Sunday, 27 March 2016

Patch Birds: The Coot.

A regular sight around the Great Pond on my local patch during Winter and Spring is the Coot (Fulica atra). Unlike some larger water-bodies they only ever appear in very small numbers with currently just a pair in residence.

 How they never seem to trip over their own feet I'll never know!

Monday, 21 March 2016

Mediterranean Gull.

During my visit to the old oyster beds on Hayling Island last week I finally managed to get some distant (cropped) shots of the Mediterranean Gull.

This east European seabird, once a rare visitor to the UK, has now become a widely established and nesting species after a somewhat long slow start. Its initial westward range expansion mainly occurred throughout the 1960's and 1970's with the first British breeding record on the south coast in 1968. However 20 years later there were only 16 nesting pairs which doubled by 1993 and in 2013 our summer population estimates were 600 pairs but with much larger winter visitor numbers. My first recorded sighting was in the Spring of 1996.

They are often found in the company of slightly smaller and less robust Black-headed Gulls, (two in the forefront above) which ironically have chocolate-brown summer hoods whereas the whiter-winged Med Gull actually has a jet black head during the nesting season, hence its scientific name Larus melanocephalus

Linking to:

Saturday, 19 March 2016

More Coastal Birding.

Whenever we visit my father-in-law on Hayling Island I usually manage to wangle an hour or two to wander part of the shoreline overlooking Langstone Harbour and yesterday I was able to extend my time by walking part of the 'Billy Trail'. With the tide well on the ebb most of the waders; Curlew, Godwit, Redshank, Dunlin, Grey Plover and Knot; were specks out on the expanding mudflats with large numbers of Brent Geese also seen flying to other parts of the harbour.

Looking inland this Little Egret was sitting quietly by the edge of a stream that crosses one of fields which is also often frequented by a Kingfisher but no sighting during this walk. A Common Buzzard (below) made a brief appearance overhead before disappearing beyond the nearby woodland.

With little else catching my attention I retraced my steps and made my way towards the old Oyster Beds with the strident calls of hundreds of gulls increasing in volume the closer I got to their nesting site. A month ago there were just a handful of Black-headed and one or two Mediterranean Gulls but now the colony was alive with activity as they jostled one another for their allotted spaces.

I will feature some additional images taken of the Mediterranean Gull in a separate post very soon. 

Close to the path I disturbed a Rock Pipit while out in the harbour I also spotted a pair of Shelduck and a single Red-breasted Merganser.

One of a pair of Brent Geese wandering around the edge of the tidal pool and close by a couple of Oystercatchers (below) were seeking out morsels from the muddy margins.

Now if my visit yesterday had coincided with a high tide I might well have experienced the joy of watching mixed gatherings of thousands of waders; usually Dunlin, Grey Plover, Redshank and Knot; taking refuge on the much depleted shingle shoreline. The images below were taken just about a month ago.

Linking to:
Saturday's Critters

Thursday, 17 March 2016

Sunday, 13 March 2016


The Dunnock (Prunella modularis), also known as the 'Hedge Sparrow', is described as a small, plain looking brown and grey member of the Accentors family that tends to go unnoticed as it nervously forages beneath bushes and shrubs both in gardens and the wider countryside.

However its drab plumage and quiet, unobtrusive manner belies its actual social and sexual behaviours which you can read more about HERE. [An article written by Mike Toms].

This species is also commonly ‘brood parasitised’ by the Cuckoo and way back in 2004 I was fortunate to witness a Dunnock feeding a juvenile Cuckoo in the gardens at RHS Wisley.

The typical lifespan of a Dunnock is only two years and their breeding season runs from March to August. I have recently started to hear its even pitch, shuttling song which is often described as sounding like a 'squeaking gate'.

Linking to: Wild Bird Wednesday.

Saturday, 12 March 2016

Coastal Birding.

Today I am raiding the recent archives for some more images of the birds seen during my visits to the coastal marshes around Langstone Harbour last month.

I enjoy watching large numbers of any species and the overwintering Dark-bellied Brent Geese always put on a good display as they fly in from their tidal roost to feed on the grazing marsh. Their gargling, guttural calls are very distinctive as they chatter amongst themselves while feeding. 

A very dapper looking goose.

The evocative call of a Curlew is another common sound as it passes overhead to seek out another feeding location.

A pair of Common Buzzard make a brief appearance, lazily floating above the marsh.

A lonesome male Teal makes its way across the harbour at high tide.

Little Egrets fly in and out of the reed fringed pools where they can be seen waggling their bright yellow feet to disturb their likely prey.

Linking to:
Saturday's Critters

Thursday, 10 March 2016

Birding through a clear eye.

Today I made my first outdoor sortie for a wander around Horton Country Park following the cataract surgery to my left eye on Tuesday. The Surgeon has dramatically improved my distance vision so it was quite an experience to be birding without wearing any spectacles. 

Pied Wagtail

A Pied Wagtail in one of the paddocks who couldn't decide whether to sit in the sun or the shade from the fence!

Still good numbers of overwintering Redwing moving between their woodland roosts and feeding spots in the horse paddocks.

Great Tit
I watched any number of Goldcrest flitting through the vegetation in Pond Wood without any chance of a photo but at least this Great Tit was far more obliging.

Every now and then the bird song died away as this Kestrel made a few forays along the woodland edge.

I'm linking to GOOD FENCES with this final image of a Blue Tit perched on one of the dilapidated woven hazel fences.

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Little Egret.

I distinctly remember my first UK coastal sighting of a Little Egret (Egretta garzetta) in the early 1980's when it was considered a rarity but now it would be a poor days birding if you failed to see any number both at the coast and many inland sites. All these images were taken during late February at Farlington Marshes LNR.

I'm always amazed at the patience these birds display while waiting for the right time to strike.

The moment of impact.

Time to move on and find a better feeding location!

Linking to: Wild Bird Wednesday.

Sunday, 6 March 2016

Fuzzy Focus.

Blue Tit hanging around.

Above is a prime example of not being ready with the right camera settings when the action happens AND this is also the fuzzy, out of focus, image that I have been seeing through my left eye for some time ... actually it is much worse than this!

I am booked in for cataract surgery early on Monday Tuesday morning so if all goes well without any unforeseen complications I am hopeful that my clarity of view with both eyes will soon be nearly as good as my camera's auto-focus.

March has arrived with a few more sunny but cold days interspersed  between the continuing blustery showers but this week I have not ventured very far from home. So here are just some of the birds that have come within range of the lens.

My first sighting of a Mistle Thrush (Turdus viscivorus) this year during a wander in Bushy Park on Thursday. Another species whose conservation status in the UK has been upgraded from Amber to RED! 

Close by its slightly smaller cousin the Song Thrush (Turdus philomelos) was joyfully singing.

As usual any opportunity to spend time with a Grey Heron (below) will always grab my attention and I have a few other images to share in a future post.

During a late morning walk on Friday around Horton Country Park I finally added another species to my local patch and current year lists, the Siskin (Carduelis spinus), one of our smallest finches. This was definitely a case of identifying them initially by the colour and pattern of their under bellies before spotting the single adult male with his black cap. They certainly tested my patience and focusing skills while acrobatically moving around the top of an Alder some 50 or so feet above my head seeking out the ripe seed heads. 

I logged a much smaller number of the overwintering Redwing (Turdus iliacus) feeding in the horse paddocks and only one individual (below) came close enough for a quick snapshot. Surprisingly this winter I have seen very few Fieldfare and only located one individual amongst the Redwing flocks on Friday.

Linking to:
Saturday's Critters
Nature Notes 

Friday, 4 March 2016

Mirror Image.

During a walk on Thursday, for once in bright sunshine, I came across this Grey Heron patiently stalking for a snack in small pool. With the dappled light on the water I thought it might make a decent subject for this weeks edition of  Weekend Reflections.

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

SBC Fieldtrip to Farlington Marshes.

As a follow up to my previous post 13 hardy souls joined me on Sunday morning, with the temperature hovering just a few degrees above freezing point and a very strong north-easterly wind, for the scheduled Surrey Bird Club walk around Farlington Marshes LNR.

Due to the weather conditions I didn't find many opportunities for additional photos during this walk so some inclusions are of those species seen but captured during my recce visit last week.

A scan over the extensive mudflats produced our first sightings, albeit distant, of six different waders.

Views around Farlington Marshes LNR.
The inland pool was nearly devoid of any water fowl but it did enable us to get much better views of the elegant male Northern Pintail in all it breeding finery.

Male Northern Pintail.

Trying to unsuccessfully get out of the gusty wind we followed the stream which enabled us to get reasonably close to the Brent Geese and plenty of Black-tailed Godwit, many beginning to show signs of their breeding colours.
Black-tailed Godwit with Teal. Brent Geese, Black-headed and Herring Gulls

Moving on to the eastern sea wall with the tide well on the turn provided more views of waders including Dunlin, Turnstone, Grey Plover, Ringed Plover and Oystercatcher. 

Grey Plover, Knot, Dunlin and Turnstone.

Scanning the inland marsh when a flock of Lapwing and other species took flight I spotted a very small falcon, probably a Merlin, but it disappeared before any of the group could see it!


Brent Geese, Pintail, Oystercatcher and Shelduck.
Along the western sea wall a couple of Pipits tested our ID skills as they flew up briefly and then disappeared back into the waterside vegetation. With perseverance we eventually identified them as Rock and a Water Pipit ... nice additions to the day list.

Finally a couple of images of the most numerous species seen throughout our walk the Dark-bellied Brent Geese.

List of my sightings:
Blackbird, Common Buzzard (2), Coot, Carrion Crow, Curlew, Dunlin, Little Egret, Black-tailed Godwit, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Dark-bellied Brent Geese, Canada Geese, Great Crested Grebe, Little Grebe, Black-headed Gull, Common Gull, Herring Gull, Grey Heron, Lapwing, Magpie, Mallard, Red-breasted Merganser, Merlin, Moorhen, Oystercatcher, Northern Pintail, Rock Pipit, Water Pipit, Grey Plover, Ringed Plover, Redshank, Robin, Shelduck, Northern Shoveler, Skylark (heard), Common Snipe, Starling, Stonechat, Teal, Turnstone, Wigeon, Woodpigeon, Wren. [44].

Linking to Wild Bird Wednesday.


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