Monday, 28 January 2008

Esher, Rye, Dungeness, & Sheppey

At first light at Esher Rugby Club, although we knew the main Parakeet roost had apparantly relocated, we had heard that others were still there. Well thats wrong! There was nothing except thousands of Gulls constantly passing over head, and 2 Goosanders coming form the reservoir. The only amusement came when a car pulled in racing down the bottom end of the car park, passing Dan and I at increasing speed, towards there car wash business at the end. Next thing we know the car is swirving and then crashing into signs and plant pots, throwing them into the air. 10 minutes later, their embarrassed faces appeared out of the car to pick up the wreck. However i did briefly see 2 Ring-necked Parakeet inflight on our hasty departure down to Kent.

At Rye Harbour (oh this is in East Sussex not Kent) we parked up, follwed by another woman parking up next to us, reversing slightly to far and hitting a concrete post. The loonies were out inforce this weekend. No sign of the Shorelark, but 2 Scaup on the Long Pit.

After being held at deathpoint by a volunteer worker demanding a £3 entry fee, and gripping my Dad's bollocks off for the £1 cup of coffee, she finally allowed us to see some birds. At Dungeness several Smew on Burrowes pit, a Shag, Slavonian Grebe, a female Red-crested Pochard. Several more Smew from the Christmas Dell Hide but no sign of the Red-crested Pochards. Later inspection from Scott's Hide revealed a couple amongst the bushes, allowing both Dan and I to get fairly poor but tickable views. Tree Sparrow by the reserve entrance was both our firsts for the year. And yet after walking the length of the Long Pit there, there was no sign of the Red-necked Grebe with a retarded Dog with a mental disorder....infact his owner wasn't much better.

At this point we were suppose to be travelling up to Sheppey, but the Shorelark popped up again, and decided this would be better to go for. Got there, no sign! About an hour waiting and it appeared from know where. Got it, we haired up the motorway, darkness approaching but unfortunately we arrived abit too late at Sheppey to see anything worth it. Though a Barn Owl at range, a Buzzard species, and plenty of Marsh Harriers.

Basically the only thing worth photographing and at that a record, though the Smew showed nicely, just a bugger i left my camera in the car! Everything else had a fair bit of distance between the bird and I (c) Ashley Howe

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Portchester Area

Recently, in a the Portchester area, Dan has become aware of a Brent in a varying sized group of mostly Dark-bellied Brents, but there has been a 1st winter Pale-bellied as well as an adult. After taken pictures and comments from birders who think it is and isn't. He has reasons to believe that this is maybe a possible Grey-bellied Brent!?!? It would be much appreciated if you could comment on this bird as to what you think it might be. Cheers! PLease e-mail me at directly.

Hopefully there will be more shots soon of this Goose! (c) Dan Houghton

Monday, 21 January 2008

Cley, Salthouse, Cromer, Sheringham, Langham, Cantley & Stubb Mill

My 3rd visit to Norfolk in less than 2 weeks, with the same set of birds and more. Setting off around 2 in the morning again, im really missing my lay-ins!!! With Dan, Mr. Bagnell and John Lees, Barn Owl in Cley village, followed quickly by the appearance of the Sparrow again up the drive way, exactly the same time as last Saturday. This time staying out in the open for a good 3 or 4 minutes before popping back up onto the edge of the bush. Great scope views of the little gem.

Then to Salthouse where the flock of Snow Bunts showed well again. A Lapland Bunting flew over calling but could not be relocated. Another Barn Owl was there, 3 Red-throated Diver passed East, and two Common Scoter in the other direction.

To Cromer where the Waxwing had just disappeared, but after 15 minutes or so came backand showed well. While watching the bird. Reports of a probable adult Slender-billed Gull at Sheringham came through. Dont worry we didn't stick around long and within 15 minutes were on sight. No sign, so gave others the chance to find it and went for the Snow Goose.

A couple of shots after 15-20 minutes of waiting, I couldn't be arsed to get my camera out of the car,so let Dan have the privilege (c) Dan Houghton

On route we found a flock of Brents looking towards Sheringham Hall, Dan quickly picked out a Black Brant. Followed by a 1st winter Pale-bellied Brent.

Eventually finding the fields near Langham for the Lesser Snow Goose, from the car we could see a white blob.....amongst a billion pink-feet and 3 Barnacles flew over North.

Back to Salthouse where the Lapland Bunt showed better for Gary and John, while Dan and I just tried to find something else of interest. Never giving up on finding that BB! Driving south-east to Cantley where form the railway we could see c20 Taiga Beans and c40 White-fronted. I can't remember how many now...serves me right for not taking notes! 10 minutes and we were off Stubb Mill, on approach were 22 Bewick's Swans in a field, Yellowhammers by a seeded driveway to a Farm.

At Stubb Mill a couple of Barn Owls hunted sucessfully, good numbers of Marsh Harrier and a ringtail Hen Harrier flew through. Eventually 2 Cranes flew through as well giving a spectacular view! Leaving after Dan and I got back in the mighty Hampshire just before 10.

Monday, 14 January 2008

West Wittering & Church Norton

Set out again with Dan this afternoon - priority being the Red-breasted Goose, where it didn't take long for Dan to pick it out at range in the left hand field on approach to the car park. Apart from this, there wasn't realy much else of interest in there, the sea was dead but a decent number of Sanderling on the shore.

At Church Norton a Gannet was far out, a couple of Mediterranean Gulls and a gathering of c10 Slavonian Grebes on the rough sea.

Saturday, 12 January 2008

Cley, Salthouse, Cromer, Kelling, Wells, Flitcham, Roydon & King's Lynn

Leaving Southampton at 2am, Ant and I reached Cley just before 6. Where i had already seen the bird i new the best vantage points and got out the car nice and early to claim our positions. We waited till about 8:45 when the White-crowned Sparrow put in its first appearance, smack bang in the middle of the driveway, the impatient buggers again ran to the gate and it didn't stick around long. I managed to get some better shots than i had done previously.

The main attraction...again. Setting out extra early , paid off. (c) Ashley Howe

Allowing other people to see the Sparrow, we moved off to Salthouse where Snow and Lapland Buntings were showing very well....again.

We coudn't go for the Sparrow again and not pay these little beauties a visit. (c) Ashley Howe

East, to Cromer where we nailed the 1st winter Waxwing with ease, showing well down to 10 yards on berries in the car park of Rainbow Food Store.

As soon as we got there the Waxwing came down form the tree and begun to feed on the berries beneath. (c) Ashley Howe

The Lesser Snow Goose was quite mobile, so we waited on news at Kelling where a couple of Egyptian Geese showed well, with Golden Plover and Brambling as a supporting cast.

The Egyptian Goose showing well, and a lone Golden Plover by the first pool (c) Ashley Howe

The Lesser Snow Goose (adult white morph) was again pinned down at Wells along Creake Road, and through the masses of thousands of Pink-feet, the bird could easily be picked out at rane to the right side of the field.

Only billion miles away.....but yeh, you can see the white blob, which was the Lesser Snow Goose (c) Ashley Howe

There was nothing at Choseley, nor much else at Flitcham besides Snipe and a Marsh Tit and a peculiar looking Goose in a flock of 1000+ Pink-feet which resembled a hybrid Pink-foot x Snow Goose.

Roydon Common held a Great Grey Shrike, very, very, distantly. But the bird all the same. Next stop was King's Lynn, with the day going so perfect, surely the Ricahrd's Pipit would mess things up. Fortunately not, after moving abit further up the track, we enjoyed cracking close views of it up to dusk, with Marsh Harrier, putting up the Knots and Lapwings. A Green Sandpiper circling us and Grey Partridge late on.

Richard's Pipit showing well for the small group gathered, running up the track along the seawall. (c) Ashley Howe

Thursday, 10 January 2008

Cley, Salthouse and Holkham

News broke on Sunday at about midday, and before i had even heard it was there, Dan had offered me a lift. We left early Monday morning, and surprisingly managed to make it at first light. This was Dan and mine's first solo twitching effort, we wondered whether we would carry on our 100% success rate. Although people said it didn't show until half 10, we waited a while but eventually decided the pub was the best option.

A cracking full english breakfast and when we had finished, the carnage begun! It put in its first appearance, a bundle gathered, swearing, shouting, even when the bird had gone again. We missed it. The 2nd opportunity i had made my way to the front of the crowd and got some fairly good views after a further 20 minutes wait. Much to the dislike of some birders, and shot away with my camera, shooting aimlessly in the direction of the bird. Out of 80 photos over its 20 seconds showing, only two were any good.

The only two half decent shots i got of the Sparrow in one of its very brief appearances, however the message the previous night was surprisingly accurate concerning timings. (c) Ashley Howe

We stuck around another hour, allowing Dan to get a couple of views, with the card game, and we were both so pissed off with the crowds we couldnt wait to get away!

Fair play to 'Franko' for making the effort to allow everyone the chance to see the bird, although the card game was abit bazaar, through all the mayhem and once it had calmed down slightly, his plan seemed to work quite well...i just hope he got round to seeing the bird himself.

The traffic warden doing his job, the big camera for ITV Anglia to the right of the photo soon left after mad men told him to piss off, and poor 'Franko' (further right, who i sort of felt sorry for) was trying his best to organise things, and i dont think had actually seen it yet.

We left to Salthouse where we didn't have to leave the car to see two Lapland Buntings feeding together and a group of 30+ Snow Bunting feeding on the shingle. Once we got crippling views it was time to move on.

2 Lapland Buntings at the car park, where we didn't even have to leave the car to see. (c) Ashley Howe

Cley reserve, where we pinned down three Water Pipits behind the old visitor centre which was another nice welcome to the year. Egyptian Geese were feeding on the reserve, near the East Bank, and viewing from the Cetnre revealed Avocets on the pools.

By this time it was mid afternoon and was beginning to get darker. We did a small seawatch with nothing to show from it at Holkham. Though 50+ Snow Buntings were in the Gap. Waiting for the Geese roost in the Washington Hide, allowed us to score quicker than expected with a Ross's Goose coming into roost. A great bonus, to what ended up as another fine day.

On the way home, along the A1065, there was a bad crash, road closure, flashing lights everywhere, which resorted in us being re-directed having no idea where we was, it was fortunate that we soon realised that Lee Evan & Co. were infront who we followed back to the main stretch. So thanks for that even though you didn't intentionally know. And thanks again to Dan!!

Blashford Lakes HWT

Another visit, this time nailing the two Black-necked Grebe on Ibsley Water and at least 8 Goosander, and several Ruddy Ducks present like the other day. The Great-white Egret managed to elude most, but the Bittern was still on show occasionally.

Typically elusive Bittern in the reeds, to the left of the Ivy North Hide (c) Ashley Howe

A brief search for the Great Grey Shrike at Holm Hill with Simon Ingram and mates (who had given the area more of a going over than i did) drew blanks before moving to the Blackwater Arboretum where we had 'half a dozen' Hawfinch come into the pre-roost.

Silhouettes of 3 Hawfinch in Fir Tree in the pre-roost (c) Ashley Howe

Blashford Lakes HWT

A midday visit before i started work, to the lakes with plenty of gear knocking about. First stop was Harbridge where on approach I could already see the Cattle Egret showing very well in the immediate field opposite the farm entrance.

Cattle Egret in field oppisite farm entrace and then flew into fields behind the farm buildings out of view (c) Ashley Howe

After a visit to Ivy Lake where the Bittern was showing on and off, but soon disappeared into the reeds. The Great-white Egret flew in and landed behind it and a Kingfisher flew into the bush a few metres to the right. Making a cracking view!

Kingfisher from the Ivy North Hide, the Bittern was slightly to the left of this beauty (c) Ashley Howe

Looking for the Black-necked Grebes drew blanks but a drake Goosander came close to the hide. And Siskins feeding on the feeder beside the car was nice.

A male Siskin on the feeders by the car park and a male Peasant coming to visit as well (c) Ashley Howe