Thursday, 23 April 2015

A Spring Visit to Abberton Reservoir and Fingringhoe Wick

14th April 2015

I t was a lovely sunny day so time for a visit to Abberton, followed by Fingringhoe. Abberton is normally our breakfast call when visiting this part of Essex and today was no exception. The main reason for coming to Abberton today was hoping to connect with some migrants particularly Yellow Wagtails, which love the Layer Breton causeway at this time of year. Unfortunately today, the only Yellow Wagtail that we heard and saw was a singleton flying along the causeway and disappearing into the distance.

In fact the only birds frequenting the banks of the causeway were Pied Wagtails, of which there must have been a dozen or so. Even they are starting to look smart in their breeding attire. Then, as if by magic, a female Wheatear dropped out of the sky and landed on one of the concrete posts right next to us. Unfortunately, it spent most of its time with its back to us, but did eventually look round for just one shot before flying off high.

Then on to the reserve with the main objective of checking out the new hides where the water is lapping just outside. Sadly no birds in front of the hides, but on our way round the circuit we did manage to photograph a rather tame Red-legged Partridge and a number of Sky Larks, of which there were plenty.

So now on to part 2 of the trip with a visit to Fingringhoe in the hope of seeing some Nightingales while the bushes were still without leaves. Rather surprisingly, despite frequenting the normally popular picnic area and surrounds for a couple of hours we didn't even hear a Nightingale, let alone see one. But we were rewarded with some views of a couple of Blackcaps and a Chiffchaff by way of compensation.

So back to Abberton for just one more look before heading for home.........BUT WAIT!!! The causeway was now alive with Yellow Wagtails and many quite close in, feeding on the high-up grassy banks rather than the more distant concrete water's edges. What a result and a fantastic end to the day.!!!!

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

And the Final Day of our Norfolk Trip at Sculthorpe Moor

9th April 2015

This only my second visit to this lovely reserve so I made my way immediately to the Whitley Hide in the hope of photographing the Marsh Harriers which I knew were displaying. On the way I stopped briefly to have a closer look at the stream running alongside the track. A Frog was sitting quietly close to the path and was keeping very still, hoping that his camouflage would protect him.

I then moved further along the path, and have you ever had that feeling that you were being watched? This is the first time that I have ever seen this phenomenon. A Water Vole was hanging vertically in the water, just keeping very still and watching my every movement. Eventually it slid below the water and re-appeared on my side of the bank, although well hidden amongst the reeds. Luckily with my new camera I was able to find a line-of-sight through the reed and managed a shot of its cute little face.

Now on to the Whitley Hide and the first sign of activity was this Brown Rat which was making the most of the free meal dropped from the bird table. Rats are always going to be attracted to feeding stations, but after all it is their home.

Next up was one of the key species of Sculthorpe Moor, the Bullfinch. Bullfinches are not particularly thriving but seem to holding their own in most areas. However, Sculthorpe Moor must be the most reliable site that I know of in the whole of East Anglia for seeing this most well-loved bird. I will not normally photograph birds on bird table or feeders, but will always make an exception for Bullfinches.

What was a surprise, however, was the appearance of some Bramblings, not on the bird table, but always feeding on the dropped seed below. There were at least four birds present, two males and two females, which I was able to separate because a bird from each sex was ringed (which I have excluded from the photos).

But the purpose of today's visit was to photograph the Marsh Harriers and I was not to be disappointed. What was a surprise, however, was that I was able to get shots of both the female and the male on the ground, a first for me.

And to finish the performance, the female put on a display right in front of the hide in a fly-past to beat all fly-pasts.

I just love Sculthorpe Moor and it is now on my list of annual pilgrimages.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

.......and now on to Titchwell

8th April 2015

Having had a great morning with the Fulmars at Hunstanton Cliffs despite the poor light, we are now off to see what Titchwell has to offer. The water level on the fresh-marsh is still surprisingly high for this time of year bearing in mind that the first Avocet egg is usually around the 15th April, just a week away. However, I was reliably informed that the water levels were "absolutely perfect".

However because of the high water levels there were no waders on this section, just a sprinkling of duck including Teal, Shoveler, Shelduck and Pintail. What I like about Pintail is that you can still identify them even when they are up-ending.

The new arrival at Titchwell is the Red-crested Pochard. Just a couple of years ago they were seldom seen, but now not only are they resident, but numbers are building up and it is possible to see them on every visit.

And of course there were the Brent Geese which are present for most of the year but depart for just a couple of months in the summer. Numbers are already beginning to reduce and the remaining birds are presumably non-breeders.

Now on to the tidal second lagoon which because of the high water levels on the fresh-marsh is where most of the action is. One of the best bird photography sites is the channel which runs adjacent to and parallel to the path as, for some reason, the birds that feed here are very tame and have no fear of humans. Today's candidates were Black-headed Gull, Redshank, winter-plumaged Black-tailed Godwit and Avocet.

But a quick visit to the Parrinder Hide also produced summer-plumaged Black-tailed Godwit and Curlew in what can only be described as beautiful light.

But the most memorable bird today was this female Marsh Harrier which wafted across the path providing an ideal opportunity for a flight shot. Another fantastic day at this mecca of bird photography.