Thursday 28 February 2019

Dorset Delights.

For a few weeks I have so nearly been tempted to head down to Weymouth as the 2 RSPB reserves there have had a couple of rare birds over-wintering there and both have been showing extremely well. 

It was after seeing the blog post and photos from a birding friend of mine and Matt's from Oxfordshire, Ewan Urquhart of the excellent blog that I follow, Black Audi Birding, that David and I decided we had to take the plunge as Ewan had also come across a Penduline Tit as well as the Ring-billed Duck and the Lesser Yellowlegs. The Penduline would actually be a brand new bird for me.

David arrived promptly and we left my place before 5am to make sure we missed the worst of the traffic, and after a drive of 2hrs 40 minutes we arrived at our first destination of Radipole Lake. 
It was at this destination that Ewan had also found some Bearded Tits performing well, so we followed the general direction that Ewan had mentioned and low and behold we found a pair of Bearded Tits in next to no time. They appeared to be happy feeding on the Reedmace rather than the usual reeds we normally see them on. It wasn't easy getting clean shots of the birds with all the other reeds swaying about in the gentle breeze, but we both got a few pleasing shots.

Male Bearded Tit on Reedmace.

Female Bearded Tit feeding on Reedmace.

Seeds going everywhere.

A classic pose of a male Bearded Tit.

A male Bearded Tit looking very smart.

Following our success with these little beauties it was off to find the Ring-necked Duck, a duck that would normally be in America. As it turned out it was easy to find as another birder caught our attention from the other side of the water, so it was just a short walk once we had got back to the car-park to stroll down the other side of the water.
To start with the bird had gone into hiding, but after 5 minutes the bird re-appeared and was quite content as it swam up and down the channel. Much easier to photograph than the bird at Dungeness last Winter!!

Male Ring-necked Duck.

Subtle colours in the head plumage.

Common Pochard were also in attendance.

It was still the morning when we eventually left Radipole for Lodmoor, which is just a 10 minute drive away.

Bad news as soon as we arrived here as the Lesser Yellowlegs had vanished after being seen earlier in the day, and the Penduline had not appeared at all today despite several people looking for it over several hours.

A very smart male Ruff was on show though, and this was a bird that the Lesser Yellowlegs often seems to feed with, but not today!!

Male Ruff feeding.

Several Teal were also showing well.

Male Teal.

After quite some time, and still no positive news on the Penduline Tit I suggested to David that perhaps we should head over to the area that the Penduline had been seen in before today, just for something to do. By now we were both beginning to wilt, but with nothing to lose we walked to the opposite side of the reserve. The path that runs in a straight line at this point was empty apart from a group of 3 people a few hundred metres ahead that were looking through binoculars, and appeared to be watching a bird. We quickly sped up and as we arrived at where the birders were they pointed the Penduline out to us. After several hours of searching the bird had appeared just a couple of minutes earlier. I got a quick record shot just as the bird flew. Fortunately, just a few minutes later it re-appeared at the top of a small bush which gave us great views. We then watched it almost continuously for the next 30 minutes.

Male Penduline Tit.

We were now feeling very lucky, so we headed back to the area where we thought the Lesser Yellowlegs was bound to be showing. However, all we found were a few people looking pretty dejected as the bird was still not around. With this very un-seasonal weather it was always likely that the bird would have moved on, although with it being seen earlier in the day we were still hopeful it was around. With the sun starting to get low in the sky I suggested to David that we slowly make tracks back to the car and we started to take down the tripods. It was at this point I saw a different wader in the next pool along. A quick look through the binoculars confirmed it was, at last, the Lesser Yellowlegs. Better still, it was walking towards the pool where we were. With the car-parking ticket running out, and the sun getting lower than we wanted the bird performed extremely well for us and a few other patient birders. Just in the nick of time!! Our 2nd American bird of the day.

Lesser Yellowlegs.

Mission accomplished with all targets hit.

With the return journey taking just a little over 3 hours it had been a very long day, but very rewarding. My thanks to Ewan for inspiring us to try for them.

Saturday 23 February 2019

The Brimstone Ride.

Since Christmas I have started a bit of a keep fit campaign getting back out on the bike. My marathon running days are unfortunately over, thanks to a bit of a problem with the old ticker 6 years ago, but riding at least keeps a bit of weight off and will hopefully get me fit enough to do some good long walks in the Summer.

Anyway, today I was out in the glorious sunshine on a ride in ideal weather for butterflies to be on the wing. To date this year I have just seen 3 Peacock, and despite a short search for Brimstone the other day the cool breeze kept the butterflies at bay.
It was on the steep climb today between Lullington and Wilmington when I spotted my first Brimstone of the year, this was joined in flight by a 2nd. Always a great sight of that gorgeous yellow, and it was not the end of it either, as just the other side of Chiddingly another 2 were seen that also included a female.

Obviously, as I was on the bike I was not in a position for photography so I have dug up a few older shots of the Brimstone from a few years ago.

Male Brimstone shortly after coming out of hibernation.

Saturday 16 February 2019

Early Spring-time Kingfisher.

Due to several commitments with both myself and Phil I haven't managed to get out to his site this year, so when he rang on Tuesday inviting me over I had no hesitation in accepting the invite.

It turned out to be one of the best sessions we have had together with many visits from the female Kingfisher, and with the Hazel Catkins being out too there was a very good chance of some lovely Spring photos.

The pond the bird visits is free of fish as far as we are aware, so the bird has become a bit of an expert at catching Dragonfly larva instead and during our visit we saw her catch 8 of these, mainly Common Darter I believe, although one Emperor was also caught as well as one Damselfly larva.

Kingfisher with Common Darter larva.

Kingfisher juggling the larva ready for swallowing.

In the intervals when the Kingfisher vanished we still had plenty of action with the smaller common birds with a very nice selection.

Coal Tit.

Long-tailed Tit.

Male Great-spotted Woodpecker.

Blue Tit.


We also had a stunning male Fox appear. I was very lucky to catch him without the Hazel tree in front of him. I took a quick shot as he walked through a gap. The noise of the shutter going off made him stop and look in our direction where I managed another 3 shots, one of them looking straight down the lens.

Male Fox in pristine condition.

As ever, my thanks to Phil for his invite and help in getting a set of photos that I'm rather pleased with!! His expertise and patience makes this possible.

Sunday 3 February 2019

Kent Crossbills.

Winter time can be very good in the pine plantations for Crossbills as they fly around in noisy flocks before the nesting season gets going. A couple of years ago I missed a good opportunity in Ashdown Forest where they were being seen regularly and this Winter I was determined to try again. 
There then came news of some good sightings in a forest in Kent with birds regularly coming down to drink in puddles. On a sunny day a few weeks ago David and I headed over there with instructions of where to go. As it was we would soon have found the spot as there were several others with the same idea. Perhaps too many as the Crossbills didn't really perform as well as we had hoped.
I did actually improve on my best Crossbill shot, but it wasn't too difficult to do that as my previous best was a shot I took many years ago in Wales with a little compact camera held over the eyepiece of a spotting scope!!

Male Crossbill.

Our next attempt would then probably have been at Ashdown Forest, that was until I spotted some superb images from Kent by my birding friends, and proper bird photographers Steve Ashton and Tim Gutsell, with the birds coming down to a tree that had some accumulated water in the top of the trunk.
Even then it was a very late decision to go and try again, following a message from David when I had returned from collecting Matt from his India trip. I wasn't really feeling up to another day of standing in the freezing cold and seeing very little. 
Of course, we also had to find the tree that the birds were coming down to. Bearing in mind that there were several thousand trees in the forest, although reading between the lines it was thought the tree was near where we had been the previous time. However, confidence of success was quite low to say the least.
Walking to the original spot we checked out likely trees and thought we had narrowed it down to a handful. After around an hour David spotted 6 Crossbill in a tree back along the woodland ride so we quickly made our way to the tree where they were still sitting. Gradually they descended down the tree and then took it in turns to drink from the crevice where the water had obviously collected.
Unfortunately, the spot they were drinking from was in the shade and it wasn't easy getting any shots of any significance. After a drink the birds flew away and it was back to a bit of a waiting game.

My one shot from this encounter. Another male Crossbill.

By now we had been joined by a few more birders, although some came and went so it was never too busy. We were now back at the original spot, when suddenly a large flock flew over our heads and headed for the same tree. Once again we headed to the tree where between 20 and 30 birds were gathered. Once again they gradually descended to the drinking spot. By now though the sun had moved around a little which helped, as well as the birds having to wait their turn which made the photographic possibilities much greater and easier. Both male and female birds showed really well and made the trip very unexpectedly successful.

Male Crossbill slowly descending.

Female Crossbill.

Male Crossbill.

Mr and Mrs Crossbill.

Female Crossbill.

Male Crossbill.

Male Crossbill.

A small flock of distant Crossbill.