Old Bolingbroke Dec 2015-Nov 2017

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After just shy of two years in our little cottage in a little village in Lincolnshire, we have moved out and we're both back up north in Preston. 
Prior to Danni getting a job in October 2015 at Operation Wallacea, I had never really even heard of Old Bolingbroke. Little did I know that it would be the village where Danni and I got our first home together and where I would learn how to be a dog owner and a place to where I'd fall in love with it. 

Our house was called Middle Cottage which was built in 1920 and was a tiny cottage in a row of three terraces. It was certainly not the most sophisticated of houses, but had an awful lot of character with interior walls made of mud and horsehair, more autumnal spiders than a garden shed and temperature extremes that causes no sleep during the summer and the necessity of coal fire in winter.

I managed to complete one full season and one half complete season of Patchwork Challenge in and around Old Bolingbroke with 115 species seen in 2016 and a further 5 species added in 2017. Highlights included (most recently) a male Hen Harrier flying east high over Bolingbroke Castle being mobbed by corvids, several records of Water Rail in the castle moat, at least three pairs of Turtle Dove breeding in the village, Osprey and several Red Kite sightings. Probably my most prized sighting of the two years came from a very small pond to the immediate south of the village which held a female and two drake Common Scoter in April 2016. 
Three Common Scoter
During 2017, I basically moved away from Old Bolingbroke as early as March when I got a job based in Warrington, but did go back as much as I could to visit Danni and also make sure the house was lived in whilst Danni was away. I therefore wasn't able to get as much birding done in 2017 as I'd have liked, but did get out when I could. 

Bolingbroke also saw me get back into all things ecology and I regularly trapped moths in the garden recording 240 species including five species of hawkmoth. 

I also recorded 18 species of butterfly, 19 species of mammal of which five were bats, 8 species of Odonata and 5 spcecies of Reptiles/Amphibians. Highlights from this included Harvest Mouse (lifer) and Great Crested Newts in my garden, Water Vole in a stream close to the house and several sightings of Grass Snake. 

For anyone that has followed me on Twitter or visited my house, you will know I have an interest in aviation which grew exponentially whilst living in Lincolnshire. It's difficult not to be interested when you live so close to the heart of Bomber Command history from World War 2. Old Bolingbroke is next door to East Kirkby, the home of NX611 Just Jane, a taxiing Lancaster Bomber. It is only ten minutes drive from Coningsby, the home of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight with the only flying Lancaster Bomber in Europe as well as being home to 3, 11, 29 and 41 squadrons of the RAF operating Eurofighter Typhoons. Eurofighters became a big love of mine whilst living there and I'm most of the way to completing the set of all Eurofighters made for the RAF with about 80% seen to date. The real attraction to this part of Lincolnshire is of course the Dambusters however with everywhere having some great history including Woodhall Spa only 25 minutes drive and Scampton an hour away. The history was not far away though with the house next door to Danni's office being a former home of Guy Gibson during the latter stages of the war. 

I was slightly upset to leave Lincolnshire on the birding front because, although I did some fantastic birding during my time there, I don't feel I did the county justice with not too much time spent at Gib Point and only a handful of visits to Donna Nook. Whilst there though, I managed 200 species with highlights within Lincolnshire being Caspian Tern, Siberian Stonechat, Black-winged Stilt, Rough-legged Buzzard, White-rumped Sandpiper, 2 Broad-billed Sandpiper, Pectoral Sandpiper, Pallas's Warbler, White-billed Diver, Ring-necked Duck and of course Western Swamphen! I also managed to find a Rose-coloured Starling, Smew and most recently I managed to do the impossible and find some Hawfinch in inland Lincolnshire!

It has been a fantastic two years in Lincolnshire and it's somewhere Danni and I will always cherish to have lived. What a wonderful place to have as a first home and I will always remember it for being the place where I realised I wanted to ask Danni to marry me. 

Thank you Middle Cottage!

Iberian-type Chiffchaff – Kelsall, Cheshier – 31st May 2017

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 After work this afternoon, I popped down to Kelsall, Cheshire to have a look at the reported probable Iberian Chiffchaff. It was singing on arrival and certainly sounded the part. It did several bursts of classic Iberian-type song, although after a while on site it began to mix collybita chiffchaff song into its repertoire eventually coming out with collybita/ibericus/collybita/ibericus etc bursts. The call is something that's worrying me as all I heard was about 50 collybita-like 'hueets' and not a single 'reed bunting'-like 'seeoo'. I don't know how variable Iberian Chiffchaffs are in call, but I don't think that's the best indicator for a pure bird if an ibericus at all
Physically, I thought it looked very good. Almost half way between Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff. It was bright, with blotchy lemony throat, lemony rump, bright yellow undering coverts at the carpal, bright supercillium with slight kink behind the eye, all pale lower mandible, dark brown (not black) legs, quite long wings and obviously pale rump contrasting with the mantle. 

I am not experienced enough to say either way, but I do personally think it has Iberian genes, but maybe not a pure bird.









Norfolk! – 7th May 2017

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Norfolk is fantastic. I've always wondered what the big deal is with Norfolk. I know it's had a wonderful history, but in recent years, it hasn't really outshone the surrounding counties like the reputation suggests. However, yesterday Danni and I spent the day in Norfolk and it really was like birding abroad.
We started off at Hickling lifering Savi's Warbler which is a bird I've wanted for a good few years and one that was really top of my list for targets for 2017. I managed a couple of views of it in flight and very briefly perched, but managed to hear is singing well on and off for a couple of hours. A really cool, powerful song. Also here, Common Crane, Spoonbill, Bittern and several Bearded Tits and singing Grasshopper Warblers.



Onto Potter Heigham Marshes, we were not expecting this to be so excellent. It was like one of the best looking wet marshes you can think of in Spain and it held 2 Black-winged Stilts we observed mating, Curlew Sandpiper, 5 Wood Sandpiper, 2 Grey Plover, Greenshank, Turnstone, 2 Spoonbill, Little Ringed Plovers, lots of Ruff, Dunlin, Avocet and Ringed Plover. In addition gosling Egpytian Geese, Greylag Geese and a Short-tailed Field Vole provided some cuteness

Next, onto Titchwell where there wasn't really all that much, but we couldn't help but pay homage to the legendary Red-crested Pochards on Patsy's Pool. The highlight of the day meant we left Titchwell quickly to head to Holme Nature Reserve. An adult male Red-breasted Flycatcher showing remarkably well in the car park and performing to the assembled crowd. My fourth Red-breasted Flycatcher and my first male. What a bird! What a place! What a day!



Mallorca birding – 18th-23rd April 2017

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Tuesday 18th- Sunday 23rd April 2017

Flights, accommodation and car were booked through Lastminute.com flying out on the afternoon of the 18th with Ryanair from Manchester-Palma. We arrived late evening after sunset and picked up our brand new Skoda Fabia from RecordGo rental cars at the airport. In the past, my friends and I have struggled to rental cars abroad due to only having debit cards and most companies require (or at least used to) credit cards for the allowance of the excess insurance. This was not a problem with RecordGo and it all went smoothly. They take out c£55 worth of Euros to cover a tank of fuel which you can choose to fill up or leave it and they will give you back the difference. As it proved, we only used half a tank which cost £30, so we’d advise leaving the fuel for them to fill up. The total holiday package came to £260 each with an extra £150 on food and fuel etc. 

Books and information used:

Finding Birds in Mallorca by Dave Gosney. I’ve used his books in the past and due to their compact size and weight, they’re very useful. This is also as recent as 2012 and gives a British birder’s perspective on birding abroad. For the two main sites we visited, it essentially couldn’t have been more accurate. Very much worth the money.
The Birdwatching Guide to Mallorca by  John King – This also proved very useful, albeit somewhat out of date being 22 years old. The list of birds at the back as well as tourist information, other wildlife information and most importantly, the advice to drive up to the mountains before 8am to avoid the cyclists proved invaluable.


Itinerary:
Tuesday 18th April – Flights from Manchester with Ryan Air 17:05 and landing at Palma c20:45. Picked up hire car and drove along the Ma-13 (the main motorway) to Alcudia which took about 40 minutes. For the duration of the trip we stayed at BelleVue club resort in Alcudia in the self-catering building blocks which proved to be a useful location with some nice restaurants, but the room itself left a lot to the imagination. If you’re intending on long days with early starts, this probably isn’t the place for you as the walls are thin and we were kept awake until 04:30 one night.

Wednesday 19th April – We arrived at s’Albufera nature reserve car park (next to English bridge) at 07:30, headed along the access track to the visitor centre and then turned north, heading over the canal bridges along the northern track to the power station. We then came back to the visitor centre and did the track loop to the south viewing the Sa Roca pools. Following this, we moved to the Es Cibollar pools north of the canal where we spent most of our time and finally walked west to the raptor observation tower.  After a quick stop back in Alcudia for some lunch and a rest, we headed to the old salt pans of Ses Salinetes just north of C’an Picafort and walked along the track to the top of Depuradora de S’Illot.

Thursday 20th April – Our focus for the day was the Formentor peninsular with the first stop being the Boquer Valley. We spent most of the morning here arriving just after 07:45 (an Irishman was coming out of the valley as we arrived having seen nothing at all, so maybe wait for the sun to come up). The winds on the 20th were really strong North Easterlies, so the SW-NE running Boquer Valley proved hard work, as did the peninsular. We walked all the way to the northern end of the valley for the main target – Balearic Warbler – and then came back, spending some time at the Casada Boquer (the castle like building by the car park) looking for migrants. Next we headed up the single road to the Formentor peninsular and stopped at the first obvious Mirador with a car park. At this point, the cyclists were already out in force, so driving was slow. Strong winds made birding and even standing very difficult, but we persevered and carried on, whilst dodging cyclists and buses. We got as far as the Mirador at Km 16.8 (page 18/19 in the Gosney book) and did a quick sea watch before giving up on the cyclists and heading back to Port de Pollenca. Having some lunch here next to Hotel Pollenca park, we checked the beach for Audouin’s Gulls and then called it a day.

Friday 21st April – We set off at 07:00 and arrived at Cuber Reservoir (in very cold conditions) just after 08:00. We walked anticlockwise around the reservoir because the cold temperature and very much shaded southern side of the reservoir made us believe the sunnier patches to the north would attract more migrants earlier on. The wind had dropped significantly, but there was still a chill in the air. We spent almost all morning here stopping off on the way home at mirador overlooking the Torrent de Pareis (Gosney page 24, note 5). Late afternoon we checked the C’an Cuarassa tracks to the south of Port de Pollenca and finally had a good look just after dusk at the Hotel Pollenca and the park by the Guardia Civil building unsuccessfully looking for Scops Owl.

Saturday 22nd April – Our three main site targets were out the way, so we arrived at s’Albufera again, though slightly earlier. The wind had dramatically dropped and the heat was noticeable, even earlier on. We spent more time around our favourite areas from the first visit, namely the Es Ciboller pools, Sa Roca pools and the northern end of Ses Puntes track. We then headed to Depuradora de S’Illot taking the first exit at both roundabouts at C’an Picafort and turning right at the bus depot. We ended the birding at Tucan marsh at the northern end of Alcudia.

Sunday 23rd April – We had to leave for the airport at 06:30 meaning no birding was done, but the drop off of the rental car was very easy and check in to the Easyjet flight home was very smooth.

Sites

S’Albufera: This is a real gem of a site and reminds me a lot of Aiguamolls de l’Emporda in Costa Brava. The gates and in fact reserve are open from 8am-6pm in April-October. There is however a gap in the wall to the left of the gate which can be used and we ran into a few staff before 8am and we had no problems, so I guess it’s quite well known us Brits love a dawn. Do stop in at the Visitor Centre though for a free permit. This helps them gauge numbers and presumably helps the conservation through funding of the site. The site itself holds 800 pairs of Moustached Warbler and is supposed to be one of the most reliable sites in Europe for them. On the first morning, it was quite windy and we didn’t have a single sight or sound of Moustached Warbler with just one Sedge Warbler heard. Walking along the access track, you’ll come across the sound of Fan-tailed Warbler ‘zitting’ to the left and the ‘underwater trumping’ of Little Egrets, Cattle Egrets and Night Herons in the colony across the channel as viewed from the left bend in the track going over the bridge. As you go over the bridge, you’ll see the Ses Puntes track running south. On the first visit, it was windy here, but this was the only time we saw Osprey. On the second visit, we spent a while at the first platform, with the first Moustached Warblers (lifer for me) being seen and heard from here. We had at least 4 from here. There were several singing Great Reed Warbler from here as well as a very ‘mechanical’-sounding Locustella that to my ear sounded like Savi’s Warbler, but I’m not sure of the status of Locustellas in Mallorca. We also had an adult Hobby over from this platform. The Sa Roca pools has two hides and provides excellent views of Stilts and Plovers, with particularly good numbers of Kentish Plovers. Here we had two Collared Pratincole (a well overdue lifer for me), Snipe, Purple Swamphen and good numbers of Red-crested Pochard. In addition, on the first day, a Temminck’s Stint was with the plovers. Following the track round from the hides, you’ll come across a small pool (noted to have tame Red-knobbed Coot in Gosney, but we didn’t have any). Here we had phenomenal views of two Great Reed Warblers singing and a Balearic ‘badius’ Woodchat Shrike. The three bridges across the channels provides you with good opportunity to see Red-knobbed Coot (lifer for both) with two neck-collared birds being seen over the two visits as well as Western Swamphen and Eurasian Coot. Matthew Meehan saw a female Little Bittern from the first bridge on the 22ndApril. Straight on from the bridges is a track running north to a Power Station and Es Colombars pools. A couple of raised platforms along here provide good views of herons, in particular Purple Heron flying low over the marsh. It’s also suggested this is a good spot for Moustached Warbler, but we had a single Sedge Warbler and that was it. The star for me was Es Cibollar pools to the north of the channel. Here there are two hides that provide phenomenal viewing of waders including Wood Sandpiper, Kentish Plover, Avocet, Common Sandpiper and even the Temminck’s Stint. Also on the pool were a flock of 30 black Spotted Redshank, 5 Little Stint, Ruff, Snipe, adult Curlew Sandpiper, Ringed and Little Ringed Plover and stilts. There was also a Marbled Teal (lifer), a pair of Garganey and Shoveler. Over the marsh, we were treated to five minutes of excellent birding, with a Gull-billed Tern and a Caspian Tern moving east over the site and a male Red-footed Falcon drifting north showing the dark falcon with silvery primaries on the upper wing.  Finally, the track to the west had a well-known viewing platform for raptors. We had good numbers of crag martin from here as well as a pair of Red-knobbed Coot just below us and the male proved very bold and walked on the path and even stood on Danni’s foot! Amazing! This track was the host to the only snake on the trip with an in-shed Viperine Snake (Natrix maura) which was a lifer and was seen under the most bizarre of circumstances! Several Iberian Water Frogs were heard calling all over the reserve early on.

Ses Salinetes – We just visited these salt pans once, which is a shame as they seemed excellent, but we three Marbled Teal here as well as badius Balearic Woodchat Shrike and just beyond the pools, at the Son Bosc area, an amazing Nightingale, a flyover Hoopoe and singing Thekla Lark (lifer for Danni). In addition to birds, we had Bug Orchid, Black-tailed Skimmer and Clouded Yellow here.

Depuradora de S’Illot – The road leading up to the water treatment works from the bus station was a real gem. Here we had at least 3 Tawny Pipit about a third of the way down the track. The fields just south west of the cross road held two Stone Curlew and several Hoopoe in the area. The open area at Son Bosc also held a Tawny Pipit and two Stone Curlews were flushed by horse riders. The actual water treatment pools were a tad disappointing, but Tufted Duck was added to the trip list as well as a pair of White-cheeked Pintail which are obviously escapes but were interesting to see how aggressive they were. We also saw the only other reptiles of the trip. A European Pond Terrapin and a large Wall Lizard sp we assume was Ibiza Wall Lizard.

Boquer Valley – I almost don’t need to give a run down of this site as it essentially is exactly the same as page 12 and 13 in the Gosney book. The fields and fig trees around the Casada Boquer held Wryneck, Pied Flycatcher, Redstart, Whinchat, Wheatear and Spotted Flycatcher. One thing I will say about the Casada Boquer, is you have to pass through two metal gates. It wasn’t obvious you can pass through here as it looks private, but it’s fine. There is just a sign saying ‘no dogs’. Past here you come across some large boulders. We had Blue Rock Thrush and Crag Martin here. There were loads of Serin the valley and half way down, we picked up the first Booted Eagle over the eastern valley sides. Once you can see the sea, you should come into low lying vegetation. This is the best area for Balearic Warbler (Lifer for both). Once you get away from the endless calls and song of Sardinian Warbler, you may be lucky to hear a gentle tack of this endemic Sylvia. We found a pair in a clearing with lots of pale grey rocks on the ground. They were feeding chicks, so we kept our distance and allowed them to come to us rather than the other way around. The male gave one song flight which was as delicate as they were in appearance. If you go looking for them, please don’t use tape lure. You really don’t need it. If you suspect breeding too, please be respectful. Over the water in the high winds, lots of Scopoli’s Shearwater were passing east.  We also had a small patch of Bertolini's bee orchid.

Formentor Peninsular – The first mirador you come across has a decent car park and an impressive viewpoint. We had a single pass of an Eleanora’s Falcon (lifer for Danni) as well as a Peregrine from here. There’s good numbers of Raven and a few Blue Rock Thrush and just below the viewing point, there’s a colony of Crag Martin. On our much calmer second visit, we had a flock of c40 Balearic Shearwaters (lifer for Danni) on the flat calm sea, but nothing else. We only really then tried to get to the lighthouse at the end and with so few stopping points and so many cyclists, we sort of gave up. We had a quick seawatch from  km 16.8 picking up Bealearic Sheawater for the trip .

Cuber Reservoir – walking round the reservoir anticlockwise, we views the groves to the north east of the reservoir which held Firecrest, Wood Warbler, Wryneck, balearicus Blue Tit, loads of Chaffinch, hundreds of Pied Flycatcher (literally!) and most bizarrely a calling Scops Owl. There were also two Water Pipits on the edge of the reservoir. Above the reservoir we enjoyed views of 2 Black Vulture, 5 Griffon Vulture, 3 Booted Eagle and a Red Kite. As you walk round the reservoir onto the southern side, you’ll come across some low lying pines. Here we had a pair of Moltoni’s Subalpine Warblers (lifer for both), which proved hideously elusive and we failed to get photos of either. Just round from the dam wall, there appeared to be a Crag Martin colony with a couple of Cirl Bunting here too. Apart from that, the reservoir proved quiet, but after we had got to the dam wall, we were inundated with tourists.

Tucan Marsh – This looks like a great little place with Night Heron, Purple Heron and Great Crested Grebe (the only one we saw) being highlights. I can easily imagine good numbers of terns and maybe even White-headed Duck on here, but we only managed to fit in one visit.

C’an Cuarassa – This site proved to be slightly disappointing, but maybe that was because we went in late afternoon. We didn’t see any starlings at all, which was a shame, but we had Woodchat Shrike, Whinchat, Yellow Wagtail (iberiae), Corn Bunting, Nightingale and a few showy Sardinian Warbler here (though they were pretty much everywhere!)

The hotel – as a little extra, we had an almost constantly calling owl from outside our hotel every evening which proved to be a Long-eared Owl (I had written it off as immature Tawny until we got back and had a good look at the pics). Really cool to have just outside!

A really enjoyable few days in Mallorca and visiting some excellent places. I’d highly recommend it and I’d consider going back maybe in early May next time when the Eleanora’s Falcons and Honey Buzzards are properly in. The length of time we spent was about right too. If we’d had longer, we’d have explored the salt pans to the south and maybe spent a bit more time in the mountains, but it did the job for us. I hope this has been useful.
Purple Heron - s'Albufera
Black-winged Stilt - s'Albufera
Kentish Plover - s'Albufera
Wood Sandpiper - s'Albufera
Viperine Snake - s'Albufera
Serin - s'Albufera
Red-knobbed Coot - s'Albufera
Western Swamphen - s'Albufera
badius Woodchat Shrike - Ses Salinetes
Marbled Teal - Ses Salinetes
Red-crested Pochard - Ses Salinetes
Marbled Teal - Ses Salinetes
Bug Orchid - Ses Salinetes
Clouded Yellow - Ses Salinetes
Marbled Teals, Eurasian Coot and Black-winged Stilts - Ses Salinetes
Wryneck - Boquer Valley
Bertolini's bee orchid - Boquer Valley
Sardinian Warbler - Boquer Valley
Balearic Warbler - Boquer Valley
Balearic Warbler - Boquer Valley
Balearic Warbler - Boquer Valley
Booted Eagle- Boquer Valley
Audouin's Gull - Port de Pollenca
Audouin's Gull - Port de Pollenca
Audouin's Gull - Port de Pollenca
Audouin's Gull - Port de Pollenca
Audouin's Gull - Port de Pollenca
Audouin's Gull - Port de Pollenca
Audouin's Gull - Port de Pollenca
Wood Warbler - Cuber Reservoir
Wood Warbler - Cuber Reservoir
Black Vulture - Cuber Reservoir
Night Heron - s'Albufera
Cattle Egret - s'Albufera
Great Reed Warbler - s'Albufera
Red-knobbed Coot - s'Albufera
Temminck's Stint and Kentish Plover - s'Albufera
Avocet - s'Albufera
iberiae Yellow Wagtail -s'Albufera
Tawny Pipit - Depuradora de S’Illot
Tawny Pipit - Depuradora de S’Illot
Hoopoe - Depuradora de S’Illot
Collared Pratincoles and Black-winged Stilt - s'Albufera

Trip List 116
Shag
Cormorant
Balearic Shearwater
Scopoli's Shearwater
Great Crested Grebe
Little Grebe
Western Swamphen
Moorhen
Coot
Red-knobbed Coot
Water Rail
Cattle Egret
Little Egret
Great White Egret
Grey Heron
Purple Heron
Night Heron
Shelduck
Gadwall
Mallard
Marbled Teal
Shoveler
Tufted Duck
Pochard
Red-crested Pochard
Red-legged Partridge
Griffon Vulture
Black Vulture
Osprey
Red Kite
Marsh Harrier
Booted Eagle
Stone Curlew
Avocet
Black-winged Stilt
Spotted Redshank
Collared Pratincole
Greenshank
Wood Sandpiper
Common Sandpiper
Dunlin
Temminck's Stint
Little Stint
Curlew Sandpiper
Ringed Plover
Little Ringed Plover
Kentish Plover
Gull-billed Tern
Caspian Tern
Common Tern
Black-headed Gull
Audouin's Gull
Yellow-legged Gull
Collared Dove
Rock Dove/Feral Pigeon
Woodpigeon
Kestrel
Peregrine
Hobby
Eleanora's Falcon
Scops Owl
Long-eared Owl
Wryneck
Crag Martin
Sand Martin
House Martin
Swallow
Thekla Lark
Pallid Swift
Swift
Tawny Pipit
Water Pipit
Yellow Wagtail (iberiae and a probably cinereocapilla or hybrid)
Starling
Hoopoe
Wren
Robin
Nightingale
Redstart
Song Thrush
Blackbird
Stonechat
Whinchat
Wheatear
Woodchat Shrike
Cetti's Warbler
Fan-tailed Warbler
Great Reed Warbler
Sedge Warbler
Moustached Warbler
Savi's Warbler
Blackcap
Sardinian Warbler
Moltoni's Warbler
Balearic Warbler
Willow Warbler
Wood Warbler
Firecrest
Pied Flycatcher
Spotted Flycatcher
Great Tit
Blue Tit (balearicus)
Chaffinch
Greenfinch
Goldfinch
Linnet
Serin
Raven
Reed Bunting
Corn Bunting
Cirl Bunting.

.

Cornwall over Easter – 7-10th April 2017

Posted on - In Zac Hinchcliffe
I'll start this off with some fantastic news! I asked Danni to marry me and she said yes! Result! Could not be happier with the person I have chosen to spend my life with and start a family with. Getting engaged is something I certainly only ever plan to do once so I couldn't just carry on like it wasn't an amazing thing. As a result, we booked a holiday over easter. In fact, we booked two over the course of 10 days. We spent the four day easter weekend in Cornwall and then headed to the supposedly warmer shores of Mallorca...more on that later (or you've already read about that trip depending on which you chose to read first!)
We set off at 04:30 on Good Friday with the intention of missing the holiday traffic and also get to our first location in reasonably peak birding time. We arrived at Ham Wall RSPB. When twitching the Hudsonian Godwit at Meare Heath in 2015, just next door to Ham Wall, I was blown away by the whole area. It was just enormous and there were so many species breeding there with bitterns booming all over the place. 

I told myself that I would have to come back one day and explore the bigger Ham Wall. So that's what we did. Almost the second we got out of the car, a Cetti's Warbler was singing loudly from the side of the car park and that really became the soundtrack as well as the music video of the reserve. They were everywhere and just so bold. It was like being abroad.
There were lots of new in singing migrants around the reserve as well as a plethora of herons with at least 3 booming bitterns heard and three seen, including the one below which flew into the reeds from the second platform. Great White Egrets were the star of the show with at least 6 seen, with only one not in breeding plumage, so lacking the black bill with purple lores.
From the second platform, two Glossy Ibis fed and eventually took off providing exceptional views flying right past us. I think I just about managed to do them justice with the camera, but it was indeed hard photographing such a dark bird against the whitest of skies. Also present from the platform was a drake Garganey.
Having enjoyed a really good morning at Ham Wall, we headed down the M5 and A30 towards devon and arrived at Broadsands for early afternoon. Here we enjoyed lovely views of a Hall pulling holiday makers on the Paignton & Dartmouth Railway as well as the first and only lifer for Danni on the trip, with up to 4 Cirl Buntings feeding in a hedgerow just north of the beach car park. Only my second time seeing these in Britain.

We stayed in Torquay that evening with the intention of going to Cornwall the following day. Setting off, we didn't realise just how far Cornwall was away from Torquay, so we didn't get to Cape Cornwall until lunchtime. Here we were hoping for Chough, but with hundreds of tourists, they proved difficult. Next onto Pendeed, we were treated to a pair of Chough rolling above us. I tried a seawatch hoping for a lone Balearic, but just a constant stream of Manxies and the odd Fulmar were all I could muster. We then went to Lands end and finished at the Hayle Estuary where we saw Spoonbill and Iceland Gull as well as year ticking Greenshank and Common Sandpiper.

We stayed that evening at Cedars B&B next to Redruth which was a lovely B&B and I'd highly recommend it. For our last full day in Cornwall, we decided to focus on the Lizard. A morning seawatch from the Lizard provided a single Puffin and Great Northern Diver as well as at least 5 Bottlenosed Dolphins and a single Harbour Porpoise. Apart from a single Whimbrel in a field (the same field that almost certainly had a Woodchat Shrike in it that afternoon...if only we'd carried on round the corner, we may have found it) it was quite quiet for migrants. We moved onto Kynance Cove and were rewarded with Sedge Warbler and Wheatear. The North Westerlies really were killing the birding for us! We headed back to the Lizard in the afternoon and had nice views of Chough again, but that was really about it. We spent the last couple of hours of light having a nice meal in St. Ives.
On the final day, we decided to head back up to the North gradually stopping off at Goss Moor with the hope of seeing two Little Buntings that appear to STILL be there to this day. We failed, but had excellent views of Grasshopper Warbler and there were lots of migrants to be found, so it actually proved to be the most enjoyable site we visited.
It wasn't the hoped for birding weekend in Cornwall and it certainly reminded me of how weather dependent Spring birding can be in the UK. It also looks like we missed the winds by about 4 days, which is frustrating, but it happens! It was still a lovely place to be with my new fiance enjoying almost every minute together.

Rough-legged Buzzard – Throckenholt, Lincs – 21st February 2017

Posted on - In Zac Hinchcliffe
 I headed out this morning to South Lincs in search of the recently reported adult male Rough-legged Buzzard at Throckenholt near to Wisbech and Spalding.
I headed down to the bottom of Common Lane down a road that certainly felt like maybe I shouldn't be there, but met a couple of farmers in tractors and a couple of men working from a pick up truck and they all waved quite happily, so either it was fine or all of us shouldn't have been there!
Anyway, I went to the very end and started scanning the woodland behind the windfarm directly in front of me and couldn't see much. I gave it a good 15 minutes of scanning before scoping the ground in a 270 degree scan picking up a buzzard with particularly long fluffy legs sat on a hay bale. In the heat haze, I couldn't really pick out many features but kept watching it in case it took off. It turned around revealing quite a lot of colour on the back so I used my phone to google adult rough-legs but as I did, I missed it take off. In a mini panic, I quickly scanned back and forth and all of a sudden, a much closer buzzard flew quickly right through my field of view.
This was quite clearly a Rough-legged Buzzard with a whopping white patch of white at the base of the upper tail, two black bands on the tail tip, a dark trailing edge to the underwing, darkish belly and rather pale underwing with blackish carpal patches.
Compared to the bird sat on the bale with a monotone looking mantle, this was very dark brown and white, which was striking. There were several areas of pale on the face giving it a 'grey eyebrows' look and when it eventually got closer, you could see a hint of rufous between the two tail bars.

I've seen several pale Common Buzzards that do look strikingly like Rough-legged Buzzards, particularly around Holkham Pines, Norfolk, but this was different. The flight style was very interesting. As it flapped, the wings just looked powerful and gave it an eagle-like flight. The travelling glide looked to show a shallow 'm' rather than an upturned 'v' which helped too.

Using my car as a hide, it surprisingly came to land in a little woodland right next to where I was parked, but was annoyingly out of view. I reversed a little but it took flight before I'd even had chance to see which tree it was in. It started circling and gaining a bit of height before drifting south east.






A lovely bird and only my 3rd time of seeing Rough-legged Buzzard.

Roses are red, Chats throats are Blue – 14th February 2017

Posted on - In Zac Hinchcliffe
 Bluethroat was my No1 target for 2017 and whilst the views I got on Saturday were excellent, the photographs were awful! With the continued presence of the bird, bright sunshine and a day off work, I thought it was almost a crime to not pay homage to the bird once again. I arrived to about twenty birders all trying to get their shot ranging from people with 6ft tripods looking down on the bird, people stood twice the distance of everyone else attempting to digiscope through the crowd and my favoured group, the lads laying in the mud getting down to the birds level.
It was pretty mobile despite being exceptionally nonchalant about all of our presence. It would move about along the path appearing out of the reeds in random places and give wonderful views down to 10ft. I only gave it half an hour or so and had a good five minutes of photography time enjoying it posing in classic chat fashion with cocked tail and long spindly legs. A real treat of a bird and one I feel i have now down justice with my camera


Birthday lifers – 11th February 2017

Posted on - In Zac Hinchcliffe
 A bit of a blast from the past and before this blog even existed. These photos date back to 2006 and 2007 as follows: Glossy Ibis, Fluke Hall Lancs Jan 07, Red-backed Shrike Wells, Norfolk May 07, Great Grey Shrike Bowland April (?) 07, White-tailed Plover Leighton Moss, June 2007, Waxwing Leeds Feb 2007, (2nd row) Common Rosefinch Sheringham June 2007, Lesser Scaup Pine Lake, Lancs, November 2006, Laughing Gull Marton Mere Lancs May 2006, Great White Egret Leighton Moss (May 2007?), (3rd Row) Green-winged Teal Marshside March 2007, Wilson's Phalarope Upton Warren October 2006, Blyth's Reed Warbler Blue Bell, Spurn October 2007), Stone Curlew Fylde April 2007, Lesser Snow Goose Blackpool, February 2007, (Bottom Row) American Robin Bingley February 2007, Black-winged Stilt Martin Mere April 2006, Alpine Swift Heswall Cheshire April 2006, Woodchat Shrike Great Orme September 2006, Short-toed Lark Great Orme September 2006, Dotterel Pendle Hill May 2006.

The reason I posted this is because on 11th February 2007, I enjoyed a visit to West Yorkshire with my parents to celebrate my 15th birthday with some twitching. I saw the American Robin in Bingley, a Waxwing flock on a housing estate in Leeds and a Shore Lark on a dry ski slope in Halifax. The above collage is the only photographic evidence I can find of the American Robin as I don't really have much record of birds I saw prior to me starting this blog in May of that year!

On 11th February this year, also celebrating my birthday, except I drove this time and has my wonderful girlfriend Danni in tow. My 25th birthday treat involved heading to Willow Tree Fen to see, what I still regard as a surreal February birthday twitch, a Bluethroat. Seen the previous day by a photographer and posted online, the 1st winter male was favouring the main track through the centre of the reserve and when we turned up showed remarkably well (even if the photos don't show it) a few metres in front of us.
Bluethroat is a bird I have always admired and I strongly believe they are one of the most beautiful birds in the Western Palearctic because they look phenomenal at every age. This had a nice amount of blue on the throat and I managed to see some of the red at the base of the outer tail feathers.
The weather was quite grim, but that's to be expected in mid-February.
Bluethroat is/was also my number 1 'tart' on my British List so was one of my biggest targets for 2017 and to see one on my birthday is just something you couldn't write.

A really wonderful treat and one that will go down in my own birding folk law. Hopefully it is wintering and having a nice time in Lincs rather than being recently blown off course.

Casp(s???) – Hoveringham Lake, Notts – 6th February 2017

Posted on - In Zac Hinchcliffe
Following reports of a possible Azorean Gull just over and hour and a half away, I thought I'd use one of my rare afternoon/evenings off to head over to Hoveringham Sailing Lake to do a spot of gulling. 
I initially pulled up to what I thought was the main lake as it was rather large, but turns out this was the Railway Lake and therefore should really have known considering when I turned up at just before 15:30, there were only about 40 gulls on the water. The vast majority were Common Gulls with only 4 large gulls: an adult Lesser Black-backed Gull, 2 1st winter Lesser Black-backed Gull and to my great surprise, a 1st winter Caspian Gull! I was almost hesitant to call it as one just because I'd only been here for about 20 seconds before I saw it!




Showing the pale underwing on a quite frankly awful video grad (I'd just pressed record as it stretched, so the camera was shaky)

Sophie Barrell turned up and she informed me that the main roost was supposedly on a different lake, which we went to and the gull flock was probably about 3-4000 birds which was a bit more to get stuck into!
Within a couple of minutes we'd picked up the two juvenile Glaucous Gulls, including one very pale bird which is different to the several biscuit ones I've seen this winter. Next up was an adult Yellow-legged Gull which showed classic clean head, dark mantle 1/2 way between HG and LBBG, minimal white tips to the primaries, long primary projection, chisel-tipped bill and general stockiness.

I then picked up the 1st winter gull photographed below. It immediately jumped out at me as being a dead ringer for Caspian Gull. The white head, with grey shawl to the nape and breast sides, the long-thin bill with minimal gonydeal angle and pinkish bill base, the very dark tertials with a very thin neat white edge with no notching, the long black primaries with obvious primary projection and broad white edge to the greater coverts. The photos make it look darker faced than it actually was, but there was some darker marking around the eye in the field. One of the other birders wasn't happy with it because the 'back' looked so dark with general dull grey cast to the mantle and scapulars. This was a bit of a worry, but there was obvious replaced scapulars which made the back look spotty with dark centres to these. I was pretty convinced this was a 1st winter Caspian, albeit a dark one, but I was left with some doubt due to the other observer. It didn't flap unfortunately, but it did briefly preen its tail revealing a very clean belly and undertail coverts with next to no dark markings and what appeared to be a clear cut black trailing edge to the tail.
If it's not a Caspian Gull, I guess it could be a small Yellow-legged Gull, but I think even with the darkness, I can't see a Yellow-legged Gull having that much of a skinny bill.

Comments welcome



Finally, I managed to pick up a 1st winter Mediterranean Gull which was my first for a good while. On the lake, a Black-necked Grebe joined in the gull roost and a small fishing lake behind us held 3 Red-crested Pochard

An impressive gull roost and one I'd like to return to