Wednesday, 22 December 2010

A superb day at Pegwell

Yesterday’s trip to Pegwell to see the barnacle geese, whilst short, did show that there were a lot of birds around – unlike most other places – so today I decided to spend the morning there.
High tide was not until  ~11.30 so what with the mist I was in no hurry to arrive and stopped off at Restharrow on the way. The scrape was totally frozen and devoid of avian life though from the state of the ice it is clear that geese are roosting there overnight.
The adjacent turf field did hold a reasonable population of birds with 24 golden plover, 58 lapwing, 4 dunlin and a ruff – which disappeared when a kestrel landed on the fence. As I walked back to the car I could just make out ~200 geese flying inland but they were too distant and it too misty to id.
When I arrived at Pegwell it was still very misty with the waters edge all but  invisible but it was the flocks of linnets that caught my eye. As I got out of the car there were 50 in a bush by the footpath these kept going out onto the salt marsh to feed for a few minutes then back to the same bush.
I then walked down towards the hide where another flock of ~200 were flitting around inland of the hide.
Phil was at the hide and we had a short chat before he walked off with Pete Forest and I walked down to the country park.
The country park had a decent head of redwing and blackbirds but there was a sparrow hawk buzzing around so everything seemed to be constantly on the move. As normal the redwings didn’t want their photo taken and walkers stopping to ask what you were doing didn’t help matters.
At the southern end of the park I found several groups of waxwings totally ~100 birds but as with the redwings they didn’t linger very long in one place and I failed to get close.
Barnacle Geese
As I made my way back towards the hide I was told by some other birders that I had just missed the male hen harrier but approaching the hide I met up with  Steve Ashton, Mike Gould and Phil  and a flock of barnacle geese had arrived – I made it ~120 strong. The barnacles disappeared NW when spooked by a bat coming down the river.
During the course of the next hour Phil tried to teach us the finer points of gull id. The yellow legged gull was easy enough but the Caspian decided to put its head under its wing just as we got onto it. Phil also pointed out the dark- and pale-bellied brent geese over on the hover pad.
Barnacle Geese
Some time later we picked up a flock of geese approaching from the south. This flock split into 2 with one group being made up of ~70 white fronts (plus a few brents) and the other group (~30 strong being) barnacles – I assume a different group from those who departed NW. 
White Fronted Geese
Wigeon mainly
There were a huge number of widgeon out there along with pintail, mallard, gadwall and teal and they were constantly taking to the air – quite often it seemed due to curlew flying by.
Whilst standing around watching the salt marsh we found a water pipit and 2 sparrow hawks shot along the sea wall hunting linnets – a little later we saw one of the hawks catch a linnet. We also got distant views of the male hen harrier but I picked it up too late and failed to get a shot.
We waited in hope for it to return but it didn’t however a chiffchaff turned up and provided the best shots of the day.
I didn’t spend much time looking at waders but lapwing, golden plover, grey plover, dunlin, knot and black-tailed godwit were all noted.
All in all a very good days birding. Shame about the picture quality!

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