Thursday, May 08, 2008



Friday, March 28, 2008

Dorset 23rd-24th March 2008

I went to Dorset for a night last weekend. I was hoping to go to Cheddar reservoir and get a Bonaparte's Gull, with a Red-necked Grebe and some Scaup, so there would be three lifers in one day. But it was not to be.It was too far away from where we were staying. But despite this major disappointment, I still managed to fit in some fantastic birding!
On the Sunday, we were nearing Dorset when a Raven flew over the car, chasing a Carrion Crow, it even tumbled for me! This was great, it is one of my favourite birds and an unexpected year tick.
We arrived at the hotel, where there were nesting Jackdaws and Rooks nearby, but fortunately for me, we were too early to check in and settle into our room so we ended up going to Pennington Marshes earlier than planned. The marsh was interesting with lots of Dark-bellied Brent Geese (2008 tick) and a female Goosander with a few male and female Red-breasted Mergansers swimming next to each other! Other birds of note included a very showy Greenshank with a red ring on its right leg that I really must report (2008 tick) and one or two Ringed Plover and a few Grey Plover.Black-tailed Godwits were plentiful. Otherwise, there was not much of note.
The next day we headed off to Arne RSPB, first we went round the smaller heath trail. Before we started, I had a look at the feeders, and I saw a Marsh Tit, quite unexpected and yet another year tick. I saw one singing later on, this is the first time I have heard this. The gorse itself did not provide much, but the view of the river from the trail did provide some great birds with 11 pure white Spoonbill, all either asleep or half asleep; every so often I would see one awaken and show me its strangely shaped bill for which they get their name. They were lovely, and as a bonus, another year tick. There were lots of Shelduck and one or two Greenshank there too. As I was scanning, I heard a scratchy song, immediately Dartford Warbler came to mind. Sure enough, after a good while of searching it popped up for a second. A brief but good view, a year tick and just brilliant. I had already seen 3 birds that I hardly ever see, and I realised that in spring Arne would be an even more fantastic place to be.
We finished the trail, with nothing else of note being seen and went to have lunch in a nearby pub. I persuaded mum and dad who had until then broken they're promise to return after lunch and do the rest of it, to do so.
We agreed only to walk up to the viewpoint and hide along the other trail. The farm was pretty disappointing, but I did see a Redwing and a Fieldfare right next to eachother on the way back. It turned out that I missed the viewpoint and the raised hide didn't show me anything interesting other than a few Red-breasted Mergansers in the harbour. I don't know what it is about this year and Red-breasted Mergansers, I didn't see any last year, or the year before or before and before and maybe even further back! I have seen about 30 this month alone.
On the way back the deer let us get extremely close and I saw the above mentioned Fieldfare and Redwing. Near the car park a Buzzard flew over.
When packing away, what did we see on the latest sightings board? Male Hen Harrier and Rough-legged Buzzard. 'oh....' I uttered to myself. Yes, a disapointment but I did see Marsh Tit, very close and singing, a Dartford Warbler, singing (I think i was the only person that day to see one), 11 Spoonbill, Red-breasted Mergansers, Redwing and Fieldfare sitting right by each other and much more. Although, to be honest, missing the Harrier and Rough leg is of course still really bugging me.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Staines Reservoirs and London Wetlands Centre 16/3/08

The Sunday just gone I went to Staines reservoirs and then the London Wetlands Centre, although later than planned.
I arrived at Staines around noon and left at around one twenty, on arrival I collected my stuff and keenly made my way up there. I was expecting pretty much guaranteed Scaup and Black-necked Grebes, but I was wrong. Once I got up there I made my way up towards another birder and asked if he'd got onto anything, he pointed out the Black-necked Grebes, they were so close! and what's more lots of them (there were 10 in total) were in breeding plumage, with two or three in winter plumage and one in transitional. I got spectacular views of these birds diving right in front of me. There were a few Sand Martins whizzing around over the water, excellent!
I soon made my way further down to see the Scaups, which I though may be hiding inside the right hand bay because of the wind. Were they should have been was so far off and the wind was bitterly cold and so strong that I eventually gave up.
We arrived at the London Wetlands Centre after a while and as I went round the reserve there were so few people that I was questioning whether I was meant to be there or not! I don't know what it was about that day that made them all stay inside the centre. Scanning from the first couple of hides revealed nothing but the usual stuff and a single Sand Martin. I saw two Redshank from the second hide and got great views of Ring-necked Parakeets on the feeders. The Water Vole showed well again at the feeding platform. I went to the wader scrape hide where here was nothing of note other than a Redshank and the peacock tower were, again, there was nothing of note. So I missed the Garganey again... and the Scaups...
It was a fairly enjoyable day anyway, the Black-necked Grebes being the highlight by far, I got stunning views of them.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

London Wetlands Centre 9/3/08

I went with Phil ( and his wife to the Wetlands Centre today, hoping for the Garganey, Water Rail, Water Pipit and Bittern.

Phil and I were having a little competition today to see who would see the most birds! I have really got him into this listing thing. We made our way to the Peacock Tower, going in the hides as we went. We spent a considerable amount of time in the first hide, where we mainly got the common species on the list. There were a few Great Black-backed Gulls (all 1st winters) around with the Herrings, Common and Black-headed Gulls. Both Little and Great-crested Grebes were seen. There were 2 Canada Geese and Phil saw a Shelduck. As I scanned the reeds to no avail for Bittern, I noticed an odd looking birds swimming along the reeds, it was a Water Rail (year bird)! Unfortunately it slipped away into the vegetation before Phil could get onto it. 2 Pintail (male and female) flew in. Several Stock Doves were feeding on one of the islands too.

Above: Probable Caspian Gull, please leave your thoughts about this bird in the comments section at the bottom of this post.

Note black bill spot, long wing projection, black eye, pushed in face and parallel sided bill.

Phil soon beckoned me to have a look at the Gulls with him, I pointed out a 'Caspian' looking 3rd winter Herring Gull to him. I didn't have much time to look at it and tried to snap away some some scoped photos. See above. This would be a potential year bird and my first self found Caspian (admittedly I have claimed one or two in the past, which I genuinley did think were Caspians but highly doubt now).
We went to the feeding station next where there were loads of Siskins flying around. I got some pleasing shots of them, they let us get so close. There were a few Reed Buntings around here too.
We went back to the cafe for some snacks before going onwards to the next hide and the Peacock Tower.
Ring-necked Parakeets were very obvious today, with many around the feeders. I managed to get a few photos of them. A Water Vole was seen on the vole feeder (with carrots/cheese on it) allowing a good photo opportunity (photos soon after i've sorted the problem that my RAW files always come out green after editing/converting.)
The next hide gave us great views of 2 Redshank! The first for the centre this year, I believe. This pair may breed here later on this year. We moved on to the Peacock tower...
We spent the rest of the time at the Peacock Tower, I had a look at all sides a few times, there were 2 Snipe (year bird). I spotted 30 Wigeon grazing and another pair of Pintail. I saw several Pochard on the lake at the South end (I think) of the reserve. I saw 3 Stonechat on the tops of reeds in front of what I think is the Headley hide.
Phil and I both finished with 43 species (despite missing Bittern, Water Pipit and the drake Garganey, which has left), though a few of the species on our lists were different (ie I got Jackdaw and Water Rail and he got Shelduck and something else) and he dropped me off home after good day's birding.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Top class birding comedy show

I have been off school all week, apart from Monday and in that time I have been on the computer all day from about 9 in the morning till 9 at night almost non stop, other than a couple of half hour breaks each day. So instead of using this stupid amount of time just playing Fly like a Bird 2 on, browsing and, putting records on Birdtrack and all the usual stuff I've had time to go on other sites, mainly birding sites but I've spent an unusual amount of time on YouTube, it is really a marvelous site, I found some interesting, frilling, funny and just plain odd clips but none have impressed me more than the 'Birding with Brekke' series (pronounced 'Brekky' I believe). Instead of you having to search around YouTube for this they have created their own site for their videos (
I think these videos are marvelous, maybe its just me but I find them really funny! They are really worth a look. I think there are a couple of short extra clips available by searching YouTube 'Birding with Brekke' .
Anyway, they are worth a look, the presenters are highly skilled, they manage to make birding very funny, which is very hard. They seem to do it so easily too.
Let me know what you think.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Hen Harrier movie

Here is a video I took of the Hen Harrier featured in the last post.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Sheppey 2/3/08

I went to Sheppey today, this was the second time I have tried to fit three Sheppey sites into a day, and the second time that it didn't quite work!
We left just after 10am (later than planned, yet better than normal) and arrived at Capel Fleet at around 11:40am, after constant scanning into the distance, starting to go a bit mad with how unlucky I am with this site (been 3 times, best I've seen is a very breif ringtail Hen Harrier). I went ver to another birder, hoping he'd be able to get me onto something good, but he was having no more luck than me... there were some Bewick's Swans amongst about 40 Mute Swans, which I was pleased with. We moved on to the raptor viewpoint, saw nothing but a male Kestrel and left. As we drove past I saw a frustratingly Corn Bunting like bird on a wire, surely it was one, but we couldn't stop! I wish we could have stopped because Corn Buntings always prove to be a pain to get onto the year list. I will have to pay Sheppey a visit in late 2008 when the winter migrants come back, to get the species I missed today (basically everything!). We almost ran over a Stoat on the way back!
We arrived at Swale/Shellness NNR, I was very hopeful with little doubt that I would miss the Hooded Crow or Barnacle Geese. I went over the ridge and started walking towards the beech... oh dear... no Geese on the marsh. I arrived at the beech, there were loads of waders running around, but I just knew that the Crow wasn't there... I could just feel it in the atmosphere. Relentless scanning revealed some year ticks, mostly waders, which I haven't had much of this yearr. My 2008 ticks seen at this site were: Little Egret, Black-tailed Godwit, Dunlin, Grey Plover, Bar-tailed Godwit and Knot.
I scanned the site for anything like Divers, Red-breasted Mergansers or anything that would be a lifer to make up for the Crow, I was right, 8 Red-breasted Mergansers on the sea, 2 of which were gorious males. A lifer!
When we got back in the car we discovered that mum had left her sun glasses on the beach, time was getting on and I was getting stressed up, I had already spent too much time on the beach not accepting that I had missed the Geese and Crow (over an hour, and by this time it was getting on 4:00pm). Dad badgered me into going back to get them with mum, which turned out good because I added the latter two species at the end of the last paragraph onto my year list.
We finally left and as we approached Elmley Marshes, I saw an unusual Bird of Prey hunting over the field next to us. I got my binoculars on it and shouted "HEN HARRIER!!!". It was a gorious ring tail showing fantastically and I got some pleasing video footage of it as we stopped the car up a drive. This was a very nice surpise after missing the two Birds that I thought were almost garunteed today. I watched it for nearly 5 minutes before we had changed postition, ending up in the middle of the road and there was no choice but to go. We stopped by the round about further on and looked cross the field but failed to locate the Bird.
We arrived at the begginning to the long entrance track at Elmley and soon saw a Red-legged Partridge right out in the open! A year tick, great video opportunity and one of the few times I've seen one for a while before it ran away into cover! There were loads of Little Egrets along the track, a few Kestrels (one was on a post next toa cattle grid, letting us get very close), loads of Coot and Wigeon and some other stuff. There was a very close Skylark right by the car which I photographed. There were Lapwing, Redshank and Ringed Plover flying about and a few Pheasants and Grey Herons. I couldn't go past the car park because we had to be back soon to take someone out for a meal, so, frustrated as I was at being so close to getting Short-eared Owl, Peregrine and more I had to make do with what I could see around and from the car park. People told me about the Short eared Owls and Peregrines they'd seen just 10 minutes down the track! Inside one of the owl nest boxes on the trees behind the toilets, there was a Little Owl type thing... it could have been patterns in the wood, but others seemed to think it was a Little Owl. In the 20 minutes or so that I was there, I didn't notice it move, so I am going to have to not accept it. It was too dark to see what it was really. I went back to the car reluctantly, and as we left, we saw a lot of the same things along the track that we did on the way in, as well as a male and a female Gadwall flying up.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

My first 2008 Peregine!!! 21/2/08

Above: Peregrine Falcon, poor quality phone-scoped record shot, handheld and with scope leant against my knee.

Exactly one hour ago as I write this, I saw a Peregrine Falcon near where I live (because its February I feel that it could be a potential nesting site and don't want to give too much away). The bird gave good views for ten minutes from 3:00pm to 3:10pm before it flew off. I got some poor quality phone-scoped photos and a video (see photo above). As far as I know it is the first for where it was seen and I'm very pleased to have seen it.
Note: The programme I use for is not opening so I will have to re-install it when I have the time. For now though, I cannot update it.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Warnham 10th February 2008

Focussing on getting my year list off to a good start and getting the easier birds early on (so I don't waste time later on getting easier birds when I could be concentrating on new lifers and harder year ticks) so I went to Warnham on Sunday 10th, but it isn't totally off my list yet, because I only got one of my four targets... I am in some haste at the moment because I have to visit London Wetlands Centre and Warnham again for second goes on the missed target species within the next few weeks... before mid march anyway.
Anyway, I went to the first hide for a while before and parents and gran caught up, I got about 15 species before they arrived. The feeders at the first hide (Tern hide) were not busy at all but there were about 100 Black-headed Gulls on the lake. I noticed two adult summer Great-crested Grebes on the lake and a single Herring Gull.
The hide soon got busy and we left for the feeding station, on the way we heard some House Sparrows. On the boardwalk near the feeding station two male Reed Buntings were chasing each other round and round us. At the feeders there were large numbers of Tits and Chaffinches, a single Magpie and a Dunnock or two. I soon saw a strange looking Chaffinch, and surprise surprise it was a Brambling! A nice male too. Soon after this a couple of Treecreepers chased eachother in flight through the canopy and a Nuthatch was on the feeders. A gorious male Siskin appeared with come Goldfinches- I love Siskins and set my scope up to get a good view, at 40x zoom I saw all the feather detail, there were now two males! A male Greenfinch soon appeared and I heard a Green Woodpecker in the distance.
We left after about 45 minutes to the Heron Hide, where there was a busy male Pochard, some Teal but no Mandarin (a target, missed another target, Water Rail at the feeding station too, also didn't manage Lesser Redpoll. There was a single Gadwall in the undergrowth and suddenly a large amount of Herring Gulls, there was also a single 1st winter Great Black-backed Gull and at least two Grey Herons. We left after about half an hour.
On the way back I heard a Mistle Thrush singing about a mile away in the distance.

I filmed quite a lot today with my video camera, which arrived after being repaired the week before and got some good footage of the Siskin which I will show you soon.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

London Wetlands Centre 3th February 2008

Above: Phone-scoped Water Pipit photos

I got London Wetlands Centre off my little 'waiting list' for now, though I may need to go again soon to get Bittern that I missed today. At least I got one of my targets and something unexpected... Mum needed some new binoculars today so we went up to the in-focus shop. When we were deciding on what to get there was a Green Woodpecker from the in-focus balcony and a few Feral Pigeons and other usual stuff. I left mum and dad in the cafe and headed off for the main reserve, hoping for Bittern and Water Pipit. I spent the first half hour in the first hide before they caught up and we left five minutes afterwards for the WWF hide. The 1st hide produced Pochard, Cormorant, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Ruddy Duck, Little Grebe and a Egyptian Goose! I followed it as it swam with my scope and then took a video. I looked for it again five minutes later and there were two standing in the shallows preening! Excellent! This was a nice surprise and a year tick. Other than this there was not much of note at the first hide. On the way to the WWF hide a group pointed a flock of Siskins out to me, I only got a brief view of them flying as they departed, though. At the WWF hide there were a few Herring and Common Gulls amongst the Black-headed Gulls. There were Lapwing flying about too. A lady next to me said 'ooh, what's that little brown bird on that small island right in front of us' to her companion. At this moment I knew it was a Water Pipit and found it instantly, confirming the ID and telling the ladies what it was. Several people were pleased when I pointed it out. It was a lifer for me, and very close too! I got great, clear views through the scope and got a couple of phone-scoped videos and lots of photos (see right).After about 20 minutes of watching it we left for the Peacock Tower, up there I pointed the Water Pipit out to a few more people and asked if anyone had seen the Bittern, no-one had... There wasn't much else from the Peacock Tower other than good views of wildfowl including Wigeon, Teal, Gadwall, Mallard, Shoveler, Tufted Duck and Pochard. After a while we went home after a successful day.

Above: Phone-scoped video of the Water Pipit

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Birdnut is back!

I am pleased to tell you that my website has finally been fixed (the only way of getting it back was to create it from scratch again).
It is the same address as before ( It has a couple of new pages (Links and News) but the Resources page has been taken off.
Any comments on the new design are welcome.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Rye Harbour 27th Jan 08

There were several species reported around the Dungeness/Rye Harbour area that I thought I'd give it a go this weekend.
My targets were as follows:
Long-tailed Duck at Scotney GPs
Scaup at Rye Harbour LNR
Shorelark at Rye Harbour LNR
We left later than planned and only arrived at around 1:00pm despite constant badgering of my parents. We met Phil at Scotney and I knew he had seen the duck earlier in the morning from a phone call. After a quick scan I had it and got the scope on it, I got great views of it ( a female) but foolishly forgot to get a record phone-scoped video! Anyway, it was a great bird and well worth the detour (which ended up slowing the trip down by almost an hour (because of problems getting there, instead of it being a 15 minute trip. I was shocked when Phil said he saw about a hundred White-fronted and Bean Geese half an hour before I arrived, both potential lifers!
We soon moved on to Rye and Phil and I went ahead, eager to catch a glimpse of the Shorelark. We soon got Stonechat (08 bird for me) and when we reached the red roofed hut that the Shorelark was meant to be around, we soon found the flock of Skylarks it was meant to be hanging around with, but unfortunately it wasn't there and after a good 15 minutes we pressed on, concerned with the ever decreasing number of sunlight hours left.
There were Oystercatchers and Ringed Plovers flying round, both two more year birds in the bag. Other than this there was not much of note other than large numbers of Gulls on the sea.
We asked several people whether they had seen the Shorelark or Scaup and all of them said they hadn't seen the Shorelark and all but one said they hadn't seen the Scaup. One man, however said he had seen a drake and a female on the Long Pit and a Ferruginous Duck! At first I was delighted and hastily made my way over there with Phil, leaving mum and dad behind half way there. As we walked and saw Meadow Pipits and Stonechat, I thought about the Ferruginous Duck and was convinced something fishy was going on. This is not really the time of year for them and, if it was one, it was likely to be an escape.
On one of the pools on the way there was a Redshank (08 bird) and some Shelduck. When we got to the Long Pits we scanned the Pochards and Tufted Ducks but there was no sign of either any Scaup or a Ferruginous Duck (though there was a female Tufted Duck with a very white vent, which may have confused the man). There were some displaying Goldeneye (two males and two females). A birder came up and asked us for help with orientating himself, half way through what he was saying a Barn Owl flying past! Quite near us too, it flew away and out of sight, by then the man had left and it came back again then flew round the back of the open barns (its presumed home) and we followed it, we got some more good views as it hunted and later on I spotted it sitting on a concrete box, it sat there for five minutes as I filmed it with my camera phone held up to the scope then flew off and that was the last we saw of it. By then it was getting very dark and we headed back, a Song Thrush sang.

The video is higher quality after around 20 seconds.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Dungeness 13th January 2008

Ok, I persuaded dad to take me down to Dungeness today because there is not much anywhere else, don't feel like having another bad experience with that darn Hoopoe and there is always something of interest down at Dunge.I find Dungeness a highly productive but frustrating site- today it was windy, the sun was right in front of me and making the Gulls look different and I got a moan from my parents every time I requested another part of Dungeness!

Ok, lets get this over and done with, you may have read before that the following disasters have taken place involving my equipment, here is the story so far:
29th December 2007: Dad drops the D80 with the 500mm lens onto solid stone stairs as we were taking stuff to the car for our stay in Manchester.
30th December 2007 AM: The laptop crashes in the hotel, therefore disconnecting me from the birding world (other than good old Bird News Anywhere from Birdguides) and waisting £25 that we had paid for the week's internet in the hotel.
PM: I foolishly lean the tripod with my new video camera against the car, with the legs folding in,it topples over; samshing the camera.
13th January 2008: I climb up the sea wall at Dungeness with strong gales coming at my face (and tripod) from the sea. I see a Gannet and write it down in my notebook, turning away from my scope- you guessed it- the scope falls over! And no, its not just an unlucky fall, the eyepiece adjuster (glasses/non-glasses thing) come loose (AGAIN!!!!!!!!) But that is not all- the focus stops at near infinity, making it frustratingly just out of focus and sort like a double image when seawatching.So that is the updated story!

So, I scan the sea with my now capput scope, trying to make out the distant Auks, the broken scope making it even more difficult to ID as they zoom past. One passed close-by though, allowing a positive ID and a decent focus- Guillemot. After this loads more were seen. It was impossible to see whether they had dark armpits or not with them flapping so much and the poor optics.I moved on to the reserve, deciding to ditch the Long- pits idea because I simply had no idea where they were and whether it was alright to walk across the 'desert' off track.The trip to the reserve began with a surprise from the visitor centre - Shag, on an island (below)! This is my first good view and a quality 2008 tick. See the videos link on the left hand side near the top of the site to see a video of this bird.

Then I was directed to some Smew and Goosander over at another island- two more 2008 birds in the bag. (Smew video on videos blog, see links).
There were a few Goldeneye around too. Other wildfowl included Mallard, Gadwall, Shoveler, Teal, Pintail Wigeon and Pochard.
On the way from the Makepeace hide to the Scott hide there was a male Smew just over the bank that a man pointed out.
From the Scott hide there were a few Ruddy Ducks and four Red Crested Pochards.
After this we left the reserve and as the light faded we went down Dengemarsh road, hoping for some Bewick's Swans, of course no luck. But I think I saw a Barn Owl, but I can't be sure so I haven't added it to my year list. It was a white bird flying quite rapidly, less floaty than a Gull and it suddenly stopped and landed on the ground. By this time all the Gulls were at the roost so I suppose it must have been. It didn't re-appear after it dropped down though so I couldn't confirm it- aarg.
A day of various emotions- after we send the scope off all I will have is a mighty midget scope and a pair of dirty, falling apart binoculars... oh well....

See Dungeness 13th January 2008 on or here (this direct link may not work) for videos from this trip

Saturday, January 05, 2008


See for videos from my Manchester trip:
Here a summary of New Year's Day:
From the day it was written (back home since)
Hi all and happy new year (listing),How did you get on with your year lists, be sure to let us all know by posting yourself or putting a comment on this post with your highlights and totals.Staying in Swinton in Manchester at the moment I am in a hotel with a huge field and bushes outside, so the first thing I did in the morning was grill all the bushes for birds and scan every single Black-headed Gull for a Med- of course no luck!I got 17 species around the hotel and locally- we then went to Pennington Flash CP- hoping for some species like Goosander, Willow Tit and Bullfinch which would be hard to get down south.We went to the feeding station first and there were Chaffinches, Greenfinches, Dunnocks, Robins- one of my target species- Bullfinch, Tits (including great views of my target Willow Tit and a Coal Tit). I got videos of most species with my new camera (with got badly dented the other day when the tripod collapsed!!!!! :( :( ). There were good views of Great-spotted Woodpecker at the feeding station too. There was a juvenile Sparrowhawk low through the feeding station and dead quick- it zoomed right into the undergrowth.Someone said there was a Brambling on the right when we were at the feeding station but we failed to locate it- despite the very precise directions (sarcasm emphasised). But I located a male myself later on in a cage platform feeder with Greenfinches and Chaffinches. I got fantastic views and a video.In the various hides Wildfowl included Gadwall, Teal, Mallard, Tufted Duck, Shoveler and Wigeon. Didn't manage Goosander today (they were unmissable yesterday and the day before... typical).We didn't go to the New hide where 'you are highly likely to see them in the right conditions'- as if! We have been going here for years in the right conditions and scanned for a good while each time and never seen them (though yesterday my scanning revealed a perched juvenile Sparrowhawk).There were Great-crested Grebes, all the common Gulls (Black-headed, Herring, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Great Black-backed Gull and Common Gull) and Cormorants etc on the lake. There were loads of Lapwings as usual from the hide with the wooden birder outside of it. On my stay this year I haven't seen one Snipe at Pennington though last year there were plenty.As the day grew older the Gull numbers increased with Black-headeds into the thousands and each of the other species struggling into the hundreds... but there was a Gull species there with just one present....In the hide with the wooden birder outside of it someone had got something and was acting all nervous trying to re-locate this Gull he had picked up in flight- he re-located it and showed me it through the scope- I knew it was an adult Iceland as soon as I saw it... what a start to the year- Brambling, Willow Tit and Iceland Gull- some quality birds! I got good views through my own scope, it was a good specimen- white head and primaries- pale grey mantle, slightly smaller than a Herring Gull. I got videos with the new video camera and phone-scoped videos. The video camera didn't cope well with the distance and it keeps making Gulls really white. I got some acceptable videos of it so I will post one onto the videos blog ( when I get home and have my mini-SD adaptor to import them onto the PC.

(A video of the Iceland Gull will be on the soon)

As of 5th January 08 I am on 57 species

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Happy new year all!

Hi all and happy new year (listing),How did you get on with your year lists, be sure to let us all know by posting yourself or putting a comment on this post with your highlights and totals.Staying in Swinton in Manchester at the moment I am in a hotel with a huge field and bushes outside, so the first thing I did in the morning was grill all the bushes for birds and scan every single Black-headed Gull for a Med- of course no luck!I got 17 species around the hotel and locally- we then went to Pennington Flash CP- hoping for some species like Goosander, Willow Tit and Bullfinch which would be hard to get down south.We went to the feeding station first and there were Chaffinches, Greenfinches, Dunnocks, Robins- one of my target species- Bullfinch, Tits (including great views of my target Willow Tit and a Coal Tit). I got videos of most species with my new camera (with got badly dented the other day when the tripod collapsed!!!!! :( :( ). There were good views of Great-spotted Woodpecker at the feeding station too. There was a juvenile Sparrowhawk low through the feeding station and dead quick- it zoomed right into the undergrowth.Someone said there was a Brambling on the right when we were at the feeding station but we failed to locate it- despite the very precise directions (sarcasm emphasised). But I located a male myself later on in a cage platform feeder with Greenfinches and Chaffinches. I got fantastic views and a video.In the various hides Wildfowl included Gadwall, Teal, Mallard, Tufted Duck, Shoveler and Wigeon. Didn't manage Goosander today (they were unmissable yesterday and the day before... typical).We didn't go to the New hide where 'you are highly likely to see them in the right conditions'- as if! We have been going here for years in the right conditions and scanned for a good while each time and never seen them (though yesterday my scanning revealed a perched juvenile Sparrowhawk).There were Great-crested Grebes, all the common Gulls (Black-headed, Herring, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Great Black-backed Gull and Common Gull) and Cormorants etc on the lake. There were loads of Lapwings as usual from the hide with the wooden birder outside of it. On my stay this year I haven't seen one Snipe at Pennington though last year there were plenty.As the day grew older the Gull numbers increased with Black-headeds into the thousands and each of the other species struggling into the hundreds... but there was a Gull species there with just one present....In the hide with the wooden birder outside of it someone had got something and was acting all nervous trying to re-locate this Gull he had picked up in flight- he re-located it and showed me it through the scope- I knew it was an adult Iceland as soon as I saw it... what a start to the year- Brambling, Willow Tit and Iceland Gull- some quality birds! I got good views through my own scope, it was a good specimen- white head and primaries- pale grey mantle, slightly smaller than a Herring Gull. I got videos with the new video camera and phone-scoped videos. The video camera didn't cope well with the distance and it keeps making Gulls really white. I got some acceptable videos of it so I will post one onto the videos blog ( when I get home and have my mini-SD adaptor to import them onto the PC.Please post to tell us how you got on.My 2008 year list stands at 43 species

Friday, December 28, 2007

Grey Heron Carshalton Ponds 26th December 07


On the 27th I went to Carshalton Ponds to test the video camera out- I got 22 species which is pretty good for the site. Highlights were a brief Kingfisher, a couple of brief Goldcrests, great views of Grey Wagtail but best of all was a fantastic 1st Winter Grey Heron which showed down to about 5 feet! It even ate offerings of bread from passer bys. Lots of people stopped to see it and I was told about it several times by different people- I had to keep saying I knew and got some shots of it.

Of course I brought my D80 just in case too and got some pleasing shots. I took 200 photos but I am only posting a couple of my favourites (above- click for full sized images).


Hi all,
Since I haven't posted for a while I will give you a breif update on everything:
Went to Oare on Sunday 23rd Dec- Not much there- highlights were great views of male and female Marsh Harriers hunting quite close over the marsh
For christmas I got a handycam 40x optical zoom video camera and a 2x converter for it- hopefully I will get some videos on the blog
Other than that- not much

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

London Wetlands Centre 9th December 2007

I went up to the London Wetlands Centre on Sunday 9th. I got 43 species all together.There were many Lapwings, Wildlfowl (including Wigeon) loads of Cormorants, Gulls etc. We watched one Cormorant struggle as it tried to get an absolutely huge carp-like fish down its throat.Gulls were interesting with a Yellow-legged and a Caspian (I got a phone scoped video of the Caspian). The Caspian was my first confirmed and the Yellow-legged was my second with one at Dungeness the week before.The highlight was the Bittern that someone eventually located in the reeds (an area of reeds we weren't expecting it to be in) and I got good veiws through the scope and a phone-scoped video (hopefully my videos will improve after Christmas because I am getting a powerful 40x optical zoom digital video camera!)Enjoy (the Bittern shows better right at the end of the video):

Caspian Gull

Bittern (in the last 10 or so seconds the bird shows well)

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Dungeness RSPB

Above: 1st winter Great Black-backed Gull
Above: Winter plumaged Great Crested Grebe
Above: Smew (male far left, the rest are females)

I headed over to Dungeness today, despite the terrible weather. I thought seawatching may produce some interesting stuff because of the wind, however after after driving to the RSPB reserve to go to the toilet and then driving back to the beach, the seawatching was poor with around 100 Common Scoters and a Gannet briefly. We stayed there hoping for quite some time until we went back over to the reserve in the hope of anything worth seeing we agreed we would skip the first hide and go to the next three. It was a good choice. I knew the first one would be reasonably quiet and had seen what was about generally from a similar viewpoint, the visitor centre, earlier on- not much!

The first hide hide we visited produced my first Yellow-legged Gull. I thought I saw this species before but recently knocked it off my life list because I convinced myself they were Herring Gulls (how inconvenient, they were sitting on the ground not showing their legs and sleeping, it was at Titchwell August 06 by the way). We also saw a few Snipe sleeping.

It was very convenient that it was right next to a couple of Herring Gulls and couple of Lesser Black-backs too, it had a very pleasant shade of grey actually, not as dark as a LBB Gull and yet much darker than a Herring Gull. I didn't think it was that obvious before. But of course, it was sitting on the water so we couldn't see the absolutely unquestionable feature; the yellow legs. But even so, it was a Yellow-legged. We also got good views of 2 female Marsh Harriers hunting

The next hide produced a drake Pintail, and some Wigeon and Shoveler along with a close Great-crested Grebe which was very photogenic.

The last hide, the Scott hide, produced two female Goosander with a male and guess what- 7 female Smew, and it gets better, a male and whats more they were so close, well for Smew that is. Views were great, Smews are one of my favourite birds, males are so beautiful. I saw a few distantly here in January this year but these views were exceptional.

On the way back to the car I saw the man who pointed out the Yellow-legged Gull again and asked me if I'd seen anything, I told him about the Smew etc and he said he saw a possible Caspian Gull fly past, at this point it was dusk but I was desperate so I went off into the hide with him and his mate, there were stupid amounts of Gulls roosting, mainly Great Black-backs we picked out a couple of odd looking Gulls but we couldn't confirm the IDs, whatever they were the bill was too thick for a Caspian. After a short while it was almost fully dark so I went back to the car and we went home. If it didn't get dark this early we would have detoured off to Scotney gravel pits for the drake Long-tailed Duck, a would be lifer. But of course no chance at that time.

Despite the weather and the scope breaking- again (!!!) it was a very good day.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Rainham Marshes RSPB 4th November 2007

I went to Rainham with a freind, my target birds were the Water Pipits , but of course they proved elusive and didn't show for us. We didn't have much birding time and birds of note included Little Egrets, Wigeon, Teal, Shoveler, other waterfowl and a singing Cetti's Warbler (not seen though). There were also seven Snipe, two of which were showing very well and a male Kestrel was hunting right outside of the hide. Whilst sitting in the hide an angry Wren was furiously alarm calling and so was a Robin. It showed very well and allowed me to take these pictures:

Sunday, October 28, 2007

My new local patch

Lately I have been visiting Beddington Sewage Farm (just 3.2 miles away from me) in an attempt to get some good species like Water Pipit and maybe find something good for myself. It has gone very well and I have made about 6 visits in the last week or so and have recorded 59 species so far. I cannot describe all my visits now but I can tell you that the the highlights have been 2 Little Egret and an excellent variety of the more common birds. I have yet to find something more unusual however. The keyholders have been very freindly and let me in several times, one showed me round twice too. He tried to find a Jack Snipe for me but of course, with my luck it had gone out of site.

Here is a graph of birds seen at Beddington SF from 9th October- present (28th October 07)(click for full sized image) (in species like the Swans, Coots, Grebes, Wildfowl, Tree Sparrows etc these in some cases do and in most cases probably do involve the same individuals counted several times, eg most times I saw 2 juvenile Mute Swans and two Adults, but Birdtrack has added them up as separate individuals):

My first visit since April was the 9th October, this was after School when I was convinced I would see the 3 Juvenile Sabine's Gulls which had been reported, however the Gulls must have already returned to their roost site (West London reservoirs).
I will still be going to Nonsuch regularly.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Great Grey Shrike at last! Cliffe Pools

Sparrowhawk (female)
Sparrowhawk (female)

Great Grey Shrike

I have finally managed to get a Great Grey at Cliffe Pools on Sunday, it was a stunning bird, though distant. I got great views of it hunting and managed to get reasonable views of its plumage through the MM2 fieldscope (our good scope is off being fixed because I dropped it and a couple of days ago I dropped the MM2 as well, which neither me or dad took to very well). I spent most of the time there watching the Shrike but I did see another 33 species (boosted by a quick visit to one of the pools). There were 2 female Kestrels around the area. A very pleasant surprise came in the shape of a female Sparrowhawk, and my dream had finally come true- it was perched! I got great views through the scope and some rushed so blurry record shots of it.
I did see a strange looking bird which I identified and reported as 'a possible Red-backed Shrike seen distantly'. I posted photos on and the opinions of the members were almost exactly 50:50 for a Whitethroat/Lesser Whitethroat and a Red-backed Shrike. At first, seeing the responses I was convinced it was a Red-backed Shrike because in the field it did not look one tiny bit like a Sylvia species. But one person commented saying he saw a female Reed Bunting the following day which looked very similar and he said it definitely was the same leucistic female he had seen, so to this day I am convinced its correct identity is leucistic female Reed Bunting Emberiza schoeniclus. It is a shame because I genuinely thought it was my first self found rarity, although strictly speaking, it is not a rarity (description not required by BBRC).
Many Great Black-backed Gulls passed overhead, totalling 30. Other birds around the common where the shrike was included about 30 Goldfinch, a few Meadow Pipit and Linnet, good views of Stonechat and a few more.
The pool we visited for ten minutes at the end of the trip produced: an Avocet, about 250 Lapwing, 41 Ringed Plover, a Ruff and 3 Snipe.
It was a great day with a lifer and a good variety of species.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

WALES HOLIDAY 2007!!! Part 4

Buzzard, Welsh Wildlife Centre 28th August 2007
Gannet, Strumble Head 23rd August 2007
Juvenile Swallow outside our holiday cottage 20th August 2007
Juvenile Herring Gull, Mumbles 24th Augsust 2007

Here are the remaining photos that I haven't shown you yet, I got plenty other pictures but they were mainly of the same things, the rest of the time the birds were too far off and I was concentrating on identifying them. was fixed but I tried to update it last night which took ages and web studio went crazy again, something has gone wrong. We will have to do with the blog for now.

Oare Sunday 7th October 2007

This weekend I headed off to Oare Marshes, Kent. I had high expectations but it turned out I would see far more than I thought.
It was an average journey I saw a few Rooks in the fields we passed and even got a brief glimpse of a Buzzard sitting upright just before the Kent border on the M25.
We tried to time our journey as best we could to get there at high tide. There was meant to be a Long-billed Dowitcher at Oare/Elmley on Sheppey, going between the two sites, even though we didn't see the Dowitcher which turned out to be not nearly so long staying as last year's fabulous bird which I saw on 3 occasions last year.
The first bird I noticed was a Little Egret on the West flood along with some Teal, Mute Swan and Moorhens. There was so much, lately I had been trying to make my notes more concise by noting numbers and behaviour etc but it was almost impossible; birds were feeding and flying around everywhere! Despite this I managed to count 29 Greylag Geese about 300 Lapwings (I am very bad at estimating), at least 2 juvenile Little Stints, about 9 Black-headed Gulls, at least 500 Golden Plover, 2 Little Grebe (in winter plumage; I have noticed I see far more Little Grebes in winter, whereas I see far less Great-crested Grebes in winter) not to mention roughly 700 Black-tailed Godwits, 29 Coot, about 30 Mallard, 34 Redshank, about 100 Starling all on the East Flood; and the list goes on and on. A surprise was a lone Avocet, I normally don't see these at all or see them in relatively big numbers, not alone so this was unusual. Another pleasant surprise was 5 Ringed Plovers on the East Flood. There were 3 summer-winter moulting Dunlin with them too. I noticed at least 2 Grey Heron amongst the reeds. A flock of small twittering finches flew low over, they had a distinct yellow wing bar, this and their call and overall plumage identified them as Goldfinches, roughly 30 of them.
It was amusing to watch an adult male pied Wagtail try to drive away a juvenile, he was continuously chasing it and calling, giving no mercy.
In the conrer of my eye I saw a small, long billed and generally weird shaped bird flying, well more like plummeting in. It was a Snipe. This was the first time I had really seen one in full, high flight like this. It was fast too, but landed out of sight in the reeds.
There were 4 Cormorant on the East flood and 5 more flying over. Waders not yet mentioned include2 Ruff on the East Flood, a lone Knot, 2 Bar-tailed Gowits amongst the Black-tailed Godwits, a probable Spotted Redshank and 2 Curlew Sandpiper. I would not have noticed these if I had just looked from the road, it just goes to show that you should look at different angles and it reveals muchmore than you thought there was. Whilst i was sitting in the East Hide watching this lot, I saw a pair of odd looking Ducks that I hadn't seen for a while with a slim neck and flat, slanting forehead. They were female Pintail, I was so surprised I checked my field guide just to make sure, which I normally wouldn't do because I know these birds quite well but it just seemed like an unlikely time and place for these ducks. I also noticed a late Swallow pass low through and heard some Bearded Tits which I later saw, but a bird that I heard and certainly wouldn't see was a Water Rail squeeling, a very eerie sound. I wanted to check the seawatching hide to have a look at the mudflats and maybe some seabirds but it was too calm for any migrant seabirds really. The mudflats however were very productive with about 60 Dunlin, 54 Shelduck, 7 Grey Plover including 1 or 2 with quite a bit of breeding plumage left, there were 5 Great Black-backed Gulls and a Common Gull. Other waders included 32 Curlew and an Oystercatcher as well as a few Redshank. I scanned with my scope to check the very distant mudflats for the possibility of Seals which I had seen there once before. I wasn't really expecting anything but sure enough there were 9 Grey Seals sitting on a muddy peninsula far far off with a boat near them, watching them. As we left the seawatching hide 28 Brent Geese flew up over the Swale, this was another surprise and great to see them. On the way back I saw House Sparrows on a feeder from the car and 3 Collared Dove which made the list 50! Also a few minutes later about 20 Feral Pigeons flew up over Faversham which made it 51. It was a fantastic day with many surprises although I didn't take any photos.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Warnham 30/9/07

Mute Swans (Cygnets and adult)

Wood Mouse
Blue Tit
Blue Tit

Almost a whole month since Wales and, well we've been birding somewhere more adventurous once which was Pulborough! It was the awards ceremony for the Nature Photographer of the year competition, where I had won 1st, 2nd and highly commended prizes, I am very proud of this achievement. Anyway Warnham was engraved so Warnham it was. It turned out that after the ceremony, the pictures I came out with after walking around the reserve for a couple of hours were very pleasing, so a great photographic day. It was great birdwatching wise too, with some great birds seen, and a thrilling encounter with one of my favourite birds- the Sparrowhawk.
As I waited for mum, dad and nan to finish their lunch in the new Cafe, I was decided to go and wait in the first hide. At first glance it was very quiet in the way of birds with 2 adult winter Black-headed Gulls, 2 adult Mute Swans with 4 Cygnets (which showed very well later, letting me get some good shots of them), 2 Great-crested Grebes, a Grey Heron and a few Mallards. At the feeders there were a few Great and Blue Tits, Greenfinches, a breif view of a flying Kingfisher, 3 Swallow and about 5 Jackdaws over and a Goldfinch which set the scene for an amazing Sparrowhawk attack! It was so quick I missed most of it but it was small and slate grey-blue above, so a male, and so fast! It was it like lightning and out just as quick. I heard this rapid, swift flapping next to me and looked up, the Goldfinch was gone, the Sparrowhawk flying away, swerving at birds as it went. My mum (back at this point) managed to see that the Goldfinch had escaped. i have seen some pretty dramatic Sparrowhawk attacks in my birdwatching time, both brief and absolutely stunning, lasting for minutes. A few times I have seen one chasing a Collared Dove, swerving so quick, following its every move, once I saw a male come out of a bush and grab a Great Tit just as it was flying out. But by far, the most amazing one I have ever seen is one chasing a singing Skylark in Bedfordshire (they sing to show the predator how strong and fit they are), the Skylark, making clever moves to get the Hawk off its tail. One tiny scrape of a Sparrowhawks talons during a high speed chase like this is enough to kill. I could only watch in awe as these two birds, both trying to outwit the other, performed what was probably the most thrilling birdwatching experience in my whole life, so far! The Lark was even clever enough to fly the Sparrowhawk into a wire, taking advantage of the Hawk's lock on target method of hunting. Sparrowhawks are pre-plan hunters, pre-planning their route, flying it several times to get to know it, all the twists and turns and good places to surprise their prey, absolutely great stuff. They lock onto their target like a heat seeking missile, keeping their eyes on it all the time, only keeping half watch of the obstacles around them, dealing with them whilst keeping their eye on their prey at all times. The Sparrowhawk almost grabbed the wire, it slowed down as it rose up the the wire then going back to the Lark's level again, this gave the Lark enough time to fly as fast as it could into a bush, still singing, out of the Sparrowhawk's reach.
Anyway, I shouldn't have started with Sparrowhawks, I could have written far more about these amazing predators that I admire so much, with their hunting skills and manouverability. Oh no, I'm starting again, better get back to Warnham...
So, where was I , yes after the Sparrowhawk left, understandably, all the birds were a bit nervous, and were relunctant to show themselves so we moved on the the next feeding station.
At the main feeding station we saw mch the same stuff, but there was a Magpie and a few Woodpigeons including a juvenile that had the begginnings of a neck patch, very faint. Greenfinches squabbled over the feeder and a few Chaffinches were hainging around. After a while watching the small birds and a lovely little Wood Mouse (which let me get a shot of it) we moved on to the last hide. Here we saw two male and a female Mandarin, the Kingfisher, or a different one flying again, Teal and we heard the eiry squeeling of a Water Rail, which caried on for a considerable amount of time. Other than that I saw a couple of Moorhens doing a territorial display to each other and heard a Nuthatch.
It was a thrilling day, especially with that Sparrowhawk, the Mandarins were nice too!

Monday, September 17, 2007

A Pectoral Sandpiper and many more at Pulborough

We went down to see the Pectoral which was meant to be showing at Pulborough after we went to Nonsuch (read about my trip there on the Nonsuch blog).
As I waited for mum and dad to get ready I watched the feeding station for a while, this produced, great views of Nuthatch, Great, blue and Coal Tits as well and Chaffinches and a dunnock. We hardly saw anything bird wise on the way down apart from a beautiful Nuthatch hammering a nut, this was the first timer I have seen this behaviour and I was very pleased to watch this. But slightly earlier on, we did see a pretty grusome sight, a poor, mangey old Rabbit, with flies all over it, struggling to stay alive. This upset us and we soon moved on (after seeing everything and coming back, we found it lying dead, with blood spilling out of its head and a thick stick next to it, someone was brave enough to put it out of its misery). Once we got to Jupp's view, I asked if the Sandpiper was still there and guess what! With my luck, yes, it had just flown off! I was devastated and went to the next hide as advised, for a chance of seeing it. We got there, I asked if it was showing and those magic words ' Yes, very well, look through the scope here' replied. I looked through and sure enough, there was a short legged, heavily streaked on the chest, intricately patterned juvenile Pectoral Sandpiper, this was such a relief!
Life list 194, well actually I have now deccided the Wood Sandpiper I saw a year ago was probably a Redshank, so 193, no loss, no gain, but still a great bird. Just seven to go until 200. Anyway, you could compare it very well to the Ruffs next to it. There was also at least 500 Greylag Geese and at least 300 Canada Geese, probably far more as I normally under-estimate.Ringed Plover were showing well in the same vicinity as the Pectoral. There were 3 Grey Heron about 100 Wigeon (again probably far more)At least 30 Teal (I reckon there mustreally have been around 200 more that I didn't see, or count well). 2 Gadwall, 1 eclipse mael and one female. 100+ Starling, 4 Cormorant, 50+ Jackdaw, 18 Black-tailed Godwits, at least 20 Shovelers (again, probably way more),3 Mute Swans, 1 Common Gull, 5 Black-headed Gulls (3 adult winters and two 2nd winters) and 11 Snipe all feeding out in the open. It was fantastic! Not to mention Linnets and many, many Pied Wagtails. On the way back I saw a Chiffchaff, which gave good views, 4 full white feral pigeons, Herring Gulls over head and 6+ Rook over too. Absolutely classic! It was a great day.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

WALES HOLIDAY 2007!!! Part 3

Final part, part 3- Part 4 (more photos) soon
Kittiwakes and Sparrowhawks (26/8/07):
On the 26th it was 'mum and dad's' day to decide where we were going so no birding really but at Mumbles beach, on the pier there were many of Kittiwakes, my best views yet and I realised just how different these joyful Gulls are from the others, truly magical. On the way back I saw a Sparrowhawk over-head but otherwise nothing note worthy was seen.
Dipper Hunting again (27/8/07):
My Dad and I popped down to Cwm Clydach again to see if I could control myself this time and actually get a view of a Dipper. We went there saw Robin, Grey Wagtail etc. Then this time, :) it was my dad that shouted "DIPPER THERE!". And of course it flew away! But I cleverly positioned myself where I thought it was likely to turn up and sure enough I heard its hoarse chakking call and saw a Dipper land on a moist, moss covered rock, I got some photos but they were no use apart from to be record shots as my first real good view of a Dipper. I remember clearly how I saw it flutter right by me along the river and I made out its short little wings, clearly adapted for a unique, underwater lifestyle which I admire this bird for.

Brecon Beacons (27/8/07):
Mum and Dad chose to go to the Brecon Beacons, I thought I might see some birds there but I didn't really. The only notable bird was a Red Kite high over head.

Dippers at Cwm Clydach again (28/8/07)
Whilst waiting for mum to get ready again, we headed back down to see if we could get any better views and photos of the Dippers. It was magical, I think I spotted them again this time but I can't remember. Anyway, we saw a Juvenile and an Adult chasing each other playfully down the stream, until they went out of sight down the river. We crossed the road to get to the other side, we saw an adult dipping for a while as soon as we got there but it flew down river so we waited, lying on the bank for them to show themselves again with not much hope, however we heard the characteristic call and sure enough the adult landed on a rock, chakking away for a while before flying away again. A few minutes later we heard distant calls, getting closer, closer and then the juvenile (almost adult) landed on a rock nearby and in the light, we got great views for a minute or two until it flew off, we were both amazed (the dipper is the one bird my dad has got really excited about, he couldn't believe it!). I bagged a few shots as well, absolutely amazing.

Welsh Wildlife Centre (same day, 28/8/07)
With only a few days left to go, most of the target lifers seen, most of the nearby places gone to, we went to the Welsh Wildlife Centre. It was fantastic, no lifers though but still great birding. As we ate our lunch up in the Cafe, on the balcony we watched Coal Tits, Dunnocks, Great and Blue Tits too, feeding on the massive feeder that they put up. This was by far the best kept Wildlife Trust reserve I have ever been to, and the most enjoyable. As we watched from the second hide (creek hide if I remember correctly), the first good bird we picked out was a Curlew, the best views I have ever had, you could really admire its intricate plumage. Then we spotted a few Teal and then a female Kingfisher! Sitting on a dead branch in the middle of a tiny, muddy pool. It was an unlikely place for a Kingfisher, but there were fish in it because it dived and emerged with a little Stickleback/minow. This lead to us spotting a Snipe resting right below the Kingfisher, three good birds already. From the hide over looking the river we saw Herring Gulls, Lesser Black-backed Gulls (one of which was aberrant with a ring around its bill. We even spotted a few Whrimbrel, which was excellent. My mum told me a large bird of prey was coming from further away. It was a magnificent Buzzard, I got a few shots, the best I have ever got of one. It didn't really scare the birds though they were slightly more nervous than usual.I don't think they take any birds very often at all. On the last few hides, there wasn't much, but a male Sparrowhawk almost flew right into the hide! We went back to the car after a very enjoyable day, very happy.
Mumbles (29/8/07):
At Mumbles we saw the Kittiwakes again and the Ravens tumbling around the big, netted over cliff, you could really appreciate their size.
Cwm Clydach again (30/8/07):
Not a sign of the Dippers on our visit whilst waiting for mum to get ready, just a Robin. But we, well just me, my dad was falling asleep, I saw a Kingfisher fly upstream, flash of blue, it was flying slightly higher above the water than usual.
Cwm Clydach again... and a very crazy occurrence (31/8/07):
Another early morning visit to Cwm Clydach revealed absolutely nothing apart from a Grey Wagtail.
But, on on the back, up the entrance track to the cottage to collect Mum, we saw a Red Kite over the farm as well as many Great Tits and Meadow Pipits flitting around. And just as icing to the cake, we saw a Raven fly past to. The best the farm ever had to offer, all in five minutes.
Slightly later on, the farmer, Richard, who was also a birder took me around the farm, it was slightly scary, the reasons why you will read in a moment. Anyway, he was very friendly and took me all around the best bits of the farm, I saw Swallows (mobbing a Buzzard), Goldfinches, Mistle Thrushes and a Blue Tit. He left me for a moment whilst he rounded up some sheep, but he also made some Cows go into my field. Right behind me I heard several cows mooing, I turned around and there were about 20 cows, heading straight for me, and quick! I had absolutely no idea what to do, I didn't know if they were just being friendly or were going to trample over me! So I just walked on, keeping a close eye on them, they advanced... I was cornered and not they were closing in on me! There was a gate I was standing by and just before they got too close, I mean close enough for them to do something to me, I climbed over the gate in panic, knocking my camera. Literally, and I'm not exaggerating, one second after I climbed over, they were right at the fence, all mooing! If I didn't move I don't know what would have happened, with all of them crowding around the fence like that!Then the farmer came along, stroking them and weaving his way through them. I felt silly. But he did say before if your with me you'll be alright, so maybe it could have been dangerous? I think it was better safe than sorry anyway.
Later on we went to Mumbles, for a boat trip to see seals, the staff were very friendly at the Gower Explorer ( We saw Herring and Lesser Black-backed Gulls, Cormorants and great views of Fulmar, I even got fairly good shots of them! Because of weather conditions, we couldn't go around Worm's head to see the seals so we turned around. But we saw something very special, a Grey (???) Seal in Oxwich Bay, which, apparently has never happened before! I got a few shots, distant and only of a head popping out of the water but they were pleased with it and asked me to email it to them which I still need to do. It was quite enjoyable.
The day of departure (1/9/07)
I was very sad to leave and dreading going back to school, returning to the stressful life of homework and the nasty kids at school and leaving this peaceful fortnight of birding heaven. But we had to leave. The previous night, Richard the farmer lent me some of his old bird books from the 70's. Which I enjoyed looking through. Before we went, we visiting Cwm Clydach for the last time, hoping the Dippers would be nice enough to show themselves, for the last time, (it would be many years before I see Dippers again as my dad is reluctant to drive up to Scotland and we may be going abroad for the first time next year but you never know) I got good views of two Robins in the car park and for about half an hour there was no sign of the Dippers, however, I heard one, looked down the river and saw one sitting on a rock, then it flew down river. Slightly later I saw another fly past me and down the river, my last Dipper. I went to the place I went a few day before, just across the road, and waited for 20 minutes, but there was no sign of them. We got it the car and drove Mumbles. As we had lunch, I thought about the birding which we had done, I had mixed feelings over it, it was fantastic but a few of the days eg Cwm Clydach were not productive. In the end I reached the conclusion that, birding is like that and anyway, I did see some marvelous Welsh specialities as well as other good birds. Some of the best seawatching I have ever had, as well as thrilling searching for some of the UK's most outstanding birds, this overcame the very few days which were not that productive. I was very pleased. I watched the Kittiwakes on the pier, then we got in the car and drove off. On the way back we saw Buzzards, Kestrels and a few other birds. But other than that we didn't see much on the way back. Soon, we crossed the bridge from Wales to England and left one of the most enjoyable and most exiting birding holidays I have ever had.

At the end of the trip I got 7 lifers and 10 year birds (including lifers) My life list at the end of the holiday: 193 and year list: 160

Thanks for reading every one!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Part 2-Photos for part one

These are some of the best photos from the trips described in part 1, part 2 and photos soon. Above: Swallow, outside the holiday cottage 20/8/07
Above: Raven, Mumbles 24/8/07
Above: Chough, Strumble Head, 23/8/07
Above: Dipper 28th Aug 07 (a different visit from mentioned before)
Above: Gannet, Strumble Head 23/8/07

Monday, September 10, 2007

WALES HOLIDAY 2007!!! Part 1

(Part two is the rest of the story and part 3 is photos)
Between 18th August and 1st September I stayed in a nice little cottage near Mumbles, on a farm. I managed to pack in about 3 months worth of birding into a fortnight.

I got seven lifer as well as many other fantastic birds, I got photos of some lifers but most were trickier to photograph.

Day 2 (20th Aug 07)- The first birding day

We woke up around 7ish to go for a walk around the farm. I heard Jackdaws and there were plenty Magpies but not much else, just as I approached the cottage and the sheepdogs and their lovely puppy started barking at seeing me a huge Red Kite flew over the cottage very low a year bird for me and spectacular too. I didn't think I would get much birding otherwise, if any so I wasn't particularly excited. We did go shopping (BORING) and it was about 2pm that I looked thorough my where to watch birds in Britain book and found that there was a place along the Gower peninsula, near us, which would be a pleasant visit. I was hoping that there would be some lingering seabirds at Worms Head, there was hardly anything there, a few Gannets were flying along but apart from that there was just Swallows. I lost hope of any lifers that day. I was sitting down on the grass when I noticed a smaller, sleeker bird than a Cormorant, it must have been a SHAG lifer number 1 YAY! If it was a Cormorant I would have known and it did look smaller and slimmer, plus they were meant to be in the area. Life list 187. I thought, fair enough I have got what I thought would be the easiest lifer, but I'm not going to get anything else. At that moment I heard what sounded like a sneezing Jackdaw, guess what's coming yes a smallish dark, short, fingered winged corvid rode the wind and flapped around into the wing for a brief moment before disappearing around the corner. It was a CHOUGH , lifer number two! Life list 188.I thought I would see Ravens, and a few times I thought I had seen one but they were all just big Carrion Crows, they weren't Ravens but I swear they were much bigger than down here in Surrey.After walking back to the car we sat around watching the sea munching a hotdog whilst a House Martin danced around in the wind. We set off and as mum and dad argued in the car I watched as a huge RAVEN flew overhead, dad looked just in time to see the bird. Lifer number 3 life list 189 . From that moment onwards the spectacular Raven was one of my favourite birds. After this we got back to the cottage and ate dinner, or we may have had it out. I can't remember and no-one really cares because I finally got three fantastic birds, even if the views all lasted 5 seconds for each of them.

Day 4 (21st Aug 07)- Dipper Hunting

We found that there was a reserve (Cwm Clydach), just down the road from us, where you could see Dippers and some of my 'possible' lifers such as spot fly, pied fly, redstart etc. We walked up and down the river for about 3 hours not seeing a sausage until in the corner of my eye, I saw a smallish, dark figure, sitting on a rock with a pale, white breast!A Dipper! I couldn't control myself and I was soooo STUPID because I shouted at the top of my voice "THERE'S ONE!!! THERE'S ONE!!!" of course, it flew away! At least I saw one- life list 189

Day 5 (22/8/07)- National Wetlands Centre

My parents didn't want to go anywhere far today so I suggested the National Wetlands Centre, so off we went, after a fairly short journey, we came across some Swallows, Jackdaw, Chaffinch, Mallard, Tufted Duck, Greenfinch and Starling from the Cafe. From the first hide over the large wetland patch, kind of like a mere we found Little Egret fishing near a Grey Heron, Mute Swans and Greylag Geese over the other side juvenile Shelduck which are always a delight and a lone Whrimbrel, my second for 07 and despite it being distant it was one of the best views I've ever had of Whrimbrel. Goldfinches flitted around along with Linnets. A few hides along we were watching the wild ducks when a male (? (breif so couldn't really see if lower mandible was red or not)), well you probably know it now from what I just said but a Kingfisher flew out right in front of us and hovered, prefectly, before diving into the water and heading off again, a few moments later it flew past us again and that was the last we saw of him. The next hide produced Redshank and Greenshank (both in flight), then we headed off home.

Day 6 (23rd Aug 07)-Seawatching at Strumble Head

This was the last day for lifers, we thought we were going to Skomer! But once we had driven, oh only about 60 miles (!!!!) to get there we found boats had been cancelled. We should have phoned up before we left. Anyway it paid off because we headed off to Strumble Head for a spot of seawatching, we were treated to fantastic views of a Kestrel hovering into the wind, which was so strong it didn't even have to beat its wings at all. We entered the old military building and scanned the sea, the first thing I picked up were Gannets, loads of them diving into the sea, and at one point I manage to get my scope on a nearby settled one, allowing great views. Then I managed to spot many of Manx Shearwaters riding the waves. Another lifer for me, they were really too distant to watch properly but I still managed to watch their lovely flying moves over the waves. After a bit more scanning I found 3 Auks on the sea, one of which was Razorbill, only my second ever and my first for 07, and amazing birds to see, the other two were an adult Guillemot and its chick, quite endearing. I find it amazing that these birds spend alot of their lives just at sea, surrounded by endless waves and blue, in a vast wilderness. It was around this time that a Chough landed right in front of the hide allowing great views, I didn't quite come to terms with what was going on because I was surrounded by great birds, I managed to grab my camera, shoot a few photos but it flew off and unfortunately they were all focused slightly off the bird, I kept them as record shots. Just as we were about to leave I spotted a Fulmar, flying just behind a Manx Shearwater, following the exact same flight path! Amazing. Most of the time I also saw Kittiwakes far out, first I had seen for a year or two. At the end of the day I saw some amazing birds, three lifers, great views of Chough and gannet and saw 2 year birds- Razorbill and Kittiwake.

Day 9- National Wetlands Centre again

Today we had ran out of places to go already! So we though we should have a look around the other bit of the National Wetlands Centre, it was a very hot day (again), which is so off putting when you are birding. The first bird we noted was a Robin singing in the car park and later Jackdaws flying over and feeding on the feeders. From the first hide (or greenhouse with those glass windows on such a hot day, and angled glass so you can't focus your scope) we managed to pick out blurry images of Mallard, Gadwall, Teal, Lapwing, Redshank, Mute Swan, Tufted Duck, Shoveler, Black-tailed Godwit, Canada Goose and other birds you would expect to see at a small patch of wetland. Further along, at the Bittern screen (if anyone has found a Bittern from that then I envy them) I heard a Cetti's Warbler, which is a good find for me, there was no chance of me spotting it from the small view that I had from that viewing screen. I also heard a Chiffchaff from the same general area. Slightly further on I heard a Water Rail in the reeds, but again didn't manage to spot it and never would have. Other birds of note were great views of Little Egret, Pochard, and Jay, as well as Great Tit, Greenfinch and Blue Tit on the feeders.