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Wednesday 30 October 2013

Cormorant City

In 2012 I went to Bulgaria with Bradders, Jono and Dick, it is and still is one of the best, if not the best birding country I have been to including Spain. Admittedly I haven’t travelled all round Europe birding other countries but I have birded Spain a fair few times, Spain is very good but in my opinion not up there with Bulgaria. It is hard to imagine anywhere else reaching the density of the birds that we saw and the specialist species; I have heard good things about Poland and Hungary but am yet to go there.
The long and short of it is that I would like to go back and do the other half, the mountainous region , having said that, would be just as happy to go back to the same itinery and places as 2012, it was that good. In 2012 we more or less stayed on the Black Sea coast ranging from Burgas right up to near the Romanian border with occasional sorties inland for specialist species.

Poda Reserve - a nest box for all

One place that did stick in my head was the Poda Reserve, set in an industrial background south of Burgas and right next to a major highway, it was an unusual place and not you’re every day bird reserve. If I remember correctly we had both Great White and Dalmatian Pelicans here along with Pygmy Cormorants but what it is also well known for is its colonies of Great Cormorants. These have taken over a number of used and disused pylons and used every square inch to colonise and breed on, it is a spectacular sight.

Cormorants as far as the eye can see

Monday 28 October 2013

Black Redstart

Got lucky over the weekend with this full adult male Black Redstart looking good in the sunshine and posing nicely.

Saturday 26 October 2013

Hoo Peninsula

October 26th

As is our habit of last year, Paul and myself dropped into Cliffe RSPB at dawn pre- survey to have a look around, the weather was not great with a strong south westerly already taking a grip at 7.30am.This was to be the pattern for the day, it affected our survey later unfortunately with many species seeking cover, especially the small stuff.

Cliffe though did produce some good birds, it’s still very mild so we weren’t expecting hordes of winter migrants.
We gave it just over the hour with the highlights being 400 Black Tailed Godwit, 20 Golden Plover, Corn Bunting, 41 roosting Curlew, 3 Ruff, a couple of Cetti’s Warblers and 4 Marsh Harriers.
There seemed to be no small waders anywhere other than a flyover Snipe but none the less we saw some good if not distant birds, a good start.

Moving on we headed for the survey site, we made a start on our respective Transects and right from the start it was obvious that it was going to be quite on the exposed Farmland, Chaffinches though as per last week were still moving west.
Eventually I arrived at the river, the highlights from the walk were 2 Marsh Harriers and a Green Sandpiper, a sprinkle of Skylarks but that was about all.

The river, totally exposed to the south westerly wind seemed wader less at low tide other than Curlew.
The undoubted sight of the morning from the river watch goes to a female Merlin firstly mobbing an adult female Peregrine, both birds using the wind well but the Merlin giving the more bulky Peregrine agility lessons.
Following this about an hour later and presumably the same Merlin, Paul was able to see this as well, she went after a small Finch, very likely a Chaffinch, this was pursued high and low with gusto. Half way through a 2nd winter male Marsh Harrier joined in and tried to take the Chaffinch, the Merlin then forgot about the Chaffinch and mobbed the Harrier. It seemed  the Chaffinch escaped from both
there efforts glad to say.

Spectacular to say the least, too far, even for me with the new convertor for photos, as well as this the grey skies gave you little chance of photographing anything half decent throughout the survey, need some blue skies!

Thursday 24 October 2013

Coalhouse Fort


October 24th

After a morning spent at an induction I decided to drop into the Fort after for a couple of hours, the weather as you know today has been cracking.
It proved to be a good move and was rewarded on arrival with 6 Dark Bellied Brent Geese going up river, a good start. Shortly later I had 4 Corn Bunting west, given the light I was hoping for some photos but they carried on flying strongly.
After scanning the waders I had a single Knot in amongst 12 Bar Tailed Godwits and I recorded 234 Avocet feeding.

Dark Bellied Brents heading up river

Saw 5 of these, good to see them coming back in numbers

Birds of the visit go to 4 Spoonbills that came in high from the west at 12.03pm, they were quite away over towards Kent and at one point I thought they would pitch into Cliffe. After some slight stalling they continued down river still high and were lost to view.

Having now looked at the photos, against the sun so not great, it appears as if they are all juveniles, all seem to have varying amounts black in the primaries at distance, bills appeared quite light as well but that could be the sun.

Monday 21 October 2013

Essex and Kent

It’s that time of year again when we start winter surveys, on Friday I made my first visit to the Essex side near Coryton; it’s still very mild for this time of year and being a site a good distance from the Thames I was not expecting too much on the Farmland.
Needless to say it was very quiet to say the least, hardly any Redwing present as yet despite the numbers that have come in and a surprise was not seeing a Corn Bunting, they were regular last year. The highlights came in the shape of 6 Avocets on the Creek, at least 6 Cetti’s Warblers calling, a single peregrine on a pylon and a pair of Stonechats.

Some good birds but as per last year numbers will increase as winter takes a hold.

On Saturday we hopped across the water to the Hoo Peninsula, it rained more or less nonstop from 11.30 until just gone 3 o’clock, despite this we had some good birds and it was quite obvious there was a big movement west of Chaffinch. I recorded over 300 and in amongst these you could hear the odd Brambling calling.
Marsh Harriers were also very evident with no less than 5 juvenile/immature types seen so it looks a good year for them, also watched a Merlin trying to take a small passerine before a Kestrel tried to mug the both of them. Paul was closer to this and had much better views than I.

Other highlights were 4 Common Scoter going up river and then seen to land, and shortly later a flock of 10 Gannets went up as far as the bend, and then promptly came back out again.

Gannets heading up river

Bird of the day without doubt goes to a Richard’s Pipit firstly flying over Paul giving the House Sparrow call and then me, this follows one seen last year on the site so I am pretty fortunate as they can be a hard bird to catch up with.

On Sunday I visited a peregrine site at dawn but unfortunately the peregrines had roosted elsewhere, I gave it an hour then left, as is my habit I dropped into Rainham RSPB on the way back for a brief look see.

Arriving on the sea wall I scanned the river, no less than 6 Common Seals were hauled out on the Kent side but it was evident from the skies that the heavens were going to open up, I headed for the new hide nearest to the Visitor Centre.

6 Common Seals hauled out on the Kent side

I stayed for a couple of hours in the hide, rain most of the time but some brief sunshine occasionally. Messed around with the camera but also saw some good birds top of which was a Jack Snipe which dropped in with 6 Common Snipe, try as I might I could not relocate it.
Also saw a Marsh Harrier putting the fear of god in all, this was the reason the Snipe dropped in, even the Wigeon panicked at the site of it and took flight.

Time well spent with the camera/lens, didn’t quite get the results that I want – sun wasn’t right position, too dark, bloody rain, forgot to change this, forgot to change that and so on, too much to remember.

Little Egret in the murk and rain

Thoroughly enjoyable though.

Tuesday 15 October 2013

Parrot Crossbills

Just my luck

At dawn on Sunday morning I got the chance to see the 4 birds at Shoeburyness, the forecast for the day was not good unfortunately. Heading down there proved them correct and it was raining steadily on arrival, none the less the 4 birds soon appeared in the 2 pine trees and I had good views.
With the rain getting heavier and the skies darker, photography was impossible, I watched them for around an hour with Paul before giving in and doing a brief sea watch where we had an Arctic Skua.

I left with the thought of coming back on a better day; of course this was if they stayed.

On Monday morning I kept an eye on Twitter and sure enough, up they came again, although pretty cloudy and darkish it was showing signs of clearing so headed down again arriving around 11.00am.
The light by now was really good with the sun showing well for a change, a good crowd of around 25 birders were present including Russ and Dave, I got straight on the birds in the same 2 pine trees, they started calling and they flew, sod’s law.

They were picked up again shortly after on a single pine tree east of us facing the sea, we watched them for about a minute, they started to call again and off they went again north west, this time though they carried on going.
A number of us waited for them to return to the 2 pine trees but it was not to be, it looks as if the brighter sunnier weather had called and they were off looking for pastures new.

We did pick up a very high flying Crossbill sp that initially headed for Kent before doubling back and going east but of the 4 there was no sign unfortunately, I gave it well over an hour and then left.

In the brief time I saw them I managed to get a few distant photos, now easier with the converter so that helped although not quite right on the settings.

Hopefully they will return but highly unlikely now, good to meet Graham Ekins again, the last time we met was in Sweden in 2008 if I remember correctly.

Saturday 12 October 2013

Canvey Point

October 12th

With news coming through the previous day of Leach’s Petrel, Puffin, Pomarine Skua and Little Auks seen at the Point, I thought I was in with a shout of catching up with a Leach’s the following morning.
Of course the previous day was a howling north easterly with a lot of rain, arriving at dawn with a few other birders present showed a moderate south easterly, no rain but it was overcast until around 9.00am.The tide was already dropping as a number of us lined along the Sea Wall as we settled down scanning, expectations as always were high, I had in mind perhaps a bird coming out on the tide.
Conditions looked quite favourable and we started to see a few birds, it has to be said not in great numbers but a steady trickle, Arctic and Common Terns along with a few Little Gulls.

Arctic Terns

The bird of the morning came at 8.10am, a Leach’s Petrel, only the 3rd I have seen at the Point, initially picked up more to the Kent side but eventually came mid river after the attentions of some Gulls. It was last seen flying strongly upriver at 8.15am, I suspect this was likely the same bird seen later at Coalhouse Fort although having said that there were 5 Leach’s up river the previous day.

I personally watched from 7.00am to 9.45am and others may well have different totals but all in all not a bad morning, lots of Brent movement as well with at least 400 birds up river early on just after dawn, some flocks quite high as well. I suspect most of these were heading for the fields on the Kent side near Egypt Bay.

We also had a Diver a long way over and the consensus was that it seemed a little big for Red Throated, a good candidate for the bigger species.

My totals were-

Arctic Tern 7
Little Gull 7
Common Tern 2
Gannet 1
Arctic Skua 1
Common Scoter 7
Swallow 3

Tuesday 8 October 2013

Rainham RSPB

October 6th

Despite perfect conditions on Sunday morning, sunny and little wind the site was pretty quiet with little movement, of course I do visit early – 7.00am so it’s perfectly likely that I miss a lot, I am usually off site by 10.00am.None the less in that time frame there was hardly any activity, Aveley Bay apart from the usual flock of Ringed Plovers was deathly quiet with not even a Curlew or Black Tailed Godwit on the mud.

A perfect morning but no birds - Canary Wharf in the distance

A Black Tailed Godwit was seen but this was on the scrape in front of the centre, other highlights were a Common Buzzard sitting on top of the Owl box and 2 Redwings over the Cordite. The Cordite produced 3 Chiffchaffs but little else in the way of migrants, no Crests seen or heard as yet.

Common Buzzard

I did catch up with the Guillemot in Barking Bay over the weekend so a good bird to add to the London List, now stands at 265.

Record shots of the Guillemot

Tuesday 1 October 2013

Canvey Point Sea Watch

October 1st
6.50am to 9.40am


With a high tide around 10ish I headed down to the point and arrived at 6.50am, very murky but pleased to say for once I had got the winds right, it was easterly which then, as the morning wore on came round more to a south easterly.
I was quite optimistic given the strength of the winds, this soon became apparent looking through watering eyes and a shaking scope, hopefully the birds would match my optimism.

Virtually the first bird seen was an adult Gannet; this disappeared upriver at 6.55, a good start which was followed by another good bird, a Red Throated Diver heading the same way.
As well as that there were a lot of Dark Bellied Brent’s around with many coming back out of the river, by now I thought I was in with a shout of some good birds given the early movement.

Juvenile Gannet

As the clock ticked by I had a steady trickle of birds, nothing earth shattering, no Skua’s or Auks but I did pick up another Red Throated Diver, 2 Med Gulls and a juvenile Kittiwake, Common Scoter only numbered 5.
Another Gannet was seen, a juvenile this time but bird of the morning went to a Fulmar heading up at 7.55am, a bit of a rarity at the Point barring the big influx a few years back when Graham if I remember correctly had over a 100.

Curlew- at 1/1600th,could have done with going up a notch or 2 I think as background looks too light

Only a handful of Common Terns were seen, not a bad morning but despite perfect wind conditions it was too bright at times which probably kept a lot of the birds out of the Estuary.

U27- Brazilian Navy Frigate