Thursday, 27 April 2017

Today I have been mostly photographing Marsh Harriers

18th April 2017

It's that time of year when Marsh Harriers' thoughts turn to pairing up and nesting with all the displaying and nest building that goes with it, so off to see what was going on. Still only the middle of April with a cold northerly breeze, but with some sunny spells to help the photography along. While we were waiting for the action to begin a Common Snipe was doing its best to hide in the reeds directly below us. Mostly obscured by a few reeds, but as the wind blew it was exposed for just a split second every now and again allowing a couple of shots to be taken.

Eventually up to four Marsh Harriers put in an appearance, and although there was some interaction now and then, there was no sign of any nest building so perhaps still a little too early. What was noticeable, however, was that it was only the females that came close, with the males mainly keeping their distance either high in the sky or on the far side of the reed bed.

The only time a male came within range was when this pair were displaying and the male obviously forgot the rules. It can be clearly seen that the female was wing-tagged in the nest as a youngster. I submitted the details of the tag to the Hawk and Owl Trust who have informed me that she was wing-tagged near Great Yarmouth on the 15th June 2016 and has also been recorded at Minsmere on the 15th October 2016 and Saltholme on the 9th April 2017.

Will see how they are getting on in a months time.

Monday, 24 April 2017

Three Target Species on Brightlingsea Reach and the River Colne

15th April 2017

Our first target species was Ring Ouzel at East Mersea, where two males have been showing well for a couple of days. Being a sunny day on the Easter weekend Cudmore Grove was absolutely packed, but slipping down the side track past the hide we soon lost the crowds.There were far fewer birds on the grazing marsh floods now, although the handful of Black-tailed Godwits that remained were gaining their breeding plumage and looked magnificent in the sunshine.

Also, because of the imminent breeding season, there was quite a lot of interaction between the birds. The Shelducks were also looking very smart.

But now on to look for our first target, the Ring Ouzels. It was bit worrying when we got to the field next to the Golf House because there was no sign of any ouzels. We searched a bit further along the Brightlingsea Reach wall to no avail, but after about 10 minuts back at the field they eventually appeared, albeit a little distant. After an hour or so it was clear that they weren't going to get any closer so we made our way back to the car. One down and two to go!!

As we approached the car park I heard the familar jangle of a Lesser Whitethroat, so settled down to see if it was going to show. As is often the case it was flitting around deep in a bramble bush, but did eventually pop up for just one photo before flying off over the hedge.

A brief stop at Abberton produced a surprise in the shape of two drake Goosanders which should have long gone. Along the Layer Breton causeway a small flock of Linnets were showing well and a cracking Reed Bunting was obviously keen to be part of the action as it flew in and landed on top of a bush just 12 feet away.

Not to be out-done a beautiful male Yellow Wagtail posed on a branch down on the bank.

Now on to the River Colne at Fingringhoe Wick for our next two target species. As we made our way down to the picic area a male Blackcap was singing out loudly but partially obscured in a Sallow.

The next target species was the Adder for which Fingringhoe is well known, but at the usual viewpoint we drew a blank. However, a quick search of a suitable site nearby did produce this rather smart silvery specimen. Two down and one to go!!

And of course the third target species was the Nightingale, the jewel in the Fingringhoe crown. Not as many birds singing as I had expected and at times a little half-hearted, but eventually we got the result we wanted. Nightingales are notorious for skulking deep in undergrowth, but this is by far the best time of year to photograph them when many of the trees are still bare.

So three target species and three successes. Mustn't grumble at that!!!

Friday, 21 April 2017

Red Squirrels on Mersea Island

2nd April 2017

Off to Mersea Island again, but this time to try and see the Red Squirrels that are doing so well there, but first the customary, almost compulsory, stop at Abberton for breakfast. A Little Egret was loafing on a nearby dead tree. Amazing to think that about 25 years ago I got up at 4.00am to travel all the way to Rutland to one of these MEGAs!! By the weir a pair of Great Crested Grebes were building a nest, so will no doubt attract a fair amount of attention over the coming months.

On the banks of the causeway a small flock of Linnets were busy searching for seeds including this rather smart cock bird.

But the stars today were the returning Yellow Wagtails which looked superb in the morning sun and performed well.

Now on to the beach at East Mersea where there were still a few Brent Geese lingering on before their journey north. Also a few Dunlin and Ringed Plover although numbers were now noticeably lower.

But back to our mission today, the Red Squirrels. Mersea Island would be a true island if it wasn't connected to the mainland by a 250 yard-long causeway, The Strood, which is open most of the time and only covered about 1 week in four during high tide. Unusually it has no grey Squirrels and is therefore an ideal place to re-introduce Red Squirrels.

Since August 2012, 20 squirrels have been introduced and are now breeding freely and increasing in numbers, helped along by many many people feeding them in their gardens. There are two main colonies. In West Mersea most of the squirrels are seen in private gardens which obviously makes access difficult. However, on East Mersea where there are far fewer houses and more natural woodland habitat, it is possible to not only see but also photograph these fabulous mammals.

I selected one particuler wood and waited, listening for sound of life. Eventually I could hear rustling ndon the grouf and spotted a squirrel searching for food amongst the leaf litter. It grabbed a pine cone and scuttled up the nearest tree to eat its prize in peace. This gave me a chance of a photo despite the poor light and intervening branches.

But how good is that? My first ever sighting of a Red Squirrel in the wild in the UK...........AND IN ESSEX!!!!!!! Congratulations to all those involved in this most successful re-intoducion programme.