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Friday 30 March 2012

It's that Red Kite time of the year.

Angela and myself had a lovely couple of days in Liverpool. The Anfield stadium tour on the Friday was fascinating (I now know why Liverpool FC are still waiting on a Premiership crown), the city centre has been rejuvenated as a result of being named the 'city of culture' in 2008, and we even managed to see 3 Shelduck heading west while we took a ferry trip on the Mersey. Sadly the football team had a disaster on Saturday as they were humbled 2-1 by the lowly Wigan Athletic. Not nice to hear the boos echo around the stadium but singing 'You''ll Never Walk Alone' in the Anfield Road end will always be a highlight for us both. Sunday's drive back to Kent was brightened by numerous Common Buzzards and a second Red Kite of the week circling over the M1.

All safely home, I paid Hothfield Heathlands (Common) KWT a couple of visits on Monday (26th), with the parents in the morning, and Angela in the afternoon. The target bird was Lesser-spotted Woodpecker, having seen a male here in spring of 2011. Soon after leaving the car park a different drumming could be heard alongside the more common Great-spotted sounds, and I located a smart male Lesser-Spotted Woodpecker announcing his presence (no calls - just the drumming). A second bird (not sexed) briefly interacted with the male in flight but could not be relocated. Other species noted included: c60 Redwing, 4 species of Tit, Chiffchaffs, 4-5 Nuthatch territories, several Treecreepers, 3 pairs of Jay, 2 males and a female Yellowhammer, a Woodcock flushed by a road, a pair of Common Buzzard and a flyover Lesser Redpoll. At Hothfield Waterfall Lake we noted Jay, Kestrel, a pair of Teal, and the highlights - 2 pairs of Mandarin. Nuthatch, Skylark and Chiffchaff were all singing.

Back in the afternoon with Angela but no luck on the LSW front. A pair of Stock Doves was a day addition. Nice to see all three species of Woodpecker plus Nuthatch and Treecreeper at the same site.

Tuesday 27 March 2012

Norfolk Redpoll Success... but Reds failure in Liverpool

Another large catch up as I have recently spent 5 days in Norfolk and another 2 in Liverpool with Angela. We travelled up on Sunday morning (18th) and after meeting the folks in Holme for Sunday roast, we paid a visit to Titchwell Marsh RSPB so I could finally catch up with the long staying 1st Winter Coues' Arctic Redpoll - a lifer for me. The bird showed extremely well with Lesser Redpoll and a few shots were obtained. Timed to perfection as the bird has not been reported since - phew - what a relief!

Coues' Arctic Redpoll at Titchwell RSPB.
Another Arctic Redpoll shot.

As usual there were many birds on the freshmarsh and brackish (now renamed the volunteer) marsh, and several posed for photographs.
Winter plumage Spotted Redshank.

Avocet feeding close to the path.

Black-tailed Godwits - these two birds were seen fighting for c20 minutes.

Other birds noted included: Egyptian Geese, 4 Red-crested Pochards (3 drakes), Chiffchaff, Siskin, Snipe, Ruff, 2 showy Water Rails, 2 Spotted Redshank, Pintail, female Goldeneye and Sanderlings.

We spent Monday (19th) around the Holkham NNR but not before noting a pair of Grey Partridge from the caravan at Heacham South Beach. The marshes between Burnham Norton and Wells-next-the-sea held a Barn Owl, numerous Brent, Pink-footed and White-fronted Geese, Ruff, Avocet, and 2 Muntjac Deer and a Stoat on the mammal front. At Holkham Gap we noted 3 Wheatears (2 males) and 5 Common Scoter plus a Firecrest and several Goldcrests amongst the pines.

On Tuesday (20th) we all headed inland, via a successful Woodlark stop at Roydon Common NWT, towards Fakenham where we got good views of the long staying Great Grey Shrike which was observed catching bees and occasionally singing/calling.
Record Shot of the Great Grey Shrike at Fakenham.

While watching the Shrike, 3 Common Buzzards and 1 Sparrowhawk were noted before the star raptor appeared in the same thermal - a fantastic Red Kite that eventually sailed right over the top of us.
Red Kite overhead.
We moved on to the nearby Hawk & Owl Trust reserve at Sculthorpe Moor where this Water Rail and a few Lesser Repoll were performing for the cameras.
Showy Water Rail.
Water Rail looking back.
Lesser Redpoll at one of the feeders.

Chiffchaff, 2 pairs of Bullfinch, Sparrowhawk, the cracking male Golden Pheasant, Treecreeper, Marsh Harrier and Marsh Tit rounded off another superb visit to this brilliant reserve. A quick stop at Flitcham Abbey Farm finally revealed the resident pair of Little Owls.

My sister joined Angela and myself on Wednesday (21st) for a walk around Hunstanton shops, noting Peregrine and lots of Fulmars during lunch on the clifftop. We moved on to the Sandringham Estate where Nuthatch (calling) and Goldcrest were added to the day list.

On Thursday (22nd) we finished our break in Norfolk at Cley NWT noting 2 Corn Buntings at Choseley drying barns on route. From the North hide we soon spotted the 2 Spoonbills, and I picked out a Pale-bellied Brent Goose in a flying flock of dark-bellied Brents.

And then it was time to head off north west to see our beloved Liverpool FC take on the mighty Wigan Athletic... more on that in the next blog post.

To round off this post.... a beautiful sunset viewed from Heacham South Beach looking out over The Wash towards Lincolnshire - magical.

Friday 16 March 2012

East Kent Ramble (Part 2) - Spring is a-coming

Sunday morning (11th) was bright and sunny and I offered to drive the parents to Sandwich Bay, hoping to connect with the pair of Common Cranes that had been seen on Worth Marshes. We went via Samphire Hoe of course....

Unfortunately the Short-Toed Treecreeper had departed overnight but it was nice to catch up with GB, IR, MC, KP & DB along with a handful of other birders who had come from much further afield - Gloucestershire being one County mentioned. We had to make do with a lone Kestrel, while others had 1-2 Firecrests along the railway line.

Moving along the coast to Deal and then along the Ancient Highway to the Sandwich Bay Estate, we met up with PP who had a clear but distant view of the 2 Common Cranes on Worth Marshes. We soon got on the birds, a nice sight. There was also a large number of Starlings, single Common Buzzard, Marsh Harrier and Sparrowhawk, plus 3 Grey Herons, a Curlew and 2 Green Woodpeckers.

We then followed PP to the Restharrow Scrape hide, where between us, we managed to locate 4 of the 5 Garganeys reported (2 pairs), the first genuine summer migrant of the year. A number of shots were rattled off, PP gaining the best results. Plenty of the usual duck species also present, while a second Sparrowhawk flew north. An enjoyable chat ended with a cracking White Wagtail that pitched down on the nearest island for several more birders to enjoy. A good little visit to a very little hide.

Three of the four Garganey seen on Restharrow Scrape around midday.

This White Wagtail also appeared while we were in the hide watching the Garganey.

Back on the road and home towards Ashford, we first called in at Godmersham, where we noted a male Grey Wagtail along the river Stour, plus a Pied for good measure. Final port of call was Eastwell Lake where amongst the usual suspects, we had a preening Coal Tit, a Common Buzzard, and another much closer view of the female Red-crested Pochard from the road bridge, rounding off another enjoyable weekend.

The female Red-crested Pochard has reappeared on Eastwell Lake - showing well today!

Sunday 11 March 2012

East Kent Ramble (Part 1)

Lots of catching up to do. The parents had an enjoyable 4 day stay in Norfolk at the holiday home, notching up a lifer in the form of the Coues' Arctic Redpoll at Titchwell as well as Velvet Scoter, a drake Scaup and a redhead Smew at this top RSPB reserve. They managed to connect with a flock of c30-40 Lapland Buntings near Burnham Overy Dunes, while at Holkham and Wells they added 2 Firecrests, Snow Buntings and three forms of Brent Geese (Dark & Pale-Bellied plus a Black Brant). Roydon Common produced 2 Woodlarks, and at Holme Dunes there were 2 Barnacles, c12 Tundra Bean Geese and 1 White-fronted Goose with the Pink-footed flock.

Back in Kent/East Sussex on the Monday (5th March) they saw the 31 Snow Geese at Scotney GP's, to make up for missing the Hooded Merganser - dodgy wildfowl spotting at its best!

Saturday morning (10th) once again dawned overcast but I wanted to test out the new car, so took the folks down to Orlestone Forest in the hope of connecting with the recently seen Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers. No luck sadly but we still saw a great selection of woodland birds, with a number of Song Thrushes, 3 Pairs of Great Spotted Woodpeckers, 3 Nuthatch territories, singles of Sparrowhawk and Peregrine, 4 species of Tit, Treecreeper, Jays, 5 Lesser Redpolls over and couple of Green Woodpeckers. The real stars though were a Woodcock flushed from one of the flooded woodland rides, a calling male Tawny Owl at 10:05 and a cracking Firecrest amongst several Goldcrests. Crossbills and Siskins were also calling distantly.

Back home for lunch ready for an afternoon with Angela and friends. However, while picking up dinner for the evening, my phone alerted me to the presence of a Short-toed Treecreeper at Samphire Hoe - another lifer in the making! Needless to say the parents were already on route and managed to connect with their second S-T T. Angela and myself had a lovely couple of hours with our friends and their young daughters. We did then dash down to the Hoe but no luck in the fading light. Nice to catch up with DW, GH and GB again though. Back to Ashford where I found out that the parents had seen 14 Mandarin and a Little Egret at Hothfield (waterfall lake), while Eastwell Lake held a Grey Wagtail, Green Sandpiper and an extremely pale Common Buzzard in a tree.

A few highlights from Sunday (11th):

Three of the four Garganey seen on Restharrow Scrape around midday today.

This White Wagtail also appeared while we were in hide watching the Garganey.

Back to Ashford where the female Red-crested Pochard has reappeared on Eastwell Lake - showing well today!

Saturday 3 March 2012

Playing Catch Up.... Hooded Conclusion

What a couple of busy weeks !!! Lots happening: family birthday parties, catching up with friends and new arrivals and a cup triumph for Liverpool FC. I have still managed to get out birding though and here are some of the highlights...

No further signs or reports of the Iceland Gull or the Sea Eagle but Angela and myself did manage to see the Great White Egret at Conningbrook GP's, c10 Teal at Plumpton Farm, and 3 Fieldfare and a single Redwing near Bodsham in the afternoon of Sunday 19th February.

The following Saturday morning (25th), we both paid the RSPB Reserve at Dungeness a visit where highlights included: several calling Cetti's Warblers, a displaying Goldcrest by the Scott Hide, 3 drake Pintail from the Dengemarsh Hide, plus 4 Marsh Harriers and a couple of flight views of a Bittern from the viewing ramp. It was nice to show Angela the Harriers, one of which was skydancing over the reedbeds (a female). Back at the visitor centre, SB, DW and GH pointed out an Avocet on Burrowes and after a bite to eat we added the Long-tailed Duck and 5 Goldeneye (1 drake) from the Dennis's Hide and a distant red-head Smew on the New Diggings. The car park feeders held some smart Reed Buntings and Greenfinches along with the commoner species and a plucky Moorhen. On the entrance track we noted a nice pair of Stonechat and the regular flock of Tree Sparrows around Boulderwall Farm. Bumped into the parents at ARC where they told us that the pair of Little Owls were again showing on Walland Marsh near to Wheelsgate. We diverted home via the Marsh where one of the Little Owls performed well - see previous blog post. We also noted 3 each of Marsh Harrier and Common Buzzard (including a fighting pair).

Sunday morning (26th) involved a little shopping ready for the big Carling Cup Final, but we did manage to spend around an hour at Eastwell Lake, where we had a lovely female Peregrine Falcon circling above our heads. The lake held many of the usual suspects but was noteworthy for 3 returning Great-crested Grebes (including a displaying pair), a Little Grebe, drake Gadwall, and Angela picked out a Goldcrest feeding in the trees by the road bridge.

After a week of seeing the Hooded Merganser come up on the information services while busy at work, it was nice to get over to Whetsted Gravel Pits this afternoon (3rd). Angela joined in for her first successful twitch which resulted in some good scope views of the female Hooded Merganser (my second Hoodie in Kent), along with 3 Skylark (1 singing), c30 Linnet, a pair of Grey Wagtails, 3 Common Buzzards, 2 Green Woodpeckers, 3 Little Egrets, several Great-crested and Little Grebes and the usual common wildfowl. Had a nice chat with birders from Herts, Essex and Sussex and another local birder, LJ, who was very helpful in showing us the drake Smew and giving a little bit of background info on the site and some of the past bird sightings at this cracking spot - well worth a visit to see these Sawbills and the other birds on offer. A lovely afternoon walk, especially after the gloom and drizzle of the morning.

A silhouetted record shot of the Hooded Merganser in front of 5 Shoveler.