Friday 30 September 2016

Red Kite

I took advantage of the decent weather and ventured up onto the Downs, plenty of raptors had been reported in the vicinity and the viewpoint we had recently visited gives commanding views over Wepham Down and Burpham. For those who know the area it's just south of the remains of the WWII Churchill tank. Whilst scanning the horizon for a harrier of any description I became aware of a large bird circling overhead, very close and getting lower. I had the distinct impression the bird had taken exception to my hat. Anyway, having descended low enough to fill my viewfinder he probably realised that he had made a mistake and drifted off downhill. Another bird went past but didn't come close.

This is what I captured, several more action crops where the bird came  so close that I failed to get it into the centre of the viewfinder, still, great fun but no harriers yet.

Wednesday 28 September 2016

Red-backed Shrike

It always seems to happen this way - I was sat far from any birding environment when I received a text message from Martin "15ft away from Tidemills Red-backed Shrike and light perfect". I was in mixed company at the time and my outburst was very restrained. Now this isn't always the direction of information; I had done the same when I was on "Elvis" on the Ythan Estuary and the message was pretty similar, and I am sure the response was too.

 Having missed the bird I was tempted to pay a visit the very next day. However, lurid tales of a large crowd of birders in attendance deterred me, especially when descriptions that people in full camouflage and veils were standing next to people in check shirts and other garish garb to obtain shots of an obliging bird. I decided to stick to Plan A and go to the North Wall to pick blackberries and sloes - an annual foraging festival.  On the wall I met Trevor and Ian and we all had a go at photographing the considerable flock of Yellow Wagtails that were following the cows in the fields below Honer Farm.

A message from Bart Ives had us scurrying out of the fields back on to the wall in search of an elusive Wryneck, which despite a couple of hours searching I failed to find. So back to the blackberrying, not BlackBerrying - as my spell checker would prefer.

Monday and the weather forecast wasn't good so we decided not to venture forth. Tuesday morning the weather was fair and when Martin picked me up we reckoned that a visit to Tidemills was in order. When we arrived I was surprised that no birders where present, mind you neither was the bird. I had just reached the point where I thought "it's gone" when it appeared and of course posed perfectly. Great to have it to ourselves for a while and at one stage the sun came out - the "crowd" peaked at five and we left happy.

We waited patiently for a "bee in the beak" shot but with the cooler weather they were not flying so much. Anyway, patience was rewarded with a "beetle in the beak" instead. Looks like a Devils Coach Horse, Ocypus olens - happy to be corrected.

I guess this is where it got rid of the indigestible bits.

Today was a fruitless trip around Pulborough Brooks, virtually no reward for our circumnavigation of the reserve, just a distant view of a Marsh Harrier and countless Canada Geese.

On to the North Wall where, at high tide, a host of birds where on Breech Pool - not for long. As the RSPB "gardeners" left in their bright blue van just about every bird decamped for the harbour.

This young chap/chapess was creating havoc amongst the wildfowl and waders but I got the impression it was just having fun rather than a serious hunt for food.

Nice to see the Wigeon back in good numbers, Pintail too.

Thursday 15 September 2016

Arundel Osprey

We started another baking hot day up on the downs, just below Kithurst Hill, in search of the juvenile Pallid Harrier. Unfortunately, after two and a half hours we had seen virtually nothing, well that's not quite true as there were hundreds of immature Pheasants and Red-legged Partridges in the stubble fields before us. A single Buzzard was the only raptor seen so we decided on pastures new. The Red-backed Shrike on the north wall at Pagham was a likely candidate but as we set off we received a Tweet from Nick Bond informing the world of an Osprey perched in Offham Hanger above WWT Arundel.

Sure enough when we arrived it was sitting out as bold as brass, we grabbed the cameras and set off to get closer. On the way we met Nick who informed us that it couldn't be seen from the road  - not quite true as a few minutes later I found myself face to face with the bird. I don't know who was more surprised, me or the bird - we played peek-a-boo around a tree trunk and as I desperately tried to withdraw he decided to leave.  I felt a tad annoyed with myself that we didn't get a decent session on what was a great bird. At least I now know that you can get a view of that dead tree from the road.





"Action crop" - which is an excuse for not getting the subject in the centre of the frame.
At least it shows that the bird carried no rings.

We searched for the bird on the reserve with no result and constant scanning of the Hanger revealed only a flyby Peregrine -  next time I will be a little more careful.

Tuesday 13 September 2016

Red-necked Phalarope

Phew What a Scorcher!  The hottest September birding day for 105 years and we were out in it. Actually, out on the north wall at Pagham it was a beautiful morning. Oddly, the wind was from the east and it was pleasant to be out. However no one had told the birds - just the usual suspects to be found - Black-tailed Godwits, Greenshank, Snipe, a couple of Dunlins and a raft of Redshanks inhabited the exposed mud. A Ruff flew in and after a swift bath, hid amongst the godwits. So we waited for something to turn up and boredom soon set in so we departed. On the way out we met several birders and we ended up heading for Thorney Island and the Red-necked Phalarope. This bird has been present for over a week and we have eschewed a visit because usually it is at a distance, affording little opportunity for a photograph.

Anyway, as we approached the Little Deep, Martin spotted it almost immediately, happily feeding away at a fair distance. Luckily, several times during our stay the bird ventured closer to our position and we were able to get some decent record shots.

As we left I mused aloud that it was great to have a lifer but that it was a shame that it wasn't a Sussex tick too. Now my Geography isn't bad and I do have some qualifications and experience in navigation but it did come as a bit of a shock that I could be so wrong - of course Thorney Island is in Sussex - Doh! Ticks all round then. Not only that, whilst updating my records I noticed another milestone - this is my 300th bird species to be photographed - where the definition of a photograph is that it is a recognisable bird - not just a clump of pixels.

The previous day we had ventured to Titchfield Haven in search of the Semipalmated Sandpiper, unfortunately a dip, a not unlikely event as I don't seem to have much luck at this venue. Anyway I considered five hours in one of the hides to be sufficient effort and we left without a sniff of the bird. Of course other birds were present and I whiled some of the time away capturing an obliging Ruff and a confiding Snipe.

Finally some shots recorded on days when I didn't have enough to blog. First an inquisitive Buzzard that gave us the once over on Honer Farm.

 Followed by two birds that have almost given me the slip this year - Wryneck and Curlew Sandpiper - maybe next year.

And finally the yellowest Yellow Wagtail of the year