I didn’t expect to be apologizing for a bout of pen paralysis at this time of year and my lack of recent posts isn’t because I haven’t seen anything - it’s my dire performance behind the lens that is to blame as quite frankly I’ve had nothing much to show.
As I managed to add another year tick last week, which I’ll get to later, I thought I’d better pen something whilst we’re still (just) in September and reluctantly include some of the naff images.
Autumn is all about movement as migration gets in to full swing. Visits to the coast can be particularly rewarding at this time of year as anything can turn up, but this can equally apply locally and we’ve already had two Wrynecks in the borough this year, including one at the Mill Field which is now a near annual site for this species. Both local birds proved to be short stayers as the dry clear nights have been perfect for migration - I know everyone loves an Indian summer, but for birders a little rain at this time of year is very desirable as it forces the migrating birds to the ground.
Despite the lack of decent images, this autumn has actually been one of the best I can remember locally, with numerous sightings of Redstart, Stonechat, Tree Pipit, Wheatear, Whinchat, Meadow Pipit and Common Sandpiper. A Hobby flew south over our house on 13th, which was the first patch tick for some time, and a Spotted Flycatcher was at the Mill Field on 18th.
Here are a few images…..
Wheatear and Whinchat – near Silchester, 6th September 2014
Tree Pipit – Mill Field LNR, 6th September 2014
Stonechat (female/1w) - silchester, 14th September 2014
Spotted Flycatcher – Mill Field LNR, 18th September 2014
Sunday 21st proved a great day for Stonechats with four being present together on some waste ground near Silchester.
Stonechats (all four) – Silchester, 21st September 2014
These little birds were great company although a local Robin was less impressed with them and would chase them at every opportunity. With patience I got close enough to obtain some images that although not perfect were more like the desired standard.
Stonechat - Silchester, 21st September 2014
One of the four was most accommodating and very kindly sat on the same perch for some time, enabling a number of shots in different poses. At last, the picture quality had improved!
This is also the time of year when gull flocks start forming on local farmland and I’ve stopped to view several gatherings over the last few weeks’. The majority in these flocks are Lesser-black Backed gulls but one or two Herring Gulls and Black-headed Gulls are often amongst them as well. What I’m really after though is something more scarce, and on Tuesday 23rd I was lucky enough to find a Yellow-legged Gull with LBBs on farmland opposite Ewhurst Park, Ramsdell. I was actually on my way home from work when I stopped to view the flock, and after picking out this valuable year tick I returned about half an hour later with my camera hoping it was still there – it was, but the light was failing. This was my first borough Yellow-legged Gull since 2011 and only my second ever in the district – was I pleased….you bet!
The images are once again poor I’m afraid as there was a considerable distance between myself and the bird and the light was failing; excuses, excuses!
Yellow-legged Gull with Lesser-black Backed gulls - Ramsdell, 23rd September 2014
Sightings of Yellow-legged Gulls tend to increase during late summer and autumn when both adults and immature birds disperse after nesting. Great caution is required when identifying this species to make certain that it’s definitely a Yellow-legged Gull and not a Herring gull with yellow legs such as the Scandinavian race argentatus or even a hybrid! This bird certainly had the correct mantle colour, long yellow legs, thick bill and an almost unmarked white head – so far so good. I’m not an expert on the wing pattern of YLG but sent my images to a well respected Hampshire birder who agreed with my identification so I’m happy to claim it as a year tick. If any readers have further comments I’d be happy to receive them. A great pity I couldn’t get some closer shots as the bird was wearing a metal ring on its right leg.
Yellow-legged Gull – Ramsdell, 23rd September 2014
Eventually the whole flock flew off to roost, possibly on gravel pits in the north of the borough or most probably into Berkshire.
Yellow-legged Gull – Ramsdell, 23rd September 2014
Little to report from last weekend – three Chiffchaffs were the highlight at Ewhurst Park which has been dire this year, and the first Wigeon have started to arrive back in the borough.
Wigeon (eclipse male) - The Vyne, 28th September 2014
Occasionally I get to train my lens on other wildlife such as this lovely Fallow Deer at the Mill Field LNR. I almost stepped on this deer when it stood up right in front of me. This image is un-cropped.
Fallow Deer – Mill Field LNR, 13th September 2014
And I couldn’t resist photographing this gorgeous fox near Silchester on 27th.
So I’m on the brink of equalling my year list record for the borough and with a quarter of the year still remaining! Confidence is high but it still won’t be easy….. watch this space!
Thanks for being patient!