Tall tales from RSPB Old Hall Marshes

Black-winged Stilt 04 So after work today I decided to head to Old Hall Marshes to see if I could get some pictures of the Black-winged Stilts that have been there most of this week. After a reasonable but uneventful walk I was able to locate them. They walked around feeding in the small pools and flitting about from area to area. Along with the Stilts were a couple of summer plumaged Spotted Redshanks and a solitary Ruff, on the estuary behind me was the female Long-tailed duck that has been around for quite a while, this was associating with a pair of Great-crested Grebes. After spending about 45 mins with the Stilts in the low light conditions I decided to head for home. On the way back a Common Snipe flew overhead and a few Swallows were heading inland. A very worthwhile couple of hours spent

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About Essex

Hi all – it’s been a while! Spent the day out with my brother doing some of our usual sites. Managed to pick up a single Hawfinch at Braxted Park. Lots of Common Buzzards showing well today there as well. Common Buzzard 03

Had a wander around Shut Heath Wood but unfortunately didn’t manage to find the Lesser-spotted Woodpecker. We did however find Treecreeper and a calling Nuthatch. We then moved onto Abberton Reservoir, where we found a couple of Goosander, and one of the Scaup that has been there for quite a while. Unfortunately we didn’t find either the White-fronted geese or the Firecrest that has been near the Centre. Not a bad day out, given the weather conditions.

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Another Morning at Minsmere

My brother and I went to RSPB Minsmere yesterday and see if we could find the Pallas’s Warbler that had been showing on Friday. We arrived early and didn’t find much as we headed for the sluice bushes; what we did find were six very early Bewick Swans on the scrape and quite a few flocks of Common Scoter, Brent Geese, Teal and Wigeon flying past over the sea. Upon reaching the bushes we noticed a lack of birds but soon they started to appear, Long-tailed Tits, Goldcrests, Blue Tits, Great Tits and a male Blackcap and a couple of passes by a female Sparrowhawk but unfortunately we were not able to find what we were looking for. We slowly made our way to Island Mere hide pausing to hunt for a Chiffchaff that was calling in the bushes just before the hide. We entered the hide to lots of hushed whispers and quickly found out that an Otter was swimming across the back of the mere. Bittern 9 With this soon located (only my second ever sighting at Minsmere of these elusive creatures) it promptly vanished into the reeds. Our attention turned back to see what else we could find. It didn’t take long but soon we had added several Bitterns, Marsh Harrier, three Great White Egrets, Kingfisher, Bearded Tits, Water Rail and even a couple of late Swallows to our list. We heard that the Great Grey Shrike that had been seen from the footpath from Eastbridge had sometimes on previous days be seen from the hide so we duly set about seeing if we could find it. Eventually my brother found it sitting in a hawthorn tree best part of a mile away. Without a good telescope you’d never have found it, with everyone in the hide having seen it we made our back towards the centre in the rain. We stopped along the way to see Marsh Tit between Island Mere & Bittern Hide which was a nice end to the trip. Not a bad day but unfortunately a Pallas’s Warbler still manages to elude me.

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Browsing at Cudmore Grove

Yellow-browed Warbler 3 I popped over to Cudmore Grove Country Park at lunchtime to see if I could get some better photos Yellow-browed Warblers. There was no sign of much at all when I arrived and no-one else had been able to find anything either. The first things of interest that I found were a couple of Ring Ouzels feeding in a mountain ash tree along with some Redwings. Unfortunately neither wanted their photos taken. After a little while someone managed to find one of the two Yellow-browed Warblers which we were able to locate in a small group of trees. We proceeded to watch this wonderful little Warbler for almost an hour before I had to call it a day and head home. All in all though, not a bad weekend.

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Morning at Minsmere

Brambling 1

I had a quick trip to RSPB Minsmere yesterday to see what I could find and thoroughly enjoyed myself. I saw a very entertaining Brambling by the sluice bushes, hopping around in the open. I did also see lots more Bramblings throughout the morning, including circa 20 on the way to Island Mere hide, feeding on the mountain ash berries on the right hand side of the path. There were also plenty of Redwings around.

Yellow-browed Warbler 2 I also saw the very un-cooperative Yellow-browed Warbler. I say un-cooperative as it wasn’t calling very much and, when it did come into view, it didn’t stay still long enough to have a nice picture taken. This is the best that I managed. A Dartford Warbler made a special appearance in the gorse behind me; I’ve never seen one there before. I made my way to Island Mere and saw the three long-staying Great White Egrets as well as plenty of Bearded Tits, Water Rail, Snipe and Kingfisher. On the way back I stopped briefly on the north bank to see the Ring Ouzels that had come in overnight. A very productive morning with lots to look at and enjoy.

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Long-Staying Shrike

Red-backed Shrike 2 I popped out mid-morning to have a look for the Red-backed Shrike that had been at the John Weston Nature Reserve at Walton-on-the-Naze for the last week or so. The Essex Wildlife Trust (EWT) does have some lovely reserves which get some fabulous birds and this is no exception. I thought that by arriving at around 10.30am I had left it long enough for the majority of the dog walkers and the early morning birders to have left so that I could spend some quality time with this bird. As I headed to the reserve I found I had been right and that hardly anyone was around. I found the Shrike sitting on some branches just inside the reserve next to the sea wall. I spent a lovely couple of hours sitting around in the grass taking photos of the bird when it came nearby. It flitted from bush to bush catching bees mainly, although it got disturbed by the occasional dog walker and at one point was seen off by a Whitethroat. Other than the Shrike there was not much else. I saw a Little Owl on a barn and a steady stream of Swallows and House Martins passing through.

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Quick Trip to Old Hall Marshes

Wryneck 9 I decided to take a quick trip to RSPB Old Hall Marshes this afternoon to see if I could catch up with another Wryneck. I wasn’t disappointed – after turning up as everyone else appeared to be leaving and being given rough directions to where the bird had last been seen, I started the wait. Soon I was joined by a few other birders, none of whom had ever seen a Wryneck before. Fortunately the bird was soon located and gave a typical Wryneck display, sometimes in the middle of the path showing off and other times disappearing into the long grass. Unfortunately the best photo opportunities happened when the bird had flown around us so that I was looking into the sun, but they’re not too bad considering. During my time watching the Wryneck I also saw several Marsh Harriers, several flocks of Golden Plover and ten Green Sandpipers flying together after they had been flushed by a Harrier. A very enjoyable couple of hours spent in the sun watching some fabulous birds.

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Morning at Landguard

Tree Pipit 03 After a lazy start to the day I decided to grab the gear and head to Landguard to see what I could find. The first sighting was a Common Redstart in amongst the brambles on the way around the outside of the compound. This bird had been associating with a Black Redstart but unfortunately I missed that. Further around the side of the compound I found a group of people waiting for one of the four Wrynecks that had been at Landguard yesterday to appear. It didn’t take long for one of three there today to put in an appearance. It looked as though it was finding plenty of ants and the like to eat. Next came a wander across the common where I found another Common Redstart before the first of several good views of Tree Pipits were to be had. During the rest of the visit I also saw Pied Flycatcher, Golden Plover, Whinchat and regular views of Sparrowhawks. All in all a good morning out.

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Stunning sights in the Hebrides

Golden Eagle 03 Somewhat belatedly, I’ve added photos to the site from our trip to Skye and the Outer Hebrides in June. We spent a week on Skye, followed by a week staying on South Uist, during which we explored the Uist island chain. The bird life was superb, with sightings and photos of Corncrake, Golden Eagle and White-tailed Sea Eagle being particular highlights.

You can see all of the photos in our Hebrides gallery and we also have a short video of a sea eagle in flight.

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