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.