Sunday, 24 May 2015

France (again) It's getting to be my local patch !!

Another spur of the moment decision to go to France, this time the tour bus packed to the rafters with the company of Martyn Wilson, Steve Ray, Alan Ashdown and Steve Ray. A tight fit in my little Ford Fiesta but it was not uncomfortable. (Well not for me anyway, I was in the front driving) We arrived early at Folkestone and boarded the train due to leave 15 minutes before our expected departure time but ended up arriving 15 minutes after the train we should of caught, due to a communications problem with our early train. A sort of poetic justice there but it was only 15 minutes lost in real time. We stopped first by the area where we saw the four Savi's Warblers on our last visit, this time finding none but did see Great White, Cattle and Little Egret in the space of 5 minutes and also seeing a female hepatic Cuckoo being chased off by a Meadow Pipit across the marsh, the Pipit obviously not taking too kindly to the possibility of another mouth to feed, and a large one at that. Then it was on to a new reserve for us at Grand-Lavier, a newly constructed series of large pits that had been dug out and screens placed periodically around the perimeter to view what was on the water. In fairness, there was quite a bit out there but a scope was needed to see it, preferably a Hubble. It was distant and the viewing was somewhat hampered by the grass and vegetation that has been allowed to grow up over the holes cut into the screens for viewing. Obviously they have not collected enough 6 Euro entrance fees to buy any equipment to deal with this problem yet. I think the list from the first screen was 3 Grasshoppers, 2 Snails, a Cricket and a pair of Ladybirds lol. Although we could not see the pools clearly through the vegetation, we were still able to note several Black Necked Grebes and Black-winged Stilts present. With no photos we all soon got fed up so decided to drive back to the reserve at Marquenterre where if nothing else, there would be Spoonbills and Storks to snap away at. Our first stop on the reserve was the area where we found a Bluethroat on our trip before last.

Click on images for full size.

We then moved onto the hide that seems to attract Black-necked Grebes and saw three birds in front of the viewing holes but the sun was right in front of you making the task of getting any images virtually impossible. I took a few record shots with most being deleted.

The rest of the afternoon was spent lounging around the first two pools where we waited to see if any of the four Black-winged Stilts present would venture close enough for a photo. This never happened so it was lucky we had our fill of them on our last visit. The good thing about Marquenterre is if it is quiet, which it was on this visit, there are always the Storks and Spoonbills to play around with. Whilst sitting on a bench in the sun watching the Stilts in the distance, juvenile Spoonbills were seen flying over the pool. It's the first time I have seen newly fledged Spoonbills so grabbed a few shots. Note how small their bills are at this age.

A White Stork flew low over the pool and below the tree line giving me an easy target and  about a dozen Avocets provided a bit of entertainment throughout the afternoon.

So that was that, we were done and dusted and back on the train an hour earlier than scheduled. Although the photography was not at its best, (the Bluethroat saving the day) the trip was a good one with the banter rising a level as it does when things tend not go your way. The reserve at Grand Lavier was a mistake but we did get Black Redstart there as we drove around waiting for the place to open, (Why do the French reserves not open up until 10.00am) Still, you win some and you lose some and it all gets forgotten when you have a male Bluethroat sitting up in front of the camera and Storks and Spoonbills flying low over your head. As always, great company and thanks to Martyn, Alan, Tim and Steve for making it another great day out in France. 

Au Revoir.

Thursday, 14 May 2015

A Long Overdue Stilt at Grove Ferry.

Last Monday (11th May) I had the day off from work and went down to Stodmarsh with the intention of trying to pap a few Hobbies. I came across Steve Ray by the Marsh hide and he told me someone had reported a Black-winged Stilt on the water meadows earlier that morning. Apart from a 3 minute visit to the viewing ramp pool by a Stilt a couple of weeks back and only seen by Mark Chidwick and Sue Morton, the last recorded sighting of a Stilt at Grove was way back in the 40's so I was keen to add it to my patch list. (I still maintain I don't do list's ha ha) I said cheerio to Steve and made my way to the Water Meadows, a long slog around the reserve and 3 minutes later I was watching the Black-winged Stilt on the back edge of the pool, preening. A very rare visitor to the Grove/Stodmarsh reserve. I spent the rest of the day on the bench along the river bank that overlooks the water meadows, in warm sunshine, chatting to a few people that came to see the bird whilst  waiting in hope that the bird would come closer. Eventually the Stilt was flushed by a Marsh Harrier and whilst in flight a pair of Lapwing chased it nearer and in my direction. With the help of the 1.4x converter I was able to get some reasonable record shots of the bird as it circled the pool.

Click on images for full size.

Throughout the afternoon a steady stream of Hobbies were seen, hawking insects out over the reed beds between the bench I was sitting on and the Marsh hide, the odd bird drifting within range of the camera.

I noticed a Banded Demoiselle, a little early I thought and set about trying to get a photo. Difficult with the 400mm lens but the result seems okay. Also just along the river bank in a hedge was a damselfly, probably a female Common Blue, I'm not too sure, they all look the same to me. (No I shall not be purchasing a tank in the near future, lol)

The reed beds were alive with Sedge and Reed Warblers, all busy nest building and very active. One Reed Warbler posed as it climbed a reed stem, giving me a nice photo opportunity.

Cuckoo's were very vocal, a pair perched in the trees that line the River Stour. They made a few passes throughout the afternoon and it would off been rude to ignore them. A Little Egret was watched back in the Reed Bed hide on the way out of the reserve, feeding just under the window in amongst the vegetation.

I returned to Grove very early on the Tuesday (12th May) to check whether the Black-winged Stilt had remained overnight but contrary to social media reports that the bird was  on the water meadows at 07.20am, Alan Ashdown, Dave Sutton and myself were all present and not a Stilt in sight. I don't think it's been seen since Monday evening. I was able to get a few images of a Grasshopper Warbler so it was not all bad news. 

Monday was one of the better sessions spent on the local patch, long may it continue.

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Cuckoo's at Reculver. (04/05/15)

I had an early morning walk out with the camera in the company of Tim Gutsell last Monday, (Bank Holiday) where a pair of Cuckoo's chasing each other gave us great close up photo opportunities, one of the birds landing on the sea wall just a few metres from us. 

Click on image for full size.

Along the tide line it was nice to see a flock of approximately 16 Sanderling's, some of them nearly full into summer plumage. They were perched on the end of a groyne, so Tim and I sat behind it using the groyne as cover and waited until the incoming tide pushed them off and onto the shingle beach. This allowed the pair of us to grab a few close up flight shots.
Such smart looking little waders.