Chris Button Photography

Nature Journal: 2018

May 2018

Little Stint and Avocets at Titchfield Haven - 24th May 2018.

I was keen to find a place where I could visit regularly to practice field sketching and I decided to buy a season ticket at Titchfield Haven so that I could regularly visit this excellent reserve to sketch from the hides. I would only need to visit 10 times to pay for the pass and I expected to do that in the first 3 months. My first visit was early in the breeding season and the cacophony of noise coming from the breeding Black-headed Gulls, Common Terns and Avocets was amazing and it actually got louder on occasions when the marauding Lesser Black-backed Gulls harassed the gull and tern flocks looking to pick up a tasty chick.

One of the highlights at Titchfield is the breeding population of Avocets. They are striking birds and excellent parents and probably the most aggressive birds on the reserve when it comes to chasing off unwelcome visitors like the large gulls. At this time of the year the Avocet chicks are still small enough to shelter under the parent birds during the rain so that you can just see their legs dangling below Mums breast feathers.   

A Little Stint had been reported on the reserve and I managed to relocate it on the north scrape viewable from the Pumfrett Hide. They really are a tiny bird scurrying around the feet of the other waders. They’re difficult to sketch as they never stay still. The lovely chestnut tones and obvious white V on the mantle make them a very attractive bird.

There are lots of Common Terns breeding here on the various islands. Compared to Arctic Tern they are larger with longer legs, a slightly paler mantle and a black-tipped red bill.

The odd Sandwich Tern drops into the reserve and is often given away by it’s harsh call. They usually land on one of the tern posts providing great views from the Meon Hide.

One of my favourite birds is the Mediterranean Gull as they always look so smart. Once you’ve learnt their call they are fairly easy to pick out as they drop in for a brief wash on the freshwater scrapes. They’re usually easy to separate from the much more numerous Black-headed Gulls by their black rather than brown hood, all white primaries and their much heavier bill.


Bowling Green Marsh, Devon – 13th May 2018.

While travelling down to Devon and Cornwall to run some Landscape Photography 121s I detoured via Powderham Marshes near Exeter. There were a pair of male Garganeys present although they were too distant to draw and so I decided to head to Bowling Green Marsh to sketch from the new hide there. I did manage to hear Cirl Buntings singing on the way back to the car at Powderham. On arriving at Bowling Green I located the male Ruff which had been on the reserve associating with the Black-tailed Godwits but they were in an accessible area where the view was obscured and sketching difficult. I turned my attention to one of the sleeping Great Crested Grebes.

Towards the back of the scrapes a Little Ringed Plover appeared briefly.

Around the middle of the day birds often sleep in the hot sun and stationary subjects with clear shadow areas make nice subjects. If I don’t have time to complete the painting in the field then I add detailed colour and shadow notes to help me finish the sketch later. 


Spoonbills at Pennington Marshes, Hampshire – 4th May 2018.

I was chatting to my Dad about what I plan to do when I stop running my photography workshops. My Dad has been photographing birds for several years often travelling abroad on organised wildlife breaks and he wondered if I had thought about bird photography. I had been a very keen birder 20 years ago often travelling long distances to see new species and so it wouldn’t take much for me to get back into birding. I then began to wonder if I should get a specialist long focal length lens for this type of subject. My 50th birthday was coming up and so I could probably get something like the 150-600 Sigma lens.

However, in the end, I decided that as there were so many people already photographing birds that I would revisit my interest in sketching and painting them. Using a telescope you are usually close enough for sketching even distant birds whereas with a lens you are often too far away for decent photographs. With so few people sketching birds and because I had already done a lot of work on developing my technique I thought that this would be more fun than photographing them. I dusted my telescope off and found my old tripod with its video head and planned to try them out again when the next interesting bird turned up locally.

Spoonbills regularly drop in to the area around Keyhaven and Pennington and with one currently present I headed down there. It had been a while since I last visited (15 years+) and although I found the car park with no problem I then headed down the wrong footpath and had to subsequently retrace my steps. Once in the correct place I quickly located the Spoonbill but was surprised to see there were actually 3 birds present.

They spent most of their time sleeping but with occasional bursts of activity.

I also managed to find a pair of Little Ringed Plover on the southern edge of Fishtail Lagoon. The white crown band, yellow eye ring and all dark bill separate them from the commoner Ringed Plover. There were also half a dozen Little Terns in the area.

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