Saturday, 13 September 2014

Another Great Selection at Rainham Marshes

24th August 2014

It is that time of year when anything can turn up so another visit to Rainham Marshes was always on the cards. What I love about Rainham is that, no matter what time of year you go, there is always a warm welcome from the House Sparrow population whether in the car park or on the sea wall as in this case. They always sound so happy.

Most of the dragonflies and damselflies have finished their flight season now with mostly only Ruddy and Common Darters and Migrant and Southern Hawkers on the wing. Fortunately all these four species are very accommodating and will land frequently and can be very approachable provided that it is not too hot. Here I was able to get a couple of shots of the two hawkers.

Round by the reed bed next to the railway there were still a number of Bearded Tits pinging in the reeds. The secret with beardies is to wait for them to come to you as eventually they will shin up a reed quite close to you. Not brilliant shots today but time was too short for a long wait.

Along by the Ken Barratt Hide the Wasp Spiders were still delighting the crowds with many visible just a few feet from the path. What amazing creatures!

But the highlight today was the woodland by the cordite store. I had gone there in the hope of a Redstart or flycatcher but no luck on that score. However, the place was still fairly active with good numbers of Chiffchaffs flitting around in the bushes. Some of them were quite content to sit in a hole in a bush enjoying the warm sun and a spot of preening. Not long now before they will be up and away.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

The Best Car Park in the World

19th August 2014

I have always had some good photography days at Fowlmere at this time of the year as there are normally plenty of young birds about and, in most places, the trees and the vegetation are not too high. In fact, as soon as we stepped out of the car in the car park, the whole place was buzzing.

The Fowlmere car park is flanked to the east by open fields but on the west, the reserve side, there is a rather dense hedge of Hawthorn, Elder and Bramble which has the advantage from a photographic perspective of being very close to the car park and not too high. The first bird to put its head above the parapet was a rather noisy Wren which, quite characteristically, although very local was not all that keen on showing itself in the open.

There were also a number of Chiffies about but they were either very fleeting or shy. The only exception was this particular individual which chose to sunbath deep in a hole in a hawthorn bush

A male Blackcap was a little more adventurous and at least showed itself in the open, rather obligingly to an accompaniment of colourful berries. Why can't all birds be this artistic?

But the star of the show today was this adult Dunnock which, despite being in full moult, decided to sun-bathe in a rather conspicuous position. This is rather unusual as when in moult they normally become very skulking.

We did eventually walk round the reserve, but all the action was in the car park!!

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Spotted Flycatchers at the Amwell Dragonfly Trail

17th August 2014

There had been a family of Spotted Flycatchers at the Amwell Dragonfly Trail for a couple of days now so time to pop down to try our luck. The flycatchers seemed to stay in one place on any one day, but would move their base from day to day. Therefore the first job was to locate them. I searched all the usual haunts including a full circuit of the boardwalk with no sign and it wasn't until I was about to go round again that I noticed a shadowy figure tucked into the bushes. On close inspection this turned out to be Jay Ward trying to get some shots digiscoping.

When Jay had finished digiscoping and switched to a 400mm prime, we both edged forward taking shots as we went. At this point in time there seemed to be only one bird present which occasionally posed allowing a few shots to be taken.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

A Black-tailed Godwit at Rye Meads

17th August 2014

A Black-tailed Godwit had been in residence at Rye Meads for some days now so time for a visit. It was quite clear that most people had already been down to see a rather special bird as the Draper Hide was particularly quiet as I settled down to get some photos.

The usual suspects were present with Little Grebes feeding young just below the hide, up to six Green Sandpipers feeding on a distant beach and a few Gadwall swimming about. I suspect that something had been through to spook most of the birds as wildfowl numbers were at an all time low with the two Garganey being noticeable by their absence. However, as usual, a couple of Stock Doves landed to feed on the seeds on the mud.

The godwit was asleep at the edge of the pool to the right, but did eventually wake up and started to feed. Unfortunately, although it walked towards the hide a couple of times, it did seem content to feed along the same two yard stretch. However, luckily the sun came out so it was possible to get a few decent shots even at that range.

Friday, 29 August 2014

Some Superb Birding at Abberton and Fingringhoe Wick

13th August 2014

The plan today was to call in to Abberton Reservoir to see what was on the causeways, go to Fingringhoe Wick to look for warblers in the bushes, and end up in Robbies Hide by 2.00pm, an hour before high tide to hopefully get some waders being pushed up on the tide. Well, some of it worked.

We arrived at Layer Breton causeway in time for breakfast (I do have a late breakfast) and had a quick scan round. Nothing too obvious at first glance but then Andy noticed a wader amongst the gaggle of Grey Lags - a Ruff. I started taking photos immediately but when it flew a few yards I noticed more, two, five, and eventually 25, all feeding at the water's edge at the bottom of the concrete bank. Well, what a good start to the day.

A quick look at the Layer de la Haye causeway produced nothing so we headed off for Fingringhoe. The bushes at The Wick were also very quiet so we went straight to Robbies Hide for our appointment at 2.00pm. Now, our timing up to now had been immaculate, but I had overlooked one tiny detail. The high tide today was particularly high and by the time we got into the hide, well before 2.00pm, all the mud and most of the beach was already covered. As we settled down the last of the Black-tailed Godwits flew off to roost on Geedons Marsh.

As we had missed the encroaching high tide, the next best bet was to go to the scrape hide in the hope that some waders were roosting there. Despite visiting Fingringhoe for over 20 years, this was the first time that I had visited this hide and I was not going to be disappointed. The first birds on view were a flock of Greenshank which were rather jumpy and kept flying off and circling round for no apparent reason.

However below them, still on the water was a flock of Spotted Redshank which were not quite as flighty.

Well, what a day. This is an absolutely superb hide, but could do with some more screening as people arriving at the hide were spooking the birds particularly if they were talking (the people not the birds).