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

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