Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Hastings in the heat

I got back from my regular trip to Hastings today, with about 800 photos to sort through. With wall-to-wall sunshine I spent both mornings visiting my honorary local patches - the Old Town beach and the nearest bits of the East Hill, and while I didn't see anything very unusual I did have fun. Warning, this post contains a lot of gulls, pigeons and Fulmars.

On Tuesday morning I began on the East Hill, and took a walk over to Ecclesbourne Glen. I wished I'd had a short lens to take some landscapes as I'd forgotten how pretty it is here - we used to visit all the time when I was little. It was nice to see that not much had changed. I went about halfway down the steps into the steep stream-cut gorge then under the fence (naughty of me, landslips happen now and then) along a path to the cliff edge. Here I found these Primroses, and had brief but very close views of an excitedly singing Chiffchaff.

Up on the grassy tops, Chaffinches and Greenfinches were legion, nipping from copse to gorsy clump and back again. I thought there had to be other finches around too and eventually pinned down this female Linnet. A number of Meadow Pipits were about, but not the hoped-for Wheatear.

Another Greenfinch in flight. I think this one's a bit better than the last one.

Jackdaws were also very active, many flying in off the cliffs, collecting bill-fulls of cut dry grass for nesting material, and heading back cliff-wards. I include this photo because my head-on flight shots are usually blurry so it was nice to get a sharp one.

I seem to have spammed my blog with Blackbird photos lately. Still, couldn't resist including this one, in full sprint mode with a real prize of an earthworm.

On the walk I heard a Raven or Ravens calling several times and saw at least one of the local ones but never very close. This heavily cropped pic shows a Raven giving a Carrion Crow some hassle - both birds were yelling their heads off so it was clear that the size difference was not an illusion and there was one of each.

I spent a little while at the top of the steps by the East Hill lift, looking out over the town, but didn't see a lot from here. Then I took the steps all the way down to the seafront and went looking for Fulmars on the cliffs.

I did see and photograph Fulmars. Unfortunately I failed to notice that I'd set my exposure compensation at +0.7 at some point, and discovered later that my Fulmar pics were overexposed. I did a bit better with these Feral Pigeons, though the white one has lost some detail.

I spent a last few minutes on the beach by the fishing boats, trying to get shots of gulls flying over the breaking waves. Could have done with bigger waves...

Back at Dad's, I noticed from the kitchen window an interesting-looking bird in the small tree over the fence, and discovered on closer inspection that it was a female Blackcap. She only stuck around for one shot and didn't exactly show herself to her best advantage, but still, a good garden bird. I decided to have breakfast out in the garden, to see whether anything else came along.

After the Blackcap moved on, a trio of Blue Tits landed in the tree. They were a bit more show-offy, especially this one which was displaying threateningly to the other two.

And we still weren't done. Unpacking upstairs, I noticed a Carrion Crow wheeling around the tower of All Saints Church, most of which is visible from the top room where I sleep when I'm here. I took a closer look...

... and saw that the crow was diving at this Raven, which was poised on top of the metal thing at the top of the church tower. It soon tired of the crow's attention and moved on.

A little later I went down to the shop for Dad and saw my first definitively identifiable butterfly of the year - a Peacock which settled and posed, and looked surprisingly good considering its great age (Peacocks seen in March would have emerged from their pupae last summer/autumn). Sadly, the camera was at back at the house so no photos.

And so to Wednesday morning. I didn't do much of a walk today, having gone for a run first thing and knackered myself out. But I did go up to the hilltop for a while, and then down to the beach to try for some correctly exposed Fulmar pics.

From the hilltop, while it was still pretty shady in the valley below, I saw this Magpie with a billful of what I presume is nesting material (though it doesn't look like the sort of thing I'd fancy lying on).

Here in Hastings, the Feral Pigeons nest on the cliffs just like their wild ancestors, as well as on buildings. Three of these six even have Rock Dove-style markings, but they're not fooling anyone.

Here's a photo I've been trying to get for a while - eye-level Herring Gull in flight over pretty but blurry Old Town houses. Not sure this is exactly right though, so I'll probably keep trying.

I went down to the beach after that and took a bushel of Fulmar photos.

I couldn't decide which I liked best so posted several. Fulmars have nested on the cliffs here since I can remember (1980s I guess) and may well have been here longer. There aren't loads of them but I'd say at least 10 pairs. They tended to fly in synchrony, so for a while there'd be half a dozen on view, then suddenly none for 10 minutes. They glide along the cliffs, make very steep banking turns, and eventually head off out to sea to feed. Photographing them is quite addictive. In fact I wasn't the only addict - there was a guy down there doing the same with a lens that made mine look really small.

There's that pesky Raven again. A little closer this time, but still not near enough for my liking.

Another pretty pigeon. Many of the Feral Pigeons were wheeling and parachuting around the cliffs in what I suppose is some kind of territorial display. It made them easier than usual to photograph - when really trying to get from A to B they are much faster.

I'll end this epic post with these two, who were standing nearby on a bin while I was photographing the Fulmars. They started having a conversation together, which caught my attention. Obviously they were talking about me, because a few moments after I turned around to take their photo they flew away.


ShySongbird said...

A great read again Marianne and lots of lovely photos. You have some excellent flight shots here. I particularly like the Greenfinch. I also love the last photo, so much character in it!

I have a rather loutish gang of Feral Pigeons visiting the garden regularly. Some of them are very attractive though.

Christian said...

An absolutely cracking and nicely varied series Marianne.