Thursday, 11 October 2018

RSPB Pagham Harbour/Medmerry w Calum, 16th August 2018

After meeting Calum at the end of August, we organised a trip to Selsey Bill to do a seawatch. As I'd never done a seawatch, and summer seabirds were well on the move, we were both excited at the prospect of seeing something exciting. 
So on the 16th he kindly picked me up at Cobham, and his dad drove us down. 
Unfortunately, we had typically chosen a horrendous day to go to Selsey - heavy was  rain forecast from 10am to 3pm, and we had to leave by 1530. We arrived at Pagham Harbour at precisely 10am, and had a quick look at Ferry Pool, which was quiet. Then the rains started to come down, just as we went for a walk around the visitor centre in the hope of grounded migrants. Visibility was poor but among the Linnet we picked up some Sparrows, which reminded me of Tree Sparrow. The group then flew up and there seemed to be about 3 of them, and they then dropped back down into the scrub. Our attempts at record shots/sound  recording was in vain, as it started to dip it down.
We headed back towards the visitor centre, with a few waders and whitethroats stopping us. 
At the visitor centre, Calum asked if there were any Tree Sparrow locally and though it was a no, we were pretty sure of what they were. We were also gutted to be told that a seawatch was probably a bad idea, with the bill being a bit too dangerous to wait along, so we cancelled our seawatch sadly. 
However, with Calum being as crazy as he is, he was determined to find the Hooded Crow - his biggest lifer - at Medmerry nearby. So with the rain smashing down on us we went to Medmerry, and were dropped off in the car park. We spent about 45 minutes walking, 3miles or so into the rain, with only a few Whitethroat, a Wheatear and Skylark for company. Every crow was inspected, and the rain got heavier and heavier and we got more and more soaked.
When we eventually approached the Ham Viewpoint, we walked towards a path and were stopped by several warblers. First an interesting acro Warbler that looked like a Marsh, and then by an unusual 'drrr,' which was raspy coming from a deep bush. This alarm call, quite similar to a Reed, made it easy for me to identify it as Dartford Warbler. It did briefly appear but it was very shy and about as happy as I was with the rain. Either way it was a decent bird to find.
Though impossible to see from the viewpoint, Calum was still determined to find his Hooded Crow (which was not showy in good weather let alone stormy!) Eventually I persuaded him to head back, and we got picked up after not only getting lost but after Calum checked every garden for his corvid!
With time still left, we went back to Pagham Harbour to try and find some refuge and waders. In the hide there were 2 very friendly birders, who looked at us as if we were crazy, when we entered dripping. They kindly showed us a few bits and pieces, with showy Redshank, Wheatear, Whimbrel, Grey Plover, Brent Geese and a possible Little Stint (would've been another british lifer) some of the main birds. I also managed a British lifer of Sandwich Tern, which were feeding all over the place.
It was a much more pleasant hour or so, and I was pleased to see something good. 
We returned to Ferry Pool one last time, and around 10 Common Sand had dropped in. 
Redshank and Dunlin
Sarnie Terns - phonescope
Sarnie Tern and oiks
Thanks to Calum and his dad for the day out, despite the weather. I liked Pagham and I'll be back there very soon. And a day birding with me wouldn't be complete without losing something (my lunchbag was probably in Ferry Pool hide...)

Thursday, 4 October 2018

London Young Birders Meetup at RSPB Rainham, 13th August 2018

Over the last 6 months or so, I've gotten to know numerous young birders via Twitter, including quite a few in and around London. The eldest young birder, Samuel L, and I had decided to organise a meet-up for the summer, so we could get to know each other better and see some good wildlife. Considering birding in London is normally in parks and small nature reserves, the most obvious place to do this was RSPB Rainham Marshes, which was not only his patch but the best place for us to meet. 

Common Seal
So on the 13th August, I was dropped off by my dad, alongside my mum and sister, at around 9am. We were followed into the car park by Kabir, who I'd met a few weeks earlier, and his family. As the reserve wasn't actually open yet, we decided to start by having a quick look on the river front where a few waders were on the far side, as well as a few juv YLGs. By 09:30am, the visitor centre opened and we spoke to Howard, who I met last time I went to Rainham., as well as the other 4 young birders - Alex Liddle, Calum Mckellar, Ben and Sam. 

Bearded Tit pic Copyright Calum Mckellar

We started our walk along the Thames, as Sam had seen Sandwich Tern and Med Gull there earlier in the morning. Despite our best efforts, I didn't quite get a lifer but there was still plenty to be seen - Whitethroat and Reed Warbler were in the scrub, while a Whimbrel, c.65 Black-tailed Godwit, 3 Dunlin, Redshank and a few Common Seal were along the river.
We then walked onto the reserve, first to the Shooting Butts Hide where it was quite quiet - only a few Teal, Kestrel and Reed Bunting were of any note. We began to walk on towards Aveley Pools - the wetland on the Northern part of the reserve - but were stopped numerous times by Marsh Frogs and Bearded Tits. Despite showing very close they were always brief views, and Calum took the only good picture of them. 

Aveley Pools was the place where we spent most of our time, for most of the early afternoon. To start there were nearly 15 Little Egret, Peregrine, 4 Yellow Wagtail and a Snipe. Though looking more carefully through the scope we found LRP, 3 Ruff, Greenshank, 2 Dunlin, Common Sandpiper, Water Rail and a green-tagged Marsh Harrier. A moment of personal frustration was when Sam spotted another Garganey - which flew into Aveley Flash - that I missed. It then refused to show again so I consider that another Garganey dip. 

By just after 2 we started to move on, towards the woodland, with a Wigeon and a few Little Grebe also seen. The Barn Owl showed distantly in its nest box, and another Greenshank went down after calling. We then stopped at a small bridge as Sam found a few Willow Emerald damselfly (lifers for most of us) as well as a tired Ruddy Darter. A few Linnet were lifers for Kabir, as were the Marsh Frogs. 
We spent a short time in the woodland, trying to find any grounded migrants, since rain seemed imminent. The best we managed was Whitethroats, Reed Warblers, Chiffchaff, a Willow Warbler and a possible Lesser Whitethroat. A few more Emeralds were seen along the woodland area. Just as it started to drizzle, I spotted a warbler pop up on a bush and call briefly, with a "piu" like call. With rain bringing down migrants I was thinking Wood Warbler. However, we didn't find it and with rain getting heavier we retreated back to the visitor centre.

Once the rain stopped by around 15:30, I went back to the river with Kabir and Calum, in an attempt to get closer pictures of a pair of Whimbrel and to try and find anything interesting on the river. We hung around for around 40 minutes, and Kabir left at around 4pm. Just before we went back up I found a striking gull on the river, a real beast of a bird with what looked like a plain head and dark eyes. It was really miles away, so was impossible to tell exactly what without an expert on scene. Sam thought it was possibly one, as did Howard when I showed him my record shots later on. Nonetheless, young birder Dante - one of the biggest gull experts in the country probably - said LBBG so that bird will have to wait as a lifer...

It was an enjoyable day, and meant I got to meet more like-minded people that live quite close to me. Hopefully we will have a few more in the near future, with people that couldn't make it like Isaiah Row and Dante. Also many thanks to Howard for the new tripod, a brilliant replacement for my old one, which fell apart before I reached the visitor centre!

3cy GBBG



Redshank recordshot


Herring Gull and juv BHG

f Reed Bunting

f Beardy record shot

f Peregrine


Marsh Harrier


L Egret and Ruff

Aveley Pools

Common Blue

Alien - not too sure what it is but James McCulloch has suggested Sciomyzidae (Marsh Fly) 

Willow Emerald Damselfly

Willow Emerald Damselfy

Ruddy Darter

Ruddy Darter

Marsh Frog




Sam:       @FinchleyBirder
Kabir: @Kaulofthewild
Alex: @Alexbirder1
Calum: @mckellar_calum

Thursday, 20 September 2018

WWT LWC Barnes with another young birder, 26th July 2018

When I first got Twitter in late February, I wasn't sure what to expect. Gradually, over time, I got to read about more and more birders - I was surprised to find there were more young birders and naturalists than I thought. Though meeting Calum ( at Tring was a bit last minute, I had organised a meetup at the LWC to meet another young, Asian birder Kabir (who recently competed at the Spurn Young Birder of the year award.) This was another good opportunity to meet another like-minded teenager. 
We had picked one of the hottest days of the summer to meet, and it was already stifling by the time we met at the reception at just after 10am. 
After being introduced to each other and introducing family etc, we both headed straight off to the Scrape in pursue of Garganey, which had been reported. It was a lifer for both of us, and I'd dipped it twice already. While en route to the Scrape hide, we saw numerous species like Green Woodpecker, Reed Warbler, Blackcap etc and a nice Emperor Dragonfly or 10. 
From the Scrape hide, there was no sign of Garganey though there were at least 50+ Sand Martin at their nesting bank, largely due to the successful breeding with most of them juveniles. 
We went to the Peacock Tower, but there was very little from there, though a WWT staff member found a Common Sand. A possible juv YLG flew by, but all else was quiet. Then while I scanned a bank on the far side a dark shape blocked my view. Kabir said he saw a green speculum, with white flanks pointing towards Garganey. I didn't see it too well at all, and didn't tick a sighting like that. Another successful dip. 
After thanking the guide Dave, we started to trudge back to the visitor centre, getting stopped by Six-spot Burnets, Blue butterflies, Chiffchaff, Reed Warbler, gulls and really anything that moved.

Once we'd finished lunch, we used the Wildside route to get closer views of some of the butterflies and Common terns - 6 of which were seen, including a very snoozy bird on the Reservoir Lagoon. An ad Snipe dropped down onto the marsh while we were there, and a m Reed Bunting showed briefly. 
Soon after we'd completed the wildside route Kabir ( and his twin Aryan ( and mum left the reserve; it was great to meet them, and pleasing to know that there were numerous young birders in London. 
Whilst strolling around the wildside area, waiting for my mum and sister to return, I had a quick search for Small Copper unsuccessfully, though some great views of Common Blue butterfly and Brown Argus, with the addition of numerous dragonfly species.
It was an enjoyable day birding and watching the wildlife, despite the intense heat, limited bird quality and limited time because of it. 

Common Sand digiscope

Sand Martin

Little Grebe

Common Tern
Grey Heron and BHG

the snoozy Common Tern




Monday, 17 September 2018

Tring Reservoirs & College Lake with a young birder, 24th July 2018

When my dad said he had work in Buckinghamshire and I had a free day I jumped at the chance to be dropped off at Tring Reservoirs. Even better I asked whether young birder Calum, who lived nearby, was around and he agreed to meet me there.
So at just before 10am my dad drove into the car park, and I was greeted with a slightly crazy-looking, small Scottish boy standing outside of the car, with equipment hanging off him everywhere. It's safe to say he was one of the most friendly, enthusiastic young birders I've ever met...
Either way after my dad and Calum's mum left we walked in, opting to go to the Octagon hide in the centre of the main lake, which is College Lake. While walking down we were stopped by several birds and dragonflies, mostly Red Kites, Reed Warblers and Brown Hawkers. In the hide, with nobody else in there, we spent a good time looking at some of the birds - lots of Lapwing, 2 juv Little Ringed Plover as well as Common Terns and a few other common birds; 3 Little Egrets were also present. Fortunately it was a nice day, and there were plenty of butterflies also out with Small Copper and Common Blue abundant. 
After taking pictures and walking back to the entrance, and watching a Common tern mob a Buzzard, we opted to head across to the nearby Pitstone Quarry to try and find something different. 
When we arrived, there was very little other than the usual Black-headed Gulls and a Lesser Black Backed Gull. With a bit effort we added to our days tally, with Calum's top eyesight picking out another 2 LRP and 3 Oystercatcher (Oiks.) A few Little Grebe were noted, and we tried pathetically hard to find a Med gull, in vain. 
Then we both got an unexpected, mega rarity find along the road - a Red Junglefowl Chicken nearly getting run over. 
Heading back to another hide at College Lake we found quite a few more warblers, as well as a few Brown Argus - first for me - and more Small Copper. Birding wise were 2 possible Garganey that we didn't pay any attention to until one was confirmed 2 days after - typical - and loads more Terns. An adult YLG made a brief appearance before swirling away to the East, and a Chalkhill Blue was also seen. Here are some pictures from the day.

ad Common Tern mobbing C Buzzard 

Lapwing and juv LRP

Green Woodpecker feeding

f Common Blue

juv f Green Woodpecker

3 Little Egret, BHGs and juvs

3 Oiks

f Common Blue

juv BHG

juv Common Terns

One of 2 possible Garganey - this one is a Mallard though

Small Skipper

Brown Argus butterfly
Though I had to leave shortly after, we had a great time birding throughout the morning and early afternoon and I was pleased to meet another, like-minded person of my age. And it wasn't the last I saw of him this summer!