Sunday, 31 March 2013

Uist a taster!

Another Bradder's Birding Tour and another great 4 days spent touring the west coast of Scotand and in particular North and South Uist. 117 species in 4 days of great weather, great birds, great company and a great time.  Too many images and too knackered to do any more than a few nibbles before the main course.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Good times, bad times

Having successfully missed Wanstead's second Stone Curlew this morning, I was a bit sad.  Happy that so many more got on to this enigmatic bird this time and especially for Jono, as it might encourage him to come out a bit more.  I should have seen it, I was about to turn towards the stoney part of the SSSI when "next day" Keith spotted some people waving at us, he presumed (they were dog walkers it turns out), so he encouraged me against my own better judgement to go with him. I needed a pick-me-up, and only a Wheatear would do.  That meant Rainham, since I couldn't find ours yesterday.

At Ferry Lane, I quickly found the female Black Redstart, and soon after one of the Wheatear, a first winter job but smart for all that. The second bird flew across the bay to the east.  Happiness! Further along I got a text from Bradders informing me of Scoter on the river, but going the wrong way. I'd thought the crappy weather would be influencing things on the river, but had hoped to see the results.

I checked the gulls on the pier by the barges.  Nothing interesting. Then I spotted a trio of Scoter high and going up river.  They appeared to be landing in the Ferry Lane bay, so I hoofed it back, flushing a female Stonechat on the way. No sign of the scoter, but then retracing my steps again, got another 4 heading Londonward. Sweet, Rainham and London Life tick.

A call from Bradders told of a Goosander on the river by the centre, and by the sounds of it doing what all ducks do so well: not a lot. I was on my way.

 I picked up the big duck just east of Aveley Bay and another or the same party of Scoter. Kerching another Rainham life tick.

 Then it all went a bit down hill, though 9 Ruff on Aveley was nice and my boots didn't get soaked.  On the way back I got a third Wheatear.  Happiness!

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Hawing with Mr F

 So the first Twite trip of the year and an early start.  Too early for Mr F who forgot his bins.  School boy error. The weather looked ugly, snow coming at you like a small dog, but once we had alighted at Box Hill/Westhumble it began to become a bit more insistent, like a small dog.

Nice place.  As unlike London as you could possibly imagine.  OK this bit was just outside London but where we were headed just inside and still well posh (see the map in full on Dom's website I'd printed a map so what could possibly go wrong.

After about 10 minutes, we were lost. Not badly lost, but because none of the trails were on the map, fairly clueless.  We headed up the hill. A very steep hill, but this being a posh place it had steps. After about an hour of faffing about and walking uphill, we found the visitor centre. Easy from there on in.  Until we got lost again and had to ask directions from some dog walkers.  Ignored them and got lost again.  Finally we struck out on to open ground and the blizzard. Down hill to the car park, which we were to later find out was only a mere mile and a half from the station.

On the way back up to Juniper Bottom we met a guy who'd been there for hours and not seen anything. We carried on, and wouldn't you just know it heard Hawfinch calling from the depths of a yew. Job done.  Then a small flock flew over, followed by a larger one. I tried to take a pic, but the view finder was full of snow.  A soothing eye bath!

We gave it about an hour, but with no further signs, bar the calling from the yew, we went and got truly lost, doing a magnificent great circle round the hill to arrive back at the car park sometime later. We did however pick up 2 more Marsh Tit, a London tick for both Mr Fisher and myself.  So a yay for that.

Not trusting my soggy map any further, or Mr F's gps on his knackered screen, I used the i-Phone.  Easy peasey from then on in.

I had planned to pop into Beddington on the way back for Tree Sparrow, but as the train didn't stop there I decided against it. instead I went and dipped Wanstead's first Wheatear of the year, but really I was after the Great-crested Grebe Tim and Jono had found that morning. In the bag. Too cold to carry on I gave up. One of my better decisions.

Saturday, 16 March 2013

More stubborn Staines

Three divers in one place!  In London! An opportunity not to be missed.  So instead of going the day reported because of work, I thought to clean up the next day, only to find the 2 rarer birds had already gone the same day as they were found.  Supposedly pitched down on the neighbouring King George VI, I thought there was still a good chance that one or other would return. So there I am standing on my own in the wind and the rain staring at a very choppy northern basin with nothing but a few Tufties, Coots and grebes for company. No sign of any of the divers, and I am already getting cold.

Some members of the Richmond RSPB turn up.  Aaah help I thought.  My optimism misplaced somewhat, as they're all novices and are calling tufties as divers.  Luckily one finds a big white bird somewhere to the north, which after looking at everything else I give it a go.  Blimey he struck lucky.  The Great Northern has suddenly appeared from nowhere.  Rightly he is chuffed and I feel a bit bad for dismissing them all as muppets.

Gradually the bird moves around the basin after swallowing a rather large fish half asleep and half not doing very much. Having been on the basin for near on four months, there's probably not a lot left to do. Meanwhile the main target(s) are not availing themselves, so I look for the Scaup, and in failing to find that, the Black-necked Grebe, but settle for counting the Goldeneye. 

The RSPB guided walk which never really got going, due to the non-appearance of the leader, leaves me alone again with the elements. My scope wanders along the banks looking for Wheatear and finding none, then to the west towards Windsor Castle.  A couple of Kite where doing acrobatics far to the west and a Peregrine flew high over the adjacent reservoir. After 5 hours I decided to go and get warm and investigate the local Tesco's for food.  With a couple of hours to kill before dark I dropped in on Bedfont Country Park. Really quite a nice little nature reserve got going there.  Bugger all in it today, but with possibilities.

So not the tick fest I had dreamt about, and I will perhaps moving RTD off the a la carte menu on to the missed list.  The PLL staggers on.

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Happy Monday

News of a Spoonbill popping up at Rainham came just too late for me today, then I thought sod it! I'll give it ago.  It was, after all, a Spoonbill that had been the catalyst for all this serious birding nonsense, and on my first outing to Rainham some years back.

The last report from Hawky was not promising.  Last seen disappearing into a blizzard towards the shooting butts hide, and no one was daring to go and find it. As I approached the centre I too was engulfed in a blizzard.  Hmmm, not looking good. At the centre it brightened up, and the Spoony was asleep on Aveley Flash about a couple of hundred metres from it's observers tucked up in the warmth. Nothing for it I ventured out to get some shakey shots of the slumbering spooner.  Then I quickly retired only to be told it had woken up.  So out I went again for some more shaking.  Job done and I am off to work.  A quick chat with the guys on the balcony who procure a Little Gull hawking over the far side of the river, sweet!.  The London List staggers on.

A couple of weeks back the Prof. had sent me the account of Steve Connor's record breaking year. From that I gather I am currently 23 birds off the pace.  He, like me, had decided that 150 was the target to hit before the spring migrants hove into view.  At least he got close to his target.

It's interesting to see how things have changed over the last 10 years.  Communication certainly has improved, when Jono and Dom did their attempt a few year's back both had great back-up. At this point I should say thanks to Hawky for he heads-up today. I'll come back to the changes that have taken place in the London avian scene in more detail, when I get more fully into it or when I have failed miserably at the end of the year.

Here's my shopping list of birds I should get and a selection from the a la carte menu of ones I would be very happy to see anywhere in London, but hopefully on the home patch!

Mandarin Duck
Red-crested Pochard
Ruddy Duck
Great Northern Diver
Red Kite
Little Ringed Plover
Bar-tailed Godwit
Spotted Redshank
Wood Sandpiper
Little Gull
Caspian Gull
Black Tern
Common Tern
Turtle Dove
Long-eared Owl
Lesser Spotted Woodpecker
Sand Martin
House Martin
Tree Pipit
Yellow Wagtail
Ring Ouzel
Grasshopper Warbler
Sedge Warbler
Reed Warbler
Garden Warbler
Lesser Whitethroat
Willow Warbler
Spotted Flycatcher
Pied Flycatcher
Marsh Tit
Tree Sparrow
Common Crossbill

49 there, most of which will be seen on the patch.  I've included Wryneck on the basis that there's been a twitchable one in London for the last 3 years, 2 very much on the patch. I've got locations for the others so while not a cake walk, a walk in one park or other.

Bewick’s Swan
Whooper Swan
Bean Goose
Pink-footed Goose
White-fronted Goose
Barnacle Goose
Common Scoter
Velvet Scoter

Red-breasted Merganser
Grey Partridge
Red-throated Diver
Black-throated Diver

Red-necked Grebe
Manx Shearwater

Little Bittern
Cattle Egret
Great White Egret
White Stork

Glossy Ibis
Black Kite
Montagu’s Harrier
Red-footed Falcon

Spotted Crake
Baillon’s Crake
Black-winged Stilt

Little Stint
Temminck’s Stint
Pectoral Sandpiper

Curlew Sandpiper
Grey Phalarope
Pomarine Skua
Arctic Skua
Long-tailed Skua

Great Skua
Sabine’s Gull
Bonaparte’s Gull
Iceland Gull
Glaucous Gull
Little Tern
White-winged Black Tern
Sandwich Tern
Roseate Tern

Arctic Tern

Alpine Swift
Red-rumped Swallow
Richard’s Pipit

Savi’s Warbler

Marsh Warbler
Great Reed Warbler
Icterine Warbler

Melodious Warbler
Barred Warbler
Dartford Warbler
Yellow-browed Warbler
Penduline Tit
Red-backed Shrike
Woodchat Shrike

Mealy Redpoll
Lapland Bunting
Snow Bunting
Ortolan Bunting

Bold denotes birds that would happily fit nicely on my all time London list, thank you very much.

84 there, not all them have been seen in London for a good few years and the likelihood of some being seen again anytime soon is not high, but with more birders out there who knows.  That just leaves the "left field", birds not even on anyones radar, at the moment.

Finally the list of birds I've missed: Ferruginous Duck, and Scaup.  Both could return, but both act as a little reminder not to be too bloody lazy. I'll make no bones about it, I don't envisage beating Mr Connor's total, but as long as I enjoy it I don't much care about that, but I may just change my tune by the end of the year...