Sunday, 22 January 2017

Lewes Waxwings.

For those living a little further North have had a superb Waxwing winter. For us in the South though we are only just getting these iconic winter visitors and I was beginning to think I was going to be out of luck. I was planning to help with some conservation work today but I had a call from Matt telling me that Simon Linington had found 9 Waxwing in Lewes, strangely in exactly the same site as they were 4 years ago!! I quickly got ready and drove the 10 miles to Lewes where they had been feeding just 2 minutes before I got there!! Fortunately it was only a few minutes before they flew back in and sat in the tops of some tall Poplar. Shortly they descended to feed on berries in the hedgerow, although as they were now by the road they kept getting disturbed by buses and cars that drove past. It wasn't long each time though before they came back down. I believe the last time I saw Waxwings were here that time 4 years ago and it really was a special morning seeing them pretty close. Suddenly at a little after 11am they flew off and didn't return. I certainly hope for a few more encounters before they all head back to Scandinavia.



Waxwing.



Waxwing with berries.









Waxwing, a very special bird.




Friday, 20 January 2017

Serin Surprise.

On Monday I had a call from Matt telling me that the beautiful male Serin had re-appeared at Tide Mills. This was quite a surprise as it hadn't been seen at all since the last sighting just before the new year. When he called I was on the way up to London and with other plans earlier in the week I wasn't able to get to Tide Mills until Thursday. Having seen a few shots taken on Wednesday it was clear that the bird was a bit more approachable than it was in December. It was now just a waiting game, as it was most of the time hidden in the undergrowth as it fed on seeds. Every now and then it would fly up and a few times it landed on the crumbling walls. It certainly was a delight as this tiny bird suddenly appeared and once landed on the nearest part of the wall allowing a chance of improving the shots from December. Presuming it had been there all along staying hidden in the foliage whenever anyone had been looking it has now been around a month since the first report.







Male Serin.


Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Bittern In The Bed.

On a fabulous cold winter day it was another trip over to the Dungeness area, this time with Phil Winter, where I was hoping to show him some of the special birds that are found there. All the birds we were hoping to find though decided to have a day off and we were thinking that maybe we should have gone Waxwing hunting instead. As we were beginning to get really cold and thinking that we should just give up, the highlight of the day showed up, with a magnificent Bittern suddenly appearing in the reedbed and walking about in front of us. It was a shame that some of the seed-heads were between us which made it very difficult to get a clean shot, but despite this these were my best efforts so far of these secretive birds.




Bittern Camouflage kicking in!!



Bittern statue.



Bittern stalking about.



Eventually the Bittern took flight.





Sunday, 15 January 2017

Fallow Day.

A day in West Sussex looking for a few scarce birds was a little bit of a letdown. Pete and I started in Petworth Park where we had nice, but quite distant views of the beautiful 2 male Goosander. We tried a little bit of stalking and hiding, but, they stayed well out of reach of us. Fortunately Petworth Park is a Deer park as well and there were plenty of nice looking Fallow Deer that were somewhat easier to approach than their totally wild brothers and sisters!!
We then headed to Waltham looking for the Great Grey Shrike. Although it had been seen earlier in the morning the bird had vanished and failed to re-appear. A walk along the lane to the sewage works produced good numbers of Chiffchaff including a couple that were almost certainly the Siberian race. By now the weather had also taken a turn for the worse, so with rain falling we called it a day. A few shots of the Fallow Deer follows.




Fallow Buck.



Fallow Buck with Does.


Fallow Doe.



Monday, 9 January 2017

2017 Starts Well.

On Saturday I started my lepidoptera year off with finding 2 Wall Brown larva. It was only a very quick search, so I concentrated on a clump of grass where I have found larva regularly over the last 3 years. The largest of the 2 was around 1 cm. with the other being very small indeed and about half that size!! It is still, of course very early, and it is only these milder times when I am likely to see them. When I have time I will do a more detailed search, this will give an idea of how the young larva have done over the winter period.

I have also attached a closer cropped photo of those fabulous Bearded Tits I saw last week!!



Male Bearded Tit.



Friday, 6 January 2017

A Day To Remember.

When I was into Marathon running in a big way the sponsor of the London Marathon was ADT security and their slogan for the race was 'A Day To Remember'. As it happened I never ran the race due to injury until another sponsor had taken over so I could never claim my day to remember!! 

Yesterday I certainly did have that Day To Remember though even if I didn't run a single step. Mind you I did walk quite a distance. After the fog of last week Pete and I decided to once again head for the Dungeness area to hunt out the Ring-necked Duck as well as the Stejneger's Stonechat, presuming that is really what it is. I heard a rumour yesterday that a 2nd DNA test may take place on her. On the way to Kent we stopped off to get distant views of a winter plumaged Red-necked Grebe which is on the last pond before Kent. Whilst watching the grebe I spotted a distant ring tailed Hen Harrier drifting along. Then it was on to Dungeness where the Ring-necked Duck was happily feeding on its usual pool. The Long-eared Owl was not showing unfortunately and from the hides the most interesting sight was a Pike laying totally still in the shallow water. The Water Rail was apparently seen not long after we left the area!!



Drake Ring-necked Duck.



Pike.


Having already been joined by Malcolm we later came across our friend David that informed us that he had come across some approachable Bearded Tits. Having spent many hours at my Eastbourne site with only partial luck I was quite keen to have a go if the birds had returned to the area. As it was on the way to the Stonechat anyway it certainly made sense. As it was the Bearded Tits were certainly the highlight of the day, and will certainly be one of 2017 highlights too!! They performed so well for us for well over an hour in terrific light and really close too. It is so unusual to get these spectacular birds showing so well. My thanks to David for showing us these magical birds. I could have posted lots of shots of them, but here are a few of my favourite ones.




Male Bearded Tit.



Female Bearded Tit.






Male Bearded Tit feeding.



Female Bearded Tit feeding.


It was then onto the Stonechat site where the bird was seen this time straight away. The bird was moving along a fence line with several birders watching it. At one point the bird flew away from the fence and I followed it into the large flat area. Here I managed a few closer views, probably helped by the fact I was now on my own. Eventually the bird went back to the beginning of the fence and started to work its way along again. With this I suggested to Malcolm that we hide near the fence in the hope it would continue heading our way. This plan worked perfectly and we ended up having some much closer views. All this just as the sun was starting to set. We just hope the tests show that the bird is indeed the rare Stejneger's Stonechat!! Whatever though, it is an interesting looking bird that was well worth going to see.



Female Stejneger's Stonechat.






Two closer views just before sunset.

On the drive home a Barn Owl flew over us as we crossed the large Polegate roundabout.



Monday, 2 January 2017

Hop-along Fox.

A very frustrating day today where I was hoping to get out in the sunshine, but with a few household jobs to do I was unable to get out until late. 
Eventually I rang Pete to see if he fancied a Short-eared Owl hunt down the Ouse but he was out on a long walk. He had earlier found a Black Redstart so I decided to meet up with him where we could then attempt some photography of it. Unfortunately the bird wasn't there when I arrived so we wandered aimlessly around where the only bit of interest was a large Fox. We could see it was lame but it wasn't until I studied the photo it became apparent that the poor animal only had 3 legs and the only leg it had at the back end also seemed to be missing the paw. However, apart from the leg situation the Fox did appear to be in pretty good condition so I assume it is successfully managing to scavenge.



A very lame Fox.