Sunday 26 April 2009

In the garden this weekend.Result of mystery face enigma.

I was only in the garden late on Sunday afternoon because I had been on a walking weekend on the South Downs. Got back too late to go out again so I set up my camera in the garden to see what would come the the feeders, etc. It was quiet, but this jay did drop by to get some peanuts I had left on the ground. Hopefully I can see more next weekend.

Jay in garden.

Red-breasted goose photo published.
My photo of the red-breasted goose at West Wittering was chosen for publication in Birding World magazine (Vol 22, Number 3). I'm chuffed to bits that my photo was chosen, as there were many other good photos of that bird on the net. Anyway, here is the blog entry where the chosen photo first appeared:

Finally, the mystery face from last week was, as Billy correctly said,............. a mute swan. Here's the full photo:

Mute swan, Oare Marshes

Well done, Billy.

Monday 20 April 2009

A good weekend photographically

The bad weather this last week brought many good migrants to ground. Sadly, I had to work so missed them all! Aaahh!

Well, on Saturday, I went to Beddington where ring ouzels, and all manner of rare migrants had been seen in the week. I saw none of them! After a walk round the whole site, I decided to go to Barnes WWT. Here I saw sand martins, sedge warblers and reed warblers. Also, a kestrel caught something and came down on a nearby post to eat it. I never got to see what it had caught, but I managed to fire off some of the closest and best shots of a kestrel before he flew off. Here is the best picture:

Male kestrel, Barnes WWT.

On Sunday I went to Elmley Marshes on the Isle of Sheppey and then to Oare Marshes near Faversham. Elmley is great because during the 1.25 mile drive from the road to the car park you often see more than at the hides (which involve another 1.25 mile hike). Also the car is a perfect hide. By waiting patiently, I got a lovely yellow wagtail at close range....

Yellow wagtail (male), Elmley marshes.

.....and a pair of skylarks - one shown here, displaying .

Skylark, Elmley.

Shortly afterwards, a redshank appeared. With the sun behind, his red legs appeared an even more vivid red.

Redshank, Elmley

I started on my walk to the hides but, after about 500-600 metres I met another birdwatcher who had already been down there and pronounced that there was very little apart from avocets and shellducks. I decided not to put in the effort of a long walk and turned back to go to Oare. On the way back I heard the distant call of a corn bunting. Scouring the middle distance revealed it on a gatepost, but too far for a shot that I could dare to post on this blog.

At Oare, there was a single little stint and a whimbrel on the mud in the Swale, again too distant for any decent shots. There was a nice drake garganey at the back of the lake, and I managed some practice at flight shots when a mute swan made a couple of circuits of the lake.

A little egret afforded some close views while touring the lake in search of fish.

Little egret, Oare Marshes.

All in all, an enjoyable weekend photographically even if I didn't make much headway into David Campbell's formidable lead in the year list.

Now, here's a riddle for you. Whose face is this Disney looking character? Those Goofy eyes, that black hair, that funny bearded mouth like the bully in Popeye (I can't remember his name). Who can it be?? Answers on a postcard please...... Well, you can email the answer to me if you can guess. Answer in next week's posting.

Whose face???

Gatton Park Heronry

On Thurs 16 April I went to Gatton Park Heronry. This island heronry is the largest in the Sout East. Glyn Sherratt, the warden, kindly let us in. The Park is home to a school and is only open to the public on the first Sunday in the month. Unfortunately, on the day of my visit the weather was pretty appalling - rain and overcast, very poor light. Here is a shot of one of the nests showing an adult and three chicks who are already nearly as big as their parents. I have never seen heron chicks before. Many thanks indeed to Glyn for his kind hospitality.

Heron and chicks, Gatton Park.

Tuesday 14 April 2009

White-throated sparrow at last

OK, so Sunday was supposed to be the best day of the holidays weatherwise wasn't it? I thought I would go and see the American White-throated sparrow at Old Winchester Hill Fort. I decided to leave early and I was there by 7 a.m. The weather was really misty and visibility was bad. It was also drizzling. Great! When I arrived there were already about 20 people there!! Someone said it had just been out in the open singing from a very exposed bush (as people are apt to do in these situations), but was now nowhere to be seen. Great!

There was some very thick undergrowth where the bird was. I didn't blame it for not coming out where only rain, mist and about 21 eager birdwatchers were waiting. Soon someone spotted it deep in the thicket. Not ideal for photography at the best of times. Shutter speeds were ludicrously low at normal ISO, so I had to increase it more and more till, even at 3200 ISO, the shutter speed was about 1/25 sec!!! Photographers will know how bad that is. I had to wait to be able to get in a position where I could get a reasonably clear view through the undergrowth and I was finally able to get a few shots of the neat but pathetic looking sparrow cowering in the middle of the bush. We could hear its call, a repeated single note, which was really rather plaintiff. I was pleased to have seen it and got a record shot, but after a cup of coffee, I moved on.

White-throated sparrow. (f5.6 at 1/30 sec. ISO 3200!!)

Next stop was Birdham near Chichester, where the call of a lesser whitethroat was a nice surprise. There were plenty of yellowhammer, and I got a reasonably close picture of a female.

Female yellowhammer.

A short hop to Church Norton by Pagham harbour produced ringed plover, house martin and swallow for my year list. On the way home I popped in to Pulborough Brooks, which was very quiet, with no waders to speak of. There were plenty of blackcap, whitethroat and so many rooks. One came quite close to the hide and there are a couple of pictures below. You can see what a strange looking bird it is close up. I don't like to speak ill of birds, but there are more attractive ones out there. They can look like some hooded monks. What is that funny bulge under the bill?? Who knows.

Monday 13 April 2009

That American Sparrow

Well, before I get to that, let me apologise for not posting anything for the last four weeks. Lots of things going on at work caused by the credit crunch, etc. I have been out there in the field, but no time to put everything on the blog.

On 28 March went to Beddington SF to see if there were any early migrants. Saw tree sparrow (Beddington is the place to go for tree sparrows), green sandpiper, and blackcap but nothing more exciting.

The following day I went to Farlington mashes for the spoonbill. I did see it distantly but had to cut short my visit when my son rang to say that my daughter had had an accident (now fine, nothing serious).

On 5 April went to Dungeness with David Campbell, who was confidently predicting at least ten year ticks and a couple of lifers for both of us. As it turned out we got a few year ticks and no lifers (which would have been Common redstart and velvet scoter).

We did enjoy fairly close views of a male garganey in breeding plumage and some even closer views of a pair of slavonian grebes, one in breeding plumage.

Garganey, ARC Dungeness.

I got my camera out and while the grebes were diving we moved 50m down the causeway to just about where they would come up close to shore. It worked. they surfaced and didn't move. I had put my tripod down but, while I had carried it on my shoulder, the lens had swivelled round so that it was looking the wrong way. I swivelled the lens round the right way again but too fast it seems. The slavonian grebe in breeding plumage took off like a rocket, half flying, half running on water as they do until it was at least 50m away and the other one joined him. Ah, well!

Slavonian grebe putting a lot of distance between me and him!!

Also that day we saw a male black redstart and a flock of c.25 linnet.

Linnet, Dungeness.

The next day while waiting at the bus stop at Sutton station on my way home from work I looked again for the Peregrine which used to sit regularly at the top of the Reed Building. No sign again. Then I looked at the building to the South of it. There on the rail at the top was what looked like a Peregrine. I pulled out the small monocular that I now carry with me all the time just in case. Sure enough it was the peregrine. I tried to phonescope it but my bus came before I could manage it.

I want to get this posted so I'm going to do another post about that sparrow. Watch this space!