Saturday, January 14, 2017

Cornwall - Eastern Black Redstart

It's a long way to go for a weekend, and to be honest, I am still feeling the long drive back two days on.

But it was so worth it.  I would like to think of myself as a pilgrim to the rugged cornish coastline, taking in the breathtaking scenery is as spiritual as it gets for me these days.  Maybe I've got it right.

The Eastern Black Redstart was still present on the rocks by the Rockpool Cafe at Mousehole and what a little cracker it was showing ridiculously well at times.

During a fruitless search for the Pacific Diver at Marazion, this stonking male Black Redstart flashed past me and rested briefly on the high sea wall.

At Perranuthnoe, the Hudsonian Whimbrel flew into Boat Cove after an agonising wait.

On the Hayle Estuary, the Green-winged Teal was still present as viewed from the Causeway on the B3301.

Other noteworthy sightings were Mediterranean Gull off the coast at Marazion with plenty of Rock Pipit along the rocky shoreline, a Great Northern Diver offshore, six Chough at Sennen spooked by a local Peregrine.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Dungeness - Stejneger's Stonechat THAT WASN'T...

Another gorgeous day on the coast feeling the sun on my face while joining convivial groups out to enjoying the quality on offer.

Bird of the day went to the Siberian Stonechat of the stejnegeri form that had been present by Denge quarry for a while.  Showing really well in the low winter sun, the bird was noticeably paler with a bold supercilium and a rusty rump seen in flight.  The rest I leave to the poop and DNA.

So, the poop went back to the polling station for a re-count and this was the final unequivocal result.  What do I know!

But it was a real birding bonanza today with plenty to see and hardly enough time.  So I had to be selective.

Only my 2nd ever Ring-necked Duck drifted by a flock of Common Pochard on New Diggings.  Also there was a single Great White Egret, and plenty of Lapwing and Golden Plover.

Parking in a restricted area, I was keen to move onto the reserve where an assembled crowd with eyes on peering through the thicket managed to pin down one of the two Long-eared Owl present on site.  It was tough to prize out, but only when it peered did it become more obvious.  Still notoriously difficult.

It was also great to meet the Craig family there, my former colleague Paul James, and one-time flying buddy Phil Rhodes.

Moving around the reserve, wildlife and water birds were present in large numbers.  Three Chiffchaff were present outside of the Firth Hide and another Great White Egret seen from the Christmas Dell Hide.

On the way out of the reserve, at least two Tree Sparrow were hanging around the feeders at Boulderwall Farm.

The last stop was for a 'sitting duck' Red-necked Grebe (4th) present on a small lake just west of Camber village.

A lot of variety and a great few hours away from the big smoke.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Portugal - Portimao and Alvor

Sun, tasty healthy food, a steady flow of local wine, and fireworks over the sea was a great way to see in the new year.

A real highlight was seeing my first Black-shouldered Kite hovering by the side of the highway as we made our way back to the airport.

Other sightings during our stay were plenty of Azure-winged Magpies around the hotel, urban Cattle Egret, two stately Caspian Tern and Kentish Plover on the Alvor Estuary, and plenty of Blackcap and Chiffchaff within the scrubby areas not far from the beach.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Blue Rock & Dusky...

...are not members of a Country and Western band.  They are two mega Thrushes, one spanking brand new, the other still in the courtroom... while the jury ruminates.

It was an icy start.  It was an early start, arriving in Stow through isolated but impressive blankets of fog.  Graham and I watched the sun sparkle against the technicoloured sky as it lifted out of a crisp eastern dawn.

The crowds were assembled, scouring rooftops for any signs of vagrancy.  The Blue Rock Thrush then surfaced, appearing incongruous as it blundered around a residential garden before announcing it's presence on top of a TV aerial.  It all felt rather unsatisfactory.

My mind was drawn to a spectacular Spanish rock-faces, listening to the fluty abbreviated melodies of this mountain dweller while peering furtively from behind rocky crevices.

Plonked on a satellite TV dish wasn't the image I really wanted to 'entertain' for very long.

Bemused but reasonably content, we left the village, heading onto our next target while patiently awaiting news of its presence.  The Dusky Thrush was still in situ.  After a brief hiatus at a conveniently located coffee outlet, we were back out on the road as news broke.

The village of Beeley is set within the wonderful backdrop of the English countryside settled at the periphery of the Peak District.  

A small group of birders were lined-up halfway up a grassy knoll.  And there we joined them. 

Skittish but elegant and appreciatively distinctive, the Dusky Thrush dwelled for long periods along a tree-line interspersed with brief nervous forays onto the frosty turf in search of lumbricids.

Now this was utterly satisfying, particularly with the obliging weather and the picturesque surroundings.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Rainham Marshes

A glorious day on the Marshes, the diluted winter sun hanging low, piercing through a milky blue sky.  There wasn't a breath of wind.  I love days like these.  They make dank winter days seem infinitely more bearable.

The aim was to see sixty species.  The end result was sixty-two (including two Peregrine seen on the drive home).

The highlights were;

a Short-eared Owl that perched on top of a small bush at Wennington

the Barn Owl roosting at its usual residence,

ten Avocet feeding in Aveley Bay,

Seven Curlew on Purfleet,

The continuing Water Pipit seen in front of the Butts Hide,

A couple of Stonechat around the Butts Hide,

Two Marsh Harrier quartering Wennington,

five stunning drake Pintail,

Small flocks of Redwing and a single Fieldfare,

A lone Chiffchaff behind the Ken Barrett hide,

...and hundreds of Lapwing.