Saturday 20 July 2013

What Do You Put on Your Garden list?

When I was younger I would only ever put birds that had actually landed in my garden on my garden list.  But of course this throws up difficulties.  Birds like Swift are not going to land in your garden are they?  So do you tick them?  If they were on your patch you would so why not your garden.
Yesterday I got an amazing garden tick. An adult Mediterranean Gull in fine breeding plumage.  Obviously I couldn't let this off the garden list, but it flew over, so do I put it on the list?  If so the Kestrels, Peregrines, Sparrowhawks, Cormorants that have all flown over make it on to the list too.  I'm not complaining though, it adds about another ten to the list if you count all the fly overs.  But does that also mean you can tick birds that were actually in someone else's garden?  Surely yes. But then is it not a bit dishonest, putting Common Gull on your garden list when it was really in a neighbours? Maybe you should change it to a 'Seen from garden' list, but who wants two different lists for their garden?  No one, so you then have no option but to put the birds on, do you?
 My garden list is somewhere around forty  very low I know, but it is a rather  very small garden, about 7 by 5 meters in size.  And not a very wild area either, just your average suburban street.

Sunday 14 July 2013

Isle Be Back

Yesterday was the hottest day so far this year.  I for one hope it will be the hottest day this year.  It was unbearable.  With this in mind we left early for Elmley Marshes on the Isle of Sheppey.  By the time we arrived at 9:30 it was already over 20 degrees. And at one point on the way back it reached 36 degrees in the car.  Horrible.
 Apparently the path to the reserve is the best part.  So I set up my beanbag - no, not to sit on myself (see here) - and got the camera ready.  Oh, talking of cameras my 7D turned up, incredible piece of kit!  Well, back to the subject:  we soon found a Marsh Harrier gliding on distant thermals.  A couple of Yellow Wagtails, which I must admit at  the time we, well...thought they were pipits.  I know I know, but the colours weren't easy to see properly through the front windscreen.
 Lapwings and Redshanks were just sitting on the side of the track, although the Redshanks weren't posers, the same can't really be said about the lapwings.

A Hare was also seen along the track but no good shots as it was running away.  Nice to see though.  Such an incredible species.

 The walk to the first hide was fairly long but I picked up Reed Warbler and Sedge Warbler along the way.  It was so good to get the Reed Warbler after hearing so many but not seeing any.  Phew.
 Well, the hide...amazing!  Previously my views of Avocets have been appalling, here though, not the same.  Just bad angles.

This juvenile came close to the hide, just wish I could have got an eye level shot, oh well.  There were at least 30 Avocets here.  Great, considering not too long ago there were no breeding birds in this country.
 By this time the sun was too hot, I had already drunk a whole bottle of water, glad we brought three.  So walking 500m to the next hide in this heat to see nothing, made me 'over the moon'.
 I found two Med Gulls on the reserve, an adult and a 1st year bird.  That takes my 'found' Med Gull list to 5.  an odd list to keep.
 But still, forgetting that I had a great day out, nice to put the 7D to the test. I took over 700 shots, so, I think I put it through its paces.
 It was amazing at this time of year, so what would it be like in winter?  Well I will definitely be back here at some time of year or other.

Saturday 6 July 2013

London Birding

Yesterday we did some birding in London, no we didn't go to Kensington Gardens -at first anyway- we went instead to Regents Park.  I mean unheard of?  Me going somewhere in London other than Kensington Gardens? Wow. I had hoped to get good views of Kestrels, I did, but not close views as I had hoped.  Actually they were quite far off, too far for any decent shots.  But nice to see as they were juvenile Kestrels.
 A search for Little Owls here proved fruitless so.....Yes we went to Kensington Gardens.
 Getting there was a rather uncomfortable experience:  The temperature was unbearable on the tube trains, and to make it worse they were packed with tourists.  It was standing room only. Our water was getting warm and running out too.
 It was worth it.  I always enjoy hand-feeding the birds there, such a simple pleasure. I spent most of the time trying flight shots and did nail one but the background ruined it.  A shame, the focus was dead on.

 I have a little bit of news too.  This week I -finally- bought myself my own camera!  I don't think my bank is happy with me, but forget about that it will be amazing!  I should have it by next week, so expect a lot -an awful lot of pictures.

Monday 1 July 2013

'Owl' Many Rabbits?

You'll never-ever-ever guess where I went on Wednesday.  No wait.....Maybe you will.  So does it surprise you  if I say I went to Minsmere?  I would hope so because I didn't go there.   Where I did go however is somewhere whose wealth of wildlife is somewhat more surprising than Minsmere's.  Kensington Gardens.
We arrived at the park in the afternoon and soon after we bumped into Ralph Hancock and had a chat about what had been seen today.  As we were talking a fellow wildlife photographer came up to ask about the Owls.  So Ralph led us to the tree and soon had the Little Owl on a new perch higher up the tree than last time.  Again the lighting was far from preferable.  Getting the Owl exposed right meant the background was over-exposed....Oh well.  Still nice to get a good view of an owl.

I had a chat with the photographer we met while we went looking for Tawny Owls and some other wildlife.  He was here on a business trip and had taken the day off to come here.  He was happy with what he saw.  We had no luck with the Tawny Owls unfortunately, but you can't have everything.
 We moved on around the lake, I managed to pick up a Reed Warbler on call, but couldn't see it.  I still need one for my year-list.  I have had an unconfirmed, but 90% certain sighting but I can't be definitive.
 Around the lake we saw a Red-crested Pochard, it came too close a lot of the time, and the lighting wasn't preferable.
 We then decided to take a quick look for Rabbits as we haven't seen them here before and we had to leave soon.  Well we saw some Rabbits....A lot of Rabbits.  We counted 16 in one small cleared area.  And they were extremely tame.
 I have noticed something -well to me- interesting; all the star species of this visit are introduced!  The Romans brought the Rabbits over for food when they invaded, most of the Little Owls came from Holland, and it wouldn't surprise me if Charles the 2nd introduced Red-crested Pochard.  Funny how species like the Rabbit fit in so well with our ecosystem: they provide excellent food for Buzzards and foxes.  Little Owls....Well I don't know if they benefit our ecosystem but they seem to fit in well, and are very apt at surviving here.  Fossil evidence in Derbyshire  shows they did once live here but were wiped out in this country.  Who knows how?

A trip up to a local golf-course here in Brighton payed dividends with Whitethroat, Green Woodpecker, Pheasant, Rook and Linnet all being seen.  Linnet takes me to 143 for the year.  No Skylark unfortunately, but they are most likely still there.

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