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, 16 May 2011

Thursley Common – the rarest of places

On a beautiful spring day, Thursley Common emits a magic unique. The warm sun radiates off the sandy trails and the perfume of pine hangs in the air. A flat landscape of low heather and gorse is framed by pine trees. within this areas of mire play host to dragonflies and damselflies, a key part of a Hobby’s diet. The hobby is an elegant falcon, smaller and slimmer than a peregrine but no less impressive.

Hobby, courtesy of Wiki (my camera is elsewhere doing a fine job
for my daughter for the next month)
Two of these fast-flying falcons passed overhead hunting for food on the wing. I had missed seeing these wonderful birds last year so this was a good start to a 3 hour visit that was only going to produce 20 species but it would be quality not quantity at Thursley.

My basic route takes me around the perimeter of the reserve which on this occasion meant treading over some perilous planks and thick tree branches which had been thoughtfully put down to act as pontoons over the marsh water that had strangely flooded the paths. (It hasn’t rained for weeks so I can’t explain this.)

Cuckoos called and soon showed themselves again, overhead – two birds together in some sort of ariel combat or courtship – is there a difference?

Through the wooded area, I came across my first Redstart. A fine male. I rued not having my camera as the redstart hung around long enough to be shot but that was probably because it somehow knew I hadn’t got it. I was carrying a video camera but wasn’t prepared so decided to leave it.

I came to Thursley last year and had encountered redstart and woodlark in an area I was keen to visit again. I located the area and at first, the area was quite and birdless. I decided to have a ciggie and rest a while. I found a pile of logs just off the track and took some respite. Thank God for fags. Before long, a small bird darted across my eyeline. It was a female redstart. I had time to set up the video and waited. Before long, I captured this.

Before long, she was joined by the male and they clearly had a nest nearby. Speaking of nests... I didn’t even have to move to capture this brief moment but after seeing this, I decided it was only right to move on as the great spotted woodpecker’s nest was so close to me. the last thing I would want would be to disturb any nesting bird.

As I left this spot, about 6 woodlark flew up in front of me. these shy birds must have been there all the time and even though I was grateful to have seen them, I was also cursing myself for not having scanned the wooded floor hard enough as these birds would have be delightful to get on film. Hey ho.

I suppose the saddest thing about the place at the moment is the fact that the Dartford warbler has seemed to have diminished at this site in recent years. My first couple of trips here back in the early part of the millennium had produced reasonable counts for this delicate heathland warbler. But it would appear that the long hard winter has decimated an already scarce bird and I can only hope it manages to make a come back in the next year or two.

Heading back towards the car park, I finally found a couple of tree pipits. These birds are quite restless and constantly leave the top of a perch, usually a small tree and fly directly upwards before 'parachuting' down to another tree top. Anyway, I gave it a go and although I couldn’t film the parachute display – my ability to get anything worth filming in the frame is frankly pathetic, I did manage a long shot and a brief close up.

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