End of 2012!

Unfortunately I didn't update my blog recently and have completely forgotten our trips in the last month or so.  I promise to be better next year!  I also had a lovely person manage to pour a beer into my bag at a bar, so I am phone and camera less - not useful for documenting trips.  The blog was to be a year long thing, but I did have a lot of fun doing it (when I got around to it!) so it will now be 'Therese Goes Birding' in general, not just 2012.  The web address will also change, to http://theresegoesbirding.blogspot.co.uk/.

The year saw a list of 174, a total that I'm quite disappointed with.  The first 6 months of the year were excellent, with 150 hit in early May.  However, due to illnesses and brief lack of car, bird watching floundered a bit in the second half of 2012.  I aim for 200 next year, which I feel should be easily achievable if I manage to get healthy and stay like that!  A far higher total would be lovely.

I've been thinking of highlights of 2012.  As a recent twitch, the Desert Wheatear at Abberton Reservoir in November sticks in my mind, I think she was a beautiful bird and a delight to see.  Hopping on a train from the Olympic Village to Rainham Marshes to get there an hour before (late) closing and see the Baillon's Crake in late September was also a great memory.  A host of new birds were seen throughout the year, with UK additions to my life list numbering around 35.  I also had my first dedicated bird watching trip, which was to Hungary, a place I am now obsessed with - however, my attempts at learning Hungarian are proving a little futile!  This trip produced 31 lifers in 5 days (with some wine tasting sneaked in!), my favourite of which was a Little Bittern I spotted.

I also am debating starting patch birding one or so a week at Southwark Park and using it to also learn trees, plants, butterflies...the list goes on!

Anyway, I hope you all had a lovely birding 2012 and best wishes for the year ahead!  Here's hoping for some excellent feathered visitors.

10th November 2012 - Amwell

Towards the end of the year we usually go on a birding trip for specific birds that have been missed off the list up to that point.  So it was back to Amwell in the hope of a Scaup or Red-crested Pochard.  Unfortunately neither were to be found, but a decent list of 32 species was accumulated, including a Water Rail, Siskin and 2 Reed Bunting.

The trees were looking particularly lovely

3rd November 2012 - Abberton Reservoir and Mersea Island

We do occasionally twitch as you've probably noticed and one that caught our eye on the pager was a Desert Wheatear at Abberton Reservoir in Essex.  It had been there a few days but we were worried about being able to see it - I mean, a Wheatear on a reservoir?  It was unlikely we'd be able to find it and even if there were other twitchers around, our optics were likely not to be strong enough to get a good look at a tiny bird on the other side of a reservoir.  We were therefore rather surprised to drive into the car park and be greeted by a multitude of twitchers, all staring at the ground.  Upon getting out of the car, we realised the Wheatear was happily perched on the gravel in the car park.  The sight of numerous people staring through oversized optics at a tiny bird on the ground 10 ft in front of them was nothing short of hilarious, I really wish I had taken a photo.  The bird seemed very happy to hop around and seemingly pose for photos.  She was a beautiful little thing and I'm very glad we got to see her.

Just hanging out in the car park...as you do.

We headed off round the rest of the reserve then, stopping to buy our friend Sam a birthday present of Collins Bird Guide.  Not everyone's ideal gift, but we hope he enjoys it and uses it lots!  Stuart caught up on a year lister that I already had - 2 Black-necked Grebes out on the water.  I had previously spotted these at Staines Reservoir and unfortunately Stuart had missed them as he was at the other end of the causeway.  A few Stonechat and Meadow Pipits popped up with a lone female Reed Bunting wandering along the path.

A listing on the board in the Visitor Centre alerted us to the presence of some interesting birds on Mersea Island, a 15 minute drive.  We stopped off on the bridge across to the island, 'The Strood'.  It was brutally cold, but there were flocks of Redshank and Dunlin, with the odd Curlew, Turnstone and Grey Plover amongst them.  We also managed to steady the scope long enough to spot 5 Brent Geese.

Play spot the sleeping Jack Snipe!
Over on the island we headed to Cudmore Grove.  We had two targets for this area and luckily got both of them!  The first was a single Jack Snipe, asleep in a flock of Common Snipe, making it quite hard to spot.  Luckily, we had help from some local birdwatchers.  The second was out on the beach, when we had a glimpse of a gingerish Snow Bunting flying out to sea.  These were both lifers, but I definitely would like a better view of the Snow Bunting!  I managed to ID a small flock of Stock Dove in a field of Golden Plover and a few Turnstone and Sanderling were spotted down by the water.

The day was nicely rounded off by a dozen oysters and a seafood platter, all fresh that day.

21st October 2012 - Amwell

We visited Amwell on a walk with the Chorleywood and District RSPB Group, which was the first time I'd ever been.  The combination of birds and trains is always a good one!  Our leader was Jono Forgham, a great birdwatcher we'd been out with many times before.

Despite a recommendation, I wasn't allowed to take these home for a soup.  Hmph.
 The Cormorant were out sunning themselves in force with a large crowd of Gulls down the far end of the lake.  Unfortunately it was a little too hazy for my binoculars, but with a little help I found a Common Gull happily sitting on a post looking lovely.  At the edge of the water there were three Snipe and seven Grey Heron were dotted about the place with a couple up in the trees.  Amongst the Canada Geese I saw my first Greylag Geese of the last few months and always a favourite, some Lapwing.

Ducks included Mallard, Gadwall, Shoveler, Tufted, Wigeon and Pochard with Teal spotted later on in the walk.  There was also a Great Spotted Woodpecker bopping around and a Jay posed in the sun for us to admire.  Despite straining our necks for a good twenty minutes, the elusive Redpoll a couple of our group had spotted earlier was not to be seen, but plenty of Siskin were happy to oblige instead.  The walk was rounded off with a Yellow-legged Gull and an excellent fry up at the Village Cafe in Stanstead Abbotts.

14th October 2012 - Dungeness

If it weren't so barren and bizarre, I'd rather like to live at Dungeness - fresh fish, cute railway and birds galore!  I'll make do with my day trips down for now though.  We were introducing a friend to birdwatching and decided Dungeness would be the perfect place.  We of course forgot about the biting cold but luckily after the sun came up it was a rather glorious day.

Awesome train!
A brief amount of sea watching (think 5 minutes) produced quite a good little starter of two Turnstone, Gannet and various Gulls.  A walk towards the Observatory also was rather good, with the first Great Spotted Woodpecker we'd ever seen there and a beautiful pair of Black Redstart flitting around.  A walk around the NNR produced little more than 4 Kestrel, but we enjoyed watching the ringing of a Lesser Redpoll, Great Spotted Woodpecker and a very vocal Jay.

Mobile phone digiscoping Turnstone...interesting
We then rocked on down to the RSPB reserve and did our usual slow progress down the driveway  stopping every few moments!  A great view of a Stonechat was missed by our friend but luckily a couple were seen later on the walk.  A few Greenfinch and many Great Black-backed Gull were around.  On the walk around the reserve the usual passerines and ducks were seen as well as a lovely Pintail and lone Black-tailed Godwit.  A flock of Shoveler were interesting to look through, with different stages of plumage.  There were lots of Grey Heron hanging around (seven to be exact!) and the Kestrel influx followed us over.  A lovely warden took us around to see the Great White Egret and a first for the year flew over - eight Stock Dove.  A happy sight later on was a Bearded Tit flitting about the reeds and two gorgeous Raven directly above us.  A late prize was around 300 Golden Plover on the ARC Pit and finally some Tree Sparrows!  

Er and just a quick couple of pictures of the seafood platter and banana and chocolate cake I made the night before.  Nom.

1st September 2012 - Slimbridge

I apologise for how awful I have been in updating this blog.  Originally when we came back from Hungary I became rather ill and so hadn't been birdwatching for a couple of months.  Now I'm managing the illness and doing more birdwatching, I've been putting off the blog updates - bad Therese!  I have a couple of August visits which I'll update about later, but let us start at the beginning of September with a visit to Slimbridge.


I was visiting my mother in Birmingham and noticed a lovely visitor to Slimbridge, so turfed my mother and the boy into the car and started being a satnav without telling them where we were going (it's a bit far for a non-birder to be persuaded to go).  Eventually they cottoned on, but I had my way by then!  Luckily, I find the WWT reserves great for non-birders as they have plenty of collection birds (a possible debate for later) so there is a lot for them to get excited over at hand.  We had a quick wander round part of the collection, then found our way to the South Lake Observatory.  Here we joined the bank of scopes trying to desperately pick out the visitor I had gone for amongst the many Black-tailed Godwit - the Long-billed Dowitcher.  Eventually he was found, having a bath.  My mother wasn't too impressed - apparently I'm no longer allowed to take her that far to look at a bird unless it is very brightly coloured.  Hmph.
The Tropical House

We all enjoyed the Swallows sitting on the telegraph wires allowing us to get a good look at them and a cheeky Canada Goose trying to get in the window of the hide was a source of great amusement.

Excuse my photos, my camera has been AWOL so my shoddy phone camera has had to try and vaguely depict birds for the last couple of months.  I'm also no longer going to list the birds I see on a given trip unless you guys still want me to - let me know!

13th May 2012 - Rainham Marshes

Once upon a time I went to look for birdies and I saw some.  And then I saw some more.  And lived happily ever after.  The end. 

This is Stuart's version of a blog post.  I quite like it.  In other news, we went to Rainham Marshes today and I got horrifically sunburnt again.  We were innundated with Collared Dove as we walked up to the centre and after running back to the car to get the field guide, I spotted a handsome little Wheatear perched upon a log.  He stayed there long enough for me to get to the hide and point him out to Stuart, then he disappeared.  Numerous Little Egret and Grey Heron were present and we managed to pick out some Sedge Warbler to add to our year list.  We kept seeing Wren all over the place, but whether this was one bird or many, we have no idea.  I was very pleased with myself for IDing 2 Redshank mid flight and enjoyed watching the 9 Black-tailed Godwit trying to decide where to land.  We are still on the hunt for a Cuckoo however after missing one by 10 minutes.  Also, I seem to have forgotten I had a camera as the following picture is the only one I took...

1) Collared Dove
2) Little Grebe
3) Little Egret
4) Coot
5) Shelduck
6) Lapwing
7) Grey Heron
8) Sedge Warbler
9) Magpie
10) Canada Goose
11) Wheatear
12) Mallard
13) Wren
14) Reed Bunting
15) Swift
16) Reed Warbler
17) Pheasant
18) Skylark
19) Starling
20) Whitethroat
21) Mute Swan
22) Carrion Crow
23) Swallow
24) Marsh Harrier
25) Hobby
26) Gadwall
27) Black-tailed Godwit
28) Great Crested Grebe
29) Redshank
30) Greylag Goose
31) Tufted Duck
32) Blackbird
33) Woodpigeon
34) Black-headed Gull
35) Robin
36) Dunnock
37) Jackdaw
38) Rook
39) Linnet
40) House Sparrow
41) Chiffchaff
42) Blue Tit
43) Great Tit
44) Chaffinch

My year list for 2012 comes to 150.

12th May 2012 - Pulborough Brooks

Pulborough is definitely up there in my top birdwatching sites.  It's a great mix of habitats and we have come away with long and interesting lists both times we have ventured there.  I was on usual Treecreeper spotting form and saw one within a few minutes, with plenty more seen throughout the next couple of hours.  A small group of people alerted us to a site where a Nightingale had been singing earlier but all was silent.  As we headed to the wooded area where Goldcrest and Firecrest are often seen, we heard a very recognisable song start up and hurried back to see the Nightingale, right out in the open for all to see. 

The Nightingale refused to look at me so this is the best picture I could get.

There were Whitethroat and Blackcap around, with a pair of Bullfinch hiding at the back of a tree and two Marsh Harrier sweeping above. 

Snoozy Squirrel.
Later on a view of a nearby Jay from a hide and 6 baby Moorhen were added to the list and 2 Hobby were the talk of the hide. 

Pretty Jay!
One of 6 baby Moorhen.
On the way home we popped into a The Lamb Inn in Lamb's Green for a lovely fish based lunch.


1) Magpie
2) Swift
3) Blue Tit
4) Chiffchaff
5) Robin
6) Treecreeper
7) Carrion Crow
8) Rook
9) Nightingale
10) Chaffinch
11) Bullfinch
12) Marsh Harrier
13) Blackcap
14) Whitethroat
15) Dunnock
16) Blackbird
17) Jackdaw
18) Great Tit
19) Jay
20) Coot
21) Moorhen
22) Shelduck
23) Tufted Duck
24) Mute Swan
25) Mallard
26) Lapwing
27) Swallow
28) Shoveler
29) Teal
30) Little Egret
31) Pheasant
32) Magpie
33) Greenfinch
34) Linnet
35) Hobby
36) Goldfinch
37) Greylag Goose
38) Canada Goose

My year list for 2012 comes to 149.

7th May 2012 - Dungeness and Rye Harbour

May Bank Holiday Monday was an exciting day, but an exhausting one as we were up at 5am and not back until 8.30pm.  Another trip to Dungeness was on the cards so we headed down through Kent wondering what we’d see. 

Such an awesome caterpillar.
These are pretty cool too.

A quick trip to the beach proved fruitless, so we wandered back up towards the Bird Observatory.  On the way, I spotted a bird that looked familiar but I couldn’t place it – it turned out to be a Black Redstart, the only one I had seen previously was through the haze quite far away so to be so close was wonderful.  These were quickly followed by a magnificent Wheatear and another Wheatear further up, then a low flying Sparrowhawk.  Buoyed by our success so far, we felt slightly let down by the rest of the loop round – a Reed Warbler and a mischievous Great Tit were the highlights.  Having said that, the bushes were crawling with Whitethroat which was lovely – they’re a very sweet little bird.  After admitting defeat, on the way back to the car we saw a Chiffchaff, Pied Wagtail and 3 Wheatear.  We drove round to the RSPB reserve and went from hide to hide without realising quite how powerful the Sun was – I’m pretty red today!  We ummed and ahhed about a wader before Stuart clocked onto it bobbing its behind – a Common Sandpiper, the first of the year for us.  There were around 20 Common Tern which made me happy as I love terns and Greylag goslings swimming in a row added to the happiness.  Stuart led us down a dead end path to try to find flycatchers, but none were to be found.  However we got a much better prize – a Garganey and then a swooping falcon overhead.  We stood and watched it for at least 15 minutes – we knew we’d not seen it before but could we dare hope it was the falcon we had wanted to see for a long time?  Suddenly a shout erupted from beside me, ‘He’s got red trousers, look at his red trousers!’ 

It was indeed a Hobby and as we walked to the Denge Marsh hide, we amazingly saw 6 more.  We popped across to the ARC before we headed to Rye Harbour and had a brief chat with a lovely man (unfortunately I forgot to ask his name), who let us know that he’d just had a report on his pager for a bird down at the power station.  It was a Crested Lark and although we didn’t realise this at the time, they are an extremely rare visitor to the UK (as far as I’m aware, 23 recorded sightings) as they are both non-migratory and grumpy about flying over water.  This one must have gotten extremely lost!  We stood for ages with a lovely group of twitchers on the inland side of the Power Station where the bird had last been seen an hour before.  Unfortunately it wasn’t showing itself, so we got ready to leave.  Just then however, a man in the group got a phone call about the bird and gathered us all up and led us to the beach front of the power station – actually a quite long walk as the boundary has to be followed all the way around.  There we were faced with more glum faces as it had disappeared again.  However, 3 minutes later a guy to our left sighted him and we spent a great time watching our first successful twitch!  It was a beautiful bird, the crest was lovely and thank you to the Wheatear that chased it into the open so we could all get a good view!  We weren’t finished there though; a trip to Rye Harbour was calling as the day was so lovely.  This upped our wader count with such birds as Avocet, Grey Plover and Golden Plover, as well as what felt like the world’s largest Ringed Plover community.  There were bunnies galore and on the way out, a lone Whimbrel.

Dungeness NNR
Dungeness RSPB
Rye Harbour
Common Sandpiper
Pied Wagtail
Ringed Plover
Mute Swan
Common Tern
Golden Plover
Greylag Goose
Grey Plover
Black-headed Gull
Great Crested Grebe
Mute Swan
Carrion Crow
Tufted Duck
Herring Gull
Canada Goose
Ringed Plover
Collared Dove
Bar-tailed Godwit
House Sparrow
Reed Bunting
Meadow Pipit
Black Redstart
Bar-tailed Godwit
Marsh Harrier
Reed Warbler
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Tree Sparrow
House Sparrow
Pied Wagtail

Herring Gull
Crested Lark – NEW FOR LIFE LIST!

Carrion Crow

My year list for 2012 comes to 148.

21st April 2012 - London Wild Bird Watch

The London Wetland Centre played host to the first ever London Wild Bird Watch, a rather magnificent affair which was much bigger and much better than we expected!  There were a range of walks and talks over the weekend, with big names such as Simon King and Kate Humble. 

We watched live the Peregrine couple on Charing Cross Hospital who went on to give birth to 3 adorable chicks a couple of days later and saw recordings of the fox family they have been studying.  There were lots of stalls selling interesting things and I finally signed up to the Bat Conservation Trust which gained me a cute cuddly toy bat.  Yeah!  Stuart and his mum both bought a new piece of  bird listing software (shall let you know how that goes) and we learnt about birding in the Falklands from a lovely gentleman.  We also got a quick walk around the reserve in (of course) and spotted the usual suspects.

Nene Goslings are pretty cute.  I may forgive them for being my nemesis based on the cuteness.

1) Coot
2) Moorhen
3) Canada Goose
4) Mallard
5) Parakeet
6) Woodpigeon
7) Blackbird
8) Tufted Duck
9) Grey Heron
10) Sand Martin
11) Chiffchaff
12) Carrion Crow
13) Little Grebe
14) Pochard
15) Gadwall
16) Starling
17) Lapwing
18) Mute Swan
19) Robin
20) Long-tailed Tit
21) Greenfinch
22) Jackdaw

My year list for 2012 comes to 138.

2nd April 2012 - Weybourne

On our last day we were alerted to the presence of a Richard’s Pipit in the area by our guide so we changed our plans and headed to Weybourne. 

A great sighting of Cetti’s Warbler added to our Cetti’s fortnight and Stonechat were happily showing in the area we were looking for the Pipit.  Unfortunately we didn’t find the Pipit although our guide thought he heard him at one point.  We also took in a brief detour to Kelling Water Meadow which was rather lovely and then up the hill to where there were people flying model (large!) airplanes.  Fearing slightly for our lives, we escaped back down to the beach and marvelled at a nest (?) of mining bees, although I’m not sure what species they were, some more inspecting of photos needs to be done I think!  On our way back down a Tree Pipit was spotted by our eagle eyed/eared guide, a first for both Stuart and I. 
We popped to Blakeney for the seal trip which is always wonderful, then we reluctantly went back to London.

1) Skylark
2) Reed Bunting
3) Cetti's Warbler
4) Rook
5) Oystercatcher
6) Ringed Plover
7) Great Black-backed Gull
8) Herring Gull
9) Linnet
10) Lesser Black-backed Gull
11) Stonechat
12) Black-headed Gull
13) Meadow Pipit
14) Sandwich Tern
15) Eider
16) Common Gull
17) Egyptian Goose
18) Redshank
19) Teal
20) Magpie
21) Woodpigeon
22) Sand Martin
23) Chiffchaff
24) Wren
25) Buzzard
26) Tree Pipit - NEW FOR LIFE LIST!

My year list for 2012 comes to 132.