For the first time in a long while myself and Matt heading off on a mega-day out. The target bird was the Roller in Suffolk followed by a visit to Hickling Broad in Norfolk. As forecast it was raining when I picked Matt up at 04:30 and it got worse as we headed east. We were hoping that the forecast showing the rain stopping by seven was right. We arrived at Icklingham at around quarter -past seven and it had indeed stopped raining but was still ovecast and dull. As we drove past the site there were a few people about so having parked in the nearby layby we headed back to a viewing point by the birds favoured field. As we approached we could already see the Roller perched on overhead wires. A nice easy lifer for Matt and second in the UK for me. After having a good look with binoculars Matt went back to the car to get his scope. The Roller flew up a couple of times and both times relocated on the wires. It then flew down again and when it came back up had prey in its beak. Possibly a small lizard. We stayed for about forty-five minutes and having decided not to walk along the main road to get a little closer we walked a little further along the fieldside track to see what else we could find. Cuckoo and Yellowhammer were the best. From here we moved on to the nearby Lackford Lakes to try for Glossy Ibis. No joy unfortunately but a nice walk around this lovely reserve got the day-list up to fifty. Then it was back to the car to head further east, into Norfolk and our third new site for the day Hickling Broad. Matt is and NWT member so got in free but I had to fork out £4.50 to get in. We made a leisurely circuit of the reserve soon getting Marsh Harrier and Bitter flying over the reedbeds. Overall it was pretty quiet until we got the viewpoint over the scrape. From here the highlights were six Spoonbills, several Avocets and good numbers of Ruff in various plumages including full summer. There were plenty of young birds around with Avocer, Redshank and Lapwing all seen. With no sign of our main target bird Black-winged Stilt we moved on to the Stubb Mill path to view the other side of the more open area. Matt soon picked out a summer plumaged Curlew Sandpiper and I found a Wood Sandpiper. No sign of the Stilts though or of a black Spotted Redshank that had been seen the previous day. From here we had better views of the Spoonbills including two juveniles with their black-edged wings. Also, we didn’t see any Swallowtail butterflies which wasn’t surprising with the dull and overcast conditions. Returning to the visitor centre we found out that the Stilts had relocated to the reserve a tPotter Heigham so that it where we headed next. This was another new site for me and wasn’t that easy to view due to the high reeds along the watercourses. However we soon found the two Stilts along with nineteen Blackwits and several more Avocet. It was then time to start heading for home but we had decided to have a look in at Cavenham Heath which was very close to where we had seen the Roller. A message came up on Birdguides saying the Glossy Ibis had been seen again at Lackham so we stopped in on the way. We walked quickly to Paul’s Hide and were extremely lucky to get a view of the Ibis just as it was moving out of sight behind the reeds. We also added Great Spot, Great Tit and Marsh Tit here to bring the day-lisy well ito the eighties. We initially approached Cavenham from the wrong side but eventually found our way to the car park. Thye main feature here were the large amount of Crows with several hundred being seen. We did however manage to find a single Stone Curlew and also added Green Woodpecker and Stonechat to the list. Our Deer species total reached three with a few Red in the distance adding toseen earlier Muntjac and Chinese Water. Leaving here at around half-six we had a great journey back (apart from me missing a junction on the A14) and I dropped Matt off at a little after nine. So a seventeen hour, four hundred and forty mile day had given us an excellent ninety species with six year-ticks each.
The Antonov 225 Mriya is the largest plane in the world and on the 24th it was heading for Brize Norton. I managed to get out of work in time to get to Brize to see it land. Despite being at the wrong end of the airfield for the landing it was well worth the drive over. It was nice of the Yellowhammer to photo-bomb the second picture.
Having spent the last three days doing things for other people, today I fancied a drive out to do some birding. Initial thought was somewhere on the South Coast but following a quick look at BirdguidesI decided to head for the RSPB reserve at Middleton Lakes in Staffordshire where a Blyth’s Reed Warbler (lifer) has been around for a few days. As the journey involved using the M42 below Birmingham I left home reasonably early to avoid traffic. Access to the site is on a private road that runs alongside the Aston Villa training complex. I arrived at around half-seven and headed off on the mile and a bit walk to the far end of the reserve where the bird had taken up residence. As I got close I could hear it singing and I managed to see it as soon as I arrived. I then spent a very pleasant hour enjoying watching the bird as it moved around it’s favoured Willow which was just across a small stream. The occasion was marred slightly by one particular birder who continually moved around, effing and blinding every time it went out of sight as he tried to get photos of it. He also seemed continually stood close to other people to try and get a better angle. A bit of a pain to be honest and totally unnecessary as the Warbler was showing really well for most of the time. There was a nice lot of warblers around with Chiffchaff, Cetti’s, Reed, Sedge, Whitethroat and Lesser Whitethroat all seen or heard. A couple of Cuckoos were calling in the background. My plan had been to see the Blyth’s then to spend a couple of hours here before visiting a friend in Alcester. However I had a look at Birdguides and saw that a Melodius Warbler (lifer)had been seen at the Lickey Hill Country Park which is just north of the M42. Sorry Chris but it was no contest. Arriving at Lickey Hills I was pleased to find that it was only a short walk to where the Melodius had been seen. There were just a couple of other birders on site and I soon heard it calling from an area of scrub that consisted mainly of young Birch. And so the next couple of hours were spent listening to it call from close by but deep in cover with it giving only fletting glimpses as it moved around. A few more birders arrived including a couple of locals who seemed to enjoy pointing out the places that it had, on other days been perched up high while singing. In the end I decided to go having had a couple of slightly better, although not great views. Another great warbler spot though with Willow, Garden and Blackcap added to the day-list giving a total of eleven warbler species for the day. By now it was definitely too late to stop-off at Alcester so instead I stopped off at my Son’s house in Worcester for a quick cuppa. So another good birding trip with June turning out to be an excellent month. Can’t complain at three Warbler lifers in a month.
I had a car trip out to Southampton for work today and managed to time it so I could have my break at Fishlake Meadows. Arriving at the viewpoint I had a scan for the hoped for Osprey but there was no sign of it in any of the dead trees. A couple of other people arrived, both uninterested in getting the Osprey as they had seen it previously, but were both hoping for the Purple Heron that I had managed to see last week. This time I only had to wait for about five minutes before the Osprey appeared flying left to right across the middle of the lake. That made two good yer-ticks here for a total of twenty-five minutes expended. A fair return in my opinion.
For the last few nights we have been sleeping in the back bedroom as the motorway has been closed meaning there has been a lot more overnight traffic going past the house. Tonight however, the church bells were ringing and neighbours dog decided to have a barking session. So it was what turned out to be a fortuitous decision to decamp back to the front bedroom. My first alarm went off at 03:50 and unusually I decided to doze until the second went off five minutes later. As I lay there I heard a bird calling but I just couldn’t place what it was. The second alarm went off and as I got dressed I was listening out for it to call again. The rest of the dawn chorus was starting up but I faintly heard it again. A calling Quail just across the road from the house was certainly not what I was expecting. As usual I had cut time to the bone for getting to work but managed to listen for five minutes or so during which time it called four more times, I even managed to get a recording of it before getting myself out of the house.
With Nightjar now hard to find in North Wiltshire a June evening visit to Greenham Common has been the default way to get them on the year-list. So having got home late afternoon on Monday from a weekend break in Broadway the evening found me heading east to Newbury and Greenham Common. I arrived a little late for the smaller birds but did manage Linnet and Stonechat along with several singing Song thrushes. As the light began to fade I headed for the regular Nightjar area, all the while keeping a lookout for Woodcock. The first bird seen was a hunting Barn Owl which made a brief appearance at about half-nine. At 21:42 a Nightjar started to churr but it was a fair way away over on the main airfield. I stood my ground another started but this time much closer. These two continued to churr but neither were seen. After about half-an-hour I started to head back to the car and on reaching the main track heard another bird further on into the main site. I decided to head towards it and was getting fairly close when it flew up a little way ahead of me. Despite it being almost dark I had fabulous views as it flew around me both calling and wing clapping. So another successful visit despite the lack of Woodcock for the second year running. Earlier on I had walked along the line of the fences around the cruise missile bunkers and I finally got around to finding some information on why the site is registered as an ancient monument. https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1021040
Yesterday morning I was booked for my second jab in Salisbury. After dropping my wife at work I had an hour on the Plain before heading into Salisbury. As before it was very efficient at the vaccination centre, I was in and out in twenty minutes. From here I headed south to Franchises Wood which although being in the New Forest is in Wiltshire. I was hoping for Wood Lark and Wood Warbler and within yards of entering the woodland I heard a Wood Warbler. It took a few minutes to find it but once I had it was easy to follow it as it called and sung whilst moving around it’s territory. Despite the greenery I managed a couple of reasonable pictures. Heading further in a Cuckoo was calling, I stopped to look for it but it was too deep into the trees. A couple of Goldcrest were singing and while looking for them a Firecrest popped out right in front of me. I spent another hour or so here but didn’t manage to find the Wood Lark.
From here I drove to Romsey to visit a new site for me, Fishlake Meadows to try for a Purple Heron. It took me a while to find the roadside viewing platform mentioned on Birdguides, it was actually a small area of bare earth with the entrance concealed amongst the trees. I only found it as I saw a birder clambering out. I was informed that the Heron had done a flyby about fifteen minutes earlier but my luck was in as it did the same about twenty minutes later. I needed to pick my wife up from work but managed an hour or so on the Plain on the way. No Stone Curlew or Quail again but two Grey Partridge, a Hobby and thirteen Red Kites and five Buzzards circling a field that was being silaged made it a worthwhile visit. There was a lot of military activity and on a couple of occasions a quick return to the car and shutting of the windows was required to avoid being engulfed in a dust cloud.
I was at my Mum’s in London when a message came in, Rosy Starling in Swindon. I put it out of my mind for a while hoping that it would stay and be showing later on. Not long after I got home it was refound but I had to first pick up my wife from work. I had taken my camera into the house when I got back from London and had forgotten to bring it out again so chose to take wife home, collect camera then go for Starling. This I did and arrived at the Starling location to find that it had flown two minutes before. Camera collection was looking to be a bad Idea. As I have said before housing estate birding isn’t my favourite but it had to be done. Fortunately there were a couple of others to keep me company. it wasn’t looking promising after about thirty minutes of looking and then having been joined by another local we got lucky with it being refound. Heading for the new location I went to get the camera ready. Ironically it wouldn’t turn on, a flat battery following my week away. However, the important thing is that I did get to see the Rosy which was a county tick. And I do have a photo taken by Nigel who was standing next to me and has kindly shared it with me.
We have just had a family camping holiday in the Woolacombe area. Not much birding was done and I only noted forty-three species over the week. Friday was heading home day and I set of home earlier than the others who had decided to spend a bit more time on the beach. As I am not a fan of sitting in traffic if it can be avoided I took a back roads route across Exmoor and then across to Bridgewater. Driving through Bridgewater I was feeling a bit hungry so decided to stop at a Sainsburys for fuel for myself and the car. I checked my phone before leaving and saw that a River Warbler had been found at Ham Wall which was about two miles off of my M5 avoiding route home. I parked in the RSPB car park at around half two and reluctantly parted with £3 for the car park. Paying for car parking is another thing I don’t like to do. A brisk walk soon found me on the path to the Avalon Hide where there were a half-dozen other birders. The RW had been seen about twenty minutes earlier. While waiting I was working out how long I could stay, with a couple of hours still to drive, a car to unload, a dog to collect and starting work at 03:15 the next morning I decided on half four. I soon revised this to 16:15 and as the clock ticked by I was feeling less than positive. Another Wiltshire birder arrived and we were chatting whilst i was watching the clock tick down. At ten past I was preparing myself to leave and literally as I was saying my good byes to Mike a shout came, River Warbler showing. And there it was at bang on 16:15, showing well and singing just twenty-five or so metres away. I watched for a few minutes, tried a couple of pictures then headed off back to the car with another lifer in the book.
New Year Woodcock at Coate Water, Whooper Swans at Castle Eaton, first Brambing Nightingale Wood, big Golden Plover flock along the Ridgeway, Goshawk along Smeathes Ridge, Glossy Ibis from Twitchers, Rosy Starling at Moredon, Wood Warbler and Firecrest Franchises Wood,
2021 UK Highlights
03-01 1st Waders of the year, 1st Parakeets of the year (not), Dusky Warbler Siddington, Northern Mockingbird at Exmouth, Rustic & Little Bunting Thursley Common, Whiskered Tern Longham Lakes, River Warbler Ham Wall, Purple Heron Fishlake Meadows,