Wednesday, 18 September 2019

Eastern Olivaceous Warbler

I don't do twitches - but when I do, I particularly dislike twitching "little brown jobs". Birding for me is about spending time with the birds, observing and connecting with them and hopefully leaving with a good record shot or on very rare occasions a quality picture of the bird. A warbler twitch is definitely not the place to be.

Then why did I go to Farlington to see the Eastern Olivaceous Warbler? It is a rare bird, it would be a life tick and it was on what I consider to be my larger birding patch but equally I knew that I wouldn't like it. I called Dave up to see if he wanted to go but he refused to have anything to do with it. A man of principles!

What's worse is that it was a Sunday and parking at Farlington Marsh would be a nightmare. I got out of that one by parking just along the coast at Broadmarsh and walking the mile and a half to the twitch. The walk in was great with Spotted Flycatchers, Whinchats, and various other birds on show but I didn't stop to photograph them for fear of missing the target bird.

I did get to see it, two or three times, probably for a total of thirty seconds in a two hour and aa half hour watch, but did I really see it? I was actually too busy getting the camera onto the bird and in focus to really spend time looking at it.

The twitch was exactly what I expected and I didn't enjoy it. I don't blame anyone. It's a free country and the bird does not belong to anyone other than perhaps the finder. I am fortunate in being able to stand off with a large lens and still get my picture, as are the expensive scope brigade but other less fortunate people still want to see the bird. Some people do get too close but then who am I to set the rules.

What else was around? Well, I didn't get to see any Bearded Tits and on the walk out, the Spotted Flycatchers and Whinchats had all disappeared. Disappointing day? Not really, that evening I did enjoy adding a tick to the life list that I don't like to admit to keeping!


And that should have been an end to the blog.........

.....except three days later and the bird is still there. My record shot above is poor, numbers at the twitch will have dropped, the weather is nice, and even Dave is now interested. So back we go and I am really glad we did. On Sunday, with all the crowds around, the bird was playing hard to get and I ended up with three record shots from about two and a half hours watching. Today it was showing a little better and I had five hundred plus shots from about an hours watching. 

Admittedly most of the shots are poor, being out of focus or with the bird partialy in cover, but there are a couple of decent ones in amongst them. More importantly I had time to study the bird today. The tail pumping is very distinct and it seems to have a different hunting style to other warblers. If I ever come across another one I think I would now have a good chance of recognising it.

Below are some of today's shots. A slightly better result than the picture above!

If only all little brown jobs showed as well as this.

Thursday, 12 September 2019

Red-necked Phalarope

I wasn't going to bother going to see the Phalarope at Pulburough Brooks. It's a great place for birds but not so good for bird photographers, especially in the summer when the water in the brooks seems to retreat back over the horizon. Then sitting at home you start to think - I haven't seen a Phalarope for a couple of years; I haven't been out all day; I do need to top up on the bird feed supplies. In the end I was convinced. I did get to see it and I did get my shot although it was a little distant!

Red-necked Phalarope on a 600mm lens combination

With a big crop you can at least see what it is. It was nice to catch up with it although I don't think that it will be taking pride of place amongst my Phalarope pictures.

Better news though, in a Spotted Flycatcher, that at first landed too close for me to focus on. Fortunately, after staring me out for about fifteen seconds, it did give me a second chance, moving a little further away before quickly disappearing into the distance. One of those all too fleeting magic moments.

Spotted Flycatcher

This was my first Spotted Flycatcher of the autumn although I have seen a number of Pied Flycatchers. A reversal of the usual autumn norm.

Walking back up the zig-zags to the visitors centre its always worth inspecting the Stinking Willies (Ragwort) for insects. This time finding an obliging Clouded Yellow.

Clouded Yellow

and a Painted Lady in reasonable condition

Painted Lady

A couple of shots from the past week. A Whinchat, all I had to show from a morning searching for the Beachy Head Montagu's Harrier.


and an ugly duckling but it won't be long before he turns into a beautiful Reed Bunting.

Reed Bunting

Nice to get some pictures but we could do with a rarity on the patch.

Thursday, 29 August 2019


It's Wryneck time again, one of the highlights of the birding year. They are always such a fantastic bird to see and to photograph. There may not be many of them but when they are feeding up, before crossing the channel, they do tend be loyal to a patch and so can be relatively easy to find.

This year there looked to be a good candidate at Farlington Marsh. We gave the Bank Holiday weekend a miss but were along there early on Tuesday morning. Unfortunately so where a lot of other people. 

My best pictures have always come from watching the birds feeding pattern and sitting down in the open where you expect it to get to in about ten minutes time. My experience is that if you stay seated and move slowly the bird will ignore you and come close. See here for some examples.

Today was a bit different. As soon as the bird was sighted there was a bit of a scrum. It's understandable, everyone wants  to see the bird and that includes me but all I got were a couple of rather distant shots before the bird took fright and disappeared.



If it's still there in a weeks time I might have another go.

There have been a lot of other migrants through over the past few days. They mostly seem to be juveniles but I am still hoping for a some better pictures and I still haven't seen a Spotted Flycatcher.


Pied Flycatcher

Pied Flycatcher

Yellow Wagtail


And from a trip over to Anchor Bottom to look for Clouded Yellows, no pictures of said butterfly, although we did see two brightly coloured males and one female. It was just too hot to chase after them up and down the slopes.

Worth going though, as there were still Adonis Blue on the wing and I needed Autumn Lady's Tresses to complete my Orchid year.

Adonis Blue

Autumn Lady's Tresses

Autumn Lady's Tresses

Thirty six species of orchid seen this year plus a number of variants and hybrids. It could have been more but it would have needed a few trips to Scotland and the north of England to find them. I am not going to do long distance twitching for single targets but combine birds, orchids, dragonflies and butterflies and the trips look more acceptable.