Monday 27 June 2016

(K)not so hard in the end!

I spent the weekend of the 18th and 19th June in the beautiful village of Grosio, Italy. Grosio is in the Sondrio region of Lombardy, located at 600m in an alpine valley about ten minutes drive from the Swiss border. Sounds nice (and it is) but I was there to do a job. It seems an odd location for a pharmaceutical plant but the company I work for have one in the region and I was there to run some manufacturing trials over the weekend.
Our trials went to plan - which enabled me a little time to potter around the village on Saturday evening and Sunday morning. And it was well worth a potter. I know some people would bemoan birding in Italy - just sparrows and gulls. But, around the gardens of Grosio itself I had six pairs of Common Redstarts, at least three pairs of Black Redstarts (including a male that serenaded me each morning before first light from the steeple of the church opposite my hotel room), two Spotted Flycatchers, plenty of singing Serins, a Wryneck and of course loads of Sparrows (but even those were a mix of House, Tree and Italian). I walked around the grounds of a nearby old monastery where I had two Hoopoes, a male Red-backed Shrike and a brief burst of Sylvia song which I rather fancied was a Western Orphean Warbler.
As I was there with work I didn't bother to lug my lens over with me - so all I can muster for blog shots are of the village and surrounding area itself.

Grosio village with the steeple of Chiesa Parrocchiale di San Giuseppe (home of many Common Swifts, Crag Martins and a pre-dawn song post for Black Redstart)

Grosio as seen from the ruins of San Faustino

I did manage one shot with my iphone of a male Common Redstart that was frequenting a tiny orchard just outside the village. I think this qualifies as my worst image ever of a Redstart (or possibly any bird for that matter) - see if you can see him!

Frame-filling shot of Common Redstart
This weekend just gone - well, I should have wasted no time and gone for the Great Knot or at least the Caspian Tern at Breydon Water. But I got distracted by a female Bluethroat at Ness Point, Suffolk. I guess the words "+showing well" were what did it. And it was showing well, about thirty minutes before I arrived. I had brief fleeting glimpses of it up until 5pm. After that until I left at 8pm - it went AWOL. And it hasn't been since today either. Not too worry though - I still enjoyed the brief glimpses. As to whether its a failed female breeding bird or even a fledged White-spotted Bluethroat (I couldn't see it well enough to tell how fresh it was) - don't know but seems an atypical record for this species.
Today I had a day off so I did the right thing and headed for Titchwell for the Great Knot. I expected to have to work hard for this one. Its been commuting between Scolt Head Island, Titchwell beach and freshmarsh and Gore Point at Holme beach. However, I rocked up to the Parrinder hide and picked it out on the edge of a very large flock of Knot within a minute (courtesy of some guidance). I even managed some ropey record shots. In the end it wasn't so hard - its not normally like that!

Great Knot - RSPB Titchwell - 27th June 2016
So making up for missing the Breydon Water bird in 2014 and the Swords Estuary, Dublin bird in 2004 - I have finally ticked Great Knot. And it was in breeding plumage too. I'm over in Dublin for the coming week -  helping out my parents out following my Mum's hip replacement (all that golf finally caught up!). I'm not planning any birding but might slip down some evening to Coliemore Harbour to scope the Roseate Terns over on Dalkey Island - stay posted!!

Sunday 12 June 2016

The master mimic

So the choice was Great Reed Warbler at Little Paxton, Cambridgeshire or Marsh Warbler at Reydon, Suffolk. Reydon was a little closer and with all that mimicry I really find that Marsh Warblers are very charismatic little Acros. So I choose the latter.
I hadn't been to the SWT Hen Reedbeds reserve before, to be honest I didn't even know of its existence but its a really fine reserve, I expect a pretty good spot for Bittern, Hobby, Cuckoo and plenty of other interesting stuff.
I arrived late afternoon, I didn't feel like a 6am start so I thought it better to leave it later in the day rather than go mid-morning or mid-afternoon when the sun would be strong. Turned out to be a good call because I met another birder returning from the spot and he told me he had waited two hours for it to show. Fortunately I only needed a couple of minutes before it came out onto its favoured singing perch where it showed and sang for at least quarter of an hour. It was a little distant though so these shots are all heavily cropped unfortunately.

Marsh Warbler, Hen Reedbeds, Reydon, Suffolk

And this rather rubbish video clip of it singing.

I spent around an hour there, the bird showed on and off in that time. This is only my second UK Marsh Warbler, the previous bird being last year's Narborough, Norfolk one which incidentally was on the exact same weekend (see Return to Narborough.). I only ever saw one bird in Ireland (a very skulking individual on Cape Clear in late September 2009). During the summer in Latvia they are probably the commonest Acrocephalus so I'm well used to them from there but still, they are such a charismatic and lively bird - one I'll never grow tired of seeing and hearing.
It took me quite a while to make it back to the car park, there are still some Reed and Sedge Warblers singing including this ringed Reed Warbler.

Reed Warbler, Hen Reedbeds, Reydon, Suffolk

It had a BTO ring on so ringed somewhere in the UK or Ireland and possibly even a locally ringed bird. I reported it through the BTO website so let's see what comes out of that.

Sedge Warbler, Hen Reedbeds, Suffolk
I made home just in time to see England play Russia and the less said about that the better!!


Monday 6 June 2016

Scratching the itch

I wasn't expecting the Gunton, Suffolk Greenish Warbler to be too easy but I was at least expecting to see it and add the species to my UK list (I've had a couple in Ireland and even a few singing males in the garden in Latvia). On Friday night the cool northerly airflow remained in place and it was foggy until after dawn. This, I thought, meant it would be still about. But sadly on Saturday morning there was no sign. I stayed on site until around 10am but had to give it up in the end. The best there was a Spotted Flycatcher and a Lesser Whitethroat.

Spotted Flycatcher, Gunton, Suffolk
I thought about cutting the day short and heading back to Norwich and in the process putting some "brownie points" in the bank for use later. However, I had this strange unfulfilled feeling!! I think the disappointment of my non-event trip to Kolka Cape, Latvia the previous month (see A Mixed Week in Latvia and now having dipped on what I thought was a dead cert Greenish Warbler - well, I couldn't just call it a day and go home - that'd be like giving up.
The weather was warming up and Dunwich Heath wasn't too far away - maybe I might get a decent Dartford warbler photo?? If past experience was anything to go by, that would be a long shot, but why not try at least.
I expected Dunwich to be busier but I think the crowds were probably over at Minsmere following the Springwatch lot. In fact at 11am Dunwich Heath had hardly any cars at all in the carpark. I strolled out along the path into the heath and passing the stand of trees at the picnic area I even managed to flush a Nightjar which had I think been roosting on a branch - darn, if only I had seen it first, would have made a lovely photo - oh well!
Anyway, it didn't take too long to find a singing male Dartford Warbler. As usual it never really came anywhere close to the pathway and preferred to sing further back on the heather and gorse. I think you would really need a good bit of time and patience to capture a decent full-frame shot of one of these birds. I had about an hour so I didn't do too bad I suppose and I even managed a brief movie clip.

Male Dartford Warbler, Dunwich Heath, Suffolk

After that I felt I had "scratched the itch" a little and headed back to Norwich. The day that I grumble about seeing "only" a Spotted Flycatcher, Lesser Whitethroat, Dartford Warbler and Nightjar is the day I should hang up the bins really.
As it happened though the bird of the weekend wasn't that far away in the end. Saturday evening Polina and I had the grill out again in the back garden, I added two ticks to my garden list namely Swallow and.......get this......Marsh Harrier. So that's 47 species seen or heard from the garden / house in the six months we've lived there. I hadn't high hopes of seeing much when we moved there, I mean its in a housing estate after all but so far I've had Marsh Harrier, Hobby, Red Kite and Arctic Tern as my own personal highlights and locally I've had Lesser 'throat, Nightingale, Hobby, Great White Egret and Garden Warbler to name but a few - no bad at all I say!