Saturday, August 6, 2016

Minsmere and a Honey Buzzard

At long last.  It's only taken 24 years to see my first UK Honey Buzzard.  We returned back to Walberswick to the Westwood Lodge viewpoint, but today I felt positive that the bird would show.

Almost on cue at around 3.20pm, the HB was seen flying reasonably distantly being mobbed by a Hobby before flying left along the tree-line.  I appreciate that there is generally a degree of ID confusion between this and it's more ubiquitous cousin, but when you see it, it really is a different beast altogether.

Having lost it to view, the bird then reappeared much closer soaring with a Marsh Harrier before drifting off again.

Also on site was a Woodlark and a Red Kite.

Then it was onto Minsmere for a gentle stroll round the reserve where to the chagrin of many visiting birders, the Swamphen had disappeared overnight.  Typical of rare birds to do a bunk on a Friday night and I feel the pain of all the visiting birders hoping to connect with it.

From the North Wall, a pair of Stone Curlew were actively feeding a single young bird.

The skies were clear, and the warm sun coupled with a warm breeze made for a stunning afternoon.

There were plenty of common waders on the east scrape, with Black-tailed Godwit present in good numbers, accompanied by the Avocet, and around 15 Dunlin.  Also observed on site were seven Spotted Redshank, four Ruff, Green Sandpiper, two Common Sandpiper, Ringed Plover, three Little Ringed Plover.  At least 30 Little Gull settled on the scrape, many of which were seen flying offshore later in the evening.

Along the eastern shoreline, two returning juvenile Whinchat and a single young Wheatear were present.






Sunday, July 31, 2016

Western Swamphen

A lovely morning to have escaped the carnage of London for a day out in the wilds of the Suffolk coast.  We headed to Walberswick, taking in some fresh air with a walk along the beach and round the local nature reserve.  A Whimbrel was seen on the flashes by the beach and a Grey Seal was wrestling a decent catch a couple of hundred metres from the shoreline.



There was a target, inevitably, and the search for my first UK Honey Buzzard continues to elude me.  A bit late for the morning sighting, we returned mid-afternoon but with no luck which was particularly frustrating as it had been appearing around this time during the course of the week. A couple of Hobby were present here along with a juvenile Woodlark, and plenty of active Yellowhammer.

However, the 17th century St Andrews church in Walberswick really is an impressive building and was worth a wander round.



A few birders had assembled at the Westwood Lodge site (all waiting for their first HB sighting) when someone mentioned that a Western Swamphen had been seen at Minsmere.  I wasn't interested as it really didn't sound credible.  This potential first for Britain just a couple of miles down the road had to be an escaped bird, so I continued my search for the Buzzard.

During this time, I kept updating my Birdguides account and checking Twitter reporting regular sightings during the afternoon when around 4.30pm I caved in and headed round to the reserve.

There were plenty of birders there, and heading to a suitable vantage point, I immediately connected with the bird as it scampered across the back of the pool behind the South Hide and out of view.

A wait of around 20 minutes and it was then seen much closer in allowing a couple of panicked photos.  A really surreal moment, and funny how my luck swung round this time.



Quite an eventful day ended at the excellent Eels Foot where a Barn Owl hunted in fields behind the pub.


Saturday, July 30, 2016

White Stork

The White Stork had been present at Beddington Farmlands all week and what transpired to be two different individuals which really was an extraordinary turn of events.

My first White Stork for the UK was never actually observed on the ground having seen it first fly low over toward the landfill.  Later it reappeared but began to thermal and gain height before heading away south-east.  Bizarrely it returned a couple of days later.

These are the best of a really bad selection of photos.



Sunday, July 24, 2016

More Butterflies

My third consecutive field day with the Kent Butterfly group at High Elms near Biggin Hill where a decent selection of butterflies were observed.  The highlight were around half a dozen extremely flighty Silver-washed Fritillaries and a single White Admiral that made a brief appearance flying strongly through the glade.  Other than that, White-letter Hairstreak drew a blank but there were plenty of common butterflies present.

 Silver-washed Frittilary

 Comma

 Gatekeeper

 Meadow Brown

 Strangalia maculata

Essex Skipper

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Common Rosefinch

...and so while I was waiting for my flight back from Aberdeen having missed out on the American WW Scoter, news came through of a male Common Rosefinch found up the road from my flat on Walthamstow Marshes by the insatiable Jamie Partridge.

I couldn't believe it really - my perceived misfortune made worse knowing that I was unable to make it up the road for at least three days.

Thankfully though the Rosefinch decided to stick around, and on a glorious morning, the bird was found in it's favoured area singing sweetly from the aerial of the Hope and Anchor Pub.

A lovely red bird, it tended to fly between two favoured locations so could go missing for periods but such a great record for London and my first for the UK.

It never posed close enough for any credible photographs so the one below can reasonably described as a 'record' shot.




Sunday, July 3, 2016

In hindsight...

I like this quote; “Everything was such a damned nice idea when it was an idea.”

That's exactly how it felt when I booked a British Airways return flight to Aberdeen with the hope of connecting with the rare American White-winged Scoter.  Of course there is an element of risk attached to such things, something that I was fully aware of having heard numerous stories of failed twitches.  To me they were merely amusing anecdotes.  Now they don't taste quite so sweet.

It was an early start to a Sunday morning.  I was still a little jaded after a heavy night out with work colleagues and the plan to head up to Scotland may have been a little misguided given the malaise of the day before.

It was a cool blustery day.  On arrival, I picked up a hire car and headed to the wonderful Murcar Links golf course.  The greens looked splendid provoking thoughts of maybe taking up this soporific sport which on grass always looks so appealing.

Walking alongside the beautifully manicured fairways, I made my way to the vantage point.  It was a calming scene and there were thousands of birds offshore.  Common Scoter were most numerous, but it wasn't difficult picking out small groups of Velvet Scoter.  It all seemed quite encouraging at first.  



The sea was a relative calm, but the clouds looked threatening, indeed, some heavy showers passed through during the course of the day.

I initially lasted an hour and a half, deciding to head over to the Ythan Estuary in search of Elvis, the resident King Eider.  Predictably he was nowhere to be seen - evidently having already left the building.  There were plenty of Common Eider here, and spirited Grey Seal elegantly bathing  around the inlet.  The tern colony mainly made up of Arctic Tern with a few Sandwich Tern mixed in made for a raucous backdrop.  A nice adult summer Bar-tailed Godwit mooched around the sandy shores, and a Red-throated Diver flew past.








I drove back to Murcur as heavy rain began to fall.  I sat in the car and promptly fell asleep for half an hour by which time the sun had reappeared.  I made my way back to view out to sea.  Watching the Eider, Merganser, and throngs of Scoter were agreeable supporting cast members, but neither of my targets failed to show.

It presented a scenario that I had anticipated - expressed by 'you should have been here yesterday' (where both birds showed all day).

It was hapless, but not altogether wasted as for now, I have an anecdote all to myself.