April 2017 - Birding & Wildlife Overview

A month with plenty of birding adventures starting at my local reserve WWT Brandon Marsh.

51 species were seen with the notables of Cetti's Warbler, Coal Tit, Goldcrest, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Greenfinch, Jay, Kestrel, Little Egret, Little Grebe, Peregrine, Redshank, Ringed Plover, Sand Martin, Snipe and Water Rail. Seeing a Peregrine is always a thrill and as it made its way through the reserve, everything within the area made for a quick and opposite direction!

A weekend in Dorset is always a good place for early migrants with Christchurch Harbour and Hengistbury Head a good starting habitat for looking for wildlife. Plenty of the usual birds were seen and the sound of Greenfinch were everywhere within the area. Stonechat were aplenty sitting high upon the gorse, there were at least three couples.

The following day was spent at RSPB Arne, my favourite reserve in Dorset, here the total species was 54 , highlights were Bar and Black Tailed Godwit, Brent Goose, Dartford Warbler, Little Egret, Sandwich Tern, Skylark, Stonechat, Swallow, Wheatear and Wigeon. As I always do when at Arne, I spent a great time in the car park area searching for my elussive bird the " Firecrest". Yes as usual, no sightings!

The following weekend I was out with my birding buddies, again up early and in Cambridgeshire for 07:00am and arriving at Paxton Pits Reserve to the sound of superb birdsong.

Within 10 minutes our target bird was heard singing its most beautiful song. The Nightingale is still one of natures most charismatic birds and always a great bird to see in the U.K.

Record shot of distant Nightingale deep within the tree

Here we also saw 51 species, Common Tern, Swallow, Sand Martin, Blackcap and Little Egret being the notables.

Following a morning trying to get a photograph of the Nightingale we left and travelled to Harrington Airfield for a completely different birding habitat. This airfield is an old world war 2 Airfield, which later became a cold war Airfield that stored nuclear missiles back in the 80's!  Notables species seen where Red Kite, Skylark, Swallow, Wheatear and Yellowhammer.

My next days birding was another trip with the Coventry and Warwickshire Local RSPB Group, this time to the premier reserve of RSPB Minsmere in Suffolk. Along with RSPB Arne this is one of my favourite reserves in England. The days total species was an brilliant 76. In addition to the birds, we were treated to views of an Otter feeding within a pool which was no more than 100 metres from the hide we were in.

Of note were Avocet, Barnacle Goose, Bar and Black Tailed Godwit, Garganey, Grey Partridge, House Martin, Kittiwake, Lesser Whitethroat, Mandarin Duck, Marsh Harrier, Mediterranean Gull, Peregrine, Red Legged Partridge, Redshank, Ringed Plover, Sand Martin, Sandwich tern, Sedge Warbler, Stonechat, Wheatear, Whitethroat. The day ended with half an hour scanning for Stone Curlew, two birds were eventually seen, however we were not expecting to see three Whimbrel too! a superb day with our local group.

My last weekend was again spent in North Devon which included my first MARINElife trip to Lundy Island as Wildlife Officer aboard MS Oldenburg. These trips are always full of adventure for many of the passengers that have never experienced the Island of Lundy.

Arriving at the quay early on Saturday morning, I collected my ticket and joined the passengers waiting to board MS Oldenburg. Here I bumped in to Simon Dell MBE who was on board to do a guided tour of Lundy for many of the visitors. Simon and I are so passionate about what I call "Our Island".

During the crossing the birds seen were Gannet, Manx Shearwater, Fulmar, Guillemot, Razorbill, Herring Gull and Swallow.

Once on the Island, I made my way to the Millcombe area to look for migrants, Blackcap, Whitethroat, Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler were all seen. From here, I made my way up and on towards the central track that goes through the middle of the Island.

My destination was Jenny's Cove, so called after the ship wreck of "The Jenny" which was wrecked here with a cargo of Whiskey, sadly none of the said cargo has been seen in many a year. However this area is a haven for sea birds that include Guillemot, Razorbill, Fulmar, Kittiwake and of course the bird that gives the Island it's name the "Puffin" Lundy is Norse for Puffin.

On the voyage back to Bideford many Manx Shearwater and Gannet were observed, sadly we didn't see a cetaceans this trip.
March 2017 - Birding & Wildlife Overview

The first weekend of March was spent in the great company of my two birding buddies Steve and Gary, up and on our way before it was light we travelled to the Forest of Dean in search of Hawfinch, Goshawk and wild Boar.

Upon arriving we were not alone, as there were quite a few fellow birders scanning the area for these stocky birds.

Our first was seen high in a tall Scots Pine far too high for a record photograph! We stayed for some time hoping that it would decend to to the ground to feed, alas, it didn't. Word from the locals suggested we try a wooded area near a church that could be seen from where we were.

We arrived just as the rain started, then Hawkeye Hobbs caught sight of a raptor high in the distance, an almighty shout was heard as Gary spotted a Goshawk. Tick two of the day for the species we had set out to see. A second Hawfinch made an appearance, again it too was very high in the trees surrounding the church's cemetry.

Returning to our original location we were on the lookout for Hawfinch again, sadly no others were spotted, however as we chatted to a local, he informed us of a Great Grey Shrike in a near woodland and he also gave us directions that turned out to be spot on. As we arrived, it happened again, Hawkeye had it first and we all enjoyed views through his scope.

Leaving here we made our way to a Woodland Trust site called "Fancy View" on route we passed several pools, one of which had a least 30 Manderin Duck rafting on the water. The site over looks a valley which is heavily covered in trees. In the distance more Goshawks were seen. A total of 47 bird species were recorded that day with three very special ones indeed. Evidence was everywhere that wild Boar where in the area, however, none of us were lucky enough to see any!

The 12th of March, I had my first Sand Martin of the year at Brandon Marsh, my local reserve, plus 54 other species during my visit, migration time had started.

On the third weekend of March we had our first trip this year to North Devon which gave me an opportunity to drop by at Fremingtom Pill an inlet off the River Taw Estuary. What an experience it was too with 7 Cattle Egret, 8 Little Egret, Glossy Ibis, Greenshank, Kingfisher, Shelduck, Black-Tailed Godwits, Grey Wagtail, hundreds of Redshank and my first Swallow of the year.

The month ended with a trip with the Coventry and Warwickshire Local RSPB Group to Potteric Nature Reserve, which is part of the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust. 

As usual, I was in the company of my two birding buddies as well as a few regulars that I know from Brandon Marsh and previous trips. Highlights were Bittern, Black Necked Grebe, Cetti's Warbler, Marsh Harrier and Mediterranean Gull. 
February 2017 Overview

The month started with a Great White Egret and a nice year tick whilst out in Northamptonshire, whilst stopping at Pitsford Reservoir to eat my lunch, I could clearly see this huge Heron from my parking spot.

Garden birds numbers totalled 29 with the following seen either in or going over.


Blackbird, Black Headed Gull, Blue Tit, Buzzard, Carrion Crow, Chaffinch, Coal Tit, Collared Dove, Dunnock, Fieldfare, Goldfinch, Great Black Backed Gull, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Great Tit, Green Woodpecker, Greenfinch, House Sparrow, Kestrel, Lesser Black backed Gull, Long Tailed Tit, Magpie, Pied Wagtail, Robin, Siskin, Song Thrush, Starling, Woodpigeon and Wren.

A trip out to Napton Reservoir hopefully for a year tick of Bearded Tit was disappointing, as the wind was quite strong and therefore any chance of seeing these beautiful birds was very slim, sadly none showed. However, the afternoon was not a complete waste of time as I ticked my first Red Kite of the year, as it gracefully soured over my head towards Southam.

The third week of February I went over to Ireland for a family weekend, instead of flying I booked the ferry from Liverpool with the intention of sea watching along the way. Thanks to storm Doris, the ferry was stuck in port until it passed over! When it finally left the Mersey estuary, the wind had dropped significantly and the expected rough journey was not too bad.

Balbriggan and Skerries provided a good place for a little sea watching, here the birds of note were Black Guillemot, Black Throated Diver, Brent Goose, Common Gull, Common Scoter, Curlew, Dunlin, Eider, Fulmar, Gannet, Guillemot, Hooded Crow, Purple Sandpiper, Redshank, Ringed Plover, Rock Pipit, Shag, Turnstone, Sanderling and the highlight was Iceland Gull, which is a lifer for me. 

Unfortunately I did not get a photo of the Gull as two over excited young lads on their BMX’s raced past and put all the gulls up, it was never seen again! Other common birds were seen, with the final count being 36.