Saturday, 26 September 2009

Tawny Owl & Woodlark at Frensham Great Pond.

I am not a great fan of joining large groups for a bird walk but today I accepted an invitation by Tony, a close birding friend, to join a local RSPB Group walk at Frensham Great Pond. Well as expected the 'members' were friendly BUT incessant chatting amongst a group of 25+ whilst trying to bird when the avian activity is sparse always tests my patience and I soon resorted to walking towards the rear of the pack.
Staring into bright sunshine across the Great Pond produced lots of Coot, Mute Swans and a few Great Crested Grebes with their stripey youngsters constantly calling. A single Lapwing flew over and through the wooded areas we located Robin, Chaffinch, Blue, Great & Long-tailed Tits, Goldcrest, Nutchatches calling incessantly, Great-spotted Woodpecker and Woodpigeon. On reaching a smaller pond we watched a pair of Common Buzzards climbing high into the sky on the mid-morning thermals and a Kingfisher darted across the water and disappeared out of sight.
At a road lay-by I was able to get this digi-scoped shot of a resting Tawny Owl partially hidden in the distant trees. Definitely the star bird of the day. (Please click to enlarge).
Throughout the damp wooded areas there were quite a few different fungi . These two were bigger than a dinner plate.
Our walk returned us back to the Great Pond where we located a Goldeneye (an early returning migrant in eclipse plumage), Pochard (a male & 2 females) plus a flypast by a Grey Heron. With most of the group heading back to the car park I spotted 2 birds drop onto the close-cropped heathland and start to search for food. The two distinctive features that immediately caught my eye were the short tail and the broad buffish-white supercillia that joins at the back of the head in a v shape.....Woodlark. I was soon rejoined by most of the group and we watched this pair quietly feed for some while getting great views using the scope of the exceptionally long hind claw. Once everyone moved on I attempted to get closer but only managed this single record short before both birds were disturbed by another walker!
The remainder of the day was spent in Jean and Tony's garden with Anita chilling out and discussing the possibility of a joint visit to Norfolk later this year.
Have a good week everyone. FAB .

Thursday, 24 September 2009


A quick snap taken at the end of our weekend stroll looking upriver towards the iron footbridge.
(Please click to enlarge)

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Weekend Stroll - Stoke Lake (Part 2)

Continuing from my previous post I gave up trying to photograph fast flying Dragonflies and Darters and stopped to enjoy the company of a family of Mute Swans that I spent time with last month. My attention then turned to a number of resident Mallards that were upending in order to feed. This is the rear end of a female.
I then watched a male having a 'splashing' time by constantly diving fully submerged and then re-appearing for a few moments before repeating the process.

He eventually stopped his diving activities to show me that he can also walk on water!
A little further long the waters edge we watched several pairs of Common Darters paired up, dancing just above the water, and ovipositing every so often. I tried desperatly to get a good clear image but this was the best showing their reflection and the ripple after the event.
When we stopped for a rest I noticed this Seven-spot Ladybird also resting nearby.
Other sightings (not photographed) were Great Crested Grebe, Black-headed & Herring Gull, Grey Heron, Magpie and Jay. Regretfully no sign of any Wagtails at the lock.
From the lock we made our way back along the river to the car park without any new sightings, but an enjoyable stroll in decent weather. FAB

Monday, 21 September 2009

Weekend stroll - Stoke Lake (Part 1)

The past week or so has been very topsy turvy at work so on Saturday we decided to take a stroll at Stoke Lake. We headed for the River Wey which was fairly busy with barges moving up and down plus canoeists and other walkers.
Very little wildlife on the water except lots and lots of Water Boatmen.
We scanned the wet pastures (now extremely dry) on the opposite side of the river but the only signs of life were a group of horses including this youngster closely chaperoned by a parent.
A few moments later a 'pterodactyl' flypast from the local Cormorants.
We followed the short boardwalk through a small area of damp woodland with the twittering calls of Blue Tits in the overhead canopy, a single Chiffchaff calling plus the warning sounds from a Wren. We then entered an open grassy area only to be surprised to find a group of cows quietly grazing. This youngster gave us a quick look before continuing to munch away at the grass.

Leaving the cows behind we headed to the lake. As you can see, not a lot of apparent activity. The 'tern' raft now abandoned by the Common Terns that visit each year is now seriously overgrown with weeds.
The only obvious inhabitants were Coot and Moorhens. For the next half an hour or so I watched Dragonflies and Darters urgently flitting back and forth along the reed fringed waters edge but never settling anywhere for a portrait photo! Part 2 will follow soon and include some of the other water users. FAB

Monday, 7 September 2009

Time for change.

The new header marks a forthcoming change in my life journey.

This Black-tailed Godwit was ringed as a juvenile last September at Farlington Marshes and I captured this and a few other images as it fed on the grazing marsh in January 2009. Hopefully this individual will have survived and has or will return in adult plumage.

Some of my readers will be aware that my job was at risk and having reviewed my options and with the agreement and support of my better half I have decided to take Voluntary Redundancy and will cease employment at the end of November.

So another chapter begins and I hear you ask "What will you do?".

Well nothing is written in stone but initially I will take a few months off; recharge my batteries; maybe catch up on that list of jobs that seems to get ever longer and hopefully take a few more "Early Birder" strolls to watch our winter wildlife and try to capture some decent images to share with you. After that, who knows, other opportunities may arise, a new chapter but definitely 'time for change'. FAB

Saturday, 5 September 2009

Farlington Marshes - A windy walk.

Set the alarm and then overslept but still managed the 2 hour drive to arrive at Farlington Marshes at 10 a.m. ahead of the high tide. Below is a view over the main pool, beginning to fill up with waders (Redshank, Black-tailed Godwits, Knot and a few Dunlin but no sign of any Curlew Sandpipers).

With little to see out on the mudflats apart from Herring & Black-headed Gulls, distant Curlews and Godwits I headed down towards the stream and while checking out the bushes for Blackcap, Greenfinch, Blue Tit, Green Woodpecker and Woodpigeon I also spotted this Migrant Hawker taking a rest.
On the stream were Greenshanks (10+), Black-tailed Godwits, Redshank, Coot, Moorhen, Gadwall, Shoveller, Teal, Mallard, Tufted Duck & Little Grebes. Lapwings over the reed beds and very distant Stonechats perched on fence posts. Returning back up onto the seawall path, with the tide now well up there were just a few dry spots for Oystercatchers and Grey Plover to rest.
After re-scanning the main pool and adding Shelduck, Mute Swan plus a fly-over Little Egret I was ready to continue my anti-clockwise walk to search for the Osprey that another birder said was out in the harbour when I spotted this perched Kingfisher. (Unfortunately not close enough for the camera to get a really good shot).
Heading out to the 'point' I added Cormorant before settling down to scan the very distant shingle islands. Well I found a large 'blob' but couldn't honestly say it was the Osprey. While I was delving in my rucksack for lunch a Peregrine Falcon invaded a small group of waders (Dunlin and Ringed-Plover) on a rocky outcrop in the water some 50 yards away. The action was so quick that I only had time for a couple of shots (without even time to check what setting the camera was on!) as it flew away low following the seawall.
If you look carefully you can just make out the head & tail of the Dunlin firmly grasped in its claws that would very soon become lunch.
Moving on towards 'The Deeps' where at least 12 Little Egrets plus a few Grey Herons sheltering in a gully, the wind got much stronger and my cap was torn off my head and ended up in the sea some 12 feet below me and totally out of reach. After this annoying distraction of watching the cap slowly sinking I turned to scan over the rough pasture and located a pair of Wheatear and a single Meadow Pipit.
Out on the sea were at least 15 Great Crested Grebes and a single Common Tern flew low over the water. Continuing my circuit a number of Swallows headed westwards into the strengthening wind and over the salt-marshes a large flock of Starlings erupted into the air.
Heading towards the Information Hut I met another birder who had just seen a Whinchat but had failed to get a photo. We started chatting and I discerned a hint of an 'Aussie' accent. (He had just returned from spending 10 years in Australia and was re-visiting places he birded before leaving the UK so I was able to bring him up to date with local sighting news.) We walked back up along the stream together without seeing anything new apart from a Whitethroat but talking as if we were old friends. Thanks for the company Kevin, hopefully we may bump into each other in the future.
Well the star bird of the day was a choice between the Peregrine and the Kingfisher and I did manage to get some closer shots of the Kingfisher using my digi-scoping set up so you can appreciate those beautiful colours.

With autumn migration underway I will have to return over the coming months. FAB

Friday, 4 September 2009

Garden Visitors

With the recent inclement and windy weather it has been very difficult to capture images of our regular garden visitors. First up is one of the Robins that posed one evening in the shelter of the pittosprum.
We have also been watching this other individual (one of this year's brood) who has a novel way of getting a snack from the fat feeder. He (or maybe a she) stands underneath the feeder and then launches VERTICALLY to peck and hopefully return to the ground with a tit-bit. I'm sorry this is not a brilliant pic but it was taken late in the day through the double glazed window.
And here is the same youngster having a well earned rest, perched in the hawthorn.
I'm pleased to report that the House Sparrows are back (both adults & juveniles probably from the 2nd or even 3rd brood) but their appetites are costing me a fortune in feed!
"If he filled this up it would be much easier to reach".
Collared Doves are also voracious feeders and regularly maintain a watch to check when the feeders are topped up.
Very few butterflies in recent weeks except regular forays by a number of Wood Whites. This one captured on a Hibiscus.
Fly overs include the daily movement of Gulls, usually fairly high up, and a increasing number of Canada Geese returning to their night roost on the pond at Epsom Common.
I hope everyone has a good birding weekend.........FAB.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Thursley Common - Wet & windy visit.

During my few days of enforced rest last week I made a mid morning visit to Thursley Common. The weather forecast was windy and showers but with the outside chance of catching up with a migrant Whinchat I thought I would chance it. When I first arrived the outlook was promising.
Within half an hour the sky changed quite dramatically as the first of a number of rain fronts moved through.
It wasn't long before the skies brightened and I nearly stepped on a basking Lizard who had already lost it's tail!
Then another individual allowed a quick snap before it disappeared on hearing my footsteps.
During another brief shower I sought shelter beneath a stand of pines and heard then saw a male & female Stonechat but once the rain abated they disappeared into the undergrowth. Behind me and hidden from view a Green Woodpecker uttered it's unmistakable 'yaffle'. I then made my way to a small field in the centre of the common and while listening to the sounds of Blue and Great Tits a Small Copper alighted very briefly for one quick shot.
A few Bees were actively feeding on the abundant Ragwort.
A few Teasel heads still standing.
In the middle of this rough pasture an elderly piece of machinery stands rusting through the seasons.
Exiting out of the gate you can just see the colour of the new heather beginning to recolonise after one of the largest fires some years ago.
Following a path alongside the field I caught sight of the unmistakable 'balloon' flight of a Flycatcher regularly returning to the same resting position. In order to get a shot I had to move out of the shade and protection of the overhead canopy onto the heathland and stealthily crept closer and closer but in full view of my prey. This image is cropped but does confirm that this is a juvenille Spotted Flycather (another first for this year).
Now well past midday it was time to head back towards the car park following one of the many sandy tracks.
Power lines cross the common providing perches for all manner of birds (but not on this occasion) and a navigational aid for yours truly providing I can remember which numbered pylon is where!
Whilst difficult to locate amongst the grasses this Black Darter eventually ceased its erratic flight pattern to rest briefly.
Finally I had fairly good views of a hunting Kestrel through the bins but it never got close enough to have its portrait taken. Another time perhaps.
Well as you can probably guess, no sighting of the Whinchats seen on a previous day but there is always next year! FAB


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