Friday 30 January 2015


Today I visited a venue where normally Martin has to drag me, WWT at Arundel. Two reasons for staying local, a rather dodgy weather forecast and a chance of a Firecrest photograph. I started at Swanbourne Lake, very little to report here, just the obliging Tufties. I checked out the Yew trees on the other side of the lake as we have found Firecrests here before - nothing. Nor could I find a Grey Wagtail in the run off for the old mill. By now a chilly north west breeze was coming down the lake and I thought that a hide might be a better place to be.

Just before I reached the Sand Martin hide I flushed two Bullfinches from the nearby buddleia bushes, I made a mental note to return later. From the hide I had some great views of the Shelducks that had been in to roost overnight. The morning sun was not optimal but at least some of the birds were where I could get some decently lit photographs. Not only do the Shelducks take advantage of the shelter of the reserve, several wild Pochards have decided to integrate with the inmates and are virtually tame.


On leaving the hide I remembered the Bullfinches and sure enough two obliging females had returned to their seed cracking activities. The morning light was just right and the birds really didn't care how close I approached. I guess if they are in this environment then they must get used to people passing by.


Finally I left the reserve via the reedbed boardwalk, still searching for a possible Firecrest. In the car park I had lunch and was scanning the area for a male Bullfinch when two small white "flags" caught my eye. The bird was in the churned up mud at the far end of the car park, where much scrub has been removed and obviously plenty of disturbed food has become available. In addition to the Water Rail there were several Robins, Song Thrushes and Blackbirds foraging in the mud.

A circular trip around Burpham and the Burgh was pretty fruitless, as was the search for the recently reported Little Owl opposite Arundel railway station. By now dark grey clouds were gathering on the northern horizon so I headed for home.

Tuesday 27 January 2015


I have for some time been thinking of an attempt to capture some otter pictures. After meeting Mick Jenner, whilst waiting for the Kumlien's on Littlehampton beach, I was finally galvanized into action. Mick provided perfect information, chapter and verse on where to go  and what to do. So in the half light before dawn I arrived at the venue, set up the camera and waited for the promised sunshine to arrive - it never did. Such a mega disappointment as, following directions from some local photographers, I was entertained for an hour or so by a family of otters. A female adult with two 8 week old youngsters were quietly fishing in what was a most productive stretch of river. Finally, bored with the onlookers, she took them a long way downstream. We waited patiently for hours. She returned just once, caught a sizeable Perch and disappeared once more downstream. I had to crank the ISO on the camera to ridiculous levels to obtain any worthwhile shutter speed - oh for a bucketful of sunlight. Anyway, it is always good to leave wanting more - so a return visit is a definite. A big thank you to Mick - spot on!

Eating fish is a messy business for a young otter.

This is my patch

Fish for all


Thursday 22 January 2015

Kumlien's Gull

Many thanks to Bola for the post about the Kumlien's Gull in the river at Littlehampton. This morning found us stood on the beach at the mouth of the River Arun searching for the bird. With the sun shining it wasn't too bad although a slight breeze was sufficient to keep the ears cool. There were surprisingly few gulls about and as the tide was making we were entertained by the presence of a Kingfisher, several Turnstones and a small band of hyperactive Sanderlings. A couple of other birders were in attendance, and whilst they went in search of the gull I managed to capture a few shots of the Sanderlings foraging in the tideline. Suddenly we were alerted to a suspicious gull's presence by a kind birder, it had been found up river near the IRB station, so without further ado we walked briskly along the riverside. What followed then was the usual ritual - "Is it?" - "No it's a Herring Gull" - "It might be" - "Not sure". Anyway the upshot was that when we left, I convinced myself that I was unconvinced - if you know what I mean. At home processing the photographs I feel pretty sure that we got the right bird.

Next venue was Farlington Marsh. Spoonbills had been reported but we really wanted to find some Bearded Tits. As we reached the viewpoint on the west side several "year ticks" were accumulated in the shape of Avocets (50+ birds), Pintails and Common Snipe, alas no sign of Beardies. Whilst we were sat scanning the marsh, two birders arrived and informed us that two Spoonbills were out on the lake and that some birders were photographing a Snow Goose.  A nod is as good as a wink and we were away.

The Spoonbills were a cinch, sticking out like the proverbial thumb, in the usual sleeping pose and not looking as if they were going anywhere.

  Next on the agenda was the single "Snow Goose" mingling with a small flock of Canada Geese. As soon as I got the bird in the viewfinder I doubted that it could be a SG, I had photographed the mini flock at Scotney and Dungeness three years ago and at least knew how they should look, The bird in front of me could only be described as a "Sumo Snow Goose"  or a bird on steroids. I have no idea of its lineage but I imagine its DNA would make interesting reading. Anyway, I think it should be called "Heinz", at least 57 varieties in there somewhere.

The Scotney Group
Now as I have said before Martin has a canny knack of picking a venue. So, at his suggestion, we visited Baffin's Pond, usually the home of some obliging Water Rails, sadly not today. However it did give me the opportunity to capture the numerous Shovelers that are in residence. If you want to get close to these birds then this is the place.