Sunday, 7 February 2016

Going Dutch. (For a Siberian Rubythroat)

After seeing Martin Casemore's images of the Siberian Rubythroat in Hoogwoud, a small village about 50 kilometres north of Amsterdam, plans were made for another foray into Dutch territory on a "twitch". Remembering back to two years ago and how good our last Dutch twitch was for the Northern Hawk Owl at Zwolle, our hopes were dashed when the weather put paid to any plans to go and were left simmering on the back burner. A window for last Tuesday and Wednesday (2nd and 3rd ) looked a possibility, the forecast not great but certainly a little better than the preceding week. A check Monday on, a Dutch Birdguides/RBA type of web site, told us the bird was still present so train tickets were booked and three of us, Steve Ray, Alan Ashdown and myself, Martyn Wilson unfortunately having work commitments, left Folkestone on the 01.27 am train English time arriving in Hoogwoud at first light, about 07.30 am Dutch time (a four and a half hour drive from Calais). A grey and dull morning but luckily no rain as we set about finding the alley that hopefully would reveal the Rubythroat. Two Dutch birders already on site gave the location away and 10 minutes after arrival, I clapped eyes on my first Siberian Rubythroat. A bird high on my "really want to see" list, as is I am sure a lot of people's. The first image I got was at 07.29am, f4, iso 2000 giving me a super fast shutter speed of 1/160. Not that the conditions improved for much of the morning really.

It was not long before a few more birders/photographers arrived and the top of the alley soon became congested but soon after one of the two Dutch guys got out of his small portable chair, explaining that he was a birder and could see the bird easily from the back. He then gave me his seat, right at the front and much to the bemusement of Steve and Alan. (it's not what you know, it's who you know lol) The bird skulked about in the undergrowth, similiar behaviour to a Dunnock but was periodically tempted out from the undergrowth and onto a log baited with a few hidden meal worms. Whilst out in the open we had our chance to get a few images.

We carried on with the bird for 3 to 4 hours, the light slowly getting a little better, (a very small little) and we all agreed what a stunning looking bird we had in front of us and a worthwhile journey undertaken. We also knew there were reports of a Bufflehead and Lesser Scaup a few miles north of Hoogwoud, so we drove up, easily finding the two pools where the Scaup had previously been seen but although reported that day we could not find it. The same was for the Bufflehead which was reported in a large marina type complex just north of the two Scaup (or should I say non Scaup) pools, the strong wind driving the ducks to cover in the reed edged waters and away from our gaze. We did see several pairs of Goldeneye, Smew and Goosander's but they kept their distance. The only birds that were close were the Cormorants and there were plenty of them.

Because we travelled through the night to Amsterdam with no sleep, it was decided to have a stopover, 1 night at a rather plush hotel in a small town named Schoorl on the western sea side edge of the peninsular about 8 miles from the Rubythroat. We struck lucky here as it was only £37 for the night, superb value and the evening meal (extra) was top class. The preceding night with no sleep caught up with me and I was in bed counting Sheep Rubythroats before 9 pm but awake and kicking my heels at 3 in the morning.

Our rather swish hotel and comes highly recommended.

The next morning after checking out of the hotel at 7.00 am, Steve the navigator decided to take us on a tour of Holland, eventually stumbling on the road back to Hoogwoud but I think, more by luck than judgement. A cup of coffee in a garage on the outskirts of town, (the spicy sausages were lovely Alan) and then we were back with the Rubythroat. The light was better and we actually had a little bit of sunshine but I am not too sure this helped, the alley now cast in shadows. At one stage the Rubythroat flew into a tree and just a metre away from a cat, but as the cat edged nearer to the bird, a Dutch guy intervened and unceremoniously got shot of the cat. 

On the odd occasion the Rubythroat would fly into a nearby bush and start singing, even I could hear it. It was only a matter of a few feet in front of us, very close and we were able to get some close up shots of the bird

There were other birds that took advantage of the meal worms. Several Great and Blue Tits were seen, a Robin that only ever wanted to scrap with the Rubythroat, Blackbirds and a Song Thrush. I took a couple of shots of the Song Thrush, a bird I do not see as much as in the past.

We left Hoogwoud just before noon (Dutch time) for home, the only hold up, an accident in the Kennedy tunnel around the Antwerp ring road, but that only took 20 minutes to get through. We encountered some heavy rain on the way but arrived in Calais in plenty of time for our train back to blighty. The only hiccup of the whole trip was at the tunnel with bureaucracy, but big companies do seem to attract knob heads to run them, a fact of life.

Thanks to Steve and Alan for.............................well thanks,  and also to Martin Casemore for info gleaned from his trip to see the Rubythroat the preceding week.

 A few more images from the Hoogwoud Siberian Rubythroat, a star bird.

And finally something typically Dutch and just around the corner from the Rubythroat.

Monday, 25 January 2016

Ramsgate Harbour for a Great Northern Diver

A Great Northern Diver has found a liking to the outer basin of Ramsgate harbour, having taken up residency for at least the past three weeks and finding food in abundance judging  by results witnessed on my three visits over the past week. Whilst there, the bird tended to frequent an area in front of the life boat station and although the Diver was always aware of our presence, after a time it came very close on occasions.

As mentioned above, it was pretty successful in finding food, continually diving and staying underwater for what seemed an age before surfacing with its catch. Guessing where it would surface was a slight problem.

Crab for starter's.

Plaice for main's.

Also noted in the outer basin were a couple of Rock Pipits and a pair of Kingfishers. I managed a shot of a female Kingfisher, (the other one was a male) as she sat on a twig sticking out from the basin wall and undetected by the passer by's just a few feet above.

On the way home from my first visit with the Diver, I called into Grove Ferry where 2 Short-Eared Owls were seen in the late afternoon sunshine. As the sun sunk below the horizon a pair of Barn Owls appeared and although too dark for photo's, I leant against a 5 barred gate and just watched them quartering the wet meadow between the Harrison's and Middle Droves. A Great White Egret passed overhead, westward, looking for a roost.

I returned to Ramsgate harbour again last Saturday morning (24th) in the company of Tim Gutsell and Mike Gould. After a few words with the lifeboat station volunteers and a few quid slipped into the lifeboat collection tin, we were allowed down onto the floating pontoon where we were then level with the bird, although we then had the added problem of the pontoon moving about in the swirl of the water. A much better angle and a few more images were taken of  the Diver as it swam past continually diving for food. A nice morning spent under a warm winter's sun and an obliging Diver sometimes just a few metres out in front of us.

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

The Brute of the Beach. (Dungeness)

Last Friday (15th) I decided to go to Dungeness to try and twitch the first winter Glaucous Gull, found a couple of days prior and seemed to like the area around the fishing boats by the point. Stopping en route at Sainsbury's, I stocked up with four loaves to entice the Gull if it was still present. A brief scan of the gulls roosting by the "fish hut" on the road into the estate revealed the long staying 1st winter Caspian Gull, viewed and photographed from the car as there were other observers watching the bird from the road side (courteous photographer). A very smart looking Herring Caspian Gull.

Parking up, I then walked down to the sea by the fishing boats, meeting Phil Smith, and we both scanned the tide line in hope of  getting the Glaucous but no luck. Walking back down the beach, Martin Casemore waved us over, indicating he was with the Glaucous Gull but as we arrived the gull was spooked by a fisherman returning to his car. Martin tracked the Gull down the beach in the direction of the patch and it landed somewhere in the vicinity of the new lighthouse, so the three of us followed on until we saw our quarry lying on the shingle in the company of a small group of Herring Gulls.

Armed with the 4 loaves of Kingsmill finest, this ensured the Glauc arose from its static posture to take advantage of the free meal and at the same time giving us an opportunity to get a few images as it jostled with the accompanying Herring and Great Black-backed Gulls for a slice of the action.

When this close to a Glaucous Gull and also when they are standing alongside Great Black-backed Gulls, you appreciate just how large they are, so large they need to run along the shingle to build up a head of steam before they are able to take off. Big and brutish but nice all the same. 

Friday, 15 January 2016

2016, Up and last !!

I have not had the chance to use the camera for a while now, a slow start to the new year. The weather and light has been truly awful and with social commitments and an all round loss of photography enthusiasm, I have only managed a quick sortie to Grove/Stodmarsh which was very quiet, the camera remaining tucked away in the bag. A few visits to various woodlands in and around Blean has enabled me to open my 2016 image account, off which a few are posted below.

Marsh Tit.

Coal Tit.