Sunday, 27 January 2013

Two Shrikes

The snow has gone-yesterday the warmer air arrived and overnight rain meant that it almost all melted.
I went up to Therfield this morning, as Ray Hooper had reported two Great Grey Shrikes, and there was the usual assortment of owls and raptors.
I parked in Briary Lane and walked up the track. There was still a little bit of ice and snow in some of the more sheltered spots but generally it was very wet and muddy. Getting to the top of the track I bumped into a couple from Norfolk and they pointed out one of the shrikes at the bottom of the field sheltering from the wind tucked into the bottom of a hedge. They mentioned that they had found the bird earlier while some more were watching another bird over towards Duckpudlle Bush Farm.
I made my way down Icknield Way encountering a large flock of Linnets numbering maybe 100 as well as numerous Skylarks, and smaller numbers of Yellowhammers and a couple of Corn Buntings. Hares could be seen in most of the fields as well.
Down in the small stand of trees, I saw the second Shrike briefly but it had disappeared by the time other birders had arrived. Carefully checking the bushes, trees and hedges failed to produce anything else of note but on returning to the junction with the eastern path two Kestrels and two or more Buzzards appeared.

Friday, 25 January 2013

Caspian Gull

Have not been able to get out and about for a bit-frusrating as a 1w Caspian Gull has been roosting at Amwell for over a week. Decided to try and get down this afternoon.
Arrived to find the access track a sheet of ice-one elderly walker had got to the level crossing but decided to turn back. Took it gingerly and got to the watchpoint at around 1430. A couple of others were present but there was nothing much of note when I got there. The main lake was almost completely iced over with only about 10% open. Small flocks of gulls were on the ice, and there was still a large number of ducks in the water.
Around 1500, a flock of orange crowned ducks circled the island before dropping in. Expecting Wigeon, the lack of white in the wing was confusing and it was some time before the penny dropped and I realised that there were eight Mandarin coming in!

 Not long after, a drake Goosander flew south, but we then had a very long wait with not much happening. Gull numbers increased,with small flocks arriving now and again and a few guys left, but a couple more arrived, including Ron Cousins and Graham White. I was intending to leave around 1600, and with it becoming even colder, I was getting prepared to leave when Graham suggested he had the Caspian in his scope. It was the most distant gull on the lake, and initially I wasn't sure, since it was facing away, but once the long legs and head structure could be seen it was clearly the bird. Don't know how it snuck in as we were only looking at the large numbers of Goldeneye there a few minutes before.

 Its the one on the right.
Small birds were naturally scarce, but a single Cetti's was heard, there were a few Reed Buntings and Dunnocks, and a few thrushes including a nice Fieldfare.

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Cold and Snow

More snow this weekend, and still cold. Woke up with a really bad headache, and a stomach bug, so stayed in apart fro a quick walk to the local newsagent. A Great Tit was calling, as was a Dunnock, there were also three sorry looking House Sparrows in a hedge, a couple of Starlings and the usual pigeons and gulls overhead.
 A Dunnock or two has appeared in the garden again, and there was a brief Goldcrest in the birch which flew off. Apart from them, it was business as usual.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Summer Flowers for a Cold Day

Had to take a day off today. Very cold after a bitter night. At noon, even with the sun shining the car thermometer was reading -3 degrees.
Despite the cold snap, few birds visiting the garden apart from the regulars. There does not appear to be any cold weather movements locally, at least not that I have noticed.
I did get a Dunnock in the garden today, which as mentioned has become a bit of a scarce visitor at the moment. We think there are only two House Sparrows as well, so my local colony that has been present as long as I can remember may have finally gone. I hope not

Spent a bit of time playing with a few images. Here are a couple from the Chilterns last July.

Sunday, 13 January 2013


Looked to be a fairly good though cold morning. No sign of the forecast sleet and snow. Decided to go down to Bramfield for a bit.
Met up with a couple of familiar faces, to be told I had just missed a couple of Hawfinches. Stood around for a bit, being entertained by a Nuthatch in the old vicarage garden. Turned round to scan the church yard trees to see a big chunky female Hawfinch high in the tree top. Did not stay long, but flew round and a bit closer before flying into the garden.
Not long after, and with another couple of familiar faces arriving, I was just about to go when we decided to look at the GreenFinches in the treetops. Two more Hawfinch had snuck in while we weren't looking and flew out behind them. Apparently there are up to eight still, though these three (presumed different) are the most I've seen here.
Carried on and called in at Amwell for about half an hour. Nothing major on offer-the female Pintail had gone and the Lesser Spot had not been seen for nearly a week. It was getting colder, and after having a chat with Bill and Tony Hukin I decided to return home.

Saturday, 12 January 2013

110th for the year

Cold and gloomy, and getting colder. Decided not to go out today-Colin's indisposed and there is nothing major to go for. We were intending to go to Portland as there is enough to make a reasonable day but will go down when the weather improves.

Got my 110th year tick today in the garden-House Sparrow! Not unusual to miss them on a big New Year trip, but there seem to be very few in the area at the moment. The big post breeding flocks of 25+ last year have gone and there are probably no more than two or three which rarely seem to visit the feeders now.
The other good bird today was a Goldcrest flitting in and out of the ivy. Like a lot of species probably a regular visitor but you have to be watching the right spot at the right time to see them.
By far the commonest visitor is Goldfinch with up to  eight visiting at any one time. There are three Blackbirds, two Robins and three or four Blue Tits. Wood Pigeon numbers vary, usually a pair but sometimes up to five, and the resident  Collared Dove pair are always around. Starting to get a Magpie from time to time, but although I have heard them, there is still no sign of the Dunnocks which were always in the garden until recently.

Monday, 7 January 2013


With nothing much to go for over the weekend we decided that a trip to Norfolk would be worthwhile to kick the year off.
We set off in dull and gloomy conditions with a lot of mist on the way up the A10. It was not until we were well past Ely before the sun started to break through. A detour around the Wolferton Triangle for Golden Pheasant was pointless judging by the number of birders cars encountered so we carried on up to the coast.
Did the usual thing and drove through Ringstead and on the Chosely stopping off at various points. Large numbers of red Legged Partridges were found, and the Pink Footed Geese were very noisy with skeins flying west almost continuously. Apart from a few YellowHammer and Corn Buntings, Chosely Barns were fairly quiet.
Titchwell was not all that busy when we arrived. Nice to see a few Brambling on the feeders.

The Fen Trail did not deliver Woodcock as in previous January visits but the screens overlooking the new pool provided the resident female red Crested Pochard.

 The Fresh Marsh was covered in Golden Plover and Lapwing, though with some scanning a few other waders could be picked out including about twenty Avocet. We were directed to a Hen Harrier perched on a small bush over on Thornham Point. It was so far away that it was not easy to be sure that it was actually a Harrier. Much easier was the Chinese Water Deer.

 The sea was pretty dead at first. There were two small flocks of Goldeneye and a few Eider, but there were a lot of Great Crested Grebes. A walk up to Thornham Point provided a nice sized flock of Twite, with a few Linnet and Goldfinches. There were a lot more waders out here, and the sea was much more interesting. Found at least ten Red Throated Divers, a single Black Throated, a few Guillemot and Razorbill close in on the sea and a few flocks of sea duck flying through. Unfortunately, by about noon, the sea mist came in and we lost everything. This did enable us to get a bit closer to the Twite and I got a few decent images.

 With the coast largely covered in fog we headed inland with the intention of driving around Welney but the mist had evidently not really lifted since we had come up so we carried on home with a quick detour to Fowlmere where the flock of twenty Waxwings were located in a roadside tree.

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Amwell Gulls

Back down to Amwell again this morning. Hoped to pick up the recent Med Gull and the Woodpecker.
Left a bit earlier than usual, it was very dull and drizzly although reasonably mild.
Parked the car and encountered the usual Goldcrests in the ivy hedge. Met up with Tony and Tony Hukin who had just come from the Bramfield Hawfinches. Had a scan and the usual chat-not much to see although there were large numbers of gulls present. Shortly after Bill arrived we picked up the Med Gull fairly close to the watchpoint and often obscured by the reeds.

 We all went up to Tumbling Bay meeting up with Jay in the process. Some heard a Chiffchaff in the Hollycross track and Jay said he had seen the Lesser Spotted around an hour earlier. We staked the wood out for a long time but with no success. Hopefully the colder brighter conditions next week will be more suitable.
Jay had gone back to the watchpoint and along with Phil had picked up a 3w Yellow Legged Gull. Got some pretty good views of it-the Med Gull was still present but must have flown soon after as we eventually lost it.

 The Bittern also put in an appearance on the far side. Watched it fish for a long time before it walked out across the reed bed cut out.

 Called in at Bramfiled on the way back. No sign of any Hawfinch since Tony's early visit. We did have a few flocks of Golden Plover over, plus singing Nuthatches.

Friday, 4 January 2013

Red Admiral

Came home at lunch time to be told that a Red Admiral had been sunning itself in the garden about an hour earlier.

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Here we go again

New Years Day and the start of another birding year. Woke up to the melodious sounds of the local Carrion Crows, then during breakfast the local Goldfinches and Blackbirds came down to feed.
No attempt at a big start to the year so headed off to Amwell, parking just behind Royston Dave as he unloaded. Seems like every other birder was around, with a lot I have never seen before.
We had a few Goldcrests along the approach track and joined Bill and Phil at the watchpoint. Usual assortment of birds, though with it being a still sunny day there were more smaller birds around. Not long after Bill and Phil left all the birds went up, I assumed raptor and started scanning the sky when someone shouted Bittern-one had flown up from the sluice, over the hide and down in the northern reeds. I was too slow with the camera-it was beautifully lit.
Dave and i eventually headed up to Tumbling bay, via the Siskins in the woods. We were diverted by Julie who had found a Bullfinch though it never showed for us, but we had nice views of a few things like a Redwing in the bushes. Met up with Tony and Brian and carried on up.
The Scaup was easy to locate, in the usual spot but there was no sign of the Smew though a few claimed to have seen it further up. Joined again by Phil Bill and Mike we carried on up, bumping into Jay who had done a complete circuit of Tumbling Bay with no sign of any Smew. A search failed to find it However on the way back we stopped off at the view point and another scan located the redhead. Must have been tucked up under the trees. Four Red Kites overhead was a nice sight.
By midday the watchpoint was packed and there was not much else to see so we stood around chatting. Nice to see William again, as well as one or two others i had not seen for a while.