Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Apologies for absence

Hello, folks, and sorry it's been an age. I've done a few trips lately, including a week in south-west Cornwall where due to a packing mishap I was sans camera, and a weekend Up North where I was sans camera on purpose, as the forecast was terrible. Then there has been another weekend Up North where I visited Woolston Eyes, and a day at Rainham, searching in vain for the Short-eared Owls that have been frequenting the area of late. Put those two together and there are just about enough photos to justify a post but be warned, it's very heavy on the ducks and very light on everything else.

So, Rainham first. This happened last Wednesday (18th), the day after a very grotty and stormy Tuesday. It was brighter on Wednesday but still windy, which meant the owls were not hunting. Shane and I leant into the wind and walked the loop anticlockwise, with a couple of extra bits in search of owls - along the river first thing, and then down to the Serin mound after doing most of the reserve loop.

In the shelter of the woodland, things were warm enough to encourage a Red Admiral to have a bask, here sharing space with a wasp.

A lot of vegetation has been cleared from in front of the Ken Barratt hide, and as we stepped inside we could see that even the closest islands were thronged with resting wildfowl - but they could see us too and the whole lot took off before we'd even had a chance to sit down. Here are some of the fliers - a pair of Gadwalls, and a trio of Wigeons. There were also Pintails and Shovelers. But even the more distant ducks cleared off, leaving us with just a Coot or two to look at.

We moved on, finding the Pintails on the next lake down. Here's a drake in horrible light and two females in rather nicer light. At the back of this lake a line of Black-tailed Godwits sat looking miserable, turned against the wind.

Lots of Teals from the tower hide. I spent most of my time here looking out of the other side, towards the marshes, and picked up a couple of distant Marsh Harriers but no owls (well, you already know that).

We exited the reserve at the gate near the dragonfly pools and turned right, following the trail to the Serin mound. From here we scanned the fields for a good while and enjoyed watching two Marsh Harriers, one a smart adult male.

Unusually, this female Stonechat was by herself - maybe yet to find a winter boyfriend or maybe something had happened to him. She didn't seem bothered either way.

The walk back didn't produce a lot. There were a couple of Common Seals on the far riverbank, a Curlew among the gulls on the foreshore. Here's a Magpie struggling to fly in a straight line.

The feeders were quite busy, with Goldfinches, Greenfinches, House Sparrows, Collared Doves and of course Starlings. Bit of a depth of field issue with this photo!

We decided to have a quick look at the Purfleet hide before heading off. There were ducks aplenty here, mainly Wigeons, and we managed to dig out a couple of Snipes too.

Mallards incoming.

And a rather endearing couple of Wigeons, who broke away from the main pack to come and have a snuggle on the nearest island.

And now on to Woolston. But actually first I'll just mention my first, camera-less weekend in the north-west, which was at the end of October. It rained. Lots. We went to RSPB Burton Mere on the Saturday and despite the rain found some nice birds, including a ringtail Hen Harrier. On the Sunday we visited Pennington Flash and had great views of Willow Tit from the Bunting hide. This time, it was just a couple of hours at Woolston on a sunny but bitterly cold day, and there wasn't a lot about but I took a few photos.

Oh look, it's a Willow Tit! This shoddy effort was the only pic I managed - the bird was coming and going to the feeding station by the hide but was just not very close and was totally hyperactive. Hopefully I'll have more luck next time...

One of two female Goldeneyes on the water.

Wader-wise there was little to see... a distant small flock of Golden Plovers went by and then there was this solitary Black-tailed Godwit, looking titchy alongside a pair of Canada Geese.

A pair of Gadwalls. No Wigeons or Pintails here.

Loads of Teals, however, including these three pretty close to the hide.

After our look around the reserve proper we wandered down to the weir, where we saw Tufted Ducks and a single Great Crested Grebe, and several Black-headed Gulls perched on the overhead wires. Also had flyover Fieldfares in the general area.

Life's been very busy and I've definitely lost the photography mojo a bit... but I am off to Norfolk in a couple of weeks for several days' birding - and with any luck may manage a trip to Dunge or somewhere else in Kent next week, so there should be more photos to show and more wildlife to witter on about in the near future :)

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