31st October 2015

Turnstones on Bexhill Prom– at last I am able to access my blog site again- apologies for the technical glitch. Taking mum along the Prom today, and most days, the bold Turnstones, so well camouflaged on the pebbly beaches they usually inhabit, show how unintimidated they are by people and human activities. At high tide, after resting on the shingle, they run across the very busy promenade, under the feet of crowds of people, feed on the grass verges and even on the busy roads. Here’s a few photos from today. Conditions: A beautiful sunny afternoon. Temperature: Max 14- Min 8c.IMG_4599

Resting on the beach

Resting on the beach, relatively camouflaged on the shingle.

A gorgeous Turnstone, one of a crowd running across the Prom

A gorgeous Turnstone, one of a crowd running across the Prom, darting between peoples feet

The only things ignoring the keep clear road sign were the Turnstones, scavenging for insects at high tide.

The only things ignoring the keep clear road sign were the Turnstones, scavenging for insects at high tide.

20th October 2015

Greenfinches flock together to feed at this time of year, as we watched at Old Moor RSPB site near Barnsley yesterday, where we went to replenish birdfood stocks. Following a big decline in the 1970’s and 80’s, thought to be due to loss of seeds on farmland, a further decrease is linked to a parasitic disease that affects their ability to feed. So, while garden feeders are very important for these finches, which can manage big and small seeds alike, if you don’t keep feeders well cleaned, you could be adding to the spread of the disease. At Old Moor they were feeding quite aggressively, hence all the comings and goings in the photographs- in flight their beautiful colours stand out. Conditions: A largely sunny, still day. Temperature: Max 14- Min 9c.IMG_3889IMG_3890IMG_3966IMG_3861IMG_3942

18th October 2015

Great Black Backed Gulls (familiarity referred to as GBBG‘s!) will be moving to inland waters and rubbish tips from the coast as winter gets closer. This one was on the East coast this week. These impressive, big, aggressive birds, are larger and blacker than the Lesser Black Backed Gull, and have pink legs rather than yellow, and a red patch on the lower bill. On the amber list, these birds lay their eggs in a low scrape, and feed on a very wide range of foods, including berries, insects, small mammals and birds, carrion and often by harrying other birds and stealing their food. Their eggs and feathers were harvested in the past. Conditions: Thick cloud through the day. Temperature: Max 11- Min 8c.IMG_3397IMG_3506IMG_3490IMG_3493

17th October 2015

Dipper: We were lucky to watch a Dipper feeding near Ashford-in-the Water this week. These passerine (perching) birds have many specialist adaptations to make them aquatic, unique among passerines. Their dense feathers and large preen-gland makes them especially water-proof, while their haemoglobin count is high, giving them sufficient oxygen for long, active spells underwater. They also have nasal flaps which they close, and white, nictitating membranes (third eyelids) that protect their eyes when underwater. This makes them look unusual if you catch them with their ‘white

Dipper with its third eyelids over its eyes

Dipper with its third eyelids over its eyes

eyes’ when above water (see photograph). While they sometimes feed IMG_3046from rocks and in shallows, their main way of feeding is to walk rapidly along the bed of a fast flowing stream, wings spread wide for stability, picking up invertebrates, small fish and insects. Their name comes from their habit of bobbing when standing, not from taking a dip! Conditions: Mild, cloudy day. Temperature: Max 12- Min 10c.

Although they stand out when close, with their white fronts, they are camouflaged well- there is one in this shot.

Although they stand out when close, with their white fronts, they are camouflaged well- there is one in this shot.

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They feed sometimes without submerging completely

They feed sometimes without submerging completely

13th October 2015

It is certainly a season of mellow fruitfulness for many things- the Acorns and Sloes seem much better this year than last, and the Haws are good, too. Here’s a drawing of some autumn fruits, to go with the photos. Conditions: Cloud with some sun. Temperature: Max 11c- Min 7c.

A good crop of Sloes

A good crop of Sloes

Haws ripening on the Hawthorn bush

Haws ripening on the Hawthorn bush

autumn seeds

9th October 2015

Little Grebe, or Dabchicks as we grew up calling them, were called “Dive-dappers” by Shakespeare. Though really widespread on patches of water throughout the UK, these distinctive tiny birds, with fluffy back ends and no real tail, are on the Amber list, showing the populations are down. They feed on a range of water creatures, including what looks like a Stickleback, which this Little Grebe shook and hit against the water-surface to stun. It grappled with it for ages to get it the right way round, to avoid catching the spines when swallowing. I love the way they dive, up to a metre down, starting with a little leap, before shaking themselves hard to dry off when they emerge up to 30 seconds later. Conditions: Settled, mild weather with some sun. Temperature: Max 16- Min 8c.

Shaking itself dry

Little Grebe, shaking itself dry

The Little Grebe shales itself to dry off

The Little Grebe shakes itself to dry off after a dive for food

Little Grebe vigorously shaking the Stickleback to subdue it

Little Grebe vigorously shaking the Stickleback to subdue it

Little grebe with a Stickleback to eat

Little grebe with a Stickleback