Saturday, 23 October 2010

Barnes Peregrines perform

Morning trip without kids with Barnes WWT. I didn’t have much hope of connecting with the three Goosanders reported yesterday on the Main Lake. They’re normally either flyover birds or one-day wonders (although there was a long staying bird five or six years ago) and this group were typically absent today. Highlight of the day was a pair of Peregrines that performed brilliantly over the site.

Other birds included a couple of Meadow Pipits that flew over the site and briefly dropped into the Loosestrife on the Wader Scrape, a Water or Rock Pipit that flew over the Grazing Marsh calling, Wigeon numbers have increased to c35 (although 50 reported here just a few days ago), Teal have also increased to around 90 birds (mostly on Wader Scrape), a juvenile GC Grebe still hanging out with its parents (presumably anyway), a female Sparrowhawk over the Reservoir Lagoon mobbed by Magpies, 2-3 Cetti’s singing at various points and over 20 Jackdaws.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Bittern thoughts

I was having a think about the likely origin of the Barnes Bitterns. I assume that the birds we get at the start of the season are from Scandinavia or Baltic states whereas when we get individuals later in the year these are either displaced by hard weather from elsewhere in the UK or from the continent. I did find some interesting info on just how widespread Bitterns are in winter compared with the highly localised breeding population.

Below: winter distribution of Bitterns.
Sites where Bitterns were recorded between October 2009 and March 2010 (Source: RSPB)

This compares with the breeding distribution of confirmed booming males (left, blue dots) and confirmed nesting attempts (right, purple dots). Source: RSPB.

The 2009-10 winter was pretty hard so this may exaggerate the difference - with more sites reporting Bittern than usual.

More info on this article from Birdguides.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Newhaven Rose Bowl - Rose coloured Starling

Despite having seen half a dozen juvenile Rose coloured Starlings I’ve never seen an adult. Since one has been hanging out near the coastguards at Newhaven on the south coast that's the target for today’s day trip. Pulling into the car park at the Fort I could hear quite a lot of activity – a small tit flock moving through (Blue, Great and Long tailed) and few Blackbird feeding among the bushes. After a walk uphill and then west round the coastguards I was soon looking down into a bramble filled depression facing the sea. I could see two other birders on the seaward side looking into the centre so gave it a quick scan – 5-6 Chaffinch, 8-10 Robins and a few Blue Tits. It looked like the other birders were looking at the other side of some bushes not visible from where I was standing so moved round to where they were standing and almost immediately the Rose coloured Starling popped up on the side of one of the bigger bushes.

Really stunning bird still with a very strong pink wash across underparts and mantle, pink bill with a dark base, blue iridescence on wing coverts and tertials and purplish on primaries and secondaries.

Perhaps it’s just the Magpie/ Hoodie type pattern but the deeper and heavier bill could make the Rosy look more corvid than Starling like.

A walk west along the clifftop didn’t produce that many more birds but a Peregrine gliding along the tops, loads of Mipits, at least 30 Robins along the stretch (including those in the ‘rose bowl’), a few Skylark (but the place is surrounded by fields so just as likely to be local birds as migrants), plus c20 Curlew and c15 Oyks feeding in some rocky pools at the base of the cliffs.

Drove over to Belle Tout wood at the back of Beachy Head to have a look for the Pallas’s that's not been seen for a day or so. Did connect with the Goldcrest flock that was quite good value in itself and also had contained a Firecrest. When the sun came out walked the seaward (sunny) side of the wood and bushes and added around half a dozen Chiffchaff, another (or probably the same) Firecrest with a mixed tit and warbler flock, male and female Blackcap feeding together, and a dozen Goldcrest.

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Barnes Bittern new in

I'm trying to get the Saturday morning trip to London Wetland Centre with the kids built into the weekend routine. I’m keen to make this work since it creates some extra birding time in the week which is otherwise quite limited. The eldest boy is nearly two and the youngest is 8 months, which means the time available for the trip is pretty short after food, sleep times and getting the kids ready and loaded into the car are taken into account - factor in London traffic and we’re talking about not much more than an hour on site.

From Dulverton Hide the newly arrived Bittern was showing moderately well (for a Bittern). I’m still pretty stunned by just how regular a site for Bittern Barnes has become. Considering this is a pretty small patch of reeds in the middle of London it’s amazing that Bitterns are now annual here – at times there have been four birds present simultaneously.

The Bittern's there somewhere

There it is

There have also been other arrivals – Wigeon numbers are up from under 10 to around 16 birds, and Teal have increased from around 40 last week to around 60 this week. 3 Common Gulls. While Lapwing, Shoveler, Gadwall, and the rest of the ducks seem to be on around the same numbers.

Numbers of Wigeon are up slightly this week

But Gadwall numbers are unchanged

Over the site a flock of four Linnets, one or two Grey Wagtail, a Great spotted Woodpecker over high. Local bird taking a short cut or a migrant? I guess the odds have to be on a local bird but interesting nonetheless. There are still a few Chiffchaff around – 4-5 in the southern half of the site that I covered today so probably a dozen or so across the whole site.

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Barnes White fronted wonders

Trip out with both the kids which usually makes birding hard work. The trip out today paid off though - just after 10am saw a small party (6) of grey geese circle the site and first assumption was that they were Greylag, but something in the back of my brain made me do a quick check with bins: White fronted Geese!! Patch tick!! They circled the site twice fairly low then I lost them behind the trees by WWT Hide - they were later seen heading downriver and over Beddington. Couldn't get a firm bill colour so certainly not conclusive, but these birds had big long bills and heavy barring on at least three of them - do this and the date point to Greenland White fronts?

A little earlier I'd had at least 2 (probably 4) Mipits over (2 calling, the other 2 pipit spp that were probably Meadow). Elsewhere numbers of Shoveler were up from last week (to around 45), slight increase in Teal (50-60), although Wigeon still only in high single figures.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Another wagtail post

Yet another wagtail themed post - this time a Yellow Wagtail at Barnes. This is my second of the year here, and this one, like the first in the spring, was also feeding around the feet of the cattle as they kick up insects. This time, though, it's feeding in longer grass so you can only see it every 10 minutes or so when one of the cows gives it a kick (or just gets to close) and it flies up.

None of the other recent goodies around - the sites had small numbers of Ring Ouzels moving through over the last few days and I've only been able to get her eon the days when they haven't been seen.

Also good numbers of Black headed Gulls (c190) with a couple of Common Gulls and small numbers of HG and LBBs around.

Wigeon numbers are still fairly low (9-10), likewise Lapwing numbers are a llittle down from usual levels at 35-40 birds, also c30 Gadwall, c20 Shoveler, around 8 Snipe, although they're being a bit skittish so hard to count accurately, Peregrine over the river, approx 4 Chiffchaffs including one doing a fairly flat 'weet' call. Just like a few days ago there are reasonable numbers of hirundines around: 25+ Swallow and 30-40 House Martins.

Since it's a bit quiet I thought I'd try an experiment and do a three way lens comparison. This means comparing the results of (1) the 400mm f5.6 lens with (2) a 560mm (400mm plus a 1.4 teleconverter) and (3) a digiscoped shot through the scope using a 50mm lens and using the 20x on the scope zoom. In theory this should give around 1000m but in practice it looked a little under, more like 980-990mm (assuming the 400mm focal lengths are right anyway). I’ve tried to pick out the best shot from a fairly short burst on each of the three options as a fairly rough n ready comparison.

This photo gives an idea of the distance - full shot from the 400mm
Baseline shot: 400mm f5.6, 1/640, ISO 16000

The following three pics are crops from the 400mm, 560mm and digiscoped shots. As usual these are cropped but nothing else.

Crop 400mm, f5.6, 1/640, ISO 1600

560mm (400mm + 1.4 MkII Canon), 1/250, ISO 1600

Digiscoped 50mm f1.8 (at f5.6) through Swaro 20-60x (at 20x), 1/200, ISO 1600

I think I'm getting a bit more detail (and better colour) from the 560mm shot than either the 400mm or the 1000mm digiscoped shot. The other take out seems to be that the 400mm is slightly forward focusing (the Mallard seems to be in better focus on the autofocused 400mm shot than the Wigeon).

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Wandle Wags

Trip out with the boys to the river. Not a great deal about: a Pied Wag on the railings by the new housing development, c25 Mallard on the Wandle, along with 2 Mute Swan, 4-5 Coot, a couple of Moorhen, f Tufted. On the Thames: a dozen cormorant, c40 Gulls (BH, HG, LBB), 2 more Tufted in flight upriver and a Goldfinch over calling.
Pied Wagtail alongside Thames

Friday, 1 October 2010

WWT versus WWBT

Just dried out from Blakeney and now back out in the rain at the London Wetland Centre. They had a good run of birds yesterday (Short eared Owl, Golden Plover, Raven and Brambling) all of which would be Barnes year ticks for me (and the Raven and Owl patch ticks). But today the rain's not really produced anything on site except pushing down a mixed flock of 50-60 hirundines - initially mainly House Martins with a few Swallows mixed in but then a steady passage of Swallows with over 20 birds present over the lake at times. Also around a fairly small number of Wigeon (8) - fewer than last week, around 6-7 Chiffchaffs plus the other usuals.

Decided to visit Hyde Park to take a look at the White winged Black Tern that's been present for nearly a week. Picked it up immediately hawking over the Serpentine - looking pretty incongruous in the middle of a London park. I managed a few photos, but the light was really dire and the autofocus was hunting desperately for most of the time so relied on luck and manual focus to get the following couple of shots. Tail colour astonishingly variable with the light ranging from white to quite a dark grey.