Sunday, 26 February 2012

The twites do dunge

I suggested to Mr Fisher that he might accompany me to Dungeness a place where at he used to work for the RSPB doing some botany stuff.  He said that would be very much to his liking.

Early start for the high speed train to Ashford.  Then a bus... a bloody bus, and hour later and we are in Rye, so much for high speed trains.

I had informed Mr F there would be some walking involved.  With the buses not running till after nine, it was either walk orsplurge on a taxi.  I compromised and splurged on a taxi as far as Camber Sands.  Luckily Stuart had never been to Camber so it was a bit of a treat for him.

We had a look on the beach: a shed load of Great-crested Grebe, some Dunlin on the rising tide and a Red throated diver leaving Kent heading west.  A Beach Warden came and asked what we were doing, pretty bloody obvious I would have thought, but I am not from round these parts so we told him.

Then we walked.It's only 5-6 miles to Lydd from here and a further 2 say to the RSPB at Dunge, 2 hours easy and a few pits to check on the way.  I've done this walk before and it always feels a lot longer, something I had neglected to tell my companion. Tee hee.

On the way we came across probably the largest feral flock of Barnacle Geese I've seen and even more incongruously they had blue morph Snow Geese with them, since I had not noticed any mention of these birds on RBA or Birdguides they must be self found megas, or escapees...

My filthy year listing ambitions had brought me here to get amongst other things Great White Egret (probably the same bird I have seen these past 3 years), Tree Sparrow, Penduline Tit (Ha!), and anything else kicking around the place ooh I dunno, Dartford Warbler perhaps or Great Skua by the power station.  For Stuart it was a return to a place he'd worked at during his time with the RSPB many years ago, his job to survey the botany of one of the fields.  Which field he wasn't too sure about, unsurprisingly as it was many years ago, but he suggested most of them as we walked about.

It wasn't looking too good, the Egret had not been seen, the Penduline Tit (ha!) was elusive as always and there was bugger all else about.  We joined groups of people bins raised in the hope it was something exciting.  "... a Kingfisher went into that bush", we made our exit.  "a Cetti's was seen briefly over there", really?

The Smew (a lot of them by all accounts) were still around, as was the Long-tailed Duck both always worth a look. Picked up a Tree Sparrow at the visitors centre and the distant Smew and the mobile LTD.  After a cuppa and some biscuits off to the Arc, just in case the Penduline Tit (ha!) might put in appearance.  Mr Fisher, you see was my secret weapon, his hearing is as acute as any bat, and his ability to pick birds by call legendary. So if the PT was to sneeze, bingo, job done!

As we strolled to the Arc, passed more fields he might have done his survey work in, I spotted a large egret flapping towards us.  Lucky.  The Great White.  It flipped and appeared to land on the new diggings.

At Boulderwood Farm Tree Sparrow, hundreds of them.  Never seen so many ever I think, even when they used to be commoner. So wow!

The Arc had more smew, ; we counted about 17 red-heads and similar numbers of Goldeneye but

only 2 drakes on the whole site.  By now the effects of walking were taking their toll on our aged bodies and we decided to give sea watching a miss, this time, instead head back to Lydd for the bus and a fish supper in Rye. As darkness fell we got some cracking views of the Marsh Harriers, I got a Peregrine low over the reeds while we packed our things at the viewing mound we heard a brief strange call, which Stuart suspected to be that of a Penduline Tit, we scanned the reeds, nothing, played a lure, nothing.  Arse!

On the way back to Lydd a Bittern flopped its way in from somewhere close to the firing range giving us a four heron day.  It was good to be back here, its a strange place but quite intriguing, always seemingly better around day break or night fall.

The fish supper excellent.

Friday, 24 February 2012

Abbey Creek and stuff....

I'm not very good at this blog thing but I'm going to give a rundown of some of the more intresting sightings I've had in the last few weeks. Up to the cold spell, Abbey Creek in Bromley-by-Bow had been attracting the usual species at this time of year, 200 Teal, small numbers of Redshank and a regular Green Sandpiper. When the cold spell hit on the 4th and 5th of Feb the place started to get interesting as it did last year. Once everything freezes everywhere else, birds tend to drop into the tidal Creek. Compared to last year however Snipe numbers were well down, only around 10 max compared to an amazing 45 in the harsh winter period December 2010 to Jan 2011.

A vision the Sunday morning of the 5th Feb this year after the snow fall produced the 2nd ever Merlin for the sight (a male) which was unfortunately seen off by a noisy Ring-necked Parakeet (which incidentally is also a rarity here, especially perched!). Also I forgot to bring Nick's camera with me and only had my phone, which is even more gutting because scanning the mud below the Channelsea Business Centre I found a Jack Snipe amongst a few Common Snipe.

As the tide came in this ended up right up in the corner of a sluice below the Business Centre at about 30 metres from me standing dead still! I did manage to get a picture at a later date of another or the same bird on the island bank, rather distant but good enough, this despite it's cryptic camouflage stood out like a sore thumb and looked rather comic standing dead still with it's front end pointing towards the mud.

Last year in January there were 2 here and one day they were feeding with all the Snipe and 2 Water Rails right out on the mud in front of the Channelsea Business Centre while people had their cig breaks, seeming relatively unconcerned (the birds that is).

Also on the morning of the 5th, a record number of 130 Lapwing going over in 2 flocks plus one bird feeding on the Creek, 7 Skylark over. Redshank numbers peaked at 15 I think.

Also of note during this period were up to 5 Shelduck on the river, a record number of Gadwall (at least 94 on one occasion), and regular wintering Chiffchaffs, up to 6 before the cold spellwith one bird singing and 2 remaining during the cold snap. But no sign of the controversial Chiffchaff which I and others think looked good for tristis. Not since early January anyway when it was very elusive.

Other news - a trip to Walthamstow to see the Bittern finally paid off when at first things looked very unpromising. Must have spent a couple of hours or so walking up and down the Coppermill Stream with a fellow birder, Noel without seeing any sign of it.

Okay plenty of other stuff about, 2 Water Rails calling along the stream and a resident Kingfisher and up on the West Warwick a drake Scaup. We then went up to have a look for the drake Smew on the Maynard but had no luck there either and so Noel decided to go home. 

I thought I'd have a quick look back at the Coppermill just in case it had turned up. But again no sign of it, I was beginning to hallucinate Bitterns after a while, all many of plant debris turning into a Bittern. However my attention was drawn to a lot of noise from the Gulls on the West Warwick.... a raptor surely... must be a big one by the sounds of it.... coming this way, passing, gulls just about visible chasing something, bloody trees in the way.... erm! then looking from behind, big brown bird, floppy wings, a Short-eared Owl, no errm!

It did an abrupt u-tern, yellow legs dangling, wow the Bittern! Pursued by 50 Black-headed Gulls and 2 Lesser Black-backs and went down under a tree on the stream where I got the pic below.....

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Three yanks and I am done

Strange that neither Hawky or Jono used this suggested title, so I am gonna. 

Picked up at twenty to four on Saturday morning; 6 hours in a wet muddy field in Gwent (apparently it wasn't a music festival, I asked!), apparently some yellow bird from the US was over here. Having not seen this particular yellow bird by lunch time, we decided to go after a couple of other yankee birds which were also down Wales way.

A Lesser Scaup. Ever so smart and piss easy. Harder was finding the next tick, Bonaparte's Gull, but not half as hard as finding the the supposed site in the first place (the Heliport). In the end we went to the sewage works itself and Hawky did his trick of spotting the proverbial Bonaparte's gull in a black-headed gullstack.

Meanwhile a certain yellow bird had finally shown itself. Luckily for me we finally saw it too, else I still be walking back from Wales, especially after saying: "I love it when a plan comes together", when we hadn't seen it!

I was slightly disappointed as I thought this was the bird I was going to see!

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Norfolking (28, 29 January)

While the King Lister remained in his ivory tower, his willing subjects were scurrying all over to fill their boots with winter goodies. I finally had got my act together to plan an assault on the Cantley and Buckenham Marshes to pin down the Lesser White-front back for its second year. What could possibly go wrong..

First train to Norwich, tick (Ok that I could have got the fair at a 75% discount if I had been more decisive we will overlook), first train to Cantley done...

I asked the ticket inspector whether I could alight at Buckenham (as this is where the goose was hanging out): "Not on this train mate, we're straight through to Lowestoft".

But, and here I brandished my print-out of train times and stuff, it says here...

What it said there was that a normally 15 minute journey was now 1hr 15 min. Bollocks. Luckily he didn't throw me off the moving train, or charge me an excess fare.

Thinking on my feet. Lowestoft hmm? Black-throated Diver, Iceland Gull, Purple Sandpiper all within 5-10 minuted of the station.

As it turned out the train didn't stay long at Lowestoft and was on its way back to Norwich. Not a bad detour all told, a couple of Marsh Harrier, geese etc. I got off at Cantley in the belief that if the geese were spooked at Buckenham they would make their way down here.

Bradders who was making his way along Norfolk in the opposite direction was already at Buckenham and watching the geese. In with 70 odd Taiga, I was told. Unfortunately I was2-3 miles south on a winding river bank path. My organisational invincibility shot, again!

Ever one to put a rose tint on everything, the walk was pleasant if not a bit chilly: a Peregrine kept the flocks of Lapwing and Golden Plover on their toes and wings, one or two or three buzzards, and geese lots of them.

I finally reached Buckenham and could see birders with telescopes trained on a part of the field near the railway line. I scanned: picked out the Taigas, and a White-front, and then another, and another. Hang about DB didn't say anything about several hundred WFGs to sort through.
In the flooded fields between me and the geese, hundreds of wigeon, lapwing, goldies, a few ruff and a couple of out of place looking Black-tailed Godwit.

I moved closer to the watching group. The nearest guy had the bird and gracefully gave me instruction. I passed this on to the next guy to pitch up with his scope. Though the bird was distant and kept disappearing into hollows, it was distinguishable its commoner relatives. I would have stayed longer, but it was moving further and further off and meanwhile in the distance I could hear the approach of a train. Since this would be the only one stopping at the station for the next 2 hours I needed to be on it.

Having missed the train...

I arrived back in Norwich a couple of hours later. It was getting abit late for some sea watching at Sheringham, and so nothing for it but backto Lowestoft for the BTD, IG and PS, again!

A couple of Short-eared Owls on the way, bugger all else. It was getting darker as I got off at Lowestoft promising myself that this would be the last time I would be here for some time. Purple Sandpipers at the Ness first. As the furthest from the station and with the Iceland Gull en route.

OK make that not en route. Or on the way back en route, even from the top of the NCP car park en route, where the locals had been watching the bird. Who cares: got the Sandpipers.

Lake Loathing had disappeared into the gloom and was certainly not giving up any divers. I must admit I was tempted to return the next day and get the missing birds, that is until I worked out how even more useless the train connections were.

Sunday up and with as much breakfast as I could carry out from the hotel I got the first train to Sheringham. The weather looked a bit ominous, and snow-like. Got a Woodcock from the train (bonus tick).

A brief ten minute look at the sea before the coast hopper, and the first of the days continual movement of Red-Throated Diver, a couple of Long-tailedDuck (kerching), and auks. Then off to Holkham, targets including: Shore Lark, Eider, Lapland Bunting, Ringed Plover and a pleasant walk in familiar surroundings and who knows...

After a bit a of schlep the larks showed well, strangely with a Sanderling in tow. Odd to think that there are so few of these bird's in the country this winter compared with normal. But now the sea beckoned and rewarded.

Eider, Goldeneye, Mergs, Scoter, lots of wigeon, Slav Grebe, a Red-necked surprise bonus mega tick (and another I didn't see last year), Great Northern and a lone Little Gull feeding in the surf. I could have stayed all day and perhaps should have as Bradders picked up a Black Guillemot later that afternoon. Ah well I'll get some of them in Shetland.

The Lapland Bunting showed distantly in a big flock, disappointingly, but I got a Ringed Plover, which made me strangely elated. Funny old game this birding.