Thursday, 30 April 2015

..........and now on to EWT Thurrock Thameside

20th April 2015

After a superb morning at Rainham Marshes it is time to move on to Thurrock Thameside, one of the new Essex Wildlife Trust reserves. The last time I came here was to photograph the Dartford Warbler, which seemed to be very much at home in this superb habitat.

The site was fairly quiet apart from good numbers of Meadow Pipits and Sky Larks, not surprisingly really bearing mind it is a massive area of grassland. I did manage to get just one image of a pipit on the ground, but most were perched up on their favourite sprig of Bramble keeping watch over their territory.

Most of the Sky Larks were staying well-hidden in the long grass until launching themselves into a song flight, but luckily this bird was content to feed on the ground right next to the car park.

Well, what a fantastic day at Rainham Marshes during the morning and now this new reserve at Thurrock Thameside. Time I think to go in search of some Ring Ouzels so Watch This Space!!

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

In Search of Migrants at Rainham Marshes

20th April 2015

It is that time of year that migrants are starting to arrive in numbers so time for a visit to Rainham Marshes. First stop on the clockwise route was the Purfleet Scrape which continues to be frustratingly quiet. The habitat in front of the hide is superb but once again, the birds that were present were all at the far end of the scrape. The only bird that was showing on the way to the hide was this male Whitethroat which was intent on singing irrespective of who was watching.

Further along towards the dragonfly ponds this cracking male Reed Bunting obviously understood the requirements of bird photographers and posed on top of a Phragmites head in full sun. I don't think I could have composed the photo any better myself. Unfortunately, no sign or sound of the Bearded Tits.

On the return loop now and a quick look at the Terrapin Pond where it had been reported that a Grass Snake had been sunning itself. No sign of the snake but the first sighting today of some rather small Marsh Frogs. They had been vocal once or twice on the circuit but this was the first time that they had decided to put in an appearance.

At that point one of the 30+ male Cetti's Warblers belted out his song from the back of the pond. And then, quite surprisingly it decided to shim up into a small sallow at the back of the pond, gradually shuffling through the tree, allowing some rare shots to be taken.

I especially like this head-on shot, but the last shot is particularly out of character as it hangs on wren-style to an old reed-mace stem. What a fantastic end to the visit and now on to see what Thurrock Thameside has to offer.

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Another Attempt at the Amwell Black-necked Grebes

15th April 2015

You may recall that on my last visit to Amwell to photograph the pair of Black-necked Grebes that had arrived there I was somewhat distracted by this little fella. Just as well, as on that particular evening the grebes were fairly distant and in rather poor light.

This evening there was no such activity in front of the viewpoint, just a couple of Snipe probing in front of the mud. Also, just down the lane my old mate Ron Cousins found this rather fine Whitethroat in the hawthorn hedge, which after a little patience allowed a shot to be taken.

So what of the Black-necked Grebes? Well this evening they were really on form and came quite close to the bay to the right of the viewing ramp in superb light and provided a number of opportunities, provided that you could find a gap in the hedge and the Phragmites bed. SUPERB!!!

Thursday, 23 April 2015

A Spring Visit to Abberton Reservoir and Fingringhoe Wick

14th April 2015

I t was a lovely sunny day so time for a visit to Abberton, followed by Fingringhoe. Abberton is normally our breakfast call when visiting this part of Essex and today was no exception. The main reason for coming to Abberton today was hoping to connect with some migrants particularly Yellow Wagtails, which love the Layer Breton causeway at this time of year. Unfortunately today, the only Yellow Wagtail that we heard and saw was a singleton flying along the causeway and disappearing into the distance.

In fact the only birds frequenting the banks of the causeway were Pied Wagtails, of which there must have been a dozen or so. Even they are starting to look smart in their breeding attire. Then, as if by magic, a female Wheatear dropped out of the sky and landed on one of the concrete posts right next to us. Unfortunately, it spent most of its time with its back to us, but did eventually look round for just one shot before flying off high.

Then on to the reserve with the main objective of checking out the new hides where the water is lapping just outside. Sadly no birds in front of the hides, but on our way round the circuit we did manage to photograph a rather tame Red-legged Partridge and a number of Sky Larks, of which there were plenty.

So now on to part 2 of the trip with a visit to Fingringhoe in the hope of seeing some Nightingales while the bushes were still without leaves. Rather surprisingly, despite frequenting the normally popular picnic area and surrounds for a couple of hours we didn't even hear a Nightingale, let alone see one. But we were rewarded with some views of a couple of Blackcaps and a Chiffchaff by way of compensation.

So back to Abberton for just one more look before heading for home.........BUT WAIT!!! The causeway was now alive with Yellow Wagtails and many quite close in, feeding on the high-up grassy banks rather than the more distant concrete water's edges. What a result and a fantastic end to the day.!!!!

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

And the Final Day of our Norfolk Trip at Sculthorpe Moor

9th April 2015

This only my second visit to this lovely reserve so I made my way immediately to the Whitley Hide in the hope of photographing the Marsh Harriers which I knew were displaying. On the way I stopped briefly to have a closer look at the stream running alongside the track. A Frog was sitting quietly close to the path and was keeping very still, hoping that his camouflage would protect him.

I then moved further along the path, and have you ever had that feeling that you were being watched? This is the first time that I have ever seen this phenomenon. A Water Vole was hanging vertically in the water, just keeping very still and watching my every movement. Eventually it slid below the water and re-appeared on my side of the bank, although well hidden amongst the reeds. Luckily with my new camera I was able to find a line-of-sight through the reed and managed a shot of its cute little face.

Now on to the Whitley Hide and the first sign of activity was this Brown Rat which was making the most of the free meal dropped from the bird table. Rats are always going to be attracted to feeding stations, but after all it is their home.

Next up was one of the key species of Sculthorpe Moor, the Bullfinch. Bullfinches are not particularly thriving but seem to holding their own in most areas. However, Sculthorpe Moor must be the most reliable site that I know of in the whole of East Anglia for seeing this most well-loved bird. I will not normally photograph birds on bird table or feeders, but will always make an exception for Bullfinches.

What was a surprise, however, was the appearance of some Bramblings, not on the bird table, but always feeding on the dropped seed below. There were at least four birds present, two males and two females, which I was able to separate because a bird from each sex was ringed (which I have excluded from the photos).

But the purpose of today's visit was to photograph the Marsh Harriers and I was not to be disappointed. What was a surprise, however, was that I was able to get shots of both the female and the male on the ground, a first for me.

And to finish the performance, the female put on a display right in front of the hide in a fly-past to beat all fly-pasts.

I just love Sculthorpe Moor and it is now on my list of annual pilgrimages.