Thursday, 21 September 2017

A Visit to Landguard Point

15th September 2017

My decision to go to Landguard today was driven more by the photography weather forecast than the migration forecast as a gentle westerly wind is not ideal for bringing in a fall, so I was not too surprised to find that things were fairly quiet. Still a beautiful day in a beautiful place can't be bad, so I set off to see what I could find.

The dry lichen in the desert is always a magnet for Pied Wagtails and today was no exception, and never too far away are Meadow Pipits.

Not quite so many Linnets today as usual and fairly flighty, but as least a couple did sit up on a briar for a shot.

I wandered over to The Point to see if there were any Turnstones or Purple Sandpipers on the seaweed-covered breakwaters, but the lack of waders was compensated for by some performing Common Terns feeding along the shallows.

At that point a juvenile gull flew past and I instinctively picked up my camera and started firing off shots. It wasn't until it landed on the sea and I had a look at the images that I realised it was a 1st Winter Mediterranean Gull which was a nice surprise.

But the star of the show today was the rather confiding lone Wheatear that allowed me to take a few shots to round off a superb day. Landguard is certainly a fantastic place to visit even on a quiet day.

Sunday, 17 September 2017

A White-winged Black Tern at Willows Farm

12th September 2017

Willows Farm is in London Colney at the south-western edge of the Tyttenhanger Gravel Pit complex. Today a White-winged Black Tern had been reported on the fishing lake next to the animal centre, so off I set to join the expected throng of birders. I parked up and walked down the footpath to the lake and the signs were not looking very encouraging as there was no sign of any terns and, even more worringly, no sign of any people.

At that point a lone birder appeared from the trees and said that the bird was resting on the back edge of one of the two islands on the lake and so I set off to locate the bird. It was indeed resting on the shingle and looked quite diminutive next to an enormous Black-headed Gull. It was clearly heavily in moult which gave it a rather attractive blotchy black and white appearance.

After only a couple of shots it took to the air and flew continuously until I left an hour or so later. It proved to be a rather tricky bird to photograph as the background kept changing from trees to water to sky, and the amazing agility of the bird also proved to be a problem as just as you were about to press the trigger it would drop like a stone to the surface of the water. Absolutely amazing.

My most sincere thanks go to fellow birder Steve Blake who found the bird and got the news out so quickly. Steve spends several hours each week working this very large and difficult site, and it is obviously mega records like this that make it all worth while.

Well done Steve.

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

A Day in The Brecks

9th September 2017

Although we walked up to the Mere Hide at Lakenheath, all the action was on the veranda at the visitor centre. The feeders were attracting a constant stream of birds and the neighbouring trees and bushes allowed several opportunities for shots in more natural surroundings. Reed Buntings are never far away.

Today a Chiffchaff was an unexpected bonus as it fed in the bushes, presumably following the tit flock, and to provide variation a Kingfisher paid a fleeting visit to the pool, although sadly on the furthest post.

But the stars of the show here today were the 2-3 Marsh Tits that made frequent visits to the bird table, but also posed on the nearby bushes. What a great start to the day!!

Now on to Cavenham Heath to see what the Stone Curlews were up to and possibly find some Wood Larks. All seemingly very quiet at first apart from a lone Kestrel that was quartering the heath on the curlew side of the road.

I scanned the traditional distant ridge for any stonies but worryingly draw a total blank. But then a wider search revealed a small group further down the heath and hopefully a little closer than normal. I eventually managed to count 17 birds as they gradually emerged from the tussocks amd managed to get my best shots so far, not only due to them being closer, but also the total lack of heat haze. Superb!!

Now off to look for Wood Larks and immediately came across a family party of Stonechats. This juvenile only stayed around for one shot and then flew off with the rest of the group, so now for the larks.

Over the last couple of years I have found that at this time of year small family groups of Wood Larks can be a bit tricky to track down but once you have found them, with a lot of patience, it is possible to get quite close and these photos were taken at a range of just 8 yards.

Well, what a super day!!