RSPB Ynys-hir – 21 October 2012 – Report by Sue Brealey
17 members arrived at the reserve, welcomed by clear blue skies and a favourable forecast, despite the reserve being very wet underfoot. An otter was the first excitement of the day, seen in the pool near to the car park!
Our first destination was the elevated Ynys-hir hide where we had distant views of Wigeon, Shelduck, Curlew and Oystercatchers. We moved on, flushing a Common Snipe and adding Raven, Great Spotted Woodpecker and Common Buzzard. A 200 strong flock of Barnacle Geese were seen as the estuary came into view. Mute Swan, Shoveler and Meadow Pipit were also seen here. Back near the car park, a male Brambling was the highlight among the numerous Tits etc at the feeder station.
The morning had been hard work and after lunch, we hoped for better things. Migrant Hawker dragonfly were on the wing and a pair of Stonechat were seen near Domen Las hide. These kept us entertained as they caught flies from the fence line. Two Little Egrets were seen here in flight and we finally picked up a Red Kite, initially flying low before soaring up above us.
The most exciting encounter of the day was to come at Marion Mawr hide. A Peregrine was seen carrying prey and luckily it landed by the river in front of us where it proceeded to pluck and then consume the kill. It seemed unable to fly after eating heartily and simply sat there with crop bulging! There was still some meat on the kill and it wasn’t long before the Red Kite returned. Sensing a free meal, it proceeded to finish off the Peregrine’s leftovers, joined later by yet another Kite. Whilst we were enjoying the raptor action, a Kingfisher was seen perched by an adjacent pool, all three birds were in close proximity, the day had finally come alive!
With light fading, we made our way back to the cars. After a slow start we had really enjoyed the finale and with a day list was some 45 species, plenty of birds had been seen. It was a first visit to the reserve for some and one would suspect, not the last. Autumn can provide good action here as well as Spring!
RSPB Inner Marsh & Burton Marsh – 16 September 2012 – Report by Sue Brealey
A group of seven members including one new face, made the trip to RSPB Deeside where we started the day at Inner Marsh Farm. The feeder station and walk to the ‘old’ hide got the list going with several common species. The first bird seen from the hide however, was a Pectoral Sandpiper, hopefully this augured well for the rest of the day? A juvenile Marsh Harrier was our next key bird, seen in flight and sporting distinctive green tags. We later learnt that this bird had been tagged earlier in the season in Norfolk! There were large numbers of Common Teal and Shoveler on the lagoon, all looking rather scruffy due to moult.
There were at least seven Spotted Redshank plus several Black-tailed Godwits, the latter still in summer plumage. Numerous Lapwing were present with three Golden Plover and a solitary Greenshank amongst them. Other birds seen from the hide included, Little Egret, juvenile Grey Heron, Black-headed Gull, Mallard and Tufted Duck. On the far lagoon we added Cormorant, Mute Swan with Cygnets plus Buzzard seen in flight.
At Midday, we decided to drive around to the recently opened new part of the reserve, which will eventually link up by footpath with the old. Near to the visitor centre, a small pool produced a Little Grebe with 2 young chicks, the Spotted Redshank seen earlier also flew in! We had hoped to see Kingfisher in this part of the reserve but sadly none showed.
A nearby observation screen merely produced large numbers of Canada and Greylag Geese. There were numerous Black-headed Gulls here plus Common, Herring and Lesser Black-backed Gulls. Scanning of the area eventually produced a pale headed Ruff, a few Common Snipe, Starling and Reed Bunting. A Kestrel was seen hovering close by, suddenly dropping on prey which we could see was a vole as it flew off.
We decided to end the day at Burton Marsh, which was disappointingly quiet and with rain starting to fall, opted to return to the cars. 40+ species had been seen, including some good birds amongst them, everyone had enjoyed the day!
Anglesey – June 2012 – Report by Sue Brealey
Nine members arrived at the viewpoint overlooking the Menai Straits welcomed by fine weather. The viewpoint area got the day list started with Herring Gull, Greylag Goose, Mute Swan, Nuthatch, Cormorant, Shag and Bullfinch amongst other common species. We then set off for Fedw Fawr.
The cliff edge was our destination, where Black Guillemot was the target bird. Nobody was disappointed as there were quite a few seen, both on the water and in flight. Other seabirds included Gannet, Common Scoter and Fulmar. We also saw Common Buzzard, Great blacked-backed Gull, Pied Wagtail, Linnet, Song Thrush, Wren, Rock Pipit, Magpie, Swallow and House Martin.
Our next destination was Cemlyn Bay for the large Tern colony where numerous Sandwich, Common and Arctic Tern were present. We had lunch at the Eastern part of the bay and then drove round to the western end where access to the Tern colony is easier. We watched the Terns continuously bringing in Sand Eels for their young. After scouring the shingle with our scopes, an adult Mediterranean Gull was found amongst the numerous Black-headed Gulls. A Red-breasted Merganser was present on one of the nearby pools plus a Little Egret. The bay produced Oystercatcher and Shelduck but no waders on the shore. A Grey Seal colony was seen distantly from nearby cliffs, where Common Whitethroat were present. Further scanning from here produced Curlew, Turnstone, Black-tailed Godwits and more Oystercatchers.
We decided to head off to South Stack in the early afternoon where our first port of call was to check out the cliff faces and breeding seabird colony. The predominant birds were Guillemot and Razorbill. It was a frenzy of activity here, with birds constantly flying in and out in search of food. Other notable birds seen were Chough, Raven, Kittiwake and Fulmar. The search was then on for Puffin, which would have in the past been a certainty. Eventually we found a solitary bird paddling around on the sea down below. Stonechat were seen amongst the gorse on the walk back to the car park.
The day ended on a high note with an impromptu ‘twitch’. A Rose-coloured Starling had been present amongst houses at Rhos on Sea, near Llandudno, so most of the group made their way to the location it favoured, near to the sea front. What a stunning brightly coloured bird this was too as we watched it feeding at a feeding station in one of the local front gardens. It was a bit flighty, occasionally departing to the beach but eventually returning and giving everyone superb views.
This proved to be the perfect end to a really enjoyable day. The remaining field trips will hopefully be just as successful – do come along and try one!
Norfolk and Suffolk – 17 – 20 May 2012 – Report by Sue Brealey
A group of 11 members assembled at Wicken Fen Nature Reserve visitor centre for this long weekend field trip. We followed the nature trail for our first walk where the list was started off with warblers: Blackcap, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Cetti’s Warbler. We also saw Little Grebe, plenty of tits and hirundines, Curlew, Stock Dove, a welcome Cuckoo plus several common species. There were raptors on offer too including Marsh Harrier and two Hobbies, one obligingly perched in a nearby tree! After lunch, we took a boat trip up the River Lode, which didn’t add many birds but the boatman gave us a running commentary, an interesting insight into Fen lifestyle and history. We were to be based in the Bell Inn, Thetford for the next three days and travelled onwards, an evening meal plus a few drinks were waiting.
Friday dawned cloudy and overcast and after breakfast we drove to RSPB Minsmere. A Barn Owl was seen quartering on the way, sadly the only Owl seen during the trip! On arrival, we were welcomed by a volunteer and headed towards the North Hide, passing plenty of Sand Martin along the way, Garden Warbler, Whitethroat and Cettis Warbler were also seen. The North hide overlooks the main scrape where high water levels had flooded out the nests of breeding Avocet. Despite this setback, there were plenty of Avocet around, together with Tufted Duck, Mallard, Barnacle Goose, Greylag Goose, Gadwall, Shoveler, Herring Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Moorhen, Redshank, Common Sandpiper, Oystercatcher, Common and Arctic Tern. As we headed towards the North Wall, we noted a few birders looking at something of interest, this turned out to be a couple of distant Stone Curlew, despite the heat haze, a great start to the day! We moved on to the East Hide with Reed and Sedge Warblers constantly singing in the reed beds, a few more birds were added on the scrape, including Linnet, Pintail, Little Tern and a Little Stint. A Bittern was heard booming, as we retraced our steps to the visitor centre.
After lunch, our next destination was Bittern Hide, which overlooks the large reed beds. At least four Marsh Harrier, both male & female were busy quartering, or perched on prominent posts or trees. A Hobby and Kestrel were hunting, then at least two Bittern were seen flying across the reed bed, one of which landed quite near to the hide. We watched in anticipation and were soon rewarded with it slowly emerging into the channel. Even better, it came walking along the edge of the reed towards the hide, fishing as it went, definitely one of the highlights of the weekend! Mere island hide produced Reed buntings, Pochard and a Water Rail was heard squealing close nearby. We left the reserve later and drove up to Dunwich Heath where Stonechat were seen and very brief views of Dartford Warbler were had by some. An evening check of Westleton Heath, near Dunwich, proved negative for Nightjar although Nightingale was heard in the distance.
Less travel was planned for Saturday and the day started of at Weeting Heath, a noted site for Stone Curlew. We weren’t disappointed either, with great views of two, strutting their stuff much closer than the ones seen previously, they also treated us to a flight display. Mistle Thrush and Wheatear were also added to the list here. Goldcrest were present in the nearby woodland and we also found a Spotted Flycatcher. Hoping for Woodlark and heeding local advice, we checked out a trail on the opposite side of the road. This produced Red-legged Partridge, Skylark, Yellowhammer, Curlew, Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler and Green Woodpecker along the way and eventually the distinctive sound of Woodlark was heard. Our quarry was eventually found singing from a tree, not an easy bird nowadays!
RSPB Lakenheath was our next destination We walked into the reserve and soon had our first Grey Heron of the trip. The highlight was undoubtedly a smart drake Garganey but we also saw Marsh Harrier, Bearded Tit, Whitethroat and Kingfisher, Bittern was heard booming not too far away. Lakenheath is perhaps the most reliable place to see Golden Oriole in the UK and joining in with a crowd of other birders, we eventually nailed one, partly obscured by leaves in the Poplars but reasonable scope views were had. We didn’t manage to see Common Crane, which were in the area but enjoyed good views of Cetti’s Warbler and a Weasel as we returned to the visitor Centre.
Sunday, our final day day dawned and we decided to break the journey home by visiting WWT Welney. Whilst enjoying a hot drink in the visitor centre, we checked out the wetland where plenty of Lapwing, Kestrel, Shelduck and the odd Redshank were present. Swans were of course in evidence but we were pleasantly surprised to see a Whooper Swan! There were in fact a pair which had spent the Summer here. We made out way across the bridge to the reserve path and surveyed the very wet terrain. It was water, water everywhere due to the recent rains. There were plenty of wildfowl including: Shoveler, Wigeon, Tufted Duck. Marsh Harrier, Great-crested Grebe, numerous Greylag Geese and a few Black tailed Godwit were also seen. On returning to the main visitor centre, we were entertained by a flock of House Martins, acrobatically catching insects, feeding them to their young, in nest boxes under the eaves.
Finally, we set off for home, it had been a really enjoyable weekend. Despite not having a knowledgeable leader with the group, we had all pulled together to collectively find pretty good numbers of birds, including most of the target species. Here’s to the next one!
Paxton Pits Nature Reserve – 22 April 2012 – Report by Sue Brealey
19 members met at Shirehall for the 2 hour journey to Paxton Pits, arriving at about 10am to clear skies and warm dry weather having ticked Kestrel and Red Kite from the coach on the way! The reserve, managed by Huntingdon Council is derived from a gravel pit complex and reliably produces one speciality bird, Nightingale, our main target species!
We could hear Nightingale on entering the reserve – an omen of what was to come! The walk along Heron Trail produced the usual suspects including Robin, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Blackbird, Dunnock, Greenfinch, Chaffinch, Wren, Woodpigeon, Goldfinch, and Long tailed Tit. Near the Hayden hide, Nightingale were heard singing away within the scrub, but with no real sightings. Really good views were had of male Blackcap in the trees in this area and finally, patience was finally rewarded with a Nightingale offering good scope views. A further Nightingale was heard singling not far away and this led to some interaction over territory with another bird! It was certainly mission accomplished with Nightingale on everyone’s list.
We walked back to the Hayden hide to check out Heron Lake. There were several Grey Heron, Mute Swan, Canada Goose, Tufted Duck, Great-crested Grebe and Coot but predominately the lake was the nesting area for large numbers of Cormorant. The trees in this vicinity had turned a peculiar grey/white colour from their droppings! Lunch was then taken at the Visitor Centre, several butterflies were noted on the walk there, including Orange Tip, Brimstone and Small White. A Sparrowhawk was seen in the picnic area.
After lunch, we walked the Meadow Trail, where Greylag Geese were grazing. The trail followed the edge of a lake where Tufted Duck, Mute Swan, Sand Martins and Grey Heron were seen. In some dense bushes along the trail, we heard Cetti’s Warbler and Garden Warbler, a couple of Gadwall were also noted on a small pond. On the opposite side of the Heron Lake an island was home to a large number of breeding Black-headed Gulls. Lapwing and a couple of Oystercatchers were also present. Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff were seen on the walk back to the visitor centre.
After arriving back at the coach, we discussed some of the birds seen by individuals who had separated from the main group. Other sightings included Cuckoo, which had been seen by various people, Stock Dove, Great spotted Woodpecker, with a Green Woodpecker heard calling. A Common Buzzard had been seen in flight plus Collared Dove, Jackdaw, Carrion Crow and Magpie. The latter few species brought the group tally up to 50. We had been very lucky with dry weather all day and storm clouds gathered followed by a downpour as we left Paxton at 4pm for the return journey home.
Moore Nature Reserve – 25 March 2012 – Report by Estelle Hughes
Nine members met in the car park for the visit to Moore Nature Reserve, owned by the Waste Recycling Group. A good mix of birds greeted us there: Song and Mistle Thrush, Coal Tit, Nuthatch, Goldfinch, Chaffinch plus Carrion Crow, Rook and Magpie, all busy with nesting activities.
It was a bright, chilly start as we crossed the meadow, where we heard the first of several Chiffchaffs which seemed to accompany us throughout the day. Common Buzzard, Jay, Great and Blue Tit, Robin and Dunnock were added to the list before we reached Lapwing Lake, the first of 5 large pools. We heard Little Grebes long before seeing them and several pairs were very vociferous on three of the pools. A pair of Oystercatcher, good numbers of Tufted Duck and Coot with a few Teal, Gadwall, Shoveler, Mallard and Great-crested Grebe were present along with the ubiquitous Canada and a few Greylag Geese. Juvenile Herring and Black-headed were the only Gull species.
We kept our eyes peeled, whilst walking through Middle Moss Wood, for Lesser-spotted Woodpecker. Moore is a reserve where all three species are present but we had no luck and headed off along the unmade track used by WRG lorries, adding Mute Swan and Raven before reaching the furthest hide (roofless!) at Eastern Reedbed, where several layers were shed with the increasing temperatures. Waders were noticeable by their absence and there were few birds on the intervening pools, but Peacock, Brimstone and Small Tortoiseshell butterflies added a splash of colour.
A return through the wood proved fruitless for the Lesser-spot, but, luckily, we met a birder who sent us to a specific dead tree, en route to the feeder station where the bird had been seen earlier. After 10 minutes it flew in and began excavating in several holes, periodically calling and affording incredibly close and prolonged views. Our day was made! Cameras and mobiles were in action until a Great-spotted Woodpecker chased it away but it returned when the latter departed. More frantic photography and comparing of shots, while a pair of Treecreepers almost went unnoticed in the undergrowth below. We paid a quick visit to the feeder station, where two of the feeders were installed in the shallow water to thwart the squirrels. Reed Bunting, Nuthatch, Great and Blue Tit fed undisturbed. Finally, we climbed to the Raptor Viewpoint which produced Common Buzzard and Kestrel, Chiffchaff and Willow Tit, ending a very enjoyable day.
RSPB Marshside – January 2012 – Report by Estelle Hughes
With freezing temperatures and a bone-chilling wind, four (fool?) hardy members met in the Reserve car park, where huge flocks of starlings and skeins of Pink foot whetted our appetite and augured well for the day.
We left exploration of Marshside until later and headed out to Hesketh Outmarsh 5 miles away, an extension to the saltmarsh and tidal flats opened by the RSPB some 2 years ago, true to form, the tide was out!
Nevertheless, we were greeted by wonderful views of Peregrine, 36 whooper swans feeding amongst the sheep, 60+ Shelduck and a few Wigeon. The highlight was a flock of 40-50 Twite, some conveniently perched on a fence which made for easier identification.
Returning to the Sandgrouse hide at Marshside, any hopes of warming up were dashed as the sand company had switched off the generator, leaving the volunteers manning the hide with no lighting or heat, but they gave us a warm greeting. We were impressed by the sheer numbers of birds with record counts of Black-tailed Godwit (6000+), Pintail, Teal and Wigeon for the site, which created quite a spectacle, especially when first a Merlin then a Sparrowhawk spooked them to take to the air.
There were good numbers of Shoveler and a few Pochard, Golden Plover, Canada and Greylag Geese, a Liitle Grebe and splendid views of 2 Common Snipe close to the hide. We had lunch and a welcome hot coffee, before moving to Nell’s hide overlooking Junction Pool. Again there were masses of Pintail, Wigeon, Black-tailed Godwit, Shoveler, with a few Mute Swans and Curlew. Two Hares, which seem to be a permanent fixture on the bank at the back of the pool, had a little courtship interaction, but quickly lay down as though it was too exhausting an exercise!
We ended the day looking for 2 Glaucous Gulls which had been on the saltmarsh for a few weeks, but no luck. Along the tideline were Sanderling, Dunlin, Oystercatcher, many Cormorants and, to our delight, a group of Bar-tailed Godwit – an excellent ending to the trip.