Thursday, 29 March 2012

An indifferent week!

With the the upcoming changes at work my time is going to become increasingly busy over the next few months so taking any leave is going to be difficult. My solution is to take a few days 'here and there' and head further afield for long weekend birding trips.
With Spanish sparrow (UK tick), dark eyed junco, rose-coloured starling along with firecrest and hawfinch I decided to head to the New Forest as my first destination with mixed results. Unfortunatly the sparrow didn't show (it was like looking for a sparrow in a housing estate!) but I did spent a pleasent couple of hours around Caldhot Spit before heading into the Forest proper. The weather was stunning and every man and his dog was out but I did manage to find some quiet areas of heath were I had good numbers of stonechats, several pairs of Dartford warblers, my first raven of the year and loads of buzzards.
The plan is to kip in the back of the van so I headed towards Boulderwood for a suitable carpark for the night. No problems and I settled in for the night. The only problem was I must have picked up a stomach bug at work the day before as I spent most of the night climbing in and out of the van being sick and doing what bears do in the woods - the worst night ever....ever!!
With not much sleep I stumbled around Boulderwood looking for firecrest and hawfinch but I really couldn't be arsed. After a couple hours sleep I was feeling much better and went in search of raptors. The site failed to produce any large accipiters but I did get loads more buzzards.
A trip down to Hordle for the rose-coloured starling also failed to produce so I cut my losses and headed home.

The rest of the week has been pretty decent. Managed to add several new species to the yearlist but it was kites that stole the show again.
While out checking on some contractors I noticed all the gulls up over the fresh marsh. A scan produced a red kite coming in from the east. The bird circled around and I managed to get a few visitors onto it. As I walked down to the hide I picked the bird up again. It was quickly joined by a 2nd and almost straight away, a 3rd! All three birds circled up high and went west. A 4th bird arrived over the reedbed and also headed west. Add these to a bird over in the morning (seen from the office window) and at least 4 common buzzards it was a pretty good migration day.

First blackcap and chiffchaffs ringed this morning.

Friday, 23 March 2012


Recorded 20.3oc in the garden today and it felt more like mid-summer that the end of March - even worked in a T-shirt at Snettisham yesterday, almost unheard of even in mid-summer!
The reserve was alive with birds singing including 2 chiffchaff and the first blackcaps (126) of the year. Highlight of the day was a pair of garganey (127) on the new reedbed area. I was out checking a few things out when I thought I heard the croaking call that the male garganey does. I had already checked to pool and not seen them so it was a bit of a surprise to see the swimming across the middle. The birds flew almost straight away but thankfully they dropped onto the fresh marsh. 60 black-tailed godwits over calling were probably the first migrants.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Golden delight

I have made many trips and spent many hours at Wolferton Triangle looking for the golden pheasants without any luck. Yesterday morning I was on my way back from the station in Lynn when I decided to stop for a quick drive around the triangle. Luck was in straight away as there were 2 males crossing the road! They didn't stay long but showed wel.
Later in the day I added a fly-over linnet (41) to the garden list

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Bloody weather!!

The weather forecast for the weekend was unpredictable and so it proved. We decided to go for a Sunday ringing session as the forecast was dry for the morning. I got up a 4:30 and it was pissing it down!!
Every cloud has a silver lining though and after going back to bed for a couple of hours, the rain had stopped by 6:30 so I decided to open my nets. I grabbed some breakfast while the birds were arriving and was pleased to see a few birds had been caught while I was eating. Even better was the fact that in the same net there were 2 lesser redpolls.
Adult male
1st year female
I had the nets open for a couple of hours before the rain came again but not before I had a/the red kite over the garden again.
Later in the day the weather cleared and I was able to open for the afternoon which coincided with a another flurry of birds.
By the end of the day I had ringed 24 birds and re-trapped 2.
Greenfinch - 11 new, 1 re-trap
Lesser redpoll - 2 new
Chaffinch - 8 new
Blackbird - 1 re-trap
Song thursh - 1 new
Goldfinch - 1 new
House sparrow - 1 new
Blue tit - 1 new
1st song thrush ringed in the garden
Don't get many house sparrows in the garden so it was nice to catch this male.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Think I might be obsessed!

I seem to be posting loads at the moment but I am really enjoying it. I have had some feedback from people so it can't be too dull so I am going to keep going.

Despite a wet start to the day (thankfully plenty of office work to do) I still managed to add 5 new species to the reserve yearlist. First one was following a phonecall from David (he is going to find something big this spring) on Gypsy Lane to say a red kite was flying west. I radioed Ray who picked it up over the back of the fresh marsh and by the time I got down the path it was circling nicely over the dead trees - 121.
With the weather clearing up I headed out onto the reserve for the afternoon. Soon added a female stonechat (122) and a pair of wheatears (123) on the grazing meadow and then onto the beach were I finally caught up with the velvet scoters (124), an adult female and 2 1st winter males. A gannet (125) was a nice surprise but I didn't catch up with the sandwich tern that was on the fresh marsh.

Miss of the week, and probably the year so far, was the 3 hawfinches that were seen briefly drinking from the Fen Hide pool yesterday afternoon before flying west. I have seen several fly-overs but never had one on the deck on the reserve yet.

Friday, 16 March 2012

Flutterby ID'd

Following a message from one of my many beautiful readers (thanks John), I have been able to the ID the black and white butterfly from Nameri.
It turns out that it is a Clear Sailer (Neptis clinia) and looks to be pretty widespread throughout SE Asia.
While I am on the Indian butterfly theme, here is one I do remember. This is a chocolate pansy - lovely name!

Thursday, 15 March 2012

NE India 2012 pt2 a

Following a very early start (up at 2:30am) we were the only Western people waiting in the queue for our now delayed flight to Guwahati (something to do with low cloud). Eventually it left about 30mins late. The weather on the flight was clear and we had amazing views of the Himalayas as we flew east arriving in Guwahati in sunshine. The airport was very small (similar to Norwich) and we were soon through and meeting up with our guide Abid and driver Kanak. Bags were loaded onto the car and we were off.
Now every good birding trip is not complete unless you visit a rubbish dump or sewage works as the are usually great for birds. Our poison for this trip was a visit to the local dump and our quarry was the greater adjutant.
Rachael, Mandy and Abid birding the tip
Kites, adjutants and egrets
Greater adjutants
The roads were no better than Delhi and we were soon off the main road onto a track but we could see where we were heading by the large number of adjutants and black kites circling in the distance. As were arrived at the tip the scene was 'different' to say the least. Rubbish piled high with roads cut through, people everywhere sifting through looking for anything of value and birds everywhere. We had at least 180 adjutants, 100 black kites, 3-400 cattle egrets along with loads of citrine and white wagtails. Once Dave and I had got a load of photos and before we got mobbed we set off for Nameri.
Greater adjutants, cattle egrets and locals
Abid told us that the kites were black but I think that they may be black-eared, any comments?
I don't really remember much about the journey only that it seemed to take forever, something that we would get used to!
Crossing over the Brahmputra river was pretty special as the bridge (road above railway) was at least 4km long although there wasn't much water flowing at this time of year. A brief stop by some roadside pools produced 50+ lesser whistling ducks and 15 pigmy cotton geese.
A stop for tea gave us a chance to stretch our legs and we added black hooded oriole, crimson sunbird and small Indian mongoose.
We arrived fairly late (4pm) at Nameri and after having something to eat, had a bit of time to bird the local area. 3 spotted owlets were roosting in the trees by our accommodation and we picked up our first long tailed shrikes, Indian rollers and a couple of striated grassbirds.
Butterfly sp, can't remenber the name
Our first proper Indian dusk - Nameri.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Kites again!

Like buses, you see one and then another comes along soon!

This morning was our monthly WeBS (wetland bird count) count and despite the amazing spring weather the reserve was pretty quiet. There was loads od spring activity with both avocet and lapwing displaying over the new area, chiffchaff singing in the carpark and the skylarks on the saltmarsh were going mad. The fresh marsh was pretty empty of birds although I did find the female red crested pochard that has been missing for a couple of weeks.
Radio messages from Rob telling of loads of birds offshore attracted me to the sea. The promise of several yearticks didn't quite come off as the slav grebe and velevet scoters had gone but I did catch up with the moulting red-necked grebe (120).
It was getting pretty busy so I decided on a change of scene. There had been a few buzzards east of the reserve so I went up to Choseley to see what was on the move. Almost straight away I picked up a raptor way to the east heading my way. As it gat a bit closer I realised it was red kite. The bird nearly flew over my head, didn't have camera ready!, and started to circle over the village. I drove closer to try and get some pictures. Once I had stopped the bird had moved higher and had been joined by a 2nd red kite! Both birds drifted off high west and I didn't get my shot.

The lack of wind encouraged my to come home and open my nets in the garden. Fairly quiet although 10 new birds included a smart little goldcrest.
Peacock and brimstone butterflies and a load for bumbles in the garden this afternoon

Saturday, 10 March 2012


Just as I was about to go in for lunch I heard all the gulls and corvids calling like crazy overhead. The birds were just wheeling around in a stack calling but and not at all bothered by the red kite (40) that was cruising up behind them. The bird came in from the east and circled over the village for 10mins before flying west. I have just heard that it was also seen over the common later in the afternoon.
Added several new birds to the reserve yearlist in the last week including a short-eared owl hunting with a barn owl over the grazing marsh on Thursday afternoon. Yearlist moves onto 119.
Not going to win any photo prizes with this one but I was happy to see the Arctic redpoll feeding just above the picnic tables when I arrived at work last weekend.

Friday, 9 March 2012

NE India 2012 pt1 - a!!

Here are the best of my bird shots from the first site at Sultanpur. All are taken with my Canon EOS 350 and 300mm lens.

Yellow wattled lapwing
Red wattled lapwing
Indian silverbill
Pair of sarus cranes
Intermediate egret
Bay backed shrike
Bonelli's eagle

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

NE India 2012 pt1

I am planning to recount our recent trip to India and will focus on the different sections of the trip.
The planning process started not long after we got back from the States when Dave suggested he was interested a return trip to South America and would we be interested. The answer was yes, (despite all his accidents!!) but unfortunatly the costs were going to be too great. He then suggested India and that he had wanted to go to Eaglesnest for many years....the rest is now history! The trip was organised by Jo Thomas from Wild about India and went without a hitch. If you want to go to India then I can't recommend Jo high enough, we will be using her again.
Our trip was based in 3 places, Nameri, Eaglesnest, ending in Kaziranga.
We flew out from Heathrow mid afternoon on Feb 9th arriving in Delhi in the early hours of the 10th. Getting out of the airport wasn't too bad and we were relieved to see our guide for the day waiting for us at arrivals. Our luggage was put on and into the car eventually, they wanted to drive through the edge of Delhi without strapping our bags down, the madness that is Indian roads began. I spent the first hour with my hands over my eyes as people, cows, trucks and motobikes all tried to kill themselves on our bumper!
Thankfully it soon got light and we were able to look out the window for birds. I think the first bird we saw was black kite followed by some parrot sp flying over. At a toll booth we managed to get out bins into action and bag common myna and a distant black-shouldered kite.
The journey through the edge of town was 'interesting' with people, livestock and general stuff everywhere and that was without the spine-breaking roads.
Eventually we got out of town and the birds started to come. Loads of cattle egret, great white egret, white breasted kingfisher, black kite, house crow to name a few.
After about an hour we arrived at our destination, a small wetland site called Sultanpur. We were greated with the familiar (hoopoe) and the not so familiar (jungle babbler, sunbirds, green pigeons) to name a few. After a needed breakfast we headed out birding. As is always the case when visiting somewhere new it takes forever to get anywhere because all the birds are new. Orieltal magpie robin, rufous treepie, greater coucal, ashy prinia were all things I had never heard of.
The reserve is made up of a large lake surrounded by scrubby woodland and farmland. The lake was full of waterfowl and herons. Most of the waterfowl were greylag geese, gadwall, shoveler but mixed in were comb duck, fudge duck and a large flock of bar-headed geese. The edge of the lake held a monster pair of sarus cranes, 2 white-tailed plover, marsh sand, 6 temminck's stints and 5 citrine wags.
The woodland was just as good with 5 shikra, long-tailed, bay-backed and isabeline shrikes, pied bushchat and the first of the woodpeckers, black rumped flameback.
On our way back to the hotel we checked a short grassy area for pipits and larks. This proved to be a good stop with tawny pipit, Indian robin, ashy-crowned bush lark, Indian bushlark and yellow wattled lapwing all recorded.
We got back to our hotel knackered and steeled ourselves for a 2:30 start to the airport for our internal flight!
All of these images were taken by Dave on the camera he loves!!
Ashy-crowned finch lark
White-tailed plover
Oriental magpie robin
Rufous treepie
Taiga flycatcher
Short-tailed minivet
Yellow-footed green pigeon
That should give a flavour. Next stop will be Nameri once I have edited some photos!

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

8 geese are listed

While we were away in India, the only thing of interest we missed was a group of tundra bean geese that were kicking about with the pinks. Gutting as it was a reserve tick!
Well today I got a second chance. Ray radioed back to the office to say that a large group of pinkies had dropped into the grazing marsh. I got David to pop out to check them and before long he was on the radio. I nipped out to to pick up 2 barnacle (116) and a white-front. Almost a soon as I got back to my lunch David called again to say come back.
On my return he already had one tundra bean goose (117) in the scope. A scan produced a second bird and another pair were found later. The bean goose takes my reserve list to 264

Geese species recorded today:-
Tundra bean goose
Barnacle goose
White fronted goose
Canada goose
Greylag goose
Dark bellied Brent goose
Pink footed goose
Egyptian goose

Male hen harrier over the reedbed on the edge of the village this evening

Friday, 2 March 2012

Get in!

Just got back into the office after the first early morning bittern check of the season. Sadly there was no activity yet but I did get a nice surprise. As I walked back up the concrete road there were a load of blackbirds, tits and finches going mental around a group of elder bushes. As I got closer I could see they were mobbing a corking long-eared owl sat out in the open. Thankfully I had my camera and managed to get a record shot (will post this evening) before it flew off. This is only my second reserve record; the first was roosting in willows by the main path in November 2003.

Probably not the sharpest image as I think I was shaking too much with excitement!!