Thursday, April 18, 2013

Great White Egret update

After being spoilt with some great - but distant - views of the Great White Egret over the last few days, I decided to have a break today and spent some time first thing this morning sea-watching from Colwell Bay in the teeth of a strong westerly wind. A Guillemot and 5 'Commic' Terns (almost certainly Arctics) passing through brought my monthly West Wight list to an encouraging 110 species. This will drop markedly next month - not because of a reduction in the species turning up, but because the promise of sunshine will mean most of my spare time spent surveying the local Hoverfly fauna!

Mid-morning I cycled to Yarmouth along the estuary to catch the bus into Newport for a meeting and, having time for a quick look at Rofford Marsh, was surprised to find the Great White Egret flying across the Marsh. And it only got better! Having procured a lift back I got dropped off at the Thorley turn. I scanned the marsh there, the main interest being a very bright male Yellow Wagtail. Reaching Rofford Marsh I looked over the stile, and found myself staring right at the Great White Egret which was in a stand of reeds about 50m away. Making my way along the hedge, I found a small hole and managed the footage above before the Egret took off and, after a short flight, disappeared deeper into the reeds. I really feel for the birders who have tried, but failed, to see this bird. I really was fortunate to be in the right place at the right time!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Great White Egret

 I love this time of year. Millions and millions of birds are streaming north out of Africa and arriving on our shores which, together with a lot of coming and going by those birds closer to home, results in a very real sense of excitement and expectation concerning just what might turn up next.

But I confess that I hadn't expected a Great White Egret to arrive. It was reported yesterday from the Scrape area, and I joined Caroline & Tony in a search for it yesterday evening. It was hard work, but we eventually found it in a relatively quiet water meadow as it took off and headed north over Mill Copse looking pretty majestic!

First thing this morning I approached the flooded meadow from the east and was rewarded with great views of the Egret feeding below me. I didn't dare get too close, but watched from my elevated position as it stalked around the meadow before flying to a pool close by.

Last year Great White Egrets bred for the first time in the UK at Shapwick Heath in Somerset. With several local sightings over the past year, I wonder if we might see them nesting here at some point, too, as their range continues to expand!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013


It was just before 6pm and I was just tidying up ready for Carole's arrival back from work when I looked on Facebook and came across Paul's Avocet at Yarmouth! Just after 7.30am, Carole had dropped me off in Yarmouth on her way to work in Newport - a walk back home along the Estuary is just the best way to begin the day. I counted 409 Teal and 123 Wigeon......but no Avocet! I didn't know where & when Paul had seen it and reckoned it would have probably flown on by there was a cold biting wind blowing....I was still recovering from one of the worst migraines I've ever had yesterday....and I had not slept for more than a few hours last night...but I had to go for this one as it was a possible patch first (unlike the Bluethroat on the other side of the island that has been sending everyone into raptures and which I haven't made the effort to see!).

Was it worth it? The video is not great quality vision- or sound-wise....but it's an Avocet! :-)

A flock of Linnets & a Woodcock on the way home brought me past 75 species for the month. I shall sleep this evening!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Common Snipe

I've been trying, but struggling, to get some decent footage of one of the Common Snipe that have been present in good numbers over the winter. A few days ago I counted 101 individuals feeding out in the open at Rofford Marsh. They are always too far away, or else flying off or quickly heading for cover it within camera range. However, I came across this individual today which gave me a bit of closer footage:

April Birds

I thought it might be interesting to see how many species of birds and other animals I can record here on the West Wight during April. I'll add to this list as I go along. Bird-wise, I wonder if I could make the magic '100' with some of our winter birds hanging around in this cold weather, and with many of our summer visitors now starting to arrive.

1.      Red-throated Diver                    Gavia stellata (4/4/13 – Colwell Bay) *NEW SPECIES
2.      Mute Swan                                 Cygnus olor    
3.      Greylag Goose                Anser anser (1st – 2 on The Scrape)   
4.      Canada Goose                Branta canadensis
5.      Brent Goose                                Branta bernicla           
6.      Shelduck                                     Tadorna tadorna (4th – 1)
7.      Wigeon                           Anas penelope (3rd – 123 birds)         
8.      Gadwall                         Anas strepera (14th – pair at Thorley Rd Marsh)
9.      Teal                                             Anas crecca (3rd – 409 birds) 
10.  Mallard                           Anas platyrhynchos
11.  Pintail                                          Anas acuta (2nd – male on Scrape)     
12.  Tufted Duck                               Aythya fuligula (2nd – 3m & 1f)
13.  Red-breasted Merganser         Mergus serrator (6th – 9 at Colwell Bay)          
14.  Shoveler                         Anas clypeata (6m & 1f on Ponds)
15.  Common Scoter             Melanitta nigra (22nd – 7 past Needles Viewpoint)
16.  Red-legged Partridge                 Alectoris rufa (5/4/13 – Mill Copse edge)
17.  Pheasant                         Phasianus colchicus    
18.  Little Grebe                                Tachybaptus ruficollis
19.  Slavonian Grebe                         Podiceps auritus (13th – Off Norton Spit) *NEW SPECIES
20.  Fulmar                                         Fulmarus glacialis    
21.  Northern Gannet             Morus bassanus (1st - Needles)
22.  Cormorant                                   Phalacrocorax carbo   
23.  Shag                                            Phalacrocorax aristotelis (4th – Colwell Bay)
24.  Little Egret                                 Egretta garzetta (4th – 9)
25.  Great White Egret                      Ardea alba (15th – Pool at back of Scrape)    
26.  Grey Heron                                 Ardea cinerea
27.  Marsh Harrier                              Circus aeruginosus (8th – The Scrape)
28.  Sparrowhawk                              Accipiter nisus (9th – pair at Thorley Road Marsh)
29.  Buzzard                         Buteo buteo   
30.  Kestrel                                        Falco tinnunculus       
31.  Hobby                                         Falco subbuteo (7th – West High Down)
32.  Peregrine                                     Falco peregrinus (1st – Needles & Mill Copse)
33.  Water Rail                                   Rallus aquaticus (7th – Rofford Marsh)
34.  Moorhen                                     Gallinula chloropus    
35.  Coot                                            Fulica atra      
36.  Oystercatcher                              Haematopus ostralegus
37.  Avocet          Recurvirostra avosetta (3/4/13 – Scrape) *NEW SPECIES        
38.  Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius (1/4/13 – Rofford Marsh) * NEW SPECIES
39.  Ringed Plover               Charadrius hiaticula (3rd – 2 @ Yarmouth Marina)
40.  Grey Plover                                 Pluvialis squatarola (3rd – 5 on Western Yar) 
41.  Lapwing                         Vanellus vanellus (7th – 7)
42.  Dunlin                             Calidris alpina (3rd – 5 close @ F.Causeway)
43.  Snipe                                           Gallinago gallinago
44.  Woodcock                                  Scolopax rusticola (3rd – Scrub break)
45.  Black-tailed Godwit                   Limosa limosa            
46.  Whimbrel                                    Numenius phaeopus (17th – 3 on estuary)
47.  Curlew                                        Numenius arquata      
48.  Common Sandpiper                    Actitus hypoleucos (11th – Station Pool)
49.  Greenshank                                 Tringa nebularia         
50.  Redshank                                    Tringa totanus            
51.  Turnstone                                    Arenaria interpres       
52.  Black-headed Gull                      Chroicocephalus ridibundus  
53.  Mediterranean Gull                     Larus melanocephalus (2nd – approx.50)
54.  Common Gull                 Larus canus (6th)                     
55.  Lesser Black-backed Gull           Larus fuscus (1st – 10 at Freshwater Causeway)
56.  Herring Gull                    Larus argentatus         
57.  Great Black-backed Gull            Larus marinus
58.  Little Tern                                   Sternula albifrons (21st – 7 thro’ Fort Vic) *NEW SPECIES
59.  Sandwich Tern                Sterna sandvicensis (4th – 7 @ Colwell Bay)
60.  Common Tern                 Sterna hirundo (21/4/13 – 2 @ Fort Vic)
61.  Guillemot                                    Uria aalge (18th – Colwell Bay)
62.  Rock Dove                                  Columba livia
63.  Stock Dove                                 Columba oenas           
64.  Woodpigeon                               Columba palumbas     
65.  Collared Dove                Streptopelia decaocto            
66.  Cuckoo                                       Cuculus canorus (23/4/13 – WHD calling)
67.  Barn Owl                                    Tyto alba (1st – Heathfield box)
68.  Green Woodpecker                     Picus viridis    
69.  Great Spotted Woodpecker        Dendrocopos major    
70.  Skylark                            Alauda arvensis (9th – 4 on WHD)
71.  Sand Martin                                Riparia riparia (9th – Rofford Marsh)
72.  Swallow                         Hirundo rustica (9th – Rofford Marsh)
74.  Meadow Pipit                             Anthus pratensis        
75.  Rock Pipit                                   Anthus petrosus (4th – K’r Bridge)
76.  Water Pipit                                  Anthus spinoletta (7th – 2 Thorley Marsh) *NEW SPECIES
77.  Yellow Wagtail               Motacilla flava (9th – Thorley Road Marsh)
78.  Pied Wagtail                               Motacilla alba
79.  Wren                                           Troglodytes troglodytes         
80.  Dunnock                                     Prunella modularis     
81.  Robin                                          Erithacus rubecula      
82.  Black Redstart                Phoenicurus ochruros (9th – 5 on WHD)
83.  Redstart                         Phoenicurus phoenicurus (8th – Needles Viewpoint)
84.  Whinchat                                    Saxicola rubetra (25th – Afton Farm fields)
85.  Stonechat                                    Saxicola torquatus (Pairs on golf course)
86.  Wheatear                                     Oenanthe oenanthe     (4th – Mill Basin)
87.  Ring Ouzel                                  Turdus torquatus (9th – 3 at WHD)
88.  Blackbird                                    Turdus merula            
89.  Fieldfare                                     Turdus pilaris (2nd – 26 on field alongside W.Yar)    
90.  Song Thrush                                Turdus philomelos      
91.  Redwing                                     Turdus iliacus (3rd – 3 on Yarmouth Green)  
92.  Mistle Thrush                              Turdus viscivorus (10th – WHD)
93.  Cetti's Warbler                            Cettia cetti (13th – 2 at Rofford Marsh)
94.  Sedge Warbler                Acrocephalus schoenobaenus (29th – Station Pool)
95.  Reed Warbler                              Acrocephalus scirpaceus (21st – 2 at Rofford Marsh)
96.  Blackcap                                     Sylvia atricapilla (10th – 3 at WHD)
97.  Lesser Whitethroat                     Sylvia curruca (24th – Station Pool, Yarmouth)
98.  Whitethroat                                 Sylvia communis (20th – Western Yar)
99.  Chiffchaff                                   Phylloscopus collybita
100.      Willow Warbler                       Phylloscopus trochilus (15th – Station Pool hedgerow)
101.      Goldcrest                                Regulus regulus
102.      Firecrest                                  Regulus ignicapilla (9th – Thorley Road Marsh)
103.      Long-tailed Tit                        Aegithalos caudatus   
104.      Blue Tit                                   Cyanistes caeruleus    
105.      Great Tit                                  Parus major
106.      Coal Tit                                   Periparus ater (2nd – 1 singing by Estuary)   
107.      Jay                                           Garrulus glandarius    
108.      Magpie                                                Pica pica         
109.      Jackdaw                                  Corvus monedula       
110.      Rook                                       Corvus frugilegus       
111.      Carrion Crow                         Corvus corone            
112.      Raven                                     Corvus corax
113.      Starling                                    Sturnus vulgaris         
114.      House Sparrow                       Passer domesticus      
115.      Chaffinch                                Fringilla coelebs         
116.      Greenfinch                              Carduelis chloris        
117.      Goldfinch                                Carduelis carduelis     
118.      Linnet                                     Carduelis cannabina (3rd – flock over E. Field)
119.      Bullfinch                                 Pyrrhula pyrrhula (19th – Golden Hill CP)
120.      Reed Bunting                         Emberiza schoeniclus
121.      Yellowhammer                        Emberiza citronella (30th – Wilmingham Lane)

  1. Rabbit
  2. Brown Hare
  3. Red Squirrel (8th - West High Down)
  4. Red Fox (14th - Scrape area)

Butterflies: Brimstone (2m on 6th); Peacock (6th); Small Tortoiseshell; Comma.

Hoverflies: Eristalis tenax (6th); Episyrphus balteatus (6th); Eristalis pertinax; Platycheirus albimanus; Eristalis arbustorum.

Other: Bee-flies - Bombylius major & B. discolor.

Wednesday 3rd.
Highlight of the day was my first patch Avocet, following up Paul's sighting earlier - great bird! It entailed an early evening mad cycle dash but it was worth it. A flock of about 25 Linnets were feeding in 'Footpath Field' and a Woodcock was flushed on the way home.

Thursday 4th.
An early morning sea-watch at Colwell Bay produced my first island Red-throated Diver flying past. 7 fly-through Sandwich Terns were also new for the year. A Shag was fishing in the bay & a Peregrine flew through. The remained at The Scrape for a second day. 72 Black-tailed Godwits, 7 Grey Plover and a number of Mediterranean Gulls are hanging around. A male Wheatear was on the boat hard-standing at Mill Basin. Another Peregrine soared right past me, and I swear it nodded to me as it went by!

Friday 5th.
The Avocet was still enjoying the delights of the Mill Copse Scrape first thing this morning...I was just as excited to flush a pair of Red Partridges from the long grass close by - I only see them rarely on the patch, though I know they're always out there somewhere! A Rock Pipit was exploring the rocks alongside the Freshwater Causeway. Further afield the White-spotted Bluethroat at St Helens on the other side of the island continues to be reported. The Partridges, together with a Grey Heron and Goldcrest, brought my April total to 84 species after just 5 days. At this moment in time the 100 species target is well on course, and I'm hoping that a visit to West High Down first thing tomorrow morning will add Ring Ouzel & Black Redstart at least!

Saturday 6th.
....or maybe not...WHD disappointingly quiet this morning, though the strong sunshine made for an enjoyable wander. A walk with Carole to the Fort Vic viewpoint and back resulted in one more addition to the birdlist with 9 Red-breasted Mergansers in Colwell Bay. My first butterflies of the year were 2 delightful male Brimstones at Fort Vic and a Peacock flying over the Collinsons' garden! 2 'Marmalade' Hoverflies at last, and one Eristalis pertinax.

Sunday 7th.
 Another early morning walk over West High Down....there wasn’t a lot about, but a soaring Peregrine got the pulse racing, as did a ridiculously early Hobby that flew low past my right shoulder (Portland recorded a Hobby today, too)! 2 Bearded Tits were reported at Yarmouth during the day and so I spent a bit of time searching for them at Rofford Marsh. Tony arrived and took me to see 2 White Wagtails that he had just seen in the flooded meadow on the other side of the Thorley Road from Rofford Marsh. The Wagtails had gone....and had been replaced by 2 stunning Water Pipits that were showing really well....fantastic! A new patch species for me, and my 89th species for the month. At 8pm a Barn Owl flew right past me when I was at Kingfisher Bridge.

Monday 8th.
A female Wheatear and Rock Pipit were along the top of the cliff at West High Down first thing this morning, and my first Common Redstart of the year – a female – on the grass patch below the Needles Viewpoint. This evening there were 35 Shoveler on the Western Yar estuary and, at 6pm, an immature/female Marsh Harrier flew across the Estuary and over the Scrape, without stopping.

Tuesday 9th.
West High Down came alive this morning. Nothing along the lower fenceline but buzzing above the road down to The Needles: stopped to look at a male Wheatear, then a stunning male Common Redstart flew into the gorse just in front of me....a pair of Stonechats arrived and then a female Black Redstart on the fence, followed by a male. Hearing a familiar chacking noise I turned to find a male Ring Ouzel on top of a small clump of gorse, and then looked down towards the road as 2 more flew past....not bad from one spot! Around the New Battery there were at least 3 more Black Redstarts, probably 4 or 5. Another male Common Redstart was on the cliff-side fence-line, together with a Redwing and fly-past Peregrine...great start to the day!

And the excitement continued with an hour’s slot to have a look at Rofford Marsh & Thorley Road Marsh in the afternoon. An immature/female Marsh Harrier was over Rofford Marsh, together with Swallows & Sand Martins passing through. At the Thorley Road Marsh there was both a White Wagtail and a gloriously bright male Yellow Wagtail. A Little Egret fooled me into thinking that it was a Great White Egret but my disappointment quickly dissipated with a stunning male Firecrest that suddenly made an appearance in the hedgerow just a couple of metres in front of me. A pair of Sparrowhawks flew into the tall trees close by and, on the way back through Rofford Marsh, a small falcon whizzed past – almost certainly a Merlin but I didn’t get the bins on it and it will go down as a ‘possible’. But an amazing day when you just don’t know what’s going to turn up next!

Wednesday 10th.
West High Down: 3 Blackcaps moving together through the scrub above the Lower Path brought up my 100th species for the month on this, only the 10th day! 10 Wheatears were scattered over the Down though it was a lot quieter than yesterday. A male Ring Ouzel was on the top of the Alum Bay cliff and there were 4 Black Redstarts around the New Battery, with another on the gorse at Tennyson Down. Best 'goosebumps bird' was a Peregrine Falcon that flew low and close to the left of me as I approached the Coastguard Cottages.

Thursday 11th.
West High Down: Very quiet but a Black Redstart was on the Alum Bay slope, and 2 more around the Rocket Site. A Peregrine was flying above the Alum Bay cliffs and there were a pair of Stonechats on the slope there. There were still some 20 Fieldfare or more feeding in the field by Tideways Cottage late this afternoon. Another new species for the year turned up with a Common Sandpiper on the fringe of Station Pool, Yarmouth. 

Saturday 13th.
West High Down: A cold southerly wind blowing with thick mist in places. The only notable birds were a single Rock Pipit and Wheatear on the cliff edge. 2 Cetti’s Warblers were singing at Rofford Marsh. For the whole of the rest of the day it poured with rain but, following news of an earlier sighting of a summer-plumaged Slavonian Grebe at Fort Vic, Caroline and I ventured out late this afternoon and engaged in a bout of extreme birding in the hope that it might still be there. In the event, and following a bit of searching, we caught up with it feeding off Norton Spit. It was hard to make out the particular features in the murk, but Slavonian Grebe it definitely was, a new IOW bird for both of us!

Sunday 14th.
The Slavonian Grebe wasn’t in the Fort Vic area this morning. This afternoon there was a pair of Gadwall on the Thorley Road Marsh, a new record for April. A male Tufted Duck was feeding on Station Pool. Swallows and Sand Martins passing through. The Greenshank was still at the Scrape and a Red Fox groomed and dozed close by. 5 Brown Hares were in the field opposite the farm on Thorley Road.

Monday 15th.
I spent 1½ hours at West High Down this morning, but the only notable birds were 2 male Wheatears! Things were slightly better on the Western Yar when a smart male Common Redstart flew across the path in front of me near Mill Copse, giving several great views. A Great White Egret had been seen earlier today and, following a search with Caroline & Tony, was located on the last piece of flooded ground at the back of the Scrape, taking to the air and disappearing over Mill Copse – wow! I also saw my first Willow Warbler of the year in the hedgerow alongside Station Pool.

Tuesday 16th.
An early morning cycle ride came up trumps with fantastic views of the Great White Egret in the same pool as last night, known from this time onwards as the GWE Pool! I approached from the Wilmingham Lane which gave an elevated view looking down onto the whole area. The bird was feeding but obviously a bit skittish and aware of my presence even though I was quite a way away! There were 30 Shovelers still around, though I only counted four Black-tailed Godwit and a pair of Wigeon.

Wednesday 17th.

Another early morning sighting of the Great White Egret seems to suggest that the bird is very happy here at the moment! A pair of Gadwall continue to frequent the Rofford Marsh area. There were 5 male Tufted Ducks, together with a single female, on Station Pool. A Sandwich Tern was fishing in the lower reaches of the estuary.
I couldn’t relocate the Great White Egret this evening, but there were 3 Whimbrel and a Common Sandpiper on the estuary close to the Scrape (Thanks to Gill & Richard for letting me know about the Whimbrel). A male Wheatear was on the edge of the Yarmouth Mill basin. 4 Brown Hares were in the surrounding fields.

Thursday 18th.

A morning seawatch at Colwell Bay in the face of a strong westerly wind brought the monthly species list to 110 with a Guillemot and 5 ‘Commic’ Terns flying through. I was pretty sure that the Terns were Arctics, but not sure enough to claim them as such! Other birds included 2 Shags, 2 Gannets and a Peregrine Falcon in off the sea. A dog-walker informed me that two Ospreys have been seen at Norton Spit in recent weeks.
Cycling to Yarmouth mid-morning to catch a bus for a meeting in Newport, I spotted the Great White Egret in flight over Rofford Marsh. Having been given a lift back and dropped off at the Thorley turn, I scanned the Thorley Road Marsh, where the chief interest was a bright male Yellow Wagtail. Then, looking across Rofford Marsh, I found myself staring straight at the Great White Egret that was in a patch of reeds close to the road bridge. I managed to get some video through a slight gap in the hedge but the bird was later spooked by activity at the bridge and flew to a spot in the middle of the marsh halfway between the road and Station Pool.

Friday 19th.
Not having recorded Bullfinch yet this month, I went for an early morning wander over Golden Hill Country Park and was rewarded with a male Bullfinch calling from a nearby tree.

Saturday 20th.
At last - a warm day filled with sunshine! The Great White Egret was on Thorley Road Marsh first thing. A Common Whitethroat was present in the Western Yar hedgerow. At Walter’s Copse I missed the Large Tortoiseshell butterfly (which was spotted for the second day running this afternoon). Eristalis pertinax hoverflies were present in abundance but only two other species in small numbers (Eupeodes luniger & Platycheirus albimanus). Amongst the Bombylius major Bee-flies I found a single B. discolor.

Sunday 21st.
A House Martin flying amongst the Swallows & Sand Martins, together with 2 Reed Warblers, both at Rofford Marsh, were both new for the year. On the way home I stopped off at Fort Vic, hoping for Little Tern, and was rewarded with 5 passing through (a new IOW species for me), together with 2 fishing Common Terns. I had hoped to break the 100 species mark for April. Now, with 115 under the belt, it looks like a final tally of 120 or above might be a possibility!

Monday 22nd.
4 Wheatears on West High Down and 2 Rock Pipits singing and displaying at either end of the Rocket Site silos. The month list keeps ticking over – 7 Common Scoters flying low past the Needles Viewpoint this morning.

Tuesday 23rd.
Very quiet again on West High Down but a calling Cuckoo was new for the year, a day later than my first Cuckoo in 2012. 

Wednesday 24th. 
A thick mist lay over much of the West Wight first thing this morning. At Headon Warren a Common Redstart flew along the field edge to the treetops in the Pleasure Park copse. Willow Warblers, Chiff Chaffs & a Common Whitethroat were in the hedgeline alongside the Pitch & Putt. An unidentified Diver swam to the rocks in the bay far below before flapping onto a rock. It was very quiet on the Western Yar this evening, but a rattling Lesser Whitethroat at Station Pool was new for the year.

Thursday 25th.  
A dozen Yellow Wagtails and at least 2 White Wagtails were at Rofford Marsh late this afternoon. A Whimbrel was on the estuary opposite the Scrape, and there was a male Whinchat at Afton Farm. A Hobby & Spotted Flycatcher were also reported in the area.

Friday 26th - Sunday 28th.
Mainland trip.

Monday 29th.
A female Common Redstart was on the lower fenceline at West High Down first thing. At Station Pool a singing Sedge Warbler was my 120th patch species for the month. 5 Cetti’s Warbers were calling at Rofford & Thorley Road marsh. A Whimbrel and Common Tern were on the estuary. In the evening the Whimbrel was still present and 2 Sandwich Terns flew down the estuary towards Yarmouth. A pair of Pintail feeding on a pool on the other side of the estuary was a good record. There was a female Mallard with 10 ducklings on Rofford Marsh Pond. 7 Hares were in Kingfisher Field (south) with another 3 in the field beyond the Scrape.

Tuesday 30th.
I looked for the Great White Egret in the usual haunts this evening, but it looks like it has definitely gone. Walking back along Wilmingham Lane I heard a familiar call from the hedgerow and a male Yellowhammer flew onto the top of the hedge…a last minute addition to the monthly list which closes on a really encouraging 121 species – and to think that I was hoping to reach 100 this month! Species that I missed included Kingfisher, Treecreeper, Golden Plover, Spotted Flycatcher and Dartford Warbler. Highlight of the month was the Great White Egret, followed by the 2 Water Pipits....and the general excitement of not knowing what would turn up next. May could be even more exciting!