Monday, 26 April 2010

Paxton and Norfolk.

A nice long day in East Anglia beckoned on Sunday, although there was not much in the way of rare birds, migrants and Summer visitors were poring in. The White Spotted Bluethroat at Welney was tempting, but the crowds and the often poor views was not.
We started off at Little Paxton. Despite the cloud and drizzle, it did not take long to hear our first Nightingale, and we managed to get brief views.

Over the course of the walk, we encountered at least a dozen more, though none were obliging, so here is one I prepared earlier (2008 in fact).
We also heard a few Cuckoos, and saw one or two Common Terns, but unfortunately the weather went downhill and turned to cold rain, so we left and headed to Norfolk.
The usual debate heading up to Hunstanton about turning off to Wolferton was decided by slow traffic ahead, though we rarely if ever have success here.
Moments after turning off the main road this walked out.

Rarely if ever have we had such close encounters with Golden Pheasants. Unfortunately I had to take the image through the windscreen, but I don't mind.
The usual stop off at Chosely Barns was hampered by an old biddy walking her dog while she drove along the narrow lane at 2mph.
Several singing Corn Buntings was nice, and Colin got his first Wheatear. Then the rain that we drove through caught up.
Sat in the car park at Titchwell for a bit listening to the warblers, before we headed off to the Fen Hide (assuming it would be less crowed in the rain). The new excavation pit held a first summer Mediterranean Gull but little else of note. As the rain eased off we left and a few Swifts flew over. We encountered a lot of Bearded Tits in the reeds, our first Reed Warblers and a pair of endangered Ruddy Ducks.
One Reed Warbler was very odd, with a lot of white in its head.

The tide was out, and despite the exposed mud, waders were a bit scarce, just the usual Redshank, Ruff, Black Tail Godwits (icelandic), though a large flock of Turnstone behind the dunes held a lot of Knot, all in winter plumage and many Dunlin, some breeding, some winter.
A decent sized flock of Brents remain, Dark Bellied of course, but a single Pale Bellied was with them
The sea held a huge flock of Scoter, including one male and three female Velvets. Also of note was a Red Necked Grebe in almost full breeding finery. A few Sandwich Terns were also seen. There were three Wheater on the beach, and five White Wagtails.
We ended up at Holme in the paddocks and dunes. A few Whitethroat and Lesser Whitethroat were all we found, until I heard a Grasshopper Warbler.

It showed quite well.

Nothing else was seen in the paddocks, so we headed off to the dunes. A large flock of Pink Footed Geese remain, and we also saw several Marsh Harriers before encountering a large flock of Wheatear, and eventually a single male Whinchat.

Amwell Saturday

Nice and warm on Saturday at Amwell. At last migrants are arriving.
A singing Whitethroat by the bridge kicked things off nicely. I was told that three Common Sandpipers were around, and over the course of the morning, I saw them frequently, though only once did I see two at the same time. Also, the first Common Terns seem to have started to settle down-up to six were present.
Sedge Warblers singing in force now, but the Reeds are quiet, apparently there are some on site. One or two Swallows are still heading north, as did my first two Swifts.
I had intended to arrive early and get one of the Grasshopper Warblers. As it is I didn't but it would not have mattered anyway as the one in front of the watch point decided to start reeling at Noon. Despite all our efforts we could not see it, though others had seen it on previous days.

Friday, 23 April 2010

Norton Green

My sisters partner Ed is down from Scotland-luckily the flight restrictions were lifted the morning he came down. As I had the day off, and as he was due to visit, I had a bit of time to go down to Norton Green and see if any migrants had come in.
As soon as I got out of the car, I heard my first Lesser Whitethroat calling from the hedge bordering the paddocks. Unfortunately it appeared to be on the sunny side and I did not see it. Shortly after, my first Whitethroat was found, singing deep in the base of a bramble. Seeing some of the regulars in the distance, I made my way over, bumping into a single male Wheatear on the way, the only one left of about five earlier this week.
Apparently it has turned a bit quiet again, with little moving, though while we were talking, a single Swallow went over, and the three remaining Fieldfare flew around.
As I was out of time, I left them to try and find a Garden Warbler in the woods while I returned home.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Weekend Update

With the winds from the north, it is very quiet, with little migration. Living under the eastern approach to Luton Airport, it is very quiet for different reasons. With all jets grounded, I have only seen a few light aircraft all weekend. Seeing a lovely blue sky without a hint of contrails is something of a novelty.
Yesterday morning, I joined Bill, Jim and William at Amwell. Very little was happening. I missed a few Swallows and Sand Martins that had gone through first thing, and apart from single Ringed and Little Ringed Plovers, that was it. We are overdue on things like Sandpipers, Common Terns and Cuckoo.
After a while we walked up to Tumbling Bay in the hope that a Ruddy Duck seen yesterday might still be around. It wasn't, though scope filling views of a singing Willow Warbler was nice. We then went down to the cottage by the Dragonfly Trail where I saw my first Orange Tips and Brimstones. A single Green Veined White was also seen.
Back at the view point, the only novelty was a pair of Egyptian Geese.
This morning I went for a walk along the river Beane at Aston End.

In the old plantation in Chells, I saw several Speckled Wood and heard several Chiffchaff and Blackcap. Down by the river, a strange noise turned into a tree full of Jays-eight were flying around. They flew off in twos and threes, but I encountered all of them again further up river.

The Blackthorn is in full bloom , and my first Small Tortoiseshell was taking advantage. The walk produced around seven Peacock and three Commas.

A lichen encrusted Elder was a distraction though getting sharp images with the 100mm Zeiss hand held was a bit difficult.

The usual Little Owl was sunning itself in the horse paddocks, and a single male Kestrel flew by. Further up towards Chells Manor, seven Buzzards were circling in the rather warm air.
Finally while cutting back through the plantation, a single Brimstone was flying with the Speckled Woods.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Ring Ouzel

Late yesterday I got news of a Ring Ouzel at Norton Green.
I called in before work this morning and had a quick search. An interesting 'Blackbird' in a distant hawthorn looked good but had gone by the time I got closer. There are now at least 30 Fieldfare though.
The Ouzel was reported at 1115, so I popped over at lunch time and met up with a local birder. He had seen it in the bushes along the eastern edge, and occasionally coming out to feed. Five minutes after I arrived, it flew out of a dense area of scrub and into a willow. We saw it move through the willow but then lost it, the reason being that it had dropped down to the ground where I located it shortly after. The views were excellent, much better than I have ever had here. Its a first summer male. The wings have a prominent silvery panel, the back is fairly well marked with pale scallops and the bill is a dull yellow.

Sunday, 11 April 2010


I called in at Norton Green this morning-a visit Friday lunchtime never got going, because as soon as I got out of the car I heard motorbikes. Always a problem here.
Today was quiet, a bit cloudy with a cool north easterly. No sign of any Wheatear. There is still a large flock of Fieldfare in the area-about twenty birds seen. There were also a number of Blackbirds, I looked carefully but none were Ring Ousels. As I left I flushed two Grey Partridge.
The rest of the morning was spent at the Lodge at RSPB Sandy. A female Two Barred Crossbill has been around for a couple of weeks now. The new heath has several stands of conifers, and it wasn't long before a large flock of Crossbills flew in. Unfortunately, once in the trees views were very hard, only a few birds could be seen at any time. Every now and again, one or two parties would fly out and others in (there are about seventy birds present) and some were seen in trees a long way off. I reckon that over the two hours or so, I must have encountered all the Crossbills, but the only one showing a wing bar was a first summer male bird.
Among the Crossbills, there were several Redpolls, Coal Tits and both Green and Goldfinches. Three Buzzards were soaring to the north, and a total of six Swallows flew through.
Had I not called in at Norton, I would have seen the Two Barred as it showed briefly to one birder about twenty minutes before I arrived.

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Saturday Birds and Butterflies

I called in at Tyttenhanger this morning and walked down from Willows Farm to the fishing lake.
The Black Necked Grebe was showing very well feeding along the waters edge. At times it was getting too close for my lens. Despite it's broken wing, it appeared to be feeding very well. The Oystercatchers were back on the puddle, along with a Redshank and a few Lapwing.

I made my way to Amwell, and arrived just before 11 am. It was very much a Leica convention as Jan had come back from the Netherlands with a new 65mm, and Colin was present with his new 82mm.
Not much happening from a birding point of view. The north easterly breeze and the fine sunny conditions not good for migrants. Apparently there is a Grasshopper Warbler here, though no-one seemed to know much about it.
There were a few butterflies about in the sun, a Green Veined White, several Peacocks and a Red Admiral. I had my new Zeiss 100mm macro with me, but none were gettable. I settled for a few images of the heronry with it's Little Egret and Cormorants. The resolution and image quality of the lens is absolutely fantastic.

Monday, 5 April 2010

Easter Monday

Decided to have a quiet morning in the Lea Valley with my camera. Shame the weather forecast was a bit wrong again-breezy and cloudy. At least it was warmer than yesterday.
I decided to start at Rye Meads, as I have not been there for a while now. Lots of early migrants singing-Blackcaps and Chiffchaff everywhere. Also good to hear Cetti's Warblers all over the place.
Nothing of note on the scrapes or lagoons-I had hoped for a few waders and maybe an early Common Tern. A pair of Jays foraging on the path were a bit unusual, but too far to get a good image.
I spent quite a while in the Kingfisher hide, which was rather crowded. A pair of nest building Stock Doves was some distraction. I heard two Kingfishers but there was no sign, until someone noticed an orange spot in the water under the trees.

Unfortunately all we saw of the bird was it's feet.
On the way back, I heard my first Sedge Warbler of the year, and a few parties of Swallow went over.
I decided to see what if anything had changed at Amwell. An Osprey had gone through early in the morning, and the Yellow Wagtail had been seen again. Only Bill Last was present, and he had not seen anything out of the ordinary. Flocks of Sand Martin and Swallow were pouring through, and there were even more Blackcap singing than yesterday.
A walk down to the river produced a singing Willow Warbler, but staking out a Blackcap was unsuccessful, all I could photograph were a Robin, and several clumps of Narcissi.

Sunday, 4 April 2010


Freezing this morning at the Amwell Watchpoint. Its supposed to be the best day of the Easter weekend, but is cold and cloudy.
Plenty of Sand Martin and Swallows moving through, and there are several singing Blackcap now. Rather unusually there are a lot of Pied Wagtails around, but I missed the Yellow that was seen earlier. Pair of Redshank, three Snipe and a few Lapwing are the only waders. Little Ringed and Ring Plover have been seen recently, but don't seem to be staying.
Still a few Teal and Goldeneye around.

Saturday, 3 April 2010

Tyttenhanger migrants

Just for a change, I paid a visit to Tyttenhanger this morning. Lots of overnight rain made it rather muddy, and it was a bit fresh as well.
Walking along the river, I heard my first Willow Warbler of the year, but did not get much else. At Willows Farm puddle, two Oystercatcher, and two Redshank were nice to see, but there was no sign of the plastic Ruddy Shelduck. The only wagtails were Pied.
Bumped into Ricky and Graham on my way through the wood where more Willows were singing along with Chiffchaff. They had a Blackcap, but it was silent for me.
Over the causeway, large flocks of hirundines fed, mainly Swallow, but also single Sand Martin and my first House Martin. On the causeway itself, a couple of Pied Wagtails fed along with a cracking male Yellow Wagtail.
Up at the farm, I found at least three Tree Sparrow-for some reason, I rarely see them here. Apparently numbers are up this year. More hirundines over the main pit, with another pair of Redshank, and at last a fly by Ruddy Shelduck! Wont be ticking it. The spit held a large number of Common Gulls as well as the expected Lesser Black Back and Black Headed. The Wheatear that has been present in the sheep field eluded me.

Friday, 2 April 2010

Lesser Kestrel reported again

The Lesser Kestrel was reported again today, a brief sighting to the north of the road early afternoon. According to talk on Bird Forum , it was apparently seen by a single, unknown observer.
Bird Guides are now saying that there have been no confirmed reports since Wednesday (all south of the quarry close to Scotshall covert), so it's doubtful that it is still around.

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Lesser Kestrel Dip

Sunday afternoon, a Lesser Kestrel was found just outside Minsemere. Some of the Amwell guys were just up the road and got fantastic views of it on some wires before it flew off onto Westleton Heath where it remained. Views have been very distant to put it mildly, but despite the generally poor weather it has showed fairly reliably.
I decided not to wait until the Easter break and went this morning. The weather when I arrived just before nine was a lot different to what it had been, sunny but with a strong westerly wind. The small but growing crowd was a bit despondent as the bird had not been seen- a Great Grey Shrike first thing not exactly making up for it.
First decent bird I saw was a Woodlark-one of several flying around which gave very nice scope views when on the deck. A few Dartford Warblers flitting around was nice to see too. A few distant Kestrel specks were all we had of birds of prey for a while, apart from the usual Minsmere Marsh Harriers, but at about ten, a male Hen Harrier was seen distantly to the south. Plenty of Sparrowhawks and sightings of Kestrel then ensued.
One Kestrel which flew out of the woods towards us looked promising at first, but unfortunately turned out to be a Common, as did another at 1115 which many were convinced was a Lesser despite a huge moustachial stripe and barred underwings (which many said were gleaming white!). A lot of desperate birders here today. These birds spent much of the time hunting north of us whereas the Lesser has always been close to the trees to the south.
One or two Red Kites were nice to see, but the best bird was a huge female Goshawk which showed very well.
The wind gradually picked up during the day, and despite the sunshine it got colder, and with the windchill, I was only able to last until one.
Only lifer (of sorts) was Paul Heiney the TV presenter from Countryfile who I passed as I was heading to the car.