Thursday, 24 September 2015

Red-footed falcon

Wednesday 23rd September.

The rifle range this morning was pretty quiet on the migrant front with nothing more interesting than  a couple of chiffchaffs, The local residents were a little more cooperative with 2 ravens, a peregrine and a kestrel being seen.

Around the public loos was a 30-odd strong band of warbles but these were mainly chiffs; just 2 blackcaps and 2 uncooperative goldcrest, The variation in chiff plumage never ceases to amaze me and I was snapping away happily when something different showed.....the excitement was short lived - it wasn't an rare warbler but a spotted flycather. Most unexpected.

Earlier in the day I had received a text saying a pallid harrier had been seen on Worth Marsh but had disappeared south. I'd ignored that but now I got a call from Ian saying they had found a juvenile red-footed falcon near Roaring Gutter that was in photographic range. I've only seen red-footed falcon a couple of times and then only at extreme range so it was a no brainer. I was off.

Fortunately the bird hadn't moved by the time I arrived and whilst not close (~ 60 yards away) it was sunny and the light was behind us.
I've posted a few shots on Flickr but here a several more.

After an hour or so the falcon took to the air had a hover then landed further away so I called it a day.
A good day at the office.

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

La Brenne September 2015

Ashtours didn't have a spring trip this years so after a lot of thought and study by the research department (ie Steve seeing John Ball's pictures on Flickr) it was decided to have a jolly down to La Brenne (TG, MW, SA and myself). Whilst we were hopeful of seeing some good birds (and getting some pictures) autumn is not the best time to visit La Brenne so this was somewhat of a scouting trip with the main event being next spring.
Due to travel disruptions at Eurotunnel we decided to use Eurostar to Paris, across Paris by taxi then TGV to Tours where we picked up a hire car.
It was here that things became interesting. Steve had chosen the budget option:

....................and Tim hasn't quite caught onto the travelling light concept especially when 4 guys plus camera equipment have to fit into a hire car rather than  Pickfords lorry.

Tim's case alongside mine.

Birding began almost immediately we left Tours as Martyn had been told of place where little bustard breed in spring....though it seems  they are not there in the autumn. In the same area we spotted a black redstart on a sign post and on a nearly bush I spotted a possible melodious warbler. We turned round to get closer.
It was at this moment Steve decided to try a new technique he's been developing for attracting bird close enough to photograph - leaning on the car horn. The results of this trial were unequivocal - both birds buggered off! We won't be trying that again.

We took the scenic route to our ultimate destination (St Gaultier) stopping at a number of etangs to have a look and take pictures of anything to hand.
We were only there 4 nights and we had rain everyday - sometimes quite a lot but we found a few etangs (plus associated hides) that looked good for photography though most of the target species were long gone (black necked grebe, whiskered tern on the lakes. Melodious warbler and red backed shrike in the scrub/woods).

What was around in abundance were buzzards (especially in the area north of La Brenne), great white egrets (everywhere both on the lakes and in the fields) and cattle egret (not everywhere but when we saw them they were nearly always in flocks of 20 to 30 birds).

Kingfishers were also common and were seen on most bits of water we looked at for any length of time.

Birding highlights were:-
Black stork (saw 4)

Short-toed eagle (saw 2 or 1 twice on different days).

Ospreys (several including 2 on Etang de la Gabriere)

and my personal highlight middle spotted woodpecker (3 at Etang de Bellbouche car parks)

Etang de Bellebouche also allowed us to spend an hour or two with black redstarts - they were everywhere from adults to freshly fledged youngsters with the youngsters being very confiding (or stupid!). They had their favourite perches and even if you standing close by it was not going to stop them using it.

Whilst most of our time was spent looking at lakes and wetlands we did spend an hour or so in a patch of woodland leading to one of the hides where we saw marsh tit, nuthatch, firecrest and short-toed tree creeper but it was wet and dark and the photography challenging.

Most of the time was actually spent around the Maison de Nature and it's associated hides mainly photographing heron sp. but a few other things turned up.

More pictures appear on my Flickr site.

As always these trips are great fun and I'm looking forward to the real event next spring - we've already booked the hotel!

Sunday, 6 September 2015

5th September:Today I was mainly photographing cuckoos

Well a cuckoo actually. A juvenile that had been present at Kingsdown for a few days.

The bird was first seen/reported on the 2nd by Gary when I was off wearing my camera out taking pictures of a long-eared owl.

I'd not seen it during the next day or two so was rather surprised when I arrived on site to find Steve Raynaert taking photos of it high up on the cliff face.
Most of the cuckoos being tracked by the BTO are now south of the Sahara with the first arriving there on the 11th July! The birds being tracked are all adults however so just how late this juvenile is in departing I don't know.
The good news is that it is finding plenty to eat in the form of caterpillars feeding on the sea kale. It flies from clump to clump and within a few seconds finds one. I must have seen it eat over 20 whilst watching it this morning.

Steve and I watched the thing for about an hour as it moved around the cliff face though most of the time it was pretty high up and would be very easy to miss. Occasionally the jackdaws took exception to it and chased it around for a minute or two.

Eventually we lost sight of it and Steve went off to search for hoopoes and I went to have a look around the public loos for warblers etc finding chiffchaff,  willow warbler, blackcap and lesser whitethroat.

I don't have long on Saturdays so by the time I'd finished at the loos I only had a hour or so left so I went back to try again with the cuckoo. A very good decision as it turns out.

I re-found it on the fence (another shot to add to the numerous species photgraphed on this fence) then it moved onto the cliff face to continue feeding this time quite low down.

I didn't see it today (Sunday) though I did find a spotted flycatcher near the loos.

Friday, 4 September 2015

2nd - 4th September

The week  has continued to be productive for the camera.
The 2nd started with a bang with me still at home when I got a call informing me of a long eared owl out in the open near the Observatory. I quickly clambered into some cloths and shot out leaving my first cup of coffee untouched. As it happens I needn't have rushed.

On arrival the owl was still there and  Ian was standing on guard. The bird was only partially in the sun and the background was very dark so it took quite a few shots to get the exposure about right (-2 or so for those interested).

I stayed there for the next 2 hrs taking shots at different exposures, different ISO settings and from slightly different positions. I was determined to not mess this up. Throughout the stay the bird was never completely in the sun but I was sure I could get some decent images.

Birders and photographers came  and went, joggers were intercepted and asked to walk past and walkers were offered binoculars to get a close up view.

Eventually (and probably 500 shots later) I departed and walked the normal circuit but not much posed for the camera other than a whinchat (a bit closer but still not close).

On completion of the circuit I went back to the owl and was glad I did. It was now completely in the light and the passing clouds meant I could get some shots under different conditions.

Here's a few examples.

Thusday  followed my now slightly modified routine - first  Kingsdown then a wander around the Chequers in case the hoope shows then on to Sandwich.

Nothing at Kingsdown but at the Chequers I first found a cooperative spotted flycather who sat preening in front of me for several minutes then a little later, with Phil Smith, 2 somewaht less cooperative pied flycatchers.

Friday saw a small fall of warblers at Kingsdown with 12-15 chiffs and about half that number of blackcaps being present plus a male peregrine and kestrel put in an appearance. There also seemed to be more jays than normal.

The Chequers area was very quiet and no one had seen the hoopoe though later in the day, whilst at the Obs, I was told it had flown across the road and onto the golf course late morning. The only thing of note was a small flock (21 birds) of siskins flying north.
At Sandwich only a few common ducks on the scrape but on the turf field south of Dickson's corner there were 4 whimbrel. Along the fence lines were small groups of whinchats, along the beach 4 wheatears and in the Cellars a redstart and a stonechat - the first stonechat I've seen for several months.

Warbler wise the Gullies and Elms were very quiet with only a sprinkling of the common warblers present though 2 more flocks of siskins went past (~30 birds in all).