Thursday, 7 December 2017

Almeria Day 2: Cabo de Gata

Wednesday 6 December

What a gorgeous start to to the day with clear blue skies, full sunshine and quite warm, no need for extra layers!  And before we even reached the first hide at the large car park we stopped to witness a half-dozen Curlew take of and circle their present site before finding new cover.  And then, as we entered the hide looking east. a quartet of Cranes flew over westwards calling as they travelled.  there were at least hundred or more Avocets resting almost below us and scores of Flamingo ahead of us in the almost mist-like distance.  Forget the House Sparrows as we watched a female Marsh Harrier drift over towards us on the right and then a pair of courting Kestrels on top of a post.  Iberian Grey Shrike?  Certainly and a Grey Plover at the water's edge.  What a way to start the morning.

Continuing to study the water and vegetation in front of us we soon added Stonechat, Chiffchaff and Sardinian Warbler along with Black-winged Stilt, Ringed Plover and a Raven passed overhead.  Moving on to the first hide on the southern shore we son added both Crested Lark and more Chiffchaff and once ensconced were looking at numerous Cormorant and a number of Lesser Black-backed Gulls.  Lovely to also see more Slender-billed GullsCrag Martins were feeding overhead then very close and clear views of a Dartford Warbler to keep us smiling. Not just the brief view of a Hoopoe but at least eight Curlews landed in the field to the west giving good flight and settled views.

Slender-billed Gull Gaviota Picofina Larus genei
On to the Public Hide where we noticed more Avocets but very view waders.  A handful of Black-tailed Godwits and a few Sanderling and Kentish Plover semed to be the main species.  We did pick up a couple of Little Stint and then a similar number of Redshank.  On the far side a small number of Shelduck and  not only Lesser Black-backed and Yellow-legged but a few Audouin's Gulls and a couple of Sandwich Terns.  Finally we added both Common Sandpiper and Dunlin whilst, behind us over the sea, a Gannet worked the coast.

Redshank Archibebe Comun Tringa totanus
Moving on down to the lighthouse area we were able to find very many Black Wheatear along with Black Redstart and Crested Lark.  Needless to say we also added White Wagtails.  Moving higher, having seen a small flock of Greenfinch, we also added Thekla Lark.

Wigeon Silbon  Europeo Anas penelope
Then it was back to the village and outside to visit the relatively nearby rambla.  Given the lower water levels seen at the salinas we were quite amazed to see how full was the ramble lake.  Three juvenile Flamingo and at least a dozen Black-necked Grebes were the first sightings and then we also added Shoveler, Mallard and Commom Pochard.  A little searching produced a pair of White-headed Duck and at least half-a-dozen Wigeon.  In addition there must have been at least fifty plus Cormorants resting on in the water.  Naturally both Coot and Moorhen were recorded and to our right a few Meadw Pipits worked the undergrowth.  But, perhaps, the prime sighting was the Peregrine Falcon that glided across the water and on above us towards the village.

Cormorant Cormoran Grande Phalacrocorax carbo flying in to join fifty friends

Continuing on along the narrow and, at times, challenging sandy track we found flocks of Serin and Goldfinch  along with a number of Collared Dove and a Greenshank as we took our farewell to Cabo de Gata at the original hide.  55 species recorded on the day (and not a single Blackbird during the two days) but, most of all, two very enjoyable days in good company and good weather.  Thank you "Other" Bob.

Wigeon Silbon  Europeo Anas penelope and Black-necked Grebes Zampullin Cuelinegro Podiceps nigricolli
Birds seen:
Shelduck, Wigeon, Mallard, Shoveler, Pochard, White-headed Duck, Black-necked Grebe, Gannet, Cormorant, Flamingo, Marsh Harrier, Kestrel, Peregrine Falcon, Moorhen, Coot, Crane, Black-winged Stilt, Avocet, Ringed Plover, Kentish Plover, Grey Plover, Sanderling, Little Stint, Dunlin, Back-tailed Godwit, Curlew, Redshank, Greenshank, Common Sandpiper, Black-headed Gull, Slender-billed Gull, Audouin's Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Sandwich Tern, Collared Dove, Hoopoe, Crested Lark, Thekla Lark, Crag Martin, Meadow Pipit, White Wagtail, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Black Wheatear, Dartford Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Chiffchaff, Iberian Grey Shrike, Raven, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch

Check out the accompanying website at for the latest sightings, photographs  and additional information

Sierra de Maria with the Arboleas Birding Group

Thursday 7 December

It seems to be all action at the moment.  Having just completed my blogs re last week's visits to both Frampton Marsh, Boston and Attenborough Reserve, Nottingham I am now underway with catching up on my two days in Almeria.  Day 1 based on Las Norias and Roquetas de Mar already published, photographs downloaded so that I can add along with Day 2 (yesterday) at Cabo de Gata. Meanwhile, David and Gilly Elliott-Binns are back from their UK visit and, also, yesterday were off to the Sierra de Maria where, like me, they had the rare privilege of recording a Merlin in "supersonic" flight.  As Dave says in his report below, they may have been down on numbers but certainly had some quality birds.

Sierra de Maria   -   Wednesday 6th December

I take full responsibility for today! It was my decision for the group to return here, two weeks after their last visit whilst I was on my way back from the UK.  Gilly, who had the day off work, and I picked up Richard and headed for Maria.  My truck doesn't give the outside temperatures, but John's car displayed -2c passing Velez Rubio.  It was about 0c at Maria.
We met up with him, Alan, Val, Les and Adrian at the Repsol garage cafe for a warming cuppa before making our way to the chapel area.  We'd already logged some of the usual suspects, House Sparrow, Collared Dove, Spotless Starling, Magpie and White Wagtail and added a Goldfinch en route.  There was very little round the chapel.  Les spotted a Robin and I was first to see some Great Tits.  Nothing at the water trough which I assume was iced up, so we began the walk up to the Information Centre. Incredibly Gilly spotted a bird in a distant tree.  A Hawfinch. 

Well-hidden Hawfinch Coccothraustes coccothraustes (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
Presumably one of the hard to see resident ones, even though the has been lots of reported sightings recently in the UK.  Amazingly I got a photo from one of my friendly guides in Morocco of one ​resting in the Northern Sahara!  We also saw Blackbird and Mistle Thrush.  In the Botanical Gardens we only added some Crossbill. We all quickly returned to the Information Centre to have a warm by their blazing log fire!   Maybe my decision was not a good one!
Hawfinch Coccothraustes coccothraustes seen in the Sahara (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
I led the convoy of cars towards the disused farm buildings.  As we approached some half dozen Jays followed a Green Woodpecker from the small deposito towards the pine trees.  Richard spotted the first Rock Sparrow.  Some Mistle Thrush and Crossbill were perched in the tree next to the water.  Les and the others went round the back of the buildings where the sun was on the short grassed meadow and found Crested and Lesser Short-toed Larks, Black Redstarts and many Chaffinch. A Raven and Carrion Crows were also seen. 
Moving on to the farm water trough area we saw more Crested Lark and Rock Sparrows, when Gilly spotted a Iberian Grey Shrike low down below an almond tree.  It eventually posed nicely on the fence surrounding the deposito.
Iberian Grey Shrike Lanius meridionalis (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
Heading onto the plain we passed some corvids feeding to our right.  One Raven and some Carrion Crows.  Again I was leading the convoy when I saw a fast low flying bird  parallel to my left.  It landed.  It was a male Merlin.  It rapidly took off as a small lorry drove from the opposite direction and flew between us and the lorry, flying a wide circle and disappearing.  Kevin driving behind us saw it but the others, further behind missed it despite a search.  Kevin did manage to spot the crown of a skulking Little Owl amongst some rocks!  It was joined by a Black Redstart. Down at the hamlet we saw more Crested Larks and Alan identified some Linnet.
On the way back along the plain, two Little Owls were now on top of the rocks, warming themselves in the sun.  We came across a huge flock of corvids.  I stopped to check them when all of a sudden numerous Black Bellied Sandgrouse took off.  I followed a group of 14 but Alan said there were many more.  I think this is the third time in about 14 years I've seen them here.  The corvids included Raven, Carrion Crow and Red Billed Chough.
Once we'd got to the La Piza forest cafe it was warm enough in the sun to sit out for our snack lunch. We were entertained by a small flock of Long-tailed Tit.  Les also spotted a Blue Tit.  Leaving there we saw a stream of Griffon Vultures flying towards Maria town and further on at least 8 birds soaring near Velez Blanco.
A few of the group trying to restore their circulation (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
Although we only ended up with 31 species, I think we got quality not quantity!
A great day out despite the cold weather!  A good decision, David!
I've also attached a photo of a very obliging Hoopoe which visited the threshing circle in front of our house the other day! Regards, Dave
Hoopoe Upua epops ouside our house (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)

Check out the accompanying website at for the latest sightings, photographs  and additional information

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Almeria Day 1: Roquetas de Mar

Tuesday 5 December

Beautiful, clear and sunny day as I set off towards Almeria Province with visiting Australian birder, Bob Ashford.  By 10.45 we had reached Las Norias amid all the plastic greenhouses and its extensive reservoir.  Passing many Cattle Egret and a number of House Sparrows and Spotless Starlings we were soon at the the first causeway where we found surprisingly few water birds.  Hundreds of Crag Martins fading low over the water and a score or more Cormorant to our left.  Closer observation with the scope revealed a number of Great Crested Grebe and a handful of Shoveler hiding at the end of a stretch of reeds away to our right.  Again, closer inspection also revealed a trio of Red-crested Pochard.

Black-necked Grebe Zampullin Cuellinegro Podiceps nigricollis

A number of White Wagtails were foraging along the road and the first Linnet of the day passed over.    Having found a small group of six Black-necked Grebe we then had a single Little Grebe right in front of us and, when standing at the water's edge, a juvenile Night Heron took off from its cover to our left.  There were a few Black-headed Gulls and a single Little Egret was found right at the far end of the water,  Just a few Coot and a Moorhen waddled out to add to our observations.  Close by a Grey Wagtail landed briefly on the rocks to our left and made a rapid departure whilst a couple of Yellow-legged Gulls flew over.

Just two of the hundreds of Crag Martins Avion Roquero Phyonoprogne rupestris

On next to the plastic recovery plant and parked at the bridge to discover how low the water really was; no wonder there was a shortage of ducks in this area.  The small pool at the end produced a few Shoveler and a Heron the our only Purple Swamphen of the day.  Both Zitting Cisticola and Serin were seen as we walked down to the grassy field on the left a the end of the fence.  here we found both Meadow Pipit, Serin and Chiffchaff before finding a gap in the fence so that we could get down to the disgusting beach with all its accumulated rubbish.  Bob saw the flash of a Green Sandpiper as it darted away and with the help of scope and binoculars we soon relocated the bird further along the rocks.  At this point we were suddenly surprised as we watched a Short-eared Owl take off from the bushes to our right and glide away and over the small bank in front.  Wonderful! A Common Sandpiper came to join us and then we made our way back tote car and drove to the crossroads further lawn to take a right-turn and check out the small pool from the far end.  Apart from the small number of Shoveler already seen we were able to add a flock of about a dozen Mallard.

Greenshank Archibebe Claro Tringa nebularia
Time to move on and we made our way across towards Roquetas de Mar via San Augustin.  Near here we took the small track towards the lighthouse.  From the causeway we saw our first Flamingos and then a Greenshank feeding at the water's edge.  A little further along a Little Egret took off from the path and then the sight of another Meadow Pipit.  At the far end a single Slender-billed Gull was on the water to our left.

Slender-billed Gull gaviota Picofina Larus genei
Parking at the far end of the water we were able to find the flock of Shoveler and closer inspection also revealed a handful of Teal and at least a quartet of White-headed Ducks long with a number of Common Pochard.  Not many gulls present but we did record both Black-headed and Yellow-legged Gull.  A couple of Black-winged Stilts were working the small island and above us a female Kestrel was hovering.  Then, as promised, the sight of our first Marsh Harrier as an adult female quartered the reeds on the far side in front of us.

Black-winged Stilt Ciguenuela Comun Himantopus himantopus
Working our way back to the main road the Greenshank was still to be found along with a Redshank and pair of Black-winged Stilts.  At the bend to the causeway we finally found our first Stonechat and they were to become very regular sightings over the next hour or so.  But watching this first individual also revealed the Water Pipit feeding in the water close by.  Having had a long look at a female Reed Bunting a Sky Lark ascended in front of us and another Zitting Cisticola flew across the track to a new set of reeds.  As we approached the road we had a Robin on the track to our left.

Just to prove that Greenshank and Black-winged Stilt are hapy to feed in close proximity
Next it was to the old Salinas but first a stop a the fresh water lake before we joined the sandy track.  Here we found hundreds of Coot and probably as many duck, all close to the road side of the water which appeared to give more shelter.  Mainly Common but we did find a pair of Red-crested Pochard.  In with the flock were a handful of Gadwall and a small number of Wigeon a little further away.  It was whilst looking at the latter that I found the pair of resting Pintail to add to the number of duck species seen.  In addition to the mainly Black-headed and a few Yellow-legged Gulls we also found a very small flock of Lesser Black-backed Gulls on the water.

A few of the hundreds of Common Pochard Porron Europeo Aythya ferina
And so to the salinas themselves where, again, the water level was down and many of the shallower pools had completely dried.  Small waders seen were mainly Ringed and Kentish Plover along with  Dunlin and a couple of Turnstone.  On the opposite of the track the main pools provided many Flamingoes and then a large flock of Shelduck, probably well in excess of an hundred.  More Mallards, hundreds of Shoveler and then a small number of Sanderling feeding at the edge immediately in front of us.

Observations completed we made our way via the motorway towards Cabo de Gata with the sight of a passing Hoopoe as we approached the exit.  Taking the concrete track at about KM2 on the Cabo road  we made our way to the end so that we might follow the track to our left in search of the wintering Dotterel after crossing the dry arroyo.  A number of Crested Larks were seen and our first productive stop produced an Iberian Grey Shrike on a fence post.  Similarly, a female Kestrel occupied an isolated post away to our right and, in between the two, a small number of Rock Doves were feeding on the ground.

Female Common Kestrel Cernicalo Vulgar Falco tinnunculus

A good-sized flock of Linnets passed over along with Serin and the sighting of more Meadow Pipits whilst, out at sea, Bob noticed the first Gannet of the day.  Eventually turning to return in the same direction Bob caught sight of a large distant bird.  A little further on we found the bird resting in a tree top and it proved to be a lovely male Marsh Harrier.  The bird took off and flew across the track n front of us and disappeared but not before disturbing the Merlin that flashed past us low to the left travelling about a metre above the ground.  No wonder Rolls-Royce named their famous engine after this bird and it was used to power both Hawker Hurricanes and Spitfires during the World War II.  Our final sightings includedMagpie, Greenfinch and Thekla Lark but no Dotterel before we continued on to Cabo de Gata itself.

Arriving in good time I took Bob son a quick visit the lighthouse by way of whetting the appetite for the morning and we found not only a resting Cormorant but a fishing Sandwich Tern.  A female Black Redstart was on the grass above the kiosk and on the roof of the yet as unopened Visitors Centre we found a sentinel Black Wheatear.  Now what will Wednesday bring - apart from a national holiday?

Birds seen:
Shelduck, Wigeon, Gadwall, Mallard, Shoveler, Teal, Red-crested Pochard, Common Pochard, Pintail, White-headed Duck, Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Black-necked Grebe, Gannet, Cormorant, Night Heron, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Grey Heron, Flamingo, Marsh Harrier, Kestrel, Merlin, Moorhen, Purple Swamphen, Coot, Black-winged Stilt, Ringed Plover, Kentish Plover, Sanderling, Dunlin, Green Sandpiper,  Common Sandpiper, Greenshank, Redshank, Turnstone, Black-headed Gull, Slender-billed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Short-eared Owl, Rock Dove, Collared Dove, Hoopoe, Crested Lark, Thekla Lark, Sky Lark, Crag Martin, Grey Wagtail, White Wagtail, Meadow Pipit, Water Pipit, Robin, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Black Wheatear, Zitting Cisticola, Chiffchaff, Iberian Grey Shrike, Magpie, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Serin, Greenfinch, Linnet, Reed Bunting.

Check out the accompanying website at for the latest sightings, photographs  and additional information

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Attenborough Nature Reserve, Nottingham

Redwing Turdus iliacus
Wednesday 29 November

What a day; left home at 9am and for the first twenty minutes was driving north on the A1 in torrential rain.  Eased off and cleared as I drove west along the A52 and just a couple of spots before arriving in good sunshine, almost clear skies and a little wind at Attenborough Nature Reserve in Nottingham.  Here I met my birding pal Chris Bell who had travelled south from Worksop and then followed a smashing five hours or more exploring every pond and track around and through this lovely site.  Not too bad underfoot except for one particular path as we left the Elevated Bird Hide (and not having seen the possible Bittern) and by the time we returned to the Visitors Centre for an end of session coffee we had recorded 49 species.  But between here and reaching the car to start our homeward journeys we managed to add Egyptian Goose, Fieldare and Bullfinch so bringing up the half-century and a couple to spare.

Visiting Song Thrush Turdus philomelos

On arrival we quickly took in the large number of Lapwing and Black-headed Gulls and whilst Chris saw the first Bullfinch I picked up a couple of Greenfinches after we had both spotted a pair of Pied Wagtails in the neighbouring field with the feeding horses.  If yesterday was about geese then today was a "duck day" with nine species recorded; Gadwall, Wigeon (by the score rather than thousand!), Mallard, Shoveler, Teal, Pochard, Tufted Duck, Goldeneye and Goosander.  

Male (above) and female Common Pochard  Aythya ferina

Male Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula

But it was also a day when I finally caught up with some old friends not seen for months, such as Goldcrest, Bullfinch and Common Gull.  Lovely to see not just Blackbird and Mistle Thrush but also a Song Thrush and newly-arrived winter thrushes such as Redwing (mainly) and the odd Fieldfare.

No shortage of feeding Redwing Turdus iliacus

Whilst from the start of the day we had seen many Mute Swan and Canada Geese we had to wait, as described above, until it was time to leave before recording our first pair of Egyptian Geese.  Also on the water were many Great Crested Grebes spread around the reserve but only a handful of Little Grebe and just a handful or less of Moorhen plus many Coot. Also a few Cormorant were observed and, maybe, a half-dozen Herons.  The site was not really conducive of waders but we did find very many Lapwing and a couple of Snipe.  On the water itself, in addition to the occasional Common Gull we recorded many Black-headed plus Lesser Black-backed Gulls.

Common (Mew) Gull Larus canus
Corvids seemed to be well represented with a number of Carrion Crow and lots of Magpies to add to the Rooks recorded upon our arrival and, likewise, we also found a small number of Jackdaw.

Corvids represented by Magpie Pica pica (above) and Carrion Crow Corvus corone corone

Walking through the trees it was lovely to see many Long-tailed Tits, Blue and Great Tits, lots of Robins along with Dunnock, Chaffinch, Goldfinch and Wren not to mention the Nuthatches which thoroughly enjoyed gorging themselves at a hidden food table away from the general public.  Above us a constant movement of Woodpigeons and, eventually, walking through the outskirts of Attenborough village a single Collared Dove.  If you then add on Tree Sparrow, Goldfinch and a brief appearance of a Great Spotted Woodpecker you will get some idea of the wide range of species recorded during the day.

The lovely Dunnock Prunella modularis

Towards the end of the visit we observed a distant Buzzard circling over  a hill on the far side of the Trent to add to the three Kestrels recorded. 
Female Kestrel Falco tinnunculus on her usual perch

And so ended a lovely day in pleasant weather conditions and the great company of Chris to whom I should particularly like to extend my thanks. 

Nuthatch Sitta europaea feeding in the shaded woods

Birds seen:
Canada Goose, Mute Swan, Egyptian Goose, Gadwall, Wigeon, Mallard, Shoveler, Teal, Pochard, Tufted Duck, Goldeneye, Goosander, Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Cormorant, Heron, Buzzard, Kestrel, Moorhen, Coot, Lapwing, Snipe, Black-headed Gull, Common Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Kingfisher, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Pied Wagtail, Wren, Dunnock, Robin, Song Thrush, Redwing, Mistle Thrush, Fieldfare, Goldcrest, Long-tailed Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Nuthatch, Magpie, Jackdaw, Rook, Carrion Crow, Starling, House Sparrow, Tree Sparrow, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch and Bullfinch.

At lest five female Goosander Mergus merganser present on site

A farewell look at our Redwing Turdus iliacus and Robin Erithacus rubecula
Check out the accompanying website at for the latest sightings, photographs  and additional information

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Birding at 1C?

Tuesday 28 November

25 Barnacle Geese Branta leucopsis on site
Two birding days this week starting today with a visit to RSPB Frampton Marsh on the outskirts of Boston, Lincolnshire followed by the relatively short drive to the other side of the town to visit the Freiston reserve.  It seemed a good idea at the time to stay closer to home as I recover from my "man flu" rather than drive over to north Norfolk.  So, there I was at Frampton before 9 ready to check out the birds with clear blue skies and a low, blinding sun and no wind at all to speak of.  On the other hand, stepping out of the car I realised that the temperature had recently crept up to 1C and by late morning had reached the dizzy heights of 3, if not 4C!  Mind you, as the temperature rose to these astounding heights so the wind picked up to deliver a cold breeze and so remind foreign-living birders that this is not jumpers-only never mind short-sleeve shirt weather so make sure you have plenty of layers about the person; even make the Sierra Loja feel like the Caribbean!

Just a few of the thousands of Wigeon Anas penelope with a male below

Crow, large number of Rooks, Pheasants and Blackbird as I drove through the site to park at the end of the track and check out the steep bank and its grassy fields to the right and scrape to the left.  Thousands of Wigeon on site either resting or grazing along with large numbers of Canada Geese and a few Greylag.  Stopping to take a closer look a a few of the "strange" Canada Geese I realised that we also had 25 Barnacle Geese in the narrow channel and further away a very small flock of Pink Foot Geese.  All with the sun behind me so enabling me to scope to the far side of the grass where I found not only scores of Lapwing but also a small number of Golden Plover.  On the other side of the road the scope revealed even more Wigeon along with a few Mallard and Shoveler before I found a good number of Teal.  A lone Moorhen popped out of the pond for a little walk along the bank and then, by way of a change, my first wader of the morning with a single Ruff.

A view of The Wash from the high bank of the reserve

From the\ top of the bank looking down onto the marsh I counted at least an hundred Brent Geese which, having been disturbed (I was later informed that a Marsh Harrier had flown over the area), took off and headed into the reserve where the total must have doubled as they revealed more of the same.  A couple of Redshank were also seen as I looked down onto the scrape.  Walking back to the car I soon added Shoveler and a pair of Reed Bunting before parking in the "proper" car park, entering the Visitors Centre for a warming coffee to check out the feeding station and then undertake a clockwise walk taking in all three hides.  The feeding station was relatively quiet did was providing much nourishment for a small charm of Goldfinch, a few House Sparrows  and a handful of Chaffinch.  The water in front provided mainly Wigeon and Teal with a few Mallard but also a number of Shelduck, two Herons and three Mute Swan, whilst almost hidden away in the far reeds was a lonely Little Egret.
Mute Swan Cygnus olor

All very quiet until I arrived at the far hide but, apart from a lone Redshank, just mainly Brent Geese and a few more Shelduck.  At lease I did pick up three Black-tailed Godwits whilst visiting the Reed Hide and the 360 Degree Hide was noted, yet again, for Brent Geese, Wigeon and Teal.  In the distance I found the flock of Barnacle Geese along with most of the Canada and Greylag Geese.  Strange how few gulls were about but I did observed the odd Herring Gull.  The walk back to the Visitors Centre also produced a flock of eight Greenfinches and a lone female Kestrel resting in the top of a roadside tree.

Hundreds of Brent Geese Branta bernicla

Before leaving for the journey over to Freiston, I managed to find a distant, small flock of feeding Fieldfare, more Pheasants, a Blue Tit on the feeders and, finally, both Magpie and Woodpigeon.  But not one single Collared Dove all day; must be some sort of record!

Shelduck Tadorna tadorna

The journey over to Freiston was, perhaps on reflection, a little on the luxury side given that so few additional birds were added to the day's total.  More Wigeon and Lapwing a plenty and a dozen or so Mute Swans on the pool whereas, on the grazing land on the other side of the bank running alongside the path, another huge three-figure flock of resting Wigeon.  But, in addition to a quartet of Redshank, the pool did provide a single Grey Plover,  On the island a dozen or so Jackdaw and a large number of roosting Black-headed Gulls between the shore and the island.  Lovely to find a trio of Little Grebe and even a Robin joined the local Blackbirds to watch me pass through the avenue of bushes.

Many Lapwing at both sites Vanellus vanellus

Birds seen:
Pink-footed Goose, Greylag Goose, Brent Goose, Canada Goose, Barnacle Goose, Mute Swan, Shelduck, Wigeon, Mallard, Shoveler, Teal, Pheasant, Little Grebe, Little Egret, Heron, Kestrel, Moorhen, Golden Plover, Grey Plover, Lapwing, Ruff, Black-tailed Godwit, Redshank, Black-headed Gull, Herring Gull, Rock Dove, Woodpigeon, Robin, Blackbird, Fieldfare, Blue Tit, Magpie, Jackdaw, Rook, Carrion Crow, Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Reed Bunting.

Probably a dozen Redshank Tringa totanus on site

Check out the accompanying website at for the latest sightings, photographs  and additional information

Thursday, 23 November 2017

Rutland Water

Little Egret Egretta garzetta
Thursday 23 November

My chance to do a local birding but the forecast was suggesting heavy overnight rain followed by sun at 8am today and then cloud soon after lunch.  Obviously, a question of up early and away and I was on site at Rutland Water just before 8am.  The clouds had cleared, the strong winds of yesterday had abated and the sun was out in the sky but very bright.  Only bad news was that it was bloomin' cold!  And my overall impression of the reserve after a three month absence?  Weird!  The main reservoir was well down on water so obviously we are not the only ones (in Spain) praying for rain but, yet, some of the lagoons were too full.  So much maintenance had been undertaken that nearly all the cover has disappeared from the main feeding station and much of the reed has been cut back.  Too early to make use of the hides as I headed towards Lagoons 3 & 4 as not only were there few birds about but the very low, bright sun made any on site mere silhouettes.  And by the time I left to take a look at the Burley Fishponds and Manton Bay I realised, with a very few exceptions, how few birds were actually about; not helped, of course, by the ongoing maintenance work with saws and fires ,etc disturbing just about everything.

Great Tit Parus major above Blue Tit Parus caeruleus
Approaching Egleton I had Rooks, Crows and Wood Pigeons along with a couple of magpies and the first of many Egyptian Geese.  However, there must have been t least five flock of roosting Black-headed Gulls on the neighbouring fields and probably totalling at least 500 individuals.  The first Robin of the morning put in a brief appearance as I drive into the car park quickly followed by the first of many Blackbirds.  naturally, the resident Jackdaws announced my arrival to all and sundry - but being first on site there was no "all and sundry" to appreciate their welcome other than myself!

A good stop at the feeding station which, in addition to the scavenging Grey Squirrels, produced the usual assortment of small birds represented by mainly Chaffinch and Great tit along with Robin, Blue Tit, House Sparrow and Dunnock.  A number of Jackdaws and a couple of Pheasants arrived to displace the pair of Moorhen making use of the small pond.  Having also noted the pair of Collared Dove I made my way northwards towards the Sandpiper Hide overlooking Lagoon3.  A large number of roosting Lapwing and also plenty of Egyptian Geese including sat on the Osprey's perch.  As with the silhouettes seen on the way down, nearly all the ducks were Wigeon and they certainly seem to have arrive at Rutland by the hundred. Also on the water I recorded  a few Mute Swan, Pied Wagtail and a large roost of Black-headed Gulls. Just beyond the main roost, a smaller gull roost also held a score or more of Great Black-backed Gulls.  I eventually found a few Teal hiding amongst the Wigeon and, right at the back, a few Tufted Duck and Gadwall.

Wigeon Anas penelope

On to the Shoveler Hide overlooking Lagoon 3 and this, by comparison with previous visits, was very quiet and nothing close to hand or making use of the mud flats around the edges.  A few Common Pochard and more Gadwall along with basking Cormorants.  Just the one Great Crested Grebe seen along with a single male Goldeneye.  Having checked the neighbouring hides it was Lapwing Hide overlooking the main South Arm that produced the main supply of birds with many Coots, more Moorhens and Wigeon along with Mallard, Teal, Tufted Duck and Great Crested Grebe.  I had already noted the first Little Egret form the Smew Hide but on the far side of the water towards Green Bank I picked up a female Red-breasted Merganser which was a very rewarding site.

Lapwings Vanellus vanellus at roost plus some interlopers
Walking back to re-visit both the Shoveler and Sandpiper Hides I had a Wren fly low across the path in front of me and this was to happen on two further occasions before I left the reserve.  Nothing else to report at the former but, on visiting the Sandpiper Hide, a score or more Golden Plover had joined the Lapwing roost and I also added Herring Gull, a handful having joined the smaller mixed gull roost.

Still not found the Golden Plovers Pluvialis apricaria roosting with the Lapwing Vanellus vanellus?
Time fore a short rest at the Visitors Centre and see how empty was the water in front, almost certainly due to the on-going maintenance in the near locality, but I was joined by a single female Stonechat and a handful of cock Pheasants.  The only addition at the feeding station was a Goldfinch so on to the Burley Fishponds.

Not "bursting at the seams" but more bird life on offer including a couple of Great White Egrets and a single Little Egret.  Mainly Wigeon, Tufted Duck, Teal and Gadwall but also, at last, a handful of Shoveler and some geese with good flocks of both Greylag and Canada Goose.  Just beyond the "fishing limit" I picked up both Great Crested and Little Grebe plus more Mute Swans and resting Cormorants.

Blue Tit Parus caeruleus (above) and Great Tit Parus major below
A very brief stop at the road bridge overlooking Manton Bay revealed how far the water level had dropped but also produced a Curlew Sandpiper.  It was then on up to the closed Lyndon Visitors Centre to check out the local feeder.  Fortunately, the hoppers were well stocked and attracting both Blue and Great Tit along with the resident Tree Sparrows and both occasional Chaffinch and Goldfinch. A Great Spotted Woodpecker put in the very briefest on a non-stopping visit to the hoppers and was away.  But looking down to the left of the Centre I eventually found my first Grey Heron of the morning. And then it was time to return home in Stamford and complete the next job and also see my first raptor of the morning with a hovering Kestrel.  On the whole, considering the overall lack of birds present, I was quite pleased to have actually recorded 50 species.

Tree Sparrow Passer montanus
Birds seen:
Greylag Goose, Canada Goose, Egyptian Goose, Mute Swan, Wigeon, Gadwall, Mallard, Shoveler, Tufted Duck, Teal, Pochard, Goldeneye, Red-breasted Merganser, Pheasant, Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Cormorant, Little Egret, Great White Egret, Heron, Kestrel, Moorhen, Coot, Golden Plover, Lapwing, Curlew Sandpiper, Black-headed Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Herring Gull, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Pied Wagtail, Wren, Dunnock, Robin, Stonechat, Blackbird, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Magpie, Jackdaw, Rook, Carrion Crow, House Sparrow, Tree Sparrow, Chaffinch, Goldfinch.

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