Monday, 31 July 2017

Hobbys at The Lodge

19th July 2017

Once again a pair of Hobbys have bred successfully at the The Lodge Sandy using the same old crow nest in a Scots Pine as last year. There were apparently three chicks recently hatched, although only two were visble when we were there.

Sadly the sunny spells that were forecast for 11.00am never materialised and in fact during the afternoon there were a few spots of rain, so basically the light was pretty poor for most of the day. The chicks must have been fed some fairly large prey items recently, because they were not fed at all during the morning with the adults just sitting around.

Here are both birds in the same tree.

There was a little flying now and again but the main excitement was reserved for when a family of five Ravens flew over with the last bird getting a rather warm reception from one of the Hobbys, an absolute dogfight. It was worth coming just for that.

Thursday, 27 July 2017

Gulls and Terns at Rye Meads

18th July 2017

A couple of hours to spare and what better place to while away the time than in the Draper Hide at Rye Meads? The water levels are still moderately high, although some mud is beginning to appear, so no waders today apart from a single Lapwing. However, Tufted Ducks seem to have had a good year with no less than four broods on the pool.

So the main interest today was the ever-growing population of Black-headed Gulls and the reducing population of Common Terns. Ten years ago the Common Tern population was at an all-time high with dozens of pairs nesting in the Lea Valley on both natural islands and purpose-built nesting rafts. Then Black-headed Gulls starting moving up the valley, displacing many of the Common Terns from their nest sites. Sometime the terns will wait until the gulls have finished nesting and have a late brood, but numberrs are still dwindling. First, the Black-headed Gulls.

Today the juveniles were excercising their new-found flight capability. And when you have spent much of the day waiting for food to be brought in, those wings are in need of a stretch.

There were only a couple of pairs of Common Terns in front of the Draper Hide today and the juveniles spent much of their time sitting around, nowhere as active as the juvenile gulls.

On one occasion this adult Common Tern became very agitated when this juvenile Black-headed Gull came too close to its chicks.

The younsters spent most of their time calling for food and when a fish was brought in all hell let loose. This juvenile seemed to be very pleased with its fish, but didn't appear to be too sure what to do with it.

Well, what a superb way to while away a couple of hours at a superb reserve just 15 minutes from home. Always a pleasure to go back and relive the memories when I was ringing there in the 1960s and 1970s,

Sunday, 23 July 2017

A Couple of Days with the Beardies at Rainham Marshes

13th and 17th July 2017

It's that time of year again when the young Bearded Tits have left the nest and are starting to entertain the crowds with some photo opportunities, so off to Rainham Marshes to try my luck. The Beardies had been showing around the Dragonfly Pool, so I set off in a clockwise direction along the southern trail.

Just past the Purfleet Hide a Reed Bunting was singing its heart out on a Phragmites stem, so a good start to the day.

There were also a number of young Reed Warblers around, and the bird in the second photo is not long out of the nest as the feathers on its head and breast are still in pin.

But now on to the business at hand........Bearded Tits!!! In the nest and when they first fledge the juveniles are fed an insect diet, but after a while they convert to their more natural seed diet. As with all seed-eaters they need to eat some grit to help grind up the seed in their crop, and a grit tray has been provided in the Dragonfly Pool for this very purpose.

Apart from being very useful for the young Beardies, the tray is also useful for birders and photographers hoping to get some views as it provides a focal point, although they can of course been seen anywhere in the surrounding reed beds.

Juveniles can be readily identified as they have a dark patch between the eye and the bill. The males have orange bills and the females brown bills, so one of each in these shots. I only included these shots to explain the purpose of the grit tray as I normally prefer to photograph them in their natural surroundings, so lets see how I got on.

Luckily the male juvenile left the tray and explored the reeds around the margin of the pool allowing some much better shots to be taken. Just look at that most amazing pattern on the back.

It then transerred to another pool and began scavenging amongst the debris at water level, a behaviour characteristic of Bearded Tits

This is the juvenile female of the brood.

The juvenile male and female obviously had a very strong bond as they were also close by and on several occasions snuggled up to each other for security.

But then, as a bonus, the adult male appeared and posed above the reeds on a Phragmites stem...........

.............before diving into the pool for some low-level feeding in true Bearded Tit style. What absolutely fabulous birds and a few hours over a couple of days well spent.