Saturday, 29 November 2014

Time for another Tour of Mersea

10th November 2014

Time for another trip to Mersea, this time with fellow photographer Paul Moss who wanted to get to know his way around this superb island. We started at Cudmore Grove as this would give us three hours before high tide and therefore some chance of bird activity. As we walked down to the sea wall the flooded grazing fields were fairly quiet, presumably because most of the  birds were still out feeding on the mud flats.

We therefore headed along the sea wall to The Point. On the tidal pools on the beach a lone Sky Lark was feeding along the edge and, although slightly too distant, gave the first opportunity of the day for a shot.

Out on The Point there were a number of Pied Wagtails but this male gave the best views. Also feeding along the water's edge were some Turnstone but no sign of any Sanderling. Although some have been seen this winter, it is probably a little too early for them to be a reliable sighting.

Shelduck were starting to move in with the tide and a number of waders were building up on the pools on the saltmarsh. These were mainly Grey Plover with some Turnstone and Dunlin, and a single Teal

Walking back along the sea wall small flocks of Wigeon were being pushed up from the rising tide to the grazing fields, joining the Black-tailled Godwits that were already there.

Having exhausted East Mersea we moved on to Seaview to try our luck with the Med Gulls. By now the tide was right in so no mud for the birds to loaf on and the only Med Gull in sight was one sitting on the sea a hundred yards out. However with a few slices of bread thrown on to the beach, another two or three appeared from nowhere and started flying around in a feeding frenzy with 30-40 Black-headed Gulls. This is very tricky. Not only do you have to pick out the Med Gulls from the melee, but get them in focus as they whizz past at high speed.

The final port of call today was the jetty at the western end of West Mersea. This too was very quiet as the exceptionally high tide was still covering all the beach and was lapping up the wall of the car park. We walked out to the end of the jetty where Stacey was sitting aboard Lady Grace awaiting customers for a trip round the bay. I really must treat myself to one of these boat trips one day, perhaps a slightly longer trip for some bird photography. Perhaps during the winter when there are some grebes out on the sea provided that it is not too choppy!!

However, today the only consolation prize was this juvenile Herring Gull sitting on one of the jetty posts.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

A Rough-legged Buzzard at Hay Street

4th November 2014

The last Rough-legged Buzzard to be recorded in Hertfordshire was during the 2008/09 winter at Reed in the north-east of the county. However, another bird has now taken up residence in fields along Hay lane to the west of Hay Street north of Braughing.

Herts Bird Club reports "It all started on the morning of Sunday 2nd November with Paula Moore's sighting of a possible ring-tail Harrier in the Braughing area. Mike Ilett went to investigate and discovered the bird was actually a juvenile Rough-legged Buzzard.

Mike wrote: "At around 11.30 I saw there had been a claim of a Hen Harrier near Braughing so decided to go and look for it (and in the back of my mind make sure it wasn’t something rarer ie Pallid) arriving around midday. I drove through Braughing to Hay Street but this didn’t give good views of the fields so decided to head up the minor road from Hay Street towards the A10. This gave good views over a large area. Within ten minutes I had a buzzard species fly along the western edge of the field and perch briefly before being mobbed by Red Kites – it then flew off north and lost to view. I was sure that it looked good for a Rough-legged Buzzard, but being fully aware of the variation in buzzard colouration was a bit cautious. The bird then re-appeared over the original field and gave prolonged views allowing a range of photos to be taken. By the time I left at about 3pm around 15 people had arrived and seen the bird.""

As it had stayed for a couple of days Andy and I decided to go and have a look with the hope of getting some photos. We grabbed the last parking space in the small lay-by at the top of the hill and learned that the bird had been seen about 10 minutes earlier and had gone into a small Silver Birch plantation. About half an hour went by before it re-appeared and went on a fly-about which included some dog-fights with a Carrion Crow and some hovering in the calm bright conditions.

This bird is a dream compared to the Reed bird which I found to be always distant, fleeting and elusive.

What a performer!!

Friday, 21 November 2014

A Quick Visit to Welney on the way Home

2nd November 2014

It is now the end of our short break in Norfolk and we are homeward bound, so why don't we pop into Welney on the way past? I eventually managed to get my lovely wife Jenny out of the gift shop and we were soon crossing the bridge over the river to the centrally heated main hide, although the heating has not been required so far this year.

The swans have been a bit late returning this year due to the mild weather and the latest count this morning was 1620 Whoopers and just 10 Bewicks, the latter sticking to the far end of the reserve. Even the duck numbers were low. The only ducks close to the hide were Pochard and Mallard. Normally, most of the Pochard are males but this year there were a couple of females to keep them company

The Lapwing flock was spooked a couple of times raising the hopes for a Marsh or Hen harrier, but the only raptor today was a Sparrowhawk which flew low across the marsh on a couple of occasions.

Feeding time today was at 3.30pm and birds flew in from far and wide to get in on the action.

The Mute Swans look beautiful in the afternoon sun and one pair in particular were indulging in some amorous advances perhaps thinking ahead to next year's breeding season.

But the stars of the show as always were the Whooper Swans which paraded up and down and posed for the camera. A visit to Welney is a must every winter.

Monday, 17 November 2014

A detour to Titchwell whilst on would be rude not to!

1st November 2014

We were in Norfolk for a family catch-up weekend when my lovely wife Jenny suggested a trip to Titchwell. would be rude not to accept, and within ten minutes we were there. I had not planned any more trips to Titchwell this year and was wondering whether there would be much left to photograph. I shouldn't has worried. We weren't going to have time to go all the way to the beach, but it didn't matter because the footpath and the Parinder Hide were packed with goodies.

Not surprisingly there were lots of Brent Geese commuting from the freshmarsh to the salt marsh, all uttering their amazing gutteral call note. Black-tailed Godwits were also on duty close in to the footpath and, although I have taken 100s of shots of these superb birds, I can never resist taking a few more.

A lone Redshank was also feeding nearby, but the biggest surprise of all was a Curlew which was feeding within 30 yards, which is most unusual. Normally they are fairly obscured at long distance on the salt marsh or miles away on a spit on the freshmarsh. So this particular individual, although disappearing down creeks occasionally, was an added bonus. Along the footpath a Reed Bunting  suddenly flipped into view and perched on a Phragmites head in a beautiful natural pose.

A quick visit to the Parinder Hide produced some great opportunities for some shots of Shoveler and Snipe, but the medals today must go to the Teal and Wigeon which were both looking resplendent in the autumn afternoon sun.

What a fantastic day, and a great thank you to Jenny for insisting we go to Titchwell to buy yet another "I've Been To Titchwell" badge.