Friday, 27 December 2013

A long-lived Wigeon

Just browsing through the BTO's Longevity records for Britain & Ireland in 2012, as you do when trying to get over Christmas!

A number of records were pretty interesting, but one really surprised me, and with an Essex connection! and that was for Wigeon. I had never considered that one could live for more than 30 years! The eldest so far recorded was a first-year male ringed at Abberton Reservoir on 15 February 1962. It was recovered on 15 September 1996 in Pionerskiy, Sovetskiy District, Russia, sadly it was freshly dead having been shot. It was 34 years & 7 months old, which to me is quite amazing!

Below are a few images I took at Rainham Marshes back in March.

Friday, 1 November 2013

Red Kites in The Chilterns

I grew up in Princes Risborough, Buckinghamshire and most of my family still live there. Whenever I visit I always find some time to photograph the Red Kites and always come away a little frustrated with my efforts. But, this week I am much happier with my images.

I now use a Canon EOS 7D with a Canon 400mm f5.6 L USM Lens. I kept the settings at f/8 with an ISO range of 400 – 800 and exposure compensation of +1.5 to +2. Fortunately one of the days during my visit was bright with clear blue skies. All of the images were taken from my mum’s garden.

I’m always amazed by the Red Kites, from soon after first light to about an hour before dusk, they are almost constantly on view, often in double figures. A number of local residents I suspect feed the kites, and they are constantly patrolling over the gardens. At times coming extremely low, occasionally below the rooftops, and as most of the residencies are bungalows, you get an idea of just how low they are at times.
I flew the nest during the early eighties, back then you had to travel to mid-Wales for a possible view of the quite rare (in the UK) Red Kite and at that time the small welsh population was declining. For the last twelve years I have lived in South Essex, and during that time I have only been lucky enough to see a single Red Kite fly over my garden on two occasions!

The Red Kite story is certainly an over whelming conservation success. They were reintroduced to The Chilterns over a six year period in 1989. Since 1997 the population has been monitored by the Southern England Kite Group. In order to monitor the movements of Red Kites all reintroduced birds and many wild fledged birds have been fitted with wing tags. These plastic tags are colour-coded, on the left wing the tags colour represents the area of origin (yellow for the Chilterns). While the colour tag on the right wing represents the year (2012 was red). These plastic tags normally fall off after 4 or 5 years.

A 2012 bird!

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Bowers Marsh is Open!

Bowers Marsh is opening to the public this Saturday, our newest addition to the South Essex reserves. Thanks to funding from Essex County Council, Veolia Ltd, Veolia North Thames Trust, Parklands South Essex and the Homes and Communities Agency, around 260ha of wetland habitats have been created, with saline and freshwater lagoons, scrapes, ditches, reedbed and areas of wet grassland. Several km of new paths have also been laid, to allow easy access around the many new habitats, so why not come down and see what’s about.

 As winter approaches, expect to see increasing numbers of waders and wildfowl, such as lapwing, curlew, black-tailed godwits, teal, wigeon and shoveler. If you’re lucky, you may even see a marsh harrier or short-eared owl silently hunting over the reserve. Remember to check the reedbed areas too, bearded tits can be found here during the winter, as well as elusive water rail scurrying along the reed edges.

There are also areas of arable land and hedgerows on the reserve, perfect for attracting large winter flocks of corn buntings, listen out for them calling, it is said to sound like someone ‘jangling some keys’.

The reserve has been created with all nature in mind, many of the ditches on the reserve have been profiled to attract water voles, so keep a look out for their burrows and listen out for the distinctive ‘plop’ as one jumps in to the ditch. You may even catch a glimpse of one swimming along in the water!

To celebrate the opening of the reserve, we are holding an ‘Autumn Extravaganza’. This is a fantastic opportunity for the whole family to come and experience this reserve for the first time; it will be running on Tuesday 29th and Wednesday 30th October between 10 am and 4pm. Visitors will be able to bring their families along to discover this exciting new nature reserve and the amazing wildlife it is now home to. There will be drop in sessions with a range of activities running throughout the day.

For more information visit the RSPB Visitor Centre in Wat Tyler Country Park, call us on 01268 498620 or visit the Bowers Marsh webpage

Michael Poole - Assistant Warden

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Curlew Sandpipers at Rainham Marshes today

Spent a few hours at Rainham Marshes today, mostly watching the Purfleet Scrape for the two Curlew Sandpipers seen earlier. They were no where to be seen on arrival, with an hour to go before high tide, it began to rain, so I made my way to the Purfleet Scrape. Lapwings, Curlew, Redhank and Dunlin soon arrived and the two Curlew Sandpipers. They were quite distant from the hide and the light was rubbish, but managed a couple of record shots and my first attempt at video with mt iPhone & Swarovski scope combination.

Curlew Sandpipers - RSPB Rainham Marshes - 19102013 from Alan Shearman on Vimeo.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

What an Idiot!

A Glossy Ibis has been seen recently in South Essex, it's been seen coming into the egret roost at Wat Tyler Country Park. Last night it came in at 18.15 and 111 Little egrets were counted coming in also. My cunning plan, was to look for it on the soon to open 'RSPB Bowers Marsh' during the day. And, if that failed I still had the roost at Wat Tyler as a back-up.

Well the walk around Bowers failed to turn up an Ibis and it poured with rain, only occasionally easing off! So, I arrived at Wat Tyler early 16.30 to be precise, well the weather was rubbish, it will get dark earlier and the Ibis will come in early, not rocket science is it! Our weather, 'aint science at all! In the 15 minutes it took me to drive to Wat Tyler, the sun had come out and it was now almost like a pleasant summers evening

So, there I stood with a group of local birders in the Green Centre's car park, waiting for the sun to dip below the horizon and the roost to begin forming in the nearby scrub area. As well as an egret roost the scrub also holds a quite raucous and large corvid roost which begins to form first. At about 17.50, the light was fading fast and our first Little Egrets began arriving, by 18.30 a hundred had been logged and the light was disappearing fast and still no sign of the Ibis. 18.40 egret arrivals had now stopped, light becoming poor, and I decide to call it a night, I say my goodbyes, walk the 20' to my car, which is parked in front of the dozen gathered birders. Open the car door, sit in the seat, I hadn't even shut the car door, when they almost all raised their binoculars as one and looked intently behind me! Mt first instinct was 'they are having a laugh' but a split-second later I realised this was for real, they had the bird and I'm in my car looking the wrong way! By the time I jumped out of the car, it had dropped into the roost and disappeared. What an idiot! Pretty much the whole day had been leading to this one moment, AND I MISSED IT!

The only bright point was this smart male Stonechat.
Oh go on, turnaround!

Thank You

Monday, 14 October 2013

Parrot Crossbills Revisited

Decided to go back to Gunners Park today, to have another look at the Parrot Crossbills, if they were still there! Good news, all four birds were still present and showing well in the two small spruce trees. Decided to try and phone scope them this time with my iPhone 4s and Swarovski scope. Three of the better shots are below, each has been cropped slightly with just a little sharpening. I am fairly happy with the results.

They flew off west at one point alarm calling as they went and disappeared from view, apparently they had done this before and soon returned. After ten minutes they were back. Sadly, for some who arrived after 11.15 this morning, they again flew off west and hadn't returned by 3.30 pm when I left the site. I hadn't witnessed them fly off this time, as I had moved to the lake area and was watching a flighty Ring Ouzel. I did see them flying over north of the lake and they were calling as they headed west.

On returning to the spruce trees at around 2 pm, I learnt that they had this time not returned. There were around 25 birders looking and hoping that they may still return. This searching led to a Yellow-browed Warbler being found, it was associating with a mobile tit flock which also included at least three Chiffchaffs. It only ever showed briefly and was frustratingly silent, otherwise I'm certain it would have been picked up more frequently.

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Parrot Fashion at Gunners Park

Four Crossbills at Gunners Park, Shoeburyness near Southend today were identified as Parrot Crossbills. Great work by local birders Paul Griggs and Jeff Delve in nailing the identification.You can see some of Jeff's superb images HERE I managed to see three of the four birds an adult male, a female and a paler immature female. They showed well at times in two small conifers on the seaward side opposite the old tennis courts. They would disappear at times in the small conifers and were often obscured, they continuously fed, and it was fascinating to watch them manipulate the cones. But, even better than that, this was the first time I had ever seen this species; a life tick hooray! Below are a few record shots of two of the four birds present.

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Green Woodpecker

I've tried a few times to photograph Green Woodpecker at Dagenham Chase LNR with out success. The site is very good for Green Woodpecker, but they are difficult to get close to. This is my best effort so far, and of the usual view flying away! I know it is crap, but at least this morning I have put a marker down and a challenge for myself.

Monday, 30 September 2013

Back at The Chase

Spent a few hours at Dagenham Chase this morning, best birds were two Kestrels, two Sparrowhawk and a flyover Common Buzzard.

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Red Letter Day At The Chase!

That should read, 'Red Kite Day' really. At 08.15 a Red Kite flew fairly low over Bardag Lake heading south. It was continually mobbed by gulls, with more continually joining the frey and successfully ensuring it continued on it's way, which was a shame! This was my first sighting of Red Kite at The Chase.....whooopee!

A good roving flock of tits, included at least 5 Chiffchaff with 20+ Long-tailed Tits in the majority.

One of at least 20 roving bumbarrels at The Chase this morning

Saturday, 28 September 2013

Early Morning Chase!

Spent the first four hours of daylight for the last two days at Dagenham Chase. Still a few warblers around with at least 10 Chiffchaff today, 4 Blackcaps and a Lesser Whitethroat yesterday and two singing Cetti's Warblers both days. Yesterday there were 8 Wigeon on The Slack, my first returning birds and a reminder that winter is only just around the corner! A Sparrowhawk flushed 8 Snipe from The Slack yesterday, with four feeding in the open today. Three Little Egrets on the scrape today along with six Grey Herons.
I didn't do that, was a horse!

Saturday, 21 September 2013

New Garden Fence Attracts Hawker

We have had up to five Migrant Hawkers feeding over our garden in recent weeks, but this female was the first to settle on our new fence, which was erected this week. More Migrant Hawker information here

Our garden is very much a work in progress, before and now images below.