A Bit of Birding

There was a time, many moons ago, when I was an avid, perhaps ‘over the top’, birdwatcher.  September and October were my special months, this was the time when migrants and rarities could and often did pitch up on our east coast.  I would eagerly watch the weather patterns and bird reports.  If everything fell in place I would head to the coastal ‘hotspots’ and spend my days scanning the scrub, bushes and trees for those lost waifs and strays hoping and sometimes finding something rare and unusual.

Nowadays my approach is much more relaxed.  A day in the field means just enjoying whatever is there.  Most of my photography is now based on insects especially the butterflies and dragonflies.  Bird photography is still something I am learning with the aid of the big 600mm zoom lens so it’s best to practice on ‘easier’ subjects before attempting those tricky rarities.  With that in mind last week, on a very pleasant day, Mrs H and I headed up to Titchwell RSPB reserve to see what was about.  This is a good time of the year for waders.  Most are returning from the northern breeding grounds.  There will be some in summer plumage, some in transition, others already in their winter dress, also juveniles who can look totally different.  Here are a few of our sightings.

Male Ruff (Philomachus pugnax) are so much bigger than their females, they look like two different species. Gone now are the elaborate plumes that give the bird it’s name
This Dunlin (Calidris alpina) still retains a lot of summer plumage
Juvenile Ringed Plover (Charadrius hiaticula) can be told apart from winter adults by its scaly feathering on back and wings
Autumn is well underway when the geese start returning. These are Brents (Branta bernicla) from Western Siberia that landed on the sea
Standing in the sea a winter plumage Black-tailed Godwit (Limosa limosa) our second biggest wader after the Curlew
By contrast this juvenile Black-tailed Godwit resembles a faded breeding adult

Of course it’s always nice to see birds that are not ‘common’ and we were lucky that there were two species of wader that are only usually encountered on autumn migration and then it’s in variable numbers.  The Curlew Sandpiper (Calidris ferruginea) and Little Stint (Calidris minuta) both breed on Arctic tundra and winter from Southern Europe to tropical Africa.  It is the juveniles that mostly stop over in the UK for a quick refuel.

Curlew Sandpiper, surprisingly difficult to pick out in a flock of Dunlin, they are slightly taller and slimmer
My favourite shot of the day. Europe’s smallest wader the Little Stint

Well, that’s a lot more images than I usually post.  I hope you enjoyed just a small selection from our bit of birding.

44 thoughts on “A Bit of Birding

  1. Hello Mr B,
    What a pleasant surprise to see recent birding photos! All your shots are lovely and a real joy to see. I love waders, but was not able to see the autumn migratory birds this year. Therefore I am so happy to “see” them through your lens. Wishing you and Mrs H many more happy birding moments.

    Best wishes,

    Liked by 1 person

  2. A great set of pics and very useful descriptions for those of us who are still finding bird id’ing difficult. We’ve just ordered a spotting scope to get a better look at those arriving on ‘our’ estuary and plan to attach my Mrs H’s SLR camera to get some pics. We’ll see how we get on… (Should keep us busy during the winter months).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Mike. Glad to be of some use. ‘Birds of Europe’ by Lars Jonsson is a very useful field guide, especially for waders in various plumages.
      Getting a scope is a great idea though to be honest mine has not seen the light of day for quite a while, just far too much to lump about with all the camera gear and bins! Digiscoping was very popular before big zoom lenses became reasonably priced and dslr’s 10x better, just make sure you have a sturdy tripod as the slightest movement will blur a picture.


  3. Great pics Brian. I’m especially fond of the Brents geese from western Siberia—what trek, huh? Do they stick around there for the winter—for your camera of course 😉 —or just resting for the rest of their migration somewhere?

    Here in the Hill Country of Texas we are seeing much fewer hummers. Most of them have gone south this past August and September, however, there are still a few stragglers; mostly fledglings and a female or two. Serious procrastinators I guess. We saw our one and only Rufous Hummer for the year. In the waning dusk hours of the sunlight it lit up a rusty-colored orange/brown. You’d thought it had flown through a radiation-zone it was glowing so bright. 😄 Mom and sister CLAIM they saw Ruby-throated hummers this year, but I never saw a one. I think the women in my family tend to imagine things they WANT to see, but alas… me thinks they’re delusional at times. 😉 Pfffft! If they had really seen them, the dayum thangs run oft (that’s red-neck Texan lingo, btw) too fast for my super-poor eyesight and coke-bottle eyeglasses. 🤓

    But we are bustin’ at the seams with Black-chinned hummers during the spring and summer. There are so many Black-chinned sometimes you’d think all the 3-million Mexican Free-tailed bats from nearby Old Tunnel State Park (near Fredericksburg) went on diets and became Black-chinned hummers! 😮

    Btw, that 2nd-half of England v Germany game was a cracker!!! Thought the 3-Lions were going to pull it off, but I guess Kai Havertz had other ideas, huh? 🤭 But in all honesty, Nick Pope gave that one away.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Prof.
      The Brent Geese will stay here for the winter and their numbers build up to many hundreds. Their journey was a long one but size for size your hummingbirds have a major trip! You must feed them on good nectar!
      Sort of nice to see the Lions hit back v Germany but so many questions as to why the form has plummeted and so short a time for GS to sort them out.
      Got to feel for Pope. Every keeper I’ve known (maybe except Gordon Banks) has made a major error in a big game, some really stick in the mind (Seaman v Brazil) and because of their position it’s what’s always remembered, a striker can miss an open goal, a winger can pick out the wrong pass, a defender get nutmegged but the keeper is lambasted for way too long.
      Big question marks over Maguire. His form is rock bottom even at club level and his own ‘supporters’ (manc fans are very fickle) are crucifying him. But what to do? If he’s dropped how can he then prove himself, stick with him and any more mistakes will really drive the nails home. We are not blessed with a great many centre backs.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hah! As a former net-minder myself, you speak TONS of truth about the far too often scapegoats for heart wrenching losses by mistakes. 😟 Had two crushing mistakes in my career, one that kept us from going to the National Championship Tourney for a 2nd time in two years. 😢

        Yes, I’m shocked by Maguire’s form the last many months. He doesn’t look anything like he did his last year at Leicester or first year at Man U. I KNOW he is much better than his current form. Ugh, and yes, I remember Seaman’s horrible cement legs against Ronaldinho in 2002, if that’s the one you’re referring to. And then one of my personal heart-breaks… Peter Shilton’s final year for England. 🤦‍♂️ 💔 Shilton is my 2nd all-time best England net-minder behind of course Banksy.

        It is a big surprise lately that England is so short on great center-backs. 🤔 Why is that Brian?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Guess the simple answer Prof is that the EPL is dominated by overseas players. It’s the price the national team must pay for the prem teams ‘ambitions’ to compete with the cream of Europe.
        Any decent players in the EFL get overlooked by England. The Canaries 2 main centre backs are internationals with Scotland and Eire but then they are ‘lesser’ Countries 🙄

        Liked by 1 person

  4. What a nice selection of shorebirds, Brian. I’m still at a stage in my birding career where I have to relearn all the differences each year, especially of the species we don’t get to see often. But it’s very satisfying to be able to tell similar-looking species apart. I’m glad you had a good outing that included a few unexpected appearances.
    Happy birding,

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Tanja. Even my id skills are a bit rusty, it took another birder to point out that Curlew sandpiper! Years ago I would have noticed it straight away but you know something it makes it more exciting again, like starting anew.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Well, some of this certainly sounds familiar! 🙂

    I attribute “our” enlightened evolution from bird fanatics to all ’round nature lovers to our incredible wisdom achieved by living several decades. In my case, I also married well.

    Thank you, Brian, for a great visit to the coast! One of the aspects I have always loved about birding during migration is thinking of the sheer miracle of these feathered creatures moving from the Arctic to the tropical continents and back again every year. Incredible! I’m exhausted just going to the grocery.

    We weathered another hurricane with little damage. Cleaning up today.

    Take good care!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Firstly good to hear from you Wally, glad that storm didn’t do you too much damage it looked bad on the news.
      Bird migration is indeed an amazing happening. How do those juveniles that have been left behind manage to find their way? One of natures mysteries.
      Many years in the field and yes, we now come to admire all the little things, and so we should, who knows what tomorrow will bring?
      Good luck with the cleaning, it’s Mrs H’s favourite pastime!


  6. Hi Brian, I thought you might be interested in a sighting that we had here yesterday , of a red-breasted goose. Had we managed to get a decent pic of it, I would have posted something but, so far, it’s just blurred or long range images. My ‘new’ golfing mate, Ian, is an ex-twitcher, so he took great interest and came round with his spotting scope. So a definite id (though even my wife and I found it at the back of the RSPB book). Ian and I both went out again today in the wind and rain, but it’s hiding somewhere amongst hundreds of canada geese (or perhaps flown away to better climes!)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Morning Mike. Red-breasted is a beautiful and unmistakable goose, we had one in Norfolk earlier in the year https://blhphotoblog.wordpress.com/2022/03/01/crowd-pleaser/
      Trouble with ducks and geese is they are popular in captivity and are quite prone to jumping over fences just to make it more difficult to assess if they are ‘real’ or ‘plastic’. Being with Canada Geese would make very wary as they usually arrive on these shores with Brent Geese in the winter. I’ve not seen any reports of a Red-breasted yet but who knows it may have hung around all year and not flown back east in spring.
      Still a great spot so well done.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, we’re assuming it’s an escapee, as (Ian tells me) we wouldn’t expect to see them at this time of year, as they would normally arrive early November. Whatever, it was nice to spot something unusual and very beautiful as you say. Though it does seem to have disappeared since – to be replaced by 3 other geese today which we haven’t id’ed yet. They have browny/grey head and neck, but otherwise similar to the canada geese at the back end (grey feathers and white underneath), but about 3/4’s of the size.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Birds!!! You know I am all in for these feathered delights. Nice haul for the day B! Had a chance to get out a month ago and stock up on the waders – think Ron and I tallied up something like 13 new for the year – we missed the Dunlin though. Partial to those Brents – pretty cool looking birds we do not have access to over here. Maybe one will drift of course some year – fingers crossed. Enjoyed your tins.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thought you might like this post. I suspect your waders would have some mouthwatering delights among them that would be nice to see this side of the pond.
      Surprised you haven’t bumped into a Black Brant. I see they migrate down you west and east coasts wouldn’t take too much for one to veer in a bit.
      Guess when you read this you will have your feet up (if you haven’t worn them away!) take a good looooong rest.

      Liked by 1 person

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