23 February 2006

Shelduck and Ringed Plover at Brandon

A Sunday trip to Brandon to try out Charlie's new three-wheel off-road pushchair. It performed brilliantly, and could be one of the best bits of birding kit I've bought in a long time!

Relatively quiet on the birdwatching front, but a few nice birds to warm the heart on a cold, grey day. A Shelduck was unusual, though not totally unexpected - my records for the last few years show they tend to turn up here in ones or twos, although only in February through April.

A Ringed Plover was an early surprise, the only wader apart from two Lapwing. Good numbers of Gadwall (12), Pochard (10) and Shoveller (9) were also in evidence, along with a dozen Cormorant. We glimpsed Great Spotted Woodpecker and Song Thrush on the way back to the tearoom, and from the comfort of a cooked breakfast we watched perhaps half-a-dozen Reed Buntings fighting over food on the bird table.

Spring is springing in my garden

Although the weather hasn't been great of late, there have been definite sights of spring in and around my garden.

Alongside the bulbs (daffodils, crocuses and snowdrops) bursting out of the ground, a couple of familiar heralds have been in full song - well, sort of.

The Song Thrush has definitely been singing, loud and clear using a tall conifer in our garden as a song post. The Great Spotted Woodpecker hasn't been singing as such, but has been much in evidence with his drumming sounds reverberating around the neighbourhood.

15 February 2006

The majestic Hen Harrier

A magic moment, surely one of my best ever birding experiences - watching an adult male Hen Harrier sweeping along the coast, up and across the salt flats and through a flock of startled Golden Plover. Lazily this large, pale grey raptor with distinctive black wingtips floated through the plovers until SNAP - with a quick twist and burst of acceleration he grabbed one out of the air and forced it to the ground.

All was not as it seemed however - after a moment he rose again, empty-clawed, and instead of feeding was forced to carry on gliding along the coast. Successful or not, it was a wonderful thing to watch.

The action happened at Fingeringhoe, a wonderful location on the coast of Essex where tidal marshes combine with mature woodland and several other types of habitat to ensure a rich birding experience. The Hen Harrier (my first) was a highlight, but it was a marvellous day all round. Thousands of Dunlin, Golden and Grey Plover, Shelduck, Redshank, Black-tailed Godwit, Wigeon, and Oystercatcher were joined by other birds throughout the morning - such as three Red-breasted Merganser, a Buzzard, and 400 beautiful glittering Avocet which swept up the tidal channel just a few feet above the water.

I rounded the day off by returning to Abberton Reservoir. From its main causeway I found my first Turnstones of the year - most obliging they were too, coming within a few feet of the roadside enabling the photograph you see here. I'd rather have had the chance to take pictures of the Hen Harrier, but even without photos I know that particular moment will linger long in the memory.

An awful lot of Coots

We visited the in-laws in Essex this weekend, and as well as being delighted to see that side of the family, I was also quite pleased to get some very good birdwatching in.

Friday afternoon saw me arrive, drop off the wife and child, and head straight off for Abberton Reservoir, one of the area's premier birding spots.

I arrived to be confronted by well in excess of 3,000 Coots - rafts of them spread all over this massive water, impressive when stationary but breathtaking when they scooted low across the water en masses, wings beating together and feet skimming the surface.

There were plenty of other treats to be savoured - impressive numbers of Goldeneye, a lovely pair of Goosander, a couple of Common Sandpipers that have apparently over-wintered here (usually they're migrant birds that that leaves our shores in the winter and only come back in March / April), and neighbouring fields full of Wigeon, Lapwing, Fieldfare, Redwing, Starling and Rook.

6 February 2006

Napton Reservoir and nothing to say

Sunday morning, overslept, walked round Napton Reservoir - nothing much to say. No Bearded Tit, no Cetti's, no rare waterfowl. Nice bacon sandwich when I got home though.

3 February 2006

A little bit of Charlie

OK, I know, The Hornet's Nest (or should that be thehornetsnest) is supposed to be a blog about birding (or birdwatching) in Warwickshire.

But I just couldn't resist one more shot of Charlie - just to showcase the capabilities of the new camera of course ;-)

Besides, he's very relevant to the subject in hand, because he's part of the reason why I'm not actually doing any birdwatching in Warwickshire!

Still, at least I can keep my hand in with a bit of photography - he's a bit bigger than the average birding subject, but no more inclined to stay still long enough to photograph.