Tuesday 27th December 2011

   Back to Slimbridge today for the Bitterns, lot colder and duller than last trip! Which turned into a bit of a blessing as there were a lot less people in the Zeiss hide.

   I got to the hide, put down my bag and tripod. By the time i had got my camera off the tripod, a movement in the reeds revealed a Bittern, which flew up and landed in the open area between the reedbeds. Took some shots, camera on wrong settings, BUGGER! "There are 2" someone said. Looked, but couldnt see the second one. But, kept an eye on the area anyway, which paid off, when another movement put me onto the other Bittern. This one then continued through the reedbed towards the hide. After about a minute of trying to hide behind a fence post, it walked out into the open and out onto the grass. It stood in the open for probably 3 minutes, before walking, out in the open, along the fenceline. Then flew along in front of us and down into the reedbed again. Sadly, neither showed again for the next 2 hours! So i went to the Rushy Pen hide to look for the, probable returning, female Lesser Scaup. She was sat on an island asleep! So, no photos, but got the Bitterns anyway, so happy.

Great Bittern

Sunday 25th December 2011

   Merry Christmas & Happy New Year to all my blog readers

Sunday 24th December 2011

   A short visit to Catcott Lows saw some good birds even with the crap weather. We arrived in the car park and immediately saw a female Marsh Harrier in the air with a Pergrine! Not bad. Walked int o the hide and someone said "We have had Peregrine, Marsh Harrier and Hen Harrier in the air together". I asked where the Hen Harrier had gone, and was told it was flying along the tree line to the left of the hide. Saw it and rushed outside to try to get some shots, only to see it disappear behind the trees! Still decnt start, but then nothing happened, as the Peregrine decided to sit on the ground, for most of the rest of the time we were there. The Marsh Harrier went out towards the Canada farm reedbed.

Sunday 18th December 2011

   Another trip to the Forest of Dean, to look for Crossbills, hopefully. Again nothing at the normal good spots, New Fancy View and Speech House, and the usual Tits, etc at Cannop. So, last chance, Parkend Church. We got lucky as a female Crossbill landed at the top a large tree, had a preen and flew down towards the ground, a couple of minutes later the female and a male flew to the line of larches at the back of the Cemetery, before flying off. No Hawfinches yet though.

Sunday 11th December 2011

    An afternoon trip to Chew had acouple of different birds to go with the Sharp-tailed Sandpiper. Really frustrating this bird, just when you think it may come closer to the hide, something flushes it or the Dunlin its with, pain in the butt! The different birds came in the form of a Black Swan, rather odd! Four Red-crested Pochard were good even if fairly regular now.

Saturday 10th December 2011

  Bitterns at Slimbridge was the aim today. So went straight to the Zeiss hide and waited. We saw 2 of the 3 Bitterns which have been seen there. Sadly they were either very well hidden or too far away for me to photograph. Oh well maybe next time, seem to be saying that a lot recently!!!!!!

Sunday 4th December 2011

    Decided to take a look at the Forest of Dean today. Sadly NOT brilliant! New Fancy View, no feeders this year, so not too many birds around. Speech House, the usual log had no food on it, and so no birds again. Brierley, not a lot going on there either! So stopped off at Cannop ponds, near the feeding station. A lot of activity there, but other than a pair of Marsh Tits showing on & off, nothing really special. I mentioned that we had not seen a Sparrowhawk here, which you would think would be regular with the feeders around. Ten minutes or so later the birds went mad as a female Sparrowhawk went through the feeding station, it missed!

Blue Tit
Coal Tit

Long-tailed Tit
Marsh Tit

Saturday 3rd December 2011

   Quick trip out to Chew today. Not much different from the last few trips. Sharp-tailed & Spotted Sandpipers still showing. The Water Rails still in the channel at Herriotts. Got some very distant shots of the Sharp-tailed, not what i would have liked, but will have to do sadly!

Sharp-tailed Sandpiper (centre), with Dunlin & Lapwings

Sunday 27th November 2011

   After reading plenty of reports of a Rough-legged Buzzard showing well near Arundel, West Sussex, i decided to contact a mate, Nick Bond, who lives close-by. He said he would meet me there and show the best places for the bird.
    We parked at the 'Triangle' car parking area, and from there we saw a female type Merlin chasing a Skylark around. There were plenty of Buzzards around in the sunshine, with one very pale one, which i had seen there earlier in the year, while looking for the Pallid Harrier which had been there. Nick arrived, a  ring-tailed Hen Harrier chased the flock of small birds, and then we walked to the 'best' place to view the bird. But, sadly the wind had turned around from yesterday, and the bird decided to stay on the other side of the valley today! Luck of the draw i suppose. There were at least 2 Red Kites in the area too. Also seen were some Corn Buntings and Grey Partridges.
    Maybe next time i will get some shots.

Saturday 26th November 2011

   Decided to got to the Levels today, but when we arrived there the weather changed, dull and horrible, and rain. So, Catcott and the hide was the best idea. There was a flock of Redwings and Fieldfares in the trees along the track to the car park. The usual ducks there, Pintail, Wigeon, Teal and Shoveler mainly. There were still quite a lot of Snipe around too. Only slightly odd bird was a Great Spotted Woodpecker, which flew across the open water!
   The weather was still crap, so we decided to go back via Chew. The Sharp-tailed Sandpiper showed again with the Dunlin flock. Two Black-tailed Godwits were in the same area, but no sign of the Dowitchers. The Egyptian Goose was still in Herons Green bay.

Sunday 20th November 2011

  This morning saw me take the very long drive to Northumberland. I was hoping to see the Greater Yellowlegs, a very rare wader in Britain. I had seen them in the US a couple of times, but the draw of an Eastern type Black Redstart in the same county did the trick. Now to find the birds. A pager message said the bird had flown from Hauxley (which seemed to be the best place early in the morning to see the bird, and best for really close shots), before we had arrived. Another message said the bird had been refound at East Chevington, South pool. We arrived at the North pool, wrong one, to news the bird had disappeared again!! Had a quick look through the birs on the pool. There was a fairly large flock of Geese, mainly Greylags, but there were probably 25 White-fronted Geese and a smaller amount of Pink-footed Geese. A few waders there too, Dunlin and Redshanks.
   We decided to go to Hauxley to hope the Yellowlegs would relocate there. Around the car park there was a small flock of Tree Sparrows. I spoke to the warden who explained where the bird gets normally. Again the pager went off, the Yellowlegs was at Cresswell pond! Got there fairly quickly and the bird was there, seen from the hide, but the other end of the pool, so i went to that end only to find it back at the hide end!! Giving me the run around, but did manage some distant shots.
Greater Yellowlegs
   With probably only an hour and a half of light left, i decided to go to Holy Island for the Redstart. After parking the car and a fairly quick walk along the beach, there was my second quarry. This bird showed really well as the light went, but well enough, i suppose.

'Eastern' Black Redstart (form phoenicuroides)
   Bloody long drive home!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! But, two stunning birds ticked off.

Saturday 19th November 2011

   A surprise phone call from Nigel Milbourne yesterday, saying there was a probable Sharp-tailed Sandpiper at Blagdon, WOW! Another rarity, at the lakes! Drove home and straight to Blagdon, no sign!! "Bugger. Try again tomorrow". So this morning saw my Dad and me at Blagdon, along with quite a few others as you can imagine. No sign again. The Long-tailed Duck was still showing well though. We had already sort of planned our day, so decided to head home and then onto Devon for the Desert Wheatear. As luck would have it, as i drove passed the Blue Bowl Inn, the pager went off, the Sharp-tailed Sandpiper had been relocated at Chew, from Herriotts bridge. Turned around in the car park and was there in minutes. No sign. There were about 8 birders there, they said it had walked out of sight behind the reedbed. After a rather frustrating 10-15 minutes a small flock of Dunlin appeared. Scanned through them, still no sign, but another small flock then flew in, "There it is". Brilliant, tried to get my Dad on it, but it disappeared again. Not to worry as we had seen one in Kent a few years ago. The Spotted Sandpiper was also popular, as were the 2 Long-billed Dowitchers which had arrived from Blagdon too.
Desert Wheatear (1st Winter Male)
   Home, then off to Man Sands, Devon. Not been there before, but was fairly easy to find. After about a 3/4 mile downhill walk, i got to the Coastguards cottages, and within minutes there was my first male Desert Wheatear, brilliant (again). We stopped off at Broadsands on the way back home, but nothing really to mention, only Great Crested Grebes there.

 Not a bad day then. Desert Wheatear, Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, Spotted Sandpiper, Long-tailed Duck and 2 Long-billed Dowitchers!!!!

Sunday 13th November 2011

  Change of scenery today, well to start with anyway! A trip down to Catcott Lows was surprisingly good, the last trip there and there was no water at all. This time there was plenty. A big flock of Lapwing, Wigeon, Teal, Shoveler and Pintail was hiding some other goodies. Loads of Snipe which were only really on view when they were flushed by a Peregrine, which flew through at least 4 times. After one flush, i picked up a Reeve flying around with the Lapwing. While trying to get my Dad on it, we found 2 more Ruff as well. There was also c.100 Golden Plover there too.
Golden Plovers

Peregrine Falcon

   We drove through Blagdon on the way back. We found an early female Goldeneye and a juvenile Long-tailed Duck in the bay near the Lodge. Then briefly back at Chew, there was an adult Bewicks Swan from Herriotts bridge, this bird had been seen at Blagdon in the days before.

Long-tailed Duck

Sunday 6th November 2011

More of Chew today. The drake Goosander was again in Herriotts channel, this time he was with an eclipse drake Red-breasted Merganser. There were at least 6 Dunlin showing on the mud from Herriotts bridge, along with 3 Golden Plover and a Black-tailed Godwit. I decided to go to Priddy, just for a chance of maybe catching up with some Crossbills. As it turned out, i was in luck! 2 males & a female flew over not long after we arrived, a couple of Siskins also flew over.

Saturday 5th November 2011

 An afternoon trip to Chew turned up a few good birds again. Including a drake Ring-necked Duck, a drake Ferruginous Duck and the Spotted Sandpiper still. But, there were also my first Goosander, a drake, for the Autumn/Winter in Herriotts channel. An Egyptian Goose was showing well in Herons Green bay.
Eguptian Goose

Goosander (Drake)

Sunday 30th October 2011

   Another visit to Chew today. A Green Sandpiper, a 30+ flock of Linnets (not a really common sight at Chew), and a couple of Little Egrets were the best of the bunch at Herons Green. The Spotted Sandpiper showed again at Herriotts pool, but not for the camera again. There were at least 3 Water Rails showing in the channel. Stratford hide had been decent for quite a while now, so we decided to go take a look. As we got out of the car in the car park a flock of c20 Thrushes flew over, mainly Fieldfares, but there were 2/3 Redwings too. From the hide we had soon seen the drake Ferruginous Duck, drake Ring-necked Duck, a 1st Winter/eclipse drake Scaup, a drake Ruddy Duck and at least 1 (maybe 2) 1st Winter/eclipse drake Red-breasted Mergansers. Not a bad day at all!

Saturday 29th October 2011

   As there was a fairly high tide last night and this morning, i thought i would give Aust Warth a try, see if there were any Short-eared Owls around. The tide was not quite high enough really, but as it got to its peak a Shorty flew out of the grass and was chased by Crows, it flew towards the 1st Severn crossing and then out across the river. A couple of minutes later i picked it up again as it came back to the warth. It landed in the long grass and that was the end of that, as the tide was had turned and was going back out! Also there, was a Kingfisher which showed well for a minute or so, before disappearing down the Pill!

Wednesday 26th October 2011

    Tried after work yesterday for the female Pied Wheatear at Thornbury Yacht Club, Oldbury-on-Severn, sadly by the time we found where we were going, it was almost dark and pouring with rain! So, i went back today after work again, much better weather helped. The bird showed well, then the rain started again, but at least this time we could see the end of the clouds, so i waited around. The clouds and rain cleared and the Wheatear showed really well again. This is the first record of Pied Wheatear in South Glos and Avon (as was).
Pied Wheatear (Female)

Monday 17th October 2011

    Back to Chew again today, to have a look for the Spotted Sandpiper at Herriotts pool. Got fairly decent views today, but not exactly showing well for the camera. Oh well, will have to try again if it stays!

Sunday 16th October 2011

   Just a quick afternoon visit to Chew and Blagdon today after recovering from Scilly. Nothing much happening at Chew, but at Blagdon there were 2 Long-billed Dowitchers in the wader flock. The flock also included 2 Black-tailed Godwits, at least a dozen Golden Plover, some Dunlin and a Ruff. Near the Lodge there was a juvenile Long-tailed Duck, showing well with a flock of Tufted Duck.

Saturday 15th October 2011

   Last day, got the tent down and sorted everything out. Had planned to spend most of the day at Lower Moors to see if i could get some more shots, in better light, of the Waterthrush. The hide was full!!!! Oh, well. The Yellowlegs showed well again. Decided to give up and go to the Scillonian Club and watch the second half of the Liverpool vs Man Utd game, before getting ferry back to Penzance.
   Only real decent birds on the ferry for me were Bonxies, probably 8 plus, but one group of 6 together was good.
   Then the drive home. Great week on Scillies, think that may prove that Scillies is still a great place to be in October, even after a few duller years, it was back! Even LGRE made a trip down there this year, must have been good. Cant wait for next year.

Friday 14th October 2011

   Right, my final chance for the Least Sandpiper on Tresco. I had spoken to quite a few birders who had told me about the paths through the reedbed, so you can get closer to the pool. Most of the birders on the boat over had already seen the Least, and so went straight to the Abbey pool for the juvenile Spotted Crake. This was showing really close, so kept them busy for a while. I went off to the Great pool, to see if the bird was there. I went straight to the path through the reedbed, but no sign. Then over the CB came the message that it was there, i just couldnt see it, bugger again!!! I walked around to where the birders were watching it. It then flew farther up the pool, and looked to me like it was right by the pathway, where i had been earlier. I walked around there and got some close shots, at f****** last i thought! Sorry about that, but it was what i thought!

Least Sandpiper

   I then had enough time to go back to the Abbey pool for the Crake. Most of the birders had gone by then and had some great views of that bird too, as you can see.
Spotted Crake

Thursday 13th October 2011

   Woke up to find that we were fog bound! Oh, well lets see what happens. Decided to go to see the Bluethroat at Porth Hellick. When we arrived most of the people were halfway up the hill towards Carn Friars. The bird had shown well a bit earlier, the normal old comment you hear everytime you miss the bird!! As it was the bird then showed fairly close in the Horse fields at Carn Friars. It then disappeared. After about half an hour there was a message on the CB, the Bluethroat had been netted down behind Porth Hellick pool. We had really close in hand views and many pix were taken, not by me though, not too keen on in hand shots of birds! The bird was then released back in the reedbed. While waiting for news on where the Bluethroat had gone, most of the birders went to look at the Wryneck, at the other end of Porth Hellick beach. The bird showed really well, shame about the fog!!!! When they came back out of the reedbed, i asked one of the ringers which way it had gone, and he pointed back to Carn Friars. When we got there it was on the path. Eventually we managed some real close-up shots, through the mist, of it.


Wednesday 12th October 2011

   Back to Tresco again to try to get some shots of the Least Sandpiper. No luck again, this time didnt even see the bird. Did have a Peregrine and the Lesser Yellowlegs. But, disappointing. Better luck next time, huh!

Tuesday 11th October 2011

   While on Tresco on Monday i was told that the Red-breasted Flycatcher in the Parsonage, St Agnes, was NOT one of the usual 1st Winter jobs, but a full summer plumaged male. So today found me on my way to St Agnes and the Parsonage gateway. While there we also saw at least 2 of each Spotted and Pied Flycatchers. Along with quite a few Chiffchaffs and a Willow Warbler, obviously plenty of food there then! Also while there someone told me that the Pectoral Sandpiper was showing really well on the Big pool. So after getting some decent shots of the Flycatchers that was my next stop.

Red-breasted Flycatcher (Male)
I was not disappointed there either, as you can see!
Pectoral Sanpiper

Monday 10th October 2011

   Stayed on St Marys today. To the Rose-coloured Starling again then, as its on the way down the hill. This time managed the photo below.
Rose-coloured Starling
   Then went to the top end of the island, to Maypole, where there was an Upland Sandpiper. The bird showed well, and after getting myself positioned in a decent place along the wall, the bird just kept getting closer and closer, brilliant!! A Merlin flew over while we were there.
Upland Sandpiper
Northern Waterthrush
Then we decided to go down to 'Higgos pool' for the Waterthrush, get there fairly early to get to the front before the crowds. I had been told of people spend 10, 15 and 18 hours looking for this bird, so getting there early sounded a good option. As we walked along the muddy track, we saw the man himself 'Higgo', and asked 'Has it been seen', the answer was 'No'. So, i went to put my tripod down, as someone said 'There it is!' All those stories and there it was within 10 seconds!!!!!! The Lesser Yellowlegs was also there, but no-one took a blind bit of notice of it, shame.

Sunday 9th October 2011

   Decided to go to Tresco today for the juvenile Least Sandpiper. Searched the 2 bays it had been seen in, and then went to the Great pool, where it spends the rest of its time. Sadly, we waited for a long while before another birder said "There is a small wader along the edge of the pool, looks like it!". He was right, but sadly it was too far away to photograph, and time was running out to get the boat back to St Marys. While there we did have a fly over Merlin, but not the photos i wanted. Bugger!!!!!
   Started walking up the hill to the Garrison and decided to pop down to Sally Port to see the juvenile Rose-coloured Starling, not the most photogenic bird ever, as it keep going deep into the bushes and hiding for fairly long periods. Oh well that will have to be for another day!
   No photos for me today.

Saturday 8th October 2011

   Today is the start of my yearly trip to the Isles of Scilly. Sadly, only had a week this year, so made the most of it by starting early Friday evening and getting to Cornwall before first light.
   We started at first light in the A30 layby just west of Drift. Good start it was too, we had at least 2 of the 3 Black Kites which had been around the area for a while. There were also at least 6 Buzzards.
   We then got the Scillonian ferry to St Marys. From the ferry we didnt have too much, but 3+ Manx Shearwaters, Bonxie and 2 Arctic Skuas were the highlights.

   Then onto St Marys, first thing for me was to get the tent up, then decide where to start. The Northern Waterthrush was very tempting, but i knew it would be top of many other peoples lists too. So, i went to Lower Moors and was greeted by very close views of the Lesser Yellowlegs and slightly more distant views of the Wilsons Snipe. As luck would have it, most of the people in the hide soon left and soon after the Wilsons Snipe flew in and fed very close to the hide. What a great start, the Waterthrush can wait a bit!!!!
Wilson's Snipe
Lesser Yellowlegs

Sunday 18th September 2011

  Had an afternoon visit to Chew Valley lake today, having watched England beat Georgia in the Rugby World Cup early this morning, and also admittedly, falling asleep while watching Wales win, even earlier on!
The hide at Stratford was nearly full, but i was still able to see a few bits from there:

Pectoral Sandpiper (1)
Little Stint (3)
Ruff (3)
Ferruginous Duck (Drake)
Black Tern (7)
Little Egret (3 at Stratford, 4+ at Herons Green)

Other than these, and the usual suspects, there were (in the wader flock), some Dunlin, Ringed Plover & Black-tailed Godwits. Also some early returning Pintail & Wigeon. Everything too far away for photos though! Lots of Hirundines during a heavy rain shower. The House Martins are still feeding youngsters near the shops in East Harptree, shame they wont be around much longer though!! Sadly, we didn't manage to see the juvenile Semi-palmated Sandpiper, which was seen in the wader flock from Stratford hide, before the flock was flushed, by an unseen raptor probably! Oh well, maybe next time.

Saturday 17th September 2011

 Drove to Grafham Water in Cambs today, to try to finally catch up with Sabine's Gull for my Dad. He had missed one a few years ago at Severn Beach, and then over the last week or so, due to the remnants of the American hurricane, we had searched 2 or 3 times for one locally. I saw the Sand Bay juvenile, but could not get my Dad on it! So we decided to try again, this time for a summer plumaged adult! The only real problem was the weather! We had quite a few heavy rain storms, including thunder & lightning in one, but there were periods of nice light as well.
  When we arrived at the Car Park, i asked a photographer if he had been photographing the Gull, he said he had and pointed me in the direction of the dam. When we arrived the Sabine's Gull was sitting on the dam and there was also a Grey Phalarope walking around close by. After about 10 minutes the Gull got up and walked along the waters edge, then it flew off West along the shore line of the reservoir. I relocated it later in a one of the bays West of the car park, where it showed really well, despite the weather!
Grey Phalarope
Sabine's Gull