Thursday, 30 October 2014

........and now on to Titchwell

12th October 2014

After such a fantastic morning at Burnham Norton with the Steppe Grey Shrike I was wondering what Titchwell would hold. My last visit here was on the 7th September 2014 and what a day that was with Little Stint, Ruff and Curlew Sandpipers just yards away. Well time marches on and as expected the birds were thinning out and more distant.

Some new arrivals were this flock of Golden Plover roosting out on one of the spits. It was a pity that the sun didn't shine as then they would be illuminated, but we'll have to save that for another day.

Out on the beach the winter birds were building up with some small flocks of Brent Geese, Curlews and winter plumaged Grey Plovers.

But the star turn today was the humble and now very common Little Egret, which are often the subject of bird photographer cameras. However this one was slightly different as it was feeding just yards from the path. There was obviously hundreds of small fish in the shallow water as rather than walking stealthily along with a measured gait and an occasional stab at a target, this bird was rushing round frantically stabbing at everything. Although a great spectacle it didn't make the photography any easier........but who wants easy photography anyway???

This last photo made it to Explore on Flickr and received 30,000+ views. Amazing the difference a bit of spray makes.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Steppe Grey Shrike at Burnham Norton

12th October 2014

In my experience Great Grey Shrikes are fairly difficult to photograph as they tend to keep their distance and can go missing for several hours. However, I seemed to remember that a Steppe Grey that I saw several years ago was far more reliable and much more approachable. Therefore when the Burnham Norton bird was still there after a week it was just too much to resist.

I set off on a grey overcast day in the knowledge that it was forecast to brighten up late morning by which time I should be on site. Unfortunately, by the time I got to The Brecks I was driving in fog but thankfully not too thick. Luckily the sun had burnt through by the time I got to Swaffham and I arrived at Burnham Norton under a blue sky and brilliant sunshine.

However, what happened next was totally unexpected. After a quick sandwich and a cup of tea I walked the half a mile to the shrike location and by the time I got there it was.............THICK FOG!!! I could see the bird further down the ditch sitting at the top of a Hawthorn bush but no more than a ghostly shadow. Even when it came to one of the closer posts it was still just a dull grey bird against a dull grey background.

However, by 11.30am, in accordance with the weather forecast, the fog burnt off and the day got gradually brighter and brighter revealing the true colours of this magnificent bird.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

A Hoopoe at Willington

7th October 2014

It is now seven years since I have seen a Hoopoe, the last being in May 2007 at Bishops Stortford. That bird spent much of its time feeding on a football pitch and was viewable at a range of 30 yards. Another reasonably local Hoopoe was found on a farm at Willington, Beds on the 3rd October 2014 and was still there on the 7th, so well worth a visit. My main concern was that as it was on a farm, what would the access be like and how close could I get?

I needn't have worried. When I arrived the bird was feeding on the drive to the farmhouse and it was coming to within 15 yards. However, it then flew to the horse paddocks further down the road, an area it seemed to prefer as it spent most of its time here. It obviously had never seen humans before or was quite used to them as it seemed to be quite happy hugging the fence where the assembled crowd had gathered. Most of these photos were taken at a range of just 5 yards, and it would have been closer had it not been for the fact that there was a deep ditch between me and the bird.

What an incredible day, what an incredible bird, and thank you to the farmer for not only finding it but for allowing us access to watch and photograph it.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Snipe and Ratty at Rye Meads

5th October 2014

As I arrived at Rye Meads I was told that a Grey Wagtail was showing well right in front of the Gadwall Hide so that was the first point of call. I got there just in time to see it fly off round the willows, never to be seen again and so had to content myself with the Snipe that were sleeping on the nearest island. Although only three were immediately evident, once they woke up and started to feed it was apparent that eight birds were present. Always nice to see them in the open and even better when they are close.

On the way back I looked in on the Draper Hide which was incredibly quiet, so decided to spend my remaining time on the Bridge over the River Vole. I didn't have to wait long to see some movement in the reeds which rather gave away a Water Vole munching on some reeds. It remained deep in the reeds for some time but eventually decided that it was time to move on to pastures new and swam midstream and under the bridge.. So not many species today, BUT THE QUALITY!!!!

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Another Superb Day on Mersea

30th September 2014

Having left the Ruff behind at Abberton we headed across The Strood to Mersea and started at the jetty at the western end of West Mersea. The tide was out but on the turn so there was a rather large expanse of mud on either side of the jetty. As we went down on to the jetty over the water we came face to face with a rather unexpected visitor - a Common Seal. He seemed to be very much at home and dozed off at one point. Apparently he is no newcomer to the area, and often visits when there is any crabbing activity. There wasn't any today so it disappeared almost immediately.

There was also a good selection of gulls present, with all obviously used to people and were happy to walk within five yards. Here, in order of appearance are Black-headed Gull, Herring Gull and Lesser Black-backed Gull. Adult Lesser Black-backed Gulls have yellow legs but this near adult still retains its sub-adult pink legs.

No foreshore on Mersea is complete without an army of busy Turnstones, all scurrying round flipping over stones and sifting through seaweed. For some reason these waders are unnaturally tame and will come within just a couple of yards, far too close for my lens. A little more sombre at this time of year compared to their flamboyant summer plumage, but still attractive nevertheless.

Next stop was the beach at Seaview caravan park at the eastern end of West Mersea. The main reason for stopping off here was to see if we could find any Mediterranean Gulls in amongst the flocks of Black-headed Gulls. There was a flock of some 20 gulls by the water's edge but difficult to see what they were as we were looking into the sun, so we moved round to get the sun behind us. It wasn't looking too promising as a scan through the bins showed Black-headed after Black-headed and in accordance with the law according to Sod, the last gull in the pack was a Mediterranean. Having said that it was fairly obliging and stood there quite motionless as I edged closer and closer. This was a full adult in winter plumage hence the lack of its jet-black head. but still sporting that amazing red bill.

Now on to Cudmore Grove Country Park in East Mersea and a gentle wander down the path to the sea wall. Rather surprisingly the grazing meadows were already flooded even this early in the winter and there was a significant gathering of Black-tailed Godwits amongst the Little Egrets.

Further down by the sea wall a pair of Little Grebes were fishing on the borrowdyke amongst the loose flock of Wigeon which were having a drink and a break from grazing. In previous years I had always assumed that ducks entering eclipse plumage were well synchronised across all species, but this is clearly not the case. Mallard enter eclipse plumage much earlier than most species, even when they are still breeding. As a result they have all finished and the males are now back in their immaculate breeding plumage. At the other end of the spectrum, this male Wigeon still has a long way to go to attain his breeding plumage.

At that point a bird that was skimming along low over the borrowdyke caught my eye. As luck would have it, it landed on top of a bramble bush on the other side of the dyke, a lovely Stonechat. What a cracking way to end another fantastic day on Mersea.