Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Breckland Produces - Again!

On Sunday, Dad took me out to the Brecks again, to try and pin down some of the specialities, and also some early spring migrants. We started off at Great Livermere Lake, where a scan around picked up an slightly unusual gull sitting on one of the bars. My initial thought was Caspian, and lots of people said Caspian, but I'm no expert on finding and identifying scarce gull species. Here it is...

Further scanning around the lake produced 2 Mediterranean Gull, a late Pink-footed Goose and a lone Barnacle Goose which were the highlights...

We then went to look in the pig fields north of the lake to try and find an Iceland Gull which was seen the previous day. Unfortunately, we couldn't find it, but there was still hundreds of gulls that were not searched. 

We moved on north to Santon Downham, to try and look for a hopeful Lesser-spotted Woodpecker. After a lot of searching, we couldn't nail it down, but we did get several Nuthatch, Grey Wagtail, Brambling, Chiffchaff and Lesser Redpoll. The star of the visit had to be a cracking Firecrest however...

We then got a call from our good birding friend David to say that he had a pair of Wheatear and 4 Stone Curlew at Cavenham Heath, so that's where we headed next. After scanning around, we picked up one cracking male Wheatear, 8 Stone Curlews and a singing male Stonechat. I do love the brecks!!!

Happy Birding!

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Scotland - The Final Days (4, 5 and 6)

On the Wednesday of our birding trip in Scotland, we went to the Moray Firth area, to try and see some of the lifers (for us) that had been lingering up there. First stop was Dingwall, where we had a look for the Ring-billed Gull. No sign of that, so we carried on along the coast.

Next stop, Alturlie Point, where there were a flock of about 150 Scaup. A bit distant for photographs, but you got great views through a scope.

We then went to Nairn harbour, where we had some distant Long-tailed Ducks, along with Knot and Turnstone but not much else. Then on to Culbin Woods, where a 2 hour walk provided us with only 1 Crested Tit and not the hoped for Scottish Crossbill. At this stage it was about 14 degrees, so I was just down to my T-shirt!!! 

Next stop was Hopeman, where an Iceland Gull had been in the pig fields. But, with the luck how it was on that day, we didn't see it, so we moved on to our last stop at Lossiemouth, where we hoped to see a Green-winged Teal that had been there. Again, no sign of that - however, there was a nice Goldeneye which gave a lovely photographing oppurtunity in the fading light.

There was a large gull flock, which we couldn't be bothered to scan! Turned out we were idiots, and there was an Iceland Gull in there! Doh! Never mind....

Day 5

On Thursday morning, we headed back to Loch Garten, as the previous day we had seen someone hand feeding the birds - a regular activity at Loch Garten. So on that morning, I decided to give it a try. To bring a long story short (after 49 out of 50 peanuts were finally eaten over 2 hours!), I didn't get the hoped for Crested Tits on my hand. However, I did get one that hoped on my foot! The only species that grabbed all of them peanuts were some cracking Coal Tits. It was a great experience!

There was also lots of common woodland species, a Great-spotted Woodpeckers and of course Crested Tits present. I was relieved that the Woodpecker didn't land on my hand - would have been a painfull experience...

We then moved away and towards the Cairngorms through a village called Boat of Garten. We had a cracking Red Deer by the side of the road...

We had noticed that there was a flooded field by the side of the road that had a few gulls on it. I had a quick scan through, but nothing of note. I then scanned the gulls that were flying around. I picked up a Herring Gull, then a Black-headed gull, and then a .................... GLAUCOUS GULL! I followed it and sure it enough it came to land on the flooded field. A great self found bird for us amateurs! It was a bit distant for the camera, but here are some record shots before it flew off.

It was then time for us to meet our guide Stuart again in the Cairngorm Mountains car park. We set out as a snow shower stopped, and already we could hear and see Red Grouse.

After quite a hike up the mountain, we saw our first Ptarmigan. It wasn't the best view, as it flew distantly over some rocks, but it was a sighting. As we moved up the mountain Cairn Gorm a bit further, I then spotted one sitting on the snow about 75 yards away. We moved up to it, and it showed incredibly well! What birds! In total, we saw 11 birds. 2 Raven were also seen...

We also got a Mountain Hare too...

After a successful hike up the mountains in some shocking weather, we were rewarded with some lovely Snow Buntings by our car - about 20 I think - love 'em!

Day 6

Friday morning, we were being taken out by the RSPB Capercaillie manager to look for - well, you guessed it - Capercaillies. He took us round a long walk through a part of a Forest, but after examining a lot of their poo - we didn't see any birds. Something good from the walk however had to be in the form of a Scottish Crossbill, singing from a tree top.

In the afternoon, we went to the Findhorn Valley, for the last part of our trip. We had been told that there was a White-tailed Eagle up there, so we thought we would go and have a look. When we arrived in the car park, a Peregrine passed through, and a couple of Ravens were about. Then, the White-tailed Eagle took to the sky, being mobbed by Ravens, before drifting back along the road and out of sight.

A bit of patience rewarded us with good views of Golden Eagle, even if the picture doesn't do it justice, and a pair of Goosander on the river.

Well, that concludes our birding trip in Scotland, and what a trip it was! Some incredible birds seen, and would love to come back again at some stage - whether I will is another matter....

Thanks for reading and Happy Birding! 

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Scotland - Days 2 and 3

Sorry for the delay on this post. I've got an exam this week, so have been preparing for that. Anyway, here is Day's 2 and 3....

Day 2 was a bit of a doss day, as we drove around looking for Crested Tits, not really knowing where to find our target bird, the Crested Tit. We knew they were at Loch Garten, but we didn't know where abouts on the reserve. We went for a pleasant stroll around the a part of woodland around the reserve but saw nothing - and I mean nothing, literally!

We popped in to Loch an Eilean as the last port of call for Cresties, and were given views of 2 birds, but you had to break your neck twice to see them as they were so high up! I think I will move on to a lot more productive Day 3....

Day 3!

Today was our first day out with our guide Stuart Benn, who we had been linked up with through the AFON Conference in Cambridge sometime last year by Dr Rob Lambert - an incredible man and birder!

We were going to meet him at The Forestry Commision Office in the middle of the Abernethy Forest for a big walk - and I mean big! We must have walked for about 5-6 miles - but it was worth it!

After about 3 miles, we started to get our first good views of Crested Tit, but unfortunately we only got the picture below. We then spotted 6 blobs in a distant moor. These turned out to be resting Black Grouse, a lifer for me. Here is a poor record shot of these birds...

We then got to the final point, where a pair of Golden Eagles breed. We had to wait 35 minutes before a bird put in a appearance. It was only a flyby, but you got decent views through a scope.

After trekking it back to the car - my hamstrings were so tight it was unreal (so unfit lol), we headed to our final destination. Stuart was going to show us where the Crested Tits were at the Loch Garten reserve. It was easy to locate thinking back, and we got stunning views of at least 2 birds on the feeders and also hopping around in front of us about 10 feet away!

Hopefully, Day's 4 and 5 will be on here soon, and if your lucky, you may get to read it within the next week if I'm not busy.

Happy Birding!