Sunday, February 25, 2018

(Ross)'s Gull and Friends

It was cold as the assembled crowd at Radipole Lake waited patiently for the Ross's Gull to drop by.  This arctic wanderer is a scarce visitor to the UK, and an adult bird is always a real draw.  At just gone 11am, the bird dropped in, and despite being quite flighty, it gave great views as it bobbed about along the channel before heading for the island where it had been seen on the previous days.

It was a little cracker and in pristine plumage, but not quite showing the pinkish hues when in breeding plumage, but the dark eye and short black bill, pale grey wings and mantle made this a Gull worth looking at.

Also seen by the bridge was a comical Water Rail that dashed back and forth fleeing constant harassment from the local Mallard and Moorhen.  A showy Cetti's Warbler appeared for a few moments before dashing back into cover.

There was very little on offer at Ferrybridge, so I made tracks up to Ibsley Water at Blashford for some more Gull action.

In a reasonably packed Tern Hide, the show was starting with at least three Mediterranean Gull present in a growing flock of Larids that also included a Ring-billed Gull, only my second ever, and pretty rewarding to pick out.  The largest group of Goosander I had ever witnessed, with at least 37 birds counted including 11 drakes were congregated against a shingle spit.  A minimum of 19 Pintail were present as well as Goldeneye into double figures.

The day culminated in a 2nd winter Caspian Gull that was seen 'duck-diving' and pretty much causing mayhem around one of the islands.

The bird people had come to see was the Probable Thayers Gull, which by all accounts looked like an Iceland Gull on steroids.  Another one of those best left to the experts who thankfully give a toss about such things.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Magical Minsmere

An early start to make the most of a gorgeous day, not as radiant as the previous day but the east fared well as the weather rolled in from the west.  The morning was crisp, and clear.

The first stop was Eastbridge where the Glossy Ibis was feeding along the edges of the flooded marsh.  It was then spooked by a passing Marsh Harrier, it's iridescence shimmering against the morning sun as it flew round and then dropped down again.   A group of Curlew were present there as were a few flighty Common Snipe.

I was really looking forward to visiting Minsmere again.  It's such a fabulous reserve with so much to offer all year round.

Heading along the path toward Island Mere hide, common birds were now vocalising salutations for the onset of Spring within the woodland.  There is a while to go but today in the sun, the signs were promising.

This Robin was really confiding.

There were plenty of Siskin and a few Redpoll seen from the path that leads to the Canopy hide.

The view across the reedbed from the Island Mere hide is always a view to behold.  There were good numbers of Marsh Harrier occupying the skies with aerial elegence, and flashes of Bearded Tit, pinging their way across the tops of the reeds before plunging back down into shelter.

The trail routes past the canopy hide back towards the visitor centre pausing for a quick pit-stop before heading along the north wall towards the East hide.  It was pretty quiet here apart for common wildfowl that included three smart drake Pintail.

It was the Dartford Warbler along the beach that grabbed my attention for a while, a pair present with the male in full song, scratching away from the top of the gorse.  I watched them for a while.  Simply stunning birds, and great to see them away from their usual strongholds of the Suffolk heaths.

I sat staring at the see for a bit.  The sun was shining and it felt perfect.

There were Snow Bunting somewhere along the beach, but was lucky enough to have one fly past me calling before turning around a few moments late, dashing back from whence it came.

I made one last walk back to Island Mere, where five Whooper Swan had settled in from of the hide, two adults and three juveniles preening and prodding in the brilliant low light.

The main highlight of the day was seen at low-light.  The Starling murmuration.  A crowd of around 150 people had gathered for this avian show of un-choreographed shimmering brilliance that only nature can inspire.  A swirling mass of a kaleidoscopic purity, the sound of thousands of collective wing-beats coursing through the sky as clouds of birds passed overhead.

And then the mesmerising show that continued for around thirty minutes.  Two acts, climaxing in a dramatic precipitace descent into the reeds where the assembled multitude of birds harried and jostled for position.  The light faded, and the cold set in.

Just another night for nature to restore itself for the coming day.

Other sightings of note around the reserve were Roe Deer, Muntjac Deer, and a Grey Seal offshore.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Walthamstow Wetlands

Whatever people have been saying about the newly branded Walthamstow Wetlands, it can still look great before the hoards eventually turn up.

A rare visit here to connect with the Little Bunting that duly obliged and showed quite nicely.  A great record for this urban reserve that may struggle to attract the earnest naturalist.

I cycled home - probably never to return.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

A morning in Eastbourne

Yes, this was a morning dash down to Eastbourne.  There were two species here of interest.

The first was the White-spotted Bluethroat seen relatively easily along a line of reeds at West Langney Lakes.  This site was far better than I had expected with a large waterbody providing suitable habitat for water birds, and an extensive reedbed where the distance pinging of Bearded Tit could be heard.  This would be a great local patch.

As for the Bluethroat, this looked like a 1st winter bird, it was well marked but it's behaviour and form made it a real joy to observe as it scavenged for invertebrates on a cold frosty morning.

With the knowledge that a decline in the weather was forecast around midday, I headed down to Sovereign Harbour to search for the Black Guillemot that had been present for a few weeks in the unfamiliar surroundings of the south.

The wander round the harbour was most agreeable, overlooked by new residential developments made it look like quite a desirable location with its shopping area, cool cafes, and free parking!

Having wandered around for a while, the Black Guillemot was eventually located beyond the gate bridge.  It was a really smart bird showing signs of moult into summer plumage.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

American Horned Lark

A bit of a charge around the periphery of London starting at Staines Reservoir where the American Horned Lark was showing really well along the bank of the South Basin.  Despite the bird having been present on and off for a couple of months, there was still a good crowd assembled there.

A Black-necked Grebe was seen distantly bobbing away in the south-east corner of the south basin.  There were also a few Goldeneye on both sides of the causeway.

I then headed up into Hertfordshire to the small village of Bramfield that as it's centrepiece is the fine 13th century St Andrews Church.  It was here where the Hawfinch had been a regular sighting.  After a short wait, a group of four flew into trees beyond the church.  They weren't close in by any means, but the views were just fine.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Morocco - Volubilis

The next stop was a three hour drive back south to an old Roman city at Volubilis just outside the city of Meknes.  The day was warm and sunny, and the site was empty of visitors.  It's remarkable how far and wide the Romans conquered, and North Africa was a real stronghold for them at the periphery of their Empire.

Volubilis is a very well maintained Roman city despite earthquakes and looting that had cast many of the buildings asunder over the centuries.

Many mosaics were found throughout the city and I'm sure there a plenty more yet to be discovered.

The Basilica and the Capitoline Temple are still standing and look domineering against a sparsely populated backdrop.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Morocco - Chefchaouen

A three and a half hour drive directly to the north of Fes is the charming 'blue-city' of Chefchaouen.  The drive meandered through primitive villages fragmented within the green countryside where an abundance of local produce are cultivated and harvested.

The road winds up to the top of a hill, and the city appears into view, gleaming brightly against a rugged and solemn backdrop.

The city is set steeply against the lower slopes of the adjacent hillside before plateauing onto a main thoroughfare where tourists are drawn to lines of open-air dining areas and street-sided shops.

The riad was set up high on the hillside providing a great view of the city, that also presented a physical challenge walking around the beautiful blue narrow streets.

The blue hues of the facades were splashed across all of the houses.  Many theories abound as to why the buildings has been fashioned in this way, I would like to think that it was an extreme case of keeping up with the Jones's.