Thursday, December 29, 2005

Sightings 29-31 December 2005

29 December 2005 Another recycling/birding trip to Hempsted revealed a pair of Stonechat, c4 adult Yellow-legged Gulls and a Raven. There were a lot of gulls over the tip but very few using the loafing areas viewable from the public footpaths and roads.

Frampton Court Lake was almost completely frozen but held seven Little Grebe, one Pochard, c20 Shoveler, c30 Gadwall, c40 Teal and c100 Coot. Townfield Lake held two Little Grebe, c 10 Great Crested Grebe, c250 Coot, two Pochard and c10 Tufted Duck. Three female Goldeneye were also feeding despite most of the lake being frozen. All sightings MJM and JJS.

30 December 2005 A Jack Snipe was showing in front of the Martin Smith Hide at WWT Slimbridge (P. Walkden).

31 December 2005 A return to form at WWT Slimbridge as the milder weather has enticed many of the waders back. 2700 Wigeon and 2100 Teal were viewable from the hides and Bewick's Swan numbers had crept up again to c230. The E.White-fronted Geese were dispersed around the fields and the high count of 908 yesterday (JSL) could not be matched. The two Pink-footed Geese and single Dark-belled Brent were in the fields between South Lake and the canal.

The two Ferruginous x hybrids were on the Rushy.

An adult Yellow-legged Gull was on the Dumbles edge over high tide. At least 12 Black tailed Godwit, 1 Ruff, 1 Little Stint, 1 Spotted Redshank were feeding on the floods and scrapes. Common Snipe were seen from many of the hides with at least one possibly two Jack Snipe showing from the Martin Smith Hide.

Two Chiffchaff were seen around the southern end of South Lake, one favoured the ivy covered tree by the Hogarth Hide. All sightings MJM and JSL.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

WWT Slimbridge Bird sightings 27 December 2005

27 December 2005 A good start to the day at the South Finger with very close views of the European White-fronted Geese. As they were so close it was possible to see the variation in size, bill length, colour tones, belly barring (the heavy black markings on the belly) and differing amounts of white on the forehead. They were very mobile with small groups often lifting and flying off to other areas before returning. The juvenile Dark-bellied Brent and two Pink-footed Geese were present with them.

Eight Ruff, eleven Black-tailed Godwit and c30 Dunlin fed on the South Lake wader scrape in the morning along with 95 Shoveler on the deeper pool. The latter were great value as they whirled in groups of up to 50 actively feeding.

On the Top New Piece (Zeiss Hide) an apparent White-cheeked Pintail x Cape Teal hybrid was feeding among the thousands of Wigeon and Teal.

At least 208 Bewick's Swans were seen with 18/19 new arrivals. One of these was ringed by WWT in Russia during August! The swans were excellent at the 1600 Rushy feed. The two Ferruginous x Pochard hybrids were both showing on the studio island which is also on the Rushy. All sightings MJM, JSL and JJS.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Sightings from 19-23 December 2005

19 December 2005 A non-birding day due to the Swan Catch. 40 Bewick's Swan, 150 assorted duck mostly Mallard, Shelduck and Pintail were caught and ringed. In the afternoon two Egyptian Geese were frequenting the South Lake and roadside fields (MJM).

20 December 2005 A brief visit to Frampton on Severn (Townfield Lake) produced a large number of gulls which held at least three Yellow legged Gull (MJM). Lower numbers of diving duck, Coot, Mute Swan and grebe was obvious. At WWT the juvenile Dark-bellied Brent Goose came in to roost on the Rushy with the Canada Goose flock (JSL). This is very unusual but we have had this species winter in the grounds with the Black Brant flock in the past.

23 December 2005 A recycling/birding outing to Hempsted Tip produced a Red-legged Partridge next to the Gloucester City Football Ground and two Green Sandpiper (MJM, JJS). Lots of gulls viewable from public areas but nothing of note to report among them.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Bird Sightings at WWT Slimbridge 18 December 2005

18 Dec 2005 The day started sunny and clear but soon clouded. It was a very cold night and the pre-baited swan pipe trap in the Rushy enabled James Lees to drive 51 Teal, 2 Pintail and a Wigeon into the catching area. After placing the birds in baskets we took them away for ringing which took up a fair bit of the morning.

The reserve was mostly frozen so the wildfowl and waders were on the river. The E.White-fronted Geese were split into two groups, 370+ at the South Finger (Bottom New Piece )and 120+ on the Tack Piece. The long staying juvenile Dark-bellied Brent Goose and two Pink-footed Geese were with the former flock.

The 160+ Bewick's Swans were performing well on the Rushy. The two Ferruginous x Pochard? hybrids were also present.

Although frozen, the South Lake held a 600 Lapwing, 1 Spotted Redshank, 9 Ruff and 15+ Black-tailed Godwits.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Anser Birding Trip to the Champagne Lakes, Champagne-Ardennes, France November 22-26 2005

Martin McGill Leader and Organiser.
Jeremy Squire co-leader.
Bettie Sloane.
Paul Walkden.
Denise Howe.
Jill Sharland.
Peter Watson.
Bob Radford.

Anser has visited this area before and the main aim of the trip was to watch the wintering and passage Common Crane flock. Several members of the group were seasoned Crane watchers both in Nebraska, USA and Europe. These birds provided us with great entertainment and memories. The lakes were as usual for the time of year fairly dry with large areas of mud exposed. Wildfowl added to the interest but the woodlands yielded some of the most sought after species. We visited Lac du Der Chantecoq, Lac du Temple and Lac du Orient. The smaller Etang des Landres and Etang du Grand Coulon were also birded.

Tuesday 22 November
We started our travel day which began with an early start for all. The foggy conditions did not help us but we were soon aboard and on our way. The ferry left at 1115 and we bid farewell to the white cliffs of Dover and headed for France. The whole group met on deck to watch out for seabirds.

The crossing produced most of the common seabirds. Over 2500 Gannet were logged along with 20 Fulmar, 70 Guillemot, 20 auk sp, 2 adult Little Gull, 250 Kittiwake and an adult Mediterranean Gull as we entered Calais. We disembarked and made our way to the Champagne-Ardennes region.

En route we noted 2 ringtail Hen Harriers, a late Wheatear and many other common road-side species. We arrived at the Hotel le Cheval Blanc at 7.00 pm French time tired and hungry so a quick turnaround saw us sitting to dinner. Cranes could be heard outside roosting on Lac du Der which was a nice introduction to the species. The next few days would be filled with this graceful bird.

Everyone was tired and went to bed early for the next days birding.

23 November 2005

We rose early to witness Cranes leaving the roost site. A very short drive to the Digue wall where we parked and strolled over the bank to the shore. Soon after getting into position we could make out the shapes of the Cranes as they became vocal. Species of wildfowl could be picked out along the shore and in the deeps. Mallard, Gadwall, Teal and Shoveler were the commonest with thousands of Cormorant and G.C.Grebe also on show. A Redpoll flew over and a few other common species were noted. We returned to the hotel for breakfast after watching the Cranes leave for their breakfast. It was interesting to note that the Cranes would often divert their flight line if they spotted the group even though we were not silhouetted.

After breakfast we returned to Lac du Der

Port Giffaumont
A Great White Egret flew overhead. A pair of Shelduck, Curlew, and a small flock of Dunlin, adult Yellow-legged Gull, a single Oystercatcher and a female Goosander was picked out among the throngs of common water birds.

Stade Nautique
This narrow bay with peninsula held three GW Egrets, three Water Pipits, 20 White Wagtail which were a nice comparison to the Pied Wagtail seen next to the bus the day earlier in Dover. A couple of distant Goldeneye and raft of diving duck attracted us to the end of the track. A Green Woodpecker was seen by MJM. The point looked over the whole area and six adult Bewick’s Swans were feeding in the shallows.

Presqu’ile de Champaubert
We parked near the Eglise and saw what proved a real rarity until the Saturday morning, another birdwatcher! This viewpoint provided further views over the dam and lagoon. A Little Grebe fed among the diving duck and grebe but nothing new was discovered. On return to home I discovered that a Pink-footed Goose was seen in this area the day after which is a scarce bird in these parts. We returned to Braucourt where we enjoyed a warming involuntary prolonged lunch.

Presqu’ile de Nemours
After driving around the eastern part of the lake we arrived at this wooded peninsula where Denise found a Common Sandpiper along the flowing stream. An adult and second winter Yellow legged Gull, Grey Herons, GW Egrets and many other common birds which also included a few Little Grebe fed alongside.

Some disturbance by walkers caused most of the group to miss a party of Goldeneye. We transferred to another large section of wood nearby and quickly found a Middle Spotted Woodpecker. This bird proved elusive and disappeared. A sunny corner held a feeding Chiffchaff and a male Lesser spotted Woodpecker was found in the canopy.

Presqu’ile de Larzicourt
A coach party of children arrived at this site so we decided not to search for woodland species. The lagoon here held a Kingfisher and Green Sandpiper along the ditch which leads out into the lake. Another group of Bewick’s Swan were seen with nine adults and seven cygnets. A couple of Goldeneye played hide and seek, a Black-necked Grebe was discovered alongside a Little Grebe.

Maison de l’Oiseau et du Poisson
The sacrificial maize crop was a magnet to 70 Chaffinch, 250 House Sparrow, 20 Tree Sparrow and at least 4 Brambling. It was lovely to see passerines doing so well from this source of food.

Site de Chantecoq
We parked here to view the Cranes coming into roost. On arrival a party of 16 Tundra Bean Geese flew over. Out on the lake a mixed aged and sex group of 25 Goosander looked great as they fished. The males looked pink/peachy in the fading light. Three distant E. White-fronted Goose fed among the many Greylag and a party of c20 sleeping Pintail were seen. The bulk of the cranes arrived to the north of us but we had a few hundred fly in over our chosen spot. This brought the day to a close.

24 November
Another early start to view Cranes leaving the roost before breakfast. Unfortunately despite getting closer to where the Cranes flew in we did not see the big flock leaving. Only 300 were logged going out to the fields for the day. It was becoming clear that the numbers were dropping around the lake perhaps due to the cold front that recently arrived. A few Brambling wheezed overhead, single Redpoll and Siskin were also heard.

A flock of 53 E.White-fronted Goose could be seen very distantly with the Greylag Geese.

Presqu’ile de Larzicourt
After breakfast we returned to the woods here and located a couple of Great spotted Woodpecker. A male Middle-spotted Woodpecker replaced one of the Great SW and fed in the open for five to ten minutes in an oak tree. Marsh Tit was seen along with the common tits, Nuthatch and Jays. A single Hawfinch fed with party of Goldfinch and Greenfinch. Two Red Squirrels were noted and were the cause of the finches flushing; one of them was a dark phase similar to the type you see in Eastern Europe.

We moved around to a better position where a party of 6-8 Hawfinches played hide and seek. Many of the passerines were happily feeding on fat balls, nuts and seeds, the French also appear to be garden bird lovers.

In the bay a pair of Bewick’s Swans fed with a Green Sandpiper and three GW Egrets for company. We moved to Arrigny for coffee break in the café.

Plage de Nuisement
More wildfowl to be seen but the main interest was from a single willow and patch of reeds. Reed Bunting and Yellowhammer flew out and into this small patch. MJM heard some tapping and was looking to see where it was coming from when Jill found the culprit. A female Lesser-spotted Woodpecker appeared in her bins as she watched the Yellowhammer. It dropped back into the reeds being seen feeding along the lakeside of the bed before popping up into the willow again. It flew off over the car park and was not seen again. Leaving this area we stopped to scope a flock of Skylark and Yellowhammer on the fields.

St Remy en Bouzement
A search for Northern Grey Shrike was fruitless but a covey of nine Grey Partridge was some compensation. A very pale Buzzard complete with white rump and tail gave us a start but turned out to be a Common Buzzard which are very common in the area. A male Hen Harrier hunted over the fields where Cranes fed and a male Stonechat was seen next to the bus.

We drove to Montier en Der for coffee, (plus free cigarette smoke, no news laws in France as yet) cake and the Intermarche.

We returned to the Maison de l’ Oiseau et du Poisson and walked along the track to the Etang des Landres.

Etang des Landres
Brambling and Tree Sparrow were seen again in the Maize field. The hide revealed a large flock of egretta and ardea which set the Anser staff to work. Some of the group including Jeremy admired a Water Rail outside which was harrased by a Rat, another was heard from inside.

The draining lake held a total of 153 GW Egret and 74 Grey Heron which were counted by Bob. MJM noted what appeared to be a Grey Heron x GW Egret hybrid along with a Little Egret. The Little Egret moved into the open and turned out to be an apparent hybrid Little x GW Egret hybrid.

While all this was going on Jill announced that she had an Ibis! Sure enough a Glossy Ibis was feeding amongst the frenzy. This is a scarce bird in this part of France but increasing. The western population is booming and spreading so we may even see them breeding in Britain one day. A party of five Pintail fed in the shallows with a concentrated flock of BH Gulls.

We left and went back to the wood where at least six Goldcrest were active; a Green Woodpecker was seen briefly and heard. A woodpecker called again which Denise recognised as Black and it called a few times more. We tried to whistle it out and it eventually gave us a fly past, a male Black Woodpecker.

As we started our way back to the car Jeremy, Jill and Denise all got onto a Firecrest as the light faded. The rest were unfortunate to only get poor views as it disappeared into the bushes. We waited for further views and MJM saw two Firecrest going to roost in the wood.

25 November
Lac du Temple
A female Hen Harrier, Green Woodpecker and Cranes were all seen on the way to this lake. Jeremy led the group to view the main body of water where Bob located a stunning male Black Redstart. There was little else new to the trip and we all left to move to the next lake. MJM and Paul saw male Merlin whilst they were away visiting a local village.

Lac du Orient
We stopped at the visitor centre and had coffee and used the facilities and then discovered it was shut! Ah well, too late we had sorted ourselves out and the door was open. A few Marsh Tits fed in the canopy along with the numerous Nuthatches. On the Lac we scanned through the thousands of water birds when JJS locate a female Velvet Scoter. It dived among the Coot and eventually flew off showing its white wing patches. The cold wind did it’s best to stop us but we all checked the birds thoroughly before retreating to a sheltered spot. A Green Woodpecker fed among the willows and a tit flock revealed a tame Willow Tit which showed for all. Another stop produced another Middle Spotted Woodpecker.

Coffee and baguettes in a local village and back to birding the forest. Another MS Woodpecker was seen with a few other woodland birds but no Crested Tits or further Firecrest sightings in what is normally a good area for them.

As we left the village a Red Kite lazily floated over the fields and dropped into crops.

Brienne de la Chateau to Montier en Der
A juvenile Hen Harrier was spotted by Paul quartering the fields so we stopped and enjoyed it for a while. A Peregrine was also seen hunting Lapwing over some distant farmland.

Etang du Landres
A re-visit produced the Glossy Ibis again and fewer herons. On the walk through the wood and couple of brief Middle Spotted Woodpeckers were seen and some of the group saw a flying Black Woodpecker. We rescued a trapped Kingfisher from a covered culvert which had been attracted by the millions of small fish dying in the drained stream. A tame Musk Rat (Le Ragondin) showed under our noses. On walking back the woodland and scrub was not as productive as the previous day.

We finished off the day with a sunset and Cranes flying in to roost over the Digue wall near to Giffaumont-Champaubert. A Peregrine was also present on the mudflats.

Sat 26 November
We left Lac du Der as Cranes flew out for the day. A Peregrine and single Hen Harrier was noted from the A26. The drive back was eventful due to the snow storm but this had a negative effect on the Crested Larks at our chosen service area. The Grey Partridge coveys were very easy to see as they stood out in the snow. We reached the Calais Port and boarded the ferry.

The crossing was similar to first leg with Arctic Skua and Little Auk being the only additions to the list. Back in the UK a skein of Canada flew over the Kent motorway and we travelled back home.

A total of 125 species were seen over the five days by the group.

Martin McGill