Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Volunteering at Minsmere - 18th January 2015

Last Sunday, I was volunteering at Minsmere for the day, and was really lucky to spend the day with a lady called Davene and her husband Steve.

We started off at Bittern Hide, where the lake was still frozen and there was a definite chill in the air. A single Mute Swan was resting on the only part of flowing water, but apart from that there was nothing. However, the sudden pinging of Bearded Tits alerted us to group of 9 in the far corner of the lake. Then, a Bittern flew in, but landed out of sight, followed by the first 3 Marsh Harriers of the day. A Sparrowhawk then came into view and sat in a tree near the Bearded Tits. Obviously, one bird was too busy feeding, and it was taken by the Sparrowhawk. How sad.... Here are some shots of the live birds!!!

Island Mere produced 3 Otters, another Bittern but no sign of the 2 Whooper Swans that were reported the previous day. Marsh Harriers were showing well, and there were some cracking Snipe in front of the hide however - I counted 8 in total. Also, the Teal were looking rather dapper!

The scrape in the afternoon held 2 Med Gull, the redhead Smew (not seen by me) but nothing else of note. I must say the cake in the visitor centre is lush!

In brief, had 1 female Goshawk and 8 Woodlark in an undisclosed site in the brecks, and a cracking Red Kite elsewhere on Sunday with our good friend David Walsh!

Happy Birding!

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

New Years Day Bird Race, and the Suffolk Coast!

Mum, Dad and I decided to take part in the new years day bird race, so we thought we would go to North Norfolk - Titchwell and Burnham area.

In the garden before we left, we had Blackbird, Robin, Dunnock, Collared Dove, Starling, House Sparrow, Blue Tit, a flock of about 30 Fieldfare over, Black-headed Gull, Chaffinch, Magpie and Woodpigeon, which bought the total up to 12.

On the way up to Titchwell, we managed to see a further 29 species, making 41 species in total (see complete list at the bottom of the blog post for the birds seen). At Titchwell, the first new bird seen was Wren, followed by a Sparrowhawk. We then added the normal species on the fresh-marsh and salt-marsh, the highlight being a flock of 7 Twite from Parrinder Hide, and then a single Spotted Redshank on the salt-marsh. After finishing at Titchwell, we were on 77 species.

We then went to Burnham Overy, to look for the Rough-legged Buzzard. We soon jammed in on that, and we also got Common Buzzard and Canada Goose.

At the layby looking over to the west end of Holkham, we got a single White-fronted Goose to make the list 85.

We finished the day off at Warham Greens, where we got 3 Hen Harrier (1 male), Linnet, Merlin and a Woodcock, which concluded to a total of 89 species, a very successful day.

New Year's Day Bird Species in order:
  1. Blackbird
  2. Robin
  3. Dunnock
  4. Collared Dove
  5. Starling
  6. House Sparrow
  7. Blue Tit
  8. Fieldfare
  9. Magpie
  10. Black-headed Gull
  11. Chaffinch
  12. Woodpigeon
  13. Rock Dove (Feral Pigeon)
  14. Common Gull
  15. Rook
  16. Goldfinch
  17. Green Woodpecker
  18. Greylag Goose
  19. Kestrel
  20. Jackdaw
  21. Herring Gull
  22. Pheasant
  23. Lesser Black-backed Gull
  24. Great Black-backed Gull
  25. Moorhen
  26. Mallard
  27. Mistle Thrush
  28. Mute Swan
  29. Cormorant
  30. Carrion Crow
  31. Red-legged Partridge
  32. Song Thrush
  33. Egyptian Goose
  34. Great Tit
  35. Pied Wagtail
  36. Redwing
  37. Long-tailed Tits
  38. Greenfinch
  39. Jay
  40. Red Kite (2)
  41. Pink-footed Goose
  42. Lapwing
  43. Wren
  44. Sparrowhawk
  45. Coot
  46. Tufted Duck
  47. Gadwall
  48. Teal
  49. Wigeon
  50. Brent Goose
  51. Ringed Plover
  52. Little Egret
  53. Curlew
  54. Snipe
  55. Redshank
  56. Grey Plover
  57. Dunlin
  58. Shelduck
  59. Avocet
  60. Twite (7)
  61. Marsh Harrier
  62. Ruff
  63. Meadow Pipit
  64. Reed Bunting
  65. Water Rail
  66. Pochard
  67. Goldeneye
  68. Turnstone
  69. Knot
  70. Golden Plover
  71. Oystercatcher
  72. Pintail
  73. Shoveler
  74. Little Grebe
  75. Spotted Redshank
  76. Black-tailed Godwit
  77. Bar-tailed Godwit
  78. Sanderling
  79. Great Spotted Woodpecker
  80. Coal Tit
  81. Stock Dove
  82. Rough-legged Buzzard
  83. Canada Goose
  84. Common Buzzard
  85. White-fronted Goose
  86. Hen Harrier
  87. Linnet
  88. Merlin
  89. Woodcock
Covehithe Broad and Dunwich Shore Pools

Yesterday, Dad and I teamed up with our friends David and Ed to do a bit of Suffolk coast birding. Before that however, I was stunned to see myself looking at an adult male Bullfinch in the garden. The light wasn't brilliant, but it was still a cracking bird to have in the garden! A first in 4 years...

We started off at Covehithe where we ticked Brambling, flyover Barnacle Geese, Yellowhammer, and a brief Bearded tit before arriving at the broad. We could see the Shorelarks through our bins before looking at them closely, but then they took off and flew high south, and for quite a few miles. However they have been seen again today, so they must go for a fly about before returning. We also got Red-throated Diver offshore, a redhead Smew, and 3 Goldeneye in the area.

We then went to Dunwich Shore Pools. On the walk up, we got Common Scoter, Stonechat, several Great-crested Grebes offshore, Brent Geese, a Skylark, Rock Pipit, Reed Bunting and a cracking male Hen Harrier, which hunted the reed bed albeit a bit distant...

We then located the Twite flock with a bit of help from another birder, where about 20 birds were present.

Further up (about a further 2 miles!) we relocated the Snow Buntings, which were so obliging to us...

On the way back home, we had a lovely Barn Owl hunting alongside the road in Pettaugh which was another year tick taking the total up to 108.

We had a brilliant day, and I just want to thank David and Ed for taking us out, it was a real pleasure.

Friday, 2 January 2015

Review of 2014

This is going to be a very long blog post, so get comfy, and grab a cuppa!

2014 has been my best year for birding by a mile, as I thrashed (in my opinion) last years British total by 14 species, where I got 216. This year, I have reached a whopping 230, so for the amount of time I go birdwatching compared to other birders (not as much as I would like because of school), I think that's a fine achievement.

So this year: British Year List: 230. British Life List Additions: 18. Patch Year List: 100

January: British Year List 104 - Lifers: 0

There wasn't any outstanding birds in January, just quite a lot of nice birds. 5th January bought Taiga Bean Geese, White-fronted Geese, Bewick and Whooper Swans, and a Hen Harrier in the Norfolk Broads.

We also got a Black-throated Diver on The Strand, Orwell Estuary on the 6th, Crossbills at West Stow and Mandarins, a Goosander and "Mable" the Tawny Owl at Christchurch Park, Ipswich which takes Bird of the Month.

Bird of the Month: Tawny Owl, Christchurch Park

February: British Year List 139 - Lifers: 2

February got off on a great start, with both Richard's Pipit and Glossy Ibis on the North Norfolk Coast on the 2nd Feb (both lifers).

We then got 2 Smew at Minsmere and a Dartford Warbler on Westleton Heath on the 17th. 

We jammed in with a Goshawk in Thetford on the 18th, followed by 4 Goshawks on the 22nd at the same site. On the 19th, Burnham Overy Dunes produced a Rough-legged Buzzard and a Short-eared Owl, where Titchwell produced c.15 Velvet Scoter amongst c.5500 Common Scoter.

Awful I know!

We also got Tree Sparrow at Ampton on the 23rd.

Bird of the Month - Richard's Pipit, Salthouse - no picture though

March: British Year List 147 - Lifers 1

March only had 9 new year ticks, including the first Chiffchaff of the year on the 22nd, and 4 Caspian Gulls at Landguard on the 23rd. However, the only lifer was 2 Two-barred Crossbill at Lynford Arboretum along with 4 Firecrest.

Dodgy record but Bird of the Month

This isn't brilliant either lol

April: British Year List 165 - Lifers - 0

Much better month compared to March, but couldn't connect with that elusive Lifer. The 5th produced Jack Snipe and Stone Curlew at Minsmere, and on the 6th my first 2 Swallows.

On the 7th, I jammed in with Little Ringed Plover, Green Sandpiper and a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker all on my patch, which was great!

The 21st bought the first spring Ring Ouzels, this time into Kessingland, where 4 birds were great to see with the first Sedge Warbler and Whitethroat too.

22nd bought Nightingale, Swift and Garden Warbler whilst ringing (the latter being ringed), but the bird of the year for me was a self found Ring Ouzel at Wildwood, Needham Market which was a patch lifer.

Bird of the Month - Ring Ouzel, Wildwood

May: British Year List 180 - Lifers: 2

The Norfolk Broads beckoned on 5th, and we jammed in on a Little Gull at Buckenham Marshes which was probably the highlight.

Then on the 23rd, we got a pair of Turtle Doves at my Auntie's garden, and on the same evening, we got 3 Nightjars.

On the 27th, Mum took me to Landguard to get Greenish Warbler and Common Rosefinch, but neither showed well enough for a decent photo.

Bird of the Month: Greenish Warbler, Landguard

June: British Year List 184 - Lifers: 2

June was a MEGA month, as I bagged my first ever MEGA rarity, this being a Spectacled Warbler at Bunrham Overy Staithe, Norfolk on the 8th June. We also year ticked Spoonbill here too.

On the 22nd, we jammed in with a cracking male Rose-coloured Starling at Carlton Colville, Lowestoft, which showed unbelievable well.

On the 29th, we connected with another lifer for me, which was a cracking female Red-backed Shrike at Winterton Dunes, Norfolk.

Bird of the month: Spectacled Warbler

July: British Year List 190 - Lifers: 1

July was a good month for waders, and I got all of the 6 year ticks at Minsmere, including one beast of a bird: Collared Pratincole! 

The other waders we year-ticked was Common Sandpiper, Curlew Sandpiper and Wood Sandpipers, Spotted Redshank and Greenshank.

Bird of the month: Collared Pratincole

August: British Year List 213 - Lifers: 3

August saw us going to the Isle of Islay, Argyll for a week. Here we grabbed 1 Lifer, Chough, and 16 year ticks - Osprey, Golden and White-tailed Eagles, Stonechat, Hooded Crow, Eider, Gannet, Black Guillemot, Raven, Manx Shearwater, Great Skua, Twite, Pomarine Skua, Whinchat and Fulmar.

On the 27th, Dad took me to the East Norfolk Coast. We got 2 lifers, them being Pied Flycacther at Winterton Dunes, and Barred Warbler at Eccles. We also got a cracking male Red-backed Shrike, a Wryneck and a Redstart at Winterton. I also saw another Wryneck at Minsmere on the 28th.

Bird of the Month: Red-backed Shrike at Winterton

I also saw another Wryneck at Minsmere on the 28th.

September: British Year List 218 - Lifers: 3

1st September bought another lifer for me, being an Eastern Subalpine Warbler at Landguard, Suffolk.

And the 21st bought Olive-backed Pipit (lifer) at Wells, Sooty Shearwater (lifer) past Cley and a Yellow-browed Warbler and Barred Warbler at Salthouse. A great day...

Bird of the month: Olive-backed Pipit

October: British Year List 226 - Lifers: 5

The month started off great, with my second MEGA of the year, this being Little Crake at Minsmere. I saw this on both the 5th and 7th, along with a Great White Egret on the 7th.

On the 12th, we got a Steppe Grey Shrike at Burnham Norton, which showed really well. We also got a Yellow-browed Warbler at Stiffkey on the same day.

On the 19th, we got bird of the year - Long-eared Owl at Walsey Hills, Norfolk along with a Grey Phalarope at Cley.

29th bought Surf Scoter and Slavonian Grebe along with Velvet Scoter in Holkham Bay, and the 30th and 1st Nov. bought a cracking Mid-Suffolk record being in the case of a Hoopoe at Framsden, along with an Osprey over on the 1st as an added bonus.

November: British Year List 228 - Lifers: 1

On the 9th, we got 2 Desert Wheatears: 1 1st Winter Male at Lowestoft, and 1 Female at Goreleston. We also got Purple Sandpiper at Ness Point too.

December: British Year List 230 - Lifers: 0

On the 23rd, we got White-fronted, Tundra Bean and 2 presumed esc. Red-breasted Goose at North Warren RSPB, Suffolk, and then 3 Shorelark and 12 Snow Bunting at Covehithe Broad.

What a year 2014 was. I wonder if I can beat it in 2015.....