Wednesday 10 December 2014

Dartford Warblers

Today was a visit to Iping Common, primarily to see the Great Grey Shrike that has been reported there. Secondly, to see if I could improve upon my Dartford Warbler records.

As we made our way towards the bracket fungus encrusted birch tree that is a favourite perch of the shrike, our first sighting was a considerable flock of Goldcrests. As we stood straining to get a glimpse of these birds I heard the unmistakeable buzz of a Dartford Warbler, sure enough out on the top of a gorse branch was a male. My attempts at photography were somewhat wasted as the bird was mobile and the light poor, the sighting lasting just a few seconds. We stood chatting to a very helpful local birder for some time, hoping the bird would show again, but finally we moved on in search of the GGS.  Martin located the bird, perched on the very top of the dead birch. Unfortunately, by the time I got in position for a view, the bird decided to relocate several hundreds of yards down the valley.

We continued our circular walk of the common and came across two more Dartford Warblers that were somewhat more obliging. I managed several records of this elusive bird - nice to have - but not the definitive perfect record. Perhaps next time.

Yesterday, on what was a fairly fruitless birding day, I recorded this partial albino Jackdaw and an angry looking Tufted Duck at Swanbourne Lake in Arundel.

Don't point that at me!

Monday 8 December 2014

Snow Bunting

Today we went east in search of a Brambling, a bird that has been somewhat elusive this year. With only twenty three days birding left in the year we are definitely "tick hunting". As we pulled into the car park at Friston Forest we were happy to see flocks of Chaffinches on the move. Sure enough, after some searching, we found two female Bramblings foraging in the deep leaf litter. We parked away from the birds to get the cameras out, the intention to use the car as a hide and obtain some record shots. No way! As soon as we got out of the car every bird did a vanishing act, never to return. We hung about for the best part of a couple of hours but a chill wind had sprung up and the area remained  a birding desert.

We decided that the Cuckmere was worth a look but on parking at the Golden Galleon it was obvious that neither of us fancied a long muddy slog down the river. So we decided that we should visit Arundel, in search of the reportedly numerous Firecrests, another bird on the "wanted" list. As we passed Tidemills there seemed to be lots of bird activity so we decided to give it "two coats of looking at". Sure enough, two photographers lying on the shingle obviously focussing on a bird that wasn't too far away, after some time I finally located the bird - Snow Bunting.

Nice to meet Gideon Knight and his cousin Caleb, graciously they shared the bird with us. Checkout Gideon's cracking photography here


I had been meaning to visit the East Pier again to catch the obliging Purple Sandpipers and today was an ideal opportunity as the light was just right, Unfortunately our activities with the Snowy meant that we arrived on the pier after high water and the Purplies had relocated from the top deck to the concrete pilings underneath. This meant we were shooting down and into shade rather than catching the birds in full sun. Never mind a return visit with a packet of squid in hand will no doubt give the right result.

Saturday 6 December 2014

Tundra Bean Goose

Following a posting on SOS by Paul James, I found myself out birding on a Saturday - truly a rare event. Even rarer, up in a clear blue sky the sun was trying its best to warm up a frozen Adur landscape. I parked the car at Cuckoo Corner and walked the short distance to the river, I didn't really expect the bird to be about still. Total amazement, as I looked up river the Tundra Bean Goose was paddling upstream on the incoming tide. Panic set in as I mounted the camera on the tripod, I had  put the rig in the car in the same condition as I used to photograph the moon the previous night. Well, manual mode, ISO 100, F16, manual focus and mirror lock up in operation were not ideal for getting a record shot of a year tick. By the time I had sorted myself out the bird had swum some distance and clambered up on to the bank. Within a minute it had been flushed by a dog walker and had relocated some way down river, adjacent to the A27 flyover.  Why on earth this bird has remained here on its own is a bit of a mystery, constantly harassed by dog walkers, canoeists and even the target of two hungry foxes. It would be much better off in a flock of Canadas or Greylags.

Anyway, it finally settled on the far bank opposite the sailing club, where it posed for me, albeit up sun and at a distance.

Buoyed up by early success I decided to spend the rest of the day at the North Wall. I was surprised how few birders were about, only three cars parked in the lane and a solitary birder in the form of Ian, actually on the wall. It never got busy throughout the day and most of the time I had the place to myself. Nice to meet Adrian and later in the afternoon, Trevor, the eternal optimist, searching for another perfect Kingfisher shot in the fading afternoon light. 

On Breech Pool all the usual suspects were present,  Ian had counted 21 Common Snipe - they seemed to be everywhere. Water Rails were happy to show themselves, at least four coming out of the reeds and I reckon a count of 8 wouldn't be far off the mark. A Water Vole  showed in the sluice, albeit briefly ,as it crossed the stream twice.  A second sighting proved, on subsequent analysis of the hurriedly taken photographs, to be a Brown Rat. Oddly swimming from the sea side of the wall and taking refuge in the rocks.

Why do they always choose an "industrial" setting?
The upturned tail is indicative of future action.....

...."Projectile Pooing"

A Minnow's last view of the world

Last shot of  the day

Oh, this is the result of my efforts on photographing the moon, it might not be perfect but I quite like it. 


Saturday 29 November 2014

Short-eared Owls

The day's birding started and finished on a high note, the bits in between were a little mundane. We started at Yew Tree Cottage adjacent to Westdean Woods and within five minutes we had one, possibly two Hawfinches in the scope.  I managed to convince Martin that it would be better to forego a pretty poor photo opportunity  in order to maximise our search for a Woodcock on the commons. In hindsight it would have been better to stay, as when we reached Ambersham, the car park was filled with 4x4s and horse boxes were everywhere. The local hunt had a meet on and it was pointless to attempt birding in the area. We moved on to Lavington which, apart from a pair of Yellowhammers, was almost without birds.

Our third venue, Waltham Brooks sewage works, was virtually the same - birdless. The recent heavy rains have created large expanses of water, ideal for the large number of Canada Geese that have made it their home. No chance of an owl with all the grassland under water.

Our final venue, The Burgh, came up trumps with at least six Short-eared Owls present on the set aside to the east of the Dew Pond - also the "new" pond, just off the bridle track that comes south past the grain silos. As always with owls, they came out to play just as the weak afternoon sunshine was fading.

Another surprise was the number of butterflies we saw at all the venues we visited, giving Red Admiral, Small Tortoiseshell, Peacock and from the road to Burpham, what appeared to be a Large White. When winter finally arrives it will come as a bit of a shock.

Of course - one for Dave Shepherd - Boeing Stearman???

Friday 28 November 2014

Ringed Brent Geese

Today I had no intention of going out as the morning had dawned under a thick clag of cloud. However, at lunch time the sun poked through so I loaded up the car and set off, it wasn't really a birding trip more of a recce. The large expanse of grass at West Wittering beach attracts numbers of Golden Plover and they come close when you use the car as a hide. I just wondered if any had turned up yet.

I had made the mistake of not checking the tide tables properly and I expected to see a high tide, when I reached East Head it was obvious that I had got it wrong. To make the best of it I parked up close to a bunch of Brent Geese enjoying the fresh water of the extensive puddles by the road. They were having a whale of a time, although inter-family squabbles were frequent.

I scanned the assembled flock, probably 300+ birds, and found 3 colour ringed birds. RANR, RDND and RANU. Having recorded these birds I made for home as the only other species present were Oystercatchers, Redshanks and Black-tailed Godwits. When I processed the photographs I realised that I had recorded both RANR and RANU in exactly the same place on the 21st December 2012 . See the blog!!

Just to clarify - RANU is Red (A) and Noir (U)  - B denotes Blue so Noir is used to avoid ambiguity.

If you happen to observe any colour ringed Brents then they can be recorded here

Another notable record for the day is that whilst I sat in the car I was "buzzed" by a very late Common Darter.



RANR - a good job RSNE wasn't about!!


Monday 24 November 2014

Tawny Owl

To find an owl whilst out birding is always a reward, doubly so when you can get some photographs. Today, somewhere in East Sussex, we came across this most obliging Tawny Owl. Some purists may say that the bird is obscured and that I didn't get a clean shot, but this is how they are, masters of disguise, using the available cover to their advantage. Whilst photographing this one both Martin and I got the impression that it was tolerating us, but in those deep reflective eyes you could see the contempt for the two idiots below. As Martin said "A truly wise old Owl". We left the bird as we found it - contemplating the world from its leafy perch.

Tuesday 18 November 2014

Franklin's Gull

I'll fess up immediately, unfortunately there are no photographs of the Franklin's Gull. The bird that has been on Ibsley lake down at Blashford Pits near Ringwood has a habit of coming into roost late afternoon, long after any useful light levels have disappeared.

Last Friday evening was the end of a superb birding week, Shorelark at Reculver, Rough-legged Buzzard at Jevington and finally, as the light disappeared, the Franklin's Gull from the Tern hide at Blashford. I was happy with the ID and all the birders present in the hide bar one confirmed the sighting. Unfortunately the birder to dip was Martin. So we just had to have another go and today's weather was ideal. Halfway through the day I was getting the feeling that the birding Gods were stacking the odds against us. The favoured Tern hide was booked for a Gull roost watch between 3.30 and 4.30 and the alternative Goosander hide, where the bird had been seen from the previous two nights, was closed by the police due to an "incident". Finally we washed up in the Lapwing hide, halfway across to the other side of the lake, the upshot was that with some help, everyone present got some superb and close views of a pretty handsome gull.

On our way down to Blashford we took a detour into the New Forest where the bird activity was distinctly quiet, However, it was good to catch up with a well known Tawny Owl, truly living up to its name, being almost the same colour as the autumn leaves on the trees.


With few photo opportunities I had to resort to fungi for blog material, these Lilac Bonnets??? didn't disappoint, looking just right in more autumn colour. No doubt Dawn and Jim will put me right on ID. If you want to see superb fungi photos then take a peek here, just stunning.

By the way, if you really want to see a Franklin's Gull then try Martin's Blog
I revisited the photographs of the Rough-legged Buzzard, all taken at long range but the best I could manage of a bird that is well worth recording.