Monday, 18 September 2017

A Thanet Falcon.

I had the pleasure of an Adult Peregrine Falcon for company as I walked the beach at Ramsgate on an incoming tide last Thursday afternoon, (14th) first seen flying low along the cliff face just a few feet over the mussel beds that would soon be lost to the incoming tide. It then perched on the cliff face giving superb views, alighting after a while, flying up and down the shore line scattering the feeding Curlew's, Oystercatcher's and Turnstone's, then headed out over the sea, steadily gaining height until a struggle to keep in view.

Always good to catch up with these spectacular Falcons, one very smart bird.

I saw the Stone Curlew at Pegwell again, this time it was out on the mud just to the North of the old hover pad but like last time, far too distant to allow for any decent images. I also caught up with the juvenile Red-backed Shrike at Reculver on the 14th and 15th but unlike previous encounters with this species, where as they have been extremely tolerant, this young bird was in no mood to sit and pose for a photo.

A Juvenile Red-backed Shrike from Reculver on the 4th September 2010. This one was a lot more camera friendly.

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Catching up (or trying to)

The July/August stagnation has set in and I have found it extremely difficult to find the motivation to get out with binoculars or the camera of late. I don't seem to get excited over bugs and butterflies. Anyway, having never seen a Red-necked Phalarope in the UK, never mind Kent, I read over the Internet of one at Oare marshes, along with a/or the returning Long Billed Dowitcher. I chose to visit on the Saturday morning (2nd) but the Phalarope decided to leave the day before. (That will teach me to get out a little quicker after the news breaks lol) . The Dowitcher was easily found out on the flood, too distant for a photo and looking into the lowly rising sun would of meant it being silhouetted anyway. It never stopped the visiting line of long lenses from clicking away, I wonder what their results were like !!!  The last Long billed Dowitcher for me was also at Oare, way back in November 2006. Off note, there was a juvenile Sandling on the East flood, somewhat a rarity at this venue. As always at Oare, the Black-tailed Godwits were fair game for the camera lens.

Other bits caught with the camera was a rather tatty Grey Heron flying over the flood and a pair of Reed Warblers creeping through the reeds for a drink from the dyke in front of the pull in alongside the road down to the Swale.

My local football side, Chislet Colliery FC, started their league campaign on the Sunday morning (3rd) so I had plans to go and watch them with a promising 5-1 win which was good as they are newly promoted and their first competitive match in this division. A quick visit to Pegwell bay early doors was successful with a Kent tick for me in the shape of the Stone Curlew reported a few days ago. It was a long way out and once again looking directly into the sun light but I was on my own with no one looking on and "wondering what my results would be like" so took a few record shots (at best) With that eye, there was no mistaking its identity. September is now upon us so hopefully a few bits to get the enthusiasm levels back to normality.

An extremely poor "record shot" of the Pegwell Bay Stone Curlew.

Monday, 28 August 2017

Another one for the stick list.

Not being a fan of lists and listing, I do subconsciously keep a stick list for birds landing on perches in front of the hides at my local reserve at Grove/Stodmarsh. This is probably as it does not need too much effort to keep it up to date as it is not very often I add to it. Saying that, I have had a few interesting birds on the perches mainly from in front of the Feast hide at Grove and the Reed bed hide at Stodmarsh.
August 14th and alone early morning in the Reed bed hide I watched a Common Sandpiper fly around the pool looking for a space to land in amongst the vegetation that was growing around the muddy perimeter of the pool. It found nowhere to land and to my surprise chose to land on the Kingfisher perch and stayed for about ten minutes as it preened and tidied its feathers. Needless to say I gratefully accepted this unexpected photo opportunity.

Off no interest to anyone but myself, my stick list is now up to 15. 

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Back for another Osprey experience.

As we blanked on one of our Osprey hide sessions last month, we were all invited back by the River Gwash Trout Farm Osprey staff for another go, which Tim Gutsell, Alan Ashdown and I accepted, returning for a morning session on Monday 7th August. (I think the early morning scared Mike off lol) A 04.30 am start in the hide (I cannot for the life of me see why we need to get there that early, it's still dark) meant either leaving at 01.00 in the morning or doing as we did and leaving Sunday afternoon and staying at a Days Inn, (a motorway version of a Premier Inn) just outside of Peterborough.This afforded us the luxury of not having to get up until 03.30am, which after showering and a cup of tea gave us ample time to complete the last 15 miles to the Trout farm. Once in the hide and the light arrived, (another hour) we encountered the same conditions as we did on our last trip, dull and dreary but at least it was not raining. An Osprey arrived at 06.10 am, blue ringed 28 and perched in the Willow just as it did on our very first visit in July.

A magnificent looking creature.

Like last time the bird sat looking at the surface of the pool laid out in front of us and then suddenly plunged into the water giving us no time to get ready. The Osprey hit the water not 10 metres from where we were sitting and was a great experience to witness. Unfortunately, with the bird submerged in the trout pool so close to the hide, the only way out was back and away from us which was the route the bird had to take to get clear of the water. Up the Osprey rose from the pool, a Rainbow Trout slowly coming into view, firmly lodged in the Osprey's talons with the three of us now cursing our luck for the bird landing too close. Back end views were all I managed of the bird with the fish except a rather poor distant shot of it as it banked and flew off over the trout farm buildings to our right and out of sight. High iso's (2,500) and a 2.8 aperture ensured a few images but only record shots at best.
The light improved from about 07.15 am and we actually had a few glimpses of the sun, but alas, typically, there were no further Osprey sightings throughout the session.

Although witnessing an Osprey diving into a pool, landing not 10 metres from our vantage point and leaving with a trailing Rainbow Trout in its talons is a special moment, all three of us came away feeling just a little disappointed. What we could see is the potential for some classic Osprey shots and have already decided to try again next year, probably a little earlier than this years visits. There may be one place available if Mike does not want to go, anyone interested, please get in touch. (The hide takes 4 people and its nice to have it to ourselves for the sessions) Likely dates are end of April or early May. Hopefully we will encounter a little better weather conditions. Still, its our own fault, who goes anywhere during August, we should of waited for the summer.

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

A Chance Encounter.

I am trying to remember when my last visit to Stodmarsh was, it's been a while but I think it was probably when the Red Footed Falcon was present, so a visit was long overdue. Yesterday, (Tuesday 1st) with a day free from work, I parked at the Stodmarsh end of the reserve and sauntered down to the Reed Bed hide. Just the normal Duck on the pool, no sign of the Shelduck chicks and no Waders present either so it was not long before I left and wandered down to the Marsh hide. En route by the Alder wood, distant and sitting out in the middle of the path leading down to the Lampern Wall was what I first thought to be a large dock leaf but on closer inspection through the bins, was in fact a Bittern. It was just sitting there sky pointing as I carried on down the path slowly edging nearer to it, fully expecting it to fly off at any moment.

It did not seem too alarmed at my presence as I stood there, now quite close. After a while it decided to walk off into the reeds by the dyke and try as I did, I could not relocate it, even though i knew where it went into the reed bed and the bird  must of been sitting there just a few metres from me (masters of disguise).

A chance encounter and it makes a change from seeing them skulking about partially hidden in a distant reed bed.

It was a good job I did come across the Bittern as the Marsh hide and the walk down to it was fairly mundane. Had a chat with Mel and Jan Fagg and also Ian Hufton and Peter Kesby who were all in the hide. I had two further sightings of a Bittern, the first flying out from the reeds at the the back of the meadow in front of the Marsh hide and towards the Lampern Wall and then 20 minutes or so later, probably the same bird returning, flying right over the hide and landing roughly in the same spot that the first bird took off from.
There were a few Marsh Harriers present, mainly females but no juvenile birds noticed. 
A rather scruffy Green Sandpiper dropped onto the pool in front of the hide to keep the solitary Lapwing company. I also noted two distant Little Egrets and a Turtle Dove was hidden from view drinking from the pool and was only noticed as it flew out. 

All in all not too bad a day for August although I don't think I would of said that without the Bittern encounter. Back Monday morning (7th) for another go at the Osprey's, fingers crossed for some decent light and hopefully the birds will turn up to fish.

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

The River Gwash Osprey Experience (Rutland)

Whilst away in Wales, we decided to visit the Osprey's at Rutland water and on the 19th and 20th July we drove the 3 hour journey up to a village called Uppingham and stayed overnight in a pub called the Old Pheasant. Very reasonably priced and an ideal stopping point when visiting Rutland water as it is only a few miles from the site. I was joined by Mike Gould, Alan Ashdown and Tim Gutsell, and we had booked 2 afternoon sessions at the Horn Mill Trout farm Osprey experience which is basically 4 photographers sitting in a hide next to a small pool stocked with Trout and ideally Osprey's diving and catching fish just a few metres in front of you. I say ideally as wildlife being wildlife, it's not on tap and you have to take what comes and dipping is all too easy to experience. That said, our experience was not a dip, (it could of been better) we saw one Osprey dive and miss a fish on our first afternoon session and 3 aborted dives from the same bird. (colour ringed blue 28) We also endured pretty gloomy weather for the first visit and high iso's were needed to get any images at all. Two images of blue 28 sitting in a tree to the side of the pool, his head never stopped bobbing as he continually watched for the trout in the pool below. A pity about the white sky.

The 1st image was when he first arrived and the 2nd image was after his unsuccessful dive.
Once the bird launches from its perch, you don't have a lot of time to focus on him diving and the light was nowhere good enough to catch it on the way down but after the splash, you have a few seconds to find the bird in the pool and catch him as he flies out, usually towards the hide and then out to the right, literally just a few feet from the scrimmage netting covering the front of the hide. A fantastic sight and worth the admission fee alone.

These images were shot with a 70-200mm lens on a full framed camera, giving you an idea as to just how close these birds are when they leave the pool. The afternoon sessions start at 4.30 pm and go on until 9.00 pm, although we left a little early on the first session as the light was so poor it was very difficult to see. (I cannot wait for the summer to arrive) 

We had a Red Kite come into the pool just after we arrived in the hide and it plucked out a dead trout but it came in from behind us, allowing rear end views only. We did see about 5 or 6 Kites in the area. Also a Green Woodpecker landed on a post but too far away for photos and a pair of Kingfishers continually visited the trout pool throughout our second visit.

After the first session and while we waited for the second session, we spent the day at Rutland water where we visited two visitor centres and learnt a fair bit about the Rutland Osprey project. Also it is an excellent reserve with at least 15 hides placed around the huge body of water. We watched a family of Osprey's, 2 adults and 2 newly fledged chicks (they are the nesting pair that can be seen on the web cam from the visitors centre) and it was fascinating to see the parent birds continually plunge into the water as if they were showing their offspring what to do. Whilst watching these I walked onto the next hide and found a Wood Sandpiper feeding on the mud. I phoned the others and after a while the Sandpiper hopped through a wire fence and was out in front of us, an unexpected bonus.

A Little Egret came close whilst busying ourselves with the Wood Sand and was another target for the camera.

So, all in all it was not as good as it could of been with the Osprey's but we never dipped and we did manage a few images. I certainly will not forget as the Osprey hit the water and then fly off just a few feet from us, wetting the appetite for more. On that note, as we did dip on the second session, the Horn Mill staff have offered us a free return visit which Tim, Alan and myself have gratefully accepted. We are going back on Monday 7th for the morning session. Again, no guarantees but i think it is very sporting of the Horn Mill Trout farm to offer us this free visit. (1 hide place available when we visit if anyone is interested, £75.00 per session). I have the phone number of the Trout farm if you want to book a place.

Hopefully my next post from Rutland will have more Osprey images and also in better light.

Monday, 17 July 2017

A Barn Owl Success Story.

It's been a bit of a struggle getting out for a while what with work, computer problems (don't ask, bloody useless Microsoft and their new Windows 10) and a general lack of enthusiasm due to a general lack of anything to go and photograph. (Come back the Red Foot) I have had a few sessions with the pair of Barn Owl's I have been watching for the past 2 months and am pleased to tell that they have successfully fledged 3 chicks and all three seem to be doing well although still relying on their parents to bring home the bacon (or Shrews and Mice in this case) . One of the parent birds even came and perched in front of my vantage point for a while, albeit a little distant but still okay with a large crop.

A few more flight shots of the adult bird hunting.

Barn Owls..................Great birds.