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.

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