27th May 2013 - Berry Fen

Another detour was on the cards, this time on the way back from Lakenheath, Westwards to Bluntisham near Cambridge.  This also involved going to garden centres en route.  We got carried away and bought troughs and plants for our balcony, yay!  It was a little uncomfortable and the car was rather weighed down, but we still popped over for the bird - hours after it had been reported and no longer expecting to see anything.

The site itself is glorious and packed with birds.  A suspiciously dark tern flew over, but without a better look I'm afraid that's gone in the 'Let's not think about it' pile.  There were plenty of adorable babies about, in the form of Coot, Lapwing, Mallard and Redshank, so there was a lot of stopping and cooing from me.  A few Garganey were floating around and it was nice to get a proper look at these great ducks.  They are so small!

However, we had come for a specific bird (I know, I know, I said I wouldn't do that, but shush).  A Pectoral Sandpiper had been seen here and never having seen one before, we decided to have a look for it.  Luckily a lovely gentleman called Richard Thomas was on hand to direct us straight to the bird, excellent!  It is a lovely bird and if it's still around when you read this, I'd advise going to have a look.

Trip list: 21
Year list: 161
Lifers of year list: 18

Photo by Stuart Nicol

Pectoral Sandpiper
Photo by Stuart Nicol

Berry Fen
Photo by Stuart Nicol

27th May 2013 - Lakenheath Fen and Weeting Heath

Will I ever learn - DON'T GO BIRDING WITH A TARGET LIST!  You'll only ever be disappointed.  I went to Lakenheath with a list of 7.  I saw 2.  Silly billy.

So, there was no Red-footed Falcon, Crane or Golden Oriole when I was there.  Sob.  But I did hear the Savi's Warbler (Stuart spotted it one of the times it popped up, lucky!).  I was a little sad that I hadn't managed to see it until Stuart pointed out I'd seen one before in Hungary.  Phew!  There were a few Common Tern about, but the stars of the show were the many, many Hobby.  They get up late so weren't around when we first arrived but by the time we left, they were everywhere!  The Marsh Harrier were also putting on a splendid show, flying low over the reeds in front of us.  I saw my first Cuckoo of the year and tried to turn him into the Red-footed Falcon (in fact, I tried to turn everything into a Red-footed Falcon.  It was an embarrassing morning).  A Sparrowhawk flew over a few times and a couple of Kestrel were around, so a nice day for raptors.

It was then on round the corner to Weeting Heath for a hopeful spotting of the Stone-curlew.  Unfortunately they were just over the brow of the hill, in a layer of haze, so we could just about see a head and beak and briefly a whole bird when it stood up to stretch.  A hunt for a Spotted Flycatcher that had been seen didn't go so well but hopefully we'll catch up with one soon.

Trip list: 33
Year list: 160
Lifers of year list: 17

Marsh Harrier


Some cows

Hazy hazy Stone-curlew

19th May 2013 - Tice's Meadow

Pagers lead to detours quite often.  The one we did on the way back from Somerset was to Tice's Meadow, for a Temminck's Stint.  Unfortunately, it had flown just before we arrive (and of course was refound just after we left) but I had a lovely sunny evening birdwatch anyway.  My first Common Tern of the year was spotted and a couple of Black-necked Grebe were floating around.  A Little Ringer Plover was also sighted through the haze on the other side of the water, another year first for me.  On the walk back to the car, Stuart managed to spot a Garden Warbler through the bushes, which we stood and listened to and watched for a while.

Trip list: 22
Year list: 159
Lifers of year list: 17

A silly looking Common Tern

19th May 2013 - Ham Wall

The second morning of our visit to Somerset, we went on the 'Mr Boombastic Dawn Chorus Walk' at Ham Wall RSPB reserve.  As you may have guessed from the title, this walk was mainly looking for Bittern, and Bittern did we see!  We had many great views of individual Bittern flying high in the sky (I've only ever seen them swooping from reeds to reeds before), but we had an amazing sight of three flying together.  Terrific!  The guides were excellent and I'd thoroughly recommend going on a walk with them again.

We had an unexpected sighting of a Kingfisher as one of the first birds of the day, with a Chiffchaff happily chiffchaffing away behind us.  There were a few Little Egret around and quite a few Reed Warbler, although I didn't see any Sedge Warbler.  A Great White Egret was spotted flying across the back of the reserve and setting down over there and a Garganey did a quick fly past!

Trip list: 42
Year list: 157
Lifers of year list: 17



Bittern flypast

Three Bittern!

18th May 2013 - Coombe Hill Meadows

After a couple of weeks hiatus in birding, we went to Somerset for the weekend as they'd been getting some good birds recently.  Of course as soon as we weren't in London, a Red-backed Shrike, Montagu's Harrier and the amazing Dusky Thrush turned up in Kent.  Fantastic.

In an attempt to cheer ourselves up, we drove up to Gloucestershire to try and find the Red-necked Phalarope.  Luckily this little lady was having a great time swimming round and round the depth measurer stick thing, so we were able to watch her for ages.  Lovely (tiny) bird.  I also saw my first Lapwing chicks (and the fight that ensued when a Coot grabbed one of them) and the first Swift of the year.  A Yellow Wagtail was also found by Stuart for me as I hadn't seen one this year and it was great.

Trip list: 37
Year list: 156
Lifers of year list: 17

Lovely lady Reed Bunting

Loud male Reed Bunting

L to R: Lapwing, Gadwall, Gadwall, Oystercatcher, Red-necked Phalarope.  Honest.

Nature's Feast Twist Feeder review

I live in a 4th floor flat in the middle of London, so my sighting of birds is pretty rare and in the 3 years we've lived there, not a single bird visited the bird feeder we had up.*  So when Nature's Feast kindly offered one of their bird feeders to try out, I took it up to my mum's in Birmingham.  You'd think in the centre of Birmingham she wouldn't get many birds either, but as I've mentioned previously, she has a resident pair of Goldcrest and other great visiting birds such as Bullfinch, Nuthatch and Song Thrush.

We were sent the Twist Feeder, which is an excellent product idea.  It has 3 spiralling chambers, each with 2 perches, so you are able to provide a range of seed in one feeder.  Great for a small space where you can only hang one feeder but want to attract the maximum number of birds you can!  I found it to be heavy duty and has so far survived the massively fat pigeons and squirrels that my mum's garden attracts (/produces).

To get the seed in neatly, it's best to use a funnel as we did, but if you're filling it at the site where it is to hang, the birds are going to be happy for a bit of spilt seed so don't worry about being too precise.  It didn't take as long as expected for the birds to start arriving and they're so impressed with it, they don't seem too bothered when we go outside - a Coal Tit was perfectly happy with me standing next to him as he collected food for his lady friend.

All in all, I think this is an excellent feeder and am very grateful to Nature's Feast for allowing us to try it out.  I'm pretty sure the birds would like to say thank you too!    

*Since I took it down, we've had a Blackbird land on the balcony every day.  Hmm.


Fat pigeon eyeing the feeder up
I have no idea how the saucepan got involved

Birdwatching Infographic

I was sent this birdwatching infographic created by Anglian Home Improvements today and I really liked it so decided to share it.  I found it interesting and well presented and hope you do too.

Garden birds are in decline. Find out how you can show our feathered friends some love & all about #birdwatching in Britain
This birdwatching infographic was created by Anglian Home Improvements. Click on the image above to find out more about this infographic and its origins #birdwatching

6th May 2013 - Canons Farm

On the way back from Pulborough, we had a quick stop off at Canons Farm in Surrey as a pair of Whinchat had been reported and Stuart was still on the lookout for some.  They weren't around when we got there but we had a lovely walk around, seeing 18 species.  There were plenty of Stock Dove in the fields and Linnet flying overhead.  We also got a new one for the year, Little Owl.  Unfortunately my only picture just shows a white blob, but you get the gist.

Trip list: 18
Year list: 152
Lifers of year list: 16

I didn't spend ages trying to make this a Ring Ouzel.  Honest.

Little Owl, starring as 'The White Blob'

6th May 2013 - Pulborough Brooks

Have you been to Pulborough Brooks yet?  Get on with it if not!  It's an amazing place.  The Nightingales are having a great time singing at the moment seemingly everywhere and on the 22nd May and 11th June they're holding Nightjar evenings.

Just sitting in the cafe garden produced 18 species, so you can have a lovely relaxing bacon sandwich filled bird watch before you begin your walk.  A Buzzard high off in the distance drew our attention to a Hobby nearer.  Rook, Carrion Crow, Jackdaw and Magpie were all in attendance in one field - now if we could just have a drop in of Hooded Crow, Chough and Raven...thanks!

The Nightingale were of course in high spirits on such a glorious day and singing around every corner.  We think we counted around 9 in different places although of course these could be the same ones following us!  A couple of Swallow flew over but there were no Swift - something I was hoping for there.  Another good spot was a Garden Warbler although I was unable to get a decent photo of it.

Trip list: 46
Year list: 151
Lifers of year list: 16

White dove


The squirrels at Pulborough are very lazy






1st May 2013 - Rainham Marshes

My next long venture out on my own was to Rainham Marshes, on a similarly gorgeous day to when I ventured to Crayford.  Unsurprisingly, I got sunburnt, even with the preparation of factor 50 suncream.  It's great being pale.

I took a wander along the river before going in the RSPB reserve, a wander which would have been pretty pointless due to the lack of birds apart from a stunning Hobby, a first for the year.  A Kestrel was also kind enough to hover overhead, although looking back at the photos, they're pretty cr*p.  There were also small bunnies hopping around, which always makes me happy.  I was convinced I heard and then saw a Reed Warbler, but not convinced enough to write it down.  Still on the hunt for that one for this year.  Into the reserve I go.  As with the walks I had been on in the previous week, Whitethroat were abundant and Lesser Whitethroat invisible.  One Whitethroat seemed to follow me for a while - he was rather strange, with a huge fluffy white beard and he kept doing somersaults off the branches.  Odd.  The Grey Heron and Little Egret were in plentiful supply, with around 8 Grey Heron and 4 Little Egret.  However, one Little Egret did learn the peril of stepping too close to a Lapwing nest as he got spectacularly attacked.

A couple of Sedge Warbler were seen and a few delightful Reed Bunting, both male and female.  Two Redshank flew overhead and a Swallow briefly graced us with its presence.  I heard the first Cuckoo of the year which was awesome and at the same time saw a swimming Water Vole!  I did then get carried away a little sitting by the feeders and missed the 5pm closing time.  Being me, I had just assumed that a gate would be left open like at Pulborough or Dungeness.  Beware, this is not the case!  Hilarity ensued as I exited through a turnstile into a car park.  A fully locked and fenced car park.  Well done Therese.  I spent a while wandering around debating the logistics of climbing the fences (pretty impossible), calling the police (embarrassing) or sleeping with the House Sparrow lot in the middle (most likely).  Luckily, I spotted a gap under one of the gates and shimmied under, covering myself in mud and scratches in the process.  That'll teach me.  I'm pretty sure the suits getting on the train at Canary Wharf appreciated having to stand next to me.

Trip list: 46
Year list: 150
Lifers of year list: 16

So pretty.  And look, there is Crayford on the other side of the Thames!




One of the many Little Grebe

Sedge Warbler

Why you shouldn't go near a Lapwing's nest

I'm good at making friends

Mute Swan

Collared Dove

A rubbish video of the lapwing doing his last attack on the Little Egret!