Thursday, 31 December 2020

Pennington Flash


Pennington Flash is now closed to visitors. There are cones and fences at the main entrance and the Slag lane and Green lane entrances are taped off. Because of this is I will be posting no further reports from the Flash until restrictions on movement are lifted.

Thursday, 9 April 2020

Lowton Bird Observatory, Day 16

Photo: Woodpigeon.
Almost the first bird of the day while I was eating breakfast was a new one for the garden and therefore also for this period of lockdown birding at the obs. To be honest I thought it was going to turn out to be a cormorant but thankfully I had a look through my binoculars and it was a greylag. This brings the overall garden list to 53 and the lockdown list to 43. A great start to the day!

More excitement by lunchtime, a meadow pipit flew over bring the lockdown list to 44 and I now have two coal tits in the garden. Species 45 flew over just after lunch, my first ever garden rook.

Twenty six species recorded in total today, my best ever day total for the garden.


Looks like we've got a hedgehog in the garden. Not bad, common pipistrelle bat, hedgehog and house mouse now confirmed in the garden over the past few days.

Wednesday, 8 April 2020

Lowton Bird Observatory, Day 15 - Osprey


One of the best ways to see a migrating osprey is to use your ears and listen. Not for the call of the osprey itself which is an easily learned and diagnostic whistle, but more for the calls of the irate posse of gulls which seem to follow them everywhere and which often announce the arrival of this magnificent raptor long before you see it. Suddenly today I became aware that the gulls were going mad. This wasn't just the usual aggressive calls amongst themselves, something was really bothering them. I've experienced this before and at this time of year I was pretty confident that I knew what it would be even before I looked up. Looking behind me I could see that the birds were still quite distant but fortunately they were heading straight towards me from the south.  In the middle of the gulls I could see a large shape with arched wings and a head on profile not unlike that of a huge gull. Clearly an osprey! It flew right over me and I could see that it had a missing secondary on it's left wing. For an osprey it was really shifting, it powered its way north and I watched it until it was just a dot in the distance. An awesome experience. Of course ospreys eat exclusively fish so it's no threat to the gulls but I guess that they just don't like such a big raptor in their area. This is at least the third osprey reported over Lowton / Landside since Saturday.

Tuesday, 7 April 2020

Lowton Bird Observatory, Day 14


Drama at the obs today when a coal tit was heard singing in the hawthorn bush in the back garden, resulting is a quick exit through the patio doors. It took a while to pin the bird down but eventually it showed well. I was just thinking that the day was going to peter out with just the usuals seen or heard, but coal tit is a new lockdown tick bringing the total species seen in the garden in the past 14 days to 42. I have seen them in the garden before but it's certainly not a regular visitor.


Sunday, 5 April 2020

Lowton Bird Observatory, Day 13

A very gentle day at the obs today, a buzzard and a sparrowhawk provided the best of the entertainment soaring overhead, but other than that it was all about the regulars, including this fabulous blackbird collecting inverts from the lawn.

Saturday, 4 April 2020

Lowton Bird Observatory, Day 12

Whoa, adult peregrine straight through the garden chasing something, it had to swerve to avoid the house! Awesome sight. Garden tick and lockdown birding tick. Nice. Perhaps today will be a good raptor day 🙏. Peregrine brings the lockdown garden list to 41 species and the overall garden list to 53.

Also this morning a great tit in a neighbours garden.


Friday, 3 April 2020

Lowton Bird Observatory, Day 11


Spurred on by the success of last night and the scoter passage, today I decided to turn my attention to the often neglected East hide (also known as the front room, or Colin's cave).  The garden here is much smaller but the views are much wider and less enclosed and I always feel as if I'm likely to see more from here which is why I have the scope set up in this room.

Spending a few hours here has certainly paid off so far, with a new lockdown species in the shape of two kestrels as well as buzzards, raven, sand martin, grey heron and a few lapwings. In the photo above I'm looking east, so north (and Pennington Flash) is to the left and south is to the right. Almost directly east there is farm land and beyond that Hope Carr, so always a chance of movement between those places and the flash, but the downside is that birds tend to be more distant.

Late afternoon a brown shape appeared on top of a tree at the end of the road which it turns out is a singing song thrush, another new bird for lockdown birding.

This evening I had another session in the garden but failed to add any further species to the day list. Considering that we are on lockdown and told to stay at home to protect the NHS, there's an awful lot of road users out even right up to the time that I went to bed at 23.00. It's supposed to be essential journeys only, I'd love to know what's essential for most of these vehicles at 23.00 on a Friday night.


Thursday, 2 April 2020

Lowton Bird Observatory, Day 10 - Huge movement of common scoter


The past couple of days have seen a huge passage of common scoter at night over North West England, probably involving birds moving from the North Wales coast and Liverpool Bay back to their breeding grounds in northern Russia. I'm glad to say that the obs shared in the experience with three or four flocks over during the course of a bitterly cold evening. The calls were quite distant except for one flock which seemed to fly right overhead. A tremendous experience and unsurprisingly common scoter is a garden tick! Just as I was about to turn in for the night a couple of oystercatchers flew over calling.


It seemed like fun at first but it turned into a battle for survival!

Not too much to report during daylight hours with just the usual species seen.

Little Whimbrel, Blakeney 1985: Connecting the past with the present.

Little whimbrel, Blakeney harbour, Norfolk
24th August 1985 © David Cottridge.
In late August 1985 my dad and I set out for Norfolk for a long weekend birding. It was one of our favourite birding places and late August was a favourite time of year because it gave us the opportunity to see a few early autumn migrants whilst at the same time many of the summer birds would still be around. We booked into the White Horse Inn at Blakeney for the nights of 24th & 25th August. My dad must have been keen to go because 24th August was his wedding anniversary though that didn't really register too much with me at the time!

Back in 1985 the North Norfolk coast and in particular Cley-next-the-sea was still the epicenter of mainland birding in the UK. Bird information services were still in their infancy and Nancy's cafe was at the height of it's powers and nearby Walsey Hill was also an important source of information. In the mid 1980's it sometimes seemed that I spent every weekend with my mates in the autumn in this area and it turned into a really good social event. Sometimes we'd sleep in the car, sometimes a tent, other times in a B&B, very occasionally a hotel.

This was different though, this was with my dad and I expected the pace to be a bit more relaxed. Dad was a keen birder, he had been since at least his early twenties, but he didn't really do twitches and he was what I would call a selective birder, he didn't like seeing birds out of what he considered to be their proper context and for him the overall experience was everything not just seeing the bird. So for example he turned down the opportunity to come with me to see a juvenile great northern diver in the midlands because he wanted his first great northern to be a summer plumage bird in the Scottish Highlands. He did however love the North Norfolk coast, though the irony was not lost on him that many of the migrants we saw such as 1st winter barred warblers and ortolans were just the east coast equivalent of a juvenile great northern in the midlands, but this was different because the North Norfolk coast was meant to be full of migrants, that's what it was all about, that's what he wanted to experience and so in that respect they weren't out of context.

Tuesday, 31 March 2020

Lowton Bird Observatory, Day 8


Boom! A siskin flew over at lunch time, also four oystercatcher, two buzzards, a sparrowhawk and a few gulls over. That's kick started the list which I was just thinking seemed to have stalled.

The sun came out mid afternoon and it was quite warm for about an  hour or so during which time we had five buzzards and a sparrowhawk riding the thermals together and finally today I managed to scope a chiffchaff in a tree at the other end of the street.

Sunday, 29 March 2020

Lowton Bird Observatory, Day 6

Great excitement today when I discovered that we also have a front garden. Why was I not told earlier. Turns out that if I scope down the street from the front room I can see great tits in a distant neighbours conifer. Surely only a matter of time until I also see a coal tit there?

Other than that not much has changed, four buzzards over head and a sparrowhawk through the garden, plus small parties of gulls passing over, usually from south to north (north is towards the flash).

Saturday, 28 March 2020

Lowton Bird Observatory, Day 5


An early morning goldcrest and a few flyover lesser black backed gulls got the day off to a good start. Still waiting for an osprey! Perhaps today....

Quite a few gulls late afternoon heading for Pennington Flash from the south in ones and twos, probably totaling 50 lesser black backs, 20 herring and 100 black-headed. Highlights were two fly over lapwing, cormorant and a chaffinch. Regulars include 30 goldfinches, two goldcrests, 30 jackdaws 10 greenfinches and single buzzards and sparrowhawks. Not a great return for several hours birding but hopefully things will improve if the weather changes a bit.

Pennington Flash


Best of the bunch today at the flash, pair of garganey still, also one black-tailed godwit, one redshank and about 200 sand martins. No sign of yesterdays black-necked grebes. A much cooler and breezier day than of late.

Friday, 27 March 2020

Pennington Flash


My dash to the flash today produced three cracking summer plumage black-necked grebes, a pair of garganey still, little egret, three black-tailed godwits and around 50 sand martins. It was a beautiful spring morning.

It's quite an interesting way of getting exercise this, I power walk at the beginning and end, and while I'm at the flash I power walk between viewing places. In otherwords it's several short, sharp bursts of exercise. Google it, it's a highly recommended way of exercising. Good job, because I can't do it any other way these days 😃. I get home feeling physically fit and healthy, whilst at the same time keeping my mind active and my mood positive. Even better, I can then spend an hour writing this blog! The days just fly by!

Thursday, 26 March 2020

Lowton Bird Observatory, Day 3

Photo: Long-tailed tit.
Another glorious day at the obs but the only new additions to the lockdown garden list so far are adult herring gull #26 and adult great black backed gull #27. Still, I've managed 20+ species so far today but I can't help but feel that these bright blue skies are not helping the list. Certainly it's nice to sit outside for most of the afternoon but I get the feeling that most of the birds are passing over very high and mainly out of sight. Trouble is I can't honestly say that I want the weather to change, yes it may bring more birds but then I'll be stuck in the house most of the day.

So that's 27 species for the garden since lockdown began three days ago but my full garden list currently stands at 44, with stand out species being waxwing (twice), hobby, shelduck, common tern and pink-footed goose.

Finally, in the evening we saw our resident common pipistrelle bat for the first time this year.

Pennington Flash


At least four Cetti's warblers singing at the flash today including a very showy individual.

The rise of Cetti's warbler in the UK has been remarkable and almost as explosive as it's song. My first Cetti's was in 1983 at Radipole in Dorset, which for a long time was the stronghold for the species in the UK and virtually the only place you had any chance of seeing one. The UK breeding population at the time was in single figures. Twenty years later in 2003 I saw only my seventh Cetti's at Titchwell in Norfolk and my first in North West England was as recently as 2008 at Wigan Flashes. It took another five years for me to hear a Cetti's at Pennington Flash in 2013 but since than the species has become well established to such an extent that it is now largely ignored by most birders as they walk around the flash.

Ignored that is until one chooses to show itself. Cetti's warbler is notoriously skulking and even now I might only see a handful of birds well during an entire year. Thankfully though it has an explosive and unmistakable song which betrays it's presence even if the bird isn't on view. Today I got lucky and came across two males having a dispute which seemed to keep their minds focused on each other and they seemed almost unaware that I was standing next to them!

Wednesday, 25 March 2020

Lowton Bird Observatory, Day 2

Photo: Starling.
The song of my garden blackcap heralded the start of another glorious day while I ate breakfast this morning. It does my heart good to hear this song and he couldn't have timed it better given the current circumstances.

Three new garden ticks today since we went into lockdown, #23 grey heron, #24 long-tailed tit and #25 robin. A glorious day, I've been sat in the garden most of the afternoon. At least three buzzards soaring overhead, blackbirds, robins and dunnocks singing and plenty of blue tits, goldfinches and house sparrows, as well as at least two peacock butterflies.

Pennington Flash


A flying visit to Ramsdales hide early morning produced the hope for goods in the form of a pair of garganey resplendent in their summer plumage. I have seen them earlier than this at other places in the past, even once in February at Martin Mere, but this is the earliest date I have seen them at the flash. Of course I can't go into any of the hides because they're all locked, but there is a viewing slot at the side of Ramsdales.

Tuesday, 24 March 2020

Lowton Bird Observatory, Day 1 - Sand martins and singing blackcap and goldcrest


Ok, prepare for the ride of a lifetime as I take you through the ups and downs of birding in my back garden in Lowton. Prepare to be amazed at the diversity of species that occur in a plethora of habitats and jaw dropping scenery, but please remember that twitching is not allowed at the moment so even though you might be really jealous about the birds and other wildlife which I see, please stick to your own garden and don't call round to see anything which I report here.

The day started well with the now regular blackcap singing from one of the bushes in the garden. This bird first started singing on 9th March when it was a new species for the garden and I had expected it to be gone by now but two weeks later it's still here and its song is getting ever more lustful by the day. However I didn't really start proper birding in the garden until lunchtime, by which time temperatures were rising and three buzzards rode the thermals and a goldcrest sang from next doors conifer.

The highlight of the day was a flock of 10 sand martins which were not only a first for the garden but also my 5th earliest ever date for the species.

Pennington Flash


So now I've got Pennington Flash almost to myself, except for the birds. I've only got about 45 minutes to see as much as I can before I must head back home to meet the criteria of the COVID-19 restrictions, but it gives me some exercise, helps me avoid cabin fever and allows me to at least keep half an eye on what's happening at the flash during these unique times of virtually no human disturbance. Who knows, I might just see something good! I'm going to report what I see here because some people may be interested and if it helps anybody get through the day even for a few minutes it's worth it, but unfortunately I won't be reporting any national or county rarities which I may see until they have either gone or the restrictions are lifted.

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