Monday, 27 October 2014

Red-breasted Flycatcher

I was lucky enough to see the Red-breasted Flycatcher on Wednesday evening, when it was first reported and I came away with a life tick and a couple of reasonable record shots. The photographs were taken in light rain and gathering gloom and as I did not think that it would hang around for long I was more than happy with my pictures. The trouble was that it was still there four days later and there were clearly better shots to be taken.

A magnificent male Red-breasted Flycatcher 

I didn't go over the weekend as there was a marathon in the area on the Saturday and the Sunday would also be very busy both with tourists and bird watchers. Monday looked to be good weather and it should have been a lot quieter. Or so I thought, but when I arrived there were about twenty people already there. The majority where photographers, probably like me, tempted out by the prospect of getting a picture in decent lighting.

I don't usually go to twitches but I have to admit that it was nice to be able to touch base with a lot of old friends. It was interesting with it being mostly photographers, no one got too close, no one flushed the bird just to get their tick, it was all very polite. Everyone was happy just to stand and talk waiting until the bird came to them. Not the usual rabble that tends to be reported on SOS.

On Wednesday evening, when I had seen it, the bird was a lot faster moving and more difficult to photograph. Today it seemed happy to perch up and look at the strange humans who were lined up to admire it. It was not being completely cooperative though as it usually managed to have a branch in front of it or a shadow across its face. Some of these pictures have been doctored in Photoshop to get rid of the offending glitches.

A great bird to see and great to get some decent pictures for a change. Other birds seen on the day were mostly Stonechats and charms of Goldfinches.




Some great pictures today but there are always the ones that you miss. I did not get a shot of the Flycatcher with a fly in its mouth and even at 1/800 sec I could not stop the blur that was this Wren as it moved through the picture. Five shots in a couple of seconds and this is the best I could get.

Not even worth attempting to take the shadow off the Flycatcher.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

White-winged Black Tern

I waited four days, telling myself that I could not justify the drive over to Rye just to see one bird, but in the end I had to go. My justification, to myself, was that I was sure to see something else whilst I was out and that would make it all worthwhile. Little could I have known that my second bird would be a Red-breasted Flycatcher giving me two life ticks in a day.

The Tern was easy enough to find. It was sitting on a mudbank just in front of the Castle Water hide. Birders using a telescope would call it showing well. Birders with a camera would call it not showing anywhere near well enough. No luck with it moving either, each time it was disturbed it went back to that same spot, just that little bit too far away.

White-winged Black Tern

Wing stretching

Eventually I followed it round to the western end of the water where it was feeding and  I spent a surprisingly enjoyable if somewhat frustrating hour or so trying to track it in flight and keep it in focus. The results were not brilliant but you can at least see the identifying features.

Much as it grieves me to promote someone else's work you need to take a look at John Standen's shots on flicker (click here) to see how it should have been done.

There were a lot of other good birds around Castle Water. A Ruff and a couple of Little Stint were showing well on the mud in front of the hide. A Marsh Harrier made  a couple of passes over the area putting most of the birds into the air. I managed to put up a flock of five Bearded Tits that then disappeared into the centre of the reed bed and there were Meadow Pipits and Wheatears on the fences around the reserve.

Marsh Harrier
Meadow Pipits


The light was starting to go so I took the long walk back to the car and was about to set off for home when Mick Davis turned up and tipped me off to the Red-breasted Flycatcher at Beachy Head. It was only a short detour off the route home and I had never seen one before so it was worth a look. It was in the old trapping area and again was surprisingly easy to find. Getting a clear view though, to confirm the sighting, was really difficult. It may have a white belly and red breast but in the thick cover it was using it was just another fast moving little brown job.

Red-breasted Flycatcher

When I eventually got a good view it turned out to be a really smart looking male. The pictures do not do it justice, they were taken on high ISO in the gathering gloom and light drizzle. I have already seen a couple of shots of it on the web that are streets ahead of mine.  If the sun shines tomorrow I may well be going back to give it another go.

A strange days birding. I have picked up two life ticks and I should be over the moon, but I'm not. It's photographing the birds that I really like doing. I've got the record shots but there is nothing here that I could class as good. It seems a long time since I last took a picture that I was really happy with.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Yellow-browed Warbler

Tuesday saw me up on Cissbury Ring for the annual pilgrimage to see the Ring Ouzels. It's always one of the most frustrating days of the year. The birds were in the large Yew tree as usual and you could see them flying in and out, but once in the tree they were completely hidden. Getting a picture is virtually impossible and this year I came away again with just a few out of focus shots of the birds through gaps in the branches. They seem to be a lot easier to photograph when they come through in the spring (see here) but of course a lot harder to find.

Perhaps I should be grateful though, at least the Yew tree is still there. It looked for a time as though the National Trust were going to cut it down. So much for National Park status and protecting the countryside.

Today, Thursday, had all the makings of another difficult day. I was over to Selsey to see if I could find the Yellow-browed Warbler that had been reported there. Armed with details of its location from the Seley blog it did not prove  too difficult to find. Getting a picture though, proved a lot harder. The bird was very mobile and very fast moving and after a couple of hours I did not really have anything to show for my efforts. Birders came and went, happy just to have seen the bird and got their tick, but I had to have a picture.

In the end the effort paid off but it was hard work

Yellow-browed Warbler

A quick walk around Church Norton found it unusually quiet so I decided on an early finish and spent the next hour sitting in traffic jams as the schools emptied out.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Tawny Pipit

Reports of a juvenile Tawny Pipit over at Tide Mills got me up and out early on Saturday morning. The weather forecast didn't look good but the idea was to pick Dave up, get over to see the bird and then get under cover before the next downpour hit us.

It all looked promising as we headed towards a small group of birders over by the compound. A couple walking away from the area told us that the Pipit was showing well but of course as we arrived we were told that it had just gone into cover. Fortunately we only had to wait about 15 minutes and it made another appearance.

It was clear that we were not going to get very long to get our pictures. The sky was darkening in the west and we could hear thunder rumbling in the distance. The bird was showing well but was being flushed regularly by people walking past with dogs. It used to be that people only had one dog but now they all seem to have three or four and have no ability to control them.

We got our record shots and there were probably better shots to be had if we had been prepared to wait and get soaked. In the end we settled for what we had and made a quick retreat towards the car.

It was a pity to have to leave as there were a lot of birds about. I could not resist taking this shot of a Stonechat as we hurried by. It just such a different background to the usual gorse and bramble bushes.

We made it back to the car just as the heavens opened up. A life tick for me so a good mornings birding.

Would I have spotted it as a Tawny Pipit if I had not been told it was there or would I have passed it off as just another Meadow Pipit? I'm not sure. It's clear now, looking at the pictures, that the Tawny's distinguishing features are there, but you have to be looking to see them. Still, I learn with each bird that I see and the Tawny should be a lot easier to pick out in the future.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Tree Sparrow

If its Tree Sparrows it must be Dungeness. Although actually the day was about much more than just the Tree Sparrows. We saw fifty two species in all on the day. This included Great White Egret, Cattle Egret, Black-necked Grebes, Bearded Tits, and Marsh Harriers together with all the usual Dungeness residents.

We missed the Cattle Egret at the first attempt. It was reported as being behind Boulderwall Farm but we were unable to find it and so headed off to the Visitors Centre to see what else was about. Apparently it walked out of the long grass just as we drove off. My thanks to the birder who recognised us in the car park later and let us know that it was showing again.

Cattle Egret

Cattle Egret

One little bonus was this Field Mouse that Dave spotted when he was pee(r)ing into a bramble thicket. It was completely fearless and carried on eating whilst being rocked up and down as we tried to get a clear view of it through the bramble. Those big eyes must have given it a clear view of a couple huge monsters scrabbling about within a few feet of it, but it remained calm, finished off its blackberries, licked its fingers and then wandered off deeper into the thicket.

Field Mouse

Field Mouse

Field Mouse being a generic term, it should really be called a Long-tailed Field Mouse or Wood Mouse (Apodemus flavicollis)

There were three Black-necked Grebes on the ARC pit but they were too far away for a picture. I had to make do with this female Shoveler that was posing in front of the hide. I also missed out on a couple of Water Rails that raced across a gap in the reeds in front of the hide. Even if I had the camera ready it doesn't focus that fast.


Stonechats were all around the RSPB site and there were a few nice males displaying dark heads. I was a bit suprised by this one. He was gathering food and flying off with it then reappearing a few minutes later looking for more. Either he likes a bit of privacy when he is eating or perhaps the warm weather has resulted in a late breeding attempt.


The Tree Sparrows have been absent from the Boulderwood Farm area on my last few visits to Dungeness and I was beginning to think that the colony was disappearing. It is probably just that the feeders are not being filled and the birds have dispersed over a wider area. These were on the ground under the feeders at the Visitors Centre. The background is a bit busy and distracting but it was nice to be able to record them.

Tree Sparrow

Tree Sparrow