Monday, 30 March 2015

A Second Visit to Gunners Park for the Serins

17th March 2015

My first visit to Gunners Park in Shoeburyness was on the 4th February 2015. The visit was successful in that I managed to see and photograph the two male Serins present but although the light was good, the shots were a little distant and therefore with considerable room for improvement.

When I arrived on site I was rather surprised to find that I was the only one there but based on the latest information provided by Paul Rowe I knew the right area and half an hour later I was able to locate a single bird feeding in amongst the seeds at the top of the bank, which then conveniently flew up into one of the newly planted trees by the new housing estate before flying away towards the Parrot Crossbill Corsican Pines.

It or the other bird returned to the same area about an hour later and this time I was able to photograph it feeding on the ground at ranges down to just four yards albeit rather buried in vegetation. Much better photos than last time so well worth the visit.

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Early Spring - Time for a Visit to Abberton

13th March 2015

The two causeways were desperately quiet with most of the winter visitors already departed and the spring migrants yet to arrive. What was very noticeable, however, was that the main reservoir was now totally full and even from the Layer de la Haye causeway you could see that the water was just feet away from the hides. This will be fantastic for photography during migration. So on to the reserve itself to see what was about.

From the Island Hide, with the water just 10 yards way, a Pied Wagtail was strutting his stuff and allowing several shots to be taken. Just imagine what this hide is going to be like when waders are on spring and autumn passage.

Walking to the new hide overlooking the bay by the old visitor centre a female Reed Bunting appeared from the grass and sat obligingly in one of the newly planted trees. The birds here always seem quite approachable and this bunting was no more than 10 yards away and sat there for several minutes.

The water is even closer to the new hide being just 3-4 yards outside the window. The only teething problem here is that the disabled ramp to the door of the hide takes you above the screening which explains why there were no birds right in front of the hide. However, there was a gathering of Shoveler to the right, all engaged in much flying around and displaying

As I left the hide a rather startled Meadow Pipit flew out of the grass where it had been feeding and sat in a bush wondering what I was up to. Once again this bird was no more than 10 yards away and stayed for several minutes. I like this place!!

But the stars of the show today were the Sky Larks which were everywhere, in the car park, on the trails, in front of the hides and in the air. What a superb day and I am looking forward to many more days here during the migration period when birds will be queuing up outside the hides.

Thursday, 26 March 2015

A Spring Visit to Rainham Marshes

11th March 2015

Still a bit early in the season so likely to be a bit quiet as confirmed by Howard. While I was talking to Howard a female Blackcap was busy feeding on the apples put out in the bushes near the picnic table so that was my first port of call. Despite being assured by Howard that it returns "every few minutes" I sat there for twenty minutes without a sign so moved on to the feeders.

Here there was a lot more activity with the added advantage that the birds were used to people and came fairly close. The Starlings were dominating the feeders and sat proudly on the branches above the feeders quite happy to have their photo taken. One or two Goldfinches were attracted to the sunflower hearts on offer and seemed detremined to pose in the sunshine.

Time now to do the circuit and this Meadow Pipit was quite obliging despite preferring to sit on the electric fence rather than a more natural setting.

Round at the feeders by the cordite store woodland, I was more than happy to take the weight off my feet and sit on the wooden bench waiting for the birds to come to me. I certainly didn't have to wait long before this Reed Bunting settled on a convenient branch and took a good look round before dropping on to the feeders.

Brown Rats are always present at the feeders at Rainham and are treated, not as a nuisance, but as a natural part of our flora and fauna, and quite right too. However today the star of the show was this Great Tit which not only came close but also posed on the branch for a photo with a blurred-out background. MAGIC!!

Never know quite what is going to be on show at Rainham.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Day 2 of our Norfolk Tour - Thornham Marsh for Twite

6th March 2015

Our last port of call was Thornham Marsh where recently there has been a flock of Twite. It is well over 10 years since I have seen Twite and therefore a double challenge to both see and photograph them. It didn't bode too well when we pulled up in the car park and it was immediately apparent that there were no other birders in sight, so perhaps the birds had moved on.

I selected a vantage point on the sea wall as, due to the thick grass and vegetation on the salt-marsh, the best way of locating them was when they were in flight. So basically, what we wanted now was some form of disturbance, either a bird of prey or somebody walking close to where they were feeding. Luckily, we didn't have to wait long before a dog left the sea wall and ran around on the salt-marsh flushing a flock of some 30 small finches, either Linnets or Twite.

I watched them drop on the the side of the sea wall and tried to approach very slowly, but they were fairly flighty and it took a few attempts to get a good enough view of them feeding on the ground to even confirm that they were indeed the Twite. Patience finally paid off and I was eventually able to get some shots of this nowadays very scarce winter visitor to our southern coasts.