Tuesday, 15 April 2014

A Spotted Redshank at Amwell

1st April 2014

It was on the 31st March that I received a couple of phone calls to say that a Spotted Redshank had been found at Amwell. This is a real mega and the first at this site for 12 years. Unfortunately I was unable to get down straight away so had to wait to the next day in the hope it would stay around.

As I made my way up to the viewpoint I was told it was still there but sometimes elusive. It was frequenting the far edge of the viewpoint and sometimes would disappear for long periods behind the blocks of Phragmites. However, after a few minutes, it re-appeared and started to move towards the viewpoint. Things were looking good.

Eventually, after a couple of excursions behind the reeds, it ended up feeding in one of the pools just below the viewpoint allowing a number of shots to be taken. If only they were all this easy.

Friday, 11 April 2014

The Dungeness Glaucous Gull

28th March 2014

Time once again for Stuart and I to make our spring visit to Dungeness, and with a decent south-easterly blow I was expecting to see flocks of Wheatears being pushed off the lighthouse road in front of us. No such luck, in fact I would venture to say that on the bird front it was the quietest we had ever witnessed in over 10 years. Therefore we decided to turn our attention to the 1st winter Glaucous Gull that had been present for some time.

It would appear from reports that the bird commutes from the fishing boats to The Patch, so we opted to start at the latter. As we hauled our way up the gravel bank a small work party was repairing the roof of the sea-watching hide and so we took the opportunity to enquire about the Glaucous Gull. As luck would have it they knew exactly where it was, not at the fishing boats or The Patch, but exactly half way in between, somewhere where we would not have looked.

At first the bird was a bit timid and looked uneasy even when I was still 50 or more yards away. It then flew past me and landed on the shingle bank below the hide, which was much better as I now had the light behind me. Oddly enough it now seemed far more settled and I was able to get some shots before, for no reason at all, it took off and circled around my head. Absolutely superb, but on occasions it was so close I couldn't get it all into the frame. Still, mustn't grumble.

Monday, 7 April 2014

What Do You Think Of The Shoreline So Far? Rubbish!!

24th March 2014

A lovely sunny day so Andy and I popped down to Rainham Marshes to see if there were any early migrants. As has often been the case recently there was nothing in front of the Pyfleet Scrape hide so we decided to do an anti-clockwise circuit. Considering the warm and sunny weather there were not many birds in song, except that is for Cetti's Warblers. There seem to be more than ever this year and the one close to the cordite stores was particularly vocal. As is normally the case it was deafening just a few yards away but totally hidden until, that is, it broke cover and flew into a tree. Although it was fairly deep inside it was just visible and offered a rare opportunity for a shot. Not my best, but a good start to the day.

Continuing round along the northern edge by the railway a Coot was enjoying the sun on the sheltered edge of his reedmace home, and a Reed Bunting put in a rather stunning appearance posing on a fresh green Hawthorn. A good sign of Spring but not quite what we were looking for, so as we entered the return leg we left the reserve via the one-way turnstile and went up on to the river wall.

The tide was right out so no sign of any pipits, but as we walked west along the foreshore we could see movement amongst the vast quantity of rubbish dumped there by the tidal surge. We walked almost up to Coldharbour Lane before we caught up with the four Wheatears that were always moving ahead of us. Our patience was eventually rewarded when we managed to approach close enough for some shots although it is noticeable that many shots have a rubbish background or, to be more precise, a background full of rubbish. So what do you think of it so far?

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Spring Has Arrived at Amwell

21st March 2014

Although it been relatively mild for the last few days, it had turned cooler again and standing at the viewpoint in the teeth of a northerly wind was no joke. Not much going on but a pair of Shoveler in the pool immediately below were quite entertaining. I have often seen flocks of 20 or more Shoveler swimming around in circles to create a vortex and bring food morsels to the surface, but this pair were carrying our their 2-duck version.

But after all that feeding and a well-deserved preen it was time for a good old flap of the wings to dry out a bit.

A wander down the lane produced the first real evidence of Spring as if any were really needed, a singing Chiffchaff. Of course, these days it is not possible to tell if this is one of the many over-wintering birds or a new arrival, but the Herald of Spring is welcome nevertheless.

Sunday, 30 March 2014

A Visit to Lynford Arboretum

19th March 2014

Time for another visit to Lynford Arboretum, so I set off with my bag of seed. Having parked, had breakfast and a  cup of tea, I set off down the track to the gate by the feeders. There was the usual procession of tits, Chaffinches and Blackbirds picking up the crumbs, but sadly no sign of the Hawfinches that do occasionally pop in to have a drink from the water bath. However, by way of compensation, a Redwing did appear and provided me with a couple of shots.

Next stop was the Silver Firs by the brick-built folly towards the southern end of the arboretum. Here recently have been a pair of Firecrests that have provided good views, so I was hopeful of a couple of decent shots. Unfortunately, it didn't quite turn out like that. First of all just one Firecrest was calling rather intermittently, and when it did show was very active and flitting from extremely dark shady conditions to extremely bright back-lit conditions making having the camera on the right settings almost impossible.However, I did manage a few record shots.

The bird eventually fell quiet and so I took a stroll down to the lake to see what was about. There had been a number of Crossbills about and, as is normal, they would perch on top of the highest tree so that, from a photographic perspective, they were always miles away. However, as I approached the lake, I could hear the characteristic chipping quite close by. I searched all the surrounding tall trees to no avail and then realised that the two birds present were perched at head height just 10 yards in front of me in a lake-side Alder, waiting for an opportunity to get a drink. Although they were close it was not easy as they were hidden by branches but for the female I was able to adjust my position to get this shot. A clear case of being in the right place at the right time.

I then moved on to the final site which is where the bag of seed came in. At the southern end of the arboretum there is a bridge over a stream that leads from the lake. On the bridge there are a number of large concrete pillars that for some reason have a half-inch depression in the top rather like a bird table. This where I deposited the seed. Within ten seconds tits, Dunnocks, Robins and Chaffinches were gathering to see what was on offer.

However, the next bird along was rather special as, although I had photographed Marsh Tits before, this was by far the closest and under reasonably controlled conditions.

But the prize today goes to one of my favourite birds, the Nuthatch, which not only visited the seed, but also spent so much time selecting only the best seed that it provided me with ample opportunities for some really close-up shots.

Don't forget that for better reproduction of my photos, see my photo gallery at flickr.com/photos/seymourbirdies


Wednesday, 26 March 2014

A Spring Day at Lackford Lakes

12th March 2014

The original intention was to go to West Stow Country Park to photograph the Crossbills coming down to drink from a small puddle in the car park. I pulled into the car park and drove round the various islands looking for the row of photographers but the whole place was deserted. Then, following a description of the site and the puddle in question I did indeed find the only small depression in the whole car park which, unfortunately, was completely dry. So that would explain why there were no Crossbills and no photographers. So what to do now?

There were four choices, Lakenheath, Thetford for the Otters, Lynford Arboretum or Lackford Lakes. Lackford Lakes seemed to be the best bet as, not only was it just a couple of miles down the road, but it is 20+ years since I had been there. In those days, the gravel extraction had only just finished so the site was still fairly bare and the only "presence" on site was a couple of volunteers manning the ringing hut. Mark and I had gone there on two occasions, one to see a Caspian Tern and the second time to see a Night Heron, so what was it like now?

The massive site is now run by the Suffolk Wildlife Trust and is superbly managed, with miles of well-maintained paths leading to a number of hides. Today was a bit quiet due to the time of the year with most of the wintering birds already departed and the spring migrants not yet arrived. But it was a gloriously warm day with lots of sunshine so just pleasant to be out.

The first sign of spring was a Sallow in full blossom which was attracting a number of honey bees as well as a dozen or so butterflies including Small Tortoiseshell, Peacock and Brimstone. Unfortunately, Brimstones are one of those butterflies that always fold their wings when they alight so the only way to appreciate their full beauty is when they are in flight.

The warmth of the sun had brought many of the residents into full song including this very confiding Dunnock. Many birds are much easier to photograph when they are singing as they are more interested in staking out their territory and listening to the response rather than worrying about you.

Time for lunch in one of the hides and the spring theme continued. Black-headed Gulls were already staking their claims on the small gravel islands and were already into their courtship displays like this female begging for food.

The drake ducks were all looking resplendent in their smart breeding attire particularly this magnificent Shelduck, my favourite duck. Although their new plumage is now complete it is still necessary to devote several hours each day to keeping all the feathers in pristine condition and in place.

But today the real herald of Spring was this singing Chiffchaff, although on the 12th March it is impossible to say whether it is an early arrival or one of the ever-increasing wintering birds. I will definitely be coming back here.