Saturday, 16 February 2013

I 'Kent' Believe It!

Dungeness is famous for birdwatching.  Some people have seen over 100 species of bird in one day there. No surprise as just a few miles from the reserve is the beach, where you can get Gannets, Auks and Gulls, which are probably allowed on your list.
  Yesterday morning I went with my father and uncle Iain.  We left before 8:00 and arrived at 9:30. First we went to the ARC Pit.
 As we walked to the hide my uncle and I saw a large bird alight into a ditch by the road.  It looked very Bittern like, but it was not to be seen again, even when Iain walked past that area by the road.
 As we went by a Reed-bed I heard a Cetti's Warbler, the second time I had heard one.  Personally I don't tick birds heard but not seen.  Otherwise I would have Tawny Owl and Cuckoo!
  We were told by someone who had left the hide, that a drake Smew could be seen, a great bird to see, and so in high spirits we entered the hide.  As I was getting my scope out (I must admit that it was the first time this year) I heard a high piping call and a tiny looking Kingfisher flew up and landed on a perfect perch.  As I lifted the camera though it took flight and I only managed to get it disappearing, one day I will get lucky.
 On the water were several year-ticks, and some of my favourite waterfowl:  Goldeneye, Wigeon, Pintail. Teal.  When suddenly my father pointed out a duck flying quickly across the water.  Locking my scope on it revealed a Red-head Smew!  My first life-tick of the day.  I did a short while later find the Drake Smew, but he was extremely distant, so only an extreme record shot was achievable.
 this Coot was the only bird close enough for a decent shot.

 We then checked out the other viewing area, but nothing new was seen.
 From here we went across the road to see Tree Sparrows.  They were elusive, but nice to see them in decent numbers, and my second life-tick!
  As we were driving up the track to the reserve itself, we saw some people on the side of the road with there scopes out.  I got out to see what they were looking at, and I'm glad we did.  First off one of them showed me some Bean Geese! (Lifer 3) Then two Marsh Harriers over head (4), a Buzzard, and finally when looking at the Beans again a group of Barnacle Geese! 5 Life-ticks in about one hour!

 I did manage a few record shots of the Geese, but way too bad to put up.  As we got back in the car they suddenly called us and pointed out two Ravens!  My favourite Corvid, mainly because of their call!  Yet again, this shows how keen birdwatchers often are to help others.

Around the main reserve there was little to be seen, a Kestrel, some Curlews and Gadwall the only species of note.
 So we decided to head to the beach.  On the way we had another crack at the Tree sparrows, but nothing good was possible.  For some reason they were not using the feeders, this I can not understand, as just a few weeks ago I saw pictures of them on the feeders.  But perhaps, with the warmth of the weather, they had Spring on their minds and were busy holding territories.

The area you have to drive through to get to the beach was like an Old Western Town, dilapidated buildings, boats -often upturned- surrounded by a vast scrub-land.

After pulling up outside Dungeness Nuclear Power Station, we walked along the wall to the beach.  There were 5 Pied Wagtails walking up and down eating tiny insects, who were probably attracted by the heat produced by the N-P Station.
 Upon arriving at the beach I tried to photograph the smaller gulls who were going by, I kept losing focus, but when I finally got one it was an immature Kittiwake!  Life-tick 6!  Almost every time I photographed the smaller gulls they turned out to be Kittiwake, immature and winter adults.

As both the hides were locked I set up the scope on the beach and soon located a Guillemot!  Life-tick 7.  It was hard to get a digiscoped image as it kept disappearing behind waves.
 As we walked back -round the corner from the way we walked to the beach as we left it earlier- I saw a black bird fly towards us, it suddenly turned away from us -as it realised we were there- and flashed red, two key ID points for Black Redstart, and sure enough there was a beautiful male on the wall of the Nuclear Power Station, a typical habitat for this bird, the large buildings are like the cliffs in their natural habitat.  And life-tick 8.  The flash of red tail against black so characteristic for this bird was a sight I had long wanted to see.

Terrible shot, but the best I could get over the distance, at least it shows its urban settings.

My father and Iain both wanted to see the Sound Mirrors used in the 2nd World War for detecting the noise of enemy aircraft.  We parked up further down the coast and had a 20 minute walk over shingle heading away from the coast.  It was again a desolate scrubland, and I doubted I would see any birds.  Until we found a large lake, on this there were Pochard, Tufted Duck, Great-crested Grebe, Black-headed Gull and Herring Gull.  After lugging the camera round for 6 hours that day I sat down for a while looking at the waterfowl, glad I that had not lugged my Tripod or scope with me here, a couple more kilos!  And just like last week at Bushy Park they suddenly started calling me. I quickly walked over to them, expecting to see an owl -probably because that's what happened last time- but when I arrived they said they had seen an Egret, but it had flown off, I thought, that yet again I had missed the bird by being behind for some reason or other but no!  It came back but as I got the camera on it it disappeared behind my father - who I was standing a few feet behind- and into a reed bed.  Suddenly it could be seen standing in the reeds and I took a burst of shots, and looking through my lens I realised that this was no Little Egret, but a Great-white Egret!  An incredible find by my uncle, who had at first assumed it to be a Little. It flew off and round the lake, but when it came back into the reeds something chased it off, and no, it was not a Bittern, but a Grey Heron, I'm not that lucky! It then landed in a bush, before circling the lake again.

By now the sun was setting, and so the ISO was higher than I liked, hence the noise visible in this shot.
 So, 9 lifers in one day puts my life-list on 142, so I have 10 months to get 8 life-ticks to get me to 150, hopefully possible!  My year-list is now 89, hopefully 100 isn't too far away.

 I went through the patch on Valentines day, and the Mute Swans put on a great show!  There was one, a large Cob, who was chasing another -supposed - Cob around the lake.  Fortunately the light was decent so a highish shutter-speed was possible.  Several times the resident pair both took on the intruder, one -I reckon the hen- often chased the intruder into the Cob's path were he would the charge, thrusting his breast forward for momentum!

A little Grebe also allowed me to get a photograph, which is a change!

If you have managed to get this far I must commend you, as this must be the longest post I have ever done!


Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Forthcoming Trip To Ireland

As I mentioned a few posts ago, I will be going to Ireland again soon.  To be precise the 21st of this month.
 My cousin Caleb, who has been mentioned on this blog before, has now taken up birdwatching as a hobby. Armed with binoculars, bird books and hopefully some knowledge gained from me!  He has been very fortunate recently, seeing a Siberian Chiffchaff,  Lesser Redpoll, Dipper, Kingfisher, Goldeneye and most amazingly yesterday a 1w Ring-billed Gull!  He did not know the identity to begin with, so I couldn't believe my eyes when, looking at the images he had sent me from Tralee Wetland Centre,  a 1st Winter R-b Gull! No idea why I thought of that, as I've never seen one myself, but it turned out to be a 1w R-b Gull!  Jammy!

He has also got himself a nice patch at their local beach.  In one image he sent me there were 41 Curlews! In another 3 Goldeneye. Here is also where he saw a Kingfisher.  Most likely a juvenile who is struggling to survive on the rivers and so has moved to the coast.

Anyway, I am there for one week.  So It'll be early mornings, 7:15?  And as much birding as I can do.  I hope to get to the beach at least once while I am there.  Hopefully Cos Strand as well as Caleb's patch, which are just a few miles apart.  Cos Strand you see has fairly tame waders.  And they are a subject I wish to photograph.  Having no decent images of any wader species yet, I would like to get some, preferably eye level shots.  I aim (without stretching my limits.. to far) to photograph: Dunlin, Ringed Plover, Redshank, Turnstone, Curlew and Oystercatchers.  Another species that is gregarious on Irish beaches, is the Rock Pipit.  Oh, I almost forgot to mention he has also seen Shag on his patch, another species I only have record shots of, and the same goes for Goldeneye!

 On my Grandmothers land I aim to photograph, Fallow Deer, Siskin, Redpoll, Greenfinch and Pheasant.
  So I will be busy.
 The most difficult thing though, will be packing my bag, 500mm lens, camera body, not sure about a 300mm? Maybe binoculars, so a lot of heavy equipment.  I will need to be extra careful  on her land though, as we will be staying up a hill, and there are a lot of holes in the ground which you could slip your foot in and fall.
 So enough writing you will no doubt be glad to hear.  I will give you a couple more of my cousin's shots, pictures of wildlife I will hopefully get to photograph myself soon.

And one I took in the garden this morning, on a new perch, for good measure!  Otherwise this might turn into my cousin's blog, and you don't want that, do you?

Saturday, 9 February 2013

That's What I Call Birdwatching!

The chance of seeing a bird as rare and elusive as the Lesser-spotted Woodpecker was too good to turn down, especially as they are, sadly, a fast declining species.  This is believed to be the fault of Greater-spotted Woodies, who are bigger, and more dominant and even predate the Lesser's chicks.
  So in the morning yesterday we - Iain, my father and I - left for Bushy Park.  It was an hour-and-a-half train journey, but the weather was fair, so hopefully a change of ISO down to 400 would be possible.

We arrived at Bushy Park just before eleven. As we were walking to the area where we knew you could see the wee birds, there were some people already there.  We asked if the L-S-W had been seen, they told us that it had, and that it was just around the back of one of the trees in front of us -that's the good thing about this hobby, fellow birdwatchers are always very helpful.  After two minutes out popped a small bird, I took over ten shots in the few seconds it was there, unfortunately obscured.

We spent the next twenty minutes trying to pin it down again, we failed but had great fun.  In that time, I spotted two Greater-spotted Woodpecker, Green Woodpecker, Nuthatch, Treecreeper, Redwing, Wren, Jay and Siskin.  The Treecreeper walked within two foot of the G-S-W, while the Nuthatch was further up the same tree!
 By now another birder had arrived.  He said that he had heard the Male L-S-W drumming while walking here through the park.

 Around the Park we saw; Mistle Thrushes, Parakeets, Greenfinches, Parakeets, a Fox, Green Woodpecker, Skylark and more Parakeets.  Ring-necked Parakeets were even more ubiquitous than feral pigeons.  There seemed though to be a lack of Deer, only a distant herd near the edge of the Park was seen.

There were plenty of Jackdaws around, I tried -with no success- to photograph them.  As I was doing so my uncle Iain suddenly called me; "The Owls showing well in the tree!", I was quickly up and after him, they had quite obviously found a Tawny Owl.  When I got there I was gutted to see it had gone back inside.  No surprise as the tree was filled with Jackdaws and Parakeets.  The Jackdaws seemed to want to get in the hole, and I quite expected to see the owl chase them, no joy.

                                                           "Anyone home?"

 Had to put a Greater in to complete the set!

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Typical Weather...

The Sky has been clear a lot recently, but, the perches I set up in my garden have been in shade almost the whole time, and even worse; it decided to be like this when my eldest brother had lent me his Canon EOS 5D II!  A great camera and on the first day I went to Brighton Beach with it, the birds weren't exactly posing, but I tried some different shots.

For the shots of the birds on the beach I tried to get low down to throw the fore, and background out of focus.  A technique I also tried last time I was here.  It would be nice if smaller birds, like: Pied Wagtails were on the beach to try this technique, unfortunately I've never seen one here and have heard one once.  On a better note though, I will be in Ireland in 15 days, and there local beach is a haven for waders.  My cousin Caleb has got himself a patch by the beach too!  In an image he sent me I counted 42 Curlew!
 Another bird we saw at the beach was a Peregrine over Sussex Heights.  It gave great -but distant- views even perching atop a pole!

The shots I got in the garden with his camera didn't come out very well, as where I have set up the perches is prone to being in shade, so: ISO2000 Shutter 1/125-160, f/8.  And with how fast the birds move that's not ideal.  And -as usual- causes 'noisy' images. The ISO on the 5D II is great, as you have more control, rather than going straight to 1600 form 800, you can do 1000 and 1250!
I did though get one burst of shots in decentish light.  Still there's noise lurking there.

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Bearded Tits...Again

This is the fourth time I've been to the Bearded Tits at Hyde Park, and they're still quite content eating seeds from the Phragmite heads, ignoring the groups of people watching them from a safe distance -although I have heard that people have crossed over the small fence- taking photo's or just taking enjoyment from watching them.  Countless passers by have been notified of what these birds are.  I reckon a couple of thousand people have seen the now!
 Anyway, this is the fourth time, I didn't say about the third time because they were hidden deep in the reeds.  Today however, despite there being a fair breeze still, they put on a marvellous show.  We were probably with them for the best part of  90 minutes, in which time I took about 400 images.  They are great fun to watch, and even after the fourth time they still never fail to amaze.
 Today the detail was much sharper than most of the ones I had before, and I am happy with the results.  I experimented with backgrounds this time as they had flown up to the edge of the reed-bed nearest the bridge, where the reeds were fairly thin.  So I tried the water of the lake and the green of the trees.  My favourite though was just plain reed as it went well with the colours of the Bearded Tits. 

                                                                  Blue Background

                                                      I like the composition on this one

                                                        Probably my favourite

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