Thursday, 27 March 2014


With my birding adventures confined to the patch, Rainham (yawn) and a little jolly down to the Denge (Bradwell), I've had little to blog about and no enthusiasm either. So rather than tire you, dear reader, of the mendacity of plodding round Rainham for bugger all, I will entreat you to consider these two wonderful appeals.


A once in a lifetime opportunity to create a fantastic wetland
Can you help us make a real step forward for wildlife in Essex?
Imagine a wetland creation adjoining our fantastic Fingringhoe Wick nature reserve

Raised: 58%
£49,957.00 raised of £85,830.00 target 

Help us to complete the Great Fen jigsaw

One of Europe's most ambitious and visionary nature restoration projects...

We have a fantastic opportunity to transform 182 hectares of land at the heart of the Great Fen.
With your help, not only could we transform this major new piece of land into a nature-rich haven, but crucially, we could at last join up a number of separate areas we are already restoring to become one huge swathe of habitat where wildlife can spread and flourish. The Heritage Lottery Fund has awarded us £1.89 million towards this but we must urgently find £182,000 of match funding to release this generous grant. (The trust has a Landfill payment scheme that means your donation could free up monies 10 x its value)

our goal
raised so far

So instead of wasting huge amounts of money going to see an American Coot, do something useful and give something back to the wonderful world of nature...

Give it some

Sunday, 23 February 2014

just arse!

Josh had a day off and was itching for twitching.  Kent looked best advised, and sure I would accompany him, I mean he would get lost otherwise...

First on the agenda was a brief stop at the concrete barges fora little gulling, and namely the first/second winter Iceland Gull that had been present for the last couple of days. We met Mr Brown down there who had the same idea, and we waited in the pleasant but slightly chilly (and smelly) conditions.

After about an hour Mr Brown picks the bird up sweeping down the river to the gantry where it dutifully lands.  A beautiful bird standing out from the crowd of Black-heads, Commons and the scruffy non-adult Herring, Lesser and Great Black-backs. I managed to eke out a Yellow-legged sub-adult just as it chose to hoof it back towards the tip.  Four points towards the Patch-List challenge (five with the addition of Oystercatcher) and a great start to the day.

Oh that it had continued that way. We somehow managed to miss the exit for the M20 and then managed the same with the M26 and had to go a long way round the M25 before we could double back.  A pit stop to buy a road atlas and some food later we back on our way into Kent (albeit nearly 2 hours later).

Treecreeper, Folkestone 

The detour probably cost us the Pallas's Warbler at Folkestone (a 2 hour no show) and put paid to some plans at Dungeness NNR (Hume's, Glaucuous Gull) though we did get a few Little Gull (lifer for Josh) and made everything else into a bit of a rush. At the south end of the Arc pit we stopped and scoped for the Black-throated Diver that was meant to be on an, apparently, empty new diggings, but Josh picked up a Great White Egret skirting the Arc. Three red-headed Smew and a couple of Goldeneye were about the only things of interest otherwise.

New stop the Hanson Hide where I thought the Penduline Tit had been reported (wrong!).  As it was a sunny day, it was quite clearly Numpty Day (bring another numpty and get half price), with a couple calling a male Goldeneye as a male Smew and exclaiming that had made their day (Josh mischievously put them right), then when I got them on to a red-head Smew they asked whether that was a rarity as they had seen brown-headed ones on the reserve...

The other couple were also finding Smew where there were none, which caused a senior moment for me as I tried to take the ladies camera as we left, Josh pointing out my own camera was still round my neck.  She just looked aghast.

Before seeing how many people we could annoy, ruin days for, we stopped of at Boulderwood Farm for the Tree Sparrow (another lifer for J). A quick cuppa in the centre, where we bumped into David Campbell doing the rounds (apparently with more success than we were having), who told us where the Penduline really were.  Instead of facing down my (one of several) nemesis, we did a quick clock-wise scurry between the hides for Black-necked Grebe, male Smew and anything else.  Picked up a Long-tailed duck at the east end of the main pit, some Pintail and more female Smew. With closing rapidly approaching we made it to the viewing ramp knowing full well we could not put in the time required for the elusive reed mace chomping tits. With the reserve closing at 5:00 we had to hoof it back to retrieve the car.  Just as Josh nipped of to the toilets a proper birder in front of me picks up one of the two reported Black-throated Divers flying low from the east. Josh got it just before he and it disappeared over and into the toilet block (another lifer for him).  A few minutes later and a male Goosander flew over just as Josh re-appeared.  Two Kent ticks for me in just a few minutes.

Didn't manage to get lost on the way home, even throwing in the slight detour to get a fish supper in Rye.  Great day apart from a few navigational issues...

Goosander, Port Talbot where we were not dipping a Ross's Gull the other weekend!

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Another county, another small bird's arse

Sums it up quite neatly.  Can't remember the morning...

... might have dipped something but not quite sure...

Then parked the car somewhere, waked a mile or so to where we should have parked the car, walked some more.  Saw the bird we came to see fly off, waited sometime. And more sometime. Saw the bird we came to see in a bush fill of twigs, bird flicks out of bush several times very quickly and departs over our heads.  We wait some more time.  Give up.  Walk past where we should have parked the car, and walked to where we did.

A great day out and a very overdue lifer in the form of a blue-arsed flighty small bird hidden in a bush in a rather pretty valley in Gloucestershire.

Saturday, 15 February 2014

Yellow-arsed, small yank bird, totally obscured by twigs, in the gloom somewhere up North!

About covers it.  Call it Yellow-rumped Warbler, call it Myrtle Warbler - it was my first lifer of the year and when it showed, well, it was a very pretty little thing.  Trouble is it didn't do much of the showing and when it did it performed behind twigs or the only coconut shell (deliberately secreted in the hedge) that was facing the other way. Nice little ticking call too which it used to vent it's frustration at being harassed by the local Robin bully.

So yes we went to Durham.

We got bored of the whole not showing well bit and went home. Four Red Kites somewhere near Weatherby and a Hen Harrier over Paxton Pits, so lifer home county ticks for both Mr Lowen (Yorkshire) and myself (Cambridgeshire).

Thanks to Mr Bradnum for providing the transport and Mr Lethbridge for getting his head and camera in the way, not that I missed anything there!

Saturday, 25 January 2014

Mainly concerning ducks...

First stop today was Chingford and a little hike to Connaught Water, snap up a few Mandarin and perhaps the female Smoo, that has been residing of late.  The little hike took a bit longer due to the plain being mainly composed of mud, with the remaining bit being standing water.  Didn't take long for my boots to be the same.

I think someone moved the lake, because it wasn't were I last saw it, its now several hundred yards further north.  Luckily I found a path which had bits of small gravel mixed in the with the mud and water and was able to track it down.  We think we've got problems with aresoles and their dogs on the patch, these are of another magnitude.

Found a small group of male Manadarin getting a bit frisky, as were the Teal, but then again it doesn't take much to get a duck frisky.  Couldn't find the Smew, or the Hooded Merganser (so that must have been kosher all along), but did stumble across what looked like a crime against anases (ducks not bums!).  Apparently according to my Key to Wildfowl of the World by the late Sir Peter Scott, it/they were Ringed Teal and not a mix and match of duck genes as they appeared.  Hailing from South America I expect that they got blown in on all these Sou'westerlies we're having.  Surely not an escape; I mean to lose one bird because your too f**kin stoopid to pinion it is one thing, but three birds?  I am sure the fabulously rich people who have enough land and think so highly of themselves that they need their status reflected in their private collections, aren't such complete tossers that would fail to prune three ducks!

So a viable population in the making there then, and soon to be added to the British and London lists, so a heads up to you eager London listers.

Sloshed back to Chingford station and caught a bus up to Mansfield Park.  No-one seems to be doing the Girling these days so I thought have a butchers and score some BN Grebe.  And I did, best views I've had from this view point half a county away. Definitely three, but probably six, which is way down on what's been there in the past.

Time up I skied down the slope and then realised I didn't have my keys to the KGV.  Twat! It meant I would have to find another elevated position somewhere down the road.  As it turned out, on the road. No sign of the GN Diver from my limited viewpoint, which means I may have to chum Josh down there next week - if it's still there. Did get some Goosander year tickery!

From there I sloshed down the side of the KGV to Sewardstone, the Gunpowder Park (Stonechat and singing Skylark) and wearily made my way to the Cheshunt lakes.

Friday lake (or what ever the hell its called) was devoid of Smoo, but had a rather nice female Goosander and nothing else. I finally caught up with a male Smew on Hooksmarsh hiding under a willow. Unfortunately missed the Bittern by minutes, because I was trying to string any Greylag into something more interesting somewhere else. 

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Rainham double header

After Saturday's turgid stomp around Rainham, which was as dull as the ditchwater that was everywhere, the sensible birder would have gone somewhere else to try his luck.  Like the Lea Valley for certain sawbills and grebes and maybe even a Bittern to enthuse the soul.  Not me, oh no.  got all the way to Liverpool Street only find myself heading to Rainham on the C2C.  It couldn't possibly be as bad as Saturday.

Not quite.  Luckily I met up with @Johnnogull, who was doing a Webs count along the foreshore, and so tagged along. It started well; a couple of singing Chiffchaff no less on the western marshes, then a pair of Stonechat (yeagh nailed you, you bastards!), and while we were admiring them and a female Marsh Harrier over the silts, I got a brief view of a Short-eared Owl, obviously flushed from its roost, heading off into the reed beds. Now for that Black Redstart reported Tuesday.

Zip on that one, but then we were looking in the wrong place as we were so informed by a birder coming along the river from Purfleet.  Even with his instructions we couldn't find it.  Ah well!

Picked up GC Grebe and Grey Plover on a rising tide, a load of Snipe and other bits and bobs and didn't fill my boots, didn't fill my boots with water, which in my book is a bit of a result.

Sunday, 12 January 2014


Today, as predicted, I was whisked away to Abberton to help out on the WREN Group visit there. The main reserve bit of the reservoir used to be quite good, but since they've had to fill the place with more water so that the people of Colchester can wash their cars it will take time to get back to what it was.  Last time I was here it was for a very confiding Wheatear, this time everything was far off, or smaller.

With only 2 scopes between 13 it was a bit of a struggle.  Again it was the Layer causeway where all the good stuff was to be found.  Most of us wanted to see Smew, and we did, five of the beauties, one even came close enough to persuade me to get the camera out.  Sorry!

We met up with the family Anderson out on a little tour of the Essex countryside, and there were a few other familiar faces on the causeway and if you could forget the icy wind it was quite pleasant.  We managed to find the two White-fronts from a gaggle of Greylag, sift the RC's from the Common Pochard herd, and then I found the Scaup. Happy days for my fellow Wansteadians, however while I revelled in my brilliance I missed the Bittern landing in the reeds in front of the others.  Tits'n'arse.

and now the obligatory Heron coming into land shot...