Friday, 30 September 2016

A Lesser Yellowlegs at Hythe Lagoons

21st September 2016

Alf Mullins got a glimpse of what he thought may be a Lesser Yellowlegs on Saturday 17th September, but it wasn't until the next day that the ID was confirmed by Phil Carter. The bird was still present several days later so time for a visit on my way to Fingringhoe Wick.

I parked the car and started off on the 20-minute walk along the River Colne to the viewing screen, hoping that it was still present. The tide was right out so the river was a bath-tub of mud with only 1/5th of its width full of water. This of course provided ideal feeding conditions for the odd Black-tailed Godwit and Redshank so I grabbed a couple of shots on the way.

Along the river wall were a few small flocks of Linnets, all looking a bit tatty as both young and adults are in moult.

Sadly, when I got to the screen there was no sign of the yellowlegs, just a few distant Snipe, Green Sandpipers and Black-tailed Godwits. However, it was eventually located tight in to the southern bank of the lagoon. The problem here is that when it was tight in to the reeds it was out of sight from the bank, and only became visible when it walked out in to the shallow water towards the middle of the lagoon where it was distant. However, I did manage to get some shots.

At one point it walked past me and I was able to get a few shots through the reeds, but not too surprisingly focusing was difficult. Unfortunately, due to the depth of the water it was never possible to get a good view of the legs.

However, at that point it decided that the mud was browner on the other side of the lagoon, but did at last give a view of those most amazing legs.

Monday, 26 September 2016

A Kingfisher and Water Rail at Rye Meads

19th September 2016

A couple of hours spare on a rather dull but calm afternoon so time for a visit to see what Rye Meads has to offer. First stop was the Draper Hide for no other reason than it is the first on the trail. Green Sandpiper numbers had dropped off dramatically since my last visit with only tree birds present, but still strutting their stuff for all to enjoy.

Snipe were beginning to return for the winter months, but today there were only two present in front of the Draper Hide. One was content to have a soak in the bath whilst the other was busy feeding on top of one of the islands.

As usual the female/juvenile Tufted Duck was diving right in front of the hide allowing some close-up shots to be taken, but then the peace was shattered by the bugle call of a Canada Goose warning everything to get out of the way while it attempted to land.

Now on to the Gadwall Hide where the water levels have been reduced to their winter levels. This has made the lagoon attractive to a great variety of water birds including waders, gulls and ducks but all very distant. However, I didn't have to wait long before one of the juvenile Kingfishers paid a visit to a willow stem in front of the hide, eventually taking up residence for a while on a nearby metal pipe.

But the biggest surprise of all was when a Water Rail broke cover from the reeds on the left and strolled past the front of the hide before flying off to the right.

Today must have been "Obliging Day" at Rye Meads.


Thursday, 22 September 2016

The River Wall at Rainham Marshes

13th September 2016

Time for another visit to Rainham Marshes and, with high tide at 10.50am, a walk first along the sea wall in the hope of seeing some waders and perhaps a Wheatear. But first a quick call in to Ferry Lane just in case there were any migrants such as Black Redstarts or Wheatears on the rocks by the river. No passerines I'm afraid, but I did find this Common Sandpiper lurking in the shadows.

So now just 90 minutes before high tide and time for a walk to Aveley Bay. Most of the mud was already covered, but a small island was still above water and had attracted 15 Black-tailed Godwits, 1 Bar-tailed Godwit, 4 Ringed Plovers and a single Dunlin which never came close enough to have its photo taken.  Luckily two of the Black-tailed Godwits and another bird flying in were more obliging.

The single Bar-tailed stood out magnificently in the early morning sun and showing off its more streaky plumage and slightly up-curved bill. It was also noticeably smaller than the Black-tails as can be seen by the third photo.

The four Ringed Plovers, an adult and three juveniles spent most of their time on the far side of the mud which far slightly too far for a decent shot. But as the tide encroached and the amount of mud reduced, they eventually came closer allowing some shots to be taken.

The tide was now well in and most of the mud was covered creating a fair amount of movement from the river to the reserve including these Teal.

I continued my amble towards Coldharbour Lane when I flushed two Sky Larks from my feet. As usual they shot off high towards the reserve but one then circled round and landed in the long grass ahead of me. I crept forward close to the spot and had a quick scan with the bins. As luck would have it the bird, instead of feeding deep in the grass, was perched motionless on one of the many rocks concealed in the grass. It was presumably a young bird as it let me approach to within just 8 yards.

On my way back I came across one of today's quarries, a Wheatear.. It was initially feeding on the tide wrack and flotsom and jetsam between the river and the path, but then flew towards the upper path and perched on top of a Wild Rose. How good is that?

Now on to the reserve in the searing heat which on reflection was not such a good idea, although it did have the advantage of me bumping into Phil Luckhurst and Ian, both from my home county of Hertfordshire. The reserve was fairly quiet with any self-respecting passerine having a siesta. Even the local Kestrels were taking it easy, just lazily circling round in the breeze.

Time for a quick visit to the MDZ, not for Kingfishers as they have now finished for the year, but for Little Grebes. Well, all I can say is that you don't realise how often they dive and how fast they are until you try and photograph them. This was my first effort.

................aahh.........getting better

...............and eventually patience paid off!!

But the star of today was the Robin in the woodland which despite the heat was singing his heart out. Not an easy shot this as I was confined to capturing it through a narrow tunnel through the foliage, but pleased with the result. Well, that's the Christmas Cards sorted.