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Monday, 30 April 2012

Selsey Peninsular

A really great days birding on the Selsey Peninsular, starting with a sea watch on the Bill, followed by visits to Church Norton and the North Wall. Conditions were perfect at the Bill, a sunny clear day with a strong south easterly breeze and a high tide. I arrived about 0615 and was stunned to find that I was more or less the first there, quickly followed by John and Steve. Things started slowly with a constant movement of Gannets to the east and of course the ubiquitous Cormorants. However, like buses, along came the Skuas, an Arctic and a Pomarine at the same time, followed by 4 more Poms, 4 Arctic and 3 Bonxies. A full supporting cast of Red and Black Throated Divers, Great Northern Diver, Whimbrel, Bar- tailed Godwit and a fresh Wheatear on the beach. Occasionally a Swift or Swallow would flip over the sea wall and head inland.  Terns were getting more numerous by the hour and good numbers of Common, Arctic, Sandwich and Little Terns were counted.

Black-throated Diver
Pomarine Skua
Pomarine Skua



Wheatear


On to Church Norton where it was fairly quiet, the fresh easterly having kept most birds low, in the churchyard a fresh in Willow Warbler and a couple of singing Blackcaps. A short trip to the beach revealed nothing so it was round to the North Wall. On arrival at the sluice a SEO was showing well and a pair of them kept watchers entertained for most of the afternoon. One individual was fairly dark in plumage and when on the ground showed his stubby ears.



Willow Warbler
Willow Warbler


Short-eared Owl

Short-eared Owl


The day's total ended up at 69 with several year ticks - very satisfying after being incarcerated in the garden for so long.






Saturday, 28 April 2012

Less is More

There are obvious similarities between bug watching and bird watching, the tactics are the same, either chase the quarry or sit down in a likely spot and wait for it to come to you - simple.
So today, having read all the sea watching reports on SOS with great envy, I set up shop in the back garden to attempt to capture more photographs of insect life -  birding will have to wait.

Just like bird photography there are those subjects who are the fast movers such as wasps, hoverflies and bees, then there are those more sedentary bugs like ladybirds and beetles - both of which featured today. The chase is the same - a Red Mason Bee hove into view and I desperately wanted to get it in my viewfinder, fat chance, I chased it all over the garden, tripod and camera in hand but he wasn't going to settle long enough for a shot.

This is a whole new world and identification is somewhat difficult, I will update as I go along. For my three readers there is a new Flickr site called "The Small World of Aaron Aardvaark" where I will place my insect photos.

Hawthorn Shield Bug, Acanthosoma haemorrhoidale
Box Bug, Gonocerus acuteangulatus

Box Bug, Gonocerus acuteangulatus
  
Fourteen spot Ladybird, Propylea 14-punctata
Hawthorn Shield Bug, Acanthosoma haemorrhoidale

Hawthorn Shield Bug, Acanthosoma haemorrhoidale

Sawfly, Abia sericea??


Gooden's Nomad Bee Nomada goodeniana

Gooden's Nomad Bee Nomada goodeniana
 

Stating  the garden was bare of birds was a bit hasty, today we had a stream of visitors including Peregrine and Sparrowhawk over, male Blackcap, Goldcrests and Long-tailed Tits looking for a snack plus all the usual suspects.


Crow in power dive
About three gardens away there is a very large cedar type tree, well battered but looked after as it has a preservation order on it. It is home to innumerable species of wildlife. I suspect it was planted about the same time as Ilex Way.There were lots of mature trees in Goring until the "Great Gale" of 1987 when many elderly specimens were snapped off - destined to become firewood. This tree has been home to a pair of Carrion Crows since we have been here, the nest is always in the same place and the parents are very protective of their young. We also have a resident population of Herring Gulls nesting on the rooftops of several houses, though there are fewer this year. The close proximity of the two species normally results in a spectacular diving display from the crows to drive away the gulls. However, today the crows got it completely wrong as they attacked a Great Black Backed Gull in transit to the beach and had to beat a hasty retreat as the gull responded ferociously.

The innocent intruder










Thursday, 26 April 2012

No Birds but Bees




Unfortunately grounded again and as all the birds have left the garden except for the Starlings that have nested in the next door neighbours roof and the ever present Robins there is precious little to photograph. However, this is an opportunity to try out the new 180mm macro lens. Luckily there are plenty of insects present and the bursts of sunlight between the heavy rain showers provide the ideal conditions. Up to present I have to admit the identification is beyond me - just bee, wasp or hoverfly is about as far as it goes. It has whetted my appetite for a day in the field getting up close with some butterflies.









Saturday, 21 April 2012

London Wild Bird Watch 2012

I am led to believe that readership has increased dramatically of late - thanks Mike. Those previous readers are aware of two facts about the author - that he spent about twenty five years before the mast  and that he is certainly short of birding experience. I have, I believe, reached the dizzy heights of Ordinary Birder and with luck will become an Able Bodied Birder - given my age there is no chance that I shall ever become a Chief Birder. Therefore, I am in no position to pass comment on other peoples birding skills. In regard of the Iberian Chiffchaff postings on SOS, if people like Bernie Forbes, Owen Mitchell and  Chris Janman think that it is an Iberian Chiffchaff, then that's good enough for me. They have been to see it and hear it. how others can pass judgement from a distance is beyond me.  AND whilst I am on my soapbox - I thought the "Recent Sightings" page on SOS was for sightings -nuff said

Oddly enough birdsong is part of a thread that has been developing with me over the last three weeks. I found myself on Lavington Plantation - surrounded by birds in full flow and I have to admit once I got past the commoner species, song recognition became distinctly poor. I decided to remedy this and purchased several books, CDs and technical acoutrements to gain 'The Knowledge'. To date I have learnt that Great Tits have a wide range of calls, also what a Willow Warbler sounds like and positively identified one in my garden. The lowlight was turning on the bird voice device in the garden and sending one of the resident Coal Tits into an apoplectic fit - I have learnt that there is a proper time and place for the use of such items and mid April does not appear to be a good time.

The thread continues because I had decided, sometime ago, to attend the inaugral London Wild Bird Watch held at the London Wetlands Centre at Barnes. As I am a member of the WWT my entry was free and I only had to pay to attend any specialist lectures. Among the host of exhibitors was " The Sound Approach" - a company specialising in the identification of birds by their calls and song.  The attentive salesperson  was made even keener by my interest  and I have to say, laid back when I asked for a demonstration of the difference between a Common and Iberian Chiffchaff. "No problem Sir - don these super stereo headphones and cop this ! " was his reply.  Not only did I hear the calls of said species but he threw in the  Siberian Chiffchaff and showed me the ""sonagrams" - a visual representation - of each. Needless to day I was hooked and added yet another book to an already overweight bag.

Very rarely do I endorse exhibitions but I have to say this was the "Bees Knees". The organisation, facilities, demonstrations and stalls were all top notch. Everyone was pleasant and helpful - especially the Macro Masterclass laid on by Sony and the Canon crew aided and abetted by Park Cameras who diminished my bank account by a considerable amount and the WWT volunteer staff who were keen to show off their great facility. All in all a great day out.

Oh and a year tick as I wandered through Barnes Common - Ring-necked Parakeet.


Peter Scott statue - London Wetlands Centre - Barnes

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Striking Gold

As my two blog readers well know, I have, for some considerable time, been attempting to photograph 'our' visiting Goldcrests. Invariably they can be found in our christmas tree searching for the aphids which infest the sad growth. Today was no exception,  but this time they seemed to linger and were more visible. They constantly called and the male occasionally burst forth into song. Mostly my photographs of these birds are fronts, backs or anything out of focus - today I managed five reasonable shots in the morning sunshine.






Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Rye Harbour

A really nice day at Rye, the islands are rapidly filling up with Sandwich Terns , Black-headed and Mediterranean  Gulls. No sign yet of any Common Terns and the only variety on the gull front was the occasional Common and Herring Gull hidden among the masses.



Sandwich Terns
video


Sandwich Tern

On one island a Greylag Goose has nested amongst the Black-headed Gulls - big mistake I reckon. It surely won't be a quiet life when the family hatches. Nothing exotic spotted, though it was nice to see two Little Ringed Plovers on the farm.

Not an ideal place for young goslings

Black-headed Gull

Black-headed Gull (1st Summer)


Redshank


Mediterranean Gull

Departed at around 1300 and decided to make a detour to visit Old Lodge again to see if I could find a Common Redstart - success not one but two bright males.



Common Redstart



 



Common Redstart


Common Redstart

Common Redstart












Friday, 6 April 2012

Old Lodge

Old Lodge on a cold and frosty morning - I think the low temperatures had everyone subdued as there were few birds or people about when I arrived. A large flock of Linnets were feeding under the trees where the ground was free of frost, obviously the pine cones are still a source of food. The Chaffinches were doing the same but not in flocks- just pairs. The usual Lesser Redpolls were in the birch trees above the car park and a flock of Siskins were moving noisily through the trees
Linnets
Chaffinch in Heaven
Linnets
As the temperature rose and the sun thawed out the landscape then the Woodlarks came out as did the Stonechats, one pair were happy to come close and totally ignored me. Plenty of small birds about and every clump of pines had feeding Goldcrests and Blue Tits
  
Stonechat


Stonechat

Stonechat
Stonechat

Woodlark


Woodlark

Just as I was unshipping the camera from the tripod an obliging Goldcrest visited the tree above me - it was too close and I couldn't get focus until it moved away. Normally you strugggle to get close enough!.
Goldcrest