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.



Monday 10 November 2014

Shore Lark and Snow Buntings

When I received an e-mail from Martin asking if I was interested in going to see a possible three birds, Shorelark, Desert Wheatear and Snow Bunting at Reculver, my answer was an unequivocal Yes!!

Unfortunately as we reached the site of the Roman fort at Reculver the news was half good. The Desert Wheatear hadn't been located but the other birds were present, just further down the sea wall. It never fails, as we arrived we were greeted as usual, "Woz 'ere until 10 minutes ago". Fortunately we didn't have to wait long before the Shorelark put in an obliging appearance. 


Duly recorded we went in search of the absent Snow Buntings. After some time our enthusiasm wavered and we set off on our return to the car park, just as I was putting the camera away we were treated to a fly by of two Snowies. These delightful little birds posed for several minutes, had we been on our own we would have ventured closer but having been joined by other birders we held off.

Just as the Snow Buntings departed the Shorelark returned for a drink from a small puddle in the rocks, a couple of quick shots and it was away again.

Quite happy with our two ticks we decided to return home via Oare Marsh. As I have said before, this is a brilliant location to finish off any birding day as the last hour of sunlight is perfect for capturing the thousands of waders that are present. Unfortunately the camera fails to capture the scale of activity, especially as today, the tide was high and the birds were forced into small amounts of real estate. One day we will have to spend the whole day here.