A few weeks ago I took a long weekend break to the Farne Islands (more about what I saw there in future posts). I planned my route up so that I could make several stops along the way to see various birds and to break the journey up. So rather than following the quickest route I took the scenic route. This involved driving up through the Lake District to Carlisle, and then East through Northumberland, almost following Hadrian's Wall.
One area that I stopped at looked very good for Stonechat, and I was quickly rewarded with a family of them.
The male keeping a close eye on me.
One of the juveniles, looking very healthy.
I do like these birds a lot. Really enjoy watching them.
Hunting for summer migrants was tiring work, and although I was looking for something a bit more exciting, I was still pleased to see my first Common Sandpiper of the year and a whole host of Willow Warblers. The walks are never quiet at this time of year, and Willow Warblers and Chiffchaffs can usually be picked out of the chorus.
The light was not great as the sun set behind the Peaks, but this was my only decent shot as a Common Sandpiper flew across Errwood reservoir.
I took a lovely midweek evening stroll in the Goyt Valley, Derbyshire and was really on the lookout for Spotted Flycatchers and other breeding activity of our Summer migrants. I didn't see any Spotted Flycatchers, but did see a pair or Redstart and other Warblers and Tree Pipits. All seemed to be pretty busy and bird song was at minimum. Calling Cuckoos in the near distance was a real bonus, as was this Tawny Owl that I took by surprise.
When I'm out on my birding walks I don't walk particularly fast or make a lot of noise, as I like to use all my senses to notice things. Eyes can pick up any slight movement in the trees or distance and my ears are quite good at picking out the quietest of rustles. If I move too quickly I can can miss something of interest. So I take my time and enjoy the nature that surrounds me. It wasn't intentional, but by doing what I do I got a fantastic view of a Tawny Owl. It wasn't for long, but long enough for me to spot it 30 yards away and to set the camera up.
It didn't see or hear me coming and was quite happy watching the forest before it turned it's head. I managed a couple of pictures before it did.
It heard the camera click and turned to look at me. At first it wasn't sure where the noise had come from, so I managed a few more shots.
It headed off to the safety of the forest not long after. If I had raced through and been a bit louder with my shuffling feet I may have alerted it to my presence before I even got a chance to see it. So high five to me and my stealthy approach to birding. On this occasion it paid off.
It's a fabulous time of year for watching birds. Everything is a bit later this year, but finally things are getting into full swing, as is the weather.
I took a trip to RSPB Burton Mere for a fix of warblers and waders. I wasn't disappointed as the reed beds and scrapes were alive with activity. One warbler that I do really enjoy seeing, and hearing, is the Sedge Warbler. Their song is so varied and vivid it brings any reed bed to life. I found a few last week, and they were all busy on territory. This meant that they would sit up nice and proud to project their songs. It helped with the pictures I got too.
I made an early morning visit to Kelling Heath at the weekend. I was hoping for Cuckoo and possibly a chance to get some better shots of the Yellowhammer that are in abundance. I did much much better than that with a fly pass by a Turtle Dove and a very lucky chance meeting with a pair of Dartford Warbler that were actively gathering food for their young.
I've seen the Dartford Warbler on just a few occasions and never with a camera to hand, so when this pair popped up out of the gorse not 20 feet in front of me I swore very quietly in shock. I stood still and just let them carry on doing what they were doing. I didn't want to frighten them off, I wanted to observe them. Patience and stealth is crucial at moments like this. One false move and your moment will be gone.
They didn't even seem to notice me, as they were busy looking for grubs and insects. Time to prime the camera and see what I could get. .
They stayed around for some time, ignoring me. I just wish the light was a bit better, but I can't really complain with what I got. Absolutely delighted!!
The Wirral is an amazing place for bird watchers, as I think I have said many times before. It offers something every month of the year. Spring brings the usual migrant species, but it is also a great place for almost guaranteeing certain species that are not easy to find once they disperse throughout the country. Whinchat is one of those and I love being able to find one and even better if you can get a few shots of it.
A male Stonechat with a small caterpillar in it's bill.
My last few visits to the Norfolk coast have turned up some recurring birds. The Purple Sandpiper I have looked out for especially on the rocks at Sheringham, but the Common Gull and Common Redshank don't require as much effort. There are plenty around most of the year.
The Common Gull was very obliging for flight shots.
The Purple Sandpiper has been a constant presence for the last 4 months for me.
While I was trawling the trails in the Goyt Valley looking for migrants it appeared that all the action was happening just a few feet from where I had parked the car. When we returned to the car, with only Pied Flycatcher of any real note on our list, I spotted a Common Redstart flitting around the low trees. It was one of my target birds and I was delighted to find it. Another started singing not far away, and I'm not sure if I saw a second one, or if it was this same bird playing tricks on me. Either way it was great to be watching this species again. It's a big part of my year to find these birds. I love them!
As was the way on this day, nothing sat up nicely without any branches in front of it.
I usually make a special trip to Woolston Eyes near Warrington each Spring to see the Black-necked Grebes. Fantastic little birds, that when in their breeding plumage are something you must see. Not a great deal bigger than the Little Grebe and they spend a lot of their time diving and underwater. So not the easiest bird to find our watch. Well worth the trip though for a few views like this.
A long overdue visit to the Goyt Valley turned out to be very fruitful, with almost all my target birds safely ticked off. I thought it was going to be a disappointing trip when after an hour or so all I had was Canada Goose and Great Crested Grebe. I was grateful to bump into a fellow birder who kindly put me onto a male Pied Flycatcher. I didn't see any last year, but I ended up see two males today, with a third bird also noted.
Typically though, it was a grey afternoon, and the birds were content to hide behind branches and leaves and out of range for any good shots.
Seeing them more than made up for it though.
I wanted to discover a new site the last time I was at my parents. So I sought out Kelling Heath. It turns out that what I thought was Kelling Heath previously, was actually a mile and half away from the proper site.
It was a bright morning, not particularly warm, but there was plenty of activity on the heath.
From the car park I could hear plenty of bird song, with Skylarks, Linnets and Yellowhammer calling in the distance and my first Chiffchaff of the year.
It's a fantastic place, and I can imagine this being alive with Cuckoo calls in a few weeks time, maybe even Turtle Dove. It is supposed to be home to the Dartford Warbler and Adders, so I will be visiting again soon.
Linnets were in very good numbers on the gorse.
Great to see Yellowhammers in good numbers. One more for the year list.