Saturday 20 January 2024

The Beautiful Bearded Reedling.

 The beautiful Bearded Reedling, most often called the Bearded Tit, is a wonderful bird that lives in the reedbeds. In Summer it is an insect feeder, but in the Winter, when there are few insects to feed upon, they turn to the seed-heads of the Reeds to feed on. 

The best time to observe them is on cold, still days when they can be seen feeding in the reedbeds on the seed-heads. 

As we have recently had a few really cold days with very light winds I have been searching for these lovely birds, hoping to get some nice photos of them. We have several reedbeds in Sussex where these birds are found, although my best photographs have always come from Dungeness in the past.

Three times I have been out in the past week, with my first attempt being with Lisa, who had always wanted to see them, but had never had the opportunity. Unfortunately, although it was a calm day when we tried, it was also very dull, so photography was going to be tough. The main target though was to at least see the birds and for Lisa to get a few record shots.

It was very early in our trip when we saw the first birds. I was carefully leading the way, but concentrating on the water in the meadow, which at times was quite deep, when Lisa spotted two Bearded Reedling just in front of us. For the next 90 minutes or so we were watching the birds that at one point numbered 5 birds, but mostly 4 birds. There were 2 males and 2 females for the majority of the time. Lisa managed to take quite a few photos although the birds generally stayed well hidden deep in the reedbeds. The light remained very poor, and as it was mid to late afternoon, the light of course, got much worse.

3 days later, the sun came out, and it was still light winds. Therefore I just had to go back and have another attempt. Lisa unfortunately was working, but conditions were so good I just had to try again. This time I met up with David, who I had been with for my best ever session with these birds back in January 2017. In the same area as 3 days earlier I quickly re-found the birds again. Once again, they stayed mostly deep in the reedbed, making it very difficult to get clear views and photographs of them. However, one of the females did feed for a short while on the edge of the reed-bed allowing some clear images.

Female Bearded Reedling.

The female of this species is absolutely gorgeous, but the male is even more spectacular, so it was very frustrating seeing the 2 males in the group feeding quite close, but in the middle of the reedbed where photography was not viable. Eventually we moved to a different area of the site where another male and female were found. The reedbed here wasn't so dense, but once again the birds stayed in the middle of the reeds making it hard to get close shots. Towards the end of the session I did get a shot from distance of the male that I quite like.

Male Bearded Reedling in the Reed-bed.

The weather actually remained good for a couple more days, so another attempt was possible. Once again David joined me. The original birds were located again very quickly, but this time they were much more elusive, so it was back to the other area for the pair. At first there was no sign of them, but after a short while they were seen flying into the same area as they were before. Strangely, this time, instead of feeding on the Reed seed-heads they seemed to be enjoying the Reed-mace. It took quite a while again, but eventually a few shots of both the female and male feeding on the Reed-mace were achieved.

All these photos took a great deal of patience and several hours were spent on all 3 days, but when a bird is as good looking as these, it is time very much well spent.

Female Bearded Reedling.

Male Bearded Reedling.

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