Sunday, 18 February 2018

A Mixed Bag.

Another really great morning spent with Phil in his hide yesterday with the main target once again the beautiful Long-tailed Tits. With some Spring foliage now showing including the Hazel Catkins we were hoping to catch the birds on these to give a springlike feel to the pictures. Although some of the Long-tailed Tits have now moved on there were still frequent visits from smaller numbers of the birds.
With all the recent rain the small amount of water in front of the hide had grown considerably and we had visits from a superb plumaged Moorhen, a bird we all normally ignore, and a Jay that came in for a drink. 

Long-tailed Tit.

Long-tailed Tits. Bottoms Up!!

Long-tailed Tit on Hazel.






Thursday, 8 February 2018

Blame the Weatherman!!

On Monday this week David and I decided late on Sunday evening to head over into Kent where a small flock of Hawfinches had been performing well in the Yew trees. Monday arrived with snow on the drive and reports from Kent saying roads were hazardous and best avoided, so that was the end of that plan. The weather for Tuesday was not too good, but Wednesday promised sunny intervals all day, so plans then for the trip on Wednesday instead when Paul could also join us. Of course, Wednesday morning came along with quite a bit more snow!! After lots of chat we decided to still go with the first part of the trip in Paul's 4x4. As it was the roads were fine as soon as we had left Seaford. The skies however, were extremely dull and we just hoped that the sunny intervals would still materialise. As we were approaching the Sussex/Kent border David and Paul, sitting in the front of the car spotted a Glaucus Gull resting 20 yards away from the road. After turning the car around a couple of times we pulled into the side of the road where I managed a few hand held record shots of the gull. The weather was still very poor at this time but at least we had proof of the bird.

Glaucus Gull.

We then headed into Kent where the weather refused to improve. It wasn't long though after parking the car that the first Hawfinch was seen at the top of a tall tree. After quite a bit of rain a slight hint of brighter weather was seen in the distance, however, it refused still to come our way. Eventually a group of 4 Hawfinch came into the Yew to feed briefly, acting very similar in a way to Waxwings. After a quick feed the 4 birds flew off. It wasn't long after this that the sun did actually come out, better late than never, however, it was only around 10 minutes before the black clouds rolled back in!! All I managed in the time spent were 3 poor record shots of these stunning birds. Whether I will get another chance to improve upon these before they move on only time will tell. It was still a great day seeing these rarely seen birds.

Hawfinch in the Yew Tree.

As we drove back into Sussex the Glaucus Gull was still there as the sun that had by now appeared was setting!!

Friday, 2 February 2018

Red Berries.

Having spent a very cold morning in a hide today hoping for a visit from a Buzzard again, and only hearing some, Phil and I had a more successful session during the past week with several birds posing well on some red berries near the hide. Our main target was once again the beautiful Long-tailed Tit, although we also had good views of Coal, Great and Blue Tits too. Nothing rare, but still a great morning. As ever, my thanks to Phil for the invite. Even today with no Buzzard action!!

Long-tailed Tits.

Great Tit.

Blue Tit.

Tuesday, 30 January 2018

American Horned Lark.

I was meant to be looking after my Mum today as she had a procedure at Brighton Hospital. I must confess, it wasn't a day I was looking forward too. However, yesterday evening she rang me to say she had a phone call cancelling the appointment. Although I was sad for her, I was pleased to have a day out in the open after all, especially as the sun was due out for the day. I rang David to see if he fancied doing anything and he said he had planned to head for the Surrey/Middlesex border with Paul to see the American Horned Lark that has been seen on and off for the past 3 months. This is a very rare bird in the UK with only 2 or 3 previous sightings, although it is I believe a sub-species of our Shorelark. Fortunately they were happy for me to join them. The bird was seen as soon as we had arrived from the central causeway across the reservoir. Unfortunately the bird was on the Southern bank so we were shooting straight into the sun. It was feeding continuously, turning over mosses as it looked for morsels. In the time we were there it did go over to the other bank where it was much closer and the light was far superior. However, when it was on this bank it only remained for a few minutes before returning to the other side where it obviously felt more comfortable. A great day seeing a mega rare bird, and it also beat sitting around in a hospital!!

American Horned Lark.

Saturday, 27 January 2018

Looking for Elmley.

With a decent weather forecast on Friday David and I decided to head for Elmley Marshes in North Kent. This is a reserve that I used to call into quite often in the old days when I was a sales rep and I had a customer in sheerness. David also used to call here when he lived local to this area. All the way to David's house it was very cloudy and foggy, but with the positive forecast we were confident that the weather would improve. Unfortunately, the weather had a different idea and the fog held all the way there, so much so, that we could easily have got lost!!
After such a long drive we really wondered what we were doing there. I was hoping that the drive along the long track would provide many photo opportunities, using the car as a hide. There were so many Lapwing close to the car as well as a few other waders that it should have been fantastic, however, all we could do was watch them in the very dull conditions. A long walk to the hides was also a waste of time, apart from seeing how good they could be for future visits, as there were no birds near the hides at all. A few Marsh Harriers were the only birds of interest.
By the time we arrived back at the car the light had improved just enough to stand a chance of getting some photos on the return along the track. Once again, the Lapwing showed well as did a small group of Ruff. Unfortunately for David the Ruff were on my side of the car and he was unable to get any shots. Due to this I turned at the end and drove back hoping they would still be showing for him on what was now his side of the car. Unfortunately for David they had now moved on. However, David then hit lucky as a very showy Grey Partridge performed well for him on his side of the car. I tried to get a few hand held shots from the drivers seat, not easy with a very heavy lens, but a few shots were acceptable, just!!



The rarely seen Grey Partridge.

After leaving Elmley we headed for the famous 'Raptor Viewpoint' a few miles further on into Sheppey. Although we didn't have any close encounters of birds there we did see an amazing quantity of birds of prey. Just before we arrived we saw a Merlin hunting over the road. This was followed by a superb view of a ringtail Hen Harrier hunting the fields, a distant Barn Owl and an incredible amount of Marsh Harriers. All the time we were there the Marsh Harriers continued to arrive in this area where they roost. We must have seen between 30 and 40 individuals, a sight that just a few years ago would never have been believed. Of course, with less than 40 minutes of daylight left the clouds lifted and the sun came out. Much too late, but at least it meant there was a decent sunset!!

A very brief view of the Sun!!

Saturday, 20 January 2018

Post Man Flu!!

Having felt like just sitting at home since Christmas due to the dreaded man flu, and with Pen then getting the female version, I haven't been anywhere of any significance, so with at last feeling human again I headed over to Dungeness with David, who had also been very much under the weather. The plan was to go around the reserve hoping for Bearded Tits, the Long-eared Owl and a Black-throated Diver, then to head to the sea for the confiding Caspian Gull and then head back to the ARC pit to pick up any other delights we could. Unfortunately, it was bit breezy for the Tits and the Owl was hiding too much so we had to settle for the Diver. Fortunately the Diver did show well with a bit of patience and this made up for the one that was in Ramsgate harbour that we had missed. We also had some nice distant views of a pair of Smew. These have been few and far between this winter so it was pleasing to see these. We then headed for the beach where the Gull had gone missing for the time we were there. I had managed a few shots a couple of years ago of one of these rare gulls and I am posting a shot of that one in a pose that the one yesterday would have had as it laughed at us as it hid from us!! It should be called a Laughing Gull!!
We then headed for the ARC where we had some fly past Great White Egrets and Marsh Harriers. As usual, not quite close enough. The hoped for Bittern didn't materialise but we did get to see a male Bearded Tit and a Cetti's Warbler. All in all we did have a good day despite missing some of the targets, it was however, really good to have a day back out in the field and apart from the larva shots from the previous post it was the first photos I've taken this year.

Black-throated Diver in winter plumage.

Caspian Gull from 2016.

Great White Egret fly past.

Marsh Harrier with brakes on.

Marsh Harrier.

Sunday, 14 January 2018

Baby Wall.

As I had to stay local today I decided to do some scrub clearance on the patch. With so many small bushes trying to take over that will destroy breeding areas of many rare butterflies and moths I try to spend some time each year to keep it manageable. During a short break I went hunting for Wall Brown larva. I had found 2 on Friday, and one of those I located again as it was sitting on a grass blade.

A young Wall Brown larva. (Just over 1 cm long).