Friday, 30 November 2012

17 Ticks (Not Mine)

Yesterday morning in the garden in Ilford the Starlings were back!  There were eight on the suet block feeder!  As I was watching them I saw something fly up and land behind a post on the fence, now, the garden is small, about 15x20 foot, with one small tree, there are also no big trees around, except for a conifer, so when the bird poked its head round and showed itself to be a Great-spotted Woodpecker I was surprised!  The garden was in shadow at this time in the morning, so I had to use slow shutter (sorry if you are bored of this), about 1/100-1/200, and with the excitement my hands were not that steady.

On Tuesday my Grandmother and cousin Caleb from Ireland came over, and on Wednesday Caleb and I went up to London as I was planning to get him some bird ticks, as I have turned him into a bit of a birdwatcher, which is good as so many young people have no interest in nature, but I suppose for him living in the country side its difficult not to be.

Well, later on Thursday, at about eleven we headed to Thurrock Thameside Nature Park as I had heard some good things about it.  We saw nothing too interesting as the tide was in, all the birds were miles away.  On one island I saw about c.50+ Curlew.  There was also a Kestrel about.

After that we headed to West Canvey to try and get for Stonechat and Short-eared Owls for Caleb.
 As we walked to the Sea wall we saw Fieldfare and Redwing feeding on berries, none close enough for images.  There were no Stonechat in the area were we saw them last time, or anywhere else as far as we could see.
We walked along the Sea wall seeing: Little Egret, a huge flock of Teal and Shoveller and a flock of Stock Dove.  Also a Snipe flew over on rapid wings.
 We walked around a long way and Caleb complained about losing feeling in his fingers, admittedly it was freezing.  Unlike last time the marsh wasn't there, instead was a big water-wayed grass field.

No luck with either S.E-Owl or Stonechat.  In the hide near the car park I saw: Redshank, Shovellor, Rabbit and Canada and Greylag Goose.

This morning we went to Wanstead Park to try and get Caleb one of the ticks he most wanted; Kingfisher.  We found a fair few friendly Robins and I almost hand fed one, not quite though.
We came to the bit by the river where I had seen Kingfishers before, and waited for a fair while.  The ground was frosted and there were two Robins feeding in the grass here, surprisingly close together.

After a long while I saw the Brilliant flash of blue of the kingfisher speeding over the water, it flew up into the bushes out of sight and then came  back down allowing Caleb and my father to see it,  mission accomplished!
As we walked back along the other side along the lake we saw Cormorant and two Siskin!
Altogether we got Caleb seventeen ticks!

Friday, 23 November 2012

Records Smashed!

This afternoon we smashed the patch records.  We left out at about 14:30 and got back about 16 :15, so a long time!
On the lake were over 12 Pochard sleeping, and a Grey Heron on the island, as well as the usuals.
As we were walking by the Canal I scanned the field for interesting gulls and was rewarded with Valentino the Med Gull!  Also there was: Black-headed Gull, Common Gull and Herring Gull!
Other highlights were: Grey Wagtail, Jay, plenty of Mistle Thrush's and a Long-tailed Tit flock (I was gutted that someone else saw a Nuthatch with them at 15:00).
At the end of the trip we had racked up 32 species of bird!  That smashed the record by 3!

                                                   Puffed up Black-headed Gull

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Thriving Garden

Early this morning while sitting with the cat watching the original Adam's Family (no-one else was up),  my attention was caught by a small bird in the Laurel, i looked and saw what looked like a small Great Tit, which meant one thing, the long awaited garden tick; Coal Tit! I stood up and reached for the camera, accidentally tipping the cat off my lap, fired off some shots before it came down closer to the feeder, it hanged on a branch and as I tried to focus I lost it.  After that I payed more attention to the garden.  I saw a movement in the small bush's around the pond, thinking it was one of the Chiffchaff's I took a few images; realised it was a Firecrest and took some more!  I climbed out the window barefooted (not even socks!) to get a better image, the Firecrest had by now moved and after that it was elusive   Due to bad light this was the best I could do.

                                                   Partially hovering

Later on I went back out (this time with foot-ware! and through the door) and straight away I saw the Coal Tit on the gate down to the back part of the garden! I snapped off a few shots but for a bird of its size it was to far away.  During the time I was out there a flock of Long-tailed Tits were about!  As well as a Chiffchaff.  After a while I got better views of the Coal Tit and some better images.  Unfortunately the computer is stupid enough to believe that the file doesn't exist.
So cut a long story short I got some good views of a Great-spotted Woodie!

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Hungry And Thirsty

Down in Sussex there has still been no further signs of the Firecrest, but as usual there are still plenty of other birds to keep me occupied; such as Goldcrests who are probably one of the only birds where sitting waiting patiently isn't usually the best idea.  I often end up moving from one part of the garden to the other just to get some shots; which are never that good.  I was quite lucky to get this shot, as this is the only conifer around, so the Goldcrests look more natural in it.  Goldcrests usually live and breed in coniferous  forests.
The Focus is a bit off as the lens wouldn't focus so I had to use manual-focus and the wee bird wouldn't stop moving for long!

The Squirrel Buster+ feeder I bought is know working successfully, And my brother tells me that he has seen both Jay and Great-spotted Woodpecker, once both on the same branch!  So far I have only seen the Jay about the feeders, he usually hangs about on the floor below the feeders.
Recently whilst browsing lenses that I won't be able to afford for a long time; I discovered that with my mother's lens, when fully extended to 300mm the images are a bit "soft", but this can be counteracted by having a larger F-stop, such as F9, I usually work with F5.6 and have frequently lost great opportunities to "soft" images.  So yesterday I tried between F8-F10, and I believe some of the pictures may be a little sharper!

Yesterday whilst trying to photograph the Blue Tits bathing in next-doors gutter this Jay swooped in for a drink! at first I didn't take any pictures, I waited until he put his head down for water before I got into a good position, and when he looked up I fired off some shots! This image is cropped so as to remove the distracting white plastic/glass roof.  As I went to show this shot to my brother I noticed a Collared Dove (Garden tick) on the garage roof!  He too was having a drink!  Also some Blackbirds drinking from the gutter but I won't bore you with loads of drinking bird pictures.

The Squirrels seemed to be dustbins today, I sprinkled some seed beneath my window and accidentally poured out way too much I also put out an old Brazil nut, all of this the Squirrels ate, and they still attempted to feed on my Squirrel Buster+, and searched all the empty feeders for food too!
I tried to focus on the eye in this shot, which was difficult as it kept putting its head to the ground, and this isn't cropped!

Saturday, 17 November 2012

"Canvey" Really Be Seeing This?

Yesterday I went to West Canvey Marshes.  As well as my Father,  Uncle Iain came too.  We didn't leave until after eleven as some people came round to my Grandmother Amy's to fix her television.  It was very misty when we arrived and I had to use shutter-speeds under 1/320th of a second, which is horrible to work with.  In and around the car park and play area we saw Meadow Pipits, a Pied Wagtail, Chaffinches and my first confirmed sightings of a Fieldfare this season!
In the first hide there was little to be seen; most of the Water-fowl was up the other end of the water, and looking through my scope I managed to find a Med Gull!  It was super distant but I could see the distinguishing features: all white wings and heavier red bill.
On the way around to other parts of the reserve I saw this Robin who made quite a nice image against the mist.

Also seen: Kestrel which Iain spotted, a flock of c.50 Stock Dove, a Little Egret, Blackbird and then as we were walking along the the path my father pointed out a small bird on the fence. I looked through my scope and was surprised to see a male Stonechat! (Life tick!) He was constantly flicking his wings and tail before diving into the reeds.  After he disappeared we carried on and then a Stonechat popped up just ten feet away - this was a female!  The pictures are rubbish due to low light, but I am pleased to have seen them!

                                                       Male note: black head

Also in one of the fields my Father pointed out a huge bird  on top of a tree, looking through his Binos' I thought Buzzard but, looking through my scope showed it to be a corvid (of the crow family).  Today I posted it on the Bird-Forum and had it confirmed as a Raven!

We carried on until we came to the Sea Wall, which was a bit disappointing because it certainly looked more like marsh than the Sea!  We walked along and saw a hovering Kestrel which I could tell was a male due to his blue/grey head, the female has a brown head.  He landed on a wire but was too far to get a decent image.  Carrying on the Kestrel kept taking off hovering and landing again on the wire, this he kept doing every time we moved, odd for a Kestrel to follow us!

By now Iain was a long way ahead and as we continued to walk he flushed a Pheasant which flew into a field.  I then noticed as the pheasant flew in,  he himself flushed something; I only got a glimpse but I called it: "Short-Eared Owl!" Despite my best efforts my Father couldn't see it, Iain came back to see what I was calling him for and then we were all treated to fabulous views of the bird which confirmed that it was a Short-eared Owl!  And there were at least two!  One of them flew up quite high and flew towards us showing amazingly! This was also a Life Tick!  I was extremely pleased to see these wonderful birds so well!

On the way back it started to rain so we went quickly to the last hide (the one close to the car park).  We got a lot of day ticks from here including a hunting Heron, who caught a tiny fish and I managed to find a Common Sandpiper!
Altogether a great day with two life ticks putting me up to 127 in my life list.  On the reserve we saw 40 species of bird!

Thursday, 15 November 2012

A Patch First

Late yesterday afternoon we went to the Park for a quick stroll around the lake.  The light was fantastic so I got out the camera and took a fair few images.  Taking pictures in interesting light is enjoyable but getting the shutter-speeds right can be difficult.
As we were walking around the lake a small raptor which I believe was a Sparrowhawk gunned past over the lake at waist level before going up into a tree, we had a look but couldn't see him.

There were also a couple of Mistle Thrushes up in the trees and as we were approaching the gate to leave I saw something tiny flitting around the tree tops, I believe it was a Pipistrelle Bat due to its tiny size, it was seen at 16:25.  I am surprised that it was not in hibernation in mid-November. A first for he patch!  I manage a shot without flash but it was only about 5 pixels  big, so I won't post it!

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Patch Records...

After a Fireworks party last night I was not up until 8:50!  I mean thats almost the latest I've been up all year, any way I went to the park some time after ten.  First thing of interest was a male Sparrowhawk soaring up above being mobbed by a Carrion Crow and a Black-headed Gull.  I do not know why birds bigger than them like the gull, mob hawks, a female Sprawk can only take prey up to Wood Pigeon size, and the male is much smaller so why would a gull attack him?
The lake held a nice surprise, a Cormorant on one of the boats in the middle of the lake.  Also: Black-headed Gulls, Common Gulls and Lesser Black-backed Gulls.

At the feeder stations I saw two Collared Doves which made nice photos.  For this image I was only part the way zoomed in and used a fairly slow shutter; around 320/1

Also I came across this cheeky wee Squirrel,  he came right up to my tripod when I was right next to it and sniffed my scope!
Maybe he/she wants to buy one?  It would be helpful to spy out bird-food!

My record number of bird species for one trip to the patch is 28 which I set last week, today I got 27, missing out some usuals like: Jackdaw and Grey Wagtail,  hopefully I will soon get 30!

Friday, 9 November 2012

Two Tick Island

Yesterday I went with my Father to Leigh-on Sea,  we were going to stay with my Auntie Lorna for the night.  When we arrived we went straight to Two-Tree Island as the light was fading fast, and I was hoping for some ticks. We only went to one of the hides and speed walked there. During the walk I was reminded how frustrating dogs can be.  On the way to the hide I saw: a Kestrel, Curlew, Redshank and Grey Plover; I was pleased with the Plover as I had only previously had scoped views through reeds of them in summer dress.

 I thought the letters on the islands from the hide were very helpful, especially when there are a few of you; so you can say: "just left of L", and "Just left of L" is where I saw my first Snipe! I was just scanning across when I noticed four camouflaged birds which were the Snipe!  Also there were a couple of Grey Plover, and I got a better image - all these shots are digiscoped!  Grey Plover are much drabber in winter, but they are very smart in summer, personally I like them in winter.

There were plenty of Avocets around, and Lorna counted 28!  Last time I was here I didn't see any!  There were also: Redshank, Lapwing, Oystercatcher, Teal, Wigeon, Shoveller, Grey Heron and Little Egret! Also creeping along one of the banks was a splendid male Pheasant!

As the light was fading fast we went to the coast to see the Brent Geese.  The tide was hugely far out and so were the Brents.  I managed to scope some record shots, nothing brilliant.
My life list is now 125!

Also this morning when we were driving home we saw a Buzzard perched in a tree!  We parked up a distance away and walked back but it was gone.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Beat That!

Squirrels,  now they are one kind of animal I strive to outsmart.  They can be the cause of great frustration as they steal all my bird food.  They have pulled feeders apart and spilt food everywhere,  and I have had to take some drastic measures;  hanging feeders on the washing line, running outside waving my arms, even scaring him off with a water pistol (a little too extreme!).
But now, I will put up with it no more, I have bought: Squirrel buster +!  It was rather expensive for a feeder costing £30

I put it up in the garden, not in the place I want it, so I might move it.  I filled it up and walked away and about 7 seconds after I left a Blue Tit was on it!  and for the first time I was looking forward to the Squirrel paying a visit.  Unluckily I think the Squirrel visited when I wasn't looking, because as I looked outside I saw it sitting there looking suspiciously at it, and resolving to go for Black-sunflower seeds instead.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Plenty To See

Here in Sussex the garden is hotting up with plenty of birds to see.  This what has been in the garden recently; most unusually I saw a Chiffchaff in the garden on the 5th!  Carrion Crows, Magpies, Jays, Jackdaws, Wood Pigeon and Herring Gulls have all been on the garage roof, unluckily since the Firecrest the flocks of Long-tails haven't come into the garden.  Also yesterday I put Black-Sunflower seeds out for the first time since spring, Birds came down within the hour, and there have now been: 5 Blue Tits 3 Great Tits and a Robin using the feeder!  Sadly there has also been another visitor.

                                                                   Blue Tit

For the first time in months I went in the garden today, my reason for not entering this wilderness for so long is that it was full of Garden Spiders everywhere you looked, but they have basically all gone now!
I do not know why but I do not like spiders, except for Zebra-jumping Spiders, which I actually like!
Here is a picture of the only Garden Spider I found today

Typically, as I had already started writing this post when I went into the garden, and had complained about the lack of Long-tailed Tits in the garden, Long-Tails came!  I wasn't complaining as having Long-tailed Tits, a Chaffinch and a Blackbird as well as the Blue Tits was entertaining.  Also a Wren came creeping through the undergrowth!  I was outside for a fairly long while and saw a distant Great-spotted Woodpecker and a surprise was a Buzzard flying overhead being harassed by a Herring Gull.

This afternoon I saw a Red Admiral butterfly which I thought was odd for this time of year,  but I did see a Hoverfly yesterday, so there are still insects on the wing.

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