Tuesday, 13 March 2012

SUPERB birdlife around the River Coly

Sunday morning: Up early, eat breakfast, set up cameras and tripod, leave the house and venture into the mist. Saw one Dipper down the Umborne end of the Coly (I'm 90% sure I've found this nest area as well, thankfully it's VERY inaccessible to the public :-) ), and two Kingfishers flying around VERY noisily. Still need to determine genders although I now think they are a pair as I've seen them both at the nest site. I assume it's a fairly young female as the beak is remarkably not-orange on the lower mandible. The mist was awful for photos and surprisingly wet! I went home to change clothes as they became rather damp.
At about 11 the sky cleared spectacularly, and I stepped outside the house with Dad. Peregrine. Soaring fairly close to the house. Watched for a minute or two, then a Buzzard flew over, and another, and another, until there were 6. Then a Sparrowhawk joined in the thermalling with the group of Buzzards. Hmm, 'looks promising' I thought! After taking a few snaps of the BOPs (Birds Of Prey) I headed back down to the Coly (Umborne end again first). This time there was no sign of the Dipper but the Kingy's were still very active, especially the male (the one that is clearly a male I mean). Then a small bird thermalling caught my eye again. Another Sparrowhawk. Then sure enough a Buzzard joined the thermal (a fair bit lower than the hawk mind you). And then a Peregrine flew over me (about 50 metres high) and joined the other two BOPs. It was odd seeing three different BOPs in the same patch of air. I took some pics but won't post them as I have better pics to post... (plus the BOP pics weren't great due to heavy backlighting).
Following this I went to the Chantry end of the Coly as I hadn't been there for a while. Saw a Dipper (complete with a metal ring on its right leg) after about 5 mins walking. Got fairly close to it as well but poor light prevented me taking any decent photos. This was a very pleasant surprise as I hadn't expected to see a Dipper up this end of the river. So I carried on upstream and saw multiple Kingfishers. 2 nest sites seem active (one at Umborne end, one at Chantry end) with another one at Chantry end which I've only seen the male at. I soon caught up with a Dipper again; also ringed. After returning home I saw Dad and he had also been at the Chantry end of the Coly (further upstream than I had been) and he'd seen MORE THAN ONE Dipper, and (a probable) 3 Kingfishers. So after work today I headed straight up the Coly in the ridiculous mist to see if I could find out more about Dipper numbers. 10 mins into the walk gave me a fair idea...:

One with a ring so still can't be sure that there's more than two, but after talking with Dad and looking up our sighting times, we suspect that there could be up to 4. I'll investigate more; watch this space.
Here's some more Dipper pics from today. Again they are quite noisy due to low light and high ISOs on the camera. But I got so close that the mist thankfully wasn't a problem. The Dippers seemed completely unphased by me sneaking up to them; I don't think they noticed. I took the camera off the tripod and crawled along the ground VERY slowly. Got to within 6 or so metres from them. They even walked towards me so I'm pretty sure they had no idea I was there. Here's the shots (I took literally hundreds (600 ish) as I knew success ratio would be very poor given the weather conditions):

Lovely birds! Now all I need is for them to come out when there's some nice sunlight as pics would be infinitely better. We'll see!


  1. Nice shots Tim, and good to hear about the Dipper/Kingfisher success along the Coly.