Saturday, 27 December 2008

Wonderful Waxwings

Most of us Brits here probably know that this winter is a 'waxwing winter'. Obviously Bill Oddie predicted it one year too early! There were around 15 birds outside the Folkestone B&Q today, and as the sun was showing I was able to take some lovely photos, despite the howling winds, bitter cold and annoying fence! Seriously, the waxwings were great models, coming within less than a metre at times! I just hope they stay a little longer so more people can enjoy them. What with global warming, waxwing winters will be becoming less likely to occur.

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Christmas Eve's Night Delight

Hi all, Ben here.

Seeing as the Night Heron at Hythe (same place as Green Heron earlier) was still hanging around, I decided to go and see it. After all, why not, if the bird is so near to home?
Well, the conditions were hardly perfect, but at least it didn't rain. I can't say I took any good shots today, but never mind. Donana should prove fruitful for a better Night Heron photo next year. I found the bird in the reeds near the bridge, along with a couple of Kingfishers, a young Black-headed Gull, a Little Egret and a Grey Heron. A weasel kept me entertained too while the heron did nothing. Unfortunately a family with young children and a dog scared it off, but never mind. I watched it, I photographed it and it brought back memories of Spain. That's really all that matters!

I tried later for the Waxwings at B&Q, Folkestone, but there was not a bird in sight. Never mind, there's always next month.

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Cliffe, Capel Fleet and BB

A great day, nice to get away from the house and do some proper birding! GCN picked me up and we set off for Cliffe RSPB. The weather was stunning for the whole day, despite the biting cold, the sun was out!
We arrived and quickly got onto target bird numero uno, Spoonbill, a kent tick for me, and as spoonbills usually are, it was a very lazy one! Until about an hour or so later when it awoke and started feeding! WOW Next were 7 Goldeneye, target bird numero dos, another kent tick for me. They performed well, if alittle distant, but still some were drakes and doing their lovely displaying, heads back etc etc. Other birds of note here were 2 Greenshank, 1 Green sandpiper, 2 Redshank, c1000 Lapwing, 4 Little egret, 3+ Reed bunting, 10+ Pintail, c500 Teal, c300 Wigeon and an astonishing number of Little grebe with over 100 seen!!!
We decided to move on to Capel Fleet, Sheppey and have a look round there. 2 ringtail Hen harrier, 7 Marsh harrier, c1100 Golden plover ( showing incredibly as they were scared up into the air by something and flew low over, I could hear their wing beats!) Lapwings, c10 Linnet, 16 Reed bunting, Goldfinches, 2 Kestrel and 2 S E Owls ( which were fighting in mid-air for a while) but the best bird, or 20 of them were Corn buntings, surprisingly a lifer for me, I have just never managed to connect with these birds, they were quite stunning I must say!
We decided to get to bough beech to look for Goosanders and we weren't disappointed as there were a minimum of 13 birds including a few drakes; also c150 Jackdaw, c7000 B H Gulls and 10 Mandarin. The diver was seen by others, but not by us. A great day.........again!

I do hope you all have a Merry Christmas, and I look forward to competing in 2009's year listing competition!


Saturday, 6 December 2008

Beach birding

Hi all,

The south shore of Long Island, NY, has been productive recently. Last weekend I was able to my third Snowy Owl from a very safe distance on the beach. Unfortunately not everyone was so considerate... as they do every time one of these Arctic gems appear, the photogs (unseen for the rest of year) jump into action and do their best to harry the owls. Luckily there is plenty of barrier beach to go around, and the two or three birds hanging around Jones Beach last weekend did not show today. Also present last weekend were a pair of Short-beaked Common Dolphins that had accidentally swam into an inlet and mistook a boat basin for an oceanic exit. After nearly a week in the channel, the two were successfully scared back out into open waters by those terrifying things we call boats. Cetacean lifer!
Today some of the young birders of downstate New York gathered at the same beach for an unofficial walk. 6 members of the New York State Young Birders Club were able to make it. The Snowies had since departed, but several thousand scoters, a couple of eiders (including what turned out to be a distant King) and a Peregrine Falcon amused us. At our next beach location, Point Lookout, we eventually found our extroardinary target: Harlequin Duck. The east coast population of Harlequin is quite small, and the site we visited is probably the most reliable place to find them in the state. We all enjoyed close views of a male and female diving for crabs and the like. At our final destination for the day, the Massapequa Preserve, we quickly located the interesting shorebirds: Lesser Yellowlegs, Long-billed Dowitcher and Wilson's Snipe. At another pond we easily located a distant Eurasian Wigeon, which was only my second for NY state (1st for Nassau County). It's pretty embarassing since multiple birds often winter on the North Shore of the island!

And for the human drama of the day... one of the members and his father locked their keys inside their van. Eventually they pried the back vent-type window open a little and attempted to use a wire to unlock a door. That was too difficult, so they asked someone at the residence they had parked in front of for hedgeclippers. They snapped part of the mechanism that held the window to the van and the member slid through the window. A great day! And after all the excitement, I saluted the anatid highlights of the day by devouring a duck breast for dinner.

Two Black Birds (logically three)

I was down at my local patch today watching the male Black Redstart that was there... what a stunner! The real surprise came later, when, barely having left the rifle range, a pair of Ravens flew over calling, mobbed by the local Jackdaws as they went. What a great patch bird!