Saturday, 28 June 2014

Turtle Dove at Maxey

These beautiful birds are getting as scarce as hens' teeth these days. Reasons are varied - habitat loss, systemic weed killers, agricultural intensification, to name a few, but my personal belief is one of hunting. These stunning birds are being blasted out of the skies as they make their migration across the Mediterranean to our shores in order to breed. They are killed before they are have a chance to further the species on islands such as Malta, the reason........ 'Sport'.

Monday, 23 June 2014

Short-toed Eagle at Ashdown Forest in East Sussex

This bird has been on our shores for three weeks, firstly in Dorset for a day and then it gradually made its way eastwards, firstly to Hampshire, then briefly in Cambridgeshire and then it appeared at Ashdown Forest in East Sussex, where it has been present for the past week or so. I had been toying with the idea of going to see it, after all, this is only the third individual to have been recorded in Britain, but my normal partner in crime had already seen the bird when it appeared in Dorset and I didn't really fancy going on my own. On Saturday afternoon Mike Weedon called me to see if I fancied making the trip with him. I debated with myself for about 5 seconds and replied in the affirmative.

I picked Mike up early Sunday morning and after an easy journey we arrived at where the bird had been seen hunting and roosting. There were already at least 50-60 other birders there, scopes and binoculars trained on the valley in front. A couple of enquiries and we learned that the bird had not been seen yet, so we set up our gear to wait. A couple of locals wandered by, asking if there was any news and then informing myself and Mike that they were going to walk to the top of another ridge where you get better views of the entire area. We followed them after waiting a few minutes and soon after we heard a shout from one these birders that they could see the bird perched in a tree approximately a mile and a half away. We reached them and were soon enjoying our first views of a Short-toed Eagle in Britain, okay it was a white blob on top of a tree, but definitely the bird. We started walking closer and after a bit of a trek, stopped approximately 200 metres away form where the bird was perched. The views were unbelievable, it just sat there completely non-plussed by our presence as we watched this incredibly rare bird for about an hour before it took off and started to gain height and eventually went out of view. 

Mike has very kindly allowed me to use the above photo of his in order to show what all the fuss was about. What a bird, a 5-6ft wing span with piercing yellow eyes!

Now for some more of my rubbish efforts!

Showing the bird using its tail as a rudder, similar to a Red Kite

One more of Mikes,

Showing its short toes!
The area in question

A beautiful summers day
An unbelievable experience and one that will not be repeated for a while, or will it?..............

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Young Blue Tits

It's been a while coming, but finally we have had some young Blue Tits coming into the garden to be fed by their long suffering parents. It seems to have been a fairly good year for fledged youngsters as we have had up to ten coming in, although I am sure that these are two different families as I have seen at least three different adults accompanying them.

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Spectacled Warbler at Burnham Overy

Two days, two twitches and two lifers.

Sunday and Monday were two days that don't come along that often. Two 'life' birds were present in north Norfolk and both were twitched successfully by myself and Lisa and two friends.

One was in the shape of a female Black-headed Bunting, a bird normally found in south-east Europe, but this bird had been present since the following Wednesday and was still showing well on Sunday morning. Lisa and I made the trip that afternoon, a gloriously sunny day. We arrived at West Runton in good time and found the deserted pig farm that was the birds favoured site. The bird had not been seen since 11 o'clock, it was about 2.30 ish, great, I thought. However, it was warm and sunny, so not much of a bind waiting. The bird duly appeared on top of hedge approximately 300m away, the heat haze was horrible, leading to no photographic oppurtunity, but the birds features were noted and then it flew. It re-appeared very briefly in a nearby elder for all of 2 seconds and then flew again, high and across the road towards the back of some houses. We counted our blessings that we had only been there for about half an hour and seen the target. We left and paid a visit to Cromer for some fish and chips and an ice-cream, I know how to treat a lady, don't I?!

Monday dawned and with it drizzle in the air. I checked Birdguides at lunchtime and saw that a Spectacled Warbler had been reported in Burnham Overy, north Norfolk, a 3* mega rarity that has only been seen in this country 7 times before and is normally found in southern Europe or northern Africa. I was straight on the phone to my friend Chris Orders to see what time he was finishing work and if he wanted to go. The answer was an affirmitive and at 5.30 we were on the road being driven by another friend, Will Bowell. The journey was made in record time, I won't say how quickly for fear of any law enforcement people reading this, but suffice to say that we pulled up at the harbour of Burnham Overy with the smell of burning rubber in our nostrils and the sight of steaming brakes in our eyes. We then started the long walk to the site of Gun Hill, a distance of 2 miles. The twitch was well established at this point and with approximately 50 other birders we eventually got our first glimpses of a male Spectacled Warbler in song. Nice!

The two photos above were taken by Chris with his digiscoping gear, the bird was too far away for my camera, so I savoured the brief views that I had of this very rare bird. It showed a few more times and did come closer at one point, but was always on the move and impossible for me to photograph. We left, very pleased with ourselves and made a slightly more sedate journey back to Peterborough.

The harbour at Burnham Overy on the walk back

Sunset over the salt marshes
A successful couple of days birding, when will they be repeated I wonder?! Thanks to Will for driving on Monday, I only hope his tyres have recovered.