Pipits and Things

Monday 26th December 2016 to Sunday 15th January 2017
Richard's Pipit, Arlingham Warth
 The wintering Richard's Pipit at Arlingham showed well, eventually, on Saturday morning, catching insects in the winter sunshine. This is undoubtedly the bird that was at Rodley in October, directly on the opposite side of the river.
Richard's Pipit showing how long its legs are
The Richard's Pipit site, on the bank of the Severn horseshoe
The Severn Bore heads upstream towards Priding
Occasionally a bird turns up in circumstances so surprising that its origin becomes the subject of much debate, rather than being regarded simply as a vagrant. The Stow-on-the-Wold Blue Rock Thrush is one of these, with dubious credentials, but nonetheless attracts a lot of attention. This adult male is certainly an attractive bird, although they are better shown off in the Mediterranean sunshine. Whatever its origin, I had to see it, and, just for good measure made a return visit in the new year.
Blue Rock Thrush at Stow-on-the-Wold
Glorious sunshine on 29th December
Duller conditions on 7th January
After Stow on 29th December I went to Blagdon Lake, Somerset, for the Blyth's Pipit, a bird with somewhat greater provenance. It was a beautiful sunny afternoon, and after some wait the bird showed nicely for some time at Holt Bay before flying off towards the far side of the lake. Well worth the permit fee for this lifer.
Blyth's Pipit, Blagdon Lake
Holt Bay, Blagdon Lake
A couple of birds at WWT on 7th January, both on the Rushy - Pink-footed Goose and Little Stint:
This Cattle Egret was one of at least three this week at Saul:
 And finally, this Fieldfare was a nice sight in the garden late morning today:


Eastern Black Redstart at Tewkesbury

Sunday 11th December 2016
Eastern Black Redstart - photo: Mark Hobson
After two days of frustrated attempts at Ripple GP to get good views of Dusky Warbler - unsatisfactory views on Friday, and heard only Saturday - it was nice to see what is presumably another recent Ripple bird as it turned up in Gloucestershire. The Eastern Black Redstart on Tewkesbury Abbey is a cracker of a bird, and was pleasing a good number of birders as it flitted around the abbey and made a brief visit to nearby trees. A nice finish to the weekend.
The magnificent abbey


Masked Wagtail at Camrose

Saturday 3rd December 2016
Saturday morning saw a trip to deepest SW Wales with Richard, Mike and Paul to twitch the Masked Wagtail at Camrose, near Haverfordwest. It performed well for the small group of 20 birders, preferring to feed on the road (taking mealworms?), dodging the cars and occasionally spending time in gardens or on roofs.


Lapland Bunting at WWT

Saturday 26th - Sunday 27th November 2016
Lapland Bunting - phonescoped record shot
The highlight of the weekend was a Lapland Bunting at WWT Slimbridge on Saturday morning. First spotted on Friday morning it showed well around the Holden scrape in the sunshine, flying off for a period but returning later. An adult winter Little Stint was also on the edge of the scrape.
Cattle & Little Egrets, Frampton Court Lake
On Sunday, a short return visit to WWT in murky conditions didn't produce a repeat performance of the Lapland Bunting, which was reported later. I went back out later to Frampton for the Egret roost at Court Lake where four Cattle Egrets, four Great White Egrets and 17 Little Egrets were seen at dusk. The Great Whites flew straight in to roost over the back of the lake.
Redwing, WWT


Chew and Local Sightings

Saturday 19th - Sunday 20th November 2016
Great White Egret, Herriott's Bridge, Chew
I did the rounds at Chew Valley Lake on Saturday after leaving Mrs. M. in Bristol shopping with the youngest daughter. A total of eight Great White Egrets were at Herriott's Bridge, also a first-winter Mediterranean Gull. One of the GWEs sported a red colour ring on the left leg with an engraved white three letter alpha code 'AAF'. This bird was ringed as a chick this year at Ham Wall (bird in top photo). Two Goldeneyes were feeding off the dam from picnic area 1, and a Cattle Egret and three more Great White Egrets were at Heron's Green Bay. I finished the afternoon, before being recalled for duty, at Stratford Hide. Here, two Water Pipits were feeding in front of the hide, rounding the excursion off nicely.
Water Pipit, Stratford Hide
Common Gull at Picnic Area No. 1, Chew
Med Gull from Herriott's Bridge
Stratford Hide
Cattle Egret, with Little Egret, Heron's Green Bay
On Sunday, a Winter Random Square survey in my home square didn't turn up anything surprising. There are some nice berry-laden Rowans around just waiting for the Waxwings to arrive. I found a Holm Oak growing near the bypass bridge st Naas Lane - not native but I hadn't spotted any that local before.
Holm Oak, Quedgeley
After my survey duties - I don't enjoy walking around housing estates with a notebook and binoculars - I went home for lunch before heading out again. I stopped at Frampton Sailing Lake where the Siberian Chiffchaff was heard calling several times, but I couldn't get a clear view of its plumage features. It is in company with two Common Chiffchaffs and two Goldcrests were also in the area. Finishing at WWT Slimbridge, two European White-fronted Geese were on the Tack Piece brifley before flying over the hedge to the Ox Piece beyond. A Peregrine was sat in the Turkey Oaks and a Water Rail showed in front of Martin Smith hide. From the Holden Tower 40 European White-fronted Geese flew from the Dumbles edge towards the northern part of the reserve, probably also to feed on the Ox Piece.
White-fronts, WWT
Enjoying a Cappuccino in the restaurant Nick tweeted that two Whooper Swans had just gone over Frampton Pools heading towards the trust. I checked the Rushy and there they were. Also here, in the run-up to the late afternoon feed, were 28 Bewick's Swans and a single Mute Swan. 
Whooper Swans, WWT
Whooper Swans, WWT
View over the Rushy, WWT - the Whoopers are asleep at the left back


Norfolk in November

Thursday 10th - Friday 11th November 2016
Shore Larks, Holkham Gap
I spent a brilliant two days birding in Norfolk with Mark, connecting with many excellent birds. We started off on arrival in Nelson's County at Thornham Harbour hoping for Twite. After not finding any, it seemed like a slow start. A Spotted Redshank, Bar-tailed Godwit, Black-tailed GodwitGrey Plover and Kingfisher in the creek were all good birds. Four Marsh Harriers over the reed-beds and salt marsh and Pink-footed and Dark-bellied Brent Geese were the first of many at various locations.
Thornham Harbour
Spotted Redshank, Thornham Harbour
Grey Plover, Thornham Harbour
Next stop was Holkham Gap where we soon connected with a 60+ flock of Shore Larks feeding on the salt marsh, This was an incredible sight and as if that wasn't enough the flock was supplemented by two Lapland Buntings. A small flock of Snow Buntings seen at long range couldn't be re-located.
Holkham Gap
Shore Larks, Holkham Gap
Shore Lark, Holkham Gap
Shore Lark, Holkham Gap
On the way to finish the day in the Broads we passed through Holt, stopping off to see seven Waxwings feeding on Rowan near the church opposite the High Street / A148 junction. It was great seeing these birds again, and it looks like they are arriving in force. Hopefully we will get some in Gloucestershire.
Waxwing, Holt
We arrived at Hickling Broad car park as the light was fading to walk to the raptor viewpoint at Stubb Mill. Along the footpath we saw a Barn Owl hunting over the marsh and then spotted a Peregrine. Thirty Fieldfares were in the hedgerow, and four Cranes landed in a nearby field. At the mill viewpoint, a further seven Cranes were seen, and at least 20 Marsh Harriers came in to roost.
Stubb Mill
Cranes at Stubb Mill, an atmospheric (i.e. blurry) image

Friday was a cracking day and a stroll from our B & B in Cley next the Sea with clear blue skies gave us some good photo opportunities for capturing the windmill i all its glory; the weather was like this for much of the day. On the beach at Cley along the first stretch of Blakeney Point we found a mobile flock of 30 Snow Buntings. Five Red-throated Divers, 19 Common Scoters, 33 Eiders, a Wigeon and two Gannets were noted offshore. A Stonechat was along a fence-line behind the beach.
Cley Windmill
Turnstone, Cley beach
The start of Blakeney Point at Cley
Our next stop was Burnham Overy to walk out to the dunes. As we approached Gun Hill, the ISABELLINE WHEATEAR landed in front of us and bathed in a puddle for a couple of minutes before flying off over the dunes, It was later relocated on the beach. A single Waxwing flew over as did a flock of 110 Golden Plovers. Four Grey Plover, two Knot, 20 Dunlin and 45 Sanderling were along the tideline. In the fields to the east of the path back to the road we noted 900 Pink-footed Geese, 200 Dark-bellied Brent Geese, 200 Starlings, a Marsh Harrier and a Snipe. In the field next to the road as we headed towards Burnham Overy we spotted two Egyptian Geese.

The Isabelline Wheatear:
First view as it dropped down right in front of us
Bathing / drinking in a puddle
We were very lucky to see it so easily
It gave us super views
Then perched up briefly before flying over Gun Hill towards the beach
It was a bit more distant on the beach
Gun Hill, Burnham Overy Dunes
We ended our trip at Titchwell Marsh. A very long list of species included, on the fresh marsh a Jack Snipe, four European White-fronted Geese and seven Avocets. At the beach the highlights were two Velvet Scoters, four Long-tailed Ducks, a Red-breasted Merganser, two Eiders and five Red-throated Divers. On the walk back we paused to scan the marshes as the sun set. A Barn Owl was out hunting and several Marsh Harriers were seen. Two Chinese Water Deer were in the marsh - I have seen them here on the previous two visits. As the sky darkened and the moon shone, it was time to head for home after a very enjoyable two days.
Titchwell beach
Common Sun Star, Titchwell beach
Titchwell Marsh
Resting birds on the fresh marsh, Titchwell
Moon rising over Titchwell Marsh