Monday 31 January 2011

31st January 2011 - Ring Necked Parakeet, Waxwings, Tree Sparrow and Bramblings

Some days just seem to go right, and today was one of those days. Quite a lot of days go wrong too but days like today make up for them and reminds anyone who watches wildlife exactly why we do it. My day started at 6am when I woke up and looked outside to see a lovely clear sky and frost on the ground. This normally means a clear, if not cold day so I checked my e-mails from the previous night and saw that Lee Evans had seen the long staying female Ring Necked Parakeet down in Southcott Village near Leighton Buzzard in Beds. The thought of seeing this bird in the hopefully sunny weather and the added bonus of a few of the Kingston Waxwings too on the way back proved to good an opportunity to miss. So after dropping Aimee off at school I set up the sat nav and started heading south. As I drove into Milton Keynes I took a quick divert into Kingston but couldn't find any Waxwings, but I wasn't too down beat as previous experience has taught me that they are roosting elsewhere and don't normally arrive until mid morning anyway so I resumed my journey to Southcott. Upon arrival I found myself walking down a lane in beautiful rural countryside. Almost the first bird I saw was a Goldcrest showing amazingly well in the sunshine, while various other Tits and Finches called all around me. A female Great Spotted Woodpecker was calling from the top of a tree as I followed the path to the open field where I had heard the Parakeet had been residing. As I approached the last tree in the hedgerow I could just see a green head peeking out of a hole, which then flew out and landed in a tree about 50 feet away and started its morning preening whilst calling every now and again.

A couple of women came over and asked what I was looking at, so I let them have a look through the scope and they were astonished to see such a cracking little bird in the winter sun. Apparently they were locals but had no idea that this was here.

On to Milton Keynes again, this time on the way back to Northants. I drove into the Kingston Shopping Centre and after scanning the normal places for Waxwings I had the horrible feeling coming down on me that they were not here anymore, but luckily I managed to see a tree full of birds in the middle of the car park. After I approached these it became clear that they were feeding along the ring road to the north so I followed them and got fairly good views. They were very mobile and kept commuting backwards and forwards but eventually they all took off and flew to some different trees in the car park. I jumped in the car and followed the road around to find them feeding on a small row of Rosehips along the roadside. I parked the car and walked gradually up to them and was astonished at just how close I could get, at one stage I was only about 5 feet away from 2 and they didn't look at all bothered by me taking loads of shots.

After grabbing a coffee I nipped up to Summer Leys nature reserve to go and get the Tree Sparrows at the feeding station. There was loads of birds here, and quite a lot of Tree Sparrows too. Unfortunately I could only manage this record shot as they were just that bit too distant.

From here I drove up to Harrington Airfield as a huge Brambling flock had been seen here. A couple of local birders have been putting seed out here to help the birds during this winters harsh weather, and it has had incredible results with up to 60 Bramblings being recorded in some flocks. The flock is currently about 40 birds strong and were showing very well in the sun. A nightmare to get a photo of as they just wouldn't stay still for any longer than a matter of seconds but I did finally manage a digiscopped clip of a few of them.

At this point I called it a day as time was getting on and I needed to get back to pick Aimee up from school. An incredible way to spend a few hours though and so I'm so glad I made the effort to get out. It's what wildlife watching is all about!

Sunday 30 January 2011

30th January 2011 - Big Garden Birdwatch

In keeping with every year I do this, a certain "Sods Law" comes into play. The results from the survey were pretty dire to say the least. The total tally was 2 Blackbirds, a Collared Dove and a Song Thrush. Normally there's loads of birds in the garden but during this hour they were all in adjacent gardens. A Greenfinch was bubbling away next door along with at least a dozen Starlings and loads of House Sparrows, but they all kept flying overhead and none of them landed. Never mind that's surveying, I just hope the neighbours were counting too. Shame I couldn't count the Red Kite that passed low overhead too, but I guess that not really a garden bird!!

27th - 30th January 2011 - Milton Keynes Waxwing roundup

It has been another fantastic week for the MK Waxwings. Just as it looked like the large flocks seen over the last few weeks were becoming a thing of the past the numbers started to build up again. I saw just 3 Waxwings on the Denbigh roundabout in the Bletchley on the morning of the 27th, and then a further 52 at Costco Kingston in the afternoon. The 28th saw approx 75 flying around the Kingston shopping centre in the morning as I had a quick drive through. In the afternoon 24 Waxwings were feeding on the berries in Costco car park, when I left here I drove past Starbucks on the main road and saw quite a number in their normal trees near the back of the BMW garage so I popped back into the shopping centre and managed to get a prime parking spot right next the the bushes where they have been feeding. An initial count reached 142 birds at 1445, and then even more joined them which brought the tally up to 164. Quite an impressive sight as they busily feed then flew to their tree, and then dropped down to feed again.

Saturday the 30th also proved to be productive. 50 Waxwings in the morning in the Costco car park at 0900, c.100 Waxwings behind Starbucks at 1240, and then 44 Waxwings at Costco at 1400. Not a bad week!

Wednesday 26 January 2011

Wednesday 26th January 2011 - local walk

I had a day off work today so I decided to spend it wandering around the local pocket park in Finedon to see what is about. I parked the car near the cricket field and started making my way along the road towards the church. Already Robins, Wrens and Blackbirds were singing away in the trees around the old fairground field. Magpies were flying around the cricket field and Chaffinch's were whizzing around people front gardens. The church had loads more Robins in its grounds along with Collared Dove's in the Yew trees and a very vocal Great Tit. A grey squirrel ran across the church yard as I approached, while a Wren was ticking away in the bushes near the gate. As I walked down to Stocks Hill and then up Bell Hill Jackdaws were flying around overhead, it seems that every year more and more Jackdaws appear. I had a conversation with my Nan a couple of years ago and it turns out this whole area used to be known as Crow End years ago but the name has since stopped being use. Into the Grove and then the drizzle started to come down, but this didn't seem to stop a solitary Skylark which rose up and sang up in the air for at least 10 minutes before giving up. The hedgerow to the left of the path had about 10 Long Tailed Tits and 8 Chaffinch. A Greater Spotted Woodpecker could be heard calling across the Grove field and then could be seen flying from tree to tree before settling high up and then drumming away. It was a male I can assume it was drumming for a mate, but it did put on a show as its head blurred backwards and forwards. Continuing on towards the Holly's and the large hedges to the right were full of Great and Blue Tits, and the Long Tailed Tit flock seemed to be keeping up with me as they made their way along it too. A Red Kite could then be heard to call behind me, and a quick glance backwards had one flying slowly over the field I had just walked across. The Holly's themselves were equally full of Tits and Chaffinches with a Squirrel jumping from tree to tree. From here I walked along the brook towards the Pocket Park, the whole area being completely full of Woodpigeon. In fact then they all took off the sky almost darkened with their numbers. 13 Fieldfare could be seen heading across the field towards Harrowden Lane. A walk around the Pocket Park provided more of the same, loads of Tits Robins and Blackbirds, so I walked along to the Cally Banks. The area of the Cally's where it reaches the steps to get to the higher level was absolutely teeming with Tits, so much so the whole canopy above seemd to be moving constantly. I kept loosing count of Long Tailed Tits but there must have been 20-30 at least with lots of Chaffinch and Blue and Great Tits too. A Treecreeper was making it's way up a tree trunk infront of me and then another one shot in to see it off. Both Treecreepers in the end showed really well on different trees, obvioulsy not too content with each others company. Another Red Kite was seen near to Holly Walk and 2 Goldcrest in the Yew Trees was a welcome sight after all the harsh weather last year. A walk across the field towards the road produced 2 Greenfinch ( all I have seen of these all day ) and a Green Woodpeckers which I inadvertently flushed. This pretty much concludes my visit around the area, nice to see al the Tits doing well, not so nice to have only seen 2 Greenfinch though......from what I have seen locally things are looking very dire for this species and to think that only a few years ago they were considered to be a bully of the bird tables and almost a pest in some gardens as other birds could never get a look in while they were around, and yet now it's a highlight of a day to lay eyes on one.

Tuesday 25 January 2011

Tuesday 25th January 2011 - Cobwebs

Its been a dull day birding wise. Also quite sad as its the first day that I have been driving around Milton Keynes since late November and not set one eye on a Waxwing. As all the suitable food looks like it has already been completely stripped its hardly a surprise. I have noticed that pretty much all my Redwing sightings this week have involved seeing birds on the floor instead of attacking berries in the bushes. On the plus side of things 2 Hares in a field north of Cranfield Airport and a Fox wandering along a hedgerow between MK and Northampton have gone some way to make up for it. This evening though before coming upstairs to get on the computer I thought I'd better check the rabbits. After opening the back door and turning on the outside light I noticed two gorgeous looking spider webs on either side of the door frame. The light was shinning off them and lighting them up very fact I don't think that you would notice them at all if it wasn't for the light bouncing off the silk. It was a too good an opportunity to miss so I popped upstairs and grabbed my camera.

An other classic example of nature at it's breathtaking best. Without sounding too soft it just shows the hidden beauty that lies beneath all of our noses but quite often gets overlooked. Also slightly ironic but I also find it amazing how you can show some people these pics and they will state how stunning these creations are, but when you show them the equally amazing creature that created them they will run a mile screaming and flapping their arms around!

Monday 24th January 2011 - Colour Ringed Waxwing results

Last Friday I was lucky enough to have a fairly decent view of a colour ringed Waxwing at the Kingston Shopping Centre in Milton Keynes. After getting in touch with Raymond Duncan (or rather he getting in touch with me with thanks to Lee Evans), who is one of the guys from the Grampian Ringing Group, I received an e-mail this morning showing this little ladies known history.

She's a 3f (1st winter female) and her number is NW50464 and her leg colours are GBBr (Green over Blue,Blue on the right leg).

She was first ringed at Claremont Gardens, Nellfield, Aberdeen on the 19th November 2010.

She was next reported 570km (354 miles) SSE at Cherry Hinton in Cambridge on the 19th December 2010  by a chap called Shaun Sowden.

Then she was reported 62kkm (38.5 miles) SW at Kingston, Milton Keynes on the 21st January 2011 by myself.

Shaun Sowden who managed to get a photograph of this bird on the 19th December in Cambridge has kindly allowed me to include his photo of GBBr on this blog

                                                                                                                                        C.Shaun Sowden.

A fascinating story indeed, lets hope she gets seen again so we can check her progress.

Monday 24 January 2011

Sunday 23rd January 2011 - Cley Marshes

After a quick visit to Bob Websters shop yesterday to catch up on local sightings I quickly found myself signed up for the local Mid Nene RSPB groups visit to Cley Marshes in Norfolk. As always this site failed to disappoint. Straight after leaving the coach it was decided by Peter, Keith and me to go and get the American Wigeon that had been reported on Arnold Marsh for the last few days. We took a quick walk along the road to get to the East Bank and found a large flock of Wigeon and Greylag Geese infront of us. Experience has taught me that although American Wigeon are startlingly different from our own Wigeon, they can be surprisingly hard to pick out amongst the masses. Luckily for us though it decided to be very showy this morning and as I was working through the flock it stuck it's head up between 2 Greylag Geese and we got some pretty good views. Soon after this it then disappeared behind the vegetation so we decided a better view was to be had from the road. A walk around a couple of bends and we got an amazing view as it came out onto the grass infront of us and just wandered around in the open for what seemed like ages until a Marsh Harrier quartered over the area and the whole lot took off and headed further away.

We'd pretty much had the best view of the American Wigeon that we were likely to get so we left it here and decided to have a wander around the rest of the reserve. A few Grey plovers were dotted around the north end of Arnolds Marsh and on the reserve itself Redshank, Dunlin, Curlew, Teal, Shovelor, Gadwall, Pintail, Mallard and Shellduck were all there in some numbers. A few Ruff seemed to be following the Starling flock and came very close to the first hide we went in and in the water 2 Avocet which were surprisingly easy to overlook, and on the way out of this hide a male Kestrel was trying its hardest to shelter from the biting northerly wind behind some vegetation on the roof. Sea watching didn't produce a thing which I was very surprised about, especially this time of year when you normally connect with the odd Diver and rafts of Scoters. The only thing we found worth having a look at out in the sea was a Grey Seal which was working it's way along the shoreline, which was nice as it was a first sighting for Peter. A walk round to the next few hides got Black Tailed Godwits, Lapwings and Golden Plovers. All day the plovers had been constantly spooking and flying round before settling again, and then 5 minutes later they were back up. They did this all afternoon but nobody could make out why they were doing it. A few people form the group did say later that they had seen a Merlin earlier in the day so perhaps this was upsetting them, but either way they did put on quite a show looking sometimes almost like a Starling roost. After nipping back to the coach to grab a coffee, and seeing 9 Brent Geese on the way, we heard about some Shorelark that had been spotted on the shingle bank near to the East Bank where we had been earlier that day. At the time we had been there no passerines could be seen at all so they must have been to the east of us, but as we had an hour and a half to kill before the coach left we decided to go and get them. We were glad we made the effort when we got there as 5 Shorelark were just west of East Bank and showing very well despite being surrounded by scopes. We had terrific views and they fed amongst the shingle until a group of walkers walked unknowingly right past them and they all took flight. I took this opportunity to count them and got to 8 birds as they all flew further west. From here we made the walk back to the visitor centre and had a chat in the warm while watching the Plovers still endlessly flying up and putting on quite a display before settling again. 2 Little Egrets coming into the marsh as the sun was going down ended the day. A good days birding was had by all.

Saturday 22 January 2011

Saturday 22nd January 2011 - Twywell Hills and Dales

I decided today that some local patch watching was in urgent need of doing. I have spent most of last autumn in Norlfok and with xmas not too much local birding had been done. Twywell is one of my favourite local patches, it normally hold good numbers of birds, insects and mammals - not necessarily easy to find but then thats part of the challenge. This place is incredible during the summer months for its butterflies, and during the autumn the Goldfinch flocks can be massive due to amount of seed producing plants around here. Today though started as a cold, wet and fairly bleak winters day so my hopes were not too high. The temperature raised a lot over the last week and birds have been signing away all the time, but this weekend the weather has turned cold again so everything is quite rightly keeping its head down. From leaving the car I was straight away looking at a pair of Buzzard which had just taken off from nearby wasteland and were in the proccess of behind mobbed relentlessly by the local crow population. Although they are big and impressive birds its often crossed my mind that it can't be much fun being a Buzzard as everything seems to be having a pop at them all of the time. Anyway into the Whitestones area and Carrion Crow, Magpie, Blackbird, Geenfinch (a single bird) and Green Woodpecker all presented themselves as I wandered through to reach the gate which leads down to the thicket between the reserve and Cranford. Around the thicket was a single Buzzard (one of the pair flushed from near the car park), Blackbird, Great Tit, Blue Tit, c50 Jackdaw, Goldfinch, Wren, 4 flushed Red Legged Partridge and a wing tagged Red Kite soaring overhead. The field west of here contained   72 Fieldfare and 1 Redwing. A pheasant shot across the field on the return walk and a Greater Spotted Woodpecker could be heard calling in the trees near the brook. Up back into the Whitestones area had a single Fieldfare and Greenfinch flying together, single Marsh Tit calling in the scrub and the other Buzzard this time perching on top of the footpath sign which leads to Twywell. The fields towards Twywell were full of Rooks and Magpies, and a walk along the top of the gulley produced 18 Redwing all flying into the woodland. A brief stop off at the pond couldn't find the normally ever present Kingfishers ( I hope they have survived the winter), and then getting on top of the gulley I had Blue Tits x 5 and Great Tits x6 all singing away in the valley below. With a Buzzard (I'm assuming one of the pair again) flying through the trees. At the end of the gulley walk was 2 Robins and one looked terrible even though it was behaving healthily. Its head and throat feathers were all damaged so it must have had a very near miss with a Sparrowhawk and must have got away. Another 2 Red Kites were soaring over the woodland, and in the wood itself things were very quiet indeed. Great Tits, Blue Tits and a single Siskin really being the highlights. The 18 Redwing were relocated feeding on the woodland floor and a Greater Spotted Woodpecker was heard calling at the gulley end but not seen. Back to the pond and a small flock of Long Tailed Tits concluded the visit. I'm looking forward to getting back here after next week (I have a fortnight off!!), and seeing how things change. Also after a rather unexpected turn of events it now looks like I'm heading to Cley tomorrow, so lets see what that turns up.

Friday 21st January 2011 - Waxwings for lunch

Today started disappointingly with a drive through Kingston to not find any Waxwings this morning. Waxwing sightings in Milton Keynes are now becoming a daily occurrence, and they have been such a joy to keep up with this year I'm really not looking forward to the time when they all leave to go back to their breeding grounds. Fortunately for me I had to head into Bletchley where I had counted a very mobile flock of 35 in Halfords car park yesterday afternoon and bang on queue as I drove into town 37 Waxwings were sitting up in the trees on the Denbigh roundabout. I then spent the rest of the morning gladdened by the fact that I wasn't going to dip Waxwing today, and determined to go back to Kingston to find any trace of the ones there. At 1330 I was due a lunch break so shot over to Kingston and found a flock of 61 Waxwing behind the BMW garage, nicely viewable from Starbucks. Using my van as a mobile hide I drove slowly up to the bushes and turned off the engine. I was then entertained for a 45 minute Waxwing extravaganza as they took their turns coming down the feed on the bushes next to me. Just incredible!!!!! I managed a short digibinned clip of 2 birds feeding on the berries next to me,

also I managed to get good views of a colour ringed bird with a white ring on its leg which I believe signifies its one of the birds ringed in Aberdeen. I have sent details off so hopefully I'll hear about it past. Unfortunately my lunch break came to an end and I had to leave these fantastic birds here, but what a brilliant way to spend an afternoon!!


Wednesday 19 January 2011

Wednesday 19th January 2011 - out and about

Well it has been a good day really. It started with a Kingfisher sitting nicely out in the open in the winter sunshine by the side of the large pond in Woughton on the Green in Milton Keynes. I'd seen this bird all last winter sitting in this same tree day in day out, and I did spare it a thought during last years cold snap when all the water froze over  for weeks. It's incredible that such a delicate little bird could survive such hardships, as it couldn't have fed properly for quite a while. In the afternoon I had to nip into Kingston and after I couldn't find any sign of Mondays Waxwings yesterday I didn't really have much hope in finding them today. Luckily for me I was mistaken and a large flock of Waxies could be seen behind the old Kingston Tavern pub and in the trees of the staff car park. I parked up passed the pub and walked back, following a path that lead behind the pub and was amazed to find the whole area full of birds. Waxwings were feeding on the berries in the bushes and resting in the taller bushes behind them, I managed a count of 200 and then a few more joined them but I can't be sure how many. As I walked around a bit further I noticed that a lot of them seemed to on the pub roof and it soon became apparent that they were drinking form the guttering. I did manage a couple of clips on my phone, but as you can see from the quality they're not up to much............its not easy holding a pair of binoculars with a mobile phone pressed up against the eyepiece trying to digibin a vid of a target that won't stay still ha ha ha. Still I gave it my best shot, at least you can just about see what's going on despite my handshake!!
                                          Waxwings Drinking, Kingston, Milton Keynes

                                            Waxwings Drinking, Kingston, Milton Keynes

Unfortunately very soon after I witnessed this something spooked them and they all flew off into trees around the car park. Still and incredible show though.

Monday 17 January 2011

Monday 17th January 2011 - and there's more Waxwings

A nice surprise today was the discovery of a flock of Waxwings kicking around the Kingston Shopping Centre in Milton Keynes, and for once I actually had my camera with me. Unfortunately the light was bad so I couldn't get the kind of exposures I'd have liked but never mind they're good enough for me. I drove into the shopping centre about midday and noticed these birds flying around in the tree tops. they were extremely mobile and very hard to keep up with, but I noticed that a large number had gathered opposite McDonalds in the now shut Kingston Tavern car park. To say they were showing well was a amazing understatement, with birds coming down to feed on berries right by the roadside. They seemed to have little fear of people and getting close wasn't a problem.

I managed to stay here for a good hour rattling off loads of shots and watching the behaviour, some of which I'd never witnessed before. Examples of these included drinking from puddles after stuffing fruits, and birds tossing berries into the air before swallowing them.

As always it was also nice to be able to answer questions from amazed passers by who wanted to know what they were and why they were here. I did manage to connect with a few more Waxwings at the City Centre later in the afternoon, but not in the numbers seen on Saturday. So as always this winter the Waxwings failed to disappoint, and all I can say is it's going to be real shame when they go as it's been an incredible 2 months.


Sunday 16 January 2011

Sunday 16th January 2011 - local walk

Decided today to take a wander around the local area to see what about. Due to the weather I have to say my hopes weren't very high as it was quite windy, overcast and the threat of rain was ever present. So I was surprised when entering the first field to the east of Finedon when 7 Skylarks rose up into the air and started singing away effortlessly in the wind. In the Hedgerows was 5 Yellowhammers, with a few Linnets over the rough grass in the middle of the field. I continued down towards Little Addington disturbing a male Sparrowhawk on the way, which raised off the ground scattering the feathers from its breakfast everywhere before dashing off into the nearby woodland. With the exception of a few Great and Blue Tits and a couple more Skylark the walk up into Little Addington proved quiet, a small Wren in a front garden was calling but keeping its head down from the weather which was now starting to slowly rain. I crossed over the road and then started the walk down towards Stanwick Lakes. The hedges along the footpath contained a few signing Robins and a pair of Blackbirds and as I got to the mid way down the hill 50+ Fieldfare flew from a tree across the valley. As I approached the bottom of the hill a number of Skylark all flew into the air at once and a quick count revealed  27 of 38 Skyarks in total during a quick walk from Finedon to here, which is more than I expected as the numbers around here have dropped a lot in recent years as they have in many other areas of the country. Stanwick was fairly quiet too. The lakes were full to overflowing and the surface water was very choppy. I came down here initially to go through the gulls to see if anything interesting was about, but with the exception of a load of Wigeon, Teal, Gadwall, Mallard, Mute Swans, Canada Geese, Tufties and 3 Redshank the large main lake was pretty empty. A walk through the reedbed produced a few Tits and Cormorants over head. The layby pits seemed to be the place to be though as they were blanketed with Tufted Ducks and Canada Geese etc, with Black Headed, Herring Gulls and Lesser Black Backed on the scrape obviously all using the extra cover as shelter. A stroll through the wooded section near the reedbed failed to produce any Woodcock too so I decided to start the walk back to Finedon. A few Black Headed Gulls were causing a racket next to Sand Martin Bridge, and the small lake to the west of the bridge contained Shovelor, Gadwall, Tufties, Mallard, Wigeon and a peculiar looking goose which looks like a Greylag x Barnacle hybrid - it had a Geylag back and bill but with a white head and it was also tiny - smaller in fact than a normal Greylag. A small flock of Long Tailed Tits were feeding near the road side at Irthlingborough and a lot of gulls were in the flooded fields to the west of here but a quick glance through didn't turn up anything exciting. The only highlight on the long trudge back to Finedon was 6 Fieldfare passing overhead. A nice walk though in the breeze, and its always good to see some farmland birds. I don't think this is a true reflection of numbers though as Yellowhammers are pretty abundant around here, as are the Skylarks, but due to the weather I think most of the birds were just keeping their heads down......and to honest I cant blame them!! Strange not to see any Buzzards or Red Kites though.

Saturday 15 January 2011

Saturday 15th January 2011 - more MK Waxwings

Its been a fairly uneventful week birding wise, 30 Waxwings in the yard on Monday and a Barn Owl seen in the headlights whilst travelling along the A45 east of Northampton on Tuesday night had been the highlights up until today. Reports have been coming in about a flock of Waxies in Central Milton Keynes over the last few days so I decided to take a look. I arrived at Lloyds Court at approx 1445 and was welcomed by three trees full of Waxwings, I estimated about 70 birds in total, with quite a few people around enjoying them. A few flew off shortly afterwards which left 54 feeding on the berries on the side of the road. A scan through these produced a colour ringed bird with a yellow band on it's right leg, but I couldn't make out any of the other rings unfortunately due to bad light and the fact that it wouldn't stay still long enough to get a better view. Over the next 30 minutes birds came in and gradually the flock got larger. They seemed almost tame and a young couple even approached a group feeding on the berries and took a photo from about 5 feet away and even then they still didn't seem too bothered. I went closer to some of the trees and met a local birder in the name of Si, and watched as even more Waxwings came in to join the now large flock. The views of these birds was simply incredible, as we stood underneath a tree watching them above our heads probably just 8 - 10 feet above us. The details of the plumage seen even without binoculars was breathtaking and the noise was awesome. Then they all flew into the group of trees in the middle of the car park so a quick count was made, Si got to 216 and I got to 223- so we split the difference and agreed 220 Waxwings!!

It doesn't matter how many of these cracking birds I see I just can't get enough of them, and each flock fills me with the same excitment as seeing my first. A good afternoon indeed!!

Sunday 9 January 2011

9th January 2011 - White Winged Gulls

After waking up to find it was an incredibly sunny day I decided to get over to Ditchford Gravel Pits to try and find any white winged gulls. A juvenile Glaucous and Iceland Gull was reported as being present all day yesterday, and as I still need Glaucous for my life list I got to the site fairly early to try and get it. Things were fairly quiet on the walk down to the lakes with a single Great Tit, Blue Tit and female Chaffinch in the hedgerows and a female Reed Bunting in the phragmites on the western part of the fishing lake. A small flock of Lapwing were in the adjacent fields with a solitary Pink Footed Goose and a redhead Smew also in the area. The lake that normally holds the gulls was still half frozen over and gulls were everywhere, so I began the long task of going through them. Unfortunately despite a 2 hour search no white wings could be seen, then a Peregrine passed over and most of the birds flew into the field to the north of the site. A quick look through these was unproductive too. The light was now creeping around infront of me so I walked round to the other side of the complex so the sun was behind me, and at last I managed to get a juvenile Iceland Gull (see pic above and vid below)

I waited a further hour constantly going through all the other gulls as they arrived but the search proved fruitless and the Glaucous never made an appearance. Never mind it doesn't pay to see it all in one day and the Iceland Gull was a cracking bird to see as it showed really well for about an hour before it joined the throng of birds on the ice and disappeared amongst the masses. It seems I'll have to wait a bit longer for Glaucous it seems, but not a bad day at all.

Friday 7 January 2011

7th January 2011

Yet more Waxwings today. As I drove into Bletchley during my work I noticed a large flock of birds next to the B&Q roundabout, I was due a break so I quickly parked up in a local shopping centres car park overlooking the site and managed to count 94 Waxwings in total with some feeding on the floor which is something I'd read about but never witnessed. The food they were after was the remains of the Rowan Berries, some of which had fallen on the floor, but as the food supply is getting very low I'll be very surprised if they continue to be seen in Bletchley......but then I've been saying that for weeks and they still keep showing up. One thing I've noticed is once any flocks seem to dwindle in Woburn, large flocks seem to arrive in Bletchley which does suggest that these are the Woburn birds simply moving west. Later that day I came back to the site and relocated the birds in the tall trees in Halfords car park (Watling Street), they were using these to commute between here and the Rowan trees in Tesco's car park across the road. By parking next to the Rowans in Tesco's the views they gave were incredible, feeding incredibly close up and only flying off when people pushed trolleys underneath them completely unaware of the spectacle that was above their heads. I find it amazing how people who claim to have no interest in wildlife can be completely bowled over by a photo of a Waxwing but they don't notice them when they walk passed a flock of them!!

5th January 2011 - Northants Waxwings

An unexpected surprise today. After a day driving around Milton Keynes with no reports of Waxwings at all, it was a nice end to the day as I drove along the A45 into Northampton to noticed a large flock of birds in the bushes along the side of the dual carriageway.......and yep they were Waxwings. About 20 of them, these must have been some of the birds that I dipped on New Years Day so it was nice to finally get them. It seems that as the birds are travelling west the reports of sightings from the Milton keynes area are getting fewer and the Northants reports are coming in thick and fast showing a big movement of birds.

1st January 2011

Well after an amazing birding year I have decided to put my wildlife diary online, and whilst I could always back date all of last years incredible days out I have decided instead to start afresh and I can't think of a better time than the start of a new year. During the week I'm a van driver, mainly around the Milton Keynes area. This has led to some good bird sightings during the many years I've been doing it (such as Scaup, Long Eared Owl, Little Owl, Barn Owl etc etc), but this year has been exceptional due to the massive Waxwing influx that the UK has experienced. Up until dec 2010 I'd only ever seen 2 Waxwings in my life, but the recent flocks in Woburn (Beds) and some of my self found birds in Bletchley (a flock of over 200) have provided a birding experience that has rivalled any birding spectacles I've been lucky enough to witness. This continued into New Years Day this year as  I took a route though Oldbrook in Milton Keynes to connect with approx 50 Waxwings mid morning, and then a trip to Woburn produced approx 150!! I then drove up to Northamptonshire with the hope of getting a 3 county count but dipped unfortunately after a half hour search. Northants Waxies will obviously have to wait a bit for the 2011 tick but not a bad days birding really considering I was working!!