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Jonny721's Yearlist 2019 (1 Viewer)

Jonny721

Well-known member
Tuesday 12th February - Labrador Bay

I am down in Devon for the next couple of days for a training course with the Barn Owl Trust, which meant I could get an hours birding in this evening nearby after my drive down. The obvious choice was to search for Cirl Buntings, a species I have only seen once previously in the UK back in 2013, so I opted for Labrador Bay as this required only a minor detour.

I started off with a quick walk around the fields on the coastal side of the car park but failed to find any of my target species. A quick seawatch saw my first Gannets of the year passing distantly offshore but little else. Thankfully the stubble fields inland of the car park proved more fruitful and I located a flock of 10 buntings along one of the hedgerows which was comprised of 5 Cirl Buntings (4 males) and 5 Yellowhammer, allowing for great comparison between the females of both species. Again as it is a work trip phone-scoped record shots only.

155. Gannet
156. Cirl Bunting

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Jonny721

Well-known member
Friday 15th February - Devon to Lancashire

A long drive home beckoned on Friday following my Barn Owl course, so I decided to break it up a little with a detour across the Severn to the Forest of Dean.

It was another warm day which was perfect for burning off the early morning mist and encouraging birds of prey in to the air, so by 10:30 I was at the New Fancy View watchpoint where over the next 45 minutes I was treated to a couple of great flybys from a male Goshawk along with 2 more distant female birds. At least one Crossbill was heard calling below the viewpoint and I fluked a couple of flyover Hawfinches at nearby Cannop Ponds where 9 male Mandarins were in full display mode to a couple of females. I spent an hour walking around the woodland nearby on the off chance I could bump into a Lesser-spotted Woodpecker but this was more out of hope than anything and predictably my search drew a blank.

Leaving the forest my route back to the motorway handily took me through Westbury-on-Severn where a Yellow-browed Warbler has been wintering at the small sewage works there. Despite the bird feeding in a single conifer the entire time I was on site it was difficult to keep track of and showed well once every 10 minutes or so, a fantastic little bird.

Unfortunately the rest of the day went downhill somewhat, a long-delay on the roads around Birmingham was followed by a disappointing gull roost at Chasewater. It turned out I was viewing from the wrong area which meant I missed all the scarce species which the other observers picked out from further round the lake. I will have to try again now I know the best viewpoint.

157. Goshawk
158. Mandarin
159. Yellow-browed Warbler
 

Jonny721

Well-known member
Saturday 16th February - Fylde

A quick local twitch today, just 10 minutes down the road to Todderstaffe Hall where a Hooded Crow was found mid-week whilst I was in Devon. This is a scarce but annual visitor to the Fylde and it didn't take me long to find it in a large mixed corvid flock feeding in a stubble field.

160. Hooded Crow
 
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Jonny721

Well-known member
Saturday 23rd February - Norfolk

My (lack of) plans for the weekend suddenly took a U-turn late on Friday afternoon when an email came around at work asking if anyone was available for a last minute tree survey in Kings Lynn on Sunday morning. My travel time from home to the site would necessitate an over-night stay which I realised could give me two-half days birding in Norfolk either side of the survey... so of course I volunteered! As it turned out Sophie also had no weekend plans so was more than keen to come with me for a couple of days Norfolk birding.

Unlike my usual birding trips I had absolutely no time to research, plan and prepare which species to target/sites to visit, so this was very much a go with the flow trip. The only definite was that our first port of call on Saturday would be Sculthorpe Moor, and we arrived there just after lunchtime following a pleasant drive down. A small number of Redpoll were coming down to the niger feeders at the start of the woodland boardwalk, including a couple of Mealy (a lifer for Sophie) and a cracking male Lesser in full breeding colours. With our target clearly somewhere else on the reserve for now we went for a wander around the woodland, enjoying the glorious weather. A couple of Marsh Tits and a drumming Great Spotted Woodpecker were nice to see, as was a showy Red Kite right overhead. Back at the feeders another group of Redpolls arrived high up in the trees which included a very pale individual; after a short wait they descended to the feeders where we were able to enjoy good views of the striking Coues's Arctic Redpoll (British tick #348) in the company of several Mealies.

With a couple of hours light left we headed up to Holkham and onto the beach where it seemed half of Norfolk was out enjoying the weekend sun. The increased disturbance probably contributed to the lack of Shorelark in the areas we searched, but the weather and sunset more than made up for this. At dusk a female Barn Owl gave a couple of close flypasts and my first Muntjac of the year were out on the freshmarsh. A Woodcock over the road on the way back to Kings Lynn added an extra yeartick for the day, along with a couple of presumed Common Pipistrelles.

161. Coues's Arctic Redpoll - British tick #348
162. Woodcock

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Jonny721

Well-known member
Sunday 24th February - Norfolk to Lancashire

My survey took the majority of Sunday morning to complete meaning we were back out on the road after 11am, leaving us with most of the afternoon to go birding on route home. Unfortunately this is where the lack of planning time alluded to in the previous post really kicked in, I was a bit stuck with where to go! My original plan had been to travel down to Santon Downham for some Breckland species however this was in the wrong direction for our homeward travel and we simply didn't have time to do it justice once the survey was out the way. So what followed was a bit of unplanned cross-country birding, with limited success.

Heading towards Peterborough we spent a while driving around the Thorney Toll area where the wintering adult Rough-legged Buzzard had been sighted earlier that morning, but as expected it had moved on from it's favoured hedgerow and there was no sign for us. Our next stop however provided a much more reliable bird to twitch; a single Long-eared Owl had already been reported that morning from the well known roosting site at Deeping Lakes LWT and sure enough upon arrival it was still sitting in almost full view on the island, even waking up for a few minutes to have a scratch. This was my first sighting of this species in almost 3 years following the disappearance of my local wintering birds at Marton Mere, and also represented my first ever sighting away from said site. We spent a while casually walking around the rest of the reserve soaking up the sunshine.

The time was already creeping towards 3pm by the time we left and we decided to begin heading homewards, noting 18 Red Kites along the route in Northamptonshire and Leicestershire. Our arrival on the edge of Birmingham as dusk was approaching happily meant we were able to call in and catch the gull roost at Chasewater, although it being a Sunday I knew it would be hit and miss regarding how many birds came in to roost. As it transpired the numbers of gulls roosting remained high however the large gulls arrived much later than hoped for, meaning we were racing against the light. A couple of Yellow-legged Gulls (a lifer for Sophie) were picked out by the watchers and just as it was getting dark the 2nd winter Glaucous Gull dropped in, another nice yeartick to end the trip. Even as we were walking back to the car after 6pm we could hear large gulls pouring in overhead, and with Caspian still missing from my yearlist it gives me a good excuse to come back again soon!

163. Long-eared Owl
164. Glaucous Gull
 

Jonny721

Well-known member
Thursday 28th February - Sherwood Forest

The mini-summer we've been experiencing came to an abrupt end today with a cold drizzly day to finish the month. I had surveys in the Nottingham area till early afternoon which gave me a couple of hours birding time afterwards, and I guess I must be sucker for punishment since I opted to head to Sherwood Forest for another crack at finding Lesser Spotted Woodpecker.

The forecast gave showers for much of the afternoon, however I was fortunate that this proved incorrect with just a single very light shower passing through during my time on site. It was a fantastic experience walking through the ancient oak woodland at the heart of the forest, stopping briefly to admire the Major Oak and read about it's history. On the bird front Great Spotted Woodpeckers and Nuthatches were everywhere, drumming, calling and generally keeping me on edge when spotted out of the corner of my eye. A pair of Marsh Tits kept me entertained whilst Siskin and Redpoll were occasionally heard buzzing around overhead, but my quarry remained as elusive as expected.

With some darker clouds beginning to make their presence known through the trees I decided to call it a day and started to meander back towards where I had parked my car, when I suddenly became aware of a tapping sound emanating from the top of a nearby birch tree. I carefully re-positioned myself so I could view up through the branches and there happily feeding at the very top of the tree was a female Lesser Spotted Woodpecker! I had just lifted my camera to try and get a few record shots when a loud call to my left alerted me to a male as it bounded in and landed a few feet below the female. The female remained in the very highest branches but the male carried on making it's way through the woodland, occasionally dropping down low enough to allow some acceptable record shots to be taken whilst providing fantastic views. My only previous sighting of this species was of a male at Moore NR, Cheshire in 2013, so I was over the moon to get such prolonged views of both sexes today.

165. Lesser Spotted Woodpecker

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Jonny721

Well-known member
16 Additions during February puts me on 165 species by month's end, including my second lifer of the year (Coues's Arctic Redpoll) and another three 2nds (Taiga Bean Goose, Cirl Bunting and Lesser Spotted Woodpecker). This means I am still quite a way ahead of previous years; my best at the end of February prior to this year being 151 species in 2016 and 2018.

My dip list for yeartick targets is still fairly short:
American Wigeon
Rough-legged Buzzard
Caspian Gull (3 visits to Chasewater so far)
Shorelark
Blyth's Reed Warbler
Black Redstart

March currently does not hold any plans for trips, but the continuation of a certain owl is proving tempting...
 

Jonny721

Well-known member
Saturday 9th March - South Fylde

A slow start to the month with some less than favourable weather making both work and birding quite challenging! An afternoon in the south Fylde today produced a few nice birds, highlighted by the adult male Hen Harrier over the high tide at Warton Marsh (with a supporting cast of Short-eared Owl, Marsh Harrier and Merlin). I was hoping the tide might push some Avocets onto the Fylde side of the river but this failed to happen, and my only yeartick for the day came down the road at Newton Marsh where at least 9 Ruff were present on the main pool. A quick seawatch may be on the cards tomorrow.

166. Ruff
 

Jonny721

Well-known member
Sunday 10th March - Rossall Point

The strong winds from yesterday continued into Sunday but had shifted from straight westerly to a slight north-westerly by the time I arrived at Rossall Point (Site 1A on the linked Fylde Bird Club site guide) just after midday. Any northerly in the wind usually means a complete write-off for seawatching along the Fylde coast and so it proved with most of the birds passing in the first 15 minutes before trailing off completely. But this time of year means that stuff is starting to move regardless of the conditions so like yesterday I did manage a single yeartick in the form of a few Kittiwakes battling through the wind.

167. Kittiwake
 
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Jonny721

Well-known member
Saturday 16th March - Fleetwood

Birding by it's very nature is unpredictable, that is one of the things that we love about the hobby. However that isn't to say that all birding events cannot be foreseen, and strong west/south-westerly winds in winter/spring = a very good chance of Little Gull along the Fylde coast. Good numbers had been seen off Rossall Point during the week whilst I was away with work, but the arrival of Storm Hannah on Friday gave me hope of connecting with some over the weekend.

Well most of today was a write-off with horizontal driving rain but reports of Little Gulls in North Lancashire was enough to get me out for an hour late afternoon. As the tide was coming in I opted for the Fleetwood Lower Lighthouse (Site 1E on the linked Fylde Bird Club site guide) as this structure provides great shelter in a SW wind, and overlooks the mouth of the River Wyre where birds often congregate in such winds (this also happens with Leach's Petrels in autumn). Setting my scope up and looking through the eyepiece I was immediately greeted with an adult Little Gull battling against the wind just off the beach, and a scan around produced 4 more pristine adults all trying to move west. I spent 15 minutes watching them dip-feeding over the water before an incoming squall saw me retreat to the car.

168. Little Gull
 
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Jonny721

Well-known member
Tuesday 19th March - Middleton Lakes RSPB

A couple of days surveying near Tamworth this week has coincided with a very welcome change in the weather. Gone are the rain and strong winds, it actually felt like spring this afternoon as I spent a couple of hours wandering round Middleton Lakes RSPB. It was obvioust there had been an influx of Chiffchaffs with at least 4 singing males enjoying the sunny conditions, as were 4 singing Cetti's Warblers around the reserve. Out on Jubilee Wetlands a few waders were in evidence; 6 Redshanks were making their presence known with bouts of loud calling, a stunning summer plumaged Black-tailed Godwit was feeding around the pool edges, and best of all my first 2 Avocet of the year were resting amongst a group of gulls, ony of my absolute favourite UK species.

A phone-scoped shot of the Avocets below, plus one of 9 Great Crested Newts bottle-trapped over night.

169. Avocet

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Jonny721

Well-known member
Wednesday 20th March - Alvecote

I stayed in a hotel less than 15 minutes from Alvecote Pools last night, which handily meant I was able to twitch the Ferruginous Duck that was confirmed there this morning after being found yesterday afternoon. It was a beautiful spring morning with Chiffchaffs singing everywhere and a few male Brimstone butterflies on the wing as I joined the small crowd watching the duck on Pretty Pigs Pool. The bird, a beautifully crisp drake, looked fantastic in the sun as it dived continuously on the far side of the pool. As far as I am aware it hasn't yet shown well enough to reveal whether or not it is carrying any rings (important given the recent German re-introduction scheme individuals in the south), so it goes on the yearlist for now but in the knowledge it might not stay there!

170. Ferruginous Duck (provisional)
 

Jonny721

Well-known member
Friday 22nd March - Over Wyre

A rare Friday off work coincided with a 10.2m tide along the Fylde coast. It was also my first day of being scope-less for the next few weeks as yesterday I sent mine off to Swarovski to get a thorough service and the lenses cleaning. In hindsight searching through a mobile Pipit flock probably wasn't the best of choices without a scope, but that was exactly what was on the agenda as I pulled up to The Heads (Site 2B on the linked Fylde Bird Club site guide) on the east side of the River Wyre late morning. Anyone keeping track of the thread may remember that I have already seen Water Pipit this year (see post #16), but I still needed it for my Fylde yearlist so I spent a bit of time grilling the pipit flock as the tide completely flooded the adjacent saltmarsh. I managed to pick out at least 1 Water Pipit and 3+ Scandinavian Rock Pipits which were starting to develop their pink summer flush. A bonus came in the form of a couple of Jack Snipe that were flushed from the tide edge by the sea wall; I was starting to think I was going to have to wait till the autumn to see this species this year.

With the tide still fully in I drove to nearby Fluke Hall (Site 2H on the linked Fylde Bird Club site guide) to check out the rock armour below the seawall, always a great spot for migrating Wheatear at this time of year. Sure enough it didn't take me long to find 3 crisp adult males working their way along the rocks, my first proper migrant of the spring!

171. Jack Snipe
172. Wheatear

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Jonny721

Well-known member
Saturday 24th March - Fylde

Another sunny 10m high tide day saw me out for a walk along the west side of the Wyre Estuary at Burglar's Alley (Site 1I on the linked Fylde Bird Club site guide) to see what would be pushed off the river. The sun and warmth made it feel like an 'Osprey' day so I kept one eye on the sky and an ear out for alarm calling gulls, of which there were many thanks to a minimum of 12 Buzzards up in the air at once! No Osprey though this time. As the tide flooded the marsh the wintering Spotted Redshank (see post #20) was picked out amongst it's common relatives, still in winter plumage. The only other slight sighting of note was a group of 4 Ringed Plover, a long overdue Fylde yeartick.

Later in the afternoon I headed down for a once-round at Marton Mere (Site 4H on the linked Fylde Bird Club site guide) in the hope that the Bittern(s) might put in an appearance or some hirundines would drop in at dusk. Well the former were as elusive as ever but my hunch proved right with the latter as a group of 7 Sand Martins dropped in just after 5pm and hung around for the rest of the evening.

173. Sand Martin

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Jonny721

Well-known member
Thursday 28th March - Guildford

I am down south for the next few days to undertake some training at our main office in Guildford. This may present some opportunities to bag a few good birds over the weekend, but for now at least 4 (2 male and 2 female) Tawny Owls calling this evening whilst setting bottle-traps for Great Crested Newts.

174. Tawny Owl
 

Jonny721

Well-known member
Friday 29th March - Frensham Little Pond

An early morning collecting bottle-traps (and work-ticking Ring-necked Parakeet) preceeded a few hours in the office until just after midday. Since myself and a few colleagues from Leeds are down in Guildford either side of the weekend we decided to stay down in the south and have a mini-holiday, choosing Selsey as our destination.

As the sun was shining I decided to make a slight detour on the way to the coast, stopping off at Frensham Little Pond to look for some heathland specialists. The first yeartick of the day however was the exact opposite, a female Ring-necked Duck that has been present on the lake for a few days, albeit showing a little distantly. Onto the main heath itself and after a bit of searching I had managed to unearth 3 Dartford Warblers (2 males and a female), always great value to watch as they made their way through the gorse. Unfortunately Woodlarks remained stubbornly silent with none being seen during my visit. Back at the pond a couple of Swallows dropped in for a quick drink, another first for the spring.

175. Ring-necked Duck
176. Dartford Warbler
177. Swallow

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Jonny721

Well-known member
Saturday 30th March - Selsey and Isle of Wight

Early morning and the spring sunshine streaming in through the windows of our holiday cottage saw me up and out in the garden before 7am. Being just a couple of minutes from the beach I thought a few migrants might be around and so it proved with at least 6 Chiffchaffs actively feeding in the trees around the garden. After a couple of snippets of sub-song a male Blackcap eventually popped up from a thicket, my first of the year. Willow Warbler next?

But what to do with the day? Without any prompting one of my colleagues suggested we take the ferry across to the Isle of Wight for the day as none of us had ever visited the island before. Unsurprisingly I was fully on board with this plan due to a certain vagrant that had been present for a week on the island's south coast, and happily the others were all willing to try their first bit of twitching!

The short crossing to the island and drive to Ventnor were uneventful, with a veil of haze limiting the sun's influence somewhat. Down at Wheeler's Bay it was easy to spot where our target was hanging out thanks to the crowd of 20 birders and photographers assembled on the esplanade with lenses pointing up at the cliff. Joining the crowd we were greeted by the sight of the adult Great Spotted Cuckoo (British tick #349) hopping around on the cliff face above us. The bird showed superbly well as it moved around the grassy areas of the cliff in search of Glanville Fritillary caterpillars (one of 7 British butterfly species I am yet to see); my colleagues were all very taken with the bird although I was quick to point out that twitching isn't always so easy or in such a picturesque setting! With the bird in the bag we spent the rest of the day exploring the island.

178. Blackcap
179. Great Spotted Cuckoo - British tick #349

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Jonny721

Well-known member
Sunday 31st March - Pagham Harbour

A much more chilled day today saw me and my three colleagues visiting RSPB Pagham Harbour for a couple of hours either side of midday after a chilled morning at our holiday cottage. We set ourselves up in Ferry Hide so I could show them the various waders and waterfowl present on the brackish pools, although they needed no help in identifying the 15 or so Avocets present. An adult Mediterranean Gull in full breeding splendor flew overhead calling and showing off it's pure white primaries, whilst on the pool a group of 80 Black-tailed Godwits held a number of individuals also in summer plumage. The highlight for me came in the form of a trio of Little Ringed Plovers, obviously two males and a female with the males chasing and calling at each other before the dominant bird displayed to and then mated with the female. A quick walk round the reserve to the harbour revealed few other birds, a couple of singing Blackcap and 10 Sand Martins overhead the only migrants.

180. Little Ringed Plover

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Jonny721

Well-known member
After a slow start March certainly picked up a pace in the last couple of weeks as spring arrived in force; in contrast to last year when migrants were very late to arrive this year I am picking up species much earlier than usual. I managed 15 additions putting me on 180 species by months end, including my third lifer of the year in the form of the fantastic Great Spotted Cuckoo. Thanks to rush of migrants in the last few days I am currently quite a way ahead of my previous best year at this point.

The only addition to the dip list was Woodlark:
American Wigeon
Rough-legged Buzzard
Caspian Gull
Woodlark
Shorelark
Blyth's Reed Warbler
Black Redstart
 

Jonny721

Well-known member
Wednesday 3rd April - Alvecote Pools

Despite the temperature taking a tumble it really felt like spring this morning during my monthly bird survey at Alvecote Pools. Most of the wildfowl have left for more northerly haunts although the resident Great White Egret was in one of it's usual spots on Mill Pool. In the adjacent areas of woodland a mixture of warblers could be heard singing for the first time this year, with 2 each of Willow Warbler and Blackcap accompanying the abundant Chiffchaffs. Overhead a noisy group of 25 Sand Martins buzzed around over the pools and mixed in was a single House Martin, a yeartick and I suspect my earliest ever.

181. House Martin
182. Willow Warbler

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