Friday 29 January 2016

Raptor City.

A gorgeous day yesterday brought in a return to The Burgh in totally different conditions to last Saturday. With the brighter weather the Raptors were also out in force with a very close encounter with a hovering Kestrel. I first spotted it about 50 metres away, I stood very still and it soon flew towards me and started to hunt just across the path over a field margin. Following this it was hoping to get close to the Red Kites. This didn't happen though, although plenty were seen displaying or hunting. It was then a wait for the Owls which didn't start to show until around 3.45. Strangely the first owl was a Barn Owl but this was followed shortly by the first of 2 Short-eared Owls. These were both seen battling with a pair of Kestrels. A small fast flying raptor was then seen flying low across the area where the Owls were. It then landed on the top of a small bush where it became obvious it was a Merlin, the first one I have seen at The Burgh. On the return to the car more Barn Owl sightings were observed, and going by flight feathers missing it was clear that there were at least 2 birds present and almost certainly 3. Unfortunately, apart from the early Kestrel I didn't manage any other photographs.

Kestrel hovering.

Sunday 24 January 2016

Owls In The Mist.

With Pen out Saturday afternoon I had planned a trip to The Burgh where the forecast all week was very promising for the day, that was until the day before when it changed to being cloudy all day. Undeterred the drive over saw the clouds building and the downland was covered with mist. On arrival at the Burgh it was obvious Pete and I would be lucky to see anything so it was a bit of a relief when a Red Kite was seen quite close. It was great though being in such a fabulous area with plenty of small birds about and the sound of Grey Partridge calling. 
Eventually the camera came out of the bag when a Wood Mouse appeared in front of us, although it didn't appear to be too healthy and has almost certainly now been eaten by one of the many raptors that are found in the area.

Wood Mouse.

Eventually the mist started to lift a little, although it remained cloudy with no real sign of brightness but the larger raptors did start taking to the air with more Red Kites and Buzzards seen. It was whilst we were watching one of the Kites that I spotted a Short-eared Owl sitting on a fence post quite near to us. This made the trip more worthwhile as it is always good watching these beautiful birds hunting, which it was doing for the next hour or so. Although it didn't come close enough for decent photos it was great seeing it have the odd tussle with the local Kestrel. It dived down several times but it wasn't clear it caught anything.

Short-eared Owl spotted on the fencepost.

Short-eared Owl.

Eventually with the light fading we decided to head for home, but just as we were leaving the area I spotted a Barn Owl hunting in some rough pasture nearby. It then started heading our way where it flew past quite close. The light by this time was really poor so it was a relief to find that I had one acceptable image of this stunning bird.

Barn Owl.

Thursday 21 January 2016

The Sparrowhawk and the Rabbit and a Hen Harrier.

A stroll from home this afternoon was more than a little entertaining. After a couple of miles I was walking down the edge of a hedgerow when I decided the light was beginning to fade so I changed from the 1.7 converter to the 1.4. As I was doing this I saw a Sparrowhawk flying low and fast down the other side of the hedge. A few minutes later I saw the bird perched up on the edge of the hedge on my side. I thought I would try to creep up on it but as usual it flew almost straight away and I thought that would be the end of that. However, when I was just about to reach the end of the hedgerow I heard a lot of screeching and saw a Rabbit panicking and running into some bramble with the Sparrowhawk flying above it. I'm not sure if it was the bird or the Rabbit that was making the noise but it certainly seemed that the Sparrowhawk was after the Rabbit. The Sparrowhawk then perched up on a fence post and kept looking down amongst the brambles. I tried to creep a bit closer and at one point the bird flew a couple of fence posts along, but I still managed to get a little closer as the bird was still concentrating on its target. I then hit luck as the bird flew back to the original post nearer to where I now was. It was still looking down at where the Rabbit went in. Of course it is possible a small bird also flew into the bramble and that was really what the Sparrowhawk was after although it really did appear that it was indeed the Rabbit it was after!! Also once the Sparrowhawk had flown I did check the brambles and no small birds came out.
 After getting 16 photos the Hawk gave up and flew away. A very memorable experience!! If only the light had been better!!

Female Sparrowhawk.

Sparrowhawk still looking down in the brambles.

About 20 minutes later I saw a large raptor flying some distance away, however it was heading my way. I could see it was more streamlined and longer tailed than a Buzzard and it was no surprise when it turned that the white band above the tail showed  proving it to be a 'ringtail' Hen Harrier. It didn't come close enough for any pictures but a great sight amongst the Sussex Downs.

Wednesday 20 January 2016

Pett Levels Again.

With a spare few hours and a superb sunny day I thought I would have another go for the Glossy Ibis. Unfortunately the Ibis had other ideas and didn't appear all the time I was there. After a while I walked along the coastline to see what Waders I could see. It was mainly Oystercatchers, Dunlin and Grey Plover with a few Turnstone also seen. With very light wind it felt very warm out there, despite the heavy frost today.

Graylag Geese.



Grey Plover.

Sunday 17 January 2016

Caspian Gull.

It was an almost perfect birdwatching day, being cold and bright, so it was decided to head Dungeness way again hoping for the superb Glaucous Gull that had been there for two days. As well as this the Caspian Gull that has spent the winter there was also a target as neither myself or Pete had seen one of these clearly before. Starting at Pett where the Ibis was not showing itself we quickly moved on with just a few of the White-fronted Geese seen. At Dungeness we had the good fortune to join up with the Cooper's who were also hoping for the Glaucous Gull. Quite a few birders were looking for the Long-eared Owl and this bird seemed to be doing the same as the Ibis, with no sign of it. Eventually I saw a tiny movement deep in the bushes and there was the Owl. I was really pleased to spot the Owl as I was now going to benefit from the expertise of John and David Cooper on the beach. Unfortunately the Glaucous wasn't seen all day but soon they were pointing out the Caspian. Without their expertise we would probably still be there now trying to find it!! We were soon taking some pictures of this rare bird with David pointing out the id features and then encouraging it to fly so we could get some flight shots. All this time David was making sure we kept on the bird and not the Herring Gulls that were flying with it. Special thanks must go to both John and David for their help in us getting some pleasing images of this great Gull It is always a pleasure seeing them and taking advantage of their knowledge.

Caspian Gull (1st Winter).

Caspian Gull laughing at us!!

Caspian Gull sticking its' tongue out at us.

Caspian Gull. 

Following this Pete and I headed for the viewpoint on the RSPB reserve as some Penduline Tits had been seen during the week. Unfortunately they didn't appear but a Kingfisher was seen several times. A few other birders were there as well and a small Wader flew up from the reedbed and dropped down into a clump of reeds. Immediately it was thought it was a Jack Snipe and a few of us scanned the reeds to see if we could see it. I thought I maybe had it as I could see some golden brown stripes amongst the reeds. I called for a scope to get a better view and there it was, my best ever view of a smart Jack Snipe, just standing totally still amongst the reeds with everyone there getting a great view of the bird. No photos, but the bird of the day!!
Then at the ARC pit we had a pair of Bearded Tits picking up seeds off the ice at the same time as 2 Cetti's Warblers chasing each other and then individually also picking seeds off the ice. Not quite clear enough for pictures but stunning viewing, and of birds that are rarely seen!! A bonus of 3 Bewick's Swan on the pit and several Great-white Egret and Marsh Harriers finished the day off superbly. We were then looking forward to listening to the Cricket on the way home when we found that it had finished early with England winning. Days don't get much better than this.

Thursday 14 January 2016

Larva Looking Good.

With it being really cold last night and the sun shining this morning I was wondering if the Wall Brown larvae that I found in December would be visible. On the bank where the larvae are the sun was beaming down as well as being protected from the wind and it was actually quite warm. I only checked the 2 grass clumps where the larvae were in December and in both spots I found one sitting around 2 inches up a grass stem. The first one still had some dew on it, the other one that was lower on the bank was sitting on a bit of grass that was well eaten at the top, presumably by the larva.
Both larva had grown a little with them being approx 1.5 cm long.

Wall Brown larva with dew drops. Also note the forked tail.

A slightly larger Wall Brown larva with eaten grass.

A pair of Stonechat were also nearby. Hopefully they will not spot the well camouflaged and slow moving Wall larvae!!

Female Stonechat.

Wednesday 13 January 2016

Butterflies Are GO!!

With a Great Grey Shrike being reported at Ashdown Forest Nigel and I decided to try and see it. Unfortunately today the Shrike decided not to show but with the sun shining it was just a fantastic day to be out and about. The sun also brought out our first butterflies of the year. Firstly a Red Admiral was seen flying. It settled on some dead bracken where it was soaking up the warmth of the sun. A little later a second butterfly flew over which was probably a Peacock. Almost strange that one of the coolest days this year produced the butterflies!!

Red Admiral.

Back near where the Shrike had been seen yesterday a Roe Deer was spotted in the undergrowth. With a little waiting it actually came quite near where I managed a shot of it. The noise of the shutter though soon sent it packing.

Roe Deer.

Friday 8 January 2016

A Purple Patch.

Following the really good day out yesterday The plan had been for me and Matt to have a rare day out together in Kent. However, with a new commitment at home, that plan had to change so we had a short visit instead to the local area of Tide Mills and the East Pier.
It certainly helps to have a young enthusiastic birdwatcher close at hand which helped to see two of the unusual birds. Both the Spotted Redshank and Jack Snipe would have gone unseen if I had been on my own. It was also good to catch up with the male Black Redstart, that Pete and I had seen a few weeks ago, and one of my favourite winter birds of the area, the Purple Sandpipers. Of course I have already posted several pictures of these little waders this winter but when you hit lucky and get them sitting on top of the pier it would be very rude not to take some more!! This was only the 2nd time Matt has seen them up top, and the first time he has photographed them in this position.

Purple Sandpiper keeping an eye on me!!

Purple Sandpiper.

Thursday 7 January 2016

Goosander and Mergansers.

With the promise of a sunny day I headed West to Widewater to have another go at the Red-breasted Mergansers. After several attempts over the last couple of years with the birds keeping their distance it was great to actually get a pair much closer. They were very active all the time constantly diving for small fish and being harassed by the local Gulls every time they caught one.

Male Red-breasted Merganser displaying.

Male Red-breasted Merganser.

Female Red-breasted Merganser.

It was then a pleasant surprise to come across a very smart male Goosander. Unfortunately the promised sunshine had given way to heavy cloud and eventually rain. The wind was also very strong and this increased even more throughout the day. I then had to return home early to drive Pen to the dentist and this was when the weather improved!!

Male Goosander.

Black-headed Gull.

Carrion Crow.