Testing the new camera

Been a while since i last blogged, not much happening in the way of birding, both in terms of the birds available and the time i can put into birding itself. Did manage a trip down the deeping high bank last weekend to test out the new camera i got for Christmas. It’s a significant improvement in terms of lens stability and shutter speed so confident my picture quality will improve as a result. See below:

Barn Owl – Deeping High Bank
Great White Egret – One of two birds still frequenting the High Bank.
There are still 2 pairs of Stonechat along the river too, male bottom left and female sitting up top right.
We’ve had our fair share of rain in the East Midlands and the river level is very high as a result.

A record breaking week

It was 9pm Sunday when news broke of a Radde’s Warbler in peakirk. Less than 3 miles from my front door, the first twitchable inland record of this Siberian breeder.

I was on site by 6:30am the following morning and was quickly joined by 3 other birders. I staked out the presumed roost site for 2 hours with no success. Time was pressing on so I made for the car, assuming it was a no-show. As I drew parallel with the other birders, I was informed it had started calling from the brambles. I quickly tuned in to the low ‘Chuck Chuck’ call it was giving out and saw the silhouette of a bird in the top of a Berry bush. I raised my bins to an eyeful of phylossc with a pronounced buff / gold tinged supercilium. The bird also showed mottled ear coverts – a clinching ID that this was the Radde’s. What a bird to turn up so close to home, that will take some beating!

… or so I thought! Cut to last night (Wednesday 8th) and news starts rolling in of the Yorkshire lammergeier seen to go to roost in a poplar tree just south of Moulton Chapel. News was patchy and thanks to the hard work of Josh Jones (from remote Ireland no less!) he pinned down the observer and got a nailed on location for the giant vulture’s sleeping spot.

After a restless and nervy night, me and Noah (my son) hit the road before dawn and arrived on site at 7:00am. After the short 1km walk north, we were just about to set up the scope on the roost site when the bird flew, patrolling with monstrous wing beats along the copse of poplar and pine trees. Again the bird came to rest and gave us good enough scope views. The bird then flapped over to the field on the other side of the road and quite happily plonked itself down in the middle.

Words cannot describe the absolute beauty of this bird, a species I used to ogle at in the back of my Dad’s Collins field guide as a child and think wow! I’d love to see one of those. To think that I connected with this bone crushing monster that would usually call the french Pyrenees it’s home… in the fens of Lincolnshire, is something I’ll be getting over for some time. This is only the second time this species has been recorded in the UK, truly legendary status. Question marks still remain over the status of the bird and whether it will be accepted by the BOU. The bird is part of a conservation population boosted by introduced birds but its un-ringed signifying it’s born to wild parents. DNA tests are being conducted and only time will tell if this bird makes it onto the British list, though to tell you the truth, I don’t care either way!

Lammergeier – Moulton Chapel (ridiculous!)

And tonight there’s been news of 3 short eared owl on the deeping high bank – not quite lammergeier, but a sure sign of some good birding ahead.

Tuesday 29th September

We’re well and truly entering the Autumn migration period now and with heavy winds forecast at the latter end of last week, I was hopeful of something decent turning up. I went down to Deeping Lakes on Thursday evening to see if any waders had appeared and to see if the reported 4 female type Goosander were around.

No Goosander but good numbers of most wildfowl with shoveler being the majority, tufted ducks close behind and a smattering of teal and wigeon. It does often pay to sift through these wildfowl flocks with a keen eye during the eclipse season as interesting birds can easily be overlooked, I managed to pick out a single female pintail among the shovelers.

Female Pintail

There wasn’t much by way of waders with the normal 2 Little Ringed Plover and a handful of Lapwing. I was about to pack up the scope when a small wader appeared on the waters edge closest to the carpark. Not unusual, but it wasn’t there before and the two LRP were still in situ on the islands. I scoped it and the bird was immediately bobbing up and down, persistently – clearly a snipe species and then I checked off the ID features – two defined broad yellowish back stripes were a good sign. The bird was then flushed by a sheep coming to drink and when it turned to run for cover, the bird displayed a stout bill around 2/3 the size of its body – a Jack Snipe! These birds are scarce passage migrants in these parts and it was good to add this elusive species to the list. Admittedly – it should have been on there already with wintering birds seemingly annual at the Maxey Etton complex.

A terrible photo but does show the two broad yellowish back stripes on the bird.

That brings the list to 164 and with plenty of autumn migrants moving about – some good opportunities to add some more ticks before the year is through.

Two for the price of one

It’s been a slow week on the patch with very little of interest passing through at all. Interest was peaked though by a report of two Great White Egret at Deeping Lakes East Pit. Subsequent reports however were negative.

Cut to today and I thought I’d try my luck at east pit, alas, no egrets (of any sort!). The only birds of note were a pair of Ringed Plover and a single Little Ringed Plover. I thought it best to drive down the high bank to look for the long staying Great White from my last blog post. It didn’t take me long to find it nestled in the reeds opposite the turn to Deeping St. Nick. 5 minutes later another Egret flew past me! They both settled together on the East bank long enough for me to get a grab shot through the scope. Not new, but really great to see these birds in such an open setting and so local.

Great White Egrets – Deeping High Bank
Great White Egrets – Deeping High Bank

Bird beyond the border

It was Saturday morning when news broke of a pair of Whinchat ‘on the Deeping High Bank’. These birds, although not rare, are certainly not easy to come by within the Deepings area. They are usually elusive, not very obliging to photograph but they are one of my favourite British migrants.

It was evening before I had the chance to go and see the birds. The description provided was that they were in the weedy sheep fields just off of Cradge Bank Road. If that description was accurate I could post up at 4 mile bar with the scope and get them from within the border, worth a shot!

When I got there however, it became clear the birds (or bird in my case as I only saw a single bird) were actually around 1km beyond 4 mile bar, no chance of me scoping it and it didn’t move from this spot at all. Bit of a shame, but that’s birding i suppose!

Whinchat – Cradge Bank Road – Deeping High Bank
Red line shows my area border and the blue cross indicates the location of the Whinchat. Close, but no cigar!

The quest for 200 – A new beginning

I’m sure it’s clear to everyone that my relationship with blogging hasn’t been straightforward. I love blogging and having the opportunity to write about my experiences with birdwatching but i’ve always struggled for the motivation to blog about common stuff i see day to day.

As a result, I’ve decided to set myself a new challenge to reinvigorate and inspire myself to keep this blog going and to give you guys something interesting to follow with tangible results. So then, onto the challenge! Things are very hectic in my life and that means, for the most part, I only really have time for patch birding. I thought it would be a good goal to aim for 200 species in the ‘Deepings Area’. This area includes the Deepings (Market, st. James, West etc), Deepings Lakes and the high bank up to 4 mile bar, Baston & Langtoft GPs & the Maxey Etton complex. I’ve highlighted the rough area of recording on the map below:

The list so far:

My current list for this area stands at 163 with some pretty mega birds on already, including:

-Fulmar – stranded bird after high winds found by Martin Coates at Langtoft West End pits on a PBC Bird Race day.

-Great Reed Warbler – a bird found by my dad, Trevor, many years ago at what is now Deeping Lakes. This is one of my earliest memories of birding in this country and i’ll probably never get another GRW in this area, so cheers pops!

Rough-legged Buzzard – found by me 19.03.2020. RLB have often been claimed along the high bank but this is the first photographed and confirmed individual in the Deepings area.

Purple Heron – a flyby single observer record by me at Deeping Lakes 23/05/2020.

Notable omissions

There are a number of birds i’ve failed to connect with in the Deepings including the top 10 target birds below:

– Common Crane – despite numerous birds flying between the BLGP and Deeping Lakes complex this year, I have failed to connect

-Brambling – not a particularly scarce bird and are seen pretty much annually on the feeders around the bird seed wholesalers by the level crossing at Deeping Lakes. Just seem to evade me!

-Quail – a handful were singing and giving outlandish views this year but i failed to connect on each attempt

-Curlew – Just need to be in the right place at the right time for this one

-Scaup

-Water Pipit – again, almost annual at Baston Fen but I have failed to connect

-White-fronted Goose – There were a flock of ~15 birds last year on the BLGP complex which I missed

-Common Scoter – these often turn up on the Maxey / Etton complex

-Spotted Redshank

-Med Gull – Should have this by now!

Recent additions:

There are 4 birds added to the list over the last month or two which i’m very happy to have under the belt. The first pair of ticks I had came mid august at Deeping Lakes. I was pretty shocked to see news come through of a dark-bellied Brent goose on East Pit reported by Will Bowell on the 11th of August, I went down to see the bird the next day after a further report of Little Stint on East Pit. I went down late evening and managed to connect with both birds, though the little stint pics are awful it was still great to see this long overdue wader. By that time, the Brent goose had found new feeding grounds on the cattle fields just East of Deeping Lakes.

Brent Goose – Just East of Deeping Lakes

Little Stint – Honest!

The second pair of ticks came yesterday when I combined trips for the recently reported Great White Egret on the high bank and the long staying Black-necked Grebe on T-junction pit BLGP. The egret was an absolute joy of a bird to watch, very obliging and you could come right down to the river bank without it batting an eyelid, the only thing which seemed capable of making it move were the dozen or so Cow grazing the river bank.

Great White Egret – Deeping High Bank

Great White Egret – Deeping High Bank

Great White Egret – Deeping High Bank

Great White Egret – Deeping High Bank

If the Egret was obliging, the Grebe was the total opposite. It had been reported as ‘stubbornly staying in the middle of the pit all the time’ which i presumed was just a frustrated comment but, no. The bird was instead on the far side of the pit and diving constantly, almost impossible to get a snap of. Still, had good enough scope views to put the species on the list for now, though I would like a more obliging individual in the future (preferably in summer plumage).

That’s it for now, i will blog every time I either dip on or get a new bird for the list so watch this space!

Post lockdown commentary

With the latest batch of government directives comes an effective end to the full lockdown and once again opens the doors to birding local drivable sights. How elated I was then to receive a phone call from Will Bowell this evening informing me of a Temminck’s Stint at Deeping Lakes, presumably freshly arrived this afternoon. I grabbed the car keys and was on the road not 5 minutes later. I arrived on the scene promptly and exited the car to a biting wind and glorious early evening sun. The bird was still there, obligingly meandering around the islands, ace! My first record of this wader (that I can remember) in Britain!

Terrible record shot of TS at considerable distance.

Oh… did I forget to mention there were also two Spoonbill on the same pit? Incredible how these birds could be present but not the stars of the show. It was a real joy to watch them feed and preen, views like this are almost mythical in the Peterborough area, and even more awesome that they were on the local reserve. It’s as if nature knew we were released from our cages at last and gave us a blast of adrenaline to kick start the engines we’ve had to subdue for so long.

Spoonbill – Deeping Lakes
Spoonbill – Deeping Lakes

I realise I’ve been offline over the lockdown period, quite intentionally. Didn’t feel quite right blogging about some pretty decent birds I’d seen but had to suppress for the greater good. Highlights of birds from the office window include Mallard, Cormorant and Mute Swan… all of which were new for the house list. The house martins are back in the nest under the eves outside Noah’s bedroom window and the swifts seem to be in good numbers. Same cannot be said for Swallow which appear to be on the light side this year, maybe it’s just me? The real star bird from the house was Peregrine late last week hunting hirundine. I was frustrated to miss out on no less than 3 flyby White-tailed Eagles – one of which came within a mile of the house but just out of view.

Here’s to the survivors of the lockdown birding blues and what remains of the Spring! Let’s hope it’s bountiful.

Pandemonium

Escape was necessary this evening, my head is ringing with COVID19 and the profound effect it’s having on almost every aspect of my daily life.

Despite the crisis affecting humans, it’s comforting to know the birds are still there, going through their daily routines and blissfully unaware of the surrounding chaos. If anything, it’s probably more peaceful for the birds while we’re stuck in isolation and quarantine.

It was a chilly evening tonight, first stop was Deeping Lakes to see if any interesting waders / gulls had appeared. Nothing amazing but was nice to see 14 whoopers on East Pit.

I moved onto the high bank thinking I could maybe snag an early wheatear or a passing sand Martin. It wasn’t until I was parallel with the ‘wash’ that something caught my eye. A raptor, on the deck in an open field. Not an unusual site in these parts as buzzards are ten a penny, this bird showed pale head and upper parts at a glance. Again, not necessarily unusual as we have a few very pale buzzard on the high bank. I decided to scope it anyway, as soon as I did my pulse raced a little. It was almost certainly a rough legged buzzard.

It might just be me but they always appear to have a more elegant face than buzzard appearing almost kite like? I couldn’t be 100% sure until I saw the bird fly and it showed it’s wholly white tail with dark terminal band. My first RLB in the Deepings. I tracked the bird as it hopped from field to field. It looked very lethargic like it had just arrived and wasn’t keen to leave. It flew in a northerly direction and I lost it behind the big haystack between the high bank and deeping St Nick.

Rough-legged Buzzard – Deeping High Bank

Despite search of myself, Danny and josh, couldn’t relocate. Hopefully it turns up tomorrow as I can’t imagine it has got far in the dark, cold evening.

Trio of waders

After I’d finished work today, news appeared on the airwaves of a long-tailed duck at Maxey pits. I reacted quickly and was at Maxey pits some half an hour later. No sign anywhere despite extensive search of Helpston road pits, grebe pits, reservoir, etton road pits.

However, I did manage to add Snipe, Water Rail and Little Ringed Plover to the year list. Not bad for a quick evening out.

Little Ringed Plover – Helpston Road Pits

A pair of snipe in rapidly fading light at Etton Road Pits.

The long and short of it

Apologies for the delay in posting, I have been out and about birding a number of times since my last blog post with frustrating results! A couple of days after my last post, I headed out to Deeping Lakes to pick up the annual Long-eared Owl tick. The bird was showing very obligingly on the usual island opposite the hide. However, it was fairly distant and I didn’t have my scope with me to digiscope it so you’ll have to make do with the below record shot:

LEO

Long-eared Owl snoozing on the island at Deeping Lakes LWT.

In the subsequent weeks, I went out on the Deeping High Bank on maybe 10 different occasions looking specifically for Short-eared Owl. It’s been a very poor winter for these birds in Britain and there’s only a single individual which has been seen as far down as Cradge Bank Road, as far out as Deeping St Nicholas and also on the DHB. That’s a big quadrant to cover and unfortunately I haven’t managed to connect despite being 10 minutes behind Will who had photographed the bird.

Still, I shouldn’t complain, as I have managed to add some new birds to the year list in the process including Grey Partridge, Hen Harrier (!), Grey Wagtail and Kingfisher. A strange find for me was a single Muscovy duck which had moored up on the banks of Gull Farm, gave me quite a shock when I first saw it in my peripheral!

Muscovy

Muscovy Duck – Gull Farm, Deeping High Bank

Skip forward to today (07/03/2020) and I slipped out at 7am this morning to BLGP to see if anything was about, not much of note though a pair of Oystercatchers were new for the year. I headed over to Deeping St. Nicholas from there and then diverted over to the Deeping High Bank. Not much of note until I reached the Crowland ‘Wash’ which is the flooded area East of the river and just North of the gun club. There were a number of waders present including c.50 Lapwing, a single Golden Plover and a pair of Redshank (new for the year). Also on the fringes of the flooded land were a pair of Shellduck which I really don’t see often at all in the Deepings.

Goosander are still present on the Welland though in much lower numbers than usual, only 6 birds were present today. I then head over to Deeping Lakes to see if the Pink feet reported by Will B were still around, alas, no success. Luckily I’d picked this species up earlier in the year at Eldernell.

DSC00844

Little Egret – Deeping Lakes LWT.

The only other interesting event was a huge mixed flock on the tilled field adjacent to Exotic Pet Refuge. The flock contained c.100 Pied wag, a pair of Grey Wag, 50 or so Meadow Pipit, a number of Reed Bunting, Chaffinch and House Sparrow.

Mipit

Meadow Pipit 

That’s all for now folks, I’ve given up hope of connecting with the SEO and it had disrupted my blogging schedule as I chased it around! Also… the blog post where I could show pictures of Long-eared Owl and Short-eared Owl was too much of a draw, wishful thinking as it turns out.