Saturday, 19 July 2014

Oare Marsh in the heat (18/07/14)

I visited the reserve at Oare on Friday afternoon, (18th) with the tide reaching its height during my stay which was more luck than judgement as I had neglected to check. Thinking about it now, I am sure that it is my first visit to Oare this year, struggling to recall any other visits during 2014, which is a little strange considering its normally one of the better places to visit around East Kent. (I must make more of an effort) It was hot, very hot and all I did was sit on the bench by the pull in along the road and try for a few images of whatever was close enough to snap. The reeds were partially blocking the nearside mud, making it difficult so I put the extender on and tried for a few images of birds a little further out. I had read on the Oare sightings page of the KOS that there was an adult Bonaparte's Gull present and I picked it out on the east flood but it was too far out for any images. Best of not much in truth were 6 Whimbrel flying in from the Swale and over the west flood, a couple of Common Sandpipers, close in but always partially hidden by the reeds, a few nice looking Ruff and some smart looking Summer dressed Black-tailed Godwits that were just in range of the lens with the 1.4 extender added. The obligatory Avocets were also close in, chasing off everything in there path.

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Peregrine Falcons.

A chance encounter with a family of Peregrines over the weekend.

Superb birds.

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Popping in to Ashdown Forest see the Short-toed Eagle.

Along with Alan Ashdown, I spent another couple of days in Pembrokeshire in Wales. (More on that later) !!!!! Maybe. On the way home on Wednesday afternoon we called by the Ashdown forest, a stone's throw from the M.25 and just a few miles south of East Grinstead to see if we could catch up with the Short-toed Eagle that has been in the area for the past few days. Lots of scopes and lenses waiting on our arrival, all hoping to get views of the bird but news was that it was being viewed from another car park at Gills Lap, a couple of miles away. After an hour the bird was picked up flying into view from the south, where it landed in a Pine tree and spent an hour sitting and looking around. Once the Eagle alighted, we were able to get a few shots as the bird circled, gaining height, climbing until it was just a speck in the sky and drifting off south again. Apart from fleeting views of a White tailed Eagle seen sitting on a fence post alongside a motorway in Holland as we sped by en route to the Hawk Owl, this is the only other Eagle I have ever seen. The size of the bird surprised me a little and well worth the detour on our homeward journey. My best bird of the year so far.

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Our Welsh jolly. (all the parts in 1 as there's not that much)

Our jolly this year was back to the Élan valley in Wales. A growing number of 8 bodies set off from my house at 6.00am on Sunday morning (25th May) in a hired 9 seater mini bus. The cast was made up of Tim Gutsell, Peter Hemmings, Martyn Wilson Steve Ray, Alan Ashdown and yours truly with two new members in the form of Sue Morton and Pauline McKenzie Lloyd. This is the first time that we have had ladies join us for our jolly and concerns over adult humour, industrial type language and boisterous behaviour were completely unfounded as the two girls were on their best behaviour and a pleasure to share the week with.
The weather in truth was a let down apart from 1 day where we had to search out the sun. Most mornings we awoke early to a fine drizzle, then were left with low cloud cover throughout the remainder of the day, making it difficult for photography. All of the expected species were seen if not photographed and our group species tally for the week was 98, thanks to the girls listing as we went. When we got out of the bus we drifted off in different directions which worked well for all of us and even with 8 in the group we were never in each other's way. (except for Tim, Martyn and I spooking a Dipper that Steve and Alan had sat patiently for in the Otter hide at Gilfach) ) Gigrin farm was visited where the Red Kite numbers seemed well over 300, tag number 51, the Leucosticte Kite was seen and photographed by me for my third successive visit but Common Buzzard and Raven numbers seemed poor. The light was far from ideal but a few usable images were obtained as we spent an afternoon in the top photographic hide.

The same bird with those awful wing tags gone.

We visited the other Kite feeding station at Bwlch Nant yr Arian (I haven't a clue if that's right, I copied it from Steve Rays blog) but that was a dead loss. The Larch trees had some sort of disease and have all been grubbed out making for a pretty poor reserve. If you can imagine a forest with no trees then that's Bwlch Nant yr Arian. They still feed the Kites there but we only stayed for 30 minutes and 25 of them were spent in the cafe with Steve Ray as the others walked around the reserve footpath. A few Siskin's were on the feeder outside of the cafe and I pointed the camera at a few of them in the surrounding foliage.

Tuesday 27th and after detailed scouring of weather maps and pressure charts, the weather for Powy's, our part of Wales was dire but Skomer and the south west of Wales looked good.  A 100 mile each way trek on winding welsh roads plus a 15 minute boat ride saw the group spending the day on Skomer Island in shirt sleeves under the warm  Spring sunshine. Unfortunately the Puffins were still on eggs so not many birds were flying in and out and no images of Puffins with bills crammed full of sand eels. However the sun shining made up for this and we all managed Puffin images as they sun bathed outside of their burrows and occasionally they would get up for a fly around the bay that their burrows overlooked.

Late morning and the Puffins then become difficult to photograph as you are now looking into the sun so I strolled along the footpath to the farm area of the Island where 3 minutes looking for the Blyth's Reed Warbler and the Black headed Bunting reported over the past few days got boring so I returned to the landing stage where on our last visit we were able to get a few decent images. Steve, Alan, Martyn, Pete and Tim all had the same idea and we spent the rest of our time on the island here. We had to catch the 3.00pm boat which was earlier than our last visit and consequently the sun had not moved around enough so we were not able to get the Puffin flight shots that we envisaged but all in all it was not too bad a day. There were plenty of Guillemots and Razorbills with the Puffins here as well.

 The rest of our time in Wales was spent local to our hotel, the Élan Valley hotel which unsurprisingly is situated in the heart of the Élan Valley. We visited Gilfach, once a cracking nature reserve but not so good now, where we were able to get a few images of the local woodland birds.

About a 20 minute drive from our hotel we found the nest site of a pair of Ospreys. Viewing from a respectable distance and in the company of a Ranger whom was there to oversee proceedings, we all watched as the male bird came in carrying a large Rainbow Trout. Obviously no pictures but seeing the Ospreys were probably one of the highlights of the week. (Along with Steve Ray buying a round) Another target bird for us was Wood Warbler. We found several along the wooded slopes along the River Élan and a few were most obliging. One we periodically re visited throughout the week never stopped singing and in spite of the poor light a few decent record shots were gained.

I was surprised that we never saw or heard any Barn Owls throughout the week, but Tawny Owls could be heard regularly. Alan had an encounter with one sitting on a fence post as he was following a Redstart and Tim, Martyn and I saw one sitting on a telegraph pole as we drove the lanes very early on our last morning. This image was taken at 6 o clock in the morning, high iso's, no shutter speed and hanging out the bus window with the engine off and slowly coasting down a hill.

So that is that, another jolly been and gone. The weather could of been better, the Mini Bus was a great idea, 8 bods with luggage and still nearly 40 to the gallon, Gilfach was shite, Skomer was okay, would of been better if the Puffins were feeding chicks but one of the wardens told us that the Puffins were three weeks late this year. A big thanks to Martyn, Steve, Tim, Pete, Alan, Pauline and Sue for the company and making it a memorable week.