Sunday, 21 February 2010

Firecrest failure, Turnstone triumph

Friday 19th Feb, a day off for Rob and an opportunity to go down to Nigel's house and collect a big heap of books that I need for my next project. When we were about 10 minutes from Nigel's (at about 1.30pm) I called him and found he was out, he advised us to try again mid-afternoon. So we decided to spend the interim searching Collington Woods in Bexhill for the Firecrests that are wintering there.

This wood is a tiny square, you could traverse it in a brisk five minutes. Not much room for Firecrests to hide, you'd think. So we searched, listening for Goldcrests and tits but initially finding only a big and very flightly flock of Redwings. The slowest-witted of them paused just long enough for a distant photo.

We carried on to the north edge of the wood, and here we did bump into a feeding flock of little stuff. There were Coal Tits, one of them singing in an uncharacteristic very rapid monotone trill which had me completely baffled for a while, also Blue, Great and Long-tailed Tits and a number of Goldcrests, but old stripy-features eluded us. If there were any Firecrests among this little party they really didn't want to be seen. In any case, the conditions here were a bit rubbish for photography - we were looking into the light (such as it was) and the photos Rob did get were mainly silhouettes. Which is OK, I guess, if you like that kind of thing (and I do like this one).

We continued to search every corner of the wood. Near the children's play area was a little field bordered by shrubs, which I thought looked ideal for Firecrests. The Firecrests, sadly, didn't agree, though we did add Mistle and Song Thrushes here and got a couple of pics of a Jay. In another corner of the wood we received a very stern telling-off from a territorial pair of Great Tits. The sun was out by now, but time was running out. We decided to head to the (very nearby) beach, in the hope of saving the photographic day with a shot of a gull or something.

Driving along the front, we noticed that one of the small oblongs of grass between the beach path and the road was amply stocked with Turnstones, about 20 of them, all busily probing the muddy ground like a bunch of mutoid Starlings. (Also there was one Starling with them, perhaps believing itself to be a mutoid Turnstone). We parked nearby and Rob was soon busying himself photographing the wonderfully obliging waders.

What were they looking for? Worms, apparently. Their strike rate was not brilliant though, and when one of them did manage to haul up a worm, the others nearby would rush over and try to appropriate it from its rightful owner, often successfully.

Not long after this pic was taken, Rob's memory card died, and it wasn't until we got home (via Nigel's) that he was able to check it. Laptop would not read card, in either of our card readers. Rob stayed up til 3am doing technical clever things involving his hardly used pocket Zaurus PC, and managed to recover all but one of the photos from the corrupt card. Phew. He also got a preview image of the one photo that was lost, and it was almost identical to the photo taken before it (a Turnstone face down, nostril-deep in the grass), so it was no great loss.

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