Thursday 28 November 2013

Colour Ringed BTG

Another positive result for a colour ringed Black-tailed Godwit sighting report. I e-mailed the information about WG-OB  to Raymond Duncan of the NE Scotland Black-tailed Godwit Project and I received a superb reply today.

Black-tailed Godwit RL:O//Bm-LL:WG was first ringed as a juvenile on the 21st September 2013 at Montrose Basin, NE Scotland, after a further sighting in that area the bird turned up at Breech Pool. It was still in residence when we visited the North Wall on Wednesday, happy with the newly exposed mud.

If you come across a colour ringed Godwit then please submit a sighting report. This document on the Colour Ringing Scheme   gives information on all the Black-tailed Godwit ringing programmes

Tuesday 26 November 2013

Beardies, Stonechats, Kestrel and Water Rails

What a mouthful for a title. Yesterday I was moaning that I had hardly any photographs to blog - today the complete opposite. We started at Farlington marsh in another vain attempt at the White Fronted Geese  - truly a wild goose chase. Having nearly completed a full circuit of the marsh I had expended few pixels, a situation that was not really remedied by a flock of Bearded Tits that refused to show themselves, a few partial shots was all I could muster.


As we approached the car park Martin discovered a hat on the path which had obviously been dropped by the birder we had passed moments before. This must have set off a train of events that led to a remarkable day. By being delayed slightly we came across two male Stonechats willing to be photographed.

Next we were privileged to have close views of a female Kestrel which, while we were snapping away, dived down into the grass and emerged with what appeared to be a shrew or vole. Normally Kestrels disappear with their prey, not a bit of it, sitting out in the open she proceeded to have lunch in front of us. Unfortunately, said rodent was a tad too large to go down in one go, so the head was removed and eaten, followed by a few smaller chunks and then the rest slid down comfortably, albeit with a large lump in the throat.

 Having been delayed we decided that the rest of the day should be spent on the North Wall at Pagham. As I stated previously, Breech Pool now has a large expanse of mud with much reduced water levels. No doubt these conditions have brought out the Water Rails to play - see the previous blog. So all in all a great day's birding that was close to being another failure.

Fighting Rails

The much reduced water levels on Breech Pool have resulted in wide expanses of lovely mud. Today there were 4 Water Rails showing well, two of which were happy to go walkabouts in the open. Of course excursions into another bird's territory resulted in some ferocious squabbling accompanied by voluble squealing, very entertaining. As always, the best action happens at a distance, so, many of the photographs are not the best quality and have been fairly heavily cropped. However, I do believe they capture the essence of the drama.

Don't forget to visit Martin's Birding Blog - follow the link. He was also there to capture the action.


Monday 25 November 2013

Two into One

When birding doesn't go your way it is hard to put together a blog - much easier to let it go. Well, just lately the birds we have chased have not been present or a long way off. There are only so many ways to get material and after a while it all looks a bit repeated - no apology - this is how it is. However, I have a new solution - combine two days into one.

Yesterday was Farlington Marsh, Martin and I needed the White Fronted Geese as a year tick. It was deja vu as we stood on the sea wall of the north marsh, watching every single goose that flew in off the mud as the tide rose. Just the same as searching for the Red Breasted Goose earlier in the year.

Only this time we dipped - so I resorted to photographing colour ringed Black-tailed Godwits and some amenable Meadow Pipits. I shan't stoop to publishing the picture of the scruffy Crow that sat on a fence post in front of us, although I notice there are three frames of it - well I was desperate.

Today was more of the same - down to Blashford Pits for the Red Crested Pochard, it showed well - with a head that colour it could hardly do anything else. I missed the Ferruginous Duck nearby and visits to other venues in the forest were frustratingly fruitless. However, I was thoroughly entertained by the antics of a pair of Ravens canoodling - unfortunately a long way off - again!!

Friday 22 November 2013

Selsey Sea(l) Watch

Desperate for a few more ticks for the year I decided to do a sea watch at Selsey Bill. The wind was bitter and just a tad west of north as I hunkered down behind the concrete sea wall on the bill. Out of the wind it was pleasant - just a hint of warmth in the sun. Some of the usual suspects were about but distant, Red-breasted Merganser, Great Crested Grebe and several flocks of Common Scoter. A Great Northern Diver appeared close inshore so I returned to the car for the camera - you guessed it - gone when I returned. Two birders who passed by confirmed that it was still about further down the coast, having set everything up I chose not to relocate.

After what appeared to be a promising start things quietened down considerably. I was jerked out of my daydreams as I spied a large black object close in to the groynes. I wasn't sure what it was but when I saw the whiskers in the sunlight I knew straight away that it was a seal and a big one at that. It hung around for ten minutes and then disappeared. As the tide rose things got even quieter, a distant flyby of some Wigeon the only thing of note.


So it was up sticks and away to the north wall, where the wind was even more bone chilling. At least the water levels on Breech Pool have receded and at long last there is an expanse of mud for the waders. In residence was a single Ruff, Mallards, Wigeon and Teal. Several Snipe were loitering at the edge of the reeds and amongst the spread out Black-tailed Godwits a colour ringed specimen to record WG-OB.

White Green - Orange Blue.

Lots of lovely mud.....

.....and water.

One bonus was that due to the low temperature the air quality was superb for photography, just could have done with a few more targets 

Thursday 21 November 2013

Sacre Bleu!

As I have mentioned previously, if possible, I try to record any ringed birds that I see. With the camera it is easy  - photograph the rings and when post processing crop as heavy as necessary to read the information - simple! However, in the past I have been known to grumble about how long it takes to receive a reply - never again.  Late Tuesday evening I searched the Euring Website for the particular project that rings Med Gulls with white rings prefixed 3 and found the e-mail address for Camille Duponcheel. I constructed a report:

Mediterranean Gull: White Leg Ring 3K50
Sighted: Lepe, Hampshire, United Kingdom
Date: 19/11/2013 10:34 UTC Position: 50.79N   1.34W  Nat Grid Ref SZ462 987
Picture attached,
This was sent at 2157, imagine my surprise as I downloaded my email the next morning to find a reply timed at 0511 - astounding service. Most of the ringing groups request that you keep the database output confidential but it is OK to give an extract.
Mediterranean Gull/ Mouette Melanocephale 3K50 was ringed at Antwerp, aged >3CY, on 22/04/2006  and there have been 11 subsequent sightings. This bird obviously likes the Hampshire coast as 9 these have been in the county.
Whilst waiting for the Lesser Yellowlegs to show, I did some experimenting with the camera, for birders the following shot of a Dunnock is quite unremarkable, it is a bit washed out, the depth of field is ridiculously small and there is a fuzziness to it. But I took it with the Canon 1D MkIV coupled to stacked x2 and x1.4 extenders and the 500mm f4 lens. The camera is tricked into believing that only a x2 is connected so it behaves as a 1820 mm F8 lens that autofocuses - albeit a tad slowly. I am hoping that this will prove useful to record birds when sea watching. Shot at f8 1/320s ISO 800. Post processing - cropped, noise reduction and sharpening. 

Today's outing was a visit to the WWT at Arundel, with the weather set wet, windy and cold, our reasoning was that the hides would afford some protection as well as the chance of a bird or two. Especially as there have been recent sightings of Spotted Crake, Bittern and Bearded Tit.

Before parking at WWT we had a quick visit to Swanbourne Lake, just in case there was something out of the ordinary. Not this time - plenty of Black-headed and Common Gulls, a disappearing Grey Wagtail, Tufted Ducks and a multitude of Coots.

On to WWT where we visited each hide in turn but despite loitering around we found very little, the birds were doing exactly the same as us - sheltering from a bitter north-easter. Back to the Visitor Centre via the boardwalk and the Wildfowl collection. I couldn't resist a photograph or two of a couple of colourful residents - very smart individuals indeed. The best part of the day was the steaming mug of tea in the restaurant.


Tuesday 19 November 2013

Lesser Yellowlegs (II)

Martin and I have some sort of mantra that goes - See bird - Photograph bird - Improve photograph, of course not always in one visit.

So in perfect weather conditions we returned to the location of the Lesser Yellowlegs at Lepe Country Park. If you have seen the photographs we obtained on our first visit, then you will understand readily that virtually any photograph would be an improvement. Of course central to this plot is that the bird is actually visible. After a fairly long wait in a brisk northerly breeze we spotted the target, yet again a long way off. Then after another considerable wait the bird re-appeared on the pool in front of us but at a range that I would call "acceptable record shot". After expending a large amount of camera memory I remain disappointed with the results. With the bird withdrawing to the back of the pool we too withdrew - to the welcoming warmth of the car park cafĂ© for a pot of tea for two.

 Next on the list was a revisit to Jetty Lagoon at Pennington Marsh for the Long-billed Dowitcher as Martin wanted to try to improve on his previous shots. Just as on the last visit, the bird was reluctant to show itself and remained in the reeds in the close company of Snipe.

If I see a ringed bird I normally try to get a record, today was no exception. As we waited for the LY to show I noticed two Mediterranean Gulls on the scrape, one of them carrying a ring - 3K50, a report will be submitted tomorrow - watch this space!