Tuesday, 26 April 2011

A Good Day for Raptors at Grove

Went to Grove again today and like my last visit I walked to the ramp then along the river to Harrison’s drove and on to the Marsh Hide where I met up with Mark Chidwick, Alan Ashdown, Steve Ashton and Martyn Wilson.
All the normal stuff was present on the way to the river – whitethroat, Cetti’s, reed and sedge warblers but, as before, no sign of a grasshopper warbler. As I walked along the river 2 nightingales could be heard on the far bank then I found one on the near bank. As normal despite being only 10 yrds from the bird I couldn’t see it until it flew to the adjacent tree then off across the river.
The rest of the walk to the Marsh hide was more of the same but with a few reed buntings thrown in for good measure though one of the sedge warblers sat up nicely and tempted me to get the camera out.
Sedge warbler
At the Marsh Hide very little was going on and I think everyone was only in there because it’s somewhere to eat breakfast - though Al managed to eat his lunch as well and moaned about being hungry the rest of the day!
The one moment of excitement came when a barn owl was seen out of the side window. No pictures were possible but it showed the owl was still out hunting so off we all went to try and intercept its return to its nest site.
Our chosen place to photograph the owl was on the main path out of Alder wood where the reeds have been cleared and whilst waiting some waders were noticed out on the “scrape” (soon to be more reed bed).
First up was a wood sandpiper and a little ringed plover and a little later 2 green sandpipers turned up. Also out there were a few lapwing and several snipe so it was quite a productive wait. The waders were all too distant to photograph but after a while the barn own flew past then after another wait of ~20 minutes it went past again as it resumed its hunting.
Barb Owl
We did wait for it to return but we never saw it again. At this point we split up with Steve and Mark going back to the Marsh hide and Al, Martyn and myself walking the circuit.
Birdwise the walk was pretty unproductive though there were lots of blackcap around and a few chiffchaffs but try as we might we couldn’t find a garden warbler.
Just after we had passed the main lake we stopped to look at a dragonfly. It immediately disappeared but whilst looking for it we found several interesting bugs:
Brimstone Moth

Longhorn Moth

All were unknown to me and the id has been done with the aid of the internet so if I have got any wrong please let me know.
The cuckoo was seen during the rest of the walk but never close enough for a picture. As we approached Harrison’s drove the nightingales I had heard earlier were still singing despite being late morning and for the briefest of moments I did manage to get a glimpse of one of them.
From there we returned to the ramp (meeting up with Steve and Mark) to try and find some hobbies.
Eventually some were very distant ones turned up along with the occasional marsh harrier. It was during our  raptor watch that we found a honey buzzard which for a few moments looked as though it was going to some over the ramp but then it veered off north then a little later a particularly tatty common buzzard drifted past.
By  this time we had 7 hobbies in the air over Harrisons so we went along to try and get some pictures. All the time we were along Harrisons the birds were high in the air and/or distant but then we relocated to the main footpath through the reserve where they were hawking lower.
In all we must have spent 3 hours trying to get pictures of the hobbies – there were up to 12 in the air around us. When they are high they are quite easy to photograph however when they are lower and especially when they are hunting they scream past so getting a sharp image is a real challenge. As the session progressed we could see more and more dragonflies drifting past us and only a few feet up so every now and again a hobby would come in low and fast within 20 yrds of where we were standing. When they did this it was impossible to track the birds but it was superb to see.
Eventually we called it a day and went off to see how successful we had been with the camera. I’ll leave you to judge.


1 comment:

  1. Nice write up Steve, and although the Hobbies are hard to nail, it's great fun trying and even better watching at close quarters, being able to see the dragonflies they were hunting.