Sunday, 24 November 2013

Facebook meet up at Kensington Gardens

It was back to Kensington Gardens today to meet up with some mates.
We were all hoping to see both the Tawny and Little Owls, but although both the Tawnys were viewable, the Little Owls failed to show. It didn't help that the sun barely peeked out from behind clouds all day, but that didn't deter any of us from enjoying ourselves anyway. It was lovely to be out and about with like-minded friends.
So today we saw Tufted Ducks.....
the usual Herons....
We fed Jays.....
Great Tits...
Coal Tits...
more Robins...
another Jay...
and here is proof we fed some of them by hand too...........
The first model is Maggie and a Robin....
Elaine R and a Parakeet.....
Ian and a pigeon.....
Elaine C and a Blue Tit.....
and Duncan with a Great Tit....
We even fed a couple of rats that were hanging about.....
and we also fed the Tawny Owls........oooops, no we didn't, but we did spend some time watching them and trying to find the best angles to photograph them.
Photo of Paul, Sheila, Ralph, Sue G, Sue B, Duncan and Maggie, taken by the Tawnys tree.
By the café we had lovely views of a Pied Wagtail......
And in several places Cormorants were happy to pose......
We also saw both Great Crested and Little Grebes......
and on our way out of the park we were treated to the sight of around thirteen Shovelers doing what they do best, 'shovelling'........
So we didn't get to see the Little Owls, but I think the company and the banter today, more than made up for it. Thank you Sue G, Elaine C, Duncan, Ian, Elaine R, Colin, Paul, Sheila, Sue B and Maggie (and Ralph) for a really enjoyable day :)
A few of us also got our photos published in Ralphs blog too !

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Buzzard and Grey Wagtail at Cranford Park today

I fitted in a three hour visit to Cranford Park today. It was cold with a chilly wind, but mainly sunny. There were plenty of birds singing in the woodland, and despite not being able to photograph them, I saw quite a few Redwings, Goldcrests and Blackbirds.
Up by the headland area, one of the Buzzards soared over, with a Carrion Crow watching its every move. Within seconds a whole load of Carrion Crows and Jackdaws were mobbing the lone Buzzard. At one point there was well over thirty Crows and Jackdaws, and you had to feel a little sorry for the poor Buzzard.
The photo above shows the lone Buzzard in the bottom right hand corner. 
On the River Crane, I found the three Little Grebes. They must be getting a bit more used to human beans now, as I got fairly close to one of them. During the week, Sue spotted five LGs all on the same stretch of river, but I only managed to find three. The other two could have been moving through, possibly looking for somewhere to overwinter or for new territory.
By the green bridge a large mixed flock of Long-tailed and Blue Tits were flitting from tree to tree. I managed to capture this lovely little LTT watching me, watching it. Shame about the twig running across the photo though !
I saw one of the Kingfishers fly out from under the green bridge, and made my way down to the stone bridge in the hope it had settled on a perch there. No such luck, but I did find a beautiful 1st-winter Grey Wagtail hopping around on the flattened reed beds.
So not a bad few hours considering it was an unplanned visit, but I was glad to get back home, put the heating on and have a large glass of warmed up red wine mixed with a small dollop of honey :)

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Bitterns, Voles and lots of ducks at the London Wetland Centre

Compared to yesterdays brilliant blue skies, today was very dull and cloudy. Even with the low cloud cover, it was still chilly. The lack of sun light made taking any photos very challenging today, but at least I got to catch up with some old birdy mates.
First stop was to search for the Bittern from the Headley Hide.  It was from this same hide back in February 2010 that I was privileged to get some fantastic photos and close up views, of one of the Bitterns (my favourite one is my banner photo on this blog).
 In anticipation I grabbed a comfortable seat, and scanned the reeds on my left, waited, scanned the reeds in front of me, waited, scanned all the reeds again, waited, and well I'm sure you get the picture. Joe joined me and we done it all again. Then a lady sitting by the right hand side windows called out she could see a Bittern, and she was right. He was all the way over the other side.
This is not a Bittern, but it was the only bird catching fish amongst the reeds on the left.
That brown thing in the middle of the photo, IS a Bittern, honestly.
I can hear Oscar D laughing from here :)
As was later explained by my old friend Oscar, an expert Bittern-whisperer, the water level is currently so high, that the Bitterns have ignored their old perches and are finding new favourite spots around the site. This was demonstrated by a Heron seen in the same area in the reeds on the left, that was up to its body in water. Also the fact the Cormorant I saw (above) was fishing there, gives an indication of how deep the water is. So getting a decent photo of the Bittern (there are reportedly two on site) was not going to happen today.
Else where on site, I saw several Green Woodpeckers.
And lots of Blackbirds. Some had all black beaks, which generally indicates
 they are European migratory birds.
European migratory Blackbird
Native Blackbird
The Egyptian Geese were loud today, and doing a lot of displaying.
Of course there were plenty of ducks around. There are great numbers of Mallards and Tufted Ducks, and some winter visitors are appearing too.
male Shoveler
male Teal
male and female Teals
resident Little Grebe
male Gadwall
male and female Wigeons
Outside the Dulverton Hide is a small established reed bed surrounded on all sides by pathways.
I glimpsed movement there as I walked passed, stopped and managed to grab a very poor photo through the reeds, of a lovely Water Vole. Sue B joined me soon after and while we were watching the rippling water hoping for another vole sighting, there was a loud noise from within the reeds.
 A Water Rail ! I've heard them do that 'pig squeal' noise before, but it was Sues first time. Despite walking around the reeds and scanning with our bins, we couldn't find it. However we did flush up a small chestnut brown coloured little bird, and after describing it to my birdy mates, we think it was probably a Cettis Warbler.
Little Water Vole
The bird feeder area was really busy. There were Great Tits, Blue Tits, Chaffinches, Greenfinches, Robins and a solitary Great Spotted Woodpecker. In the trees around the area there was also a large flock of Long-tailed Tits moving through. There were reports of Redpolls and Siskins on site today, but I wasn't lucky enough to see them.
Very poor photo of GSW on the feeders.
From the Peacock tower I took a couple of photos to show just how dreary the weather was.
The low cloud made it almost misty at times.

above, Headley Hide as seen from the Peacock Tower

and below, the Dulverton Hide, as seen from the Peacock Tower
So bird-wise, not quite what I was hoping for on this visit, but company-wise it was great to catch up with old friends. A few years ago I used to go to Barnes at least once a week, now I'm caught up with my local patches it's turned into once every couple of months. But its still nice to get a warm welcome from my birdy mates there, so thank you Philip, John, Therese, Joe, Oscar, Sue and Martin, and it was nice to briefly see Michael and Laurence the lizard man, again too.