Saturday, 24 February 2018

Consolation Glaucous

February 23rd was one of those days that I don't know quite how to feel about. Since its arrival, the Ross's Gull had visited Lodmoor at least once a day and given excellent views. That is apart from the day I went. There was a fair crowd waiting along the path overlooking West scrape with 40+ birders and togs present for most of the day. Dorset Bird Club kindly tweeted me at 15:42 saying that the Ross's was in Bowleaze Cove so I quickly spread the news amongst the crowd and headed there. Unfortunately it had flown just as I was putting the parking ticket in the car. DAMN. I have seen Ross's before (Bowling Green Marsh bird) but this Dorset adult is an absolute stunner and has posed brilliantly for heaps of birders/photographers so I had to give it a go.

Some consolation came in the form of a 2nd Winter Glaucous Gull which I tracked after picking it out flying in from a distance. It soon landed fairly close on West scrape and what a brute it was! Other birds of note were 2 Spoonbills (1 of which was ringed in Netherlands), 5 Ruff and an Avocet.

So we went home happy with the Glauc but disappointed to have missed the Ross's, like the vast majority of other birders that day. What made the dip slightly more frustrating is that it was again showing very close today but this time at Radipole. I almost laughed when I got the news because I said to Dad on the way home yesterday that the island on Radipole near the car park looked good and the Ross's could show up there at some point. A few of the people who were on scene phoned me up to say I should get my butt down there right away so I packed my bags, got to the door and received another message saying it had flown out to sea. DAMN AGAIN. I will try again if I get time. It's such a stunning bird and I really want to see it...

Saturday, 17 February 2018

Posing Hawfinch

There are still 10+ Hawfinches in Colyton spending most of their time in Yews at St Andrew's Church. Although their calls can be heard almost constantly during daytime, they are rather difficult to see well when perched as they usually fly deep into the Yews. I wrote 'posing' in the blog post title but it only posed for perhaps 2 seconds in 2 hours... Still, I tried to make the most of that!

Mostly in the shade but it poked its head out just far enough to catch some sunlight

Saturday, 10 February 2018

Marsh Harrier

The lingering Marsh Harrier was showing over the axe estuary again yesterday afternoon but it remained distant. Still, just about worthy of a post!

Friday, 9 February 2018

Caspian Gull showing well

I'd just mixed up a stimulant drink ready for a gym session when Ian Mc passed on a message that Gav had re-found the lingering Caspian Gull on the Axe estuary again; thankfully the concoction had not yet been consumed so in the fridge it went and I headed out with camera & scope. When I arrived on scene Gav was still there and the bird was nice and obvious; it really stands out even when asleep with it's head tucked back. This is the same bird as the one I had on 17th January and posted about HERE. Also well worth reading Gav's post HERE if you haven't already done so; the same bird has been seen on Jan 17th, 22nd, 29th and February 8th.

I was really hoping for some decent flight shots but it wasn't to be. It finally took to the air at 17:00 when it was raining and getting dark so the pics are not great. If only it had had a flap around earlier when conditions for photography were only fairly bad rather than utterly horrendous... The bird flew from the mud to the river for a few seconds and it was fairly close to the car (well, close for a gull anyway) so the views were excellent. These are my best shots of a Casp so I'm happy, but there's potential for much better here; hopefully it continues to linger. The photos are massive crops with less than 3% of the original pixels left (plus a bit of cloning in one pic to remove a Herring Gull wing tip). Here's the best of what I managed:

A bit off-topic but these shots taken in bad light looked terrible when I loaded the pics on Lightroom (my go-to RAW processing software) but the Canon software bundled with the camera body did a much better job of making the bird look colourful & contrasty rather than 'flat'. RAW files are deliberately lacking in contrast, sharpness etc, especially those from Canon bodies but that's because they are meant to be processed later. Some cameras such as old compacts etc shooting JPEG do this processing for you (can tweak it further later of course). The difference in appearance of the same files on those two different software packages was quite surprising though. I tend not to use the Canon software as the organisation and library features on Lightroom are much, much better and I'd far rather take 30 seconds to edit a pic than a few minutes!

Anyway, I'm off to have a scan of what's on the estuary...

Monday, 5 February 2018

Marsh Harrier(s) and more Hawfinches

An early afternoon visit to the area surrounding St Andrew's Church gave my first double figure count of Hawfinches in Colyton thus far, with at least 10 hiding in the Yews and occasionally showing. 2 Peregrine Falcons buzzed over quite low too; I've been seeing them quite regularly in Colyton recently.

Fran Sinclair reported 2 Marsh Harriers over Axe reedbeds from 11:15 this morning and at least 1 of them was still present when I went down for a look around late afternoon; this is the 'earliest' I can remember seeing one here.

This bird wasn't particularly close (the pic above is significantly cropped from the original) but the detail holds up quite well here despite moderately high ISO of 1600; good stuff from the Canon 5DSR. Massively cropped version of the same pic, with 98% of the original pixels removed:

Good views of the Marsh Harrier and Sunset from here!

Sunday, 4 February 2018

Hawfinches still in Colyton

A quick (almost) daily check around St Andrew's Church in Colyton is still yielding views and calls of Hawfinches, although only 2 were showing this morning. I suspect we still have a few; they have a habit of hiding deep in the Yews.

I've spent quite a lot of time looking at gulls on the Axe estuary recently but had nothing of significant interest all week, so here are some Snowdrops from along the River Coly instead!

Saturday, 27 January 2018

Caspian Gull !!!

'Caspian Gull' was my immediate thought when I set eyes upon a very bright headed 1st Winter gull on the Axe estuary on 17th January (after missing the Glauc by minutes). Up until this point I had never seen one but have read blog posts by Steve and Gavin enough times to know that a very bright headed 1st Winter gull is interesting. As such I took a few snaps of it. I nearly sent 'possible' news out but talked myself out of it as it was getting late and frankly when it comes to 'good' gulls I'm pretty inexperienced.

There were a load of other reasons I doubted myself. Another birder was present and scanning the same birds but thought nothing of this bird when I mentioned it. I'd never seen one so had nothing in the 1st hand memory bank to compare it to. It didn't look like a 'classic' 1st Winter Casp from either the Collins Bird Guide or the local blogs, although there's obviously going to be variation from one bird to the next. Thoughts of hybrid ran through my mind and I'd missed the target bird (Glauc) so I headed home, slightly bemused. Then a disgusting illness hit and the pics didn't make it off my camera.

Roll on a week and still not happy with what the bird was, I put the pics on the PC and had a look. Still favouring Casp but not 100% confident I sent some pics to Steve and he said Casp straight away. He mentioned a few things such as the dusky flanks and extent of black barring on the tail not being typical (although within variation limits) and these features are amongst what put off my confidence with it. Also the open wing illustration in Collins looks pretty different but again that could be variation. That's where experience with seeing multiple examples of the same species counts I guess; I didn't know what would and what wouldn't be within variation for a 1st Winter Casp, even if the initial impression of the ID was indeed correct.

I also sent some pics for Gav to examine as Steve thought my bird on the 17th may be the same one that Gav had on 22nd; looking at the pics side by side this does seem to be the case. Gav confirmed this over a Twitter chat and we should be seeing a photo comparison on his blog soon... He also sent me a reading list. An initial glance over the Gibbins et al documents had me feeling slightly out of my depth but having spent a few hours with it today I'm now a bit more comfortable. I put my pics through the 'system' of tables from the papers and they place the bird as a Casp; it's reassuring to have some sort of numerical system to help with ID as it helps remove opinion and self-doubt from the scenario.

Thanks go to Steve and Gav for the confirmations and resources.

So I dipped a Glauc but found a Casp. That'll do. There are a few things for me to learn here, the main one being to put more trust in my own initial impressions; they didn't fail me in similar scenarios with half a dozen or so juv Yellow-legged Gulls in 2017 and they didn't fail here either. Still a 'beginner' with gulls, but learning. Another thing to take from this is to whenever possible, take pics of anything which you think looks interesting!

I spent another hour or two looking at gulls on the estuary late afternoon today. What is happening to me..?