35 Birds I'd Like to See in 2012.

Bean Goose
Ruddy Shelduck
Red-breasted Goose
Velvet Scoter
Green-winged Teal
Black Grouse
White-tailed Eagle
Quail
Honey Buzzard
Rough-legged Buzzard
Stone Curlew
Great Shearwater
Jack Snipe (21st Jan.)
Common Crane (7th Apr.)
Caspian Gull
Glaucous Gull
Roseate Tern
Long-eared Owl
Tawny Owl
Hoopoe
Lesser Spotted Woodpecker (26th Feb.)
Citrine Wagtail
Woodlark
Shore Lark (7th Apr.)
Water Pipit (29th Feb.)
Nightingale (6th May)
Icterine Warbler
Grasshopper Warbler
Crested Tit
Bearded Tit (19th Feb.)
Penduline Tit
Chough
Common / Mealy Redpoll
Red-backed Shrike
Bee-eater

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Sunday
May132012

Cuckoo.

A very quick addition to the list this morning. I drove to Frampton at 0900hrs - looking forward to a few hours birding in the glorious sunshine before the football started mid-afternoon. I arrived, parked up, and began to make my way along the canal towpath - heading towards Green Lane. Immediately a Cuckoo began to sing in the trees lining the 100-Acre reeds. An easy tick as it sat in the upper branches singing away.

I went to update my Twitter feed with the news, and saw a tweet from a BBC Sports journalist saying that athletics tickets would be on sale from 1100hrs.

So I drove back home... and got tickets.

Monday
May072012

Mediterranean Gull.

Last morning of the bank holiday weekend, and a three-pronged attack on the river. All in the rain.

1) Berkeley shore. I walked from Shaprness picnic site to Berkeley Pill. Maybe in these lousy conditions something would come up river. As it turns out, it* didn't. Careful checking - no, repeated careful checking - of the fence posts produced only Linnets and Meadow Pipits. No Whinchat, and definitely no Whinchats. Quelle surprise.

*'it' being any wonderful bird you care to imagine, from an Arctic Tern right through to an errant Frigatebird.

2) Slimbridge. The main reason for stopping here was to year tick Mediterranean Gull. This was easy, but although four were reported on the South Lake first thing, when I looked only two remained. Both second summer. Both brilliant. Both spent some time calling. Extremely distinctive. A Common Tern was also on the Lake.

Mediterranean Gulls.I also spent some time at the Zeiss Hide watching the Reed Warblers - all the while hopeful that a Water Rail would show. It (presuming there were any) didn't. Outside of the Zeiss hide one of the Mandarin Ducks was sat on a wooden fence. An easy target, I know, but an irresistable one.

Mandarin Duck.3) I considered not mentioning this, but before heading back to Gloucester I dropped into Saul Warth on the off chance of seeing the Whinchat I'd missed for the last two days. There were lots of Wheatears and Skylarks, but no Whinchat. The rain was heaving it down by now. I was getting wet and keeping the glass of my binoculars and telescope free of water was an impossible task. Both instuments are now drying off in the warm.

So that's the May bank holiday weekend done. I started the weekend on 167 species for the year and finished it on 183. That's 16 added in three days. Good going. I 'only' need 32 more to break 213 and still have Scilly in September to come, but I'm aware there's still a lot of work to do before then. Birds like Brambling, Water Rail, Cuckoo, Whinchat, Arctic / Black / Sandwich / Little Tern, Grey Partridge, Spotted Flycatcher, Little Owl and Little Gull are still missing. Most of those will end up on my list. Of course there are also gimmes like Green Sandpiper, Nightjar, Woodcock and Little Stint, so I'm confident of getting there. I'm beginning to wonder about Cuckoo, though. So far this year I've heard one. Usually by now my travels have put me in touch with a few more than that.

Now pay attention, Bond. My two weeks in Scilly are key. In 2010 I saw a total of 213 species. When I visited in Scilly 2010 I was on 175. This year I've already seen 7 species I saw on Scilly in 2010, so to keep pace with my past self I need to be on at least 182 by the time I go this year. Happily, today's Mediterranean Gulls put me on 183. In 2010 Scilly got me 13 species I saw nowhere else, so I can reasonably hope for the same again. 183 +13 = 196. 214 - 196 = 18. What does this mean? It means that, "in theory Captain", I need to see at least 18 more species either side of Scilly to break my record.

(More generally, by the 7th May 2010 I'd seen 148 species. Today, 7th May 2012, I am on 183. That puts me 35 clear.)

But this is all stupid hypotheticals. Who knows what will or won't happen? For example, as I finish typing up this entry Twitter advises there's a Wood Sandpiper at Slimbridge. 'Fortunately', it's distant and elusive... i.e. sufficient reason not to go back. I'm sure there'll be another somewhere. At least, I hope. Jeez... this numbers game is getting tiresome. Thank goodness next year isn't an 'on year'.

Sunday
May062012

Nightingale.

There was a Whinchat at Saul Warth this morning but it only showed before I arrived at about 0715hrs... never to return. Still... despite a desperately poor showing on both the rising and falling tides this morning has to be considered a success. Six year ticks!

High tide.Wheatear.Along the rocks there were varying numbers of Wheatear. The most I saw was ten. Three Buzzards attacked each other high above and c.8 Yellow Wagtails flew overhead. A flock of c.50 Whimbrel were occupying the Frampton shore and the hirundine passage continued en mass. The only wader I saw was a Common Sandpiper - and I only saw that in flight and from the rear. Two Lesser Whitethroats and one Sedge Warbler seen. Three Red-breasted Mergansers were reported flying upriver past Aust and then past Berkeley, but we did not see them from Saul. The general theme is... what a waste of time.

A little after 1000hrs most people gave up. I joined in, making my way to the Sailing Lake. This was far more productive. A Whitethroat was singing feverishly on the wires, a Common Tern was fishing and a Kingfisher (finally!) whooshed right past me as I stood on the shore. A Garden Warbler sang from the top of a tree, offered fleeting flight views, before disappearing.

Finally, I paid visit to the Nightingales. I had tried a few times last year to see them - instead having to content myself with 'merely' hearing them. In fact, I'd heard Nightingale song many times before but never once seen one (so couldn't tick any of them). Today was different. The singing was intermittent at best. I saw a bird flash between bushes - taking the singing with it - and presumed that it was a Nightingale. Could I tick that? I wanted to, but no. Then I had one of those binoculars in the right place at the right time moments. I was scanning the undergrowth when - through small gap - I could see the back of a bird. Fortunately it remained still for over a minute and was quite clearly a Nightingale. It turned its head once, showing it's face, but all too quickly disappeared. A limited view, yes, but a solid one. A solid view to round off an unexpectedly solid morning.

Now where should I try for Whinchat next...?

Saturday
May052012

Pied Flycatcher.

Today's main objective was to tick Pied Flycatcher at Nagshead, but my first stop was the rising tide at Saul early in the morning.

It was quiet, sunny and cold. Still no terns for me to tick. The highlight was two (presumably new in) Hobbies perched on the rocks near Hock Cliff. I'd left my camera in the car, so regretted the view almost as much as I enjoyed it. Alongside were two Wheatears (although four were seen in total). Saw my first Lesser Whitethroats of the year in the hedges behind the sluice gates (one particularly well) and also ticked Yellow Wagtail. Four flyovers - maybe the same bird maybe four different birds. On the mud as the tide advanced were three Ringed Plovers, one Bar-tailed Godwit and one Whimbrel.

Saul Warth.At about 0800hrs there was a fantastic passage of hirundines - swarming all around us. Great naked eye views of these speed merchants. A few Swifts were getting in on the act, too.

Quiet morning, yes, but I was very satisfied with the two ticks I did get - Lesser Whitethroat (a bird I struggle with) and Yellow Wagtail. I left at about 0830hrs and headed straight for the Forest.

As it turns out, the falling tide was much better. Large wader numbers (nothing I didn't see on Thursday, fortunately). The only real disappointment was the sighting of a male Whinchat by the sluice. Disappointing for me, of course, not for those who did see it. Still, gotta stay hungry.

At Nagshead - and contrary to any expectations brought about by previous years experience - it took me less than five minutes to pick up on a male Pied Flycatcher. Well, I say I picked up on it, what I actually mean was someone else had one in their scope and I cadged a look. Reassured by the tick I began to look for my own. I needn't have worried. There were at least three males around the short trail - all active. I spotted one that was using a box - either feeding an incubating female or readying the residence for family life. Whatever the case, result.

Home sweet home?By simply sitting on the ground, hidden and quiet, for twenty glorious minutes I was able to watch the bird sing, feed and busy itself in and around the box. Twice it went inside. Another birder reckoned he saw a female in the same location, but I can't confirm that. Anyway, great views of a great bird mean a shot at great photographs. The following aren't great, but they are easily the best I've ever taken of a Pied Flycatcher.

Pied Flycatcher.More than satisfied, I moved onto the day's second woodland target which was - and equally surprisingly - also very straightforward. The far end of the short trail was crawling with Wood Warblers. Well, I say crawling... there were three singing birds. As with the Flycatcher, great views were had. One bird came down low enough to allow a photograph or two.

Wood Warbler.And with that, I suddenly noticed how tired I was. Getting up at 0500hrs on a Saturday morning really does take it's toll, or rather it does once you've ticked off the birds you wanted to see that morning.

I don't need to come back to the Forest again now until June for the annual Nightjar / Woodcock spectacular at Boys Grave. I usually get Spotted Flycatcher on that trip, but if not I'm sure there'll be one or two waiting on Scilly.

Tomorrow I'll try the tide again, then walk around the Sailing Lake at Frampton before finishing at Slimbridge. There are still quite a few birds I am anxious to get on my list this year - Garden Warbler, Nightingale, Whinchat (grrr...), Whitethroat, Sedge Warbler, Cuckoo, Kingfisher, Water Rail - so hopefully a few more will fall this Bank Holiday weekend.

Friday
May042012

Evening Tide.

Here's a good example of understatement: Saturday (28th Apr.) and Sunday (29th Apr.) were wet and windy. Now here's a good example of a laboured bird-related humour: Saturday (28th Apr.) and Sunday (29th Apr.) were so wet and windy I didn't need to wait for birds to fly upriver because I was blown downriver!

lol

Early Saturday morning I spent an hour in the wet and windy hoping for something good from the 100-Acre viewing platform. Maybe a Whinchat! Maybe not.  A smattering of ducks, Curlew, Redshank, a Buzzard and one Greenland Wheatear. I heard Sedge Warblers in the reeds behind the platform but - unsurprisingly in the conditions - didn't see one. Middle Point was utterly dispiriting. No warblers, no Yellow Wagtails over, nothing of note up the river (so no terns). I sat in the 'hide' for a little while - the first time I'd ever done that - and watched some large gulls pick apart a stranded fish on the estuary. Ultimately, the rain might've been usefuI for bringing migrants down, but the cold wind made it very hard to see them and unpleasant enough to give up the search pretty quickly. Which I did. I didn't bother going anywhere on Sunday, and so the weekend ended with no additions to the list, lots of wet socks and muddy equipment.

A hide tick.Monday and Tuesday - good old working days - were fantastic!... I'm told. I managed to see two Greylag Geese honking over work one afternoon, whilst those lucky enough to be on the river or at the Trust were treated to the 'Spring Gold Package', which includes Sandwich Terns, Common Terns, Arctic Terns, Black Terns (on the south lake!), Cuckoos, Lesser Whitethroats, Hobbies, Short-eared Owls, Little Gulls and Sanderlings. I think you get a free Wood Warbler with that. All manner of goodies.

The only evening this week I managed to get down to the river was Thursday. By then the 'mega-passage' of terns (resulting in some beauties photographed on Townfield Lake) had passed but I still went with hopes high. I arrived just as the tide had pushed the waders close to Saul Warth, but still leaving enough space to keep the birds on the deck. Perfect.

Close enough for my Ixus to have a go.The flock consisted of Bar-tailed Godwits (some looking absolutely stunning), Red Knot (many fully red), Dunlin, Grey Plover (four males in breeding plumage), Ringed Plover, Sanderling (10), Curlew Sandpiper (3 - one coming into summer plumage), Turnstones, Whimbrels and Curlews. A Great Crested Grebe was on the river, two Oystercatchers patrolled the shoreline and there was a constant stream of Swallows and Swifts moving north-east. All rather marvellous. No Wagtails, though and despite the Red-necked Phalarope reported as being on the mud as the tide advanced nobody present could find it.

On the way down from the road, a Hobby flew right infront of me, and then a second cruised over much higher.

Finally, I spotted a Short-eared Owl hunting over the Frampton shore.

Back on the river tomorrow.