Sunday, 27 November 2011

Ups and Downs

Having decided last weekend to go for  the Sharp Tailed sandpiper as it would not stick around (still there today) rather than the Greater Yellowlegs we obviously had to try for the latter this weekend.
It had been reported at Cresswell Pond every day, though often going missing for some time, but it did seem reliable there, so having accumulated enough time to have  Friday off we headed up there, arriving around 0930  after a pretty quick and unhindered journey, considering we were in the Newcastle Durham area at rush hour.
 News from the hide was that it had been seen at first light before walking into the reeds (as on previous mornings) and based on previous observations would be back late morning. Well we stayed until 1515 and there was no sign. I suspect the high winds and squally rain may have played a part, but waders were coming and going all the time, and often staying well out in the open. I assumed it may have slipped out of the reeds un-noticed and flew to another location. Only decent birds we saw were a flock of Pale bellied Brent Geese-rather hard to find in the south among the Dark bellied we usually see.
 Saturday I had hoped to visit Tyttenhanger for the White Fronted Geese and then maybe Tring for the Brent and Bewicks Unfortunately the journey took it's toll and I did not really feel up to going out. News that Ricky and the boys had picked up a Bean Goose at Tyttenhanger was a bit gutting as was the late report of Greater Yellowlegs at Cresswell Pond again and later on at Hauxley.
 Still feeling a bit crap today, but I decide to go to Tyttenhanger. Arrived around 0930 and a quick scan into the Sun from the river bridge south of the main fishing car park produced a small flock of geese moving into the sallows. Two undoubted White Fronts among several Greylags and a darker goose almost obscured. Moved up to the hide for a better look and better light, with one other birder there. He had seen the Bean on the mud earlier. The Greylags and White fronts were still showing in among the sallows and other vegetation, but it seemed like the Bean was still hiding.
 I  moved up to the farm and spent some time watching the feeders. Lots of tits flying down, but the Tree Sparrows were much more elusive, calling from deep in the hedge and not really coming out. Had a long scan from the cliff top for the geese and suddenly they all flew out onto the water. Moved over to an open area, joining four other birders and we all got very good views of the Tundra Bean Goose swimming around and resting on the sand bar with both adult and juvenile White Fronts and the Greylags. I also picked up the over wintering Green Sandpiper before heading home.
 So one major dip, and two county ticks.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Sharp Tailed Sandpiper

Everything was set and we were ready to go to Northumberland for the Greater Yellowlegs, so what were we doing at Chew Valley south of Bristol?
A report late on Thursday of a juvenile Sharp Tailed Sandpiper at Blagdon Lakes made me change the plans at the last minute. There have been a few Sharp Tails in the last couple of decades, but I have not been able to get to any, and this was the first juvenile since 1974. Also, there is a suspicion that the Yellowlegs may over winter so we headed off to Bristol yesterday.
Bad news from Blagdon as we were approaching Bristol-no sign by 0800am, so we diverted to Herriot's Bridge at Chew as there were at least some good birds there. Five minutes before we got there the pager said the Sharp Tailed was at Herriot's Bridge!
Leapt out of the car to be told it was lost from view behind a reed bed, at a distance of a couple of hundred yards, so we set up and waited. We were virtually the first to arrive, but soon the lay byes filled up. Did not take long to locate the two Long Billed Dowitchers feeding at the water's edge, among large numbers of Lapwing and Teal. Two Bewick's Swans were nice.
 A small flock of Dunlin appeared far to the right, almost hidden by reeds and I noticed a slightly larger, darker reddish bird, but could not get much on it. However those with better views  were able to confirm it as the Sharp Tailed. Eventually it came out and sat in among the tree stumps with the Dunlin. Lighting was terrible but we were able to see all the diagnostic features. Unfortunately the birds were flighty and were soon off. The Sandpiper stood out in the flying Dunlin flock by virtue of it's larger size and darker plumage. A much smaller bird was also seen-a Little Stint.
 The birds repeated this routine over the next couple of hours and eventually we got clear views in better light. The Dowitchers also appeared in the same area though I never got to see all three together.
 In between watching the Sandpiper I went over to the south side where I managed to get fair views of the Spotted Sandpiper on the causeway and in flight.
 Other decent birds included Peregrine, Goosander, Red Breasted Merganser, calling Water Rail and Cetti's Warblers.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Padding the year list fails.

 We intended to do Norfolk on Sunday, by way of a few birds on the way. However the news of a Greater Yellowlegs all the way up in Northumbria was a bit of a problem. The fact that it had been seen a few times in the morning  and then disappeared until late afternoon suggested that it may be too flighty and unlikely to be reliable (rather like the recent Cornish bird). In the event it remained in front of the hides at Hauxley all day and we never got to Norfolk.
 A few miles up the road from me just outside Biggleswade a small party of White Fronted Geese could be seen from the road, so we made them our first target. I have been geese hunting around here and nearby Shuttleworth before and found it a difficult exercise, but these were as reported, easily visible from the narrow lane. Parking was a bit awkward, and the light morning mist did not help.

 The other side of Biggleswade, on a new housing estate the female Black Redstart   was not seen despite a circuit of the estate. However, on getting back to the car I noticed a small reddish bird pop up briefly on the nearby school roof. Frustratingly a Starling then appeared in the same location, appearing somewhat orange due to the low Sun, and then flew off with another three birds. Luckily the small bird reappeared, dropped down and out of view. Approaching the school fence I noticed the now obvious Black Redstart on the fence where it gave satisfactory views before flying into the housing estate. We followed and got a number of good images. A number of other birds were seen in the area, a few flyover Yellowhammers and Skylarks, a Pied Wagtail family and a very short tailed Lark could only have been a Woodlark.

 We then went to the RSPB Lodge at Sandy in the hope that the unusually late staying Osprey would put in an appearance. In the event it did not but the autumnal scenes and the fungi were wonderful. Will be putting more images up on my Zeiss page.

 Apart from Siskins flying around, a few Woodpeckers and assorted finches the only birds of interest were Ravens-two juveniles and an adult bird were seen frequently near the visitors centre.
 Our next target was an inland Slavonian Grebe on Orton brick pits south of Peterborough. We may have had duff gen and the pit we tried to find could not be found-a new housing estate had been built on the approach road and we spent around fifteen minutes driving around what could only be described as the most depressing and god forsaken development I have seen for a long time.
 We gave up and headed for Guyhirn on the Nene washes. For some time now eight Cranes had been present on the cattle fields south of the A47. Unfortunately the farmer was driving a tractor around the fields when we arrived and the cranes had obviously gone so we went to Eldernell just in case they had ended up there.
 I recognised two of the birders as locals that we had met several times before in the area and they had checked most of the sites between here and Guyhirn with no success. We spent some time chatting while large flocks of Lapwings and corvids entertained us but there were no owls, swans or geese on view. They did give us a better location for the Orton grebe so we called in there on the way back. This pit was at least accessible but full of motorbikes and theer was of course no sign of a Slavonian Grebe. To make matters worse we left at 3.30 pm and later on a pager message said 8 Cranes Eldernell at 3.20.  
 So we got a couple of year ticks, three dead certs could not be found and a lifer was on view all day 250 miles away. Still it was a nice day.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Dull day pays off

Woke up to another dull dreary autumn day. Been promised bright sunshine for last couple of days and have yet to see any. Did not know what to do but eventually decided to go down to Amwell and while away a few hours.
Bill Simon and Tony were the only ones present and there did not seem to be much happening as usual. The board had three Goldeneye and I was told that a first winter Mediterranean Gull had been seen briefly in recent days. Simon went down to the hide and checked the gulls out before leaving, but did not find anything special.
Jay and Phil eventually arrived so with nothing better to do we also went to the hide in the hope the Med might appear. We found several colour ringed birds- Lesser Black Backs TL3T white on orange, DHAC white on blue and a Herring KDHT white on orange, some of which are from France but I hope to find out more later. A white headed Herring looked good for Yellow Legged, but it was light mantled-paler than some of the Herrings, so Bill and Phil dismissed it, particularly when they though they glimpsed pink legs. After about half an hour  it made its way to the logs got out and revealed its bright yellow legs! 
With time getting on we made our way back to the watchpoint and I was intending to depart when Phil noticed three Goosander -two males fly down from the north and carried on towards Stanstead Abbots. 
My first Goosander of the year (I have not been trying too hard) and my first Herts Yellow Legged of the year.