News and Pictures - Isles of Scilly, Pelagic & Hampshire - to 31st August 2010
6th August. 3:30am isn't a time I love seeing but today was an exception! The alarm went off and I quickly got up, packed the car and headed south west. My destination was Penzance which I reached in good time and then headed towards the dock of the Scillonian in grey drizzly weather – not very August like. Once aboard, I soon saw my first Gannets of the weekend, alongside the usual gulls and a Rock Pipit on the quayside. We set off bang on time and once out of the sanctuary of the harbour the wind and waves picked up and it was evident that this was going to be a binoculars only crossing with persistent drizzle being lashed into my face. Once a few miles out of Penzance the birds began to pick up too, with a few Storm Petrels being picked out as they flew quickly over the swollen sea. Only a few hardy tourists were out on deck alongside the birders and the birding community was calling out sightings as we steamed along. A single Bonxie was seen heading west and a few Manx Shearwaters seen soon after, looking perfectly at ease as they stole in and out of view behind the peaks and troughs of the waves. “Sooty!” came the cry and surely enough a shadowlike Sooty Shearwater whizzed passed the boat a few hundred yards away, its silvery underwing clearly visible as it flicked its stiff wings from side to side as it motored past us. Gannets and Fulmars were virtual ever presents. After less than an hour the birds seemed to stop and it became hard work to find anything. The occasional Storm Petrel could just be picked out every now and again but it was certainly a drought for the remainder of the crossing birdwise. One high spot was spotting a whale, which I later discovered to be a Minke. There was a volunteer onboard to help with cetacean sightings but I was the only one to see it and after describing the well rounded body and very small dorsal fin was happy with the id. With the low cloud and poor visibility, it was only 20 minutes before our arrival time that I had my first glimpse of the Scillies and as we docked the rain had eased off and the skies looked a little more welcoming. After grabbing my bag I walked the short distance to my B&B, the Anjeric Guest house. After checking in and rearranging my kit, even though I was pretty zonked, I was now in birding mode and on the Scillies! The previous day there had been a Wood Sandpiper on one of the pools, and being a striking bird and one of which my photos aren't good, it was straight over to Porth Hellick Pool to see what was about. I soon walked out of Hugh Town and along the lanes, taking stock of St Mary's for my first time (apart from when I was a few months old!) noting the distinct fauna and establishing which were the common species. Lots of finches with Greenfinch, Goldfinches, Linnets present in big numbers but I didn't notice a single Chaffinch. Plenty of House Sparrows & Starlings (I kept looking for a Rosy!) so there must be plenty of good holes for them to nest in. After walking along Carn Friars Lane I came to the top of the nature reserve and headed south down the boardwalk into the reserve area. Setting myself up at the Stephen Sussex hide I bumped into Alan, a birding stalwart of the islands and soon began chatting. The first pictures of the trip were of Common Sandpipers which were almost under the hide at some stages, often with views as close on 15 feet! With the Common Sands ever present I became more casual about the shots I took having got great pictures already. Up to six birds were present and after noticing a single Green Sandpiper it soon became a nice comparison of the two species behaviour. The Green Sandpiper always kept its distance as did a single Kingfisher which streaked past every now and again (a Scilly migrant). After noticing the worlds tattiest Peregrine Falcon that seemed to be undergoing a complete moult with its usual sleek form looking decidedly ragged, I popped down to the Seaward Hide from where several roosting Greenshank were visible on the far bank and the occasional close view of another Common Sandpiper but after heading back to the initial hide and watching the Sandpipers again I heard a familiar call. I'd noticed plenty of pines and wondered if there were Crossbill present on the island and after hearing the contact call of a few birds flying had answered my question. It was only when I bumped into Alan again that he told me they are non resident and was looking for them with one of his friends for their year lists. We all had another look but didn't see them, my last contact with them was heading up over Holy Vale. Soon it was time to head back and after another kit shuffle it was down to the quayside to get on the evening pelagic trip. A dozen or so birders were waiting and we all boarded the Sapphire, hoping for a good trip but a little apprehensive about the sea state. I was shattered at this point and once we got out to sea the motion of the boat wasn't helping me. Still I didn't feel too bad which is more than can be said for a few others who eventually succumbed to turning various shades of green and then the unpleasant following side effects whilst leaning overboard! We steamed a bouncy 6 miles North East but en route we spotted a Skua which I shouted out and Joe idled the engine. It turned out to be an Arctic Skua and I was fortunate enough to get the camera on it quickly and get some decent shots as it did one investigation of the boat before heading on its way. Once we arrived at our designated spot we broke out the chum for a spot of drifting. The oily fish mix created a slick on the sea, the pungent smell of which then drifted down wind and would hopefully attract us some birds - it certainly finished off a few queasy birders stomachs! Almost immediately after the chum went overboard, birds started appeaing from nowhere. Fulmars at first, a few Gannets and Storm Petrels along with the ubiquitous mixed gulls quickly joined the boat. After no more than a few minutes out went the cry that everyone wanted to hear. Bob Flood shouted “Wilson's!” and there it was a Wilson's Petrel around fifty yards off the boat! I was fortunate to get on the bird quickly with the camera and commenced the lottery which is photographing Storm Petrels of any species from a bobbing boat. The light wasn't great and the swell was unpredictable but I still managed to get a few shots away where the different wing shape, distinctive long legs and pale upperwing patches were visible. We were never going to see the yellow foot webbing but even through the viewfinder I could make out the legs protruding beyond the tail. Everyone on the boat thought that we were going to be in for a great weekend as we proceeded to get two further sightings of the same bird over the next fifteen minutes. A Sooty Shearwater then also joined the fun sweeping up the oily slick and close in to the boat. The light was difficult resulting in more silhouetted images that I'd have liked but it was still possible to pick out the subtleties of its plumage, especially that distinctive underwing. European Storm Petrels were fairly constant around the boat with their movements described perfectly by Ashley Fisher as “bat like”. The constant movement, lightning changes of direction and general unpredictability, tied in with the motion of our vessel on the sea making them the most difficult species I've ever tried to photograph. Fulmars and Gannets, the wonderful species that they are became second fiddles to the Storm Petrels and Sooty Shearwater when they were in sight, even so it was a joy to photograph the Fulmars as they sauntered up to the boat just to have a look at us all before drifting off again, readying themselves for another curiosity pass. Joe set out a few shark lines to try to catch Blue Sharks for the tagging programme but came up empty handed which was the opposite of the mackrel rods which were lifting fish out of the sea in staggering numbers. Two rods were often bringing in 4 fish a minute which was good news for the chum supply! After the initial quality bird rush things settled down to a pattern of Fulmars, Gannets, Gulls and the odd Storm Petrel staying tantalisingly distant. The overcast skies and descending sun eventually forced cameras back in their bags and the binoculars came out in their place. After a few hours drifting it was time to head back and we steamed back, dragging another load of the good stuff behind the boat, hoping to bring some more birds into view. It did work as we again caught up with a Sooty Shearwater and also caught sight of a few Manx Shearwater that typically for the species didn't come and investigate. Further Storm Petrels danced in and out of the wake as we headed back and by the time we arrived back on St. Mary's I was feeling utterly drained, mostly due to the long day and all the fresh air. Straight back to the B&B and bed although my sleep was full of Shearwaters, Petrels and the motion of the sea!
7th August. After getting up at 7, I looked outside and saw a beautiful blue sky over the sandy beaches and views to the outer islands and smiled to myself. Looking outside again fifteen minutes later, it was lashing down with rain and I could only just see the sea 100 yards away! Changeable then! Grabbing a packed lunch and some extras at the shop it was down to the quayside again to rejoin the Sapphire and its crew for the first Birder Special Pelagic. After Bob’s formal introduction of the crew and our objectives we set off for Poll Bank where we were going to do a spot of drift and chumming. With yesterday’s wind having picked up the swell, it promised to be a bumpy day and the no show of a few of yesterdays sea sickness was no surprise. Still as we navigated south west between the islands heading for open water the sea was fine and in the relatively shallow water, alongside hundreds of Shags loafing on the water and rocks, we got sight of a Basking Shark as we passed near Annet. Joe manoeuvred the boat close in for a better view and it was amazing to see it at close quarters as it lazily went about its business. We couldn’t see the huge mouth through the silvery waters but the dorsal fin and tail were clearly visible and the shark was probably about 15-20 feet in length. Very impressive! Once out in open waters the sea really picked up. With a constant force 5 the swell was around 9-10 feet and it was “exciting” as the horizon kept on appearing and disappearing as we rode up the swell as we steamed onwards. Our only bird sightings on the way out were the usual Fulmars, Gannets and Gulls so once we reached Poll Bank, around 3 miles south west of the Bishop’s Rock Lighthouse, where fortunately the sea was slightly calmer, we broke out the chum and started drifting. The light had improved and alternated between a hazy cloud cover and the occasional burst of bright sun, very glary though. As with the previous evening, the chum worked its magic and soon we were watching Storm Petrels darting back and forth amongst the oily slick. Bob had said in his introduction that this was as good a place as any to find Wilson’s Petrels as the upwellings at Poll Bank provide a natural food source for the seabirds and it generally holds a good concentration of Stormies. We looked long and hard through the Storm Petrels that were about but there was no cry as before of their rarer southern cousin. A Manx Shearwater was spotted and I got a nice atmospheric shot of the bird shearing the waves over a choppy grey sea. As quickly as it appeared it vanished and it was back to scanning for other new arrivals. The crew were all commenting on what a quiet year it had been with last nights Wilson’s being only the sixth of the year compared to usually thirty or forty seen in an average year by this week of August. It was looking like we were lucky to connect the previous day! “Phalarope!” Surely enough, a Grey Phalarope was spotted and I grabbed a single record shot of the bird, from which I could make out remnants of its summer plumage, before the bird dived into the slick several hundred yards away. Joe and Bob decided to head back into the slick to try to find it but as we started moving I noticed the bird fly off and away. Surely enough the bird had gone but it was superb to see this species in its natural maritime environment, even if the view was so brief. We had a few views of a Great Skua too, which flew nonchalantly into view and began harassing the gulls in the slick. Such a bulky bird and a real pest to all the gulls, but great to watch its behaviour as it gained a bit of height ready for a mobbing pass, attacked a gull (usually a Lesser Black-Backed Gull) hoping for it to drop food, then back to skimming the sea before repeating the process. At least I’d added two Skua species now which makes that family of birds more respectable for the website! It also turned out to be the 260th for the website, another little landmark! The birding remained fairly quiet for the duration of our drift and other than a few Bonxie sightings and the odd Manx Shearwater and eventually after a good few hours of waiting we decided to change tactic and start steaming and chumming. We headed away from the Bishops Rock Lighthouse which had become significantly closer since our drifting had started, heading south dragging an oily bag of fish bits behind us whilst either Bob or Ashley dished various delicacies overboard which usually resulted in a squabble of birds behind the boat as they scrapped for the latest fishy gift. Again, great to watch different species feeding patterns, Gannets diving below the surface grabbing the bigger bits of fish, Herring Gulls and Lesser Black-Backed Gulls taking items from the surface, whilst the Great Black-Backed Gulls took items both from the surface and stuck their heads under water to get food. The Fulmars drifted effortlessly up to the boat on invisible air currents and then fed sedately on items on the surface whilst Storm Petrels maintained their high energy feeding style, dancing on the waves with delicately flapping wings outstretched upwards. A single adult Kittiwake also came in to the boat to take a few items of food before itself disappearing as quickly as it appeared. Joe turned the boat to an easterly direction and with improved light I had a go at flight shots of most of the common species. Gannets as always are spectacular targets and it was noticeable how many younger birds were present. It was a good lesson in distinguishing the various ages of the birds from very dark spotty brown first summer birds all the way through to the pristine plumaged adults. With the relative lack of any scarcities, the atmosphere on the boat became a little more lax as the sun became stronger and it was a welcome break when the call of Doplhins bow-riding came through. I went to the front for a look and was soon bowled over by the display! Rushing to my bag to change lenses, I was soon back again and really enjoyed watching the 3 Common Dolphins effortlessly swimming no more than 10 feet from under my feet! The speed at which they could swim, change direction and react to each others movements was stunning. Amazing to see them in their surroundings and watch them leaping clear out of the water as they played with us and the boat. At one stage all three jumped clear out of the water simultaneously – needless to say I wasn’t looking through the viewfinder at that moment! After snapping away for 20 minutes and even taking a quick video on my phone for the family to see, I headed back again to see if there were any more birds on show, even though the Dolphins were still happily leading the boat. Unfortunately, it was the same fare behind the boat and I’d only missed another distant Bonxie. We steamed back towards St Mary’s noting another Basking Shark as we neared the island but it hadn’t been the day we’d all hoped for, especially after our instant successes the evening before. Still we had a new plan for the trip tomorrow which would hopefully bring us some good birds. Once back on dry land, I dropped the gear off at the B&B, nipped out to the shop, phoned the family, (recanting the dolphin encounter in great detail!) whilst watching a Little Egret flying over towards Tresco and being so distracted that I didn’t notice a Herring Gull appear from behind me and try to steal the sandwiches I’d just bought. Even with a beautiful evening in prospect I couldn’t face any more activity so headed back to the B&B and just after 9 I was in bed – exhausted!
8th August. After a much better sleep I got up, got ready and headed down to the quayside again, hoping for a better days birding. The plan today was decided for us by the weather. It was shaping up to be a calm sunny day and with little swell the plan was to investigate some French trawlers that were roughly 15 miles south of the islands. Heading away from St Mary’s it was evident early on that it was going to be much calmer today, even our friends from Friday had joined us! We saw another Basking Shark as we headed past Gugh and made good progress out to sea with the occasional fly past from the ever inquisitive Fulmars. After an hour and a half we were closing in on our first trawler which was fortunately not as far out as we thought. Still 10 miles or so out the islands were distant views but we could see clouds of birds behind one of the trawlers. Hopefully there was something good in amongst them! As we approached we saw a Sooty Shearwater in amongst the hundreds of gulls and slowed the boat to get a closer view. It showed pretty well and on subsequent passes we got some breathtaking views of this superb species with at least three individuals being seen. Light was the critical factor and over the few hours we were in contact with the Sooties we were fortunate enough to get some really good conditions. It was possible to see all the subtleties of the plumage and with crippling views of the birds sat on a calm sea at times as close as 40 feet, it was simply breathtaking. The proximity of the boat didn’t concern the Shearwater only the lengthening distance between it and the trawler so we got good views of the bird taking flight several times as it headed off in search of its next meal. It was great to see it running along the sea in its efforts to become airborne. With the good light, I also took plenty of Fulmar pictures including one great shot of a group of 10 individuals squabbling over a particular tasty meal thrown out of the trawler! It was a little surprising to see so many of these together scrapping over food, when having only ever watched them from cliffs and coasts on dry land, I always considered them to be a species seen singly or part of a strong pair – not any more! As ever there were plenty of Storm Petrels present and again I entered the lottery of photographing them. The keeper percentage was as low as ever, even with a much calmer sea meaning a less bouncy boat to shoot from, I still struggled to get “that shot” so I guess I’ll need another trip back for another pelagic season! We tiptoed through the wake of the trawler looking for something different and after steaming a few times the length of the wake and seeing the same combination of birds moved on to another trawler a few miles away. This one didn’t have as many birds but at least it had another Sooty Shearwater which we again crept up on and got superb views. A third trawler had come into view so after steaming back past the initial one we investigated the third. This boat was busy and the fishermen on board were shovelling out the “waste” after having landed their catch. I was staggered to the volume of fish that are discarded by these trawlers just for being the wrong species. The wake of this boat was literally littered with bits of fish of many different species which had been shovelled overboard. Bad news for the ecosystem but good news for the massed flock of birds waiting for such a banquet. The flock of birds was several hundred strong and after a second steaming up close to the trawler, one of the birders shouted “Great Shearwater in the wake!” We all anxiously scanned behind the trawler and sure enough there it was, trying to disguise itself as a young gull but there was no mistaking the different build and distinctive brown cap of a Great Shearwater. This was a big lifer for me and for quite a few of the birders on board and as we then proceeded to follow the birds progress for some time we managed to get simply breathtaking views of this trans equatorial ocean traveller. It was even more unphased than the Sooties with the Sapphire pulling alongside the bird as it sat lazily swimming around on the relatively calm sea. The light was good too, the best it had been all weekend, allowing all the camera bearers to get some wonderful shots of both the bird on the sea and in flight with some of my best pictures to date coming of one of my real “wishlist” birds of the trip. The atmosphere aboard was jubilant with this being the first Great Shearwater spotted off the Scillies in this very quiet pelagic year, even Joe was neglecting the ships wheel in order to get a few pictures of the Great Shear! We loosely followed the bird for an hour or so drifting through the wake of the trawler looking for other birding goodies as we did so. There was to be nothing else on the level of the Great Shearwater, only more of the things already seen but it was still very high quality birding with a couple more Great Skua sightings and the Storm petrels continuing their aerial ballet displays. Eventually it was time to start heading back towards the islands and so bidding our French trawlers adieu we turned to the North and steamed (and chummed) along. The continuous presence of the gulls all the way back allowed a few more photo opportunities and with good light I picked up some nice flight shots of Herring Gull, Lesser Black-Backed Gull and Great Black-Backed Gull along with yet more Gannet pictures (why are they so photogenic?!) Halfway back, we spotted a Minke Whale and all onboard managed to get a decent view as it broke the surface before slipping out of view. We passed back between Gugh and St Agnes, very picturesque indeed and also noted a few Common and Sandwich Terns as well as a Grey Seal popping its head up in our wake. We were soon back on the quayside on St Mary’s and as I walked through the town I felt still full of beans (obviously fuelled by the earlier Great Shearwater!) so nipped back to the B&B to rearrange my gear and head off for a spot of evening birding. Scoffing a ham and cheese sandwich whilst observing a screaming flock of 100+ migrating Swifts, I headed off back towards St Mary’s pools to see if anything new had appeared. Lower Moors was pretty quiet other than after several minutes waiting, two young Linnets came down to drink and I managed a nice shot of one of the birds. After a quiet 10 minutes wait for any new arrivals I took the coastal Path to Porth Hellick stumbling across a Song Thrush that was so close I had to step back a little to get the camera to focus - it was obviously going to be a head shot! On the pool still Common Sandpipers were the birds of choice and with some nice evening light I got some very pleasing results. I again played the "will it come closer or won't it" game with a Green Sandpiper which of course it won which was a shame with the perfect evening light. A few very bright fresh Willow Warblers were at the Seaward hide along with a few Reed and Sedge Warblers but other than a Water Rail from the Stephen Sussex Hide I couldn’t add anything new to my weekend’s list. As the sun started to dip I started back and approaching the airfield flushed a young Cuckoo from the pines. I couldn’t relocate it again and continued on, snapping a young Blackbird basking in the last of the day’s sunlight. Lower Moors had plenty of Swallows although the light was now too poor to attempt aerial shots and the only other photographs taken were of a young Rat which trotted down the path towards me before disappearing into the reeds. Back at Hugh Town I watched the sun set over the harbour before retiring back to my room to review the day's photos. (especially that Great Shearwater!)
9th August. After the nautical exploits of the previous three days, birding was to be mostly restricted to dry land today (other than the return Scillonian crossing). No new arrivals on the islands had been reported over the past few days so if anything new was going to be discovered it was going to have to be self found. The weather was drizzly early on and so I didn’t bust a gut to get out at the crack of dawn, in fact I had a fairly leisurely morning by my standards, packing up my things, and leaving the B&B around 9ish. I headed back to Lower Moors hoping the overcast conditions would have dropped something good in. I wandered down the now familiar paths, having a peek through the viewing screen and seeing a big flock of mixed finches bathing alongside a Moorhen family. Plenty of Goldfinch, Linnet & Greenfinch but nothing out of the ordinary. I then went to the hides, nothing in the Hilda Quick hide and then across to the ISBG hide where a Sedge Warbler was climbing a reed very close in. Fruitlessly assembling the camera, knowing full well the bird would move on, I did so anyway and of course it had vanished. Other than a shaggy looking Grey Heron and the sounds of mobile finch flocks that was to be my lot for Lower Moors so I continued through the drizzle along the pathway to Old Town. I decided on heading inland to try and skirt the airfield but the path was closed so ended up back on Carn Friars Lane having picked up a Coal Tit for my Scilly list en route. I was soon back at the familiar Stephen Sussex hide and watching my old Common Sandpiper friends, and again trying to coax the Green Sandpipers a little closer. There were up to three Green Sands present today and even though their interactions made them a little more mobile, they still kept that bit too far away. I stayed around Porth Hellick Pool for a few hours alternating between the two hides but other than seeing various birders that had been on the weekend Pelagic trips the birds themselves were still the same as in previous days. As the clock ticked past 1pm I decided to head back, taking the coastal route and caught up with three Wheatears near the headland by the airport. It was pretty breezy and the birds darted in and out of view with much more ease than I had ascending and descending to various outposts on which to get a glimpse. I turned to head back and as I walked through the near horizontal drizzle noted again the numbers of Song Thrushes St Mary’s has and in not obvious Song Thrush habitat. Walking the coastal path by the airport with its ankle high vegetation there were plenty of Song Thrushes present in an area you’d expect to find mainland Meadow Pipits and Skylark. Approaching Old Town the sun tried to poke itself out and immediately I noticed more butterflies, Small and Large White, Small Blue, Red Admiral and Small Tortoiseshell were abundant and I attempted a few shots in the strong breeze (never good for camera shake!). I then continued back to Hugh Town through Lower Moors again and seeing even less than I had earlier decided that it was time to prepare for the impending journey back home. I grabbed a very nice pasty from the butchers and munched away on a bench overlooking the harbour – very nice to put my feet up and be a tourist for once! I was so taken up with the tourist thing that I followed it with an ice cream before picking up my bags from the B&B and heading for the quayside. It was packed there as both helicopter and Skybus flights had been cancelled due to poor visibility so once through the queues and onboard I headed straight for the decks and managed to get a seat for some Scillonian seawatching. We set off bang on time and with the wind helping us it was a much smoother crossing than before. The birds were very quiet between Scilly and Lands End with only a single Sooty Shearwater and a few Bonxies being of note. Being with other birders there was plenty of chat to join in on and there were a few groans when the pagers went off reporting a Spotted Crake on St Mary’s and then a Lesser Yellowlegs on St Agnes! Fortunately both birds already snapped but if there’d been a new species I’d have been a bit gutted! Once we passed Land’s End things picked up with more a few dozen Manx Shearwaters being seen as well as a few Storm Petrels. The chaps on the other side of the boat picked up a Balearic Shearwater but I’d never have managed a shot in the drizzly conditions (that’ll have to wait until next time!) and as we passed Mousehole various pagers started bleeping news of a Dark Phase Arctic Skua passing Penzance going West. Looking coastwards no more than 30 seconds later, there it was heading West – birding, good fortune and technology in perfect partnership! We arrived back on time and the scrum to get off and pick up luggage looked ominous but fortunately I’d noted my bag going into container #21 and that was the first one unloaded. Luckily, I was in the car no more than 15 minutes after docking and started the very wet drive back home, tired but with good memories of a great weekends birding in a fabulous location.
31st August. With the bank holiday weekend and a week off work, we headed down to Hampshire for a break with the in-laws and after a few days taking it easy it was time for some birding. Keyhaven rarely disappoints for consistent birding throughout the year and today was no exception. A perfect morning dawned and I arrived as the sun rose to be greeted by the seemingly always present Black-Tailed Godwits in the harbour. A few Redshank and the Turnstone flock accompanied the handful of Godwits although the light was still a little dim for good pictures. Walking round the path I found my first Wheatears of the trip on the scrub before Keyhaven lagoon mixed in with good numbers of Meadow Pipits and Linnets. On Keyhaven Lagoon a Grey Heron was mirrored in the still water as it fished for its breakfast. Moving on to the Fishtail, a few Teal and Wigeon were signs of the changing season mixed in with the usual Mallard, Coot, Moorhen, a few Shoveler and a single drake Gadwall. The waterfowl was flushed as I arrived by a female Sparrowhawk hunting low near the pool so I headed for the point to check out the waders. The tide was a little high so I passed time by checking out the passerines on the point. A few Sedge Warblers were darting in and out of the reeds and one bird flew to a small bush near where I stood. My patience was rewarded with it partially emerging for a nice shot in which the distinctive speckles of a juvenile bird could be seen. A Meadow Pipit also posed nicely for me in the strengthening sun which was the only one I could get the camera on due to me not being able to distinguish them clearly from the vegetation that well! The tide eventually dropped and I was in luck as several Curlew Sandpipers came in to feed on the mud as it emerged from the ebbing tide. I positioned myself on the seawall and waited for the birds to hopefully come closer which they did (slightly) and I improved on my very mediocre shots of a wonderful wader. Dunlins of varying plumages and ages were mixed in amongst them as well as Ringed Plover and it was a good education in distinguishing the Curlew Sands from their dumpier Dunlin cousins. With my colour blindness as a perennial handicap as usual, and with the birds at rest, noting the streaks on the breast of some of the paler Dunlins was a good distinguishing feature when comparing to the Curlew Sandpipers with their unstreaked similarly coloured bellies. When feeding the taller and more slender appearance of the Curlew Sands was much more evident and when some numpty photographer decided to flush all the waders in the bay (trying to photograph a Kingfisher in the open without using a hide – more on him next month too!) the white rumps of the Curlew Sandpipers were prominent as they flew away. Feeling ever so slightly angry at having all my birds removed for me, there was no point in waiting for the birds to return to an ever increasing amount of mud so it was time to change targets. Moving away from the coast I stopped briefly to get some nice shots of a feeding Black-Tailed Godwit which was very approachable in the morning sun. I headed for the area between the Fishtail and Butts lagoons and was soon watching Whitethroats gorging themselves on Blackberries. I find it very difficult to get bad shots of Whitethroat nowadays! Also plentiful were Goldfinch which were feeding young on the plentiful teasels. I managed to closely approach one family party of three birds each of which sat on its own teasel. The parent doing all the work getting the seeds and then feeding the youngsters in turn – just like real life! Moving closer to Butts lagoon I noticed a few Wheatears feeding on a grassy patch and got some decent shots of some of the young birds as they busily fed. I noticed two Whinchat also as they passed by, a little distant for a decent shot but wonderful to see visible migration in action. As I watched a Buzzard drifted into view only to be mobbed by a Carrion Crow. I quickly got the camera on them and got a reasonable tussle shot. After enjoying the Wheatears for half an hour I moved on towards the ancient highway back to Keyhaven and bumped into a tit flock. Hoping to pick up a few philloscs I searched through the birds but could only find a single young Blackcap which gave a nice partially obscured shot. The bulk of the birds were Long-Tailed Tits which are always photogenic if sometimes difficult to pin down. Still I managed a few cute shots of them with their yellow eyelids as well as a Blue Tit moulting from its yellow juvenille plumage into its first winter plumage before heading back to the car park, snapping a very obliging bright green Greenfinch en route.