Sunday, 6 November 2016

Patchwork Challenge - Longham Lakes Visit 15 and 16 23 October and 6 November 2016

23 October 2016
My trips are getting more and more infrequent, meaning I'm not getting the luck Martin has been getting.

Speaking of Martin, I finally met him for the first time since the challenge began. He's a lovely chap and it was nice to finally meet him and his son after reading his blog entries for the past 10 months. He mentioned a Snipe that had been spotted on the island, so I said my goodbyes and headed off with my friend Chris.

No luck on the island, so we continued with our walk, seeing the usual coots, grebes and tufted ducks. It wasn't until we reached the back of the second lake that my luck began to hold out. We saw plenty of Autumn ducks, including Shoveler, Teal and Wigeon, which were the first since January for me. As we continued around we flushed a small flock of Meadow Pipits, my first new birds for a while. We scoured the small island for the Kingfisher that Chris had seen several times, but has continued to elude me, and I lucked out again. We did spot a male Stonechat though, my first for the year here.

As we headed for the car pack we tried the island to see the Snipe, but again, nothing was there. As we were leaving it flew past us, easy to tell due to its flight. A few moments later a female Sparrowhawk flew fast and low through the car park.

06 November 2016

Headed out today as Martin had used his new scope and spotted two Egyptian Geese on the big island the previous day. Annoyingly, I didn't see them. In fact I didn't see much of anything except for about 150 coot, 50 herring gulls and lots of winter ducks. I was with my wife and daughter who were complaining of the wind and the cold, so I wasn't able to do a thorough scan like I wanted to.
Oh well, there's always next week.

A very distant Little Grebe.

Lazy Cormorants.

Mute Swan

I'm now at 66 species for the year, which is pretty terrible if I'm honest. I was hoping to hit a 100 birds, but year's end, but at this rate I'd be happy with 70 :P

I do wonder if I lose out by not having access to a scope like Martin, but he's a lot more regular than I am, which means he has more chance of seeing stuff :)

Sunday, 25 September 2016

Patchwork Challenge - Longham Lakes Visit 14 25-Sept-2016

No new birds, but it was nice to go out.
I headed off with a friend who had never been to Longham before and we immediately flushed a Green Woodpecker that was feeding in a nearby field. There were lots of Great Crested and Little Grebes about, and we also spotted a hovering Kestrel. I thought I spotted my first Sparrowhawk too, but as neither of us could identify it with 100 per cent certainty, it's not being included.

Pleased with this Green Woodpecker :)

There were a few gulls about, but mainly Herring, with the odd Black-Headed Gull for good measure. No Little Gulls, despite an intensive search for them. Ducks in general were quite scarce, with just Mallard and Tufted Ducks present, which was a little disappointing.

Black-Headed Gull flyby. Boring.

Still on 62 birds for the year, which isn't the best, but I still managed to have a nice day :)

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Patchwork Challenge - Longham Lakes Visit 13 18-Sept-2016

Yes I know, it's been a terribly long time since I've done an update.
Life has gotten in the way and if I'm honest, a death of decent sightings on previous trips have put me off writing about them.

I'm back though, and massively behind Martin, but today was a decent little day, and it's given me the bug again, so I'll try and get more solid updates going forward.

When I got to the actual lakes there were a large group of people, around 20 or so who must have stumbled onto the lake as there were no cars in the car park to support them. They were a pain in the ass, talking loudly, scaring stuff and paying no heed to other people. As I was taking photos at one point a stone made a huge splash in front of me scattering the birds I was taking images of and causing me to say some harsh but deserved words to the gentleman that threw it.

It was a fair way away, but crops quite well.

I hung back, leaving them to pick berries and go about their annoying ways and soon found some nearby grebes again.

I started walking along the back of the second lake but the midges were swarming like anything, getting in my mouth and generally being bothersome, so I gave up and instead made my way to the small pathway that separates the two lakes.

Coots are always plentiful at Longham.

As I reached the final corner of lake two I was attracted by a rustling in the reeds by me. Before long, a small brown bird flew off and hung around some reeds about 20 feet from me. I tried phishing and eventually it came forward, enough for me to see it was a Sedge Warbler, my first for the year at Longham. Not a rare bird, but a lovely looking one all the same.

Not the best shot as he was in reeds and it's handheld at 600mm, but not bad either.
I wasn't on patch long, roughly an hour and there wasn't much else of note, but I did enjoy myself. I'm still a long way behind Martin, but with migration period upon us, there's a chance I might be able to close the gap between us.

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Patchwork Challenge - Longham Lakes Visit 10 17-May-2016

I had high hopes this evening as a Black-Necked Grebe and a Mandarin Duck had been reported. Sadly, I didn't see either of them.

Despite this, and despite the fact that I foolishly tried to handhold my 600mm lens. I still saw a nice selection of birds and got a few patch ticks too, which was nice.

First up was the large number of Swifts that were flying around. They were absolutely everywhere and often joined by Martins and Swallows. As Martin pointed out in his post, it's spectacular to see them whizzing past your head at insane speeds and it's amazing that they don't fly into you, so close do they get.

I spied plenty of goslings around the lakes, although ducklings weren't very plentiful. I couldn't see any Great-Crested Grebe young either, which was a little disappointing as they carry them around on their backs.

I did see a pair of Reed Buntings gathering food however, and while the shots were a little soft, I'm quite pleased with how they turned out.

An uncropped shot of the Reed Bunting

As I walked up the narrow causeway I could hear a Cuckoo calling in the distance. It's apparently okay to include if you can successfully identify it by call, so it's being added to the list :) There were a few little brown jobs flying about in the reeds and I was hoping they were Sedge Warblers, but it was Reed Warblers, a bird I've already ticked off this year.


Walking along the back of the lake I strained my eyes for the Grebe and the Duck but saw neither. I did spot a Jay fly across the small back pond and into the trees though, which is a first for me. That means with the exception of Raven and Hooded Crow, I've seen every corvid on the patch now.

I diligently scoured the reeds for Water Rails, but came up with nothing and the rest of my walk was rather uneventful. Still, I'm now up to 61 birds, so I'm quite pleased with myself :)

Thursday, 12 May 2016

Great British Bird Hunt - A New Bird Is Spotted

Wow, it's been an absolute age since I saw a brand new bird, partly because I'm mainly confined to my patch, but largely because I'm bloody lazy.

Anyhoo, I decided to head off to Lodmoor on Sunday as a Cattle Egret had been spotted in the area. Sadly, I didn't see it as it had disappeared before I arrived. I did however get to spot several Grey Plovers, a lifer for me.

Here's a shot showing all five birds together.

The great news was that they were showing quite well and came within 60 feet of where I was standing. The bad news was that I had all sorts of problems with my camera and simply couldn't get any sharp shots. Fellow blogger Tim White reckons it was because I was shooting just after midday on a blazing bright day, meaning heat haze softened my images and made it hard for my lens to properly focus. I'm inclined to agree with him.

I'm always fascinated by the size of different birds. Here are some Dunlin and
Ringed Plovers for reference.

The actual birds consisted of three males in stunning summer plumage. They're truly majestic looking birds with lovely feather patterning and a lightning fast gait. They were quite happy speeding back and fourth along the mud flats eating worms and other goodies and were occasionally joined by several Dunlin and a small group of Ringed Plovers.

An original uncropped shot. Yet another reason why cropping wasn't great.

The rest of the trip was largely uneventful. I saw no Marsh Harrier, only one Little Egret and a brace of Sandwich Terns with the odd Common Tern thrown in for good measure.

If my calculations are correct I'm currently on 146 birds. A decent figure until you realise that I've been running the blog for just over two years now!

Monday, 2 May 2016

Patchwork Challenge - Longham Lakes Visit 9 02-May-2016

So after hearing there was a Mandarin Duck on the patch, I hurried out with the wife to see if I could spot it. Annoyingly, as we reached the lakes it started to pour down with rain, meaning our time there was very limited.

Despite only staying for around 40 minutes, we nevertheless saw a decent amount of birds, including four new ones for the year. When we arrived, the air with think with Swifts, Swallows and House Martins, all busy hawking for flies. Before long I spied a few Sand Martins, giving me my first new bird. There were plenty of baby ducks around and we also saw a pair of Canada Geese with several young, which is always nice to see.

Ducklings were everywhere. These ones were quite old.

Although we searched the island, I couldn't see any sign of the Mandarin Duck, but I did spot my first Common Sandpiper of the year, rushing along the bank in search of food. Aside from a few Mallard the island was mostly empty.

A number of Reed Buntings were in the reeds along the centre causeway and I also spied a Reed Warbler too, which kept on returning to a spot suggesting a nest was possibly nearby. Moving to the back there were a few very distant gulls in the back fields, as well as Magpies, Rooks, a Grey Heron and a Little Egret. Several blackbirds were also flying about in the thicket and I also spied a couple of Chaffinches, Greenfinches and Goldfinches. It was relatively quiet and the rain was starting to hammer down so we headed back to the car.

A very distant Blackcap.

Getting to the car park we spied a distant Blackcap singing, several Dunnocks and my first House Sparrows of the year.

Finally, some boring old House Sparrows on the patch!

I'm now up to 59 birds for the total year, which isn't that bad going at all.

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Patchwork Challenge - Longham Lakes Visit 8 24-April-2016

It's been almost a month since I last visited the Lakes. I've not been elsewhere, I simply haven't had the time. Still, I made up for it by seeing several new birds. I'm still trailing behind Martin, but at least it made for a very nice morning out.

The main fishing like was very, very quiet, which was strange, as I expected it to be bustling with life. There were only a few Tufted Ducks swimming about and I must of saw around 3 Great Crested Grebes, far fewer than normal. Even the Coots were not massively active and I probably saw 20 in my entire time there.

A very wet Great Crested Grebe.

The bushes on the other hand were bustling with life and I saw Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Wrens, Blackbirds and Magpies. I heard some young birds, possibly Reed Warblers in the reedbeds, but it was impossible to see where they were and I certainly didn't want to disturb them.

Moving along to the back side of the main lake I saw my first Blackcaps on patch. A male and a female. Sadly they were deeply in the thicket so it was hard to get good shots. Moving along I then found several Chiffchaff and a pair of Reed Buntings, my first of the year.

The back fields were surprisingly empty with around 20 swan, 4 Canada Geese and 5 Greylag Geese.. There were a few gulls but they were far too distant to tell what they were.

Moving on to the south lake I was immediately greeted by a small group of house martins hawking for flies. I also saw my first of several swifts, although a local mentioned they'd been at the lake for a couple of weeks now.

My first Swift of the year!

Moving along the back of the lake and things quietened down again. There were a handful of Mallards, some more Chiffchaff and the odd Robin. It was relatively quiet until I got to the Jackdaws which are always in resident in one of the woods. I scanned it for Nuthatches and Treecreepers, but had no luck. There were no woodpeckers around either.

The final stretch of walk was relatively quiet, although a Buzzard showed up and paced me as I walked up, never letting me get within 50 feet of it. I spied some more Greenfinch a small flock of Greenfinch and a pair of Gadwells.

A relatively heavy crop of a Buzzard. Doesn't look too bad though.

A chat with a local dog walker produced the buzzard again, although he was now being mobbed by two Carrion Crows. There was a small group of ducks and Canada geese on the south island, but nothing of any real interest.

A pair of Canada Geese

An overcast Greenfinch. Doesn't look too bad.

Buzzard flyby.

The harassed Buzzard.

All in all a solid morning and I'm now up to 55 total birds for the patch.

Saturday, 2 April 2016

Patchwork Challenge - Longham Lakes Visit 7 28-March-2016

Sorry about the lack of updates but I've had nothing to write about.

The weather has been appalling throughout March, work has been busy and I've simply not been able to get out on patch. I did manage to get out on the bank holiday Monday and I was rewarded with several new birds.

Another crop from later in the day.

Things started off pretty typically with Blue Tits and Great Tits in the car parks along with the odd finch. There was a lot of action on the North pond and in total I must have seen around 100 Tufted Ducks. I can only imagine what these numbers will swell to once the ducklings start arriving.

There were only a few Greenfinches about.

I didn't see anything out of the ordinary and while there had been high winds there were no vagrants that had been blown off course. What I did see however was a lone Swallow, desperately battling against the strong wind on the hunt for insects. It's the earliest one I've seen at Longham and was pleasurable to watch. It was also a much needed tick, although not the sort of bird that will start allowing me to catch up with Martin, who is also patching Longham.

A heavy crop, but there's a Swallow :)

Continuing around the far side of the lake I spied a pair of Bullfinches, although frustratingly, my camera constantly focused on twigs, meaning I couldn't get a single clear shot. Other birds in the thicket included Blue Tits, Great Tits, Chaffinches and Chiff Chaffs.

My shutterspeed was 500, far too slow for this bird!

I was soon alerted to a hunting Kestrel, which continued to patrol both lakes on the hunt for food, but I saw no other raptors. Ducks were relatively scarce with a small group of Gadwell and Teal, the odd Mallard and a couple of Shoveler. The gulls were nowhere to be seen either, with just a small flock of Black-Headed Gulls on the south lake.

A lone Little Egret was skulking about.

Once I got over to the far side of the south lake (which has a smaller pond running adjacent to it) I was rewarded with my first Moorhen of the year as well as a Green Woodpecker. Sadly, I was unable to get pics of decent quality, but it was great to see them all the same.

I thought this was a Turtle Dove, but on close inspection it's a Collard Dove :(

I've now spotted 51 different species of birds since the beginning of the year. Hopefully there will be more to come now migration season is in full swing.

Here's all the birds I spotted.

Blue Tit (6)
Bullfinch (2)
Canada Geese (10)
Chaffinch (5)
Chiffchaff (3)
Collard Dove (3)
Cormorant (12)
Coot (too many)
Gadwell (8)
Great Tit 5
Green Woodpecker
Greylag Geese (5)
Great Crested Grebe (12)
Little Egret
Long-Tailed Tit (3)
Mallard (5)
Magpie 7
Shoveler (3)
Teal 6
Tufted Duck (100)

Monday, 22 February 2016

Patchwork Challenge - Longham Lakes Visit 6

Despite having some time off this past week the weather was pretty atrocious. I'm something of a lazy birder, so I waited until Saturday when the weather cleaned up, with the aim of catching up with Martin Wood, who is also regularly walking Longham Lakes.

Here's the back end of a Buzzard as it flew away.

The car park was pretty empty and I've still been unable to find any House Sparrows. I thought I saw some on a tree driving in, but upon returning they had long flown.

Moving to north lake I could see the usual suspects and there were a large number of Tufted Duck. The Pochard on the other hand were nowhere to be seen. I caught the back end of a buzzard in one of the hampreston fields, spotted several coot and saw the old greenfinch and goldfinch but it was pretty slim pickings all around.

Not the greatest shot of a Chiffchaff, but it will do.

Upon reaching the back of the north lake I hopped the stile hoping to find gulls in the field but it was completely empty, the first time that's happened. It wasn't too bad though as around 6 Chaffinch were hanging around the small coppice found at the end of the walkway between the two lakes. I saw numerous Tits, including Great, Blue and Long-Tailed Tits and also robins, blackbirds and dunnocks.

A few Long-Tailed Tits were hanging around and proving difficult to take photos of.

Upon moving to the other lake it became obvious where all the Pochard were. In fact there were about 20 Pochard all in and at least 15 Shoveler which had been hiding in the reeds. I saw no teal at all though, although Mallards and Gadwell were in the adjacent field.

The Shovelers and Pochards were happy to hang out together.

As I travelled around the lake I soon realised where all the gulls were! There must have been at least 200, probably more gulls on the lake and they mainly appeared to be Black Headeds. Heeding Martin's advice I spent a fair while scanning them and was rewarded with some Mediterranean's which was my one new bird for the week.

You can tell the Mediterranean Gulls as they have no black tips on the wings.

There were numerous Little Egret, but I didn't see a single Grey Heron. Moorhen's continue to elude me too, which makes me wonder whether they are perhaps seasonal here. I spied several Herring Gulls on the lake too, as well as more Tufted Ducks, Great Creasted Grebes and a small number of Little Grebes. Carrion Crows, Magpies and Jackdaws were abundant, but I couldn't see any Rooks. I'm yet to see Jay too, but that's not surprising as I've never seen them in the two odd years I've been visiting.

A couple of very distant Little Egrets. I saw several more on the actual lake.

All in all it was a nice walk, but I'm hoping that as we move into March we're going to start seeing a few possible migrants (I saw Wheatear last year and Hobbys aren't unusual).

That puts me on a total of 47 birds, which isn't too shabby at all.

The backfields were rather quiet, with just Canada Geese, Greylag Geese and Mute Swans.

Here's all the birds I saw.

Black-Headed Gull (at least 250)
Blue Tits
Canada Geese (around 20)
Carrion Crows
Chiffchaff (about 5)
Coot (too many to count)
Great Crested Grebe
Great Tit
Greylag Geese
Little Egret (4)
Little Grebe
Long-Tailed Tit (5)
Mediterranean Gull (3)
Mistle Thrush
Mute Swan
Pochard (about 20)
Shoveler (about 15)
Tufted Duck
Wood Pigeon