had the l-t-d akothough it was pretty mobile and diving constantly. Gave it about 5 minutes then walked aback to the start where the slav was last seen. After freezing my whatsits off for 20 minutes and scanning a VERY choppy reservoir with no luck i was about to leave when a couple came down and said the grebe was AT THE OTHER END....aaaagggghhhh. Back down again, and there it was, fishing quite close in and moving back ot where i had come from. Ah, well... Took a couple of record shots when it got close.
Finished off with a few (10+) little ringed plovers on the bank on the way out, so a productive hour and a half i suppose, but when is spring going to arrive!!