Thursday, 19 January 2017

Serin



After six hours standing in the cold on Tuesday with no sightings of the Serin I am not sure if I was pleased or not when it was reported again on Wednesday evening. There was little choice, I had never seen a Serin in the UK, so I had to have another go. Dave picked me up at 0800 and we headed off down to "Turd" Mills.

Success - we only had to wait about fifteen minutes and it flew in.






It spent much of the time in the undergrowth feeding but did move around a lot and on occasions perched up in a small tree or on one of the old walls.






The best views were obtained early on with less perched up shots being offered as the morning wore on. It also made occasional forays out of sight eastwards but always returned a few minutes later. The flight seemed fast and direct and was always easy to pick up as it approached.





I am told that it was also calling and singing but the sound is beyond my range.





A fantastic little bird and well worth the hours spent waiting for it in the cold.






By late morning the number of birders was beginning to grow so we decided to move on, but where to go. We had a look for Purple Sandpipers at the end of the east pier but with the tide out there were none present.

In the end we decided on a trip up to Crawley to see the Rose-coloured Starling. This is a bird we had avoided until now. Standing in the street scanning people's back gardens with camera and bins does not really sit comfortably with me but as my header says - once the crowds have died down I might give it a go.

In this case the crowds have died down, there was no one there. The garden was easy to find, it was full of birds, and the starling flock soon put in an appearance with the Rose-coloured easy to spot. It was difficult to get a shot where the bird was not obscured by branches but I ended up with better than I had expected. I just wish I could have said thank you to the people that own the house.



Rose-coloured Starling


I have seen a Rose-coloured Starling before but that was a rather washed out nondescript looking juvenile. This one is starting to show some coloured plumage and the promise of some really good photographic opportunities to come.














Two great birds in a day and they could both stay around for some time. The Rose-coloured in full summer plumage could well convince me to go back for a few more pictures.






Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Water Pipit





Having spent six hours on Tuesday, in the freezing cold, waiting for a Serin to appear and then having gone home without seeing it and without taking a single picture we decided to spend Wednesday  on some more reliable subjects.

First stop should have been Apuldram Church but I took the wrong turn so we made a revisit to the Cattle Egrets at Church Lane Warblington. There had been eight of them in the field with the cattle last week but this time there were no cattle and only the one Cattle Egret and that was too far away for a photograph.

Moving on we tried the Nore Stream. Plenty of dog walkers and the usual wildfowl but very little of interest. Which eventually led us back to our intended target, the Water Pipit at Apuldram. We had a quick look at the Yellowhammer flock in the horse paddock on the way but we were both keen to get to the river.

Dave spotted it as soon as we arrived. Fairly close and easy to see but very difficult to get a clear shot of it against a clean background.



Water Pipit














There were a couple of Rock Pipits in the area which was useful for comparison purposes. One of these seemed to want to occupy the same tuft of grass as the Water Pipit which resulted in frequent disputes and pursuits when the Water Pipit reappeared. This was some feisty bird and it was not sharing its territory with any rockies.



Rock Pipit





You occasionally get a heart stopping moment when something unusual pops up and you think you may have found a rarity. The bird below had me scrambling to get a record shot but my hopes were dashed when Dave pointed out that it was only a Wren. True but if it were a butterfly I would call it an aberration and would be searching the records to be able to put a name to it.



Wren with a crown stripe


Apuldram is the most reliable location in our patch for Yellowhammers. There are reports of the flock being thirty to forty strong although I usually only see around six. The manure heap seems to offer plenty of food for the foraging birds but photographing them against the yellow straw is always difficult. There are better opportunities when they perch up in the trees but to get close you often end up photographing into the sun.



Yellowhammer






We made a quick visit to the Bill but it all looked very quiet and with Church Norton and the North Wall failing to produce much recently we decided to head over too the wetland centre at Arundel. The Great White Egret if still present would be a patch first for me.

A good choice as it turned out. With most of the water frozen over there were some good picture opportunities. It was nice to get a couple of pictures of the GWE  where it did not look long necked and awkward.



Great White Egret






There were half a dozen snipe present but it was a choice between photographing them or following the GWE hoping that it would fall through the ice.


The Shelduck gave good picture opportunities from the hide and we saw our second Grey Wagtail of the day.



Shelduck


Grey Wagtail


Later we saw a couple of Water Rail. Icy conditions always seem to bring them out into the open.



Water Rail





A really enjoyable days birding spoilt only by a report that the Serin has been seen again at Tide Mills. It looks like another long day in the cold tomorrow.






Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Goosander




Tuesday we went looking for the Goosander on Petworth Park Lower Pond. There was one swimming around when we arrived and three more flew in whilst we watched. These are never an easy bird to photograph. If you can get close, which is very difficult, you then have problems with the contrast, either burning out the whites or ending up with the head black, showing none of the green colour and often no eye.






This time the lighting was ideal, bright but diffuse, but the Goosander would not cooperate. I tried walking round the pool but they always stayed on the complete opposite side. If I changed direction they changed direction as well. I tried sitting in cover and waiting for them to drift over towards me, they didn't. Eventually I approached their position under cover of the bank, just poking my head up at the last moment. I didn't even get the chance of one picture. They saw me immediately and disappeared to the far side of the pool.






Fortunately the Egyptian Geese were a bit more trusting and gave a few good picture opportunities.






We then visited a couple of the commons looking for Dartford Warblers. There numbers have certainly increased on the south coast over the past three or four years but you always worry that a hard winter could see their numbers decimated again.





 We found two, or possibly three of the Dartfords. The easiest way to locate them seems to be to find Stonechats then to look for the Dartfords which often follow them around staying low and hidden in the undergrowth.






On Tuesday we did a circuit through Kent. An early start enabled us to spend a rather unwelcome couple of hours birding the M23 from a stationary car. This following a thirteen car pile up. We should have gone along the coastal route to Dungeness but had included a quick stopover in Strood to pick up year ticks on the Waxwings. We just couldn't risk them turning round and heading for home without ever reaching Sussex.

Standing outside the Bounty Pub in a busy housing estate is not my idea of fun birding but I did at least get one reasonable picture. We counted thirteen birds in total but they stayed mostly in the tree tops just making occasional visits to pick berries from the lower trees.







Key target for the day was the Red-necked Grebe resident on one of the pools to the west of Camber. It had been there for over a week. It's a bird that I have often seen at a distance but have never been able to get close enough to get a picture. And so it proved today. We found a couple of Coots but the Red-necked Grebe seems to have moved on. What is worse is that we drove past the pool last week, before it was reported, but were short of time and did not stop for a look.


Consolation was that the Long-eared Owl behind the dipping pool at Dungeness RSPB, that we had missed last week, has now turned into two Long eared Owls. Really great to see but still very difficult to photograph.






We found the Ring-necked Duck easily enough but it was more distant than last week so we moved on to look for the Stejnegers Stonechat again. I am not sure what we are doing wrong but this is the third time we have drawn a blank. I keep reading reports about how easy it is to find and talking to people who have just seen it but it is not working for us.


A stop at Scotney Pitts gave an assortment of geese but nothing unusual and a search at Pett Level eventually gave us very distant views of the Taiga Bean Geese. We finished off at Pevensey Levels searching for an Owls but again drew a blank


A long day with some good birds and some missed opportunities. It looks as though we will have to go back for fourth time lucky with the Stejnegers






Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Kingfisher




A few more year ticks gathered on Wednesday morning, finishing off with the Bewick Swans at Offam Farm, left us outside Arundel WWT with some time to spare. We decided to have a walk around to see if we could add Kingfisher and Bullfinch to our list. It proved to be a good decision as we ended up with the best photographic opportunity of the year so far. In fact the best opportunity for a good few weeks now.

Sitting in the Scrape hide we watched a Kingfisher for about an hour. The water was iced over and he was having difficulty finding anywhere to fish.



First Kingfisher


He was great to watch but he was not really coming close enough and the light was in the wrong direction. Thinking I would give the Bullfinches a go I left the hide and wandered up the path. I was initially distracted by a Long-tailed Tit that fluttered around my head a bit like a large butterfly. It was very close but I could not get a clear shot of it.



Long-tailed Tit


Tracking the Long-tailed Tit I came across a second Kingfisher, very still, and this time very close, with the light in the right direction. There was no cover so you just had to stand still and hope that he would not be spooked.



Second Kingfisher






He moved around between perches but stayed close and was clearly focused on hunting. We ended up with six or seven people watching and he still flew to within about twelve feet of where we were standing









I never thought I would get this close to a Kingfisher without being concealed in a hide.






A great opportunity and we even had a second miracle before we left the site. A teal walking on water!










Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Ring-necked Duck




The new year always brings a new excitement to the birding. Standing in the kitchen window, as the sun comes up on New Years Day, waiting for that first year tick. Then two or three days of rushing around trying to find all those birds that you have ignored for the rest of the year. It is almost as bad as twitching but it is difficult not to get sucked in.

New Years Day always used to be a trip down to Gosport to say hello to Waldo the Ring-billed Gull. He had been returning there for so long that you always felt that you needed to get him early in the year just in case he died of old age. Now he is no longer there, the day seems strangely empty.



In memory of Waldo


Anyway Dave and I entered into the usual tick gathering exercise. Bird numbers seen were reasonable but picture opportunities were very limited. We saw the eight Cattle Egrets in the fields at Warblington. Great to see but not much chance of a good picture.



Cattle Egret


Pagham Harbour had the birds but again all very distant. The best picture opportunity being this Curlew with crab.



Curlew and crab


We had a trip down to Dungeness that proved a bit disappointing. The Long-eared Owl was not in its usual roost and we wasted hours in searching for the Stejneger's Stonechat. Dave eventually got a distant glimpse but I must have been the only person there that did not get to see it.



A Stonechat but not the Stejneger's


Best bird of the day for me was the Ring-necked Duck on the pond just by the entrance to the RSPB at Bolderwall Farm. This is the first Drake that I have seen.



Ring-necked Duck


and Kestrels everywhere










Thursday, 22 December 2016

Waxwings




I am still waiting for the Waxwings to arrive in Sussex but with time moving on it is starting to look as though we could miss out on seeing them. That will not come as a surprise to most of the local birders. In an exceptional year across the country, for  rare and scare birds, Sussex has been noticeably missing from the list. Sussex, Surrey and Hampshire seem to be a birding Bermuda Triangle.


Today I needed to travel down to Canterbury. It is a regular trip and I usually take the opportunity to visit a few birding sites on the way. With Waxwings having been reported in the north Kent town of Strood and with it only being a short distance from my intended route it seemed to be worth a visit. At least I would have the opportunity of a 2016 year tick.






When I arrived it didn't look too bad. There were only two other birders present and the Waxwings were flying between a high tree perch and  an orange fruiting Rowan in a garden opposite the Bounty Pub. The only problem was that the Rowan was mostly in shadow.

After about half an hour the lighting improved but unfortunately the number of birders also increased. We were getting up close to twenty people with most standing directly under the feeding tree, setting up tripods and talking loudly. The Waxwings were coming down but were just grabbing a few berries and heading back to the safety of their high level perch.

How inconsiderate birders can be. Don't they realise that I need to have these bird all to myself, for about an hour, in what was turning out to be perfect light. We all have our problems. In the end I gave in, joined the fray, grabbed a couple of quick pictures, and then left to find a more peaceful place.






Dave and I have been able to get some great pictures of Waxwings in the past but you need time and space. A large twitch severely reduces your chances of success. I think, that in the new year, we could be making the trip up north, possibly even to Scotland where at the moment Waxwings can be found in their hundreds. 


My route to Canterbury then continued via a minor detour to Dungeness. I had no specific target but it is always a place where something unusual could turn up. There were Smew and Goldeneye on the Burrows Pit but both were too far away for even a record shot. I also failed to find the Ring-necked Duck behind Bolderwall Farm. However, there were good numbers of Tree Sparrows around Bolderwall, which was good to see after missing them earlier in the summer.






The Long-eared Owl was in its usual spot behind the dipping pool. With the green foliage gone it was at least a bit easier to find him this time.






Lots of other birds but nothing really unusual. The Great White Egret dosen't even raise an eyebrow these days other than for me to think that it is unusual to only find one at Dungeness.






Finally another shot of a Kestrel. One day I will get that picture of a Merlin that has been at the top of my list for so long.







Not a bad day out given that it is just a day after the mid winter solstice.