Monday, 31 January 2011

A walk in the woods

After being blown inside out yesterday along the beach today I decided to ignore the weather forecast (which said it was going to be gloomy and possibly damp) and went to the woods.
First up was Park Wood (near Molash). This is a small wood so it is easy to cover all of it. It also has a lot of dead and rotting trees as well the more common coppiced sweet chestnut..
As I got out of the car I was sure I could hear nuthatch but my call recognition is still in its infancy - it stopped calling before I could find it.
I had not gone very far into the wood when I found the first of the target species – a marsh tit. I tried to get some pictures but it remained high in the trees out of shot .Soon after I followed what I thought was the call of another one only to find it was a great tit! Just as well I don’t trust my ears.
As I was crossing the clearing I heard another nuthatch and struck off into the wood. This time I did find it, high in the canopy with another calling in the distance but again no pictures.
I returned to the clearing and continued the walk where another/the same nuthatch started calling nearby. This time I not only found it but managed some record shots of it high in the trees.
As I reached the top of the hill the wood (adjacent to the fields) there were loads of redwing which scattered as I approached. I could also hear something different calling - this time it was a pair of bullfinch. Now that was a call I should have recognised!
A tawny owl called a few times but I couldn’t find it – I know that’s normally the case but last year I did find one in this wood so for now I still try.
The only other interesting bird I found in Park Wood was a tree creeper.
Several great spotted woodpeckers were in the wood with one drumming – but there was no sign (or sound) of a lesser spot.
By now it was about 11.00 and the wood was going quiet so I moved on the Kings Wood.

I’ve only ever gone to Kings Wood to see tree pipits and nightjars and normally I’ve been successful but I’ve never been there to bird in a more general sense. Today I was after lesser spots (I know Dylan found several there last year).
Things started pretty well. As I got out of the car I could hear some tits calling so went to investigate and found 4 coal tits in the road-side trees.
Coal Tit
However once I’d got into the wood itself  I found and heard absolutely nothing.  It was totally dead. After ~ 45 minutes I gave up and departed. As far as I can see most of the wood is sweet chestnut at various stages of coppicing – never a very productive environment. I’ll have to have a chat with Dylan.
My final port of call was Denge Wood.
By now the sun was shining strongly – no sign of the gloom forecast. I went down to the clearing and decided to wait for stuff to come to me. Hawfinch being the main target.
Marsh Tit
First up were a couple of marsh tits and this time one came into camera range (just about). These continued calling all afternoon.

Next a saw a small black and white bird flash past and land on a tree trunk but immediately moved to the far side. After a minute or so it came out onto a side branch but immediately disappeared into the wood but I did get a decent view – a lesser spotted woodpecker.
Siskins were vocal the entire time I was there and towards the end of the session actually showed well if distantly. Finally the hawfinch turned up - 6 or 7 in total today.
 As normal they perched in the very tops of the trees but today they didn’t linger in one place too long – often only a few seconds before flying to another perch as a consequence very few pictures were taken.
Still a nice change of scenery, some decent birds - I’m glad I took no notice of the weather forecast.

Saturday, 29 January 2011

To Dover for Scaup and Grey Wagtail

For the second week running I got up early, loaded the car, but never actually went out. Last week it was the constant rain and today it was cold, windy and so overcast it was still dark at 7.30.
Eventually I got bored with sitting around the house and went down to Dover to see the scaup. Today  I found it along side the shops with the coots and moorhens where it was happily feeding.
I’m sure this bird is getting more confiding in that today  it didn’t swim off at the first sight of me but continued feeding on the far side of the dock (10-15yrds away) whilst I stood against the railings in full view. As normal lots of excuses about the light etc impacting image quality…….
Next stop was Russell Gardens to try for a grey wagtail. It was actually quite nice at the gardens because there was next to no wind, the only problem being the noise of traffic and the water cascading over the weirs making it difficult to hear bird calls.
I walked the full length of the ornamental pool and up to the lake but all I’d seen was 3 robins and 5 goldcrests – there were probably more but I wasn’t really looking, I couldn’t hear them with all the noise  and there was no way I’d get a picture of one of them. I’ve never seen the wagtails on the lake so I retraced by steps.
Literally on the first weir/water fall on the return leg I spotted a grey wagtail and shot off a few pictures of it standing in the flowing water.
Grey Wagtail
It then flew to the far bank and I followed getting shots when I could.
Grey Wagtail
During the 30 minutes I was with the bird a second grey wag, a male, appeared on the far bank but he stayed out of camera range.  

Colour Ringed Med Gulls

Ignore the date at the top, this update is from Thursday 27th when I went to Folkestone parking on Wear Bay Road,
above the harbour, to try and get some Mediterranean  gull pictures. The weather forecast was for it to bright this afternoon but needless to say the sun stayed firmly behind the clouds for most of the time I was there preventing any hope of  flight shots.
As normal a few slices of bread thrown out of the car window ensured the gulls came close – right along side the car in fact.
There were 3 colour ringed birds among those present – an adult with White 3J90 , 1st winter Green R29Vand 1st winter White 33V9.

I contacted Camille Duponcheel who kindly provided the following information.
Med Gull
Adult White 3J90 - The bird was first ringed at Copt Point, Folkestone in 1991. It was sighted on numerous occasions around Folkestone over the next 5 years the last report being in March 2006. In June 2006 it was colour ringed in Antwerp, Belgium but by July it had had enough of Belgium and was back in Folkestone where it was sighted regularly for the next 2 years.
In March 2008 it took another trip to Belgium (Antwerp and Noordelijk Insheeldok wherever that is) but by December 2008 it was back in Folkestone. Reports since then have dried up a little but it continues to flip between Folkestone and Belgium
Med Gull - 1st winter
1st winter White 33V9 was ringed in Hellevoetsluis, Holland in June, was sighted in Sandwich in August and now is in Folkestone.
Med Gull - 1st Winter
1st Winter Green R29V was ringed in June by at the Pas de Calais by the Cap Ornis Baguage team and the first report was my one at Folkestone.
There was also a British Museum ringed bird where I can see the numbers 84549 – I don’t know if that’s the complete number but I will try to find out.

Med Gull
On the photograph front the only pictures I liked were the head close-ups; poor depth of field preventing decent images of the complete bird. Still it must be the easiest place in Britain to get med gull pictures!

Friday, 28 January 2011

RSPB Lydden Valley Reserve

On Thursday night (27th) Bob Gomes of the RSPB gave a talk on the RSPB’s Lydden Valley Reserve (Worth Marsh) at the Sandwich Bay Bird Observatory. Here'a a brief summary of what was presented
The RSPB have so far purchased 3 tranches of land. “Willow Farm” – the area west of the Ancient Highway and viewable from Mary Bax, “Blue Pigeon Farm” – a smallish area sandwich between the railway and the Env Agency track that leads from the Blue Pigeons to Roaring gutter (The Pinnock Way) and “Minnis Farm” - the largest area and which is to the west of the Pinnock Way and includes “Great Wood”.
Willow Farm and Blue Pigeon’s have already had some work done on them clearing ditches and digging rills but Minnis Farm has not yet been touched.
Whilst the RSPB now owns Minnis Farm the actual handover to the RSPB is taking place over a 5 year period to allow the farmer an orderly exit from farming the area and to allow the required planning permissions to be obtained (drains/ditches and a footpath will need to be moved).

In general land is going to be improved to encourage the breeding of waders – primarily snipe, redshank and lapwing but seeing as these waders have different requirements the habitat will need to be varied – it seems lapwing like short grass, redshank somewhat longer grass and snipe very rank/wet areas. Grass length will be managed by periodic grazing. The improvements will also include the reintroduction of wild flowers to allow the insect population to increase.
Minnis Farm will be where the most dramatic transformations take place - a 10 hectare lagoon and reed bed will be created on this section of the reserve. This will be placed on the lowest part of reserve (more or less due south of Great Wood) but its creation means re-routing some of the drains and the footpath that runs from the Pinnock Way and Worth Village.

Public Access.
At the moment the only public access will be via the existing footpath system. The main hope is that the RSPB can purchase or gain use of land between Roaring Gutter and Fowlmead and establish a track to link Fowlmead with the Pinnock Way.
If this can be achieved then parking (and visitor centre?) will be at Foulmead.  An access route via Worth will not be built.
Finally there was no discussion of hides etc.

Monday, 24 January 2011

Scratching around

Today was the first I’d been out for a few days due to  the poor weather - since I can go out nearly everyday there seems little point in going out when the weather is foul.
The day started very well with me spotting the male hen harrier over towards Mary Bax from the obs and whilst drinking a cup coffee! This mornings walk along the Green Wall then down to Newdowns however was hard work with little of note being seen – mainly blue and great tits - with no finches anywhere though a couple of Cetti's were heard alonmg the river bank.
Newsdowns reservoir had a lot of coots and tufties and the great crested grebe is still in residnece but Princes reservoir provided the most interest with a drake goldeneye, 3 little grebes and good numbers of tufties and pochard.
After that and because the sun started shining I went to Thanet hoping for some waders pictures. I arrived at Foreness somewhat later than I’d hoped and the rocks were just disappearing on the incoming tide. On the shore line there were plenty of turnstones and a lone grey plover and just a few feet out in the water a flock of 20-odd brents. They were very white on their sides but I can’t decide whether these were the pale bellied brents not.

Brent Geese
I then got tempted by the fulmars which were hanging tantalisingly in the wind.
After 10 minutes on these I noticed a red throated diver inside the rocks but it dived and reappeared significantly further out to sea and I missed the photo opportunity.
I went looking for waders but only found ~ 30 sandling (and more turnstones) - no purps or ringed plover-  but by this time the sun had gone in and picture quality deteriorated.
As the tide pushed futher up they sandling flew off leaving me with the turnstones. I gave up at this point.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

You'd think we'd learn......

Thinking yesterday’s poor return was an aberration Ian and I walked to the point. Well we were wrong. We struggled to find anything.
The walk there only revealed a few skylarks and song thrushes, a lone dunnock and a lone great tit.
Getting to restricted area the wader flock was roosting on the shore line (bar tailed godwits, knot, dunlin, sandling and grey plover) so we moved inland and followed the footpath to the point.
We found next to nothing on the dunes/salt marsh – no mippits, no linnets, no corn buntings – the high light  being a lone reed bunting and a few skylark.
Over by the river and in Pegwell Bay were all the regulars Phil Milton normally comments on (redshank, lapwing, golden plover, curlew ducks etc) but  it’s a darn sight easier to see these from Pegwell rather than walk the 3 miles to the point along the beach seeing litter and dog walkers.
It wasn’t all in vain though as Ian found a black-tailed godwit roosting with the redshank and a common scoter flew into the bay – the godwit being a year tick and the scoter being a Bay tick for the year (though for the non-listers I doubt whether you’d find a lot to enthuse about these two).
We returned to the beach just in time to see 2 dog walkers ignoring all the signs and flushing the roosting waders. Perhaps these pople can't read but I think somthing a bit more effective than a sign is required...........what about a machine gun ? There must be someone out there who needs a job.
The walk back was a little better in that we did find the shore larks but that was about all and I suspect that if you want to see shore larks Reculver is the easier option and you might always see some other birds.
On the drive home I pulled up at Restharrow to see whether the pied wagtails were present on the muck heap and one was.
Pied Wagtail
I also stopped off along
Undercliff Road
and looked for the northern long tailed tit. I didn’t find the tits but I did hear something interesting and after a few minutes a firecrest popped into view. I did had some good views (mostly when distant) but the only image obtained was this one:
It really is a firecrest.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

The Point

Today I went to the point (for those who don't know Sandwich Bay just walk north along the beach till you can't go any further).
I parked up at Newdowns checking the Newdowns Farm and Princes Reservoirs for ducks. Lots of coots(20), tufties (31) and pochard (12)but no winter ducks. 2 grebes were found, a great crested on Newdowns and a little grebe (a year tick!) on Princes.
From there to the beach and along the beach north to the nature reserve was very quiet with next to nothing seen. Part of the problem, I’m sure, was the dog walkers – there was a posse of 5 people with 11 dogs on the beach. They did however flush 5 sandling and 2 dunlin in my direction with 2 of the sandling landing close by then running towards me. I lay on the shingle and managed to get the camera out in time though only managed a few shots before they sprinted past heading south.
Common Seal
From there to the edge of the restricted area the beach was deserted but there were 6 common seals just off shore watching my progress.
From the edge of the restricted area/nature reserve I could see a large flock of waders – dunlin, knot, grey plover, barwit – numbering possibly 2000 but I left them to it and headed for the 100 acre field where I searched the marshy area for jack snipe. I had no luck today though I did flush 7 common snipe.
On several occasions the 200 or so curlew feeding further inland took to the air but I never found the source of their concern.
On the northern fence of the field I spotted 3 green woodpeckers together with another one on the eastern boundary fence and a 5 flew inland. They are obviously finding something to eat out there but what it is on the flooded pasture I have no idea.
Around 10 o’clock 8 skylark took to the air singing and chasing each other around for ~10 minutes then they landed and went quiet and weren’t seen again. The only other birds seen whilst I was there were a few mippits and a lone male reed bunting that dropped out of the sky quite close and allowed some pictures to be taken.
Reed Bunting
After that I returned to the beach and immediately put up 5 larks – 3 skylarks and the 2 shore larks. My suspicion is the shore larks had been pushed onto the golf course by the dog walkers (Pete Forest and I have both found them there previously). As normal they wouldn’t let me got close so only some record shots were obtained though I didn’t try very hard.

Shore Lark (with fishing line)
The waders were still roosting further north though a small (~40 strong) roost of grey plovers was on the foreshore close by the shore larks.
Grey Plover
The fact that the last 2 pictures have littler in them is not because I think the litter adds to the picture but because it is everywhere. The whole area could really do with a beach clean but it would need a fleet of  lorries to move it all.

On the way back I looked for but failed to find the Dartford warbler and a little later I failed to locate the northern long-tailed tits at Kingsdown though Steve Raynaert saw them down towards the houses at Oldstairs Bay but lost them (very careless really) when they flew up the cliff towards the old scout camp.
No year ticks today but the little grebe, green woodpeckers and sandling lifted my Bay list to 99.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Kingfisher and Great White Egret but little else

Once the rained cleared Ian and myself walked out to Roaring Gutter  then across the marsh to Mary Bax  but it was very quiet.
Along the Worth track we found a few reed buntings and 2 yellow hammers (birds you would have seen without leaving the obs) but most of the thrushes have cleared out as have the corn buntings.
As we started across the marsh proper a kingfisher flew past (not something seen that often on the Marsh), a Cetti’s called briefly but that was about it – on the flooded sections viewable from the track we only had a few mallard and gadwall.
At Roaring Gutter we turned east and crossed the railway and set off towards Mary Bax. Again only a few ducks were visible (teal, tufties, mallard, wigeon) but only in low numbers but the spirits were lifted when we spotted the great white egret.
Last week it was sighted several times from Foulmead but today it was on the east side of the railway tracks close to where the north stream goes under the track. For about 10 minutes it just stood there looking around and preening before vanishing from sight I assume into a ditch. Whilst we were on the RSPB section (Ian has permission to walk it) it could/should have been visible from the Ancient highway/Mary Bax.
The rest of the walk was very quiet with a lone snipe and redshank being the highlights.
Raptor wise it was very quiet too with a kestrel and peregrine being the only ones noted.
As the sun was shining I decided to have another go for the northern long-tailed tit but I couldn’t find it  (or any of it’s cousins) and gave up after an hour. Tony Morris had also been looking for them before I arrived. I’ll look again tomorrow.
Final attempt at finding something to photograph was from Deal pier though today the only birds coming remotely close were common gulls. Miles out there were auks and a pair of brents flew north. However the great thing about Deal pier is there will always be some very obliging turnstones to photograph. I sat down and this one came to me hoping for some food!.

Monday, 17 January 2011

Rain didn't stop play

I awoke today to pouring rain so couldn't be bothered to go out. However by ~ 11.00 I’d had enough of sitting in doors so I went down to the beach, parked up and did a sea watch from the safety of the car.
There were a lot of auks were on the sea and more moving south though a few seemed confused and flew north. Only a couple were close enough to id and these were razorbills. During the hour I so I was watching  about 300 moved through.  Diver numbers in contrast were low with only 3 being noted (assumed red throated), plus 1 great crested grebe and 2 gannets  wheeling around distantly.
On the gull front most were black heads and herrings but there were a good number of common gulls and the odd great  black backed but the real interest was provided by kittiwakes.
Kittiwake - 1st winter


Kittiwake - 1st winter
If every kittiwake I saw was new then over 100 went past though I can't rule out the possibility the birds were circling. Even in the crap light the 1st winter birds look great.
I only half a dozen or so fulmars but in truth I was concentrating on the auks and kittiwakes.
After an hour I’d had enough and decide to park up along Undercliffe and listen/look for the long tailed tits. Eventually I found  them (or should I say they found me?) and after ~ 15 minutes of searching through the loose flock I saw a northern LTT high up the cliff.
Fortunately it moved down the cliff (for those who don’t know Undercliff Road the “cliff” is covered with trees at this point) and landed in a bush just on the other side of the road. The light was not good to say the least but I managed a shot – yes just the one and this was at 1/30th and ISO 1250 – and to be honest I’m quite surprised how well it came out.
Northern Long-tailed Tit
Also while I was watching the long tailed tits I saw blue and great tits and a single  goldcrest – a year tick.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

A Superb Day at Dungeness

Today I went to Dungeness. I went via Welland Marsh in the hope of finding the Bewicks that have been around several weeks but I failed to find them. However on leaving Lydd I went along Ness Road which got me thinking about where the name Dungeness came from.
A Ness is a promontory so its easy to see where the “ness” of  Dungeness comes from as the shingle/marsh sticks out into the English Channel. But where does the Dunge come from – there’s Denge Marsh out there and Denge wood further north; has Denge been changed into Dunge? If anyone has any thoughts can they let me know.
I was also wondering whether Ness comes from the French word nez (pronounced nay as in Cap Gris Nez). If you pronounced nez in English it’s pretty similar to ness though Wikipedia suggests ness comes from German.
Anyway enough of this.

My birding staretd at the ARC but my first sighting was of Steve Raynaert who was sitting in the Hanson hide - he's off work almost as much as me! We were told there was a bittern in the reed bed by the hide but we never saw it.  We saw some very distant smew (one of my targets for the day) plus some goldeneye and all the common ducks but there was nothing else of interest so we soon departed to the Point to look for the glaucous gull.
We parked near the lighthouse, walked out to the boats and started trudging along the shingle towards the point. After a few hundred yards I went back towards the boats but Steve continued towards the point.
Occasional scans of the sea showed dozens of cormorants (more than I’d seen together previously) lots of great crested grebes, a few red throated divers and a few guillemots close in though to be honest nearly all of the time was spent looking at gulls.
I was between the two groups of boats when I saw the glaucous coming towards me. It was too late for pictures so I tried to phone Steve to tell him it was coming his way but all I got was his answer phone!!!
It flew past Steve with me in distant pursuit. Steve had failed to see it but chasing it down the beach seemed a waste of time so we returned to the boats and a little later so did the glaucous. On a couple of occasions it landed and we tried to get close without enormous success though we managed to get close enough for some images on a couple of occasions.
Glaucous Gull (juv)
I even tried putting out bread to attract the gulls in but they wouldn’t come whilst we were close by – though as soon as we moved away they came to it. On several occasions it flew past but the images were generally poor.

Eventually we’d had enough so we went to the RSPB but stopping at the end of the ARC pit where 16 smew could be seen - 2 drakes and 14 red heads plus 4 or 5 goldeneye ( 2 drakes). 
At the visitor Centre we were told of a goosander from the car park hide (east side of the car park) so we started there. At first we couldn’t find the goosander but some female smew came very close, one catching a decent size perch just out from the hide. The bird wrestled with it for a couple of minutes but eventually gave up and let it go.
Smew (female)
Also from this hide we had 2 bitterns in flight and eventually a distant goosander.
Next stop was the Makepeace hide where we soon  found the black necked grebe (very distant) but then 2 goosanders started swimming towards us with one coming slowly across the front of the hide. We should have managed excellent shots but we were looking straight into the sun (well that’s my excuse).

Final stop was the Scott hide but the only new bird from there was a pintail.
I departed after this but Steve continued round the circuit.
It seems I was the only person at Dungeness who had not seen the Bewicks. As I said earlier I had gone across Welland looking for the swans and failed but everyone else had used the main road and seen them in an adjacent field. For the return trip I used the main road  (the B 2075) and sure enough there they were (~ 75 of them) – I stopped and took some pictures but they were 200-300 yrds into the field. Better than nothing though.

Bewick Swans
 The final target for the day were the northern long tailed tits that had been seen at Dymchurch. I parked near the church and found another birder (I don’t know his name but he’s often at Dungeness sea watching) who had seen them already. He/we soon relocated them but they were too high and distant for a picture then they disappeared back towards the church. The next 90 minutes was spent trying to relocate them. I had just found a flock of LTTs when Steve turned up but these were just the normal ones. Steve and myself finally relocated the northern LTTs near the small school. At times they were very close but what with the light, twigs etc I never managed the shot these gorgeous little birds deserved.

Northern Long-tailed Tit
Getting an image was not made easier by a male sparrow hawk that cruised slowly overhead scattering everything.
The LTTs didn’t go too far but by this time it was really getting dark and I gave up.
So a great day with a couple of really good birds and some great views of smew and goosander. Shame about the light!

Monday, 10 January 2011

An update on the last few days

On Friday (7th) I had a wander around the Sandwich Bay reporting area but found little of note.
The highlight of the day was as I was returning home. I stopped off at the Chequers to check for geese on Worth Marsh. I could only see grey lags but whilst I was there I noticed some small birds in the gardens of the small estate – a quick check with the scope showed they were tree sparrows.
Tree Sparrow
I returned to the car and parked up near to the bush they kept returning to. There were 8 in all and despite the rubbish light I was really pleased with the pictures I managed.
Later on in the afternoon the sun came out so I had an hour on the rifle range at Kingsdown. On land the only birds on view were fulmars and a lone rock pipit. On the sea there were several red-throated divers 2 of which drift past quote close in (relatively!) and I managed a record shot.
Red Throated Diver
On Saturday 8th
 I went to Seaton; my thinking being that it would be relatively sheltered and I should get some year ticks with winter wildfowl. It was pretty sheltered and there were a lot of ducks and geese present but they were all of the common varieties – wigeon, tufted, pochard, mallard, shoveller and grey lags. No sign of any golden eye, smew or goosander. Pretty disappointing all in all.
Sunday (9th)
I went to Grove meeting Martyn, Mark and Sue. I hadn’t been there since before Christmas so was hopeful of a few more year ticks.
I got up early but the clear sky meant the day dawned earlier than expected and by the time I arrived I had already missed the Bewick’s swans and the bittern that had dropped in near the ramp.
From the ramp there was only a small exodus of marsh harriers but we had great views of a female hen harrier departing down the Stour Valley and a peregrine flying south east.
Once the harriers had departed so did we – we went to Fordwich. In the village we saw a pair of bullfinch  feeding by the river then we walked to Trenley woods.
The wood was pretty quiet other than great spotted woodpeckers though we did flush a woodcock as we walked up towards the Stodmarsh road and found one possibly two coal tits up by the road.
Once at the road we walked in the direction of Stodmarsh then we dropped down towards Trenley lake seeing a tree creeper on the way.
At the bottom of the hill there was a flooded field where we saw a green sandpiper – my second of the year believe it or not  - and as we reached Trenley lake a bittern flew across the front of us at ~ 30-40 yards giving superb views in the now bright sunshine. Needless to say none of us had the camera ready!

Bittern (but taken last year!)
Alongside the fishing lakes we picked up a number of siskin (but no redpoll), another tree creeper and 5 goldeneye.
On the way home Martyn and I stopped at the Chequers where we saw the tree sparrows and a grumpy resident who didn’t like bird watchers.
I picked up a number of year ticks today including peregrine, hen harrier, bittern, bullfinch, tree creeper, corn bunting and elevated my year to date list to 107. It’s looking better after a slow start.

Monday 10th Sandwich
Today we walked out onto Worth Marsh with Ian. The highlights were 10 yellow hammers between the Obs and the hay bales, several bullfinch approaching the railway crossing and a distant flock of 18 bean geese (identified by Ian).
On the duck front there were wigeon, teal, gadwall and mallard but numbers are lower than when everything was frozen.
On the seaward side of the railway lines we managed 3 marsh harriers, 3 buzzards, 2 peregrines but no sign of the great white egret though it was seen by others during the course of the day. The final bird of note was a lone female stonechat – quite a rarity these days.
Restharrow had shoveller, teal, wigeon and mallard present and the male sparrow hawk put in 2 appearances before disappearing into The Elms.  A water rail is still in residence though we didn’t see it.

On the way home I stopped off at Oldstairs and had a look at the sea. I wasn’t really expecting much so was surprised at seeing several distant auks on my first scan.  During the next hour (between 2.00 and 3.00) I had 146 auks – most being too distant for me to tell whether they were guillemots or razorbills, 33 red throated divers, 1 great northern diver, 9 kittiwakes including 1 first winter bird, 6 common scoter and loads of fulmars – with everything going south.
My Greater Kent list now stands at 114 so is looking far more respectable.

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Almost a Quiet Day

Today was mainly spent around the Sandwich estate - my patch list looking pretty pathetic at the moment.
 A sea watch for the first hour or so produced a few year ticks but nothing exciting. There were a few red throated divers, some 15 great crested grebes a fulmer and a lone auk that was too far out to identify.
After that a wander around the estate added sparrow hawk to the year list - a suberb male came within a few feet of the hide then it was seen again over middle field. Also at  Restharrow there were the common ducks with me passing the time trying to get some flight shots. This wigeon was the pick of the bunch.
On the gull front a colour ringed 2nd winter Mediterranean gull dropped in. From the picture you can see the ring is green (so probably a French or Belgium bird) but the pictures not good enough to read the number/letters.
2nd Winter Med Gull

2nd Winter Med Gull

Back at the Obs I was told of a flock of waxwings showing well at Foulmead so after the obligatory cup of coffee I was off.
When I arrived Tony Flashman and Graeme Crick were already there taking pictures of the birds from ~ 10 feet so I joined in the fun.
The birds moved about a bit but they were very often low in the bushes – down to ~ 2feet off the ground and whilst they did retreat to higher perches they did seem happy to remain low when not feeding. On the feeding front they were eating anything they could find including rose hips though these took a bit of getting down.
The sun was shining, it was behind us allowing camera settings of typically 1/1000 @ f8 so it was difficult to miss out.
Despite the excellent conditions try as I might I couldn’t manage to get any decent flight shots – the camera/lens just focuses too slow.

So what started off as a quiet day collecting a few ticks ended up with superb vuews and images of waxwings. I'm happy

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Walk To The Point

Today I got back to normal and birded Sandwich. I parked up at Newdowns and walked to the beach then up towards the point.
On Newdowns reservoir there were 9 pochard, 3 tufties and 25 or so coot and walking towards the sea I had a jay, a kestrel and a great spotted woodpecker but other than that it was very quiet.
The beach likewise was very quiet – whether it was the weather (dull/overcast) or the partial (or should I say invisible)eclipse I don’t know but the dunes were near deserted – all I managed was 5 skylarks, a reed bunting and a couple of dunnock.
As I got within a 200 yards of the “No Entry” post line up signposting the edge of the restricted area I heard a weak indistinct call then saw 2 birds flying overhead. I though I could see the yellow face of a shore lark but I wasn’t totally sure.  They flew overhead and appeared to drop onto the golf course so I pushed through the buckthorn and looked on the path/track on the landward side of the dunes then searched the fairway itself. In the middle of the fairway were the 2 shore larks.
Shore Larks
They were seen on the 1st so I’d hoped they would still be in residence.
I took a couple of shots then they took to the air and returned to the beach and I followed.
They were quickly relocated but they refused to let me get very close (as they have done throughout the autumn).

After ~ 15 minutes I gave up and left them to it and continued to the 100 Acre field. The wader roost was on the beach  in the restricted area so I didn’t go in but something seemed to spook them every few minutes – I could see oyster catchers, dunlin, knot and a lot of grey plover.
At the 100 Acre field I went looking for snipe, slowly picking my way through the tussock grass and trying to avoid the deep water. The area was a lot quieter bird wise than the last time I was here but I put up 3 snipe, 1 woodcock and then a jack snipe. The jack took to the air from just a few feet away but it didn’t fly far and landed ~ 20 yrds away. I then spent the next 20 minutes trying to refind it in the hope of getting a shot but failed totally - I didn't even manage to spook it again. Most disappointing really.
Eventually I gave up and made my way back to the beach. In the whole time I had been in the 100 acre field I hadn’t seen a single raptor (nor did I during the rest of the walk).
Back on the beach I immediately refound the shore larks but as I walked past them they flew back onto the golf course – I didn’t follow this time.
The walk back was as quiet as going north with only a few skylarks to liven things but my main focus of attaention was the buckthorn for the Dartford warbler that has been seen on several occasions (including New Years Day). When I was almost opposite Princes club house I heard it calling and searched the buckthorn.
Eventually I found it moving low/on the ground through the buckthorn but then it flew to the top of a twig and had a little song.
Now I had set the camera up in the hope of getting a shot but when I reviewed my efforts I found that I had inadvertently moved the setting from manual to shutter priority and the shots were grossly under exposed (due to the back light) I have tried to retrieve the situation in photoshop but the reality is they  are all rubbish.
Dartford Warbler
During the next 15-20 minutes of I saw the little beastie several times and very close but always behind a load of twigs. This is the only shot I managed:
Dartford Warbler
 Frustratingly close to being a decnt shot.
That was it really though on the way home I stopped off at the SBBO for a coffee and a chin wag.