Thursday, 28 March 2013

Patch record!

14 wheatear in the fields close to my house was a patch record for me this morning. A much brighter day with some sunshine but still very cold. Didn't stop some of the usual residents from having a sing-song though...

Dunnock: R. Harris

Wren: R. Harris

Wren: R. Harris

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

And still they come...

Still five wheatear close to the house this morning - all male again too. Looking very sorry for themselves in the cold easterly wind though, they were hardly moving to feed.

Wheatear: R Harris
A visit to Pudleigh sewage works this afternoon found 25+ chiffchaff flitting around the hedges and filter beds looking for insects. Showing really well for photos -

Chiffchaff: R. Harris

Chiffchaff: R. Harris

There was also another (or possibly the same) tristis type chiff among them but was only seen very briefly. Sadly Dave Helliar picked up a casualty of the weather, a dead sand martin close to Chard. Have a feeling it won't be the last if the cold weather continues...

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

At last...Spring is here?

I set off for a walk around my patch this morning, determined I should find either wheatears, ring ouzels or, preferably, both. I'd only walked a hundred yards from the house to the first field when I saw a white rump flit across the open ground, my first wheatear of the year! Then, as I binned the stonking male bird, another popped into view, followed by another and another. In fact there were 10 males and a single female, which is unusual for my patch, it's normally the other way around. But I wasn't arguing, they are very smart birds and herald the spring as much as any martin or swallow.

Male wheatear: R Harris

Male wheatear: R Harris
The only thing was, it didn't feel like spring! There's a biting easterly wind and I reckon these guys will be asking themselves if they've made a wrong turn somewhere. Add to that the flock of fieldfare overhead and the picture is complete, we're not quite there yet. In fact by the time I'd walked my usual circuit and returned to take more photos, not a single wheatear was still there!

More chiffchaffs on site too following a large fall at the weekend. They looked bewildered too as they search desperately for insects...

Chiffchaff: R Harris

I hope the weather warms up soon, before the migrants start to suffer.

Monday, 25 March 2013


Managed to get down to Black Hole Marsh and Colyford Common this morning to catch up with the Little Ringed Plovers there. Managed an incredibly distant shot of the BHM bird - about as far away as you can get there!

Amazingly you can still see what it is.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

What a Twite!

It was decision time this morning. Two showy twite have been hanging around Aust Warth near Bristol for 64 days now and although not the most striking of birds, they are none-the-less very scarce in the west and it was about time Dave, Andy and myself went to see them. Boy was it cold! An easterly wind numbed the fingers and face but after half-an-hour and a stomp around the salt marsh, they finally appeared in their favourite trees...and showed really well, for twite.

Twite, Aust Warth: R. Harris

Twite, Aust Warth: R Harris

Twite, Aust Warth: D. Helliar
A short hand-held video taken on the camera...

My birding over for the day, Dave and Andy went on to Portland to see the Bluethroat that turned up yesterday...

Male Bluethroat, Portland Bill: D. Helliar
Bluethroat: Andy Grinter
Wheatear: Andy Grinter

and had this lovely second summer med at Ferrybridge too:

2nd Summer Med Gull: Dave Helliar
Dunlin: Andy Grinter

Me thinks we all had a good day!

Friday, 22 March 2013

Mandarin at the res...

Chard res frequently plays host to one or two mandarin ducks and on a recent visit Dave Helliar grabbed some excellent shots of drake that was present:

He was also lucky enough to get a shot of a barn owl near Chard - unfortunately not a common bird in this area any more.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Testing, testing, one, two......well, just two, there's no three

I'm really into these bridge cameras. I've owned a couple of cracking cameras for a year now, in my opinion the best two on the market at the time of writing - namely a Nikon Coolpix P510 (42x optical zoom, C£250) and more recently a Canon Powershot SX50 HS (50x optical zoom C£350). In fact my fellow contributors use them as well and most of the photos you'll see on this site for the last year will have been taken on one of these. Now I know the picture quality on full zoom leaves a bit to be desired (can be quite a lot of noise and some colour fringing - see the crossbill image in the last post), but for record shots and regular use they are simply unbeatable. The nearest equivalent lens for my digi SLR, would set me back a cool £3500 (Sigma) or £12000 for the Nikon. In fact I couldn't get an equivalent lens as it would have to be a 1200-1400mm, which would mean re-mortgaging the house and it would also weigh a ton! So, I'm not necessarily going to get those magical flight shots and they won't always be the sharpest image possible but they're not bad, not bad at all...and it fits in my coat pocket :-)

Dunnock at 6 meters
Dunnock at 10 meters
Collard dove at 25 meters

Turn around, flick the zoom and I can get this too.
Plus you can video with them as well! Check them out for yourself:

Cautious crossbills...

A visit to the Blackdowns was in order this morning. The sun was out, it felt like spring and I had to do the school run, which meant I was only a few miles from my favourite spot on the hills. Apart from one CWAD it was completely peaceful and quiet, which is why I like the place. After about 10 minutes of quiet waiting, I noticed a couple of birds flitting between some pine trees about 240 meters away and on raising my bins found not two but four stonking crossbills! They are usually found here but I haven't seen any for some time, so very pleased they are still about. Apparently the pine cones haven't done well this past summer (no surprises there then!), so most of our crossbill have dispersed to find food elsewhere.

Male crossbill (from 240m - not bad really)
I never seem to be able to get too close to these beautiful birds, despite my best stealth mode! However I did managed to sneak to about 20 meters and grab some video before I had to leave and found there were five in total, 3 of them beautiful males.

Certainly one of my favourite birds. Also present were 25 siskins, 4 goldcrests and 2 roe deer.

Monday, 11 March 2013

Patch wanderings...

Today was cold...very cold! At one point I lost all sensation in my face and couldn't speak, it was so cold. After a light dusting of snow last night, I just had to wander up over the fields outside my house, mostly in the hope of seeing the male merlin that's been hanging around for the last week or two. It did put in a brief (very fast) appearance as it thundered across the field above my house in pursuit of linnets but was not seen again. But there were one or two surprises to be had this morning in the shape of 70 stock doves (a patch rarity) feeding in the field adjacent to Boundary Lane and then 24 golden plover less than 500ms from the house on my way back home:

Golden plover: R. Harris

This one was about the closest and all I managed to get.

Catcott Lows

Dave Helliar caught up with a spoonbill on Catcott Lows and managed a brilliant shot that captured it together with a Great White Egret and Little Egret too...
Spoonbill, GWE and Little Egret, Catcott: Dave Helliar

Spoonbill: Dave Helliar

Even luckier in some respects, Dave found a Water Pipit right outside the hide, which gave a great photo op:

Water pipit, Catcott Lows: Dave Helliar

Water pipit, Catcott Lows: Dave Helliar

Mandarins back at the pits

Andy Grinter sent me the photo below of a pair of Mandarin ducks at Chard Junction Gravel Pits. Love 'em or hate 'em they certainly brighten up any local birding patch...

Drake Mandarin, CJGP: Andy Grinter

Manadarins: Andy Grinter
Also three green sandpipers present.

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Blackcap on the bird table

Andy Grinter had this male blackcap in his garden again today - this one seems to be doing the rounds and is a regular in birders gardens in the neighbourhood - obviously knows where he's going to get food...

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Checking on the patch

I feel a bit guilty, I haven't been able to check my local patch since I saw the male merlin a couple of weeks ago and it has made me wonder what I've been missing. So, I took a walk this morning up over the fields in beautiful sunshine and it seemed just like Spring was here. At least 5 singing skylarks and 4 displaying male yellowhammers in a relatively short distance but the small flocks of fieldfare were a reminder that we're not quite into warmer weather yet...

Fieldfare: R Harris

To the right... the left, a Robin displaying to a would-be mate

Male House Sparrow, trying to attract a mate
Dunnock...also trying to attract a mate

Somerset birding...

Birding in Somerset is a very good thing at the moment. As I write the county plays host to the adult pied-billed grebe, drake ring-necked duck, ferruginous duck, waxwings, hawfinches and much more. Andy Grinter caught up with a few goodies last weekend...

White-fronted goose, Sharpham: A Grinter

Pied-billed grebe, Ham Wall RSPB: A Grinter

Adult Med gull, Chard Junction GP: A Grinter