Saturday 30 January 2010

London ticking… and a Caspian Gull

Suzanne and I had a very pleasant wander round Rainham in the sunshine this lunchtime – I was keen to catch up with a peculiarly large and black-and-white Little Grebe, and a couple of rossicus (Tundra) Bean Geese, since both would be London ticks.

tundra_beanEverything was very obliging (though the Slav was rather un-photogenic today – might return tomorrow), and I found a cracking 3rd winter Caspian Gull – I think this is yet another new individual on site following an excellent run of birds. Rainham is surely one of the best places in the country to see these right now, as long as you visit on a day when the tip is working (so not Sunday).

Photos were taken into the light so they’re not fantastic, but they show all the features: rather small pear-shaped head, long slim parallel sided bill, small dark eye, remnants of a streaky shawl on the nape, long thin legs, high chest and hanging belly to the rear. When it dropped onto the pool for a swim (showing very attentuated rear end, with primaries held high above the water), it spent a lot of time picking up bits of vegetation and messing about with them – I’ve seen Caspians do this a lot, no idea why though!

3w_cachinnans1 3w_cachinnans2 3w_cachinnans3 great_tit stonechat

Monday 25 January 2010

More from Yorkshire: Filey Brigg waders

Some further pics captured in gloomy conditions at the weekend. A confiding group of waders on the rocky shoreline at Filey included 13 Purple Sandpipers, a species I don’t see particularly often (or particularly close) down south. Given a bit of time and basic fieldcraft (keeping still and low down), they came in quite close allowing these photos to be taken. If I’m up that way again on a sunnier day, I’d like to have another go since there’s plenty of room for improvement… or maybe the Purps in Lowestoft are calling when I’m back in East Anglia.

purplesand1 purplesand2 purplesand3 knot

Sunday 24 January 2010

Black-throated Thrush, Newholm

The first long distance twitch of the year was a great success all round: a cracking bird (filling a relatively easy gap on my British List), excellent company from Messrs Lethbridge and Harvey, plenty of good food, and some… …  err… “entertainment” in the pub in Bridlington on Saturday night! £1.50 a pint and karaoke. Hmmm… it seemed like such a good idea to go for a couple more quiet beers after dinner!

Anyway, moving on from that traumatic experience – here’s a few photos of ‘the boy’. The light was really poor so these were taken at ISO 800-1000 and aren’t going to win any prizes, but hopefully illustrate just how well the thrush was showing. Almost constantly on view, it was chasing away any intruding Blackbirds, calling quite frequently, and generally offering superb views. If only all new birds were so obliging.

btthrush1 btthrush2 btthrush3 btthrush4

Saturday 9 January 2010

More unusual wildlife…

Sadly, neither the 3rd winter Caspian Gull nor the superb pair of Bearded Tits were photographed this morning… but I did get a quick snap of this:

snowrabbitThe rarely seen Snow Rabbit threat display

Wednesday 6 January 2010

Roding Valley in the Snow

Popped out to sample the white stuff for an hour this afternoon and took a few photos. First, a helpful public notice. I must’ve missed all the people wandering about with Speedos on and a towel under their arm today…


And then a few scenic shots, converted to monochrome…roding_snow1roding_snow3 roding_snow4


Monday 4 January 2010

Twitching Aids part II

Like most birders, I undertake most longer distance trips and days out as part of a car share to keep down petrol costs. Trying to work out a reasonably accurate cost per person when your brain’s fried after x hours driving and y hours birding (x + y > 12 for a decent day out) can be bit of a pain.

See for an online calculator that will do the trick. Just enter distance travelled, fuel economy and fuel cost, and you’re done. Simples!

Sunday 3 January 2010

Abberton Spotted Sandpiper etc

A few pics from today’s jaunt into Essex with the Rainham crew. We started at Abberton for the last chance to see the wintering Spotted Sand, before major works start tomorrow to raise the water level by 3 metres!!! It was absolutely freezing until the sun crept up above the cloud, but the sandpiper was happily pottering about on the dam, looking well settled in. Not great light for photography (taken at ISO 1000), but these are way better than the digiscoped shots taken in 2009.

spotsand1spotsand3  spotsand2Other birds noted on the reservoir included 4 Smew (3 lovely ‘white-nuns’ together plus a separate redhead), plenty of Goosander, single Whooper Swan and a Spoonbill. Next stop was the causeway across to Mersea Island, where we were pleased to pick up wintering Greenshank and Spotted Redshank amongst commoner waders.

In slightly higher temperatures (the dizzy heights of 4 degrees C!) the Blackwater Estuary from Rolls Farm was excellent as usual: 5 Slav Grebe and 3 Great Northern Divers were conservative counts, plus there was a single Red-throated Diver and loads of showy Red-breasted Mergansers. Looking back inland, a Barn Owl was dozing in the sunshine and a couple of Buzzards drifted about. It always amazes me how few people seem to know about this site – where else in the SE can you consistently get good views of Slavs and GNDs in these numbers?

After a brief and unsuccessful look for Hawfinches, final stop was a slight detour to Westcliff-on-sea, to pay my annual homage to Rossi! He was typically obliging, flying to land on the lamp-post over the car just as we were parking – I’m sure some of the other guys will have better photos.

rossi A group of Turnstone made good photographic subjects in the fading light, before we headed back towards London in the sunset. 112 species in London and Essex in 3 days… nothing spectacular in terms of numbers, but good fun and great company!