Wednesday, 29 August 2012

27th The End of a Green Woodpecker

I only had a couple of hours this morning so I went looking for dotterel in the stubble fields South Foreland and Langdon Hole. Needless to say I didn’t find any.
In fact I didn’t find much at all other than spooking a pair of yellow hammers off the path and spotting 2 wheatears on the pile of rubble. What I did see as I made my way south was 4 peregrines together over the cliff tops (I assume a family group) but these disappeared in an instant. After giving up on the dotterel I went to the rubble to try and photograph the wheatear and whilst standing there I heard the peregrines again.
I spotted them (only 3 this time) over the cliffs (200 yards away?) and they were obviously hunting something as they seemed to take it in turn to swoop at something. Then the peregrine calling was drowned out by an almighty row – I could see one of them had caught their prey so I fired off a couple of shots in hope rather than expectation.

The bird carrying the prey kept dropping below the cliff top only to reappear at the same place so I hurried down the hill to get closer. It again reappeared and I got off a couple of more shots before the bird moved out to sea and drifted off north the captured bird still screaming loudly.

It was only when I looked at the pictures that I saw what they had caught – a green woodpecker which explains the row being made.  I suppose green woodpeckers are easier to chase down than pigeons.
(The delay in posting this report was again due to problems uploading the pictures)

Saturday, 25 August 2012

23rd August - Osprey and Montague's Harrier

One of the reasons I started a blog was as a outlet to show record shots that didn’t come to the standard I wanted to put on Flickr (plus letting people know what ordinary stuff was around and not reported on the established birding sites). Thursday provided some images of very good birds that didn’t come up to the Flickr standard.
We had just moved into the Oasis paddock when a raptor cruised into sight. Someone called marsh harrier and I was  thinking it looked wrong for a marsh harrier, the wings being too pointed with under-wing barring  when Ian shouted ”Can you get some shots” .
I stopped looking at it through the bins and picked up the camera. The first few were too dark – I’d (incorrectly) guessed at +1 for the exposure compensation so promptly moved onto +2 and managed a few shots on those settings before it moved out of range. (Photographing a dark bird against a white sky is never easy!). Ian had already decided it was a Monty’s or a Palid and hoped the pictures would clinch which it was.

Juvenile Montague's harrier
The bird by the time I got the shots was pretty distant and even at +2 they were a little under- exposed but you can see that it was reddy-brown on the under-wing coverts and has only 4 primaries showing confirming it to be a juvenile Monty’s or Palid. The face pattern however indicates a Monty’s – the face is to pale for a juvenile Palid  and the collar insufficiently bold. I’ve attached a picture of the 2011 Sussex juvenile Palid harrier for comparison.

Juvenile Paild Harrier
An hour or so later on bird guides a Monty’s was reported at South Foreland showing its progress south was being conducted at a pretty leisurely pace– I wish it has been moving that slowly as it came past us.
We didn’t see much else until we reached the beach end of Kings Avenue when an osprey was seen circling high and inland of us. It did get closer but never close.

As the day wore on all of the more common raptors were seen – kestrel, sparrow hawk, peregrine marsh harrier and buzzard. A pretty pleasing day really.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Waiting for Willow warblers - pictures at last

Since my last blog things have been very variable around the SBBO recording area however a few  interesting migrants continue to turn up.
So far this week we have enjoyed 3 tree pipits over the golf course, 3 arctic skuas off shore,  black redstart, whinchat and wheatear along the beach/Dickson’s Corner and the odd flock of warblers. The warblers have been very patchy in the recording area with the Obs garden being one of the more consistently productive areas. Today was no different with willow, reed and chiffchaff all being present so after walking the circuit and watching the warblers feed along the fence line whilst drinking a coffee I set up to try and get some pictures.
Eventually one came out into the open. It hopped along the fence top then sat in full view for several minutes, looking around, having a stretch and even appearing to sun itself.
I’ll let the pictures do the talking:

Just as he hopped into view

"I feel all dizzy when I look at you look this"

"That sun feels so nice".........(He sat like this for a minute or so)

Now what's that down there? (He moved off after this)
.........well I would do if I could upload some pictures!!!!!

AT LAST: I was just about to write a small post saying this is the end of the blog because I can't upload any pictures and thank you all for taking an interest (a major assumption I know) in what I've seen and photographed during my travels when I thought I'd have one last go. Sods law prevailed and it worked so it looks like you will have to suffer me for at least one more post.....
It has actually taken me 3 days and probably 15 - 20 attempts to upload these pictures. The blog just won't let me upload pictures. When I try the blog says "inappropriate response from server". Well what's that? Is my computer rude to it? Is it using bad language? Has it not filled in the right form? 
ON a serious note it may be the download/upload speeds we are getting in the village are too slow. The rest of the country talks about download speeds in the megabytes. We still suffer kilobytes and some times nothing at all. To illustrate the problem:  last week I tried to download a trial version of Photoshop Lightroom 4 - I hit the download and it said it would take 1 hr 58 minutes to complete the download............I was getting a mind blowing 37kb download speed. Eventually it got there. How's lightroom 4 you ask.........don't know. I failed to check the system requirements and my machine can't run it!!!!!!!!!!!!
When I was at work I had a secretary who sorted all these things out; lifes tuff for the retired.

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Wood warbler and Pied flycatcher are pleasant surprise

This autumn is turning out as strange as the spring. A week or two back it seemed that autumn migration was kicking off with reasonable counts of wheatears on the beach and a few whinchats by the sailing club. Ditto with the warblers with half reasonable counts of willow and garden warblers being seen (the former also being caught in decent numbers by the ringers). However all that seems to have died away with the wheatears conspicuous by their absence and just a few willow warblers remaining.
Today’s walk continued the downward trend with next to nothing being seen in the bushes, across the golf course or along the beach - we only saw one mippit today during the whole walk. The scrape provided a welcome break from the mediocrity in the form of 3 green, 1 wood and 1 common sandpiper plus a snipe.
The snipe in fact spent the whole time in front of the hide (though often hidden) with both the wood and one of the green sands also coming close:

Wood Sandpiper
After the scrape we took in the Elms (just a couple of willow warblers) then I lost the others and checked out Middle field. After trying, and failing, to photograph an emperor dragonfly over the pond  I stopped in the small copse where I noticed a couple of birds moving in the canopy – one was a willow warbler and the other a pied flycatcher.  After waiting 20 minutes or so the pied fly finally came into the open and I managed a few shots.

Pied Flycatcher
After a coffee at the Obs I was going to check out the Elms again because a Ian had found a southern hawker in there when Martyn "B" Wilson turned up so I went back to Middle field with him.
As we entered the copse the pied fly showed immediately then disappeared but this time Martyn spotted there was a wood warbler with it - turned out to be 2 year ticks for Martyn!. Over the next hour or so the wood warbler showed quite well in the trees above and around us but getting it in the open clear for a shot was tricky though a couple of record shots were achieved.

Wood Warbler
As I said at the start it’s a strange autumn – next to nothing around then something good turns up. Not up to the paddyfield I know but very welcome none the less.

On the subjecy of the Paddyfield, Ian sent the images to the Dutch Birding authorities who endorsed it being a Paddyfield. Perhaps it will feature in the official records after all.
After 48 hrs and 4 or 5 attempts I have finally managed to upload some images. I have no idea what was the problem and how it has been resolved.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Backsand Update

After several days of scouring bushes of the estate and finding very little to point the camera at it was back to Backsand this morning – being joined by Steve Ashton.
We arrived at the scrape about 2 hours before high tide (~ 10.45) but there was very little to be seen other than 30-odd mallard and a couple of green sandpipers and 2 black-tailed godwits. Slowly but surely  the waders accumulated and as high tide approached the final count reached 3 common  and 5 green sand, 30 redshank, 17 greenshank, 2 black tailed godwit, 10 lapwing and a snipe.
With the water level being so low everything was reluctant to visit the sandbank in front of the hide but eventually  3 greenshank, 1 snipe and a common sand all had a few moments close by which enabled some decent shots to be obtained. They were all very nervous when close to the hide and never stayed more than a few seconds.

Common snipe


Common sandpiper
The snipe spent a lot of the morning 20 to 30 yards from the hide and even posed on top of a post – I just wish it had chosen one of the closer ones.
No sign of the last weeks wood and curlew sandpipers unfortunately.
A brief update on the possible Paddyfield warbler.
The picture has been seen by quite a number of people now with the same result - all agree that it looks good for a paddyfield and often followed it up with the question "what else could it be". However..........I think it's unlikely to feature in the official records because not enough of the field marks are visible to clinch the id. It will feature on my Greater Kent list though because I make the rules as to what does/does not qualify.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Paddyfield Warbler at Sandwich?

A very quiet session around the SBBO recording area was suddenly made interesting when a acrocephalus was spotted in the Cellars.
The bird was only in view for a few seconds and I fired off only 3 shots before it disappeared and wasn’t seen again despite us hanging around for a while and me returning later in the day for another hour or so
Whilst I was trying to get some shots both Ian and Andrew from the obs were observing the bird.
The bird was 40 or so yards away so the images are not good but a strong supercillium can be seen extending behind the eye with a darkish eye stripe; the only acro that we know has these features is a Paddyfield Warbler.

The pictures aren't great so I’ll leave you to make up your own mind:
The only other birds of note today were 2 wheatears on the beach, a yellow wag on the beach plus another 4 by Restharrow scrape and a black redstart in the beachside gardens.

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Curlew Sand at Backsand

A quick stop at Restharrow scrape (1 garganey and 2 green sands) and the Elmes (nothing) then it was off to Backsand(again).

The walk down was pretty uneventful other than a Cetti’s warbler by Newdowns reservoir and 6 grey partridge along the track then it was just a matter of sitting in the hide and waiting for the tide to come up and push the birds onto the scrape.
When I arrived at Backsand there were only 3 common and 5 green sands but their numbers slowly increased peaking at 5 and 9 respectively. It was during one of the repeat counts that I found that a curlew sandpiper had joined the green sands,  to the right of the hide. Itwas a adult bird undergoing moult. I sat patiently waiting for it to come closer but it steadfastly refused to do so.

Curlew Sandpiper
The wait wasn’t totally uneventful because 2 little ringed plovers turned up and whilst these came closer than the curlew sand they too wouldn’t come close enough for a decent picture.

Little Ringed Plover
About 2 hours before high tide greenshanks started to come onto the scrape and once their numbers had swelled to 11 the curlew sand decided there was safety in numbers and went to join them - about as far away from a hide as it’s possible to get!  As high tide approached shanks of both kinds continued to come in and were joined by a black-tailed godwit; the final counts for the shanks being 23 green and 10 red.


One bird turned up that had me scratching my head for a minute   redshank sized but with yellow-orange legs  - until I remembered that juvenile redshanks have yellow -orange legs.
As the day progressed the birds came increasingly lethargic with only the common sands showing any inclination to come close. Luckily one decided it wanted to have a rest right in front of the hide and sat in a slight depression for quite a time before standing up and having a shriek or two.

Common Sandpiper
Other than the waders mentioned above there were 2 little egret,  ~ 10 lapwing, and 3 oystercatchers plus a family of mallard and the moorhens are still producing chicks.
The water levels are getting really low now and I hate to say it after the summer we have "enjoyed" but Backsand urgently needs several inches of rain. From a photographic perspective the problem is the channel between the photographic hide and the mud is now so narrow that very little will come along the edge of the mud – it is just too close to the hide. Today not even the green sands would venture along it, nor would the LRPs.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Backsand Update

Today’s walk around the estate was poor compared with yesterday with only 6 willow warblers (30 yesterday), no garden warblers( 3 yesterday) and no whinchats (2 yesterday). However there were a lot of green woodpeckers  - somewhere around 8 on the estate and another 2 at Newdowns.
Restharrow scrape was devoid of waders but several corn and reed buntings plus a yellow wagtail or two provided some entertainment.
At 10.00 I set off for Backsand arriving at 10.30; high tide being about 11.30. When I arrived a lot of the birds were already in situ. Very distantly there were 23 green shank and 6 redshank and that’s where they stayed for most of the session. On arrival there were 3 or 4 green sands and their numbers steadily increased as the high tide grew near peaking at 12. The peak count of common sand was only 4 but more welcome were the 2 black-tailed godwit and a short staying whimbrel.

Black-tailed godwit

The water is very low now with only a small channel between the hides and the mud bank. Whilst this provides the potential for the birds to get close they are very skittish near to the hide and often sprint past making photography a little problematic (especially when the clouds gather and shutter speed drops). One green sand did have the good grace to stop and poreen quite close though.

Green Sandpiper
One common sand also spent a few minutes quite close and allowed decent shots of it’s feet. I have burbled on about the palmations that common sandpiper s show between the outer toes previously and these shots show it quite well:

Common Sandpiper

Common Sand's feet plus palmations
Of the other birds just a few mallard and shelduck,  2 little egret, 2 oycs, 1 little grebe and a few lapwing.
The walk down and back (in light rain) provided little in the way of entertainment though I did find 6 mistle thrushes on the wires near the entrance to St George’s