Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Slimbridge WWT

We managed to fit in a visit to Slimbridge on Monday. This is a first time visit for us, passed it often but never had the time to stop, always on the way somewhere.

Anyway it was a dull day and didn't know what to expect really. I think we found the captive birds interesting, but probably just made us wish that we could go to their real homes and see them in the wild. It does get a bit confusing when there are so many of our own 'native' birds mixed up with them. Good never the less.

After getting our bearings we then made our way around the lakes then the hides. With regular coffee stops of course. 4 Flasks in my back pack today! 2 Coffee, 2 Hot Water.

We immediately got our first lifer. A Lesser Scaup amongst the Tufted ducks. I had seen from the Slimbridge web site that this was around but to see it in the first 5 minutes was a big bonus.

We started at the South Lake Observatory, worked around to Peng then up as far as Holden Tower stopping in all the hides along the way. By far the best for us on the day was the Martin Smith hide. From there we saw all the different Geese (I'll do a full list at the end). Plus we have never seen so many Wigeon and Pintail in one go magnificent. Then the highlights of the day for us. Right in front of the hide I spotted a Snipe busily foraging amongst the short reeds. Although we have seen Snipe before they have been pretty sedentary. This was one was very active and came out in the open a fair bit, plus the weather brightened up, so we had great close views of his fantastic colouring. Then a second one popped out. This was however trumped by our first ever Water Rail, (I know it's taken a long time, we have been to so many places and waited and waited for a Water Rail sighting and it's never happened, today I hadn't given it any thought and it just popped out!) who came bounding (if a Water rail can bound) out of one set of reeds, to run out in the open across  the mud into another bunch of reeds. We only had a 20 second sighting, but it was out in the open and very close. It did pop its head out again for a few minutes but never came out fully again.

So we then did the rounds, over to the other hides (Zeiss, Kingfisher etc,) Then made our way back via Hogarth Hide for chucking out time. Hogarth hide was very good we picked up Redshank, Greenshank and Black Tailed Godwit, who all gave us a fine show.

So left the Centre at 5 and went back to the car, to have a cuppa with the last of our hot water. The Starlings then started to arrive, only about a thousand, but they gave us a great display and finished the day off well.

So our list for the day:

Barnacle Goose, Bewick's Swan, Blackbird, Black-headed Gull, Black-tailed Godwit, Blue Tit, Brent Goose, Canada Goose, Carrion Crow, Chaffinch, Coot, Cormorant, Curlew, Dunnock, Gadwall, Goldfinch, Great Black-backed Gull, Great Tit, Greenshank, Greylag Goose, House Sparrow, Jackdaw, Lapwing, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Lesser Scaup, Mallard, Moorhen, Mute Swan, Oystercatcher, Pheasant, Pintail, Pochard, Red-breasted Merganser, Redshank, Robin, Feral Pigeon, Rook, Shelduck, Shoveler, Snipe, Song Thrush, Starling, Teal, Tufted Duck, Water Rail, White-fronted Goose, Wigeon, Woodpigeon and Wren.

So this takes us to over 100 species and 9 new species for the year so far.

I have added a few photos, I only had a 55mm lens with me so no close ups! (And it was dull, yet again!)
This Pintail came reasonably close:

And some captive birds:
Nene Geese:
 Black Necked Swan:

Monday, 27 February 2012

A Non Birding weekend with Birds!

We went down to London on Saturday to visit our son who lives in Mile End. So not a birding trip at all.

We went down the M40, with the hope of seeing Red Kites along the way, and did we! We lost count at 45. As the weather was so good, they were coming down low over the carriageway and we had some really good views. We stopped at the Oxford services and had a great display by one in particular. We just love the way they turn on a six pence (2.5p for those who only do decimal) Also clocked 10 Buzzards and 3 Kestrels en route.

On Sunday we went out for a late lunch and walked along the Canal at Victoria Park, Mile End. Couldn't help making a list:  Mallard, Canada Geese, Greylag, Black Headed Gull, Moorhen, Coot, Magpie, Ferral Pigeon, Robin, Blackbird, Crow & House Sparrow

Late afternoon we set off home and decided to drop in at Rainham Marshes, we got there at 4:15, they close at 4:30 and shoo everyone out, so in 15 minutes just from the visitor centre
Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Chaffinch, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Robin, Magpie, Starling, Reed Bunting, Collared Dove, House Sparrow, Blackbird,
Shoveler, Wigeon, Teal, Mallard, Moorhen, Coot, Canada Geese, Mute Swan, Grey Heron,
Gulls in the distance of various types, much to far to identify

Was very disappointed they shut so early thought it would be 5pm at least! Oh well it's a long drive back so had a cup of tea and set off!

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Saltwells Nature Reserve

Well I have finally taken my lens in for repair, I was much quicker than expected so decided to have a wander around Saltwells on my way home. Now even though this is only 3 miles from home, I have never ever been before.
I was really surprised by the diversity of habitats, amazing. Having said that I heard lots but saw hardly anything. Mind you I was short of time so couldn't linger as I had to get back for a meeting. Then I managed to get lost and totally lose my bearings. Of course then there was no one about to ask. Finally a gentlemen of advanced years came past and I asked him how to get back to where I had left the car. I think he thought I was a bit daft, but to me the place seemed vast with paths everywhere, but once he'd put me straight I was OK.

Anyway did I see anything:
On the reservoir:
Black Headed Gull, Lesser Black Backed Gull, Coot, Moorhen & Great Crested Grebe

In the Woods:
Robin, Dunnock, Blackbird, Magpie, Woodpigeon, Crow, Great Tit & Mallard (in the Clay Pit)
I did hear a Chiffchaff, plus a few others, but couldn't stop to look.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Upton Warren 19/02/12

Made only our second trip to Upton on Sunday. The last time was in July last year.
We parked up in the sailing club, tried to buy a permit, but there was no one in the office at the club, so we wandered down towards the hides. We met a few people walking back the other way who told us that the main hide is being rebuilt and because of all the activity there is very little about. (Apparently this is nearly finished)

We carried on and as we were desperate for Coffee (as always) we decided to have seat in the second hide (Cuckoo). As suggested initially all we saw where Coot and Mallard. But then some Teal appeared. Then the trees to the left started bearing fruit!
Reed Bunting, Robin, Dunnock, Moorhen, Blue Tit, Long Tailed Tit and 4 fantastic courting Bullfinches! (Oh and a Rabbit!)
Then the Teal obliged, 3 Male and Female came right into the channel in front of us and the males started showing off. We have never seen Teal displaying before it was a treat.
Sorry no photo's even though the light was great, I haven't taken my 300 lens in for repair yet and I can't focus properly even manually, its to stiff)

We decided after coffee to leave the Flashes and head over to the pool. Had some good views of Redwing in the field behind the hide facing the masts. Nothing perched on the masts, hoped for something there but hey ho!

So parked up at the Pools car park and wandered over to the Lapwing Hide. We spent a good while there and were rewarded with:
Curlew (15), Snipe (5), Cormorant, Canada Geese, Greylag, Shelduck, Shoveler, Pochard, Teal, Mallard, Tufted Duck, Mute Swan, Black Headed Gull, Great Black Backed Gull, Lapwing, Grey Heron, Coot & Moorhen.
Round and about the hide:
Reed Bunting, Long Tailed Tit, Redwing, Blackbird, Song Thrush (Believe it or not this was our first for 2012), Blue Tit, Great Tit, Chaffinch, Magpie, Woodpigeon and Crow.

We are off to London this weekend to visit our son, so we might fit in a quick visit to Rainham Marshes, which isn't far from his. But nothing definite planned. Otherwise I have a busy week ahead so don't know if I will get out. A walk to Warrens Hall is due if I have time.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Surprise in the Park!

Well decided to get out lunch time for some exercise and stretch my legs, So a brisk walk around Haden Hill was called for.
Into the park and nothing much to report, Wood Pigeon, Crow, Blackbird and Blue Tit, so I headed on my usual route down to the lower pool and could see the usual suspects their, Mute Swan, Mallard, Coot, Moorhen and Black Headed Gull, no sign of the Canada Geese today. We get a lot of duck hybrids on the pool, so was surprised when amongst the ducks something stood out. To my astonishment there was a female Goosander, definitely a first (for me) at Haden Hill. I wonder if anyone has recorded one there before.
I didn't have my Camera with me as I still need to take my 300mm lens in for repair and the weather is dull anyway. Never mind!
I continued around the park and added:
Chaffinch, Great Tit, Long Tailed Tit, Redwing, Goldfinch, Bullfinch, Buzzard, Magpie and Rook.
Dropped by the pool on my way circuit back and the Goosander was still there.

Just proves you never know!

Monday, 13 February 2012

Scotland The Full Story 5-11 February

Well back at work after a great week in Scotland, so time to make sense of it all.

After Spending Friday and Saturday night with our daughter who lives in Edinburgh. We carried on up to Braemar which was to be our base for the next 6 nights. There we were joined late Sunday afternoon by my Wife's sister (Jo) and partner (Jimmy) who have been mentioned in dispatches in previous blogs and who are our partners in crime when we go birding further afield.

So what did we get upto?
Monday 06/02
The first day Monday we had glorious sunshine but it was cold, so we headed to Glen Tanar near Aboyne, where there are some good walks and 'guaranteed' Crossbills, plus the chance of Capercallie. We got off to an excellent start, right by the A93 was a fishery at Tullich and sitting on his own with a host of Mallard was a single drake Goldeneye we viewed for a few minutes, then set off again.

After turning off onto a B road to get to Glen Tanar we were driving along the River Dee, when a single 'duck' was spotted on the river. So we stopped just in case.
We weren't sure at first, but as she swam closer we were able to confirm a female Common Scoter, a lifer for all 4 of us! Brilliant. When she had drifted away out of sight we carried on and had only gone about 400 yards when we saw two more 'ducks' on the river. Again we stopped, thinking they might be more Scoter and indeed they were, but not Common, 2 female Velvet! What were they doing there? Another Lifer! I was so excited that I missed the turn to Glen Tanar, so went on a bit further and found a turning at a bend in the river, so we stopped for a coffee. (This is a theme in all my blogs. Coffee stops are regular and essential!)
Whilst sipping our Coffees, we bagged a Dipper, Grey Heron and loads of Mallard, sadly no more Scoter!

We duly arrived at Glen Tanar and scanned the pine trees, but no Crossbill, we then decided to go for a walk along one of the shorter trails but not much about, just Tits, Chaffinch and a Buzzard.

So drew a blank with the Crossbills yet again!
We then drove to the Linn of Dee to see Red Deer and back on to the Glenshee Road, hunting for White Mountain Hare. At least both of these turned up! I'm beginning to think that Crossbills are made up and don't really exist!

Tuesday 07/02
Today we decided to drive over the Lecht for Snow Bunting andfor the spectacular scenery, then head down to Boat of Garten for Crested Tit and Red Squirrel, and anything else we can find along the way!

The Snow Bunting duly obliged, they can always be found to the left of the Ski School or on the Ski Centre Roof, sorry the pics aren't great!
En route a Red Grouse obliged us by sticking his head up:
Then a female:

We drove through Garten and went to the RSPB Osprey Center as we know that at this time of year we are pretty much guaranteed Crested Tits and no one else will be there!
So here's a few shots from Garten:

So success! No new species at Garten, but we just loved watching the Crested Tits and Red Squirrel (plus we have never seen so many Coal Tits in one go!
So back in the car, back across the Lecht and back to Braemar, this resulted in another couple of firsts for us. We have been up to Scotland many many times over the last few years and Black Grouse and Ptarmigan must go into hiding when we come up, but we must have caught them by surprise this time! We had a great Black Grouse sighting, 3 in one spot, but I couldn't get my Camera ready in time and ended up with a distant shot at dusk. The Ptarmigan was a Grey Speckled youngster, but a good distance away, so for the record a black grouse (No shot of the Ptarmigan)
Wednesday 08/02
A long trip today, up to Loch Strathbeg RSPB, north of Aberdeen. It seemed to take forever to get there and was bitterly cold with a fierce wind when we did. Thankfully the Visitor Centre was open and allowed us to relax a bit with a good view of a good part of the Loch before venturing out to the hides.

Because of the strong winds the smaller birds weren't about. No Buntings or Yellowhammers to be seen. The geese were all out foraging apart from a good gaggle of Brent in a field the opposite side of the Loch.
There are 3 hides at Strathbeg, one near the visitor centre but with a better view across the Loch and 2 more over the other side. These you have to drive to across the disused Crimond Airfield, that was interesting as you have to zig zag through obstacles to get to the RSPB car park. The wather had turned distinctly dull and horrible, photography was out, I took a few shots but because of the light and distance they are poor to say the least, but it was all worth it as from the second hide, just when we thought there wasn't much about that we hadn't seen from the visitor centre, 2 female Scaup swam into view from behind the reeds! There may have been a 3rd but we weren't sure. But anyway another Lifer!

The list for Strathbeg:

Blackbird, Blue Tit, Brent Goose, Buzzard, Carrion Crow, Chaffinch, Common Gull, Coot, Dunlin, Fieldfare, Goldeneye, Goosander, Great Black-backed Gull, Greenfinch, Grey Heron, Kestrel, Lapwing
Magpie, Mallard, Mute Swan, Pink-footed Goose (We waited until dusk for these to come flocking back), Red-breasted Merganser, Redshank, Robin, Feral Pigeon, Rook, Scaup, Shelduck, Starling, Teal, Tree Sparrow, Tufted Duck, Whooper Swan, Wigeon,

Thursday 09/02
After the 5 hour round trip from yesterday a quiet day today, a short drive to Glen Muick for a circular walk to the Loch. This is really a birding site, but we did see Siskin there last year and hadn't seen any so far this year, so that would be a bonus. The main thing here is Red Deer. As it happens we didn't see any Siskin! The Warden said they haven't been around yet, but the Crossbills have been in her Garden regularly. But not today! So we saw plenty of Red Deer, Red & Black Grouse (typical don't see any then twice in 2 days, (not complaining though!), Treecreepers and then 4 Dippers on the same 400 meter stretch of river!

 As you can see the cloud was low, but no wind, the loch was so still, not even a ripple:
 This UFO did go past though, I couldn't find it in the Field Guide:
 Looks like we were having fun:

 Tina & Tom
 Jo & Jimmy
On a more serious note I was doing a lens change here and dropped my 300mm lens, now the auto focus won't work and manual focus is possible but very stiff. Good job its insured.
He's not impressed and neither was I!
 Two more posers:
 Dipper River: (River Muick)
 Spot the dippers, there are two in this very misty photo:

Friday 10/02
We hadn't decided where to go today, the weather was again misty, low cloud, cold and damp. Lovely!
We looked at the map the night before and found a reservoir (Blackwater) a Loch (Lintrathen) and an RSPB reserve (Kinnordy) all just to the east of the Spittle of Glenshee, so we thought we'd give it a whirl. After about half an hour we found the Reservoir it was frozen solid, not a bird in sight. So we drove on to the Nature Reserve at Loch Lintrathen again frozen solid, just 6 sad Mallard sitting on the ice. We did see a Great Spotted Woodpecker in the trees, but otherwise the place was like a graveyard!
So onto Loch of Kinnordy, this was a bit better, there was some open water in the middle and all the birds were congregating there, just visible through the murk!
We managed, Robin, Chaffinch, Great Tit, Blue Tit and Pheasant outside the hides, on the Loch:
Mute Swan, Mallard, Teal, Wigeon, 2 Goosander and a Drake Smew! (Bonus!)
You can see what the weather was like:
See if you can find the Smew, the Goosander is easy!

As it was so murky and cold Jo suggested after looking at the map, heading over to Montrose Basin. So in for a penny in for a pound, why not. So off we went.
We first went to the visitor centre to see whats what and from their we saw:
Tree Sparrow, House Sparrow, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Blue Tit, Robin, Great Tit, Chaffinch, Siskin, and on the water, tons of Eider! So a couple of year ticks there.

We then drove around to the Old Mill Car Park and walked to the closer of the 2 hides (Wigeon Hide) that are accessible from there as it was getting late. The hide was aptly named, there must have been 2-300 hundred Wigeon on the shore, plus 200 Shelduck, 200 Teal, 100 Curlew, 50 Oystercatcher, 50 Lapwing, 2 Pintail, 12 Goldeneye, 1 Grey Heron, 20 Great Black Backed Gull, 100 Starling, a few Eider and a Buzzard doing his rounds.
This is certainly a place to go back to when the weather is better. There were 4 other hides around the basin, but we didn't have time to visit any others.
So back across the fields, where we flushed 4 Grey Partridge, then had 7 Roe Deer come out of nowhere and run across our path. Oh and a few Pied Wagtail around as well.

Saturday 11/02
Well time for the long drive home, but not without a stop on the way.......
We had booked in at the Argaty Red Kite Centre just off the A9 and was it worth it!!
We were treated to the most fantastic display, our guide Dean Bricknell www.deanbricknellphotography.com was brilliant, friendly, informative and helped me with my photography too!
Again the weather was poor, misty and dull, but I wacked the ISO up, put the camera in Shutter Priority manually focused on where the food was put out and fired away! So the shots are a bit grainy but it gives you the idea!

 The Buzzard legs it as 2 Red Kites swoop in

 Buzzard v Red Kite

 Dive, Dive, Dive

And a short Video Clip:

Plus we heard those Bl@@dy Crossbills again but didn't see them.
Also at the centre:
Crow (plenty of those trying to dig in amongst the Kites), Raven, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Long Tailed Tit, Chaffinch, Robin, Pheasant & Dunnock

We did see a gruesome sight as we were leaving Agraty. The farm has a field of black pigs next to the track, not sure of the breed, as we were driving out we saw them catch a cock pheasant that had wandered into their patch and tear it to pieces and eat it!

So that's it our haul for the week: 72, including 6 Lifers and that brings us up to 95 for the year.

Our next major trip is the Somerset Levels in April, we are also going skiing somewhere in Europe in March, so we might pick up 1 or 2 things there. But otherwise back to our local patches for a while.