Monday, 30 March 2015

Barnacle Goose.

Earlier this month I posted about encountering a surprise visitor on my local patch pond so here are a few more images of the Barnacle Goose (Branta leucopsis).

Barnacle Geese breed in the Arctic from Greenland east to the Baltic and Novaya Zemlya and move south in the winter. Those coming to Britain are mostly found on the north and west coasts.
The earliest record in Surrey (UK) is an individual that was shot near Elstead, Surrey in 1849. There have been a handful of sightings in the county since 1900 that would appear to relate to migrant birds. [Birds of Surrey - J.J.Wheatley]

Several populations of feral birds, derived from escapees, now exist in southern England, so it is difficult to establish whether any sighting is a true migrant as they are often seen in the company of Canada or Greylag Geese. This individual was also seen in the company of a pair of Greylag Geese.

Whatever its origins it was a delight to see when it visited the Great Pond, Epsom Common on 12th March.  FAB.

Linking to  Wild Bird Wednesday.

Friday, 27 March 2015

Garden and Patch Update.

With the garden starting to wake up with the warmer temperatures I felt it was time to get my hands dirty so I visited to a local Garden Centre at the beginning of the week to purchase some more compost. Typically I couldn't resist perusing the fresh stock of plants on offer and also came away with a mixture of herbaceous and wild flowers including Helenium, Phlox, Veronica, Knautia plus Black Knapweed and Ragged Robin. Later in the week I also succumbed to buying more Lilly bulbs.
A voice said "Where are you going to plant all those?". Never fear I'll find room was my response and a few hours later, under the watchful eye of Mr Blackbird, relevant spaces were found, everything planted and most of the bare soil satisfyingly mulched with organic compost.

While I wait for the small specie Tulips and Narcissus to bloom I can currently enjoy these little treasures (below) ... tiny clumps of Scilla siberica spreading freely beneath the Birch at the bottom of the garden.

I have undertaken a couple of patch walks this week at Epsom Common. Still relatively quiet  although a couple of pairs of noisy Canada Geese have taken up residence plus the Teal and Tufted Ducks are still around but preferring to hide in the marginal vegetation. Great Spotted Woodpeckers have been drumming constantly in response to other males as they stake out their respective territories.

In addition to the permanent well weathered Dragonfly; a sculpture erected many year ago on the fringes of the Great Pond; it was good to see the Salix buds bursting open. Five Greylag Geese also made a brief appearance and my first sighting for this year of Chiffchaff (2) singing from their lofty perches. Hopefully it won't be long before I'm listening to the songs of other returning migrants such as Blackcap, Whitethroat and Garden Warbler.  FAB. 

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Gardening Companion.

Once again for this week's edition of Good Fences hosted by TexWisGirl I've chosen another bird related theme.
A couple of shots of my gardening companion, our resident Robin, who likes to perch on the trellis above our boundary fence as it spies on 'the watcher' making sure I do a proper job!

Monday, 23 March 2015

Territorial Songsters.

Over the past few weeks our garden has come alive in many ways; various plants producing new green shoots, clumps of bulbs erupting into colourful displays of blues, whites and yellows; and at least two resident avian species regularly pronouncing their territorial ownerships.

The male Blackbird (Turdus merula) uses an old cherry tree stump as a lookout post to spy for anything lurking below that might be a tasty snack. Whilst there is no evidence of nest building in our garden he can be heard every morning, even before it is light, belting out his unmistakeable rich repertoire from the highest branch.

As in past years a single male Robin (Erithacus rubecula) frequents our garden on a daily basis patiently waiting for me to disturb something edible in the soil when I'm gardening. He's now in his full finery and regularly takes up position in the hawthorn to let any intruders know that this is his territory.

So at last .... Spring is here and the voices are rejoicing.  FAB.

Linking to Nature Notes and Wild Bird Wednesday.

Friday, 20 March 2015

Little Egret.

A few images of Little Egret (Egretta garzetta) taken during a couple of recent coastal visits around Langstone Harbour.

They are fascinating to watch as they stealthily walk their fishing patch often shaking their totally immersed yellow feet to disturb likely prey.

Total concentration as its eyes search for a possible snack above the very still water.

I included these last two shots as I liked the way the ripples it created broke up its reflection. FAB.

Linking to Weekend Reflections and Saturday's Critters.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Birding Hotspot - Staines Reservoir.

For this weeks edition of Good Fences I'm taking you to one of the most exposed birding hotspots within the Surrey County recording area ... the Staines Reservoir causeway that bisects the north and south basins.

Definitely not the place to be on a dreary, cold and wet winter day unless you go well wrapped up but with rarities turning up anytime throughout the year sometimes you just have to brave the elements.

What I hadn't anticipated to find was that the north basin had been emptied for maintenance purposes but this does provide the ideal habitat for migrant waders etc to drop in from time time.

I recall this basin also being empty in September 2004 when I logged my first Pectoral Sandpiper in the UK.

Visitors this month have already included Avocet, Little Ringed Plover, Ringed Plover, Curlew, Dunlin, Ruff, Rock and Water Pipit, Oystercatcher, Black-tailed Godwit, Wheatear and a nearby Black Redstart.

Scanning the water to the south, while looking into the wintery sun,  and the mud to the north while coping with the interruptions of several wind driven rain showers wasn't particularly comfortable but I did locate the Great Northern Diver, Oystercatcher (2), Common Redshank (4), Lapwing, Dunlin (3) plus the usual ducks such as Wigeon, Teal, Gadwall, Goldeneye, Mallard, Tufted, Common Pochard, Northern Shoveler and several Shelduck.

Along the causeway bank I counted around 45 Pied Wagtails (Motacilla alba ssp. yarrellii) busily feeding on insects. I should have paid more attention to all these Wagtails as there was probably a White (ssp. alba) amongst them.  While looking through a small group of Meadow Pipits I located a moulting Water Pipit.

A Coot taking a stroll.

With a good number of [Eurasian] Wigeon frequenting the concrete slopes I couldn't pass up the opportunity for a few shots before heading home.

So enduring the elements added four species to my Surrey year list including one new addition to my 2015 annual list from the 29 species seen during a 55 minute visit.

Next time I'll try to plan a visit here when the sun is shining!  FAB.

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Temporary Relocation.

This week's local patch birding update for 'Wild Bird Wednesday' has been posted on my photo blog FABirding ... I trust you will excuse the temporary relocation and hope you might find time to pop over to view a few more of my wildlife images. FAB.

This mornings patch visit was fairly quiet with very little activity on either pond at Epsom Common but a detour to scan the fields at Rushett Farm produced two new 'patch year' sightings; 17 Lapwing and 2 Skylark ... I watched one individual for over five minutes as it ascended into the sky singing its heart out.   

Friday, 13 March 2015

Sunshine Birding.

We have been fortunate weather wise in the south-east with warmer temperatures and the long awaited appearance of some blue skies. This prompted me about a week ago to make another visit to Thursley Common in the hope of catching the over-wintering Great Grey Shrike in the lens.

Just after crossing the short boardwalk another birder indicated with hand signals that he had the bird in view.

Over the following two hours this bird was very mobile and in the company of 'Geordie' I made several circuits of Shrike Hill as we both attempted to get some photos. Typically the bird never got really close enough so a distant record shot (below) had to suffice for now.

A cropped shot of the perched Great Grey Shrike. Later during my wanderings around the common I was entertained by the flight displays and songs of several Woodlark.

A Woodlark showing its distinctive broad supercilia and stubby tail perched briefly for the watcher.

On Tuesday Anita and I made a late morning decision to drive southwards to the coast and took a leisurely stroll around Farlington Marshes under a sunny sky. 
Unfortunately the tide was well in so we missed most of the wildfowl and wader movement from the harbour onto the grazing marsh but we still  enjoyed the spectacle of the thousands of Brent Geese

I also added Rock Pipit to my year list while listening to the glorious song of the Skylarks as they soared high up into the blue sky.

Brent Geese feeding and flying in every direction and then we spotted one individual (below) that had been colour-ringed and has probably faithfully returned to the UK every winter for the past 10-15 years.

Several species were seen flying out across the harbour including Shelduck (above) and Wigeon (below). You can view more images of flying Shelduck by visiting FABirding.

And finally, any trip here wouldn't be the same without decent views of a Little Egret (below) feeding in one of the small pools. More images of this species to follow in due course.

Wishing everyone a glorious wildlife watching weekend, wherever you are.  FAB.

Linking to Saturday's Critters and I'D-Rather-B-Birdin' ,

Patch Surprise.

During my regular patch walks when I reach the bottom of these steps that lead up to the Great Pond I have no idea what I might find (unless the wildlife is talkative) so there is always an anticipation that something different might be on the water or lurking in the surrounding vegetation.

Yesterday morning the only sounds were those of Mallard talking and Coot scolding one another and on reaching the top of the embankment a quick scan only produced the aforementioned species plus Moorhen, two Canada Geese and a distant male Teal. My initial thoughts were that this visit would be a waste of time BUT a further scan of the waterside vegetation produced two unusual visitors including a first sighting for the patch.

A pair of Greylag Geese were accompanied by a single Barnacle Goose but they were obviously wary of any intruder and floated away to the far end of the pond. I then spent over an hour stalking quietly around the perimeter, peering through the branches and eventually managed a few frames to record this very unusual sighting. More images to follow in a future post. FAB.

Linking to Good Fences.

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Early March Garden Colours.

We have had a few sunny days which has provided an opportunity for me to do some tidy up jobs in the garden after a wet, windy winter and to locate a few of the 'stars' that are on show at the present time. 
The Hellebore's are putting on a decent show but aren't the easiest to photograph when most of their faces are pointing towards the soil!

One of the few remaining Snowdrops still in flower is this Galanthus nivalis 'Flore Pleno', a very familiar double variety.

Just a couple of Crocus still hanging on but other bulbs such as the numerous clumps of Leucojum vernum (Spring Snowflake) have continued to increase in volume year on year.

For many of my followers who are still having to contend with a long cold and snowy winter I hope it won't be too long before you soon see signs of Spring in your own gardens.  FAB.

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

White Nun.

One of the smallest sawbills is the compact and very shy Smew (Mergellus albellus) that breeds in the northern boreal forests of Scandinavia and Russia.. A few individuals migrate in the winter to regular sites in the South of England but are often difficult to locate. I have not been sucessful in finding one this winter so here are a few images taken during a stroll around the wildfowl collection at the London Wetland Centre (WWT) last week.

As you can see the male in full breeding plumage is very distinctive hence it is commonly known as the 'White Nun' and its appearance always reminds me of 'cracked ice'. Conversely the females and immatures are commonly known as 'redheads'.

 In anyone's language this has to be one of the most stunning little diving ducks.  FAB.

Linking to Wild Bird Wednesday hosted by Stewart. So click the link to view numerous other species from around the globe.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

The Stealth Hunter.

Around the pond on my local patch all the Grey Herons (Ardea cinerea) are extremely wary of any movement even when the watcher is nearly a hundred yards away but on Heron Pond in Bushy Park most of the individuals are far more tolerant.

So here are just a few of the many images taken last September of a  2nd year bird nearly into its adult plumage (distinguished by the almost white forehead and still some grey on its upper mandible) as it went about the task of searching the algae covered waters for a snack. Linking to Wild Bird Wednesday.

Its ability to stand motionless for ages is legendary but once the eyes lock on the prize the action is over in moment ... far too quick for my reflexes or maybe lack of concentration!

I think it is saying "Ok, your time is up ... now move on".  FAB.


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