Sunday, 30 April 2017

A Lesser Spotted Woodpecker at Cassiobury Park

21st April 2017

Last year I went to Cassiobury Park to photograph the Lesser Spotted Woodpecker that had been showing well by the car park. I did indeed photograph the pecker, but in my enthusiasm dropped my baseball cap on the ground. Now this was no ordinary baseball cap, but one that I had bought at the Boggy Creek Airboat Rides in Florida in the year 2000, so of sentimental value. Luckily fellow birder Ian Bennell managed to locate it and has been looking after it ever since.

So now, a year on, it is time to return to Cassiobury Park to try and photograph the Lesser Spot again, to collect my cap and, although I have been conversing with Ian on Twittter for 5 years or more, to meet him for the very first time. We did of course have to agree a code so that we would recognise each other in the vast car park, so Ian carried a baseball cap and I carried a camera. That seemed to work.

After meeting Ian for the first time and the ceremonial handing over the cap it was time to turn my attentions to the pecker. Unlike last year, when it would go on a circuit of the park and disappear for a couple of hours, it was staying in the mature trees by the car park. Luckily, it kept on returning to one of two drumming posts, so it was possible to get some reasonable photos despite the dull day.

So what a succesful day!!. Managed to photograph the pecker, met Ian Bennell at last and retrieved my long-lost cap. Thanks Ian.

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Today I have been mostly photographing Marsh Harriers

18th April 2017

It's that time of year when Marsh Harriers' thoughts turn to pairing up and nesting with all the displaying and nest building that goes with it, so off to see what was going on. Still only the middle of April with a cold northerly breeze, but with some sunny spells to help the photography along. While we were waiting for the action to begin a Common Snipe was doing its best to hide in the reeds directly below us. Mostly obscured by a few reeds, but as the wind blew it was exposed for just a split second every now and again allowing a couple of shots to be taken.

Eventually up to four Marsh Harriers put in an appearance, and although there was some interaction now and then, there was no sign of any nest building so perhaps still a little too early. What was noticeable, however, was that it was only the females that came close, with the males mainly keeping their distance either high in the sky or on the far side of the reed bed.

The only time a male came within range was when this pair were displaying and the male obviously forgot the rules. It can be clearly seen that the female was wing-tagged in the nest as a youngster. I submitted the details of the tag to the Hawk and Owl Trust who have informed me that she was wing-tagged near Great Yarmouth on the 15th June 2016 and has also been recorded at Minsmere on the 15th October 2016 and Saltholme on the 9th April 2017.

Will see how they are getting on in a months time.

Monday, 24 April 2017

Three Target Species on Brightlingsea Reach and the River Colne

15th April 2017

Our first target species was Ring Ouzel at East Mersea, where two males have been showing well for a couple of days. Being a sunny day on the Easter weekend Cudmore Grove was absolutely packed, but slipping down the side track past the hide we soon lost the crowds.There were far fewer birds on the grazing marsh floods now, although the handful of Black-tailed Godwits that remained were gaining their breeding plumage and looked magnificent in the sunshine.

Also, because of the imminent breeding season, there was quite a lot of interaction between the birds. The Shelducks were also looking very smart.

But now on to look for our first target, the Ring Ouzels. It was bit worrying when we got to the field next to the Golf House because there was no sign of any ouzels. We searched a bit further along the Brightlingsea Reach wall to no avail, but after about 10 minuts back at the field they eventually appeared, albeit a little distant. After an hour or so it was clear that they weren't going to get any closer so we made our way back to the car. One down and two to go!!

As we approached the car park I heard the familar jangle of a Lesser Whitethroat, so settled down to see if it was going to show. As is often the case it was flitting around deep in a bramble bush, but did eventually pop up for just one photo before flying off over the hedge.

A brief stop at Abberton produced a surprise in the shape of two drake Goosanders which should have long gone. Along the Layer Breton causeway a small flock of Linnets were showing well and a cracking Reed Bunting was obviously keen to be part of the action as it flew in and landed on top of a bush just 12 feet away.

Not to be out-done a beautiful male Yellow Wagtail posed on a branch down on the bank.

Now on to the River Colne at Fingringhoe Wick for our next two target species. As we made our way down to the picic area a male Blackcap was singing out loudly but partially obscured in a Sallow.

The next target species was the Adder for which Fingringhoe is well known, but at the usual viewpoint we drew a blank. However, a quick search of a suitable site nearby did produce this rather smart silvery specimen. Two down and one to go!!

And of course the third target species was the Nightingale, the jewel in the Fingringhoe crown. Not as many birds singing as I had expected and at times a little half-hearted, but eventually we got the result we wanted. Nightingales are notorious for skulking deep in undergrowth, but this is by far the best time of year to photograph them when many of the trees are still bare.

So three target species and three successes. Mustn't grumble at that!!!