Tuesday, 11 December 2018

A Bittern at Amwell

7th December 2018

After heavy rain all morning the sun did eventually come out at mid-day so time for a quick visit to Amwell. I started by taking a walk through the wood in the hope of finding a flock of Siskins, but only managed to see about five which were very high in an Alder and mostly hidden. The only bird that did put in an appearance was this female Great Spotted Woodpecker.

Also quiet at the White Hide with just the usual suspects including a few pairs of Wigeon.

Most of the action was at the viewpoint where a number of gulls were gathering for the roost including this rather large adult Yellow-legged Gull.

As usual the Lapwings were esily spooked and would go on several laps of the lake before settling down again.

However, on this occasion the cause was quite clear as the juvenile Peregrine Falcon was buzzing the islands.

But today the star of the show was definitely the Bittern that has been present for several weeks now and seems to have set up home in the reed-bed at the north-western corner of the lake, only flying to the Bittern Pool to roost.

What a stunning bird!!

Friday, 7 December 2018

Black-throated Diver at Gunners Park

30th November 2018

On the 29th November an adult Black-throated Diver was reported on the lake at Gunners Park, Shoeburyness. The main attraction of this lake from a photography perspective is that although it is 300 yards long, it is only 60 yards wide as it its widest point, and therefore any sea birds that drop in from time to time are never far away.

When I arrived on the Friday morning the bird wasn't immediately apparent, but then appeared from behind the island at the western end of the lake and proceeded to swim in a determined fashion to the eastern end. I set up position at the base of the bank to be on more eye-level terms and just waited.

The bird appeared to be in very good condition, was very alert and although not diving was frequently looking under the surface. I was able to take a number of shots.

Then, it sat up in the water for a wing flap.

But then the unbelievable happened. It jumped out of the water and lolloped up the bank and disappeared from view. This was very worrying because of the number of dogs around and foxes at night.

The next day the bird was still present but according to reports was not looking too healthy and sitting in one place for most of the day. The following day it had disappeared. Let us just hope that it got away OK.

Saturday, 1 December 2018

Gannets at Dungeness

17th November 2018

Time for an early Winter visit to Dungeness to see whether the easterly winds had grought any migrants in. Surpringly the area around the old lighthouse was desperately quiet with no pipits at all, and only a couple of elusive Goldcrests which were skulking in the gorse. In fact the only bird of note was a Redwing which was looking a bit lost on top of a bramble bush by The Moat.

So wasting no more time we set off to the RSPB reserve and stopped by Boulderwall Farm to look out for egrets. Despite the recent numbers we could only find a single Cattle Egret, which was quickly joined by an enormous by comparison Great White Egret.

Still quiet around the reserve with just the usual suspects to provide some photographic subjects on a beautiful sunny day, including these Shelduck and a drake Teal having a bath.

Round at Denge Marsh a huge flock of Greylag Geese flew in and circled the lake a few times as individual squadrons peeled off to land causing quite a disturbance.

The geese had possibly been disturbed by this stunning female Marsh Harrier that just wafted around in the afternoon sun.

So what was the highlight of the day? Well, on our approach to Dungeness lighthouse we stopped off at the fishing boats to look for the two Black Redstarts that had been reported the day before. A bit of a challenge as there are acres of fishing boats, buildings and machinery to search through especially in a blustery wind. But at this point I noticed a large flock of white seabirds reasonably close in above the shingle bank.

By the time we had slogged up the bank and on to the beach the mixture of Kittiwakes, gulls and Gannets, which were following a fishing boat, had moved a few hundred yards further along the coast. However, there must have been some large shoals of fish off-shore as slowly but surely the birds starting drifting back for some photos.

The first birds to fly close to the shore-line were some Kittiwakes, mainly juvenile birds with their characteristic wing markings.

But then the big boys arrived, about 100 in all including adults and a variety of sub-adult plumages, and started patrolling up and down the coast looking  for the shoals.

Once a shoal was located the onslaught started and we spent over an hour trying to photograph the non-stop plunging into a sea full of fish.

Here is a particualry young bird with a plumage more chocolate brown than white.

WOW!!! What a way to spend a morning. Might have to give that another go.