Thursday, 30 May 2019

Colin the Thursley Cuckoo

I went to see the Cuckoo at Thursley Common on Wednesday 22nd, a bird that has returned to the same area for at least the last 6 years and to say that the bird performed well at extremely close quarters was a bit of an understatement.

Meet Colin the Thursley Common Cuckoo.

Accepting an invitation from Tim Gutsell along with Steve Ray, Mike Gould and Andy Hills, we left home at 07.30 arriving at Thursley Common just before 10 am. Following Google maps of the area, we got completely lost on the common (all sandy paths and boardwalks look the same to me) but managed to find the field we were looking for (a lot of walking that was not required) and immediately met up with David Gardiner, a Flickr acquaintance and photographer who has visited the site on numerous occasions over the previous 4 years. With his knowledge and knowhow, the two visits we had from the bird during our stay were lengthy, the secret being just a few worms offered to get the birds attention and then a few thrown out whilst he was perched, making the bird look for his freebies and ensuring he stayed for a while to get his fill. Without the help and knowledge of David the session would not of been half as good and a big thanks for his assistance.

Whilst waiting for the Cuckoo to arrive, we were able to photograph a few of the local woodland species that were also grateful for the freebies on offer. A male Redstart was the first bird to arrive on the perch.

He was closely followed by a male Stonechat and although he was not the best looking Stonechat I have seen, I  took a few images anyway.

We were lucky enough to have a couple of Woodlark fly into the field near to the perch, obviously used to the free mealworm offerings and could be seen foraging in the grass. They remained a little distant from the line of photographers assembled but a few record shots were taken to mark the occasion.

But Colin the Cuckoo stole the show and suddenly from nowhere, he could be heard calling, hidden in the trees that lined the perimeter of the field before gracefully flying in and landing on top of the perch.

With a few mealworms thrown out around the perch the bird would fly down to feed before returning to the perch to wait for more, giving us a chance to get a few flight images.

and we also caught him on the floor, looking for worms.

There was a log set up close in and the line of photographers were treated to some extremely close views as the bird landed on it.

No doubt if we stayed, the bird would of come back for another visit but we packed up at 2.00pm to avoid the M25 early evening rush which we did, arriving back home at 5.00pm.

I suggested another visit and on Saturday 25th, Andy, Tim and I drove back to Thursley but leaving at 6.00am to try and make use of the lower early morning sun. (Steve had family commitments and Mike does not do 6.00 am) We arrived at 8.00am and took an hour to walk the 10 minute walk, getting lost yet again on the common. (just what you need with 2 cameras, 2 lenses, a tripod, a stool  and a camera bag on your back) To cut a long story short, when we arrived there was a crowd all ready in situ, perches everywhere and enough mealworms to feed the whole bird population on the common. A scene from "One flew over the Cuckoo's nest" came to mind. We gradually persuaded the photographers to calm down on the mealworms apart from one woman who on the sound of a Cuckoo (however distant) showered worms out like confetti at a wedding. I had had enough and went for a walk looking for Dartford Warblers which I saw quite a few of but they were obviously feeding young so I left them alone to to get on with their business. I returned to the field and got a few more images, firstly a Mistle Thrush that could not believe his luck when stumbling over the ever abundant stash of worms on offer.

and although the Cuckoo visits never lasted too long due to it getting his fill far too quickly, we did have several visits and were able to get it on top of the several perches on offer.

Colin the Cuckoo, a star bird and hopefully he makes the journey back to Africa safely and returns next year to Thursley for the 7th year running.

Tuesday, 21 May 2019

The Kingsdown Kestrel

I visited the stretch of coast line at Kingsdown towards the back end of April, walking along the undercliff, an area known as the old rifle range. Not much to see, no hoped for newly arrived Wheatears but a pair of nesting Kestrels kept my attention for most of my stay. The female popped out once but the male gave a photo opportunity as it arrived with a Vole or Mouse which I thought would of been for the female on the nest but he perched up and ate it himself.

I suppose the female got the next one ???

Sunday, 5 May 2019

Cuckoo's and a Dapper looking Duck

May is usually a good month to get Cuckoo images a good opportunity came along on the very first day of the month. Sitting along the Lampern wall and a what I presume to be a female bird landed in a tree about 30 metres down from me and was quickly joined by (again presumably) two male birds who for the next 20 minutes chased the female up and down the lampern wall giving me a great opportunity to get a few in flight images. The weird calling and chatter from all three birds was a little strange, Cuckoo sounds that I have never heard before and in their excited state they completely ignored me snapping away, flying past just metres from where I was stood, the male birds intent on only one thing.

The birds eventually dispersed but I could here calling Cuckoo's throughout the morning, either different birds or these same birds that had moved over to the trees that line the back path down to the Marsh hide. There were also four Common Terns fishing over the main lake, several Hobbies hawking Mayflies  and I had my first Swifts of the year. On 29th April I was told that a drake Garganey was on the pool in front of the Marsh hide. I hot footed my way there from the jungle area that I was watching by the river on the Lampern Wall and found an empty hide and the Drake sitting in front on the pool. I quickly grabbed a few images as the bird was being harassed by a pair of nesting Coots which eventually chased the bird off, flying over to the far pool on the left of the hide where it could be seen but too far away for the camera.

It's always nice to be able to photograph these smart looking ducks and I can't help thinking that it was the Coots that I would of preferred to be chased off but I suppose the Coots were there first. Thanks to Brendan Ryan for the heads up on the Garganey via social media.

Thursday, 2 May 2019

A Spoonbill at Pegwell

I popped down to the garage pool at Pegwell to see if the Spoonbill had stayed overnight. Arriving at 08.30am, I saw it straight away, asleep on one leg at the far edge of the pool. A year tick in the shape of Phil Milton was most welcome, and after a brief chat on the woes of Liverpool and there demise the previous night, he cycled off still muttering about Messi and Barcelona lol. I settled in on the path, waiting, and it was not long before the Spoonbill started feeding, gradually edging over to my side of the pool and close enough for some images. The light was rather dull but it was close enough to get a bit of detail in the white plumage. 

What a bill !!!

Other bits seen were a pair of Common Sandpipers and a Whimbrel landed on the mud but was immediately disturbed by a dog and flew back out towards the tide line. A Common Buzzard passed overhead being pushed over the estuary and towards Sandwich by four mobbing Crows.