Monday, 31 August 2015

An Early Autumn Visit to Titchwell


16th August 2015

I could contain myself no longer. Although it was clear that Titchwell was not yet bursting with waders, Sunday was forecast to be a glorious sunny day so time for the first visit of the Autumn. In fact all bode well as we had only just got out of the car when a male Blackcap peered out of an Elder bush apparently keen to be the first of the day to have his photograph taken.

We then walked past the toilet block where the little man screams at you "Welcome to Titchwell, the crime capital of Norfolk. Don't leave valuables in your car or they will be nicked." Straight on then to the Island Hide, where as is tradition a number of Avocets were patrolling up and down to give photographers a false sense of security. I must have thousands of Avocet photos by now, but who can resist a few more.

Then onwards along the path to the beach where an assortment of waders also feed much closer to the path than any other place I can think of. Black-tailed Godwits are always fairly reliable here, but this one had obviously found a particularly black piece of mud to feed in.

I don't know whether it was the time of year, perhaps slightly earlier than usual, but there were a lot more Dunlin close in than I can recall seeing before, although mustn't grumble. There was also a supporting cast of Ruff which is par for the course.

I don't think I could explain why but I always find juvenile Shelduck being one of the most photogenic subjects. The adults of course are absolutely stunning, but there is something about the more subtle pastel colouration of the young birds that lends itself to the camera.

But the biggest surprise today was to find a Chinese Water Deer feeding just 20 yards from the path outside the Island Hide. I have often seen them way out on the salt-marsh, but never this close. Unfortunately it was feeding half way down one of the creeks, which meant that all you saw occasionally was its head. Absolutely magical!!

Well, what a good start to the day, and now on to the beach to see what that holds.

Thursday, 27 August 2015

.........and now on to Abberton

11th August 2015

After a great morning at Fingringhoe Wick, time for a couple of hours at Abberton to see what it can offer. There were half a dozen Ruff to the east of Layer Breton causeway although rather more distant than last year when they were feeding at the base of the concrete bank. However, not an opportunity to be missed.

Yellow Wagtails were a bit thin on the ground and to make matters worse all the bright adults were keeping well hidden amongst the vegetation. Eventually a juvenile bird saved the day by posing on a pile of branches.

But the main hope today was to see the Osprey that had been present for the last few days and to try and determine whether it was the same bird that I had seen flying out of the River Colne and last seen heading towards The Strood just a few miles from Abberton. It did eventually put in an appearance and flew around the reservoir to the west of the causeway until it eventually caught a fish and returned to its tree at the western end.

So was it the same bird? Well, if you will recall the Fingringhoe bird, pictured below, had a line of four dots along the intersection of the wing and the body, whereas the Abberton bird pictured above has a clean underside. Therefore they are definitely two different birds.

Monday, 24 August 2015

Fingringhoe Wick at High Tide

11th August 2015

It has been such a quiet summer and I am looking forward to late autumn and winter when I can get down to the coast and photograph some waders. A bit pointless going to my favourite haunts such as Mersea and Mistley as they will be full of holiday-makers, so Plan B was to go to Fingringhoe Wick at high tide and park myself in one of the two estuary hides.

I started off at Robbies Hide where the water was quite close to the hide with a small muddy margin but no birds in front of it. There were a hundred or so waders roosting on the salt-marsh to the north of the hide, but suddenly these all flew south towards Geedon's Marsh. Luckily two of the party went past peek-peeking advertising their presence as a pair of Whimbrel, so that was a good start.

As all the birds had gone to the south I moved to Geedon's Hide where, although the water was lapping at the hide, Geedon's Marsh was full of roosting waders. Even at high tide there is still a considerable movement of waders, especially when a Marsh Harrier wafts across the marsh, so plenty to look out for and photograph. On Geedon's, although out of view when on the ground, there were at least 500 Curlew and probably a similar number of Black-tailed Godwits. Redshank were also well represented.

The Redshank were the nearest flock of waders on the salt-marsh and had clearly not read the signs. They eventually settled on the bank of the estuary with a single Grey Plover for company, although there were at least a hundred more plovers further up the marsh.

But then the unexpected. A large bird of prey was spotted flying out of the Colne and a quick look through the bins saw it was indeed an Osprey. So was it the Abberton bird having a wander? Notice those four brown markings along the intersection of the body and the wing and remember for later.

The next stop was the scrape, which had been a little disappointing in the past as there was insufficient screening, so as you approached the hide all the birds flew off. I am now pleased to report that there is a substantial screen in place and therefore you can enter the hide without any fear of disturbing the birds on the islands. As I walked down to the hide I could hear a Greenshank calling which turned out to be not too much of a surprise when I opened the flap of the hide. For there in front of me were 40+ waders, the majority of which were Greenshank. What a fabulous sight.

A more detailed search revealed that a number of the waders were in fact Spotted Redshank including this one rather smart specimen in full summer plumage.

Well, that was rather worthwhile for an early wader shoot, so now off to see what is on offer at Abberton.