Monday, 20 September 2010

Now you see me...

This Lapland Bunting was one of the birds seen on a trip to Norfolk on Sunday with the Bedford RSPB Local Group. We knew a sizeable flock had been at Cley in recent days, but only managed to find a single bird – and we were lucky to spot that as it moved around, beautifully camouflaged, amongst the rocks and vegetation on the shingle bank.
Even though we were quite close, you only had to take your eyes off it for a couple of seconds and it was difficult to find again, especially when it decided to do its best impersonation of a pebble...

It was a good day for waders - large numbers of Black-tailed Godwits, plus Dunlin, Knot, Redshank, Ruff, Little Stint, Avocet, Grey Plover, Turnstone, Bar-tailed Godwit, and a rather grubby Spoonbill at Thornham.  My favourite birds of the day, apart from our little camouflaged friend above, were the first Pink-footed Geese of the Autumn, an Arctic Skua in aerial combat with a Tern, and three Common Scoters bobbing up and down in the sea off Cley – yet another case of ‘ Now you see ‘em, now you don’t’.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Freiston and Frampton

A visit last weekend to the Lincolnshire reserves of Freiston Shore and Frampton Marsh gave me plenty of opportunity to brush up on my wader ID. On Saturday we travelled to Frampton via Titchmarsh reserve in Northants. Neither produced anything exceptional although we did get good views of a Peregrine Falcon at Frampton being seriously mobbed by Lapwings.
The real spectacle was awaiting us at Freiston Shore on Sunday morning, where we were joined by friends from the Beds Bird Club. Everyone was in the hide for high tide - around 9.30 am - by which time the lagoon in front of us was teeming with thousands of waders. Most numerous were Black-tailed Godwits, Redshanks, Dunlin, Knot and Oystercatchers; but there were also Turnstones, Grey Plovers and a few Bar-tailed Godwits. This was the first time I had seen waders in such numbers – and so close. It was the perfect opportunity to practise sorting out Knot from Redshank...

...and the occasional Bar-tailed Godwit from among its Black-tailed friends...

By the time the birds started to leave the lagoon as the tide receded, we had made our way to a shelter overlooking the shoreline to enjoy watching the swirling flocks as they flew back.
The latter part of the morning was spent watching Curlew Sandpipers and Little Stints on a scrape on the western edge of the reserve. I was pleased to finally catch up with Curlew Sandpipers, having not seen them before, but the Little Stints were something else – working their way across the mud like dinky little clockwork toys.

Frampton Marsh in the afternoon added some wildfowl to our day’s list – Pintail, Shelduck, Shoveler, Teal, Wigeon and Egyptian Goose to name a few, plus a Green Sandpiper; but the best was saved till last when a walk to one of the hides late afternoon turned up a perky Whinchat posing on the fence along the path, accompanied at times by a Wheatear and juvenile Goldfinch.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Is it or isn't it?

A genuine wild Marbled Duck... 

This individual was found at Broom Gravel Pits today.

There was a lot of discussion about whether it was a wild Duck or an escapee; but wild or not, it's an attractive Duck and was definitely worth the quick trip after work to see.

Monday, 6 September 2010

Red-backed and Red-necked

We're certainly perfecting our Red-backed Shrike ID at the moment. Having seen the adult female at Biggleswade last weekend, we arrived at Holme on Saturday [4 Sept] to hear that a juvenile was present there, and soon caught up with it – frequenting a patch of scrub in the middle of the dunes area.

An exciting bonus was the Barred Warbler keeping it company (which apparently is often the case) – although this was much more elusive and several vigils throughout the day were rewarded with only a couple of brief appearances.

We ended the day in the hide at Redwell Marsh watching a Red-necked Phalarope that had flown in the previous day. This bird definitely wasn’t hard to spot – it had the pool more or less to itself. Feeding frantically, it stopped for barely a second and made you feel almost dizzy watching it. After leaving its breeding grounds in the Arctic this one had decided to break its journey in Norfolk in readiness for the final stage of its journey to the Arabian Sea. The Arctic to the Arabian Sea... no wonder it needed to eat so much.

Friday, 3 September 2010

Shrike Zone

Although now considered virtually extinct in Britain as breeding birds, Red-backed Shrikes were, apparently, once common in the UK and particularly in what is now the A1 area of Bedfordshire; so it was fitting that when one decided to visit the county last weekend it chose the same area for a stopover - on this occasion Biggleswade Common.

We had good views of the adult female bird - perching in the open, and occasionally dropping into vegetation to catch prey. Don’t you just love it how some birds can keep their head still while everything else attached to it moves with the breeze...

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Dungeness - 11 July 2010

The day started fairly normally - a trip to Dungeness with Carolyn and Malcolm hopefully to see the Purple Herons that were breeding there; but it ended up being one of those days that birders dream of - all thanks to a lone visitor from southern Russia.

On any other day seeing Purple Herons flying over the reed beds would have been the highlight, or even the Great Egret fishing in the pool in front of us. But both birds were eclipsed by our discovery of an extremely rare vagrant on the ARC pit during the afternoon - a White-tailed Lapwing. This particular bird had previously done the rounds of UK reserves - Seaforth NR, RSPB Rainham Marshes and WWT Slimbridge - but fortunately for us it chose this day to visit Dungeness.

As the realisation of what we had found dawned on us, a sort of stunned disbelief set in. Malcolm and Carolyn went to the Visitors Centre to report the bird while I stayed in the hide and did my best to get some photos and video for identification purposes in case it flew off - no pressure then!

It was quite distant and the bright sunshine and strong winds meant conditions were far from ideal for photos and video. But when something like this comes along you just have to get what you can...

A mega bird, and a mega day.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Loch Ruthven - May 2010

... is a peaceful Scottish loch and RSPB reserve about 25 km south-west of Inverness.

Loch Ruthven
 My visit there in May was primarily to try to see these fantastic birds...

Slavonian Grebe
 The Grebes are easily watched from the hide on the banks of the loch. At one point a pair came fairly close - bobbing up and down on the water not too far from the hide. I couldn't resist trying to get a little video of them, with the sun on their russet and gold plumage ...

Truly stunning birds.