Monday, 27 April 2015

These posts are too exciting! Minsmere again! Scarce self find and more... 3rd April 2015

recently I've found that these blog posts have been insane, not because of me writing of course (there's always mistakes!) But the quality of birds have been astounding which really fills me with joy talking about something that may even interest you. Today we left David (for a bit) and ventured out into the main scrape and surrounding reedbeds, I found 2 quality birds and saw another!

Adding further to my problems (again was my Grandparents!) SLEEP. In an attempt to remove himself as culprit, my Granddad recommended me saying this "Further to my problems of lack of sleep when traveling with my grandparents. I now realise why the noise I endured was so excessive. My Grandad takes out his hearing aids at night, so he cannot hear my Grandma snoring"....

But no Granddad you're not going to sneak out of this, it was the pair of you!!! 
Back to birds. We arrived at the car park after my amazing map skills, to a slightly windy and overcast Minsmere. While getting prepared with cups of coffee I (as usual) got into a conversation with some other fellow birders near the Sand Martin bank. They thankfully pointed out the inconspicuous (I'm really sorry for these great words, I really am) Bird's Nest Fungi, funnily it did look like that apart from the fact it was fit for an ant! 
I had seen the reports of this rare Fungi before hand but wasn't expecting it to be 1-2mm thick. 
Sadly however, we had just missed their peak display (?) 

After my Granny and Granddad had gulped down their Coffee we made it to the North Hide overlooking the very impressive scrape. Lapwings were displaying, it was incredible, this was the first time I had heard/seen them doing it, there's no way of reinacting it... All I could suggest though is it being like those toys which you move from clockwise to anticlockwise making that "yup, yuppppp" I'd be amazed if any of you get it!

We managed to spot the couple (not pair as they're juveniles) of Spoonbills on the scrape, both exhibiting a beautiful collection of colour ring assortments, boy it brings a smile to my face! All the usual reedbed/scrape birds followed with nothing unusual to be found! But great nevertheless.

The next hide brought all the good fortune. The East Hide. But that wasn't before I laid eyes upon some beautiful, and in my opinion uncharacteristic Red Deer tip-toeing through the reedbeds!

I believe there were eight in total, although it wouldn't be unpresidented (ok word) for one the Does to have sneaked into the shot above! We also watched the newcomer, a Little Egret stalking it's prey in a rather uncryptic camoflague! 
However, with persistance I did notice it pick out a Stickleback of some description.
Now after a seemingly long trek down the sand bank which failed to yield any unsuspecting Wheatear, we entered the hide. After 10 minutes or so I picked up on an interestingly dark-mantled Larus (Gull) it gave a powerful look almost like a Great-Blacked-Backed Gull in stature. I belive along with a few others for it to be a 3rd winter Yellow-Legged Gull...
GBBG left and Herring Gull bottom right for mantle comprison...

Due to its beastly stature and solid bill it suggests male although there is a lot of overlap! So there was my first scarce sighting of the day followed by an even more exciting one for me... "Is that an Avocet over there" my Grandma pointed out. I had a look and sure it was, apparently over 100 pairs now breed, but that wasn't the scarcity, oh no! It was the one resting in front

AN ADULT WINTER LITTLE GULL! Not incredible, I do know! These were just as rare

But it was the self find part which really made it exciting... And off I went swiftly walking towards the visitors centre, only to find out it had been seen at island mere :( Although I would class it as a self find as I didn't know of it, and was at a different location, also who knows if it was the same one, although very likely!? 
Within the confusion/excitment I still managed to take a photo one of the 5ish Turnstones patrolling the mud promenade. 

Once we got back to base and met up with my Grandparents we decided to set up camp and have some lunch, once again I picked the Suffolk Bacon Butty speciality! Halfway through the Butty David bumped into us once again, what a lovely coincidence, always great! Beforehand however I had already seen the Black Redstart which had been shown to me by the people who showed us the Bird's Nest Fungi, yet another coincidence! 

The last couple of shots I was very pleased with because of the contrasting background and dark perch, this female was a poser... Only one thing of note, the double grey patch on the wings gave it an interesting look as I always belive them to have had a single grey dash on the wing. Probably a natural variation, nothing special. 

Back to food David & I as usual had a good chat on what had happened so far, and what he had been up to, because of the sightings I had come up with he was off a couple of minutes early in search of the Black redstart on the Sand Martin Bank to no avail. I went off prematurely as well compared to my Grandparents in search of him in a miraculous way we didn't manage to bump into each other even though I must've crossed paths with him at some point! We later met up back at the East Hide. We both failed to pick out another/the Yellow-Legged Gull but did find another interesting looking Gull...
Straight away the dark eye of the 3rd winter bird standing in the middle hits you. Caspian has to be on your mind. But other than that everything else pointed to a dark-eyed Herring. This includes dumpy appearance compared to leggy Caspian jizz. Too much of a gonydeal angle (the part of the bill that dips down on the lower mandble nearer to the end, the Caspian doesn't have one.) Lack of pencil mark streakings on the back of the neck, and finally the lack of upright posture (to do with jizz again), Caspians normally have a bold chest and unusual posture compared to other herrings. So now the ID is positively Herring. However, this was still a good bird to "practice" on and prepare you for the legitimate Caspian.

We left different ways after that with David attempting to spot the Black Redstart which he did re-find fortuitously in the car park :) and us walking down the bank towards the sluice gate. Near there we found a pair of Stonechats which are fairly scarce down there, so it was slightly amusing to watch people stare and photogarph it after I pointed them out! A sanderling was the only other interesting bird to see circulating part of the scrape....

From here on in the Bitterns stole the show with humongous booms or whumps from around the reedbeds.

Now I'd like to think my Grandparents for such a magical trip that they shared with me, and to David for being such and excellent guide and great company!

Blogs will soon catch up once these darn mocks are out of the way!!!!

Sunday, 12 April 2015

A little Thankyou...

although this isn't a real milestone it was still a nice surprise to receive so many kind comments on my blog recently. I've tried to add a touch of comedic value while still informing you with some birdy facts. This blog is definitely not for money and fame but it is kinda nice to come back and rather see 10 views in a day, see a 100! It shows I'm doing one thing right :) I'll try and keep this up and not get sucked into the education system and not enjoy my time blogging!

What I wanted to talk about is what it has become!

I originally made this blog as a more exciting substitute to keeping records in a diary. This has certainly fulfilled my expectations and by making new online friends is always a real joy! Another rubbish milestone, but I have made 83 posts now and each time I post a new one the support persists and improves!

I'm here to thank you for helping me (me, me, me, me, me!) ;) actually keep a record of what I've done and seen. My Grandma would certainly agree as I never used to do anything and was a secret ornithologist! If it wasn't for your encouraging messages I wouldn't know what I had done a week ago! It really helps :)

My final point, Twitter. The blog and Twitter has allowed me to talk to you and other birders, some as young as me like Ben, Ellis and Noah which is always nice. Recently as seen on my previous blog ( David) I have even met my friends, and I hope to meet others close by and will also contact of near you on an adventure!

Hope to please your birding and natural world needs into the future!

David Walsh & Minsmere 2nd April 2015

Hi, I was incredibly tired that morning after my fellow birdwatchers/Grandparents snored for England... If there's a way of comparing it, it would be a brass band! There's only a couple of differences 1. My Grandparents peformance lasted for nine hours. and 2. It was a very late night performace!

Back to birding... (just giving background) A month or so ago I was contacted by David offering us a free tour round Minsmere. Obviously I accepted the offer. I could tell he was a really nice man and interesting. I wasn't wrong, but could be slighty as he was even more experienced, kind, thoughtful than first anticipated, just brilliant!

David picked us up at 9:00 AM so after having 3 hours sleep wasn't great!!! We attempted to find 13 Waxwings which did prove to be the unlucky part (wow that worked so well!) Although that was probably the only dip of the day as all that followed was some what legendary!

When we arrived we entered some damp woodland, the habitat was practically perfect for Willow Tit, however, these little things have been disappearing rapidly from our countryside... In fact David said he found the last pair in Suffolk back in 2010. "So what does the future hold for them?" You ask,  well it does seem very bleak as prime habitat back in my home county in Wiltshire is not being pounced on by the Willow Tits, only a few pairs bred last year! The only solution is to captive breed these critters and hope for the best while the wild population dwindle in their localised populations.

Back to Minsmere. Our first bird was from the car park a smart female Pied Wagtail calling for its mate. It didn't succeed but gave good views while there was already a toilet break!

The start of the journey began by walking towards the island Mere hide. Along the way we searched through the Adder trail. Even though I used to think I was the "Steve Irwin" and managed to walk down the Cornish Coast Path in shorts within 10cm's of an Adder, or 2! I still am very fond of them and love seeing them out and about. At least this shows you I'm not in love of just the feathered variety! This male provided excellent photographic oppurtunities and allows you to see that blood red eye! 

All the while we were watching this Adder Green Woodpeckers were calling. David was zoned into this Adder and who wouldn't? After all he has a new Kowa scope which is fantastic I tell you! He allowed me throughout the day to look through it and everytime was like a breath of fresh air ;) But seriously this is probably the best scope I've looked through ever. The Green Woodpeckers did tempt me away but to no prevail, at times I could have taken world class photos but as usual my amatuerish camera skills were for the whole world to see!

We finally made it to the island Mere hide, this held stage to a wild goose chase... or sort of... Within 2 minutes of arriving we laid eyes on the three Tundra Bean Geese. Today compared to other (by the looks of other photos) was unlucky in distance terms, but still incredibly lucky to see the three Beanateers. The birds are the smaller ones at the front they have small bit of pink/orange on their bill on top of a black background.

We watched those beautiful Geese for another 5 minutes or so before setting sights on probably the most graceful birds of prey in England... Sorry Hen! In 1971 these birds were down to just 1 pair in Britain (and funnily enough they were from here) they now number over 400, what a fantastic success. This shows what we can do when we want a bird so much! I've recently heard that the Malta killing spree hasn't stopped and another Hen Harrier has been poisoned, only a few things like winning that vote, preventing the raptor persecuters from shooting and we'd be plain sailing. It's never that simple though is it? Anyway here are some pictures of a a success story :)

The heat haze prevented me from getting any better photos, but you can clearly it's a Marsh Harrier. Female has straw on its head male doesn't simple :) A few minutes later and I was about to find another success story which goes "Whump!" The Bittern, a crypitically plumaged bird similar to a heron in biometrics, however has a very different jizz with its legendary shy behviour and unusual call. This is probably the biggest success story in the past 5 years with its population hitting heights dating back to the 1800s, now that's something isn't it!? At first we only saw one flying over the reedbed but only a few seconds later a boy called "there's one right here!" We looked over and there it was about 10m's away so by far and away the best views I've ever had and probably will ever have!

Also the photos in focus!!! 

As you can tell this Bittern was slightly mad, David said this was the best views he's had for over 2 years! So already the day has been good enough for us happy tourists! It was just too good... We spent another 20 minutes watching both the Bittern and Marsh Harrier before hearing another characterisitc Minsmere bird. "Ping... Ping.... Ping!" The Bearded Tit! The views were fairly fleeting but good enough and what are the chances of it being the beautiful male, with its (beware another insane word from english assessment, which means peculiar) idiosyncratic black line down the side of its face. My Mum always says it's as if some one has just painted on the side of its face! 

So what a morning, huh. All three key species of the reedbed in one and a few other bits of pieces for the supporting cast. Now I think about it I even forgot the Great Crested Grebe courting well I think the day was so good it wasn't able to deserve its place!!!

The Suffolk Bacon Butty one of the nicest things to fill up on thanks to the Minsmere cafe. While I was there I spoke so some very experienced birders along with David who helped clear up this Omissus mishap. We were all enjoying some great food until I had to stand up for another great bird. It has been very scarce this winter because of mild conditions and may I add was a great relief in some ways to see this bird as it has always eluded me... May I present the Brambling

It gave itself away due to its unusual orange plumage, I was also fairly pleased by the photo I managed to get :) 

Moving on, Dunwich Heath was the next destination, this is just out of the RSPB Reserve and is owned by the National Trust. it's a very well managed reserve with three key birds waiting for David, Granny, Granddad & I to uncover. The first was the Dartford Warbler. Although I had already seen these beauties I was still rather excited to see them again. We spoke to some photographers who said "No, none are down this path." David and I didn't really take note which in effect was one of the best decisions. A minute are after walking on we found a pir and in total we found at least 4! The heat haze again gave me issues with phtotography but here's the best I could do!

Apparently Stonechats are still fairly scarce in Suffolk so I thought I'd take one as a memento...
A fruther 500m's down the track and we arrived in a small collection of Pine and Birch. Loads of Finches were calling, I'd say over 40 birds were there... 2 more scarce birds game up trumps with Lesser Red and Siskin both being very scarce in the Southern half of Britain this winter... Tell me what's this?
While we were still up there we decided to have a coffee break and look over the 3rd largest reed bed in England.

While making are way back to the car David got a call telling him that a Stone-Curlew had been found! We lept into the car excited as ever and smiling like a group of four Cheshire Cats! They weren't overly far away this gave us a good hour or so to find it. Only a few had been thus far and David really wasn't expecting to see one so it was a real buzz. But this wasn't the only surprise was it? Woodlark was on the cards and showed absolutely incredibly, I'm not joking this bird was only a few feet away on occasions! There was a pair of them in the vicinity which was a new lifer that was well worth the wait...

The Robin didn't manage to steal the limelight! The diagnostic feature that I find most useful for seperating it from a Skylark is the white-black-white combo on the wing. Other than that ochre cheeks and call are the other give aways, and let's not forget the habitat! But still no Stone-Curlew and it wasn't starting to feel less fortuitous as previously anticipated (three good words there)... Hope was not lost though as David found it in amongst the heather...
What a bird and how unlucky not to find it in Wiltshire beforehand however, a lifer is a lifer and not many will be this peculiar! In total there could was 2 but could have been three as there was one calling from afar and the bird in the heath seemed to have moved some distance in a relatively short space of time. 

Magical and BEST BIRD DAY EVER! Is the only way to describe and thanks so much for David leading us around this area and coming up with the goods.

I hope to meet up again, and praise Twitter for making this all happen, great device when trying to find someone as odd as you liking birds :)))

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Hannington, bird ringing 14th March 2015 (catching up)

three - four weeks ago I woke up at a fresh time of 5:00 AM! I wasn't to pleased with that time (which I think most people would agree with) however, I had recieved a parcel a week or so before from the BTO... It had all the ringing equipment I had won from writing a letter explaining why it would mean a lot, help me out, my situation etc. So really pleased to get £180's worth of equipment!

Since it was quite a while ago and many things have happened I don't have the clearest memories... But I do remember a couple key birds that we caught :) Due to this being a farmland site our birds consisted mostly of Finches which are one of my favourites thankfully. In fact what I think I'll do is instead of giving a timeline I'll sum up a few key things we noticed, recorded & enjoyed!

First of all the Bullfinches... These beautiful yet shy creatures (you would expect) would practically blind you with their colours from a Blackthorn hedgerow, but in reality they are actually fairly secretive, and the main key feature that reveals them to me is their little white "bottoms" (rumps.) Oh, and I've just notcied that day I forgot my cameras s.d. card, only later to find out I had locked it!!! So this blog will be more writing than photos... Anyway back to Bullies, we had a record day, with 25 caught and a few released with the Papilloma virus :( This causes their legs to have abnormal growths and after a while fossilizes them while the bird is living... In effect creating a bowling ball with a bill which is one of the worst things to see, and with all seriousness should be monitored. In the day we caught 17 new and 8 re-encounters.

Our next big thing was the number of Chaffinches like the bullfinches we had a nice number with a total of 50 caught! A few of these had the virus so unfortunately the virus may have been prominent in the area at that time. A few little facts on the virus 1. It is very localised and strikes in pockets all across Europe 2. Chaffinch is the worst affected species while quite a few other passerines are susceptible 3. Mammals can be affected with some Rabbits getting terrible nobbly growths growing about their body... Birds unlike Mammals only get infected on the legs.
 The big surprise of the day (especially) for Anna was a Male Sparrowhawk, she could barely contain her excitement. Is it me or (for you have read my blog for a while) does every Sparrowhawk we get turn out to be a Male, it's either ridiculous or there is some science between why we catch the Males rather then the Females. Rather incredibly this was Anna's first raptor!
Now to the most important thing and what drags us lot out every morning (or what I hope every one thinks) the science. We caught a Reed Bunting which aged at a wonderful 5 years old. You could actually tell this was a matriarch by the very bold markings, hopefully now we're ringing 200+ birds more frequently we'll able to collect more birds with stats like this, That
Reed Bunt is a credit to all our hard work and does make our commitment worth while.

My next blog will hopefully be up tomorrow and will be back to the future (great, great pun there) no copyright inc.

Here's the list thanks to for both the pics and list: Chaffinch 48 (2), Bullfinch 17 (8 ), Greenfinch 3, Goldfinch 1, Yellowhammer 34 (3), Reed Bunting 17 (1), House Sparrow 12, Sparrowhawk 1, Goldcrest 2, Long Tailed Tit 2, Blue Tit 8 (16), Great Tit 11 (5), Robin 3 (4), Dunnock 11 (2), Blackbird 2 (1), Song Thrush 1, Great Spotted Woodpecker 1

Monday, 6 April 2015

Hanningfield res. & Orwell Estuary 1st April 2015

today was the day... The day my snorers (you'll find out on the next blog), I mean Grandparents and I travelled to Ipswich, our base for Minsmere. We thought the journey would drag on, so wasn't lively. At about 13:30 we needed to stop off for a lunch break...

Instinct sniffed out a nature reserve, like a (needs to be related to birds, ummm) Kestrel looking for a Field Vole urine in grass using ultraviolet vision I worked out a route to a nature reserve. Hanningfield Resovoir is the name, in Essex.

"Chiff, chaff, chaff, chiff, chiff, chiff, chaff, chaff". This was what welcomed me, a Spring migrant from Africa... The Chiffchaff, a small, and what some people would call boring bird, I would have to completely disagree. To me they epitomise Spring with their somewhat repetitive jingle. We arrived at the visitors centre and were pleasantly surprised that it was free but of course we had to donate after for such a fantastic reserve. A very friendly man gave us an insight on what was around inc. I quote "We have a Buzzard, a Marsh Harrier..." and so on and so forth. But would you really put a Marsh Harrier before a Buzzard? Well I know I certainly wouldn't! Anyway, we reached the first hide and said hello to a (posh word incoming) white speculum... So what's that, a Gadwall you say? The speculum is the part of the wing near to the tertials, just a tad further away from the body of the bird compared to the closest the tertials.
  Check that speculum out! I then decided to do a bit of Gulling (watching gulls), there were many rafts of Black-Headed Gulls fishing along the surface and could be misconceived as a Tern. Funnily they shouldn't really be called Black-Headed for two reasons in my opinion: 1. in the Summer their hood is not black it's brown! 2. In Winter plumage they don't have black on their head apart from an earspot... So if I was the naturalist 400 or so years ago I'd call it the White-Eyelashed Gull... Sounds good! Anyway nothing stood out in the flocks. My Grandma then reminded me "Are the Marsh Harriers overthere?" Took me 5 seconds to look over to the small reedbed and 5 milliseconds to narrow down an Adult Female! The first for my Grandparents!

As you can see from these shots it was very distant but recognisable which is all you need. It disappeared for a few minutes so I decided to look over the treeline and spotted some tiny birds darting around, a mix of Sand Martin & Swallow, and for those wanting to know more birding vocabulary, Hirundines.  Both the first for me this Spring, which is rather late to be honest. However, seeing Swallow at this time is still fairly early so pleased... Wait on, this blog is not about timing! It was fnatstic to see probably the most beautiful bird in the UK the Swallow this year, who cares about the timing! 

 The next hide produced excitement from the highly terrortorial Coot. Sadly I wasn't able to catch all the action on camera but did tell the "story", sorry for the cringe! My photo below shows the partner of the bird to the far left fending off the bird bird in the middles partner! Look at the confrontation between the two in the middle, they weren't a happy bunch.
My Granddad spotted a Female Teal close by having a little shake, but for me trying to wash yourself in the mud isn't the most sensible idea, but that's just me.

While I was concentrating on the ducks close by my Granddad pointed out some courting Great Crested Grebes, a well awaited first for me (not the bird the court). Every wildlife program in the Spring will show film of this so it was a great surprise! But as usual they had to be on the other side of the planet, photography wasn't easy today! 
The next hide had an artificial island in front, many birds were oppurtunistic on it including some Snipe! My favourites, they were so kind to be two planets away this time just nudging on Saturn (thanks Google!) Tell me if you can spot them in the comments...

I was on the trail of the Gulls again, this time I was succesful however. Mediterranean Gulls were the possibility so to find one after being there was a large surprise! If you've read my previous posts you'll know the key idetification features are the solid white wings. So put it this way it's the only one flying... 

We had completed all the hides now! Our time had come to move on, but not before finding a pair of Oystercatchers, 6 Pied Wag, and this odd Goose, it's a hybrid Greylag x Canada Goose...

Sadly we had to leave the reserve but thankfully gave a good contribution... An hour or so after that we had arrived at Ipswich, yayyyyayyayyayyy! But that's not the end of my adventures is it! I wanted to see more, so journeyed down to the local estuary called the Orwell. I wasn't expecting much but turns out (thanks to my friend David) one of my Gulls I had found was a rare subspecies... When I saw it I was confident in it being a Yellow-Legged Gull, however the pale mantle (back) doesn't meet the Yellow-Leg standards. There was only one other alternative, an Omissus Herring Gull.  No I'm not an absolute genius by identifying this! The next day at Minsmere one of David's friends who is apparenly "the fourth best guller in Suffolk!" Which is just a tease from their club, said it fits Omissus which is a very good record and I'll submit it.

As you can tell I borrowed Simon Kings shot which turned out fantastic ;)
Linking back to Hanningfield this bird was nearing Pluto, but still got a photo!!!

Hope this is not too long just wait till the next blog! I think you'll be reading into the 22nd century!