Tuesday 31 January 2012

Grey Day at the Burgh

The intention was to park at the "triangle" and then have a quick walk to Burpham Church to view the Bewick's Swans, as always not quite how it worked out. I did see the Bewick's  mixed in with Greylag and Canada geese, I counted 37, though there is a margin for error as I was just using binoculars. I also scanned the churchyard as a birder I had met earlier had reported a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, no luck. On the eay back to the triangle there were plenty of Blackbirds, several Song Thrushes and a good scattering of both Redwings and Fieldfares.

Glad to meet up with Captain Bagsy - probably the busiest birder I have ever met, read his Blog and you will see what I mean. Hope he managed to catch up with the Short-eared Owls at Waltham Brooks

After about an hour by the gate I bit the bullet and walked up to the "dew pond". Definitely a poor day for raptors - only 2 Buzzards flying. Plenty of Grey Partridges constantly calling. Several very large flocks of Chaffinches which I scanned for Bramblings without success. There seem to be more Yellowhammers about, mainly in flocks up to 20 or more birds.

I returned to the triangle and found Dorian Mason and Dave Smith setting up for a view. By this time the cool northerly breeze was starting to find its way into the bones so I called it a day. No photographs to post on what was a very dreary, dull and grey day.

Monday 30 January 2012

Over the border - down Hampshire way

A leisurely start today - I waited for the morning rush hour to subside and made my way in to deepest darkest Hampshire looking for three year ticks. First stop was Warblington Church where a Cattle Egret had been reported. Sure enough after about ten minutes I flushed three egrets from the small stream at the end of the cemetery. They circled and landed in the cattle field behind me and one of them was a Cattle Egret, the others Little Egrets. There were two Grey Wagtails present but after being disturbed they failed to return. Made a note to return at another date as I haven't many decent photos of them.

On the way back to the car a Green Woodpecker, that was engrossed in ripping up the turf in the cemetery, posed well. I was well hidden and though he could hear my camera shutter operating he couldn't see me behind the thick undergrowth.

Onward to Hayling Island where on the oyster beds a Shorelark was visiting. Not a difficult spot this one as there were already five birders in attendance. Great to see the bird but it was inactive for most of the time and remained at quite a distance, so only a record shot.

Having parked in the wrong place I was exhausted after a long walk so abandoned the third bird - Waldo  the Ring-billed Gull in Walpole Park Gosport - as he has visited regularly for 7 years I might get him next year. I finished up at Apuldram Church, a large flock of Yellowhammers had been reported, they were there but unfortunately I was unable to get close.  So early bath and possibly out again tomorrow - weather permitting.

Cattle Egret

Green Woodpecker

Green Woodpecker



Record shot of the Shorelark - he was a long way off!

Sunday 29 January 2012

The Big Garden Birdwatch

This morning was the Big Garden Birdwatch, something I have done for the last 3 years. I have to remind myself that it is a structured observation not a competition and that it is important to have an accurate count of the visiting birds.  I have maintained the same time each year too, 0815 to 0915, normally when the tit flock is most active and there is a constant stream of visitors. This year was different in that 14 of the total of 18 recorded species were logged in the first 20 minutes. However, the cause of the noticeable absence of birdlife half way through was found to be the neighbour's cat sat under our garden feeders. Once he had been sent packing business picked up again.

We started with a single Goldcrest in  the Christmas tree, a good omen and soon after the hungry hoard of Blue Tits arrived. Only one exciting sighting and that was of our first Redwing this year, the winter has been exceptionally mild with few frosts. However the wind has gone North and snow is forecast so I expect to see more of the Thrush family turning up over the next few days.

The last species was a lone Black-headed Gull heading up from the beach to the Downs

The list this year is as follows:

1.   Goldcrest
2.   Blackcap
3.   Blackbird              
4.   Blue Tit                 
5.   Wood Pigeon
6.   Chaffinch             
7.   Robin                    
8.   Dunnock              
9.   Goldfinch              
10. Starling                
11. Magpie                 
12. Herring Gull        
13. Carrion Crow
14. Coal Tit
15. Redwing
16. Greenfinch           
17. Great Tit
18. Black-headed Gull


"Yes, I attend the Big Garden Birdwatch every year"

"Wow! this water  sure is cold"

Alfie - the neighbour's cat - not the sharpest tack in the box - that's a plastic duck

Monday 23 January 2012

Short-eared Owls

Decided to visit Pulborough Brooks, the local RSPB reserve, there are always good birds here. It's just that at the weekends it gets a bit crowded. So off I went thinking to myself that Monday would be a quiet day. It started well but, as the most inconsiderate birders in the world had also decided to visit, it all ended up as a bit of a farce. Three birders from Planet Zork running round the zig-zag shouting "Bullfinch, Bullfinch!!!!" as loud as possible - T*****s. Then to cap it all a mad blonde haired woman screaming into her mobile phone at the top of her voice, obviously not a birder, and remonstrating with her was tantamount to suicide. So off to Waltham Brooks for some peace and quiet.

The most obliging Short-eared Owl turned up at just on 13:00 and was more inclined to sit than hunt, which was good for me as the light wasn't too bad.  So I went home feeling that the day wasn't so bad and that the cold, hunger and thirst were nothing to bother about and you can stuff inconsiderate birders where they belong.

Short-eared Owl

Tuesday 17 January 2012

Bearded Tits - at last!

Following several reports of Bearded Tits on the SOS website, and with the weather holding fair I scuttled off to the North Wall of Pagham Harbour with the camera. Early sighting of two birds was enough encouragement, unfortunately not close enough for photography. Nothing much else turned up so I meandered back to the sluice in an attempt to capture the Kingfisher. I became so engrossed in tracking the Kingfisher between the sluices that I forgot the Bearded Tits. Fortunately another kind birder alerted me to their arrival and I finally managed some clear but distant shots. The birds stayed for only about five minutes before they flew off into the many acres of reeds.  The day was topped off when a adult female Marsh Harrier gave a distant fly past.

Bearded Tit or Bearded Reedling
Species count 31 : Year list 118

West Dean way.

Just for a change a trip inland in an attempt to add a few ticks to the 2012 list. First stop was the grass verge opposite the Little Owl residence near to Stapleash farm. Try as I might I could not locate the little fellow although he was calling loudly. With time in hand I decided to press on along the road and then up the bridle way that leads into the wood. Things started quietly but soon warmed up with two Buzzards calling above the trees. Marsh Tits, Goldcrests, Long-tailed Tits, Great Tits and Blue Tits were in abundance. Added to this were Treecrepers and a lone Nuthatch. I heard a Hawfinch but unfortunately no view. The clear blue skies and warm sunshine were tempting and I almost stayed. However, I thought the fine weather was ideal for a trip to Waltham Brooks as the light would hold well into Short-eared Owl hunting time.

Little Owl
On the walk back to the car one last look for the Little Owl - there he was- showing well enough for a record shot, still calling loudly and I am convinced he has a partner which also called but no sighting.

I arrived at Waltham brooks about 14:00, plenty of birders about, and took a leisurely stroll down the footpath towards the footbridge where I met Dorian Mason. He was so well protected from the weather that at first I didn't recognise him. Onward to the sewage works to try to find a "greyish" Chiffchaff that Dorian had seen previously. No luck and not a lot showing at the works.

By the time I had returned to the footbridge the owls were hunting in the rapidly fading sunlight, just enough to get some shots but not the required quality. Same old story not enough light and the birds just too far away - ah well next time then.

Short-eared Owls

Wednesday 11 January 2012


I have, for some time, been attempting to get decent shots of Goldcrests in my garden. I have a large Christmas tree, an eighteen foot giant that started as a three foot reject some sixteen plus years ago. It has grown like Topsy and I have pruned it severely several times. I can't chop it down, even though, in horticultural terms, it is as ugly as sin.  It is home to nesting Blue Tits and roosting Robins, provides a food source for countless hoverflies and wasps and is infested with whitefly. It is the presence of the whiteflies that appears to attract my favourite guests - at least four Goldcrests that visit several times a day. Today the conditions were perfect - clear blue skies and lots of sunshine. Unfortunately these hyper-active little birds are impossible to photograph cleanly - here are my latest efforts. The Quest goes on!!


Goldcrest - neat headgear

One day I will trap him in the open

Saturday 7 January 2012

The Burgh

A visit to The Burgh to add a few raptors to the 2012 list. Unfortunately no-one had told the raptors. There was also a shoot today and I don't think that helped. As  I arrived at the "triangle" there was only one bird in the air, but the bonus was that it was the long staying Rough Legged Buzzard, a tick before the sun was up!. I decided to walk up to the dew pond to find a few more. The ubiquitous Kestrel showed  but very little else. There was a keen westerly breeze with a hint of north in it and it felt distinctly cold. Having reached the dew pond with no sighting to quicken the pulse  I carried on into the next valley. Once out of the wind things changed, with flocks of Reed Buntings, Skylarks, Corn Buntings and Meadow Pipits. individual Stonechat and a lone Pied Wagtail flying over, "chiswicking" all the time. On the way back the beaters were well underway and the guns were in business which meant birds were on the move, suddenly Grey Partridges arrived and paused long enough for a photo, and then a Hare moving rapidly until he saw me, stopped about twenty yards away, eyed me up and then decided to make himself scarce.

Grey Partridge

You don't have a gun - that's OK.

Species count 25 Year list 81

Wednesday 4 January 2012


A short visit the the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust site at Arundel, targets being the Bullfinches that have been reported recently and the chance of a Water Rail shot. The upshot was that I was distracted by the ducks but finally got around to walking the boardwalk in the reed bed. The Water Rails were in evidence, I saw four but none well enough to get a photograph.  Finally I located 7 Bullfinches but by this time there were plenty of visitors about and the birds wouldn't settle. Managed a decent shot of a female, the males were definitely less confiding.

Bullfinch - female

Tuesday 3 January 2012

Season 2012 under way.

I kicked off the New Year with a visit to Dungeness, primarily to see the Penduline Tit. The weather was set fair after some horrendous overnight rain - we must be enduring the wettest drought on record!!  Arrived at the Hanson hide at 0750 with the sun just on the way up and other birders close behind me.  Spent three and a half hours numbing my posterior on the wooden benches but managed a good start. Three Bitterns providing fly bys, great views of Marsh Harriers, Great White Egret and a distant Long-tailed Duck.  The presence of the Marsh Harrier causing temporary chaos amongs the ducks and waders, only the Great White Egret remained calm.

Marsh Harrier

Absolute chaos

Great White Egret
Full supporting cast of Ducks, Kingfisher, Water Rail, Cetti's Warbler and my favourite Tree Sparrows. By midday the hide was full so I decamped to the vistor centre - ominous sign was that the car park was full. Bank Holiday Mondays are not the optimal time for birding so I beat a hasty retreat to Scotney pits.

I parked just off the road, not sure whether I was in Sussex or Kent, and had good views of twenty plus Barnacle Geese grazing just inside the fence. Amongs them were at least 5 different looking geese which I think were either Barnacle x Greylag or Barnacle x Bar Headed crosses. Posted an ID request on Bird Forum but as yet no one is interested or has provided an answer.

Hybrids amongst Barnacle Geese

Hybrid Goose - Barnacle x Barhead ??

Definitely not one of these - Emperor Goose

Total for the day - 48 Species  - the year list now  51