Wednesday 31 March 2010

Les the Kes gives new meaning to 'distant' and 'elusive'

Visitors to Westleton Heath in Suffolk this morning might recognise this view (left) of a grey, red and black smudge sitting on a distant stick. Falco naumanni, to give a grey, red and black smudge it's scientific name, looked more like a swift than a Lesser Kestrel as it sat, sickle-winged, in the gloom. But even in this appalling photo you can see the unmarked back. And despite the mist, rain and limited views, it was still exhilarating to see my first new bird of 2010 - well worth a day's leave. We were very fortunate to arrive at 0800 and see the bird shortly thereafter, as by 0900 it had gone missing and the rain had set in. By the time it showed again we needed to be on the way home to allow my travelling companion to meet work commitments. Good to see at least one Dartford Warbler had survived winter on the Suffolk heaths, though the Great Grey Shrike (right) nearby might now represent a greater peril than the snow. Anyway, back to my excellent Kestrel photo: if you look closely you can just make out the pale claws...

Sunday 28 March 2010

Plover lovers

Full of the joys of spring, a pair of Little Ringed Plover, including this ringed bird, were in front of the hides at Ibsley Water, digging nesting scrapes, displaying and mating - see images of this fascinating breeding behaviour here. Between these moments of activity there were long bouts of resting, the birds no doubt still recovering from the exertions of a long migration, and some occasional sparring with passing Lapwing and Redshank. 9 Goosander (including 2 males) and a Black-necked Grebe were also present. Rounded the day off with a trip to Weymouth with the family, catching up with a Spoonbill at Lodmoor and the Alpine Swift at Radipole Lake in the process, a new bird for Dorset for me. At one point it was chased away from its preferred feeding ground over the roof of Aldi by a gull, and had to go up-market to feed over the roof of Matalan instead. Spring 2010 continues to deliver...

Larking about in the New Forest

Paid a visit to the New Forest this morning to see the Great Grey Shrike which reports had suggested was pretty faithful to the same site. And so it was, sitting on wires, dropping down occasionally to hunt. Also enjoyed reasonable views of Woodlark at another site nearby, at least until they were flushed by marauding dogs whose owners were complaining bitterly about the injustice of being expected to keep dogs under control at sensitive sites during the breeding season. Not that they had taken a blind bit of notice of this request! And when dogs bark at you aggressively, why do their owners always blame you for having a tripod? Moved on from there to Blashford Lakes hoping to photograph Brambling - although fewer finches were present than the last time I visited, a couple of male Brambling were very confiding around the feeding stations.

Thursday 25 March 2010

Baiter in the rain

I have spent many hours carefully stalking Brent Geese and Turnstones along the shore at Baiter Park in Poole and never really been happy with the photographic results. Although the birds will let joggers and cyclists pass without batting an eye-lid, as soon as you stop to study them they become more wary. Not today though, perhaps because the drizzle just made it too miserable to move. The Brent Goose in this picture appears to have a red colour-ring on its right leg, though no number was visible. I couldn't see the if the left leg was ringed, and having googled 'colour-ringed Brent Geese' I am none the wiser as to its origin. There is such an array of colour-ringing schemes in practice now that a European website has been set up to co-ordinate them. It's motto, 'from the trouble of the world, we turn to birds', strikes a chord.

Monday 22 March 2010

Earning a crest

The Bufflehead on the Fleet for the last few weeks has brought a lot of birders to the area around Langton Herring, myself included, for the first time. So, having satisfied the morbid curiousity of a 6 year old son to see the exhibition of recently excavated decapitated Vikings in Weymouth, news of a Hoopoe near Rodden Hive provided a good excuse to go back again. The approach to Rodden Hive from Langton Herring forces you to appreciate the majesty of the Fleet and Chesil Beach - even the grumpy 6 year old, less keen on birds than long-dead Scandanavians, enjoyed the view. He was rewarded with a tick shortly after as the Hoopoe flew for a few yards. I was able to get closer and take some reasonable digi-scoped images in poor light. The bird was quite approachable, often feeding on the coast path. A new bird for Dorset for me, and hopefully a sign of good things to come this spring. More images here.