Sunday, 28 March 2010

Actual Twitching 2

OK, I've decided that travelling to see birds you've already seen in the UK doesn't count as twitching. Providing there's a viable reason to go birding there anyway. So going to see a good year tick at Minsmere is not twitching - it's a great place, I might have gone there anyway and even if I don't see the headliner it won't matter because there's loads more to see. However, going to see something (no matter how many times you've seen it) in a housing estate or on a petrol forecourt is always twitching. These small sophistries are important. And relevant to the sad story that unfolds below.

All started well, a quick trip to The Lodge to see Crossbill and maybe bump into a really quite spectacular female Two barred Crossbill was well within the rules. Although larch specialists in their hometowns the 2b seemed just as happy in deciduous as coniferous trees, at times showing the full two bars at others just a small square of white on the outers. Wandered back to the car to see that both Pallid and Alpine Swifts were showing well at Kessingland. Now driving across east anglia does sound like twitching doesn't it? But according to the rules it still wasn't - since I'm sure that Kessingland has many other fantastic birds. Also a quick guestimate on the map meant it looked like about a 90 mile drive. As it turned out it was more like 120 since the car's sat nav is shyte and tried to take me via Norwich (almost). Got there, ditched the car in a private road (lose 2 points); walked through some residential streets (lose 3 points) at which point a huge swift flew over the rooftops - Alpine. Seconds later a much smaller bird did the same - must be the Pallid but totally untickable views. Arrived at a caravan park (lose 10 points) - Pallid in the air right in front of us (us including my first sighting of LGRE this year - year tick). Both swifts performed amazingly well, most of the time in the same bins view and often in the same scope view. I'm still surprised the Alpine didn't swallow the Pallid in one gulp.

OK, this is where it starts to get messy. But not straight away. It started off OK with a leisurely drive (almost a pootle) back home down the A12, past the sign for Minsmere thinking it would be nice to pop in for an hour or so but I can't cos I'm due back home to look after the kids. Past Ipswich and straight into a traffic jam. Kinda bored so checked in a totally handsfree way whether anything else was about (not that I had time to see it of course). Bit of a shock to see 2 reports of Lesser Kestrel at Minsmere, the last one 10 minutes ago. OK, so I can't actually do a U-turn on a dual carriageway, not even in a traffic jam. Probably. Soooo... wait for all the nice cars to start moving, get to a slip road, floor the fuck out of the car back up the A12. Now readers with wives or kids will have noticed the flaw in this plan. The missus is going to kill me. Or cut my bollocks off, then kill me. Whichever variation it is, it will not end well. However, if I get back home knowing that I drove within about 3 miles of a really quality UK tick then I won't be happy either. While driving at a legal speed (well it was probably legal somewhere) I at no time checked to see whether it was still there and did not read the latest report saying that it had been seen flying off towards Westleton but not refound. At about 5pm was driving along the access track via Eastbridge and passed a group of birders staring out into a field, clearly not 'on' anything. Got out and found that this was where it had been seen , quick scan produced 15+ Sand Martins and a couple of White Wags. Stood around chatting for a bit when a guy pulls up in a car on the phone to say it's been refound at Westleton. Back to the car, drive down the lanes, park with the 100 other cars. After a bit of a trek (with people running, I haven't been to a running twitch for ages!) pulled up looking across some open scrub with a fence and scrubby trees in the background. After only a few minutes there's a flash of incredibly pale wings almost like a Barn Owl and the m Lesser Kestrel is perched in tree. Gives really good but fairly distant views. The real standout early warning is the flappier flight and the pale underwings that really seem to flash on and off.

Saturday, 27 March 2010

Wandle - migrants flood through

Major passage through the Wandle this morning - one Chiffchaff. For some reason it feels more like a migrant than an overwintering bird. Partly because it's new right here, it's calling and feeding like crazy rather than trying to sing (OK but it could just be a female). Maybe spring is on the way - there's no sign of any Teal or Gadwall so maybe this is it.

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Barnes WWT - spring unsprung

There's been a decent arrival of migrants in the last few days in London (Sand Martin, Osprey, etc) so a visit to Barnes seemed on the cards to see what was in. Mix of birds more winter than summer. Supporting winter were c10 Wigeon, still good numbers of Shoveler (c100); Teal (80+) and Pochard (c40); 15+ Snipe, a Jack Snipe from Dulverton (for some reason Jack Snipe always seem easier to see here in early spring) and couple of Redwing. Running out for summer were a Cetti's in full song, lots of the resident birds singing and GSW drumming, but no Sand Martins or Chiffies. Also around big female Sprawk and Peregrine and Water Rail.

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Actual Twitching 1

OK, but is it really twitching? It's a Bufflehead. Surely it's more like a trip to the zoo? Or a pet shop? Or the petting sections of the WWT reserves.

Anyway turned up at Herbury Gore bright and late (around 9, after getting the kids ready/ fed) and walked round to where a huge crowd of two people were watching a plastic duck bob up and down in the company of a Goldeneye in a spurious attempt to boost its wild credentials. A few photos below - of the usual appalling quality - for instance in the photos you can't see the sticker on its arse saying 'genuine 100% plastic, made in Slimbrige' that was clearly visible in the field. Smart bird, tho. Hoodie, Buffie, I wonder what nearctic quacker the local boys are going to release next? [that gag was copyright of Reservoir Cats]. Also around c25-30 RB Mergansers looking pretty damn smart.

Wandered back home via Burley to pick up the GG Shrike. Scanned all the telegraph wires and picked it up about 5 minutes after arriving. It spent most of its time sitting on the wires, swooping down to pick up lizards. Caught about 4-5 in the hour or so I was there.

Last stop was at a v well known Gozzie site in the New Forest. I didn't start out too hopeful as it was quite late by the time I got there and most of the forest was in shadow. Picked up a couple of Buzzard soaring over the trees so clearly still a chance. After about half an hour or so eventually picked up a male in level flight off to the left, Woodpigeons exploding out of the trees as it flew past.

Saturday, 13 March 2010

Wandle - female Teal exist!

There've been good numbers of Teal on the Wandle this year (this means up to 5 at any one time) but for some reason they've all been males. Today I have proved the existance of female Teal - one female there with a male. Also a couple of Greylag flying upriver and lots of the resident birds singing: Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Robin, Dunnock, Blackbird.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Kingfisher Day

Another trip out to the Wandle with the kids. Just as I arrived a Kingfisher tazzed its way round the corner of the delta. That sounded like there was no relationship there at all didn't it? Maybe what I should have written is that as I blundered around the sightline I flushed a Kingfisher which then leathered it as fast as it could out of the site. Luckily I hadn't flushed everything and also found Gadwall (down to just one bird), 2 Jackdaws and chirping House Sparrows on the tip, 3 GC Grebe on the Thames while Wandsworth Park had 2 Mistle Thrush, 6 Redwings and c10 Stock Dove - all feeding on the playing fields despite the fields being pretty full of people.

Saturday, 6 March 2010

Wandsworth Common

I've spent more time on the Wandle this year so this is my first visit to the Common for about a month - even then just as a family outing. Rewarded by absolutely zilch. No Shoveler left, still c18 Tufties (none of which appear to be paired up yet) and 1 Egyptian Goose.