Monday 30 September 2013

Blackdown Cuckoo

Today was a visit to Blackdown to find the three reported Ring Ouzels, unfortunately we dipped on those but whilst waiting we had distant views of what we thought was a mystery raptor. Of course it turned out to be a juvenile Cuckoo, somewhat late in the year and a fair distance away. The bird allowed us to approach to obtain record shots and then decamped to trees further up the valley. Another wait for the ROs gave only a Kestrel so we departed for Church Norton which turned out to be a waste of time as did a subsequent visit to the North Wall. When will these birdless days end??

A long way off
 Taking the macro lens allowed me to capture three specimens of the burgeoning fungi crop at Blackdown.

Fly Agaric, Amanita muscaria 

Parasol, Macrolepiota procera

Any ideas gratefully received

Wednesday 25 September 2013

Spotted Crake

With the local birding being easily described as "slack" and with Martin's encouragement, we decided to venture to pastures new. Today we visited the North Kent Coast taking in two venues that, on the day, were chalk and cheese.

First up was the RSPB reserve at Cliffe Pools, we had something of a challenge getting there as I don't think the RSPB have got round to putting up any of the familiar signs. It's always difficult on a first visit, as we made the mistake of parking a long way from our quarry, when with a bit of experience we could have been much closer. Anyway, target here was the Lesser Yellowlegs that had been reported on one of the Black Barn Pools. The Cliffe reserve covers a huge area, in fact 237 ha of saline lagoons and brackish pools created by old clay diggings and river dredgings. My first impressions were of vast amounts of water inhabited by few birds, I guess that will change with the onset of winter. On the fairly long walk to find the bird we saw very few other species. However, the place is alive with dragonflies and judging by the amount of Buddleia bushes on the trail, will be a brilliant butterfly haunt in the late summer months. Today, just a few Large Whites and a single Red Admiral.

On the trail we spied a familiar car and we knew that John Stanton and Mick Davis were about, all we had do was find them and we would be home and dry. A local birder gave us encouragement by telling us that the bird was present and pointed us in the right direction. As we arrived we were greeted by John and Mick and were treated to views of the LY using Mick's scope - cheers guys!

The bird had relocated to a far corner of an adjacent pool and was barely identifiable using binoculars. Given the light conditions were pretty grim, shooting into the sun and with a considerable glare from a slight mist, I didn't bother to take the camera from the case. At least it was a life tick. Having waited for some time in the hope the bird may come closer I became bored and went in search of camera fodder. Apart from a Kestrel on a post, that flew as soon as I mounted the camera, I saw little else. Then I made the second mistake of the day - I decided to return to the car park by completing the circular walk of the reserve, arriving at the car a full hour after Martin.

Somewhat delayed we pressed on to our second venue, Oare  Marshes. What a difference, as we approached we could see large quantities of birds, both on the water and in the air. Again we met John and Mick who were just leaving but took the time to give us a tip on the Spotted Crake. At first we spent some time just observing the birds from the roadside, the sheer numbers of Black-tailed Godwits and Avocets were stunning, all with a considerable supporting cast of Golden Plovers and Ruff.


Having expended sufficient pixels on birds sitting and in flight we made our way round to the East hide in search of the SC. We were left in no doubt as to where the bird could be found as there were several birders intently peering into a small reed covered pool just next to the path to the hide. Being polite, I asked several how long they had been waiting - the general response being about an hour. So we were lucky that after about ten minutes the bird made an appearance, scurrying around the mud like a small rat and in some minor altercation with a Water Rail. Getting a clear shot was virtually impossible but with such a great looking bird we stayed in the hope of capturing the ideal shot. Oddly, when every other birder had left, the bird came out on to the grassy bank and vanished into a bramble bush. Martin and I agreed that it had "probably gone to roost" when it left the bush, crossed the path to the hide and disappeared into the undergrowth. We were both so surprised that all we managed was a shot of the path itself!

A few more shots of the Golden Plovers from the roadside in a rapidly setting sun and it was time for home. Probably the longest birding day of the year for me and one of the most satisfying.

Ringed Birds

Of course, amongst so many birds there had to be some with rings:

 Postscript: I submitted a sighting report for this bird and received a reply from Peter Potts the following day informing me that RYO RNR was first ringed at Harty, The Swale, Kent on the 1st Sept 2012 and all subsequent sightings have been at Oare Marshes.

A sighting report of this Ruff has been made to a Dutch Ringing Group - awaiting developments.
 Postscript: No reply as yet but I suppose that it is early days, I reckon that 50% of the reports I make never get any info back.

Monday 23 September 2013

Spotted Flycatchers

The weather this morning was warm and dry but completely overcast; there was so little light that we postponed the start of our day's birding for an hour or so. First stop was Cissbury Ring, primarily to capture the Ring Ouzel that had been reported as being in the "Yewsual" place, the large Yew tree on the western end of the ring.  Actually it would have been nice to have seen any bird at the ring, all we saw was a constant stream of hirundines heading west. The ascent had us hot and bothered so we were happy to wait around for the RO to show but sadly it wasn't present, so we made a somewhat easier descent.

Second stop was the North Wall at Pagham, Martin wanted to catch up with the Curlew Sandpipers, unfortunately, by the time we arrived, the state of the tide meant that the birds had relocated elsewhere in the harbour. Yet again we met Dave Shepherd who informed us that another Ruff was on Breech Pool, so we passed the time by photographing a more adult specimen than the one we had seen previously.

At the rear of the pool were several Common Snipe, two of which were in some sort of territorial dispute, both seen to be displaying their orange tail feathers in a fan. By now the weather was improving considerably, with some sunshine showing through, time for our third venue, Church Norton. 

Standing in the car park we could see several Spotted Flycatchers feeding above the moat, also we expected to see a Pied Flycatcher but it was not to be. A quick visit to the churchyard confirmed that most of the action was opposite the footpath down to the harbour. Positioning ourselves there we captured some cracking shots of the most obliging birds, I reckon that there were at least ten birds present, possibly more, all flying from a favoured perch to catch an insect and returning to devour the prey.

Several Chiffchaffs showed but of the rumoured Wood Warbler, nothing to be found.

Nice to meet Bagsy Baker again, he of Portland Bill fame, can't mistake him as he is the only birder to wear such a distinctive hat. 

Friday 20 September 2013

Curlew Sandpipers

Following Trevor's blog of the Curlew Sandpipers in White's Creek, Pagham Harbour, I decided to give them a go. I was intending to do a trip to Farlington Marshes  but given that the morning was set fair with blue sky and some really nice sunlight, it was a no brainer. It was an opportunity to kill three birds with one stone. I wanted to give the 1D another go, also to try it with the 2x extender as the Canon 1 series will autofocus down to F8 with this unit. Of course I also wanted to get some decent shots of a delightful bird. Most importantly this is the species that I sponsored in "The Birds of Sussex", how could I ignore them?

Just after I arrived Trevor turned up, attempting to improve on his already excellent capture that he had posted on Flickr the previous night. Yet again we will no doubt be publishing very similar photographs.

Nice to meet Joanne, always good to put a face to a name, hope you had a good birding day.



Curlew Sands normally give their worms a good wash before eating them.

Wednesday 18 September 2013

Pagham, North Wall

The birding doldrums continue, we remain becalmed in a sea of usual suspects. A short visit to the North Wall at Pagham provided more of the same but with two small highlights.

A medium sized bird feeding on the mud of Breech Pool provided much debate, looking like a juvenile Curlew Sandpiper with great peach tones, but more seasoned birders were suspicious of the straight bill and pale legs. Well, with the huge hindsight provided by the camera shots, I reckon it is a juvenile Ruff, Philomachus pugnax, posted below are several heavy crops so judge for yourself. Perhaps next time a rare sandpiper.

Out in the harbour, a long way off, a Marsh Harrier was attempting to remove some grisly carrion. In the end it either found it too heavy or unpalatable.

Nice to meet Dave, Trevor, Ian and Dave Shepherd, all who exchanged pleasantries, unlike another well known birder who declined to speak.

One of the usual suspects.....................

Monday 16 September 2013

Ring-necked Parakeets

Yet another out of county experience with  a leisurely trip up to the London Wetlands Centre. We have been intending to go for some time but as there have been reports of Garganey on the wader scrape in recent days, this was the most opportune time.  All I can say is that we dipped on the Garganey and that, similar to most places of late, it was very quiet on the birding front. Just a tad disappointing but sufficient seen on the visit to ensure a return deeper into winter.

I had promised Martin that we would get a tick for a Ring-necked Parakeet, the locals thought we were mad looking for such a bird and were in disbelief that we didn't have them in the Worthing area. As we were just about to leave LWC we were treated to a loud squawking and a flash of green, no mistaking that bird. As we wanted some photographs we made a visit to Richmond Park, apart from the RNP I wanted to know how the Red Deer were doing, especially as early October is the time for the rut. I can report that it is early days yet, as we drove past the Isabella Plantation there were at least 15 stags quietly grazing together,  no hint of the drama to come. Obviously testosterone levels remain very low although we did hear one chap bellowing.  In Richmond Park the deer seem to be much more placid than the "Beasts of Bushy" and allow closer approach, as a consequence I found myself with too much lens on and I hadn't taken any smaller lenses. I am sure that my compatriot managed to get some shots of complete deer rather than just head shots.


Richmond is well populated with RNP, at Penn Ponds car park we were entertained by the constant movement of at least 50 birds but none were happy to pose in the sunlight.

The Jackdaws are a different kettle of fish, posing well for the camera. Each car park café has a resident population looking for any scraps that might come their way.

Last year we had a dearth of acorns, this year a bumper crop - at least the Jays will be happy.