Monday, March 17, 2008

Birding diary 16-31 March 2008

29-31 March 2008 A few new birds around WWT to end the month along with some settled weather. The Cattle Egret was intermittent but showed most days. My first Willow Warbler of the year followed at least five others locally. An evening walk along the canal at Frampton and three Sand Martin and a Cetti's Warbler were the best I could muster.
Redwing near Townfield Lake, Frampton on Severn 28 March 2008
and Cattle Egret on the WWT 100 Acre marshes 27 March 2008.
28 March 2008 A short walk out with my daughter and 150 Fieldfare, 50 Redwing and 5 Sand Martin were the most notable birds on offer.
27 March 2008 On my rounds at WWT Slimbridge the day started beautifully, warm, sunny and calm, a group of 5 Sand Martin over the Bottom New Piece may have roosted in the adjacent reedbeds. I heard at least 5 Chiffchaff around the site but despite the favourable conditions never noted any further migration. A Little Egret in the same area was outnumbered by 5 around the 100 Acre, a Cattle Egret was also present which is the second reserve record but I am unsure if it is the Fretherne bird. It looked all white (not Barrymore esque comment and never a fan) but I was looking into bright sunshine as the image shows. It seems likely that it is the same bird. The waders were of interest, a Grey Plover, Little Stint, Ruff and the local Redshank. A group of 5 Black-tailed Godwit were also around the reserve.
24 27 March 2008 I did see the American Green-winged Teal on 24th-26th also but not on 27th, it was still reported as present though and has become rather elusive. A flock of c30 Sand Martin over the 100 Acre reeds on 26th and two male Wheatear along the foreshore was nice.

American Green Winged Teal at the WWT 100 Acre marsh.

23 March 2008 A good day at work at WWT Slimbridge with some migration in action. I did my usual rounds and thought it was going to be quiet, no Chiffchaffs at the South end of the reserve where I began my day. The two Kingfishers were at the South Finger nest hole as I drove past. At Middle Point I could see at least three Wheatear distantly on the foreshore among the high tide roosting gulls. The estuary was quiet, a single male Tufted Duck was notable and 4 Dunlin went south. Yesterday a first-winter Iceland Gull (PJ Taylor) and male Common Scoter (NR Smart) were seen over the tide in the estuary. On the 100 Acre I was counting the Black-tailed Godwits (38 at least but 48 in the area) when I noticed a male American Green-winged Teal with them. I texted the news out and settled to watch it but soon found the Temminck's Stint with c14 Dunlin, 2 Ruff and c20 Redshank. The birds showed all day and during an evening patrol I saw an adult Mediterranean Gull fly in with the Common Gulls (c6000) but very low numbers of large gulls (300) at 1800. The highlight was a flock of c100 adult Kittiwake fly in from downriver and continue North until reaching Hock Cliff, they spiralled high and headed off NE (so I presumed, it was very cold). I stopped watching them at 1745 but did hear Kittiwake calling at 1805 among the thousands of Common Gulls. This may have been the flock seen by P Bowerman off Severn Beach late morning (thanks for the call on these Paul!, normally 20 minutes from the Beach to us but 5.5 hours was rather lethargic)

22 March 2008 No real birding for me but I did got through the gulls during a Hempsted Recycling visit (from public areas). Lots of gulls, nothing notable, a flock of six Greylag Geese headed over North and a few Ravens were around.

21 March 2008 A local walk around Townfield Lake and 40-50 Sand Martin and my first House Martin of the year was notable. A Kingfisher, 200+ Fieldfare and 60 Redwing were also of note.

20 March 2008 I noted the three Spotted Redshank at the WWT 100 Acre and a few other waders but it was nice to have a minimum of 12 Chiffchaff on site.

19 March 2008 I did an evening patrol of the WWT reserve and had a memorable evening of birding. A pale first or possibly second winter Iceland Gull was on the Noose and I was very lucky to witness the departing of two of the local Bitterns. They flew around in circles calling to each other and headed off high, I even saw them fly through a full moon, spectacular! This behaviour is usually associated with departures from the breeding grounds in Autumn and I have never seen this before at WWT.

18 March 2008 A clear and sunny day and migration was in full swing. I noted 120 Lesser Black-backed, 150 Herring Gull and 20 GBB Gull heading north in 45 minutes whilst I was around the north end of the WWT reserve. A flock of 8 Sand Martin came chattering their way in and continued North and the WWT 100 Acre was looking great with 6 Black-tailed Godwit, c80 Golden Plover, 1 Ruff, 3 Spotted Redshank, c10 Redshank (also territorial), 25 Lapwing (many displaying), 8 Dunlin and 20 Snipe, the winter duck were also looking great. I saw at least 6 singing Reed Bunting and more Lapwing displaying at the Bottom New Piece.

17 March 2008 Horrendous weather caused much flooding and I could not raise the energy to try to bird through it!

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Norfolk day trip 7 March 2008 with Anser Birding

Lapland and Snow Buntings at Salthouse, Norfolk all images MJMcGill
Lapland Bunting at Salthouse Shore Lark at Cley NNT, East Bank
White Crowned Sparrow, Cley next the Sea
Ross's Goose with Pink-footed Geese, Holkham
Common Crane at WWT Welney
7 March 2008 A rather ambitious and tiring day trip was worth it due to the excellent array of birds present and the sunny weather to enjoy them. Arriving at Salthouse the Snow Buntings were immediately on show, we noted c 40 including a few males that were beginning to moult into breeding plumage. A Lapland Bunting was also present and all of these cracking little birds showed to a few feet. A flock of Dark-bellied Brent and Egyptian Geese were also seen here. Further north we walked the East bank at Cley where a male Bearded Tit was seen near the reed cutters. 3 Shore Lark were on the shingle and 20+ Avocet were busy feeding. More Bearded Tits were calling on our return. In the village a 40 minute wait and the White-Crowned Sparrow was soon giving great views. A Marsh Harrier flew over. Next stop was at Holkham where a Ross's Goose was among the Pink-footed Geese, at least 120 E White-fronted Geese were also seen here and a Barn Owl. A pair of Marsh Harrier were displaying. We headed south to WWT Welney where the day was topped off with a Crane among the Whooper Swans and another Barn Owl.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Birding diary 2-15 March 2008

Hawfinch, Forest of Dean

15 March 2008 I guided a group to the Forest of Dean which worked out well until the rain settled in at Midday. It was nice to bump into Rich, Mark and Kate all out birding and walking. We began at Boys Grave/Speech House area and soon located the Northern Grey Shrike atop a sapling, it spent the whole time looking/listening for prey and did not move. A Cormorant flew over and Crossbill were heard. A stop to look through the 40 Redwing for Mistle Thrush revealed the real surprise of the day. A Wheatear was feeding on the turf of the Speech House field, the first of the year for me and on checking, part of a UK arrival!, we will have to see what appears on MLK's Gloster Birder site for any other reports. This is the first one I have seen in the forest. A Brambling and 2 drumming Great Spotted Woodpeckers were also nearby. At Brierley a flock of 30 Brambling and 30 Chaffinch were eventually enticed down after an hour by British finch seed. Whilst waiting a walk towards Cinderford produced a Hawfinch, Siskins, another Brambling, single Redpoll, Raven, 1 Marsh Tit and many common woodland species. We also had poor and brief views of a Goshawk flying away from us. On returning a further 5 Hawfinch flew in and showed well for about 10 minutes. A stop for comfort at Beechenhurst and the rain began falling. A look at Woorgreens gave us a pair of Mandarin, a few Greylags and 19 Goosander, 3 males, 8 females and 8 first-winter/summer males. We then expored Cannop Ponds where more Mandarin, male Reed Bunting, a Marsh Tit, a singing Chiffchaff, a pair of Little Grebe, a pair of Grey Wagtail and lots of woodland birds were seen. The rain continued to fall and further searches were not really possible, it was game over for the day but we gave it 5 minutes for Crossbill without success before leaving. A Marsh Harrier was reported at Fretherne.

14 March 2008 A recycling trip to Hempsted was made more interesting by the pair of Shelduck feeding on the roadside puddle complete with industrial backdrop.

13 March 2008 It was nice to see 2 Dunlin, 9 Black-tailed Godwit (inc breeding plumage birds), 1 Grey Plover and 1 Golden Plover were all on the 100 Acre at 0800-1330 at least. Two Black-tailed Godwit were on South Lake as well.

12th March 2008 Little or no birding but there were 54 Kittiwake on the estuary.

11 March 2008 My highlight of the day was a Rock Pipit which was joined by what was probably a Water Pipit at the WWT, 100 Acre. We had a female Goshawk stoop and then fly low over the Decoy at 1230. The Temminck's Stint was still showing at the Holden Tower.

9-10 March 2008 No birding.

8 March 2008 On investigating a white winged gull at Townfield Lake I saw my first six Sand Martin of the year. Jeremy had seen what he believes to be a leucistic Herring Gull so beware when looking for Iceland/Glaucous locally. A Cattle Egret was seen in the fields near Rectory Farm, Slimbridge.

7 March 2008 See the special report on diary page but image of the White-Crowned Sparrow below.

6 March 2008 The Dark-bellied Brent Goose was still present as was the 12 European Greylags in the road fields.

5 March 2008 The Dark-bellied Brent was among 100 Wigeon from Holden Tower, no White-fronted Geese left, 1 Bewick's Swan. 2 Water Rail at the feeding station and a female Brambling. 12-14 European Greylags were in the road field. I noted 4 Siskin over the Decoy this afternoon.

Water Rail at WWT Slimbridge all images MJMcGill

Adult Dark-bellied Brent from the Holden Tower

4 March 2008 At WWT an adult Dark-bellied Brent was with 30 E White-fronted Geese. 1 Bewick's Swan remained (Hosta a yearling, first to arrive on 18 October 2007). A Cetti's Warbler was in full song at the Zeiss Hide. Further clearouts of duck occured but 900 Wigeon remain. Water Rail showed very well at the Willow Plantation feeding station. 1 Black-tailed Godwit, 7 Ruff and up to 6 Redshank remain on the South Lake. At least 12-14 European/continental Greylags remain on the road fields or Top New Piece.

3 March 2008 At WWT I noted a Chiffchaff at the South Finger with 3 singing Cetti's Warblers. Only 80 E White-fronted Geese were left after an overnight departure.

2 March 2008 At least 307 E Whitefronted Geese left on the WWT reserve today, the Tundra Bean Goose with them. Only 1 Bewick's Swan left. A grey female Merlin (has wintered for three years at least) was on a Dunlin kill in the 100 Acre. Only saw the 1 Peregrine today. 5 Little Stints were on the Top New Piece with 30 Dunlin. 2 Kingfishers were in a territorial/mating chase. a male Brambling was on the South Finger feeders. Reed Bunting was in song at the Robbie Garnett Hide. 2 Little Egret were in the 100 Acre.

1 March 2008 See the Wallcreeper trip report.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Wallcreeper and Northern France with Anser Birding 1 March 2008

Wallcreeper between Wimereux and Boulogne MJMcGill

Gloucestershire's celebrity birder Mike King (right) with MJM (left) and England in the distance, he is in a rather good mood after seeing one of his most sought after birds ever.
Snow Buntings, Grand Fort Phillipe Beach

1 March 2008 We set off at 0300 from Whitminster calling in at Swindon on the way. We arrived at Folkestone at 0600 and boarded our train arriving in France soonafter. A thirty minute drive and we were at our first stop of the day Pont de le Creche and thirty minutes of sarching and we were watching a Wallcreeper. The bird showed brilliantly for then on until we left, often in sunshine and at times very close as it fed. Fulmar were also seen here on the nest. We celebrated with a brunch in Boulogne and then searched the harbour for gulls, Kittiwakes were nesting and 3 Mediterranean Gulls were seen, a stunning adult in breeding plumage, a scruffier one and a second summer. A couple of Great Crested Grebe were also fishing but we could not locate any northern gulls despite them being present. A short drive south to the Hardelot Forest and we located Short-toed Treecreeper, Willow Tits, Crested Tits, Firecrests, heard Black Woodpecker, saw and heard male Lesser Spotted Woodpecker. We tried for the Rough-legged Buzzard but the strong winds and rest part of the day did not help. Brown Hare, 7 and 3 deer sp and a female Hen Harrier were all seen. We headed north to Grand Fort Phillipe beach where 33 Snow Buntings and at least 5 Shore Lark were rather delightful and a female Hen Harrier hunted the saltmarsh. A few Gannet headed west and Little Egret was also noted.