Thursday, 29 October 2015

A Rose-coloured Starling and Great Grey Shrike in Essex

20th October 2015

Two rare birds in nearby Essex were too much to resist and so I set off. The first stop was East Mersea Church, where a Rose-coloured Starling had been found on the 15th October by bird artist Richard Allen, and had been present since frequenting a garden by the church and a stubble field further along East Road.

We eventually found the correct garden thanks to phone directions from Andy Field and the bird duly appeared 30 minutes later. Unfortunately it was at the back of the garden and quite mobile and when it settled for the longest time it was semi-submerged in some shrubbery. Nevertheless, it was sufficient to get a few record shots of a not very rosy Rose-coloured Starling.

The starling disappeared and, quite frankly, I was unlikely to get any better shots so now off to Heybridge Basin to try for the Great Grey Shrike. Thanks to Jason Ward I had good directions and was soon on site where the bird was already on view.

The bird was quite flighty, but obviously had a few favourite perches, so it was just a matter of waiting until it had completed the circuit of its territory. It was feeding regularly and fly-catching what from the photos appear to be mainly wasps. He will definitely be my wife's friend.

Sunday, 25 October 2015

An Autumn Visit to Dungeness

11th October 2015

Time for an autumn visit to Dungeness with a start on the beach. We parked by the railway station and set off to explore the Gorse bushes between the old lighthouse and the observatory. The area had attracted a large number of Pied Wagtails and the occasional Meadow Pipit, but migrants such as Whinchats and Wheatears had long gone.

The gorse was home to some Robins, the odd Chiffchaff and also large numbers of Goldcrests which could be heard deep inside the bushes, but rarely seen and certainly not photographed.

Then, further over towards the observatory a couple of birds were flitting around, carrying out sorties on to the bare ground before returning to the bushes. A closer inspection of the area revealed no less than three Black Redstarts, presumably a family party as the male could be seen and heard singing in the power station compound.

Also in this area the Gorse bushes were less compact with some bare stems, and therefore the Goldcrests were far more visible and as confiding as ever. One of them even flew straight at me and nearly landed on me, but flew straight past with just inches to spare. What fantastic little birds.

At that point the peace was disturbed by some cronking overhead and one of the resident ravens put on a brief aerial display.

Now on to the RSPB reserve and we had hardly entered the entrance track when a female Marsh Harrier was seen quartering the adjacent field. I often see Marsh Harriers at Dungeness but not normally so close.

Great White Egrets have become regular visitors to Dungeness but the surprise today was that there were eight, and most of them right in front of the visitor centre!! It is always difficult to judge the size of an individual bird, especially at a distance, but the first shot shows just how big a Great White is compared to a Grey Heron, especially when you remember how a Heron dwarfs a Little Egret.

On to the trail where there were plenty of Goldfinches, this one posing rather nicely on a Teasel.

But the stars of the reserve today were a pair of Stonechats next to Chritmas Dell which, although initially a bit flighty, did eventually put on a display at reasonably close range. Dungeness, irrespective of the season, never disappoints.

Thursday, 22 October 2015

.....and now for an Afternoon at Titchwell Marsh Reserve

8th October 2015

So leaving the beach the first stop was the tidal lagoon behind the sand dunes. I have never had much success here as most of the birds are fairly distant, but today was much better with both Ringed and Grey Plovers showing reasonably well on a spit not too far away. Also, one of the few Black-tailed Godwits around today was having a well-earned stretch and posing nicely next to a clump of autumn-coloured Glasswort.

On to Volunteer Marsh and the Brent Geese were doing their usual commute between the fresh-marsh and the salt-marsh to the west of the footpath. There were far fewer close-in waders along the channel that runs parallel to the path than usual, one exception being this lone Redshank.

However, further along as we approached the path to the Parinder Hide, there was a most unusual sight, two Curlews feeding shoulder-to-shoulder. Curlews are normally solitary when feeding but these two gave a few opportunities for some shots.

In the Parinder Hide the sun had gone round far enough to allow some shots to be take in absolutely beautiful light, including this young Lapwing, Teal and Wigeon.

On the wader front a sole Snipe gave a brief wing-stretch and a Ruff remained hidden for most of the time but did eventually come out into the open to strut its stuff.

But the stars of this afternoon was the flock of several hundred Golden Plover which lit up the fresh-marsh in the low afternoon sun. I have said it before and I will say it again, Titchwell never fails to deliver and remains one of the top sites for bird photography.