Monday, December 22, 2003

Having been away yesterday, I was well miffed to miss another of the areas elusives - Red-breasted Merganser - found by Will Bowell on the River Welland north of Crowland.

An extensive search of the river from Welland Bank Pits eastwards drew a blank on the RB merg but enjoyable (if not frustrating!) birding with Hen Harrier, Stonechats, Whooper Swans, Red-crested Pochard and Pintail all seen.

On the way back home I decided to check out Star Pit. It was largely frozen, but amazingly accompanying the Redshank and Snipe was a rather scruffy and sorry looking Grey Plover - PBC year tick no. 185!

Thurs, 18 Dec 2003
Shag - that major PBC elusive - is bagged at last!

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Brian Stone does it again! Dartford Warbler! Not only a PBC first, but a Hunts first! Well done matey!

Although originally found on the southern riverside edge of the River Nene at Padholme Pumping Station, by the time I and the masses (well 10 people!) had amassed, the bird had flown across the river and had been lost.

A brief glimpse of the bird in flight by myself (UTVs) was followed by another wait when Brian thought he saw it distantly near a couple of Stonechats. We all watched the Stonechats. I followed a movement to the left and eventually it materialised. Bingo! I was watching a Watford Dabbler!

The bird was very active and mobile, moving around Stanground Wash with Stonechats and was always distant. I chanced my arm with the camera when it sat up and was visible against the pale grass background. Amazingly, given the tiny size of the bird and the distance involved, I got this record shot!

Brian stayed on until dark and managed a couple of better shots.

But the day had a sting in the tail for our Bri. Leaving the area in the dark, a wet road and muddy tyres saw him slip off into a roadside field with one helluva result! Thankfully for all of us who depend on him for finding some birds to look at, he escaped unharmed but I've yet to hear how long he had to freeze his hoodjajips off waiting for the cavalry to arrive.

Amazingly, as I was leaving Padholme Pumping Station, I found the second warbler of the day here - a Sedge Warbler, feeding along the counter drain on the Flag Fen side of the river bank. This was just a bit easier to snap!

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

A call from Brian Stone drags me away form my computer for an hour or so, when he tells me county recorder John Oates has found a Siberian Chiffchaff at Tanholt Gravel Pits. I get straight out but on arrival the bird hasn't been seen for about 45 mins. An hour or so searching and still nothing. Even all the gulls and crows have been scared away by bird scarers, so we are left to enjoy a few Long-tailed Tits and Goldcrests.

Mon, 8 December 2003
A brilliant sunny day and I thought I would try for some better shots of the Hooded Crow that's been seen at Eye Tip from Tanholt Gravel Pits. Whilst failing to find the Hoodie, Brian Stone calls me to say he has a Greenland White-fronted Goose on Orton Brick Pit. With only one accepted county record prior to this year, this was the second PBC area record this year following my own find of a family party of four at Prior's Fen in January.

I about turned and headed straight for OBP, but while on the way Brian rings to say it has flown off towards Hampton with other geese. I head straight for the unlikely setting of Hampton Lakes, and after sifting through all the plastics (Bar-headed Goose, Barnacle Goose) and a Pink-footed Goose, I latch on to the Greenland White-front. And what a cracker! Brian's has joined me by now and we both get out our cameras and beginning clicking to record what may well up as only the third county record.

Friday, December 05, 2003

In this day of e-mail and constant staring at a computer screen, I'm beginning to see the attraction of using the good old-fashioned telephone.

This afternoon whilst talking to a colleague on the phone, my gaze was, as usual when on the phone, fixed to the garden following every movement, bins at the ready. It was 4.10pm and few birds were left in the garden, most having departed for their roosts. A small group of Starlings were wheeling around over their leylandii roost site when suddenly a streak burst into the sky from the left. "Merlin!" I found myself shrieking down the phone to my colleague. "Wow! It's chasing a Mipit" I added.

The Mipit headed upwards, circling in a slow jinking flight. The Merlin followed every turn, spiraling skywards, almost faltering at one point, with tail fully fanned, when the Mipit suddenly broke away. The Merlin seemed caught out, but suddenly hit turbo and shot off like a bullet. One of those few-second moments which seem to last a lifetime! It was fantastic, and unfortunately, not wanting to drop the phone on my colleague, I didn't get to see the rest of the chase and the outcome.

My colleague was thoroughly gripped but complimented me on my live commentary!

Merlin is increasingly regular on the fen now and I almost expect to see it most weeks, and more often than not from the office window (I think the sixth sighting from my desk).

With Peregrine added to my house list recently while on the phone to local recorder Brian Stone, and a few other species added that way (Moorhen immediately springs to mind), I think I might make more use of my newly-discovered birding aid!

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

Having had a day of dipping on Sunday (Hooded Crow, White-fronted Goose, Smew and Jack Snipe) I was thrilled when Brian Stone rang to tell me that he had refound the Hooded Crow at Eye Tip. Seconds later I was in the car and within 15 minutes I was watching my 206th PBC area species. Fan-bloody-tastic! The briefest, distant views gave way to a long wait before it eventually came in to the field in front of me and started feeding among the loafing gulls. I rattled off a handful of record shots, which despite the gloom and distance came out reasonably well.