Monday 10 September 2012

Long journey for short-billed dowitcher.

Flushed with my success with the Baillon's crake yesterday, I left at 05.00 this morning for Weymouth, Lodmoor, to see the short-billed dowitcher, an American wader. At 7.35 it was nowhere to be seen, despite there being about 8 or 10 birdwatchers on site. I decided to look on the South side which the long-billed dowitcher had preferred last year. I got about 200 metres down the path when a wader caught my eye. Through my binoculars it had all the hallmarks of the short-billed dowitcher. By that I mean it looked pretty much the same as the long-billed!! Sure enough, that was it. A couple of the others arrived but the bird moved into a clump of reed and stayed hidden for several minutes before emerging again. It was reasonably close but still tended to hide in the reeds a lot. I was back home at 12.00 noon.

A second lifer in 2 days. OMG, I hope I'm not becoming a twitcher again!!

Short-billed dowitcher - juvenile.
Short-billed dowitcher - juvenile.

Sunday 9 September 2012

Biding our time for the Baillon's crake

Was it worth the wait? Did we see it? Read on.

Got to Rainham RSPB at about 6pm where those nice people in the RSPB had decided to keep the reserve open on a Sunday till 8pm! Thank you all the staff.

Trudged round to the hide but the bird was nowhere to be seen. The hide was heaving. Then someone saw it briefly but not many could get onto it before it retreated into the reeds again. Standing on a swivel stool was risky but necessary to see over the heads of everyone and to get a better angle on where the bird had just been.

After over an hour one man left disgruntled saying he had been there since early morning but not had a glimpse because nobody could give any accurate instructions as to where they were seeing the crake!!

At nearly 19.25, the RSPB person announced that the hide would be closing at 7.30 so the reserve could close at 8. We started to pack up slowly. Suddenly, someone next to me announced that the crake was climbing up the reeds just in front of us. I quickly got onto it. It was already dark in the hide. I cranked up the ISO to 3200 and took a few shots before we had to leave.

Well, it was another lifer for me.
Baillon's crake - juvenile. It kept us waiting until the light was really poor.
This shot and the one following was taken at ISO 3200 and 1/25
Baillon's crake - juvenile.

Monday 3 September 2012

It's a Race! A long one.

I haven't been out much since I got back from holiday so I was looking forward to the bird race at Canons Farm, Banstead Woods. I picked David up at 6.20 and before 6.30 we were there. Weather not brilliant; a bit drizzly at first. However, David picked up the call of 2 yellow wagtails flying over, the first of several birds he located by call that day.

6 or 7 birdwatchers attended. I went round with David most of the time, Ian went with Steve, Paul did his own round, and Roy held the fort at the highest point on the site and skywatched.

David and I walked around the field near the houses to get the garden birds. Suddenly we heard an unfamiliar call just over our heads and a large wader headed North away from us. I followed it briefly with my bins before trying a photo. I couldn't get a shot because the drizzle had got onto the lens of my viewfinder and I couldn't see the bird! Luckily, David got some shots and confirmed his thought that it was a bar-tailed godwit, a very rare bird in those parts and a first for the site!

We picked up the usual suspects during the morning. After lunch I headed for the Legal & General playing fields where I knew there would be pied wagtails. I wasn't expecting the number I found; 29 in all.

I then spent a while photographing the whinchat which was being quite co-operative on a nearby fencepost. The male common redstart nearby wasn't quite so obliging, but stealth and patience paid off. I then went to find the female about 500m away. I was lucky again with good views of the female common redstart.

Late in the afternoon I joined up with David again for a visit to the scrub. I picked up lesser black-backed gull and treecreeper on the way, followed by nuthatch, bullfinch, willow warbler, whitethroat and blackcap at the scrub, bringing my total for the day to 54. Notable absences of fairly common birds were goldfinch, song thrush and the red-legged partridge. These latter two were seen by others in the day.

After over 12 hours on site carrying my camera, my shoulders were aching a little!!
Male common redstart
Female common redstart