Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Rutland 29th May

Mother dearest had a day off today and had planned to spend the day at Rutland so I decided to tag along as that seemed a much better idea than this applying for jobs lark - if I have to write about my main tasks whilst working in previous jobs for Argos, Royal Mail, NFU and DHL one more time I'm going to tear my own face off, it was boring at the time and is even more so whilst writing about in hindsight.

Anyway, I digress, off we went to Rutland (via Eyebrook) where we saw birds - 80ish species in the end with the undoubted higlight being the Little Stint on Lagoon 4 which was a lifer for Mumsy. Want to see a photo? Are you sure?

you didnt really want to see this did you?

Apart from the Stint (which proved a right challenge to find - it was hiding near Plover hide) there wasn't much standing out from the commoner fare, not even a nice summer plumaged Sanderling that could have provided some in-hide entertainment in the form of ridiculous claims by the (lets be kind) less experienced, but still enthusiastic birders that seem to get drawn to Rutland in droves. Despite the lack of Sanderlings there were still a couple of cracking mis-identifications today:

Snipe (it was a Redshank)

Osprey (Egyptian Goose)

After we'd been turned away from the path down to Lapwing hide by a big sign declaring hazardous construction work was in progress (perhaps fixing the Savi's fence?) we went back past the visitors centre and had a quick look at the other side of the reserve including the new Tern, Pintail and Kingfisher hides that Mum hadn't visited before but we didnt see much apart from a cracking Short-eared Owl from the new Harrier hide - its still in the same place but the old, creaky, spiders nest has been replaced with a new, soon-to-be spiders nest. Think this is certainly the latest spring bird I have ever seen and was probably the last chance I'll have to photograph one before the autumn so I'm glad one image was usable!

And as I didn't really point the camera at anything else today, have a photo of a sheep:

Why are Border Collies so quick on their feet?

They've seen what happens to slow sheep.

Monday, 28 May 2012

Dangling from a bag of hot wind

Is a pretty fair description of what I spent a large chunk of this morning doing, dangling from this particular bag of wind to be precise:

This was actually a re-arranged trip with my Landscape and Restoration ecology class that was originally planned for last October and has been re-arranged/cancelled due to weather several times leading to the odd situation of going on a fieldtrip for a module I have already completed. And got my final grade for I might add (a B+, rather chuffed). Either way it couldn't have been arranged for a better day weather-wise but did mean leaving Leicester rather early if I was to get to the Northampton Marriot for 5.45am! This did however mean a lovely drive through the countryside, spying a Tawny Owl, Little Owl, Muntjac Deer along the way and of course soaking up the lovely dawn light:

The second and third images in this set were taken at Maidwell where I quickly popped in to see if I could sneak a quick Barn Owl but instead came across something better! A quick search produced no Owls so I was leaving the site and came across a Hare that was ambling along the track about 30 yards infront of the car. It began to get a bit nervy and made a move to shoot into an adjacent field of oil-seed rape and as it did so it disturbed a Partridge-like chap from the rape and into the track. Thinking this was a welcome Grey Partridge to end the monotonous run of Red-legged that I'd seen already I raised the bins to my eyes to be greeted with a storming Quail that lingered just long enough to be positively identified before it dived back into the rape field, first one I've ever seen! Shame I couldn't get an image of it but I'm not too bothered really, certainly not as bothered as Golden Oriole who is now Billy-no-mates on my heard but not seen list.

Unfortunately I couldn't linger to see if it re-appeared as time wasn't on my side so on it was to my first ever hot air ballooning trip which turned out to be pretty damn good and certainly worth being up at the crack of dawn for!

"This isn't what it looked like on the box"

Fill her up!

Turns out Horses, Sheep, Cows, Pigeons, Geese and Dogs are all scared of hot air balloons


Northampton and its famous lift tower

Urban Sprawl, innit - an incredible amount of people have a trampoline in their gardens too, it was freaky.

Look! A Heron!

Tractors - faster than balloons

Drifting over the M1 - very surreal!

Nether Heyford cricket pitch, we landed pretty much where the shadow of the balloon is.

After we'd been retrieved by the balloon's ground team and deposited back at the Marriott it was still pretty early in the day and as it was just down the road I dropped into Summerleys nature reserve near Earls Barton. I was only there for about an hour and a half but bagged a nice trio of goodies - drake Garganey, one gorgeous Wood Sandpiper (which I helped two older gals to life tick - they loved it!) and two Little Gull viewed from the screen.

Here's one, phonescoped for your viewing pleasure

And here's the other

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Staying out of the sun

Owls, in particular those of the Little variety, can be well known for being sunbathers but this one that I found today near Willoughby seemed to be doing his/her very best to stay out of the sunshine, evidently there is an owl temperature threshold of around 25°C... interesting to know.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Burrough Hill, 23rd May

Me and Amy went for a wander around the iron age fort at Burrough Hill yesterday as it was such a nice day - another option was Bradgate Park but we fancied it would be quieter, and thus more pleasant at Burrough Hill despite the less than pleasing £2.50 parking fee - thats just insane!
Nothing particularly stood out bird wise apart from the resident Tree Sparrows and the usual warbler suspects but there was certainly an abundance of domesticated beasties to point the camera at:

And of course visiting such a scenic site provided plenty of nice views for Amy to photograph

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

A pleasant evenings ramble around

Produced the goods tonight, in the form of two Little Owl at known sites and a third at what was certainly a new site for me and could well be a new site for Paul, and it couldnt have been easier really - sat right next to the lane atop a small bush. The light was falling rapidly but with the aid of some heavy editing this image is just about usable:

Very welcome sight indeed

Red-legged Partridge

And the sunset was just laavely today

Monday, 21 May 2012

Hearing Stuff

Today was an perfect example of how we rely on our ears just as much as our eyes as birders. I found myself at Swithland reservoir listening to the dawn chorus at a horribly early hour this morning - 4.55am to be precise. The reason for such lunacy? The Golden Oriole that had been present for the last two days!
When the news orignally broke of this bird I thought there was little point in running after it as most Leicestershire records involve birds that rarely linger, as a result I was thoroughly unprepared for going to see it yesterday too when the bird bucked the trend and stayed for a second whole day! Surely this was too good to last and eager to avoid another Savi's warbler incident I made sure I was there at the very crack of dawn this morning! Turns out I should have had an extra hour in bed as although plenty of birds were singing (including a nice Cuckoo, only my 2nd this year), none of them were the Oriole and it only led to increasingly nervous thoughts!

Eventually though the golden flutey notes reached my ears and there was truly no mistaking it for anything else once I'd heard it properly! Lifer! Too bad it joins Quail on the list of stuff I've ticked but haven't actually seen, better than nothing though! By about 7am the Oriole had quietened down somewhat and hadn't shown itself at all so I called it quits at that point and headed off to see if I could hear me some Quail as it seemed like a perfect day for listening to stuff! The site I visited was the National Forest land near Bagworth where there were several singing Quail last summer but none were heard today unfortunately. So I headed home, pleased with my 3rd lifer in a week! This birding lark is easy so it is.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Blogger, brace yourself!

Because three of Leicestershire's premier bloggers, and myself, went to Norfolk today!
Things didn't go to plan as I arrived at the Llama's house (on the other side of Leicester to where I live) bang on time but quickly realised I'd left not only my scope but also my bins at home, what a dick! Thankfully John saved the day as he had a spare pair of binoculars and so I piled into the back seat with Mr Dave Gray and off we went to Norfolk!
First stop (not counting the pit-stop at a Scottish burger merchant) was a top secret job where yours truly ticked his first ever Montagu's Harrier (a ringtail) with minimal difficulty before we moved onto a Corn Bunting site (im not supressing this, I just can't remember its name!) where we saw a Hen Harrier and another possible Montagu's along with a few Wheatear in a ploughed field.

Hen Harrier (five primaries as opposed to 4 in a Monty's)


After this promising start to the day (raptors were EVERYWHERE) we moved onto Titchwell, hearing a Cetti's Warbler as soon as we stepped out of the visitors centre and then finding this obliging fellow just a short way down the path.

First photo I took of the bird, the rest were useless!

The Lagoons were a tad quiet today with only a couple of loafing Little Gulls standing out from the crowd and so we quickly moved onto the beach for an attempted seawatch that was quickly abandoned on the grounds that there was very little on/moving over the sea and so we focused on the mass of waders on the shoreline instead:

Avocet - this was actually taken on the saltmarsh whilst John was attempting to molest a butterfly

How many species present??

Turnstones look immense at this time of year!

After this we moved back down the coast to the Snettisham reserve where two Turtle Dove were perched on a fence right next to the entrance, giving wonderful, albeit short, views. Snettisham didn't produce many new birds for the daylist in the end but what it did give was a wonderful view of literally thousands upon thousands of waders spread across the mudflats. Plenty of Brent Geese were lingering still too, not only here but at Titchwell earlier also.

Snettisham mudlfats being all atmospheric and moody

The final port of call today was the Nene washes on the way back, suggested by John, and what a good suggestion it turned out to be! Booming Bittern, drumming Snipe, 3 Short-eared Owl and best of all, 2 (think Andy, John and Dave saw three) Crane were rewards for the detour! The Cranes also sneaked onto my life list in the process, spiffing!

Nene washes being a tad damper than anticipated. Hope the Corncrake brought their aqualungs!

So by my count between the four of us we saw/heard 102 bird species today, two of which were lifers, not bad at all!

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Middleton lakes RSPB

Was visited today for the first time. I'd heard a great deal about this site and its potential to be the RSPB's "flagship" midlands reserve so was looking forward to visiting today despite the less than encouraging (in terms of staying un-moistened) weather forecast.
And so we went, we saw, we conquered! Im not sure what exactly we conquered apart from managing to wander around the whole site but it was nice to see yet another chain of gravel pits being reclaimed by nature.

I do have a few complaints recommendations for the site however after this first visit. Firstly, finding the site itself proved challenging with no signposts to the site, we actually found it by accident in the end, we didnt realise the RSPB carpark is at the Middleton Hall itself. Secondly there was little in the way of paths, particularly around the wetland trail with a pair of ruts formed by a 4 x 4 the best it got for large parts, leading to confusion as to where you could and couldn't walk. My main beef however was with the total lack of hides or screens or basically anything that would stop birds being disturbed by people on the bank. Perhaps its because I'm used to birding at the Rutland reserves where you basically can't see the lagoons unless you are in a hide but I think this is a better strategy for keeping disturbance to a minimum. Plus on days like today where heavy showers keep passing through you end up rather damp without convenient hides to, errrr, hide in.

In terms of bird species that we saw the list wasn't huge and nor was it filled with "rare" but warblers were plentiful, as were hirundines. Waders seemed thin on the ground with only 3 species seen (LRP, Oystercatcher and Lapwing) although an Osprey passing overhead added a touch of excitement.

I'd never tried photographing hirudines properly before today - its challenging
So all in all its a very promising reserve considering its age although I do recommend that the paths are improved and that screens/hides be installed to limit disturbance before this can truly be classed as a "flagship" reserve. Off to Norfolk with the Drunkbirder and Mr Llama tomorrow, should be fun!

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Well as it was sunny....

It seemed rude not to nip out for a couple of hours earlier this afternoon.
First stop was Jubilee Park where I spent an hour or so chasing warblers around but no photos to show for the effort except this Reed Bunting:

This Peacock Butterfly was also kind enough to sit still long enough on some Ladys Smock (at least I think thats what it is, please correct me if I'm wrong):

And there were two Little Egret on the pool:

After this it was time to take advantage of the sunshine and go to find some Little Owl. Predictably, it had started to cloud over by the time I got to a couple of my favoured sites but a few reasonable images were attained of single birds at both sites:

This chap is becoming quite a regular on this blog!