Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Norfolk Trip

We spent 6 days in Norfolk on a Wild Goose Chase! The main objective being to see the Pink Footed Geese coming in to roost. This we did in style seeing them come in at Snettisham twice and twice a Holkham. Sadly there will be no photos in this post as my blinking camera decided to pack up again!

The first attempt at Snettisham was spectacular but due to the weather and not the numbers of geese. We waited in the first hide with the weather outside blowing a gale and at times also lashing it down. When the geese started arriving to roost on the low tide mud flats, they struggled to get in! The wind was blowing straight in from the sea and we watched the geese slowly crawl forward against the fierce headwind. Some actually crash landed into the lagoons on the landside of the hide. They literally were falling out of the sky exhausted it was at the same time spectacular but also heart rending as they came down. Happily after a rest most took off again and made it over us and out onto the mud.

So apart from our goose chase we visited various locations and built up a good tally of 81 species for the 6 days. However despite visiting Snettisham on three separate occasions the Pallid Harrier that has been reported every day for a couple of weeks or so eluded us, that's life!

We had a great Barn Owl view at Sculthorpe Moor (Hawk and Owl Trust) as well as a very brief Bittern sighting and as always with Sculthorpe a few Brambling.

Titchwell was great for Duck and Waders with Pintail being the highlight.

As always with the north Norfolk coast, Brent Geese were everywhere, plus a few Egyptian Geese around as well. We tried both Titchwell and Holme NOA for Shorelark and again although they were around, not for us. One of the volunteers at the observatory told us they had just been scattered by a Merlin!

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Eastern China

We have just returned from a 2 week trip to China, visiting Beijing (Forbidden City, Great Wall), Xi'an (Terracotta Warriors), a 4 day cruise on the Yangtze, Guillin, Yangshao and Shanghai.

Of course this wasn't a birding holiday, but we took our bins and the 'big' lens for the camera in high hopes that along the way we might pick up some birds, especially on the Yangtze and Li Rivers, but I have to say it was very disappointing on that score. The holiday was brilliant don't get me wrong, but you always hope that where ever you go and what ever you do, you will find some birds.

The cities were particularly bad, and speaking to our local guides this is a deliberate policy by the Chinese government to keep birds out of the towns.... no birds, no poo!!

One bird that seems to buck this trend is the Magpie! Both the Eurasian Magpie and the more local Azure Winged Magpie:
This one seen at the Temple of Heaven, Beijing.
There was one other bird that seemed to turn up everywhere, the Eurasian Tree Sparrow:

So Beijing was a let down we only added a Spotted Dove to the very short list. So on to Xi'an, again Magpies were seen and in the gardens at the Little Goose Pagoda we came across our first Chinese (or Light-vented) Bulbul. We did see the odd bird of prey but usually very high. This I think is a Sparrowhawk:
So with high hopes we left Xi'an and eventually boarded our boat for our Yangtze cruise. This river is huge! So when you are cruising it is virtually impossible to see anything on the shore or flying around. But we stopped regularly and when moored near the Three Gorges Dam, we were treated to a really good show by Black-eared Kite:
We also found our first Plumbeous Water Redstart here, we were to see loads of these on the Li River later in the holiday:
We were lucky to see a White-throated Kingfisher here, but it didn't stick around long enough for me to swap lenses. As you can imagine, I was mainly using a small lens for scenery etc. So it wasn't always possible to take bird photos.

However during a tour of the dam, we were lucky to find this hopping around the bushes:
Which may be a Yellow-bellied Bushwarbler.
As we cruised along the Yangtze only White Wagtails were added to the list:
The best birding was to be had at the Red Pagoda at Shibaozhi on the Yangtze, with good sightings of Crested Myna, Varied Tit, Chinese Bulbul, Oriental Magpie Robin, Grey Heron, Little & Intermediate Egret and of course White Wagtail and Tree Sparrow again.

As we sailed away from Shibaozhi, we were luck to find these Eastern Spot-billed Duck (and an Egret), apologies for the very poor photo!

We disembarked from out cruise at Chongquing (population circa 34 Million! more than half of the UK, staggering!) and went to the airport via the zoo, to see the Pandas. I know they aren't wild but worth adding to the post..
However being a zoo (not a fan!) there were some birds about, Azure-winged Magpie turned up again, Spotted Dove, amazingly a Long-tailed Shrike, I didn't have my long lens on the camera, as I was geared up for boarding a flight, so this is the best I could do:
We also saw Oriental Magpie Robin again and then a host of White-browed Laughing Thrush:
 Our next birding opportunity came on the Li River as we cruised for 4 hours from Guillin to Yangshao where we were stopping a couple of nights. We thought being a smaller river than the Yangtze there might be some birds around, again it didn't match our expectations, but we were used to this by now. However it wasn't a total loss, I managed some closer shots of Collared Crow:
and a Black-eared Kite pretending to be an Osprey!

There were plenty of White Wagtail around again as well as Plumbous Water Redstart, I managed to catch one in flight this time:
A surprise on the river was the number of Common Kingfisher, we actually lost count of how many we saw in the 4 hours, but of course being on a fairly fast moving boat that kept mostly to the middle of what was still a wide river made photography challenging to say the least:

The river still had a few surprises up its sleeve though and we did catch fleeting glimpses of birds in the trees and could hear them all the time, but they were very camera (and binocular) shy. One bird that teased us constantly (well every half hour or so) was the Slatey-backed Forktail it would fly through and disappear into the trees immediately, so no photos of that one.

We were surprised to see this Greater Coucal wandering along the shore:
This wasn't a first for us but welcome none the less. I did manage a brief view of a Chinese Pond Heron, sadly we were already moving away from it when I spotted it and it was to late to alert Tina, she was indoors on the boat at the time, this is a very poor record shot:

Finally another record shot:
We are thinking a Taiwan Blue Magpie, as the beak and shoulder colour doesn't match up with a Red-billed Blue Magpie (according to our field guide anyway) But also according to the book it shouldn't be there! Anyway that is what I have recorded for now, I am going to put it on the Bird Forums to see if we are right! So that was the Li River.

I though I might just indulge myself now and add a couple of scenic shots from the Li River, it was amazing......

So nothing much to add now we did come across a few birds around Yangshao, again Common Kingfisher, a high flying unidentified Eagle, the markings of which looked like a White-bellied Sea Eagle but not sure, our lost positive ID without a photo was a small flock of Chinese Grosbeak out in the countryside then finally as we were leaving our hotel in Yangshao to get our flight to Shanghai a bird flew into the lobby and disappeared into the light fitting!
I only had the small lens on and against that light not a chance to identify it!

So that's it Shanghai didn't trouble the scoreboard and from there it was the long journey home.
Next stop.... the far east again...... Norfolk!

Monday, 19 October 2015

RSPB Marshside

Recently we went up to Cheshire and then on to RSPB Marshside for the afternoon. We were at my sister in laws house by the River Weaver and before heading off to Marshside this lovely Grey Wagtail presented itself:
So off to Marshide, just over an hour away, but on the way we drove past the entrance to Marsh Mere Wood NR of the Lancashire Wildlife Trust, so we decided it would be rude not to drop in and see what was there. We didn't have long so we used the facilities and just went to the two hides nearest the car park. The first hide gave us plenty of Teal, Wigeon, Black-headed Gulls, a single Cormorant, some Canada Geese, a Little Grebe and a Grey Heron:
A couple of Buzzards flew over just before leaving the hide which was nice, also a Kingfisher made an appearance but Tina and myself missed it, but both Jo & Jimmy saw it.... so they tell us! At the next hide it wes very quiet until a flock of Canadas turned up......

So on to Marshside, we began our visit at the visitor centre (where coffee was had!) followed by a circuit of the reserve. So I'll start with some pics from the visitor centre:
This Kestrel gave us a good show, pouncing and hovering:

A good number of Black-tailed Godwit were to the right of the hide:
along with plenty of Wigeon
After spending some time at the centre, we set out for as walk around the reserve, finding some Curlew in the scrub.
By late afternoon there were plenty of Pink-footed Geese flying in:
 the numbers whilst not of Norfolk standards were in the hundreds. So with some Sparrows, Coot, Moorhen, Gulls, Jackdaw, Crows,a Mute Swan, two Sparrowhawks and a Wigeon flying past
adding to the tally we finally arrived at the next hide for Tea!
From here there were good views of Lapwing,
more Teal, Wigeon and Godwit:
and a Little Egret on the prowl:
A nice find were two Ruff among the other waders:
Finally a Greylag turned up and wandered through the pools:

On the way back down to Winsford we decided to stop by Martin Mere arriving for the incoming Pink Foots, the reserve was already closed bu good views were had from the Car Park and neighbouring countryside when the staff threw us out of the Car Park!

So a lovely day out yet again!