Brecks Bonanza, 18 February 2018

I resisted the temptation to have a Sunday lay-in and set my alarm for a nice early start to drive across to Santon Downham. About halfway there I realised I'd left my coat at home and with temperatures down to minus 2 when I arrived it wasn't ideal!

The drive gave me yeartick no.150 in the form of a Little Owl, 2 Roe Deer near Garboldisham and an amazing 100+ Red Deer near Rushford after which I walked the river bank path in the crisp frost. Kingfisher, a few Siskins and a squealing Water Rail were clocked up on the way together with Song Thrush and several calling Nuthatches. Bumping into Ashley Banwell for a quick chat I arrived at 'the spot' and after some great views of an Otter by some fallen trees in the river and several Great Spotted Woodpeckers I eventually got onto 2 Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers albeit a little way away, they chased each other around from tree to tree but were gone again in a flash. Treecreeper, several Redwings and Marsh Tit were added and the Otter remained ever-present often fishing and frolicking just 10 feet away! 2 Nuthatches were visiting a feeder in the village on the way back enabling a quick photographic stop.

I moved on to location no.2 next where I spent about and hour and a half managing to see 2 Goshawks, 1 Red Kite, c15 Common Buzzards, 1 Sparrowhawk and 2 Woodlarks.

Back home in the afternoon a walk with Belinda in the Waveney Valley near Mendham the usual small group of c12 Barnacle Geese were with Canada Geese, several Fieldfares were chacking in the trees and a male Bullfinch showed nicely.

Yearlist = 152



North East London and Abberton, 16 February 2018

A Friday out in the sun with Jus. It was very spring-like down south today for a great day of birding and banter with little brother!
Our first port of call was Walthamstow Wetlands for our main target of the day - the wintering Little Bunting. And in the sun we were pleasantly surprised how quicky we saw it. During an hour and a half it showed about half a dozen times popping up into the same bush each time in the company of c10 Reed Buntings and c40 Linnets. While we were there chatting to a couple of local birder we also had 2 Grey Wagtails, 2 Sparrowhawks and a handful of Ring-necked Parakeets. A wander round to no.4 reservoir and we were soon watching the adult drake Scaup with a small group of Tufted Duck, job done! After a coffee in the seriously impressive visitor centre (an old converted Victorian pumping station) we moved on.


Little Bunting

Walthamstow Wetlands visitor centre

A short drive away in Snaresbrook a 3rd year Caspian Gull has been frequenting Eagle Pond and we found the bird within a few minutes as it flew in and was eventually tempted closer with a loaf of Kingsmill! There were good numbers of Tufted Duck there plus a dodgy Canada Goose with lots of white on it's face that got Jus excited but little else.

Caspian Gull

Connaught Water on the edge of Epping Forest is somewhere I've not been for years and a quick circuit of the lake on our way out of London revealed 15 Mandarin (3 females, 12 drakes) a single Pochard and a Common Buzzard before we headed up the A12.


With time on our side for once we opted to finish the day at Abberton. It was an excellent call. Starting at the viewing screen in Wigborough Bay we quickly located the 3 Little Stints on a muddy spit striaght out from the screen plus c10 Goosander in the distance and c40 Pintail before we moved to the Layer Breton causeway for the remaining light. In abiut 45 minutes there we had 8 Smew (2 drakes) even including some displaying with the males sticking their head crests up and putting their heads back a little like a Goldeneye would, a point blank Black-necked Grebe, Great White Egret, c380 Shoveler, c40 Goldeneye and finally 2 fly-over Ruff.

Yearlist = 149

Black-necked Grebe


A non-birding day with 2 yearticks, 15 February 2018

Despite doing no actual birding today I still managed to bag a couple of yearticks.
On the way to visit Belinda's Dad an adult Yellow-legged Gull was in fields near Wickham Skeith and then I finally managed to connect with a Marsh Tit at Dunwich Bridge Tearooms while having a coffee in the spring-like sun!
From a moving car I did notice the 14 Bewick's Swans in their usual spot near Westleton but we spent most of the afternoon taking photographs around Blythburgh Church and Greyfriars Priory.

A day out with Jus tomorrow will hopefully be more fruitful...

Yearlist = 144

Lowie, 14 February 2018

A morning visit to Lowestoft on a grey cold day. It was hard work with nothing of note at all on Oulton Broad despite looking for the Red-throated Diver. Over the road on Mutford Lock Basin I eventually located the wintering Common Sandpiper but it took some time! Also there were a Little Grebe and 5 Redshank.

On Lake Lothing it took me an age to locate the wintering Shag from the railway bridge having already tried from the Asda carpark and the Oulton Broad end! A Peregrine perched high up on the grain silo was a nice bonus but there was no sign of anything of interest at Ness Point.

Hard work but at least my 2 yeartick targets were nabbed!

Yearlist = 142  

East Suffolk bits and bobs, 12 February 2018

With an enforced few days off from birding it was nice to get out again today and mop up on a few selected yearticks and long-staying goodies.
After a couple of work-related appointments I headed for the coast quickly finding the 14 Bewick's Swans that have set up winter residence by the B1125 between Westleton and Blythburgh. I took a few pictures from distance noting just 1 juvenile with 13 adults.

 Bewick's Swans

Next up was Minsmere where I managed to miss the Glaucous Gull by seconds as it flew along the beach going north (thankfully I've already seen it!), bumping into Pete Ransome we eventually managed to see a single redhead Smew after Pete picked it up at distance on East Scrape looking from the mound near the dipping pond. Apart from 4 Pintail, a male Stonechat at the end of North Wall and a Bullfinch that was about it.


My next port of call was Easton Bavents where I'd prepared myself for a long walk but was very pleasantly surprised to find a finch/bunting flock only just east of Bavents Farm containing my target, c25 Tree Sparrows plus c40 Yellowhammers, c30 Reed Buntings, c20 Chaffinches and a few House Sparrows.

I finished my short day at Wrentham where I was delighted to find the 'resident' presumed escaped Black Kite within just 5 minutes circling over the wood at Priory Farm. Despite it's providence I'd been wanting to see it for ages but never properly looked. The light was nice for getting some shots of it too. Being a rather rufous individual it's presumably of one of the eastern races.

Yearlist = 140

  Black Kite

A quick whizz around East Norfolk, 4 February 2018

I braved the bitter cold and squally sleet showers and had a quick drive around east Norfolk today. Starting at Haddiscoe I quickly found the single Whooper Swan with a few Mute Swans just SW of the railway bridge. Then moving north from Acle past some amazingly vivid rainbows I picked up a group of 14 Common Cranes on the west side of the B1152 about 2km south of Repps-with-Bastwick. Interestingly there were 13 adults and just a single juv. My 2 targets for the day by 10.00!

Whooper Swan

 Common Cranes

With not much else spoiling that I haven't already seen I decided to head up to Mundesley for the juv  Glaucous Gull. My plans to photograph it didn't quite pan out because I picked it up at distance looking west along the beach, it drifted further west and despite looking I couldn't find it again further up the coast. A female Stonechat on the undercliff and then a quick 15 minute look at the sea revealing 3 Kittiwakes, 2 Gannet and several Red-throated Divers was about if for the day as I gave in to the cold at about 13.00!

Yearlist = 136


'Parklife' 2 February 2018

I headed south down the A140 to the Ipswich area today. Before I indulged in some 'parklife' I made my way through the lanes to Levington Creek on the north side of the Orwell. I was greeted by Paul Holmes who told me a Siberian Chiffchaff had been found at the head of the creek. That was a bonus as I'd not come for that! It was 'lost' but after a couple of Chiffchaffs and Goldcrests and a Song Thrush I soon re-found the Sibe and it gave some nice views but refused to call. With some great directions from Paul I set out on a walk in the rain (not forecast!) and soon found 3 Water Pipits, at one point all perched in a row on some low posts on the edge of the saltmarsh. Several Rock Pipits were around too as well as a single Grey Plover amongst a small group of Black-tailed Godwits and Redshank. A Common Buzzard, c120 Golden Plover and loads of Knot flying in on the rising tide concluded things before I headed into town.

 Levington Creek saltmarsh

My destination in town was Christchurch Park. Unlike Blur I didn't feed 'the sparras and the pigeons too' but did see the 2 Goosander (a pair), c12 Mandarin, Little Grebe, 3 Stock Doves, Cormorant and 2 Brown Rats amongst the selection of dubious wildfowl. On the walk back through the park a flock of c30 Redwings were constantly being flushed by dogs with inconsiderate owners throwing balls where they could see I was trying to photograph. Nuff said! One looked distinctly like an Icelandic Redwing - photo below

Yearlist = 132




Possible 'Icelandic' Redwing 

Stock Dove


Black Duck lookalike!


Rough-legged Buzzard and Glossy Ibis, 1 February 2018

It was bloody freezing out today but at least the sun shone for most of the day! Starting out in the Waveney Forest overlooking Chedgrave Marshes from the famous 'mound' the adult male Rough-legged Buzzard was picked up surprisingly quickly looking distantly to the north sat on a post. I was pretty sure it was the bird even at range although others were doubting it because of the distance. Then it flew and everyone immediately agreed with me! Also out on the marsh were 2 Common Buzzards, 3 Marsh Harrier, loads of Pink-footed Geese, 3+ Little Egrets, a Fox, c6 Chinese Water Deer and a calling Water Rail and Bearded Tits. Through the woods near Forest Lodge were Stock Dove, Goldcrest and 6+ Coal Tits but nothing much else.

I drove into Yarmouth making a quick stop at Breydon to secure Knot and Bar-tailed Godwit on my yearlist amongst the large numbers of roosting waders on The Lumps but it was too cold and windy to stay long!

I had intended to head straight for the seafront next but news broke of a Glossy Ibis in Bure Park so plans were changed. Sadly there was no sign of it so the seafront it was. Here I was photographing the 26 Mediterranean Gulls (1 1w, 3 2w, 22 ads) when some guys I'd bumped into in Bure Park told me the Glossy Ibis was there. I hot-footed it back there to be greeted by it right out in the open by the first carpark. By sneaking up on it in a copse I got to within 20 meters for some photos in nice light.

The day concluded with a garden tick when I got home, a Moorhen under my bird feeders! 

Yearlist = 128 

Glossy Ibis

     Mediterranean Gulls

Moorhen through my lounge window!

The wintering Siberian Lesser Whitethroat in London

Readers of this blog will know that on Sunday Jus and I managed to see the wintering Lesser Whitethroat in Richmond, West London. The bird has been present in back gardens of Selwyn Avenue for a few weeks now. For those who may be interested in going, the alleyway round the back of the houses is beside no.90 Selwyn Gardens with the bird frequenting the 2nd garden on the right side of the alley just beyond the obvious bend. That garden has feeders and it was on the ground at the base of these feeders that we saw it best. It has also been seen in the small blossoming tree in the garden almost opposite that on the other side of the alley but in reality probably does a circuit of nearby gardens so could appear in any of the shrubs and small trees. It took us a good hour and a half before it popped into view so some patience may be needed.

I was unable to get any photographs of the bird but Barry Wright from Kent had visited the day before and has kindly allowed me to use his photos to illustrate this blog post.

Any wintering Lesser Whitethroat in the UK is very likely to be of eastern origin but we went with an open mind to just report things as we saw them. The bird is quite noticably pale with a pale brown mantle and lower nape. Structurely it was similar to 'curruca', not looking small and 'Desert Warbler-like' that the race 'halimodendri' does. It also appeared quite long-tailed/shortish winged (primary projection no more that 50% which can just be seen in the pictures below) and the bill was also relatively strong and long. Although we didn't see the pattern of the outermost tail feathers we were lucky enough to hear it call a couple of times - a clear 'tack' which again does not match 'halimodendri'. The overall paleness, pale brown mantle tones, structure, primary projection, bill and call all point towards it being a 'blythi', known as Siberian Lesser Whitethroat.

   presumed Siberian Lesser Whitethroat, Sylvia (curruca) blythi, pics courtesy of Barry Wright


American Horned Lark and other West London bits, 28 January 2018

After our seriously bad dip at the end of November we really didn't think we'd get another crack at this bird. But after nearly a 2 month absence it suddenly reappeared and it was 'game on'!

Jus and I left in good time and in stark contrast to our other visit the American Horned Lark (nominate form alpestris/hoyti/praticola) was showing well on arrival right beside the Staines Reservoir causeway! It went on to behave superbly for us in between short flights between both sides of the causeway. A very distinctive bird and also very educational (and of course a potential armchair tick of the future). The main differences between this race and the Shorelarks we're used to seeing are:
  • Sharp contrast between white supercilia and yellow throat
  • Much more extensive dark streaking below wider black breast band
  • More rufous on breast sides and flanks
  • The call also seemed higher and not very lark-like 
Also from the causeway we had the Black-necked Grebe again, this time  very distantly on the south basin, c20 Goldeneye, c30 Pochard, loads of Wigeon and a piebald Carrion Crow. As we were leaving a Peregrine hawked over just as one had done back in November.

 American Horned Lark

After an abortive pop in to Bedfont Lakes where the drake Smew was absent we headed further into the London traffic to Richmond. Finding the alleyway behind the houses in Selwyn Avenue we began a wait of an hour and a half trying not to be seen by all the residents having their Sunday lunches! 2 Redwings popped in briefly, then 2 Ring-necked Parakeets did the same and just as they appeared so did the wintering 'Eastern' Lesser Whitethroat. It called a couple of times and then showed well but briefly under a feeder before disappearing again. Quite a pale brown backed individual, most likely a 'blythi' . We also had both Red Admiral and Peacock around the gardens proving just how mild it was!

We then returned to Bedfont where we still drew a blank, as we did at a Mandarin site we'd been given near Staines. There were 3 Egyptian Geese there plus 15+ Ring-necked Parakeets. A couple of Red Kites from the M25 on the way home rounded things off.

Yearlist = 124

 Ring-necked Parakeets