Welcome to my birdwatching blog. This blog will contain stories about my bird watching trips, interesting bird news and other tales that may or may not be bird related. I want to make it useful to the avid birder as well as those who may only have a passing interest in bird watching. I enjoy photographing bird life, common and rare through a spotting scope, not that they always sit still long enough for me. Being on the outskirts of North East London, my reports will not only cover my local patch of Redbridge/Waltham Forest, but also dip into deepest Essex, Suffolk, Kent and Norfolk.

Monday, 18 April 2011

I will get that Night Heron even if it kills me.

There was blood everywhere. One of the hazards of making your own photo adaptor out of a toilet roll tube is the need to cut it to the right length for your lens so that it just touched the eyepiece of your telescope. This idiot thought it would be best to cut the dotted line he had drawn in mid air so as to not squash the tube. Alas, although this worked for the most of it, the final slice took the very sharp scalpel away from the tube and right across the now yelping idiot’s thumb.

Unlike my thumb, the adaptor was now the perfect length and once again, average photos were now possible.
Two Tree Island at 6am

Two Tree Island is a fantastic place in the spring, especially at 6am. Normally, I would expect to be alone at such an ungodly hour but due to the arrival and prolonged residency of a night heron, the car park was already filling up.

I had previously tried for the heron but every time I arrived, it was roosting in reeds out of sight and could stay hidden for hours. So, as I only had a few hours to spare, I opted for a walk around the island.
There was certainly plenty to be heard. Nightingales, whitethroats, blackcaps, chiffchaffs and cuckoos were all audible. And with the exception of the nightingales, all were easily seen.
Common Whitethroat

My goal though was another distinctly audible species and one that is often difficult to see and for me, one I had never seen – even after 30 years of birding. The grasshopper warbler or ‘Gropper’ as birders like to call it is a sparse migrant and Two Tree Island had a few of these and I was determined to see one.

A few birders I spoke to told me of tales of Groppers sitting up on elderberry bushes and giving great views. One even said he photographed them on his mobile. I went to the place they said and heard nothing. The best way to find a Gropper is to listen for the 'reeling' call. This sounds similar to, well, a grasshopper or really lots of grasshoppers rubbing their legs together which is spookey considering the bird’s name. It’s not loud,; in fact , it’s a soft hum that Two Tree Island makes hard to hear for the many model aircraft that are in the skies at weekends from 8am.

Eventually I caught it. I would share the snippet of it’s call with you here and now but can’t find how to embed the realplayer file into this blog. I know, I’m rubbish but try this: 

Anyway, I managed to locate the call and waited for the bird to move. This is really the only way to get a fix on it. Eventually it flew from a small bush up into a tree. I had some poor shots mainly because I couldn’t stay cool and focus properly.

Quick, just shoot the fucker before it moves

It moved closer but to more dense cover and reeled away.
The shot but for that stupid branch

At the end, I didn’t care about the night heron; I’ve seen them before and will no doubt see them again but the gropper? Who knows, it could be another 30 years.

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