Thursday 26 November 2015

Black Redstarts and Caspian Gull

November has been a bit of a lean month, not just on the birding front but for blogging too. Our usual haunts have, at times, seemed to be devoid of birds and the camera has often remained in its case. Not that we haven't been trying  - our efforts have included three trips to Dungeness in search of a Caspian Gull and  only yesterday did we find our target.

We started at the ARC side of the Dungeness reserve, normally there is something out on the water worth photographing. As we parked we met up with David Gardiner, last time we saw him was up in the Highlands back in March, so we swapped a few birding stories. Out on the water the wildfowl were sparse and the only interesting bird was a distant Marsh Harrier perched in the bushes, so we decided to make our way down to the beach.

Compared with our earlier visits there were few gulls on the roost., perhaps the better weather has enabled them to get out to feed. A quick scan revealed that no Caspians were about so we moved on again. Martin had learned that there were Black Redstarts present on the wall around the power station wall and as we parked at the end of the road they were easily spotted. The power station has its own sewage treatment plant and this is a magnet for all insect eaters as there are clouds of midges available.

There were three Black Redstarts present and two females perched obligingly, the male did show but only fleetingly, preferring to stay inside the compound. Pied Wagtails and Meadow Pipits were also taking advantage of the bounty.



Just as we had decided that we had captured sufficient pixels, Martin got news of a Long-eared Owl on the RSPB reserve so we departed at a leisurely pace. We arrived at the visitor centre and made our way to the "dipping" pool where one birder was snapping away at what I assumed was the owl. Try as I might I couldn't sight the bird, it was certainly well camouflaged, finally I managed to get the camera on it, lots of shots - all the same of course though it did move just once.

It moved!

Next up was a visit to the Scott hide, red top Smews had been reported and it would be a year tick. David had joined us again and both he and Martin located a Smew, albeit at distance and I managed to get a record shot.

The afternoon light was fading fast and we were going to end the day at  Boulderwall Farm as the Tree Sparrows had earlier been in evidence. However, I noticed that the loaf of bread, bought to attract the mass of gulls, had not been used so we decided to give the Caspian Gull one last go. We parked opposite the wooden tower and three birders were scanning the small flock, obviously something noteworthy amidst the Herring and Great Black-backed roost. As we approached they informed us that there was an adult Caspian present and then promptly departed. So we were left with the knowledge that our target was here but my gull identification skills are a tad limited, our strategy was easy - photograph every gull on the shingle and if we didn't spot it, post trip analysis would reveal all. As I photographed the flock one bird stood out but as Martin pointed out, it didn't have a black eye. Only one bird remained that we had not identified and it was fast asleep with its bill between its wings. Finally it moved - a Caspian Gull with all the ID features confirmed.
As we manoeuvred to get more side on shots it decided that the outfall of the power station was probably a better place to be and took to the air - I pointed the camera and pressed the shutter more in hope than anything else - I managed to salvage two shots from a train of twenty frames.  A life tick at last!

It's awake and it's the Caspo!!

On our travels I have managed to capture one or two shots.

Sitting in the ARC hide on a previous visit a Great White Egret appeared from nowhere and it was fairly close. Usually views of these are across an expanse of water.


We were entertained by two Short-eared Owls at Newhaven Tidemills, both being mobbed mercilessly by the local Crows.

A Snow Bunting at Selsey Bill was very obliging and a shy Slavonian Grebe on Pagham lagoon, both would have been improved by a pinch of sunshine.

Finally, I recorded my 78th garden tick with a Red-legged Partridge that visited my garden feeders, a bird somewhat out of place and whilst not in danger of being shot it was certainly at risk of being predated by the plethora of neighbourhood moggies.