Saturday 29 October 2016

Pit 60 etc: Saturday 29th October

There seemed no point in an early start on this dark, dank morning! In fact, I wasn't sure of the wisdom of venturing out at all. However Badger's helpful text, and the post on the Oxon Bird Log of a Snow Bunting were sufficient to get me moving. Nevertheless, it wasn't until well after 11am that I reached the Farmoor car park. I then decided to call Dai to check for the latest info, only to be told it had probably gone some time ago!

Badger also confirmed its absence, so I made an abrupt change of plan and headed off to Standlake - once out I could really just turn round and go back home, could I?! Arriving in due course at a deserted Langley Lane hide at Pit 60, a very grey scene presented itself. But almost immediately some colour in the form of a Kingfisher flashed past, so I settled in for a wait, hoping for a return visit.

Nothing else came remotely close enough to be worth photographing, and I tried to pass the time by counting the Mute Swans - there were about 75 of them, plus the Black one still. After some time, the Kingfisher suddenly re-appeared and landed on the top of the "branch", which is a bit closer to the hide than the "post". It then almost immediately immediately dived into the water, caught a fish, and returned to the branch, albeit lower down. It stayed for just long enough for a few shots, before zooming off again, with its fish - which looked a remarkably large one for it to swallow!

Posting this pic on the Oxon Bird Log soon elicited the ID of the fish - a perch.

Kingfisher with Perch
Kingfisher before catching the Perch

Thereafter, it was pretty quiet, apart from some very distant snatches of song that sounded to me like a Cetti's Warbler, but I couldn't be sure as they were very brief and distant.

There were plenty of the usual ducks to be seen, including Wigeon (now coming out of eclipse) and Teal. A Buzzard landed on the north shore, but with the light getting even worse after a couple of hours, it seemed time to head back.

Tuesday 25 October 2016

Dorset and Norfolk - 8th - 22nd October

Here is a brief account and some photos from a low key, hastily arranged couple of weeks in Dorset and Norfolk - rather closer to home than where we had hoped to be in October. There was just one real highlight - a lifer in the second week in Norfolk! For more details, read on!

For the first week, we returned to Weymouth, where we had had a pleasant week last October. Bird-wise, this was not terribly productive and the only photos worth showing came from the RSPB Lodmoor Reserve, where the western path was again good for confiding waders that have become used to the almost constant stream of people. Unlike last year, both species of Godwit were showing well.

Bar-tailed Godwit

Black-tailed Godwit. Visit my website for a larger image

Round the back of the reserve, along a road by some residential houses there was reputed to be a Starling flock with one juvenile Rose-coloured Starling in it. When we arrived at the right spot, there were no Starlings of any species on view, but there was a lot of Starling chatter coming from the adjacent hedge! A helpful birder advised waiting awhile as periodically they emerged from the hedge onto the wires above and flew over the road to feed in the local gardens, he said.

After sometime, we managed to spot the Rose-coloured Starling in the hedge itself, where the view was of course partially obscured by twigs etc. During the time we were there it never showed on the wires and when it flew it disappeared from view into the garden opposite. Having seen the one in Oxfordshire a few years ago, this wasn't a terribly exciting bird - I await an adult which of course would be much more spectacular!
Rose-coloured Starling

The nearby RSPB Radipole reserve was pretty quiet, but produced  a reasonable view of the normally elusive Cetti's Warbler and a couple of Bearded Tits briefly in flight. There was no sign of the Hooded Merganser that had provided some entertainment last year, although it was supposed to be still around.

We also tried halfheartedly for Yellow-browed Warblers on Portland but had no success despite several being reported while we were there - mainly from the "Craft Centre" which doesn't exist anymore and is therefore a fairly useless location to report birds at!

Somewhat further afield, the RSPB Arne reserve (due to be hosting BBC Autumn Watch this week) was reasonably interesting with a couple of very wary Dartford Warblers and in the opposite direction from the car park, distant Spoonbills (in large numbers) and 1 Great White Egret. We also had a brief glimpse of rutting Sitka Deers (which will no doubt feature on Autumn Watch).

The dominant Sitka Stag

Our normal route to the north Norfolk coast involves a slight diversion to the WWT Welney reserve and with the Whoopers having returned it seemed worth a short visit. Unusually, one was showing quite close to the path, over a relatively high bank - that I was able to see over!
Whooper Swan

From the next hide along there were distant views of a remarkable flock of 17 Cranes, that are believed to be wild birds from the general area, including perhaps the Lakenheath birds. They never came close but were still an impressive sight.
7 of the flock of 17 Cranes

Back at the main hide, I set about trying to find the White-fronts that had been reported and sure enough quickly located some on the far bank. However a small group of them suddenly decided to head over towards us. They came quite close, before thinking better of it, and heading rapidly away.
White-fronted Goose (presumed wild). Visit my website for a larger image

By the time we arrived in Norfolk the persistent easterlies, that had brought it several rarities including all the megas further north over the last couple of weeks, had abruptly stopped as did the influx of interesting birds. Nevertheless for the first couple of days a few were left for us to look for. First up was a Radde's Warbler that had been "showing well" the day before up a muddy track at Warham Greens. By the time we arrived the following morning, parking was difficult and we ended up with a fair walk in to the spot, where we found a group of up to about 20 birders looking for it. 

"Oh it was showing about 20mins ago", we were told! Of course for the next couple of hours at least there was no further sign and the appeal of this particular hedgerow was steadily waning. However just I was beginning to think we were going to be unlucky it suddenly appeared! It was worth the wait and a nice lifer! It then proceeded over the next hour or so to lead everyone a merry dance working its way up and down both sides of the hedge, showing from time to time, but only very occasionally was it completely out of cover.

The shot below is my favourite as it is nice and contrasty with an action pose. The bird could also be seen at times from the other side of the hedge, looking more into the light, which gave a flatter image, as shown in the third photo below. 
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The frame immediately before the one above
Radde's Warbler after a considerable wait!

Thereafter our stay was not particularly memorable. The following day we tried for a Dusky Warbler near Cromer but gave up after a 2+ hour wait during which time there was only one possible sighting by someone who initially sounded confident.  But he then rapidly became less certain when talking to the local who had found it! It was not however reported again after we departed that day, nor the next.

At Titchwell, the main path again gave some reasonable photo opps in the afternoon and I was fortunate to have a very brief sunny spell to get the Little Egret shot below. There was however no sign of the Shore Lark on the beach, reported the previous day, nor any other particularly notable birds, other than a few distant Avocets.  

Little Egret. Visit my website for a larger image

Almost immediately we returned home the easterlies came back, bringing with them some nice birds including both Isabelline and  Desert Wheatears.

Saturday 22 October 2016

Farmoor: 22nd October

With thick fog first thing, clearly an afternoon visit to Farmoor was called for today. Unfortunately however there was little sign of the forecast sunny intervals and it remained uniformly overcast throughout my stay.

Walking across the causeway, there were plenty of Meadow Pipits and a single Rock Pipit but of course my main objective was the Grey Phalarope that Ewan had found yesterday afternoon in brilliant sunny conditions! This was about as far from the car park as it could be - in the north west corner of F1. It was showing well, as they say, with several attendant admirers.

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Grey Phalarope on a grey day!

Sunday 2 October 2016

Pit 60 - Saturday 1 October am

Where better to spend a wet Saturday morning than the dry Langley Lane hide at Pit 60? Actually, I can think of a few, with the trip down under that wasn't to be foremost in my mind at present. Indeed there was even a faint reminder of what we would be missing in the form of a plastic Black Swan.

Still when I arrived the light was fantastic, and there was brilliant sun on the Kingfisher post, but there was one thing missing - the bird. This did appear but not until later by which time it was overcast and then shortly after very dull and wet.

There was no sign of the star bird of recent months - the Great White Egret and really the only other mildly notable birds were a flock of 50+ hirundines (mostly House Martins with a few Swallows) brought down by the rain, and two pairs of distant Red-Crested Pochard.

A couple of Little Grebes did however provide some interest in front of the hide, as did a Teal that arrived just as I was about to go.

Little Grebe with Bullhead

Kingfisher on the rather distant post

Teal underneath the hide