Wednesday, 31 December 2014

No last gasp

Ok, so when I thought I'd have one last crack at the patch this year, well that didn't happen. Instead, I did some reccying for our Jan 1st bird race tomorrow. Starting at Kilvington Lakes, decent birds were single Goosander, Shelduck and Red-crested Pochard - all potentially useful. 

I then decided to have a quick look at Cotham Landfill, where I bumped into Alex Lees - a nice chap who I've corresponded with in the past. However, the gulls were not performing, with only a small number on view from our position. We spied Edmund Staunton across the other side in his hi-vis jacket (a requirement of privileged access to the site), and it was presumably he who had the juv Iceland Gull on the main tipping area, sadly out of view of our position. 

After failing to find any LEO's with Alex, I returned home for lunch and domestic duties, before a stroll round Langford. We bumped into Michael C there, the site manager, who gave us a guided tour. Highlights were a pair of Pintail, plus single Stonechat and Snipe; no Bitterns for us this evening.

So, we'll see what tomorrow brings. I'll be happy with anything around the 90 mark. That, or a Little Bustard... And on the patch front, I finished the year on 135 species and 162 points - 1 species and 5 points less than 2013. So onwards to 2015 - 140 species must be possible!

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Penultimate patching

Yesterday I paid my second visit of the year to Cotham Landfill. Whilst there were plenty of gulls present, I couldn't find any Glaucs or Icelands, nor indeed any Yellow-legs or Caspo's. However, it didn't help that lots of the gulls were loafing in fields to the south of Cotham Flash, and couldn't be easily checked. 

And more gulls

Today, I made what will be my penultimate visit of the year to the patch. Highlights were 2 Whooper Swans on the Silt Lagoon (which then relocated to the field south of Meering) along with 2 Curlew and a Redshank; there were also 3 Tree Sparrows in the western hedge here, and a Merlin flew through heading south. Ferry Lane Lake produced a Green Sand and a pair of Stonechats along the western shore - hopefully the latter will stick into the new year!

Crunchy snow crystals

A check of Meering again failed to produce any Siskin in the alders there; it looks like this is going to be my big patch dip of the year. Onwards to Besthorpe Warren, were there was pretty much nowt, although the conifers there have now been completely felled; bad news for Crossbills. but maybe some Woodlark habitat...?

Besthorpe Warren

I finished up with a quick check of Spalford Pit and North Pit at Girton; the former held a pair of Shelduck, the latter an injured Common Gull with a badly bust wing. Unfortunately I couldn't catch it...

Saturday, 27 December 2014

A tale of two rivers

This morning I had a look at the upper reaches of the Orwell; first from Stoke Sailing Club, then Foxes Marina, and then Bath Lane. There was nothing out of the ordinary, but the Peregrine was sat on its box on the bridge, and there were good numbers of Red-breasted Mergansers, with 22 in view from Stoke Sailing Club.

This afternoon, after going out for lunch to celebrate my grandma's 101st birthday (impressive) in Stutton, we had a family stroll, and I suggested we go down to Stutton Ness. From the Ness, the Surf Scoter was a couple of hundred yards upriver, along with the Red-throated Diver, whilst just down river, at the western end of Holbrook Bay, I located the juv/female Velvet Scoter (which I somehow missed on Christmas Eve), and 2 Slavonian Grebes. A good little haul.

Velvet Scoter
A slightly better shot of its head pattern

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Christmas Eve

It's good to be back in Suffolk. As has become customary for me on Christmas Eve, I hiked along the estuaries near my family home to see what I could see. I began some way further up the Stour than usual, at Stutton Mill - I rarely visit this area, and had forgotten how birdy it is - loads of Shelduck, good numbers of Red-breasted Mergansers, and 6 Avocets, plus a juvenile Red-throated Diver off Mistley.

Surf Scoter
Developing its white nape patch

Onwards to Stutton Ness, and I bagged the 1st winter drake Surf Scoter; never close enough for a decent photo, I think my pictures are even worse than those I took of the Holkham bird in the autumn... still, it was nice to see, and it's beginning to get its white nape patch, but the bill is still subdued; and of course a Suffolk tick. Also off Stutton Ness was a Slavonian Grebe, feeding just yards offshore - which makes a change as they're usually miles away when viewed from Holbrook Creek!

Slavonian Grebe

By the time I reached Holbrook Bay, it was pretty much high tide, the sun was out (I had to strip down to my thin jumper and roll up my sleeves, it was so warm), and the wind had picked up, making the river rather choppy. Two more Slavonian Grebes were in evidence, but I failed to find much else, including the Velvet Scoter which had been seen earlier. A Kingfisher in the creek was the first of three seen during the day.

Holbrook Bay

Erwarton Bay produced the first sizeable group of Brents of the day, with maybe 400 feeding in the Spartina - no Black Brants though. A Peregrine scattered the roosting waders, which included a good sized flock of Bar-wits, and a fine male Marsh Harrier was quartering the saltmarshes, scattering the Teal and Wigeon each time it passed. 

Reaching Shotley Gate, there were, unusually, no Med Gulls to be found, and the remainder of the walk up the Crane's Hill was uneventful. I reached Shotley Church at half four, after 8 hours and 20 kilometers. My legs are feeling it now... 

Felixstowe docks

All in all, and enjoyable day, although not quite up to 2013's standards. Still, there's always next year!

Christmas Eve eve

One final check of the patch before Christmas, between running some final errands, produced 2 Merlins at Besthorpe NWT over the access track to Meering Marsh, with 2 Whooper Swans and 2 Egyptian Geese with 22 Mute Swans in the adjacent field. A quick check of Ferry Lane Lake failed to produce anything of note...

Monday, 22 December 2014

A day of disappointments

I made my first visit of the winter to Cotham Landfull this morning. Whilst there were plenty of Herring and Great Black-backed Gulls present, there were no white-wingers to be had. The best I could muster was a 1cy Yellow-legged Gull and 2 adult Lesser Black-backs


Collingham proved equally disappointing this afternoon, with dull, windy conditions and few birds of note. Best were the Little Owl in his usual tree, 3 Redshank on the Silt Lagoon, and a redhead Goosander on Ferry Lane Lake. The gull roost has shrunk to less than 100 Black-headed Gulls now, and wasn't worth the wait until dusk. 

The bright lights

Whilst singing Christmas carols in the Albert Hall actually proved to be a lot of fun, I didn't expect London on the weekend before be a bird filled experience. However, a walk along the Thames near Kew Bridge proved to be quite interesting, with plenty of Ring-necked Parakeets and Egyptian Geese, a Grey Wag, and a low-flying Peregrine.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Running out of time...

My first birding today in 8 days. Unfortunately, the patch was pretty quiet with little of note - 2 each of Curlew and Redshank, plus a Grey Wag, but low numbers of wildfowl and few passerines. And it was rather spoilt by seeing a Black-headed Gull on the silt lagoon, with blood covering its head and breast and a fishing lure stuck in its bill which it evidently couldn't shift. 

So I remain stuck on 135 species for the year - still one behind last year. Will I see a Siskin before the year is out..?!

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Cetti's challenge met

After 2 months of it being present, I finally bagged the Cetti's Warbler at Collingham Pits this morning; having had another unsuccessful listen/look for it from the hide at Mons Pool, I went to the viewing screens a couple of hundred yards further along the south side of the lake. A squealing Water Rail and 2 Kingfishers were nice, but there wasn't much else, so I checked my Twitter feed to see what was going on elsewhere. Lucky I did, as a few minutes later I heard the Cetti's calling from the edge of the water. Clambering up onto the side of the viewing screen (don't tell anyone), I had decent views of the bird. A patch tick, and two points for Patchwork Challenge!

Other bits and pieces around the patch included 1 Merlin, 1 Little Owl, 5 Snipe, 4 Redshank, 2 Curlew, 1 Little Egret, 40 Golden Plover (over), c.10 Tree Sparrows, at least 7 Bullfinches, and moderate numbers of Fieldfares and Redwings. Just off-site, 2 Whooper Swans were with 14 Mutes to the west of the River Trent at Cromwell, viewed from the conveyor outfall on the river next to the Silt Lagoon. The only thing of note at Meering was a Redshank.

It just wouldn't be winter without some awful photos of Whooper Swans...

Onwards to Girton, to do my WeBS count (a day early, rather than a week late, for a change). Best were 40 Pink-feet which flew over west; otherwise, the more notable totals included 248 Tufted Duck, 261 Coot, 353 Wigeon and a whopping 144 Gadwall, as well as 28 Pochard, 29 Goldeneye, 5 Shoveler and 42 Teal, plus a single Redshank.