Sunday 27 April 2014

Cross Country Bird Trip to Gibraltar Point UK

 Journey to Lincolnshire April 22-23 Sunny

Although the main purposes of my visit to the UK is to spend time with family any chance to sneak off birding is always a welcome diversion. While most of my family live in the Wye Valley near St Briavels the other half live near the East coast in Louth, Lincolnshire. 
Lincolnshire is what Saskatachewan is to Canada. Flat, large farms, acres of monoculture, ancient hedgerows, a smattering of rolling hills called The Wolds. An added bonus is the proximity to the Wash, itself part of a major migration flyway.
As I drove around the back roads, the hedgerows were alive with birds. I saw pairs of LBJ's while waiting for a traffic light to turn red, their long tails held high as they foraged next to the busy road. I have no idea what they were, I saw many birds which were unfamiliar while driving but they'll always be another day.
The Lincolnshire Wolds on the way from Louth to Skegness and Gibraltar Point.

I made the six hour car journey across the Uk from Gloucestershire to Louth. My first birding stop was a short break at Hartsholme Country Park just off the Lincoln bypass. The park is operated by the City of Lincoln, a free car park, interpretive centre and extensive walks including lakes, heath and forest make it a great place to visit. The Great Crested Grebes and two Red-crested Pochard (a rare visitor but most likely escapees from a collection) were the first birds I photographed.
Great Crested Grebe )Podicep cristatus)
Unmistakeable and largest of the European grebes. Grebes nests inland and winter in protected areas on the coast.
The Great Crested Grebe was almost exterminated as their feathers was in high demand for women's hats. A century ago on forty-two pairs were left in the UK but today numbers have recovered.

Then it was on to family in the historic market town of Louth for the family visit. They weren't interested in going birding but were very proud to show me the blackbird nest at the bottom of the garden. 
Next day I was off to Gibraltar Point National Nature Reserve. The location was featured in the April edition of Birdwatch magazine and the excellent article made my decision where to bird an easy one. The start point for me was the Beach car park a few miles south of Skegness.

The Gibraltar Point (GP) is comprised of a mixture sand dunes, extensive beaches, numerous ponds, mixed hedgerow and marshlands. The morning I arrived a Hoopoe was briefly spotted. I was happy to spot anything but a Hoopoe would have been an amazing. Anyway, a Whitethroat would be my first "Lifer" at GP and they were singing everywhere. They are not the most easy bird to approach, the bird books describe them as "skulking and secretive" a very apt description.

Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes)
This bird was hanging out at the Beach parking lot.
Interpretive signage provides the visitor with a well rounded view of the reserve.
 Then I came across a Meadow Pipit (below) sitting on a fence pole. Anyone like to point out if I have made a "Howler" with the I.D.
Swallow (Hirundo rustica)

Meadow Pipit (Anthus pratensis

To my left near the what used to be a freshwater marsh (the storms and sea surge of 2013 saw the marsh being inundated with saltwater) slowly though the scarred landscape is turning green again. Out of the corner of my eye I see a Skylark flying by, it lands with crest raised. They are becoming one of my favourite birds to watch, their airborne acrobatics and song can last fifteen minutes, remarkable!

Skylark (Alauda  arvensis)

Then in the bushes were a Reed Bunting and Goldfinch and Blue Tits and at the main parking lot three more Meadow Pipits and a mystery bird (below) that may be a female Reed Bunting but could it be another sparrow.

Reed Bunting (female)

Without much birding experience in the UK identification can be hard. I have a few books but none seem as good as the Sibley's I am using in Canada.

Reed Bunting (Emberiza schoeniclus)
Found year round in the UK and most of Europe.

Blackcap (Sylvia atricacapilla)
A year round UK resident and across Europe

A short walk through the forested area turned up Blackcap, Green finch, more Goldfinch. Past the forest area three hides gave excellent views of Lapwing displaying, a Hen Harrier harassing Black-headed Gulls who are nesting on the marsh.

A Green Finch (Carduelis chloris) comes down to drink. Note the banding. GP has a banding station.
Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis)

Continuing through the reserve to the marshes I saw a new bird fly overhead. As I made my way to one of the three blinds (hides) I could see it was a Lapwing making a noisy and acrobatic display. I don't have to tell any birder how exciting it is when a new species is spotted. As I settled in and opened the viewing panels I was greeting by a colony of breeding birds including Shelduck, Black headed Gulls, Mute Swans, Avocet, Lapwing and probably other species. Rooks were collecting tufts of grass, a Pheasant wandered by and a Pied Wagtail landed twenty feet in front of me.
Pied Wagtail (motacilla alba)
A common year round resident throughout the UK and Europe.

Avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta)

Black-headed Gull (Larus ridibundus)
A very common gull especially inland. Here this pair bond before mating. The Black-headed Gull is one of the commonest gulls in the UK and often nests inland on lake and marshes.

Lapwing (Vanellus vanelllus)

Lapwings flies over its territory to attract a female.
Finally .. but not least and this is where some positive feedback would be great. What is this species?
Mystery bird perhaps a Willow Warbler or Chiffchaff, my money is on Chiffchaff.
I hope you have enjoyed this ramble through Gibraltar Point. Please excuse any typos, the intermittent internet coverage has made blogging a little challenging but so far the GP trip has provided me another 9 "Lifers" for a total of 34 for the trip so far.

For more information on Gibraltar Point follow the link.

Good Birding 
John Gordon


  1. Great images Gordon. It's nice to see birds, and scenes, from another part of the world.

  2. Thanks Robert, actually my first name is John if it matters at all.
    The birders here have be very helpful and the birding amazing but it's like starting from scratch again. I don't know any of their songs but I think I have the Robin and Blackbird down after week 2.

  3. what stunning photography of these gorgeous birds. I love seeing the diversity there and the different species we don't see here in canada.

  4. Thanks Mellie for the kind words.
    Birding here in the woodlands and fields is much different. The birds are more skittish and higher up in the trees. Harder to photograph but easier to sound record.
    The birdsong is the loudest I have ever heard and sometimes lasts well after dark, especially the Blackbird. See next blog.

  5. Great posts from the Motherland. It's always a thrill to get a shoot of new 'Lifer', and you've nabbed so many in a short period of time. All the photo's are first class - as usual - and the commentary very informative. Enjoy the rest of your trip.