Monday, 31 December 2012

My first end of year post!

Well hasn't this year flown by!

This is the first year I have actually attempted to record all the birds I have seen, previously I have just enjoyed looking out for birds whilst out and about, however now we go out specifically to look for them!

January to May was not so hot for birds for me, as I was trying to concentrate on my degree (trying being the main word, not always succeeding!) and with a difficult dissertation to complete and 8 exams to revise for the best I got was watching red kites from the 5th floor windows of the library! Not such a hard life! Once exams were over I had more time to concentrate on birding!

The end of may brought good things, I purchased my first DSLR and 70-300mm lens so I could really try and get some better photos of the birds that I so love!

One of my first bird photos was of a lovely reed bunting sitting, begging for a photo! Taken down at Oare marshes (30th May), this handsome fella was accompanied by little egrets, avocets, greylag geese, coots and more!

Reed bunting

Little egret

The beginning of June saw my first trip to Scotland! My mum and I took a trip to Edinburgh, where we did usual touristy things such as the zoo (where we saw bullfinches, and not in a cage thankfully!), the castle, botanical gardens etc! One of the days we decided to jump off the bus early and join the river Leith walk to get back in touch with nature! Little did we expect to see a bird which we searched for high and low on a trip to Wales in 2011.... a dipper! What a truly fantastic little bird!! It hung around for a while, dipping and catching fish while we watched in awe! A lovely robin also sat and posed for me.



Early July brought avocet chicks, house martin chicks and screeching swifts, 3 of my all time favourites! (how many favourites is one allowed?!) I think the 2 pairs of house martins which nest on the side of our house and another pair on our neighbours house had 3 broods throughout this summer, which was great news! Not such great news for mum's camellia which ends up covered in house martin poo!

Avocet chick (1 of 3)

A trip to Dungeness allowed us sightings of linnets, peregrines, common terns, marsh harrier and a lovely male stonechat! I also saw my first marbled white butterfly!



I was then away travelling around Eastern and central Europe for the whole of September. I was with a friend and we mainly toured the cities, I was lucky enough to see hundreds of alpine swifts in Bulgaria which was a real treat! On the many buses and trains I saw a great number of birds of prey, however identification at 70mph is not really feasible! There were many times when it would have been perfect to have gone birding! In Bosnia and Herzegovina and also Croatia I saw bright blue and red flashes, however I just wasn't equipped for birding! However, did see hundreds of swallows in several countries and a lovely great crested grebe on Lake Balaton in Hungary! No new ticks though!

Great crested grebe (non-breeding plumage)

Autumn back in the UK provided opportunities for lovely bright seasonal photos, but as mentioned before, birding flew out of my life briefly when a puppy Bracken became a part of our family!

However this just made me take more notice of our resident garden birds! A bold wren, a flock of 8 or so long tailed tits which love the fat balls, many blue tits, great tits, starlings, house sparrows, dunnocks, a robin or two, blackbirds, thrushes and a pair of collard doves that sit in our tree and crap everywhere, ready for the pup to eat it!

Long tailed tit

As winter drew near, the chatterings of fieldfares and redwings were heard over our garden, heading towards the orchards. On another trip to Oare Marshes we were graced by the presence of teal, lapwing, coot, pintail, linnet and stonechat.

Golden plover was another new bird for me as were the beautiful and magnificent waxwings!

So what a great year! I may not have seen loads of really rare birds or even lots of new birds, but I have seen lots of my favourites and this year has paved the way for a great new year of birding! Bring on 2013!

Thanks to anyone who has taken the time to read my posts and I wish you a Happy New Year!!   

Sunday, 30 December 2012

A perfect end to the year...

I don't think I will ever get bored of waxwings! They are just the most wonderful birds! For me they aren't just a tick off a list, I just want to go searching for them again and again!

Last time we saw them they were 10 minutes walk from the house, today however we set off to Tesco in Whitstable as I had heard on the grapevine (twitter) that they had been feasting on the berries there for the last few days.

I spotted them as we were driving along, all sitting in a tall tree, so we parked at Tesco and walked along the road. It seemed much further along walking, and just as we heard them call they all flew off, back the direction we had come from! Determined to see them, we walked back on ourselves. I'm sure people driving past must have thought we were right weird people taking photos at the side of the road! Alas we couldn't care less as we spotted them sitting in a very tall tree! We stood and waited a while and to our delight they decided to descend upon the berry laden hedge 1 metre from us!! We got absolutely fantastic views of them! They are much smaller when you see them without a camera lens or bins! I got some photos but I was so excited that they aren't quite in focus. That'll teach me! It was also very windy so they were flapping around a bit and were quite flighty and before we knew it a runner scared them off! We walked back down to Tesco to find them in a tree there! Luck seemed to be on our side today! There were a few other birders tracking them down and also some non birding onlookers wondering why there were lots of people standing in the car park with cameras and bins etc! Could have watched them for hours longer, but my fingers were cold and the sun had disappeared so decided to head home. Very enjoyable morning though!

Here are a few of the photos I took...


Surrounded by berries!

Gulping down those berries!

Can see those waxy yellow and red tips
Returning for a rest after scoffing lots of berries!
Nice little blackbird enjoying the berries too!


In flight!

Returning to their rest point

Lets hope they hang around until Tuesday so they can be my first birds of 2013!

Monday, 17 December 2012

12/12/12 A Hoary Frost and some Waxy wings

This day was the day I had been dreaming about for, hmm... a couple of years!! And no I hadn't been dreaming of that crisp frost.

Last year when there was a bit of an influx of waxwings, I was at Uni and studying hard, so no time for gallivanting finding birds! I thought this year might be the one, but what with having a new puppy, I thought our time would never come! I'd been keeping an eye out on twitter for sightings of waxwings nearby and we were planning on going on a little outing to find some soon.

Anyway, this frosty morning not only provided many perfect photo opportunities but also some very welcome visitors just a 10 minute walk down the road!!

Here are a few of the best frost photos.

Further along in the field by the church were 50+ lapwings and 50+ golden plover ( a first for me) and I took quite a while back home trying to decide what they were! Very attractive birds!

Now for the stars of the show....

I spotted a lone waxwing in the top of a tree, I was ecstatic, but sad my Mum was at work and not sharing this moment with me! I managed to get this photo, but it was quite high up and I had an excitable puppy hanging off one of my arms on the lead.

My mum and I then went back later without the pup to see if these fantastic birds had hung around or if it had just been a fleeting visit. To our delight we spotted one, which then joined another in a tree right in front of us. A man on a bike was cycling past and said hello very loudly, I shushed him and told him we were watching waxwings, I don't think he was very impressed. His loss!

2 waxwings
 The fieldfares were watching the goings on from a nearby tree...

A tree full of fieldfares
 The waxwings then flew into a different tree and joined a couple of others

Then before we knew it they had flown off again, so we followed their distinctive calls into the orchards and got a few more glances. We carried on to the spot where I had seen them the same morning and were spoilt with a whole flock! Managed to get a shot of 11 of them!

We followed them into a different orchard, where they were feasting on copious amounts of rotting apples, yum! The glare of the sun hindered getting good detailed photos, showing off their vibrant colours, but I did get some nice silhouette shots. We crept up on them and when the sun dipped I did managed to get one fairly good close up.

So definitely my bird of the year! Another species to tick off my list! The best bit about it was that we didn't even have to get in the car to go and find them, they were right on our doorstep! A case of right place at the right time.

Friday, 14 December 2012

Harty Ferry, Oare 8/12/12

Only a few days delayed....

We thought we would take the pup down to Oare to see if he had grown out of his car sickness yet, but mainly to see if we could find some nice birdies!! As we drove past the main marshy, watery area, I could already see lots of activity so I knew it had not been a wasted journey! To be honest even if we didn't see a single bird, it would still be a lovely walk because it just has such a nice atmosphere there!

Another bonus going down to Harty at the moment, is we get to see the fabulous konik ponies which used to roam the marshes along the sea wall at Seasalter. They are very handsome looking creatures that originated in Poland.

Down by the water, there were roughly 40 Teal which are probably one of my favourite species of duck, they have such fantastic markings! Alongside these were around 50 lapwing, there were a few mute swans, I didn't write down how many, but there was a lovely family with 4 cygnets.  

A selection of male and female teal and lapwings

 Further round the circular route we walk around, the water was more open and I could see a number of species, but it was cold and wanted to keep walking so took a quick photo and moved on. When I got home and had a closer look, I identified 5 pintail, 26 teal and 19 coot.

Pintails, teal and coots

The sun sets so early these days, so managed to get a few nice reflection photos as well as spotting quite a few knot and redshank.

The light was disappearing quite quickly, but noticed a number of twittering birdies, so waited for them to settle and tried to get a decent photo. We weren't too sure what we were looking at at the time so got the bird books out once we got home. Decided this was probably a female linnet or a juvenile? Any comments about this identification would be welcome!!

Nearing the end of our walk, 3 or 4 reed bunting were flitting around in the bushes and then a nice little stonechat sat and posed rather nicely on a fencepost for me!

Took a final few landscapey shots before taking our rather muddy tired pup home!