Sunday, 28 September 2014

Week 24 28-09-2014 Birds Spotted: 5

It was a pretty good week of birding as I visited a new location called Stanpit Marsh. It's located on the far side of Hengistbury Head and has plenty of interesting waders and water birds. I set off with my friend Mark and was soon adding plenty of new birds to my life list.
One word of warning though. It wasn't a great day and the general distance of the birds mean that many of the following are record shots only.

Yellow Wagtail
While I've already seen one thanks to Mark's keen ears on a previous trip, this was the first time I was able to get a decent photo opportunity. Currently on the RSPB's Red List, the Yellow Wagtail is down to around 15,000 breeding pairs. It's a gorgeous looking bird, often mistaken for the similar Grey Wagtail, which has a grey back and head. This one was foraging around a horse, picking at the ground that the larger animal was disrupting with its hooves. It was soon joined by a second and ended up flying back and forth for the duration of our stay.
Note it lacks the black bib of the Grey Wagtail.

Another shot, a little too over processed.

And a distant shot of the pair together.

Another record shot, but I can assure you this is a Pintail duck. We saw two, both accompanying Mallards. It's easily our most elegant duck, with a long neck and streamline body. It's also gorgeous to look at with distinctive patterns, while the Male has an extremely long tail.
It's a quarry bird, meaning it can be legally shot for sport during the winter. According to the RSPB, this isn't affecting its status in the UK, but it remains on the amber list with breeding pairs being less than 40. It's largely a wintering duck in the UK, with up to 29,000 birds arriving each year. It''s distribution is patchy, with it rarely being found in central England.
It's a lovely looking bird and my shots really don't do it justice.
Although larger, it's much less stocky than a Mallard.

And here it is again.

Although I was mainly on my bins for our stay at Stanpit it was Mark who spotted this pair of waders. Knot are extremely similar in size and colouration to Dunlin, but are far daintier with smaller bills. Although over 320,000 birds winter here each year it's still on the amber status.
I find telling waders apart extremely difficult, so if it wasn't for Mark's observations I would have put these down as Dunlin and lost a bird off my list.
Apologies for the image clarity but this is a 100% crop. Note the Oystercatchers and Redshank for size comparison purposes.

Brent Goose
There are apparently two types of Brent Geese that winter in the UK, light bellied and dark bellied variants. It's a relatively small goose, roughly the same size of a Mallard and it's mainly coastal. It doesn't breed in the UK and departs for warmer territories by March. Interestingly, these are pretty early as they're typically not seen until October. 

A 100% crop of some feeding Geese, there were probably around 30 in total.

More Brent Geese.

Peregrine Falcon
We were just heading off when all the birds became agitated and started to move. Mark was hoping for an Osprey, but I was more than happy when a Peregrine Falcon appeared and started chasing after Stock Doves. It's a truly beautiful raptor and incredibly graceful in flight. It's one of the world's fasted animals, with a stoop that reaches speeds of up to 242 miles per hour. Immediately noticeable due to its big pointed wings, spotted breast and black moustache, it's a magnificent looking creature that continued to put the birds on edge for several minutes. It was eventually seen off by Carrion Crows, leaving behind a lot of flustered birds and one very happy photographer.

Another 100% crop. Look how stunning it is.

I could watch these all day.

And then the crows ruined it.

So that's it for another week. I'm now up to 119 photographed birds, with 153 left to spot. Here's hoping the weather improves in the coming weeks!

You could get surprisingly close to the Egrets.

Although these ones were quite a way off.

Mute Swan having a preen.

An inquisitive Wheatear.

A resting Cormorant.

A posing Robin.

And another.

More Little Egret action.

A poor shot of a Swallow.

A cold House Sparrow.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Week 23 21-09-2014 Birds Spotted: 1

This weekend was one where work inevitably got in the way, so I was unable to do as much birding as I wanted to. I did manage a quick trip to Hengistbury Head. I was aiming to capture photos of some of the birds I'd seen, but not taken photographs of last week. While I didn't see any blackcaps or Whitethroats I did manage to spot one of them!

This pretty much made the trip for me. The first Sparrowhawk I saw last week was quite distant, so it was great to spy one that was a little closer to me this time. It gets its name because it main prey is Sparrows, Finches and other small birds. I'm pretty sure this was a female bird due to its colouring, but would be happy to be corrected.
Sparrowhawks are one of the UK's most widespread raptors, although its 35,000 breeding pairs see it trailing both the Buzzard and Kestrel. It does look like a bulky Kestrel in flight, but its flight patterns soon give it away. This one was flying near to the visitor's centre, before heading off in the direction of the woods. No doubt on the look out for a tasty treat.

It's a heavy crop but the wing colouration and size suggest a female bird.

Another shot, this time a 50% crop.

So that's it for another week. I'm now up to 114 photographed birds with 158 left to find. Here's hoping I get a bit more time to go out next weekend.

I saw this drake Teal on my walks.

A small group were startled by some walkers.

While another returned to the field I was standing in.

Collard Doves were plentiful.

I spied a couple of distant Greenfinches.

Spied a low flying Magpie.

And what I'm assuming is a black-headed gull.

I spotted a well-hidden Jay on one of the trails.

And a very noisy Dunnock.

Little Egrets and Redshanks were out with the tide.

While a Black-Headed Gull pretty much ignored me.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Week 22 14-09-2014 Birds Spotted: 2

So it's been an interesting week for me this week.
I invested in a pair of binoculars and joined the Christchurch Ornithological Bird Group. I'm keen to meet up with people who share my passion for birds and was looking for someone to occasionally go birding with (it gets quite lonely see).

Anyhow I meet up with Mark, who was kind enough to take me around some of his favourite haunts at Hengistbury. As a result of his good ear for identifying bird by their song and his general knowledge I was able to see no less than five new birds: Yellow Wagtail, Whitethroat, Lesser Whitethroat, Blackcap and Sparrow Hawk. Unfortunately, I was unable to get photos of many of them, which leaves me in a quandary with regards to the blog. Do I include birds I see, or just the ones I photograph. I'll stick to the original plan, but will now keep a separate list for total birds.

So let's move onto the new birds we've got photos of this week then.

Lesser Whitethroat.
Okay so the picture is terrible, but this is a Lesser Whitethroat. Honest.
It's smaller than the Whitethroat, with a more masked face (which you can't see here). We identified it by call and it was generally staying deep in the trees, refusing to surface. It's a relatively common warbler with around 74,000 breeding pairs throughout most of the UK. It's a summer migrant like many of our warblers and will be heading home by mid October at the latest.
Not the greatest of shots admittedly. So consider it a record shot only.

I returned to Hengistbury Head the following day, hoping to maybe get photos of the birds I had seen the previous day. While I saw none of them, I did see a Kingfisher hovering for food and this delightful bird. I'd been following a Kestrel, when my eyes were drawn to the Snipe. It had a very erratic flight (possibly due to the nearby Kestrel) and eventually dived into some marsh ground. It was quite a distance away but more than near enough for a solid ID.
Snipes are relatively shy wading birds that like to skulk around. They are relatively common with over a million birds wintering here each year. They are suffering from falling numbers though, meaning they've been placed on the RSPB's amber list. I'd just been talking about seeing one of these on a forum this very morning, so am more than happy to see it cartwheeling through the sky.
It's a 100% crop, but there's no mistaking what it is.

Here's a shot of its underside. Again, a 100% crop. Note the large patches of white.

So I'm now on 117 spotted birds, 113 photographed birds, with 159 left to find.

Here's some of the other birds I saw over the weekend.

A Chiffchaff on the hunt for food.

A Carrion Crow on the roof of the visitor centre.

Goldfinches resting.

A Great Tit in the same bush as the Lesser Whitethroat.

A juvenile Stonechat.

A Robin in Christmas Card pose.

A low-flying House Martin.

A Speckled Wood. Thanks Marianne!

A Magpie.

A Green Woodpecker.

Which flew to a nearby tree.

It wasn't until I'd processed this Magpie picture that I saw the Green Woodpecker.
Some bird watcher I am!

A very distant Kingfisher.

A Jay flying overhead.

Cormorant flying over the head.

We saw this little fellow on the Sunday. Shame about the Mallard in the background.

And here he is hovering. Stunning little bird. He ended up attracting a small crowd.

Starlings are everywhere.

The Kestrel that disturbed the Snipe.

A juvenile male House Sparrow. Thanks for the id Marianne.

Little Egret and some Mallards.

Another Kingfisher shot? Go on then.