Tuesday 29 March 2011

Birding in the Baltic States: Steller’s Eiders & woodpeckers

About a month ago, Howard, Jono and I went birding in the Baltic States: Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia. (We didn’t actually do any birding in Latvia – we mostly ate roadside burgers, and got stopped for various traffic offences – but that’s beside the point). It was exceptionally cold, –26 Celsius at its worst, but we indefatigably stupidly kept on birding, and had a great time.

Howard’s been kind enough to write up our adventures, with loads of photos (and moderately bad jokes) thrown in. Click the Middle-spotted Woodpecker image below to open it – note that it’s about 4MB, so might take a moment or two to download. Enjoy!


Also, here are some movies, featuring rather a lot of snow and ice…


…perhaps somewhat too much snow, at times.

Monday 28 March 2011

“Oi, Bradders!"


“Why haven’t you been updating your blog?!”

A good question, Mr Magpie – and a question that has been echoed by a few people lately (I’m touched that anyone has noticed!). The answer is rather uninteresting, I’m afraid – too much work and not enough birding makes David a dull blogger. Hopefully the deadline disappearing rapidly in the rear-view mirror means the worst is over.

Anyway, I escaped to Norfolk for the weekend, and even managed to take some photos: hurrah! Joking aside, it made me realise just how quickly I can ‘switch off’ from other irritations and stresses when I’m concentrating on birding (or just bimbling around in the fresh air not really concentrating on anything, perhaps) and how much better I feel afterwards when I do. On Saturday, it poured with rain almost all day, but after spending the morning cooped up doing nothing worthwhile, I opted to just go out and get wet in the afternoon. Mr “list, what list?” Lethbridge would no doubt be appalled to hear that I opted to twitch a Ferruginous Duck, but in my defence, Cockshoot Broad was no more than 10 miles away, and I haven’t been there for ages – honest! I probably walked straight past it on my way down to the broad, but a more diligent search on the way back found it feeding on the far side of the Bure, just a few metres away. Excellent views, particularly when it climbed out of the water and preened, showing the striking upperwing pattern. Those with cameras could do worse to take a look on a sunny day…

blackbirdSunday saw Dad and me heading south along the Suffolk coast, hoping (largely in vain) for some spring migrants. The north-easterly wind was still a bit fresh, but the Dunwich / Westleton / Minsmere / Sizewell area gave us a decent selection of birds – Med Gulls ‘kyow’ing overhead frequently, Dartford Warblers and Stonechats chattering away, and at least four different Black Redstarts were good value.I was a bit shocked to discover that these were my first pinging Bearded Tits of the year, as well: given how regularly I’d normally expect to come across these around East Anglia (or even Rainham), it just further illustrates my depressing lack of time in the field.

Our return route passed naturally through Lowestoft, where I couldn’t resist taking yet more photos of Turnstones at Hamilton Dock – they’re just so obliging, and so smart.


We also found the usual eight Purple Sandpipers on the breakwater at Ness Point, and this:


What could it be? Aha… cue totally predictable amusing and original jokes in the comments section…


Sunday 6 March 2011

Parakeets in Richmond

Lured to the wild West of London by news of an Arctic Redpoll this afternoon, Jono and I (and everyone else) dismally failed to find the target bird. However, we did see a lot of these:


Saturday 5 March 2011

Two Yanks in Essex: Green-winged Teal at Connaught Water, and Rossi

Making a late start this morning, I diverted from my planned trip to Rainham based on news from Connaught Water: the Green-winged Teal first seen a couple of weeks ago was being reported again. On arrival, the bird was showing fairly well around the wooded islands at the north end of the lake. It’s a rather poorly marked individual, with the vertical white fore-flank stripes appearing rather diffuse and creamy, and at least a hint of horizontal pale bars above the flanks. These led to some suggestion of a hybrid origin when the bird was first found, but as the photos show, they’re very faint. On the plus side, the cream borders to the green head panel are much less prominent than on Teal, and the base colour on the breast was noticeably warmer toned, quite peachy. If I have time, I’ll do some research into Green-winged x European Teal hybrids, but for the moment I think this one’s OK.

Unless Paul sees it.


After this, I headed out east to replace the hat and gloves I lost in Vilnius, from Go Outdoors in Pitsea. For a moment or two, I wondered if my luck was in, as the pager announced news of ‘probable Slaty-backed Gull’ at, you guessed it, Pitsea. Despite being very close to home, this bird has completely given me the run around, and I’ve still not seen it after four or five attempts. And now… I’ve still not seen it. Plenty of large gulls loafing around on Vange Wick, viewed from the marina beyond Wat Tyler CP, but nothing of note.

Given that I hadn’t made a visit to see Rossi in 2011, I decided it would be rude not to pop in having got so close – and as usual, he posed pretty well for photos. Some sunshine would’ve been nice, but hey, there’s always tomorrow!