Wednesday 28 January 2009

Wonderful Woods

It's that time of the month, for me to actually go birding IN a wood! But, I have to say...this was one of the best woodland bird watching I have EVER done! It was sooooooo lovely and peaceful, the low cloud and clearing fog made it feel so atmospheric.

How could you not walk down this path? So inviting!

Obviously it was the birds that make this such a great visit. Woodcocks are regular here in winter, but todays total of 11 is a record for me here. I had some excellent flight views too - year tick number one! Year tick number two was 'kind of' expected, but I often don't see them here - Marsh Tit - two of them in fact.

Now, year tick number three made me smile the most as this species seems to be rarther scarce this year. A flock of at least seven Lesser Redpolls offered superb views feeding real close to me, they were just stunning!

This was where they were feeding, you can just about make out three birds (two in tree top and one below sky line on the left hand side)

I was so excited I just had to try some digi-binning. I shouldn't have bothered! It was so dull the exposure time was HUGE, and I must have been shaking with excitement as I just couldn't hold my bins OR camera steady. Still, doesn't stop me posting my dreadful results on here.

There are three in here, I think they are just about identifiable?

Also in the woods plenty of the usuals; Sparrowhawk, Jays, Treecreeper, Goldcrest galore.... all in all, a brilliant few hours of my life : )

After this, Lower Bruckland Ponds gave the pair of Tufted Ducks still, but a sweep of the river revealed little. Well apart from the Egyptian Goose on Sticky Toffee....

'King of the river', with a Herring Gull asking if he needs anything!

A Black Redstart showed well on house roofs along the sea front, and although the sea didn't give any surprises it still offered plenty of birds. Red-throated Divers must still be on the move, my watch from 10:58 - 11:10 showed 15 fly west past, with another six or so on the sea. Also four Great Crested Grebes, eight Common Scoters (two drakes) and stacks of Wigeon on the sea.

Tuesday 27 January 2009

Cattle Egret Fun

There were four of us waiting for the Egrets to leave roost this morning at Axmouth, I think Gav will be posting a photo of us later on his blog. Most Egrets came out at about 07:40, and there were......THREE Cattle Egrets. Over 30 Little Egrets too.

I then had to go to work for a surprise training was a surprise indeed, first learning about it at 06:30 this morning!

After it had finished, and a bite to eat, I went out to Colyton where my old man had the three Cattle Egrets feeding in the same field that the single bird was in yesterday. When I arrived, there were only two in view, and despite not coming as close as the Little Egrets did, and the fact the light was dull - they still showed extremely well. I LOVE Cattle Egrets, I really really REALLY do. Which is why I'm going to bore you with loads of photos of them : )

The two of them

Looking alert - which wasn't often - they generally looked very relaxed poking about in the mud

And here is one poking about in the mud

Trying to hide - not easy when you're white and in a grassy field!

One eyes up a lovely looking muddy cow - a Cattle Egrets dream!

A pants photo - but it's the only one which shows one doing the Cattle Egret neck-wobble thing!

I have info back on one of my colour-ringed Med Gulls, when I receive the details on the second bird I will post all on here. Back to work now proper, for the first time in well over a week.....great!!!

Monday 26 January 2009

Sea Watching, Med Gulls And Cattle Egrets!

Well what a day! I shall start at the beginning of the day, but keep reading as the day ends on a HIGH!

Sea watching again at the Spot On, no fluffing today! I was here from 08:00 - 09:45, with most action within the first hour. As well as the Divers, there was a bit of wildfowl on the move, with the highlight easily being a gorgeous pair of Velvet Scoters (including a stunning male, jet black with the white bits ultra white!). They flew in from the east at 08:15, came in real close past the Spot On, flew right in to Seaton Hole then banked round and followed the coast past Beer and around Beer Head. Other wildfowl included ten Brent Geese west (a seven and a three) and six Common Scoters west. Later on I also had two Gadwall sat on the sea.

The Divers were spectacular, with a total of 57
Red-throated Divers west - some awesome flocks! Two more flew east and as I left five were sat on the sea, giving a total of 64! Later another look at the sea revealed at least 16 Red-throats sat on the sea, so I don't know what that does to todays total count? The only other Diver I saw was a single Great Northern Diver past east during this morning's watch, but I know Ian and Karen had another.

The first glimspe of sunlight today

Several scans of the Gulls didn't reveal anything different, but it was nice to see SEVEN adult Med Gulls. All during one scan, though I had seen some of these birds earlier too. Two of the Meds were colour ringed, these are both birds I've seen over the past few days but have not been able to read. Here they are....

'White 3P65'

'Red 5P5'

Told you so!

'Red 5P5' is the interesting one, as we've had him on this estuary before. I will post details of both these birds when I get them.

Now to tonight, and I thought I'd spent the last part of the day at the Farm Gate, Axmouth. It was pretty quiet, the pair of Tufted Ducks flew down river and apart from the odd Little Egret and small flocks of Gulls nothing much was flying past.

Whilst scanning with my bins, a very distant field which had cattle in also seemed to have some Egrets in too! Curiousity soon got the better of me and I had to have a closer look so drove to where I thought this field was - the other side of Colyton! Well for the life of me I couldn't find the Egrets, the cattle, or the field! So I drove down to Colyton Football Club, and from here could see the cattle again. I whipped my scope out and sure enough, one of the Egrets poking about looked smaller. With the light fading I had to get closer so went to where I thought this field was (again!). This time I found it! I pulled up alongside the field, but as I did, all the Egrets took to the air - there were about twenty of them! And all of them were Little Egrets, well - except the last one - CATTLE EGRET.... YEAH!!!!! They all headed off over Colyton and down to the estuary to roost, so I sent the texts out and headed for the river to the usual Egret roosting spot in Axmouth.

There were lots of Egrets sat in the trees, many out of view. All the ones in view were Littles. Karen then joined me and we continued looking, it was now about 17:20. All of a sudden four more Egrets came in and landed in the tree, and the two that landed in view were BOTH Cattle Egrets! WOW! The other two that came in disappeared deep in to the tree, were they Cattles too? many are there? There was DEFINITELY only one in this field in Colyton amongst the twenty or so Littles. I reckon he was already tucked in the tree when I got to Axmouth, and these others that arrived were different birds, whether it be two, or four! So we have at least two, and at the most five...or more... Hopefully an early morning watch tomorrow will reveal the true number?

EDIT: Re-reading this post I realise I haven't actually said what field the Egrets were feeding in. They were in the field on the corner where the Shute turn-off is from the Colyton to Whitford road. Grid ref: SY249947

Sunday 25 January 2009

First Fluff Of The Year

If only it was the last one too!!

Spot On Kiosk this morning, I got here at 8am and the moment my eye met my scope lens a small group of Common Scoters flashed through my view distantly heading west, with something else in with them! It looked the right size, shape and colour for a female Long-tailed Duck, in fact I know it was one, but as I only saw it for a total of about three and a half seconds as the flock kept disappearing below the waves i'm not going to 'claim it'*. I phoned Gav and he glimpsed it too, but he also saw it too briefly to do anything with. Hmmmm.... Bums!

I stayed here 'til 09:30 and notched up: 24 Red-throated Divers, 17 Common Scoters and two lovely adult Med Gulls which came in separately from the east. There were good numbers of Kittiwakes and auks on the move with lesser numbers of Gannets and Fulmars passing.

I've seen little on the estuary today, well little of note, just one adult Med Gull, an out of place adult Kittiwake and the female Pochard. The Greylag Goose remains with the Mute Swan flock on Bridge Marsh with the Egyptian Goose here too.

Tonight myself and Bun watched the upper estuary for anything coming down river to roost. Two Green Sands belted up the Coly, and a couple of Ravens were eyeing up a dead sheep, but other than that it was rather quiet.

The Coly and Axe at 16:45 today

We ended the day in Musbury watching a Little Owl sat in a small tree. After a few minutes it started calling, and continued to do so 'til we left. A lovely way to end the day.

*If a Long-tailed Duck flew west past anywhere this side of Dawlish at about 08:30 - 09:00 with a small group of Common Scoters, I will be 'claiming it'! Come on Mr. Rylands...for me!

Saturday 24 January 2009

I'm Back Again!

This afternoon I arrived home after another few days away, but this was a totally non-birding break, well.....nearly! I took Kym away for a couple of nights in Looe, it was lovely and relaxing. And as for the hotel - luxury! This was the view from our bedroom window....

Looking slightly to the left

Looking slightly to the right

The small amount of time I was allowed to use my bins, I used it wisely! A scan over the sea from the front produced three Great Northern Divers, a Great Crested Grebe and three gorgeous Slav Grebes, my first for ages - nice!

On Friday late afternoon whilst my 'better half' was enjoying a late afternoon snooze, I sat in the bay window watching the Gulls come to roost down the valley. Nothing of note came past, but on a distant roof in East Looe I could just about make out a darker mantled Herring Gull-type. It wasn't a Lesser Black-backed, and I assume an argentatus would still show a streaky head. I tried some digi-binned snaps of it, but it was a long long way away. Doesn't stop me posting the results on here though, can you spot it?

It's just below where the wires cross over.....whatever it is?

I arrived home today just after 15:00, and after half an hour I toddled off down the river. Lots of Gulls on the lower estuary, but after fifteen minutes most took off with the rising tide. Amongst them were four adult Med Gulls, one of them bearing a white colour ring. I couldn't read it though as soon after I found the bird it wandered into the water! Note I had a red colour-ringed adult Med on the river on Thursday as well.

There was a nice collection of ducks on the river too with the single male Tufted Duck, the female Pochard and a pair of Gadwall. A look on the sea afterwards produced another three Gadwall and c700 Wigeon. A little later Clive had another seven Gadwall floating down the estuary from the farm gate, so maybe twelve in the valley?

I also had chance to pull back another potential 2009 patch blocker after I totally jammed the/a Iceland Gull on Thursday. This was on Bridge Marsh, thanks for the tip-off Nick!

Our only grey goose on the 2009 local patch far.....

I was sooooo excited by this BEAUT I just had to take a video too!

Wednesday 21 January 2009

Norfolk Trip - Day Four

Well I'm back in Seaton writing this, and am really knackered! The M25 was a nightmare, and for the rest of journey it was lashing down with rain! We left the Welney area at 16:45 and arrived home (after a KFC) at 22:50. Anyway, back to this morning....

We loaded the car up and waved goodbye to our B and B....

I HIGHLY recommend this as a place to stay for birders, it's VERY birder-friendly. Actually I recommend it even if you're not a birder - excellent place!

We headed off west, stopping on the edge of Holkham to have a look at the White-fronted Goose flock, this was the first time we'd seen them on this trip! 169 in all, which as far as I can remember is the most I've ever seen here.

A small part of the White-front flock

We then moved on to Holme-next-the-sea, and met up with 'Dad's party' to have a look over the sea. This was the first occasion our two groups met up to do something other than eat!!!

From right to left; 'Dad', Chris, Karen, Bun, Dave, my scope and John

The sea was excellent, especially bearing in mind we were only watching it for about twenty minutes! The highlight were six Long-tailed Ducks very close in, five of them being stunning drakes. Gorgeous birds! Also on the sea a few Red-breasted Mergansers and Great Crested Grebes, with three Velvet Scoters past in a large flock of Common Scoter, nine Pintail west and Bun had a distant 'white-winger' also west, probably a Glauc. The Sea Buckthorn on the edge of the golf course was FULL of Fieldfares.

We carried on south, splitting from the more senior group. After another few fruit-less laps of Wolverton we headed down into Cambridge for the two goodies we had failed to see on the first day. We rolled up in Coveney at about midday. After a few glimpses, Karen saw the Rough-legged Buzzard quite well, but Bun and myself only managed a three second glimpse. We stayed here til nearly 15:00 but it didn't show again. This place is obviously excellent for raptors, as we also saw two Buzzards, a superb ringtail Hen Harrier, a Peregrine, a Merlin (albeit a little further north), three Kestrels and a Sparrowhawk!

Our last stop of the day, and of the trip, was to look for our second target bird in this county. This one was MILES easier than the Rough-legged though. Nearly as soon as we stood on top of the flood bank at Pymore we could see it on the far side.

Yes it was REALLY distant, but still a nice bird, and a lifer for two thirds of the team!

The Great White remained in view 'til dark, when it roosted with a few Little Egrets. As it was on Sunday, the flash was packed with wildfowl. All the usual suspects, including loads of Whoopers and Bewick's again. As the sun set, two Barn Owls appeared and hunted around us as the sun set over the flash....


Well what a fantastic holiday, and I hope you have enjoyed reading about it. Thanks to Bun and Karen for being excellent company, I enjoyed every minute of it. Roll on next year...

Tuesday 20 January 2009

Norfolk Trip - Day Three

We were out sharpish after breakfast today, with the first port of call being Felbrigg Hall. A Little Owl huddled up in a small hole in a tree south of a the car park was a trip tick, and so was what was sat on top of this tree....

Can you see that blob on top?

Now you can, yeah?

Well, it was this....

Hawfinch - our target bird

It stayed sat in the top of this tree for about ten minutes, showing superbly!

A stroll down to the lake revealed just Pochards and Tufted Ducks, with plenty of winter thrushes in the grounds. For some reason, Bun got rather over-excited by a Nuthatch, a trip tick none the less! From here we went down to the broads, and more precisely the Sea Palling to Somerton road.

It didn't take long for the goodies to role in. Just as we were pulling in at our first stop - Waxham Barn - some tall grey shapes a couple of fields in from the road looked just right for what we were after. Here they are....


Whilst watching the Cranes, a nice surprise called overhead - a Lapland Bunting! It gave a 'chu' then a 'rattle' as it flew over us, then banked round just over the road before landing in a stubble field. I was well chuffed with this one...well well well chuffed! They seem to be very scarce this year. So off we went....and after some fruitless Pink-feet scanning we headed for Cantley Marshes.

The view over the marshes from the end of Burnt House Road

Loads of Geese on show, masses more than I've seen here before. A few Taiga Bean Geese were what we came for, but also c80 White-fronted Geese and just over 200 Pink-feet (plus Greylags and Canadas). All the Geese left the marshes not long after our arrival thanks to some guys working on the railway.

The final destination of the day was Stubbs Mill, we arrived at the platform at 15:25, and it was already jam-packed!

Can you tell where my place was, if I say that the contents were a packet of crisps, a flapjack and a hot dog it may give you a clue!!?

The roost was fantastic! As soon as I arrived I counted the Marsh Harriers on show - 31. Then as the afternoon went on I counted all the ones that flew in to join them. The final total being 68....awesome! This total includes some STUNNING adult males. Here's a video clip of some of them swirling about

Raptor-wise we also saw at least two ringtail Hen Harriers, two Merlins, two Kestrels, a Sparrowhawk and three Barn Owls. Then there were the Cranes. In all 19 flew in to roost, including one flock of 11! The others came in as two flocks of three and a two. Note how none of the flocks were of five birds, and as the five birds we saw today were feeding where a flock of 16 have been, it makes sense that the 11 we saw come in to roost were the other part of that flock. So I don't think we saw our birds from Waxham here, which would make our Crane day count 24. A single Woodcock flew past us on the way back to the car.

Another superb days birding, and we finished the day off with another superb meal at The Bowling Green. Tomorrow we are heading home, but slowly via plenty more birding sites.

Monday 19 January 2009

Norfolk Trip - Day Two

Apart from the yummy breakfast, the day didn't start too well! It was wet and windy, the first thing Bun did was walk into a wall in our room (must be all those rice cakes he's eating?), and then just after we drove off - that mud guard we repaired yesterday - it fell off....and then I ran over it! Ooops!

Things soon got better though, with a scan over the beach just west of Weybourne producing this....

A huge and stunning Glaucous Gull

This bird has been here for ages, it's got a dodgy left wing but otherwise looks fit and healthy.

Karen enjoying a bin-full of Glonk

At Salthouse our first two Snow Buntings of the trip flew over, and on the sea were several Red-throated Divers and Great Crested Grebes.

Next stop was Holkham Gap, and our Snow Bunting count shot up. A flock of c80 kept us entertained, especially Karen - the only one she's seen before was the bird on patch at AYC a few years ago.

Karen again, this time enjoying a scope full of Snow Bunts!

I found them (as always) impossible to photograph, so tried a video. It is shabby and shaky, but there's a nice male worth watching it for!

Also on the land here were a few Rock Pipits, several Skylarks and a small flock of Linnets. Offshore there were several parties of Red-breasted Mergansers, loads more Red-throats and Great Crested Grebes, a single Pink-footed Goose (!!?) and a huge raft of Common Scoter - c350 in all. A nice highlight came when a flying group of Scoters revealed the presence of a Velvet amongst them.

We moved on to Titchwell, driving past the flock of Waxwings we had seen yesterday in roughly the same spot, but only six today. At Titchwell, although it was getting colder there was still plenty to keep up busy. Waders included at least eight Avocets, six Grey Plovers, 23 Ruffs, three Spotted Redshanks and the usuals. No unexpected ducks, but nice to see good numbers of Goldeneye (both on the lagoons and on the sea) and a couple of Eider offshore. We heard a couple of Bearded Tits 'pinging' from nearby reeds, but they never showed themselves. On the feeders near the information centre a female Brambling fed and gave us another trip tick.

Sorry about the light - it was horribly back lit!

One last highlight to mention from Titchwell, a lifer for both Bun and Karen no less, and my first for yonks! Shortly after we had quietly settled down in the Fen Hide an incoming and fairly high-flying bird caught my attention. It was a Bittern! We had a superb flight views as it came into land just outside the front of the hide. Excellent stuff!

The view from Fen Hide, the Bittern landed just beyond the left hand strip of water

Our last birding of the day was from Lady Ann's drive, Holkham. A distant Barn Owl was surprisingly our only one of the day, and as ever the Pink-feet were fantastic to see coming in to roost. The highlight though came after all the other birders (include a mini-bus load!) went home. 14 Woodcocks flew out of Holkham Pines at around 17:00. Well, 13 did anyway! The 14th gave us superb views as it sat and waddled about in my car headlights as we were driving back along the drive. Great views!

Off to the Bowling Green now for a meal, tomorrow we are planning to head a little further south.

Reading back over yesterdays post there's one bird I forgot to mention. A single Corn Bunting sat on an overhead wire somewhere just inside the Cambridge border, so far the only one of our trip.

Sunday 18 January 2009

Norfolk Trip - Day One

At 02:00 this morning, I picked up 'Bun' and Karen and started on our trek to the UK's winter birding hotspot - Norfolk. After a good journey (with me stuffing my face with sweets, crisps, Snickers and Red Bull, whilst Bun was sat quietly in the back chomping on Go Aheads and rice cakes! Someone feeling the Christmas binge?) we arrived at our starting destination, the fields around Welney WWT at exactly 05:59. For the second year in a row we had arrived way too early, so had to endure a long wait before day-break, even my cries of "it's getting lighter!" every five minutes didn't help! Despite it still being dark, several species were already on the trip list... Tawny Owl and Grey Heron were added during the four hour journey, and whilst waiting near Welney the calls of Whooper Swan, Wigeon and Mallard filled the air.

Soon as the sky became lighter swans started to stream out of the WWT reserve, most seemed to be Bewick's, but some Whoopers came over too. They all headed in the same direction, south (I think!). Also of note, and in true Norfolk style, within half a mile we saw four Barn Owls! We then moved south a little, just over the Cambridge border to Pymoor, where a Great White Egret had recently been reported. It was FLIPPING FREEZING stood on top of the flood bank, but the water was absolutely FULL of birds - it was quite simply a spectacle.

The edge of the Wash - not Blackhole Marsh I'm afraid to say!

The mass included hundreds and hundreds of Swans; a mixture of both (plus a few Mutes to complete the set), and thousands of ducks including Gadwalls, Pintails, Tufted Ducks, Pochards and some gorgeous drake Goldeneyes.

Wild Swans are SO cool!

The Egret didn't play ball though, and we left without seeing it. This turned out to be VERY annoying as about an hour later it came over the pager services. Bums!!!

The next hour and half spent looking for a Rough-legged Buzzard just down the road near Coveney also turned into a dip, but two Common Buzzards were noted. We left here at 11:00, according to the pager services, it was seen at about midday. Double bums!!! Double dip even!!!!

Next stop, via a triple lap of 'The Golden Triangle' where we saw a Jay, a Pheasant (Common!), an empty Lucozade bottle and a discarded beer can, we headed down to the Fincham area. Tree Sparrows were the target, and they didn't disappoint! Although at first they appeared to be nowhere, at least nine emerged and gave us some super views. From here we headed up to the north coast.

Look who it is... Backwater's Karen and Bun!

A mile or so inland of the A139 (north Norfolk coast road), skein upon skein of Pink-feet were landing in one field on the summit of a small hill. This field could not be looked into though despite turning down every lane and stopping in every gateway! We enjoyed some flight views before joining the coast road just east of Burham Overy. We travelled all of about ten feet on the A139 before pulling in and scanning over the marshes. A flock of c600 Golden Plovers were impressive, a male Ruff fed with a flock of Lapwing, our first Marsh Harrier of the trip quartered over a reed bed, and then there were the Geese! Pink-feet were constantly flying from the marshes to the field I have just mentioned. But then, all of a sudden, all the Geese in said field must have been flushed, as the entire flock flew back north onto the marshes. Wow! What a sight!

The last part of the flock comes over the brow of the hill

Then they fly over us!

We loaded up and I drove us off east towards Holkham. We had barely been going for a minute when I noticed a couple of birds in a road side hedge ahead of us.... WAXWINGS!!! I continued to the next gateway then under took a rather 'rash' three point turn in which I drove straight into a huge lump in the ground removing my front left mud guard! Still, I carried on, and luckily bang opposite the Waxwings was a nice wide gate way. We had superb views of EIGHT of these beauties feeding on Rose Hips just across the road from us. I got the camera out and one sensed this so flew onto overhead wires calling. I took three pictures before they all flew up and off towards a farm north of the road. Here is my best pic...

The only caption I can think of for this pic is... 'WOW!'

After collecting and re-fitting my disconnected car part we spent the remaining hour and a bit of light looking from other spots along the coast road up to Cley, then back to Holkham. We added another six Barn Owls, two Marsh Harriers, tons more Pink-feet, two Egyptian Geese and a nice pair of Grey Partridge to the day and trip list.

After dark we booked in to our B and B, The Cobblers in Wells, and at half six went for a meal in The Bowling Green Inn. All seven of us enjoyed a nice meal.... Seven I hear you ask!?? Yes, well it just so happens that Dad has come up for the same few days with three of his mates, one being the Backwater's John Chambers, of Hawfinch fame!

Certainly time for sleep now, can't wait to see what tomorrow brings...? Rain and wind in the morning I reckon!

Wednesday 14 January 2009

Blackhole Hang Out

I was going to have another go at the Snowy Owl this morning, as I'm not due in work 'til 2pm. But I didn't, and it IS's worst twitcher me!

So what did I do instead? Apart from some preperations for my up and coming holiday, I had a quick look about the estuary once the fog had cleared.

There was little on the river itself, and nothing of note on Colyford Marsh. ALL the action was on Blackhole Marsh, it was packed with birds! Lots of Gulls here, certianly seems to be the favoured high tide roost spot for the local larids. Amongst them, three adult Med Gulls.

There's two in this photo

Although it is a rubbish photo, just to complete the set - Med number three.

A Green Sand was in a ditch besides the main lagoon, and ducks were represented by four Shoveler and four Gadwall.

The two drake Gadwall, the other two were ladies.

So, well done to Fraser and the team, as this new reserve is already proving to be a haven for the local fauna. Bravo!

Lunch Hour Update

A quick sweep along the river showed three adult Med Gulls (one different from this morning's three, and one of this morning's was not one of these three....if that makes sense!) and our Spoonbill still, feeding about half way along the estuary.

Monday 12 January 2009

The Last Three Days

Time to condense three days into one post, which isn't actually that hard because I've not seen all that much!

Saturday 10th

This was the day of a major fund raising event for the Axe Estuary Ringing Group at the Town Hall. We did superbly and finished the morning £242.73 better off than we had started it with! Thanks to everyone who helped and everyone who came along to support us.

Before I was required to help here I had a quick look about, the estuary produced eight
Gadwall, singles of Tufted Duck and Pochard and two adult Med Gulls. The sea gave a surprise with two adult Brent Geese sat close in - year tick! Also a couple of Gadwall and the Surf Scoter still. Another brief look over the sea later in the day produced an impressive 16 Red-throated Divers, with another five past west.

Sunday 11th

I must have got really badly lost on this day, as at dawn I was wandering around a Cornish moorland looking for a big white Owl!!!! The Snowy Owl never showed for me, or any of us there on Sunday. I see it's back today, so I predict another twitch coming soon! After lovely views of a very showy first winter Ring-billed Gull and a gander at a couple of Cattle Egrets I spent the rest of the day with Kym in Plymouth, where I stayed that night.

Monday 12th (today!)

Having thought I'd missed another patch Spoonbill, I had great delight in receiving news from Gav that it was still with us. Shortly after midday I was watching it feeding on the edge of Bridge Marsh, then later on the river. Spoonbills have good and bad years on this estuary, for example last year we had precisely zero Spoonbills, whereas in 2006 we had at least nine different individuals! With two already this year, it is certainly shaping up to be a good one!

Surprisingly few Gulls on the estuary this afternoon, with nothing in them of note at all, the two Tufted Ducks flew upriver.

The sea looked pretty impressive this morning, just a pity there was nothing on or over it!

A murky Seaton Bay

Thursday 8 January 2009

Pull Back Time!

I broke my recent routine of working lates with a day shift today, working 9 til 6. I had just under an hour of light before work and used it as best as I could.

Lower Bruckland Ponds were still mostly covered in ice, but the female Tufted Duck still found enough water to swim in. Also 22 Moorhens feeding on the grassy banks!

After a look along the estuary I had a scan over the sea, which is where the title of this post comes from! If I was year-listing this year I would be very bothered by the fact I've missed a Goldeneye already in 2009. With the exception of last autumn's unprecedented run of sightings the patch averages just one Goldeneye a year, and Bun's bird briefly on Seaton Marshes last week could easily have been it. OR NOT!

Within seconds of starting my first scan, amongst a small gathering of Great Crested Grebes there sat a female Goldeneye. AWESOME! I fired the texts out, Ian McLean being the only to arrive whilst I was there. Shortly after his arrival it took off and gave us a wonderful close fly-by (at Sabine's Gull distance!) before plonking back down onto the sea off the yacht club which is where it remained 'til I left. This sea scan, and another brief one during my lunch break just after 14:00 produced six Red-throated Divers (including a tight flock of three drifting east), 16 Great Crested Grebes, eight Common Scoters, the drake Surf Scoter, and singles of Guillemot and Razorbill (the former a year tick!).

If you take a look at Karen's blog (link to the right), you will see how the front cover of my Christmas card to her came true.... Here's the Christmas card she sent me....

Let's hope this one comes true this year too!

Wednesday 7 January 2009

The Big Freeze!!

It certainly is cold at the moment, with day temperatures remaining below the zero mark, especially yesterday! FREEZING! I've had high expectations on the birding front, but yesterday it was rubbish! Nothing really worth writing about despite spending four hours in the field. Today, a bit more interest, especially over the sea, but still falling short of what I'd like to be seeing (grey geese and wild swans by the ton!).

The river has not frozen over for ages, in fact the last time I remember it doing this was I think in 1996. And a rather nice pair of ducks were diving frantically in search of food in one of the few unfrozen sections... stand by for obvious patch gloat.... a PAIR OF SMEW! I even have a video of them, stunners!

No Smew today, but this was the view....

Nothing unexpected at all on show here, just a single adult Med Gull. But the previous 45 minutes I'd spent looking at the sea were much more worthwhile.

Passing birds were at a premium but did include two nice highlights: a single Pochard flew east just before 09:00 (a seafront tick for me!), and shortly after this an amazing flock of TWELVE Red-throated Divers flew high west. Another two Red-throats came through about five minutes later and four more were sat on the sea, which gives a Red-throat total of 18 - a decent total for here. A few more ducks were sat on the sea, namely the drake Surf Scoter off Seaton Hole still, also seven Common Scoters (with three more past) and slightly surprisingly, a pair of Gadwall!

Work now for the rest of the day, and for all of tomorrow. So that may well be it for me this week, keep warm everyone!

Lunch hour update

Well not quite it! Thanks to a call from Nigel Pinhorn, I just had a quick look out to sea to see a nice flock of 11 Gadwall off Beer. I reckon another patch record!