25th of March 2018 Elan Dam and Gigrin Farm Trip


This months trip with the Coventry and Warwickshire local RSPB Group was to Wales, first stop was the beautiful Elan Valley Country Park with its famous Dam high over the surrounding valley which is a truly scenic place to visit!


Birds of note seen here were Peregrine, Raven, Kestrel, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Grey Wagtail, Nuthatch, Treecreeper and not surprisingly many Red Kites going over.


After a few hours here we moved on to the now famous Gigrim Farm for the daily Red Kites feed. Peter and Lesley our trip organisers had reserved the main hide for our Group to use and for those with a camera it proved to be a brilliant spot to watch these magnificent birds swooping down to take food.


As we arrived in good time before the start of putting out the food we watched in amazement at the amount of Red Kites that started to circle the area and at the ones that perched in the surrounding trees! As I started to count the Kites I gave up after over 200! However it was not just Kites circling there were many Buzzards, Rooks, Jackdaws and Carrion Crows.



















For any birder that has not visited Gigrin Farm I would urge you to do so as the spectacle is absolutely amazing!


25th of February 2018 - WWT Steart Marshes (Gloucestershire)


This months trip with the Coventry and Warwickshire RSPB local group was to this new WWT site which is very much still in its infancy and will be a superb location for birds once everything has settled down and mother nature takes over the introduction of all sorts of wildlife?


With my birding buddies Gary, Steve, Alan and Mickey we explored the pathways with a keen eye looking over the site for as many bird species we could see. Total species recorded was only 47!


Highlights were Golden Plover, Dunlin, Curlew, Kittiwake, Little Egret, Marsh Harrier, Raven, Sanderling, Stonechat, Water Rail and Merlin.


Kittiwake Library Shot
While stopping for lunch I noticed a hawk shaped bird chasing a Skylark, we stood for quite some time as a Merlin tried to catch the Skylark with both birds showing their extraordinary flying ability in Hunting and survival!

In terms of species seen it was rather disappointing, however I am sure that as the years go by this new Marsh will become one of England's best places to visit.
5th - 9th February 2019 Scotland Trip


After volunteering for survey work in Argyll, I had the pleasure of attending a European Sea Birds Surveying training course staying in Tarbet in the West of Scotland.




The two days at sea were conducted is true February weather conditions which saw snow, sleet, rain, high winds and glorious sunshine! Surveying from the ferry that goes from Kennacraig to the Isle if Islay was a true test of everyone's mettle as all data collected was done outside over looking the ship's bow.

Hibernian Hebrides Ferry
One of the highlights was being on deck of the Caledonian Macbrayne ferry before first light and gradually seeing the snow covered mountains along with  the many superb birds that are not seen in the Midlands. Black Guillemot, Eider, Glaucous Gull, Hooded Crow, Raven, Red Breasted Merganser, Black Throated Diver,  Great Northern Diver, Hen Harrier, Kittiwake, Razorbill, Red Throated Diver, White Tailed Eagle, Common Scoter, Fulmar and Gannet.



White Tailed Eagle - Library Shot
Sadly as these were seen during the surveys no photographs were taken!

Cetaceans were also seen with a small pod of Bottlenose Dolphins and also a few Harbour Porpoise made brief appearances. Grey and Common Seal were spotted and from the ships starboard side a great many Red Deer could be seen grazing on the stunning Isle of Jura.


The bird list for 2018 certainly got off to a good start and I look forward to more visit to Scotland.


January 2018 Birding Adventures


Starting the year off at my local birding sites of Brandon Marsh, Napton Reservoir, Draycote Water, Bubbenhall Meadows and of course our garden produced all the usual bird species with a good number of 79 species of birds for January.


Also a visit to Eldenell in Cambridgeshire, gave good sightings of Common Crane, Golden Plover, Marsh Harrier, Merlin, Pintail, Red Kite, Whooper Swan and 100's of Wigeon.




My first birding day out with my two birding buddies Steve and Gary had us at Holme Pierrepont Country park and water sports centre in Nottinghamshire. The attraction of a lifer in the reported Spotted Sandpiper was our reason for this visit and we all managed to see it and as it turned out we also got a year tick with a Long Tailed Duck!


Distant Long-Tailed Duck
200 Bird species for 2017


At the beginning of the year I thought I would try for 200 bird species for the year. Following many afternoons, days and weekends I finally achieved my target of 200 for the UK. The last bird of note was in December with fine views of the long staying Penduline Tit in Gloucestershire.


Record shot of Penduline Tit
Highlights were as follows.


American Wigeon, Artic Skua, Bee-Eater, Bearded Tit, Bittern, Black Guillemot, Black Tern, Black-necked Grebe, Caspian Gull, Cattle Egret, Corn Bunting, Corncrake, Crane, Curlew Sandpiper, Dartford Warbler, Dipper, Eider, Firecrest, Glaucous Gull, Glossy Ibis, Goshawk, Great Grey Shrike, Grasshopper Warbler, Great Northern Diver, Great Skua, Great White Egret, Green-winged Teal, Grey Phalarope, Hawfinch, Jack Snipe, Little Stint, Long-tailed Duck, Mandarin Duck, Merlin, Nightingale, Pectoral Sandpiper, Red-necked Grebe, Red-necked Phalarope, Ring-necked Parakeet, Sabine's Gull, Scaup, Slavonian Grebe, Smew, Spoonbill, Spotted Redshank, Stone Curlew, Temminck's Stint, Waxwing and Wood Sandpiper.


Hawfinch Record shot
Mandarin Duck

Gannets

Record of Bee Eater
My favourite places visited were, Lundy Island, River Taw Estuary, Appledore, Frampton Marsh, Minesmere, Eyebrook Reservoir, Rutland Water, Fremington Quay, Bridlington, Flamborough Head, Belfast Lough and Pitsford Reservoir. 


MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report “MS Oldenburg” Ilfracombe – Lundy 14th of October 2017.


This was my last trip of 2017 as MARINElife Wildlife Officer and I was very much looking forward to being out on the sea aboard MS Oldenburg for the last time this season.
I was welcomed onboard by Captain Jason and got ready to enjoy the crossing with the hope of cetaceans and sea birds. Leaving Ilfracombe harbour, I spotted a Porpoise under in front of the Landmark Theatre. The crossing produced Gannet, Guillemot, Kittiwake and as we approached the Island many Shag were sighted as usual, plus a very special sighting of an Arctic Skua and Great Northern Diver! As we came towards the Lundy jetty 3 Grey Seals were providing great amusement to the passengers as they appeared to being playing to their crowd!
Grey Seals

I disembarked and chatted to Dean Jones the Lundy Warden and pointed out the Great Northern Diver which was about 500 metres away. I proceeded to walk up to the wooded area around Milcombe house where I stayed for the time I was on the Island. At this time of year, you never know what might drop in and today was no different as a single Hawfinch was seen along with Water Rail heard in the walled garden area. It was also good to meet Tim Jones the bird recorder for Lundy who also had a very successful visit.


 A very distant record of the Great Northern Diver
As I walked back to the jetty for the return sailing I chatted to a couple from my home town who were in Devon on holiday. On the return journey a Great Skua was spotted along with the Arctic Skua seen earlier. The last trip did produce 2 Common Dolphin which went down really well with the passengers.
Before leaving the ship, I thanked Jason the Captain and his crew for their hospitality this year and for supporting MARINElife.


Sunday was spent at Fremington Pill and then an afternoon at Skern (Northern Burrows).


Birds of note at the Pill was Glossy Ibis, Greenshank, Black-tailed Godwit, Curlew, Little Egret, Oystercatcher and Redshank.


Glossy Ibis
Skern offered great views of Brent Geese, Golden Plover, Ring Plover, Linnet, Wheatear and Little Egret. As usual we enjoyed a Sunday picnic with superb views of Appledore and the estuary.

Eyebrook Reservoir and Rutland Water Birding Trip - 8th of October 2017.


An early Sunday morning start with my two birding buddies Steve and Gary saw us off to two of our regular birding locations. Eyebrook notables were Red Kite, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, Buzzard, Red Legged Partridge, Yellowhammer, Blackcap, Bullfinch, Cetti's Warbler, Common Gull, Goldcrest, Little Egret, Ruff, Shelduck, Stonechat and Tree Sparrow.


We were hoping to catch the resident Barn and Little Owl, sadly these were not seen!


Moving on to Rutland Water with hopes of seeing the recently reported American Wigeon our target bird for the day, pleased at seeing the bird and only my second record for the UK we were treated to a second bird on the same pool!
Records of the two American Wigeon



Other birds of note were Black-tailed Godwit, Dunlin, Egyptian Goose, Goldcrest, Goldeneye, Great Black-backed Gull, Great White Egret, Kingfisher, Little Egret, Marsh Harrier, Pintail, Red Kite, Red-legged Partridge, Sparrowhawk and Tree Sparrow which were spotted on the feeders.

MARINElife Survey Liverpool (Birkenhead) to Belfast 30th September 2017.

Arriving at the Stena Line terminal as team leader for this survey, I met up with a fellow MARINElife surveyor Peter and we were soon boarding the Stena Mersey Ferry for our crossing to Belfast.
Stena Mersey taken from Stena Lagon on a previous survey passing the Scottish coast
Once onboard we were met by the Captain who said he would send a crew member to collect us once all the manoeuvres were complete as the ship left its berth and headed out of the Mersey estuary towards the bay of Liverpool.
We set up to do our survey on the starboard wing of the bridge, which gave us a fabulous view. Our route would take us west towards the Isle of Man, passing its southern point and then on to Northern Ireland and to the port of Belfast.
The first Porpoise was spotted not long out from the estuary and we had two more off Chicken Rock the by Isle of Man.
Sadly, this survey did not produce any unusual birds like Skuas and uncommon Shearwaters. The total list of notable bird species recorded included Gannet, Manx shearwater, Guillemot, Black Guillemot, Kittiwake, Fulmar, and Sandwich tern. We did experience a period of recording no birds for almost half an hour, this we found to be very unusual?
As the ship passed the western side of the Isle of Man we saw the four lighthouses that are lined up behind each other. (4 Candles as I now call them) With an hour from the port of Belfast the weather changed to almost flat sea and we had the one and only Black Guillemot of the day!

As the ship was getting nearer to the port of Belfast, we concluded the survey and thanked the Captain and crew for supporting MARINElife and for their hospitality. Another survey completed on this route for me and I look forward to many more.

Coventry & Warwickshire Local RSPB Group – Sunday 24th of September 2017 – Trip to Cley Marshes

This month’s trip saw us enjoying the superb Norfolk Wildlife Trust Nature Reserve of Cley Marshes, as always when I get the opportunity I head for the sea to have a few hours sea watching for possible Cetaceans, Seals and Sea Birds. As a volunteer MARINELife Surveyor and Wildlife Officer, I’m always looking out to sea when possible for whatever I might see?

As I arrived on to the shingle beach, I was soon scanning the sea with my telescope looking for anything of interest. Gannet, Fulmar, Kittiwake and Guillemot passed by as did many flocks of Brent Geese. Two Grey Seals also made a few brief appearances before heading North.

Upon looking far out to sea I noticed a small red boat and within it a chap trying desperately to get the outboard motor to start. I could see that he was also trying to use his mobile phone and as he did the strong tide was pulling the boat further and further away from land. After soon time he started waving his paddle, I guessed this was someone in distress, so I called 999 and reported this to the coastguard. After some time, I could see a small fishing boat the “Kirsty Lee” making its way towards him and at the same time a Lifeboat from the RNLI was on its way to assist.



 The chap was soon on board the fishing boat and they towed his boat back to the beach where upon he was probably glad to be back on dryland?

After witnessing the rescue and feeling rather pleased with myself, it was off to look at what birds where about in the reserve?

Word got around that 2 Dotterel were spotted not far from the sea front which had many of our group heading to see them. Local birders came and went whilst we had the birds in our scopes  confirming that the birds were indeed Dotterel, however we have since learned that the birds have been recorded as Golden Plover! Great debate still goes on especially with the head markings being different to that of Golden Plover.
MARINElife Trip Bideford – Lundy 9th of September 2017


Sea state was force 5 – 6 with north westerly winds. Rain showers throughout the day and few sunny spells.
 
Cetaceans:
 Common Dolphin 1 
 Grey Seal 7



Birds at Sea:
Manx Shearwater, Black Headed gull, Herring Gull, Kittiwake,  Lesser Black-backed Gull,  Great Black-backed Gull, Fulmar, Great Skua, Guillemot, Shag and Gannet.


Estuary Birds:

Little Egret, Swallow, Redshank, Oystercatcher,Teal,
Birds on Lundy:


Willow Warbler, Meadow Pipit, Starling, House Sparrow, Swallow, Robin, Blackbird, Skylark, Wren, Carrion Crow, Goldfinch, Jackdaw, Spotted Flycatcher, Goldcrest and Raven.


I arrived in Bideford at 07:30am and collected my ticket from the Landmark Trust office, following this, I proceeded to board the MS Oldenburg where I was welcomed aboard by Paul the ship’s Captain. I quickly started my tour around the upper and lower decks while the Oldburg made its way down the estuary towards the open sea, as I chatted to some of the passengers the rain started and waterproofs were soon being put on! Once we were out of the estuary the sea state made it impossible to walk around the decks and I have the pleasure of chatting to a group of people and the banter was really good. The one and only cetacean sighting happened as the ship had passed the one hour mark of the voyage, it is always good to see a Common Dolphin. Birds of note were very few due to the weather conditions. Manx Shearwater, Gannet along with Guillemot rafting as the ship passed them by. The usual common gulls were seen along with Kittiwake, Fulmar and my first Great Skua this year.


Grey Seal

As the Oldenburg made its way slowly towards the landing bay there was four Grey Seals on the rocks of Rat Island, however I did see three during my time on the island from the higher levels. As the passengers disembarked, the sun came out and everyone proceeded to walk up to the higher levels. My route this visit was to walk along the east side of the island looking for birds and at the same time cast an eye out to sea for cetaceans.

Manx Shearwater
The crossing back to Bideford was more or less the same conditions as the outward crossing as the Oldenburg passed over the sand bar before entering the estuary the ship surfed the waves much to the enjoyment of many of the passengers.



Before disembarking I thanked Paul the Captain and Vernon the ship’s first mate for his and the crews’ continued support for MARINElife. I look forward to my last trip this season in October.
23rd of June 2017 - Frampton Marsh Trip

Another day out with my two birding buddies Steve and Gary started off catching up with the now famous breeding Bee Eaters at East Leake Quarry in Nottinghamshire. The day started in traditional English summertime with torrential rain! Arriving at the RSPB car park before 7:00am it was a little time before any showed, once they did we enjoyed watching three of these superb multi-coloured birds. Sadly they were too far away for photographs. I have noticed on social media that there are some superb shots of these birds, however I do wonder if some of the people taking them have indeed stayed within the viewing areas?

We hope to return to see the young once they have hatched and feeding for themselves?

After our nice year ticks, it was off to RSPB Frampton Marsh in search of more ticks?

Frampton always delivers with a final count of 72 species with the following highlights.

Distant views of Red-necked Phalarope and Pectoral Sandpiper, followed by Avocet, Corn Bunting, Curlew Sandpiper, Grasshopper Warbler, Greenshank, Hobby, Kestrel, Knot, Little Stint, Marsh Harrier, Redshank, Ruff, Snipe, Spotted Redshank, Spoonbill, Whooper Swan and Wood Sandpiper.


Grasshopper Warbler
Corn Bunting
Little Egret
 Ten year ticks in one day made my day, if the Turtle Doves seen the day before had showed I would have been even more happier!
8th - 11th of June 2017 - Lundy Island

Four days on the magical  Island that is Lundy. A great  lump of granite situated in the Bristol Channel just off the coast of North Devon. The island is three miles long and half a mile wide.

The word Lundy is Norse for Puffin which breed here every year and this year the numbers have increased.

This trip was organised by the charity MARINElife who I volunteer for as both a Cetacean and Bird Surveyor and Wildlife Officer. Also along were our partners which made for a brilliant group of likeminded people and my fiancĂ©e really enjoyed it too.

As we left Ilfracombe aboard MS Oldeburg the ship that takes day trippers over we had everyone scanning the sea for cetaceans, we managed Harbour Porpoise and Common Dolphin along with high numbers of Gannet, Manx Shearwater, Guillemot and Razorbill.


Common Dolphin from a previous trip
Sunday morning we were all up before 5:00am to see the sunrise over the mainland, a truly beautiful sight. It was not long before everyone made it up to Jenny's Cove to see the Puffins. Here also were nesting Kittiwake, Fulmar, Guillemot and Razorbill. Six Common Dolphin were spotted out at sea and a single Harbour Porpoise.


The four days were over before we knew it, however with lots of time to explore, we covered the whole Island and visited parts not seen in the many times I have been there! Here are few images of Lundy.





2nd - 4th of June 2017

Another weekend away in Yorkshire with my birding buddies Steve and Gary began with a visit to Alvecote before heading north to Bridlington. Social media had reported that a Corncrake was here, so it was a great thrill to hear the bird which was deep within the long grass! Sadly we did not see the bird however we and a few others heard it clearly.

Off we went to Yorkshire with mixed emotions should we have stayed with a hope of seeing the Corncrake or were we satisfied at just hearing it?

Bempton Cliffs
 We arrived at Flamborough Head and a total of 65 bird species were noted. Fulmar, Gannet, Barnacle Goose, Guillemot, Kittiwake, Puffin, Razorbill, Red Kite, Sedge Warbler, Shag and Turnstone were all viewed. Grey Seals were observed in the cove with a total of 8 individuals recorded. We stayed again at the same B&B where our host made us feel very welcome.

 

       

Day two was spent at RSPB Bempton Cliffs were all the usual birds made an appearance. What I was not expecting was a Barn Owl at 10:35 in the morning! Also good to see Tree Sparrows. We ended the afternoon at Thornwick Pools which sadly did not produce anything of note. We did however stopped to chat with local birding legend Brett who is a well known character.

       


       

Day three was one of the best days birding that both myself and my two buddies have experienced. We boarded the Bridlington Bell ship for an RSPB trip out to Bempton Cliffs. What a superb 3 hours, the ship had knowledgeable RSPB volunteers on board sharing their local knowledge with everyone.

        
Bridlington Bell
I have been on many ships doing survey work, however I have never been so close to chalk cliffs and being surrounded by thousands of rafting sea birds. I highly recommend this trip that is organised by the RSPB.

Another superb weekend with the lads and we look forward to our next birding trips whether they be day trips or weekend ones?