Thursday, 22 February 2018

The Hawfinches of Godmersham

With a wow factor akin to Waxwings, it's not too surprising that the influx into the U.K of Hawfinches has draw a lot of attention. The Yew trees around the church at Godmersham, a small village along the A 28 between Chilham and Ashford has attracted a small flock and I have made three visits over the past couple of weeks, to try and get a few images of these highly photogenic birds. They are very addictive to watch and remind me of Waxwings in their mannerism's but getting images was a little tricky due to their skittish behaviour and the shadows cast by the fact that they liked to bury themselves deep in the foliage of the Yews. On one occasion I was lucky enough to get a bird out in the open on top of a small Yew tree.

I wanted to try a 2x converter that I had recently purchased and although not a fan of the 2x, (always look a bit soft to me) on the 500mm with a full framed camera it gives you that extra reach to get a more than decent record shot if the bird is a log way off. The Hawfinch below was quite a distance away and if that was a mega rarity, then the resulting image would be pretty pleasing. (To me anyway)

The better images were for me taken when the birds were buried in the foliage. 

As mentioned above, the Hawfinches were very skittish and would often fly off and disappear for an hour or so before returning. There were plenty of other birds to see and over my three visits I noted 3 Common Buzzards and a Sparrow-Hawk overhead 5 Great-Spotted Woodpeckers chasing each other around in a large tree, Coal, Long-tailed, Blue and Great Tits, Green Gold and Chaffinch a plenty, Nuthatch and several Goldcrest's that drew my attention when the Hawfinches were playing hard to get.

The Hawfinches will soon be gone, if you have not seen them yet, then they are worth a look.

Wednesday, 31 January 2018

A Single Waxwing Invasion.

The annual hoped for Waxwing invasion never materialised in Kent this winter but strangely, a single bird decided to park up for a couple of weeks to gorge on the abundant berries alongside the public footpath that runs adjacent to the Eastern perimeter of the North Foreland golf course at Kingsgate. I decided to pay it a visit last Thursday (25th) and as soon as I walked up the footpath, the Waxwing could be seen sitting in the top of a tree overlooking the heavily laden berry bushes. Unlike previous encounters with this species, it was very hard to get the bird out in the open and free from twigs and surrounding clutter but it was very obliging and although always keeping an eye on the few togs and bird watchers there, it never seemed to mind our close proximity. I managed a few images but mostly in amongst the vegetation where the bird was feeding.

After spending a couple of hours with the Waxwing, joined by Steve Ray, we both decided to nip down to the harbour at Ramsgate and check on the now long staying 1st winter Iceland Gull. A loaf of bread that Steve had to hand done the trick and it was not long before the bird appeared in amongst the rest of the hungry local harbour Gull population. The bird actually put on a bit of a show for us, allowing for a few more images.

I could not be bothered to look for anything else (I don't think there was much else about) but on the way out by the tunnel, both Steve and I stopped to grab a few Fulmar shots to end the session. All in all not a bad day out, Waxwings are always memorable, even if the invasion is only a solitary bird.

Monday, 15 January 2018

Fulmar's....Masters of aerial maneuverability (that’s a mouth full)

I had my first outing of the year on Saturday morning (13th) a short stroll along the seafront from the tunnel at Ramsgate and down to the harbour and out on the arm to the Harbour Lights cafe. Having been laid up in bed for nearly three weeks with a particularly nasty bout of Flu, proper Flu and not the usual man flu that I will never complain about again, it was good to be back out in the fresh air again. The day started promisingly with some early morning sun and even blue skies were to be enjoyed. The incoming tide had pushed all the waders to drier roosting spots so not a lot to be seen along the beach front but I did spend half an hour with the Fulmars that are now back and nest building along the cliff face. Graceful in flight and amazing to watch as they patrol back and forth along the cliff top.

I had just finished photographing the Fulmars and as I got to the car a pair of Raven's flew South along the cliff top towards the tunnel. My second Raven sighting at Ramsgate that week, having stopped whilst at work a few days earlier to chat with Alan Ashdown and a single bird seen by the both of us again flying South along the cliff top.
I actually saw a few decent birds during the morning, a Peregrine was seen high over the harbour, a skein of Brent Geese flew North out to sea past the harbour entrance and a distant Red Breasted Merganser was picked up between the harbour wall and the old ferry terminal. The normal Turnstones and Rock Pipits were seen as I walked out towards the harbour lights cafe but the cloud and drizzle had drifted in and by then it was a rather dismal grey end to my walk. I did manage a few images of a pair of Snow Buntings that were out on the end of the arm, looking as miserable as the weather now was.

A whole loaf of bread never tempted the 1st winter Iceland Gull into showing, probably too fat to get off the ground after an ever abundant supply of Kingsmill and Hovis, leaving the local Herring Gulls to make short work of my offerings. A pair of Kingfisher sightings in the inner basin, either 2 birds or the same bird seen twice as it/they darted from one fishing spot to another and a Little Grebe was also seen. On the way back to where I parked the car by the old cafe along the sea front, a female Black Redstart was messing around by the old ferry terminal perimeter. All in all a good blow out after being cooped up in doors for over 3 weeks.

Sunday, 31 December 2017

A (quick) Look back at 2017. Part 2.

July, and the second half of the year. I started July where I left off in June, at Grove Ferry with the 1st year male Red Footed Falcon that had rather sportingly decided to give the visiting togs a few more photo opportunities before moving on early in the month.

Also I put some more time in with the Barn Owls and was able to get more images as they passed the car, quartering the field I had parked by.

It was in July that Mike Gould, Alan Ashdown, Tim Gutsell and myself (The Welsh Crew) decided on an overnight stay in Rutland and had two sessions with the River Gwash Ospreys. Basically a Trout farm that had designated a pool for the purpose of attracting Osprey's with a strategically placed hide, allowing photographers the chance to photograph Ospreys from a few metres away as they plunged into the water of the generously stocked Trout pool. Very expensive and wildlife being unpredictable, its not always assured that an Osprey will turn up. Our first session allowed for a few images as we witnessed just one dive, the second session we drew a blank. Rather sportingly, the Trout farm offered us a free session in August that three of us accepted, Mike declining, having enough of the ridiculously early morning start.

On the 1st of August I happened on a Bittern right in front of me on the path leading down to the Lampern Wall at Stodmarsh, my only photo opportunity with this species during 2017 which is rather unusual.

We returned to Rutland for our free Osprey experience during August but in truth, as with most of our excursions during 2017, the weather was poor and we struggled a bit with light and shutter speeds. Also during the month I was able to add a Common Sandpiper to my birds on a stick list at Grove/Stodmarsh.

During September, a trip down to Ramsgate was rewarded with images of a stunning Peregrine Falcon seen by the Western Undercliff. I also was able to get an extremely poor record shot of a distant Stone Curlew that was in the bay at Pegwell for well over a week.

During September I was able to have a session with a few returning waders in the lagoon at Coldharbour at Reculver. A Knot and an extremely confiding Little Stint were both a surprise and never minded me pointing the camera at them. Below are images of the Knot, Little Stint and a showy Dunlin from that day.

October was a busy month. Their were two American Waders on the East Flood at Oare Marshes, the returning Long-Billed Dowitcher and a rather smart 1st Winter Wilson's Phalarope. I was able to get a few images and one with both these visitors in the same frame

Wilson's Phalarope

Long-Billed Dowitcher

And both together, not something you can expect here in the U.K

Whilst at Oare Marshes I was able to catch a Female Goosander as she left the East Flood and a Black-Necked Grebe was in the creek.

Later on in October I caught a Little Grebe running across the water and lucky enough to bag a Bird Guides photo of the week with it. Also a really showy Lapland Bunting was on the promenade at Beltinge, just below the Mirrimar.

In November a Red Necked Phalarope was seen and photographed around the garage pools at Pegwell. This was a U.K tick for me, I missed the one at Oare 2 months earlier and the only one I have seen previously was from a ridiculous distance away on the reserve at Marquenterre in Northern France.

A surprise for me was seeing a female Smew on the pool in front of the Feast hide at Grove, not a species you normally see there and I also managed a record shot of a Dusky Warbler at Sandwich which is always difficult given the skulking behaviour of these birds.

Also in November I managed a shot of the Black-throated Diver that had taken up residence in Ramsgate Harbour.

And so on to December. The year ended for me as it started, with a life tick. Tim Gutsell and I travelled down to the Soveriegn Harbour in Eastbourne to see the 1st winter Black Guillemot. As soon as we arrived we saw it out in the middle of the marina but it soon became evident that getting photos of it was going to be tricky as when the bird was close the light was blocked out by the surrounding apartment buildings.

Other birds in December was a 1st winter Iceland Gull in the harbour at Ramsgate and a couple of sessions on the beach at Reculver resulted in a few flight shots of the wintering Sanderling.

Also during December I caught up with old favourites like Bearded Tit's at Stodmarsh and Nuthatch in the woods at Blean.

And that's about it for 2017. Not the best year I have had with the camera but a sprinkling of good birds seen and it all starts again soon, if i can shake off the dreaded man flu that always seems to hit me at this time of the year. I would like to wish anyone reading this a happy and prosperous New Year. Thank you.