Bluethroat Pilgrimage! 24 February 2017

A showy wintering male Bluethroat proved to be too tempting to miss! Having seen dozens of photos of it I almost felt like I'd already seen it before I went but it had to be done.

I arrived at Willow Tree Fen near Spalding at about 09.30 after a frustrating drive over. Initially the bird wasn't on view but within about 30 minutes it popped onto the main track briefly. Then, over the next hour it showed 3 or 4 more times feeding on the verge and the track in between spells out of view in the reedy ditch that was alongside the track. The last view was amazingly close as it popped out right in front of me just the track width away! This nice little fen has loads of potential and having hosted a couple of rarities already I expect more will follow. The only other things of note I added were Common Buzzard, Reed Bunting, Fieldfares and a Brown Hare.

Next up on my developing agenda was the reserve at Deeping Lakes. This proved a pain to get to due to a road closure but I made it eventually. After a short walk to the main hide I was soon watching 2 Long-eared Owls at roost on the island in front of the hide. They were quite distant and mostly concealed so it wasn't exactly a spectacle but you could see half the face and one ear tuft of one of the birds! On the same pit were an impressive 32 Goldeneye amongst the Tufted Duck and Gadwall but not much else to delay me.

My last visit of the morning before heading back to Norwich was the River Welland south of Crowland Bridge where this time I found the female Long-tailed Duck very quickly after Jus and I failed 3 weeks ago. Another Common Buzzard, Little Egret and 2 Little Grebes rounded things off.


Goshawks, 21 February 2017

I'd not had a good look at a Goshawk for a while so was determined to put that right today. With the sun out and a very light breeze the weather was perfect at my chosen location (please excuse the deliberately vague details, out of necessity I'm afraid).

Within a short while a single Goshawk was picked up distantly and then up to 4 gave some mind-blowingly good scope views including some display flights. For a 30 minute period they were almost constantly in view! Add to that c12 Common Buzzards, c6 Sparrowhawks, Kestrel, a couple of distant singing Woodlark, Brown Hare and a nice close Stoat made for a great morning.

After lunch I went for a wander nearby and jammed in on a brief but thankfully calling Willow Tit plus at least another 6 Common Buzzards, Bullfinch, Yellowhammer, Marsh Tit, Woodlark and Siskins.

Having seen Brimstone as my first butterfly of the year yesterday I saw another today plus Red Admiral and Comma.          

Dunwich Heath and Forest, 18 February 2017

A long walk was in order today to help supple my poor old back! So Belinda and I headed for Dunwich and did a 7.5 miler around the forest and heath.

Birds were fairly thin on the ground on what was a mainly dull day with just a few Siskins of note until we reached the northern perimeter of Dunwich Heath. Here there was suddenly a good deal of Woodlark activity with at least 4 birds - 3 singing males one of which was accompanied by a presumed female with both of the pair giving excellent views. Once on the heath proper I picked up  5+ Dartford Warblers but they were generally elusive and only calling occasionally, probably because of the time of day. 2 Stonechats were by the clifftop where we also had a nice Minotaur Beetle on the sandy path and a group of 8 Red Deer were quite fearless in the middle of the heath.

A little later while having coffee and cake at Dingle Hill Tearooms a lovely Firecrest appeared briefly as did a Treecreeper.   

Minotaur Beetle

Belinda was less than impressed with fleeting glimpses of Dartford Warblers!

Blue Rock Thrush and a meander home via a few goodies! 4 February 2017

Jus and I finally cracked and went for the long-staying Blue Rock Thrush in Stow-on-the-Wold yesterday! Arriving just as the light was reaching birdable brightness we went straight to Fisher Close and found the bird within about 2 minutes sat in a tree in the back garden of no.7. It quickly flew up onto the roof of the house briefly (giving us the closest views we got) before flying over our heads into an adjacent cul-de-sac. After that it spent all the time we were there on top of a chimney pot presumably warming itself on a bitterly cold morning! In between 2 visits during the morning we nipped to Bourton-on-the-Water some 10 minutes away to have a gawp at 4 Waxwings that showed very nicely on the corner of Moor Lane and Roman Way. There wasn't too much else to report from these sites except a Coal Tit, loads of Common Buzzards and 3 Red Kites as we nearer the Cotswolds.  
I'm still not sure how I feel about the origins of the Blue Rock Thrush. DNA analysis is ongoing but apparantly the far eastern race which accounts for virtually all captive ones has been ruled out. It just looks rather strange in its chosen surroundings despite not showing any plumage signs of captivity.

Blue Rock Thrush, Stow-on-the-Wold

Waxwings, Bourton-on-the-Water

After our mission in the Cotswolds was complete we began to meander our way back. Our first stop en-route was the village of Stoke Goldington just north of Milton Keynes. Here we found the spot at Missenden House on Dag Lane and the Tree Sparrows that were our target. We saw 6-8 but they were very shy and elusive preferring to stay in the cover of thick hedges most of the time. Also there was a Marsh Tit amongst the common tits visiting the feeders and a Common Buzzard over.

Tree Sparrows, Stoke Goldington

Common Buzzard, Stoke Goldington

Next up was Paxton Pits in Cambs where after a little while we located the female Ring-necked Duck on the huge new workings pit. 70 Pochard, c40 Tufted Duck, Gadwall, Sparrowhawk, 5 Red Kites, Snipe and Great Spotted Woodpecker rounded things off before we moved on to our final port of call.

Ring-necked Duck, Paxton Pits

After a flock of 12 Red Kites beside the A1 near Peterborough that final port of call was an area of rough scrub beside the River Welland at Deeping St Nicholas near Spalding in Lincs. It proved to be a lovely way to end a great day. With the sun sinking we had Great Grey Shrike, 5 Short-eared Owls, Barn Owl, 3 Goosander, Stonechat, several groups of Fieldfares and then at the death following a drive along the river 2 Little Grebes, 2 Little Egrets and a lovely close Great White Egret. The final raptor counts for the day were 16 Common Buzzard v Red Kite 20!

Short-eared Owls, Deeping St Nicholas

Great Grey Shrike, Deeping St Nicholas

Great White Egret, River Welland


Black-necked Grebe, Thorpe Marshes, Norwich, 3 February 2017

A very quick pop in to Thorpe Marshes between family visits resulted in a nice easy location of the Black-necked Grebe on St Andrew's Broad. Viewing was a little tricky through reeds on the near edge but some nice views were had of it actively fishing. A bit too distant for anything other than record shots though. Also on the water were a good smattering of Gadwall while a Water Rail scuttled for cover in a ditch and a Kingfisher 'peeped' as it flew along the river.