Sunday, December 30, 2007

Last Gasp 2007

We popped down to Weymouth for a couple of days. Nipping out for a couple of hours is normally difficult in winter, but this time I could nip out for a couple of hours in the morning because D#1 appears to be in a state of quasi-hibernation, and doesn’t normally make an appearance until the afternoon.

29th was Lodmoor. I started off scanning Weymouth Bay, and got 3 Great-Northern Divers, 2 Razorbills, a GC-Grebe, c20 Turnstones, and a frustrating distant diver.

On Lodmoor, a large female pheasant powered past, and it was only as it plunged into the reeds that I twigged it was a Bittern – my first for Lodmoor. Then 3 Stonechats, and from Beachdown Way a flock of Pochard contained 2m Wigeon and a female Scaup – another first for Lodmoor. Otherwise a female Bullfinch, and a Shoveller.

Then 30th it was round Portland Harbour. With no wind it was like a millpond, perfect conditions. I watched from Portland Castle, then The National Sailing Academy, and then over the shingle bank into Chesil Cove.

There were at least 4 Great-Northern Divers, possibly 6; a Red-Necked Grebe, 3 Long-Tailed Ducks causing a stir amongst the regulars, 3 Med Gulls (ad, 1st winter, 2nd winter), a couple of Razorbills, a GC-Grebe, and a few Dunlin, Turnstone and Oyks.

Over the bank, there was c30 Common Scoter on the big sea. I couldn’t see the Velvet Scoter with them, despite much searching, but did see a Red-Throated Diver.

Finally another two distant Divers in the harbour. They were good candidates for Black-Throated; serpentine appearance, horizontal beaks, occasional glimpse of white thigh patch, but just too distant to be absolutely positive.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Last minute local birding

A couple of visits to Harlow Town Park to make sure the children don’t spend all day in front of the computer. Despite the location in the centre of a new town, and the large areas of close cropped grass there’s a few spaces for birds; notable totals were:

Green Woodpecker, GSW, Siskin c50, Grey Wagtail, Song Thrush 1, Blackbird 12, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Chaffinch, Long-Tailed Tit 3, Cormorant 2, many Common Gulls going over with similar BH Gulls and 1 LBB Gull.

And a male Bullfinch in the garden this morning!

Finally a happy Xmas to everyone, and if I don’t post anything between now and next year (which is quite likely), best wishes for successful birding in 2008.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Sawbridgeworth Marsh Roost 22 Dec

I don’t do freezing cold as a rule. If I spend a day out in sub-zero temperatures I always seem to end up getting flu for two-weeks afterwards. But today I reckoned I could get away with a visit to Sawbridgeworth Marsh Roost.

Mike has had some excellent records recently; LSW, Peregrine, Woodcock, Jack Snipe, but my incessant yakking put a stop to that today. I find roosts difficult as birds call once then plunge out of the gloom into a reedbed, and got some invaluable lessons from Mike in bird calls and distant flight identification.

Highlights below (a subset of Mike’s List of evening totals for those notable species I saw): 2 Water Rail, 7 Stock Dove, 2 Little Owl (both calling birds), 1 GSW, 11 Meadow Pipit, 10 Redwing, 256 Fieldfare, Chiffchaff (heard in reedbed), 207 Jackdaw (SSW), 159 Rook (2, 157, SSW) , 24 Reed Bunting, 2 Yellowhammer (N).

I notice that nearby Rainham Marsh has had an influx of exotic geese in the last couple of days. Has St James’s Park lake frozen over?

Sunday, December 16, 2007

What’s going on with my blog?

According to the various stats attached to this blog, the readership is increasing and becoming more international.

Just as I was congratulating myself on this blog finding its rightful place in the pantheon of bird blogs, my photographic talent getting well deserved attention, and my writing abilities finally gaining their proper recognition etc etc I noticed that most of the recent hits come from the same google request back to this entry from the summer. It’s not a particularly noteable entry.

I suspect some automated process is up to no good. Can either of my regular readers shed any light on this?

SLRS 16 Dec

South of Sawbo. Cold, bright, frosty but difficult with the low sun. The scrape was frozen round the edges but melting in the mddle.

Probably the worst list this year. The heaving hedgerows and flocks of finches in the field have all gone, leaving just a basic list.

Kevin was out with his new scope, so we wandered slowly round the fields, putting it to the test on distant trees with some success. We found two mussel shells in the middle of the field. A peruse of my guide book at home indicated Swan Mussel as the most likely candidate

Slowly some decent sightings were assembled, and on the way back we came across a Bullfinch. A common enough bird round here, but usually all you get is a call and a white rump disappearing into the distance; today we had a pristine plump vision of jet black, battleship grey, shocking pink and brilliant-white. For a moment I was a transported back to a snowy garden in Leeds, and an eight-year old boy gazing in awe at a male Bullfinch sat in a tree just a few feet away.

Lowlights: Snipe 5, Herring Gull 8 N over, LBB Gull 2 incl 1 on SLRS, Common Gull 4, BH gull 23, Kestrel 2, GSW 2, Green Woodpecker 1, Jackdaw c20 in plughed field, Wood Pigeon c50+ over towards the Gibberd Garden, Song thrush 2, Blackbird 5, Redwing 2, Goldfinch 8, Chaffinch 4, Bullfinch 2, Greenfinch 5.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Hatfield Forest in the gloom

Hatfield Forest this morning. Took the 100-400 with the 1.4x to try and get some decent shots in the morning sunlight.

Little to report. I drove past flocks of finches on the way, but once at the forest birds were hard to come by. I went to the NW corner and eventually found a few birds. Apart form the usual woodland birds – Bullfinch, Nuthatch, GSW & GreenWood, the highlights were 11 Jays in total, and 3 Marsh Tits. Back to the lake for 2 GCG’s, 3 Teal, a few Pochard and Tufted Duck on the lake, and back to the car as the downpour set in.

Halfway round I realised that the reason I couldn’t seem to get a reasonable photo was the zoom extension was still locked from the previous trip, and I’d been taking pictures at 140mm. My punishment was the sun immediately disappearing so apologies for the photos from the gloom.

Tonight Mrs D is indignant. "How come Russell Brand has been introduced to the Queen and I haven't?"

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