Sunday, September 17, 2017

White-winged Tern

This beauty is my bird of the year so far.  It was an absolute cracker and a real joy to watch as it fed on the far end of Willow Farm Lake this morning.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Minsmere RSPB

So today, Craig and I headed up to Minsmere.  We had a relatively late start as working in the Consultancy industry requires us to indulge in a few after work beverages - particularly appealing when they are free.

The drive up was pretty tardy too eventually arriving at midday.  This is when the fun started.  The first winter Citrine Wagtail had been reported late morning, so we headed straight to a packed North Hide, scopes pointing out onto an expanse of marshiness.  There were plenty of Wagtails of all ages, and sadly, and we were getting sucked into claiming the rare Wagtail. The majority of us were unconvinced of its presence, but the news went out.  We scampered from one hide to the next as more reports were submitted - and we checked more Wagtails.  If it was still present, we didn't connect with it.  And so, we left unconvinced that the reports were genuine, but maybe a lucky few did manage to see it.

Bird of the day however went to the Red-necked Phalarope, only my 2nd ever, and such a lovely wader, characterised by its ceaseless frenzied feeding habits, looking almost mechanical and maniacal as if it put through a time-lapsed production.  It remained into the early part of the evening favouring the west side of the East Scrape.

A close second was the Eurasian Bittern that flew low over South Hide while we cowered from the rain watching waders out on the scrape.  For such a secretive bird, this was a real treat.  It even looked graceful in flight before inelegantly plonking itself down in the reeds.

What could have been a highlight was an Otter that swam from one of the islands into the reeds.  However, this was only evidenced by the wake with the mammal neatly submerged underwater.

There were plenty of waders around, two Spotted Redshank, two Green Sandpiper, Bar-tailed Godwit, a few Ruff, a dozen Common Snipe, Dunlin, and plenty of Black-tailed Godwit and Avocet.

A Water Rail was seen lurking toward the back of the East Scrape, and a strange sight of a Mandarin roosted on one of the islands.  A young male Marsh Harrier flew through.

Two 1st year Mediterranean Gull flew over the beach, where a scruffy Stonechat sat high on the gorse.  Late in the evening, Hobby was seen hunting low over the reeds.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

A cool find in Cornwall

An eventful weekend.  The plan was to head to Scilly for the day.  Silly indeed.  A spontaneous trip planned for an early departure from Newquay with, by association, an even earlier start from London.  The drive was quick, I mean, four hours to Newquay Airport.  That's the catch with drives to Cornwall.  Do them at night when everyone is in the pub or in bed.

I was knackered already, waiting to board the flight.  But the announcement came.  Flight cancelled.  Aircraft had gone 'tech' (as they call it the industry).

Full refund received and off I went.  Back in the car and no plan.  One thing was certain.  I had a hotel room booked in Newquay.

So obviously I headed down to Porthgwarra.  Made sense as it was only an hour and twenty minutes away.  Cornwall tapers, and my goodness it tapers with mileage.

It was breezy, the sun came and went.  As did the rain.  Horizontal at times.

But it was sunny when I arrived and that made me happy.  A few flowers were still in bloom, smiling at the sunshine.  Small Copper were busy.  Flirting recklessly with the flora.

There were Red Admiral, Peacock, and Small Tortoiseshell too.

I went to watch the sea,  Well not the sea per se, but seabirds flying over the sea.  And just about.  Barely skimming the tumult, waves bowing down to the cliffs that stood imperious before them.

Gannet poured through, some in singles, and often seen in groups.  Feeding parties.  Neatly folded arrows piercing the sea at speed.  The sight.  The spectacle.  Astounding.  The sun continued to shine.  Parties of Manx Shearwater flowed through, the gate lifted to the open seas.  Hundreds of them.  There were Kittiwake, Guillemot, and Shag too.  Nothing rarer.  I worked hard for it for a few hours.

I ate some cake, and drank some tea.  I had a sleep.  Then a second visit up to the cliffs.  A wader battled the wind as it flew past me.  Bins were up.  Mind working overtime.  Think!  It looks like a Buff-breasted Sandpiper - an immediate thought.  The bird burned into a brilliant background.  But where did land?  As so within moments, it was picked up again.  A rare bird and wholly unexpected.

Back to the hotel.  Eat, beer, shower, sleep.

The next day, far less eventful.  But it rained, and the wind blew with rage.  I got a full english all day soaking.  Soaking number one, seawatching at Trevose Point, with more Manxies and Gannet, a couple of Sandwich Tern and Kittiwake.  There were waders here too.  Fifteen Bar-tailed Godwit, with a Ruff in tow, Oystercatcher, Curlew, and Turnstone.

Soaking number two.  A drive to sodden Chipping Sodbury for a soddin Shrike that I got drowned for.  This soaking was epic.  But the juvenile Woodchat Shrike showed after the storm, and so did a tidy male Common Redstart.  At least three hardy Whinchat were present, and a Common Whitethroat probably wished it had left early..

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Rainham Marshes

A really successful day at Rainham notably due to my first ever London Osprey, that has been a pig to catch up with and evidently not enough time spent staring up into the sky at the appropriate moments.

Also on site were three Hobby demonstrating their aerial proficiency, masters of agility and speed, adults passing on knowledge and skill to the youngsters.  Just great to watch.

On Aveley Bay, 30 Black-tailed Godwit were present on the shoreline as were three Avocet and a single Curlew.  Two Spotted Redshank were present on the Target Pools.

A juvenile Willow Warbler was seen in the Woodland zone, this Wasp Spider stood out in the Cordite, a Grey Seal was seen on the Thames, and five Migrant Hawker zipped around the reeds by Aveley Pools.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Oare Marshes

Oare Marshes again.  Can't keep away from the place.  It was once again ripe with waders.  Pride of place went to my second Long-billed Dowitcher that was seen while roosting within the large group of waders.  A juvenile Curlew Sandpiper flew into the foreground and scampered around a small island.  Smart little birds.

Wader numbers had really built up now with crude estimates of 500+ Golden Plover, 300+ Black-tailed Godwit, and 80+ Dunlin, were present along with 15 Ruff, 30+ Ringed Plover, a single Greenshank, and a juvenile Little Ringed Plover.

In addition, five Yellow Wagtail flew over and the regular Bearded Tit were active in the reeds.

On the swale, terns were on the move with the hightlight of two Black Tern accompanied by six Sandwich Tern, and a dozen Common Tern.  Around 15 Swallow looked as they would be around for a little while longer.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Hackney Downs

A quick note of four Common Swift flying low over Hackney Downs park on a beautiful warm summers evening.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Hen Harrier Day - Rainham Marshes

An inspiring Hen Harrier day in the presence of some fine guest speakers involved in the fight for the protection of our precious countryside and of a truly majestic bird that should have it's place in the English moorlands.

The three speaker spoke passionately about the campaign against wildlife crime, and in particular, the shameless persecution of protected birds of prey for, well in essence for financial gain.  The event was well attended, the message was clearly, confidently, and passionately articulated.  The rain held off (until after the event), and we dissipated into the fertile setting of the finest nature reserve in London, in the knowledge that the good fight is still being fought with fervour and intensity.

Much respect goes out to the team at BAWC, to Chris, and those behind the scenes that stand up against the driven grouse shooting fraternity that fail to understand the delicate balance between recreation and sustainability.  This is not a one way street, and so ordinary folk who crave to see the three hundred pairs of Hen Harrier breed successfully on our uplands will continue to fight, support, and lobby until that day finally arrives.

I spent the whole day on site, soaking up the atmosphere that felt inclusive and buoyant.  There was plenty of wildlife around too.   

Four Hobby were seen dashing around the darkening skyline, where a Marsh Harrier quartered Wennington.  Two Green Sandpiper tip-toed around a small pool on Purfleet and 12 Black-tailed Godwit were present on Aveley Pools with a Common Snipe and two Avocet.

Plenty of young Bearded Tit were in evidence by the Dragonfly pools and a Peregrine was seen perched authoritatively on one of the pylons.

Other wildlife included a Marsh Frog, and a stunning Wasp Spider.