Saturday, 22 October 2016

In Search of Migrants at Landguard Point

12th October 2016

After two days of easterlies and Yellow-broweds everywhere it seemed a good idea to try Landguard Point for some migrants. On our arrival the wind was nowhere near as strong as expected, although this did have the advantage of allowing birds to sit up and be seen rather than cowering in the depths of vegetation. The first bird to oblige was this rather confiding Dunnock.

Linnets are usually all over the place at Landguard, but not always easy to get close to. On the other hand this Kestrel was quite used to people and just sat there as I got closer.

Wheatears are also quite common here at this time of year, but always being out in the open are quite difficult to get close to. Luckily, Meadow Pipits which are also birds of open areas, are far more approachable.

A close look at the brambles soon revealed a young Blackcap that was intent on feeding on the many blackberries. Luckily this bird was quite happy to ignore you provided you just stood still and waited with no sudden movements.

But the star of the show today was this male Goldcrest that suddenly poked its head out of another bramble bush. This bird was even more confiding than the Blackcap and at times I was having difficulty in getting it all in the frame and keeping it outside the minimum focusing range. What a great way to end the day!!!

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

In Search of Migrants at Dungeness

5th October 2016

After two days of easterly winds it seemed a good idea to head to Dungeness in search of some migrants. The main problem was that it was still blowing a Force 5 and therefore most self-respecting birds would be hunkered down  at the base of a bush and not venture out. This certainly appeared to be the case when we first arrived. A quick look round the old lighthouse garden drew a blank on the two Yellow-browed Warblers that had been seen the day before, so we set off for The Moat.

There were three Stonechats present but all flighty and covering a large area of ground. We also saw very briefly one of the pair of Black Redstarts, but this was flushed back to the power station by the ringers beating the bushes leading up to the heligoland trap.

There was one Chiffchaff, however, which was quite obliging and flitted round in a bramble bush by the road to the observatory.

On the way back to the car we checked out the gorse bushes by the cafe and found a number of Goldcrests. They, of course, showed no fear but it was sometimes a long wait before they stuck their head out.

Now on to the RSPB reserve and we were still driving up the track when we came across a female Kestrel hanging on to a tree for dear life. I stopped the car, got out, opened the boot and got my camera out. So far so good. I then started to take some shots, edging forward as I went. The bird was obviously more concerned about being blown away than worrying about my presence so I was able to get some reasonable shots.

But the star of the show today was one of two Wheatears that was feeding on the bank by the Makepeace Hide and absolutely glistening in the sun. What a wonderful way to end the day.

Sunday, 16 October 2016

A Sparrowhawk Drops in for Breakfast

3rd October 2016

I was sitting in the lounge having breakfast and reading the paper when there was a loud bang on the window just 2 feet behind me. I got up and looked out into the front garden expecting to see a Wood Pigeon or a Collared Dove sitting dazed on the path that runs by the window, but nothing. But then, sitting on a branch of a tree just four feet away, I spotted a beautiful juvenile Sparrowhawk. Juvenile because of the orangey fringes to the brown feathers, and probably a female because of its size.

I assumed it was a little dazed and would not be rushing off so I dashed upstairs for my camera. I then had to quickly adjust some settings to be able to photograph the bird in deep shadow and through glass, but managed to get these shots before it flew off. It was so close that I could only take head and shoulders.

Thank goodness it survived its ordeal.

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Flora, Insects and Birds at Rainham Marshes

30th September 2016

A fine and sunny day so time for a visit to Rainham Marshes armed with both the long lens and the macro just in case the birding was a bit quiet, and what a good decision that turned out to be. For, as half expected, the birding was indeed a bit on the quiet side, but despite the time of year there were still a few plants in flower and some lovely berries and hips. From the top these are Bristly Ox-tongue, Chicory, Goat's Rue, Hawthorn berries and Rose hips. Contrary to popular belief, the good crop of Hawthorn berries is an indicator of the wet Spring and sunny Summer that has gone rather an indicator of a harsh Winter to come.

There were also a number of insects taking advantage of the late summer sun including these hoverflies.

Syrphus ribesii
Syrphus ribesii
Eristalis tenax
Eristalis tenax
Eristalis tenax
Helophilus sp

And I could not finish off the hoverflies without taking a shot of the hoverfly to beat all hoverflies, the majestic hornet mimic Volucella zonaria nectaring on a Buddleia bloom.

And nearby Ivy Bees were enjoying the forest of Ivy flowers

Only three species of dragonflies are still flying at this late stage of the season and this male Migrant Hawker was having a well earned rest at the side of the track. They are normally quite approachable and this one was no exception allowing me to get so close with the macro that I could only get its head and thorax in.

Whilst I was taking shelter from a shower in the Butts Hide a female Stonechat came and sat on the electric fence outside but unfortunately insisted on turning her back on me.

Further along by the MDZ a small flock of Goldfinches were doing what they are famous for, feeding on the thistles. One particular individual was so engrossed in what it was doing that I was able to approach to within just 8 yards allowing some nice close-ups to be taken.

But the star of the show today was this young Whitethroat which insisted on posing in a Wild Rose bush with a few rose hips in the background to aid the composition of the shot. Just how good is that?