Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Southern Migrant Hawkers and Scarce Emeralds - Essex

Tuesday 18th July 2017.

On Tuesday morning I met up with David D-L on Canvey Island for a session of sound recording followed by some odonata photography.

Canvey Point was our first destination for sound recording which produced 3 Yellow Wagtail30 Black-tailed Godwit, c.320 Oystercatcher, 47 Turnstone, c.20 Dunlin, 1 Whimbrel, c.40 Curlew6 Little Egret, and 6 Cormorant. Thanks to David for use of the sound recording equipment here!

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Sound recording

Once the waders started to fly out to the mudflats to feed, we headed to our next port of call, West Canvey Marsh. At least 1 male Southern Migrant Hawker was present here, with good numbers of Ruddy Darter, and a Wall butterfly seen.

Male SMH at WCM

From here we walked to a section of ditch on the NW part of the island, parallel to Canvey Way, which has recently been identified as a prime location for rare odonata. Within the first 20 metres or so of the ditch, we encountered our first Southern Migrant Hawker of the site. This was followed by a minimum of 15 more SMH (all males) just along the first 450 metres of this ditch (which was as far as we walked). Based on what we saw here, each male tends to partol a territory of around 10-15 metres, flying back and forth and occasionally straying when a rival male enters another territory or when food may be available. The Southern Migrant Hawker is a rare species in the UK but has been established in South Essex since 2010. An absolute minimum of 18 Scarce Emerald Damselfly were also seen in this section of ditch, again all males, and a useful comparison having seen male Common Emerlads at Rainham Marshes the previous day.

Considering we only walked just under 1/3 of this ditch, there are no doubt many more individuals of both species present here. Surely there are more distributed around other ditches and marshes away from known sites in the nearby area, given the incredible numbers found in this one unlikely stretch of ditch.

We spent an hour at this site, where 1 Marbled White butterfly and 2 Blue-tailed Damselfly (with another being demolished by a Scarce Em) were present.

Marbled White

Max Hellicar.

Saturday, 18 February 2017

The Brecks - 13 February 2017

Monday 13 February 2017.

After an early awakening at 04:30, we arrived at RSPB Lakenheath Fen just before 07:30. 7 Roe Deer were immediately on show from the entrance track, with another 3 frolicking in the woods near the start of the reserve trail.

We made our way to Joist Fen viewpoint in the hope of seeing some Cranes. A Great White Egret dropped in, and after a while 2 Crane put in an appearance, followed by another 3. They put on a superb aerial display when another 4 took to the air, with a total of 9 Cranes on show at the same time - spectacular!

Another Great White dropped in, shortly before the aforementioned bird took to the air again and headed across the river. A male Kingfisher also showed in the reedbed here, with a minimum of 5 Marsh Harriers quartering Joist Fen.

Kingfisher - phonescoped

Content with our views here, we headed west along the Little Ouse and after a relatively short walk caught up with 3 GWEs giving obscured views across the river, bringing the morning total to 4. Little else of note was discovered on the walk back to the car park, with 2 drake Pintail present on the flash across the Little Ouse. After 3 hours on site, we headed to the next destination of Santon Downham, where we had reasonable views of the target species for the site - Brambling, with Coal Tit and Nuthatch also present around the car park.

Brambling - Santon Downham

Eristalis tenax - Santon Downham

We arrived at the final destination of Lynford Arboretum at 2pm. A slow walk to the Hawfinch roost site produced a couple of Bullfinch and good numbers of Brambling and Siskin.


Bullfinch - phonescoped

Brambling - Lynford

Shortly after arrival Hawfinch started dropping in which was a great spectacle to watch, albeit at distance.


Hawfinch coming into roost

Hawfinch coming into roost

Hawfinch - phonescoped

Hawfinch - phonescoped

With small groups of between 1 and 7 Hawfinch steadily streaming in, this was a good opportunity to practice my in-flight photography ready for the spring and autumn vismig, with some poor record shots obtained! 1-2 Crossbill as well as quite a few Brambling also flew over, with circa 30ish Hawfinch in the roost by the time we departed this area at 15:50.

Hawfinch - a bit distant for the 150-500mm
Hawfinch - the more you look the more you see!
Brambling flyovers


Hawfinch conifers

There are certainly some impressive Hawfinch numbers at Lynford at the moment with peak counts of around 70 recently - are they continental birds or have they originated from elsewhere in Britain? Your guess is as good as mine. A quick look at Lynford gravel pits produced 2 Goosander (adult and 1w drake), a drake Goldeneye with a small group of Tufties and a single Kingfisher.

Drake Goosander

Drake Goosander

We left at dusk and began the journey home after a successful day, thanks Howard for arranging it.
The Brecks are a really nice area in general and I'm sure I'll be back soon...

Happy birding,

Friday, 17 February 2017

Banana bill...

After being gripped off all week by photos and updates on the Lincolnshire White-billed Diver, early on the morning of the Sunday 29th January I was heading to the village of Kirkstead near Woodhall Spa to see this weirdly wonderful bird. The White-billed Diver or Yellow-billed Loon species which usually resides in pelagic deep waters but this individual had managed to find its way to a canal 20 miles inland in Lincolnshire. A mega odd record.

What makes this record even more strange is that the only other live WBD record for Lincolnshire was of an individual on the same stretch of the River Witham in 1996, 21 years ago, which unfortunately eat a fishing hook and succumbed. This bird looked in better condition however, and it was great to get another chance to see a confiding individual of this species up close after not being able to go for the 2013 bird at Brixham (although I still need Brunnich's Guillemot which was present in Dorset at the same time in 2013)...

Arriving on site and after a bit of a trek we had awesome views of this marvellous bird flaunting its bright white bill and regularly diving. After a bit of gongoozling here we walked back, and it was nice to catch up with a couple of birding friends here too. I also noted 9 Goosander on site; 3 on the canal south of Kirkstead and 6 which flew south along the canal between Kirksead and Stixwould (near to where the diver was showing).

Leaving here around 11am, we headed to nearby Kirby on Bain gravel pits (thanks Moysie for the directions) where a drake Ring-necked Duck and 1w Glaucous Gull were instantly on show (but on different pits). Combined with the general appearance and the rounded shape of the tail feathers, I think the Ring-necked Duck can be conclusively aged as an adult.

This was the third drake RND I'd seen in the past six weeks (after birds at Pitlochry and Dungeness) however I can't tire of watching them. On the opposite pit the Glauc was bossing it amongst a flock of Herrings but a quick scan through them revealed nothing else of interest. A 1w female Scaup also made an appearance on the same pit as the drake Ringo.

A successful day out and many thanks to David D-L for the lift.

Happy birding,