Monday, 27 February 2012

Ringing at The Mumbles, Steyning

A frosty start quickly turned into a bright warm day, and the birds were out in force, with over 100 caught from a 4 hour session. With Reed Bunitngs galore, plus a few splendid Goldfinches and Greenfinches, my personal highlight was my first Goldcrest in the hand; this splendid female.

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Dungeness - Grebes and Gulls

At 6.15 this morning, looking out my window at the drizzle and facing a five hour round trip, Dungeness seemed very unappealing indeed; however, as any intrepid birder should, i togged up and headed out into the gloom! And boy, was it worth it.

Arriving at half past nine and greeted by some Reed Buntings and House Sparrows on the feeders, the rain had stopped but it was still pretty gloomy. The visitor centre didn't open until 10, so we headed to the hide by the car park, and were instantly rewarded. Through the gloom, we picked out another lifer for me, a Long-Tailed Duck, of which a poor record shot is attached. Keeping company with it were six Goldeneye, including a drake, two redhead Smew and good numbers of Tufted Duck, Shoveler, Teal and Gadwall.

Long Tailed Duck (Clangula hyemalis)

Once the centre had opened, and everyone had stocked up on coffee and flapjacks, we headed out onto the reserve, making our first stop at the Makepeace Hide. From here the first unusual gull of the day was pointed out by another birder, a Yellow-Legged Gull. Also out on the lake with the usual ducks was another red head Smew, good numbers of Golden Plover, Lapwing and six Pintail. We were also treated to a fly past by a single Avocet.

Northern Pintail (Anas acuta)

European Golden Plover (Pluvialis apricaria), Northern Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus) and Gadwall (Anas strepera)

The Christmas Dell Hide was virtually silent, with only a few Tufted Duck on the water, but this was countered by the fact the sun was starting to come out, just in time for some more cracking birds from the Denge Marsh Hide. From here, another new species of duck was added to the list, Pochard. There was also a wonderful display from a female Marsh Harrier, before these two Great-Crested Grebes began courting. Unfortunately, the female wasn't very impressed by the weed that this male offered up! With the sun fully shining now, we were also treated to a very fleeting glimpse of a Bearded Tit, and just as we were retreating to the visitor centre for lunch, 14 Greylags flew onto the lake and four Little Grebe arrived.

After soaking up some sun over lunch, with the company of a Goldcrest, it was time to head to the coast to see what was around. On the way out, we stopped at the house to watch the beautiful Tree Sparrows for a minute, my personal highlight of the day.

Tree Sparrows (Passer montanus)

Once at the coast and with the sun at full power, we almost immediately caught sight of another unusual gull sleeping on the beach, and after a short period of waiting it stood up and revealed itself to be the overwintering second winter Galucous Gull!

Glaucous Gull (Larus hyperboreus)

With time pressing, we decided a quick seawatch was in order, but it proved to be a very successful fifteen minutes. The first and most obvious presence was that of the Great-Crested Grebe, not one but well over a hundred drifting by just offshore, by far and away the most I've ever seen in one place and probably doubling my life tally! Amongst the Grebes were two Guillemot and four Red-Throated Divers flew by us, before this Kittiwake came and settled not ten foot away and enjoyed some fish.

Kittiwake (Rissa tridactyla)

Our final stop of the day was the ARC pit, and we were rewarded with the first drake Smew of the day. From here, along with all the other ducks already on the list, were more Golden Plover, two Black-Tailed Godwit, a Little Egret and a single Snipe. Another Marsh Harrier gave an acrobatic display before our parting gift; this drake Goldeneye, which came very close giving great views. Looking back, braving the drizzle and the long journey was well worth it, a wonderful days birding!

Common  Goldeneye (Bucephala clangula)

Friday, 24 February 2012

Farlington Marshes

We made the most of a trip to Portsmouth for some safety wellies and did some cross-border birding at Farlington and Southsea Castle, our first stop of the day. Upon arrival the tide was already fairly high, and we were fully expecting to have missed the Purple Sandpipers, but on arrival at the tip of Southsea Castle, we spotted four very obliging birds feeding around the surf, running up and down the embankment to avoid it; to our amusement. Just as we were walking back a Rock Pipit put in a very brief showing before flying off into the old moat area, its call echoing around.

Purple Sandpiper (Calidris maritima)

After the quick stop to get wellies, it was on to Farlington, where we immediately caught on to the GREEN-WINGED TEAL present on the inner lake. Unfortunately views were not great as it was sound asleep, but the vertical white line from its shoulder was unmissable. Also present on the lake were two Avocet, a single Greenshank, lots of Eurasian Teal, Redshank, Black-tailed Godwit, three Dunlin and two Shoveler.   

Greenshank (Tringa nebularia) and Redshank (Tringa totanus)

Avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta)

On the way round, Skylark and Lapwing were calling constantly, and once out onto the southern edge of the marshes, a look out to sea found us two Curlew, plenty of Oystercatchers, a Little Grebe and at least fifteen Red-Breasted Mergansers gathered around the first little island. The second Island was covered in Knot and Dunlin, with a few Grey Plover and Godwit scattered amongst them and a pair of Gadwell floating just offshore. Further round we also found five Goldeneye (one of my favourite ducks) including a splendid drake, amongst more Mergansers and four Great-Crested Grebes.

Drake and female Pintail (Anas acuta)

Back on the marshes were the usual suspects, including Pintail, Shoveler, Widgeon, Teal, Little Egret, Gadwell, what must have been at least 800 Brent Geese and 150 plus Shelduck, by far the most I've ever seen in one place. On the way back, just next to the barn we were treated to my first Stonechat of the year, a male and female, as well as some Long-Tailed Tits and a Song Thrush. Unusually, we didn't see a single raptor throughout the day.

Stonechat (Saxicola rubicola)

At the end of the day, we tried for the Iceland Gull at Budds SF, but with no luck. We did add Tufted Duck to the list, which brought it over 40, a very good half day total, including two lifers for me.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Beeding Brooks

So, my first post!
An afternoon spent at Beeding Brooks looking for the four Tundra Bean Geese proved successful and rather eventful. Having logged only a few Reed Buntings and Goldfinches from a walk across the brooks to the Adur, we decided to walk along the river a way. This proved successful when we spotted the Bean Geese flying upriver and then across the brooks, and also the first of four Short-eared Owls seen, which was being mobbed by a female Kestrel; eventually having its prey snatched. We then flushed this fine looking Sparrowhawk which had a Starling in its clutches, and it very obligingly sat on the opposite bank and posed for me.

Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus) with prey (Starling)

Then, not long after I took this photo, another female Kestrel (possibly the same one) came and after a brief scuffle, stole this birds prey too. Unfortunately the Starling proved a little too large, and was dropped soon after the Kestrel flew off.
Our walk back along the river produced another three Short-eared Owls, as well as a pair of Peregrines in the same binocular view, quite a sight. As the light was fading and the cormorants were coming in to roost on the pylons, a flock of at least 40 Redwing and Fieldfare settled in a tree nearby, and this owl posed nicely, but only for a record shot.
Short-eared Owl (Asio flammeus)

We also logged two Grey Herons and two Little Egrets on the brooks. Then from Smugglers Lane we got another view of the Bean Geese with some Greylags and Canadas. A very pleasant afternoon birding.