Monday, 29 July 2013

Viva Espana

This will be my last blog post for a while...I'm off on my summer holidays - yeehaa.

Ten days of sun, sea and sangria!!

Although it's very much a family holiday, I'll be packing my camera and bins and this handy little guide - just in case I feel the urge to put down my cocktail and leave my horizontal position on the inflatable lilo in the sun to actually go birding!

Birding, Spain

To be honest, I'm not expecting to see a great deal due to the time of year and my rather laid back approach to birding whilst on holiday with the family, but all the same I'll have one eye on the sky looking out for that flyover Short-toed Eagle and my ears will be on alert and listening for that distinctive 'prrut' 'prrut' of a Bee-eater - and if I do see any of these or anything else it will just be a bonus.

Adios & hasta pronto...

Oh yeah...I'm hoping that Mongolian Sand Plover currently residing in Cork doesn't decide to flyover the Irish sea and turn up somewhere along the foreshore of the Thames while I'm gone!

Friday, 26 July 2013

Ladies and gentleman, time please

As much as I enjoy the RSPB reserve at Rainham, I don't enjoy having to rush around the site late afternoon to get back to the visitors centre before the car park closes at 5pm, especially during the summer months, when we can take full advantage of our lighter evenings - I know some of the reserve is visible from the footpath along the seawall, but all the same it would be good to have access to the hides and the reserve a little later during the summer, if only once a week - I'd be happy for the monthly direct debit I pay for my RSPB membership to go towards paying overtime for someone to work a couple of extra hours a week to facilitate this request, or alternatively open the reserve from 11am - 7pm on Wednesdays during the summer - now there's a thought!

RSPB giving nature a home giving greater access

So, with one eye on the clock I had a mid-week dash around the reserve, walking through the woodland area a scruffy looking Chiffchaff was also enjoying the fine weather, fly catching the bounty of insects from a branch, and being late July this bird must have been feeding a second brood of youngsters - explaining its rather worn and shoddy appearance! But a good sign that maybe our breeding birds which have suffered with the appalling wet spring and summers of the last couple of years, might this year show small signs of recovery aided by the good weather - only time will tell.

On the marsh the two Spoonbills were still present on Aveley Pools, both assuming their usual position of heads tucked under wings asleep, and there were also three Greenshank having a bit of an afternoon doze! Several species of dragonfly followed my path along the wooden boardwalk and despite these being numerous in number I failed to see any hawking Hobbies taking advantage of this abundant food source, worryingly this is the second time in recent visits I failed to see this diminutive Falcon!

Dragonflies, Rainham, RSPB

Dragonflies, Rainham, RSPB

Completing my circular walk around the reserve five Whimbrel were doing there best to hide from view in the long grass at the back of the Purfleet scrape, whilst a Peregrine Falcon flew over spooking one or two residents of the marsh - an enjoyable dash round but I wonder what else I might have seen if I could have stayed on past closing time!

Friday, 19 July 2013

'Pacific Golden' suntan!

It's the middle of July and we're experiencing a true British summer at long last!

The high pressure weather system which has been circling the UK for the last couple of weeks shows no sign of shifting anytime soon, as it continues to bring wall to wall sunshine and blue skies and high summer temperatures into the 30's for most parts of the country.

With no immediate change to the weather pattern this mini heat wave looks set to stay, but you won't here me grumbling about how hot it is...shorts, sandals, short-sleeve shirts, ice creams, deck-chairs, alfresco eating and drinking, England 1-0 up in the Ashes series with no interruptions for rain - what's not to love about finally having a long overdue proper British summer, and to top it off its been a decent week for waders as well.

The start of the autumn wader passage finally arrived with a couple of Pectoral Sandpipers locally, one at Vange Marsh RSPB and another one (which I caught up with) at Rainham Marsh RSPB - just a shame the views of this regular yank wader to our shores were not great, as it spent most of its time at the back of Aveley Pools - the marsh at Rainham also held Greenshank, Little Ringed Plover, a couple of Green Sandpipers and a small party of Black-tailed Godwits. And then, after deliberating all week about whether I should go and see it, I finally gave in and took in some more of that lovely evening summer sunshine and went to see the Pacific Golden Plover at Rutland Water, again the views were a little distant as the bird kept to the man-made stone dam, but all the same it was still a very smart summer plumage individual and it looks as if I timed my visit to a tee, as the bird seems to have done a bunk overnight with no reported sightings today!

*Warning* - Heavily cropped token record shot of the a fore mentioned Plover and two Starlings!

Summer Plumage, Rutland Water,
If you think this photo is bad you should have seen my Rainham Pectoral Sandpiper!

Whilst at Rutland Water I also stopped at Manton Bay to take a look at the Ospreys which have again successfully breed raising another three more young, adding to the previous eight birds this pair alone have raised since they first came together in 2010.

Amazingly the area around Rutland Water has now 4 or 5 breeding pairs of Ospreys, and since the first pair bred in 2001 a total (not including this years birds) of 62 young Ospreys have fledged from nests in the area - that's quite some success story.

You can read more about the Rutland Osprey Project by clicking on this link:

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Bonapartes's Gull - deja vu

Just over a year since the last Bonaparte's Gull graced the Thames, I wasn't expecting to see another one along the same stretch of river quite so soon - and a smart adult summer bird to boot!

After quickly checking the gulls on the foreshore at Barking Bay - just in case the bird followed last years pattern! I drove the short distance into Kent and the opposite side of the Thames, where the adult Bonaparte's Gull had been seen again around the area of the incinerator outfall at Cross Ness, scanning through the gulls it wasn't long before this smart looking summer plumage bird with full black hood and contrasting white eyelids, was easily picked out amongst the numerous adult Black-headed Gulls and their lighter chocolate brown hoods.

The views this time were a lot closer than last years bird at Barking Bay, but the question was - is this the same bird returning or just a timely coincidence?

Adult, Summer, Crossness

At such close quarters it was also good to get a clear comparison of both gull species side by side.

Adult, Summer, Crossness

Adult, Summer, Crossness

Adult, Summer, Crossness

Adult, Summer, Crossness

There was also an adult Mediterranean Gull knocking around, it was just a shame I never managed to get an image of the bird, or even better the three adult summer gull species together!

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

A lesson in flight photography

Crossing the Solent on my recent trip to the Isle of Wight was a useful exercise in practising the art of flight photography, with Common Terns an easy subject as they followed the back of the boat.

Photographing any bird in flight is never easy and is definitely an area of photography which I need to improve upon - but here are a few of the better images.

Birding, Photography

Birding, Photography

Birding, Photography

Birding, Photography

Birding, Photography

Birding, Photography

Birding, Photography

Birding, Photography