Thursday 30 January 2014

Bearded Tits

A post rush hour trip to visit Town Quay in Fareham as there had been a male Eider Duck consorting with the resident Mallard flock. Unfortunately, after an extensive search of the quay and the surrounding areas of the creek, we had to concede that we had dipped. Slowly we made our way back towards Worthing, visiting our regular haunts on the way and finishing up on Pagham Lagoon.

The BBC appears to have lost the plot with the weather forecasts, we at least expected some sunshine but found ourselves with a flock of 11 obliging Bearded Tits in extremely low light levels. Cranking up the ISO doesn't help, resulting in high noise but is somewhat better than a slow shutter speed, considering how mobile these little critters can be.

Anyway the best of the bunch are posted here.



An interloper
The North Wall at Pagham was full of birds, all at a considerable distance. Continuing high water levels in Breech Pool means that the usual winter waders have gone elsewhere to feed.  Finally, on Pagham Lagoon, we caught up with the Goldeneye and a distant and less than confiding Slavonian Grebe that preferred to remain on the opposite side of the lake to us, come what may. Nevertheless a great day out, one day we will have birds in range with bright sunshine.

Monday 27 January 2014

Birding Hampshire Way

Out west today to find the long staying Green-winged Teal that has been in residence on the River Avon opposite Sopley cemetery. As we parked up in the entrance to the cemetery it was obvious that this was going to be the equivalent of finding a needle in a haystack, the river and the adjacent flooded fields contained a huge number of wildfowl. As I set up the scope I had a sinking feeling that we were doomed to failure, scanning each bird in turn - horizontal white stripe - horizontal white stripe. How on earth can we find it? We were joined by another birder, at least an extra pair of eyes on the job. Continuing the search - horizontal white stripe - horizontal --- no wait - vertical white stripe!! Found it. In the time it took to get Martin on the scope the bird had disappeared, try again - got it - get the other birder on to it - success.  The bird only had to turn 45 degrees and the stripe wasn't visible, at last the bird alighted on a grassy mound and stayed put - finally Martin got it. A life tick for both of us. Unfortunately the target was at least four hundred yards away - no chance of a photograph at that range.

Where next? We ended up peering through a gap in the hedge surrounding Kingfisher Lake at Blashford Pits. Standing about at the end of a cul-de-sac in a private housing estate is not a comfortable state of affairs for me - never mind that the target was an elusive Ferruginous Duck. It felt that we were wasting valuable birding time on an "iffy" bird so we left for the Tern Hide on Ibsley Lake. It was surprising how few birds were about on what is normally a well populated lake, no sign of the Red-crested Pochard, no gulls or sandpipers just two Black-necked Grebes at a fair distance. Visits to other hides on the reserve failed to produce a tick so we left for Eyeworth Pond at Fritham.

Eyeworth is normally good for a Mandarin Duck or a Goosander and either would have been welcome as photo opportunities. Also, the car park here is great for watching small birds, a couple of handfuls of bird food on the posts of the Forestry Commission gate has birds flocking in straight away. Today was no exception, as we soon had Nuthatch, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Robin, House Sparrows, Dunnock, Chaffinches, Blackbirds and Marsh Tits coming in to take advantage of the bounty.  It was great fun to lay a line of peanuts across the top of the gate being watched by a Nuthatch about four feet away.

The Mandarins normally tuck up deep under the waterside trees, so I scanned carefully and I reckoned that there were about six drakes present. Just goes to show that you can miss a lot. The birds were spooked and took to the air and I counted at least twenty five in three flocks and it is probable that there were thirty flying around the pond, the vast majority being drakes.


By now the sun had gone and grey clouds loomed so we set off for home. However, we were not quite finished, as we approached Arundel, Martin suggested a trip through Warningcamp to the Burgh, ostensibly for me to get a Bewick's Swan tick but actually for Martin to get Red Kite and Grey Partridge

Thursday 23 January 2014

Mealy Redpoll

Birding is a funny old game, today's outing was to Warnham LNR near Horsham to connect with the Mealy Redpoll reported on SOS. We waited patiently for the bird to arrive and more than once we deemed a bird on the feeders to be of the Lesser variety when in all probability it was the Mealy. Later, with a fairly large gathering of experienced birders present the bird alighted on the feeders and was judged by all to be Mealy.

I dislike photographs of birds on feeders but in this case I had to make an exception as it only came to the feeder, ignoring branches close by. Also, a shame that the promised sunshine barely showed, all the shots having to be taken with high ISO, not the best but at least decent record shots.


 Nice to see some Siskins present - the first this year.

And an obliging Treecreeper

Wednesday 22 January 2014

White Fronted Geese

Yesterday I was out and about in the Arun Valley searching for the elusive Bewick Swans, all to no avail but it did mean that I got to tick off a few more birds. Up at the Burgh the Red Kites were active and at one time, thanks to other kind birders,  I had five in the scope - four sitting and one flying. Skylarks were singing and Corn Buntings very active. However, best of the day was a covey of eight Grey Partridges, tucked up in the hedge out of the wind.

Today was a different kettle of fish, east again, this time to the Cuckmere in search of what has proved to be a bogey bird for me - the White Fronted Goose. We parked at the Golden Galleon and the first bird in the log was a Kingfisher, sat above the sluice, he relocated to a perch just below the road bridge and we tried for a shot but he disappeared as we set up our cameras. Making our way down the west side path, which I have to say is exceptionally muddy, we located the birds easily amongst the countless Canada Geese and captured some rather distant record shots.


Transverse belly markings clearly visible

On the Cuckmere there is a fairly large roost of Great Black-backed Gulls, something spooked them and they rose as one and were wheeling above the geese. Fortuitously, under the cloud of birds, I spotted a lone Brent Goose which turned out to be a specimen of the light bellied form  Branta bernicla hrota. Sorry about the quality of the shot, it was a long way off.

The journey home took us to Seaford Splash Point and Newhaven West Beach, at both venues Fulmars are present on the cliffs but not Kittiwakes as yet. By now the weather had picked up with some really nice sunshine, too nice to go home early so we called into the Widewater at Shoreham. A total of seven Red-breasted Mergansers were feeding and bathing in the lagoon and who can resist taking a few photographs - I know I can't

Tuesday 21 January 2014

A Day at Dungeness

Last week we postponed our visit to Dungeness, so today, in what promised to be perfect birding weather, we set off  eastwards in some pretty dense traffic. There is a bonus on the longer car journeys when Martin drives, in that I get to bird spot before our destination and Martin concentrates on the road ahead. However, this time on the the roads via Bexhill and Hasting birds were absent but on the marsh approaching Rye, Martin espied a field full of white objects - Geese?  No Martin - sheep or as they will be in known in future - "Woolly Geese".

The birding day augured well, as we parked in the ARC car park at Dungeness a well timed flyby of the day's first Marsh Harrier kicked us into gear.  From the hide we managed to find Red-top Smew, Great White Egret and Goldeneye. Cetti's Warblers and a Water Rail were sounding off in close proximity to the hide but neither showed themselves. With lots of ground to cover we took a stroll round to the viewing screen, where hawk-eyed Martin spotted a Bittern creeping into the reeds. Lots of waterfowl on view including even more female Smew but not a drake to be seen anywhere.

A local birder had tipped us off to two Black-throated Divers present on the New Diggings so, after a short interlude to view the Tree Sparrow flock at Boulderwall, we headed south down the road. Unfortunately no BTD were present but out on the southern end of ARC a Great White Egret posed perfectly. Back to the reserve with another pause to try and obtain a better Tree Sparrow shot.

Today they didn't want to come out from cover
At the Visitor Centre the recent sightings board showed that a Black-necked Grebe was present on Burrowe's, probably viewable from the Dennis Hide. Here we spent some time scrutinising every bird in sight, unfortunately resulting in failure. We moved on to the Firth Hide where a another huge number of wildfowl were scanned for something unusual, then an obliging female Goosander swam unconcerned to a position directly beneath the hide window and was duly recorded. 

Undeterred and somewhat buoyed up by the Goosander encounter we paid a visit to the Makepeace Hide where yet again Martin's keen eyesight paid off with distant views of the Black-necked Grebe. By now we were fairly happy and on a roll, where next? I was keen to get back to Scotney to scan for some geese but we agreed for one more go at the BTD, as we passed New Diggings, there in the corner as predicted, were two Black-throated Divers. Unfortunately in my haste to get the camera out I had inadvertently switched to manual mode and proceeded to take a series of blank images of a bird that you don't often get close to. Ah well - perhaps another day and no doubt Martin's shots are pretty good.

All I could salvage from a disaster.
Our visit to Scotney was a bit of an anti-climax, the huge numbers of geese were on the fields beyond the far bank of the pit, too far to view even with the scope. Scanning the roosting Lapwing flock revealed just 8 Golden Plover and precious little else. Our final visit was to the Colonel Body Memorial Lakes at Pett Level where we encountered yet more Marsh Harriers. It is odd that sightings of these birds, along with Glossy Ibis and Great White Egrets fails to give that pulse quickening episode that they used to. Thankfully Martin suggested that we have a quick look over the sea wall, out on the flat calm sea were rafts of Wigeon and Great Crested Grebes, careful study of the birds in between revealed Slavonian Grebe and Black and Red-throated Divers.

Finally on the way home, more passenger seat birding gave JACKDAWS, a bird that Martin refuses to put on his list, and a Buzzard. We ended the day with a total of 56 species and a substantial number of year ticks - another great day at Dunge.