Tuesday, 29 April 2014

'Sea' What You Get

What, seawatching again?  Ah, yes I know - more tales of distant birds...
 Monday morning was productive but also rather quiet.  A steady passage would be a good way to put it. Several Arctic Skuas, one or two Bonxies, a few Red-throated Divers and a dozen or so Whimbrel.
 Well, there was also a bit of a Splash Point rarity too.  At about 7:50 (how had I already been here over an hour?) a female duck flew by at pretty close range.  I managed to get it just as it was heading away.  It was slightly confusing at first, but another seconds view, this time with its head in, and...  Mandarin?  Not really the kind of bird you'd expect on a seawatch! A lifer, and if that wasn't enough, it was quite possibly the first record of one past here.
 Things went quiet after that, but then picked up again when Black Tern was called.  For me, they were little more than two small darting black dots on the horizon.  Even with those kind of views they were great to see, another lifer and another fantastic bird.  How could you not love seawatching?

Friday, 25 April 2014

Wanstead Warblers

Another 'tricky to see' Warbler... how many are there?  With miserable weather predicted for the weekend, Thursday afternoon was spent at Wanstead Flats watching Lesser Whitethroats. Well... more like trying to watch. There were several of them singing so how hard could it be? Not as easy as would be hoped.  I got to grips with their song pretty quickly, then it was just a case of locating one.  When, after thirty minutes or so I did get a proper view of one, it well, did a very convincing job of looking like a Common Whitethroat.  Even sitting out in the open, how it did such a convincing job I don't know... it was just a little confusing.

After that they behaved much more like Lesser Whitethroats, even doing a bit of skulking! Cracking little birds though, and a nice local lifer.

Monday, 21 April 2014

A Little Ob-Skua

It would appear I've become slightly hooked with seawatching.  This morning I was back down at Splash Point for, by far my best session yet.  Fantastic would indeed be a good way to describe it.
 By 7am we'd already had Whimbrel, Razorbill, Guillemot, Common Scoter and a few Swallows, already a decent start, but not really what you would class as fantastic. An Arctic Skua changed that. Although to call it distant would be an understatement.  It wasn't more than ten minutes before we then had a Black-throated Diver pass by.  Two lifers by 8am, not bad.
 A few Red-throated Divers, Med Gull, more Whimbrel, Scoter and Swallows came next.  Then came a Bonxie.  Or as I suppose I should say, a Great Skua.  What an impressive black dot.
 These were all well and -very- good, but nothing really stunned me quite as much as the Short-Eared Owl coming in off the sea.  Really a beautiful bird, and it certainly caught me by surprise.  
 Another Bonxie and Arctic Skua went by, but after that it did start to quiet down.  A close in Common Tern, more Med Gull, Red-Breasted Merganser and then we had reached the point when the sea went quiet.  Just as I was leaving though there came another surprise.  Rather an immense surprise.  I only caught a few second view... but Shorelark!  I was slightly bemused when it was called.  Thankfully, it was pointed out to me just before it was out of sight of my eyes -which isn't that far away.  There was no time to sort out optics.
 There, I think that lives up to Fantastic... don't you?

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Back in Numbers

Ah, at last.  I've located the Grey Wagtails on the patch again, and it's not just the adults anymore... they now have fledglings with them!  A rather early brood of four, who, it seems have taken after their parents, they're pretty showy.  After finding them on Friday how could I not spend Saturday morning photographing them?  Lying in stinging nettles wasn't the nicest experience, but well worth putting up with.  My, it was a fantastic morning.  And I will admit to being slightly trigger happy, I ended the morning with over a thousand shots of them, with how well they showed though...  surely it was excusable.  I'l let you judge.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Bright Starts

I tried my hand at another spot of 'Seawatching' down at Splash Point on Monday, I won't bore you with details of the early start (again), but.. it certainly was that - early.
 The weather was fantastic, and visibility couldn't have been better.  So I'm not too sure why, but it was again relatively quiet.  That's not to say it wasn't enjoyable.  There were several Red-throated Divers going by, and considerably closer this time.  A few Sandwich Tern and about a dozen Common Scoter.  By 8am there was nothing passing on the sea, but we went to Seaford Head to have a look for migrants... it turned out pretty good.  Brief views of a singing Whitehroat, multiple numbers of Swallows overhead, Chiffchaffs, and three stunning male Wheatears was a nice start... but it got better. Two cracking male Redstarts! Such colourful birds. I was pointed in the direction of one, and after locating this incredible little bird I found another.  They didn't show fantastically, but what stunners!
 A decent start to the migrating season I would say.

Oh and there was even a Spoonbill.....

Friday, 11 April 2014

Up With the Larks

What a day!  Another horrendously early start, out the door before 6am.  What drove us to do that... well I do know.  There was a big days birding planned.
 The first stop of the morning was at Cavenham Heath.  It was a bit slow to begin with, but after an hour or so things picked up with a pair of Woodlark in one of the fields.  They really do have remarkable camouflage and the dull early morning light made spotting them no easier, a nice species to get the morning started though.  What really got the day started however were three Stone Curlews, like the Woodlark sitting cryptically camouflaged and at some distance.  Through the scope though they looked fantastic, a truly remarkable looking species.

Time pressed, so it was then on to Lynford Arboretum to look for the Two-Barred Crossbills, and hopefully not the strange, presumed hybrid bird I had here last year.  The car park here was surprisingly good, with a pair of Firecrest and a Marsh Tit.
  There were a few Crossbills around to start with, and over the next hour we saw up to about eight birds, but despite the best efforts of several birders no wing bars could be found on any of them.  The hours ticked by and still no barred Crossbills...  After nearly three hours it was time to go.  We stopped at a puddle the Crossbills drink from on the way back, then things began to get interesting.  There was a Crossbill... with wingbars.  The excitement built, but as soon as I saw it I realised that this was almost certainly the dubious hybrid... for the second time!  It could be a 1st year bird with poorly developed feathers, but impossible to tell.  After all the time put in this was ever so slightly dispiriting.
 It's a good thing we waited longer as five minutes later the female Two bar turned up, shortly followed by the male. Wow. Amazing birds, worth every hour.  How happy it made me to see such large wing bars...

Still buzzing about the Two bars we then headed to Lakenheath Fen, where we saw remarkably little.  Well we did see a Crane.... so I certainly won't complain, despite there only being brief flight views.  Another amazing bird to top off an amazing day.

Friday, 4 April 2014

I Spot a Scoter

After seeing Common Scoter for the first time on Sunday, it could be considered slightly ironic that I would see them again the following week. Indeed, more so when you take into account where I saw them -Walthamstow.  Lockwood Reservoir to be precise. Why a pair of Common Scoter are on a London reservoir I don't know, but it was quite a contrast on the flocks flying by the south coast at the weekend.
 There was no sign of the Garganey, which was the original reason for my visit to the reservoirs, but urban Scoters  made up for their absence.
There were ten Scoter reported in London today, including a a group of six, they seem to be taking a rather unconventional route to their northern nesting grounds. Imagine if a Velvet Scoter got the same idea...

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