Sunday, 19 March 2017

Cattle Egret

A Cattle Egret this lunchtime along White Dyke in the sheep fields, loosely consorting with a Little Egret. On Down Level 12 Gadwall, 7 Shoveler, single drake Shelduck, and a cream cap Marsh Harrier.

Friday, 17 March 2017

Days Like These

What a week its been, a week of bacchanalian splendour at home and away! Having spent the 11th up at Twickenham watching the men in white drub Scotland 61-21 I had to haul myself onto the levels for Sundays' WEBS. Highlight was the Bittern which was on Horse-eye again, however there were very few duck with only a pair of Pintail, a single male Tufted, and a smattering of Wigeon and Teal. The scarce geese seem to have moved on.
The warmer temperatures have encouraged me to run the moth trap on a couple of occasions' and the Early Grey pictured above was one of two overnight on the 10th.
All to play for in the Arkle as Charbel knuckles on landing
And so to two wonderful days at the Cheltenham festival on Tuesday and Wednesday in the company of Paul Chapman, Greg Brinkley, and of course James. The festival is definitely my highlight of the sporting year and the welfare of the horse is always to the forefront as we witnessed with Edwulf on the Tuesday. The vets and course workers cannot be praised highly enough for their quick actions. The picture above shows Altior on the far side coming to win his race although if Charbel in the foreground had stood up who knows...
Wednesday morning saw us in Stow on the Wold before heading for the track. On cue the Blue Rock Thrush popped up on top of the roof and pootled about for us providing a UK tick for both Greg and myself. Twitching sated we headed to the course and I actually managed to back a couple of winners in the shape of Willoughby Court and Might Bite! The pictures below show the mighty Sprinter Sacre parading before racing and the runners in the cross country heading out towards the back of the course with Cleeve Hill in the background. Stay strong.

Saturday, 4 March 2017

Bean again

Tundra Bean again present on Horse-eye showing well in the fields behind Mappins with 20 Russian White-fronts. Took some time to take a proper look through the White-fronts and counted 8 adults, which logically means the balance of 12 are immatures. Plenty of Raven activity and a couple of Gadwall.
At Normans Bay this morning a single Eider and a single Fulmar west. A brief stop at Birling Gap yesterday (3rd) yielded the ever spectacular sight of a flock of 120 Brents chugging up channel, migration in action!

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Tundra Bean Goose

Early today (19th) saw me wandering the levels with Hazel the labrador in tow and my scope slung over my shoulder. Aside from a single Jack Snipe we encountered nothing of any note on Down level so decided to head across Horse-eye towards Snapsons' Drove.
As we commenced crossing the footpath I picked up the flock of Russian White-fronts that has been steadily growing through the last couple of months so stopped to count them. Suddenly whats this, dark head, dark bill with restricted orange, a Tundra Beaner amongst the white-fronts of which there are only 19...
Also another Jack on Horse-eye. This evening a single ringtail into roost on the BTO survey count, although no sign of any SEO and surprisingly no Marsh Harriers. Keep the faith!

Saturday, 18 February 2017

B is for Boom birding

The levels in winter is the place to be, albeit hard work. The 12ths WEBS was short on duck but had the extra special bonus of a Bittern near to Snapsons' Drove. Presumably this was the bird "flushed" by the hunt near Horse-eye Green last month. Duck highlight was the 3 Pintail on Down and a single Peregrine was also seen on Horse-eye. This is the first winter for a considerable time that I am not regularly seeing both the resident Peregrine together...
Yesterday the 17th I took a late afternoon potter across Horse-eye without my scope, typically the place was heaving with birds (when will I learn) with a flock of 1000+ Lapwing and some 500+ Starling and lots of geese. Sifting my way through the geese I could not see any obvious Beaners or Pinkfeet but I did manage a single dark bellied Brent, only my second on the patch, and 20 Whitefront at the back of Mappins. Almost of more interest was the bird song with Reed Bunting, Cettis, and Water Rail all singing, a sure sign that the dark days of winter are drawing to a close... Today the 18th a wander around Normans Bay produced single Eider, 10+ Red Throated Diver, 30+ Great Crested Grebe, and 4 Common Scoter.

Elsewhere I managed to escape the pressures of work over the weekend of the 11th and 12th and catch up with a few local bits and pieces. A Twite in the Cuckmere on the 11th was the first I have seen for donkeys, probably since the regular wintering flock was last on the Swale, demonstrating how little I migrate these days. Also here was a nice flock of 21 Whitefronts, 9 Barnacle, and 4 Ridgways' Canada Geese...
Later in the morning Sharon and I stopped off in Bexhill where the 7 Waxwing were putting on a good show periodically raiding their chosen berry bushes and finally, following WEBS duties on the 12th I finally stirred myself into wandering over to the Tidemills for the wintering Serin which performed in exemplary manner singing regularly from within the ruins and foraging on the ground. All good stuff!

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Geese again

Today Dawn (above) to dusk all over with Hazel. A bitter frost overnight had left the still water frozen but there was plenty of bird activity with 13 White-front including at least 6cy birds on Mappins fields between dawn and about 10.00 when I met up with Geoff to look around Horse-eye Green where there was a Bittern yesterday, alas no joy but 2 Jack Snipe and a squealing Water Rail were some compensation. Another Jack Snipe was seen on Down Level with Henry. Also 23 Snipe, a ringtail Harrier, 4 Marsh Harrier including a male on Down, Sparrowhawk, 80 Wigeon, 60 Teal, a Water Rail seen on Down, and winter thrushes a plenty.
On Friday (20th) a couple of Marsh Harrier on Horse-eye and I took some time to count some thrushes with some interesting results. I have had a feeling that there are a lot of Song Thrushes around and my count seems to back this up with 55% of the two feeding flocks I counted being Song Thrushes - they just seem to be in every field, hedgerow, and reed bed at the moment! Unlike SEO of which I have seen none this week... On the raptor front there is an absolutely stunning chocolate brown Buzzard around Lookers at the moment, well worth scoping.
No mothing yet this year - too cold, however on the mammal front 8 Fallow Deer (all does) near the observatory yesterday (21st), Red Fox on Horse-eye this morning, and Brown Hare on the WEBS last weekend.

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Brightening up a dull day

First WEBS of the year and its pouring with rain so hauling my sorry self around the levels with Hazel proved somewhat sticky. Still these are the days that sort the men from the boys so we stick it out for the usual suspects including a very soggy female Marsh Harrier at Mappins, a couple of Water Rail, and when scanning the geese... a family group of 3 White-fronts', or should I be calling them Russian White-fronts' these days?
Anyway, since it was miserable and wet after covering the whole patch area and having a late breakfast, I headed up to East Grinstead with Sharon to see the Waxwings that have been on the Birches Industrial Estate. As always charming birds with their high pitched bell like trilling very evocative, I counted 29 but the flock is 30+, not quite the 300+ that I saw here in one of the invasions in the late 90s' but enough to keep me happy in the ongoing precipitation.
Finally back to the levels and Lookers cottage in continuing rain for the Hen Harrier survey. Nothing doing, in fact no SEO either, not unsurprisingly given the conditions but I did however connect with a couple of Marsh Harriers including a close flyby of one of the adult females which sort of made another soaking worthwhile!
Other visits since Christmas included a very enjoyable day spent with old friend Nigel Driver on the 27th December, the highlight of which was a Pink-footed Goose on Horse-eye along with 7 White-fronts (2ad with 2cy and 2ad with 1cy), and a couple of SEO at the ever busy Lookers'. On the 1st of January, again in pouring rain, Peregrine and Marsh Harrier, and on the 2nd Jan 2 SEO amongst the chaos at Lookers.