Saturday, September 22, 2018

Staines Reservoir

A really great morning at the reservoirs before the rain set in.  The highlight today was the Grey Phalarope that never got anywhere near to taking a photograph but was fine through the scope as it fed busily three-quarters of the way out on the south basin.

There was plenty around with four Black Tern, six Common Tern, two juvenile Ringed Plover, two Black-necked Grebe, three Goldeneye, and three Yellow Wagtail on the move.

A truly outstanding sight were the huge numbers of House Martin, over a thousand, maybe two thousand, I haven't a clue, but lots, feeding low over the reservoir particularly on the south side.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Portsdown Hill - Ortolan Bunting

There's been a fair scattering of Ortolan Bunting this autumn, particularly along the length of the south coast that have notoriously difficult to pin down.  Despite clear skies on Saturday morning, the Ortolan that was found the day before just beyond Portsdown Hill remained unexpectedly overnight.

The bird flew in over our heads after a short wait and settled distantly on a large Hawthorn that it had been favouring, and remained there for much of the day.  My first sighting of this bird for the UK.

Farlington Marsh down the road produced very little except for a Spotted Redshank on the lake, three Yellow Wagtail, and a Common Sandpiper.

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Margate to Broadstairs

Decided on something a little different today - an area of coastline I had never explored.  Having spent a lazy morning in Margate, eating and exploring some of the more quirky sights of this ecclectic seaside town, we made our way to Cliftonville.

The habitat here looks good for passerines, particularly chats and so it was no surprise to find a minimum of seven Whinchat a couple of Northern Wheatear, and a Common Whitethroat here.

The Viking Trail meanders along the coastline with stunning views of the white cliffs lining the coast overlooking the sea.  The path does detour away from the coastal edge in places, routing around Joss Gap but then rejoins the path a little further on. 

As Broadstairs edges closer, steps lead down onto the sandy beaches where a promenade sweeps past a number of gaudy beach huts.

Broadstairs itself a lovely town, exuding a sense of class sadly seldom found in seaside towns.  Much like Margate, it has a creative edge, and serves up some tasty desserts.

The walk back to Cliftonville followed the coastline.  The tide had receded allowing passage away from the trail beneath the limestone cliffs.

A few hirundines were present here with a single Common Swift.  Two Northern Wheatear were scampering amongst the rocks and a Common Sandpiper flicked by towards the shoreline.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Staines Reservoir

The reservoir was like a millpond this morning.  With clear blue skies and the warm sunshine, the transformation was almost Grecian.

A count of 13 Black Tern were feeding over the South Basin that was joined by a 1st-year Little Gull.  A Yellow Wagtail flew along the causeway.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Staines Reservoir

A really productive day despite the Phalarope's short stay at the reservoir on Friday.  A particularly spirited arrival on site where the morning sun blazed across the open water.

An initial count of 17 Black Tern then turned into 21.  By late morning more had arrived increasing to 31.  By midday this had risen again to 36 birds, frequently seen clustered together in a group as they rose up from the water only to return back down to continue their elegant undulating flight across the water.

Black Tern

Seven Common Swift were wheeling over the south basin with reasonable numbers of House Martin.

A winter plumaged Black-necked Grebe drifted across the north basin.  There were five Common Sandpiper hugging the margins.

An adult winter Sandwich Tern flew low over the causeway and continued on north.  Ten minutes later, two Turnstone flew a circuit around the reservoir and again failed to settle.

A Hobby was seen flying slowly through toward the East, where Common Buzzard, Red Kite, Sparrowhawk, and Kestrel were also noted.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Cornwall - The Lizard

Saturday was a glorious day. The six-and-a-half-hour journey to Lizard Point was well worth the hard slog, the M5 is particularly soul destroying but it is from Exeter where the journey really starts.

Overlooking the cliff face onto the sparkling sea, the hoards now sporadically spread across the clifftop path from the Point to Kynance Cove.

Sunday was the day when the weather turned up. By association, it was the day when the birds turned up. The howling mild South-west breeze churned up the sea, buffeting against the cliff face, and where hardened day-trippers still in summer plumage battled the elements unperturbed by the frequent heavy showers.

Seabirds were piling past. Visibility was sporadic, determined by the pulsating showers. Hundreds of Manx Shearwater scythed effortlessly through the storm, twisting between the surf with utter contempt.

The passage of birds was relentless. The key was to keep an eye out for something unusual, to keep optics as dry as possible, and to resist the urge to pop into the café for a cream tea.

You lose count really, but Manx Shearwater passed by in their hundreds, the dirtier Balearic Shearwater count was twelve, with three dark Sooty Shearwater piercing through like arrows. My first ever Great Shearwater in British waters numbered fiver, a much more elegant flyer. It seemed so easy for them.

Sea-watching was broken up by inevitable trips to the café, and shelter from the rain. There was more to be seen though. My favourite seabird, a lone Great Skua sauntered past, some distant terns, but a few closer in revealed Arctic Tern and Sandwich Tern. A few small groups of Kittiwake including juvenile birds were regular. Two Red-billed Chough rolled through and settled on a nearby cliff. So charismatic.

A small pod of Common Dolphin drifted by and up to five Atlantic Grey Seal were bobbing/lounging around off-shore.

There were local Raven and a male Sparrowhawk causing mayhem amongst groups of Linnet, Goldfinch, House Sparrow, and Swallow.

There were still a few Butterfly on the wing that included Red Admiral, Wall Brown, and two pristine Small Copper.

Yes, there were Cream Teas, Ice-Cream, wonderful ‘home-cooked’ foods, the resulting bulging belly, but it wouldn’t have been Cornwall without them.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Dungeness - American Black Tern

A quick trip down to Dungeness to get a glimpse of the American Black Tern that favoured the western end of Burrowes Pit as viewed from the Makepeace Hide.  It remained distant while at least 25 Black Tern were scattered more widely, frequently seen passing by the hide.

American Black Tern

American Black Tern

This scarce nearctic tern appeared slightly more compact than it's european cousins, displaying noticably dark rustic tones without the clean breaks seen on the 'nigra' a shorter tail and 'dirtier' flanks.  Most of the Black Tern observed showed pristine white underwing and underparts.

Black Tern

Black Tern

Black Tern

Sand Martin :-)

There were five Great Egret present, and a quick scan of waders revealed good numbers of Ringed Plover and Dunlin, and a single Knot.