All posts by Nezzy

A lifer – Spotted Sandpiper

Bit of free time this weekend allowed me to nip into Holme Pierrepoint white water course outside of Nottingham to see if the Spotted Sandpiper could be caught this time as last time I called in to see the little bird I dipped out and fit in an hours local birding too! As soon as I was at the end of the course I heard the call of a Sandpiper, 2 birds landed on the opposite side of the water to me and I managed a shot of both birds, 1 a Common Sandpiper and the other the Spotted Sandpiper, result another life tick! – although the photo is distant I think it does act as a nice comparator between the 2 species.

The Common Sandpiper flew off within a couple of minutes as 2 canoeists drifted past at the end of the white water course. Thankfully the Spotted Sandpiper stayed put and after a little time and effort waiting for it to come towards me a few decent images were achieved.

Bit of preening below.

The Spotted Sandpiper came as close as 20 odd feet at 1 point and so gave me chance of a decent close up of a lovely little bird. My best image from the brief session below.

A few Canada Geese were in the general area at the end of the course where the Sandpiper was feeding.

The Common Sandpiper called in again for a little while then off it went, the Spotted Sandpiper was pretty steady only flying to new feeding areas occasionally. 

The Spotted Sandpiper ventured onto the grass off the path now and then with it on 1 occasion finding a large earth worm where it proceeded to take it onto one of the concrete sections to find the best way to eat the worm.

Mid-swallow below.

I had heard the bird had a bad foot and was limping around the other day but there was no evidence of a limp when I was with the bird. On the way back near my home I saw a Buzzard low in a tree and grabbed a photo before it flew off.

Sunday morning was a walk to the local pub to pick the car that was left overnight  – no drink driving me! – the local is about 10 minutes from the start of the riverside walk where I saw Mandarins and Kingfisher last weekend. So I thought lets have a wander see whats about and then get the car on the way back.

I took a route that included a lane at the bottom of my road and soon I heard the high-pitched song of a male Goldcrest. I stopped, looked and located the bird and soon it became apparent there was 2 birds darting around chasing one another. Within 5 minutes 1 bird had flown into a bush right next to see and then it was accompanied by the 2nd Goldcrest and one the next 15 minutes of action I took about 75 images trying to capture these fearthered bullets! My previous half a dozen walks looking for Goldcrest in the same area had all come to nothings lick was with me today!

Above the best 2 images from an enjoyable time with these diminutive birds; I then moved onto the riverside walk and soon was onto a Grey Wagtail feeding at the footbridge.

No Kingfishers were seen this time but the Mandarin pair were in the same spot for about 10 minutes before they flew off to a local large house that I think has a large body of water in its grounds.

The Mandarins did seem settled in the same area with the male once again scaring off any Mallards that came close to the female. Unsure as to why the birds flew as I observed them.

Grantham Mandarins

A tweet came in with me tagged into it from a good friend and top local birder Dave Roberts about a pair of Mandarin Ducks he had come across in a local park where the River Witham meanders gently through it while walking his dog. I tweeted back ‘see you in 10’ and off I walked round to the park.

Dave was making his way back to meet me and as I crossed the foot bridge to enter the parkland adjacent to the river I looked; as I normally do when crossing here; for Kingfisher and Grey Wagtail as this spot can prove good for both species. I looked to my right and saw no Grey Wagtail but a distant Grey Heron was seen – halfway there I guess!

Turning to look upstream to my left I scanned for Kingfisher and soon got onto one perched in a tree above the water on the right hand bank.

I crossed the bridge turning left heading into town and saw the Kingfisher was not moving as so spent a few minutes enjoying close but shrub obstructed views of a gloriously fit looking male bird. But he soon dived, missed the catch and re-postioned himself across the bank giving a better view.

Moving on to see where the Mandarins where I was soon looking across to the opposite river bank looking at a lovely pair of Mandarin in with a small group of Mallard.

They did not move too much from a small section of the river only gliding up and then down stream and returning to the same central area they seemed to favour. The pair were not taking lightly to any close drift-bys by the Mallards and were soon pecking at them as they go too close. The male was also looking to protect his female by standing guard next to the female when she was perched on a raised mound and preening.

I eventually moved on back homeward and saw the Kingfisher was too still in the same area and again had the chance to admire the bird and take a few more images through the vegetation as a clear view was not possible once again.

Thanks for the tip off Dave, I wonder how long the Mandarins will linger?

Day trip to see the Desert Wheatear

I had been loving all the images of the Desert Wheatear in Whitby and when a free day presented itself when my wife was off out shopping all day on Saturday I immediately thought “another lifer?”.

A very early morning departure – 5.30am – meant the 140+ mile drive was easy and pretty quiet and I was soon the first in position to see if the Desert Wheatear would show. It was a blustery, cloudy and cold morning as the light slowly tried to improve (it didn’t really) and within 5 minutes of setting up my camera and tripod the Wheatear appeared on a post about 40 feet from me and as quick as it arrived it flew off again, perhaps thinking “only 1 birder here at the moment? I will come back later when more can admire my splendour”

During the 2 1/2 hours I was there birders came and went – I guess about 20 in total with them all getting nice views of the active bird as it flew in close then further off, chasing a nice looking male Stonechat off on one occasion too.

I had got the best images I was going to get considering the poor light but was really pleased I had ticked another one off!

Onto Scarborough to see if the 2 Waxwings recently reported could be seen and also a wander around the harbour area to see what was sheltering from the roughish seas and of course hopefully views of Purple Sandpiper, possibly my favourite wader.

A walk around the harbour took in the breakwater and no Purple Sandpipers to be seen, I was told later on via Twitter that 24 were in the Whitby harbour – bugger! A lone juvenile Guillemot was happily diving for food around the boats, at the end near Marine Drive a Redshank dropped in fleetingly and a Great Black Backed gull was attempting to feed on a dead juvenile Guillemot.

In my experience of visiting Scarborough, you can always depend on close views of Turnstone and this visit was the same, I sat harbour-side on some nets and awaiting the birds’ arrival closer to me as they avoided the other seaside revellers.

Bird-wise it was daily quiet around the harbour so with a bag of fish and chips in hand off to B&Q I drove to see if the Waxwings were around, parked up and spoke to a birder from Stourbridge called Chris that I had previously seen at the Wheatear ‘twitch’ and no Waxwings were around although they were reported earlier on in the morning. So, I had to sit in the car tucking into still warm fish and chips scanning the trees etc. as I ate in comfort.

Nothing appeared so now fully re-charged I drove to the car park on Holbeck Hill to see if any Mediterranean Gulls was at the roost. Arriving at the car park once again I bumped into birder/photographer Chris. 2 Med Gulls were around with a few Black Headed Gulls; I had missed out on another 4 that had left the spot a little before my arrival.

The birds were feeding close to the cars and I got the following images from the passenger seat in my car. Nice to get a little Black Headed to Mediterranean Gull headshot comparison like in the above images too!

All in all, a long day, up at 5am back home at 4.45pm and close to 300 miles driven, when is the next day out?

Sunday morning around Frampton

A cold but sunny sunday morning was the prediction of the weather guru’s around the whole of the UK well most of it; so me and long time mate Steve went off to Frampton for look around. We met up with another photographer / birder mate called Oliver for a quick chat too – which was nice!

Birds were all over mainly in fields on the right of the track to the sea bank. Wigeons being in the ascendency with Redshank, Canada Goose, Mute Swan, Brent Geese, Dunlin also a small group of Whoopers landed too in the far corner.

Small groups of Lapwing and Wigeon passed over head as the sun broke through heading towards the area in front of the east hide. We got to the sea bank, had a few minutes and saw a couple of Little Egrets and a large group of Brent Geese, about 100 birds grazing. Walking back towards the turning to the hides and with the rising sun behind us we could appreciate the beauty of the place as it woke up. We stopped while walking back down the track and had a chat with a fellow birder on one of the gravel risers allowing visitors better views of the scrapes and soon saw a pair of Shoveller and two Redshanks pretty close in with one Redshank being of the Spotted variety, this was a lifer for Steve and only my 2nd view of this species!

I tried to get a comparison photo or two of the 2 Redshank species and only managed a couple with one of them being below.

The birds were getting more and more active in the air with lots of flyovers at different heights. I got the image below of what I thought was just Dunlin but upon closer inspection a few Ruff were in the group too.

Keeping our eyes open for Stonechat we soon understood with the wind being so cold, gusty and sharp why the male Stonechat we saw was making its way towards us on the track at ground level – keeping itself out of the wind – not daft these birds are they?

We had a few minutes with the Stonechat, it kept low and soon was lost from sight in the bottom of the reeds. When walking back along the track as we all do I am sure scanning of the posts in the fields now to the left of the track heading in the direction of the visitor centre I said to Steve “what’s that on the post left of that gate?” my bins were at this time in my pocket and it was easier for Steve to put his that were having around his neck to his eyes, “Merlin – I think?” came the reply.

We made our way steadily, stopping along the way to get a few photos in case the bird flew and we got as close to a Merlin as we dare and had been before and managed a very pleasing shot of one of the stars of this great reserve. This was another lifer for Steve too, so 2 lifers in about 10 minutes, “not a bad sunday morning out mate” I said to Steve.

Eventually the Merlin flew fast and low towards the scrapes in from of the east hide. Small groups of Brent Geese were then seen moving towards the sea bank / salt marsh area.

Then we heard the tell tale sound of another species of goose “Pink! Pink!” a look up and about 60 Pink Footed Geese headed east.

We got into the 360 hide hoping for a warm but in fact it seemed colder than being outside!

It was pretty quiet really during the time Steve and I were in this hide, a Meadow Pipit and Skylark foraged and when a Starling appeared in the same area to do the same a Lapwing came in and chased it off.

As time was limited we took the 1.2km distance walk back to the visitor centre after briefly scanning the water in front of the reedbed hide to see what was about, here we saw about 10 Pochard. A nice warm and hot drink later we went out again and walked the track to the sea bank one more time. Another nice Stonechat male was very active in the area of the turning to the hides, maybe he was wind assisted but he moved about with great haste!

We both managed a few pics of the bird before it flew off to the reeds wind assisted of course!

A little Egret flew over at this time too, it was looking to land in the reeds to the left of the reedbed hide. Several various sized groups of Whooper Swans were seen from time to time in the distance during the morning.

Then something, we never saw what; put up all the birds in the fields and the birds filled the blue sky for the next 10 to 15 minutes circling all the time until they once again settled to feed once more, what a sight it is to witness too!

Well that was it for us and we drove home, within 5 minutes of saying goodbye to Steve a nervy Stock Dove landed in my garden as the Goldfinch, Greenfinch and Lesser Redpolls were feeding to cap off a great few hours birding. Not the best image I have ever had of a Stock Dove as it was taken through double glazing.