Friday, 8 December 2017

Barred Warbler

I missed out on a trip to Titchfield Haven on Wednesday. Even when Dave reported back that he had photographed the Barred Warbler and got his life tick I wasn't too worried. I had seen one before and had a record shot, of sorts, to show for it. It was only when I looked at his blog, that I realised just how well it was showing. The one I had seen was skulking in the bushes and staying hidden most of the time. There was definitely an opportunity to get a better picture.

Thursday was rain and gale force winds but Friday promised better weather and I set off early for Titchfield. A good decision, I got there just as it was getting light and was able to photograph the bird with only four people present. It was happily sitting in a cotoneaster by the visitors centre eating the berries. By the time I left, less than an hour later, the crowd was building and the bird was starting to look more agitated, snatching berries and flying to an adjacent tree to eat them.

It is a juvenile bird but with good markings and showing really well. I assume that it's bulking up on cotoneaster berries before completing a late migration to Africa.

showing the undertail covert markings

and below the same bird but with a soft early morning sun looking more brown than grey

When the Visitors Centre opened I duly purchased my ticket and then took a walk around the reserve. Just as well the Barred Warbler was there or it would have been a total waste of money.

As it was, well worth the trip, giving me far better pictures than I had before.

Monday, 4 December 2017

Black Guillemot

The weather looked reasonable this morning so I picked Dave up and we headed down to Eastbourne to look for the Black Guillemot in Sovereign Harbour. I already had good photographs of some very obliging Black Guillemots up in Scotland and I wasn't expecting too much from this bird. It was a juvenile, out of position on the south coast, and had been in the same location for over a week. It usually suggests that the bird could be ill.

I couldn't have been more wrong. It looked good, it was very active, and was feeding and preening for the whole time we observed it.

Black Guillemots seem very tolerant of people and this one was no exception. It came within a few feet of where we were standing.

With very clear water in the harbour you could watch it swimming and fishing underwater. In this case coming up with what appears to be a Pipe Fish.

It had a bit of difficulty subduing and swallowing the fish. This was the only time it seemed to recognise our presence and kept its back towards us most of the time just in case we wanted to steal its prize.

With plenty of food available and a sheltered harbour to live in this bird could be staying a while.

Reluctantly leaving the Black Guillemot we headed off to Normans Bay to see if we could find the Snow Bunting that had been reported there. It wasn't too difficult, just search for the birders rather than the bird.

This is another bird that does not seem to be fazed by either people or dogs although this one seemed a little more wary than some I had seen. A pity really as it favoured feeding on the grass patches. Most seem to prefer feeding on the pebbles where they tend to blend into the background and make photography difficult.

On the journey out we had passed a massive traffic jam on the A27 with cars stationary all the way  from Brighton to Eastbourne. So with time in hand we headed north, looking around Horse Eye Levels, lots of Redwings and Fieldfares but no raptors or owls, and ending up at Warnham Nature Reserve.

Great views of a Sparrowhawk, for us that is but not for the unfortunate Great Tit that was its victim. It would have made a great picture but I didn't even have time to move before it was gone.

An obliging Treecreeper proved to be a bit slower moving.

We were surprised to find another new hide on the lake at Warnham. This has always been a good site but it will probably be at its best in a few weeks time when the temperature has dropped and more birds are coming into the feeders.

Thursday, 30 November 2017

Parrot Crossbills

Difficult decisions to make this week. Do I chase after a Sussex Tick with the Black Guillemot at Sovereign Harbour in Eastbourne or do I go looking for a decent picture of a Parrot Crossbill and a possible life tick in the putative American Horned Lark.

Unbelievable really. Having gone through nearly two months with little of interest in the Sussex area we get three good targets up on the same day.

It was a no brainer. The Crossbills and Horned Lark were a bit further to travel but either one was worth going for. Lets just hope that the Black Guillemot is a long stayer.

I would love to be able to show you a picture of the American Horned Lark. We did see it, feeding on the ground as we approached, about ten metres away, but it had flown before I managed to get the camera out. It returned later but this time to its favoured area of wall, on the western side of the  northern reservoir, about 200 metres away. You could make it out through a scope but there was no chance of even a record shot.

We were luckier with the Parrot Crossbills, a flock of sixteen or seventeen birds. They did at least give some close views although they seemed to be able to time it perfectly to arrive as the sun went behind the clouds and depart as soon as the light improved. We also had one spell of over two hours when the birds went missing. It was really cold waiting for them to return, take some extra layers if you are going to look for them.

The location was near Camberley at Wishmoor Bottom in the Swinley Forest, at the back of the Royal Military Academy. Park at the top of Kings Ride and follow the track north for about half a mile. When you see a black and white barrier on the left take the  right turn and walk about forty metres and then turn left. Another hundred metres on this track and you are in the right area. Look for the crowds around one of the pine trees.

Not so convincing as a Parrot Crossbill

A touching moment - pity about the light

Challenging conditions and difficult birds to photograph but these are better than anything I have managed to get in the past. It's just great to be amongst the birds again.

On the downside, no record shot of the American Horned Lark. That brings to nine the number of birds on my list of seen but not photographed.

Friday, 17 November 2017

Glossy Ibis

Went to Medmerry today, to have a look for the Glossy Ibis that has been present there for a few days.

It is frequenting a fenced off building compound, complete with workers and heavy machinery, on the Bunn Leisure Caravan Park just outside the South East boundary of the Medmerry Nature Reserve. It seems a strange environment in which to find the bird. There is a rough grassland area and a few puddles and it is obviously finding food but it is difficult to see why it would favour this over the vast wetland areas over the fence in Medmerry.

It seems to be completely unfazed by the work going on around it or by the birders and photographers that visit, so there are some good picture opportunities

This is a juvenile so it hasn't really had a chance to learn that it needs to be wary of people. Particularly as this is a popular dog walking area.

It spends most of its time searching for food in the long grass but we were fortunate to be there when it came out to drink at one of the puddles on the path outside the compound.

I am always surprised how large this bird looks in flight and in pictures. Perhaps we have a preconception based on the larger members of the Ibis family or perhaps it's all in the legs. It is actually quite a small bird but with large wings. Here is another shot taken a couple of years ago at Dungeness of a Glossy Ibis along side a juvenile Black-backed Gull.

Quite a few other birds around today but very little that was posing for a photograph.


Black-tailed Godwit

A good day out, nice weather lots of birds to look at and even a couple of decent pictures. Things are looking up.

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Pectoral Sandpiper

The birding and bird photography always seems to go through a bad spell when I come home from a trip abroad. You move from seeing new and unusual birds every day back to seeing all the home front supporting cast with just the occasional bird that raises the interest levels. Except, this past month, Sussex seems to be devoid of anything really interesting. Even regular trips up onto Cissbury Ring have failed to see me connect with the usually reliable Ring Ouzels up there.

I have been out and I have seen lots of birds but it seems as though, most days, I come home without bothering to take a single picture and it has been six weeks since I did my last blog post.

A trip to Pulborough today to see the Pectoral Sandpiper has motivated me to start blogging again. The pictures were not good, the Pec Sand stayed at the back of the pool and a distant brown bird against a brown background is not the easiest of subjects but hey, it was enough to get me going again.

Pectoral Sandpiper

The bird was to be found in front of the West Mead hide, on the mud at the back right hand corner of the pool. I watched it for about an hour and went back later in the morning for another go but it seemed to be faithful to this area and was not going to give a better picture opportunity.

Pectoral Sandpiper

There wasn't a great deal more to look at around Pulborough. Duck numbers were stating to build on the West Mead pool but the North Brooks were mostly empty of birds, with some major re-profiling work going on there.



Needing some more content for the blog I then looked back over the pictures I had taken over the past few weeks. Nothing special but not quiet as bad as I had remembered.

Black-tailed Godwit at Pagham North Wall

Chiffchaff at Brooklands Park

Common Sandpiper  in the Ferry Channel

Looking for somewhere sheltered to roost

Distant Spoonbills at Pagham North Wall

Wheatear  - Pagham North Wall

Wheatear - Pagham North Wall

Migration now seems to be well underway and the bird numbers are picking up. The clear, cold and crisp day of winter may be few and far between but they are by far the best for taking photographs. All we need now are some good birds.

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Turtle Dove

It's always difficult when you get back from an overseas trip. You have an intensive week sorting out all the pictures and publishing the blog and then it is back to reality. There is no more finding ten life ticks a day. You just hope for the chance of a year tick or perhaps an exciting shot of a common bird and that very much sums up how it has been this past week.

My first days birding back in England doesn't look too bad on paper but seemed incredibly slow and unexciting on the day. On the 12th we did our usual circuit of Pagham Harbour. Nothing much had changed. Too much water in the Breech Pool so mostly ducks and no repair to the Ferry Pool so not enough water and very few birds.

On paper it gave me two year ticks, Whinchat and Spotted Flycatcher. All very distant and no chance of a picture but I suppose I should be counting it as a good day. Picture wise it was saved by a few Dragonflys that we found just south of the pumps at Ferry Creek. They were mostly Common and Red Darters but there were also a couple of Migrant Hawkers.

Migrant Hawker

A return a few days later and at least the North Wall was showing signs of life. A good few Bar-tailed Godwits and Redshanks out on the creek along with returning Wigeon and Teal and a few distant Pintails.

Four noisy Greenshanks flew into the back of the Breech Pool and we found three Spotted Redshank amongst the Godwits at the other end of the pool

Four Greenshanks on the Breech Pool

Spotted Redshank

However, the bird we had come to see was a ridiculously confiding juvenile Turtle Dove. It had spent a few days by the Visitors Centre at Pagham completely unfazed by the people around it. Even having read reports of the birds behaviour it still came as a bit of a shock when you realised how easy it was to approach.

Either it has spent a lot of time around people that have been feeding it or it has never seen a human before and does not realise how dangerous we can be.

Lets hope it picks its migration route carefully.....

.....or those brave hunters on the island of Malta will have another easy target.