Tuesday, September 30, 2014

It's still there!

Great to see the Nightjar still present on it's favoured perch.  A great crowd present this evening, and it was a pleasure meeting new people and hanging out with the locals too.  The bird rested typically until sunset when it became much more active, firstly preening, then stretching its wings before shuffling forward where it then perched at the end of the branch waiting for air traffic clearance.

Finally it lifted of at 7.14pm where it dashed through the murk only to be seen again five minutes later back on its perch.  It then disappeared, and despite a brief aerial search, it wasn't seen again.

Let's see whether it returns tomorrow.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Local Nightjar

What a splendid day.  I got a message from my good friend Graham Howie of a Nightjar at Middlesex Filter Beds.  Nightjar + Local Patch + 28th September = extraordinary.

Not only that but the manner in which the bird was found also merits a mention.  Local jogging birder Alistair Dent breezed past the tree-lined boundary at the southern end of the filter beds and noticed a bird sitting along the horizontal branch of an elder tree.  Quite a spot - undoubtedly at speed!

So the birders gathered that fuelled interest of passers by who all enjoyed great views of this wonderful bird.  Hopefully many would have experienced something new, wildlife is inclusive and should be enjoyed by all.  I enjoyed the conviviality immensely, birders and general public alike with many great conversations had.  Please can we leave a Nightjar permanently on site.

Also noted there were two vocal Goldcrest and a Chiffchaff.  A Great Spotted Woodpecker flew over.

Later at the Waterworks, a Common Buzzard flew low over and a Blackcap fed on berries and three Meadow Pipit flew over.

But the day will be remembered for the first Lea Valley Nightjar - a great find, and a great day.

Swaying Nightjar

Friday, September 26, 2014

Shrike while the irons....

This aint no upwardly mobile freeway, oh no, this is the road to Hull.  I really don't know how these twitchers do it, coursing (and cursing) up and down the country, negotiating traffic and nerves.  Must be adrenaline or madness.  So in my madness, I wangled a day off, stole a car, and headed to Spurn.

Now according to the good book, God rested on the seventh day, but thankfully (and taking full advantage of my lightning reactions) I connected with the juvenile MASKED SHRIKE (present for its 7th day) that had been re-identified last Saturday while I was in Norfolk.  Masked Shrike.... whatever, I exclaimed. Whatever my arse.

Was gutted not to have connected with it earlier but with gratitude and luck and timing and stars aligning, I made it to the site.  The bird was seen so very well in it's preferred location in a big field, cocking it's tail like a Nightingale, flitting along the metal fenceline like a chat, and catching insects, well, like a Shrike.  A delightful bird, my second for the WP.

Thank goodness I forgot the memory card for my camera.  Wasn't pissed off in the slightest.

Did I mention anything about the journey?  The A1(M) has to be one of the most depressing roads in Britain.  I'm right now craving the tube - to me it feels like space travel by comparison.

Also seen today, a bobbing Jack Snipe on Canal Scrape, and eight Tree Sparrow flew past over the triangle.  It was generally very quiet birdwise.

At Kilnsea Wetlands a Little Stint was feeding alongside seven Dunlin, a male Stonechat was present as were 45 Wigeon.

Sleepy time.

Monday, September 22, 2014

North Norfolk at the weekend

Masked Shrike?  Whatever.  I was in North Norfolk for the weekend.  I was dragged under duress by my girlfriend who wanted to escape the hustle of the big smoke.  Go on then.

A stocky gentleman approached us, face hardened by plenty of twitches no doubt, hardened by the highs and the lows.  "The bird is just up the track here..... when you get to the green bin, turn right and follow the birders".  Well how warm and forthcoming that was, and that's really how it was for the whole weekend.  Birders enjoying the scene, uniting with their peers young and old, singles and couples, black and white.  It was palpably utopian and a real joy to be a part of it.

So it started at Burnham Overy.  The skies were grey, but there were plenty of birders and a fair few birds.  The bushes alongside the path up to the seawall held a decent flock of titmice that contained a Lesser Whitethroat, Willow Warbler, and Chiffchaff.  Three Spoonbill flew gracefully across the marsh, a Grey Plover and two Knot sat pensively on the fresh mud.  Plenty of Swallow were flying round the pools east of the sea wall with a few House Martin and a single Sand Martin.  I failed to connect with the Black-Necked Grebe that had been present for a while.

Northern Wheatear dashed around in number along the coastline, one of my favourite birds.  A single Whinchat sat along the fenceline and there were at least six Common Redstart seen on the walk towards Holkham.  The highlights were two Red-Breasted Flycatcher both of which were typically flighty, but gave great views as they darted out of the hawthorn, one next to the boardwalk, and the other low down on the wired fenceline adjacent to the sea-wall.  Further east of the boardwalk, a Barred Warbler showed typically briefly low down in the vegetation, but seen well for its abbreviated appearance.

Onto Wells Wood, and it wasn't long before connecting with the Olive-Backed Pipit, a bird that has no understanding of what it means to be a pipit as it crept cautiously within the tall grass near the dell but seen well as it traversed the muddy path.

And there was darkness on the first day (along with a couple of pints and a pie).

The next morning had a totally different feel, brighter but with a strong onshore wind.  With the report of a Long-Tailed Skua at Cley, we headed over to find that it had drifted east toward Salthouse.  So we headed over.

Now seawatching is something I don't do very often.  If feels strange and unconventional, I can imagine it to be a bit like playing football on Andorra's home ground.  Sitting on the damp shingle also makes your arse go numb.  But there were seabirds going past, of which I managed to identify two Bonxies, four Arctic Skua, eight Red-Throated Diver, two Razorbill, two Guillemot, four Manx Shearwater, a decent movement of Sandwich Tern and Common Tern, regular flocks of Dark-Bellied Brent Goose, and inevitably Gannets moving through most of which were first year birds.

Further east of the Beach Road, were a few clumps of bushes and a number of birders forming the front-line.  The reason for this were the two Yellow-Browed Warblers delighting the crowds as they flitted around a young oak along with a Goldcrest.  The hawthorn next to it hosted another Barred Warbler.  This one had no idea how to behave as it sat on top of the bushes feasting freely on blackberries.  It was a brute of a bird, but showed brilliantly - having not seen one before this year, I've had a singing male in Poland, and now three more in eight days.  I was thrilled to have seen this one so well.

A shoddy video below shows footage of Olive-Backed Pipit, Red-Breasted Flycatcher, and the Barred Warbler.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Burnham and Blakeney

The new job started Monday last.  A week of utter mediocrity, apathy, and a deep sense of regret for leaving the aviation industry - one that I love.  Yet at the time it felt it wasn't for me and I left.  Now eighteen months later, and a couple of months away from a significant birthday, I am kicking my own ass.  As one masochist said to another, don't beat yourself about it brother (Heaton, 2013).  This job isn't for me.  It is as far away from my aspirations as a bull is from a china shop.  We keep searching, and the hope for something in aviation is what I am now completely ready for.

It's been a hell of a year, but through it all, my outlet has always been wildlife and birding.  With rare access to a car, the ultimate escape was a trip to Norfolk, just the most magical place and one where I could totally get away from the exasperation I had been feeling.

En route, news came in of a BARRED WARBLER at Burnham Overy so reacting to this, we headed up to the area close to where the Speccie Warbler was seen earlier in the year.  After a short wait, the bird appeared low down in the bushes at the bottom of Gun Hill before disappearing a few moments later.  The easterly wind was pretty keen, so opting to change my view of the hawthorn bush, I was rewarded with much better albeit brief views of the bird as it hurriedly skipped through the foliage remaining typically elusive.  Having seen a singing male earlier in the year in Poland, this was a new British bird.

Also in the area were a single Whinchat, half a dozen Northern Wheatear, a Green Sandpiper, two Greenshank, nine Black-Tailed Godwit, Grey Plover, a Marsh Harrier, and a few 'pinging' Bearded Tit all by the pools.

Heading away, our initial destination was Blakeney Point.  Having never taken the walk from the Beach Car Park to the Point, we decided to negotiate the seven mile walk.  The skies cleared, and it was such a joy to take in the sea air and get some decent exercise in.

Despite the easterlies, it was relatively quiet with a few Northern Wheatear scattered along the shingle spit.  A Common Redstart and a Whinchat were at the plantation.  The sun was warm, the views over the freshmarsh were stunning and with that, I fell asleep.

On the way back, a quick seawatch produced a few passing Gannet of varying ages, a flock of Common Scoter, and a Fulmar flying east.

This was a nice surprise - my first Air Canada Dreamliner crusing at 40,000ft on AC085 from Tel Aviv to Toronto

Friday, September 5, 2014

Walthamstow Marshes

On the Marshes for a quick lunchtime visit, a Spotted Flycatcher was present in the scrub by the railway bridge.  A late Common Swift flew low over, and 13 Swallow headed north.  Three Little Egret were wading in the shallows of the relief channel, and a Common Buzzard soared low over.

Onto the Waterworks, there were two Spotted Flycatcher feeding on insects from the large tree near to the cow pen with six Willow Warbler including two bright juveniles for company.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Walthamstow Marshes

Now I can't keep away from this damn place.  This morning was very gloomy, mainly because I bumped into The Prof early doors.  We shot the breeze and cut through the mist in the hope of a crippler without success.  Of course when he pootled off, the birds arrived.

First a Yellow Wagtail flew west with another two flying north.  A dozen Swallow soon followed also flying north bamboozled by the low cloud.  It was all pretty quiet after that apart from around five Willow Warbler around the reserve.  A juvenile Common Tern flew lethargically over.

It got a little warmer, and heading down to the cow field, I discovered a couple of Whinchat that were new in.  Having been satisfied with this, I returned once again to the paddocks where two Northern Wheatear had arrived, male and female, and three Yellow Wagtail including one rather smart adult bird.

A Hobby then flew in and sat atop the electricity pylon at the far end of the paddocks with another seen circling in close proximity preying on insects.

A slumberous walk took me over to the Waterworks where three Common Buzzard drifted then thermalled before heading away, but no repeat performances on yesterday.

Other noteworthy observations were a singing Common Whitethroat, and the two resident Kestrel.

It was also a pleasure meeting Adam Winstanley today who jammed onto the Common Redstart this morning.

Below is a video of today's highlights.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Walthamstow Marshes

On Sunday, this happened;

  • Walthamstow Marshes: Riding stables, front paddocks - Pied Flycatcher, 2+ Spotted Flycatcher, favouring Western side of paddocks either side of the track running East-West between them. A few Chiffchaffs and Blackcap. Rear paddocks - 2 Wheatear, Yellow Wagtail. Bomb crater field - 1 Meadow Pipit, 1 Whinchat, 4 Pheasant. North marsh - 2 Blackcap, Reed Warbler, 5 Swallow SW. (Paul Whiteman, Graham Howie, Su Huckle, JW Davies). 3 Spotted Flycatcher still present in front paddocks 16.00 plus 2 Wheatear still (Lol Bodini/Stuart Fisher).
  • Walthamstow Res: Black-necked Grebe West Warwick (per Pete Lambert). BNG still present this evening in NE cnr. (Paul Whiteman) 3 Yellow Wagtails, 2 Common Sandpipers Lockwood. 2 Spotted Flycatchers together bushes NW corner of Lockwood, 2 Lesser Whitethroats, bushes NE Lockwood, Kingfisher Lower Maynard (David Bradshaw)

...and the rest of London went bonkers with the number of migrants that had dropped in looking more like a coastal site than our capital city.  Of course I was no where near this carnage.  I was out spending the day with friends, and I wouldn't have had it any other way.  Erm...... anyway...

Today, I was able to have my fill.

A warm sunny morning and with light easterlies, it felt good for something.  Heading up to the paddocks, I noticed an unusual chat-like bird flying across the paddocks that on landing turned into a Spotted Flycatcher.

Over the Marshes, there was real evidence of significant Swallow migration, a bird I had failed to see all summer.  Pulses of small flocks were heading over, one of which had a late Common Swift for company.  A couple of Meadow Pipit also flew through, a first for the autumn.

Large groups of House Martin chattered as they flew high overhead.  A Willow Warbler sang in horseshore thicket, and down Track 13, three Lesser Whitethroat were enjoying the sunshine with another Willow Warbler, five Blackcap, three Chiffchaff, and two Common Whitethroat.

Heading back to the paddocks, I have recently discovered migrants having made a second visit.  This time, a Yellow Wagtail flew low over.  Along the horse riding track a Common Redstart then flicked out catching a fly before returning back to its perch.  It then called twice before disappearing.

I then decided to move onto the Waterworks.  The old pitch and putt has looked good for chats, and my first sighting today were of two Whinchat, a male and a juvenile bird.  A single Meadow Pipit flew over and Swallow continued to dash through with around 60 birds counted throughout the morning.

It was warming up, it felt good for raptors.  I camped out in the 'circle' at the Waterworks and then watched in a single hour a total of 13 Common Buzzard soar high over in groups of four, two, then a single bird followed by another single, then a group of five right overhead.  A new experience for me on the patch.  Four Sparrowhawk were also enjoying the warm conditions.