Sunday, 26 April 2015

Moorland Magic (24/25 April 2015)

Birding the Barnsley Moors with my dad on a flying visit back home over the weekend and we connected with returning migrants such as Pied Flycatcher and Redstart in Cliffe Wood, Langsett and staging Ring Ouzels (4+ - 1 male) and Wheatears near Hartcliff Folly. Both views to the east and west were stunning from Hartcliff, to the 'east' you could see the triple set of power stations along the M62 and the contours of the Yorkshire Wolds beyond, whilst to the west the moorland edge of the Pennines looked stunning in the Spring sunshine, as shown in the photo opposite (Midhope Res. on the left and Langsett Res. on the right).

A check of Ingbirchworth Res. produced no passage Terns, and nearby fields not yet? yielding Dotterel. Always worth a look at this time of year.

Buzzards and Kestrels seen over the moorlands with a single Sparrowhawk, and 2 or 3 Ravens patrolled the uplands.

Nice to be home.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Rainham Marshes RSPB - 18/19 April 2015

Spring birding in full flow at Rainham RSPB on Saturday and Sunday 18/19 April 2015. Swallows moving through and the occasional Sand Martin, with Chiffchaffs, Blackcaps, Whitethroats, Cetti's, Reed and Sedge Warblers in song. Several Wheatear along the riverside path and 'Rainham Ridge' plus a stunning Whinchat. A handful of Whimbrels noted flying on to the reserve at high tide on the Saturday and along the Thames shore on the Sunday. A Bar-tailed Godwit changing into 'sum plum' was on the shore in the company of 2 Black-tailed Godwits (one bright 'sum plum') and Whimbrel on Sunday. A lone Greenshank and a few Dunlin (5) added to the passage wader mix on the reserve the day before. A Hobby twisting and turning after insects over Wennington Marsh / Serin Mound on Saturday was a delight and would have been the highlight for me. However, it was overshadowed by the Great White Egret seen flying from Kent into Essex by the Dartford Crossing shortly after 2 pm on Saturday. Excellent directions being called helped me to get on this monster, and even at distance the mass of trailing feet was impressive. Sadly it was only briefly in view as it soon disappeared behind the estate heading north. Adult Mediterranean Gulls flew downriver on both days.

Small Tortoiseshell, Peacock and Green-veined White butterflies showed well in the sunshine along the Thames path on Saturday. 

Several more photos from the weekend added to the 'Latest UK Bird Photos' and 'Butterflies' pages.

Saturday, 11 April 2015

Some Winterers and some Spring arrivals

A flying visit back home over Easter gave me chance to connect with a female Common Scoter and the wintering drake American Wigeon, both in West Yorkshire. The latter at Swillington Ings where I was lucky to see a flock of 20 Whooper Swans in flight heading west in the evening of 04 April 2015, presumably on their way to Iceland. A nice flock of 35 Sand Martins flew over just before dusk on the same date, but neither Iceland Gull nor Glaucous Gull, seen by others on site earlier, were present in the evening gull roost.

Birded the South Yorkshire moors with my dad and saw 3 Mountain Hares on Pike Lowe (scoped from Midhope) and lots of Common Buzzards ranging from Langsett down to Strines. Finally after many hours of watching I found a passage Osprey over the moors in Derbyshire. The Osprey powered its way north through Howden Reservoir during the morning of 07 April 2015. The Midhope Great Grey Shrike decided to vanish over the Easter period and it resurfaced on the day of the Osprey, but we missed it by less than an hour around lunchtime. Snipe drummed and chipped on the moorlands which held a sizeable flock of 500+ Golden Plovers at one location, One bird in display flight down the road at Cowell Flats as well. The ringing notes of 'bubbling' Curlews dominated the moorlands as did calling and parachuting Meadow Pipits. Chiffchaff's called throughout and Swallows were back around moorland farms on 07 April 2015.

Back at Rainham Marshes RSPB, London on Saturday 11 April 2015 and the highlights were an immature Spoonbill on the Target Pools, a pair of Garganey, singing Willow Warbler and Blackcaps, and more surprisingly a 'wintering' Jack Snipe still present. It showed fairly well from the southern boardwalk mid afternoon.

More photos from this period now in the 'Latest UK Bird Photos' area. Enjoy.

Monday, 16 March 2015

Late Winter Birding, Rasher-gate and Beach Football

Slow changes in the birding at Rainham RSPB late February to mid March. The weather remaining dull, windy with rain in the air on several visits, but one weekend offered a glimmer of Spring. Gull numbers dropped during the period did the wintering ducks. Marsh Harriers put on a nice show with at least 4 different birds present on any visit. Peregrines continued and the local Buzzards took to the skies. Cetti's Warblers became very noisy and Chiffchaff's more obvious. Noteworthy was a single flock of 110 Fieldfare on Rainham 'West' with 33 more flying east early morning on a cold Saturday 28 February. Spring was around the corner as a Sand Martin flew over the same site on a 'balmy' Sunday 08 March. Small Tortoiseshell and Red Admiral butterflies were in flight the first weekend in March. Oystercatchers came in during this period with at least 3 pairs along the Thames during the March WeBS count. More sign of Spring with the reserve's first 'Lurp' (Little Ringed Plover) of the year occurring over the weekend of 14/15 March. A Raven 'cronked' its way onto the reserve in the morning of 15 March and a smart looking 'Scandinavian' Rock Pipit was seen all too briefly from the Butts hide. Would have loved to have got a photo of this bird.

Last month saw 'double yolkers' cooked on the stove for breakfast, this month has seen 'Rasher-gate'. Was I lucky enough to be presented with 2 rashers, or is it just an optical illusion?

Beach football in Sheffield on Saturday 14 March. Owls drew 1-1 at home to Fulham. It felt like a loss, given the way Fulham were allowed to equalise... must play to the whistle! The pitch was bare, very bare! En route saw 5 Red Kites over the A1 near Peterborough and half a dozen or so Kestrels throughout the journey.

Saturday, 14 February 2015

Rainham RSPB late Jan to mid Feb 2015

Birding very settled at Rainham from late Jan through mid Feb 2015.

Wintering waders put on a good show with swirling Dunlin flocks joining the Lapwings and Golden Plovers throughout. Over 100 Redshanks roosting along the Thames with similar numbers of Black-tailed Godwits. The Ruff continues to winter at Coldharbour Point alongside Redshank and Snipe. Aveley Bay holds a dozen or so Ringed Plovers, and today an Avocet added variety.

An increase in Little Egrets over the last few weeks and wintering duck remained, including double figures of Pintail. Displaying Teal and Shelduck squabbling mid Feb, as well as the first 'whinnying' Little Grebe.

Raptors seen included Marsh Harriers, Buzzards, Kestrel and Peregrine. Marsh Harriers being especially impressive with a female seen chasing a Shoveler today and later seen flying high above the reserve surveying its patch. A week ago Peregrines were particularly active over the reserve with multiple sightings during that particular visit.

All the 5 commoner Gulls throughout and today saw a cracking Caspian Gull (1st w) resting with similar aged Herring and GBB Gulls on the shore at low tide opposite the RSPB centre. Several colour-ringed BH Gulls (yellow) read in the field at Stone Barges proved to be of local origin.

Ravens entertained most weekends and the one shown opposite was seen today looking out of place on a post in Wennington Marsh. It had just robbed an imm. GBB Gull of a scrap of food. Multiple pairs of Stonechats overwinter but did not see any today, Cetti's Warblers shout and Chiffchaffs call, and last week a Bullfinch 'piped' overhead. A Water Pipit showed west of Stone barges on the day of the February WeBS count.

What's the birding highlight of the last few weeks? A choice between Caspian Gull, Ravens or Marsh Harriers? Whilst the Caspian Gull was stunning and the regular Ravens and ca. 10 Marsh Harriers in the area were perhaps unheard of just a few years ago, the birding highlight came from left field. It was from breakfast today with the gang - which produced not one, not two, but five 'double-yolkers', two shown opposite.

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Caspian Gull on the yearlist - Rainham Marshes RSPB

Back birding at Rainham RSPB walking the long route from Rainham railway station to the reserve taking in the Stone Barges and Wennington Marsh. On the way to the Stone Barges a Great Spotted Woodpecker was noteworthy flying into a tree on the marsh by the railway station known as Rainham 'north'. The marsh known as Rainham 'west', south of the A13 and west of the Silt Lagoons, was quiet with a couple of calling Cetti's Warblers noted. The 5 'common' gull species present at low tide at the Stone Barges and several with 'bling', but the keen westerly wind made noting the details of the colour-rings impossible. A Rock Pipit was present and 4 Black-tailed Godwits flew upriver. 19 'Blackwits' were roosting west of Aveley Bay and Coldharbour Point held the wintering Ruff. Moving on and the highlight of the day for me was the 1st winter Caspian Gull present with 50 or so large gulls roosting on Wennington Marsh. This distinctive bird stood out and views allowed for comparison with similarly aged Herring Gulls as they swam together and also walked side by side. Marsh Harriers flew over the marsh/silts and Buzzards were over the A13.

On the reserve the Dunlin flock swirled around at high tide and at least 11 Curlews roosted. An Avocet moved from Aveley Bay to Purfleet Scrape on the rising tide. Loads of duck present on the reserve and the fine weather saw Teal displaying. 2 Ravens frequented the reserve mid afternoon and the Brown Rat shown opposite made the Reed Buntings visiting the woodland feeders feel a bit nervy. Stonechats present and a couple of Rock Pipits flew towards the MDZ in the afternoon. The Cordite store was very quiet.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Rainham Marshes RSPB 17/18 January 2015

Two visits to Rainham Marshes RSPB over the weekend, and a wintry feel to the place. Lots of Gulls around the Stone Barges/landfill but I couldn't pick out any of the scarcities. Peregrine flew over on Saturday and nearby Wennington Marsh held at least 3 cc Marsh Harriers with 2 circling Buzzards on the same day. Stonechats and Cetti's Warblers added to the mix and Song Thrushes and Redwings were particularly evident.

Sunday was WeBs count day and I covered the shoreline from just west of Stone Barges down to the RSPB centre. 200 Redshank, 15 Black-tailed Godwits, Ruff, Snipe and Curlew were seen with a variety of ducks, but, the above were, perhaps, overshadowed by 4 Egyptian Geese flying up river between Aveley Bay and Coldharbour Point. On the reserve over 200 Dunlin graced Purfleet Scrape alongside lots of Snipe, Lapwing and Golden Plover. This scrape, viewable from the centre is coming into its own. Along the northern boardwalk the Water Rail in the photo was showing nicely on Sunday attracting loads of regulars and visitors alike. Several Rock Pipits along the shoreline between Stone Barges and the RSPB centre and a smart Water Pipit showing and calling near Coldharbour Point. A subtle 'wist' compared with the 'weest' of the "Rockit".