Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Double Duck Delight - 16.2.15

Harlequin Duck
Black Scoter
Back on the 4th of January the mega alert went off on my pager with news of a very rare duck in Aberdeen. All it had to do is stick around for 6 weeks until I had a chance to get up to see it!! Amazingly it played ball and was still present on the 15th Feb. With this news myself and Steve Blake decided we were both mad enough to head up there in the hopes of seeing it! We left at 9pm and arrived on site at just gone 6am in the pouring rain. We both had a bit of sleep in the car before waking again about 7.30am. As it was a bit brighter and the rain had eased we got ready and headed down to the River Don at the end of Papermill Drive at the western edge of Seaton Park. The first bird I got onto was a female Goosander but that flew as soon as it saw us. I started scanning with my bins and within 15 seconds BINGO! I turned to Steve and said its down there. There some 25 feet away busily diving for food was our first ever HARLEQUIN DUCK! When it had been found it was thought to be a female due to its brown appearance but once photos had come to light it was shown to be a 1st winter male. Over the last 6 weeks it had started its transformation into one of the worlds best looking ducks. So clapping eyes on this slightly blue and stripy bird was well worth the wait. We both watched it as it fed before it climbed out onto some flattened reeds and grass. Due to the overcast conditions my photo above doesn't do it justice. A male Goldeneye was seen and then having a final look at the main attraction only my 3rd ever Dipper appeared some 6 feet away. The initial plan was to see this bird and maybe do some birding nearby then stay over and head back the next day. This didn't happen as just 3.5 hours down the coast was another potential mega duck.

3.5 hours later we arrived in Cheswick in Northumberland. We turned off the A1 and down a bumpy track towards the small beach car park. Passing a farm on the way Steve noticed some Tree Sparrows in the roadside hedge. There were about 25 which was a nice surprise. We parked up and walked along the track to the dunes. We stood on top of the highest dune and started scanning the sea. I picked up a few distant Eider and 5 Guillemot. Next was a lone male Common Scoter quickly followed by a Red-Throated Diver and 3 Shag. Steve had mentioned a scoter flock and I eventually got onto it. I then started scanning through it and it was another BINGO moment as there to the left hand end of the 30 or so scoters was my first ever BLACK SCOTER! Its day glow yellow knob on its bill shone like a beacon and after a nervous couple of minutes I got Steve and another birder onto it. This lost American showed well between dives and waves and we enjoyed it for a good 15 minutes before it went to sleep! I had another scan of the sea adding only a few more fly by scoter and a single Guillemot but one last look of the scoter group produced a nice juv/fem Velvet Scoter which rounded off the day brilliantly. We headed home happy that we had seen both target birds and eventually arrived home just gone 8pm. 1050 miles driven in 23 hours was madness but totally worth it!

Looking back over my old records for the last time I had 2 lifers in a day found that it was last March when I added Rock Dove and Golden Eagle (tart ticks I know) on Islay. Before that it was Black and Brunnich's Guillemot in Portland and back in 2011 Slaty-Backed Gull (still waiting) and Oriental Turtle Dove

Radlett Road Rec - 11.2.15

3 Mute Swan flew over as we were tidying up the rec.

Watford - 10.2.15

Whilst waiting by the van at the new Morrison's shopping centre a 1st Winter Mediterranean Gull flew over which was a bit of a surprise!

Radlett Road Rec - 9.2.15

On the dead area of grass a group of 16 Pied Wagtail were busy feeding. Later in the day I saw my first Butterfly of the year when a Red Admiral flew past the chapel at VR cemetery.

Tring Reservoir - 8.2.15

Another visit for patch ticks didn't produce the hoped for birds that had been seen the day before. That was until I was sat in the hide watching the gulls fly in to roost. After 5 Snipe had flown into the reedbed and a single flock of 30 Pied Wagtail flew past I picked up an adult Yellow-Legged Gull near the Drayton Bank. This was only the 2nd I've seen in Herts.

Work Birding - 5.2.15

9 Cormorant flew over Wiggenhall Road as I was walking to the van at the start of the day and a Mute Swan was an unusual sight as it flew over Watford FC's ground.

Farm Terrace - 4.2.15

The allotments at Farm Terrace behind Watford FC's ground has been in the news lately as the Mayor of Watford wants to sell it off for development of a new housing area and extending the hospital. But while its all in the courts we have to do the odd bit of work there. This time it was the removal of an old shed that people were sleeping in so while loading the skip a Cormorant flew over and my 3rd juvenile Woodpigeon this year was seen eating Ivy berries.

Back To Norfolk - 31.1.15

This time it wasn't birding I was heading back up to Norfolk for but my step-sisters 18th birthday. I was full of cold and could've just stayed in bed but I'd promised I was going. I took my son up with me and as we had made good time and it was still early I headed up the coast before going to my dads. As we drove up to the windmill at Horsey I spotted 4 Egyptian Geese in a field with many hundreds of Pink-Footed and a few Greylag Geese. I got as far as Waxham Barn before I turned around and headed back and just as we  were passing Brograve Farm I spotted 2 Common Crane flying north in the distance. I got Tom onto them and he said another one for my list! It was then onto my dads where after some lunch I went to bed!

Cassiobury Park - 30.1.15

As we left the depot after lunch I spotted a Treecreeper in a tree next to the changing rooms. A Grey Wagtail was seen in a small garage compound on Queens Road followed by another juvenile Woodpigeon this time in Vicarage Road cemetery.

Titchwell RSPB - 25.1.15

My first coach trip with the Watford RSPB group in a long time saw us head to North Norfolk for some proper birding with many a year tick awaiting us! The journey up added Red-Legged Partridge and Whooper Swan in Cambridgeshire and Curlew near Heacham. On arrival at Titchwell we had a wander around the footpath towards the visitor centre hoping that we could spot a Woodcock that had been seen before we arrived but there was no sign for us. Out on the reserve the year ticks started coming thick and fast. 2 Water Pipit were a good start as was my first Ruff of the year. I failed to see them last year! 6 Avocet and a showy Spotted Redshank were added before we reached the beach. The beach and sea produced many new ticks including a nice group of Bar-Tailed Godwit, Sanderling, RT Diver and 3 Goosander in off. 4 Snow Bunting then flew along the beach and 5 Eider flew past offshore. My 100th species for the year was ticked off when 3 RB Merganser were spotted sitting on the sea. The last new bird at sea was a lone Kittiwake following a trawler boat. Back on the reserve we saw most of Norfolk's Pink-Footed Geese in the distance, a single Ringed Plover and then a lovely Barn Owl hunting. A couple of us waited as long as we could before the coach left for Hen Harriers coming into roost but they didn't show for us but we did spot a Chinese Water Deer which was only the second one I'd ever seen. I ended the day on 111 species for the year.

KGVPF - 22.1.15

Having finished marking out the footy pitches I walked back to the van. Suddenly something caught my eye as it flew over. It was a Raven heading towards Cassiobury Park.

Back Garden - 20.1.15

A juvenile Woodpigeon paid a brief visit to my garden with presumably its parents.

Radlett Road Rec - 19.1.15

A quick visit to do a litterpick saw a Cormorant fly over followed by alarm calls and all the gulls on the field getting spooked. Expecting a Sparrowhawk I was delighted to see one of the towns Peregrine zoom over towards the high street.

Mums Garden - 17.1.15

My mum had been telling me of a Coal Tit visiting her garden on a daily basis so I popped in for a cuppa and sure enough one appeared on the feeders. It was then joined by a second bird which pleased my mum as that was the first time 2 had been in the garden together in the 32 years she's lived there.

Woodside - 14.1.15

Whilst picking up some line marking paint from the depot a Nuthatch was calling in trees in the car park.

Tring Reservoirs - 11.1.15

A return visit to Tring in the hope of more ticks started off at Startops Res but apart from a squealing Water Rail it was quiet. Onto Tringford Res and luckily the 11 Red-Crested Pochard were showing well having disappeared on the 1st! The last stop was Wilstone where during a walk around the whole reservoir I noted 2 GBB Gull which are almost less than annual here a Chiffchaff was seen at the base of the jetty looking for food which was an unusual spot to see one. Another was seen in front of the hide as well as 4 Snipe in the reedbed.

Back To Work - 5.1.15

The first day back at work after the Christmas break added one new year tick. That being a Ring-Necked Parakeet at Cassiobury Park. 10 Pied and a Single Grey Wagtail were at Knutsford PF and a male Bullfinch was seen along the railway embankment in Waterfields Rec.

Little B*****d - 2.1.15

Blyth's Pipit
Whilst waiting for the Bittern yesterday I had a call from Steve Blake offering me a lift with Brendon and Ricky up to East Yorkshire for potentially my first lifer of the year. A Little Bustard had been found in a kale field on NY Eve and was still present on NY Day. So with high hopes we headed north but with only 40 minutes before we arrived on site the news we had been dreading came through that the bird had sodded off. We arrived on site just in case but it wasn't to be and so we dipped. We then decided to head off to Hornsea Mere in the hope of a few year ticks. As we drove through the village of Skipsea a male Merlin flew in front of the car and onto the list. As it turned out the only year tick at the mere for myself was House Sparrow! Next stop was Calder Park near Pugneys CP. Here after a 20+ minute wait in front of a KFC the long staying Blyth's Pipit flew up into a small tree and posed for a couple of minutes. This was only my 2nd of this species in the UK. A quick scan of the gull roost on Pugneys added GBB Gull to my year list.

Tring Reservoirs - 1.1.15

New years day saw me up at Tring Reservoirs to get the new year list underway and start my new Patch Birding Challenge list. As mentioned in my last post I have changed my patch for 2015 just for ease of getting there and getting home again.

The list started off in the back garden with 15 species seen. I then headed up to the reservoirs starting off at Wilstone. A couple of Herring Gull were useful as not many are seen there and the first decent bird of the year were 4 Golden Plover that flew over. I don't think I've ever seen this species at Hilfield so the new patch was already paying off! A female Goldeneye was the next noteworthy bird seen distantly from the hide. I then took a wander around the dry canal/rushy meadow area. While passing the meadow an Oystercatcher flew over calling twice which was an early record for the site. But the best bird of the day was seen from the jetty when I picked out the long staying but erratically seen female Scaup. A nice 2 pointer for the challenge! I then moved onto the smaller reservoirs steadily ticking off new species. I ended up at Marsworth hoping for a Bittern to show itself but it wasn't playing ball. Only 5 Corn Bunting flew into roost and a Cetti's Warbler calling was another 2 points on the board. 66 species were seen by sunset so not too bad a total.