Sunday, 30 March 2014


This morning started at 6:15, earlier than my comfortable rising time, but I had my reasons.  Packed and out the door by 7:15, what a daunting thought, I was on my way to Splash Point for my first taste of Seawatching.  I met up with local birder Liam Curson at Seaford before heading down to Splash Point. Despite the conditions being seemingly perfect for migrating birds, it was -so I was told- rather a quiet day.  There were however at least a hundred Common Scoter, about 10 Red-throated Divers, 200-300 Brent Geese, 8 Sandwich Tern, Gannet and 2 Med Gulls.  With Red-throated Diver and Common Scoter constituting as lifers, Not really what I'd call a quiet day.  Most of the birds stayed distant, but it was a nice introduction to this type of birding...

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Silver Linings...

As they say, all clouds have a silver lining.  After the focussing issues, I brought the lens back to the company yesterday to further discuss the problem.  Simply the focus wasn't functioning, not really a fixable problem it turned out.  I had bought the only Tamron 90mm they had it stock, so they couldn't replace it, but they offered a full refund or did I wish to get another lens?  Hmm, the Sigma 105mm called out to me, but could I afford it? Just. I gave it a quick whirl, not at all bad, and apparently just slightly superior to the 90mm.  Yeah why not, I do need a macro, but what's that?  Free of extra charge....  Oh wow.  Over the moon doesn't come close.  Flabbergasted maybe?
 I didn't mention the name of the company yesterday as I wouldn't want to put a bad image of them in your head, as I've known them to be a trustworthy company.  The malfunction was simply down to the lens. Todays experience reestablished and strengthened my opinion of them, so for those interested
 Hopefully this lens will last a little longer than its predecessor...

Monday, 24 March 2014

Lens Trouble

I thought I'd treat myself to a new bit of kit, I'd been saving for the last eight months, didn't I deserve to?  It was clear what I was missing, a macro lens.  I opted for the Tamron 90mm, a very sharp lens and not extortionately priced, what more could you want?  So today I ordered one from a company, which conveniently turned out to be local, so I picked it up in person which saved on postage.  Ah the excitement of new kit!  With the longer days it was still light when I got home, so I had a quick test of it in the garden.  Whoo what a lens!  Sure the focus hunted a little, but it was incredibly sharp, and at f/2.8 the depth of field was as shallow as you like.  I was impressed.

I took about one hundred or so images of random gardeny stuff and then I encountered a problem.  After switching the camera to MF there was a clicking noise as I turned the focus, changing back to AF, still clicking, back to MF 'click click', back to AF.... and the focus has stopped working.  Ah.  The camera is no longer registering it to be an auto-focus lens.  Potentially problematic. Maybe there was something wrong with the camera connection?  A hollow hope yes, and one which was diminished as the lens failed to respond when tried on a different camera body.  Huh, change from manual focus back... still nothing.  It was 2nd hand, but even so... the rest of the lens is in prime condition, so why has the auto-focus gone?  For now an unanswered question.
 It was some relief I had bought it from a company, I should be able to take it back to be repaired, as it really is a beautiful piece of kit.

Friday, 21 March 2014

Waterway to Spend a Morning...

The summer migrants are beginning to arrive.  A few hours over at the patch this morning held three Chiffchaffs singing around the canal. Two even did the honourable thing and put in an appearance.  
Another surprise was the presence of the Kingfisher.  It's been a good month or two since my last sighting of her, but today she showed fairly regularly in the same place along the canal.  A mostly shady spot viewable from the bridge, and too far for the camera of course, but... that's Kingfishers for you.   It's been reported here a couple of times, so it must be frequenting the area, although it's the first time I've seen it here.  Perhaps I've just been looking in the wrong place?
 A great bird to have at the park, I'm hoping that it stays for a few more weeks as the four or five sightings that I've had are not nearly enough....

- Apologies for the messed up colours, blogger compression seems to have done something to it...

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Ireland -the Gulls

A summary of the gulls from my Ireland trip, Larophiles (Gull 'enthusiasts') enjoy...

Ring Billed Gull:  We saw 5 RBG's, three adults and two 2nd winter birds.  There were 
two at Cork Lough, two at Tralee Wetland Centre and one at Castletownbere.  They showed pretty well too.

Mediterranean Gull:  Not quite as uncommon as the rest, but Med Gulls are always nice, and I got a surprise when we found eleven at Aghada!  There was a 2nd winter and ten adults which were coming into summer plumage, standing out well amongst Common and Black Headed Gulls.  There was also a 1st winter bird at Tralee Bay Wetlands.

Iceland Gull: We managed two Iceland Gulls, one at Tralee Bay Wetland Centre and one at Ballycotton Pier, both of them were 1st winter birds - I think.

Kumlien's Gull: A subspecies of Iceland Gull, but still a nice one to see.  There was a 1st winter individual showing extremely well at Kinsale Co. Cork.

Glaucous Gull: These huge birds are real stunners!  Dwarfing all the other gulls around them they're quite an impressive sight.  We had  1st winter birds at Kenmare Pier and Black Rock, with adults seen at Cahermore and Castletownbere.

Yellow-legged Gull:  A bird I'd been trying to see for a long time, and finally managed to get at Castletownbere, and if that wasn't enough it was sitting next to a Glaucous Gull!

Interestingly enough at the same location we found a Yellow-legged Herring Gull, surely just to confuse things.

Ross's Gull:  And of course the Ross's Gull.  This little beauty was at Kinsale Co. Cork, and showed unbelievably well. 

Really a fantastic trip.

Sunday, 9 March 2014

The Spring Change...

Ah, how nice it was to get back on the patch after nearly a four week absence.  A lot had changed in that time, with the improved weather, Spring had started to set in.  And the last few days had been no exception with barely a cloud in view.  Bees are once again becoming a frequent sight and there are now hundreds of Daffodils.  One of the pairs of Egyptian Geese already have six Goslings.  Although they do seem to have made a habit of nesting early, and also surprisingly late - they once had a brood in September. Spring really is on its way.  Seeing a Redwing felt just slightly wrong.
 Valentino, as would be expected has now moved on, and despite recent sightings, the Kingfisher is still proving elusive, for me at least.  However I did manage to see a Coal Tit, which was the first on the patch this year, taking the patch year-list up to 45, edging ever closer to the overall 57 I've seen on the patch.  

 From past experience the goslings usually have an unfortunately high mortality rate, mostly due to Crows, Herons, and of course, dogs.  This brood however seems to be doing remarkably well, with no chicks lost in the four days since I first saw them. Although they are still very young, a week at the most, so there's a long time to go yet....

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Ross's Gull

It's back to gulls for now, and I imagine that this theme will continue into the next post too.  I did see rather a lot.
 On the 20th, I went (ahem, twitched) a Ross's Gull.  This little Arctic gull had ended up at Kinsale in Co. Cork.  As with the Eider, it only took a few minutes to find the gull (ah the joys of Irish birding) as it flew by the Trident Hotel.  We ended up being there for around four hours, and the bird showed well on and off during that time.  On a couple of occasions, it flew by within six foot of where I was standing.  A fantastic little bird. Unfortunately it appeared to be slightly oiled on the breast.  It didn't seem to be hindered by this though.
 In typical rare bird fashion it proved pretty difficult to photograph, so again... Record shots.

 In the times when the Ross's was out of sight, I spent time photographing some of the other gulls in the area.  There were plenty of Kittiwakes around, and we even managed to find a Kumlien's Gull.  Although to be quite honest I only confirmed the ID once I'd got back.

Is that enough gulls yet? I suppose not, well more will be coming soon.... Many more.....

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Kings or Queens

 I'm back in good old England now after a rather fantastic trip to Ireland.  It really was a fantastic trip, despite being focused nearly wholly on gulls.  And I must say I'm now much more into gulls than I previously had been.  In my trip I managed to see 13 gull species, more than I had previously managed in my whole life.  So yes it was a success.  However I hate to disappoint any larophiles out there, but this post is not on gulls.  Although I won't deny there will be a few.
  After my initial success with a Glaucous Gull at Kenmare Pier, the next birding trip was a rather spontaneous one down to Co. Cork. More precisely Cahermore,  stopping at Castletownbere on the way.  So it was, after a very windy drive through the mountains we arrived at Castletown. This is where the gulls come in.  The first bird we got our eyes on was an fine adult Glaucous Gull, soon followed by my first Ring-billed and Yellow Legged Gulls.  So not a bad stop at all.

After that it was on to Cahermore, where a female King Eider (females are sometimes referred to as 'Queen' Eiders) had been seen recently.  It didn't take long at all to locate her, thankfully there were no other eiders there which made the job a little easier.  She was unfortunately quite a way off.  Too far for anything more than an extreme record shot.  Still, a nice bird to watch. Even at a distance the characteristic markings were fairly clear, a pale supercilium and 'smiling' gape line.
By my standards a pretty good day out indeed...

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