Thursday, 13 June 2013

American Golden Plover

I was up at 5.30 on Wednesday morning, ready to go down to Cuckmere Haven to see the AGP, but rain and poor light helped convince me that the bird would have moved on, so it was back to bed with a cup of tea for a copy of Birdwatch. I was not quite so happy later that day when I read that the AGP was still there and showing well.

Thursday morning and I set off convinced that it would be a wasted journey but not willing to make the same mistake twice. Fortunately the bird, which had been found by Matt Eade, was still showing well and there were only a couple of people around when I arrived. All credit to Matt as I don't think that I could have spotted the difference between this and a Golden Plover, but then I have only ever seen the Golden as a distant flock bird and do not have a close up photograph to compare it with.

American Golden Plover

It's nice to have a photograph to take home so that you can sit down later and really understand the identifying features. So on these pictures I can identify:-

  • Four primaries projecting beyond the tertials
  • Wing tips projecting beyond the tail-tip
  • More white in the supercilium than for a Golden
  • Gold spangled on upper parts - but more confined to the upper mantle

I did also see the grey underwing when it stretched its wings but I was a bit slow on getting the photograph.

Showing gold on the upper mantle, projecting primaries and wing tip beyond tail tip

It's not that I don't trust the experts but if I am ever going to learn I have to be convinced that I can make the identification. If you want more details on identification have a look at Matt's blog    -     now added to my recommended list on the right.

I stayed watching the bird for about an hour hoping to get a flight picture but with the number of observers gradually increasing I was reminded of why I tend to avoid twitches and decided to move on. The bird did not seem to be phased by the birders, nor by a party of about 40 school children going past less than 20 ft away, but I was. Everyone deserves a chance to see the bird but too many people around takes the bird out of its real environment and takes me away from what I really like in birding. It also spoils the background!

Wandering back to the car I came across this distant view of a Black Swan on the meanders. Unless it has completed a long flight from Australia it will be a bird that has escaped or been released from captivity. So cannot count this one, but who knows what will happen in the future. The BTO has reported that in 2003 there were 43 of these birds at large and that attempts had been made to breed. It may well be added to the list at some time in the future.

I stopped at Arlington Reservoir on the way home to eat my lunch but missed out on the Osprey yet again, it now seems to be settling into an early morning slot for fishing. I then made a quick trip to a local wood to have a look at a Great Spotted Woodpecker's nest. The birds are easy to view but the lighting is poor even on a sunny day. I was quite pleased with these shots given that they are at slow shutter speeds on a 700mm lens set up.

chick with red crown (ISO 640, f7, 1/13sec)
Female feeding  ISO640, f7, 1/15sec)
Male feeding   (ISO 640, f7, 1/25sec)

There were plenty of other birds about. The usual Chaffinch, singing its heart out - balanced on one leg!

Also a Jay, that I ended up stalking for about a quarter of an hour, but it would not come out into the light. This shot could have been so much better with a bit more depth of field and a couple of stops more on the shutter speed.

Jay  (ISO640, f7, 1/25sec) - My missed shot of the week

I could have got faster shutter speeds by increasing the ISO, but despite what the camera manufacturers say I think the quality has gone once you get above ISO400, particularly if you are cropping the shot.

And finally in the reed beds a Little Egret, always great to watch.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Martin, I did a google image search for 'singing chaffinch' and your fantastic photo came up near the top of the list. I work for an environmental education charity and want to post a picture on twitter to go with a link to a dawn chorus event I will be leading at the end of April and was wondering whether you would be willing for me to use your image, crediting you of course, as the chaffinches are one of the obvious song birds at the site. Unfortunately, I am not in the position to pay, so will totally understand if you would rather not. Please let me know. You can email me to confirm either way at (my name is Tom). Cheers