Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Richmond Park

A brief visit to Richmond Park on what was a glorious warm evening.  The views across the park are fantastic particularly during the final couple of daylight hours.

Just routine stuff today, with around a dozen Sand Martin dashing around Pen Ponds in the company of four Swallow.  Two boisterous Common Tern were flying energetic circuits with a few Tufted Duck, and Common Pochard on the water flanked by the exotic Mandarin and Red-crested Pochard.

Three Stonechat were on the bracken behind the ponds.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Staines Reservoir

A decent late afternoon visit to Staines Reservoir where a distant Black-necked Grebe was present on the west side of the south basin.

My first terns of the year were met by a cloud of whirling and boisterous group of Common Tern that wheeled over the causeway from the south to the north basin.  There were at least two classic Arctic Tern feeding on the south side but could perhaps have been more.

The continuing Greater Scaup was present close to the Causeway on the north basin.

A surprise Whimbrel plodded along the grassy bank of the south basin with a Little Ringed Plover that flew in onto the shoreline.

Three Swallow were feeding along the causeway.

London WWT

Pretty quiet on the Wetlands this morning, but it appears that I had missed a few good local sightings that appeared during the course of the day.  At least the weather had slightly improved from yesterday but it remained cool and predominantly overcast.

Two Little Ringed Plover were present on the islands as observed from the WWT hide.  Warblers were in full song with Sedge Warbler, Reed Warbler, Blackcap, and Cetti's Warbler (including one showy male) in fine voice.

A hunting Kestrel was present most of the morning.

Other sightings included three Redshank, the male Shelduck with the female presumably on the nest, around 40 Sand Martin, two House Martin, and 13 Lesser Black Backed Gull.  A single drake Wigeon was in no hurry to leave.

A male Red Fox was seen along the South Route having had my attention attracted to a group of alarmed Long-tailed Tit.

Failed to connect with the Nightingale that was reported to have been singing by Wetland Living on the South Route.  I did hear a very vocal Song Thrush there though.  Just saying.

Sunday, April 21, 2019


Lisbon is a spectacular city and utterly recognisable from the one I visited twenty years ago.  The varied architectural influences are splendidly observed on every corner. The feel and vibe of the city, fresh and welcoming, great food and coffee, resisting the temptation of another pastel de nata.

Transport is cheap and hassle free, the shameless use of Uber at a fraction of the cost of extortionate London fares.

So many attractions, four days and there was still plenty to see and experience.  It abounds with tourists which at times can feel a little over-bearing.  Take time to avoid the crowds, and explore parts of the city that may not necessarily have been featured on tripadvisor.

A trip to Sintra was recommended - yes it's a fabulous place to visit, Palacio de Pena with its techni-coloured facade, but the queue to view the interior is an incalculable waste of time.

Visit Belem for the Monsatry, Torre, and the Padrão dos Descobrimentos that affords views from the top at a modest 6 Euros.

Mosteiro dos Jerónimos

Padrão dos Descobrimentos

View from Padrão dos Descobrimentos

Torre de Belem
From Belem, take a walk along the river up to the 25 de Abril bridge.

Ponte 25 de Abril 
The city is aesthetically very charming, each corner presenting another sublime perspective.

Saving time and resting weary limbs, the funicular is a fun way to avoid steep hill climbs.

Fado Vadio is the most famous Fado graffiti in Lisbon, located in the Escadinhas de São Cristóvão.

Tram 28.  Urgghh the much heralded Tram 28.  Queue for hours, get squashed into a space constrained carriage and roll through the city partially seeing the sights you had already walked past the day before.  I don't get it.  The trams are great, a real throw-back to the past, but get on any tram.  Preferably one that you don't have to queue all day for.  

The 28 Tram

Yummy Pastel de Nata at Pasteis de Belem.

Mmm Pasteles

Pasteis de Belem
The Time Out market great for a lunch date, or simply experiencing the atmosphere while being lured into buying an affectation or two.

Time Out Market

And more impressive street art that I just love.

Fabulous Street Art

Head up to the Castelo de St Jorge, and watch the sunset over the village.  Really lovely but take a warm coat as it can get chilly outside of the summer season.
Castelo de S. Jorge
View from the Castle

Friday, April 19, 2019

London WWT

A great morning at the Wetlands with plenty of variety and a decent arrival of summer migrants on what was a glorious morning.

From the WWT hide, two Green Sandpiper scurried along the margins of one of the islands.  And at last, warblers were a feature across the reserve with a minimum count five Sedge Warbler, six Reed Warbler, and four Cetti's Warbler heralding the proper arrival of spring.  A Lesser Whitethroat flew into the scrub, called briefly, before continuing its journey north.

On the grazing marsh a pair of Garganey made a brief appearance from within the reeds that have remained typically elusive over the few days of their stay here.  Wintering Wigeon were still present but with numbers now greatly reduced, with 14 counted today.  Three Common Redshank and a Common Snipe were noted there with the regular juvenile Iceland Gull associating with the resident gulls on the marsh.  A brief Yellow Wagtail paused on the marsh before flying purposefully west.

Other oddities included a soaring Common Buzzard, a Coal Tit by the feeders, and a singing Goldcrest on the west route.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

London WWT

A cool morning with a fair bit of interest with the daily arrival of summer migrants with a few lingering winter visitors.

A single Jack Snipe remained on the wader scrape, but this time took to feeding out in the open along the far margins of one of the islands.  Three Common Snipe were present there.

The two Shelduck remained as were a pair of Pintail with their departure imminent from these parts.

Three Redshank were out feeding on the grazing marsh, with a single Common Gull still present on the main lake.

My first Sedge Warbler of the year was a singer that remained out of view, singing from scrub near to the wildside hide.  Three male Blackcap were in song around the reserve.

Hirundines were more prominent today with at least 30 Sand Martin present along with three House Martin, and four Swallow.

A Common Buzzard soared overhead.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Rutland / Great Grey Shrike

Ahhhh, a much better day today after a brilliant course on GCN ecology in Peterborough.

I headed straight over to Rutland, as there was potentially plenty of interest on the mosiac of waterbodies there that characterise this brilliant site.

First up were the Osprey, at least two were seen soaring over Lagoon 2 towards the South Arm.

There are plenty of hides dotted along the periphery of the waterbodies, each presenting a different perspective of the reserve.

Migration was in full swing here and there were hundreds of Sand Martin prospecting the sand bank as seen from the Redshank hide.  A few House Martin and Swallow were on the move, my first sightings of these globetrotting hirundines of the year.

A feature over the last day or so were Little Gull, and there were at least a dozen around Lagoon 3, the majority of these adults feeding on their elegant undulating flight.  A single adult bird was seen from the Sandpiper hide.

In the woodland, around six Brambling lingered high up in the birches, with three Bullfinch that made a typically abrupt appearance (an adult and two female).

From the Sandpiper Hide my second ever drake American Wigeon was out feeding on one of the large islands with a few Eurasian Wigeon, a very smart duck despite its ancestry.  An Osprey fed on a recent catch on the top of a platform.

Wandering in and out of the hides was a real joy, you never knew what would appear next.  Other notable species were two pair of Pintail, and a male Sparrowhawk.

Here is a photo of a male Palmate Newt caught in the bottle-traps during the course.

Heading south from Rutland, I made tracks over to the amusingly named Hanging Houghton, a small hamlet within rural Northamptonshire where a Great Grey Shrike had been present for a few days.

Ostensibly a farmland area with a limited presence of trees, the Shrike was seen opposite to the large barn where a flock of Yellowhammer were present.  The GGS remained on top of a tree making diagnostic darting flights in pursuit of insects on what was a cool day.

Sunday, April 7, 2019

The Brecks

A couple of days on a course in Peterborough so I decided to make the most of it and head up a day early.  The Brecks seemed a good choice but as it transpired, it turned out to be a grim day with persistent rain that made birding challenging.

Highlights though were found at Lynford Arboretum with at least 60 Brambling many of which were transforming into their handsome summer colours.

It was gloomy but making the most of things, I traipsed around, avoiding the showers and lengthier spells of rain, eeking out as much as I could.

A couple of chaps alerted me to a roosting Tawny Owl, high up in a pine on the route down to the bridge.  This area held plenty of small birds including at least four Marsh TitNuthatch, Treecreeper, and seven flyover Crossbill heading toward the pines.

Small groups of Redwing were still present, dashing round the tops of the trees.  Siskin were a constant sound over the arboretum.  It felt more like winter than spring.

The search for Hawfinch proved fruitless so a quick visit to Weeting Heath for Stone Curlew was rewarded with three individuals braving the elements in from of the east hide.  There was unsurprisingly no sign of the Rough-legged Buzzard here.

Back to Lynford, at least one Firecrest was present near the car park.

There was very little sight or sound of Spring today.

Saturday, April 6, 2019

London WWT

A pretty lacklustre day considering the time of year with easterly flows tempering migration.  The morning promised a little sunshine but the sky soon filled in on what was a gloomy day.

Highlights were an increase in Sand Martin with around 35 dashing low over the scrapes and plenty preparing the sand bank for the breeding season.

Summer migrants were thin on the ground with only a couple of Blackcap and three Chiffchaff in song.  Four Cetti's Warbler were on territory with one seen carrying nest material.

The aythya hybrid was still present on the Sheltered Lagoon mixing it with the Tufties with a pair of Mandarin present too.  A Common Snipe was subjected to constant harassment from the local Moorhen before flying into cover.

A Great Spotted Woodpecker was drumming its brains out within the woodland.

Four Redshank and a half-a-dozen Lapwing were present on the Grazing Marsh.  Two Water Pipit flew past the Peacock Hide early doors.

Two distant Peregrine were seen thermaling somewhere over Central London.

This Robin brightened up a dull day.