Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Ruddy Shelduck Again

The shots of the Ruddy Shelducks I took last week were a bit distant and I was keen to get back to have another go. We had intended to walk down the east side of Pagham Harbour to look for them but Dave suggested that we should try on the Ferry Pool first as that is where most of the Shelducks go to roost during high tide.

Good thinking on Dave's part, we got on to them straight away. Dull and overcast conditions meant that the lighting was poor with shutter speeds of around 1/80sec, but the pictures were still better than those that I got last week.

Ruddy Shelduck on the Ferry Pool

Showing white wing patches

With the light fading even further we decided to have a look at Church Norton and the beach and then try the Shelducks again later. There were Long Tailed Ducks, Mergansers, and Great Crested Grebes out on the sea but nothing close in, so after about an hour we found ourselves back at the Ferry Pool.

It looked like a bit of a wasted effort at first, the lighting had improved but everything seemed to be asleep. I was just thinking there was no point in taking pictures when all the birds took to the air. We did not see what caused it but it was probably a Peregrine going through.

A bit blurred but seems to suggest there are no leg rings

It took me a bit by surprise. I managed to get a few shots as the birds took off but I had the wrong settings on the camera and could not hold focus, so there is only one decent picture.

Ruddy Shelduck and Lapwing in flight.

 The birds then relocated out into the harbour. We saw them again later when we went round to the North Wall but they were again distant.

Back out in the middle of the Harbour

Water levels were again high on the North Wall and there was nothing much to see on the Breech Pool. Movement of the flocks out on the harbour was interesting but the only photo opportunities were a couple of flybys from the local Kingfisher.

Perhaps she fancies taking on one of the mullet out in the harbour!

With the light still poor and the temperature dropping we decided to call it a day and headed for home at midday.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Ruddy Shelducks

Skip to the end if you are only here for the Ruddy Shelducks - but you will miss some good pictures.

There being no confirmed sightings of the Worthing Pacific Diver we thought we would head over to Farlington Marsh for another go at the Bearded Tits. With the sun in the wrong direction for taking pictures of the Beardies we decided to do a circuit of the marsh first. Good as we picked up a lot of birds on the way round, not so good as when we got to the Beardies spot they had moved back into the more distant reedbeds and we could not get a picture. Another target missed perhaps but actually we had a great time and came away with some good pictures.

Best bird of the day must be this female Stonechat that seemed to have no fear and was not going to vacate a good feeding area just because we had turned up.

Female Stonechat - not going to be intimidated

Busy feeding and using a lot of perches

I'm not sure what she has caught here.It looks like a caterpillar but what is the shiny bit in the middle?

Stonechat and caterpillar - I think

 A male Stonechat turned up although he seemed to be doing more looking than feeding. Unfortunately I cannot read any of the information on his leg ring.

Ringed Male Stonechat

There was also a Meadow Pipit feeding in the same area

Meadow Pipit

There was clearly a lot of food in the area but the local Robin did not look happy about sharing it. The Meadow Pipit and Male Stonechat were soon chased off but the female was still holding her ground when I left.


The marsh and mudflats to the south of the sea wall were covered in geese. Brents being the most common. As always we scanned them all looking for a White-fronted or a Pink-footed but no luck as usual. It would be a lot easier if they would stay in one place but they were forever taking off and relocating.

Brent Goose - just the one!

They can turn the sky black when they take off on mass and the noise they make calling to each other as they fly is amazing. It is difficult to capture the effect in a picture.

Just a small fraction of the whole flock

Further round the marsh we found some more of the usual suspects.



And, although we could not see the Beardies there were Reed Buntings feeding in the reedbeds.

Reed Bunting - well camouflaged in this setting

To finish off the day we headed over to the North Wall at Pagham Harbour. The water in the Breech Pool looked high  again so there were very few waders about. Fortunately we met up with Dave Shepherd who put us on to a couple of Ruddy Shelduck out in the harbour.

I always take a lot of convincing on these distant finds and like to get a decent picture. However, looking through the telescope and with both the Daves already convinced I was happy that I was looking at the real thing.The pictures below are not good but they serve as a record as to what was seen.

View across the harbour from the North Wall - 700mm lens

Two Ruddy Shelduck and one Shelduck

Colours and lighter head more visible in this shot

We waited around for a Ring Tail or an Owl to appear but with the sun setting it was time to head home.

Time to go home

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Black-throated Diver

Today a quick trip out to Eastbourne to see the Black-throated Diver on the lake in Princes Park. I had spent a couple of weeks staring out to sea in an effort to turn distant black dots into recognisable Divers and Grebes, all with very little success. Then I turn up at the park and there is a Diver happily swimming around no more than twenty metres from me.

Black-throated Diver

Other than the bird floating on the surface there was not much to take a picture of. It did not bring any catch to the surface, there was no preening and no wing stretching. Even the dive was very low key.

Low winter sun

Fortunately the light was continually changing and it gave a lot of different effects. All these pictures were taken in the morning between eleven and twelve.

If left alone the bird would move around the pond often giving close views to the people watching but it did move off towards the centre of the lake when pursued for closer views or when dogs went past.

Heading back to the centre of the pool

The park is quite busy with lots of people, children and dogs moving around. It seems a strange place to find a Diver but then last year it had a Bonaparte's Gull. Obviously a place to be watched in the future

Monday, 9 December 2013

Marsh Harrier

The weather looked good today so I picked Dave up and we headed off to Sheppey in North Kent. Our target was White-fronted Geese which we both needed as a year tick. They had also been reported at Rainham Marshes and Pett Level but with seventy two at Shellness it seemed the best option.

Seventy two and we only needed to see one. I'm sure you have already guessed. No White-fronted Geese at Shellness and in fact virtually no birds at all. Last time I was here it was wall to wall waders, this time all we saw was a couple of Pied Wagtails some Shellducks out on the mud and a few Meadow Pipits. Probably our fault though, the tide was way out and most of the birds with it.

We had a quick look around Elmly Nature Reserve, lots of birds but nothing unusual. There were a lot of geese there but they were a long way off and I only had the bins with me, so no chance of picking out the White-fronted.

It was looking like a disappointing day but we had Oare Marshes as our last stop and it always manages to produce some good picture opportunities.


The Marsh had been flooded by the recent tidal surge and the water level was too high for the waders in the main scrape. Most of the birds were in the waterlogged marsh making the most of a new feeding area.


More Ruff

We also had a squealing Water Rail that came out in the open. Although they are usually skulking in the reeds they are not a shy bird. When their territory is flooded they seem quite happy to come out into the open looking for food and they always seem to be more concerned about Moorhens and other Water Rails than they do about people.

There should be a really nice picture of a Water Rail at this point but I completely blew it, all my pictures were blurred beyond recovery. Much as it pains me you will have to see Dave's blog "Friends of Groyne No 4" if you want to see the Water Rail.

Still a bit of a disappointing day but then as we were thinking of heading home all the birds took to the air as a female Marsh Harrier flew over the site.

Marsh Harrier

An impressive predator

The local crows were not as impressed as I was and were soon in the air to mob it. It's only when you see it alongside the crow that you realise how small it actually is.

It looked so powerful in the pictures above

Evenly matched in the air but the crows have better team work

With the light fading there was just time for a picture of a Lapwing, another of the bird I tend to take for granted. Not only is it one of the best birds to watch in flight but there are very few birds that can match it for colour.

Lapwing in the sunset - how does it stay so clean in all that mud

No white-fronted Geese but we had a good days birding and came away with some good pictures.

Sunday, 8 December 2013


There have been no pictures for the blog for the past week. I have been out a couple of times but have been concentrating on sea watches in an attempt to pin down a few new species before the end of the year. I have seen Auks, Skuas, Divers, and Grebes but very few where I was confident that I could identify the species and none that were close enough for a picture.

I managed to get out again this afternoon and headed over to Widewater.  However, a quick check proved that there was nothing of interest showing on the lagoon or the sea so I moved on to Tidemills to see if the Spoonbill was still around. Photographers were not flavour of the day when I arrived. There had been a couple there earlier that had been spooking the bird by trying to get too close and were in general upsetting the other birders there. Fortunately they had left and with the bird also absent most of the other people drifted away.

Good news for me as the Spoonbill then flew back in and I had it all to myself. From the colour of the bill and the dark markings on the tips of the outer primaries it is a juvenile but it also has dark legs so possibly a second calendar year bird. It also has a dirty white appearance where adult birds that I have seen are a much brighter white.

Showing the light coloured bill and wing markings of a Juvenile

It was very active, feeding all the time I was there. You could certainly get close without disturbing it but it was clear that it had a boundary. People walking too close, anything down at its eye level and the noise from the trains going through all saw it unsettled.

On alert

Feeding too much of an attraction

Happy again

A great bird to photograph

Whilst I was close to Newhaven I took the opportunity to look for Eider Ducks out in the harbour. There was one close to the eastern arm and it would have been a great shot but unfortunately it was straight into the sun.

Worth putting on the blog but not much that can be done to rescue it as a picture

 Not much else about. A few Fulmers up on the cliff. They looked as though they were pairing up already and were spending most of their time practising aerobatics against the cliff face to impress their partners.

Convenient nesting holes in the cliff face

Performing a flyby

With there being a dearth of pictures lately all birds were receiving attention and it is surprising what you miss out on if you ignore the more common birds.