Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Glos and WWT Sightings 30 and 31 January 2006

31 January 2006 I made a visit to Leigh Meadows which is between the village of Leigh and Wainlode Hill, off the A38 Gloucester to Tewkesbury road. A pair of Whooper Swans have been seen in the area this winter. I parked at the church and walked along the public footpath through a farmyard and across a cut maize field to view the Mute Swan flock. I saw at least two pairs of adult Whooper Swan, one pair had four cygnets but I am sure I saw five adults distantly from Wainlodes Hill. A Black Swan was also present. At the back of the church a mixed flock of 50 Chaffinch, 120 Redwing and 150 Fieldfare fed on the maize. I tried Witcombe Reservoir as a possible Laughing Gull was seen on Sunday but no sign between 3-3.45pm. At the end of the day I went to Arlingham for the gull pre-roost and had brief views of a probable adult Ring-billed Gull, one was seen a day or two ago. It flew off with the majority of other gulls whilst I was changing eyepieces. MJMcGill.

Birds at WWT were much the same as yesterday.

30 January 2006 At WWT Slimbridge two Whooper Swans, 230 Bewick's Swans, one Pink-footed Goose, one Dark-bellied Brent, 780 E.White-fronted Goose, a possible E.White-fronted x Lesser White-fronted hybrid, 101 Barnacle, two Peregrine and one Jack Snipe at the Martin Smith Hide and two flushed from South Lake whilst unblocking pipes. JSLees.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Anser Birding Trip to Norfolk and Suffolk 25-28 January 2006

Anser Birding Trip to Norfolk and Suffolk 25-28 January 2006

Wednesday 25 January
Seven of us set off at 0700 and made Weather Heath in Suffolk our first birding stop. A couple of Stonechats fed from the gorse tops and up to four Buzzard soared over. A Green Woodpecker and some Fieldfare were also seen. Our target bird was a Northern Grey Shrike but it was not present. We called in here again on the way home and once again it was not seen. I found out the next day that it had shifted to the heath on the other side of the road.

We then headed for Horsey Mill passing a flock of 100 Pink-footed Geese and spent some time looking for a Hume’s Leaf Warbler (Hume’s Yellow Browed). A Chiffchaff showed for a long period and the Hume’s called a few times but did not show. A few Siskins perched or fed in the treetops. Marsh Harrier’s could be seen gathering over the reeds. We gave up searching as the winter light faded.

Thursday 26 January
A return to Horsey Mill and a search through the woodland passerines proved successful for a number of species. Treecreeper, Great-spotted Woodpecker, Bullfinch, Goldcrest, Coal Tit and Chiffchaff were all seen with a clear but brief view of the Hume’s Leaf Warbler. At least 12 Marsh Harrier and one ringtail Hen Harrier floated over the reeds. A flock of Snipe flew past. A large flock of wildfowl on the mere held all the common species. James’ heard some Bearded Tit calling. After loading up we continued along the coast to Caister on Sea again passing 700 Pink-footed Geese. At Caister on Sea we quickly located a flock of 350 Snow Bunting. The blizzard that was these stout and stunning wintering passerines provide a wonderful spectacle. The east wind was blowing the spray and foam up the beach and among the sand and pebbles the buntings were hard to see. When they took off it was a very different story, their wings showed varying amounts of white. Adult males, female and first winter males and females were all showing well. What a great way to see them.
We travelled into the broads again to Herringfleet Marshes where a flock of seven Tundra Bean Geese and a single Pink-footed could be watched. It was a good identification comparison. A Green Woodpecker and c30 Siskin distracted us from the goose watching. A drive around the Yare to Cantley Beet Factory to find the Taiga Bean goose followed. Looking from here and at Buckenham Marshes proved fruitless no Taiga Bean Geese were present. A flock of 12 E.White-fronted Geese and Greylag and Canada were present. A couple of Ruff were spotted by Alan, and the grazing marshes held a single Black-tailed Godwit, Golden Plover, Lapwing and Dunlin. MJM saw a Merlin near to some boxing Hares. A Kingfisher perched up on some sedge for us. Between the two marshes a small area of game cover attracted a finch and Reed Bunting flock, James spotted a male Brambling and it showed to all. On all of our travels around the farmland we constantly saw Red-legged Partridge and some Grey Partridge, Egyptian Geese were also seen regularly.

Nearing the afternoon we drove up to Hickling to witness the largest raptor roost in Britain. A brisk walk to the Stubb Mill viewing bank and our hardy bunch waited for the action to start. On arrival 18 Marsh Harrier were already on view as they wheeled and swooped over the reeds. Over the next hour at least two Merlin, a Sparrowhawk, 50-60 Marsh Harrier, 5-6 Hen Harrier including a male, A Barn Owl and an escaped Harris’s Hawk could be seen performing over the roost site. At one point five Hen Harrier flew together. As the light faded the flock of resident Common Crane took off and flew past, we counted at least 30 but it was reported as 36. They dropped into their roost site for the evening. A Christmas present hip flask was used to administer medicinal ‘coffee’ (single malt whisky) in the cold easterly evening wind. Carmel was vigilant enough to find a couple of Yellowhammer in a bush full of Fieldfare. On the return drive to the hotel a Woodcock flew over.

Friday 27 January
As MJM walked out of the front door a flock of 40 Siskin, two Lesser Redpoll and one Goldfinch greeted him, they gave scope filling views. We had decided the night before to head north to the coast of Norfolk rather than down into Suffolk. At Cromer from the clifftop we saw a few Fulmar, one Black-throated Diver, 15+ Red-throated Diver, four Guillemot and three Bar-tailed Godwit. We then drove the coast road to Holkham Bay seeing Dark-bellied Brent and Pink-footed Geese on the way.
Holkham Bay always provides a nice walk and some good birds. A flock of 200 Common Scoter surfed in the waves with five Eider and twelve Red-breasted Merganser. James saw a Long-tailed Duck in flight. We searched through the variety of waders with Sanderling, Knot and Dunlin being the commonest.
Our attention was then turned to passerines in the dunes and we were rewarded with a flight of c50 Snow Bunting low overhead. MJM located the six Shore Lark and a further 15 Snow B’s landed among them. After enjoying these winter stunners we saw a few Skylark flying out of the salt-marsh en-route back to the car. A visit to Titchwell followed and added two adult Black Brant (N. American Brent) with the flock of Dark-bellied Brent. They showed well for us and flew to a drinking pool for further views. Their full neck slashes and other plumage details were noted. Small groups of Pintail and Pochard were seen as well as three Avocet. Up the road at Choseley Drying Barns a flock of c30 Corn Bunting were on the wires and a Grey Partridge. A wild goose chase followed as we tried to locate a big flock of Pink-footed inland but only found two oak-tree perching Egyptian Geese and a showy Barn Owl.
A return to Holkham gave us stunning views of Dark-bellied Brent and another adult Black Brant. On close inspection what appeared to be a Brant x Brent hybrid was also with them and the id exercise was very interesting.

Saturday 28 January
A search for wild swans and a visit to Hickling Broad only added Goldeneye so we visited the North Sea Coast for one last time. A cold wind was blowing in of the sea, Bettie drew my attention to what she thought were Snow B’s and sure enough nine of them tumbled and fed in the dunes. The sea defences here held Turnstone and Oystercatcher and MJM found one Purple Sandpiper but it disappeared among the boulders. A return visit to Cantley and Buckenham Marshes still gave us no Taiga Bean Geese but the E. White-fronted Geese were up to 50. We had a long walk around a rather frozen Strumpshaw Fen where Bearded Tits and a Cetti’s Warbler were heard. Marsh Tits were seen around the car park and wood. We then headed for home ending a good few days of winter birding and noted about 116 species in total.
M.J.McGill (Leader) and James Lees (Co-leader).

Monday, January 23, 2006

WWT Slimbridge sightings 23 January 2006

23 January 2006 Slightly overcast but at least the fog that enveloped the trust yesterday had gone. The cold weather and ice had an effect on a number of species today. The Pochard flock has increased to 753 and the Tufted Duck still number around 553. The Ferruginous hybrid was on the Rushy as well as a Tufted x Pochard on South Lake. Just two Ruddy Duck were present on South Lake among the diving duck and 158 Shoveler were counted today. The Greater Scaup was apparently frozen out of the European enclosure this morning although it was still present yesterday. Most of the waders had dispersed around the local fields.

The geese spent the morning at least in the road and canal-side fields. The first winter Dark-bellied Brent and adult Pink-footed Goose were with them. Six Black-tailed Godwit and 16 Ruff were on the South Lake this morning. Bewick's Swan's remain stable at around 230, perhaps the cold weather and easterlies may produce another goose species or increase in wildfowl over the next few days. MJM.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Sightings 17 January 2006

17 January 2006 At WWT Slimbridge the first winter Greater Scaup was again in the European enclosure with four captive adults. I had to visit the Cotswold Water Park today leading a duck identification session. On Pits 44 and 57 at least four redhead Smew and eight Goosander were present along with about 50 Ruddy Duck, 40 Shoveler and 50 Red-crested Pochard. MJM.

Monday, January 16, 2006

WWT Slimbridge Sightings 15 and 16 January 2006

16 January 2006 A male Red-crested Pochard was on the Long Ground Pool, the Dark-bellied Brent and Pink-footed Goose were with c750 E.White-fronted Goose from the Holden Tower. Two Peregrine mobbed a Buzzard. A single Black-tailed Godwit was seen with 88 Curlew on the Tack Piece. 184 Great Black-Backed Gull and 115 Shelduck were seen on the tide. The three Greylag were feeding on the edge of the Dumbles.

The Greater Scaup was seen on South Lake and again in the European enclosure. The Ferruginous hybrid was on the Rushy. All sightings MJM/JSL/BR.

15 January 2006 A WeBS (Wetland Bird Survey) count day and an event to see the gull roost on the Severn (Gulls with McGill). The gulls were dissapointing with most roosting on the main channel and distant. No totals as yet as I have not had time to add them all up. Highlights included 2 Whooper Swans, one Rock Pipit, 4-6 Stonechat, one female Merlin, 2 adult Peregrine which actually hunted and forced the Dark-bellied Brent Goose to ground and harried it further. Other regular WWT birders witnessed it actually hiding beneath a Canada Goose. The Pink-footed Goose was in the road field during the morning along with the DB Brent and 499 E.White- fronted Geese. At least 778 were present today. I refound last Sunday's Greater Scaup on the South Lake and it repeated it's previous behaviour by flying off towards the grounds. On checking the G. Scaup in the European Pen I found it swimming around with them and seems to fly out when the feeder arrives in the morning. Around 15 Bewick's Swans were also feeding here.Waders were in evidence with at least 6000 Lapwing, 16 Ruff and 12 Black-tailed Godwit present today. A flock of 14 StockDove, 11 Fieldfare and between 3-6 Jay were seen around the fields to the north of the Tack Piece. A Chiffchaff moved through the bushes by the restaurant. All sightings MJM/JSL.

The Ferruginous hybrid was on the Rushy.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

WWT Slimbridge Sightings 9 and 10 January 2006

9 January 2006 At least six Lesser Redpoll were seen together commuting between South Lake and the Decoy. Further singles were seen twice flying over and two near the entrance ramp feeding on weeds. A Kingfisher was seen at the South Finger. A flock of 13 Ruff roosted with Lapwing on South Lake and 12 Black-tailed Godwit were also seen. At least one of the Ferruginous hybrids was on the Rushy. A Little Stint was with the Dunlin on the Tack Piece.

10 January 2006 Yet another dark and damp day with gusty conditions by the afternoon. The highlight of today came in the form of two adult Whooper Swans which were flying around the reserve this morning. They may well settle into a routine and stay for a while as last years pair did. A Barn Owl hunted along the road at 0730. Two Peregrine, a small flock of Black tailed Godwits, 122 Curlew, 250 Golden Plover and300 Dunlin were on the Tack Piece this morning. The E. White-fronted Geese returned to the reserve where they spent the morning at least in the road fields. The Dark-bellied Brent and Pink-footed Goose were also present. The male Red-crested Pochard fed on the Long Ground Pool. The recent report of three Twite at the Holden Tower on 2nd have not produced any further sightings but the three Linnet, c10 Skylark, 2 Meadow Pipit and 2 Pied Wagtail are still present daily on the thistle compost around the Holden Tower/Dumbles scrape and bank and bushes nearby. All sightings MJM and JSL.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

WWT Slimbridge Sightings 8 January 2006

8 January 2006 Martin and James started the day with a breakfast with the birds walk at Slimbridge. Some great birding was on offer but it was the first one in seven years that MJM has not seen the E.White-fronted Geese. They had spent the day on the Moors which is off the reserve. 2 Lesser Redpoll, c20 Reed Bunting, female Stonechat, 3 Buzzard, 2500 Lapwing, 250 Golden Plover, 200 Dunlin, c10 Snipe, c20 Linnet and thousands of duck were seen as well as flypasts of the Barnacle Goose flock, Canada's and Greylag.

On returning to the centre it was not long before Nick Goatman was in reporting to MJM a possible hybrid aythya (diving duck) on South Lake. On checking it out, it turned out to be a first winter Greater Scaup. I thought it a little on the small side and to be first winter male that had not fully moulted but clearly this species. The patches of greyish (actually vermiculated) feathers were seen at close range but the bird was brownish. The three seen at Lydney yesterday were more advanced as are the collection birds of a similar age in the grounds.

Over lunch a Common and Jack Snipe ringing effort produced a pair of Stonechat, a Rock Pipit, and at least 16 Jack Snipe. Although none were ringed, two of the party of four fell over in the cold water providing entertainment for the dryer members. At least one Jack Snipe was showing in front of the Martin Smith Hide.

Yesterdays reported Ferruginous Duck never appeared but at least one of the Ferruginous hybrids was present on the Rushy.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

WWT Slimbridge and Gloucestershire sightings 6 and 7 January 2006

6 January 2006 Whilst surveying part of the reserve at Slimbridge, James Lees flushed 18 Jack Snipe. This backs up the high counts seen in a the same area last winter. It is great to know that so many are present on the reserve and may be mean that WWT's reserve is among the most important sites for this species in Britain.

7 January 2006 A grey, misty day saw me heading off to Littledean on the edge of the Forest of Dean to search through the large flock of Lesser Redpoll. Many Gloucestershire birders have been seeing between one and seven Mealy Redpoll among them since John Phillips discovered them last year. I saw at least three together at one time with four being reported today. It was good to see the finches doing so well from the setaside.

After enjoying the 'polls' I headed off to Lydney (family day out to the Dean Forest Railway) but stopped off at Lydney lakes. On 2nd a gentlemen had reported three Scaup to Mike King so I wanted to see if they were still there. Three Greater Scaup which consisted of two first winter males and a first winter female were showing very well on the first pool on the left after Lydney Station level crossing. It is a private area and must be viewed only from the road.

We do not get too many Greater Scaup in Gloucestershire. I have seen single males in the CWP three/four times, a male at Fretherne in 2005 that flew up the Severn and landed on the floods, a male at Bourton Pits, first winters at Frampton Pools on a couple of occaisions but most have been at WWT Slimbridge. Around four singles, duos in three winters, a group of four and one winter I noted six wintering around the grounds with Tufted Duck and Pochard. I last saw one at WWT on the Top New Piece in January 2005 after gales. These classy diving ducks are often long stayers during the colder months. Martin McGill.

James Lees was also in the Forest of Dean and was fortunate enough to see Lesser-spotted Woodpecker at Speech House and Willow Tit at Mallard's Pike as well as many other easier to find woodland species.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

WWT Slimbridge Sightings 3-5 January 2005

3 January 2005 The two Jack Snipe were present in front of the Martin Smith Hide and the now single Pink-footed and Dark-bellied Brent were seen with the E.White-fronted Geese. The male Red-crested Pochard was seen on South Lake.

4 January 2005 All birds were disturbed at WWT today as the hunt were active. I did see the Dark-bellied Brent in flight with the other geese way out over the river (MJM). The E.White-fronted Geese numbered 788.

5 January 2005 On South Lake 28 Bewicks Swans were present with eight of them cygnets. Nine Black-tailed Godwit and a Great Crested Grebe were also present. A Redpoll flew over at 0820 and 1630. The Dark-bellied Brent and Pink-footed Goose were seen on the Dumbles.

At the South Finger a fabulous Otter performed brilliantly in the pool below the Kingfisher bank. It was watched from the Death and Loke Hides as it fished and despite almost daily signs such as spraints (droppings) and footprints for nearly two years there have been no sightings. This is only the second known sighting record for the reserve.

Nearby a Cetti's Warbler called and 158 E.White-fronted Geese fed on the Bottom New Piece. A Water Rail fed under the bird table at the Van de Bovenkamp Hide.

A Kingfisher was noted here later in the day plus what may have been two Redpoll (described by watchers).

At the 100 Acre a female Merlin, two hunting Peregrine and thousands of duck were on the marshes. View from the platform along the Green Lane permissive path.

Monday, January 02, 2006

WWT Slimbridge Bird Sightings 1 and 2 January 2006

1 January 2006 The two Pink-footed Geese and single juvenile Dark-bellied Brent were still present among 600+ E.White-fronted Geese. Six Grey Plover and three Raven were of note from the Holden Tower. 222 Bewick's Swans were noted, a drop in number, probably due to the fireworks of New Year's Eve. Some of the duck were also missing. A drake Red-crested Pochard was on the Long Ground Pool.

Two Jack Snipe and one Water Rail were present on the sedge/rush filled pool in front of the Martin Smith Hide. A single Chiffchaff called from the South Lake willows. Over 65 species of bird were seen at WWT Slimbridge today.

2 January 2006 The Dark-bellied Brent and one Pink-footed Goose were present among the 627 E.White-fronted Geese. Three Greylag were also on the Dumbles with this flock and may well be continental visitors. Two Jack Snipe and three Common Snipe were again present at the Martin Smith Hide. A Water Rail pursued and grabbed one of the Jack Snipe actually pulling out feathers and causing it to flush. A very large flock of 171 Great Black-backed Gull were roosting at high tide from the Holden Tower.

Seven Common Redshank, two Black-tailed Godwit, one Ruff and one Spotted Redshank were seen by MJM and visitors reported up to three Little Stint and two Grey Plover later in the day.

Three Stonechat were seen from the 100 Acre viewing platform with three Cetti's Warbler calling from the sedge beds. A Long eared Owl was discovered roosting at the South Finger late this afternoon and it or another was seen on the entrance road by MJM as he left work at 1830. A single Lesser Redpoll and Water Rail were seen feeding at the Van de Bovenkamp Hide.