Buzzards and Grebes

SUNDAY 14th MARCH 2010

A walk and lunch with Penny at Painshill Park. There is now a mature and committed pair of Great Crested Grebes there, clearly seen to be hunting for a suitable nesting place. This was the closest we saw to a bonding display.

We were also treated to a fine display from four Buzzards high above the park. This was my best shot with more than one of them close together.

...this is probably the clearest shot of any of the Buzzards...

...and these two were in the same picture as one another, but I have moved them closer together for clarity.

Les Arcs

6th to 13th MARCH 2010

This week we were away at Les Arcs in the French Alps, principally for the skiing. Our accommodation was in Arc 2000 (altitude 2000m), and our first sign of wildlife was a small flock of finch-like birds flitting from balcony to balcony looking for scraps.

Diverting for a moment on to the serious business of skiing. We had a great week, sunny most of the time but unseasonably cold, and excellent snow conditions. One morning we ski'ed from the highest point (3225m) to the lowest (about 1200m).

On Wednesday evening we had a Savoiard dinner in a mountain restaurant, followed by music and dancing, then skiing back down the mountain with flaming torches. The picture shows James & Colin with their fire tins.

Back to the birds. Some of the mountain restaurants supported a population of these attractive birds, which we tentatively declared to be Skifinches. (Later reference to the book identified them as Snowfinches, a member of the Sparrow family.)

There were plenty of Alpine Choughs around, feeding and also displaying to potential mates.

The highest point of the Les Arcs ski area is the Aiguille Rouge, at 3225m. The picture shows our group on the top, with Mont Blanc in the background. (l to r Mick, Neil, James, Ian, Colin, Geoff.)

There were Choughs and Snowfinches even up at 3225m.

At the foot of the Aiguille Rouge cable car were more birds, mainly the ubiquitous Snowfinch.

I also saw one Alpine Accentor, which is a close cousin of our own Dunnock.

And finally, another Snowfinch.

Bushey Park


Having heard from Tricia that the Grebes were displaying in Bushey Park, I thought it was worth a visit before I disappeared to France for a week. Grebes there certainly were, but today, no displays. I did however get sworn at by a very grumpy Crow with nasty-looking growths on his foot.

I also heard that Firecrests had been seen in the Woodland Garden. Ever hopeful, I wandered through, and was rewarded by among other things the sight of this Long-Tailed Tit, but no Firecrest. 

I was also serenaded with an impressive display of percussion skills from at least four Greater Spotted Woodpeckers high in the trees.

Back at the car park, a pair of Ring-Necked Parakeets were doing what comes naturally in a dead tree.

Job done, he climbed down off her back and gave her a gentle kiss.

She then set too exploring potential nest holes for the expected brood.

Back in the lake, this Coot has had one fight too many. "I s'ppose you think it's funny" he says with his eyes.

They may not have been displaying today, but Mr and Mrs Grebe have been busy going round the lake together looking for a nest site.

...while Mr Tufty-Pochard shows off the unusual mixure of characteristics inherited from his species-diverse mum and dad.

The First Skylark


Today I saw (and heard) my first hovering Skylark of the year, singing its "squeaky bicycle" song. After an unsuccessful visit to a shop in Staines I needed a walk, so called in to Staines Moor, where I had to find my way around the floods to get to the river bank. I was rewarded by the sight and sound of many Skylarks, chasing lady Skylarks around the meadows, and taking turns to climb high into the sky to project their evocative song.

There were also several Pipits foraging the river edge, and behaving like Water Pipits, though whether they were I'm not sure.

Bosham Harbour and Langstone Harbour


Penny and I had decided to combine a necessary errand with a visit to the Sussex coastal village of Bosham, near Chichester. When we arrived, the tide was about half-way up, and the Swans and Mallards were waiting hopefully for tit-bits. Among the Mallards was a lone male Red-Breasted Merganser, who also approached us expectantly, not behaviour I would expect from a fish-eater, but good for the photographs!

We walked around the harbour as the tide rose, until we were opposite Bosham village. Here, a Curlew was wading near the flooded road.

When two rather noisy French boys appeared, the Curlew decided it was time to beat a retreat.

There was one solitary Redshank, and it didn't stay long in the rising water.

Brent Geese were there in moderately large numbers, and were coming and going all the time.

After a lunch in the Blue Anchor, we moved on to Langstone Harbour, taking advantage of a car park about half a mile on to Hayling Island from the bridge. There were plenty of birds here, including Brent Geese, Curlew, Black-Headed Gulls, and a group of about ten Little Grebes. On a tiny spit of freshly-exposed shingle were large numbers of small waders. There were so many that they looked like stones until they moved, which they usually did in unison as a flock.

Closer examination showed them to be Dunlins....

... and among them were a few larger birds, probably Little Stint.

In one of the sheltered ponds were about a dozen Merganser, not as friendly as the one we had seen at Bosham. Here, three males and two females are putting a safe distance between themselves and the camera.

Painshill and Wisley


After the morning's chores, I had an hour or so to spare before a working lunch with friends (where "working" = "planning a holiday"). It was sunny and Painshill was close, so Painshill it was!

When I arrived, there was a lot of Goosander activity, some arriving and others departing, but very soon they were all gone.

Incidentally, I have noticed when editing pictures of Goosanders that when in flight their eyes seem to come out almost on stalks so that they have forward binocular vision instead of the all-round vision they need when on the water. Very clever!

I was pleased to see that a second Great Crested Grebe had arrived, resplendent in his summer colours and calling for a mate. Unfortunately, the other Grebe appears very dowdy and juvenile, and was looking embarrassed in an insignificant corner of the lake, hoping not to be seen.

I met Tricia while I was there, and we had a pleasant walk and chat. She had come to photograph the Goosanders, but sadly arrived just too late.

On my way out, by the bridge, I saw a Crow on a branch, apparently dozing and unusually unconcerned by the camera. I presume he was either very young or very old.

To be continued



After a hospital appointment, I walked back across Hyde Park. Close to the Diana Memorial cafe, at least eight Great Crested Grebes were patrolling, making perfect subjects for the camera.

All the other usual suspects were there too; Mallards, Moorhens, Black-headed Gulls, and these Greylag Geese.

And of course the Coots, including this one having a thorough bath.

Wildlife & Wetland Trust, Barnes


Another fine afternoon, and I haven't been to Barnes for a while.

This pair of Mallards ran out of the reeds, almost under the feet of the person ahead of me. They obviously couldn't wait any longer, and got into position in the middle of the path. When they'd finished, they just shook themselves and wandered off. Technical note: This act is normally performed in the water. I don't know which would be worse for the lady underneath, a crushing or a dunking!

It was good to see so many Lapwings around. This flock seems to have got mixed up with a flock of Starlings.

As usual, there were plenty of different species of duck, including this pair of Teal in their smart new suits.

And of course the Herons were there en masse, giving a little dignity to the proceedings.