Sunday, May 29, 2005

Pratting about, 29/5

After trumping around last week(end), the wanderers have been pratting about today. A fairly late start saw us down in the brecklands for Stone-curlew, a year tick for Josh.

Next it was onto Great Ryburgh, where Honey Buzzard was bagged relatively quickly, and a first of the year for Will's dad Ray. Also about were a few Hobbies and Sparrowhawks.

Our main base for the afternoon was to be Cley, just in case the Purple Heron put in an appearance - which it didn't. However we were in for a cracking few hours. On arrival a first-summer Caspian Gull was located on Pat's Pool. Our converse with John Furse at Cley visitor centre was cut short by the reappearance of yesterday's Collared Pratincole. As we headed for this (on Blakeney Freshmarsh), 3 Common Cranes thermalled over the village slowly heading inland.

Common Crane x3, Cley, Norfolk | © William Bowell

The pratincole was initially just out of sight on the deck, but got up on a few occasions and showed superbly in the 'scope. White trailing edge, chestnut underwings and forked tail were all seen well.
On returning to the visitor centre, we relocated the Caspian Gull, but little else was seen.

Our last stop of the day was for Montagu's Harriers - we obtained superb views of a ringtail.

What a magnificent day, and as ever thanks to Ray for driving!!

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Another Gallery added.

Privet Hawkmoth, Langtoft
| © Josh Jones.

Check out for some Butterfly and Moth pix added today.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Trumpet... finally!

With being away at the weekend, an'all, Will was hopeful the Trumpeter Finch would stick around for a quick twitch on Thursday. Thankfully it remained and he obtained excellent views and not so excellent pictures.

Trumpeter Finch, Landguard Point, Suffolk |
© William Bowell

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

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Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Trumping about, 21-22/5

Another May weekend comes to pass, and despite southerly(ish) winds, there wasn't really much about. Still, it was an improvement from recent weeks. News came early on the Saturday of a Purple Heron at Cley, although no further sign was half-expected. However dipped on it by two minutes in the evening.

The other exciting news that came in on Saturday was of a Trumpeter Finch in Suffolk - however no chance of getting for it until Sunday.

Saturday started well with Honey Buzzards at Great Ryburgh, then a Woodchat Shrike in the rain (lifer) at Cromer.

Woodchat Shrike, Cromer, Norfolk © Josh Jones

Salthouse produced a Little Stint in the massive thunderstorm, and then what was easily the biggest shock of the day - a pale phase Pomarine Skua at middle distance of Titchwell in the evening!
However, a dip on the 1st-summer Purple Heron at Cley dampened things a bit.

And so Sunday dawned. We didn't set off from the cottage until 10, heading down to Landguard NR in Suffolk for the Trumpeter Finch. And what a bird! By the looks of things it had been showing very well on Saturday, but it kept distant on Sunday, with only a poor record taken at distance and strong winds:

Trumpeter Finch, Landguard NR, Suffolk © Josh Jones

Finally, a breckland wood revealed Willow Tit for the year on the way home, but a dip on Stone Curlews means another trip will be have to made specially for them. Overall, a good weekend - 6 year ticks and 2 lifers ain't bad!


Monday, May 23, 2005

Spanish Birding: Day 4

Sunday was pretty slow birding really, and although the White-rumped Swifts were magnificent, there was still some quality birding waiting for us on Monday, our last day.

We spent the day in the Serrias around Grazalema, enjoying the many sights this productive area had on offer. Our first stop was at a small village called El Bosque, which gave us a superb vantage point over the valley.

El Bosque, Spain, 23.05.05 | © Will Bowell

The flowers of course attracted insects with Small Copper being among the many butterflies noted.

Small Copper, El Bosque, Spain, 23.05.05 | © Will Bowell

Outside the village the first Black Wheatear was sat high up on a rock, while below it a singing Melodious Warbler and Serin were found. There were also a few insects here.

Melodious Warbler, El Bosque, Spain, 23.05.05 | © Will Bowell

Cleopatra, El Bosque, Spain, 23.05.05 | © Will Bowell

Royal Burnet, El Bosque, Spain, 23.05.05 | © Will Bowell

As the heat of the day picked up, our past couple of day's experiences taught us things tend to slow down, not so at Villaluengo Pass. One of our stops here produced some brilliant birding and excellent insects as well. At first there seemed little to look at, but as we had learnt from the White rumped Swift and the Saltpans, a bit of time pays and soon the area was alive with birds.

The highlights included a pair of Western Orphean Warblers found by Katie (poo poo-ed at first by myself- sorry Katie!) which showed incredibly well in the shelter of one particular bush. Western Subalpine and Sardinian Warblers were also in the area and Katie and myself had excellent views of a singing Western Olivaceous Warbler.

A couple of Chough flew across one of the peaks, and Katie also found a flock of Alpine Swifts which eventually reached a peak of 7 birds, nesting in one of the cliffs near some Crag Martins. A couple of Rock Buntings gave brief and unsatisfactory views and another Blue Rock Thrush with a Black Wheatear showed briefly.

The butterflies were easier to photograph.....

Marsh Fritillary, Villaluengo Pass, Spain, 23.05.05 | © Will Bowell

Morrocan Orange Tip, Villaluengo Pass, Spain, 23.05.05 | © Will Bowell

Las Covezuela was also pretty good with incredible views of calling Western Bonelli's Warblers- a good call to remember for back in the UK.....

Western Bonelli's Warbler, Las Covezuela, Spain, 23.05.05 | © Will Bowell

Three Dartford Warblers were just outside Grazalema and a perched Short-toed Eagle was good to see. I also saw the only Nuthatch of the trip, here.

On the road to Zahara de la Sierra, we stopped off at the first mirandor which gave us excellent views of Rock and Cirl Bunting.

Rock Bunting, Grazalema Mirador, Spain, 23.05.05 | © Will Bowell

At Puerto de las Palomes was one of our last stops before the airport, and it provided yet another magic moment for me.

Puerto de las Palomesr, Spain, 23.05.05 | © Will Bowell

Puerto de las Palomesr, Spain, 23.05.05 | © Will Bowell

Not only did we have spectaular scenary surrounding us, but above us swarms of Pallid Swifts were swirlling in there thousands- I have never seen anything like it before! In among them Griffon Vultures seemed to appear from high above us, and gradually got lower and lower. And below our feat, masses of Hummingbird Hawkmoths and a single Broad-boarded Bee Hawkmoth were feeding on the flowers. Throw a couple of Stonechats and a singing Rock Bunting in the mix and you have a brilliant way to finish the trip!

Hummingbird Hawkmoth, Puerto de las Palomesr, Spain, 23.05.05 | © Will Bowell

Griffon Vulture, Puerto de las Palomesr, Spain, 23.05.05 | © Will Bowell

The last bird of the trip, just like the first was House Sparrow as got on the plane at Jerez and the trip list totalled in at 139, with 40 of those being lifers for myself (I know- what a tart!).

My thanks to Brian Stone for inviting me along, and thanks to Brian, Katie and Tony for there excellent company! Cheers guys!

Day 1 >>>
Day 2 >>>
Day 3 >>>

:: wanderings ::

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Spanish Birding: Day 3

With a lot of ground to cover, we headed south pretty smartish on Sunday. It wasn't long though, before the temptation to stop kicked in, when an old ruined building complete with nesting storks was spotted.

White Stork, Spain, 22.05.05 | © Will Bowell

The Laguna da Medina was the first official stop of the trip down south, for Crested Coot. Not the most inspiring tick of the trip that was for sure, but still good to get under the belt and the bird and insect life around the lagoon made up for the lack of it on the lagoon itself.

Great Reed Warblers were croaking everywhere, and would come out and show extremely well, but unfortunately I didn't get any shots of them. Reed, Sedge and Cetti's were also noted. A Nightingale showed briefly, and a couple of Stonechats were sat on the fence. A pair of Little-ringed Plovers were the only ones we saw during the trip.

As we continued our journey south, swirls of Griffon Vultures we saw soaring over the hillsides near Medina Sidona were hugely impressive. Eventually we reached the coast and arrived at Tarifa for a quick stop which produced a few Cory's Shearwaters in the Med and a Lesser Kestrel was knocking about the castle towers. Meanwhile, Yellow-legged Gulls were good for photos.

Yellow-legged Gull, Tarifa, Spain, 22.05.05 | © Will Bowell

Heading inland a bit, we found a massive mixed flock of House and Spanish Sparrows on our way to Santuraio de Nuesta Se
ñora de la Luz. Here, we also got fabulous views of male and female Montagu's Harrier on a nest change over. This was meant to be one of our prime birding spots, unfortunately it was also a favoured area for the locals and strong winds blasting across the valley made staying longer than it took to consume an ice cream pointless, so we continued our way along the valley making regular stops.

Woodchat Shrike, Spain, 22.05.05 | © Will Bowell

Black-eared Wheatears and Woodchats were regular along the CAP2213 road and one of our stops produced a Monarch Butterfly for two of the group. But the ultra highlight for myself, came when at one stop a Swift sp circled over and suddenly dipped down revealing a white arse! In fact there were two of them- White-rumped Swifts! Pure magic and luck since we had been told they hadn't turned up yet at the publicised, regular breeding sites!

White-rumped Swift, Spain, 22.05.05 | © Will Bowell

Above is a poor record shot of one of the birds, with some terrible glare from on the sun, but at least you can see the white on the head and white rim to the secondaries!

Since these were one of the targets of the trip we watched them for a good long while. They mixed freely with the flock of Common and Pallid Swifts, but would every now and again break away from the flock, occasionally with a Pallid hanger-on. They're jizz was completely different to the Pallids and Commons; White rumpeds seem slimmer and more slender. Superb things!

Other birds on show here included a confiding Tawny Pipit and a hovering Short-toed Eagle.

The Ojen Valley was pretty productive with several Thekla Larks were feeding in a field with a Tawny Pipit. More Black-eared Wheatears aligned the roadside fences here, joined briefly by a smart male Serin.

Our final stop of the day was for Swifts, but alas, just as we were warned, non were in. A couple of Griffons and Lesser Kestrels were sat on the cliff though and some singing male Blue Rock Thrushes were equally welcome sights.

Day 4 >>>

Day 1 >>>
Day 2 >>>

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Spanish Birding: Day 2

A not so early morning walk round the accommodation again, produced 1 Little Egret and Grey Heron over, several pairs of Crested Larks, Goldfinch, a single Red legged Partridge, House Sparrows by the bucket load and a couple of Iberian Yellow Wagtails (Motacilla flava iberiae), but the highlight for me was the flock of 10 Common Swifts and 10 Pallid Swifts which came through.

Pallid Swift, Alijar, Spain, 21.05.05 | © Will Bowell

After breakfast (which we learnt the night before through hand gestures and broken Spanish we could make ourselves- it was toast all round!) we headed off for some proper Spanish birding action. On our way to the Bonanza Saltpans we had a couple of Red-rumped Swallows fly past the car and a single ring-tailed Montagu's Harrier. A couple of Cattle Egrets sat in a field with a Common Kestrel, House Martin and Swallow also seen.

The Bonanza Saltpans proved to be a fantastic stop for us, with waders being extremely numerous- including breeding Kentish Plovers.

Kentish Plover, Bonanza Saltpans, Spain, 21.05.05 | © Will Bowell

Black-winged Stilts, Greenshank, Dunlin, Little Stint, Sanderling, Grey Plover and Ringed Plover were also recorded. A few Gull-billed Terns were flying along the river and raptors were plentiful over
the Do
ñana woodlands. Black Kites numbers probably reached well over 60 birds up at any one time and Booted Eagles were also fairly numerous. The major raptor highlight was a Spanish Imperial Eagle which I picked up as it drifted along slowly on near flat wings. A local birder who we happened across (or rather he happened across us) confirmed the id- he even offered us to show us around the Saltpans, even though we basically communicating in broken Spanish, German, English and of course through the use of the trusty field guide!

Other birds scored from that one spot included a flock of distant 70+ Greater Flamingos, 95 Glossy Ibis, 80 Spoonbill, Little Egrets, 20 Slender-billed Gulls, Yellow-legged Gulls and more Iberian Yellow Wagtails.

The Slender-billed Gulls were truly stunning, with several showing some nice pink flushes. They're feeding antics made for some interesting photos.

Slender-billed Gull, Bonanza Saltpans, Spain, 21.05.05 | © Will Bowell

Eventually our elected Spanish guide moved us along with a few stops before the next major scan producing a close Little Egret.

Little Egret, Bonanza Saltpans, Spain, 21.05.05 | © Will Bowell

Where our guide took us to was fantastic for Terns with more Little Terns than you could shake a stick at and a single Black Tern and Gull-billed Tern, but no hoped for Audouin's Gull.

Little Tern, Bonanza Saltpans, Spain, 21.05.05 | © Will Bowell

As we made our way back towards Sanlucar for lunch we found a nice family party of Sardinian Warblers on the fence by the track but other than that it was more of the same really.

After a buying our lunch from a local store we headed out through the Algaida Pines in the heat of the day, with little of interest other than more Black Kites overhead. Eventually we reached a dry area which was excellent for Larks with heaps of Crested Larks moving about. By lucky fluke, a Roller was sat on the overhead wires in front of us, unfortunately though only Tony managed a shot- an excellent shot of it just taking off! The rest of us had to make do with a Woodchat Shrike which only Katie really got anything on it (click here), whilst Brian and Tony snapped a great Swallowtail (click here).

The Larks were proving to be pretty frustrating as they kept on flying into the heat haze and we couldn't get enough on them to be sure of anything; let alone our target of Lesser Short-toed! We carried on along the rough road towards the back of the Saltpans in the hope of some easier Larks further along. Another chance encounter, this time with a superb male Spectacled Warbler raised spirits further in the increasing mid-day sun.

Finally we seemed to hit it lucky when Katie and Brian had a Greater Short-toed Lark on their side of the car, and Tony and myself had one on our side of the car. They weren't Lesser's but they were a start! Katie balanced her digiscoping kit on her knee in the back of the car and produced a fine shot which can be seen here.

Travelling along further and another stop produced another Greater Short-toed Lark on Brian and Katie's side of the car, but apparently nothing on ours... or was there?! I could see something which looked vaguely Lark shaped and looked like it was moving, but only slightly. Eventually it moved a bit more- yep, it was a Lark, but which one? Brian got out and got his scope on it, whilst I balance mine on the back window revealing a short, stubby, finch like bill- Lesser! Jackpot!

Brian took a couple of record shots of it, as it sat there singing, eventually moving into thicker stuff. See his record shot here.

Pleased with finally nailing Lesser Short-toed Lark after it seemed so hopeless at the beginning, we carried on to the back of the Saltpans for a quick bite to eat (bread role and crisps brought in Sanlucar). There seemed little of interest at first, with just a line of Coots and Yellow-legged Gulls to keep us entertained, but a better look at the Gulls revealed another wanted bird for the trip- a 2nd summer Audouin's Gull!

In high spirits, we headed back through the pines on another fruitless search for Azure-winged Magpies. Here we recieved at text from Steve Dudley and Josh saying that a Trumpeter Finch had turned up in Suffolk- damn! But not to worry, there wasn't much we could do about it really, so we just looked up and enjoyed displaying Booted Eagles and low flyovers from Black Kites as they headed to their nests and flock of 5-6 Griffon Vultures heading over. Nice!

On the Laguna de Terelo we picked up a good few White-headed Ducks (see pic below), a Tree Sparrow, Black-necked, Great-crested and Little Grebes.

White-headed Duck, Laguna de Terelo, Spain, 21.05.05 | © Will Bowell

Our plans to head north for some more wetland type species was severely in jeopardy when we hit a long road, which was in bad nick making for a slow route. Thankfully, a Collard Pratincole appeared on a bank by the side of the road, followed by another, and another....and then a Purple Heron.... and then a Grey. We decided we probably wouldn't make it to Brazo del Este, so stopped and watched the amazing sight of 50+ Collard Prats flying out of a field after a low flyover Black Kite put them up. Thrilling!

Purple Heron, Spain, 21.05.05 | © Will Bowell

Collard Pratincole, Spain, 21.05.05 | © Will Bowell

As well as the Prats, which let us get reasonably close to them there were a few Great Reed Warblers croaking from the reedbed and Zitting Cisticola was calling loudly behind us, with a couple of Red-rumped Swallows in for good measure, it was a good place to stop.

Further along the beaten track, we happened across a few Woodchats, a flyover White Stork, Turtle Dove and more Crested Larks.

By now evening was upon us, and things were clearly cooling down enough for more bird activity so we headed back towards the
Laguna de Terelo. However, despite Tony's excellent navigation skills and Brian's brilliant driving, we ended up getting lost somewhere in Sanlucar. It has to be said we did get lost on more than one occasion during the trip, usually with spectacular results and this time was no different!

Luck rather than judgement and navigation skill saw us at what is now known in all our notebooks at the "Hidden Pools of Sanlucar" (which Brian christened). It was a great spot with over five Little Bitterns sat around one of the pools, one of which when taking off nearly knocked us all out! An immature Night Heron also took off from out of sight and a couple of elusive Purple Gallinules eventually showed reasonably well.

Little Bittern, Sanlucar, Spain, 21.05.05 | © Will Bowell

Eventually we made it alive to
Laguna de Terelo and saw plenty more White-headed Ducks, 3 Red-crested Pochards and hords of Egrets and Herons on the island. The highlight for me was a flock of 5 Squacco Herons which appeared from nowhere in front of the hide, top notch!

Yet again there was no sign of any Azure-winged Magpies in the Algaida Pines, but there were a few bits and bobs of interest including another Spectacled Warbler, Sardinian Warblers, Short-toed Treecreepers and Blue Tits. The highlights from our search before dusk for the Azure wings, really were the Spotted Flycatcher, flycatching by the track, a Wryneck which only I managed to see as it flew off into the pines and a Long-eared Owl, sat right out in the open, but spooked by us and quickly disappeared!

We arrived in the clearing at dusk, in anticipation of one of our big targets- Red-necked Nightjar. It wasn't long before Tony and myself picked one up singing, half heartedly, and it wasn't long after that before they were all in full flow. About 8-10 birds sang around us, which is pretty good considering we could only hear a small part of the clearing. We enjoyed incredible flight views in the half light and after dark, incredible views in the torch light. One bird even sat singing above us on the observation tower! Smart or what?!

A magical way to finish a superb day!

Day 3 >>>

Day 1 >>>
Day 4 >>>

Friday, May 20, 2005

Spanish Birding: Day 1

Trip Report to Southern Spain, by William Bowell
Participants: Brian Stone, Katie Fuller, Tony Parker and William Bowell

Everything seemed to go swimmingly well on the Friday afternoon; arriving at Stanstard early and landing at Jerez slightly earlier than scheduled brought hope of a spot of birding before nightfall. Our first bird on touch down was House Sparrow quickly followed by Spotless Starling. Despite our early arrival the car hire unfortunately held us up considerably so the remaining daylight was spent in grounds of the airport where we clocked up a few Common Swifts flying about just before dusk, Feral Pigeon, Wood Pigeon (one of the very few we saw during the weekend), Song Thrush, Nightingale, 2 Yellow-legged Gulls flying over and a Blackbird. We traveled to our accommodation at Alijar near Sanlucar in complete darkness with not even an Owl in front of headlights seen.

After a quick unpack we decided to take a look around the grounds of accommodation with torch light barely needed for it was almost a full moon. Still, it did help in the finding of a Scop's Owl sat calling on one of the barns in the wee small hours. Nice one!

Day 2 >>>

Day 3 >>>
Day 4 >>>

Tuesday, May 17, 2005


Great Reed Warbler, Willington GP, Beds | © Josh Jones

With Josh targeting a good year list this year, the wandering birders needed to go and collect the Great Reed Warbler at Willington GP in Bedfordshire. As we approached its strip of reed we were soon reminded how loud the 'Croaker' is as it sang deep from its reedbed home.

We stayed close to where it was singing from in the desperate hope that it would shimmy its way up the reed stem, but alas it failed to do so. But just as we were about to leave we saw the reeds bend a bit, and could hear it had moved to the edge of the reeds so ran round to the other side of the pit and enjoyed wonderful views of it (and JJ got the above shot).

Our first 'Croaker' was ticked at Deeping Lakes NR (back in the good old days when the pits were good, and it was called Welland Bank Pits) in 2001 so its on our local area list- but the views weren't quite as good as the Beds bird...

Monday, May 16, 2005

GPOG Bird Race 2005

For the past few years we have been taking part in the Greater Peterborough Ornithological Group annual bird race and this year's plans were set for a teen team to join the other three teams of clinically insane GPOG members taking part. Unfortunately thought, due to a number of events the two other teens lined up to join us couldn’t take part, so we were left with half a team missing and some big shoes to fill. Step forward Gareth Jones and Ray Bowell- our Dads- to join 'To String a Mockingbird'!

GPOG rules state that at least three members of the team of four must identify the same bird for it to count in the 24 hour period of 6pm Saturday (14th May) and 6pm Sunday (15th May). The winning team is the one to see the most within the confines of the Peterborough Bird Club recording area within the time specified. Each team can choose their own starting point but must finish at the Williams house for the post-race banter and BBQ to celebrate the various fortunes.

One of the keys to scoring a reasonable total in the bird race is of course careful planning and hours of recce-ing, right? Wrong! We did virtually no recce-ing and still managed to notch up a good total. And as for planning, it was essential on the first night but for the Sunday it was abandoned almost as soon as we set off!

Our campaign started off at the very end of Central Drove, Nene Washes where we quickly kicked off with the usual washland species with the few bonus’s on offer this year. Garganey was one of these expected, but needed bonus birds; we flushed one and found another on our walk up to the end of the drove before the 6pm starting time, but weren’t hopeful of connecting with them on the way back. We needed not to worry as after a lengthy search of one particular pool we found a male asleep trying not to be noticed and another flew over the cowshed pools.

Other bonus species included Pochard, Marsh Harrier, Avocets and Little-ringed Plovers. A quick Grey Wagtail and Common Sandpiper, and we were on our way down south for the hoped for Grey Partridge, which duly obliged along with its French cousin.

Crepuscular species are crucial to a bird race so our last stop of the night was Woodwalton Fen, where all four teams ended up. We were the first team to arrive and on the drive down Will commented on how last years Little Owl that we got on a barn here was a “One hit wonder”; seconds later he shouted “Little Owl!” as one bounced up the telegraph pole next the track leading up to the reserve!

As we stood scanning the fen from the bank outside the reserve and listening for any other species on offer two other teams approached on the track- the Owl still on full view we were rather worried the ickle beast would be seen by all, but just as they got near the end of the track it disappeared. Lucky?! Eh?!

In the reserve itself, we somehow managed to get rather lost, but thankfully back on track we added Nightingale, roding Woodcock, Garden Warbler, Long-eared and Tawny Owls- but missed a ring tailed Harrier, which flew through the reserve whist we were lost. Unfortunately it was never really positively identified by the team who saw it, so didn’t get added to their count.

The only Owl we failed to connect with was Barn Owl- we could have gone to a nest site, which would have been slightly off route for home, but we gambled and hoped for a chance encounter on the way home (we see them all the time usually!). But there’s always……

The next morning…
A 5.50 start at Baston/Langtoft GP secured us a Greenshank- we were one of two teams to get this species, and in the end it was passage waders that did the business for us. We also scored a Dunlin which no other team got; a huge surprise to us considering we managed to get one at BLGP, one at the Nene Washes and then presumably the BLGP bird at Grummit’s Scrape later!

With no Barn Owls flying about around Baston Fen we headed towards Deeping Lakes NR in the hope of one there, or a Hobby. Both failed and we only really added common species here.

With only the two pairs of young ears hearing the Gropper last night at WWF, it was a change of pace at Bainton GP, with Lesser Whitethroat en-route at Maxey. We eventually secured a reeling Gropper along with Bullfinch and Hobby.

Since the Ruddy Duck cull began they have been increasingly more difficult to find in the PBC area, but there is one site which are nearly guaranteed. I say nearly- cos basically we failed! We did manage a Goldcrest and a Spotted Flycatcher at the entrance, but no matter how long we waited the Ruddy Duck didn’t show!

Southey Woods got us our 100th species by 9.30am with Marsh Tit, Coal Tit and Treecreeper being the highlights. Apparently there was a Spotted Flycatcher here as well- but we didn’t need it!

With a Sparrowhawk chasing a pair of Hobby at Castor Hanglands, the list was increasing but there was not a squawk of a Jay to be heard- a top site for them in the PBC area, and if that wasn’t going to produce one where would? Not to worry as one happened to fly in front of our car on the way to Southwick Nature Reserve! Top stuff!

Red Kite and Buzzard scored the 105 and things looked set to continue on a high but a slow patch set in and everyone was feeling the pressure as Kingfisher and Nuthatch failed to perform. We knew that missing four breeding species would be disastrous for our chances of winning, so missing Nuthatch and Kingfisher was not an option!

A stroke of luck though saw a Kingfisher quickly followed by a calling Lesser spotted Woodpecker! Amazing- especially since the latter is incredibly difficult to pin at this time of the year!

With a couple of washland species still needed we headed on a high to Eldernell where the Tree Sparrows were duly ticked off and a male Ruff (in no real sign of moult)- another species no other team got!

We finished the day dashing around like headless chickens looking for Ruddy Duck and Barn Owl- which we failed on both in the end, but the highlight of the race was to come from another team’s find: Fulmar! It looked a rather sorry sight by the time we got to it at Langtoft West GP. Martin’s team did well to find the poor sod, as it is on arguably the worst pit in the Deepings area, which generally gets naff all on it!

The race finished at Trev and Jane Williams’ house with the traditional post race BBQ, our team finished on a respectable 112 (one off the all time GPOG record!) and to our amazement we were crowned the new GPOG champs with the ‘501’ team (Martin Coates, Dan Williams, Bob and Sue Titman) scoring 109, ‘Just a Hobby’ (Trev and Jane Williams, Neil and Eunice Parker) scored 107 and finally the ‘Wandering Wrinklies’ (Roger Teasdale, Mac Bell, Brian Lawrence, Malc Holley) scored 97. All in all a respectable finish for all!

Thanks to Trev and Jane for putting up an excellent BBQ and everyone for taking part- great race!

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Quiet in'it?!

Those of you are reading this who are linking to the e-mailing group, peterbirder will have realised it has been pretty quiet on there for the past few weeks. Could the northerly cold winds be having that much of an effect on the local birding spots around Peterborough?

Well the answer is quiet possible yes, but there are certain birds that some of us have been spying of late that we dare not mention; for example Little Owl, Grey Partridge and Long-eared Owls- all mythical birds that highly sort after for a few. Who are those few? Well they are of course GPOG members taking part in the annual bird race this coming weekend!

The wandering birders' team ("To String a Mockingbird", with the two wandering birders and their Dads as team members) has no particular plan, and the inevitable recce-ing has been restricted to our local patches only! So do we stand any threat to the other teams? We shall see........ results will be announced on here next Monday!

Stilted and Stunned!

Really, for the past month, Will has been feeling especially unlucky, with his patch not really performing the way it should and over all being unable to get to Norfolk when the migrants were flooding in. Yesterday on the kind invitation of Chris Orders, Will ended up in Norfolk for the afternoon, at Titchwell in northerly winds when clearly any passage wasn't on the cards and the chances of finding something good were slim.

Luck would have it though, that Josh rang Will just as they were starting out the walk to the beach, "You do know there's a Stilt Sand at Burnham Norton don't you?" "What? No! You are joking aren't you?". He wasn't, and Chris and Will made there were rather quickly to the spot that saw Josh and Will add Issy Shrike and Dick's Pipit on their lists back in 2003.

Running to the spot, Chris and Will managed a good five minutes or so of brilliant views wonderfully lit, but unfortunately it was just out the range of DSLR, though if JJ was about he would have nailed it digiscoping.

Stilt Sandpiper, Burnham Norton, Norfolk | © William Bowell

Thinking he had all the time in the world to take decent photos, Will didn't check his settings and unfortunately most of his photos came out dark and were on the wrong settings! After five minutes of watching it the bird flew up and away with 4 Dunlin, it seemed to be going high, but then came down further along the coast. It looked like it came down on the pool that held Blue-winged Teal a few days before, so we decided to go and have look for both, with the Stilt Sand relocated but unsurprisingly no sign of the Teal.

As we were walking back news reached us that the bird had gone again! Bugger!

Will really does need to thank Josh for his call, for if we had waited for the text alert to come through we would not have had the views we got of such an ace bird, or worse still could have missed it- thanks JJ (just a shame he never got a chance to see it, but I hope it will be relocated)!

Monday, May 09, 2005

Lesser Scaup

Thanks to the kind generosity of Josh's Mum, the wandering birders were able to hot foot it down to Rutland Water this late afternoon and finally tick off a proper Lesser Scaup. This comes a few months after the putative 1st winter female at Farnborough Hall in Warwickshire, which we made the long and tedious journey to see.

The Warwickshire bird seemed to have quite few irregularities about it, such as the big blue bill and rounded head. However this Rutland bird is an altogether more average looking thing, with no such little niggles to be made about this bird. It hung around a male Tufted Duck at the back Lagoon 3 (so very distant!), which it appears to be paired (the Tufty not the lagoon) with and there was certainly a bit of displaying and chasing going on.

Lesser Scaup, Rutland Water, Rutland | © Josh Jones

For such a brief visit, we actually saw and heard quite a bit, with a couple of 1st summer Goldeneye still hanging on and Lesser Whitethroat and Garden Warbler singing among the other warblers and migrants. Good numbers of Swift and hirundines, reflect what we have been seeing on our local pits in the past few days- but no Alpine Swift or Red rumped Swallows yet; they will come to us!

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Wheatears over the past few days...

There was a superb fall of generally Greenland Wheatears over the bank holiday weekend...

Wheatear, Baston + Langtoft Pits 26th April 2005

Wheatear, Thornham Point, Norfolk, 30th April 2005


Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Whiskered Tern

Whiskered Tern, Hockwold Washes, Norfolk/Suffolk | © William Bowell

With Josh rushing back from a hot weekend's birding in Norfolk (more on that later), and Will rushing to the Whiskered Tern with Mac Bell (thanks for the kind lift Mac!), it was more luck rather than judgment that Josh managed to catch up with Mac and Will and hitch a lift for this potential lifer.

They arrived at Hockwold Washes RSPB reserve in the late afternoon, but were soon on to the Whiskered Tern (lifer for Josh, Norfolk tick for Will) as it hawked insects over the main flash. At first it appeared to be associating with Common Terns, but they were soon belting off down the river (and did so several times).
After a while the wandering birders moved round to the bank which overlooks the Oriole Plantation, where the light was better and occasionally the Tern would come closer and even hawked over the plantation a few times! Unfortunately it never really came low enough for decent shots, so only records were obtained.

Whiskered Tern, Hockwold Washes, Norfolk/Suffolk | © William Bowell

Whilst over the flash, Josh amazingly managed a digiscoping record shot of the tern- not bad for a distant, fast moving tern!
Whiskered Tern, Hockwold Washes, Norfolk/Suffolk | © Josh Jones

The Golden Orioles were calling quite a bit, but seemed distant and non-viewable, but then just as we were about to leave, a sudden movement came from the masses as they all flocked to one spot- at the centre of which was Lee Evans. He called the birds, and they obligingly came to the edge of the plantation including a stonking male, right out in the open (giving the best views the wandering birders have had at this site of Golden O's for some time!).

A couple of Whimbrel flew round and there was a movement of Swifts, which were the only things of note really- a great afternoon's twitch though and once again thanks to Mac for the lift!