Sunday, 5 November 2017

WHOOPER SWANS in Hertfordshire.

Great to get a text from my good friend Ron Cousins early this morning stating that two WHOOPER SWANS had been found on Stanstead Innings in Stanstead Abbotts, Hertfordshire. Local birder, Jane Free, who walks the gravel pits every weekend and some evenings in the week had found them and had called Ron to confirm the ID. 

ID can never really be confirmed over the phone with a call or by text so I decided to head down there straight away to see them and hopefully get photos. On my arrival Barry Reed also a local Hertfordshire birder and friend was just leaving and had already confirmed the ID. Jane Free tweeting the presence of them to a wider audience on twitter at 8:43am.


The beautiful Swans were nearly always around the Southern end of the North lake and were occasionally flying around before landing back on the lake. They were being harassed by the local MUTE SWANS from time to time and were calling a fair bit. What a great sound to hear on a Hertfordshire Lake!

The lake at Stanstead Innings is mainly used as a boating lake so I assumed the birds wouldn't hang around once the boats were out on the lake. The birds did depart around 10am, being seen by Ron who called Barry who was waiting at Amwell just to the North in the hope that they would fly over that way.

The Swans circled round a few times and were seen from Amwell before flying off strongly South West. The map shows the distribution of the Swans with Yellow showing thier summer range and Blue showing the winter range. Green is where they can be found all year round. 

Another delight was this GREAT CRESTED GREBE with what I believe is a small PERCH. All in all a wonderful sunny morning and really great to catch up with some rare Swans close to home. 


Tuesday, 17 March 2015


Sunday 15-03-15.
I made the trip to Aberdeen for the long staying 1st winter drake HARLEQUIN DUCK up on the River Don, a round trip of 1039.5 miles.
Leaving my house at 9am the plan was to take it easy on the way up, get to the hotel and sleep ready for #OperationHarlequin first thing on the Monday morning. I was lucky to have a kind journey up, with very little traffic, making it in good time.
By 5pm I was on the outskirts of Aberdeen and decided I should go straight to Papermill Drive as I would have about an hour of daylight left. I wasn't sure that I would see the duck that evening as a friend had told me it usually roosts down river in Seaton Park. After taking a few wrong turns around the one way streets of Aberdeen and going round in circles sightseeing, I finally arrived at around 5:20pm.
A little obstacle course of a steep bank and rough ground and I was on the Don. There was no sign in the first 15mins of frantically scanning the rapids that have become its home from home. I was then joined by another well known birder Steve Gantlett. We soon picked up the duck on the rapids, it had just been hiding, slightly obscured by the reed growing in the river. I watched it till it was dark, bobbing around in the fast flowing water and preening. I managed the digiscoped images here in the fading light. Steve and I were going to return the following morning to hopefully get better images.
I went off to my hotel just 2.6 miles up the road, Buxburn Travel Lodge, while Steve had his mobile camper van on site. I have to say I love the thought of having a camper like that. The beauty and freedom of just driving wherever you like, when you like, for as long as you like really appeals to me. The Travel Lodge I stayed in was close by, clean and it had a nice carvery on the same site. That's where I headed for food and few celebratory pints.
On the River Don by 7:30 am on the Monday, I was greeted by several Goosander of which I took a few digiscoped images. These are stunning birds and always a pleasure to see. In Herts I don't see that many and they are very uncommon on my local patch Amwell Nature Reserve.
Steve Gantlett soon joined me and we searched the river, there was no sign in the first hour or so. Steve and I exchanged numbers and he went off to Seaton Park to look for the bird, we could call each other if either one of us did locate the bird. I stayed put at Papermill Drive sitting on the bank digi kit ready. I could hear Dippers calling but hadn't see one yet. Then whizz..... One flew straight past and down river. Not too long to wait and one returned, landing on one of the rocks in front allowing me to rattle off a few photos. Absolutely love Dippers, what a great little bird.
The hours were passing and I had had no call nor any reason to call Steve As the duck was nowhere to be seen. I had to leave at lunch time to make the journey home. Steve arrived back at Papermill drive around 10:45am after extensively searching the Park and further down stream. There were also other birders looking for the duck. I left at 11 to start the drive home leaving Steve to continue his quest to get better images of the Harlequin.
The drive home was again kind, it was only the last 500 miles that I found hard ;). There was no sign of the bird on the Monday but it has since returned being reported on the bird news services on the Tuesday afternoon. Just glad I took the option to go straight to site and not to the hotel! Happy Days.
Very very enjoyable twitch and loved sitting by the river with the sounds of the rushing water and Dippers calling. You just can't beat connecting with nature, it's truly good for the soul. Below are a few more digiscoped images.


Sunday, 1 March 2015

A Good Start 2015.

I've not written a blog for some time now but that has to change with the great start to 2015. Hope you enjoy a little insight into the birding world, my world.


All kicking off on New Years Eve with the report of LITTLE BUSTARD at Fraisthorpe, East Yorkshire. I had to cut the New Year celebrations short and get some rest, ready to be up in Yorkshire early on New Years Day. The weather was poor to say the least. Wind, cold and thick cloud spoilt the opportunity to get good photos of a very rare bird for the UK. These were the best images managed and all were digiscoped. Nice to catch up with Lee Evans and tick him on the first day of the year.



A great bird to see in the UK and still with time left in the day to move on. On to meet Jonny Holiday and hopefully see his great find of the previous year, the BLYTHS PIPIT. On arrival I found a few birders waiting patiently having not seen the bird since the earlier reports of the morning. I called Jonny and he was on his way to meet me. Jonny arriving with a few birders with still no sign of the pipit so far. Well, Jonny the #BlythsWisperer worked his magic, picking up the bird within two minutes of turning up, much to delight of the small crowed amassed.



(Blyths photos by Ron Cousins)
A break in the rarities meant I could spend a little time at my local patch Amwell Nature Reserve in Hertfordshire. The reserve has thrown up a few rarities in its time including LITTLE BUNTING, GREAT REED WARBLER, LESSER YELLOWLEGS and LAUGHING GULL to name a few. The place is well watched with my friend Barry Reed really working the place on a daily basis. We've not had much as yet this year but have had many Caspian Gulls, Kingfisher and Barn owl, the latter being a first in two years.
The next biggy for me was on the afternoon of Sunday 11th of January. GREATER YELLOWLEGS, first report being put out as possible and lost to view. I was alerted by BirdGuides and was ready to go. Finally the id and location was nailed and I was on my way. On the two hour drive down I saw a tweet from Amy Robjohns confirming the bird was still present. After arriving and parking, it was a short but very muddy walk and I was there, having good views. The challenge would be getting photos of any description. The bird was distant and was often obscured behind the Juncus. Eventually I did manage a few record shots, all digiscoped. In the end was just grateful to make it down there and get some record shots as the bird was on the move and was not relocated the following morning.


Next stop was for some Essex Birds, two of them hanging out in a park...... Gunners Park to be precise. Now, this took me some time. Wasn't until my third visit and over 10 hours of patiently waiting before I connected with the SERIN. Really smart little birds and again seem to be on the decline in occurance in the UK. The photos I got are digiscoped again.
Last Saturday I decided to go have a look at the LAUGHING GULL in New Brighton. Many people do know I spend a lot of time looking at Gulls at Amwell and further afield. This one did not disappoint, amazingly close, siting on the pontoon at Marine Lake for all to see. An added bonus was the presence of a large group of waders.







A great start and no doubt there will be more to come. Planing on blogging more this year as I did the year before. Do have a look at the old post, some good rarities there.
Leave you today with a couple of LITTLE OWL. They have returned to their Ash tree about 4.3 miles from my house which is always great news. Hoping they will stay and breed. Happy Days.