Sunday, January 28, 2007

Black Redstarts in the Docklands

East India Dock Basin, a Lee Valley Park nature reserve on the opposite side of the river from the Millennium Doom, is a good site for Black Redstarts. They actually tend to favour an inaccessible site adjacent to the reserve so views can be distant. At least one adult male and two females/immatures were present today. One bird was more confiding and was feasting on woodlice in the dockside wall above the River Thames. The bird would drop off the dockside, hover at likely looking nooks-and-crannies, and then briefly cling on to the vertical side and pick out a woodlouse.

There was little in the dock basin apart from 53 Tufted Ducks, a Kingfisher and the usual common waterbirds. The highlight of the day though, was a female Merlin which shot through from the east at 1100h. It alighted for only the briefest moment before heading west. An unusual sight in the city!

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Egyptian Goose, The Round Pond, Kensington Gardens

Went to Kensington Gardens this morning in the hope of photographing some gulls. When I arrived the light was superb on a pair of Egyptian Geese (an adult and an immature)… but just a few shots in and they suddenly flew off just as they were about to be savaged by a large dog on the rampage. This seems to be a regular thing here – clueless, idiot dog owners! No sign of the recent Med Gull although there were several hundred Black-headed Gulls constantly flying around from one bread source to the next. I later headed across to the Longwater, stopping to watch a gang of four Ring-necked Parakeets mob a Grey Squirrel in a tree top. A group of around 20 wild Shovelers were filter-feeding in a rotating communal circle, must to the amusement of the tourists. A large, waterside tree, now lying in the lake after the New Year storms is attracting the attention of three pairs of Mandarin Ducks.

Kensington Gardens Yellow-legged Gull

The Kensington Gardens Yellow-legged Gull showing feature of atlantis (Atlantic Gull) has now lost its winter head streaking to reveal clean, white plumage. The bird appears to be in close association with a Lesser Black-backed Gull, possibly re-establishing the pair bond with the same individual from last year.
For previous photographs of the bird last autumn, click here.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Regent's Park

In central London, Grey Herons in Regent’s Park are busy nest building/repairing. A quick visit before work this morning found several birds around the lake carefully selecting twigs blown down by the recent stormy weather. The sun was low in the sky so I returned at lunchtime for some more photographs. It was also lunchtime for the birds and the tourists as the images of the ‘feeding scrum’ below illustrate. I’ll need to return and try for flight shots of the herons with their DIY materials.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Ayrshire Winter Bird Race

Six teams braved the rain and gales for this year's tick-hunting competition between 0845h and 1630h on Saturday. The Drift Migrants (me, Lisa and my dad) finished third (just like last winter) on 82; 17 species less than last year. Early in the day we could barely stand up at Stevenston Point as we looked for scoters and divers, but finding only Kittiwakes. Most birds seemed to be keeping a low profile in such conditions. Best birds of the day were a drake Pintail at Martnaham and eight Shoveler at Garnock Flood. A total of 114 was logged by the six teams and Mike Howes and his wife hosted a fine end of race buffet.

By Sunday the weather had improved and I spent a couple of hours at Troon Harbour...still no Glaucous Gull! The sun occasionally revealed itself, illuminating the wonderful pink and green hues on the drake Eiders.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

London Wetland Centre WWT

The Bittern was showing today from the Headley hide again, but in the reedbed opposite on the far shore of the main lake. Why are the best birds always just out of range? Still, it was nice to have some excellent light for a change! A pair of Shovelers crossed from the main lake into a tiny pool in the Wildside and fed at close range for about 15 minutes, allowing some nice shots.