Thursday, 19 January 2017

Waxwings.... finally!

Neither Allan or I have ever seen Waxwings before. That's not to say we haven't tried, but it's safe to say they've been (especially for Allan) our 'bogey bird'. So with early signs of this winter being a waxwing winter, we have been keeping watch on the SOS sightings page to see when they'd show up in Sussex. On Sunday it was reported there were 33 on an industrial estate in East Grinstead, which is about an hour's drive from here, and with Monday being our day off we decided it was worth a trip in the morning. Arriving shortly after 9am in the pouring rain, there were no other birders around yet so had to find them ourselves. Fortunately it didn't take much more than a minute to spot them sitting at the top of a tree not far from where we parked!

Shortly after grabbing a couple of pictures, them flew off deeper in to the estate, so we followed the direction they went and quickly found them again, sitting in a tree adjacent to a whole border full of rosehips - bingo! Luckily there was a bike shelter in the perfect location where we could watch them move from the tree to the rose bushes and back without getting soaking wet standing in the rain. We spent about an hour in their company overall, a magical birding experience for the both of us.

At about 10.15am they flew off and we decided to head off to Old Lodge Nature Reserve as it was on our way back home. An hour's walk around the reserve also came up trumps, with nice views of Stonechats, Meadow Pipits, Goldcrests, Bullfinches and best of all a pair of Crossbills.

Friday, 13 January 2017

Winter Weather

Yesterday's horrendous rain turned to heavy snow at around 6.30pm as the temperature dropped, leaving a fair dusting greeting us this morning. This is the first snow of the winter, which has been mostly above average temperatures with a few short cold snaps. Off the back of a mild autumn and coupled with an abundance of natural food, feeder activity has been a bit short so far this season, with sales of food slightly below winter 2015.

We've had one brief visit from a Brambling so far (11th November) and a few Siskin flyovers but none stopping yet. Good numbers of Fieldfares and Redwings were present late in 2016 feeding on the yew trees, but after the food was gone they mostly moved on, though flocks can be seen most days flying over. A Grey Wagtail was regular from late October through to December, joining the resident Pied Wagtails, and a Red-legged Partridge was an unexpected visitor to the nature area on the 24th November.

After October's Buzzard sighting, our first 'perched' photos from Feathers, I was hugely surprised to find one sitting on the fence post in the Nature Area as I entered the hide one morning in December. The grubby windows seemed to help hide me, enough to at least manage a few photos and a video before it flew down to the ground behind. I managed to stay hidden as I crept around the hide for a few clearer pictures before it took off.

The colder weather which arrived at the turn of the year seems to have increased the activity on the feeders significantly, especially with today's brief flurry of snow and 2°C temperature! A pair of Marsh Tits have turned up, quite a rare visitor for us, and are now taking beakfuls of sunflower hearts to store away. Flocks of Long-tailed Tits regularly pass through and Coal Tits are here most of the time too. Charms of Goldfinches, a few Greenfinches, plenty of Chaffinches, Robins, Dunnocks, Blackbirds, House Sparrows, Nuthatch & Great Spotted Woodpecker sum up the other regulars.

Thursday, 12 January 2017

Birding at Rye Harbour Nature Reserve

Castle Water @ Rye Harbour Nature Reserve
Rye Harbour Nature Reserve is quietly tucked away on the south coast and 'as the crow flies' is not far away from the RSPB's Dungeness Nature Reserve. Both attract many birds and visitors alike throughout the year, but for me Rye is less of a drive and hits that spot in my soul, where I find myself completely relaxing and tuning in to the wildlife around me. I'm not a twitcher by any means, I wouldn't even describe myself as a good birdwatcher. I don't particularly know what I'm looking at when sitting in one of the hides overlooking Ternery Pool or Flat Beach, but simply being there with little else other than the sight and sounds of birds is my cup of tea. That's not to say I'm not relatively clued up of course; I know the difference between a Redshank and a Ringed Plover, I just can't tell a Dunlin from a Sanderling unless I've got a good view and a good book.

Three things I normally have with me are warm clothes (it can get cold and windy!), my binoculars and my camera. Late last year I changed from a Panasonic Lumix FZ200 to a Canon SX50HS. The image quality on the Lumix is, in my opinion, superior to the Canons, but at a place like Rye it's handy to have the extra zoom that the Canon offers. The big advantage any 'bridge' camera over a DSLR and telephoto lens is the fact they are considerably lighter, something I appreciate as I like to walk quite a lot. This is another thing I love about Rye Harbour NR, it's a huge place so if you want you can easily spend hours walking, especially if you visit Castle Water hide, but equally it's ideal for a short walk too. Recently I have done both, I always enjoy my time here and often come away with a good picture or two. Here are my best efforts from the past month or so:

Flat Beach
Green Woodpecker
Golden Plover

Camber Castle
Camber Castle at sunset
Mute Swan
Little Egret
Flat Beach with Denny Hide in the background
The reserve is supported by Sussex Wildlife Trust as well as 'The Friends of Rye Harbour Nature Reserve'.