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.


  1. Well done on the Sparrow - even if you had to have an ISO 3200 - I know how that feels! But the yellow hammer is nice!

    (BTW - In addition to the Barn Owl at Holmethorpe I managed to keep a (somewhat hidden) Tawny Owl in Hatfield Forest!)

  2. Hi, Tricia,
    Thanks for your continued support. The sparrow was nice to see but the photography was just crazy!! Good to see you got a tawney owl. Lovely.
    Regards, Phil.


Welcome. If you have a Google or Gmail account, use this form to comment on any blog posting. Comments are moderated first so there will be a short delay before they appear.