Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Sussex Dartford Warblers.

Looking back on a few highlights from the past year that I didn't post at the time included an early Summer visit to a couple of Sussex heathlands hoping to catch up with some Dartford Warblers. This species seemed to have done quite well over the past few years in Sussex and walking around both of the heaths several birds were seen. All apart from one were quite long distance and the photos are a little more cropped than I would have liked, but they still show what a beautiful species they are. The final bird that I photographed was a bit nearer. This one I found as I was walking along a path when I heard the bird calling loudly. Creeping into an area of Gorse it became clear why it was calling so loudly, as it was having a heated argument with a Willow Warbler!!

Dartford Warbler on Gorse.

Dartford Warbler having an argument with a Willow Warbler.

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Let it Snow.

With a local Snow Bunting being reported over the weekend I was keen to catch up with it after the Kent birds a couple of weeks ago which proved to be very flighty. Meeting David and Malcolm at the site the bird was visible straight away. The bird was very busy foraging in the grassy tussocks on the edge of the beach. Every time it came to the pebbles it rushed across these to get back to the grass area that held the seed. Although the bird wasn't as tame as these birds can be we did eventually get close enough for detailed photography. With the bird spending so much time in the grass it had picked up quite a bit of moisture under the chin and its under-side.

Snow Bunting.

Snow Bunting in the grass.

Following this we headed to Sovereign Harbour where a first winter Black Guillemot has settled in for a long stay. The bird has shown to be very approachable, and this was certainly the case as soon as we arrived, although it quickly started diving further out in the harbour. It then vanished for some time as it presumably was resting and feeding amongst the boats. When it eventually came close again the sun had gone behind the tall buildings. However, it performed very well as it caught several fish just a short distance away. The only other time I've seen Black Guillemot before was when I was in Scotland with Nigel. In Oban we saw several of these smart birds in their summer plumage. A super day with two very good birds.

Black Guillemot, note the visible red foot.

'Bottoms Up'  Diving for fish.

Black Guillemot in the reflection of a red boat.

Monday, 4 December 2017


After failing to get any shots that I was pleased with of Sanderling 3 weeks ago I was encouraged by Leigh to have another go, this time on an outgoing tide. This worked in our favour with the birds being keen to start feeding as soon as the sand appeared. With several large groups of Sanderling it was a case of being patient and waiting for the birds to approach us. Gradually more sand appeared and the birds started feeding more confidently and coming very close.

Sanderling looking for food.

Sanderling on the sand.

Feeding on a Worm.

As more sand appeared the birds became more confident.

Following this we headed for Widewater hoping to see the female Goosander that had been seen recently. The bird was seen straight away in the distance, and we managed to get close enough for some pictures. The timing was perfect as it wasn't long before the bird flew off to feed on the sea.

Female Goosander.

Goosander in flight.

Saturday, 2 December 2017

Mrs Kingfisher.

On what has been quite a busy week with 4 trips into the countryside that included rescuing a sheep from a ditch on the Levels with Nigel, a trip looking for waders and sitting in a very cold hide with Phil twice it has also been productive and enjoyable.
The first of the 2 days with Phil was spent hoping for the male Kingfisher in the promised sunshine. Unfortunately, the sunshine didn't materialise until the Kingfisher had appeared twice. Of course, once the sun came out the Kingfisher stayed away!! Several of the smaller birds did however show and perform well. It was quite a short visit due to a trip to the vet with the cat.

Blue Tit.


2 days later we went to a different hide hoping for Jays and Buzzards. With 2 quick visits by the female Kingfisher and little happening by the hide we changed tactics and moved closer to the pond so I could get some shots of the Kingfisher. We then had a short visit by the bird followed by a very long gap before she came back. With ice covering most of the pond it was pleasing to see her catch a small snack from the area Phil had cleared of ice. She was also seen hovering above the water several times. By now the sun had moved around too much meaning there was a little too much in the way of shadow. It was great though getting some much better shots of a female Kingfisher and as ever my thanks goes out to Phil who was photographing the Fieldfare in the bushes while I waited for the Kingfisher. It took quite a while for my feet to thaw out afterwards, but as ever it was a wonderful experience seeing these great birds close by.

Female Kingfisher.

Kingfisher hovering.

In between the visits by the Kingfisher I did have a Fieldfare sit at the top of a bush that was just in range for a picture.


Female Kingfisher hunting.

Sunday, 26 November 2017

Flight Mode.

This past week has been almost photo free with a trip to Kent again on Wednesday producing very little to photograph. First stop was Stodmarsh, a reserve I last visited some 40 years ago when the highlight was a Glossy Ibis. This time David and I were hoping for Water Pipits. We did actually see one but it was a very distant view. Unfortunately it was very windy and this probably affected the birds as very few showed at all. We then headed over to Oare Marshes where both a Green-winged Teal and the Long-billed Dowitcher both also stayed hidden. The only opportunities came when a large flock of Avocet took flight. The black and white plumage looked smart against the blue sky. In the flock also were a few Black-tailed Godwit. Another Godwit also came reasonably close as it fed in the flooded marsh.

Avocets and Black-tailed Godwit.

Black-tailed Godwit.

On a really cold day yesterday I ventured to Pevensey Marshes, hoping for some raptor action. I had a great view of a pair of Peregrines hunting, seeing them take out a Dove. It was the larger female that made the kill, but just after she brought it down she flew up leaving the prey for the smaller bird. He stayed on the ground plucking the Dove as she flew above for the next 15 minutes calling loudly to the other bird. Eventually they both flew off. There was also good numbers in the area of Fieldfare, but other than several Kestrels and a couple of Buzzards, no other raptors were seen. All I managed with the camera was a close flying Mute Swan!!

Mute Swan. (If only it was a Short-eared Owl)!!

Saturday, 18 November 2017

The Third Phalarope.

Plans for another trip to Dungeness on Friday changed suddenly on Thursday afternoon with news that a Red-necked Phalarope had been found at Pegwell Bay at the far end of Kent. Having already seen the Grey Phalarope locally and the rarer Wilson's Phalarope at Oare Marshes this Autumn I was keen to see this 3rd species as this would mean I would have seen all the World's Phalarope species. With Pete and David in the car we set off hoping for positive news that the bird was still there. However, after a 2 hour drive news still hadn't come through and we all thought we would arrive to find the bird had moved on. Parking the car, we didn't know quite where to look. Fortunately I spotted someone with a pair of binoculars looking at something in the flooded marshland and there it was. With shooting straight into the sun photography was not at all easy, even though the bird was quite confiding. Such a treat seeing this wonderful bird on such a great day. Like all Phalaropes the bird was active all the time picking insects off the surface of the water and it was quite difficult getting sharp shots with the head bobbing about constantly.

Juvenile Red-necked Phalarope.

With the light being so difficult to get good photos we decided to move on to Reculver where a few Snow Bunting had been seen over the past few days. We thought there would be time to hopefully see the Buntings and then be able to return for better lighting at the Phalarope. At Reculver we saw a few birders walking back to the car park and nobody had seen the Buntings. However, we decided we may as well walk along the sea wall in the hope that we may spot them. After about a mile David spotted a couple of Buntings which turned into around 12 once they flew. With several birds there they were however much flightier than usual. At one point we were watching them when 6 of them took flight. We then saw why as they were being harassed by a Merlin. One Snow Bunting was singled out by the Merlin and with no cover, being out to sea, it looked a lost cause for the Bunting. However, the Bunting managed to outwit the Merlin and managed to escape. A fabulous spectacle to witness.

Snow Bunting on the beach.

It was then back to the Phalarope where the sun had now moved round making the lighting much better. A few of the Kent birders had now arrived, as they knew the light was better in the afternoon!! We then all managed some much better photos before the sun eventually started to set.

Red-necked Phalarope.

A wing flap following a preen.

Red-necked Phalarope and reflection.

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Tits and Peckers.

I had another invite out with Phil yesterday hoping to get some close views of Buzzards and Jays. Unfortunately, those particular birds remained elusive with just a very brief Jay in the morning and the tantalising sounds of 2 nearby Buzzard as they flew overhead several times. Fortunately we were still entertained by large numbers of smaller birds, and although all were common garden birds, they still added a nice bit of colour as they flitted about in the bushes before coming to feeders. The berries on the local bushes added some extra interest to the photographs as did some Autumnal leaves to the Woodpecker shots. Any day spent with Phil is always enjoyable as well as being educational and another big thanks to Phil. Let's hope the Buzzard eventually performs for me!!

Blue Tit on Hawthorn.

Coal Tit on Hawthorn.


Great Tit.


Male Great-spotted Woodpecker.

Great-spotted Woodpecker.

Great Tit on Blackthorn.

Blue Tit.

Blue Tit.