Hanchurch Woods - 30th July 2009

It was a mixed day today with a very brief and uneventful visit to Slimbridge and several lifers on the way back. Notable sightings at Slimbridge included 39 Black Tailed Godwit and 13 Barnacle Geese, both near the River Severn.
We didn’t really know where to go on the way back, Sandwell RSPB was talked about and a text from Mike suggested maybe Conway RSPB but we thought it would be a bit out of our way. We’d decided to head home and then spend a few hours down at Brockholes late afternoon to see if we could catch some waders when a second text came through from Mike letting us know 70 Crossbill had been sighted at Hanchurch Woods. Know idea where it was but a quick look on Birdguides (isn’t mobile internet great?) and a quick Google for the place and we soon had our satnav heading in the wrong direction. After ending up at the entrance to a farm on the wrong side of Stoke I re-Googled and found some directions and we where soon parked up at the Dog Lane entrance to the woods. Crossbill are our bogey bird having turned up at Meresands Wood on several occasions to be told ‘they were here five minutes ago’. Well we thought it was going to be deja vue as 3 people walked back to the car park having seen them less than 15 minutes ago but we persevered and after a brief chat letting us know where they had been seen we headed off. After about 20 minutes we spotted Reeces first lifer of the day when a Wood Warbler flew out of the woods perched on the branch of a nearby tree, noticed we were watching it then flew off. (Update on the Wood Warbler sighting: our ID was incorrect, Nick who birds the patch regularly has pointed out it was probably a juvenile Willow Warbler. Many thanks Nick for the correction). Another birder arrived and we continued to move down the path listening and searching the tree tops for at least another half hour. It was when we decided to head back to see if they were nearer the car park when about 30 Crossbills flew in. They were hard to spot at first but as they moved further up the path they became visible and we watched them feed for about half an hour. Whilst watching the Crossbill a Raven called as it flew in the distance soon to be joined be a second.
Before we left Reece spotted another bird and though he nagged me to take a look I only saw it as it flew off. Luckily a guy who had joined us had seen it and let us know it was a Spotted Flycatcher. Hanchurch Wood looks a good place to bird and we'll certainly pay it another visit when we have more time to look around. Thanks again Mike for the tip on the Crossbills.

Brockholes Westland LWT - 26th July 2009

On our arrival we caught sight of a Whimbrel circling the main pit before disappearing over pit no. 1. 2 Kestrel were showing well throughout our visit hovering over various areas around the main pit, it has been reported that there are 2 juveniles learning the trade in the area.
Photo courtesy of Mike Foley

A surprise visitor and a good spot by Reece was a single Barnacle Goose amongst a flock of Canada Geese. Photo courtesy of Mike Foley

Lapwing seem to be continuing to increase though we didn’t do a count tonight, there also seemed to be an increase in LBB Gull and a single juvenile GBB Gull was roosting amongst them on the main pit. One of the Green Woodpeckers was on show again, amazing now we’ve seen it down there we seem to spot it frequently now. No sign of any waders and it’s a shame we still haven’t seen the Hobby though the Lapwing and BH Gull seemed to be spooked on several occasions throughout the evening.

Crete 10th - 21st July 2009

Things have been quiet on the blog for a couple of weeks as we’ve been in Crete enjoying the sun. We didn’t get much chance to do any birding but did manage a few interesting species while we out and about. The area we stayed didn’t seem to have much in the way of birds mostly the humble House Sparrow, the odd Blackbird, Collard Dove and a few Hooded Crow flying over the hotel. Things changed when we took a trip out into the mountains on a ‘Jeep Safari’, our first stop being a nesting pair of Griffon Vulture. They were spectacular to watch from a layby at the side of a busy road, the juvenile stretching it's wings half way down a cliff face whilst the adults soared above on the thermals. The total count of Griffons for the day was 10 along with several Buzzard, Chaffinch, Goldfinch and a Lesser Whitethroat on the way down from visiting the cave of Zeus. We've been looking for a Lesser Whitethroat through out the summer having heard but never seeing one, so it was quite a supprise to spot one quite easily singing an an olive tree.
One thing we did notice was that for an island there seemed to be a serious lack of Gulls, even though we were close to the beach and even had a trip down to do a bungy jump (but that’s another story) we saw only a handfull in the distance from our hotel balcony. We did manage some gulls though on a trip from Aghios Nikolaos to Spinalonga, an abandond leper colony but most were distant and unidentifiable from the photos. The 2 species we did manage to identify with the help of Birdforum members were beauties, the first being a Scopoli’s Shearwater which at first we’d identified as a Cory’s Shearwater. Having never seen a shearwater before it was a wonder to watch it glide just above the surface of the sea. The second was an Audouin's Gull which after doing a little research is quite rare with only 10,000 pairs reported worldwide. On the way back from Spinalonga we saw 50+ Alpine Swift above a rocky outcrop.
At Kinossos we saw more Hooded Crow, Swallow, Swift, Buzzard and Red Rumped Swallow. With 6 lifers for the 11 day trip I don’t think we did to bad especially when we didn’t manage to do any serious birding, next time I think we’ll hire a car and get out a little more.

Late addition as Reece didn't log them, can't blame him we were swimming in the pool at the time but on day 2 we saw 3 White Stork flighing high above us taking the lifers for the trip to 7.

Tichwell RSPB - 8th July 2009

Back working in the Norfolk area again and with a 5am start I’d finished for lunch so decided to get a little birding in before heading home.
First stop was for the Montagu’s Harrier again but no sign though did get a few photos of this male Marsh Harrier in a nearby field. On to Tichwell RSPB and this time rather than the hides I headed down to the beach for a little sea watching. Amongst the Gulls were Dunlin and the odd Curlew Sandpiper, Oystercatcher, Cormorant, Curlew and a handful of what I think were Eider. With the wind blowing hard I was finding it hard to focus my scope in on them at the distance they where so not 100%.
I was hoping for some Tern especially Little but none around from where I was viewing from the end of the path.
On the walk back I spotted what I didn’t know at the time what was the Buff Breasted Sandpiper, I’d made some notes and after a little research once I got home a second lifer (the first being the Curlew Sandpiper). Other sightings of note on the 1Km walk to and from the beach where Ruff, Little Egret, Linnet, Reed Bunting, Skylark, Meadow Pipit, Avocet and my second Marsh Harrier for the day. Near the visitors centre I watched a Caffinch feed its young for 5 minutes, I managed a few photos but with the light being poor the shutter speed was low and with my camera shake nothing but a blur.
I’m sure there was a lot more around but with limited time and the rain clouds pending not a bad haul. Will certainly have to pay a weekend visit with Reece not only to Tichwell but the whole stretch of coastline, it’s a marvellous area for birding.

Fishwick (Preston) & Brockholes Wetlands - 4th July 2009

Parked up and took a walk towards the farm where the Little Owl has been seen but again no sign of it. We did manage a couple of Linnet on the road approaching the farm and a large flock of Sparrows flitting between the various hedgerows, the most Sparrows we’ve seen in a long while. On one of the telephone posts sat a male Kestrel, tried to get a photo but he kept moving on as we got close but a Magpie was a little kinder as it sat and posed for us. Plenty of Swift above the woodlands and a mix of Sand Martin and Swallow feeding over the fields. On our walk back there seemed to be 40+ Swallow sitting on the telephone wire as if they are waiting to go, a little early I think yet especially with the weather we’ve been having of late.
I wasn’t going to report on Brockholes tonight but as Reece got a lifer I thought I better put fingers to keyboard. It was on the approach road we spotted the first Green Woodpecker and as it flew on further up the fencing I managed to get a few poor quality photos of it. The best sighting though was as we left with 4 Green Woodpecker feeding along the edge of the approach road not far from the feeding station. At least 2 were juvenile, not sure about the other 2 as they took flight as we approached. No photos as the auto focus is quite noisy on my pentax lens, need to start saving for the sigma when we get back from Crete.
Not much else around with a couple of Cormorant on No 1 pit and the usual across the main pit. No sign of the 3 Common Tern reported earlier either.

Brockholes Wetland - 2nd July 2009

Another evening down at Brockholes in the sunshine brought some interesting sightings for the area. First we spent the first half an hour or so looking over No.1 pit in search of the Hobby that has been reported on the Brockholes forum but in line with the weeks birding so far, not a dickie bird!
Well over to the main pit and we decided to try and count the influx of Lapwing that seems to be continuing. We stopped at around 40 as they kept taking to the air and we were finding more hidden amongst the stones. I’d say there are about 100 across the whole area which isn’t bad for a bird that’s reported to be on the decline. Moving down to the first lay by we tried to find the Little Ringed Plover, we’d been told that there are some young about but again nothing in sight. There were 7 Teal feeding on the far side of the pit, not sure if they are juvenile or moulting but certainly not in full plumage. 2 Common Sandpiper flaw in at about 8.15 and were very skittish and vocal as they moved around the centre. Late on a Greenshank flew in which delayed us leaving for a while as we struggled to ID it at distance.

One of those weeks.........!

Do you ever have one of those days/weeks were you just don’t seem to see anything? Well this week was mine. It started on Tuesday when I was working in Norfolk and had time to try and view the Montagu's Harrier. I had done a little research and asked around where you could view them from and got some very good directions of an observation point where they had been seen several weeks earlier. I’d set off early and finished my work by just after nine and headed up to the spot. At first I thought I’d got the wrong place but the directions were perfect so no. Parked up and had a good look around to no avail, no other birders there either. I’m not far away on Wednesday so may give the site ago again, it will be later in the day so maybe……
Our next miss was a local Little Owl, again perfect directions (its about a mile from home), and has been seen on more than one occasion as well as photographed. We’ll try for this one again with it being so close. We did manage to see Whitethroat and Linnet as well as a reasonable population of Sand Martin. The final miss was at Blacktoft Sands and although I hadn’t expected to see Bearded Tit or Bittern it’s the third RSPB site I’ve visited and failed to see either. I did manage a new lifer though with 2 Stock Dove flying across the front of one of the hides. Other sightings included 3 Marsh Harrier, Avocet, Reed Bunting Long Tailed Tit, Sedge Warbler and Whitethroat.