Friday, 25 September 2015

A mega at Dungeness, Kent - September 2015

September started off with a bang at Westport, with Spotted Flycatcher, Barnacle Goose, Little Egret and Lesser Whitethroat all seen in the first seven days.

digibinned shot of the Westport Spotted Flycatcher

Our first trip of the month was to Kilnsea on Saturday 5th. We had good views again of the juv Black Stork at Sunk Island and a Red-backed Shrike was by the Blue Bell. The wind was a strong NW and conditions for sea watching weren't ideal. We did manage a few distant Sooty Shearwaters, Manx Shearwaters and Arctic Skua. The MigFest was in full swing, and we were shown a huge Convolvulus Hawk Moth sat in a sandwich box. Finally, we managed a few flight views of a Barred Warbler

Convolvulus Hawk Moth

Black Stork at Sunk Island

juvenile Red-backed Shrike
Saturday 12th September was spent in Staffordshire; the highlight being two Great White Egrets at Branston GP and the Common Crane again at Blithfield, this time in Tad Bay. 

Great White Egret at Branston GP

Common Crane at Blithfield
Saturday 19th September saw a quick dash up to Flamborough Head, where the probable Eastern Subalpine Warbler reappeared for the first time since the 1st. We only just arrived in time to see it before it disappeared for the afternoon. We also saw a Swift (my latest ever in Britain) and a quick sea watching spell saw three Arctic Skua, a Red-throated Diver and a Black Tern past. The following video should sort out any identification issues the bird has.

We then headed across Yorkshire to Nosterfield, where an obliging juvenile Woodchat Shrike showed well.

juv Woodchat Shrike at Nosterfield

And so on to the mega at Dungeness. On Tuesday 22nd, a flycatcher sp at Dungeness was thought to be an Arcadian Fly, obviously a British first. There was no way of going down on Tuesday, but I eventually managed to get Wednesday off. CJW did likewise and we were fairly hopeful that following a day of rain, the bird wouldn't have built its strength up yet and would stay another day (stay now stay now). Unfortunately as we drove through Kent and the sun started to rise there was a deafly silence from Dungeness. We parked up and we were surprised by how few birders were actually on site. We spent about four hours looking around, but eventually at 11:00hrs, and with a count of just six birders left on site, we headed off. On the reserve at Dungeness we saw a Great White Egret and Cattle Egret.

On the way home, we called in at Vange Marshes in Essex. A strange reserve in several ways. Firstly, you walked underneath a road then cross a railway line. The reserve itself had various viewing mounds, but the pools were very distant. We did though have stunning views of the Wilson's Phalarope. The full frame photos below show how close it came to us.

This makes Ham Wall look a picturesque place

These two pictures are actually the way in to Vange Marshes

CJW suggests to Russ one possible direction that the trains could come from

CJW and Russ hastliy walk across the main line to London

The Vange Wilson's Phalarope - crippling views

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Early start to Autumn - August 2015

Saturday 15th August
Following a quick visit to Westport, we headed off to Norfolk where an ICTERINE WARBLER had spent a few days at Burnham Overy Dunes. We headed off from Staffs as soon as we received positive news, something that works on occasions and we may try it again. Following the long walk out on the boardwalk, we were soon having excellent views of the Icterine Warbler feeding in an apple tree. The sun was out and it was a very pleasant location to enjoy the start of autumn. It was also a tick for GAS.

Icterine Wrb in Norfolk. Picture taken in strong sunlight

Saturday 22nd August
The end of August was largely spent birding in Staffordshire, and it turned out to be quite enjoyable. Blithfield started to be a hive of activity. On 22nd August we managed to see one of the Osprey plus Redstart below the dam

Osprey in Tad Bay

Monday 31st August
Following another Saturday spent at Belvide, Branston and Blithfield, I was allowed out due to technical reasons on Bank Holiday Monday. Unfortunately, it was forecast to rain all morning. I arrived at Westport at 0700hrs and did a quick check to see if any waders were along the shore line. I decided to head off while the rain was at its heaviest, and made the short journey to Croxden Quarry - my first ever visit to this site. The previous night's Spoonbill was still present, but looked a bit miserable in the rain and just stood there.

Spoonbill at Croxden Quarry
I then returned to Westport and managed to do one lap. News was coming through from Blithfield and Belvide of waders dropping in, so eventually I headed to Blithfield and the nice dry hide in Tad Bay. I managed to get a seat next to the legend that is Mr Georgie Brain with one of his groups of birdwatchers. The partial s/pl Knot and one Sanderling were still present plus a count of 53 Ringed Plovers (unlike Mr Mant's total of 115)

Knot in Tad Bay

Whilst talking to ESC, I received a phone call from PJ. He announced there was a Staffs tick for me at Berryhill. Finally I thought, RING-NECKED PARAKEET on my list. Alas it wasn't to be. But it was my other huge bogie bird,  WRYNECK. I've only dipped on three in the county, so I quickly packed my scope up and headed off out of the hide. I hurtled back up to Stoke, parked in my secret Berryhill parking space and headed out to this small grassland area lying in the shadow of Westport.

I walked to the Lapland Bunting paddock but there was no one in sight. I rang PJ and he said Nick Pom was walking towards me waving. I couldn't see him either. Panic set in as I envisaged a double dip of WRYNECK and a waving NICK POM. Then following further directions, I found the correct area and there, finally, was a waving Nick Pom (He'd been waving at another birder lost in the grass). 

I stood in the small group with PJ and Rich Powell, and soon joined by the Tony Jackson crew and The Clayheads No.1 Stalker. The Wryneck eventually popped up in view and continued to show on and off for the next two to three hours. The area was full of birds, and reminded me of the hedge at Westport on a good day. There were 2-3 Spotted Fly, a Pied Fly plus loads of Chiffs, Willow Wrbs etc. I finally headed for home, soaked from my knees down due to walking in the long, wet, grass guiding birders in, and with my scope, bins and camera all rather damp. It was a fine Bank Holiday Monday in Staffs though.

So I finally get to see a Wryneck in the county. And in the month of August, I've managed to see a Red-footed Falcon, Black Tern with white wings and now a Wryneck all in the fine City of Stoke-on-Trent. 

Respect the badge!

The Berryhill Wryneck - 3rd record in the city since 1970
Pied Fly at Berryhill. The weather was slightly inclement