Saturday 21 March 2009

Lesser Spotted Wodpecker - Nonsuch Park

I finally saw these elusive birds today for the first time in my life. David Campbell had told me roughly where they were. I wandered round the mature wood listening intently for their calls. I met two others with the same intention. They had seen one fly in but had then lost it. After scanning the tops of some very tall trees for 10 mins I saw one fly briefly from one branch to another.

Lesser spotted woodpeckers are really quite small and unobtrusive. It's no wonder their nickname is 'never spotted woodpeckers'!! I saw male and female birds but my shot of the male is out of focus. Here is the female working quietly under a branch.
Lesser spotted Woodpecker, Nonsuch Park

Sunday 15 March 2009

Oare and Dungeness for rarities

Took Lynne, my wife, to see her parents in Kent. We both went to Oare where the tide was low and the water level in the East Flood was high. Quite a nice selection of ducks: Tufted, Shoveler, Pintail, Teal, Widgeon and Mallard. NO waders at all except three distant snipe. Very quiet in the reedbeds too. Two Reed buntings and a stonechat, plus a Cetti's warbler nearby. Stayed an hour and dropped Lynne off before going on to Dungeness.

David Campbell had arrived an hour before me and we met at the seawatching point (David having already looked at the rest of RSPB Dungeness and pronounced it 'dead'). We looked in vain for black redstart near the beach. David was getting depressed and grumpy at the lack of action. We decided to walk to the observatory. Finally we saw a female Black Redstart, a year tick for both of us. David's spirits lifted. We saw a particular race of stonechat on the way back to the car (don't ask me what) and then went to Pannel Valley to try and see the Great Grey Shrike which had been reported.

We had no idea where it was, but we found a path along the ditch. After about 500m we saw the Great Grey Shrike on top of a tall bush 75m ahead. Took some pics before sneaking a little closer. Got to about 50m when it flew to another favourite bush much further off. Watched it for a while and then went back to the car where we saw a barn owl in an adjoining field.
Remember, the picture below was taken from quite a way off.
Great Grey Shrike.

It was getting late so I had to go and pick Lynne up from her parents. In all, a modest day. Three year ticks, the Cetti's warbler, Black Redstart and the Shrike.

Sunday 8 March 2009

Saturday, 7 March 2009, South Coast

Went to the South Coast today with David Campbell. Our target birds were the great grey shrike in the New Forest, the purple sandpipers at Southsea Castle, the red-breasted goose at West Wittering and the white-fronted goose at Tundry pond.

After a 1 hour 45 min circular walk there was no sign of the shrike! We did, however, see a nice pair of Dartford warblers, a pair of grey wagtails and a lovely male hen harrier. The harrier landed, which gave me a chance to get my camera out. I switched on and pressed the shutter. Nothing happened! I'd taken the battery out last night to charge and it was still on the charger at home! I did have spares in the car - half a mile away!

On to Southsea Castle in Portsmouth where we had better luck. We instantly found the six purple sandpipers on the shore at low tide. This bird was a lifer for me and for David, so we spent some time observing and photographing them. They were quite tame and allowed us to get to within a few metres.

Purple sandpiper, Southsea Castle.

After lunch at the local tea rooms and seeing a goldcrest, we pressed on to West Wittering for the red-breasted goose. We were again lucky. We found the goose very quickly amongst the 1,000 or so Brent geese and it was fairly near the front of the mass so it was possible to see it largely unobstructed by the brents. Another lifer for me.

Red-breasted goose, W. Wittering.
At one point it took flight, did a circuit, and landed much further back. I was not so quick to get some flight shots and it was already quite a way away before I got focus lock on it.

Red-breasted goose in flight.
We noticed that there were no reports of the white-fronted geese that day so we decided to try for the ring-necked duck I had seen at Bordon in January. We arrived at the gravel pits but I wasn't sure of the way. We strayed from the public footpath and the quarry owner (no less) chased us in his tractor to tell us off. Our apology was, thankfully, accepted and he then directed us to the pits where the duck might be. It was there, albeit rather distant. After a few minutes we walked back to the car and came home. I had four year ticks (total 131, or 132 including a barnacle goose) and two lifers.
Ring-necked duck.

Sunday 1 March 2009

Tawny owls in central London!

On Saturday 28 February, went to look for the roosting tawny owls. It's amazing that such birds would live in the centre of London. After some additional instruction as to the location, found one adult and three chicks roosting high up. Busy though the park was, the owls high up slept unnoticed, their camouflage making them almost invisible even to someone who knew they were there.

Tawny owl, central London.

Then went to Millets to buy some new walking boots. My old ones are years old and losing their tread. On the way, saw a Mediterranean gull and a very strange gull, completely white but acting like a black headed gull. It must be a partial albino black headed gull. I wonder how it develops in breeding plumage.
Albino Black headed gull.