Saturday, 31 December 2016

Beddington Farm - Gulls Galore!

I was up before the crack of dawn and the area was not fog bound (unlike the day before) so off I trotted to the Farm in the hope that the previous days Glaucous Gull would make an appearance before the landfill shut down at mid-day.

In fact I was there so early that I had a 45min wait for daybreak which was delayed due to fog that was rolling in! I was joined by ex school classmate Frank Prater and the sifting through the gulls began. The search paused for a coffee break accompanied by some nonsense talk which was interrupted by my words “There it is?” Frank looked at me blankly for a split second and it was hands on the camera to seize the Glaucous Gull moment as it flew from the North towards the South Lake.

That seemed easy enough but it was not until the heavy gull artillery arrived in the form of Pete Alfrey that the gull action turned red hot! A juv Iceland Gull was first up in Pete’s scope and what I fine individual it was right up until all the gulls went skyward and I lost sight of it in the melee in the skies above the sand martin bank! 
Pictures will be on Pete’s blog.

A 1st and 2nd winter Caspian type Gulls were next to be spied on the lake which increased the chances of a Farm full set of gulls by the close of play! Matt and I decided to go to the lagoons to see if the Glaucous Gull had relocated where it had been found by Devilbirder the previous day. The short expedition soon became four but unfortunately all that could be relocated was the 2w Caspian type Gull.

I returned to my corner and Bulldog had a Yellow Legged Gull on the North lake. All we required now was a Med Gull which seem to be as rare as rocking horse.... these days!

Tomorrow a New Year begins and the listers will surely turn up something to feast eyes upon. 2017 will be an European Campaign for me starting in Bulgaria!

A very prosperous Birding New Year to you all. 2016 was not bad at all!!

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Gloucestershire - Blue RockThrush appears!

A Blue Rock thrush that has been around for a week or so has surfaced within my imaginary driving boundary! The forecast was for fog until 1000hrs which would rule the Farm out at least until the sun appeared and had worked its magic.

I set off at semi stupid o clock with a clear road and path until I hit the M25 when the fog began creeping in. By the time I had reached the A40 visibility was pretty bad and almost impossible to drive along some of the smaller open roads near my destination Stow on the Wold.

I had a brief chat with an AFC Wimbledon supporter about the FA Cup game with the U’s in a couple of weeks before finding a spot to view the bird. Views were possible as it sat on a branch of a tree just to the left of two feeders in a rear garden to a house. The bird moved out of sight but re-appeared in the same tree further back. The light was still poor therefore it was to be a waiting game if I was to take any pictures of my quarry.

There have been few records of this species in England in the months of October and May. I heard mumblings about it could be an escape from a nearby sanctuary?! This species is known to frequent ruins, churches and inhabited buildings at lower altitudes therefore its genuine presence is possible! I also wondered how long the bird had been visiting the garden before the news was released. Over to you records committee!

The light improved and the overall blue grey colour was more visible. The bill and eye were dark with the faintest signs of barring on the breast. There was some black in the wings and tail and the legs were dark.

News for the day had broken and other birders were arriving so I stepped out the viewing area had a chat with Gordon and then made my way back home to the sunshine!

I have attempted four twitches since coming home from Paraguay and I had a 100% record thus far! I still prefer patch watching and will therefore keep a sensible balance between both! I wonder what will be next!

Saturday, 24 December 2016

Beddington Farm - Seasons Greetings Birdland!

I took the short trip to Beddington Farm with the previous days storm in my mind! Perhaps something had been forced down by the high wind and rain. It was fairly fresh out with a SW to W blow which had me seeking refuge in the hide. My corner was definitely out of bounds today!

I set up and started scanning the North Lake which was littered with gulls. The ducks that were present had been pushed into the margins, which is common when the landfill is operational. I spied a couple of male Pintail along the eastern edge of the lake.

The gulls became restless as a bird with a streamer flew over the lake forcing groups to head for the skies until the apparent danger had passed. The Pintail took a while but joined the semi chaos above the water circling round rejoining the lake where they had left it. Both birds relocated to Elans Island later on in the morning.

Pheasants became very rare at the Farm until recently with three female and two males present on a daily basis. They have found the hidden feeders and clear up any of the mess the other birds leave behind. They will obviously be lying low for a few days until the festivities are over!

After a catch up with Glenn, Tank and Swift I popped into the adjacent Park to see a very tame but amazing colourful male Mandarin who seems to be in residence on the lake. It has claimed a small rock under a willow and does not take kindly to anything else that moves into its territory. It has popped in at the Farm but only briefly.

I hope that you all have a fantastic Christmas and maybe there will be a fall of birds before the New Year. But the weather is looking mild which may end my chances of Geese at the Farm... 

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Somerset - Very Obliging Pipit!

I woke up to the sound of whatsapp messages ringing in my ear... Viewing of the Blyth’s Pipit had been arranged at Blagdon Lake Somerset. Ok engage brain.. could go Thursday as there is rain forecast for tomorrow. Then just as I had settled for that option Thursday became an impossibility leaving today. I went into headless chicken mode.. I don’t really know why because all my birding gear is packed ready for situations like this.

By 1000hrs I was on the road dreading the drive ahead but to be fair it was a trouble free journey. I took the scenic route via Stonehenge which still puzzles me but my eyes gaze at in awe as I pass the site!

Blagdon Lake was a very picturesque setting to spend the afternoon with very few birders viewing the bird. A gentleman had the bird in his scope so I took up the offer to have a brief view of it before I set my stall out.
The Blyth’s Pipit was in company of a small flock of Meadow Pipits which gave a great comparison to its general shape, long legs stouter belly and upright stance with a short bill. It was bigger than the Mipits with a more upright bolder stance and had less streaking on the breast with a plain buff belly. The bird showed almost constantly between short flights along the shoreline.

The lake also held a few Great White Egret and little Egret who were seen wading in the margins. A Little Stint was taking advantage of the ample food source along the shore. Tundra (Bewick’s) Swan was present at the far end of the lake.

It may have been a lengthy drive but it had been worth the visit. The lake is usually open to permit holders only. Access had been granted for a reasonable £4 day permit. The warden was very helpful but I am not sure how long this arrangement will last for though!

The drive home took me via Bristol which gave me splendid views of the Clifton suspension Bridge before I negotiated the town centre and the motorway home. Woo Hoo!!

Monday, 12 December 2016

Derbyshire - In no Thrush to see this bird!

The last thing I had on my mind last night was a lengthy drive North.. Or was it because at 0300hrs I was awake, bright eyed and bushy tailed without any prospect of just rolling over and going back to sleep! A rapid decision was made to venture to Derbyshire to see the Dusky Thrush which seems to have been around forever.

By 0345hrs I was on the road having filled the car and my stomach. It was a bit foggy out but this did not sidetrack me from my quickly hatched plan. As the journey progressed needless to say the fog got worse and as I started the M1 leg of my journey had me considering the safety aspect as vehicles piled past me at a rate of knots! No wonder there are big pile ups on motorways!

I had left Kiss FM way behind after the M25 and selected some groovy tunes to accompany me on the rest of my journey. Mysteries of The World by M.F.S.B which is another indication of my music preference as I hear readers exclaiming Who??!! (Add a comment if you can tell me what M.F.S.B stands for)

I arrived at about 0730hrs and parked in the Carlton Lees car park. I joined a couple of birders and walked to the site. Good job really probably would have taken the long route to Dukes Barn Activity Centre. An arrow on a piece of card with “Bird” written on it indicated I had made it to the right place.

There were around twenty birders lined up between the building and orchard fence line. The Dusky Thrush was sat in a tree partially obscured by branches. That was easy enough and the bird obliged by dropping onto the floor to consume some fallen fruit. The light was not great but I used the gate as a tripod for my camera and I happily click away as the bird moved around feeding. 

The Thrush was a feisty character chasing off the larger blackbirds if they dared go near the fallen fruit which was clearly its quarry now! It showed for a good twenty minutes before it flew off over the trees and out of site. Fantastic!

I did a brief bit of birding in a field containing the local sheep on the way back to the car had a quick pre prepared snack and headed for the lights of London. Incidentally my music choice was a bit outside my box and livelier on the way home Bat out of Hell Meatloaf. What a brilliant album and great music to sing along (?!) and stay awake too! Woo Hoo!