Monday, 25 January 2016


I have been out gathering year ticks over the past week. That is, see the bird and move on, rather than stand and wait for the right picture opportunity. However, I have still ended up with a few pictures that are worth putting on the blog.

One of the key birds I was looking for was a Little Gull. I was standing in the right place, just by Southsea pier, a juvenile Little Gull had been seen a few minutes earlier, and this bird was sitting just off the beach. The risk is that we see what we are looking for and not what is actually there. It looked good, but then, the bill was the wrong shape, the dark collar on the back of the neck looked wrong, and it should have had black cap of some form. It's actually a juvenile Kittiwake but it had me fooled for a while and I had to spend some time delving through books on gull identification once I got home to be sure.

Therein lies the real benefit of bird photography. You get a second chance to check the identification. Without that I could easily have made a mistake.

Juvenile Kittiwake

Juvenile Kittiwake

Fortunately we caught up with a Juvenile Little Gull a couple of days later on Climping Beach. It was too far away for a picture but at least that time I had a lot clearer idea of what I was looking for.

It's hard work but I think I could actually get to like juvenile gull identification.

Other gulls spotted whilst we were out were Common and Mediterranean. The first at Arundel Wetland Centre and the second on Climping Beach. However, with Waldo failing to return to Gosport, there is no easy Ring-billed Gull this year.

Common Gull

Mediterranean Gull

The Wetland Centre also gave us ticks for Goldcrest and Firecrest. As you might expect there were a couple of decent Goldcrest shots but all the Firecrest pictures were blurred.


Farlington Marsh gave us distant views of Bearded Tits but there was no chance of a picture. Fortunately the ever present Stonechat popped up to have his picture taken.


And, finally a trip to Church Norton didn't give us the views of a Spoonbill that we were looking for but we did get to see an overwintering Whimbrel that was hunkering down out of the wind.


It has not been a bad start to the year but there are still a few of the winter birds that I would like to find before they head off to their summer grounds.

Wednesday, 20 January 2016


I had two targets today, the first Hawfinch which was successful, the second Penduline Tits which was a bit of a disaster. For the Hawfinches I went to Lakeside Country Park in Eastleigh. I had seen them here in previous years and sure enough they were frequenting the same area again this year. That is, the trees just behind the cafe and next to the miniature railway line.

You can get good views through the binoculars but it is difficult to get close. They tend to stay in the tops of the trees and will fly off if you get too near. I was also having the added problem of them always appearing to land so that I was photographing into the sun. Still, I shouldn't complain, they are always a great bird to see. Two record shots are shown below.

For the Pendulines I visited Titchfield Haven and had decided to sit in West Hide and wait for them to come to me. That is exactly what I did for four hours. The birds of course went to Meadow Hide on the other side of the river. It was a long cold wait for birds that decided not to show.

There were lots of other birds around Lakeside. Repolls, Siskin, and an assortment of finches but again they were all in the tops of the trees.  This Wren made a couple of appearances. It seemed lively enough but seemed a bit on the thin side for this time of year.

There were a few Fieldfare in the trees but no Redwing that I could see.

With the long wait in the hide at Titchfield I saw very few birds but I at least managed to pick up shots of a Blackbird and Song Thrush to give a bit of variety to the blog.

The only other bird of interest was this Black Swan in the Harbour. It seemed to spend the whole day chasing a Mute Swan around the boats. I am not sure if it was feeling amorous or whether it was just trying to drive a rival off its territory.

The Black Swan is breeding in the wild and seems to have a self sustaining population. I wonder how long it will be before it is accepted as a British bird. Alternatively, I suppose, it could go the way of the Ruddy Duck and be wiped out in this country to stop it interbreeding with the Mute Swans.

Tuesday, 19 January 2016


Or should it be Shore Lark or perhaps more correctly Horned Lark. Whatever the name it is a relatively rare bird and a much sought after prize at this time of year. I have never seen one in Sussex so the quest has always involved a trip to the north Kent coast. Previous years it has been to Reculver but this year one was being reported at Minster on Sheppey.

The birds tend to frequent shingle beaches feeding along the strandline and usually have a small territory to which they stay quite loyal. We knew where to look for this one and despite a fisherman, with three or four rods, having set up in the middle of its territory, it was not too difficult to locate. We had good views but picture opportunities were a bit limited. There were regular disturbances from dog walkers, litter collectors and some of the more ignorant members of the Minster community but, a bit like a Snow Bunting, the bird just flew off, circled and then relocated close by.

At one point the bird flew up on to a rock and offered great picture opportunities if we could just get a little closer but we missed the opportunity when the bird was flushed by a passer-by.

As well as the Shorelark, Sheppey offered the opportunity of seeing a Richard's Pipit. We drove to the other end of the island and down a potholed dirt track to the the little hamlet of Shellness. This is about as remote as you can get in the Southeast of England. We parked up and walked a couple of hundred metres out into the Swale NNR. 

The pipit was a bit harder to find but we did get some help from one of the local birders. It stayed in the long grass and gave very few picture opportunities. The pictures shown here are just record shots. They are posted small as they are heavy crops and poor quality but they do at least show sufficient detail to confirm the sighting as a Richard's Pipit.

Sheppey is always good for raptors and we saw quite a few circling high in the sky. Buzzards, Red Kites, Marsh Harriers, and Hen Harriers. Others also had sight of a male Hen Harrier but I could not get onto it. I had to make do with Dave's commentary of its progress through the sky. A pity but I doubt that I could have been confident with the identification at the distances involved.

Thursday, 14 January 2016

Glaucous Gull

I finally caught up with the juvenile Glaucous Gull late afternoon on Thursday on what was my fourth attempt. Even in a field full of Gulls it was easy to pick out. It is nearly as large as a Great Black-backed Gull and has a very pale white and ochrous-brown mottled effect colouration. The bill is also distinctive being large and pink with just the end being clearly demarcated in a dark brown/black colour.

Glaucous Gull

Size comparison with Black-headed Gulls

Glaucous Gull - as seen for most of the time

See my blog of March 2013 for pictures of an adult Glaucous Gull at Dungeness.

Other birds present on the gull roost in addition to various gulls were Dunlin, Ringed Plover and Grey Plover.

Dunlin at roost


Ringed Plover

Earlier in the day we had paid a return visit to Rooksbury Mill and Pinglestone Watercress beds. With the weather bright and clear we had hoped to improve on the picture of the Ring-necked Ducks  we had taken on the mill pond early in December. The ducks were still present, the weather was perfect, but unfortunately the ducks were still wary and kept there distance so I came away with no real improvement on the pictures I had taken previously.

Ring-necked Ducks

Ring-necked Ducks

Other ducks on the Mill Pond were more obliging. Male and female Gadwall came close as did an assortment of Tufted ducks.


Gadwall Female

Tufted Duck

All with the ever present Heron keeping a watch over them.

Grey Heron

The visit to the watercress beds also prove a little frustrating. We saw Green Sandpiper and Grey Wagtails along with a lot of Little Egrets but they were all too distant for photographs. The real targets of the visit had been Water Pipits. Did we see them? Well maybe, there were two pipits, light in colour, pinkish legs, white underneath, and at least one with a bright supercilium. They looked good but we couldn't be sure, so this year tick will have to wait for another day.

A good days birding and in nice weather conditions for a change and it was particularly pleasing to finally catch up with the Glaucous Gull.

Saturday, 9 January 2016


I made a quick trip over to Widewater this morning to have a look for the Goosander that has been reported there. With no reports yesterday I thought I might have missed it but fortunately it was there, although fast asleep for most of the time I watched.


It was overcast and dull but for once this probably worked to my advantage. It is very difficult to get a decent picture of such contrasting black and white shades in bright sunlight. At least in this dull light you can see the pink glow coming through on its breast.

The more usual view

I watched it late morning on a high tide, so it may be that when the river levels are high it repairs to the safety of Widewater, to roost.

I wonder if it is last January's bird returning for a second year?

Thursday, 7 January 2016


This post could have been called Redpoll but by the time they showed up the light had gone and it was threatening rain. I only managed one picture of the Redpoll and that was on a feeder so not very satisfactory.

We were at Warnham LNR which provides one of the best locations in Sussex for photographing small birds. The feeders at the Kingfisher hide attract the birds in and if you are lucky you can get natural looking shots as they perch up before landing on the feeders. This time of year they usually get Siskins and Lesser Redpolls and if you are really lucky the occasional Mealy Redpoll.



Female Siskin


The bonus is an occasional Jay. You often see them flying in the distance but you rarely get close enough for a picture.


White-fronted Geese

It has been a bit of a mixed start to the new birding year. There have been some good birds about and the numbers of geese and wildfowl have increased significantly but on the other hand the weather has been awful, particularly for photography, and the number of waders still seems to be low. Today, Wednesday, gave us the first decent weather of the year so we headed off to Dungeness to get a few year ticks.

First stop was Pett Level to see if we could find the Glossy Ibis for Dave. We gave it a good try but it did not seem to be around. Fortunately I had stopped off on the way back from Canterbury a few days ago and managed to see it again, in near zero visibility and driving rain. No pictures but I might be glad of the views by the end of the year.

Picture of the Pett Level Glossy Ibis taken on the 17th December

We saw some good birds around Dungeness but most were distant or hard to photograph. A Long-eared Owl, but it was buried so deep in the bushes that you could barely see it. Redhead Smew, Slavonian Grebe, Tree Sparrow, Cetti's Warbler, and Shag, which are apparently unusual at Dungeness.


It was interesting to compare these three with a Juvenile that we had seen at Hill Head On Monday.

Juvenile Shag - Hill Head

The tree sparrows are also great to see. There are still plenty at Boulderwood Farm, at the entrance to Dungeness RSPB, but the numbers seem to be a lot lower than a few years ago.

Tree Sparrow

Great White Egret

On the way home we stopped off at Scotney Pit. We scanned a few hundred geese looking for anything unusual. It looked as though it would be just the usual Greylags and Barnacles until we picked up a flight of four birds that appeared to be different. We had just decided that they were White-fronted Geese when a farmer gathering sheep put a few thousand geese into the air. I thought that we had lost the opportunity of a picture but then we realised there were a lot more of them in the area. I think we saw just under forty of them but there may have been more. The most I have ever seen together in the past has been three or four.

White-fronted Geese in Flight

Showing the prominent black body markings

Greylags with a small flock of eighteen White-fronted and three Brent Geese at the back

The Barnacles were also flying. This picture showing a small group including a couple of the Barnacle/ Emperor Crosses.

Barnacle Geese

Other pictures taken this year -  A return visit to the Yellow-browed Warbler gave us some good views but it was still difficult to get a decent picture.

Yellow-browed Warbler

Fortunately a small flock of Long-tailed tits gave some better opportunities.

Long-tailed Tit

And, the visit to Titchfield Haven may have been disappointing in that we did not see the Penduline Tits but we did get some other birds.




To finish off a couple of shots of Red-breasted Mergansers taken in a short break in the rain at Widewater. Still very dull though.

Red-breasted Mergansers