All posts by Nezzy

Marston 2 visits in one day!

I saw on Twitter that Dave R had seen a couple of Whinchat at Marston so off I went for a look today, not been for a while so the visit was long overdue.

I had over an hour looking around from 8am and never saw much at all and so off I went to the hide as the rain had decided to arrive.

The view across the scrape from the hide was pretty quiet with about  a dozen Gadwall, same number of Mallard and a few Moorhen and Coot was all that was seen on or around the water during my initial scans. Then a nice looking Wigeon appeared from the back of the large island.

The skies were seemingly bereft of birds with only the odd Corvid and Wood Pigeon being seen. A few Blue and Great Tits were buzzing around the area close to the hide and soon a trio of Chiffchaff were seen up close, it looked to me like 2 juvenile and a tidy adult.

Another look across the water and I spotted a second Wigeon kipping all alone in the water, this bird eventually woke up and moved lazily towards the other bird at the left hand tip of the large island. Then some serious preening took place before another kip!

Just as I was leaving a group of about 30 teal dropped in, I then went home having enjoyed the time but sad I had not connected with a Whinchat, never mind next time eh?

I was at home and received a text from Dave R “Sorry mate Whinchat showing well now” – so what did i do? Yep off to Marston again to see if I could see my first Whinchat in a couple of years.

Met Dave and the man with the ‘special touch’ put me straight onto a single bird! We watched the bird from some distance doing the usual high perching showing its form off nicely for us both to admire.

In a tree a long way off a trio of Little Egret along with what we think was a Crow were perched. After Dave had left a Buzzard flew out of a neighbouring tree close to this tree and all bird flew up along with 2 Grey Heron also.

Dave had to go and I stayed for a little longer, the bird came a little closer, a lovely looking fit and healthy bird this one.

Am going to have to get to Marston open a more regular basis as we are now entering the Autumn the bird movements become more interesting don’t they?

Thailand calling!

Once again have been lucky enough to get to Thailand for our annual holiday. This time for 3 nights in Bangkok followed by 8 in Hua Hin which is a 3-hour drive south of the Thai capital.

I am always keen to study the many dykes that crisscross the airport and run parallel with the many runways when landing into Bangkok. First 3 species seen when landing at the massive Suvarnabhumi airport, were Asian Openbill, Black Winged Stilt and Little Egret. A few small waders were seen also but I was not able to identify them.

We were at the same Bangkok hotel that we have stayed at before which is on the banks of the Chao Phraya river. This time the birds seen in the grounds we less than previous stays there.

I saw Spicefinch (Scaly-Breasted Munia) along with a nest they were building. Little Heron was seen fishing in a Klong (canal) off the main river and the usual common species Common Myna, Tree Sparrow, Peaceful and Spotted Dove, Oriental Magpie Robin, a male Pied Fantail displayed well near the hotel spa but was not able to get the classic spread tail photo this time. Streak Eared Bulbul made the most noise high in the trees in the hotel gardens. As you would expect Little Egret were seen on a regular basis too.

Several Red Eared Slider Turtle and medium sized Water Monitor (around 1 metre in length) were seen in the water surrounding the hotel. In the air, a few Hirundine species were busy feeding but getting photos of and identifying these birds proved difficult for most of the holiday.

A half day tour of a Klong (Thai for canal) was planned and this was 1 of the 2 occasions my camera lens combo came out to play while in Bangkok. On the tour a trio of Littles’ were seen – Heron, Egret and Cormorant along with Common Myna, Spotted Dove and a lone Indian Roller and more Tree Sparrow. A pair of huge, nearly 2-metre-long Water Monitors were seen resting as we passed in the long-tailed boat.

When in Bangkok city doing the touristy things, without my camera I might add, I saw a few birds when at Wat Arun (Temple of the Dawn) Large Billed Crow, Olive Backed Sunbird, Black Collared Starling, Crested Myna, Ashy Woodswallow and a favourite of mine the Coppersmith Barbet.

After 3 nights we moved onto Hua Hin by car and had good views of the many birds in the Paddy fields south of Bangkok, loads of Egret and other species unable to identify.

The hotel we stayed in had acres of gardens that loads of birds around, Feral / Rock Pigeon, Tree Sparrow, White Vented Myna, Black Naped Oriole, Asian Koel was heard before seen and you really had to look for it, for a very loud and sizeable bird it is a little sculky species with a preference to hide from view when it can. A walk along the beach at low tide gave me nice views of a single Pacific Reef Egret (dark morph bird) and this was the only bird seen on the coast on this occasion.

On 1 of our walks we found a track leading from the road back towards the beach where some locals had their homes. Here we were soon on a lovely Indian Roller and even better after this bird had flown a group of 8 Hoopoe, the most I have ever seen at 1 location.

These birds came pretty close in the trees and on the wires once we stood still for a few moments enabling my best images of this wonderful species yet.

A good number of different mammals were seen around the hotel grounds but only managed a photo of a Pygmy Treeshrew below before it disappeared into the shrubs.

Another day and another walk in a different direction for me and Karen towards a small harbour area and pier lead to seeing a resting Pacific Swallow more egrets and a lone and rather distant lone Gull that was hard to identify unbeknown to me at the time another chance to see the bird would present itself, more on this later.

On the same walk, we saw an Albino Chinese Softshelled Turtle sticking its snout out in a pond at the Hua Hin train station. On the way back to the hotel I climbed a bank to look into a reservoir to see if there were any waders around, a Common Sandpiper flew away as soon as I hit the peak of the bank and then away to my right a Little Cormorant dropped in between a Little Egret and a Water Monitor and for a few seconds they all posed looking in the same direction before the monitor glided into the water.

Back at the hotel and happening most evenings I saw large groups of Hirundines, unsure of species but I am thinking Germains’ Swiftlet passed over the hotel heading inland. As night-time fell the same avian routine played as over the hotel grounds, about 10 Black Naped Oriole would appear, gather and then move to their roost inland, Asian Koel would start to call and make presence known by their loud call. White Vented Mynas would begin to group again to head to a roost which I think may well have been in the centre of Hua Hin at a major cross road where they lined up on hoardings, power cables etc. making on hell of a noise. Also at this time 2 to 4 Asian Pied Starlings would appear on the same section of hotel roof before disappearing again to roost.

I was to be waken up each morning between 5.40am and 5.45am by an Asian Koel calling incredibly loud from the same tree outside our hotel room door.

I had seen at a previous stay at the hotel in 2009 a single Spotted Owlet in the gardens at night time and was hoping to see this lovely little species once again and was not disappointed when coming back to the room early 1 night; as we had an early start the next day on a tour; I saw a bird on a lantern in the hotel grounds that illuminated the paths.

I headed straight back to the room set up the camera and flash and off out again I went and got a few pleasing images in the 8 minutes I had with the obliging bird before it headed to another part of the grounds to feed.

The next day was a ¾ day tour of Phetchaburi area with the family and friends we were on holiday with and this time me camera & lens combo was with me, good job too because at one temple I saw a pair of Red Collared Dove were nesting in an ornate chandelier at the entrance to the temple and I got a couple of shots of one of the birds when I was on the ground looking for nesting materials.

Didn’t get to snap any more birds on the day but saw a few Crested Treeswift on top of a hill where the royal palace of King Mongkut of Siam of ‘King and I’ fame (the Yul Brynner film) once resided. We then went onto the Khao Luang Cave temple complex and saw little birds but plenty of macaque monkeys, they were all after food and we were told not even to look at them as they took this as a threat and could attack!

Next real birding day was a day out with friend Neil to Sam Roi Yod National Park about an hour from Hua Hin where we were stopping. First port of call was the Bueng Bua visitior centre where there is a large boardwalk over the reed beds to enable better views of the birds in this environment, sadly when we got there only about a ¼ of the boardwalk was open for some reason but this did not stop us seeing a few birds and lifers in the 90 minutes we had there.

Lovely place this that I can imagine throws a lot of birds up at different times of the year, we saw a few lifers Western (Purple) Swamphen, Bronze Winged Jacana and Plain Prinia. Also seeing Lesser Whistling Duck, Little Cormorant, Greater Coucal (I think!), Blue Tailed Bee-Eater and few Purple Heron were about in the reeds, with 1 bird allowing me to get pretty close.

We then moved onto the southern HQ of the national park and met a local guide Lamai to take us on a walk to the nearest beach. Sadly the tide was such a long way out that the hope we had in seeing Malaysian and possibly Kentish Plover up close was dashed. I managed a few images of some Plovers but at the time of writing I am not confident enough to say with species the birds were, more research needed, Redshank and Black Winged Stilt and Curlew were seen.

Me with Lamai, looks like he has been around a bit judging by his birding book below!

Walking back from the beach we had encounters with Chestnut Headed Bee-Eater, Spicefinch and saw a Common Kingfisher for a few seconds as a Great White Egret took off from a small pool.

The rest of the holiday was in Hua Hin and just revisiting the hotel grounds, and previous sites mentioned to see if anything different was around.

I went back to the area I had seen the only Gull species during my holiday and luckly the bird was closer than before it was in with a few Little and Pacific Reef Egrets feeding, also seeing close up a lone Pacific Swallow. I now think this is another lifer for me a Caspian Gull.

I have said earlier that I got my best ever Hoopoe photos but on a walk around the hotel I got down to about 12 feet from a Hoopoe that was happily feeding on what it could find, you tell me which Hoopoe photo’s are the best.

As good as all this was in my time in Thailand the best for me was to come on the last night when due to having an early start to head home, up at 5.30am, this meant an early night and gave me the chance to see if the Spotted Owlet could be seen again, the kids and some adults went to bed at about 10.30pm, others went to the hotel bar, me I went to fetch my camera and flash unit!

I walked around for about 35 minutes seeing nothing and was about to head home when a bird appeared from the thick vegetation surrounding the edge of the hotel grounds, “brill!” I said to myself and then had about 30 minutes with not 1 but 2 Spotted Owlets and even managed a shot or 2 in the dark of them perched closely together.

All in all 61 species seen, at least 12 seen but unable to ID and also ending up with 6 lifers, if you think any species incorrectly named please let me know.

So overall not a bad time in Thailand once again – here’s to the next time best get saving!

Same words with many different images can be found here >> stevenesbitt.co.uk

Farne Islands Mid June

Apologies at the start of the blog it will be a lengthy one overladen with images, but hopefully not too much!

Some months back I booked myself onto my first ever visit (2 full day tour) to the Farnes with Yorkshire Coast Nature, which is run by Steve Race and Richard Baines the trip was over 2 ½ days in mid-June. A campsite in Seahouses; the departure point for the boat across to the Farnes; was sorted also.

I arrived on June 15th and got sorted at the campsite by mid-afternoon, the plan was to attend a meeting the same evening for a meet ‘n’ greet with Steve (who I knew), Richard and the other 10 or so birders attending the trip.

The fact the meeting was not until 6.30pm gave me the chance to take a walk for an hour on the dull, cloudy Seahouses coastline, immediately Eider including a few young birds were visible along with the usual mix of Gulls you would expect to see.

The meet ‘n’ greet took place in the cricket pavilion directly opposite the imposing Bamburgh Castle on the impressive Northumberland coast.

Steve and Richard outlined the plans to the group with Steve the tour photographer talking about where to go to get the best images of the sea birds we would encounter and just how close we would be getting to some of them.

Friday morning meeting time was planned and we met up as agreed for our first full day on the Farnes, on the agenda was a brief tour around the islands looking up close at the seabird and Grey Seal colonies then onto a couple of hours on Staple Island then onto Inner Farne for about 3 hours.

Now usually when away in my Motorhome we get Mallards calling in to see what they can get from us in the way of food, I had this again but also had lovely close views of three young Moorhen, look at those feet!

The weather was not the best so with the National Trust being responsible for visitors’ safety on the Farnes they decided they would not be letting anyone land due to the swell making embarking unsafe. So, as an alternative we walked a couple of minutes near Seahouses harbour to see Eider, hopefully up close on the small beach area adjacent to the main harbour.

The tide was just heading out and so a decent number of Eider we in this area and we enjoyed some time watching Eider, mostly females with young and couple of male who were in different stages of adult plumage development.

While we watched the Eider someone said they were like the Mallards of the sea and the birds will come up to people to get food from the and to prove the point a couple arrived on the opposite side to the ebbing tide to start to feed the birds what I think was bread and all the birds left us to see what was on offer on the other side of the water along with Black Headed and Herring Gulls.

I think that we were all happy with the alternate to visiting Staple Island and made our way to the boat to head onto Inner Farne to see if we could spot a Puffin or two!

After the slow tour around the islands off to land on Inner Farne we went, a few pointers from Steve and Richard and we all headed off to do our thing. My best image on a dull day was a headshot of a Kittiwake on this float past of the breeding colonies.

Bridled Guillemot were seen all over the rock formations in with the standard species and of course the odd Puffin was seen too.

A lone Ringed Plover was seen when we landed, I looked for a nest but to no avail.

The warnings about needing a hat as you walked through the Arctic Tern (a lifer) were soon proved justified as I was attacked by several birds and was not only pecked on the top of my head but also the tops of my ears and the side of my nose, which even drew blood! Well I suppose they were going for the largest target there before you say it! J Soon though I was witnessing lots of people with Arctic Tern on their heads and soon it was my turn (pardon the pun).

These Terns and others are choosing the strangest places to nest and even parts of the walkways are marked off to indicate a nest!

There some great photo opportunities being so close to the birds though even on a dull day.

It was really difficult to decide what to do with there being so many birds both on the ground and in the air at the same time, as I am sure you can imagine the sight, sound and smell was intense. I had never seen a Shag before so was guaranteed another lifer on the day and I could not believe just how close you could get to the birds while on the nest, you could have stroked the birds easily. Young were in the nest all around but also a few dead young were visible too.

Gulls (Lesser Black Backed & Black Headed mainly) were strategically placing themselves near the Puffin burrows and sometimes were successfully getting a snack.

I got so many Puffin images I could easily put 100 of them in this blog but here is a selection from day one with more to come from day two.

Day two was a much better day with the sea being a whole lot calmer so Staple Island was on the cards. Another boat this time, a bigger one with around 80 people was boarded and this time enjoying views like this with the Guillemots in particular enjoying the smooth seas.

Arriving on Staple Island on a lovely sunny day brought new challenges in trying to get decent photos harsh light on the white parts of the birds and heavy shadows but all part of the learning process eh?

A few Guillemot pairs were made of one Bridled and one normal, I do prefer the Bridled bird though myself.

As with Inner Farne the previous day the activity levels were high maybe higher with conditions being settled. Guillemots were darting around the airways all over some with fish some without.

I always love to see a Fulmar and a few were around.

A good wander around Staple lead me to a nice place to sit and have a drink & snack, soon a Shag popped its head up from nowhere enabling a nice close up after putting me sandwich down before it disappeared from sight again.

I tried to get some decent flight shots of Puffin while sat here, Puffin pics will follow later as I was advised to go to a certain place to see if close-ups could be achieved so will put a selection of these all together.

I did not see many Razorbill but some were with a huge colony of Guillemot and a few visible Guillemot chicks were seen to the north eastern side of Staple Island.

Here too on Staple the Lesser Black Backed Gulls were in stealth mode awaiting the Sandeel laden Puffins.

Awaiting the boat to go to Inner Farne and I had a few minutes with some close-by Puffin, some with food and some not.

We moved onto Inner Farne and was soon being sprayed with you know what and attacked by the Arctic tern once again. I managed to take an image with my iPhone of an attack and a selection of pleasing flight shots, not with my iPhone the latter I hasten to add.

This time I tried to get a few pics of the Sandwich Tern colony and birds in flight.

A few Common Tern were in the same area also but there were not that many about.

I got one shot of a female Red Breasted Merganser, my first image ever of this species as it flew over the Puffin colony, which was nice.

Just to make my point on what I said earlier in this massive blog that the Arctic Tern picked the weirdest places to nest on Inner Farne look at this photo, one pair were nesting right in the middle of the picnic / rest area!

Both Steve and Richard were not too far away from helping advising their group if this was required and both had great levels of local knowledge to help in directing you to areas that best suited the type of images you were after – which was great to know was a first time visitor.

As you would expect most of my time was photographing Puffin and mostly this was trying to get birds in flight, boy they can fly fast.

This was a great few days, Northumberland is a wonderful part of the country that I had never previously been to but will be coming back to visit and as for the Farnes I could quite easily see this being an annual trip now I know what is what regarding the trips over the water. Some 2,500 images taken in total with a hell of a lot being out of focus but I ended up with a few decent pics, hope you like the ones featured in this blog and I hope this has not been too long a read for you folks!

Same words lots of different photos on my website blog can be seen here >> http://www.stevenesbitt.co.uk/blog/2017/6/farne-islands

Lincs Coast 14/5/17

Had a free day on Sunday 14th May with my wife going out all day shopping – decided not to join her on this occasion!

I needed to take the motorhome out for a run and so thought why not combine the two and so with the weather being ok on the east coast of lincolnshire off to Gibraltar Point I headed.

This is a place I do not go to very often so I felt that it would be a good day out for that reason alone. Upon arrival at the main car park a Cuckoo was loudly calling in the Plantation (Sanctuary area), had a good scan with my bins but sadly no sighting at this point.

I decided to walk northwards along the west dunes track for a while to see if the still calling Cuckoo could be seen, I heard a second bird call in response to the first but both were not to be seen. I then headed towards the wash viewpoint and here as I made my way to Lill’s Hut heard several Whitethroat singing their distinctive song loud and clear.

Walking around this area I saw Meadow Pipits, Reed Buntings and Skylarks and heard the loud call of Oystercatcher nearby, a few minutes was spent scanning for anything in the area but all in all not a lot to be seen, walking back good views again of Whitethroat and Pied Wagtail were seen then a bird dropped into a grassy area to my left, a Wheatear, nice!

I got a few quick pics to record the bird as seen and after a little while re-traced the bird after it flew off towards the Old Saltmarsh and using a bush to hide my presence I got close enough to get a decent image even if it was partially against the sunlight.

I then began to make my way past the new (to me) visitor centre onto South Marsh Road, not much to be seen along here apart from more Skylark, Reed Buntings and Meadow Pipits.

I walked past the viewpoint onto the beach to see what was about but hardly any birds at all to be seen as the tide was ebbing, a few Herring Gulls adults and young birds were seen plus a small group of Cormorants flying low over the waves north to south.

Again scanning before me surprisingly to me brought little bird wise apart from more Skylark and Meadow Pipits.

The area of beach below had one bird on it thats all! A Ringed Plover was looking rather sad all on its on as it moved slowly around for food on the small sand bank in the centre of the photo.

I then moved away from the beach to Mill Hill viewpoint to scan around to see if anything new could be seen.

More Whitethroats and Linnets were main birds seen flitting around the vegetation here.

I ended up at the Mere Hide for a sit down and a sarnie, not a lot on the water here, distant Black Headed Gulls, Little Grebe, a Mute Swan family with one signet enjoying a ride on the back of a parent while its siblings swam near the other.

A family of Coot were relaxing to the left go the hide at the edge of the water with the half a dozen fledglings learning how to go about their daily business when a Little Egret glided low over the family causing much consternation among the Coot family.

The Egret settled on the opposite side of the Mere and began hunting for food in their usual sneaky style!

Next place to visit was the Tennyson’s Sands hide and here a few more birds were seen with the best being over 20 Avocet seen all over the area in front of the hide.

Next place to visit was the Tennyson’s Sands hide and here a few more birds were seen with the best being over 20 Avocet seen all over the area in front of the hide. I then walked to the Plantation (Sanctuary area) hearing Cuckoo calls getting louder all the time but still with no sightings at all, it helped that most birders walking in the opposite direction were telling me they had good views of Cuckoo in this area – not! I saw Song Thrush gathering food for young I am assuming looking at the amount of worms etc. it had in its beak. Also usual woodland birds like Wren, Robin, Great, Blue Tit and a few Goldfinch that were feeding their young in  the trees.

Then finally a 4/5 second view of a Cuckoo as it glided from one tree to another – as soon as it disappeared from view and landed it began calling ‘Cuckoo’ ‘Cuckoo’ but could I find it? NOPE! Well at least a sighting was achieved.

​​​​​​​I had a total of 5 hours on site and thought after a half hour in the motorhome with me boots off I still had time to visit somewhere else and the next stop was on the way home Frampton Marsh.

I usually start in the 360 hide here and saw good numbers of Brent Geese both in the air and on the water.

One of the small islands in front of the 360 hide towards the direction of the East hide there were nesting Black Headed Gulls, one pair of Avocet and a single pair of Ringed Plover too.

Time was running out and so I decided to walk past the reedbed hide around the track back to the visitor centre hoping I would see or hear the reported Grasshopper Warbler seen north of the reedbed. Sadly no Gropper but a lone Corn Bunting banged out its trill song as a consolation.

A Lesser Black Backed Gull battled the fairly strong winds giving my the chance to get a photo.

In the reeds adjacent to the picnic area at the visitor centre a male Pheasant popped his head up from nowhere an looked rather shocked as I took his picture.

Then in the same area a Canada Goose then did the same thing as if to say ‘don’t forget me!’

I then made my way home after a good day out on our wonderful east coast of lincolnshire I saw just over 60 species so was happy with that with the stars being the Cuckoo and Wheatear.