Tuesday 20 December 2011

Weir Wood

A quick trip to Weir Wood reservoir hoping to find some photogenic Marsh Tits on the feeders by the western end hide. Weather was bright sunshine with a keen westerly breeze making things on the cool side.
No Marsh Tits but there were two Green Sandpipers on the mud, too far away for a photograph. However, fly bys of  Buzzards and a constant stream of Greylag Geese kept me awake. Other birders turned up and parked right next to the feeding station so decamped to Barcombe Mills. I had never visited the River Ouse before and this place has potential, lots of fast flowing water, weirs and sluices so it should give Grey Wagtails and Kingfishers when the weather improves. In the car park an ivy covered tree with berries galore was providing fare to all and sundry, including two of the fattest Mistle Thrushes I have ever seen. A place that I shall revisit in the future.

Common Buzzard

Common Buzzard

Greylag Goose

Greylag Geese

Friday 16 December 2011

Widewater III

The sun came out into a clear blue sky so I dropped everything, loaded the camera and warm clothing into the car and scuttled off to the Widewater for a third attempt at the Red Breasted Mergansers. When I arrived there were no other photographers about and 9 gorgeous Red Breasted Mergansers were feeding contentedly and happy to come fairly close to the camera. Conditions were great, just a very cold breeze from the west to make sure I didn't hang around. The 4 males and 5 females had a definite routine consisting of feed, preen, display then snooze. They seem to have paired up at last and the displays are not so frenetic, but just as fascinating to watch. At around 1130, just as another photographer was setting up, they swam rapidly into the wind, took off in echelon and headed out to sea.

Red Breasted Merganser

Red Breasted Mergansers

Male courtship display

Time to go back to sea
After several days of westerly gales or strong winds there seemed to be quite a collection of Great Cormorants on the small island. They obviously enjoy bathing in fresh (ish) water!

Great Cormorant having a bath!

Saturday 10 December 2011

Widewater II

Another early morning,  returning to the Widewater at Shoreham to try to get some improved Red Breasted Merganser shots. Conditions were perfect. light westerly breeze, clear blue sky and very few people about. However no one had told the birds. Just one female  present which didn't really take to the several photographers that had turned up. Very few other birds about but I managed this shot of three Great Cormorants drying their wings in the morning sun. Will wait to see  what the weather is like mid week before having another try.

Great Cormorants

Monday 5 December 2011

Widewater - Shoreham Beach

An early morning trip to the Widewater, a place that I only frequent during the winter months. I resent having to pay to park in a Local Nature Reserve and it is very often crowded during the summer. No problem today, it was freezing and a very chilly breeze coming from the west. Having been tipped off that there were 8 Red Breasted Mergansers on the lake by Alan Kitson and Russ Tofts via the SOS sightings page, I took the camera to see what I could record. Although there was little cloud it was a very low angled sunshine that was hitting the lake. But the birds were in full swing with amazing courtship displays, lots of gaping and sky pointing and tremendous rushing to and fro with almighty splashing. It was enthralling and I managed to record some of the antics.

Red Breasted Mergansers

Red Breasted Mergansers

Red Breasted Mergansers

Red Breasted Merganser

Red Breasted Mergansers

It was a hard act to follow but I managed to find the two very charming Snow Buntings that have been on the beach for the last week. They are very confiding, allowing people to approach within feet of them whilst they fed on Horned Poppy seeds.

Snow Buntings

Snow Buntings

Feeling very pleased with myself and with the weather still clement I made a move to the Burgh. After a morning like that what delights would an afternoon photographing raptors bring - yes,, as always a big disappointment. Lots of Buzzards flying but none came close.

Friday 2 December 2011

Church Norton and Ivy Lake

Another early start, arrived at Church Norton car park just before sunrise, this time to photograph the Firecrests. There was an amazing dawn chorus in full swing - at least 10 Blackbirds and 2 Song Thrushes taking the lead with supporting vocals from the Pheasants, Curlews and Brent Geese. Magical, until the local gravedigger in the churchyard started up his gravedigging machine. Apparently he was in a hurry as there was a 12 o'clock funeral booked. The Firecrests duly arrived and were almost impossible to photograph, two individuals flew out of the hedge, obviously having an argument and in the confusion one of them landed on my arm. Not that good as he then flew off and alighted too close to get focus with the 400mm lens. Pesky things - one day I'll get a clean shot.  

Dawn Chorus - Song Thrush

Firecrest- but rather close.

So it was off down the harbour on the west side to see not a lot. Only saw one other birder and my cheery "Good Morning" received just a grunt - miserable ******.  When I returned to the churchyard a couple of hours later the gravedigger had obviously reached the bottom and was tidying up. At least he was cheerful and wanted to chat.

On the way home dropped into Ivy Lake just in case there were some Bullfinches about - no sign. However, two friendly Great-crested Grebes provided some entertainment.

Great-crested Grebes
Great-crested Grebe

Thursday 1 December 2011


An 05:00 start  yesterday for a great day at RSPB Dungeness. The previous evening I had been dithering over where to go, east or west. Finally the forecast of SW winds and clear skies made my mind up for me - a day in the Hanson hide at Dungeness. Thinking that with the wind behind the hide and a early morning sunshine would give good conditions for photography. As always the target species proved elusive, but there were bonuses in other areas. I needed a tick for the Penduline Tit and would have loved to get photographs, the other target was the Long-tailed Duck which had been present for several days. In the end the Penduline didn't show and the duck was visible at about 400 yards.

However, there were three Bewick's Swans present, gently warbling to each other as they fed about 50 yds from the hide. THere was tremendous Water Rail activity as two birds were constantly squealing and running back and forth just in front of the hide. Loads of ducks throughout the area, Mallard, Tufted, Pintail, Teal, Wigeon, Goldeneye and some very nice looking Gadwall.

Bewick's Swan

Nice day for Gadwall!


Two great fly bys of Marsh Harriers, one of which flew to the far side of the lake and perched in a tree for over an hour. Another nearly encounter with a Cetti's Warbler, one day I will get a clear shot of one of theses elusive birds. About midday I was suffering from hide bum, caused by those very hard wooden benches, so I returned to the car park for lunch. Just before I left I was treated to the view of 5 Avocets, again just out of range of the camera.

Cetti's Warbler (almost)
At lunch I was "serenaded"??? by a large flock (40) of Tree Sparrows in the trees and on the feeders at Boulderwall Farm at the entrance to the reserve. As conditions were perfect for photography I spent a happy half hour with these charming birds that are becoming scarce.

Tree Sparrows

On to the visitor centre and a quick look at the "Birds seen today" board confirmed that with a rising and very cooling breeze it was time to head for home.