Monday, December 31, 2012

Not quite 300 but a British record?

With 6 species to photograph and 13 days till the end of the year hopes were still quite high for a 300 finish, particularly as there were still a few resident birds needed.  The plan was to do a trip before Christmas and a trip after to finish the job off.  The problem was where to go. With the Cornwall Pacific Diver and Subalpine Warbler being very hit and miss I decided to try and clear up the few remaining regulars still not photographed. After lots of head scratching and logistical analysis, the place I came up with was East Anglia, with the option of taking in Essex (Lap Bunt) or Donna Nook and Derbyshire (Lap Bunt and Willow Tit). The main problem was going to be light availability and the forecast of utterly shite weather.
For various reasons I didnt get out until 21st. The morning of which found me at Santon Downham looking for Lesser Spotted Woodpecker with also a chance of Willow Tit (apparently).

After a couple of hours searching without a sniff, a Lesser Spot suddenly decided to respond to my occasional bursts from the ipod. A real rush of adrenalin as I reached for the camera but instead of coming nearer it headed off deeper into the wood! 90 mins later and I was still trying to relocate it. It was now drizzling and the light was starting to fail, I checked the time and it was 13.30! I had to look again. 1.30 in the afternoon and the light was going. That was a real sinking feeling.

Woods at Santon Downham

RAF Lakenheath just a few miles down the road

Despite knowing there was a Lesser Spot in there somewhere, I just couldnt summon up the enthusiasm to carry on looking for it even though my options for year ticks were now very limited. I decided to head up to Fakenham, to Norfolks most reliable Willow Tit site!
I was in a bit of a hurry so the discovery of around 30 Waxwings in a tree beside the road in Brandon was only given the minimum of attention. This involved reversing back down the busy road and hanging out the camera to get a couple of record shots.

I arrived at Sculthorpe Moor with around 30 mins of daylight left. However on getting inside the wood that had soon disappeared so had to give it up for the day.
With wind and heavy rain forecast for the next few days I contemplated heading home but then thought of all the effort I had put into the year and decided to carry on. The decision was to drive up to Donna Nook to be there in the morning. After about an hours driving in heavy traffic and only getting a few miles past Kings Lynn I just couldnt carry on! I was tired, wet and thoroughly depressed! The last place I wanted to be was the windswept saltmarshes of Donna Nook! I turned the car around and headed straight to the Premier Inn at Kings Lynn.
The next morning was wet and windy as forecast, but summoning up the last of my will power I decided to give Sculthorpe Moor one more go for Willow Tit and then perhaps head down to Essex for Lap Bunt. Sadly it was all in vain and I had to finally admit defeat when a showery early morning turned into a really heavy downpour. And that was that! With the appalling weather it took me the rest of the day to get home.

Actually a pretty good place for photography with lots of birds feeding outside the numerous hides. Light levels just too low though today

During Christmas,  thoughts started to drift toward a possible Scotland trip with some goodies in Aberdeenshire and a chance to get Caper back! But it was not to be. Too many things going on and some really shite weather put pay to that idea. I could have probably got a couple more ticks but was never going to get 6. So the photo list is 294, I havent heard of anybody photographing more species in a year so presumably a British record but not the hoped for 300.

There is always next year...

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

294. Cetti's Warbler

Another tart tick out of the way. A nice sunny morning down at Swineham for Cetti's didnt take long. They were quite active in the sunshine. However 'active' for Cetti's still means skulking, and there was plenty of vegetation to get in the way. All I can say is that the photos meet the criterion of showing an identifiable bird!

.....although this one is trying to look like a River Warbler!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Two more for the photo year list

Queen Mother Reservoir

292. American Buff-bellied Pipit

Quite a noisy place

Little Marlow gravel pits

293. Caspian Gull

 Drive home a bit challenging

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Dorset Waxwings!

Waxwings tend to arrive in Dorset just as everybody else in the country are getting bored with them. Not sure if 3 birds constitutes an 'arrival' but its the first ones that have hung around.

No directions unfortunately, but the birds were somewhere in Tolpuddle, which is basically a road with houses either side so shouldnt be a problem. After driving slowly through the village until I came across a likely looking berry bush,  I pulled over and wound the window down to be greeting immediately with a rather familiar trilling. It was coming from a nearby tree, just the one bird.

In between trilling it was doing a lot of frantic short flights around the tops of the trees. Not really sure what it was all about but it looked as if it was flycatching. 

It was later joined by 2 other birds which also did the same.

After about 10 minutes of this, one eventually came down to the berry bush where I was lying in wait. 

Really close views but always hiding behind at least one branch.

Bird species photographed this year now up to 291.

Confiding Common Buzzard at Holes Bay. This was during survey work so didnt have the usual camera unfortunately.  Had to settle for a rather rushed digiscope shot before it was flushed by an oncoming dog walker.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Scrumptious Arctic Roll

With a few possibles for the year in mind, but not any real plan, decided to head eastwards for the weekend. Saturday was a lovely sunny windless day so started at Pulborough Brooks where a couple of Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers had been seen over the past few days. There was some really good habitat but despite quite an extensive search, none could be located.
After bemoaning the lack of any sort of Green Woodpecker photo on my last post, I managed to get a  better one today. Although not much better, but it breaks up all this text at least.

The problem with this time of year is a lack of daylight hours and by the time we had had some food and checked the pager we realised there was only going to be enough time for one more target species.
The choice was Velvet Scoter that had been seen a couple of days ago off of Pagham or Velvet Scoters seen an hour ago at Island Barn Reservoir on the Surrey London border. One was a lovely place on a beautiful sunny day just down the road, but with no definite bird, the other was an hours drive to a shite reservoir, in a shall we say, not such a lovely place.
Much to Claires chagrin the choice was obviously the reservoir.
I have been to most of the reservoirs in this area but couldn't place which one it was. The pager mentioned that it was permit only but that doesnt usually pose too much of a problem. We looked up their website which mentioned how friendly they were, so we headed up.
On arrival I realised which one it was and knew we had made the wrong choice. We never got a chance to find out how friendly they were because the place would have put an Iron Age hill fort to shame.
 The first entrance had a large metal gate with 2 huge padlocks. So we couldnt drive in, but there was a place to walk through. However after a few minutes there was another padlocked gate. We thought we may have got the wrong entrance so tried another road. Here we got through the first gates but then were confronted by a moat system which ran right around the perimeter, with a spiked fence on the other side of the water just incase you decided to swim over!  On the other side of that a large embankment with a fence along the top for good measure. It was then that we decided to call it a day!
Not that I was obsessed with getting Velvet Scoter on the yearlist but whilst we were deciding what to do next I noticed there was one at Cliffe Pools that had been there a few days. There were also a few Waxwings in that area so we headed further east.
The next morning was much less inviting than  the day before but we had to drag ourselves out of bed early to give us a chance of getting the Velvet Scoter, then getting up to Suffolk for the Hornemann's Arctic Redpoll.

Radar Pool, Cliffe. Not a place to inspire

Radar Pool is a bloody big pool.  There were a few near birds and a hell of a lot of distant ones. Luckily the Velvet Scoter was one of the nearer ones although you wouldnt guess it from this photo. It could have been a lot worse (in terms of getting an identifiable photo) as it was also asleep and didnt look like waking up until a flock of duck went low over its head making it put its head up for long enough to get this shot before it went back to sleep again.

290. Velvet Scoter

Still wondering how I was going to get another 10 BOU species before the 31st, I didnt help the cause by deciding to head up to Aldeburgh for the Hornemann's. (Having already seen Coue's in Jan) It would use up valuable time but hey it was a Hornemann's Arctic Redpoll and it was showing very well!
The decision to go was not regretted! (understatement). Although on arrival there was initially a big sinking feeling when the amassed crowd suddenly started to disperse as I got out of the car. Walking off with their beaming faces, many looking in disbelief at the superb photos they had just taken. It was then a very tense few minutes whilst we tried to relocate the bird, which had flown off down the beach.
Thankfully it was soon refound and gave the most amazing views. We walked up to what was considered a respectable distance which was to be fair pretty close, but instead of walking away it actually walked nearer to us eventually coming to within just a few feet.

After filling our boots with fantastic views there was still time to try and get in another yeartick. The target bird was Caspian Gull at Rainham Marshes

Unfortunately with the tip not working today we had probably picked the quietest day of the week.
Nothing around the stone barges where 2 Caspo's had been seen yesterday

Monday, December 3, 2012

289. Temminck's Stint

News of a possible Least Sand at Steart later changed into a Temminck's Stint. Either way it would be a photo year tick for me so the next day I was there.
On arrival I realised that it was at the same flooded area where I missed the White-rumped Sand by a few minutes back in September. The rather negative mood was somewhat reinforced when a couple arriving back at the car park told me that it had flown off with the Dunlin!
It was looking like rain and thoughts of turning back and going home entered my mind. I decided to carry on although there was plenty of chuntering on the cold long walk out. The mood changed somewhat whilst nearing the pool when I spotted a photographer acting like he had found something. The pace quickened and my suspicions were correct, the bird was back again.

A mixture of juvenile and adult feathers age this bird as a first winter

The bird also took flight a few times for no apparent reason. Each time giving a trilling call and gaining a fair bit of height before coming back down, not too far from where it started.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Bottom of the barrel

I wouldnt like to guess how many hours I have spent this year with a camera around my neck but in all that time I havent managed to get a decent shot of a Green Woodpecker. Its going to be touch and go as to whether I get this photo yearlist up to 300 and I am fast running out of daylight hours so its time to get those really shite photos out of the trash and get them on that year list!

Green Woodpecker taken with phone somewhere in Surrey, sometime in June.

Bearded Tit in middle of reed bed at Radipole

Red-breasted Mergansers off of Evening Hill, Poole Harbour.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

285. White-rumped Sandpiper

After the bird at Brownsea turning out to be some sort of hybrid and missing the bird at Steart by 10 minutes, it was third time lucky at Longham Lakes.
Shame about the light though, with the sun being directly behind the bird, combined with the distance made any decent shots out of the question