Saturday 14 February 2015

Little Bunting

Thursday found us at Old Lodge looking for the Little Bunting amongst a mobile Reed Bunting flock. Their movements from reeds and grass to tree perches left little time for a sighting so I resorted to snapping every bird that perched long enough to be captured. Several birders claimed to have seen the bird but I wasn't sure until I got home and downloaded the photographs. Sure enough I had several frames that confirmed the sighting. Unfortunately Martin hadn't seen or photographed the bird so we returned for another go today. Sadly I have to report that we had no confirmed sighting - another visit is in order.

 Nice to see and hear several Woodlarks singing and displaying above us. At Old Lodge it is guaranteed that during some stage of the day they will come and perch on the overhead cables. A shame that it was definitely a case of "Singing in the Rain".

Tuesday 10 February 2015

Round Up

A  bit of a round up of the last few days. On Friday I had to be in Horsham, so no better excuse required to spend a couple of hours at Warnham LNR. For the last few years  this has been the banker for getting close to Siskin, Lesser Redpoll and the occasional Brambling. Sadly they have not turned up this year, perhaps there is time yet. Amongst a myriad of Goldfinches, Greenfinches and all the tits on the feeders I chose to try and photograph a Bank Vole that has set up home under one of the feeder supports. It must seem like heaven for this little chap, all day he gets showered with sunflower hearts. Whilst I ignored  most of the birds a rather good looking Song Thrush got the better of me. On the way out I recorded one of the grass cutters, as I have said before, the hardest working staff on the reserve.

Monday found us out on a pretty dull day, this time in search of a few ticks. We started at Steyning sewage farm, not the most salubrious of venues but large numbers of Chiffchaffs kept us entertained as we searched for one of the Siberian variety. A pretty convincing specimen was captured, alas from underneath, but with a belly as pale as that it looks a good candidate.

 Next venue was another SF, this looks like a trend developing. The Coldwaltham works were not as productive in birding terms, but we managed contact with a couple of Goldcrests, a probable Firecrest that never really came into the open and of course Chiffchaffs. One on the fence caught my eye and I reckon that was the second Siberian of the day.

We dropped into Waterwoods at Arundel, continuing the search for a confirmed Firecrest, sad to say that is was all very quiet.. Final venue of the day was a quick check on the mouth of the River Arun at Littlehampton. The Kumlien's is still in attendance, we found it on its favoured perch, one of the piles opposite the slipway.

A loaf of bread helps

Today it remained dull and overcast so I just had a recce of venues on the Selsey peninsular. The Bean Goose was with Canadas and Greylags out on the field behind East Lake at Chichester GP. I was hoping to photograph it out on the water so in the end I gave it a miss. Down to Church Norton where it was also very quiet, though I did manage to see the leucistic Curlew way out on the mud. The churchyard yielded a pair of Goldcrests but no accompanying Firecrest. Finally I washed up at the North Wall, almost deserted save for a sprinkling of Wigeon and Teal on the Breech Pool.

I just missed an opportunity for some decent shots, a Grey Heron had caught an enormous eel and was having difficulty dispatching it. Unfortunately as I got adjacent to the action the bird slid the protesting eel down its throat in one smooth movement. However, it was apparent from the shape of the bird's throat that the eel was still very much alive and kicking.  The resident Kingfisher in the sluice kept me entertained as it flitted between the salt and fresh sides of both sluice gates. I finally got a reasonable shot of it on the usual posts. An obliging Spotted Redshank came within range until a belligerent "ordinary" Redshank sent it packing.

On the way out I met Dave Shepherd, I think we chewed the fat for so long that he gave up and went home, not even getting as far as the sluice. It reminded me that I had a couple of shots reserved for Dave. The first is of a Typhoon completing an attacking run on a "target of opportunity", in this case the Caledonian MacBrayne ferry to Stornoway. Second is a Van's RV-4 (G-CEVC), just a bit more pedestrian than the Typhoon!

Wednesday 4 February 2015

Out in the Cold

I thought that the little grey cells had come up with a masterplan, with below zero temperatures most freshwater would be frozen, resulting in wildfowl and waders galore being out in the open. Somwhat similar to Eyeworth Pond on Monday. Where to go? A posting on SOS about Pulborough Brooks having numerous Snipe showing along with a friendly Water Rail and a stonking male Bullfinch clinched it. So, just after 0900 we arrived at PB and set off for the West Mead hide. At the bottom of the Zig Zag we encountered several Bullfinches but none were willing to stick around and in Fattengates Courtyard I tried, unsuccessfully, to record a highly mobile Goldcrest. It was at this point that it dawned on us that, yet again, we had been misled by the BBC weather forecast. The promised sunshine was nowhere to be seen, in fact it was downright gloomy. Also, I have doubts that the little grey cells can be trusted - in an ornithological sense.

Onward to the hide, where the improvements to the scrape are paying dividends. Just in front  of the windows was a flock of mixed ducks, probably 400 strong. Shovelers, Wigeon, Mallard, Teal and Pintail were all present. Out in the grass to the left of the hide at least 10 Snipe that were slowly moving toward us.

Sadly after this it was all downhill until we returned to the top of the Zig Zag, Winpenny and Nettley's hides returning virtually nothing. Nice to meet Russ out and about on the reserve. On the path back to the VC I managed to record Greenfinch and finally a distant but cracking looking male Bullfinch.


 Cutting our losses we departed for WWT Arundel to see if we could find anything there. At least a chance for Martin to get the female Bullfinches that were close to the Sand Martin Hide. From the hide, close views of a Grey Wagtail kept us interested.

After several attempts to capture a Water Rail we slowly made our way back to the VC. Just before the main path the peace was shattered by much wailing - two Moorhens were disputing either territory, partners or both.

Monday 2 February 2015


Following a fairly hard overnight frost we made our way into deepest Hampshire, this time to Mark Ash Wood in the New Forest. Several reports of active Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers could not be ignored. After all this is a bird that figures high on both mine and Martin's want list. As we arrived at the car park several birders were already in attendance and at least one of them had seen an LSW. Mission creep reared its ugly head, how could we resist a visit to our friendly Tawny Owl that lives in a hollow tree  just a short distance away. Of course it would be a year tick for those who keep lists.

Shortly after this we heard the unmistakable drumming of the LSW and we began a search for the bird. I swear that several times we were stood below the very tree the bird was in but were unable to locate it. The bird was very mobile so we relocated back to the car park and all became silent. Martin decided to spend more time on the owl and of course while he was away the woodpecker showed, a few fleeting seconds of the bird flying over the car park, alighting in a nearby tree, several more drums and then it disappeared for good. So the upshot is that we will have to make another visit - perhaps the chance of a photograph next time.

Finally we despaired and left for Eyeworth Pond near Fritham, always good for a few birds, especially if you take some feed with you. The birds are fed regularly here and they do pose well. As we arrived it was obvious that the frosts had resulted in the pond being frozen over apart from a small circular opening, fortunately not far from our bank. Sitting in or around this feature were 13 Mandarin Ducks and a pair of Gadwall that really had not got the hang of walking on ice. As the light was good we recorded the birds, though it was fairly difficult to isolate a single subject.


It was inevitable, with the birds being confined to such a small area, that they would not remain peaceful. Suddenly all the drakes started posturing with their necks being stretched and feathers fluffed up, behaviour that I haven't seen before. But, with their garb, a stunning display.

Neck up - collar out

Whilst this was going on the resident flock of birds had discovered the mixed feed that I had liberally scattered about. Nuthatch, Chaffinch, Blue, Great, Coal and Marsh Tits, flitting in and out. Even three Muscovy Ducks were polishing off a pile of peanuts. Over in the wood on the far side of the lake several Ravens were cronking away.

Next up was Blashford, pretty unremarkable except for several Siskins. Not much to be seen from the Tern Hide either. I convinced Martin that we should have another go for the LSW, a fruitless wait in the car park again. However, an added bonus as we made our way back to the main road, I spotted a bird perched high up in a tree and my initial guess was that it was a Hawfinch - after all Bolderwood has a few residents. It was nice to be corrected by Martin who rightly identified a male Crossbill which was soon joined by a female. No chance of a shot but a snapped record just to prove our sighting.

Oh! a shot of a very familiar "Ollie"