Train twitch

Hove Lagoon ~ 11th January 2014 ~ 

Hi everyone, I hope you are all well!

As many of you will know, I have a slight obsession with waders. This intense fascination only furthered my amazement when I found out that there are only 3 species of Phalarope found in the entire world! Now this seems weird to me, I mean there are loads of species of snipes, shanks, plovers and calidrids...but why so few Phalaropes?! Well, unfortunately I do not know the answer, but if you do, or have any guesses as to why this is the case, please do get in touch as I would be very interested to hear your views!

Anyway, back to twitching...

As the school week continued in its usual boring and homework abounding way, I decided that if the weather held out for the weekend then a day out birding would be necessary!

On Friday evening my friend Alex and I decided that the weather forecast was looking perfect for Saturday and, as Grey Phalarope was a species that neither of us has seen before, we decided that it was the perfect bird to target. Train tickets booked, camera batteries charged and memory cards cleared, I was all set for Saturday's adventure!

Up bright and early we caught the train to Clapham Junction where we changed trains and met another young photographer, Danielle. We then got on our next train, Portslade bound. Arriving at Portslade (near Hove) some 60 minutes later, we immediately started quick-marching it down the high street, heading for the children's paddling pool that the bird was purportedly occupying. We got there in 15 minutes and were greeted with the sight of a row of photographers lying down on the pool's edge being treated to stunning views of this amazing arctic wader feeding just inches in front of their lenses.

Anxious to start snapping, we got our cameras out, lay down at the edge of the pool and within a matter of seconds were being treated to some of the best views of a bird I have ever had!!

The Grey Phalarope (also called the Red Phalarope - Phalaropus fulicarius) is a small wader that breeds in the Arctic regions of North America and Eurasia. It is migratory but usually spends its winters at sea on tropical oceans, not in a children's paddling pool on the south coast of the UK!! Around 200 of these delightful birds grace the UK's shores each winter, but even so, it is very unusual for them to show quite so amazingly well! As with a lot of birds, all three species of Phalarope (Grey, Red-necked and Wilson's) are sexually dimorphic. Usually this means that the male's plumage is brighter and generally more stunning than the females. However, in all of the Phalarope species this sexual dimorphism is reversed so that it is in fact the females that are larger and more brightly coloured, rather than the males!

So back to the twitching...

We stayed with the bird until about 14.00 and I have to say, I was sad to leave! The bird had showed ludicrously well and I had filled most of my memory cards; an event that I'm sure won't be repeated for quite some time!

Now onto the bit you've come to see...the pictures:

A simple image of the Grey Phalarope in the water.
Walking on the edge of the pool, the Phalarope has weird half-webbed
feet that are similar to those of  a Semi-palmated Sandpiper!
A simple shot of the bird doing what it does best - swimming.
The Phalarope often moved out of the water and sat
down on the edge, even falling asleep on a few occasions.
Up close and personal.
Eating a tasty morsel.
Taken as the bird pulls its head from the water, this image
shows the water - its motion frozen in an image.
The Phalarope rarely stopped moving but when it did,
I was ready to capture it on camera!
Since I knew the Phalarope was showing so well and in such an unusual location,
I remembered to take my wide-angle lens with me to capture the bird in its
environment - a children's paddling pool in front of a climbing frame!
This wide-angle shot shows how oblivious the bird was to its
surroundings and adoring photographers. 
A nice wing stretch shows the lovely primaries and secondaries that are otherwise hidden!
To finish off this mammoth post, a few images of me 'in the field', taken by Danielle, that demonstrate how ridiculously close the Phalarope was showing:

© Danielle Connor
© Danielle Connor
As always, thank you very much for reading and you can keep up to date with my activity on Facebook and Twitter and my website here.

Waders, waders and more waders!

Titchfield Haven ~ 29th December 2013 ~ 

As some of you may already know, waders are by far my favourite group of birds. However, I rarely get the chance to see, let alone photograph, these cracking birds due to living quite a way from the nearest bit of coastline. Despite this, Titchfield Haven is always my first port of call when I feel the need to mix it up a bit and photograph some waders!

Titchfield Haven is one of my favourite places to visit and I visit as often as possible even if it's only once every few months!

Anyway, back to the day... after everyone was well and truly sick of christmas food and turkey-based dishes, my mum and I headed down to Titchfield early on the morning of the 29th to make the most of the high tide and lovely weather. It was a great morning and the waders played ball... until the barking dogs, screaming children and other photographers descended in their droves that is!

Here are a few images of Turnstones (Arenaria interpres) that I managed to get before the tide receded and the waders headed off to feed on the mudflats:

Other birds that I saw were: 

~ Sanderling
~ Dunlin
~ Oystercatcher
~ Little Grebe
~ Black-headed Gull
~ Rock Pipit
~ Pied Wagtail
~ Ringed Plover
~ Mute Swan
~ Mallard

As always, thank you very much for reading and you can keep up to date with my activity on Facebook and Twitter and my website here.