Saturday, January 30, 2016

Big Garden Birdwatch 2016

It's that time of year again - the RSPB are asking everyone to spend one hour this weekend watching and counting the birds in their garden.

I topped up all feeders this morning and most of my regulars turned up. I recorded 15 species. My GSW and marsh tits did not put in an appearance though, and my flock of sparrows has hardly been visiting in the last month which is strange as I can hear them so they are around. So no sparrows today either. Might try again tomorrow. It is fun and helpful information so do join in!

A lovely coal tit - one of my garden visitors today.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Slavonian Grebe at Princes Park, Eastbourne

I have managed to miss the Slavonian grebes that winter at Church Norton for years now...whenever I go, no grebes to be seen anywhere. I don't own a scope so views would not be brilliant, but still.

There has been a Slavonian grebe on Pagham Lagoon for several days now and yesterday, another one turned up on Crumbles Pond, Princes Park (Eastbourne). Yep, that park again! After the Bonaparte's gull and the black-throated diver another fairly unusual bird on the boating lake.
So today I was going to see my first ever Slavonian grebe...but which one to go for? I saw some fab shots of the Pagham bird on Pagham Birder's blog but the Lagoon is huge...feeding at the other end of the lagoon, the bird would just be a blob in the distance. So we ended up driving to Eastbourne, despite the clouds and rain. I was hoping the bird might come as close as "Napoleon" (the Bonaparte's gull) and the diver before. It did not.
The grebe was still on Crumbles Pond, which was a relief after the drive from Surrey, but it was right in the middle of the lake and that is where it stayed.
There were no other birders watching the grebe when we arrived. The heavens opened and I got completely soaked. Then a beautiful rainbow appeared, the sun came out (yes! the SUN!) and soon after, several birders and photographers arrived. Good to see Arthur Greenslade and Paul (icemelter)!

The grebe never came close (only once but the sun was right behind it so no photos possible) but it was still great to see, diving and preening and looking pretty. 

So here's a selection of distant shots....where's the 1000 mm lens when you need it!

The grebe enjoying the English weather (apparently the wettest January on record).

Stretching its wings.

Stretching its legs...grebes have really cool feet!

Looking pretty.


In the sunshine...

More wing-stretching.

A lovely little bird.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Common Redpoll at Warnham LNR

The sun was shining this morning so we decided to pop down to Warnham LNR. We had a walk around, which was quite enjoyable, and then spent some time watching woodland birds from Woodpecker Hide. It hasn't really been cold enough yet for many of the 'winter finches' to come down South and there's still plenty of food around, so it wasn't surprising that not a single siskin was seen today, nor any brambling and very few greenfinches. Chaffinches were around in good numbers though as well as blue tits, great tits, coal tits, long-tailed tits, GSW, reed buntings, robins, dunnocks, wrens, blackbirds, nuthatch, treecreeper and a song thrush. A male sparrowhawk also made a brief appearance but left the feeding station without any dinner.

As for the winter finches, there was also a small flock of lesser redpolls that were enjoying the sunflower hearts.

A few shots of lesser redpolls looking beautiful.

One of the redpolls stood out, however, not only because it seemed to be the only one that was not interested in the sunflower seed: a probable common (or mealy) redpoll. It was noticeably larger and paler than the other redpolls, looked chunky with a "bull neck", a white rump and white wing bars. I did find a mealy redpoll there before, about three years ago, they're fairly rare so it was a lovely surprise especially as the redpoll flock is still small. The bird would only sit on the nyger seed feeder rather than pose on the nicer perches - but I'm not complaining (well, maybe a little bit).

Little and large...well, large and little. Mealy on the left.

Very pale/grey appearance, white wing bars, 'bull neck'.

Looking chunky next to the lesser redpoll.

Pretty bird. Is there a little bit of red showing on its chest? Maybe a first winter male?

A great bird to see. It was also good to meet David Gardiner who had driven all the way from Battle to visit Warnham LNR!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Grey Phalarope at Hove - Hello again and farewell!

Yesterday, I decided that I couldn't resist and had to visit the lovely little grey phalarope at Hove once more. As before, it was happily swimming around on the small paddling pool, looking relaxed and happy. 


Unfortunately, this changed soon after we arrived: a crow appeared and chased the phalarope off. They both flew towards the Lagoon.

The crow soon returned to the pool, the phalarope did not (and also was no-where to be seen on the Lagoon). The crow, black-headed gulls and herring gulls were all feeding on the mealworms that people had put down for the phalarope.

While we were waiting, the gulls, a starling having a bath and several pied wagtails kept us entertained.

After about 40 minutes, the phalarope did finally return but looked nervous and was clearly not very happy. It quickly had several mealworms and as soon as the crow appeared again on the fence, the lovely little wader was off....not to be seen again.

Thank you, beautiful little bird, for bringing a lot of joy to birders and non-birders alike. I wish you a safe journey and a successful breeding season ahead!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Grey Phalarope at Hove Lagoon, East Sussex

Yes! I'm back. Not that I've actually been away or stopped birding or something. Not at all. Let's face it, I'm just a rubbish blogger. I'd like to change that this year but I know I have said this before so no guarantees.

I'm almost as bad at processing my bird photos, in fact I've got a year's worth of pictures that need looking through, editing and uploading. Plus I keep taking more pictures...but I'll get there, honest.

So I'm going to tell you about some of the birds I saw and photographed last year as well as 'new' ones.

Let me start with the first bird that I photographed in 2014: the grey phalarope that, as we speak, is still swimming around and delighting birders as well as non-birders on the tiny children's paddling pool next to Hove Lagoon. Like most phalaropes, this little beauty is pretty much tame and is happy to go about its business (swimming, "spinning", feeding mainly on bloodworms, preening, sleeping, occasionally flying over to the Lagoon only to return to the paddling pool a few minutes later), no matter how many people are standing and lying (that would be photographers) around the pool.

Spinning and creating a vortex:

The phalarope was first reported on Sunday and on Tuesday morning, I decided I could no longer resist and had to go and see it. It was windy and raining (nothing new there) but you just never know how long a migrant that has been blown off course will hang around. When we arrived at Hove Lagoon, something amazing happened: the sun came out. And it was shining the whole time we were there, watching the gorgeous little bird. Perfect. I took as many photos as my memory card would allow (about 660 RAW shots I think) but spent a lot of the time just watching the little wader. It's always a great feeling when, for a change, a bird isn't terrified of you and flies off before you've had a chance to really watch its behaviour.

Got a bloodworm!

Great colours...



In flight (record shot!!!)...the bird appears to be missing a few feathers.

Splish splash....


Please click here for more photos: Grey Phalarope at Hove

What a great bird and a wonderful start to the New Year. I'm looking forward to all of the birds I'll be watching and photographing this year, old friends and new!

Friday, April 05, 2013

Jack Snipe at Warnham LNR

A Jack Snipe appeared in front of Tern Hide at Warnham Nature Reserve (West Sussex) last Sunday and then was seen again the following day after opening hours.

We decided to pop into Warhnham last Tuesday afternoon, after a nice day at Pulborough Brooks, where we saw several snipe, dunlin, a confiding treecreeper and a water rail amongst many other birds - and the first chiffchaff of the year, which was lovely:

Not many summer migrants have arrived yet due to the cold and windy weather. I still have four bramblings in my garden (they have been around for about 2 months). This is the male (photo taken with a small digi cam through the window yesterday):

So we arrived at Warnham at about 4 p.m. and found Tern Hide empty - very surprising. No snipe to be seen anywhere either but it was worth a try. A couple of birders arrived a little later and while I was chatting with one of them, I spotted the jack snipe feeding by the water's edge about 10 metres away. Wow! It was doing its special jack snipe 'dance', bobbing and bouncing up and down while feeding. Amazing!!

 The mallard shows how very small a jack snipe is!

More jack snipe photos here:

A beautiful grey wagtail was also showing well right in front of the hide:

Apparently, after two days of hiding, the snipe was seen again today. I wonder how long it'll hang around for.
A wonderful bird and being able to watch and photograph it was a very special treat indeed! Warnham really is a great reserve that we have been visiting regularly for many years and I thoroughly recommend a visit.