Arctic Terns at Manor Farm

The Iron Trunk Aqueduct, which was built in 1811 to carry the water of the Grand Union Canal over the River Great Ouse. The Aqueduct is still used. © Gyorgy Szimuly

The Iron Trunk Aqueduct, which was built in 1811 to carry the water of the Grand Union Canal over the River Great Ouse. The Aqueduct is still used. © Gyorgy Szimuly

IMG_2368 - Version 2

A part of the pits with the Manor Farm in the background. © Gyorgy Szimuly

IMG_2832

A view to the River Great Ouse and the pits from the Aqueduct. © Gyorgy Szimuly

The Manor Farm in Old Wolverton is one of the very few places where shorebirds are breeding and stopping by during migration. This is a gravel pit along the River Great Ouse, which regularly floods the whole area. During Spring the muddy pebble islets are suitable for Eurasian Oystercatcher, Northern Lapwings, Little Ringed Plovers and Common Redshank for breeding.

This afternoon I made a long walk all around the pits. The only remarkable species was the Arctic Tern, which seemed to invade inland waters. Two birds moved together with, the most probably, resident Common Terns. Nevertheless, a single migrant Common Sandpiper was the new bird for this year.

It is always a pleasure to find nesting Northern Lapwings. © Gyorgy Szimuly

It is always a pleasure to find nesting Northern Lapwings. © Gyorgy Szimuly

I saw at least 5 Northern Lapwings sitting on their nest and one pair showed very aggressive defending behaviour, assuming to have chicks already. One of the Eurasian Oysterncatchers seemed to be incubating as well.

List and numbers of birds recorded:

Graylag Goose 4
Canada Goose 31
Mute Swan 8
Gadwall 4
Mallard 20
Tufted Duck 21
Great Crested Grebe 1
Grey Heron 2
Common Buzzard 2
Eurasian Moorhen 7
Eurasian Coot 8
Eurasian Oystercatcher 3
Northern Lapwing 16
Little Ringed Plover 6
Common Sandpiper 1
Black-headed Gull 5
Common Tern 3
Arctic Tern 2
Common Wood Pigeon 32
Common Kingfisher 1
Great Spotted Woodpecker 1
Green Woodpecker 1
Eurasian Magpie 9
Eurasian Jackdaw 19
Rook 6
Carrion Crow 36
Bank Swallow 15
Barn Swallow 1
Common House Martin 25
Great Tit 3
Eurasian Blue Tit 5
Long-tailed Tit 1
Eurasian Wren 13
Common Chiffchaff 6
Sedge Warbler 4
Eurasian Reed Warbler 2
Blackcap 6
Garden Warbler 1
Greater Whitethroat 7
European Robin 3
Eurasian Blackbird 11
Song Thrush 1
European Starling 28
Dunnock 2
White (Pied) Wagtail 4
Common Reed Bunting 3
Common Chaffinch 9
European Greenfinch 1
European Goldfinch 8

Seabirds over the massive waves of Portland Bill

A few hours of forecasted sunshine was enough for us to get out of the house and take a bit longer journey to the south coast. We targeted to reach Portland in Dorset before the rain would come in the late afternoon. This was the first time we have been there and it was far beyond any expectations. It wasn’t terribly exciting birding wise, but as I love seabirds, I enjoyed watching some of them a lot. The wind was rather  strong and the rough Atlantic Ocean provided some massive waves. We, midland guys, enjoyed it a lot.

Again birding wasn’t that serious with the girls as it would have been if I was alone. I was left alone to enjoy seawatching as long as I wanted – I love my girls. Bush birding was rather restricted to a few places only.

A few Northern Gannets were flying around the western cliffs. @ Gyorgy Szimuly

A few Northern Gannets were flying around the western cliffs. @ Gyorgy Szimuly

There are some awesome bird photography possibilities at the tip of the peninsula. European Herring Gulls are always nice 'subjects' to photograph. @ Gyorgy Szimuly

There are some awesome bird photography possibilities at the tip of the peninsula. European Herring Gulls are always nice ‘subjects’ to photograph. @ Gyorgy Szimuly

Of course the most interesting hotspot of the peninsula was the southern tip with an impressive view to the ocean. European Herring Gulls and Great Black-backed Gulls were dominant along the coast. Great Cormorants and occasionally Northern Fulmars were flying close to the shoreline. One Northern Fulmar was flying meters away from me. I tried to pick something over the rough water, but I could manage to find a few more fulmars, some Northern Gannets, a flock of Arctic Terns and more offshore European Herring Gulls. There is a small breeding colony of Common Murre on the western cliffs and quite a few birds was seen flying to and off the cliffs.

EuropeanHerringGull_003_1000DE

Some pairs of European Herring Gulls were collecting dry mown lawn for their nests. @ Gyorgy Szimuly

A view to Portland and the Weymouth Bay. © Gyorgy Szimuly

A view to Portland and the Weymouth Bay. © Gyorgy Szimuly

On the western part of the tip, just before the restricted area, I found a single Eurasian Rock Pipit, sitting on a rock. Upon my approach, it didn’t fly away and allowed me to watch it from just a few meters. It was most probably a new subspecies (A. p. petrosus) for me, as till today I had seen the Scandinavian subspecies, the A. p. littoralis.

IMG_2790 - Version 2

Massive wave at the western side of the peninsula tip. © Gyorgy Szimuly

IMG_2807 - Version 2

The lighthouse of Portland Bill. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Nice poster about the wildlife of Portland Bill, placed at the shore. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Nice poster about the wildlife of Portland Bill, placed at the shore. © Gyorgy Szimuly

List of birds seen and their numbers:

Northern Fulmar 6
Northern Gannet 8
Great Cormorant 11
Common Murre 16
Black-legged Kittiwake 4
European Herring Gull 78
Great Black-backed Gull  24
Arctic Tern 9
Eurasian Collared Dove 4
Eurasian Jackdaw 28
Carrion Crow 32
Eurasian Skylark  2
White Wagtail (Pied) 1
Eurasian Rock Pipit 1

I had a short visit to the western cliffs along the SW Coast Path near Southwell. A flock of 45 Bar-tailed Godwit was flying eastward over the ocean, while Northern Fulmars were flying close to me again. On the nearby pasture 5 (Eurasian) Northern Wheatears and 2 beautiful (Greenland) Northern Wheatears were feeding.

Shortly before 6PM it started raining heavily. Anyway, I made my last stop at the southern part of Wyke Regis to look to the Portland Harbour where the sailing events were held during the London 2012 Olympic Games. A juvenile Iceland Gull was reported here in the morning. Here I saw 14 Sandwich Terns and 18 European Herring Gulls and a single male White (Pied) Wagtail.

Despite the long drive and the rough weather it was more than worth the few hours visit. I will definitely return this place for a few days seawatching.

Every year a Glaucous Gull

I like Glaucous Gulls. They are amazingly massive gulls and relatively easy to identify (hahaha…). I had my first adult Glaucous Gulls over 12 years ago in the Varangerfjord in NE Norway. It was an unforgettable experience finding a gorgeous adult bird on one of the fishing piers in Vestre Jakobselv.

Last year there was an adult bird just a few miles from our home in England, which I was lucky to see. It was new to my British list. Since then, I have been following the bird news of Britain and it didn’t seem to be super rare here; at least not as rare as it is in Hungary.

Following our ferry crossing between Calais and Dover, on the way back from our Hungarian trip, I checked the BirdGuides app for some interesting records in Kent county. A long staying 1st winter Glaucous Gull was reported again from the coastline of Dungeness, that seemed to be worth to go for. The girls were quite tired to get out of the car, so I went alone to find the bird on the beach. I spent some time around the fishing boat ‘scrapyard’, but didn’t find the gull. When another birdwatcher, with a spotting scope, joined me, he could easily spot the bird on the pebble beach. The 1st winter Glaucous Gull was roosting in a flock of Great Black-backed Gulls and European Herring Gulls. As the birder ticked it, he soon said goodbye. I remained at the beach an moved closer to the resting group of gulls. I was staying behind a boat. They were close enough for watching them through my binoculars. After a while, most of the gulls took off by an approaching walker, including the Glaucous Gull, which flew away towards the west.

The same first winter Glaucous Gull was photographed earlier this year by Richard Smith. It is worth to check his Flickr gallery. © Richard Smith

The same first winter Glaucous Gull was photographed earlier this year by Richard Smith. It is worth to check his Flickr gallery. © Richard Smith

Abandoned fishing boats on the beach. The boats are visible even on Google Maps. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Abandoned fishing boats on the beach. The boats are visible even on Google Maps. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Some boats are in perfect condition and still used. Gulls were roosting behind this boat. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Some boats are in perfect condition and still used. Gulls were roosting behind this boat. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Image of the beach with the flock of gulls. Some Great Black-backed Gulls are taking off, but the Glaucous Gull is still sitting on the ground. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Image of the beach with the flock of gulls. Some Great Black-backed Gulls are taking off, but the Glaucous Gull is still sitting on the ground. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Other birds of note from the beach included a pair of ‘European’ Northern Wheatear and two stunning adult Mediterranean Gulls. Both were new additions to the year list. In the sea I saw an unidentified dolphin species. A Whimbrel, a flock of Brant Goose and Sandwich Terns were flying over the sea. Despite I was a bit exhausted from driving all night long, I enjoyed this coastal birding a lot. I still don’t understand why we are living so far away from the exciting British coasts…

Here is the eBird report from the coastline of Dungeness:

Brant Goose 7
Northern Gannet 3
Eurasian Oystercatcher 2
Whimbrel 1
Mediterranean Gull 2
European Herring Gull 46
Lesser Black-backed Gull 2
Glaucous Gull 1 (2y)
Great Black-backed Gull 29
Sandwich Tern 8
Stock Dove 2
Common Wood Pigeon 2
Eurasian Magpie 12
Eurasian Skylark 1
Barn Swallow 3
Northern Wheatear 2
Dunnock 1
White Wagtail (British) 5
European Goldfinch 1
Eurasian Linnet 2

Huge thanks to Richard Smith, London bird photographer, for providing his image for my blog post.