14 April, 2012

Two for One

Whilst out searching for migrants in Richmond Park yesterday, I managed to catch up with some very photogenic thrushes, which were feeding out in the grassland.

It appeared that a pair of Song Thrush had hatched young early, and were constantly flying back and forth with beakfuls of caterpillars and worms collected from the soil...






A pair of Mistle Thush were also foraging nearby, and provided a rare opportunity to photograph the two species at close range, within metres of each other...





12 April, 2012

Redstarts and Wheatears

I was straight back out on the hunt for more migrants this morning, with reports of a Common Redstart in Richmond Park. Like the Ring Ouzel, these birds travel through the south during April, on their way to breeding grounds further North. From what I heard, this particular bird appeared to be ranging quite widely throughout the northern side of the Park, no doubt on a quick pit stop before continuing through London, and hopes were not high for it still being present the next morning.

I arrived this morning, with no idea where to start looking. After a few hours of searching, even flushing a Red-legged Partridge at one point, it became apparent that the Redstart had moved on, and attention turned to the residents...

My first ever photograph of a Stock Dove...

Large numbers of Greenfinch were nesting in the gorse by Holly Lodge...


More often heard than seen, this territorial Wren popped up for a brief moment, before seeing me and dropping back into the ferns...


A brilliant male Wheatear was present in the paddocks, and gave great views when it perched on the wooden fence in between feeding...





The paler bird was soon joined by a much duller, darker male, which left me scratching my head. I've got absolutely no experience on seperating the various subspecies of Northern Wheatear, but I'm fairly sure these two males are of two different races. I took this record shot of the pair together for comparison... any Wheatear fanatics care to share the identity of these two fellas?


Pleased with the shots, I headed back to the car park, completely oblivious to the fact that I'd missed out on the very bird I came to the Park to see.

By now you've probably guessed what happens next, but the odds of it happening seemed smaller than the chance of the Red-legged Partridge that I flushed earlier, turning up in the garden Pear tree when I got home.

I decided to head back the long way through Pembroke Lodge, which often produces some photogenic Robins and Blackbirds, used to the leftovers of family picnics and parties. I stopped off by some blossoming trees to pack away the camera, with on coming storm clouds, but changed my mind when this popped up further down the slope...


... the Redstart! Albeit a distant Redstart. The bird was extremely skittish, and like yesterday's sighting, it didn't like to stay still, ranging along the slope. I eventually managed to track it down to a small clump of brambles towards the west of the hill, where it finally showed its true colours, literally...


Out of all the places it could have been at that moment in time, such as half way to Wales, or even on the other side of the Park, the male Redstart just happened to be along the path that I happened to be taking on the way back to the car. Coincidence? Luck? Or fate? ... most probably the first two.

10 April, 2012

Urban Ouzel

Made the short but hectic journey around Staines this morning, after giving in to the report of a male Ring Ouzel kicking about at Staines Moor for its fourth day running; no doubt on a quick fuel stop before continuing its migration further north.

Upon arrival, I was greeted by a break in the clouds, and it wasn't long before a 'funny looking Blackbird' flew across the path into a hawthorn bush, hopping down to feed on worms amongst the many anthills.

As far as Ring Ouzels go, this was a pretty confiding bird, and showed very well at times in the presence of Linnets and Meadow Pipits, with the scenic backdrop of the M25, and the calming sound of jumbo jets overhead. I'm starting to feel the effect of lugging 3.5 kg of camera equipment around the moor for 3 hours, so I'm going to shut up now, but the photos haven't come out too badly...




Crouching low to the ground, as a pair of Buzzards circled above...


And hopping back down to feed again...


There was a nice supporting cast, including a distant Red Kite, and my first Sand Martins of the year.

This Chiffchaff was sporting a silver ring on its right leg-- pat on the back for whoever can read the code...


Grey Wagtail...


A soggy Linnet...


Sand Martin, fresh in from Africa...

Explicit Content- Dunnocks in the Bushes

Unfortunatly for you, I've just worked out how to upload videos to Blogger. Even more unfortunately for you, my first upload is going to be a dark, blurry, homemade clip of a pair of Dunnocks, doing what Dunnocks do best...

video

You may have to click full screen, and use your imagination a bit, but its not hard to get the general jist of what they're up to, and they've been at it all bloody week. It all started off as harmless chasing, but is now starting to get out of hand, and I can't look out the window into the garden now without being confronted by some kind of sick avian sex act unfolding in front of my eyes.

In case you haven't studied the complicated reproductive behaviour of Dunnocks, just know that they don't do things the simple way. They have a tendancy to mix and match slightly during the breeding season, with females being happy to switch between males, and males not being shy to cater for more than one female. This can make things a little bit complicated when it comes to finding out who's fathering who's baby, so to maximise his breeding success, the male Dunnock will peck at the female's... ahhemm... to get her to release any... ahhemm... that another male may have... ahhemm... when backs were turned.

So next time you see a gang of drab, boring, brown little birds hopping innocently under your bird table, phone Jeremy Kyle. No doubt he'll be able to sort this kind of thing out. 


God knows that they're up to as I write this...