Tuesday, 25 October 2011

White Wagtail, photographed in Herne Bay, Kent (17 April 2010)

Just found this photo of what I believe could be a White Wagtail, judging by its pale mantle and flanks as well as the sharp contrast between the nape (black) and the mantle (blue grey) it could be one.  I took the photograph on the 17 April 2010 on the coast near Hern Bay, any opinions on confirming the ID?

confirmed White Wagtail, seen 17th April 2010 at Herne Bay

Weekend trip to Frampton Marsh with the Hemel RSPB (22nd-23rd October)

23rd October


Due yesterdays exhausting trip we had a late start at Frampton Marsh and only arrived at 10:00am.  Other members arrived even later as they had chosen to watch the rugby so I resorted to scanning the scrape infront of the visitor center as we waited for the rest of the group to arrive.  The usual duck species were present in their hundreds including Teal, Wigeon and fewer numbers Shoveler, Mallard and 5 Little Grebes.  Very soon a Sparrowhawk swooped in but caught nothing.  Pipits were also present in good numbers including regular flyover Meadow Pipits and Skylarks as well as a Reed Bunting and the resident group of Tree Sparrows.

 One of several Tree Sparrows frequenting the bush to the right of the Frapton Marsh visitor center

 and making visits to the peanut feeder


Wading birds on the scrape were much the same as yesterday including Lapwing, 1 Snipe and a Ruff.  The highlights however were the new arrival of 7+ Pink-footed Geese in the centre of the scrape, one of which had a injured wing and has apparently remained on the reserve for the past two years!  The Brent Geese were also punctual as they came as several gaggles over the sea wall from the east onto the reserve to feed.  From the same direction Curlew could also be heard.  As usual the eastern scrape was the most attractive to the waders, and the masses of people that visited the reserve.  Another Snipe was feeding amongst the vegetation amongst a group of resting/preening Black-tailed Godwits and a surprise came in the form of a juvenile Curlew Sandpiper and a Water Pipit bathing separately from the small group of Meadow Pipits also infront of the hide.  A large total of 7 Ruff were also present, mostly juveniles and large flocks of Golden Plover wheeling around over the reserve for much of the day.  A flock of 5+ finches flew in and were identified by the large group of observers in the hide as Twite.  However, after properly identifying them and taking notes it became clear to me that they were infact Linnets, which naturally didn't go down well with the large group of observers in the hide (most of whom were carrying field guides, not notebooks!)  Anyway, instead of moving from hide to hide along with  the masses I decided to return to the 360 hide after a brief visit to the other hide were a Grey Plover was added to the days list, unfortunately the flock of Linnets had moved on so I wasn't able to check them thoroughly again, however a Kestrel was noted on the far sea wall.  Our final plan at the reserve was to make a brief visit to the sea wall were I hoped to fined Snow or Lapland Bunting, unfortunately neither was present and the only birds of note were Redshanks, Little Egrets, Shelduck and a Marsh Harrier over the huge expance of saltmarsh.


Not a good ending to the day as we decided to make a brief drop in visit to the gravel pit to check out for any visiting gulls.  Unfortunately, we timed our visit badly as it coincided with a shoot that was just about to begin.  We only saw the group of Lapwing on the spit before we decide to leave, words fail me to the sad people who shoot birds for their own amusement, they are much better observed alive.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Weekend trip to the Wash with the RSPB Hemel Group (22nd-23rd October)

22nd October

My fourth time to the coast in four weeks.  A lot of traveling but the journey and experiences were all worth it.  Last weekend I left at 6:15am for the Wash, on the Lincolnshire coast with a kind member of the RSPB Hemel group who offered to bring me there and back.


As we left so early there was enough time to have a short drop in at the RSPB reserve at Frampton Marsh that offers amazing views over thousands of wetland birds that frequent the muddy scrapes infront of the small visitor centre.  The reserve lies directly behind a sea wall that was originally planned to reclaim the hinterland, but is now far more productive thanks to the simple addition of water.  From the car park I already got my first year tick, the hedge directly next to the visitor centre hosted several Tree Sparrows and the feeders were also well used by several Goldfinches.  The large number of birds on the scrapes was difficult to estimate and counting species seemed the best idea as we only had time between 9:00 and 10:45am to scan the masses of Wigeon, Teal, Greylag Geese and Lapwing for anything more unusual.  As we made our way to the first 360 hide a gaggle of several hundred Brent Geese came flying over the sea wall and directly over my head to land in the neighbouring scrape, an awesome spectacle and a great way to start the day.  Several other highlights were also condensed into the short space of time that we had as I picked up on a fast flying falcon heading inland, its profile seemed to suggest Merlin, however I was only able to pick up on its silhouette.  The morning also passed with regular sightings of Redshanks, Skylarks and Kestrels.  The East Scrape seemed to be much more attractive to wading birds including 16+ Black-tailed Godwits on the single scrape as well as several more spread around the reserve.  Other waders included several Dunlin and 2 Ringed Plovers, a Snipe and Curlew.

Frampton Marsh, view over the scrape infront of the visitor centre


We met up with the rest of the Hemel RSPB group at the Boston Marina were we took the Boston Belle boat out into the Wash.  As we waited for the water level to rise sufficiently for the boat to leave a Grey Wagtail past overhead as did a Great Spotted Woodpecker.  After a long wait for the boat to finally leave a Peregrine was pointed out perching on the Boston Stump.  Most of the wading birds that we saw along the river were extremely numerous including Redshanks, Curlew, Dunlin, Golden Plover and even from the start Bar-tailed Godwits were frequently seen.  Fewer Black-tailed Godwits were present but surprises came in the form of a Ruff feeding on the bank of the River Haven on our way down to the estuary.  As we came closer to the mouth of the estuary numbers of Brent Geese rose considerably and by the time we reached the Wash itself wader numbers and duck species such as Wigeon, Shelduck and even a 1st summer Eider were present.  The highlight of the trip though was a close up view of a Merlin perched on the man-made channel wall.  Dozens of Little Egrets were also on the estuary as were 18 Common Seals, Great Black-backed Gulls, a passing flock of probable Sanderling and occasional views of a confident Peregrine making short swoops at several species of birds in the water as we made our way up the Welland.  A Sandwich Tern was also lingering and was seen plunging for fish into the water.  At least 4 Marsh Harriers were seen at one time including 1 ad., and 3 darker birds most likely 's.  Less common waders that we encountered on the way included 2 Greenshanks, 1 Grey Plover and several Ringed Plovers which brought our total number of bird species seen on the trip to over 50 species.  However, most spectacular of all was the classic view of thousands of Knot taking to the air in their impressive aerial maneuvering flight.

The Boston Stump, on which one of the Peregrines was perched on our way out to the wash, possibly the same bird seen hunting over the wash as we didn't see it later on our return.

thousands of wading birds, mostly Oystercatchers in this photo

 It doesn't look like much but there were thousands of birds lining the coastal stretch of the Wash, also hosted the huge flocks of Knot

roosting Oystercatchers

 hundreds of Oystercatchers resting and waiting for low tide


waders everywhere

 Brent Geese over the Wellan, RSPB Frampton Marsh to the south (left)

 Wigeon, not in strict formation

Brent Geese

 My best shot of the regular flypast flocks of Brent Geese as we returned op the Wellan


 Curlews bill caked in mud to the very base

 trying desperately to try and get a decent shot of a Redshank in flight

the only Grey Plover on the cruise

 the only Grey Plover seen on the trip showing its black auxiliaries

Common Sandpiper


Sunday, 16 October 2011

MEGA-tick (for me) Isabelline Shrike at Cliffe Pools RSPB with the Watford RSPB group

Isabelline Shrike

 A Great day out with the Watford RSPB group to the RSPB reserve of Cliffe Pools on the Ilse of Grain were we encountered a wide variety of species as well as indulging ourselves a little in the last of this years dragonflies.  Already from the car I noted 12 Lapwing in the fields bordering the M25 whilst on our journey to the reserve.  We arrived at the reserve around 9:30am and got of to a good start at the first pool were we had at least 19+ Little Grebes in the single pool together with the commoner Pochards, Tufted Ducks and Great Crested Grebes.  Our first plan of action was to climb the short distance up the closest mound that provided an ideal all round view of the reserve, and also allowed a count of 25+ Little Egrets followed by further sightings of Little Grebes and a large flock of 100+ Redshank resting on the shallow edge of the Radar Pool, unfortunately, I did miss the Marsh Harrier.  As we approached the pools more closely, it was clear that the marshy edges were providing an ideal habitat for the hundreds of Lapwing, Redshank and dozens of Black-tailed Godwits and Golden Plover.  The same pool also hosted a dramatic scene as a juv. Peregrine came into view following the take off of most of the wading birds creating an awesome spectacle as well as the characteristical "whooshing" noise of hundreds of passing Redshanks, low over the water.  The Peregrine even made a brief aborted chase after a single wader but it seemed it still had to master the technique with much more precision and accuracy, all the same it was still an immature bird.  Siskins and Skylarks were also occasionally heard passing over the pool with only the later seen.  Several insect species were also still active including a Red Admiral as well as a Migrant Hawker, along the gravel path leading to Flamingo Pool.  Other birds of note included a Greenshank and Curlew on the NW bank of Flamingo Pool.  We had just reached Cliffe Creek when the news of a "new rarity" at 11:38am came in on the pager.  The bird was only a few hundred metres from were we were stood and was only half a mile from the car park entrance, sensibly, we rushed straight there.  Only minutes later, after its initial discovery I was soaking in the sight of my first ever ISABELLINE SHRIKE (an adult ♂).  It behaved and showed amazingly, remaining well in the open for most of the time, as is the case for most Shrikes, making occasional flourishing flights into the air before landing shortly afterwards on the same or nearby perch.  It was also feeding successfully and caught several insect species including crane flies and occasional caterpillars.  For the beginning period, it remained relatively close, half way between the Pool NE of the ridge and Alpha Pool.  Later on in the day it tended to favour the farther end of the hedgerow and became more distant which made taking notes more difficult as well as the developing heat haze.  I remained at the Shrike for the rest of the day, whilst the rest of the group continue to the estuary were,  unfortunately I missed out on a flock of 150 Avocet, more Golden and Grey Plovers and Shelduck.  However, watching the Shrike was well worth the sacrifice as near the end of our trip the heat haze died and the clarity of its sleek, clean plumage became clearer, in all an amazing bird on an equally amazing trip.  All ending nicely ♂ Kestrel at the car park as we left the reserve around 15:10pm.

All photos taken using Rob Harris' digital compact camera for digiscoping (Many Thanks Rob!)

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

A couple of recent sightings

I had my first Siskin sighting of the autumn on Thursday 6th October flying + calling over the entrance to Cassio. Park at Shepherds Drive at 8:15am followed by a flock of 10+ Siskin also over Cassiobury Park this morning heading ESE towards the town centre.  In addition, Ring-necked Parakeets are still showing, or at least being heard on most of my walks through the park in the morning and occasionally on the return.  At the WGSB I noted a Grey Wagtail feeding on top of the flat roof of the games building, seen from the science block.  Pied Wagtails are also in good numbers on Kings Langley Common and 1 Green Woodpecker was also present this morning as was another Green Woodpecker in Cassio. Park that I accidentally flushed on my way back from school this afternoon.  2 Goldcrests were at the top of the KL Woods and Goldfinches are also now beginning to return to the garden in larger numbers as I noted at least 12+ in the ash tree in the back garden this afternoon.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

North Kent Coast at the Thames estuary at Seasalter (8th October)

I had a brilliant afternoon out at the huge mudflat/estuary at Seasalter yesterday after spending most of the day in London at my sisters house that she shares with some fellow uni students.  I only got to the coast at 3:55pm and had two and a half hours to scan the massive flocks of waders/ gulls/ geese in the ever fading light.  The sheer numbers of birds was befalling as I am to used to inland sites were any one of the birds present on the accumulation of silt on the estuary would have received far more attention in the Hertfordshire county that I live in.  On the other hand, I was virtually alone on the shingle beach that overlooks the mudflat and surprisingly I was the only birder around.  The huge swathes of birds that fed far out on the mud made my scope come in useful almost continuously as the surf zone were most of the birds were present and feeding was up to a mile out (as I found out when looking at the OS map of the region the following day).  The rich feeding ground hoasted 100's of Grey Plover (in varrying plumages), similar numbers of Curlew, dozens of Redshanks, and Turnstone, whilst Black-tailed Godwits numbers easily reached into the 100's.  As with all bird counts this was clearly the hardest I had come across as the range and number of species spread all the way along the mudflat as far as one could see.  As a result, counting numbers would have proved an enormous task and the short time I was given was insufficient for making a proper estimate so I reside to counting species.  A single group of c.100 Golden Plovers were resting/ feeding closer inland, preferring the seaweed covered mud for resting whilst moving onto the mudflat for feeding whilst several Little Egrets also mingled within the masses.  100's of Dunlin were also on the entrance to the estuary but preferred to feed in the surf range were the sea meets the land over a mile out (according to the OS map mean low tide), whilst other waders such as the dozons possibly 100's of Bar-tailed Godwits (a year tick) fed slightly further inland.  Surprises came in the form of a Skua species, its profile was rather front heavy (less pot-bellied than a Great Skua) the tail appeared to had a small stub (not seen properly or clearly) indicating a possible Pomarine Skua and the white wing bar was thinner than that of a Great Skua, best left in question as I am unsure about the certain species,  it flew over the mudflat in a SW direction over a large congregation of 100+ dark-bellied Brent Geese , surprisingly there was only a single ad. winter Knot resting/ preening closer to the shingle ridge and a possible species of Scoter flew W up the estuary close to the shore as well as 6 Great Crested Grebes out at sea.  From the sea wall I also searched the reclaimed land/ fields were I noted 1 Whinchat a possible Merlin (too distant for certain ID) but unfortunately no Short-eared Owls.  I was picked up later in the evening at 6:30pm after watching the last of the Brent Geese move west along the shore along with large numbers of gulls and waders as they headed to their roost at the mouth of the Thames estuary.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Cornish Coastal walk around Lizard Point (2nd October)

We started out at early morning from our accommodation but only really got going once we arrived at Cadgwith, on the south Cornwall coast, past 10:00am.  The picturesque town and natural landscapes and dramatic coastline were a continuous distraction from the other wildlife present as I started taking landscape photographs.

south-west Cornish coast near the Lizard

 A spectacular depiction of an arch at Cagwith

 more dramatic shots of the coastline

The coastal path lead almost entirely along the top of the cliff face, at times reaching treacherously narrow ledges on which loosing your footing was not an option, without dire consequences.  However, the long and tiring walk was filled with plenty of encounters with the local and passage birds including 19+ Stonechats, mostly male proclaiming territory, 3 Kestrels, a small migratory group of c.6 Swallows and 1 Buzzard.  Most spectacular of all was the largest movement of 70+ Wheatear I have ever recorded (all individually counted at different sections of the walk to minimise overlap in counting the same birds), they covered almost every available perch and were swarming through the pastured fields and footpaths.

A very confiding Stonechat

Wall Brown

 Wall Brown

 unknown species of  Mushroom (definitely not my forté) but a large and impressing fungus all the same

 a species of plant that looks distinctively Mediterranean

Wheatear, some unusual cropping to include the sea

 A nice background to a shot of a Wheatear

 The main lighthouse at the headland

unfortunately not a Yanky Warbler that I was hoping for, but a skulking Dunnock

Small Copper

 Small Copper (unsure about gender, any opinions welcome)

 Lizard Point itself!!!

 one of an exact count of 70 Wheatear at the headland

my Dad

 Dad (Stephen) with two Red Admirals

Me, it's as desolate as it looks

I even squeezed in a short period of sea-watching, however the calm and hot weather had little promise for any good pelagic birds turning up.  There were still marine animals of note including 3 Grey Seals in Polpeor and Polbream Cove as were 6 Oystercatchers.  Before I had set my scope up a Scoter flew relatively close inland past Lizard Point, it was most probably a common Scoter however, due to the angle of the sun and only viewing the bird briefly through my bins it was insufficient for confirmation as to the exact species.  After reaching Lizard Point we continued north west towards Kynance Cove were we planned to make the rest of the walk over land through the neighbouring nature reserve.  The highlights were 2 flypast Choughs (a year tick), followed by 2 Ravens honking low overhead.  Despite having a map we till got lost through the nature reserve and this accounted for adding to our lateness back at the car and a late evening trip back home together with amazing memories of our stay in Falmouth and the dramatic Cornish coastline behind us.  Despite resting most of the way back in the car I did sea another Wheatear in the RNAS airfield and Tawny Owl from the car due to further navigational mishap on the roads as well as passing the famous Stonehenge site on the A303.  A magical ending to a fantastic weekend spent in Cornwall.