Firstly my apologies for the lack of posts. The reason is that i've been off work since last Tuesday after according to the doctor most likely slipping a disc in my lower back which has severly restricted things like moving and walking!! Having only spent less than 7 hours outside of the flat in a week the walls were closing in too much and there is only so much daytime telly you can watch so I thought sod it i'm going out. As the weather was dry for a change I headed over to Wilstone Reservoir where after the slowest walk i've ever made to the hide I finally had good views of the Great White Egret that was now on it's thrid day of residence. It showed very well and closer than my only other Herts GWE which was way back in 2003 (on the hottest day ever recorded in the UK) also at Wilstone. 3 Little Egrets and a Ringed Plover were the other noteworthy birds. After about 20 minutes I was starting to ache so off I went back to the car and home again where a Red Kite over the car on the A41 became my 300th in the UK!
At least 10 Jay were in the park including 8 circling high over trees by the croquet lawn first thing. Not something i've seen them do before. 4 Swallow headed SW with a Meadow Pipit soon after. A Chiffchaff was by the yard as was a Sparrowhawk that was soon mobbed by Jackdaws and Starlings.
After dipping last weekend and hearing that it had showed well first thing yesterday I decided to give it another go. So 3.30am and I was up and out by 4am! I arrived on site just before 5am and waited for a few minutes for the wardens to open up. A brisk walk in the dark down to the hide and I managed to grab a seat and waited for it to get light enough to see anything! Just after 6am the shout went up that it was showing but dopey old me was looking in the wrong place until I gained my barings and got onto my first ever BAILLON'S CRAKE (year tick number 200) as it crept around in the reeds just infront of the hide. For the next 5 minutes we all watched this tiny bird before it disappeared back into the reeds and at the time of writing (12pm) hasn't been seen since! Unfortunately theres no accompanying photo as my poor little camera couldn't cope with the lack of light even though viewing through my scope it was clear and light. A big thank you must go to all the reserve staff who have given up their last 2 weekends to allow us to stand a chance of seeing this bird. Bring on the Autumn MEGAS!!
As my dad, step mum and sister had come down from Norfolk for the weekend the whole family went out for the day. First stop was Tring museum where we looked at all the stuffed birds and animals followed by a game of football in Verulamium park in St.Albans as my son wanted to see how good his grandad was as he used to play for Watford FC! While at the park I noted a Red Kite, Buzzard, 30+ House Martin and around 10 Swallow but the best was saved till last when a Yellow Wagtail flew over the car park.
The best sighting of the day was that of 6 Swallow that were perched up in the top of a tree by the cricket boundary. From memory this is the first time i've seen them perched up in the park. A Chiffchaff was enjoying the sun by singing briefly by the river and another Meadow Pipit flew over.
After a great start to the year with 3 lifers by mid February it went very quiet until the dowitcher but a day later and another potential lifer was found at Rainham. So early Saturday and I was in the Shooters hide along with a few familiar faces but as I had to be back home I only had 90 minutes to hopefully see it. Unfortunately it didn't want to play ball and so Baillon's Crake had to stay off my list. Great views of a Hobby catching dragonflies and 5 Green Sandpipers (year tick number 199) were the only compensation.
Heat haze affected photos of the Short-Billed Dowitcher.
I knew I shouldn't have opened my mouth when last Saturday after arriving home from our holiday on Portland I turned to Carey and said "I bet you any money i'll have to go back down there next week!". Forward to Monday and news of a Long-Billed Dowitcher at Lodmoor appeared on the pager had me a little annoyed that it couldn't have turned up a few days earlier but after having seen one in Dorset the year before I wasn't too worried. Forward again to 11.40pm on Tuesday and the noise of my pager mega alerting and telling us all what had been discussed on Birdforum that the bird was in fact a Short-Billed Dowitcher (only the 2nd ever in the UK)! I'd planned to go the next day but getting out of work was tricky so I nervously read any reports of it still being there all day. Thursday and I was at work with my boots on ready to start work until a pager message saying it was still there came on. I asked if I could have the day off which thankfully was agreed (thanks boss!) and I jumped in the car and headed through crappy traffic on the M25 and eventually arrived on site at 11am. I joined the rest of the birders and immediately got onto the bird my first ever SHORT-BILLED DOWITCHER (annoyingly I paid for 5 hours in the car park after it went missing for hours yesterday!) but it was asleep behind a godwit. Whilst waiting for it to wake I scanned through the gulls and counted at least 15 Mediterranean Gulls.Back to the dowitcher and it was still asleep only occasionally lifting its head. After a while it flew closer to us walked a bit then decided to preen right behind a BH Gull! After over an hour it finally gave itself up and wandered around in the open where I managed my 2 shots above. Happy that i'd seen enough and more importantly the barred tertials I headed off for home and meeting one of my blog readers on the way to the car! (I won't say his name as he was supposed to be working in Portsmouth at the time and I don't want him to get into any trouble!!). For anyone reading this I was the one dressed in my all green work uniform!
As it was the last day of our stay I set the alarm for 6am and set off for the bill. Just as I was passing Culverwell a bird flew up from the roadside narrowly missing the front of my car and flew to a tree in Culverwell. It was amazingly a Nightjar! One had been seen early the previous day but had last been seen around 11am so whether it was the same bird or another one no one will know but it was my first ever migrant Nightjar as i'd only ever seen them on their breeding grounds. The only other notable birds were 11 Common Scoter over the sea and my first WillowWarbler, Sparrowhawk and Yellow Wagtail (4) of the week.
On the way home I tried again for the Woodchat Shrike at Wyke Regis but again it didn't want to show. 2 Whinchat, 2 Buzzard, 2 Wheatear, Raven and a White Wagtail were seen instead!
Another day another wander round the bill. A sunnier day had dropped a few more migrants in and around Culverwell I found 2 Lesser Whitethroats and a Whitethroat aswell as a male Blackcap but a Tree Pipit that I picked up calling was seen as it flew directly over my head and onto the yearlist. 200 Wheatear had been seen around the bill but all day I only saw 6! 3 more White Wagtail were on the common.
A quick stop at Ferrybridge saw 3 Med Gulls (2 adult winter and 1st winter).
White Wagtail and record shot of the Little Stint.
Happy Birthday to me! A late morning walk around the bill was a quiet affair with 2 Raven, 2 Peregrine and a White Wagtail making the notebook with 3 Swift over the sea as we had lunch.
Another visit to Lodmoor was had and a Greenshank, Black-Tailed Godwit and an adult winter Med Gull were seen but after a 20 minute search I finally found the juv Little Stint that had been found earlier in the day.
I woke early this morning and as there was a band of heavy rain due early morning I headed down to the bill for a seawatch. Whilst getting ready in the car park a Greenshank flew over narrowly avoiding the clutches of a Hobby. A slow but steady movement of birds was had but the highlight was a dark skua I picked up as it flew past the cafe and slowly headed out to sea. I got the other birders on it and it's small size and fluttery flight ID'd it as a juv dark morph Long-Tailed Skua! A total of 4 Manx Shearwaters along with another Sooty Shearwater flew past but it was Balearic Shearwaters that were showing in numbers. In the time I was present 18 of them flew past of which I found 3. 5 Common Scoter were the last species to get on the list before the rain started chucking down.
We later popped into Weymouth for a wander and thankfully the rain had eased a bit and by the time we had come out of the cinema after watching the new Total Recall the rain had stopped and a walk on the small pier saw 2 Sandwich Tern and a 2nd winter Med Gull fly past. A quick visit to Lodmoor RSPB only produced a Little Egret, 7 Common Sadnpiper and 6 more SandwichTern.
As there was a good bird back on the 'mainland' we headed back North and while driving past Ferrybridge I spotted a Little Egret on the small pool next to the car park. I took Carey to Littlesea to show her the Haven holiday camp that i'd spent many a happy holiday at and also to have a quick nose over the fleet! A quick scan found 3 more Little Egrets and 3 Mediterranean Gulls (2 adult winter and a juv).
Next stop was Wyke Regis where after a bit of walking I picked up my first 2 Whinchat of the year along with 4 Wheatears. Unfortunately the Woodchat Shrike didn't want to show itself. Another juv Med Gull was on the fleet and my first Painted Lady butterfly of the year flew past.
We paid another visit to the Bill early evening and as Carey read her book I notched up 3 Sandwich Terns and another Manx Shearwater but around 4.45pm I picked up a GreyPhalarope as it was heading West. Unfortunately quickly after I picked it up it flew into the sun's reflection on the sea and I lost it disapointing the birder behind me who I was trying to get on it.
As it was my birthday during the week myself and my new girlfriend Carey made the most of things and headed down to Dorset for 5 nights. We set off just after 7am on bank holiday monday and got 2 minutes down the road before being confronted by a car heading towards us in our lane! Luckily a quick flash of my lights and he pulled over and even stopped, reversed and apologised. He was foreign so probably forgot which side of the road to drive on?!! We reached Dorset around 10am and stopped off at Ferrybridge briefly but here the highlight was a single Knot but the number of Ringed Plovers was amazing being well over 100.
As we wasn't able to get into our room till 2pm we headed down to Portland Bill where Carey got stuck into 50 shades of grey on her Kindle I joined a few other birders seawatching in the protection of the cafe as the wind was blowing fairly strong. Almost as soon as i'd set my scope up I got onto 2 Arctic Skuas (both dark morph) soon followed by a Manx Shearwater. A brief lull was broken by the shout of SOOTY and sure enough a Sooty Shearwater flew West. Another 2 Arctic Skuas flew by (1 dark and 1 pale morph) and then 3 more shearwaters were picked up and these turned out to be Balearic Shearwaters. 4 year ticks within an hour was a good start. 2 Guillemot scurried through and just as I was about to head for a bit of lunch I picked up 10 distant 'commic terns'. After getting into our room we had a wander over verne common towards the prison and found the first Wheatear of the trip in a quarry and 2 Swifts over the prison.
Born and bred in Watford,Herts, I started birding when I was just 8 years old because the old next door neighbours garden was very overgrown and attracted birds to his and our gardens! I first went to the Watford RSPB group at 15 and then I joined the Herts Bird Club in the same year. I was on the Herts Bird Club committee for 3 years. I started twitching in September 2001 after i'd bought my RBA pager and within a week of owning it i'd added Red-Necked Stint and American Green Heron! I keep 2 main lists which can be seen above.