Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Pectoral Sandpiper

The birding and bird photography always seems to go through a bad spell when I come home from a trip abroad. You move from seeing new and unusual birds every day back to seeing all the home front supporting cast with just the occasional bird that raises the interest levels. Except, this past month, Sussex seems to be devoid of anything really interesting. Even regular trips up onto Cissbury Ring have failed to see me connect with the usually reliable Ring Ouzels up there.

I have been out and I have seen lots of birds but it seems as though, most days, I come home without bothering to take a single picture and it has been six weeks since I did my last blog post.

A trip to Pulborough today to see the Pectoral Sandpiper has motivated me to start blogging again. The pictures were not good, the Pec Sand stayed at the back of the pool and a distant brown bird against a brown background is not the easiest of subjects but hey, it was enough to get me going again.

Pectoral Sandpiper

The bird was to be found in front of the West Mead hide, on the mud at the back right hand corner of the pool. I watched it for about an hour and went back later in the morning for another go but it seemed to be faithful to this area and was not going to give a better picture opportunity.

Pectoral Sandpiper

There wasn't a great deal more to look at around Pulborough. Duck numbers were stating to build on the West Mead pool but the North Brooks were mostly empty of birds, with some major re-profiling work going on there.



Needing some more content for the blog I then looked back over the pictures I had taken over the past few weeks. Nothing special but not quiet as bad as I had remembered.

Black-tailed Godwit at Pagham North Wall

Chiffchaff at Brooklands Park

Common Sandpiper  in the Ferry Channel

Looking for somewhere sheltered to roost

Distant Spoonbills at Pagham North Wall

Wheatear  - Pagham North Wall

Wheatear - Pagham North Wall

Migration now seems to be well underway and the bird numbers are picking up. The clear, cold and crisp day of winter may be few and far between but they are by far the best for taking photographs. All we need now are some good birds.

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Turtle Dove

It's always difficult when you get back from an overseas trip. You have an intensive week sorting out all the pictures and publishing the blog and then it is back to reality. There is no more finding ten life ticks a day. You just hope for the chance of a year tick or perhaps an exciting shot of a common bird and that very much sums up how it has been this past week.

My first days birding back in England doesn't look too bad on paper but seemed incredibly slow and unexciting on the day. On the 12th we did our usual circuit of Pagham Harbour. Nothing much had changed. Too much water in the Breech Pool so mostly ducks and no repair to the Ferry Pool so not enough water and very few birds.

On paper it gave me two year ticks, Whinchat and Spotted Flycatcher. All very distant and no chance of a picture but I suppose I should be counting it as a good day. Picture wise it was saved by a few Dragonflys that we found just south of the pumps at Ferry Creek. They were mostly Common and Red Darters but there were also a couple of Migrant Hawkers.

Migrant Hawker

A return a few days later and at least the North Wall was showing signs of life. A good few Bar-tailed Godwits and Redshanks out on the creek along with returning Wigeon and Teal and a few distant Pintails.

Four noisy Greenshanks flew into the back of the Breech Pool and we found three Spotted Redshank amongst the Godwits at the other end of the pool

Four Greenshanks on the Breech Pool

Spotted Redshank

However, the bird we had come to see was a ridiculously confiding juvenile Turtle Dove. It had spent a few days by the Visitors Centre at Pagham completely unfazed by the people around it. Even having read reports of the birds behaviour it still came as a bit of a shock when you realised how easy it was to approach.

Either it has spent a lot of time around people that have been feeding it or it has never seen a human before and does not realise how dangerous we can be.

Lets hope it picks its migration route carefully.....

.....or those brave hunters on the island of Malta will have another easy target.

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Australia (1/8) Melbourne

Birding off the patch! We have just arrived home from another great holiday, a tour of Australia, courtesy of Riviera Travel.  We were over there for 21 days and clocked up around 6000 miles on internal travel. Add that to the 21,500 mile return trip to Aus and I have some serious carbon offset to address. Our trip, shown below, included the Darwin loop.

I have to say though, a great holiday. A small group, well organised, nice people and best of all cheap(ish). I couldn't get anywhere near the price when I looked at doing a similar independent tour.

OK there were some downsides. I didn't get as long for birding as I would have liked and sometimes we were moving on before I had even got the camera out. However, for us, holidays will always be a compromise. That is between my wish for birds, butterflies and all things nature and Sue's belief, strange as it is, that there are other things in life worth doing and to be fair that doesn't just mean shopping as I may have suggested in the past.

So, onto the birds. There are about 850+ different species in Australia with around 45% of those being endemic. I managed to see and photograph around 130 in the time I was there although some of the photographs are (a lot) less than perfect.

We arrived in Melbourne late evening and I was out in Fitzroy Gardens next to the hotel in the predawn light looking for my first exotic.


Not exactly what I had expected but I could at least hear some unusual bird calls from the surrounding trees.

Common Myna

Common Myna, better but still not a new bird. I could see assorted crow and Raven type birds but in the early morning light I couldn't really be sure of an identification. Then my first new bird Australian Wood Duck.

Australian Wood Duck

With the light starting to improve a few more birds appeared from the shadows. Rainbow Lorikeets, colourful in the low light but stunning once the sun comes up.

Rainbow Lorikeet

Australian Magpie

It wasn't until a few days later that we realised that the Magpie was the source of the flute like calls that we could hear as a constant background to our time out birding.

Magpie Lark

Red Wattlebird

Little Pied Cormorant

Later that day I took a walk through the Yarra Park for a look at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. Lots more of the birds we had already seen but a few new ones as well.

Noisy Miner

Pied Currawong

Spotted Dove

Eastern Rosella

The next day was a bit disappointing. We had a trip organised out into the Dandenongs with a ride on the Puffing Billy steam railway up to Emerald Lake, a noted birding location. We saw a good few birds from the railway including Crimson Rosella, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, and Laughing Kookaburra but with a lot of people around they were keeping their distance and picture opportunities were limited. By the time we got to Emerald lake we had heavy rain but I managed a few shots of some rather wet birds and the steam railway was some consolation.

Crimson Rosella

Grey Curawong  -  I think!
 grey throat, less defined bill hook and white tipped flight feathers

Purple Swamphen

Arriving back in Melbourne we still had a couple of hours before sunset and the rain had stopped so it was a quick walk through the park and over the river to the Botanic Gardens.

Australian Raven

Bell Miner

Pleased to get the Bell Miner. We could hear a few of them ringing away in the bushes but they were hard to locate, very territorial and aggressive and always on the move.

Pacific Black Duck

Silver Gull

Long-billed Corella  "Cut Throats"

Our second day in Melbourne draws to a close and in the morning it's time to move on. So much still to see and we hadn't even managed to get out to the Water Treatment Plant at Werribee, the Poo Farm in local terminology, with a bird list of 284 species. Truth be told I didn't even have the courage to raise the possibility with Sue.

Australia (2/8) - The Great Coast Road

We left Melbourne early and headed off along the Great Coast Road towards our overnight stop at Warrnambool, a distance of just under 350 kilometres. Most of the day was spent on the coach although there were a number of stops to stretch legs and to get a closer view of some of the more spectacular stretches of coast.

I saw plenty of birds but stops were brief and it was difficult to get decent shots. A lunch break at Appolo Bay gave me a few opportunities but Fairy Martins at the Twelve Apostles stop proved to be too much of a challenge. Forty or fifty flight shots and I didn't get single one in frame.

Australian King Parrot

Poor shot but it's the only one I managed to get. The Eastern Great Egret below Ardea modesta is considered by most authorities to be a sub species of the Great White Egret Casmerodius albus found in Europe.

Eastern Great Egret

New Holland Honeyeater

Pacific Black Duck

Sulphur-crested Cockatoo

Welcome Swallow

Willie Wagtail

We arrived in Warrnambool about an hour before sunset with the light starting to fade. What to do? Probably 30 minutes of decent light. The Merri River estuary just by the hotel; South Warnambool Wetlands; Thunder Point Coastal Reserve; E Johnson Reserve; Warnambool Foreshore Reserve; Lake Pertobe; Merri Marine Sanctuary with its Little Penguins on Middle Island and the harbour all within a kilometer of where we were staying.

The penguins were particularly interesting as they are protected from predatory cats and foxes by Maremma Dogs. Click here if you are interested.

I managed to get as far as the estuary before the light went completely.

Australian Pelican

Pacific Gull - distant but no mistaking that bill

Singing Honeyeater- in very low light

This looked a really great place for walking and birding but we were up before dawn and back on the coach before it was really light. I needed at least a full day here. Fortunately we made an unscheduled stop about 15 kilometres down the road at the Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve.

Tower Hill is an inactive volcano that had been stripped of its timber by early settlers, used for farming, quarrying, motor cycle racing and as a rubbish dump. Over the past 40 years it has been repopulated with 300,000 native trees and now supports an extensive wildlife population.

It was raining but the larger animals and birds were easy to spot.



Grey Fantail

Make it two days at Warrnambool. I could easily spend a day wandering around this wildlife reserve.

It was more than 600 kilometres to Adelaide so most of the day was spent looking out of the coach window and studying the maps. So many places I would have liked to stop. A few where we did and one new bird, a Superb Fairy Wren.

Superb Fairy-wren   -   breeding male

Superb Fairy-wren   -  non breeding male

and one more picture just because it is such a wonderful bird.

We arrived in Adelaide late afternoon with the prospect of a whole day to explore the city and the surrounding area. Just the sort of thing that I always laugh at visitors to my own country for doing. Still, got to make the most of it.