Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Parrot Crossbills at Wishmoor Bottom

30th November 2017

After our reasonable success with the Parrot Crossbills at Santon Downham, time to try our luck with the other flock at Wishmoor Bottom on the Surrey/Berkshire border. As we walked down to the heath we were informed that there had been 20 birds present at 9.00am, but that they had all gone off on their circuit at 10.0am, but would probably be back by the time we got there. Wrong!!!

We arrived at the site where about 20 birders were looking around aimlessly for the returning birds but to no avail. In fact it must have been half an hour later that I saw two birds fly back into the top of one of the pines without calling. One of the birds went deep inside, but the other bird, a cracking male Parrot Crossbill, perched right on top for at least 15 minutes allowing a number of shots to be taken.

It then dropped into the tree and for the next 20 minutes there were only glimpses of the male and the other bird, a female, as they fed on the cones but largey obscured. They then flew off and were never seen again. So what different fortunes from the two different sites. At Santon Downham the birds were always present and it was a trade-off between distance and light, whereas here we got close up to a single bird in superb light for just 15 minutes and nothing else. However, mustn't grumble.

Here are the shots I managed.

Friday, 8 December 2017

Parrot Crossbills at Santon Downham

28th November 2017

This winter two groups of Parrot Crossbills have been found in England. The first group numbering about 40 individuals is in the Santon Downham/Santon Warren area, and the second group of 20 birds is at Wishmoor Bottom Heath on the Surrey/Berkshire border. So today we travelled to Santon Downham to try our luck there.

The birds were easy to locate, but the difficult decision was where to photograph them from as the area containing the pines in which they were feeding is fenced off for grazing. The birds were nearest the road at a range of 15-20 yards, but here the sun was coming from one side, whereas on the river side of the paddock the sun was right behind you but the birds were 30-40 yards away, a little bit of a challenge.

We elected for the river side on the basis that good light is worth about 10 yards in range and settled down to take some photographs whenever they presented themselves outside the needles, as when they are feeding they are frequently obscured. The results weren't that bad but the birds had now flown a few yards further north and were now almost over the road where the sun was less of a problem, so the decision was taken to swap sides.

The birds were now a lot closer but were not showing particulary well and the light was still a bit of a problem, but we did manage to get a few shots.

Well, that was reasonably successful and will definitely be worth a second visit, but the next trip will be to Wishmoor Botton Heath to try our luck with the second group.

Monday, 4 December 2017

Hawfinches at Bramfield Churchyard

26th November 2017

Further to my visit to Bencroft Wood in search of Hawfinches, I though I would look a little closer to home and pay a visit to Bramfield Churchyard. Of course I was hoping for Hawfinches close up on a sunny day, well one out of two wasn't too bad. It was a glorious day, but involved quite a lot of standiung around in the cold waiting for the birds to appear,

They did eventually show, but only one or two birds at a time, and normally at the tops of the trees outside the churchyard, or partially obscured within the churchyard. And they didn't stay long. You can't have it all!!. Anyway, here are the shots I managed to take over an hour and a half.

I think in the famous words of The Terminator, I'LL BE BACK!!!!!

Friday, 1 December 2017

Great White Egret, Goosanders and a Slavonian Grebe at Abberton Reservoir

23rd November 2017

A lovely sunny day so time for a visit to Abberton Reservoir and of course start with some breakfast and a cup of tea on the Layer Breton causeway. Still fairly quiet, although the gulls were providing some entertainment despite the fact that the public are now being discouraged from feeding bread to the ducks. The performers today, in order of appearance were Black-headed Gulls, a Common Gull and a Herring Gull.

One of the two Great White Egrets present was as usual in the trees on the northern bank, about half way between the two causeways, a distance of a few hunderd yards. However, it eventually flew down the northen bank towards the the Layer Breton causeway and landed what can only be described as reasonably close by comparison, allowing a few shots to be taken before it disappeared into the trees.

On the Layer de la Haye causeway an eclipse male Wigeon was showing quite well by the sluice as well as a flock of 17 Goosanders, which were behaving in an unusual manner.

The new sluice has always attracted Gossanders to feed on the shoals of fish that gather there but normally as you approach along the wall, swim swiftly out into the reservoir. However, today their behavior was totally different and they would periodically swim as a group towards the sluice and some would dive right in the sluice itself, even whe you were standing close by. This provided some amazing opportunities for some close-ups of this normally wary species.

This female dived right inside the sluice and caught a small Perch, which seemed to be the main fish species in the shoals.

........and as always it is nice to get a few action shots..............

Ever since we arrived at the causeway I had been scanning the reservoir for the reported Slavonian Grebe with no success, but then it suddenly appeared from behind the sluice right in front of us. The reason we hadn't seen it was that it had been hugging the bank around the reservoir and was swimming fast every time it dived, We followed it along the causeway and, even when running every time it dived, had trouble keeping up with it.

I think that with the combination of its naturally red eye and the sun, I should have used some red-eye reduction.

What an absolutely fantastic day!!!