Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Baird's at last!

I took half a day out for a trip to Titchwell and successfully connected with a Norfolk Baird's Sandpiper at last.  Rather lucky really as it and the Dunlin flock it was loosely associating with disappeared after a couple of hours having been spooked by a Hobby, and it was never seen again.  It was good too to have had reasonably good scope views - I was expecting it to be far more distant so it was pretty satisfying to get some adequate sketches of the bird. 

Much later, toward dusk the evening light cast stunning colours onto the water and several Lapwing resting on the freshmarsh, one of which I sketch-painted below.  Often when the light is most amazing, time is running out so you have to work quick.  If only I could work more quickly I could've done more paintings!

Bird of the day: Pool Frog!

Next day, Sunday, a return to Rainham Marshes to seek out the Baillon's Crake for a second time...  Rather a lot of stress trying to see it with so many people packed in to the hide all trying to see a bird which is exceptionally difficult to see anyway.  By dusk however it had moved some 100yds and worked its way up a phragmites reed stem, to roost 2ft off the ground.  It was 'showing fairly well', to use that well-worn phrase, perched within an exposed bank of reeds.  I have to say this was incredibly frustrating, I just could not get onto that bird.  After what may heve been two entire minutes, someone said, 'has anyone not seen the bird?'.  To which I think my voice was the only one that replied 'yes, I haven't!!'  So, I looked through the scope already lined up on the bird, whilst another birder kindly lined mine up on it.  Yes, at last, what a relief, there it was.  It was just so difficult to pick out, yet obvious if you are looking in precisely the right place.  It's not often I struggle to get onto the bird, but this was one of them, and one I'm keen not to repeat too soon!  It was good to have a good look at the markings and face pattern, and although much of the body was obscured, one could see it was clearly short winged, the primary projection way shorter than on Little Crake.  I feverishly rushed out a sketch of the bird.  Thanks also to the Rainham staff for letting the few lucky souls enjoy those last and only views (for some) of the crake, they were wanting to close the hide and head home as darkness descended.

Earlier in the evening, in between scanning the reeds for the crake I spent time drawing and painting some of the (presumed) Pool Frogs resting in the shallows at the far side of the lagoon.  I say presumed, as Pool Frog is what they resemble but the taxonomy and ID of Pool Frog/Marsh Frog is not that straightforward, they hybridise too, and I'm no expert on these creatures.  There may be several species present here, as there are at sites in Kent.  They all originate from captivity apparently so are non-native.  But nice to see them at last - I'd always assumed they'd be impossible to see, even with a 'scope. 


8th September was a warm day , and offered a chance to try for the Short-billed Dowitcher in Dorset I was pretty keen, especially having had untickable distant views of the first British record, 13 years ago on Teesside.  We headed there via Rainham Marshes in Kent where a Baillon's Crake had been recorded the previous evening.  Although the crake had shown well first thing it had become more elusive by the time we arrived.  Thankfully we made a decision to leave after over an hour, a good move; I had low expectations of it showing well until the evening (if ever again).  After a roasting in a hot car for sveral hours we reached Dorset, and eventually had reasonable scope views.  Although I was pleased to see this bird it's just frustrating for the sheer number of hours on the road it takes to see such things.  There were also other birds to look at too - so many distractions in fact, I could've spent hours just studying the Hobby that was hawking the marsh for insects, or one of the many Mediterranean Gulls present on the marsh.  One often gets so focussed on the 'rare' that one neglects all the other attractions, and when you know you've got to head all the way back home again you don't have much choice sometimes.  Maybe I should give up twitching?!  Also I was feeling pretty dehydrated too, for much of the day.  At least we saw it though.  We also made a quick excursion to Portland where we had fantastic views of a Monarch butterfly that has presumably also arrived from the west along with the nearctic waders in the past few days.  Many thanks to Mo and Lee for their company, and to Mo for doing all the driving, a big undertaking. 

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Birds on the move

Things are starting to get going down on the Nunnery Lakes.  I spent some time watching and painting Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps there the other day.

Landguard sparrow

A weekday twitch with Lee Gregory, and we managed to jam in on the male Spanish Sparrow on the first occasion that it has shown for any prolonged length of time.  Just as well really, as it's what I need to get adequate drawings done.  Thanks Lee!

More from Snettisham...

More recent pics from Snettisham:

August - late postings...

I've finally got round to scanning recent pictures, it's been a while.  I went to Snettisham several times in August; always good seeing large numbers of waders. 
I also went to Livermere, looking at gulls.  I am gradually getting my eye in.  It will take more time and patience though.