Sunday, January 22, 2006

Ducking and screeching

What a crap winter it is for the East Coast this winter?! Such early promise of beauties such as Buff-bellied Pipit (yep we saw that!) and Ross’s Gulls (ok, so Pipits are that wonderful but it was a mega and is really a birder’s bird- in that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, gosh now we are going all profound like and rambling, so moving on…), but where are the easy to twitch, lingering wonders like Lesser Yellowlegs (remember that?) and Arctic Redpoll?!

Hmmmm… on second thoughts there is an Arctic Redpoll (or three?!) in Suffolk and the Gulls and Pipit have been good enough to keep us going, so why on God’s green earth did we feel the need to travel down’t south to Londinium (as Catatonia would say- hello to all the 90’s music fans out there) to tick off a dodgey duck and escaped parrots, today?

Because people there is nothing dodgy about the Broadwater White-headed Duck and certainly nowt wrong with the very self sustaining Ring-necked Parakeets (even the BOU tick’s ‘em!)- that’s why! Both Roger ‘The Dodger’ Teasdale and I had been eyeing up this potential double (yep- tarts to the end) for ages (well weeks) and so Roger kindly drove Josh and me down to Broadwater this morning (ably co-piloted by the occasionally asleep Ray Bowell aka: my Dad).

Arriving in good timing (a little over an hour and bit I think- not sure as it flew by thanks to Roger’s humor), we set off along the very muddy track to where the Duck usually hangs out (like a chav- in fact they look kind of chavish in a duck type way; I digress). Our nerves (of steel) were put to rest when a local informed us that it was still there… oh and a Red-crested Pochard.
Red-crested Pochard, Broadwater GP, Bucks.
© Josh Jones

We stopped at the Pochard flock and Josh quickly picked out the corking male Red-crested Pochard which was strutting it’s stuff, or rather just sat there, lazing it out. Surprisingly enough, this was a year tick for me; surprising cos we live right next to a sustainable population and I really should have ticked them off by now. We continued down the muddy track and in among a hundred or so Ruddy Ducks I jammed into the white-beckon of a White-headed Duck. It was awake and fighting off male Ruddy’s (thus proving they can hold there own… oh and by the way Ruddy Duck was a year tick for me as well) but not for long as it clearly excelled itself after 5 minutes and remained asleep for the rest of our visit. A British tick for all four of us- nice start!White-headed Duck, Broadwater GP, Bucks.
© William Bowell (top) & Josh Jones (bottom)

Roger, Dad and I all hung back and showed some local beginners the WHD whilst Josh continued onwards and found a further 2 Red-crested Pochards in the Pochard flock (both females) and blasted them.

Walking back to the car park we found a flock of Siskins feeding in the alders. We had already heard Green Woodpecker from the WHD spot, but now we had two Great-spotted Woodpeckers loosely hanging onto the tail feathers of a Tit flock. Roger did the business when he picked out a Lesser-spotted Woodpecker (or Lesser pecker if you like). Another year tick for me- what a super site!

With no time to spare we moved onto Wraysbury, where the sharp eyed Josh immediately caught sight of 3 Ring-necked Parakeets. A struggle to get everyone on them, we need not of worried as we found several others, deeper in the town. Another lifer for Roger, Ray and Will- but not so for Josh, who had cheekily ticked off a couple of singles that he has had in his garden before now.

Unfortunately these screeching birds were very camera shy, so after a while we decided to make our way home- mission was indeed successful. One more port of call was on the cards though- the female Ferruginous Duck near Bedford just had to be done.

We arrived to find a couple leaving with negative news- not helpful at all, in finishing our day on a high. The Aythya flock revealed no Fuddy (or Fudge if you prefer), but Josh picked out a drake Pochard X Tufted Duck that did a rubbish impression of a Lesser Scaup to entertain us for seconds. Failing to bring my scope out the car (school boy error), expecting it to be easy, I couldn’t really scan the Aythya flock as it was too far away for my bins, so checking elsewhere I located the Fuddy swimming around the reedbeds on the northside, away from any ducks and being rather elusive. Ferruginous Duck, Elstow CP, Beds.
© Josh Jones (top) & William Bowell (bottom)

Josh managed to slaughter it digiscoping style as you can see from his results. It proved a tricky bird for the DSLR set up so my results were less than brilliant. However, it was a surprisingly nice looking bird in the strong evening sun, making some superb reflections with the reeds. I know it’s hard to get excited by brown ducks- but this was definitely more than some brown duck in the evening sun and was an excellent way to round of a day.

Posted by Will

Friday, January 06, 2006

Norfolk 4-5/1

Recently I (Jones) have been suffering from pneumonia so have done virtually nothing aside short local trips. However, my strength is finally coming back, and mum and I decided to go down Norfolk for a couple of days - giving me the chance to get some 'fresh air'.

The afternoon of the 4th was spent in the Cley area. First port of call was Kelling Water Meadows, where the Eurasian Bittern walked around in the open in the cow field just to the south of the main pool. It was very odd to see a Bittern in the middle of a field hunting amongst cows, with no cover whatsoever around it, and an easy way to secure this sometimes-difficult species for the year.
Next we moved down the road to Salthouse, where the highlight was a Purple Sand on the pool by the carpark. Sorted out common waders here like Ruff, Knot, Snipe etc, as well as a flock of Snow Buntings flying around. Offshore, a Black-throated and several Red-throated Divers provided interest, as did Guillemots and a Razorbill.
The regular flock of Dark-bellied Brent Geese revealed two Pale-bellied Brents opposite Walsey Hills, but no Brants.
Then it was on to Stiffkey, where mum left me for an hour or so. Highlights here included Bramblings, Blackcap, male Hen Harrier, Ruddy Duck, but no hoped-for Green-winged Teal amongst the hundreds of Eurasian.
By the time we reached Holkham it was almost dark, and there was no sign of the Black Brant. However several thousand Pink-foooted Geese were noted, as was a Barn Owl and a few Eurasian White-fronted Geese.

A relatively late start saw me back at Holkham; this time in the park. After a while, a female Lesser Spotted Woodpecker was eventually located just east of the monument with a tit flock, which contained both Nuthatch and Marsh Tit. Also, Jays were heard calling. I wandered down to the lake, which was full of gulls. Two Meds were located; and adult and an advanced first-winter. An adult Yellow-legged Gull was sitting on a post on the opposite side of the lake. There were also 12 Barnacle Geese here; presumably the source of the birds often seen with Pinks. I then wandered down to the Gap, where I distantly 'scoped a small flock of four Shore Larks towards the eastern end. I couldn't be bothered to get closer, so went back to the Brents by Lady Anne's drive. The adult Black Brant was showing well with at least four hybrids amongst the flock, some looking fairly reminiscent of nigricans. I grilled the extensive flocks of Pinks, and was well rewarded with an adult Greenland White-fronted Goose and a single Tundra Bean Goose. However there was no sign of the Ross's X Pink hybrid.
Eventually I got cold, and I met up with mum and my aunt, and we journeyed to Titchwell. The scrapes were pretty dead, although two Bearded Tits called from the main reedbed, as did a Water Rail. A lone Avocet was on the Brackish Marsh. The sea provided the most interest with the highlight being a Black-necked Grebe. At least one Slavonian was also noted, as was a Long-tailed Duck, several Red-breasted Mergansers, 6 Velvet Scoters, several thousand Common Scoters, and two Eider. Also cleared up on a couple of easy waders like Ringed Plover and Bar-tailed Godwit.
We then headed up to Choseley, where Corn Bunting was added to the year list. There was no sign of the Little Owl however, though a big flock of Pinks was impressive.
It got dark, and then we went home.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

New Year in not so north-Norfolk

2006 started in Norfolk for me as usual, but due to recent ill-health Josh remained in the Peterborough area with a Caspian Gull under the belt.

Usually I do the North west Norfolk traditional spots on January 1st scoring a comfortable ton with relative ease, but this year, for a new challenge it was decided that a few Peterborough birders would hit the delights of East Norfolk to see if that could offer us the hallowed century.

Setting off from Deeping, with Roger “the Dodger” Teasdale (or ‘Twitcher Teasdale’ as the wandering birders also know him) joining my Dad, Ray and I, at 6.30am, Mute Swan was the first bird of 2006 as 3 swam down the Welland in streetlight.

Joining the Williams’s at their Norfolk pad near Felbrigg at 8.00am was excellent timing with a wee diversion to Cley, kindly hosted by the Norfolk constabulary, who seemingly put away their cones blocking the main Cromer road as soon as we passed (it did gain us the only Buzzard of the day mind!). Bob and Sue Titman also joined the crew and a pleasant walk round Felbrigg notched up near 50 species with Woodcock, Marsh Tit and Water Rail being the highlights.

After some excellent bacon butties, thanks to kind hospitality of the Williams family, we headed onwards towards Happisburgh for some mid-morning seawatching, but soon turned back on ourselves when we got ‘the call’ from John Furse alerting us that yesterday’s Ross’s Gull was back at Cley!

Thankfully it was still there for us to enjoy, but we could only stop briefly, a traffic jam was forming in the car park and we couldn’t spend all day watching this lifer for all- including Trevor the biggest lister among us!

All though brief, our views were excellent as it crawled down the sea wall towards Eye Pool and then flew towards and landed 40 feet away before being chased off by a Black-headed Gull. Unfortunately the only half decent shots I got were when it landed back on the top of the seawall in the poor light.
Ross’s Gull, Cley Coastguards, Norfolk.
© William Bowell

After a pointless walk to a frozen solid Hickling Broad which only gave us Long-tailed Tit, we finished the day at Stubb’s Mill. It was an awesome end to the day with at least 30 Marsh Harriers coming in, with at least 3 Merlins buzzing about, 3-4 Barn Owls and 2 Hen Harriers, peaking with a superb backing track of Bewick’s Swans until there was only just enough light to count 29 Common Cranes ‘gronking’ in- the last bird of the day making it a respectable 85 species for the day! Absolute magic!

We all finished the day with several bottles of wine and chili and jacket potatoes with some rather scrumptious puddings that even the sternest dietician couldn’t resist! Many thanks to Trev and Jane for their hospitality (as ever!) and to everyone else for their excellent company!

Happy New Year to everyone- from the Wandering Birders!

Posted by Will