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!)

10th March 2012 HAT TRICK DAY

(171) Reports of an adult Rose coloured Starling in Hants have prompted a retun visit to the county...we set off at silly o'clock in Hordle and after a short drive around we locate the tiny post office were the bird had been reported the previous day. Parked up we're now on foot and decide to split up and use the IPHONE to let each other know if we find it. After half an hour I come across it in a tree and set off the alarm...birders come running from all the side rodes to get good views as the bird decides to drop into a garden to feed. (Always feels a little wrong on these towny twitches) but good bird and good views...another lifer! We watch the bird a while longer and then head off for Pagham to give the Paddyfield Warbler another chance. There must be over a hundred birders lined up on the north wall and after three hours nobody has seen it. I see movement and set off the alarm but despite me getting two fleeting views we decide to leave but as I look back the heard of birders are on the move...we return at a pace to get good views of the warbler last! 4th lifer this year....we set off satisfied but having got drections from another birder we take a chance for Yellow Browed Warbler....We take the short journey to Worthing and find the Swan Pub..parked up in a supermarket car park we sit in the park next to the pub and think we can hear the warbler only to be told another birder had found it across the road...did we hear it? was it glass half full stuff?.....not sure but we raced across the road to get good views of the little fella......3 lifers for the day and five now for the year!
Very happy with our efforts we head home to post on Bubo. (173)

February 2012

(153) Took a quick drive down to Capel Fleet whilst in Kent today and picked up a few Corn Buntings (good views of SEO again) (154) pitstop at Minsmere on 2nd saw me pick up Marsh Tit on the feeders, Bearded Tit and my first Stonechat of the year (157) 11th Feb we all decided to go for the Paddyfield Warbler at Pagham...a couple of hours drive and 5 hours in a field freezing (minus 12 when we left home) No sign of the warbler but we did pick up Rock Pipt and Common Sandpiper in the harbour and had great views of black necked grebe etc on the sea. We made a short stop at Hayling Island to find a lovely Shore Lark along with Slav Grebe (good views of Mergansers here too) (162) 16th Feb and a quick early morning stop at Wolferton Triangle on the way to Norwich....i mean early too...left home at 5am again but luckily two Golden Pheasants were feeding on the triangle when i arrived...i took advantage and moved on to Titchwell for a quick walk to the beach where I collected a fine pair of Velvet Scoter. (163) Didn't get out again until 23rd when I had a half hour at the Stone Barges Rainham to bag a yellow legged gull. (164)
23rd...heard about Spoonbill showing at Fingrinhoe so on the way to Colchester I pulled into the car park and was lucky to find it on the marsh without leaving the car...back to work on time despite stopping for 2 SEO's at Abberton. (165) the 24th saw a quick trip to East Hyde where I got Jack Snipe from the bridge without leaving the car and a stop at Lea Valley on the way home saw me get my Bittern at last. (167) Made a trip to Dunwich/Minsmere on 25th and Jimmy located a Dartford Warbler on the heath along with a flushed Woodcock. Had Woodcock on the reserve too along with another G W Egret and Glossy Ibis. We hear about a Hooded Crow very close to Minsmere and head off in search, after a while looking in the company of Lee Evans again we give up and head for Alton Water to see if we can find the Red Necked Grebe reported there...we're in luck as it shows from the car park and we even get the chance to bag a picture to prove it. (171)

January 2012

21st. Mandarin, Green sand, Siskin (in the garden) 22nd.STODMARSH for Glossy Ibis, Water Pipit and at last Treecreeper(I live a stones throw from Epping Forest and it takes three weeks to find a treecreeper!) My first trip to Stodmarch for years but i'll get back soon. Long walk for the Ibis but at the far end of the reserve two took flight from a ditch and landed close by giving good views. I located a water pipit but it flew before Jim caught up with me much to his dissapointment....i'll find him another soon. 24th. Stopped at Lynford on the way upto Norwich today and a ten minute stop rewarded me with a small flock of Hawfinch from the car. 28th. Up on the coast today to find out if the Snow Buntings are around the car park at Salthouse and guess what...yes they are!..loads of the little gems. happy days...I could watch them all day but work gets in the way of that! 29th...last day of the month and I decide to take my bro down to Hants as a birthday surprise...He adds Spanish Sparrow and Dark Eyed Juno to his year and life list....on the drive back I spot red kite over the M25 and ring necked parakeets in Staines and a stop at Staines reservoir rewards us with Scaup, Gt Northern Diver and Black -necked Grebe.

Total for the month of January now sits at 153..roll on Feb!

17th January Buckenham Marsh Norfolk

(134) Work takes me to Norwich today so after leaving home at 5am to get to Norwich I stop at Dereham road to pick up the Waxwings posted on birdguides yesterday and sure enough they're still there which is great. After a few hours at work I find an hour in the afternoon to make the short trip to Buckenham. I'd picked up a Lesser White Fronted Goose here before Xmas so wanted to see if I could get lucky for the 2012 list. Had to walk around the reserve but I did locate it and a small group of WF Geese and Barnacle geese added four for the day. On the way home I took a pitstop in Fakenham to try for the Shrike again. I arrive to find a group of birders looking for it and they tell me it's not been seen for a while so I decide to walk on a bit and to my surprise I find it hovering over some hawthorn bushes so I call the crowd and they all get good views...Year list now (139)

16th January Santon Downham

Working in Bury today so a quick stop at Santon Downham was always on the cards. Nuthatch , Blackcap and LS woodpecker brought my total to 134 . Santon Downham is a lovely place in the middle of Forest. Worth a stop whenever i'm on the patch.

15th January Oare Marshes Kent

(128) While at Dungeness last week a guy tells me about this lovely place near Faversham in Kent called Oare Marsh. So I had to try it didn't I. He was right it is a lovely place. A propr drive through reserve and Faversham is a picturesque place too. A drive along the reserve to the estuary and we picked up a very nice Hen Harrier hunting rearly close to us and saw RL Buzzard and C Buzzard across the river. Skylark and Kingfisher brings the year total to (131)

11th January and a morning in Hants.

An early morning run down to Hampshire was rewared by 2 lifers ( my first two for the year) Spanish Sparrow and Dark Eyed Junco. Great little birds....The Sparrow appears to have been around for a while as it has hybrid young. It showed really well to the crowd gathered in the gardens Lee Evans was in attendance along with many faces i've seen around the local patches in was a crowd pleaser as it showed well for the scopes and camers and even the local mayor turned up to see it. Moving on to Hawkhill Inclosure in the New Forest I located the Junco quickly in flight and again as it came in to the trees in front of another crowd of birders. Good views of a good bird...i'm heading off well pleased with the two hours work. (Bagged Coal Tit, Crossbill, Goldcrest and a showey Woodlark here too so a new total of 128

8th January Dungeness Kent

(108) An early morning trip to Dungeness (my favourite site for Kent) Picked up the lads and took to the M25/M20 arrived nice and early on the coast. A short stay at the point in glorious weather saw us bag the Glaucous Gull and a self found Caspian Gull which was a lifer and impressed the locals who had arrived on a coach trip and were equally pleased to see both gulls.
Black throated Diver, A single Arctic Skua was good and add to that lot's of Kittiwake and Razorbill and a single Little gull we left satisfied and headed to ARC pit. Here we located the Great White Egret from the road alog with Smew. From the hide we picked up the Long Tailed Duck that had been seen a few days earlier and ticked Tree Sparrow from the farm house on the reserve before heading homeward. A short stop at Rainham to show the lads the SEO's was rewarded by Black Redstart (picked up by Nick Croft) Linnet and Ruddy Duck picked up on the way back made the days total 14 and takes the year list to (122)

7th January back to Lee Valley

(101) Back over the valley today...picked up water rail from the bittern hide (still no Bittern though) Little Owls showed well in the sun from the dead tree on the farm, also bagged Gt Spotted woodpecker a nice Cetti's warbler followed by Bullfinch, Reed Bunting and Yellowhammer. (108)

Week one Jan 2012

Well back at work and tme for birding is limnited but I saw Buzzards on the A130 on 3rd, Mistle Thrush and Jay on Hackney Marshes on 4th, Bewick Swan from the causeway at Abberton on my way into Colchester on 5th and stopped at Rainham for two fantastic Short Eared Owls hunting a few feet away. This is always great to see, so good I took the wife back to see them later. List total for 2012 is now 101.

2nd January 2012

list start (92) A quick walk around Lee Valley produced 4 more Rock dove/feral pigeon, Goosander , Sprawk and Green Woodpecker moved me to (96) No sign of Bittern which would usually be a banker for this site. Back to work tomorrow!

1st January 2012

January 1st.....The start of a new year and a new list. A trip to Norfolk is a must to get the year list of to a good start. Picked up the boys and headed up the M11 picking up a nice Barn Owl on route we headed for Titchwell were we picked up an impressive list of 74 other species including Common Scoter, Red Breasted Merganser, Red throated Diver, a nice early Merlin sitting on the beach, lovely views of spotted Redshank but the real highlight of this first stop off was the tree in the car park that housed Lesser/Mealy and Arctic Redpoll. With our count now at 75 we moved on down the A149 and stopped at Brancaster and picked up 3 more (ringed plover, common gull and a bonus purple sandpiper) We made a short stop at Burnham and whilst checking out the Rough Legged Buzzard we had a Lapland Bunting fly over and a flock of Redwing drop in, add to that a nice Grey Partridge and we moved on towards Cley. (82) Along the road to Cley we picked up Kestrel,Pink footed Geese, Egyptian Geese, R L Partridge and Stock Dove (well I did...Jimmy mssed a couple sitting in the back) At Cley we were on a mission to locate the visitor from America (The Western Sandpiper) and whilst looking saw a Peregrine take a Lapwing out and a GBB gull pushed us through 89 and then we found the Western Sand and hit 90 for the day.....secretly we all wanted 100 from day one. We heard there was a Shrike at Fakenham and after a quick pied wagtail at Salthouse we moved to Fakenham where we dipped on the shrike but picked up a nice Starling and Song Thrush. (92) A nice start to 2012 and I've set a target of 250 for the year hoping that having the target will get me out and about a bit more.