Friday, 17 February 2017

Pulborough in the Snow!

Last weekend I visited RSPB Pulborough Brooks, it was extremely cold and to my surprise it was quite heavily snowing, hard to believe now its nearly a week later, and it feels like spring! 

We started off at the visitor centre where a variety of garden birds where visiting the feeders, including Blue Tits, Great Tits, Long-Tailed Tits and House Sparrow. Walking down the path to the first hide a small mammal scurried along the path in front of me, with a white underside and long, slinky body it was Stoat, my first sighting of one in the wild! It appeared on the other side of the hedge it had scurried underneath and posed nicely on a log, unfortunately the light was terrible and there were twigs in the way for a good photo!

Stoat
In the hide the usual culprits were showing relatively nicely, Wigeon, Shelduck, Teal and lots of Canada Geese! I did expect to see some Snipe but none were hiding, that I could see anyway, in the grass. On a couple of trees in the distance two Peregrine were perched which was nice to see, maybe a pair?


Male Teal
Walking along the path a Robin perched nicely on a wooden pole and with the snow falling quite heavily I managed to get this photo. I tried to create a different composition by having the Robin at the bottom of the photo so the snow surrounded it.

Robin in a flurry of snow
In the fields of the reserve there were plenty of Fieldfare hopping along as well as a few Redwing and Song Thrush. Further along, from one of the view points, I spotted quite a few Pintail and Shoveler. However it was unusual to not spot any Black-Tailed Godwit, maybe its something to do with the high water levels at the reserve?

After a 2 mile walk around the reserve it was a relief to get back into the warmth of the visitor centre!


Saturday, 28 January 2017

Pagham visit and more Waxwings!

On Sunday I made the regular trip down to Pagham Harbour. A lingering, blanket of fog covered some of the fields despite the blue sky and sun which was finally making an appearance.

We arrived and I decided to walk down to Ferry Pool. On the way a Kestrel hovered very closely to where I was standing, swooping and then hovering elegantly with its eye fixed on its prey.

Kestrel
To my surprise Ferry Pool was frozen and there was not a bird in sight! Walking around the corner to the mudflats I could hear the whistling of wigeon. It turned out that the Wigeon, Teal, Redshank and Black-Tailed Godwit were flocking around the waterway that leads in the harbour. As we were walking back to the car to head to Church Norton a small bird flew very quickly above me in the sky, I managed to get some photos and could see it was a Snipe!

Teal
At Church Norton I couldn't see anything out to sea but in the harbour it was buzzing with bird life. Suddenly a huge flock of Brent Geese, followed by another, flew past heading right along the coast.
Turnstone, Oystercatcher, Redshank and and a big group of Dunlin took up the majority of birds. But Wigeon and Teal could be seen on the water along with a few Curlew amongst the other waders.

Behind the large group of Dunlin and a few Grey Plover there were 3 Shelduck. Suddenly all the birds lifted as if they had been spooked by something. As I was looking through my scope I heard the sound of wings flapping, looking up in surprise a bird of prey zoomed past my head, a Peregrine Falcon!




Later on in the week, on Thursday, I travelled 5 minutes down the road, to Bewbush, Crawley. 2 Waxwings had been reported feeding on an apple tree there in among some houses and sure enough when I got there that's what they were doing! I managed to get some decent photos despite the dull light. Also I noticed that one was colour ringed, this meant it had been ringed in Scotland by the Grampian Ringing Group!

Waxwing (Colour ringed)

Waxwing


Sunday, 15 January 2017

Definitely a Waxwing Winter!

Yesterday morning, after a rather quick change of plan we headed to an industrial estate in East Grinstead to hopefully see my first Waxwings, a slight change from Pulborough Brooks which we were heading to!

It had been the first time for quite a few years, that I can remember anyway, that a substantial flock had been reported in Sussex so I couldn't miss this opportunity. We arrived and straight away I saw the flock of around 31 which were all perched on a single tree. Their distinctive tufted head silhouetted against the harsh light.

Waxwings
I grabbed my camera and binoculars and went to meet up with the other birders who were stood watching these beautiful birds. The Waxwings then all flew down onto a small rosehip as they gorged on the ruby red berries. Unfortunately the light wasn't great so I didn't get many good pictures.

Waxwings feasting on berries

They then flew onto a large oak tree and were flying down out of view, presumably feasting on some more berries. 

Waxwings are a brightly coloured bird, slightly smaller than a Starling. With a distinctive crest, reddish-brown plumage on its body and a black mask across its eyes they arrive in Britain in the Winter. When the abundance of berries are low in their breeding grounds of Scandinavia, Russia and across parts of North America they have to find food elsewhere. This is when they head over to Britain, turning up in eastern and northern Britain first. They then disperse south and west, gorging themselves on berries, particularly rowan. 

Waxwing taken by James McCulloch (blog at www.jiainmac.wordpress.com)
After admiring them for a while, we decided to go and walk our dog at Ashdown Forest, even though it was pouring with rain! When we got there I was surprised at how much snow there still was, after walking out into it it started snowing! Although I didn't manage to spot anything interesting this obliging Robin did pose for a few photos!

Robin

Hope you enjoyed reading this post!

Thursday, 5 January 2017

Ending the Year on A Few More Lifers!

Here is a write-up on a great visit to Pagham Harbour last Thursday, hope you enjoy reading!

On Thursday my mum and I decided to make the hour journey down to Pagham Harbour. The sightings there had been quite promising over the last week so I was hoping to the end the year on a few more lifers!

As we drove down there the sun was blinding, the countryside was covered in a thick frost and a blanket of fog lingered in the fields. We arrived at Church Norton, the far side of Pagham Harbour. Setting my scope up in front of the large expanse of water, a group of over 1000 Brent Geese soared over my head, looking like tiny black dots from a distance. Communicating with each with a range of different honks, they landed, now looking slightly more elegant on the water.

Incoming Brent Geese
We then made our way to the beach, where we had a quick walk before sitting down so I could scan the sea. Before I had a chance to sit down I saw relatively big bird, gliding along the surface of the sea, so I grabbed my camera and tried to photograph it. Now being able to see the bird close up, I could see it was a Red-Throated Diver, my first in fact!

Red-Throated Diver
Along with the diver there were quite a number of Slavonian Grebes. Way out to sea, through my scope, I could just about make out a small group of around 3 Red-Breasted Mergansers, the first time I had seen them! They were quite tricky to make out so far away, but I could just about see their punk-like hair and long, pointy bill. Close to the group of Mergansers where a group of black ducks, bobbing up and down on the rough waves, I later identified them as Common Scoters, another lifer!

Whilst sitting on the beach I noticed a group of Turnstones, scurrying along the seaweed, close to the sea. Walking up to them, they were surprisingly not bothered about me, so I took advantage of this and took a few photos. I tried to experiment with one, hoping to show a bit more of the habitat and featuring the sea in the background. The results I was relatively happy with:

Turnstone

Turnstone
We then headed back to the harbour, whilst another flock of over 1000 Brent Geese flew over the trees. You could almost hear the sound of their wings beating as they flew over our heads. 

Sitting down on a bench overlooking the harbour, I took a minute to appreciate the amount of birds that were here, the many calls of a variety of waders, geese and ducks. There were Oystercatcher, Redshank, Dunlin, Grey Plover, Pintail, Shelduck, Wigeon, Curlew, Little Grebe, Brent Geese all sharing this vital habitat, feeding on the mudflats and gliding along on the dark blue water.

Overall it was a great way to end the year!





Friday, 23 December 2016

Merry Christmas and a Happy, Wildlife-Filled New Year!

Hi everyone! It's the second day of winter, all though it doesn't look like it outside, and I haven't posted for a long time so here's an update on what I have been up to!

Although I haven't done a lot of wildlife-related things over the last few weeks, I did go to RSPB Pulborough Brooks last weekend and haven't got round to blogging about it. 


We started off by walking down to the hides, in the trees surrounding the path a group of Goldcrests made their way from branch to branch whilst a flock of Long-Tailed Tits acrobatically flew into the distant trees. Reaching the hide the usual culprits were on the lake, with Wigeon and Teal being the most numerous. Lapwing also squabbled on the grass, lifting into the air as I spotted a lone pair of Shelduck asleep on the water. A Mistle Thrush also hid amongst the grass to the side of the hide.

Reaching the viewpoint, a Peregrine sat in its usual tree, its feathers being ruffled by the growing wind. Whilst I watched this beautiful bird a Marsh Harrier glided past the large area of water in the corner of my eye. It hovered elegantly, diving down to catch its prey, this time it was unlucky. Amongst the pools of water were a sea of Wigeon, Teal, two pairs of Pintail and a few Little Egret. 

A Great White Egret had been sited at the reserve recently so I was hoping to see it. Then someone said they had spotted with their scope all the way on the other side of the wetland area! Quickly, I grabbed my scope and got a good view of it in flight until it landed behind a tree. That made my visit to the reserve!

I have also written a couple of articles for New Nature, a new e-magazine written by young people for young people. It will be coming out in January, visit its website: www.newnaturemagazine.wordpress.com or its Twitter: @NewNature_Mag 

Finally I would like to say a Big thank you to anyone who has read my blog or supported me in anyway, whether it be retweeting my tweets on Twitter or giving me bird ID help on social media! Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy, wildlife-filled New Year! 


Thursday, 1 December 2016

The weather is starting to turn very cold, the leaves scattered on the ground are crystallised in frost and the birds are desperately searching the trees for ruby red berries. On Sunday I heard news of a immature Rose-Coloured Starling that had been visiting a garden for around 3 weeks but the news had only just come out. Luckily for me where it had been sighted was only literally up the road so, a 4 minute drive later, I was there. 

After getting parked up, I had checked all the trees and where the main group of starlings were gathering. Unfortunately, the other 7 or 8 birders and I couldn't find it anywhere. However I was determined to find it, so as my mum returned to the relative warmth of the car, I carried on looking. About an hour later I joined a few birders as we checked the trees of gardens on the roadside. None of them could find it but to my surprise I looked through my binoculars and it was perched right in front of my eyes!

As I snapped away with my camera, I looked behind me and everyone had managed to find out and see it, followed by a series of well dones to me for finding it again!



I was quite pleased with the photo that I got and even more pleased that it featured in the rare bird alert weekly round-up which you can find here: http://bit.ly/2fBRBDM 

That afternoon I was off to Knepp Estate for a roost bird ringing session. We were hoping to catch a few Redwings as there had been quite a group of Thrushes in amongst the scrub. As I met up with fellow birder James (http://www.jiainmac.wordpress.com) we scanned across the sun set skyline for any sign of bird life. A Red Kite soured in the distance and a Kestrel was silhouetted on a tree close to the pond. Now the nets had been set, it was just about waiting until it became dark...

After a couple of net rounds we had caught quite a few Redwings plus a Goldcrest. It now become very dark and I was struggling to see where I was going! It was quite an experience for me as I had never rung in the dark, but something that I am probably going to have to get used to!The nets had become unfortunately empty so we began to take them down. It was great to hear two or three Tawny owls, which however didn't go in the net but hopefully we can try again next time for them! 


Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Birds in Abundance at Church Norton

After waking up, seeing blue skies and it being surprisingly not too cold we made the hour journey to Selsey to go to Church Norton. I was quite pleased to see there had been a Long-Tailed Duck and Slavonian Grebes sighted there recently.

After quickly stopping off at Pagham Harbour Visitor Centre, there was quite a lot of Wigeon and Teal on Ferry Pool as well as a large group of Lapwing. On the feeders by the visitor centre there were a small group of Goldfinch

We then made our way to Church Norton, where with my scope I could see a large group of about 50 Oystercatcher along with around 15 Cormorant. It was also a surprise to see over 100 Brent Geese as last time I visited, a few weeks ago, I didn't see one!

Brent Geese
There were also lots of Turnstone which were hidden amongst the waterways of the mudflats and the grasses that were growing on them.There were also quite a few Grey Plover. Curlew where also quite high in numbers as they probed the mud for tiny morsels.

Curlew
After asking a few birders if they had seen the Long-Tailed Duck, they told me it was hanging around the wall of the mouth of the harbour, however unfortunately I couldn't see it anywhere! However I did spot a Slavonian Grebe not too far out to sea before it flew west.

Slavonian Grebe

Slavonian Grebe
Whilst sitting on the beach, Turnstone were running up and down the beach and when I slowly moved closer to them they didn't fly off, so I took this opportunity to try and get some good photos of them. Here are the results:
Turnstone

Turnstone
On the way back a Kestrel was hovering above the harbour and I spotted a single Redshank.

Redshank