Friday, 20 September 2013

Grey phalarope at the bill

Two day trip down to Dorset to visit the mother in law always entails a bit of birding as well. Got up early to do down the bill, hopefully to pick up some Balearics which are moving through. Not many moving though so more in hope than expectation. Got down there just after dawn and there was already a strong movement of swallows and mipits passing through. Both I imagine were in the hundreds per hour. There were also a number of wheatears on the ground, rock pipits and alba wagtails in the cliffs and a peregrine bouncing around.
The sea was pretty quiet though. In the first hour I got 4 groups of common scoter, numbering 5,4,5 and 9. Lots of gannets were going past, a few auks probably razorbills and one very distant shearwater. Looked whitish underneath so probably a Manx.
I was about getting ready to give up when I picked a small greyish bird flying over water in a petrel like manner, then coming down onto the water. When it came back up I picked up a white wing bar. It immediately looked like a phalarope and I knew there was one reported yesterday. Checking the I'd in the book, it lingered for about 5 minutes or so letting me firm up on it being a grey phal. Only the second I've ever seen, so a bonus although I never did get the Balearics!

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Worth the wait.....

05.30 - alarm clock goes off
05.50 - depart the house
07.30 - arrive Lynford Arboretum. Target bird, 2-barred crossbill. Seen frequently over the past month or more and dipped already this year and a lifer for me. Two birders already on site. Lots of siskins and coal-tits in the trees.
08.15 (timings approximate!!). First 3 (common) crossbills appear. More calling overhead.
09.30. Group of around 8-10 birds including at least one male appears and land in the trees. Much excitement. Feed for about 5 minutes in the larches. No 2-bars
Next hour. Small groups overfly but don't land for long. Some excitement as siskin (with wing-bar) misidentified as 2-bar....
11.00. Much more excitement. Pager says 2-bars seen by the bridge 15 minutes ago. However - which bridge???? Small group of 6 of us set off to explore. No other birders around by the nearest bridge, nor any suitable trees. Return in case the 2-bars come back to their favourite spot.
11.45. About 30 birders on site. 7-10 common crossbills appear.
12.00. people start losing interest and volume of conversation goes up as people go back to car park for their sandwiches. Not many birds moving. I strike up a conversation with a local birder who also needs it as a lifer..
13.05. My new best friend goes back to his car for his lunch.
13.08. Bingo. Large flock of 30 or more birds arrives. Mass panic as scopes are trained. "got it" goes up. Typically against the light, top of the tree, hanging down from a branch.
13.09 Get a good 5 seconds view. Enough to clinch the id before it disappears into the branches. Male with outstanding white bars on the wings. Looked redder than common males.
13.10. Other bloke returns from car park in a bit of a hurry with about 5 others in tow. Next 5 minutes lots of false alarms as flock moves  into and out of trees without anyone convincingly getting onto it.
13.15. Good views at last. Everyone gets onto a gorgeous male 2-bar feeding on larches. Stayed for about 5 minutes before flying off with flock. Success after a 6 hour wait but worth it. 

Monday, 16 September 2013


Today we had our (first?) bioblitz down at Maple Lodge. The theory is to get a load of people down the reserve for a day and record as many different species, of all types, as possible. Never done it before so it was interesting to see what occurred.
We got about 30 people in all turn up, with different levels of skills and experience. The reserve was split into 3 areas for surveying purposes, and we ended up with Dave doing around clubhouse, beehives and rotunda. Started off a bit chaotic as we didn't have a clear system, but by the end of the day we were all getting into the swing of things and recording what and where with photos which could all be linked together!!!!
Weather was pretty poor, although the rain held off, so not many insects flying and the birds were poorly represented but I think we found some new species for the reserve.
These are a few of the photos I took. Mostly it was record shots of things we didn't know but I do like the emperor dragonfly and a couple of the fungi shots worked out nice....

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Return to Marlow

Quite a good birding day. morning started off per usual on a Saturday with the work party at Maple Lodge. Weather wasn't great - cold, damp but not rainy. First up got water rail, kingfisher, green sandpiper and hobby from by Rotunda Hide. also had buzzard and kite. What was particularly nice was the large numbers of hirundines - mainly house martins (50+) but also some swallows over the trees. Later on my self and Dave got very brief views of a large raptor over the lake - either the marsh harrier which has been around (probably) or osprey (possibly). My money would have been on the harrier.
In the afternoon myself, Dave and Derek took a quick trip to Little Marlow where a juv black tern was reported. Got straight onto it as soon as we arrived. Fishing over the lake and occasionally coming to rest on the sand bar.

Other birds of note were large numbers of lapwings, estimated at over 200, and many swallows hawking over the lake. Mixed in were a very few sand martins. The whole lot got up every so often when a red kite came drifting over. A small family of grebes kept us company.

Finally we spent about 15 minutes searching the gulls for a yellow-legged gull, which we eventually i'd when it ;lifted its leg out of the water to have a scratch!!

Oh, and 3 black swans were drifting around as well.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Petworth House

On our second day staying with Wendy and Michael we drove out to Petworth House (yes, another midweek national trust visit!!). The house itself is really good, with an excellent interactive guide. Rather than the usual headphones with a droning voice you get an iphone in a case and a series of videos explaining the house, its history and artefacts. Not just one actor but lots of the local experts as well. Best example I think I've seen of the type.
In the gardens there were the usual cc's etc in the bushes, as well as a pair at least of spotted flycatchers showing very well.

The extensive park had deer although they never got close. The lake was good for hirundines, mainly swallows but also house martins and a very few sand martins, feeding up before heading off south. The rather autumnal feel to the weather fitted the first few mushrooms of the season, including this large set on a rotting old stump, looking a bit like Yorkshire puddings.

Oh, and we had another cream tea!! 

Monday, 9 September 2013

Hare today

Today we went down to Sussex to visit Wendy and Michael in Steyning, Sussex. This is a long overdue visit and promised a trip out to some local hotspots (they are both keen birders and published photographers!).
Weather looked pretty awful on the way up but cleared by the time we got there so we set off to explore the south Downs. Beautiful views out over the downs, lovely skies an spectacular clouds all the way. Two highlights of the day - a really good cream tea at Amberley which is a beautiful village and more hares than you can shake a stick out on the Norfolk Estate. We reckon that in the end we must have seen 20 hares, closest down to about 20 yards hunkered down in a stubble field. Lots of migrants in the bushes, mainly cc but also whitethroats and up to 6 buzzards flying in the valley. One of Wendy's photos of a hunkered down hare below.

Also had lots or partridges in the fields because of the local shoot. Most of them were fed-legged but we also had one nice group of proper grey partridge as well (photos courtesy of Wendy as well!!).

Sunday, 8 September 2013

A well spotted crake

Saw on bird guides yesterday that a spotted crake was present at Wilstone, but family duties prevented having a go for it. Was still showing this morning, so after a probably too relaxed breakfast Judith was up for dashing out. Shouldn't have been that hopeful as they're supposedly semi-crepuscular but it did show throughout yesterday.So, we threw the gear into the car and hurtled up there.
Luck was on our side as a car was pulling out as we came into an otherwise very full car park. About 15 people on the ban k by the jetty, and the bird was showing on and off. No sign when we got there but after about 5 minutes someone "probably" got it. Really long way away and hard to even make out it was a bird at times. Eventually it gave itself up, short beak, well marked head and back, not a coot/ moorhen or water rail AND A LIFER TO BOOT.....
No photos as way too far off, but a great Sunday morning tick.

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Saturday morning at Maple Lodge

Usual Saturday morning trip to ML for the work party. Went quite early as I hoped the recent rain might have dropped in a few migrants. Long Hedge did have a higher than usual number of warblers but not enormous numbers. There was probably in excess of 10 blackcaps (male and female) and around 4 or 5 chiffchaffs. I also got one very fresh willow warbler going through. Duck numbers were down as the wildfowlers were out in Lynsters field!! Going in I got 8 Egyptian geese overflying. Otherwise mainly more of the same around the reserve - GS and green wood, flock of ltt's, little grebe families....

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Southern coastal wanderings

Today was always going to be a strange one. In the evening I’ve got a presentation to the Fleet WI (stitched up (get the WI pun there!!) through my sister-in-law, she of the nephews from yesterday) on our trip to Antarctica. Before that though I took a swing down to the south coast as Judith was going to be in town. Didn’t leave till about 11.30 once I’d got my my charts sorted out for the evening. Started off going to Farlington. In the winter it’s pretty good for geese and I got red-breasted last year. Not much around on birdguides but worth a look. Started off with a nice mixed flock of waders – grey plover, dunlin, godwits, redshank, couple of possible curlew sands. In the very, very far distance I also got an osprey in a tree easting a fish. Only just make-outable. Was about to trudge off to get closer when BG came up with “semi-p sandpiper at Abbotsbury. Quick change of plans. It was about 90 minutes away, but doable to still leave me time to get back for my talk. So, a dash along the south coast got me to Abbotsbury about 3.45, just before it closed. £11 got me entry and the warden showed me to the way to a (new) hide. The semi-p was showing brilliantly, down to about 30 feet, together with 5 curlew sands AND I LEFT MY CAMERA IN THE CAR!!!!!! Mental note – do not do that again. The other 3 guys in the hide were firing away like mad, but no photos from me I’m afraid. Year list now up to 188.

Quick dash back along the coast and up to Fleet got me to Fleet in time to dazzle the ladies of the WI with my talk on “Conservation issues in the South Atlantic” so I’ll leave you with a photo from that!!  

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

In loco parentis

Two days spent looking after our nephews Max and Jack. Yesterday was Marwell Zoo. Not as good as I remembered it from a couple of years ago and not as good as Whipsnade. Didn’t help as it was last of the school holidays and the place was packed with yummy mummies and off-road buggies!!! Snow leopards were good though, especially the cubs.

Today we only had Max and went first to Selborne, where Gilbert White lived. He is known as the first naturalist nd certainly the first bird-watcher. First to split chiffchaff, willow and wood warbler for instance. Really interesting display in the house and quite child-friendly. Gardens were nice as well, with some late phylloscs pottering around. Afterwards we went to Thursley Common. Weather was really hot and it was pretty flat for birds. One hobby over was about it. The boardwalk did have lots of common lizards, adults and I presume juveniles. Must have seen upwards of 50 in all. Couple of record shots below.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Wry-not not

This sort of follows on from yesterdays dip of the wryneck over at Ivinghoe. Sunday morning, papers in bed, bit of toast and another wryneck, this time at Stapleford. Judith was up for going but only if this time I could
a. guarantee where it was
b. guarantee it was there

a. was easy-ish, directions seemed ok, b. clearly a bit harder.
Off we pottered though, found what looked like the site and after a short walk found the first thing I wanted to see - 4 birders staring at a bush.
As we got closer a small brown bird flew up from near our feet, moved about 20 yards and settled in a hawthorn bush - WRYNECK!! It seemed ok but some bloody photographer with a bit 500mm lens kept chasing it from bush to bush, never letting it settle. In the end it actually got caught on a hawthorn spike and hung by its wing before freeing itself and promptly disappeared. We left and fortunately so did the photographer, although as we were leaving another herd was coming up the lane.
In case you are worrying, all my photos below are heavily cropped and taken from a reasonable distance, generally about 20 yards behind the other person, so not as good but.....