Thursday 31 January 2013

Cetti's Warbler

I guess that if you blog about birding it would be easy to just report successful days out and omit the failures. Of course this depends upon your yardstick of success, Yesterday Martin and I travelled to Dungeness where, in birding terms we had a great day, for me a failure as I ended up with an awful lot of bad photographs.

We arrived at the ARC side of Dungeness at about 0800, no other cars were in the car park and we found the ARC hide to be empty and had it almost to ourselves for the next two hours - bliss! There was a sharp westerly breeze and I expected the birds to be sat in the lee of the hide - wrong! - the birds, mainly ducks were spread far and wide. First up was a distant fly by of a Marsh Harrier then another, then another. I reckoned on a least ten sightings, probably more. At one time we had four harriers in sight at the same time and another where three and a Buzzard were present, albeit at a distance.  Next to arrive on the scene was a Great White Egret parading itself in front of the empty viewing screen, meanwhile an amorous Goldeneye was performing a fantastic display ritual to some uninterested ladies. Whilst all this was happening we had a flyby of a Kingfisher close to the hide windows, then Martin spotted a distant Bittern landing in the reeds of the far bank, the bird remaining in view at the edge of the reeds for some time.

I could hear a Cetti's Warbler calling in the reeds to the right of the hide and decided to investigate, opening the right hand side window I was amazed to see the bird foraging in the scrub immediately below the window. Talk about being frustrated, my lens far too big to get focus, for the first time I was asking a bird to move away. Anyway what usable shots I managed to get are shown below.

An eccentric head throwing display that didn't do a lot for the two females watching.

Having had more Kingfisher, Sparrowhawk, Marsh Harrier flybys and yet another Bittern we left the hide for the car park. On the trail a birder just in front of us flushed both the GWE and a Bittern from adjacent pools.  Next port of call was Boulderwall Farm, just over the road, home to the most famous flock of Tree Sparrows in Kent. I had guaranteed Martin close up shots of them on the feeders by the farmhouse. To my amazement not a bird to be seen and my credibility out of the window, then slowly, two or three at a time the birds began arriving from a bush across the road. They seemed to put off by the strong breeze but eventually they showed.
The GWE or should I say 'a'  as there are 7 of them reported to be in the area, flew by and landed in the pool next to the road. So, leaving Martin with the sparrows, I nipped onto the road and managed a record shot.

Why do Bitterns always crash land?
A really smart bird

A quick call in at the Visitor Centre and then away to Scotney Pit where there were monstrous amounts of wildfowl, all viewable from the comfort of the car. Despite much searching we found no hidden rarities, though we did get a Ruff roosting on the bank with three Redshanks. Before we left, a flock of Barnacle Geese, probably more than 30, arrived and landed on the grass. These are the usual residents and in with the flock were three Emperor x Barnacle hybrids that I had seen last year. On the far bank we spied yet another Marsh Harrier, they seem to be everywhere.

Making our way back to Eastbourne we paused at the "Colonel Body Memorial Lakes" at Pett Level, similarly filled with large amounts of wildfowl, oddly enough the Shoveler were more numerous than at Scotney. Oh and a Marsh Harrier quartering the far bank.

The Bonaparte's Gull at Princes Park had been reported as being present during the morning, but of course during our vigil it didn't show

So there you have it - a paradox - great birding - poor photography. The true measure of the day is that when Martin dropped me off at home I thought "What a great day - when are we going again?

Sunday 27 January 2013

Goldcrests II

Just a quick trial to see if capturing Goldcrests would be easier using flash. The birds have been more amenable lately, visiting the feeders and the bird table. The same problems exist, obscuration by foliage and they are constantly moving. Most birds are not spooked by flash, Robins, Tits and Dunnocks may sometimes move away a few feet but soon return. Goldcrests appear to be totally oblivious of flash, continuing to feed even when multi flash mode is used, on the other hand Wood Pigeons are really disturbed by flash and disappear rapidly. Now there's a thought!

 I prefer not to have photographs of birds on feeders but in this shot that is the point - not a common occurrence.


  Perhaps a little more practice required.

Even a Dunnock looks good with flash

Big Garden Bird Watch

I couldn't miss this annual event so between 0900 and 1000 this morning I set watch at the patio doors. I cheated slightly as half an hour before the start I topped up all the feeders and scattered some ground feed on the bird table. As always, the majority of the bird species came in the first twenty minutes and according to the Law of Sod, the Long-tailed Tits turned up ten minutes late. Two Jays were the necwomers to the list and a notable absentee was the Magpie. My neighbour, to the rear of my property, religiously feeds the gulls, today he had a lie in and I only logged the ever present Herring Gull. The Black-headed Gulls usually perching on my roof before decending into his garden. Really nice to have the House Sparrows, courtesy a of hole in a neighbour's roof, they have bred and remained local. I hope to put up a sparrow terrace box this year.

Final List:

Blue Tit
Coal Tit
Collared Dove
Great Tit
Herring Gull
House Sparrow
Wood Pigeon

Saturday 26 January 2013

Bearded Tits

With glorious blue skies and sunshine how could you not go birding? Today was about improving on the dismal shots of recent days, where we had seen fantastic birds but due to the grey clag our photographs could not do them justice. First stop - Swanbourne Lake for the Firecrests, of course the change of weather had caused a change of behaviour and the smaller birds were back up in the canopy rather than on the ground foraging in the leaf litter. So, yet again, the Firecrests and their Goldcrest companions were blurred images. Even the usually obliging Treecreeper proved difficult. As more birders gathered under the trees at the end of the lake we beat a hasty retreat to Hayling Island. This turned out to be a virtual re-run of Thursday with very few birds present at high water.

So back to the west side of Pagham Harbour at the Long Pool for the Bearded Tits, whilst not elusive they are hard to photograph, constant movement on swaying reeds and very rarely coming out into the clear make for shots that are never quite on the money,coupled with the fact that today they were reluctant to come close, most shots are heavy crops. Ah well! There is always another day.

These are what I managed to capture.

No discrimination intended, I just could not get a clear shot of a female.

Friday 25 January 2013


During the recent cold spell 'our' resident Goldcrests have modified their behaviour considerably. Normally they remain in the large Christmas Tree feeding upon all manner of insects, during the cold weather the branches and needles of the tree became filled with snow which subsequently froze, cutting the birds off  from their source of food. I noticed some days ago that they were visiting the feeding station in the garden and picking up fragments of suet pellets that had fallen to the ground. Then they actually visited the feeders but I imagine they found it difficult to extract anything, today I noticed that the female has now taken to visiting the bird table, because of her small size she is at the bottom of the pecking order but is obtaining sufficient food to ensure survival. The video below was recorded on my HD trail cam, unfortunately transferring to the blog causes a massive loss of definition.

Where all the food goes!

Blackcaps do not stay for long.

Wilf the wood mouse is surviving too

Thursday 24 January 2013

A grey day

On a fairly miserable cold and grey day most of the birds we saw were grey by name or hue. Oddly enough the forecast was reasonable and as Martin and I made our way to Swanbourne Lake at Arundel we expected early morning sunshine. So, yet again, in the dark gloom we found ourselves feet away from one of the most colourful birds, a Firecrest, in fact several of them. It was most frustrating that there was insufficient light to get even a fuzzy record shot. Whilst waiting for better conditions I was distracted by a Grey Wagtail, which obligingly came close but could only be captured with high ISO and low shutter speed.

It was only a matter of time before we gave up and headed off to Hayling Island, this time exploring the land to the east of the Ferry Terminal. On the way we made the customary stops at both ends of the Hayling Bridge, this time just after high tide but with precious little to be seen. On to the ferry, stopping at The Kench where we found a friendly Grey Plover.

Just as we were getting into the car a bird flew across the road, as I stepped up into the hedge to scan the bushes I spied a perched Short-eared Owl amongst the gorse of the warren. The directions to find the owl are simple - find the sign pictured below, of course some wag has removed the word golf, and look over the fence.

At the ferry and out in the channel very little to be seen, on the far side we located the resident Shag that we had seen on the previous visit and further down the channel just two Great Crested Grebes.

Tuesday 22 January 2013

Golden Plovers

A quick dash to Pagham Harbour to try to locate the Bearded Tits on the Long Pool. I parked the car at the visitor centre just as the sun was rising, a beautiful sight, but unfortunately I had brought only the big lens. As I made my way along the path past the hide the current influx of Fieldfares and Redwings was obvious, they were everywhere. From the viewpoint I counted 43 Shelduck on Ferrry Pool, all swimming in the small amount of free water in a frozen lake.

I started the vigil at the Long Pool, after an hour I became bored and walked down to the end of LP where the wooden seat overlooks the channel, as soon as I stepped off the path I flushed a Jack Snipe, how on earth do you photograph such a bird? Another hour of the vigil passed and I was joined by a birder who had seen the birds the previous day but wanted to obtain better photographs - not much chance in the prevailing light! Then Ivan came by and we passed several minutes on the pros and cons of cameras and digital photography - still no show. Then finally after about two and a half hours I located three of the tits very distant. They were calling but only a male showed fleetingly - never mind - a year tick and another wait for better weather.

 On the horizon dark clouds were gathering and the south easterly breeze was picking up and try as I might I couldn't relocate the Bearded Tits, so I made my way back to the car park, stopping at the viewpoint to find that the Shelducks had left the pool and were roosting on the bank. Just as I passed the hide I was treated to a high altitude flypast of a skein of geese, nineteen or twenty which I am sure were White Fronted Geese, their flight path taking them straight down the harbour but they showed no sign of descending.

By now the rain was coming steadily down and I decided that a visit to West WIttering was in order, just so that I could do some birding in the comfort of the car, well I did want to record some more ringed Brent Geese. When I arrived the grassy fields were occupied by a scattering of Brents, a handful of Lapwings and some obviously hungry Golden Plovers. These birds appear to be adept at finding earthworms but not so clever at keeping them. As a bird pulled a large worm from the ground other birds would swoop in to steal the prize, including Black-headed Gulls that would chase the Plovers relentlessly until they gave up their food.

Sunday 20 January 2013

Fieldfares, Blackcaps and Goldcrest

Having just joined the Shoreham and District Ornithological Society I thought that it was fitting to commence my first Garden Bird Watch. So, taking advantage of the bad weather,  I sat down by the patio windows with pencil and paper. Of course the camera was also mounted, just to record anything unusual.

Blackcaps have reached their highest count with two females and one male, they are very territorial but not as bad as the 9 Fieldfares that turned up. One dominant bird hogging the apples that I had placed on the frozen bird bath. One Redwing turned up, looked at the Fieldfares and left immediately.

Blackbirds peaked at five but it was pleasing to see a Song Thrush drinking from the pond where I had cleared the ice. Oh, one Greenfinch quietly munching its way through the white millet.

A very annoyed Blackbird

Whilst not actually in the garden - a 2nd winter Common Gull
Then long after sunset I noticed a small bird foraging under one of the suet feeders. picking up the crumbs that had dropped to the ground, a Goldcrest,  obviously times are hard but at least this lady is getting some sustenance. In fact when every other bird had gone to roost she moved onto the feeder itself and stayed until 1645, the only bird to outstay that time was a single Fieldfare that remained until it was almost dark.