Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Terek Sandpiper

Before I waffle on too much about how absolutely stoked and pumped I am to have finally seen this amazing little wader I want to hand out some advise....up to you whether you take it or not. Since being back in the UK I have chased my fair share of rarities and to be honest my luck has been pretty good. So, why the hell I turned around on Sundays twitch I'll never know. Saturday and Sundays birding was brilliant and when I realized that Terek Sandpiper had turned up in Church Norton (1 hour 15 minute drive from home) I couldn't believe my luck. After having a bite to eat with my finally I hit the road. My psychology on chased birds is that if I try for it I am committed and as such don't take notice of negative updates. However, half hour shy of Church Norton I checked the alert to learn the bird hadn't been seen for 2 1/2 hours. In an act of madness I immediately turned around and headed home. I have never done that before. I never will again. I just had the worst feeling I was going to dip. An hour later I was stuck in a traffic jam a few miles from home when I received a text from my mate Dave Baker informing me the bird was back and 'showing well'! 

To cut a long story short. DON'T EVER DO THAT. Always go for the bird...NEVER give up. If you miss it on site after standing for a few hours with other kindred souls, then you can go home with your head held tried. OK, bottom line, the following day I kept my eye on the news and hit the road after work, arriving at 7:00 pm. There was about 20 birders there and as you can see I got the bird. It was not that close as the grainy pictures might indicate but I was still happy with the shots from my 60 x Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ72 at full zoom. This bird has been on my mind for many years and I've dipped on it twice. Some birds on the bucket list are special and this one certainly fits the bill...see what I did there:)

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Thursley Common - Part 2

Had a great Fathers Day morning back on Thursley Common. To continue my heathland themed weekend I spent some very enjoyable hours watching the aerobatics of an amazing little hunter - the Eurasian Hobby. My first real encounter with this species was in 1995 while ringing at Elms Farm in Sussex. I remember seeing hundreds of Swallow, Sand Martin and House Martin swarming above the reed beds in August. The synchronicity of these hirundines was breathtaking and quite hypnotic to watch. That was until the Hobby's turned up. You could almost feel the atmosphere change as these avian masters sliced through masses, creating acrobatic chaos, not ever missing a beat - casually they would dispatch there quarry on the wing and then would disappear as quickly as they came. Amazing. In 1998, whilst monitoring birds out on Ockham Common, I got to ring a brood of these fantastic migrant falcons.

Today, however, is possibly the closest and best looks I've ever had. My day started with cracking views of Eurasian Curlew just off the boardwalk. Both male and female were present, flying, vocalizing and feeding, giving me good opportunities to practice my phone-scoping.

At about 10:40 the first Hobby arrived and I spent the next 2 hours filling up the memory on my amazing morning's birding. 


Couln't believe my luck on Saturday night, not only did I get to see two Nightjars, I also got to photograph one! After an amazing day on Thursley Common and then a torential down pour, I headed out to Ash Ranges to see if I could hear this nocturnal specialty. I was less than optomistic as this was my first opportunity to check after much of the heath (30 ha) had been destroyed in the spring arson. Fortunately the Nightjar are still there and churring up a storm on a different part of the range.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Thursley Common - Surrey

Stonechat (male)
Today I spent a few hours on Thursley Common with my good friend Jonno Dudley. In just over three hours we recorded over 34 species. We connected with all the heathland specialties except Nightjar. There were plenty of Stonechat around (9) which gave us some great photo opportunities. All photos shown here, with the exception of Dartford Warbler, were taken using my Iphone6 / Scope combo. A great atmosphere all day with highlights such as displaying Curlew, skulking Dartford Warbler, parachuting Tree Pipits, darting Redstarts, flitting Willow Warblers and fly-by Hobby! 

Stonechat - Iphone 6 / scope combo

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Hudsonian Whimbrel

Hudsonian Whimbrel - photo by Matt Eade

Hudsonian Whimbrel - photo by Matt Eade
Dave Baker scoping Hudsonian Whimbrel
Hooked up with Dave Baker after work and headed down to Church Norton for the MEGA Hudsonian Whimbrel  On arrival the bird had pushed off the mud and was hunkered down in some long grass. A thirty minute wait paid off with a great flight view - the bird showing the distinctive dark rump. 

En-route to Church Norton - Dave reckons the bloke behind us worked on the Mad Max movies!

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Little Bittern

Little Bitter - photo by Steve Grimwade
Little Bittern site at Lakenheath Fen
Had a fun day in Norfolk yesterday. After dropping my brother and his friend off at Stanstead Airport at 05:00 am I headed to Norfolk. Just before Sandringham I noticed a Barn Owl on a sign and turned around. To my utter amazement it stayed long enough for me to get a few photos. Great start to my day!

En-route to Titchwell Marsh I picked up a few farmland birds including Corn Bunting, Red-legged Partridge, Pheasant, Skylark and Yellowhammer.

Corn Bunting


Red-legged Partridge
 There was a good variety of birds at Tichwell as always - 11 Little Gull was nice.

Little Egret at Titchwell

Pied Wagtail
Next stop was Cley Marshes. Red-necked Phalarope on the North Scrape was a British lifer and 2 Little Stint seen from the East Bank was an added bonus!

East Bank - Cley Marshes
After a bit of back-tracking and another hours drive I stopped at Weeting Heath and picked up Stone Curlew for the year before heading for to Lakenheath Fen for a worth while twitch! A male Little Bittern has been calling and 'occasionally' showing for the last few days. I didn't hold out too much hope, having dipped 3 times in Somerset for this species. However, I was there and it was worth a try. Horror stories of 8 hour waits and 2 second sightings were ringing in my ears as I passed dejected souls walking back to their cars. This wasn't my story though. On arrival the bird was vocalizing continually, kind of bark, and only 3 minutes into the vigil it got up and gave a massive 5 second flight...brilliant! cracking view and no sun burn this time... 

Swallow Birding Holidays