Thursday, 27 February 2014

Silence should be golden

It’s one of life’s mystery’s that ramblers who love the countryside have a need to talk so loudly- you would have thought if they loved it that much they would SHUT UP and listen to it. Two noisy groups at the pond this morning with one nearly meeting Vlad the Impailer when they scared the s***t out of the Water Rail. Both Smew and LTD remained out in the centre with a few Goldeneye while the Great-northern Diver coasted past farborough spit close enough for even me to get an image. Very little else around apart from Chiffchaff and said Water Rail. Luckily I was enjoying my bacon butty when the heavens opened and missed the downpour that poor Bob suffered. Still plenty of Fieldfare and Redwing around when we left and 10 Snipe were flushed off the scrape by a low flying Buzzard.
Goldeneye by Bob Hazell

Water Rail by Bob Hazell
At least Dave's seeing something different - sent me this image this morning from Spain - O to have one plodding in the fields behind farborough bank. Nine of 80 he saw.
Great Bustard by Dave Cox

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

A sunny day

A sunny but chilly start after overnight frost brought out the runners and walkers big time so our visit seemed more like a walk along Blackpool promenade than the countryside. A similar visit to yesterday with virtually the same birds seen but the highlight was watching a Long-tailed Tit building its nest with frequent body stretches to make sure it fitted the couple’s requirements, an unbelievable structure built mainly of lichen.  The Great-northern Diver decided to be the poser of the day coming in very close to toft bank at 9am when a Ringed Plover flew past but alas the Long-tailed Duck decided now that it’s more photogenic to stay out in the middle along with the male Smew.
Great-northern Diver by Bob Hazell

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Water Rails a plenty

A pleasant walk out to toft shallows with Bob and Keith in very inclement conditions produced long distant views of the Long-tailed Duck from farborough bank which is accelerating its moult. The scrape had at least 8 Snipe though only one was showing on my way back and plenty of Meadow Pipits (25) Fieldfare (50) and Redwing (100) in the same area.

Toft shallows had 3 Water Rail, 3 Chiffchaff, 3 Treecreeper, 3 Siskin and a Great-spotted Woodpecker while on my walk back the wandering Great-northern Diver returned to its favourite spot off farborough spit.
Other sightings included 7 Gadwall, 40 Wigeon, 5 Buzzard, Sparrowhawk, Raven, Peregrine Falcon, 75 Golden Plover over and Long-tailed Tit collecting nesting material.

Male Blackcap appeared briefly in my garden this afternoon.

one of 3 Water Rail seen today - by Bob Hazell

Long-tailed Tit by Bob Hazell

Monday, 24 February 2014

Utina u beauty

While trawling the internet before Christmas I came across a picture showing 45 of 100+ Long-eared Owls roosting in one tree in a town in Serbia and so fascinated that further research led me to put this phenomena on to my bucket list considering the most I had previously seen in one day was five.

Modern farming methods have not engulfed this part of the world yet leading to good numbers of rodents in winter so providing plenty of food for owls, numbers over 500 in one roost is not uncommon while at the same time the townsfolk have introduced laws prohibiting disturbance to the owls or roost sites.
Anyway armed with motivation and a Serbian bus and train timetable I found myself in the square at Kikinda in the north-east of the country not far from the Rumanian border looking at a tree load of LEO’s – ending up with an unimaginable total of 487 Long-eared Owls from 4 roosts I came across thanks to local information gained from some very proud towns people. Numbers had been higher earlier in the winter. Absolutely mesmerizing staring up to theses feathered thrillers and spent some time sketching which attracted the interest of passers-by and soon had a small crowd gathered around me including the local bobby.

The journey to Belgrade produced two road side Great-grey Shrike’s perched on telegraph wires and a brief ring-tail Hen Harrier amongst the few birds seen through misted windows while I was still awake and chance to wander some of the parks adjacent the River Danube overlooking Veliko Ratno Ostrvo Island produced Pgymy Cormorant, a very distant White-tailed Eagle, Hooded Crow and Syrian Woodpecker.

Utina is Long-eared Owl in Serbian.

Thursday, 20 February 2014


A grotty morning so enjoyed the girly curling before it brightened up in the afternoon. Napton on the Hill had 4 Raven 5 Buzzard and a Lesser Redpoll before a heavy rain shower came in while a Barn owl was out at Tomlow quite early. Only other birds of note were 21 Long-tailed Tits at Napton reservoir and 15 Golden Plover going over east.

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

A spring like pond

I forgot it was half term so by the time I walked back from toft shallows it was heaving with plebs and their offspring enjoying the spring like weather this morning and fascinated by the offloading of the fish stock by the platforms as the place gets ready for the season to start on 4th March..

Both the Great-northern Diver and the Long-tailed Duck were distant out in the centre while the male Smew was off farborough bank before being flushed by boats and remained in biggen bay for the rest of my visit. Toft shallows had a very showy Water Rail, drumming Great-spotted Woodpecker and a very pale Chiffchaff and by the time the cloud cover started coming in at least 11 Buzzards, Sparrowhawk and 4 Raven had appeared over the grandborough valley.
Other sightings included 60 Wigeon, 22 Goldeneye, Green Woodpecker, Snipe and 500 Fieldfare

Monday, 10 February 2014

A sunny pond

A pleasure to be out today with bright sunshine, no wind and more importantly no rain so my walk to toft shallows with Keith and Bob may not have produced any new arrivals but all the usual suspects still present. Both the Great-northern Diver and the Long-tailed Duck seem to have changed their feeding areas so were more elusive out in the centre while the male Smew was very mobile appearing off farborough bank, toft bay and rainbow corner.

Toft shallows had two Water Rail showing very well along with Treecreeper and the albino Grey Squirrel.
On my return to the visitor centre while Bob and Keith continued on their circuit 150 Golden Plover flew over and a distant Little Egret was behind the Kites Hardwick Fishing Pools.

Other sightings included 20+ Goosander, Raven, 6 Buzzard, 40 Wigeon, 4 Pochard and 140 Great-crested Grebe.
Bob and Keith arrived back a little damp from a mid-day shower having added Tree Sparrow and Red-breasted Merganser.

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Red Flanked Bluetail

Following the Hume’s Leaf Warbler a Red-flanked Bluetail turned up in Gloucestershire near Marshfield while I was in Holland so this morning was our first opportunity to try to add it to my midlands list (counties attached to the West Midlands Club recording area). We entered the shire valley along the Broadmead Brook with it being very soggy underfoot and pissing down with rain to the news that it had not been seen. Unfortunately I went tits up and ended up covered in mud from head to toe and as I sheepishly moved away from those amused at my misfortune I heard the bird calling in a nearby bush and was treated with the rest of those present to the bird sitting quietly for over ten minutes, fantastic views. Many thanks to Dave for ignoring my state and not making a fuss as I covered the inside of his car with dripping mud. Only other bird of note was a Red Kite over Fossebridge.

Friday, 7 February 2014

Sperweruil and friends

Our short trip to Holland started with an overnight journey through France and Belgium before crossing the Dutch border just after first light and made good progress towards Maasvlakye where the long staying Longed-legged Buzzard showed well near this massive container port and later joined by a Rough-legged Buzzard.

Having one of our target birds (the other two were Snowy Owl and Sperweruil) under the belt so early in the day set us up to try for the male Bufflehead on the Gaatkensplas at Barendrecht which we had not planned for so all we had to do was double back the way we came though unfortunately some poor map reading on my part meant we left that site heading towards the centre of Rotterdam before realising my error so our journey to the north west coast at Noordwijk – Coepelduynen became a little fraught but after break and a well needed coffee we soon had the Hume’s Leaf Warbler under the belt.

By early afternoon spirits were flagging as most of the crew had been awake well over 36 hours so decided against going for the Snowy and headed east to Zwolle where the Hawk Owl performed well (called Sperweruil in dutch) – a stunning bird and only my second record after one in Finland in 89 then we headed towards our hotel where after a pleasant meal and a few drinks an early night was called for.

The following day started with a revisit to the Hawk Owl at Zwolle then talking to locals we headed for nearby sites for Parrot Crossbill and geese before heading south east towards Netterden for the Brown Shrike (another 2nd) and then Hengelo for Middle-spotted Woodpecker and Short-toed Treecreeper then for the rest of the day we explored the lanes on the south side of the River Waal west of Nijmegen where there plenty of geese and duck to trawl through plus Goshawk and an immature White-tailed Eagle.

Our final day found us out at first light searching the north side near Bremmel which finally paid off with both Red-breasted and Lesser White-fronted Goose found before we had to head south for our return through the chunnel.
Yuk-emerged from the chunnel in torrential rain so a lousy journey home.
Hawk Owl by Paul Cashmore taken early on in its long stay

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Rain again overnight

Trawled the grandborough valley after another night of heavy rain though luckily despite the land being saturated there were no signs of any flooding just yet. Four Roe Deer near Grandborough Fields was the best sighting though there plenty of winter thrushes, pigeons, Stock Dove, Yellowhammer and Linnets.
After breakfast we joined up with Cym, Dave and Colin doing a farmland bird survey on the basely smallholding to be greeted by the news that Cym had a Long-eared Owl yesterday morning at first light so one to look out for. Apart from the Tree Sparrow flock (40+) and 6 Golden Plover we did not have much else.

Saturday, 1 February 2014

The pond with out rain

After a miserable week of rain and sleet most days and failing to see the River Welland Otters again it was nice to visit the pond at first light without the need for umbrellas or waterproofs. A chilly wind blew across as I searched for the Water Rail which was skulking near the boardwalk while a Little Egret clambered in nearby Sallow's with, Chiffchaff, Siskin, Grey Wagtail and Treecreeper also present.
The Long-tailed duck was close in shore in toft bay while the Great-northern Diver and male Smew were off farborough bank along with a nice group of 18 Goosander (4 Male). Plenty of Fieldfare, Redwing and Meadow Pipits present but no sign of any House Sparrows or Willow Tit in the rangers yard.