Sunday, January 7, 2018

Sheppey and Dungeness

This wasn't a pleasant day to be out searching for wildlife.  It was blowing a gale, which made an early morning start across to Sheppey a little frustrating.

Standing by the raptor watchpoint at Capel Fleet was manageable for perhaps a couple minutes before the relentless wind rendered me insane before heading back to the comfort of the car.  The best way to view was from the car, driving slowly up and down Harty Road.  Raptors seemed to be in short supply, only a few Marsh Harrier were brave enough to battle the elements.

A single Brambling was seen associating with a flock of Chaffinch, and a group of White-fronted Goose were feeding across the fleet.

Not to be defeated, I then headed down to Dungeness which proved to be a little more fruitful.  The site produced a redhead Smew seen on Arc Pit along with a single Great Egret, a drake Smew on Burrowes Pit, five Goosander (including one drake) with the most bizarre sighting of a female Ruddy Duck (the first I had seen in a few years), and flocks of Tree Sparrow by Boulderwell Farm.

The wind was ferocious down on the beach of the NNR that made the search for Gulls a bit too adventurous.

Monday, January 1, 2018


So the new year was spent idly loafing around a couple of sites on the North Norfolk coast to kick-off the year list.  Titchwell is always productive and the wader species count sped into double figures with Bar-tailed Godwit, Sanderling, Golden Plover, and Avocet amongst a selection of common waders.

The highlights were to be found on the sea, with a small group of Long-tailed Duck bobbing on the modest swells, a single Slavonian Grebe coursing through the currents, a serene Great Northern Diver, and small groups of Red-breasted Merganser, Common Scoter, and Goldeneye.

Heading up to Holkham Gap, the crowds were out in force, and with the torrential rain of recent days, it made parking a little tricky.

Once on the beach, the walk was pleasant, and around a ten minute walk took us up to an area of shingle where eight really smart Shore Lark were feeding voraciously away from any disturbance.

Thornham failed to produce the resident Twite but the views from there across the wash were stunning.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Frampton Marsh RSPB

This was my first visit to Frampton Marsh in Lincolnshire.  I'd heard positive things about it so I knew it was going to be good.  It was great!  A sweeping manageable reserve with defined paths that lead up to the saltmarsh, open fields, and a massive sky, all made for an environment that was teaming with birds.

The undoubted highlight was the majestic male Hen Harrier that moved low along the marsh as viewed from the ridge that spreads out onto The Wash.  It exuded pure class as it made slow but purposeful progress to the south.

The fields were a chorus of yapping Dark-bellied Brent GooseWigeon, and Teal.  The pools held a few smart drake Pintail.

Merlin was zipping around causing havoc amongst the birds congregated on the flood.


The skies were alive with birds.  Clouds of Golden Plover and Lapwing, a good selection of waders that included four wintering Spotted Redshank, and small groups of Ruff and Black-tailed Godwit.

A great way to end the year.

Golden Plover

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Santon Warren - Parrot Crossbill

This is the Brecks and it's a great place for a birding day, well half-a-day as it happened.

This Common Buzzard was spending a lazy Sunday morning around the woodland at Santon Warren.

It took a while to pin down the Parrot Crossbill but around a dozen were showing high up in the conifers north-west of the railway crossing.  They looked conspicuously bull-necked, and that bill could cause some serious damage.  There were a few Common Crossbill here too.

The woodland also held Siskin, and Redwing while a Kingfisher dashed along the river.

Moving onto Lynford Arboretum, the place was alive with birds.  Best were three Hawfinch seen high up in the canopy in the gardens of Lynford Hall.  The trees along the river were particularly fruitful, titmice and finches were gorging on the alders with Siskin plentiful, and a few Lesser Redpoll.  A Kingfisher was seen here too.

It was great standing by the feeders, watching five species of Titmice voraciously snaffle up the seeds that had been stocked up.  The Marsh Tit here were great to see.

In addition, Nuthatch and Treecreeper were present, species I hardly see often these days, and large groups of Redwing were feeding in the gardens of Lynford Hall.

Saturday, November 11, 2017


Tenerife is a spectacular place.  Avoid the southern sprawl, string vests, and soggy chips, and head for the hills.  For the hills hold beauty that a package holiday urchin can only begin to dream of while staring benignly into the spittle of an empty pint glass.  Jump on a plane, head south for four hours, and take it all in.

El Teide National park, the open road stretches out into the distance, squeezed in by the volcanic backdrop of monoliths and hardened rocky screes, that were once molten, but now remain frozen in time.  The deep blue added to the beauty of the place.

This is Poris de Abona, a quiet fishing village located just 30 minutes north along the TF-1 from Tenerife-South airport.  This is where we spent five nights, and it was a charming place, overlooking the eastern seas and free from artificial light that illuminated the night-sky.

The island has some interesting birds, hardly overwhelmed by variety or large numbers, but interesting nonetheless.  At Las Lajas, African Blue Tit and Atlantic Canary were easy to find, as were the Blue Chaffinch that shuffled around the picnic tables and the pines above.  The scrub also held the teneriffae form of the Goldcrest looking somewhat different with their conspicuous pale lores and eye-ring.  A couple of local Great Spotted Woodpecker flew through the woodland.

The birds were easy to see here, it can get busy at weekends but just wander round and you can easily find quieter areas away from the crowds.

Berthelot's Pipit were relatively common.  This one was taken from the balcony of the apartment.  From here over breakfast, I would watch small groups of Cory's Shearwater drift past as the sun rose in the distance.

The views were fantastic.

Then there were the Pigeons.  Those bloody Pigeons!  Well one was relatively easy to find at the La Gomera pull-in, that felt a bit weird, staring up a cliff-edge by a busy main road waiting for a White-tailed Laurel Pigeon to emerge from an uninspiring backdrop of broken ledges and fragmented trees.  Emerge it did, sitting on top of an old dead tree, scoped to perfection.  It soon disappeared, then so did we.

Bolle's Pigeon however, proved more challenging.  We remained faithful to Erjos.  Despite a lot of the Laurel forest having been burnt away, we trekked the paths close to the (dried-up) pools but it didn't feel right here.  We spent a couple of hours in the warm unrelenting sun.  It was November, but the rays were surprisingly piercing.

Without any luck here, we turned our attention to the wooded area a little further down the road.  By the time we had left the site, a total of four had been seen.  It was a relief, but it was also a Pigeon.

It was fun driving up and down the island, taking on the twisty roads that rose up into the coolness of the mountains.  The beaches at La Tajita and Playa de las Teresitas were beautiful, not to mention the warm hug of the winter sun.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Hackney Downs Park

Another productive hour or so over the park with a Redpoll immediately over heading west which was then followed by a steady westerly stream of migrants that included; 320 Woodpigeon, 35 Chaffinch, 14 Redwing, 11 Fieldfare, a single Greenfinch, and a single Meadow Pipit.  The morning was topped by another calling Brambling that cruelly evaded my sight.

Resident birds included a Great Spotted Woodpecker, a Goldcrest, and a count of 57 mobile Common Gull within the grassy areas.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Pitsford Reservoir

I had no regrets heading up to Pitsford Reservoir when news broke that the Cory's Shearwater had been sighted mid-morning.  The traffic was kind to me, always a bit of a risk when attempting to make use of three of our busy motorways.

The Cory's was not seen again after the initial sighting, which then made for a relaxing few hours at this top inland site.

It was teeming with wildfowl, best of which were four Greater Scaup of which one was a drake, but all of which were enjoying a late morning snooze.  Four Red-Crested Pochard were also present (three drakes), amongst the large groups of duck that included Wigeon, Shoveler, and Teal.  Decent numbers of Lapwing were present on the islands and shoreline.  A single Little Grebe was present off-shore.

It was great to see my first Goldeneye of the season, at least a dozen here that included at least three drakes.

A couple of Common Buzzard soared over being typically mobbed by the resident corvids, as did a Red Kite which looked altogether more serene.

Another surprise were the presence of three Great Egret spread out across the length of the north arm of the reservoir.