Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Poland - 3

This was the final full day in Poland, and the final opportunity to connect with something unusual.  It was still reasonably warm but the weather was changing as the clouds had filled in and things were looking ominous.  When it rains here in summer, it doesn't hold back.

Driving through Biebzra Marshes for the final time, and taking the opportunity to stop at regular intervals, there were plenty of singing Wood Warbler, Redstart, Tree Pipit, and Pied Flycatcher.

Near Barwik, a couple of Golden Oriole were fluting from the treetops - a beautiful bird with a most beautifully melodic song.

I was keen to catch up with White-Winged Tern, a species that was relatively easy to locate on the last trip.  This time however was a real struggle drawing an unexpected blank.

We headed over to Goniadz which was great for marsh terns last time around, and it wasn't bad this time either with around 25 Black Tern there.  This is a great site with a lot of potential, with a half hour stopover here producing an adult White-tailed Eagle, Spotted Eagle, and a Black Stork pretty much in one single view distantly across the marsh.

Two Crane became agitated as we walked closer toward them, and a male Whinchat sat on top of a small bush.

Stopping off at a small village called Brzostowo, a narrow gravel track lead down an opening where the marshes spread out across the horizon.  There were some interesting birds here, no white-wingers, but a single Black Tern, and plenty of territorial Black-tailed Godwit and Redshank, a female Montagu's Harrier hunting over the marsh, three Little Ringed Plover, an Oystercatcher, and a lovely Black Stork that flew in and fed close in along the channel, bizarrely with a large white feather stuck into its back.

It was an eventful drive back to Warsaw with torrential rain making driving quite interesting.

Monday, May 30, 2016


Just 40 minutes up the road was the Lithuanian border so we headed over for the day.  We planned a day by the lakes near to the small village of Meteliai which did look like a town closed down for the summer.  Just next to it was a tower that overlooked the eastern lake which looked great for wildlife but sadly that was the closest we could get.

Just up the road was a parking area next to a big lake - and it was a relaxing place to spent a few hours in the warm sunshine with lovely views across a large water body.  A pair of Pied Flycatcher were breeding here, with a male Icterine Warbler singing heartily from the top of a pine.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Poland - 2

The highlight of today was a trip to DÅ‚uga Luka for the Aquatic Warbler.  This site never disappoints for this rare species with 4-5 singing adults and one fortuitously picked up singing from the top of a reed.  Another gripping bird is the Montagu's Harrier of which a male was seen hunting low across the expanse of the marsh, with another seen from the car as we drove to our next port-of-call.  En route, a Golden Oriole had been picked up flying between the trees.

Slightly later into the evening, we wandered into Barwik where a wooden platform had been erected to observe a Great Snipe lek which has since been abandoned.  The site is great and as the evening drew in on what was a hot sultry day, the birds began to appear.

The first of these was a real treat coming in the form of a 'white-spotted' Bluethroat that sang heartily from a nearby tree.  A wonderful sight.  The final list was quite an impressive one as one by one, things began to sing and fly through.

At least two Thrush Nightingale were in full song, where a party of Common Rosefinch commuted along the ride, and a couple of Corncrake began their extroadinary calls from the depths of the grassland.  A total of five Woodcock were roding along the tree-line and a Honey Buzzard flew over.  As the sun began to edge towards the horizon, a juvenile White-tailed Eagle flew across our eye line and tumbled into the woodland to roost.  A Black Stork then followed a similar pattern but flew over the woodland and out of view.  A party of around 30 Crane headed low distantly to a roosting site, and there were a few drumming Common Snipe flying crazily over the marsh.

Thrush Nightingale and Common Rosefinch

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Poland - 1

So this was my annual trip to Poland - a necessary venture to visit my partners parents and to do the right thing by escaping into the countryside after approximately two hours.  I say annual - it should be really but last year it didn't happen which is a real shame.  Because - this is a really great place to watch wildlife - the people are really very congenial, the food is actually extremely gratifying if you find the right places, and the beer flows like water at the fraction of the price of the UK, and is twice as refreshing.

And then there's the wildlife.  The habitat is vast in comparison to what we have here, agriculture untouched my artificial farming practices that have seen the demise of many of our farmland birds, and areas of marshland that make the Cambridgeshire fens look like a suburban garden.

We took a walk along the Augustow Canal on the first evening from the Kaktusik Hotel where Great Reed Warbler were cronking from a modest reedbed.  A Tree Sparrow briefly flew out and perched on a naked branch and Fieldfare were a common sight.

Along the river, the skies were clear and the warm evening made for a pleasant walk awkwardly peering into back gardens where a pair of Red-backed Shrike posed beautifully in the evening sunshine.

This was all after a thunder storm had passed through as we arrived, but as the sun began to shine, the place came to life.  A Spotted Flycatcher was seen, again from a back garden and bizarrely, a Common Redstart sang from an aerial of a residential property, not what I was expecting.

A female Goldeneye flew down river (canal) and there were distant yaffles from Black Woodpecker.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Pearl Bordered Fritillary & Gull-billed Tern

A really rewarding day with the first stop at Abbott's Wood in East Sussex where I joined the Kent branch of the Butterfly Conservation group in the hope of finding the rare Pearl-Bordered Fritillary.

This butterfly is part of a long-term re-introduction programme within the region, and this particular site is proving to be a success with at least six there posing beautifully in near perfect conditions.

Reluctantly leaving the site, the journey back passed through the Ashdown Forest so thought it rude not to spend a couple of hours there.  Walking a two hour circuit, en route a Dartford Warbler flew low into the gorse, and there were plenty of Redpoll, most of which were in full song - which is an amazing sound.  There were a few Tree Pipit in song.

And so, in good time, a leisurely drive home was the plan, until news came through of a Gull-billed Tern at Dungeness which was really quite inconvenient, but this was one I couldn't miss.

And so, by 5pm I made it onto the reserve where the Tern showed reasonably well flying back and forth along Burrowes Pit.  With this, my 350th BOU sighting was recorded.  A mini-milestone.

So a new butterfly and a new bird.  A good day.

Sunday, May 15, 2016


It was slightly warmer than yesterday and it felt good for butterflies.  We wanted a walk and so a trip to Aldbury Nowers and Ivinghoe was an obvious choice to catch up with some of the local specialities.

It was cracking - a total of three Duke of Burgundy were seen with three Grizzled Skipper and plenty of Dingy Skipper.  The supporting cast included, one Red Admiral, one Peacock, two Small-Tortoiseshell, three Speckled Wood, Small and Large White, a Comma, two Common Blue, five Brimstone, eight Orange-Tip, and two Small Heath.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Franklin's Gull & Red-Footed Falcon

Another dirty chase for a rare bird, and this was my third attempt for Franklin's Gull.  This time the bird did the honorable thing and showed reasonably well after an hour long wait in a biting wind. I

It was eventually seen flying sorties in the company of Common Tern.  It's behaviour was very similar to Little Gull, a graceful undulating flight that made it a little easier to pick out.  The grey wings and mantle with white leading edges were obvious against the strong light as it flew out toward the pumping station.

Unfortunately it never did settle, but there were four Black Tern there.

Before heading away, a Nightingale was bursting into song intermittently.  It's a sound that you can never tire of.

I then headed over to Fingringhoe Wick EWT reserve.  This was my first visit here and I was really impressed with it.  Around six Nightingale were heard including one briefly seen.

There were 20 Bar-Tailed Godwit along the channel, and a Garden Warbler sang from the scrub.

A Red-Footed Falcon was then reported from Vange Marsh RSPB so I hot-footed it down there to see this amazing bird and the fourth I have seen in the UK.

On-site, a few Bearded Tit were pinging away, and Water Rail squealed from the reedbed.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Weeting Heath NWT

Just down the road is Weeting Heath NWT where three pairs of Stone Curlew are breeding with one pair viewable from the West Hide.

Reasonably distant, they were seen well through the scope and through the heat haze.  It was a warm day.

A walk round the paths produced two Turtle Dove that flew out of the woodland and back round before heading toward the farmhouses.  A really great bird, and now so localised, it was great to catch up with them.

A Spotted Flycatcher was seen in the woodland near to the visitor centre.

Lakenheath RSPB

On another warm glorious day, Cuckoo appeared to be everywhere, calling from around the reserve and pairs seen dashing across the fen.

An initial sighting of a Hobby then turned into two before walking up to the Joist Fen Hide where there were up to 25 birds hawking insects over the reedbed.

There were at least four Marsh Harrier including a couple of splendid male birds.

Bittern were heard booming and all the common warblers were in song, establishing territory and providing a symphonic soundtrack to a wonderful reserve.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Oriental Turtle Dove

Not really into standing on a side-street within a posh housing estate, peering into the back garden's of local residents, but this is what it took for this drive-thru twitch.

After a little wait, the Oriental Turtle Dove was seen perched up on the branch of it's favoured tree.

Tick and burn.

Lulworth Cove & Durdle Door

Before heading away for a walk along our wonderful coastline, we stopped briefly at Radipole Lake where a Marsh Harrier was seen in the company of a Common Buzzard.

The real highlight was this obliging male Bearded Tit.  Such a lovely bird.

We visited Lulworth Cove and Durdle Door on the most glorious day.  This really is a beautiful part of the world.