Monday, 25 February 2008

Boulogne Cliffs, Nord - pas de Calais, France

Ant, picked Dan and myself from my house Friday evening at 11, working our way to Dover via Woking to pick up Paul, filled the car nicely. Arriving at the dock well ahead of schedule allowed us to catch an earlier ferry over to Calais.
We had found the area in darkness, which meant we had time for a nap. At first light we began our search at the fort at low tide. At least an hour and a half had passed with no sign. And then a report from a couple who claimed flushing it from the fort when coming down the steps at 08:10 (GMT), bearing in mind it was now 09:45 that was some time again. I and a few others searched further on towards to the pillbox, until one of them recieved a text saying everyone was moving down towards the other end got me excited, unfortunately it was nothing.

So Dan hinted about searching the cliffs where i had just been, at this point it was just him and myself and the conversation went "I get the impression we are going to be running out of time, very soon", "I know, we're going to be getting desperate soon". "Wouldn't it be good if it would just appear on them rocks there!", just as Dan had finished his sentence, something caught my eye at the top of the cliff, sadly it was nothing and lowered my bins in disappointment. In doing so something else caught my eye, much lower down in the cliff. I didn't even need my bins to know exactly what it was. WE HAD IT!! the wintering Wallcreeper!! One of the finest birds this planet has to offer.

We watched it feeding low down on boulders at the bottom of the cliff, before the others made it over, when it started feeding further up, for half 'n hour we starred at the bird unaware of the tide. We soon had to dash as the tide was quickly coming up and about to cut us off.

I took over 550 shots of this stunner and it was only this one hear that was worth cropping, the distance was great, constantly moving and in dull light. Still - what a stunner! (c) Ashley Howe

After that, we eventually found a site where Black Woodpecker had been heard from, we spent the whole afternoon here, we split into pairs, keeping each other informed, Dan and myself found ourselves Reeve's Pheasant - mind you abit dodgy we feel, Crested Tit, and i had a presumed Short-toed Treecreeper. While Paul and Ant had more luck with Crested Tits, Short-toed Treecreepers and heard a Black Woodpecker.

A great twitch and my first abroad - with abit of luck one of many in the future, and what a way to start. A 25 hours twitch.

Friday, 22 February 2008 last day :'(

An early start, down to Moore NR, where we planned to stay the day.
Starting off well with gear like Bullfinch, followed by Tawny Owl, Willow Tits (the first i've had in almost two year), Snipe etc.

Willow Tits at the feeding station and a Reed Bunting sat on a frosty bramble (c) Ashley Howe

A brief look over the frozen pools, there were a few Gulls beginning to gather, mean while we went and took a look for a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, our efforts were for now - fruitless, but then went to take a look for Redpolls. Which we got easily with both Lessers and Mealy found, with Siskin in Alders.

2 Lesser Redpolls in Alder, and Stephen attempting to digiscope the Mealy Redpoll (c) Ashley Howe

Back watching the Gulls again...but nothing too good was seen, so took a brief trip over to Frodsham and found a Little Stint on the No. 6 Tank Pool at high tide.

Returning to Moore, the best Gull of the day was found...Yellow-legged Gull - WOW!! well worth our efforts, on the Birchwood Pool.

Yellow-legged Gull, one of two, the only half decent Gull that anybody could find (c) Stephen Menzie

Over on the Pumphouse Pool there was a Water Rail and behind us a Lesser Pecker called all too briefly, but unfortunately wasn't relocated. We went back to the feeding station to watch the Willow Tits again, before going back to Menzie's to collect my stuff and starting the journey south to meet my Dad.

Thanks again Stephen for a great long weekend away, much appreciated, and im sure the favour will be returned someday.

Thursday, 21 February 2008

Lancashire, Merseyside and Cheshire...all over again

An even later start...and it was really killing me today, being so restless!!

But we got to Marton Mere....again, for the Long-eared Owls, the Whooper Swans were there again with Water Rail. Turns out the Owls were roosting in a different place, but we found it and a few others looking. 2 were roosting together. While Mr. Menzie was reporting the news, I spotted a Bittern flying over the reeds, we went into the hide, finding it easily. Then another....and another. Eventually 3 all together within a few metres of each other!

The cheeky buggered nicked my camera for this one, walking Whooper (c) Stephen Menzie, two roosting LEOs (c) Ashley Howe, single LEO (c) Stephen Menzie, 2 Bitterns together and a third walking along the reed fringes (c) Ashley Howe

Crossing the border again (Stephen wanted me to make this clear, that we were in MERSEYSIDE at this point) the drake Green-winged Teal showed very well infront of the hide, shoving its arse in the air for us as well.

Drake Green-winged Teal (top)(c) Ashley Howe, more Green-winged Teal sat and with arse in the air, can be compared with Eurasian Teal (drake) upturned showing differences (c) Stephen Menzie, bottom drake Teal, Wigeon and Shoveler (c) Ashley Howe

Back into lancashire, with Merlin and Corn Buntings on Plex Moss showing nicely, rayyyy we were doing well today.

Top two Merlin (c) Ashley Howe, bottom two Corn Buntings (c) Stephen Menzie

Further South into Cheshire, at Moore NR there weren't many Gulls or anything else for that matter, but the Tawny Owls were a dead sert, so we went and got them.

Two Tawny Owls in roost this afternoon in their usual place (c) Stephen Menzie

Wednesday, 20 February 2008


A late start by my standards on Sunday, but got to Marton Mere at about 09:00, 4 Whooper Swans were about the only thing of note we had, the Long-eared Owls weren't in their usual roosting place, so we moved on.

One of four Whoopers, originally we thought this bird was stuck in the ice, but seemed ok in the end (c) Ashley Howe

The Glossy Ibis at Waltham was distant, exactly the same as last year when i saw it, and in the exact area. 2 Bewick's Swan were amongst 75 Whoopers, Merlin and Water Pipit were picked out.

The ibis rather distantly amongst Shelduck looking into strong light (c) Stephen Menzie

Crossing the border into Merseyside, Dipping again at Marshside for the Green-winged Teal, but Peregrine over, and a dodgy Pipit: Please look at the Pictures on Menzies site, and will be appreciated to know your thoughts, Thanks!

Common Snipe showing very well to the hide, top (c) Ashley Howe, bottom (c) Stephen Menzie... you should have seem him, like a kid with a new toy ;-)

Not far away, we went and flushed a Jack Snipe with several Snipes before, scaring the shit out of me as it flew out from underneath my feet.

Scanning the Plex Moss revealed no, Corn Buntings, but two Grey Partridge where only the top of their heads were visible. Clearly we weren't having a brilliant day, dipping the majority of things.

Finishing the day (successfully) with 2 Little Owls at an undisclosed site shhhhhh which showed well.

A Little Owl roosting in an old Barn at an undisclosed site, (c) Ashley Howe, while another flew across the road and landed in a tree (c) Stephen Menzie

The Journey North....

Picking up Red Kite in the way....a few of which within my home county, the first ones i've seen in a good while now, though there were plenty around Oxford.

Red Kite from the car, but it was in Hampshire (c) Ashley Howe

I met Stephen Menzie at about 16:15 in a junction layby....swapping my gear from car to car, realising i had forgotten a sleeping bag, seriously, how thick can you get?!

This was the first time i have seen Stephen since last summer, though we are constantly speaking to each other on MSN, together we headed to Frodsham Score where two Short-eared Owls were distant hunting over the far bank at dusk. Heading towards the exit, round the corner another was sat of a fence post infront of the car!

This Short-eared Owl appeared infront of the car, unfortunately evening light prevente dme from getting brilliant shots (c) Ashley Howe

Saturday, 9 February 2008

Walpole Park

Arrived around midday, after begging family for a lift, the bird was showing well as this mad man spent his lifes savings on bread and corn to feed the swans and gulls. "Apparantly" he owns all the birds :-s but anywhoo the Ring-billed Gull was showing nicely, occasionally taking flight and sometimes coming very close.

Black-headed Gull (obviously top) and the rest the adult Ring-billed Gull (c) Ashley Howe

Saturday, 2 February 2008

Langton Herring, Portland, Countess Wear, Dawlish & Beer

The day started mighty fine!! Long-billed Dowitcher straight away though at range with 6 Snipe, Redshank and Lapwing, before a Spoonbill flew in and landed about a metre from the feeding Dowitcher. Making an unusual combo!

Sorry for the poor standard but in all fairness were a fair way away. The Long-billed Dowitcher sat amongst SNipe under the lip of mud in the centre. I don't think the Spoonbill needs pointing out!! (c) Ashley Howe

Portland Harbour held 3 Long-tailed Ducks and Razorbill, but at the Bill there were thousands with Gannets, Kittiwake and Fulmars added.

Continuing the journey West, the Falcated Duck hadn't been reported since first thing. And no further sign. But we went anyway, finding that is was ridiculous to be considered as a genuine bird. In a small, heavily vegetated pool amongst trees and associating with a few Teal and Mallards. If it is gen, then it isn't helping itself!

Then we popped into Dawlish, there was no sign of the Surf Scoter, Devon wasn't doing us much favours. A Velvet Scoter was the best we could muster up, and as darkness fell we scored with 2 Black Redstarts at Beer Beach.

Thanks again Dan, for another great day out!!