Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Rye Harbour Nature Reserve

Tuesday 21st
Today I was going to try for the squacco but since it wasn’t seen yesterday I went to Rye instead.  Rye was the first place incorporated into Greater Kent mainly because I normally visited Rye when I went to Dungeness. The advantage of Rye beinging in Kent is that you don't have to worry about what you see on Scotney.
I arrived at 7.00,  parked up in the Rye Harbour car park then walked the full circuit – View Point, Castle Water, Long Pit, Harbour Farm then back along the sea front to the Ternary pool and the Quarry.
At Rye Harbour itself it was nice to see that many of the common birds were still common – house sparrows, thrushes (mistle and song) black bird, linnet and several swifts were hanging around the church. Onto the View Point and whitethroat, reed and sedge warbler were added to the day list, a gt spotted woodpecker flew past and a couple fo grey herons could be seen. Several families of bearded tits have been reported but they weren't on show this morning. From the View Point the way to Castle water takes you across sheep pasture lined with reed beds. There were a lot of reed buntings in the reeds (whereelse I suppose?) and in amongst the sheep there were several pied wagtails and a lone yellow wag:
Yellow Wagtail
At Castle water a Cetti’s  warbler was singing and a male marsh harrier went past. On the water tufted, mallard, wigeon, swan (a lot), a black swan, grey lag and Canada geese plus hundreds of cormorants – the latter being both on the water and in the trees. Coots were also well represented. On the wader front all I could find was a few redshank, 50+ lapwing and 10 avocets which was a bit of a disappointment. Water levels are a couple of  feet down on normal and there are a lot of islands showing so habitat is there for them. The fishing was still good with one guy having just landed a 7+ lb tench.
The path from Castle water to the Long Pit takes you through a stand of gorse and scrub hence more linnets plus goldfinch and chaffinch, then through a small wooded area where blackcap, chiffchaff and green woodpecker were seen.
Long pit did not have much of interest – mainly swans and coots though house martin, swallow and swift were all seen there. On land more of the common warblers plus a flock of 8 green finch and a kestrel was hunting the field between long pit and the sea front.
The rest of the day (till 2.00pm) was spent around the Ternary pool and the Quarry in the hides and on the sea front roadway.
The black-headed gull chicks are now flying though several adults still appeared to be sitting on nests. There are a lot of Mediterranean gulls there but they nest a little way off and I couldn’t see what was going on with their young.
Mediterranean Gull

Common and Sandwich terns were constantly bringing sand eels to the colonies showing that warm water is not detrimental to sand eel colonies despite what a lot of people (especially commercial fisherman) would like Joe public to believe. A lot of terns appear to have taken up residence on the Quarry – I think the ternary pool could be suffering from overcrowding!
After a while I went along the sea-front road and found the little terns where they were last year – the most I saw in the air at any one time was 10 but I was told there was ~ 20 around. A word of warning for anyone going to look at them – the decoys are out again so don’t be fooled:
Not quite little terns

Little Tern with tiny sand eel.

The little terns were bring back what appeared to be small sand eels though I couldn't see any chicks. The Sandwich terns in contrast were bringing back monsters.
It was whilst watching the little terns that the sun started to come out so I tried took pictures but the results were a little disappointing. It was about 1.00pm by this time the sun was directly overhead so often the bird was in its own shadow. I also went back for some Sandwich and common tern pictures but these too suffered from shadows. ( overall my photographic efforts were pants and this is the only excuse I could think of!).
Sandwich Tern
Common Tern
Rye really does seem to get a lot of things right with respect to bird breeding with substantial colonies of oyster catcher, Sandwich, common and  few little terns plus black-headed and med gulls all thriving. In addition lapwing and ringed plover breed. A significant reason for this success is the vast area that is fenced off so preventing disturbance. The fences don’t look very pretty but they work.
 A lot of new excavating has gone on at Rye over the last few years with a number of new fresh water pools being opened inland of the Ternary pool and down by Harbour farm. This winter/spring the main effort has been preparing an area to generate a salt marsh – almost opposite Lime Kiln Cottage. The ditches to let the sea water in and the scrapes have been prepared all that’s required is time.
Also around the site they have been removing the top soil that has been accumulating to ensure the shingle ridges don’t disappear.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Reculver and Stodmarsh

The good news is I have my camera back. The bad news is that the fault hasn’t been fixed, in part because it didn’t go wrong all the time it was with the camera guy so all he could do was clean up the contacts. Anyway hopeful that it had been fixed and determined to try it out I started at Reculver trying to photograph the sand martins. The martins are still there but most of the juveniles seem to be flying or about to so this years photographic season may end soon.
Sand Martin

The light was not brilliant as it started clouding over as I arrived but it was just about good enough for shots of birds at the holes (1/400th at ISO 400).
 As for in-flight chance.
The camera worked fine for about 30 minutes then started locking into manual focus again. I can (at the moment) re-establish autofocus by taking the battery out (switching it off then back on doesn't work) or taking the lens off, so it's annoying rather than a disaster. Now I've got to decide whether to send it back to Sony.
After Reculver I went to Stodmarsh to meet up with Steve and return his camera bags. Whilst there I only visited the reed bed hide seeing reed and sedge warbler, reed bunting, marsh harrier, little egret, gt crested grebe, common tern (miles away), swift (miles up) and a grey heron dropped in for a few minuites.

Most of the time was spent trying to photograph the egret fishing hoping to capture the beak entering the water. This meant trying to anticipate when it was going to strike or trying to react to the strike. I thought I had cracked it with this shot:

However after studying this and some of the other pictures obtained this shot is actually of the beak coming out of the water – you can see where the beak has been from the ripples - just to the right of the beak.
This shot again is of the beak coming out of the water – the water disturbance and the direction of the head plumes showing the head is moving backwards.

From the pictures I managed what happens is that during the strike the beak normally enters the water with the neck fully stretched (so the egret doesn’t have to get too close to the prey).  This neck extension is exceedingly fast (I suppose it has to be to be successful) and certainly I never managed to catch it though I have a few with the neck fully extended.
This is a sequence of 3 successive shots (shooting on continuous) so with my camera that’s one shot every 0.2 sec.

I don’t think this study will rock the ornithological world but it kept us amused for an hour or so.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

The North end of the SBBO recording area

Today I parked up at Newdowns polytunnels and walked to Backsand then to the 100 acre field before returning to the poly tunnels via the beach.
The birding was in truth very similar to what you would see on Worth marsh or Pegwell without expending anywhere near the effort I did today but whatever, I probably needed the exercise.
Needless to say whitethroats were everywhere but sedge and reed warblers were pretty thin on the ground. Backsand proved to be pretty full of water with no sand/mud banks showing however it was there that the bird of the day was seen – a spoonbill. I assume this is one of those that has been showing at Pegwell. Whilst the bill had the yellow on it of an adult there was still a small amount of black on the wingtips that could be seen in the video I took of the bird. The bird was still there when I left at 9.30 but by this time it was settling down for a sleep.
Spoonbill - Backsand
(The picture is a “grab” from the video, my camera still being repaired.)
After Backsand I walked north but had to get onto the river bank to avoid a humongous black bull that was in with the cows. The river bank was alive with whitethroats but no sign/sound of the lesser we had there a week or two back. I did however hear the willow-chiff as well as 2 chiffs calling as normal. On the mud of the river (before the tide covered the lot) were 2 little egrets.
Once past the cows/bull I returned to the field then went across to the 100 acre field and returned to Newdowns via the beach. A nice walk but only common stuff was seen but it did include 2 mistle thrushes and a cuckoo.

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Saturday at Pegwell

My camera has been playing up of late – locking into manual focus only so I’m having it looked at. Well when I say looked at I mean fixed. Needless to say when I delivered it it was behaving itself and focussed like a dream. Anyway it’s still there so I am camera-less at the moment.
Today I went to Pegwell. I was hoping to see the resident long legged Milton but he was nowhere to be seen- though it seems he was there early morning. The tide was more or less in when I arrived but the spoonbill was out on the salt marsh in front of the hide as were 2 avocets and a redshank. Curlews could be seen roosting in amongst the vegetation so I left counting them till the tide had receded a little.

I walked down to Stonelees and went warbler counting. The whole area ( as is much of East Kent ) was alive with common whitethroats. I actually noted in 36 in my book but I’m sure there are a lot more than this. A little more interesting were 2 willow warblers collecting food and another 2 singing their heads off in the tree tops. Lesser whitethroats were thin on the ground with me only finding 2 (singing). Reed and Sedge warblers were also pretty thin on the ground with only 4 reed and 5 sedge being found, likewise chiffchaffs (2). Other warblers seen were blackcaps (2) and a garden warbler.
I heard a cuckoo but didn’t go searching for it and heard one and saw another turtle dove – the latter having been found by Gary Faulkner who had managed to get some decent looking pictures.

Also in Stonelees was a family of long-tailed tits. 7 youngsters were sitting in a bush all together not more than 10 yrds away.
On the raptor front I spotted 2 kestrel and a marsh harrier(juv).
By the time I left (~9.40) the water had receded enough to see some mud and I counted 46 oyster catchers, 24 curlew, 55 mallard and 37 shelduck. The spoonbill was still there when I departed at 9.40 but I didn’t notice the avocets.

The pictures were not taken today; the spoonbill and avocet are from a few weeks ago and the turtle dove was from Pegwell a year or so back.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Still a hard slog

I’ve not posted anything since the Antigua report. There has been a reason for this tardiness – I’ve not seen anything worth reporting nor have I managed to get any reasonable images.
Today continued this run of mediocrity.
Restharrow scrape was much as it has been for the last week or so - the oyster catchers still have 3 chicks (doing a lot better than the lapwings) and the little grebe chicks are thriving. A redshank has been around for the last day or two and a lapwing has laid eggs again – this time the nest is completely exposed on the mud of the main island. There are a least 2 eggs - I watched the incoming bird turn them. A corn bunting came in for a wash and brush up but otherwise it was shelducks, mallards, coots and moorhens.
Corn Bunting

After the scrape I went out onto Worth marsh where I saw/heard 3 cuckoos (but not the hepatic of last week – reported in the SBBO update), 1 marsh harrier, 2 bullfinch (by the train gates) and a yellow hammer (also at the train gates). The yellow hammer was bathing when I found it which after it had finished retired to a nearby bush where I managed a poor shot.
Yellow Hammer

There were 2 lesser whitethroats along the Worth track but try as I might I could not get a decent picture of either either.
Lesser Whitethroat (honest)
On the warbler front the common whitethroats are still around in good numbers (23 seen) as were reed (19) and sedge(8) warblers. I also heard 3 Cetti’s calling – I’m sure there are more of these this year.
On the return leg I found 2 very young dunnock on the footpath. As I stood photographing them they hoped right up to my feet all the time calling to the parents. At one point I laid on the track to get a low angle shot but the angle of the light was not right and overall the results were a bit of a disappointment. Still, I think they look a bit like Patrick Moore.


Eventually I had to move on but getting past them proved a problem – they couldn’t fly so couldn’t go into the bushes, they just hopped along in front of me. Eventually I gave up the stealthy approach and simply ran past them.   I then shooed them back to where they started. Hopefully the parents will keep feeding them.
On the insect front I found a painted lady out on Worth Marsh and a scarce chaser along the Worth track – the first I’ve seen out there this year.
Scarce Chaser

This afternoon I had to go to Dover so I dropped in at Kearsney Abby. Eventually a grey wagtail turned up but didn’t hang around too long – it spent most of the time on the roof of one of the houses on the opposite side of the road singing. I’ve been down to see the grey wags 2 or 3 times now and I have yet to see a black throated male. I don’t know whether the bird I am seeing is a female or a year old male who hasn’t developed a black throat.
Grey Wagtail
The only other noteworthy observation was of a pair of mistle thrushes; they seemed well established in the park.
Mistle Thrush