Friday, 27 January 2017

Water Pipit 2

I was a bit disappointed with the shots I took of the Water Pipit. The lighting was good that day but I just did not manage to nail it, so Friday afternoon I went back for another go. It looked OK when I left home but by the time I got to Apuldram the light had gone and it was starting to rain. I took a few quick shots but lack of contrast or dull lighting conditions, meant that when I got home I found that the pictures were not really sharp.

Water Pipit - nice grass but the bird is a bit soft

It looked like a wasted trip but then it's always worth checking every shot. Sometimes when everything seems wrong you just get lucky and I ended up with the shot below. A Water Pipit with attitude.

Earlier in the week we had a day looking for Geese at Scotney and Pett Level. They were all a bit distant for photographs but we did have a successful day for year ticks. White-fronted, Pink-footed, Greylags, Canada, Barnacles, Emperors, but we missed out on the Bean Geese. We had seen the Taiga the week before and only needed the Tundra at Scotney for the full set. We thought we had them but blowing the pictures up on the big screen when we got home they looked more like a couple of juvenile White-fronted than the Tundra Bean Geese we were looking for.

The day also gave us year ticks for Black-throated Diver on Scotney, Red-necked Grebe on a pool at Camber, a Bittern on the ARC Pit at Dungeness, and Bearded Tits at Pett Level.

Bearded Tit

Bittern on the far side of the ARC Pit

Red-necked Grebe

The picture of the Red-necked Grebe was taken at a distance of  of about 230 metres and then heavily cropped. It's not good but it is the best image of this bird that I have ever managed to get.

I think I might be going back for another go at the Water Pipit.

Thursday, 19 January 2017


After six hours standing in the cold on Tuesday with no sightings of the Serin I am not sure if I was pleased or not when it was reported again on Wednesday evening. There was little choice, I had never seen a Serin in the UK, so I had to have another go. Dave picked me up at 0800 and we headed off down to "Turd" Mills.

Success - we only had to wait about fifteen minutes and it flew in.

It spent much of the time in the undergrowth feeding but did move around a lot and on occasions perched up in a small tree or on one of the old walls.

The best views were obtained early on with less perched up shots being offered as the morning wore on. It also made occasional forays out of sight eastwards but always returned a few minutes later. The flight seemed fast and direct and was always easy to pick up as it approached.

I am told that it was also calling and singing but the sound is beyond my range.

A fantastic little bird and well worth the hours spent waiting for it in the cold.

By late morning the number of birders was beginning to grow so we decided to move on, but where to go. We had a look for Purple Sandpipers at the end of the east pier but with the tide out there were none present.

In the end we decided on a trip up to Crawley to see the Rose-coloured Starling. This is a bird we had avoided until now. Standing in the street scanning people's back gardens with camera and bins does not really sit comfortably with me but as my header says - once the crowds have died down I might give it a go.

In this case the crowds have died down, there was no one there. The garden was easy to find, it was full of birds, and the starling flock soon put in an appearance with the Rose-coloured easy to spot. It was difficult to get a shot where the bird was not obscured by branches but I ended up with better than I had expected. I just wish I could have said thank you to the people that own the house.

Rose-coloured Starling

I have seen a Rose-coloured Starling before but that was a rather washed out nondescript looking juvenile. This one is starting to show some coloured plumage and the promise of some really good photographic opportunities to come.

Two great birds in a day and they could both stay around for some time. The Rose-coloured in full summer plumage could well convince me to go back for a few more pictures.

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Water Pipit

Having spent six hours on Tuesday, in the freezing cold, waiting for a Serin to appear and then having gone home without seeing it and without taking a single picture we decided to spend Wednesday  on some more reliable subjects.

First stop should have been Apuldram Church but I took the wrong turn so we made a revisit to the Cattle Egrets at Church Lane Warblington. There had been eight of them in the field with the cattle last week but this time there were no cattle and only the one Cattle Egret and that was too far away for a photograph.

Moving on we tried the Nore Stream. Plenty of dog walkers and the usual wildfowl but very little of interest. Which eventually led us back to our intended target, the Water Pipit at Apuldram. We had a quick look at the Yellowhammer flock in the horse paddock on the way but we were both keen to get to the river.

Dave spotted it as soon as we arrived. Fairly close and easy to see but very difficult to get a clear shot of it against a clean background.

Water Pipit

There were a couple of Rock Pipits in the area which was useful for comparison purposes. One of these seemed to want to occupy the same tuft of grass as the Water Pipit which resulted in frequent disputes and pursuits when the Water Pipit reappeared. This was some feisty bird and it was not sharing its territory with any rockies.

Rock Pipit

You occasionally get a heart stopping moment when something unusual pops up and you think you may have found a rarity. The bird below had me scrambling to get a record shot but my hopes were dashed when Dave pointed out that it was only a Wren. True but if it were a butterfly I would call it an aberration and would be searching the records to be able to put a name to it.

Wren with a crown stripe

Apuldram is the most reliable location in our patch for Yellowhammers. There are reports of the flock being thirty to forty strong although I usually only see around six. The manure heap seems to offer plenty of food for the foraging birds but photographing them against the yellow straw is always difficult. There are better opportunities when they perch up in the trees but to get close you often end up photographing into the sun.


We made a quick visit to the Bill but it all looked very quiet and with Church Norton and the North Wall failing to produce much recently we decided to head over too the wetland centre at Arundel. The Great White Egret if still present would be a patch first for me.

A good choice as it turned out. With most of the water frozen over there were some good picture opportunities. It was nice to get a couple of pictures of the GWE  where it did not look long necked and awkward.

Great White Egret

There were half a dozen snipe present but it was a choice between photographing them or following the GWE hoping that it would fall through the ice.

The Shelduck gave good picture opportunities from the hide and we saw our second Grey Wagtail of the day.


Grey Wagtail

Later we saw a couple of Water Rail. Icy conditions always seem to bring them out into the open.

Water Rail

A really enjoyable days birding spoilt only by a report that the Serin has been seen again at Tide Mills. It looks like another long day in the cold tomorrow.

Wednesday, 11 January 2017


Tuesday we went looking for the Goosander on Petworth Park Lower Pond. There was one swimming around when we arrived and three more flew in whilst we watched. These are never an easy bird to photograph. If you can get close, which is very difficult, you then have problems with the contrast, either burning out the whites or ending up with the head black, showing none of the green colour and often no eye.

This time the lighting was ideal, bright but diffuse, but the Goosander would not cooperate. I tried walking round the pool but they always stayed on the complete opposite side. If I changed direction they changed direction as well. I tried sitting in cover and waiting for them to drift over towards me, they didn't. Eventually I approached their position under cover of the bank, just poking my head up at the last moment. I didn't even get the chance of one picture. They saw me immediately and disappeared to the far side of the pool.

Fortunately the Egyptian Geese were a bit more trusting and gave a few good picture opportunities.

We then visited a couple of the commons looking for Dartford Warblers. There numbers have certainly increased on the south coast over the past three or four years but you always worry that a hard winter could see their numbers decimated again.

 We found two, or possibly three of the Dartfords. The easiest way to locate them seems to be to find Stonechats then to look for the Dartfords which often follow them around staying low and hidden in the undergrowth.

On Tuesday we did a circuit through Kent. An early start enabled us to spend a rather unwelcome couple of hours birding the M23 from a stationary car. This following a thirteen car pile up. We should have gone along the coastal route to Dungeness but had included a quick stopover in Strood to pick up year ticks on the Waxwings. We just couldn't risk them turning round and heading for home without ever reaching Sussex.

Standing outside the Bounty Pub in a busy housing estate is not my idea of fun birding but I did at least get one reasonable picture. We counted thirteen birds in total but they stayed mostly in the tree tops just making occasional visits to pick berries from the lower trees.

Key target for the day was the Red-necked Grebe resident on one of the pools to the west of Camber. It had been there for over a week. It's a bird that I have often seen at a distance but have never been able to get close enough to get a picture. And so it proved today. We found a couple of Coots but the Red-necked Grebe seems to have moved on. What is worse is that we drove past the pool last week, before it was reported, but were short of time and did not stop for a look.

Consolation was that the Long-eared Owl behind the dipping pool at Dungeness RSPB, that we had missed last week, has now turned into two Long eared Owls. Really great to see but still very difficult to photograph.

We found the Ring-necked Duck easily enough but it was more distant than last week so we moved on to look for the Stejnegers Stonechat again. I am not sure what we are doing wrong but this is the third time we have drawn a blank. I keep reading reports about how easy it is to find and talking to people who have just seen it but it is not working for us.

A stop at Scotney Pitts gave an assortment of geese but nothing unusual and a search at Pett Level eventually gave us very distant views of the Taiga Bean Geese. We finished off at Pevensey Levels searching for an Owls but again drew a blank

A long day with some good birds and some missed opportunities. It looks as though we will have to go back for fourth time lucky with the Stejnegers

Wednesday, 4 January 2017


A few more year ticks gathered on Wednesday morning, finishing off with the Bewick Swans at Offam Farm, left us outside Arundel WWT with some time to spare. We decided to have a walk around to see if we could add Kingfisher and Bullfinch to our list. It proved to be a good decision as we ended up with the best photographic opportunity of the year so far. In fact the best opportunity for a good few weeks now.

Sitting in the Scrape hide we watched a Kingfisher for about an hour. The water was iced over and he was having difficulty finding anywhere to fish.

First Kingfisher

He was great to watch but he was not really coming close enough and the light was in the wrong direction. Thinking I would give the Bullfinches a go I left the hide and wandered up the path. I was initially distracted by a Long-tailed Tit that fluttered around my head a bit like a large butterfly. It was very close but I could not get a clear shot of it.

Long-tailed Tit

Tracking the Long-tailed Tit I came across a second Kingfisher, very still, and this time very close, with the light in the right direction. There was no cover so you just had to stand still and hope that he would not be spooked.

Second Kingfisher

He moved around between perches but stayed close and was clearly focused on hunting. We ended up with six or seven people watching and he still flew to within about twelve feet of where we were standing

I never thought I would get this close to a Kingfisher without being concealed in a hide.

A great opportunity and we even had a second miracle before we left the site. A teal walking on water!

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Ring-necked Duck

The new year always brings a new excitement to the birding. Standing in the kitchen window, as the sun comes up on New Years Day, waiting for that first year tick. Then two or three days of rushing around trying to find all those birds that you have ignored for the rest of the year. It is almost as bad as twitching but it is difficult not to get sucked in.

New Years Day always used to be a trip down to Gosport to say hello to Waldo the Ring-billed Gull. He had been returning there for so long that you always felt that you needed to get him early in the year just in case he died of old age. Now he is no longer there, the day seems strangely empty.

In memory of Waldo

Anyway Dave and I entered into the usual tick gathering exercise. Bird numbers seen were reasonable but picture opportunities were very limited. We saw the eight Cattle Egrets in the fields at Warblington. Great to see but not much chance of a good picture.

Cattle Egret

Pagham Harbour had the birds but again all very distant. The best picture opportunity being this Curlew with crab.

Curlew and crab

We had a trip down to Dungeness that proved a bit disappointing. The Long-eared Owl was not in its usual roost and we wasted hours in searching for the Stejneger's Stonechat. Dave eventually got a distant glimpse but I must have been the only person there that did not get to see it.

A Stonechat but not the Stejneger's

Best bird of the day for me was the Ring-necked Duck on the pond just by the entrance to the RSPB at Bolderwall Farm. This is the first Drake that I have seen.

Ring-necked Duck

and Kestrels everywhere