So here is the scenario which I'm sure many of us have experienced. You enter a bird hide and one or more of the occupants says "There's a Bittern out here" (inwardly I think great ... that's one of the reasons why I came here today) and then one of two options ... either you are left to scan everywhere or you are given some sort of directions ... such as "It's in the reeds, over there on the right".
So above is the general view that greeted me out of a hide window at W.W.T. Barnes today and a similar greeting (as detailed above) from another visitor, who then waited a few moments before adding "Have you found it?". Well for anyone who knows what a Bittern looks like (it is one of the ultimate camouflage species) you then scan the reed margins for a slightly darker shape that is usually absolutely stationary within the similarly coloured reed stems.
It didn't take me long to locate my quarry but the dull overcast conditions and distance were far from ideal for my set up but I'll share these 'record' shots (heavily cropped) just to show how difficult this species can be to locate for the inexperienced.
One day I'll capture one out in the open on a nice sunny day ... lol!
Needless to say that when some other visitors joined me in the hide I was more than happy to provide them with far easier instructions in order to locate this winter visitor and one guy was overjoyed to get a close up view through my scope.
Of course there were plenty of other species on view including lots of Northern Lapwings plus a distant view of a single female 'red-headed' Smew.
Male Gadwall(Anas strepera) For more information on this species, please CLICK here.
Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata).
Well at least a couple of ducks came close enough for the lens before the dark clouds rolled in. The forecast doesn't look particularly promising for the next few days so I may have to revert to looking through some of last years images for the next post. FAB.
Unlike past years I haven't set myself any specific wildlife challenges apart from trying to obtain some better images but the January weather seems to have defeated me, so here is a brief synopsis of where and what I have seen so far this month.
My first patch walk at Epsom Common was on on the 3rd January and the fishing pond (above) was totally devoid of any life. Apart from a pair of Mallard, one Moorhen and a Grey Heron the only other avian activity on the main pond was four Cormorants. Over the past few weeks the woodland has been exceptionally quiet although I have seen a single Marsh Tit and plenty of Goldcrests seeking out food amoungst the snow covered undergrowth. A wander around the horse paddocks within Horton Country Park just two days ago produced over 180 Fieldfare plus a few Redwing and Mistle Thrushes feeding on the recently thawed pastures together with around a dozen Meadow Pipits.
A visit to Thursley Common with some friends very early in the month also didn't produce many wildlife sightings but we did have excellent views of a singing Woodlark plus Skylark and Reed Buntings but unfortunately no views of the Great Grey Shrike that has been around for most of the winter. The most unexpected sighting was of at least a dozen Coal Tits flitting and feeding through the stands of birches. The only occupants on the ponds were Mallard, Coot and Tufted Ducks.
A trip a bit further afield to Wraysbury Lakes on a bitterly cold day paid dividends with reasonable views of at least 2 male Smew, several Goosanders, plus good numbers of Common Goldeneye and a Kingfisher as it flew across the lake. On my way home I also stopped off at Staines Reservoir and located a Black-necked Grebe and a solitary Ruddy Duck (a distinct local rarity since the massive cull a couple of years ago).
A record (heavily cropped shot) in the late afternoon ..... Ruddy Duck.
On the 17th I spent four hours tramping around Papercourt Marshes with a group of 'Surrey Birders' and eventually logged around 35 species but the highlight was just as the light was fading when someone spotted the distinctive white uppertail coverts of a raptor quartering the marsh which we then identified as a female Hen Harrier (a first for me in Surrey). As dusk descended and the front of another rain storm closed in we were also treated to distant views of perched and hunting Barn Owls. On the 24th I took a stroll at Riverside Country Park and added Egyptian Geese and Water Rail to my January list to bring the total number of sightings up to just 72 species.
Hopefully in a few days as the frozen ponds begin to thaw some of the wildlife might return. FAB.
Way back in January 2009 I was fortunate to get close enough to a small group of feeding BLACK-TAILED GODWIT(Limosa limosa) at Farlington Marshes and managed a few reasonable digi-scoped images including one colour ringed individual.
I remember sending in a report of this sighting to the appropriate 'recorder' and received an acknowledgement and a promise to learn more about its history .... but was only told that it was ringed as a juvenile male at Farlington Marshes in September 2008. I was therefore somewhat surprised to receive an e-mail today .... some 3 years later .... which provided an updated history of this individuals' sightings up to the end of last year
Ringed 10 Sept 2008 Farlington Marshes LNR, Portsmouth, Hampshire, S England
18 Nov 2008 Pagham Harbour, Chichester, West Sussex, S England
19 Nov 2008 Pagham Harbour, Chichester, West Sussex, S England
17 Jan 2009 Farlington Marshes LNR, Portsmouth, Hampshire, S England
12 July to 6 Sept 2010 Oare Marshes Nature Reserve, Kent, SE England
29 Nov 2010 Langstone Bridge, Hayling Island, Hampshire, S England
15 Dec 2010 Langstone Bridge, Hayling Island, Hampshire, S England
29 Jan 2011 Langstone Bridge, Hayling Island, Hampshire, S England
26 Mar 2011 Maldon, Blackwater Estuary, Essex, E England 25 Apr 2011Melasveit, Borgarfjarðarsýsla, W Iceland
31 Oct 2011 Motney Hill, Medway Estuary, Kent, SE England
30 Dec 2011 Hayling Bridge, Langstone Harbour, Hayling Island, Hampshire, S England
02 to 11 Feb 2012 Hayling Bridge, Langstone Harbour, Hayling Island, Hampshire, S England
30 Dec 2012 Pagham Harbour, West Sussex, S England
30 Dec 2012 North Wall, Pagham Harbour, West Sussex
Whilst I wasn't surprised to learn that this wader has generally stayed faithful to the area around Langstone Harbour where it fledged, apart from spending some time at Oare Marshes in Kent (Summer 2010), there has been one sighting reported from outside the UK when this bird decided to migrate to Iceland in 2011.
I wonder where it will be seen next? I am looking forward to returning to Farlington Marshes next month on a birding day with a few friends from the Surrey Bird Club. FAB.