Welcome to the Buteo Wildlife blog, a record of some of the wildlife that we have been seeing and occasional identification articles that will hopefully be useful for those trying to learn about wildlife.

If you enjoy reading this blog, join us on one of our tours - days and weekends looking for wildlife. Visit our website for details: www.buteowildlife.co.uk
Note that tours with clients may not always feature prominently on this blog because we are unlikely to have time for photography when out with clients - and walls of text don't tend to make the most interesting posts. If there is time for a few snatched photos they may not always be of the highest quality - but we'll use them anyway!

To try and keep posts in chronological order they may sometimes be given earlier dates/times than when they are actually posted. Apologies, for this - it's not meant to mislead anyone (and we will try to avoid this happening too often).

28 February 2013

Birds in snow (21st January 2013).

A cold spell that had brought snow and freezing conditions was not good for the birds, but it did provide some good opportunities for photography.

One of the Bitterns at Seventy Acres Lake in the Lee Valley Country Park, came right out into the open while searching for open water in which to fish, and nearby Redwings and Fieldfares showed little concern for my presence, near to where they were feeding on exposed leaf litter near the car park (the snow had barely managed to cover the ground under the trees here).

*photos to follow* 

21 January 2013

Lee Valley Country Park (17th January 2013).

I just had time for a couple of hours birding and, as the Pager had told me that there were three Bewick's Swans on Seventy-acres Lake I went to see if I could find them. Unfortunately they had moved on so I walked up to see if they had moved to Holyfield Lake.

As I started walking past the first field beyond the overflow car park a stunning male Sparrowhawk flew low across in front of me. Further along the road towards the Sailing Club I saw a photographer obviously trying to get shots of something over towards Holyfield Hall Farm. I caught up with him and he pointed out what I took to be a Common Buzzard flying above the hill. From that angle it was in silhouette and I thought it had gone down behind the hill but we then found it perched in a small tree. I got the 'scope onto it and immediately saw the dark shield on the lower breast and belly and the pale inner undertail with a broad, black sub-terminal bar which identified it as an adult Rough-legged Buzzard. The bird then took off and floated across the field, gradually gaining height and continued flying south.

I continued to the Grand Weir hide and scanned the lake but there was no sign of the Bewick's Swans but a drake and two redhead Goosander were swimming in one of the unfrozen patches of water. On the way back to the car a Red Fox saw me just as I saw it and we stayed looking at each other at a couple of hundred metres before it turned and trotted away up the field.

Rainham again (16th January 2013).

At 9 o'clock when I arrived at RSPB Rainham Marshes the fog and frost were thick. I couldn't see the south side of the Thames and could barely make out Mute Swans and Lapwings on the Purfleet scrape from the visitor centre. Undeterred, I set off along the River wall checking for pipits and the Corn Buntings which had been reported recently.

A male European Stonechat showed at close quarters in the bushes just along from the centre and there were a few Skylarks feeding down on the saltings. Aveley Bay produced a handful of Redshank, a single Eurasian Curlew and some Shelduck. A flock of 60 plus Linnets were very active along the top of the River wall and Common Snipe were flying around trying to find unfrozen areas in which they could feed. On the way back to the centre for lunch I finally found a Rock Pipit feeding in the usual patch of detritus on the saltings. I was just removing the top layers of clothing when a call over the radio from Howard Vaughan alerted to the fact that the Corn Buntings were back so I hastily pulled my coat back on, grabbed bins and scope and made my way back along the wall. Within five minutes I saw Howard leading his group of birders towards me and he pointed out the three target birds which had landed in a bush quite close to me. I was able to get excellent views before they flew further out onto the saltings. Despite there being a small number of this present in recent winters this was the first time I had managed to catch up with them so returned for lunch a very happy birder.

In the afternoon the fog slowly lifted and the sun finally came out. On the walk through the woodland a single Lesser Redpoll flew over calling. Scanning the main Aveley pool I counted fourteen Northern Pintail. The usual pair of European Stonechats was by the Ken Barratt hide and a Cetti's Warbler called from in the reedbed. A single Little Egret was on the    western end of Aveley pool. As I came along the southern side of the reserve a helicopter flew quite low right across the reserve flushing everything as it went. A flock of about 160 Dunlin flew out towards the Thames, 27 Eurasian Curlew and about 40 European Golden Plover circled the area a couple of times before settling back down.

A small group of Ring-necked Parakeets flew over the car park as I was preparing to leave.

20 January 2013

Winter at Rainham (13th January 2013).

The monthly WeBS count at RSPB Rainham Marshes produced the highest wildfowl counts of the winter so far. Pintail numbered thirty, many of which were extremely smart drakes in full plumage. During the early part of the count the tide was quite low and so a lot of the ducks were on the River Thames. I did, however, manage to count over 750 Wigeon making the overall count for that species in excess of a thousand.

There was a pair of Stonechats by the Ken Barratt hide and other passerines of interest included a dozen Skylarks and three Rock Pipits along the foreshore

By the afternoon the tide was lapping the Victorian seawall and waders had come onto the reserve to escape the high water. Purfleet Scrape, in front of the visitor centre, had 19 Curlew, 15 Ringed Plover, 160 Dunlin and two Black-tailed Godwits. An adult Caspian Gull was identified on this area and there were approximately 2,200 Lapwing and a dozen Common Snipe on the reserve.

A female Marsh Harrier was hunting over Wennington Marsh and a Peregrine Falcon was perched on one of the pylons alongside the A13. The last birds of interest were about thirty Ring-necked Parakeets flying over the car park as I was about to leave.

Amwell Quarry Nature Reserve, Hertfordshire (12th January 2013).

Having completed my WeBS count in the Broxbourne area of the Lee Valley in the morning I headed north to Amwell Quarry NR which is managed by the Herts & Middlesex Wildlife Trust. Before I even left the car I had a Red Kite circling over Amwell Lane which seemed to bode well for an interesting afternoon's birding.

I first walked up to Tumbling Bay lake at the north end of the area where I quickly picked out the 1st winter drake Scaup which has been present for several weeks. Two Common Buzzards drifted over and then a red-head Smew appeared out of one of the bays and swam out into the middle of the lake, affording excellent views. 

A brief visit to the James hide was somewhat disappointing as the Wildlife Trust have removed the feeding station outside the hide which sometimes attracted Marsh Tits. An explanatory notice gave the reason for the cessation of feeding as a build up in the number of Brown Rats using the site which is a very sensible move in my view.

Back at the main viewing point I picked out a Bittern moving through one of the areas of cut reeds on the far side of the lake and this was followed shortly after by a Water Rail. A Sparrowhawk flew in front of the assembled birders and the only other unusual bird was a single Egyptian Goose swimming towards the southern end of the lake.

A quick call at Fishers Green as the light was fading produced views of a Bittern going to roost and a Water Rail from the Bittern hide.

16 January 2013

River Lee Country Park (12th January 2013).

At 10am I met 11 people at Cheshunt railway station, for a visit to the gravel pit complex that makes up the River Lee CP.
Winter birdwatching can sometimes seem fairly quiet, with very few small birds around, until you find a flock of tits, finches, or other birds, when there is suddenly lots of activity, and often a variety of species to see. Today we had found our first flock of birds, a flock of Long-tailed Tits, Blue Tits, and Great Tits, and were checking to see if there were any other species with the flock (such as Goldcrests or Treecreepers), when an unexpected Common Buzzard suddenly passed low overhead.

Wetland areas tend to be easier to observe birds on, and the nearby Friday Lake, Hall Marsh Scrape, and Hooks Marsh Gravel Pit, produced very good views of species such as Smew, Eurasian Wigeon, and Common Snipe, as well as a variety of others. A Cetti's Warbler in Hooks Marsh Ditch called just once, and didn't show, but while we waited for it a Goldcrest gave good views in nearby scrub. A Goldeneye at the northern end of Hooks Marsh (almost certainly the one I saw in the same area just over a week ago) was an interesting discussion point, because it was identified by the person who first saw it as "a female Goldeneye", but was actually a 1st year male. Most duck have plumage that is very similar to adult females in their first winter, but at this time of year start to moult into their adult plumage - this one had started to show the white feathering on the breast and underparts typical of adult males, but otherwise did look like a female. A male Sparrowhawk was seen well in the same area by most of those present.

We stopped at the Bittern Information Point hide for lunch, and while we were there had good views of a Bittern just inside the reedbed - it looked like it was watching us as much as we were watching it! Water Rail, and Jay also showed well in front of the hide, and a small flock of Siskins visited the alder tree out the back.

A short visit to the Longlands hide at the Lee Valley Park Farms, added a few more birds to the days list, including KestrelEgyptian GeeseFieldfaresRedwings, and Pheasant (including a few of the attractive melanistic type Pheasants that are resident in the area), and also gave us the opportunity to watch a Common Buzzard being mobbed by Carrion Crows and Magpies.

Heading back to the station we came across at least three Treecreepers, which we spent some time watching, and had brief views of a pair of Goosanders which flew overhead.

Muntjac (9th January 2013).

A brief visit to the River Lee Country Park in the late afternoon sun produced views of Water Rail and Cetti's Warbler, as well as very good views of a pair of Reeve's Muntjac. This introduced deer species, the smallest deer in the UK, has successfully established itself in many areas, and although they can cause major problems from a conservation point of view by preventing the regeneration of woodland by grazing new growth, they can sometimes be nice to see!