Monday, 17 December 2012

Patchwork Challenge

I thought I would take part in the patchwork challenge next year to try and get me out on the patch more often and to add the records to Birdtrack. The map below shows the patch and I will keep you posted on how I am doing. To be honest outside of the migration period I rarely visit the patch, so it will be interesting to see what I can discover, and add to the patch list. Over the past few years I have averaged around 140 species a year. how many will I see next year? Why not take up the challenge!!

Monday, 10 December 2012

Hornemann's Arctic Redpoll

Just a few images of "Bird of the Year" for me and one I have longed to see. To say it was confiding is an understatement with the bird so close at one point I could not focus on it with my bins, and it kept on getting closer!

Monday, 29 October 2012

Saturday 27th October

With a brisk north wind blowing I headed to Southwold for what was hopped to be a bird filled seawatch. However it soon become apparent that little was on the move, a couple of Little Auks, a lone bonxie, 20+ Eider were to be the best of it but bird of the day for me was a close north bound Sooty Shearwater.

Rain stopped play after a couple of hours.

Monday, 15 October 2012

8th - 14th October

With a week off and a long range forecast looking promising I was hoping for a good week of birding on the Suffolk coast. As would be expected there were days that provided some good birds and others that were hard work. The start of the week provided Ring Ouzel,  bearded tit, woodlark and the Yellow-browed Warbler at Thorpeness but in truth I was expecting more. The middle of the week was hard going and several sites were covered with little reward. Thursday saw a change in luck with some good birds found. A seawatch from Southwold was rewarded with big numbers of Gannets,  auks,  divers and wildfowl moving south. Highlights were a short-eared owl in off and pomarine,  great and Arctic skuas all headline south. 4 Firecrests were found at various places around Southwold but the best find was a Red-breasted Flycatcher at constitution hill.
Saturday was a relaxing affair at landguard but was filled with plenty of migrants. Highlights included 5 Ring Ouzels,  woodlark,  tree pipit, and a constant procession of finches and pipits.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012


Having seen the Hawfinch on the patch on Sunday I was very surprised not to find it still present yesterday morning after the abysmal weather. On returning this evening I was pleased to find it still feasting on berries and enjoying the evening sun.

1st Winter, note the barring on the lower flanks.

Monday, 24 September 2012

Saturday 22nd & Sunday 23rd - Thorpeness

With the forecast of something other than westerlies I was up and about early to catch the worm at Thorpeness, surely the forecast easterlies would deliver. The morning started well with my first Brambling of the year calling from trees in the middle section, whilst a smattering of Blackcaps and Lesser Whitethroats gorged on blackberries. A few Yellow Wagtails passed overhead as I walked along the beach and two Grey Herons also made their way south. After an hour or so it soon become apparent to myself and the other birders that had arrived that the place was not crawling with migrants and if anything was a little disappointing. The small field to the south had a good flock of Meadow Pipits with some 50+ birds but nothing else could be found in their ranks, but 4 jays heading north together was noteworthy. I decided to head to Margrets wood, having another 2 Bramblings on the way nut other than a lone Spotted Flycatcher here too seemed to be surprisingly birdless.
An hours seawatch provided a lone Manx Shearwater heading south but little else. With over night rain and strengthening winds forecast overnight I headed home in the hope of tomorrow bring more birds.

Another early morning and the forecast rain stopped just as myself and Lee arrived and the wind was a moderate easterly so a seawatch was first on the agenda whilst we gave the passerines time to wake up. Almost the first bird we spotted was a dark phase Long-tailed Skua heading north relatively close, this was shortly followed by a lone Sooty Shearwater tracking in the same direction. Two large shearwater were picked out heading north and  it soon become apparent they were Cory's Shearwaters! these superb birds were also picked up by other observers along the coast as they headed north. Lee soon found a Sabines Gull also heading north showing its tricoloured upperparts well.
Another observer alerted us to the presence of a Hawfinch that he had seen feeding ion the middle section, so being a patch tick I was keen to see it. After a few minutes of fruitless searching the bird was relocated and showed relatively well if a little concealed and seemed happy to gorge on the ripening fruits.
Back to a seawatch and over the next couple of hours I found a juvenile Sabines Gull, whilst more Sooty Shearwaters, Fulmars, Eider, 3+ Long-tailed Skua, Bonxie, Manx Shearwater, and a couple of Arctic Skuas kept us entertained. However with reports of Leache's PEtrels from up and down the cost I was keen to get a second patch tick for the day. After what seemed like ages I finally found one heading north as it sheared and glided over the rough sea, a superb end to a cracking weekend.

Spot the Hawfinch! 1of 2 patch ticks.

Monday, 10 September 2012

Short-billed Dowitcher 8Th September

Twitches have been in short supply this year with only 3 out of the county and a road trip with the boys is always a good giggle. Today we headed south for the Short-billed Dowitcher that had been present at Lodmoor in Dorset for a couple of days. We arrived a couple of hours after sunrise and it was cold, shorts perhaps not the best option. The dowitcher showed briefly but after 20 minutes or so came out and showed really well allowing for close scrutiny of all if features, it has to be one of the best looking waders I have seen for a long time. After taking it in for an hour or so we headed for Portland for the Monarch that had been reported the day before,  arriving on site just as news broke of it's continued presence.  At first it just sat with it's wings closed whilst it warmed up but after 20 minutes it flew around to allow a full appreciation of it's size and spectacular colours.
Next we headed for the Baillons Crake at Rainham and as the sun grew in strength the shorts were very welcome.  A long wait at rainham failed to produce the crake but did little to put a damper on a great day.

Monday, 3 September 2012

September 2nd - back to Landguard..again

Having jobs to do in the morning I managed to miss the Spanish Sparrow as it left its roost but headed over later in the morning. I searched the caravan park and Manor Road for over an hour and only really found a couple of descent sized Sparrow flocks, non of which held the male Spanish Sparrow. With only a handful of people looking I felt my best bet was to come back in the evening and try and see if I could find it before it went to roost.
I was just leaving my house at 5:15pm as I got a message to say the Spanish Sparrow was showing near its roost site, bugger. I was on site within 15 minutes but the bird had already crossed the road and flown in to bushes within the dock complex. A keen eyed birder soon found it roosting within the buddlea and I was able to see the bird as it shuffled around a preened, I hope to get back on another evening a bit earlier and catch it in the open before it dives of to roost.

Saturday 1st September

This morning was spent at Languard with the boys in the vain hope that the early morning drizzle may drop something in, after all this day last year saw an Arctic Warbler discovered on similar conditions! In reality birding was slow with the sea producing much of the action, the first few Wigeon headed south along with Teal and a few waders, whilst a distant skua sp headed north. A few Yellow Wagtails passed overhead but in general the land was devoid of migrants. On the common a Wheatear with a white tipped tail provided a bit of interest, but still proved just to be a Northern Wheatear. We headed south towards the customs house area and studied each sparrow intently but no Spanish.

Having just finished my evening meal the message of the re found Spanish Sparrow had me heading back to Landguard. The flock however seemed to settled for the night and their Spanish cousin failed to show itself in the fading light.

Friday, 31 August 2012

Sewatch 30th August

With the wind swinging from the South to the North late in the day I headed over to Thopeness for an evening sea watch. The wind was a moderate to strong northwest, with the last of the persistent rain clearing just before I arrived. Almost the first birds I looked at were a flock of 8 Lon-tailed Skuas heading south, with their small tern like jizz and playful shearing flight making them obvious. Several hundred terns were also heading south in mixed flocks, in total some 4000+ birds passed by with at least 8 Arctic and 4 Black terns identified. 3 Arctic Skuas also passed by with a further flock of 4 Long-tailed Skuas added soon after having also been seen at Sizewell. 5 swifts, 2 Ruff and 4 Fulmar were the best supporting birds. The Skua passage ended about an hour after I arrived but the tern flocks kept coming right up until I left at 7.30pm.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

2nd July, a long awaited Minsmere tick

After a missing a couple in recent years I finally added Red-necked Phalarope to my Minsmere list, number 269.

The Spoonbills also showed slightly better on the Levels.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Sunshine and cream, just need the Strawberries

I couldn't take it any more, message after message of an adult Cream-coloured Courser showing well slowly eat in to me. So I gave in and headed west. After a 4hour drive we opened the car door to be taken of our feet by a wall of heat. Bugger me it was hot!! A short walk and we were soon watching a bird I can now remove from my bucket list Cream coloured Courser, I can now die a happier man. The surroundings were amazing with views of several miles around us and with larks singing and a heat haze it was like being whisked away to another country. The Courser showed fantastically well even if the heat haze did spoil views ever so slightly. The head pattern was amazing as was the jizz of the bird, if it had stood any more upright I think it would have fallen over backwards, it even sported some Nora Batty style wrinkly knees.

The view from Bradnor Hill

The cream of the Crop?

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Cuckoo and Fog horns

A late morning start and myself and Lee headed to Boyton marshes part in hope to relocate the Black-winged Stilts and part in search of migrants. A Cuckoo greeted us as we left the car park and a little drizzle was more of an annoyance than anything. A fog horn indicated to a misty sea and indeed viability was less than a mile. A welcome sight was 9+ Avocet chicks running around, with the adults chasing everything off including a male Yellow Wagtail. The Lapwing also had 3 young none of which seemed phased by the wet weather. A good number of hirundines and swifts hawked low over the flashes and surrounding fields, the hirundines able to rest and preen on the barded wire fences.

House Martin, Sand Martins, and Swallows.

A group of Swifts hawked at head height and followed us along the river wall as we kicked up insects, some of the swifts almost clipped us with their wings as they flashed past. A lone Buzzard was seen loafing off across the fields but little else was noted on the far flashes.

At the next stop, Hollesley marshes, the best we could muster was a lone Spoonbill and more hirundines.
Heading further south Shingle Street added 3 Greenland Wheatears to the days tally but very little else, migrants seemingly all but absent.
Our final stop of the day provided a bit more interest with 4 Yellow Wagtails, including a grey looking female, Hobby, Wheatear, Common Sandpiper and sunshine (if only for a few minutes). The local Swallows performed well but the light was always poor.

Grey looking female Yellow Wagtail

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Minsmere 05-05-12

After a late start I headed to Thorpeness in search of migrants via North Warren. The flashes failed to produce the hoped for Black-winged Stilts with only a couple of swifts and a few Little Egrets present. Thorpeness provided a bit more interest with a couple of Garden Warblers, and several each of Lesser Whitethroat, Whitethroat, Blackcaps and Willow Warblers. It seemed most birds were keeping their heads down in the stiff north east wind.
I headed to Minsmere as the south levels are really starting to look good with all the flooding.

South Levels from the Eastbridge footpath looking south.

Viewing from the beach side the levels soon produced a drake Garganey that promptly disappeared into some long grass and up to 8 Grey Plover, 10+ Bar-tailed Godwits and a couple of Whimbrel. Several hundred Swifts, and hirundines hawked low over the rising water. 3 male Greenland Wheatears bounced around a small semi-flooded field near the sluice. I walked west along the Eastbrdige footpath to view the levels from just past the ruined abbey. I soon picked out more waders with 5 Greenshanks all looking smart in Summer plumage, 3 Garganey (2males, 1 female), 6+ Black-tailed Godwit, 3 Snipe and best of all a Wood Sandpiper. 2 more Wheatears were also picked out.
Walking back 5+ Greenland Wheatears were on the north wall and a Black Redstart flicked around the bushes whilst a large assembled crowd admired the still present Wryneck.

Friday, 4 May 2012

"Atlas" Flycatcher

Above is some of the Video obtained of the Black and White Flycatcher (suspected Atlas) at Flamborough. It was first seen at 07:00hrs and it started calling straight away. The commonest call was a high pitched call, similar to Collard Flycatcher. On comparing with a recording of Collard the call of this bird seemed to be of equal, maybe slightly higher, in pitch but shorter in length. What ever it turns out to be it was a superb bird and I thoroughly enjoyed watching it.

Monday, 30 April 2012

Rain, sunshine and migrants at last.

Starting off mid morning, myself and Craig stopped at south marsh North Warren to give the flooded area a look. A summer plumaged and winter plumaged Bar-tailed Godwit were feeding on the short cropped grass, whilst a Grasshopper Warbler reeled near-by, not a bad start. We next headed to Thorpeness Caravan park where we were greeted by singing Lesser Whitethroat, Whitethroat, Blackcap, Willow Warbler and Yellowhammer. A walk around soon found a few more Willow Warblers, Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps present along with singles of Lesser Whitethroat and Whitethroat. 2 Swifts buzzed over as the rain closed in and we headed to Minsmere.
Over Island Mere a host of hirundines consisted of some 50+ House Martins, 25+ Swallow, 10+ Sand Martin and some 30+ Swifts also joined in. A couple of Otters kept us entertained whilst we waited for the rain to pass.

After the rain had passed we went along the beach and around the sluice bushes. This proved most productive with a 1st summer Redstart, Garden Warbler, Yellow Wagtail, Whitethroat, Lesser Whitethroat, and several each of Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff being seen. A Knot was a surprise find on the flooded fields of the levels.
Back at the visitors centre we watched a Black Redstart as it fed up on the bank with a couple of Goldfinches. A Cuckoo called on the way out of the reserve and rounded of a nice day in the field.

1st Summer male Redstart, note restricted orange on breast, grey rather than black throat, brown wings and less white on forehead.

Redstart top, Balck Redstart bottom

Friday, 30 March 2012

Minsmere 29th March

With news emerging of 2 Penduline Tits photographed at Minsmere on Monday I spent a few hours after work trying to search them out. The photographer snapped them feeding on Reed mace near South Hide, so I headed here first. I diligently looked at each stand of reed mace but drew a blank, but I did find a pair of Garganey tucked away feeding on the pools south of South hide. I decided to spent the last hour of daylight in Bittern hide as I had yet to see one this year. About 20 minutes after getting in the hide a lone bird slowly emerged from the reed edge and began feeding.

Garganey, the female showing the distinct head pattern nicely.
Bittern feeding in the late evening.

Feather detail of Pheasant

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Glossy Ibis - Eastbridge

I spent a couple of hours after work trying to get some video of the Glossy Ibis which has been in residence at Minsmere/Eastbrdige for several weeks now. The bird often showed well but with the sun going down I was fighting an ever losing battle. A few digis and the video are the best I got, hope to get back soon.

Glossy Ibis - Minsmere/Eastbridge

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Minsmere - 18-03-12

A late morning visit to Minsmere was the order of the day with early spring migrants the target. Getting to North wall the first 4 of 5 Wheatears for the day were noted, all stunning males and looking even better when the odd patch of sun illuminated them. A singing Chffchaff was further proof that spring is just around the corner. The scrape was mainly covered  with Black-headed Gulls but a few Avocet, Dunlin, Turnstone and a Pair of Mediterranean Gulls were also present. Big gull numbers were down with only 30 odd loafing about. A couple of Caspians, one of which may have been a hybrid but didn't manage any shots of the primary pattern, were picked out. On the sea 3 Red-throated Divers, one in summer plumage, and a few Gannets were seen. Near the sluice the 5th Wheatear of the day put in a brief appearance. The levels was playing host to 400+ large gulls and a scan revealed about 5 Yellow-legged and a Caspian. The most interesting bird from my point of view was a herring gull type with what looked like yellow legs, the bird however as the photo shows was standing in water only letting the top inch of the leg to be visible. It also never lifted its head. Based on the colour of the mantle I suspect it was a Marsh Gull, or Omissis type Herring Gull and proves the not all Herring Gulls with yellow legs are Yellow-legged Gulls. The walk back to the carpark provided a couple of Whopper Swans behind south hide and a fly over immature Spoonbill.

Wheatear 1 of 5
omissis type Herring Gull? (standing in water just below centre, note mantle tone similar to Herring Gulls in flock to the rear) Yellow tops of legs just visible.

Monday, 12 March 2012

Gull on Gull action

With the number of large gulls increasing and a few Caspian Gulls being reported again at Minsmere Myself and Craig headed over to give the scrape a look to see what we could find and perhaps learn a thing or two. It soon became apparent that the turnover of gulls was minimal with most birds just loafing around or asleep. Several Herring and Greater black-backed were present with 3 or 4 Lesser black-backs, 2 Meds, 1 Common and plenty of Black-heads making up the rest of those present. It took us well over an hour to identify our first Caspain after a couple of false starts. 5 Yellow-legged Gulls of various ages were found and spurred us on. In the end, after almost 3 hours we found 3 Caspians, and 5+ Yellow-legged were identified and I think we both learned a bit more. Its good to try and put what you read into practise but I think just studying birds is more helpful in forwarding your knowledge.
A Lesser White-fronted Goose which flew in from the west was a couple of Barnacles was a very smart individual but had about as much credentials as the White-cheeked Pintail also on the scrape.
A Herring Gull was also found which had probably been rung in Texel, am awaiting details.

Caspians and Yellow-legged

2 more Yellow-legged Gulls, note difference in leg tone. 

Texel ringed Herring Gull

The Lesser White-fronted Goose, no rings and fully winged - must be wild!

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Sunday 26th

Out with Lee and first stop Minsmere. The Glossy Ibis was immediately on show but very distant, it still showed better than the Great White Egret the remained out of sight. 4 redhead Smew were picked out among the Tufted Duck on Island mere and a both Nuthatch and Crossbill called from behind us in Scots Hall wood.
On leaving the reserve we found the 20 wild Swans, 17 Bewick's and 3 Whopper, at their normal haunt and picked out the neck collard bird.

Neck collard Bewick's Swan

Stopping at Eastbridge we had 24/25 Bewick's fly in and land on north levels, presumably different from those at Westleton, but failed to find the Hooded Crow.
Next we stopped at North Warren to try and find the Greenland White-fronted Goose but all but a handful were located in the North east corner making it very difficult to find our quarry. We cut our losses and headed to Hollesley Common in search of Crossbills and Siskins. We soon found a suitable puddle and settled down and waited for the birds to come to us. Singing Woodlarks created a superb background.

Crossbill - not far to go.


Tuesday 21st - Wild Goose chase

Having missed the Greenland white-fronted Goose yesterday I was determined to see it today. Things however did not look good as only 15 or so White-fronts were viewable from half way house when I arrived. The wind was strong and most of the other geese were in the far north east corner making viewing extremely difficult. The geese however seemed restless and many small groups were flying around, some started to join the close flock. After 10 minutes most of the flock came close and I soon picked out the Greenland bird with its distinctive Greylag type orange bill. I did manage a bit of video but apologies for the wind shake and noise.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

North Suffolk

Myself and Craig started out at a snow covered Covehithe, hopping the fresh snowfall may have forced a few more birds on to Benacre broad. A flock of geese was scrutinised and amongst the commoner Brents and Greylags, 2 White-fronts and a family group of Pale-bellied Brents were found. A lone grey goose came in off but was lost to few before we could get much on it but lack of pale panels in the wing eliminated Greylag and going on size we sided with Bean Goose. The woods around the broad played host to a mixed thrush flock, with good numbers of Song Thrush amongst the Redwings, a definite influx of Song Thrushes has occurred with the snow. The broad itself held little as it was 90% frozen but 5 Goldeneye were picked out in a ice free area.

We next headed to Lowestoft insearch of the Iceland Gull but after searching Hamilton Dock gave up and went to Leathes Ham, only to find it roosting on the ice. The light was teriible so apologies for the rubbish snaps. Also present were a couple of ringed gulls which I am waiting the return of their details, a female Smew, and a Gadwall x Wigeon hybrid and a Tufted Duck x Ferruginous Duck hybrid.

Iceland Gull

Tufted Duck x Ferruginous Duck hybrid

Wigeon x Gadwall hybrid.

Next stop Minsmere hoping for views of the Glaucous Gull but it had departed before we arrived. South scrape did produce 7 redhead Smew, and the drake Wigeon x American Wigeon hybrid. 3 Water Rails were seen running around on the ice between south and west hide and south belts, like Benacre held good numbers of Redwing, Song thrush and Blackbird. The drive out produced 2 Woodcock, both of which proved to be camera shy.


Saturday, 11 February 2012

Bit on the Chilly Side

Spent the day birding In Suffolk, with a lot on offer it was an early start, but -10 at 7:30 did cause a sharp intake of breath. A few photos of the highlights below, more to follow.

Bearded Tit - Felixstowe Ferry

Red-necked Grebe - Alton Water

Bittern - Melton match lakes