Sunday, December 10, 2006

Hatfield Forest

A beautiful sunny winter morning in Hatfield Forest. Started at the SW corner and ended up at the centre. The forest was alive with the chatter of thrushes, and Redwings seemed to be in every bush. After a good trudge round I’d amassed some good numbers – 6+1 Bullfinches, 3 GSW, a Green ‘Pecker, a Jay, a few Stock Doves, a ♀ Kestrel, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, blue/great tits, lots of Jackdaws, three Nuthatches, Mistle Thrush, a Grey Wagtail and down on the lake 3 Pochard, 2 Teal, 1 GC Grebe a Common Gull and the usual BH Gulls, Moorhen, Coot, Mallard, Tufties, Canada Geese and a Kingfisher whizzed past. My dodgy call skills couldn’t nail down a Marsh Tit although a few winters ago there were three pairs here. Otherwise there was a small herd of Fallow Deer, and lots of Mistletoe with masses of berries. And all this by myself, as the Dipperettes found various reasons not to share in the beauty of the Forest in winter; a sudden enthusiasm for homework, “not feeling well”, feigning death, etc. Perhaps when it’s a bit warmer …

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Rainham Marsh

Took the entire flock of Dippers to Rainham Marsh (part of the RSPB corp network of family entertainment venues) en route to a shopping trip at Canary Wharf. Once we’d found it (its signposted “Purfleet heritage Centre” of the A?? off the A13) it struck me as Elmley-lite. Nevertheless we were soon admiring the excellent variety on the board. Paninis, toasted sandwiches, baked potatoes, various puddings and a range of coffees; just the kind of sightings to make this a regular item on the Dippers’ Sunday itinerary.

We got as far as the hide on Alverley Marshes and saw lots of distant Wigeon, Blackwits, Gadwall, and Lapwings, and round the “Cordite area” had Stonechat, GSW, and Kingfisher. Proper birders had more, and their sightings are all here (

Meanwhile yesterday grabbed a break between the pre-Christmas round of school fetes, shopping other weekend rubbish and had a peaceful couple of hours late afternoon at Sawbo Marsh, largely undisturbed by birds (apart from 2 Mipits, GSW, a few Bullfinches). Local birder Mike – far more experienced and knowledgeable than myself turned up, and we watched a few Reed Bunts,1 Yellowhammers, Redwings, c500 Jackdaw, Grey Wagtail and Heron heading to their various roosts

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Not Hatfield Forest

My plans for an autumnal walk round Hatfield Forest were scuppered last week by being outvoted by the Dipperettes who preferred the excellent but bird free Harlow Town Park (even the usual Grey Wagtail was absent), and this week by a downpour on Sunday morning.

Tried to leave a comment on the excellent Boulmer Birder but the new blogspot beta version seems to insist on my leaving my full e-mail address. Annoying ...

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Potential First For Britain!

A quick dash to Sawbridgeworth Marsh before the start of the day’s hectic social whirl. Sunday morning is management morning so the reserve was filled with woodsmoke, the swish of scythes, and as always good conversation with the regular management group.

Birdwise the marsh was typically quiet: A Water Rail calling in the reeds, a Redwing in the bushes, A few Bullfinches in the usual bushes, Goldfinch, 3 Mistle Thrushes, Wren, Blue Tit, GSW calling, 1 Snipe flushed from the marsh. And then as I was leaving, a Common Buzzard over – my first for the reserve.

Well I say Common Buzzard. I thought about taking a photo, but what if I posted it and a passing expert saw differently? I could have my own thread on Birdforum, full of experts wondering how I had missed the distinctive puce eyelids and blunted third primary of Britain’s first Patagonian Bush-Buzzard! Tomorrow the marsh could be heaving with thousands of twitchers pushing and shoving, blocking the roads with hastily parked cars and trampling the reed-bed flat!

So I let it fly over undisturbed, and took a photo of some Bull-rushes instead.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Gull watching

There's something strangely therapeutic about Gull watching. Picking through our standard gulls for something a little bit strange or off-beat must hit the same nerve as crossword puzzles, and now that there are so many more varieties of gull to look out for its twice the fun.

I've noticed at Radipole that Med Gulls seem to be confined to a small area; the open water between the road bridge and about 100 m beyond the centre and the associated car park. I've scoured the gull-filled boating lake on many occasions, found an Iceland Gull, but never seen a Med Gull there.

I've also noticed that when I find a Med Gull there's often another one close to but not next to it. Is that just some artefact of watching, that having found one you tend to watch that one and notice surrounding birds more?

Here's a picture from Ferrybridge last Saturday in the murk.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Weymouth Sat 28th

I stopped at Ferrybridge for lunch under a leaden sky. There were 3 med gulls amongst c20 BH gulls, and a few hundred dark-bellied brent geese. c30 Ringed Plover and a solitary Little Egret.

Later I toured Radipole where high water levels produced a characteristically dull list. A Bearded Reedling by the centre, a few Cetti's warblers, herons, c20 Great-Crested Grebe, 3 Little egrets in a tree and c20 Long-tailed tits. I finished off by the centre going through the gulls - 4 med gulls (2 ad, 1W, 2W) and 2 Blackwits, so some respectability was salvaged.

Here's some Brent Geese for no particular purpose.

Sunday, October 29, 2006


I got to Portland at 9ish sorry 8ish. There was some overhead movement of Wood Pigeons, Meadow Pipits and Skylarks, with a Fieldfare shack-shacking, a few goldfinches and Pied Wagtails for variety. Enough to be noticeable but not record-breaking. A few goldcrests in Culverwell. plenty of Kestrels. Then something over unfamilar, larkish but not the loud fluting I have heard on Woodlark's home ground. Did I see a short tail as it drifted over?

On to west cliffs with a few stonechats for company, then a Peregrine flying around. A nice group of Shags on the cliffs, and a group of GBB gulls. Down to the bill and a few Kittiwakes, some BH gulls w and nothing else - not even a Gannet. Along the east cliffs there were plenty of Pied Wags, a "flock" of 4 Rock Pipits, a Seal (grey?), and a Northern Wheatear - possibly my latest. Up to the obs, and yes there was a Woodlark over at about the right time in about the right place. Sparv through, some discussion amongst the assembled about the ID of some dark ducks wizzing w, and then home.

I think some more homework on woodlark calls required ...

Weymouth weekend 28/29 Oct

I had some business in Weymouth on Saturday. Neither Mrs Dipper nor the Dipperettes wanted to come so I had a chance for some proper birding. Inevitably the weather was rubbish and all decent birds fled the area.

I blundered around the top fields at Portland Bill for a while this morning and ended up on the West Cliffs. Despite many visits I'd never been along the West Cliffs and was pleasantly surprised.

I'll note what I did see in upcoming blogs. You can't wait can you.

Thursday, October 26, 2006


No one goes to Venice for the birds. Only sights were lots of YellowLegged Gulls, some big white flappy things in the delta and a Hummingbird Hawk Moth (my first). Here's a picture with a bird in it.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Stort Valley Oct 15th

Gaston Green - Thorley Wash 9am – 11am. Murky as only an Easterly wind can be. 1 Grey Wagtail at Spellbrook lock, 2 Kingfisher at Gaston Green and 1 at Thorley the highlights. Otherwise Little Grebe at Spellbrook, Heron, 2 Cormorant, c10 Mallards, Water Rail calling at Walbury, 2 Sparrowhawk including a ♀ female at Gaston Green. 2 GSW and 1Green Woodpecker, 4 Collared Dove, c200Wood Pigeon, 5 corvids including Jay shrieking at Walbury. C10 Chaffinch, c10 Goldfinch, c10 Meadow Pipits, c5 Reed Bunts and 4 Skylarks over in no specific direction. LBB Gull 1 over. Finally as I returned to the car and inevitably the sun broke through, 4 Redwing W over, some proper migration at last.

Although not technically birds, worth mentioning 10+ Chub between 1’ and 2’ in length, lurking by a bush under the far bank at Thorley, all pointing upstream (see pic for the bush).

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Portland Bill Oct 8th

The usual early start and early finish (7:45-8:45). Highlight was a steady trickle of Pied wagtails and Meadow Pipits leaving the bill and heading south. Every scan of the sea seemed to have a few birds heading off across the channel. Last night had c50 Pied Wags flying round Weymouth town centre, and Lodmoor had Pied wags and mipits spread over the whole reserve too. Must be thousands in total heading off from the Dorset coast this weekend.

Otherwise, the Rosy Starling was with the bill flock of starlings, a scruffy brown shearwater was presumably one of the Balearic Shearwaters that's been seen recently, and a male Merlin was flying round the bill, no doubt attracted by the plentiful supply of food.

Then it was back to Weymouth for family entertainment.

Rarity chasing in Cambridgeshire part 2.

Last post left you on the edge of your seats as your intrepid birders ticked off the first of three potential rarities and headed off in sea...