Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Bunting brightens up the day

Today was not very inviting with snow, rain and a north easterly wind.........however I had to go to Sandwich to get some pet food.
On the way back I first stopped at the Obs for a cuppa then at Restharrow scrape where some waders had been reported.  Well when I got there they were gone. The ice was begining to melt but the only birds  on offer were 30 teal, 2 wigeon and 2 swans.
As I drove south along the Ancient highway I stopped at Dixon's corner and looked along the track across the golf course and spotted a snipe sheltering from the snow in the tracks!

Next stop was the track where Martyn Wilson had the lapland bunting yesterday (and where the laplands were a couple of years ago). No sign of it when I arrived but I stopped anyway, put out some seed and waited. After about 10 minutes the lapland bunting landed ~ 30 yrds away and made it's way to the seed. It was very close but the light was absolutely dreadful and only poor quality images were obtained.

After a few minutes it upped and went and I didn't see it again.

The final stop was by the Chequers barn. I could only see 9 corn buntings today (compared to 16 last week) though the others could have been sheltering behind the muck heap. Also at the barn were 8 grey partridge and a number of chaffinch.
Not a bad haul for a drive along the Ancient Highway in the sleet and snow.

Monday, 29 November 2010

Could you ever tire of Waxwings?

Waxwings continue to be reported around the county but to date none appear to have taken up residence other than the Dumpton flock so if you want to see them this is the only game in town at the moment.
I went to see them on Saturday (27th) but they only hung around for a few minutes and I wasn't happy with the pictures I managed so I decided to give them another go today. It was also cold so wandering around trying to find something new was not that attractive.
I arrived at Park Avenue at ~10.00 to see Steve Reynaert hanging around and looking very suspicious - I think he's off work more than me and I'm retired!
I was just getting out of the car when ~ 30 waxwings dropped into a rowan on the main road but they retreated high into one of the adjacent trees almost immediately where they sat for the next 10-15 minutes.

The next time they came down to feed it was to the white berried rowan in Park Avenue, fortunately the sun was out for this feeding particular frenzy and a few reasonable shots were obtained.

This pattern continued for the next hour or so with the bird sometimes feeding in the yellow berried rowan on the main road and sometimes in the Park Avenue rowan.

Whilst their behaviour - sitting around on a high perch then dropping down to feed before retreating back to their perch - is normal, this flock is different from those I have experienced previously in that their feeding is really frenetic with them gobbling down 5-10 berries in a few seconds then retreating immediately. They never sit around in the rowans for their pictures to be taken. They also seem more shy of people/cars etc than normal.
Getting a decent picture during this frenetic feeding  was very difficult because unless the sun was out their movements were too rapid for the available shutter speed to freeze the action.
Still during the hour or so I was there the sun was out on several occassions so a few pleasing images were obtained. More pictures can be seen on my Flickr site.

On the way home I stopped off at the old rifle range at Kingsdown and wandered down to the end. Sadly there is still no sign of the black redstarts but the pair of stonechats are still in residence, the rock pippits (3 today) were  flitting about enthusiastically and several fulmars are back on the cliffs.

Friday, 26 November 2010

When the north wind doth blow

It was sub zero and with  a character building north wind when we (Ian, Roger Thompson and myself) decided to walk to the point - and a good decision it turned out to be.
We had only just reached the sea front and started north when we found a snow bunting and a little further on we found another 4. The last time a bird of any note was on this stretch of the beach was the dotterel.

Just past the Princes old club house we heard a lapland bunting (well I heard it but Ian identified it!) but we couldn't locate it.
As we worked our way north 2 shore larks flew past going south and although they landed they were miles away so we continued north. Our disappointment was short lived as we found another one on the beach - in the normal place on the sand/shingle but close to the grass. As we approached this too took to the air and flew south but almost immediately turned into the wind and allowed a few record flight shots to be obtained.

As we continued north I amused myself trying (emphasis on trying) to get a picture of a turnstone turning seaweed.

As we neared the point we found 4 stonechats but our seach for the dartford warbler Dylan had found last w/e was interupted by a raven which flew north and landed on the beach.
Also seen whilst we were on the point were 2 snipe and a marsh harrier.

As we started our journey back the dartford warbler finally showed in one of the clumps of buckthorn but each time too briefly to get a picture.
On the journey home we re-found 2 of the shore larks and the 5 snow buntings but failed to relocate the lapland bunting.
 It was whilst looking for the lapland on the edge of the golf course that I found a very tame mippit - it would have been rude not to take it's picture.
So all in all a very productive morning!

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Getting Going

I'm just embarking on this journey but given the excellent birding I have experienced in the last few weeks now seemed as good a time as any to get started.
The good times actually started late October (27th actually) when I went to Dungeness hoping to see and photograph the penduline tit. The bird had been reported the previous day and I was reasonably hopeful it would still be there since it had been raining all night.

I arrived at about dawn and took up position in the Hanson Hide on the ARC and waited, and waited, and waited then after about 3 hours there it was! It gave excellent views over the next couple of hours getting very close to the hide. The only "complaint" the photgraphers present had was that the light was so poor - i had to use ISO 800 to get a reasonable shutter speed.
This was only the third time I had seen a penduline tit so all in all an excellent day.
I actually went back the next day to try again because the weather was a lot better but the penduline had gone; c'est la vie.

On to November which has turned out to be the month of the bunting. First up was snow bunting at Sandwich, 5 of which have now been present for most of the month.
Normally these fly off if I try to approach but this time I managed to get in front of them as the foraged and one came within a few yards before he saw me and scurried away to join his mates.

At the same time as the snow buntings were around 2 shore larks had been reported. When I found them there were actually 3 present. These were more difficult  to photograph than the snow buntings and ran off as soon as they saw you. However I did manage to get some half reasonable shots (on my third attempt!).
On Sunday 21st we were birding Sandwich when we were alerted to the presence of a rustic bunting at Seaslater. It's just as well I was with Martyn and Mark because I would have had no idea where it was. Anyway off we went and arrived to see a dozen or so birders looking and photographing the bird in the tree that overhung the footpath. The bird then dropped to the ground and subsequently moved along to the adjacent gardens. I followed for a minute or two without getting as much as a view and was returning to our orginal position on the footpath when it dropped into a bush right beside me! It took an age for the camera to focus (well it seemed like an age) but I managed to get 3 shots off before it flew off.  I didn't actually see it again though it remained in the vacinity for the rest of the day. 
This was life tick for me (and for many others; the last one being seen 17 years ago) so I was well pleased that I not only saw it but managed to get a decent image too.

Monday 21st had been pretty quiet with little seen other than some tree sparrows but on the way home I stopped off at Restharrow in hope rather than expectation. After a while I noticed a raptor coming towards the hide from the general direction of Worth. As it came closer it was clear it was not a marsh harrier then I saw some white in the tail so I shot off a couple off images. Just as I started shooting it dropped out of sight never to be seen again but the images do seem to show a rough legged buzzard. I have another image where the black terminal band can be seen (just)..........................

The 23rd dawned bright but cold and I walked from the SBBO south to Deal with Ian. 13 shore larks had been reported a couple of days earlier which had been spooked by a dog walker and flown south towards Deal. The walk was very uneventful until we were nearly opposite the Cinque Ports golf club house when a group of 7 skylarks took off from near us and landed on the fairway. Almost immediately we heard a "chew, chew" call which Ian told me could be lapland buntings. The next second they landed on the fairway near the larks and proceeded to feed. We watched them for several minutes but eventually they were flushed to the far side of the fairway by a group of golfers. Lapland buntings have been a bit of a bogey bird for me; I have seen them several time but they are always "flypasts" so this was too good an opportunity to miss. After the golfers had moved past I scurried onto the golf course and got some pictures. On the walk back to the obs we saw a short eared owl being mobbed over Worth marsh from Mary Bax.