Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Brambling!

Just being treated to fantastic views of a female bramling...in my garden! Only the second time ever I've seen one here (first time was a male in the snow before Christmas). She seems to like my bird seed. :) Birding from the comfort of my desk...just need to turn my head. Brilliant. :D Also got my bins for some really good views!


There's also a greenfinch - a fairly rare visitor - and all the regulars, including blue tits, great tits, dunnock, chaffinches, blackbirds, goldfinches, collared doves and starlings. Need to top up the seed feders later!

Climping / Pulborough Brooks

....and so it continues. We went to Climping the other day - no wheatears. Got home and had a look online: Climping sightings of the day included 9 wheatears and 2 black redstarts, one male about 200 yards up the road from where we were - for its second day. Why wasn't it reported the day before then maybe we could have seen it too... and a whinchat was also seen in the morning...another bird that I tried to find in vain last autumn. Never seen one! So you'll understand why I might just feel a LITTLE annoyed.

I guess we just need to stop looking for a specific species and it'll turn up when we least expect it. Oh, and of course I did lose the photos I took the other day. No idea why but the files were all damaged and could not be recovered after my card reader died on me. Very annyoing! I had some really nice shots of grey plovers and a little egret in flight and several of a male green woodpecker. Oh well...

OK I bet you've had enough of the whining now and rightly so! Let's move on to the birds that we did see at Climping. I really like sanderlings and there were a lot of them about.

A beautiful male kestrel was hovering above us and a joy to watch.


The highlight were a pair of ringed plover and I managed to get better records shot this time. Impossible to get close to, the birds didn't seem to like people and I obviously didn't want them to get stressed out. So I watched from a distance. These little waders are just SO cute! :)


Ringed plover


Well camouflaged...


We then decided to move on to Pulborough Brooks for a late afternoon stroll around the reserve. It was beautiful!


The sun was shining and there were birds and bird song all around us. Spring has definitely sprung now!


Chiffchaff


Dunnocks, robins, chaffinches, greenfinches, blackbirds and songthrushes were all in full song...it just sounded wonderful!


A male dunnock, happy to be photographed while singing to the ladies


A male chiffchaff perched and sang in a bush right in front of us. Lovely! I manged to take a nice shot of him - definitely one of my best chiffchaff photos! Such beautiful little birds.


We then spotted FIVE blackcaps (the first of the year too!), four of which were males pursuing and singing to one female.


Male blackcap singing Imagine the song of four blackcaps together...amazing! On the way back to the car park a couple of fieldfares flew over - I was surprised they haven't left yet.


So the resident birdies at Pulborough (and the return of the first few warblers) made up for the earlier disappointment! Rarer migrants are special, of course and I'm still hoping to see wheatear, black redstart, whinchat etc. but I do love all of the 'common' birds that I can watch and get to know through the seasons. Not long now and the whitethroats (I LOVE whitethroats!) and nightingales will be back. Can't wait! :)

Sunday, March 27, 2011

It is starting...

...to get a bit frustrating now. There are wheatear sightings all over the place (including the places we visit on a regular basis) but we still haven't seen one. For the 6th time now we went to where one or more had been seen and dipped. Yesterday, 11 (!) wheatears were seen between Goring Gap and Ferring...so we went today and...nothing. And then I get home and read about wheatears seen at Pagham and even Pulborough Brooks today. Also, a male black redstart, a bird I have been wanting to see for ages, had spent a few days at Ferring Rife...but of course had left by the time we arrived today.


Birding can be really frustrating at times...and the few photos I did take today I can't access now because my stupid card reader has packed up - who knows, it might even have damaged the card. *GRRRRRRR*


On a positive note, I saw my first swallow of the year today and also dunlin, sanderling, grey plover, oystercatcher, little egret and green woodpecker.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Pagham Harbour

We had a nice sunny day birding at Pagham today. I really wanted to see a wheatear but unfortunatley, yet again, there weren't any to be found anywhere. A few were seen in the area a few days ago... but not by me!
Anyhow, when we arrived at Church Norton, the 'pigeon' perched in a tree turned out to be a male kestrel and I managed to get a few shots before it flew off.

Male kestrel

The tide was coming in so there weren't many waders on the beach.

There was a chiffchaff hunting flies in the reeds (by the second Severals) and a Cetti's warbler was singing.

Chiffchaff with insect prey

Two chaffinches were fighting and a linnet was perched in a bush, preening. On the ground, I spotted my first peacock butterfly of the year.

Peacock butterfly

We then moved on to Pagham Spit, again hoping to find wheatears. A skylark was singing above us and two ringed plovers were in front of the hide, along with some turnstones. Unfortunately, before we had even entered the hide to get some better views, they all flew off. So I only got a couple of record shots of the ringed plover. Beautiful little birds!

Ringed plover

Two female scaups were on Pagham lagoon (too far away for any decent shots though), along with a great crested grebe, a coot and quite a few black-headed gulls (couldn't find a Mediterranean gull in there).

Female scaups

My personal highlight of the day was a lone sand martin that I spotted hawking over the water.


Sand martin


New Forest

On Wednesday, we decided to spend the day birding in the New Forest. Quite a drive but we were hoping to finally connect with a Dartford warbler - the last one we saw was at Pagham Harbour last October. None on Ashdown Forest so far this year, which is a bit worrying - I hope they all survived the winter!

Our first stop was at Blashford Lakes. We saw a lovely female lapwing from Tern Hide and a wonderful, fluffy little grebe in breeding plumage, goldeneye and gadwall (no water pipit, snipe, sandmartin or ringed plover though!).

Female lapwing

Little grebe

We then moved on to the Woodland Hide where I was hoping to get a few more shots of brambling before they all fly off to their breeding grounds. After about 10 minutes a beautiful female appeared and I got some nice shots of her (much better than the poor record shot I got before!), followed by at least 4 lovely males, all coming into breeding plumage (one looked particularly smart).

Female brambling

Male brambling

We also had lovely views of a nuthatch, a coal tit collecting nesting material, a siskin, a lesser redpoll, a greenfinch, a wren and some blue tits.

We then tried 'Picket Post' heath but could not find any Dartford warblers. There were loads of meadow pipits, a raven and a fantastic buzzard circling right above us.

Buzzard

I also saw a common lizard enjoying the sunshine.


And of course there were some beautiful ponies! Being a horse person, I always love seeing them.


Young New Forest pony

So we drove around for another 20 minutes trying to find a certain site that we know is supposed to be good for Dartfords. Again we walked around for what felt like 50 miles but no Darties. More ponies of course, a mistle thrush, meadow pipits, skylarks and stonechats. Time to give up?

All of a sudden, on the way back to the car we thought we could hear the song we had been hoping for all day...and scanning the gorse nearby we saw him: a fantastic male Dartford warbler! Brilliant!


Male Dartford warbler


We also saw the female perched on top of the gorse behind the male.


Female Dartford warbler

Looking up, I noticed a bird of prey flying low over the heath. Wow, a beautiful male hen harrier - a lifer!


What a great day!

Warnham LNR

We spent a couple of hours at Warnham LNR on Monday morning. The crested grebes didn't feel like courting (still haven't got any photos of them dancing, boo-hoo) but the common redpoll decided to pose for me this time. So I managed to get a couple of nice shots, yay!


A lovely bird!
Also, a nice surprise when I was trying to get a shot of a dunnock on the ground: a little bank vole (I think that's what it is anyway!) said hello! :)


Sunday, March 20, 2011

Mealy it is!

I have had confirmation from several bird experts that my photos do indeed show a mealy redpoll plus, this morning, someone else who apparently saw the bird at Warnham Nature Reserve yesterday reported it to birdguides.com. So a 'life tick' for me (not that I keep an actual list but I do love to add new birds to the 'list in my head' and to my bird photo gallery)!

I also saw a merlin yesterday afternoon but will blog about our visit to Pagham later.

Female merlin

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Mealy Redpoll?

In glorious sunshine, we popped down to Warnham LNR this morning. The flock of redpolls has grown quite a bit - there were at least 10 birds on and around the Woodpecker Hide nyger seed feeder. I always watch the redpolls as I'm really fond of them - and of course I always hope I might spot a mealy among the lessers. And today I think this might have happened!
One bird stood out. A female, much larger than the other redpolls, very pale with no brown on her chest/sides/upperparts and a bright white wingbar. Having studied quite a few photos and having read several articles on how to tell the two species apart, I am fairly certain that this bird is a mealy. I only managed a couple of poor shots before the bird flew off but you can clearly see how different it looks from the lesser redpoll.

It's the bird on the right - large and very pale.

Here it is the bird on the left.

If anyone thinks I'm completely wrong, please do get in touch. I do hope it is a mealy...a lifer for me! :)

Monday, March 14, 2011

Pagham Harbour

As it was sunny this morning, we decided to pop down to Pagham Harbour, hoping we might find an early migrant or two. We first checked out Pagham Spit where we found a red-breasted merganser (drake) and a little grebe - two firsts for the year.

Red-breasted merganser

Not much else of note - apart from 100+ dark-bellied brent geese that were put up by a Royal Navy helicopter.

We then moved on to Church Norton, where the first two birds we spotted were a redshank and a curlew. When I looked up, I couldn't believe our luck: a female kestrel was hovering right above us, looking for prey. We had cracking views and watched this beautiful bird for about 20 minutes. Despite several attempts, she didn't catch anything while we were there. I managed to get a few nice shots that I will add to my gallery asap.

Female kestrel

We still hadn't seen any migrants (I had hoped there might be a wheatear around somewhere) when I heard a familiar alarm call: the first chiffchaff of the year! It was feeding in the shrub and was in very good condition. Lovely! Roll on spring!


Near the Severals, we heard a Cetti's warbler and then walked down to the beach, where we saw oystercatchers and had lovely views of a couple of turnstones.


On the way back to the car, we saw a pair of teal (beautiful!) and a curlew flew over. The kestrel was still hunting in the distance.
A lovely day!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Bird Photo Publication

One of my Great Spotted Woodpecker photos is featured in an article about GSWs on St. Catherine's Village website. :)

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Ashdown Forest

The weather was so lovely yesterday that we decided to spend the afternoon on Ashdown Forest, hoping to find a Dartford Warbler. One of my favourite birds! Always a special treat to see one - check out some of my DW photos here:

Dartford Warbler photos

While we couldn't spot any Dartfords anywhere (boo-hoo!), we did see a couple of croaking ravens, a buzzard, a kestrel, a pair of stonechats and several skylarks.


A male skylark was displaying and singing beautifully high up in the sky.


Another two skylarks were feeding on the path in front of us, giving us lovely views. One then flew up and perched on a gorse bush for a few seconds. Beautiful birds!


Monday, March 07, 2011

Once bittern....

When I entered the bird hide at Warnham NR this afternoon, I was slightly worried. A bittern had been spotted yesterday and, according to the warden and a few other birders, it was still there. So while I was looking forward to a potential 'lifer', I also remembered Blashford Lakes where I was THE ONLY PERSON in the hide who failed to catch a glimpse of the bittern. I was determined not to leave the Heron Hide before I had seen it as well, and without bins!!

Guess what, I did see it! My first ever bittern. It was hiding, pretending to be a reed, far away on the other side of the lake but hey, it was there! I can even prove it. Trust me, there is a bittern in there somewhere!


No? Can't see it? OK, let me help you:

Not the worst record shot of all time either! Quite pleased actually that although it was so far away you can still see what it is.

I have finally seen a bittern! :)

Thursday, March 03, 2011

A great day!

Having dipped on waxwings about 6 times so far this year, I was getting a bit frustrated. On Tuesday night, I read about a waxwing sighting in Crawley, West Sussex - about 20 minutes from here. Were we finally going to connect with these beautiful Scandinavian birds again?

When we arrived in Crawley (Southgate) yesterday morning, they were indeed there, 17 of them, perched high up in a tree. This was promising! And the sun was shining! They were trilling away and I thought they'd come down to the apple tree they had been feeding in any second. After a few minutes, they did all take off...and disappeared. Nooooooo! We waited another 55 minutes but they didn't return and it was getting really chilly, despite the sunshine. D'oh! :(

So we decided to pop down to Warnham Nature Reserve and come back for the waxwings later.

Within five minutes of arriving in the Woodpecker Hide we got lucky and got the shots we'd been wanting for weeks: one of the male sparrowhawk that perched right in front of us for a few seconds and one of a beautiful marsh tit. And in decent light...yeah!

Marshtit:

Sparrowhawk:
After a great couple of hours watching woodland birds, we went back to Crawley but the waxwings didn't appear to be there. We were about to drive off again when I spotted the waxwings up in the high tree. The light was now perfect - but would the waxwings eventually feed on the apples again? So we waited for about 20 minutes and they finally did descend onto the apple tree - about 24 of them! Absolutely fantastic!!!! We got some lovely shots and had enough time to also stop to just watch them. Wonderful birds.... :)






A great day indeed!