Monday 25 March 2013

Long-tailed Tits

I remain firmly garden bound at the moment. However, topping up the feeders this morning gave me the opportunity to record the remarkable agility of a pair of Long-tailed Tits. I regard these birds as the highest evolution of cotton wool balls on a stick and extremely entertaining. We have a fairly tame Robin who will sit in one of the shrubs, staring through the patio doors and demanding to be fed individually. I usually comply and after showing him a small handful of suet nibbles throw them on the ground. The Long-tailed Tits have obviously learned from this and as soon as the Robin departs, come down to pick up the remaining treats. I have noticed that they grab a nibble, fly to the nearest bush and transfer the tasty morsel to a claw and then hang one-legged by the other, to consume the delicacy.


Wednesday 20 March 2013


When I am working in the garden I invariably keep a camera close to hand. Today was no exception, mainly because the Jays, which have been with us all winter, were about. Since last October I have been feeding a handful of peanuts on the lawn each day, slowly the Jays have become accustomed to being fed. They now tolerate my presence on the patio as they drop in to grab some nuts and fly off, so, today was the day to get some clear photographs. Also, the garden residents have been subject to some predation lately as several circles of feathers have indicated a Sparrowhawk at work, at least two Blackbirds and our lone Song Thrush have provided his meal. If he visited today then I hoped to get some shots.

Having captured the Jay and realised that these birds are extremely wary, just the noise of the camera shutter was sufficient to spook them, I noticed some movement in our dilapidated Christmas tree, home to a pair of Goldcrests. I was about to ignore them when I realised that this bird was much greener and brighter. Suddenly it dawned on me that we had our first ever Firecrest, into headless chicken mode as I chased the highly mobile bird around the garden, at least she gave me several decent glimpses to record.



 The usual resident of the Christmas tree

 The Jay, obligingly at about a distance of 15 ft

Danger, with a distinctive damaged tail feather, circles the neighbourhood

The male Blackcap looking rather 'worn'

At least one pair of Blackbirds are collecting nest material

Monday 18 March 2013

Black Redstart

A Black Redstart, as Dick - one of my readers will tell you, has been my bogey bird for some time, always seen at a distance and no decent photographs obtained. Today I was determined to resolve that.  As Martin and I had decided that it was time to do some local birding, we visited Telscombe Cliffs, where a handsome bird had been reported on SOS. We scoured the area around the water works without success, there were several nice Rock Pipits present and a good looking male Wheatear, obviously fresh in, posed on top of the cliff. The two Peregrines gave us flybys but try as we might - no Black Redstart.

As a fallback we made our way to Seaford  Church where a BR has resided for several weeks but again nothing to be seen, no consolation that passers-by informed us that the bird was about last week. Excitement as we spotted a fresh in Chiffchaff foraging in the bushes next to the pub, at one stage finding the most enormous green caterpillar, but no Redstart. Abandoning the search we made our way to Newhaven West Beach in the hope of finding something exotic, fresh in from a channel crossing - all was very quiet.

Fortuitously we met Paul a local birder who had just been to Telscombe and photographed the Redstart. With precise details and locations we revisited the cliffs on our way home. Thanks to Paul for the spot on information and to another local birder who demonstrated how to get a clear shot - the bricks were ideal.


On home via the Ferring Gull roost, which was sparsely occupied and the Durrington Lloyds Registry building where, one day, Martin will see a local Peregrine - guaranteed

Thursday 14 March 2013

Black and White Birds

I am conscious that if two birders with cameras visit the same place and that if they both blog then there will be a lot of similarities.No apologies - just read both. However, my blog is a diary, not all photographs will be good but at least will record where, when and how I have seen birds. Also, Martin has encouraged me to work harder to rescue shots that I would have previously discarded. Thanks be to Photoshop and his skill.

Today we visited Dungeness and the birds were all at a distance, but Smew are difficult to find and even harder to record. We were delighted to find seven in view at the same time, five red tops and two fine drakes. We could have waited all day and they would not have come any nearer, in fact after about half an hour of frantic displaying they all went to sleep on one of the small islands.

Birds were thin on the ground and in the air, I suspect the chilly northerly wind being the reason.
A visit to Dungeness beach was like being in a vast wasteland and trying to find a single Glaucous Gull was akin to "mission impossible"
We returned via Rye harbour, visits to the hides at Ternery and Quarry pools confirmed that we were a tad early in the season. Plenty of vociferous Black-headed Gulls already occupying sites on the islands, but no early terns. On the way back to the car park we counted nine Avocets, a pleasing sight as they are obviously all paired up, bar one of course!!

Well this one has some grey in it. Finally a ringed Herring Gull at Pett Level, A4DC, which I suspect is a RSPCA Mallydams rescue bird. It would be intereresting to know when it was released. I have received advice on several occasions to report the sightings on the BTO website, fine, but I have yet to receive any replies.

Wednesday 13 March 2013

Water Rail

Humble apologies for the delay in posting but having completed two circumnavigations of Farlington Marshes in one day I was just too knackered to put fingers to keyboard. We started the first circuit just after the morning rush hour, with a rising tide there were plenty of birds to be seen, especially Brent Geese relocating all over the marshes. We dutifully searched every flock, every individual bird was scanned, to no avail, the Red Breasted Goose was not there. However, just before Point field the Spoonbill put on a short display which meant one of our target species was in the bag. Other birders reported a no show too, so we left for Baffin's Pond and the Water Rails. For once I was "over lensed", using a 400mm on the Canon 7D meant that many of my shots of three obliging birds more than filled the frame.   Odd that such reclusive birds can be found in a reed bed of a park lake in the middle of Portsmouth, oblivious to dog walkers, passers by and birders. In fact the resident Moorhens and Mallards being much more of a threat than mere humans.


Next stop was Southsea Castle, where we had another go at improving the Purple Sandpiper shots. With a high tide and nine birds moving up the sea wall conditions would have been perfect except for the disappearance of the sun. However, I was happy with the results as they were much better than our last attempt.

We returned to Farlington for a second shot at the RBG, birders returning to the car park gave us a precise location and we commenced our second circuit. This time success, finding the bird in a huge flock of Brents. As a bonus, when the whole flock went aerial and relocated, we found the RBG closer to the footpath and managed a decent record shot.

A bonus - a true wild black rabbit - something I haven't recorded for ages.

 My original plan was to go to Baffin's Pond to photograph some amenable Shovelers that occupy the pond along with a host of Tufted Ducks and Mallards. Well calling them Mallards is stretching it a bit as they all seem to be of dubious parentage. However, I did notice these two handsome inhabitants, Call Ducks are a bantam breed of domesticated duck raised primarily for decoration or as pets, obviously someone has set a pair free.

Tuesday 12 March 2013

Goring and Ferring

I hope my seven readers will forgive me, as today is not really about birding. After some twenty four hours of snow the sky brightened and as I was feeling much better I decided to take my camera for a walk. One of my favourite perambulations is via Ilex Way to Ferring beach, taking in Groyne No.4 of course and along to the Bluebird cafe. Here, I normally turn up the western side of Ferring Rife, today I had to take the eastern path as the footbridge where I normally cross over is closed for repairs. I then continue through Ferring Churchyard to the cricket ground and back along Ilex Way to home.

So first up was Ilex Way, a canopy of huge evergeen Holm oak over a carpet of snow. Holm oak, Quercus ilex, or Holly Oak is a native to the Mediterranean region and thrives in Sussex, I have no idea who planted these trees but I would like to thank him or her, they are host to lots of wildlife.

The information board only considers summer!
On via the turn for Goring Hall and The Plantation to the gull roost at Ferring. At first I thought the fields to be devoid of gulls then I realised the white lumps of snow in the north west corner were birds hunkered down to avoid the vicious easterly wind. A majority of the flock were  Common Gulls with a sprinkling of Black-headed Gulls. I did manage to spot a Mediterranean Gull, albeit after I had downloaded the photos at home.

From a distance - just like snow

Mainly Common Gulls

3 species of gull present

A single Med Gull
Groyne No.4 was almost devoid of birds, just solitary Turnstone and Ringed Plover with a few Black-headed Gulls loafing offshore.

By the Bluebird cafe the beach huts looked incongruous with snow in front of them and icicles hanging from the roof. Even the shingle strand looked different with a covering of drifted snow.

On to a snow covered footpath on the eastern side.

Along the rife just a few Meadow Pipits were struggling to find something edible.

These snow covered tussocks gave me the impression of some alien form of hedgehog!!

 Back into Ilex Way accompanied by dogs and walkers enjoying the sunshine

That's not a stick  - it's a log!!

Finally, home for a hot mug of tea!