Thursday 25 April 2013

Ah Grasshopper!

You have to be of a certain age to get the excruciating pun. Today was a visit to an area of wetlands somewhere in Sussex, mainly to find the reported Grasshopper Warbler and secondly, to get a sighting of a Cuckoo. As I parked in the car park at a bridge the Cuckoo was giving his all in the tall trees on the east side of the river. By the time I got to the wooden footbridge I had him visually, just where he was last year. In the distance, close to the railway crossing I could see three birders staring intently at a bramble bush - very promising. As I closed the distance I heard the unmistakable reeling of  the Grasshopper Warbler. On arrival at the scene, the bird promptly vanished, but I was assured that it would soon return and so it did. Nice to meet Sandra, another familiar name now has a face.


During the vigil we were treated to flybys of Red Kite, Peregrine, Buzzard, Sparrowhawk and Hobby.  Somewhat later a pair of Kestrels made an appearance

Finally, in the garden the new "feeder" is getting lots of visits, the irony is that none of the birds taking the wool are nesting in my garden.

Monday 22 April 2013

Long-eared Owl

A twitcher I am not, though occasionally I am happy to travel to see birds.  Today I had decided that no matter how I felt I was going to see the Long-eared Owl if it was still present at Pagham. A LEO has been top of my most wanted photographs for a long time and this was an opportunity not to be missed.After breakfast I placed all the camera gear in the hall ready for the off, prevarication and prognostication set in and I thought that perhaps I would be better off at home. However the report on Birdguides that the bird was showing well was sufficient to galvanize me into action.

Unloading at Pagham I still had doubts but, on finding the bird, all aches and pains disappeared.  There is something about owls that is pure charisma. No showy plumage but stunning presence, sitting in full sun and totally aware of up to 10 birders pointing all sorts of devices in its direction, not a care in the world and posing perfectly.  Well I know it is only late April but this is definitely my bird of the year - simply stunning.

Friday 12 April 2013

Brambling and Barn Owl

Yesterday was full of pleasant surprises; wandering round the garden mid morning I noticed an instantly recognisable sound, a Raven "cronking" his way from the Gap towards Highdown Hill. Followed immediately by some very high flying Mediterranean Gulls. Next up was a visit from a Brambling, snacking on the black sunflower seeds. Grabbing the camera I managed a few shots before it retreated to the safety of the cherry tree.

Another surprise - the Blackcap population is still rising, six today, 5 males and 1 female.

A rarity - a bird in sunshine!

And finally a Willow Warbler visited the pond but didn't stay long, last year a pair nested in my next door neighbour's garden and were regular visitors.

Buoyed up by an encouraging morning and with the weather set fair, I decided to go to Waltham Brooks. A pair of Garganey had been reported the previous day and I was hoping for a tick, also hirundines had been spotted too. I made my way via the sewage works, which were very quiet visually but there were many Chiffchaffs calling in the hedgerow. Crossing the railway I was greeted by large and vociferous flock of Meadow Pipits, but sadly, little else.

On the lake were all the usual suspects, Shoveler, Tufted, Mallard, Gadwall, Teal  and Shelduck but no Garganey.  On the way back to the car park I spotted a very pale Barn Owl, it spent almost four hours continuously searching across the Brooks, making many pounces but not once did I see a catch. Finally it gave up and perched deep in the cover of an evergreen tree on the far bank of the river. I suspect that the extensive flooding has reduced the rodent population drastically and times are very hard.  

As always with owls, no really satisfying shots

Finally, year ticks in the form of Sand Martins and Swallows feeding as a mixed flock, really nice to see them as it has been a long winter.

I see from Trevor's Blog that Garganey were seen on Breech Pool, my alternative venue. However, if I had gone there I would not have met Dick  who introduced me to his wife Sue, really nice to meet you both.

Tuesday 9 April 2013


The garden bird population has changed considerably over the last few days, the slowly rising temperatures have stimulated pairing and nest building activity. The Coal Tits have disappeared and the Blue Tit and Goldfinch counts decreased considerably. Both Starlings and Blackbirds are collecting nest material. However the most noticeable change is that our Blackcaps have increased to four, possibly five. Three fairly aggressive males and a single female in sight at one time confirm my count but there is, I am sure, a much more secretive female. The males are calling and chasing each other and strive for domination of the suet feeders, no singing or pairing activities, just the drive to get as fat as possible before migration.


The Starlings are happy to use weeds that I removed from the borders and left on the lawn to dry out, the Blackbirds prefer the drier material.

Getting close is not a problem when they have other things on their mind.



Singing his head off

Saturday 6 April 2013

Rye and Pett

An early morning start, a man on a mission to find the Kentish Plover at Rye Harbour. Martin is getting dangerously close in the year tick tally and I felt obliged to do a "mini twitch". Leaving home the skies were cloudless and augured a good day, unfortunately, as I passed by Polegate, the heavens became the usual solid leaden grey of the past few months.

Never mind, I thought to myself as I set up shop outside Lime Kiln Cottage, hoping to have the bird in the bag and to be able to move on to Dungeness fairly quickly.  Well the bird had disappeared, despite being seen by the warden early in the day. Several hours passed with no result so I took a walk round to the Parkes hide, just the usual suspects about, plenty of Avocets, Dunlin, Ringed Plover and a solitary Bar-tailed Godwit.

As I reached the footpath I decided to give it one last shot  and thanks to Neil, a birder from London who convinced me to move to where the bird had reportedly been sighted, the bird was found. Well, it is an understatement to say the camera was redundant, it was a long way off, a mere speck and difficult to identify even with the scope. I also found myself guilty of ignoring other birds, concentrating only on the plover, as Neil pointed out a group of Ruff just in front of us.

On the way home I called in at Pett Level and scanned the Colonel Body Memorial Lakes, which were almost devoid of birds. By chance I wandered over the shingle and discovered a mini west to east migration. Mainly Brent Geese, Red-throated Divers, Black-throated Divers, Common Scoter and sundry Sandwich Terns.

There seemed to be a definite movement of Black-headed Gulls  flying low and purposefully against the easterly breeze.

Finally, a flyby of a different sort of bird - Spitfire KJ-I

To cap it all, as I reached home in glorious sunshine I went out into the back garden just as a flock of 20+ Med Gulls wheeled high above me, their calls being the absolute clincher on the ID - another garden tick!

Tuesday 2 April 2013

Black Day at Pagham

Well not really, two of the birds were black by name, but the day was bright and it was great to get out in some sunshine. Having been grounded for a fortnight and still not really up to a  full day's birding I didn't want to blow it. So, although  I would have enjoyed a day at Rye, I decided to see if I could manage a few hours at Pagham.  With the sun in an almost clear blue sky and a chilly north east wind, I found myself by the stables at the entrance to the North Wall. The Black Redstart that has been about for almost a week was most obliging, if not totally predictable.

Having expended considerable memory on a gorgeous bird I took a walk along the wall to survey the Breech Pool. Most of the usual suspects were present, the Wigeon are still looking good. So too are the Black-tailed Godwits that are shifting into summer garb.

Then a double take, a large dark coloured bird emerged from the reeds, a Black Swan, happy to be in the company of five Mute Swans. If they cross what on earth do the offspring look like. Don't panic Martin, it isn't on the British List!


By lunch time the flesh was weakening, although the spirit was willing, I thought it time for home and a warm cuppa.

Just a few more worth keeping:

Chiffchaff happiness is a great pile of horse poo