Thursday, 6 December 2018

Jack Snipe

October 2018 saw a couple of jack snipe take up residence at Restharrow, Sandwich. For the first week or so they seemed to restrict their movements to a small area of reed stubble to the right of the hide and the adjacent wet/muddy areas. So despite seeing them every day for  over a week I still only had quite distant record shots  though it must be said a few others had enjoyed them being a little closer.

Common and Jack Snipe

On the 28th I turned up at Restharrow as normal and a quick scan of the stubble showed no sign of the jacks but a look left along the near bank showed one right out in the open:

It bobbed about down there (20-25 yards away) for quite some time then started to move.... for once towards the hide rather than away. This was a bird that was clearly not shy of the camera because it stopped for a wash and brush up so it would look it's best when papped.

After a short flight to the bank (I wasn't ready for that!) it finished off it's ablutions and continued moving closer to the hide, bobbing and feeding as it went.

It never did come right in front of the hide but got quite close and what's more the sun came out.

Eventually it moved away and that was it for the day; I wanted to find a yellow browed warbler or two.....but failed. Well I found some but never got the camera on one.

Next morning I was back at the scrape and the jacks were still in residence and this time both were in view, one to the left of the hide (where it was the day before) and one to the right over by the reed stubble but after a short wait they both started moving, very slowly, towards the hide.

After half hour of mentally trying to urge the snipe to come closer they both did, actually crossing over right in front of the hide but only being "in shot" for the briefest of moments - it's amazing how fast they can move whilst bobbing when they put their mind to it

Moving in opposite directions

Our luck was in however as both turned round and eventually fed alongside each other right in front of us.

Synchronised bobbing

They were in front of the hide for a few minutes though often obscured by the bank but eventually they decided they'd posed enough and scurried off, running back to their reed stubble.

That was the last decent session I had with them.
They remained around for another week or two but as far as I know never came in front of the hide again, restricting their activities to the stubbly area to the right. The hide was very busy during this period so perhaps the disturbance was too much for them. My attention switched to the white billed diver though I only got reasonable shots of it on the first day I saw it when it was around Botany Bay.

Sunday, 18 November 2018

Little Owls

For the last 2 summers I have been privy to the whereabouts of breeding little owls. Needless to say I have spent quite a few session near to their nesting hole hidden under camo netting waiting for the birds to show - either a chick coming out to view the outside world or an adult coming in.
The chicks have been amazingly indifferent to my presence but the adults have been far less confiding as a consequence my stays have been quite short. The few time I have seen the adults they were away from the nest hole.
The first year I went the chick (I only ever saw the 1) was quite advanced and able to fly even though it spent most of it's time dozing in the early morning sun. The second year I started seeing the chick (again only 1) at a much earlier age and stopped going before it reached near-adult plumage.

Adult shots.
I attended the site on several occasions hiding in amongst some trees where I could watch the breeding hole from a "safe" distance (~60 yards) and try to get a feel for where the birds liked to perch, how often they visited the nest, their line of approach etc. During these sessions absolutely nothing went near the hole but on a couple of occasions the bird found me:


Getting shots of the juvenile(s) was simply a matter of sitting near the nest hole under camo netting and waiting. At times I'm sure the camouflage was overkill in that a well used footpath and park bench was right beside my "hiding place" and the chick would just sit in the sun sleeping or watching walkers/dog walkers go wandering past.

Though it did react to the camera shutter and have a good look in my direction so I switched the camera to "silent mode".

A return trip a few days later saw the bird getting a little more adventurous...……...and less sleepy - well some of the time.

It  dropped down onto a ledge just below the hole for an explore.

Another 10 days lapsed before I returned and the owl was progressing well spending a lot more time on the ledge exercising.

That was my last visit for the year.

The previous year I had started visiting when the chick(s) was quite well advanced so from the perspective of bird age these shot compliment those posted above.
For several days I placed earthworms below the nest hole in the hope of getting a bird flying down to feed and eventually my patience was rewarded.

It spotted the worms.

….moved on to the ledge to be a little closer

Swooped down, picked up a worm and returned to it's hole before I could get a shot off.

A little later it again dropped to the ground but this time it had to hop a foot or so to pick the worm up. I managed 4 shots before it returned to the hole. Luckily the piece of ground with the worms was now in the sun.

As gefore it returned to the hole to enjoy it's breakfast.

That was my last visit that year.

In all the time I spent viewing the hole but never saw more than one little owl and I never managed the adult returning to the hole with food. Perhaps next year.

Thursday, 28 June 2018

Punta Leona, Costa rica (25th-31st March 2018)

I have already covered our first day at Punta Leona and our biridng "tour" with the resident bird guide. In this final post I'll cover what  I found over the course of our stay.

The Punta Leona estate is huge - it's 4 km from the accommodation to the entrance gate but much/most of the terrain is inaccessible and some that is accessible is near impossible to get around holding a camera and tripod. As a consequence places to bird are quite limited and many of those get  crowded even early in the morning.
Seen everywhere were the scarlet macaws as were great kiskadee and if you found something small flitting around chances were it was a chestnut side warbler normally in winter plumage or moult just to make id difficult. Hoffman's woodpecker was also common.

Great kiskadee

Hoffman's woodpecker

On the first morning with the guide we wandered around the area close to the reception area and down to the beach. This area is flat but a lot of it is covered with gardens and other facilities - spar, butterfly garden, maintenance work shops, swimming pool, supermarket and restaurants. The area wasn't that productive and most things you found were high in the canopy.

Behind our accommodation  was steep forested hillside and there was a short track into it that just petered out into a small open area. I wandered up here a couple of times and adopted the tactics of find somewhere in the shade and just wait for stuff to turn up. This was the most productive area I found  and I could even view some of this hillside from the seat outside our room.
Birds seen here included yellow headed caracara and broad winged hawk. A pair of rose throated becards were always present as were rufous naped-wren who were making a nest in the electricity wires.

Yellow-headed caracara

Broad-winged hawk

Rose-throated becard (female)

Streak headed woodcreeper, common xenops, social flycatcher, yellow-olive flycatcher, Baltimore oriole, red-legged honey creeper, buff throated saltator, and squirrel cuckoo were also seen in this area.

Squirrel cuckoo

Red-legged honeycreeper (female)

Plain xenops

Streak-headed treecreeper

Baltimore oriole

Buff-throated saltator
Social flycatcher

There was another track off the main road into the estate that looped above the maintenance workshops. I wandered this a couple of times but it wasn't very productive though it has to be said I never walked this track early morning, only in the afternoon when it was still hot.  Seen here were fiery billed aracari, streaked flycatcher, brown jay, great crested flycatcher, rose throated becard, golden hooded tanager

Fiery Billed aracari

Brown jay

Rose-throated becard

Birding from the main road was likewise not very productive in part due the near constant stream of traffic coming in and out of the estate and the large number of runners and walkers even at dawn. Seen whilst dodging the traffic were

Streaked flycatcher

Rose-breasted grosbeak

Chestnut-backed antbird

Red-billed pigeon

Just off the entrance road there were some marked hiking trails into the forest. I did try these out one morning but the terrain was so steep and difficult to walk (especially with a tripod) that I gave up after 100 yards or so.
Finally there was the beach area. I never did this early morning and at any other time it was very busy so I probably didn't get the best out of this area. It did however provide great views/photographs of Hoffman's woodpecker and scarlet macaw and I also saw palm tanager and inca dove. Pelicans and frigate birds could be seen out to sea but none came into the bay.

That's it. It was a great trip though I would do several things differently if I had the time again. What I wouldn't change was our time in the mountains with Miriam's and Savegra Lodge being fantastic as was the Tarcoles river trip. Now all I have to do is convince my wife we should go back!