Thursday, 26 April 2012

Portland Migrant Hunt

Sorry about the late posting I've not had Internet access the last few weeks. Using my up coming Wedding as essentially an excuse to go bird watching, (it's a stag do honest!) Gary James and myself headed off to the south coast on Friday 13th April. Not that i knew where we were going as Gary wanted to make it a surprise.

After being collected at 4am our first stop was in Hordle, Hampshire to look for the long staying adult Rose-coloured Starling. After it a bit of hunting we returned to the car and i found the bird perched atop the telegraph post by the car, the light wasn't great and the bird was moving around, so after 30 minutes or so we moved of looking for out next target. The theme of not quite knowing where i was going or what i was going to look at continuied until we got near the next location, Steepe Langford, Wiltshire. Though i did see my first Swallow near a village called Tiptoe, while travelling. At Langford Lakes we viewed a female Ferrugious duck in classic sleeping mode, also a Kingfisher and my first Sedge Warbler of the year. Next stop was Chew Valley Lakes where we eventually located the site of the Spotted Sandpiper, and a very showy Grey Wagtail. The next target bird was the Long-billed Dowitcher at Meare Heath in Somerset, but again the site took a little bit of finding. The birds however did show well with one individual moulting into summer plumage, as well as more common waders a Great White Egret dropped into the same pool. A further stomp around the reserve turned up little but we did hear a Reed Warbler and Bittern booming. Abbottsbury in Dorset was our last stop before calling into out hotel on Portland. Although distant a Black-winged Stilt was an unmistakable figure in the wet meadows. We also picked up Common Tern and Sandwich Tern fishing over the Fleet. Before checking out the local pub on Portland i headed out to wander around an old quarry next to the hotel while Gary relaxed. A Lesser Whitethroat was in the scrub by the gate and a House Martin flew over, two new year ticking.

The second day of the trip started at Portland Bill looking for our own migrants, its started well with Swallow flying over, and we soon found a small group of Wheatear near the light house. A brief sea watch turned up Gannet, Manx Shearwater and Kittiwake. On the cliffs and nearby Guillemot, Razorbill and a single summer Puffin were seen. A Yellow Wagtail flew over calling but could not be seen against the sun. A further walk around only turned up a Raven, Kestrel, House Martin and lots of Linnet. After a late breakfast we decided to try the quarry near the hotel for sheltering migrants, but after 2 hours found a single Greenfinch! We then gave up on Portland and headed to Radipool RSPB in Weymouth to at least see some birds. We soon heard Sedge and Reed Warbler but by the time of reaching the North hide had seen neither only commoner birds. From here however we viewed the long staying Glossy Ibis initially obscured but after a flew fight views the bird came close in to the hide. Walking back to the car we managed to see the singing Reed Warbler, before a second short stint ob migrant hunting on Portland. The area of cliff side scrub turn up two birds, a Great Tit and a Wren, we went back to the hotel and gave up for the day!

On the last day of the trip we got up early and headed down to Portland Bill again but the wind was stronger than the previous day and much colder. The Wheatear still hung about but the only new birds were a pair of Lesser Redpoll overhead during our 45 minutes or so in the area. We then said good bye to Portland driving cross country to Wales. At Penath we then saw the drake Lesser Scaup, my second lifer of the trip. The bird was at a site i could only describe as a little Welsh Whitlingham, full of locals and children enjoying the sun. Driving along the M4 we saw the usual Red Kite flying over head.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Rockland to Whitlingham

For the last few years I've embarked on a spring migrant hunt, walking from Rockland Broad via Surlingham to Whitlingham, following the river most of the way. This year i was hoping to find a Osprey, Ring Ouzel or Gargany.

Catching the 9am bus to Rockland, my first migrant was as previous years was a Chiffchaff in Rockland Broad carpark. Between here and the bird hide i saw 4 more Chiffchaff but at least 8 were singing and i saw 2 Willow Warbler, as well as many commoner species. Little was on the Broad, 2 Great Black-backed Gulls are worth noting, 2 Little Egret flew over and a Buzzard circled over Surlingham Woods.

Skylark flew over head as i cut across the fields towards the Ted Ellis Reserve. I only walked the woodland section as i rarely find much on the rest of the reserve. 3 Great Spotted Woodpecker battled it out and a Treecreeper was also seen. Chiffchaff were also everywhere. Walking through Surlingham village, i found 2 Goldcrest in a road side tree that gave views to a few feet at one point, oblivious to me. A flock of c15 Linnet were also on the edge of the village. By the Surlingham Ferry Pub a pair of Sparrowhawk displayed over head, and from the hide on Church Marsh a Green Sandpiper was on show. The Gargany reported last week have gone but the Little Egret remains on the pool. At least 7 Chiffchaff and 2 Willow Warbler were singing but little else was about despite me doubling back and looking around the ruins and meadows. A few butterflies however are now on the wing, a Small White was by the pub, 2 Orange Tip along the river bank and a Peacock by the Landspring Sluice.

Along the route from here to the sewage works at Whitlingham i was serenaded by more Chiffchaff and also saw a fresh Comma, before a flock of 22 Redwing flew over heading east. The Sheep field behind the sewage works held c15 Pied Wagtail including a White Wagtail, 2 Meadow Pipit, 4 Skylark, 4 Lapwing and a flock of 10 Linnet, a Coal Tit was also nearby. The sewage works themselves held a mixture of corvids, 2 Oystercatcher and 6 Stock Dove. I walked through the Whitlingham Woods to the view point but not before picking up 2 Green and 1 Great Spotted Woodpecker. Scanning Thorpe Station Marsh i couldn't find the hoped for LRP or any other waders. You briefly walk along the outside edge of the woods and here i was rather surprised when a flash of bright orange appeared in the hawthorn hedge. A new patch tick for me, 2 Firecrest flitted in the hedge, briefly crossing the path into the brambles, all at close quarters but to fast for a photograph. A Willow Warbler was further up the path along with 2 Marsh Tit. The Great Broad was surprisingly quiet, both in turns of birds and people, i only saw 6 people as i walked around. From the conservation area however James' Caspian Gull remained and a lone Pochard was by the watersports centre, and that was about it bar the commoner species.