Saturday, 31 March 2012


Where do I begin?...the text to Jimmy on Friday night, usual routine and about the extent of our planning. "Jim i'm going to try for the Yellowthroat in Wales tomorrow" Jimmy "what time are we leaving?" ME "5am" Jimmy " see you then"...that's how we operate...i tell him where we're going and he says great and off we go. So we set off for Gwent leaving Loughton at 5am for the 180 mile trip for this wee visitor from the states....The Common Yellowthroat that's been hanging around a while now. We arrive at 7.30am and after asking a local dog walker for directions we're on our way up the hill. Once at the top of the hill we're greeted by three guys from Hull (they left home at 3am) They have seen the bird in question already but it's no longer in view but after half an hour of searching we re locate it and it shows really well (186) as we're joined by a couple from Oxford and a couple of guys from's the real deal this bird! After a couple of hours on the hill we headed back to the car for a coffee break and decide to try for the Lesser Scaup at Cosmerton Lake.
We stopped on route at a local river and whilst walking the banks we see Grey Wagtail (187) my first of the year and i'm well pleased to finally nail this bird and only just in the first quarter.
Further on up the river Jimmy spots Dipper and we enjoy half an hour watching them flying from stone to stone. (188) Back to business and a 15 mile drive down to Cosmerton through Cardiff. We google the post code on route (great planning I know) and surprisingly we find the lake without issue. On arrival we find that the bird hasn't been posted today in the visitor centre but we're not put off and head off for the western lake. On arrival I imediately pick out a Scaup which we nail down to the Lesser Scaup pictured above. (189) This is all too easy!...where to next Jim?....I know we'll try for the Long Billed Dowitchers at Meare Heath! I tap it in the sat nav OUCH we're 90 miles away. The day is going too well not to give it a after a quick coffe we're off back over the bridge into England and we fly down the M5 to Meare. Again we find the car park straight away and as we take to the path a local birder is returning to his car so we greet him with that birders special "any sign?" "yes" he says....."they've been missing all day but just dropped back in" Wow..can our luck get any better? We walk the 800 yards to the drained lagoon where they've been seen and sure enough they're there right at the front of the mud bank with a few other waders (Ruff, Redshank, Godwits and Lapwings) Great little birds! (190)
Now the bad news...we have 190 mile drive home.....yep 190 miles! A stop to refuel at burger king Reading and we're home for 5ish just the 12 hours birding today but if that's what it takes to put five on the year list and THREE ON THE LIFE LIST then to coin a phrase......sometimes you just have to go the extra mile. Knackered now tho.

3 months down and I have 190 of my targetted 250 for 2012
60 TO GO.....looking forward to all the summer visitors landing in the next few weeks now.
Oh did I mention the Buzzard count reached 27 for the day!...throw in 4 Red Kites, a couple of Marsh Harriers, several Kestrel and a Sprawk and you have a pretty good raptor count too.

Friday, 30 March 2012

30th March Garganey Rainham

Made a pit stop at Rainham on the way back from Hadleigh today. A quick walk around Aveley pool and distant views of the drake Garganey which stayed mostly hidden in the reeds at the back of the pool. Also picked up a couple of early Little Ringed Plover in front of the new hide (185) On the walk back to the car the local peregrine was seen on the pilons. Lot's of Butterfly about: Peacock, Red Admiral, Comma, Small White and Speckled Wood. add to that the Brimstones had at Thetford last weekend and the year count hits 6. Spoke to Howard on the reserve as we debated the possibility of the earlier reported White Tailed Sea Egale making it's way over Rainham following it's passgae over Tilbury. Howard was hopeful and said he'd been on watch since it was reported at lunchtime but it wasn't seen. He did say he'd seen an Orange Tip and a Lare White though...i din't see either there. Still as for the birds I now have 185 as we head into the weekend and who knows what that will bring?

Thursday, 29 March 2012

29th March Chase for the Red Breasted Goose

After five trips to Tollesbury and Old Hall Marshes I finally caught up with the Red Breasted Goose that's been over wintering in Essex...The picture of the goose above is from last year as this one was distant and within the large flock of Brent Geese. A lovely couple of hours had at the reserve though....Access through the iron gate on Old Hall road and into the car park...the car park is small so parking is by permit only from the warden. A nice walk along the sea wall saw a good count of birds on this visit. Marsh Harrier over, several Snipe , waders galore on the estuary and flood and lot's of geese and ducks and of course the elusive (well to me it's been elusive) RB Goose. (183) Had to stop on the way out to take a pic of the virgin ballon as it climbed above the village. Thought I heard Greenshank but can't be sure so that tick will have to wait for another day. It's been a good few days since the weekend....Buzzard circling above the garden and Red Kite over the M1 on a work journey.

Just seen that a couple of Garagney have arrived at Rainham so i'll be putting a quick shift in there tomorrow at some point...strange reserve though Rainham...opens late, shuts early and generally tries to make it hard for you to get in and around it..missed a Hoopoe last year because they had to close at 5pm....what's that all about?....If you are one of the select few you can have the key code to get in before or after hours which is a bit harsh when something turns up and you can't get in....I realise the need to keep the place secure but it'd be good to get in before 9am being an early bird and all that. (moan over) Anyway i'll still drop in tomorrow to see the Garganey again. Lot's dropping in this week so hoping for a good weekends birding and it'd be great if just one of the Cornwall Hoopoes makes it's way round the coast to be within a couple of hours drive.....fingers crossed!

Still 183 and we're not a quarter of the year down yet so i'm closing in on that 250 but it's still going to be a challenge, one which i'll enjoy though as it's gong to take me to places old and new.

Trip to Wales plannned for May and hoping to get a few days in Scotland too if possible in May.

Cornwall in September with a day trip to Scilly on the myself every chance of hitting my target. Onwards and Upwards!

Sunday, 25 March 2012

24th March In search of Goshawk

(181) I rang Jimmy the night before and uttered he words " Fancy trying for Goshawk in the morning" "Hell yes" came the reply. We left early Saturday morning cutting through the mist we arrived at Lakenheath at 7am...the reserve was still covered in a thick blanket of mist. We had a quick coffee and headed up the bank for the mile or so walk to Joist Fen. We counted 25 birds on the way but all were heard only as the mist was so heavy. On arrival we plotted up waited for the mist to burn off.....which it did!. Lot's of Marsh Harriers and a single Bittern flying in front of the hide. Bearded Tits showed well quite close pinging in chorus. A Cetti's warbler called and a water rail made a brief appearance but we'd stopped to look for Cranes and in 3 hours didn't hear or see any. We made our way back to the car...another coffee and we make the trip to our Goshawk site in Thetford. Despite taking a wrong turn and adding about twenty miles to the journey we park up and head down the lane. At the barn we find Crossbills, Coal Tits and Siskins showing really well so stop a while to watch them feed and drink. We head a mile down the track to a clearing in the trees and plot up with the handful of birders present. "Any sign?" The usual birders greeting...."Not for an hour or so" the usual reply!. We make ourselves comforatble in the knowledge that we're at the right place...the weather is good for the bird we want and the time of day 11AM is also good. Within half an hour we pick up a distant bird which as it gets closer is clearly the escapee Red Tailed Hawk(pictured above) that's been in the area several lands in a nearby tree and gives good views. 3 common Buzzard circle over head and a pair of Sprawks display giving good size comparison between male and female. A Woodlark flies by giving Jimmy another year tick (i'd had one at Hawkhill and the old man picked up the Woodford bird so Jimmy was pleased with the catch up) At last we get a shout " Goshawk!" and lock on to a bird flying low over the's clearly a Gossie..big muscled bird flying without effort, bulging wings...very pale and it gets better as it sits up on top of a tree in full view...we scope it and despite a little heat haze we get great views! To our delight another bird arrives and they both head off seperate ways without giving the display we expected. As they depart another two birders arrive...."any sign?" know the answer! (182) A good day for Butterflies too...With Brimstones and Comma in good numbers along with Large white, Red Admiral and Peacock(5)

18th March Dungeness on the hunt for Firecrest

(176) We see Firecrest ariving in Kent and decide to head to Dungeness to see if we can locate one. Our day starts at 5am and we're on the beach in Dungeness at around 6.15am...lovely!
We pick up our first Wheatears of the year with 6 birds found along the road to the lighthouse which we later find out had dropped in that night as none were reported the previous day.
On arrival at the sea watching hide we're lucky to find a local in it and the door for once is open (why can't this be worked on a key code or something....usually we end up standing out side using the hide as a wind break....but surely it wouldn't hurt to put a coded lock on and let birders have the number)...never mind moan over on this occasion we get let in by one of the privaliged locals. The sea is calm but with a northerly wind theres not much happening...we stay long enough to pick up several Sandwich Terns (177) passing by to Rye, a couple of RT Divers, lot's of Gannet and hundreds of Brent Geese (one bird had one white wing...looked like a Black Swan as it headed along the coast but was clearly a Brent as it got closer..strange thing though) We return to the car for coffee and on the short walk I spot a Black Redstart on the lighthouse fence....Jim gets another year tick having missed the Rainham bird. We make way to the Moat and as we cross the field I see a small bird flash low across the ground from one bush to another...coudl it be the little Firecrest we've driven 90 miles for? After a short still, quiet wait it shows itself and is indeed a fine Orange crested, white eye striped FIRECREST...cracking little bird happily feeding up to move on. We watched it for about 20 minutes before it flew a distance away and continued to the moat. On arrival I picked up another migrant bird which at frst I thought was Chiffchaff until it sang and we then ID'd it as Willow Warbler...really early for this bird but once you've seen it and heard have to say that's a Willow Warbler and accept it may be a couple of days ahead of the pack. We find another five firecrest n the moat area and then a guys arives trying to trap a couple..he actually gets 2 in the trapping area (with my help) but just as he opens the box the little fellas give him the slip and make their way out.
As we continue around the moat a Woodcock is flushed and flies over our heads giving great views as it makes it's way over the power station. We leave for the reserve and find our first Chiffchaffs of the year on the willow trail (where else!) and despite looking for what seemed hours we didn't manage to find any Garganey. Another great days birding at my fav place! (181)

17th March Kumliens at Rainham

(175) We hear that Dominic Mitchell has located a Kumliens Gull at Rainham yesterday so decide to saty local today and try to find this bird. We make our first stop the Stone Barges (build during the war the secure the route up the Thames into the city of London and now abandoned on the foreshore) On arrival there are gulls everywhere on the bank, on the pier, on the river on the tip and in flight. I quickly home in on a white winged bird sitting on the rocks in the bay and I call it as an Iceland gull and show the lads what I have. As we're looking at the bird PH arrives and asks if we have anything and then goes on to tell me I actually have the Kumliens Gull and describes the dark tail bar and dark wing tips as helpful ID tips. We then locate two more Iceland gulls. (176) At this point Kumliens gull is listed as Iceland Gull but could well be serperated in the futue. We looked for Water Pipit as the guys still need that for the year but no luck today> (he barges are usually a good place for these birds but it helps when the tied's out)
A walk along the foreshore didn't help either and no migrants were picked up either. A good day though in which we learnt something new....."You are always learning with this hobby" and no matter what you know there will always be somebody that knows more about a particular location or bird...that much I have learnt!

Saturday, 24 March 2012

11th March Green Wined Teal Maldon

(174) tried for the green winged teal before but dipped and being local I just had to go back and try again..early morning trip before work and a short walk from the car park for me to pick it up on the river....lovely. (175 and counting!)