Tuesday, 30 August 2011

A Good Day For Waders

The early morning walk around the estate today revealed very little,  just a few common warblers and 3 wheatears. Restharrow was a little more productive with a snipe, 4 or 5 dunlin (I didn’t note the number), 2 ringed plover, 1 little ringed plover, a green sandpiper and 4 little stint.

In general the waders occupied the rear of the pool and were often completely out of sight for prolonged periods but eventually 2 of the stints started making their way down the main island though they turned back once they reached halfway. Still I managed some record shots.
Little Stint

After that it was the regulation cup of coffee where I saw the ringers loading up the Land Rover – they were getting ready to ring at Backsand overnight so my plan for the rest of the day was still intact.
  I made my way to Backsand arriving at 11.30 for the high tide at 1.00pm. A quick scan showed decent number of green and redshank plus a flock of small waders – 6 dunlin  and 2 curlew sandpiper. This was great because I have been walking down there several times a week in the hope of something interesting.  I then settled down waiting and hoping that they would come near. Whilst waiting the camera got it’s normal exercise as greenshank, redshank and common sandpiper all walked past the hide. Even this was notable in that to date this year the redshank have stubbornly stayed on the far side of the scrape.
Common Sandpiper



Eventually one of the curlew sands walked across the far side of the sand bank in front of the hide but it didn’t complete the circuit of the island – it flew off to the far side of the pool. About an hour later the curlew sands started making their way closer and eventually both walked right across the front – though I could have done with them stopping rather than hurrying past as they fed. In addition they had their heads under the water most of the time.
Curlew Sandpipers

Curlew Sandpiper

The light could also have been better in that there was complete cloud cover but there was still a lot of glare from the water surface. I could get decent shutter speed but I had to have the lens wide open (hence poor depth of field). Still I’m pretty pleased with the results and think these are the best curlew sand pictures I have managed.
I actually left at 1.00 after the curlies had flown over to the far side of the pool – I didn’t have the time to wait for them to come back again.
Final counts of the other waders/ducks were greenshank 17, redshank 22, green sand 7, common sand 5, wigeon 6, teal 1, tufted duck 2, little egret 1.
As I said earlier the SBBO ringers intend ringing at Backsand tonight so the curlew sands could be gone tomorrow.

Monday, 29 August 2011

Kingsdown to Hope Point

It was pretty chilly when I started this morning but at least the sun was shining and the wind was gentle (to start with). Since there was nothing moving on the sea I immediately went up onto Kingsdown Leas.
Over the golf course car park there was a sizable flock of hirundines – swallows, house and sand martins and a few swifts and in the first set of bushes a dunnock was dozing.
Dozing Dunnock
Whilst I was looking at the hirundines a sparrow hawk flew down the road but it was too quick to get a picture.
However from there to Hope Bay Cottage it was very quiet with just a few whitethroats, chiffs and willow warblers though I did see a red legged partridge. A pair of these have been around this area for about 2 years but I thought they had gone as I haven’t seen them since early spring.
Red-legged Partridge
In the gardens around Hope bay cottage things were decidedly livelier – mainly common whitethroats plus more chiffs, willow warblers, blackcaps, a few robins and 2 bullfinch.
Common Whitethroat

I was watching/listening to a pair of chiffs when this came into view:
Willow Warbler

However I think this is a willow warbler but it’s very worn if it is – or perhaps I’ve just got too used to looking at juveniles.
Along to Hope Bay itself and more of the above plus 3 sedge warblers, a reed warbler (perhaps 2) and a few lesser whitethroats. Again I failed to get a shot of the lesser.
Whilst sitting there the Bock Hill mob turned up (Jack, Phil, Brendan and Malcolm and Brendan found a gropper (I never saw it) though I did grab a picture of a passing kestrel.

Steve Coates (“Kingsdowner”) also turned up and all of us made our way back towards Kingsdown re-checking the scrub. Nothing new was found though I did spot Steve and Jack behaving strangely – perhaps it’s some sort of initiation for entry into the Bockhill Birding fraternity.
Steve and Jack - looks a bit dubious to me.

Over the last few days blackcaps numbers have increased as have chiffs but willow warblers and lesser whitethroats have decreased. Common whitethroats are holding steady. Winter draws near!

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Backsand again

Didn’t have much time this morning so I was up early (for me) and at Restharrow by 6.10 and was delighted to see 2 spotted redshank on the far side of the  island nearest the hide. The joy was short lived however as they flew off about 5 seconds later – I’ve always had this effect on birds. A few other waders were around – ringed plover, greenshank and green sandpiper but no real change on the last few days.
After that I was off to Backsand. Yesterday Phil had little stint and curlew sandpiper at Pegwell and high tide being about 8.00 o’clock it seemed there might be something different about.
The walk to Backsand produced 170 lapwing, 7 grey partridge, a bird that has been more scarce this year than normal and on the stubble there were 61 greylag, 26 Canada geese and 3 curlew – quite a change from normal. Normally there is nothing! Perhaps it was the early start.
On the scrape there were the normal green (12) and common(5) sandpipers, greenshank(19), redshank (8) and a ruff.  Not a little stint or curlew sand  but a year tick just the same.
After a while it came quite close but not close enough for the shot I wanted.


I left at 8.30 but stopped off at Restharrow on the way – a good call as it turned out because out on one of the distant islands was a small flock of dunlin(7) with a little stint keeping them company.
So 2 year ticks and home by 10.00.

Monday, 22 August 2011

Backsand News

Although the tide was completely wrong I decided to walk down to Backsand after walking the estate (see SBBO report and MW for Restharrow) as no one seems to have been down there since my last visit (or at least nothing has been reported). I needn’t have bothered.
My counts were 10 green sands, 2 common sands, 4 greenshank and a lone redshank. The normal complement of mallard, teal, wigeon and juvenile tufties were also present though the latter seem to have been reduced to 2 now. The light was alos very poor making photography a bit of a challenge.
Green Sandpiper

3 little egrets were also present one of which generated a little interest in that it appears to have a growth on its lower mandible.
Little Egret with growth

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Kingsdown to Hope Point

A late start this morning (7.45am) due to too much to drink last night at a murder mystery evening.
A quick look at the sea showed nothing about so I climbed the steps for a walk  to Hope Point.
Things started rather well with 10 common whitethroats being seen in the first 2 clumps of bushes south of the golf course car park and a steady movement of hirundines overhead –mainly house martins and swallows but a decent number of sandmartins and a few swifts. (This movement continued until about 8.30 after which there was just the odd group moving.)
After that next to nothing was seen until I approached Hope Bay Cottage. The first bit of interest was provided by a peregrine which I found perched on the cliff face. I fired off a few shots then crawled along the cliff edge trying to get closer. Eventually it had had enough of me and flew off – despite my best efforts I’m pretty sure it could see me as it spent a lot of time looking in my direction.

In the scrub of Hope Bay Cottage things got decidedly lively as a mixed flock of tits (long-tailed and blue) and warblers worked their way through the scrub. The flock was 50-60 strong with LTTs being the most numerous; warblers seen were chiffchaff, blackcap and reed warbler. There were some willows in the same area but these did not seem to be part of the flock.
Long-tailed Tit

After they had passed it was back to normal ie next to nothing, until I reached Hope Point where a decent head of common and lesser whitethroat plus a few more reed warblers were seen. Though getting a decnt picture was beyond me.
Lesser Whitethroat
The final bit of interest was provided by a sparrow hawk that reduced the whitethroat population by 1.
Sparrow Hawk

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Backsand News

With the day being overcast and there being a brisk ENE wind a sea watch was deemed appropriate.
For the next hour or so we watched the sea; not birds, just the sea. There were a few dots on the horizon wheeling about that eventually came a little closer – well close enough to see the dots had wings – to allow recognition – gannets. Another 3 dots moved down channel; these never did get close enough to see wings but I was reliably informed they were ducks. I’m not sure whether a species was suggested because by that time I was losing the will to live.
Eventually all bad things have to come to an end and we drove up to Princes and found 9 wheatears on the grass in front of the new buildings/old club house but no whinchats.
After a coffee I went down to Backsand to re-hang the door on the "Photographic Hide". I arrived at there ~11.00 and there was very little on the scrape – just a few greenshank, green sands and a lone common sandpiper and no sign of the wood sands. The lack of wood sands wasn’t unexpected really as the SBBO ringers had been down there 2 nights ago and had caught and ringed 2 of them.
Anyway I fixed the door (well as well as it can be fixed given the angle to hide is leaning at) then sat around until 12.15 (high tide wasn’t until 2.45 or so things were not optimum). Greenshank and green sand numbers did increase marginally to 6 of each but only 1 common was seen and everything stayed on the far side of the scrape. The only wading bird to come close was a wading wood pigeon.
Wading Wood Pig

One greenshank was noodling around to the left but seem to have a fixation of the plastic Canada goose – whose presence can normally be relied on.
Just good friends

The nearest I came to excitement was when a sparrow hawk had an altercation with a kestrel. They chased each other around for 30 seconds or so until disappearing towards the cooling towers.
Kestrel and Sparrow hawk

And that was that.
If anyone out there is still desperate for a wood sandpiper there were still 2 on Restharrow first thing.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

A Few Hours at Kingsdown

Had an hour or so out yesterday and visited Restharrow in the rain. The 2 wood sandpipers were still in residence as were a juvenile dunlin, 4(or so) little ringed plover and a greenshank. A little stint was reported on Birdguides but it wasn't there at 7.00am. After that it was off to Hertfordshire for my mum’s birthday celebration but most of the time seemed to be spent stuck in traffic jams on the M25. It was actually a blessing being at my mum’s because I didn’t have to watch England's inept display against Wales (though we did have the cricket on the background!).
Today I stayed local and birded Kingsdown.
I started on the rifle range but as with the rest of the summer it was virtually birdless – just a few linnets and fulmars (most of the latter having departed). Along at the end of the range was a reasonable (for this year) flock of house martins (~40) plus a few swallows. To the best of my knowledge the house martins haven’t nested there this year but today some of the martins were visiting broken nests and by that I mean nests with half the front missing. I got the scope onto one of these and it was occupied. Could these be migrants with some juveniles having a rest?
I then started sea watching, not that I expected to see much. On the horizon a decent number of gannets were feeding and every now and then a few came closer – everyone I saw being an adult. There were also a decent number of terns so I started counting these hoping for a black one though while I was doing this 3 scoter flew south and 7 ducks (heaven only know what) went north. I had got to about 40 on the tern count when things started getting a bit more interesting – an arctic skua was flying south. The terns were promptly forgotten and I started skua watching.
Over the next hour I counted 23 birds though because they were going back and forth the actual number out there was almost certainly lower than that. Whatever, there must have been at least 6 though because I had 5 pale phase birds in the bins at the same time and a little later a dark phase (or juv) flew south.  I did try to get some pictures but whilst they were at a decent distance for the scope they too far for the camera.
Arctic Skua
They were out there for about 7.00 till 8.00 when both they and the terns disappeared. I stuck it out until 8.30 but it had gone very quiet.  
I then went bush watching my hope being to get a picture of a juvenile lesser whitethroat. Things were pretty quiet as I walked south with just a few willow warbler and linnets but in the garden just before Hope Bay Cottage there seemed to be a decent number of birds flitting about so I stood around and watched. Willow warblers (~10) were the most prevalent but there was also common white throat, a family of blackcap, blue and great tit, a few green finch and a family of bullfinch - with a juvenile giving great views though it took me several seconds to sort out what it was. Also seen were 2 great spotted woodpeckers, 1 green woodpecker then I spotted something that looked significantly more interesting. I searched for several minutes then they landed in clear view – 2 spotted flycatchers. This was a first for me at Kingsdown so I was pretty chuffed. I saw then on and off for the next 20 minutes but they kept disappearing back into the garden though I did manage a record shot.
Spotted Flycatcher

As I walked on to Hope Point a sparrowhawk went over and appeared to go out to sea. The scrub continued to produce willow warblers and lesser whitethroats could be heard but not seen. Jack Chandler and Phil were at Hope point where they had more willow warblers and lesser whitethroats and 3 reed warblers one of which showed itself whilst I was there.
On the return leg I heard yet another lesser whitethroat so set up the camera – needless to say it never showed though a willow warbler did provide the shot of the day.
Willow Warbler
I also had another look at Hope Bay Cottage and the spotted flys were still there. Nice session really.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Temminck's at Backsand

Normal routine today – Restharrow, the Estate then Backsand but today yielded a little more in the way of variety.
Restharrow first thing had wood sandpiper (2 eventually), little ringed plover (up to 6) greenshank, and little egret though a ruff had been seen earlier by Martyn.
The Estate had a decent number of willow warblers, a few lesser whitethroat, a couple of chiffchaffs with a decent number fo birds being seen in the Elms for a change but the highlight were 3 crossbills that flew overhead chirping loudly. For a while they actually seemed to hang there as if thinking about where to go then they moved off west.
After coffee I was on my way to Backsand when I got a call from Phil Smith saying he’d got a small wader there he couldn’t identify and could I tell the Obs. That I did then I continued on my way meeting Phil in the “photographic” hide.
Interestingly Phil Milton had contacted Ian with the news that he had seen a Temminck’s flying up river from Pegwell and to watch out for it.
The bird had been on the island immediately in front of the hide but by the time I arrived it had moved to the far side of the scrape. Phil had some decent images though and what with those and the views with the scope you could see it ticked all the boxes for Temminck’s and 15 minutes later Ian arrived and confirmed the id.
Eventually Ian and Phil disappeared but I’d decided to wait and hope it came nearer.
Green Sandpiper

Wood Sandpiper

Common Sandpiper
As I sat waiting common, green and wood sandpiper all came across the front of the hide and greenshank also came close. My counts were 3 wood, 8 green  and 3 common sandpipers plus 3 greenshank and 1 LRP but to be honest I was mainly watching the Temminck’s.
For a long time the bird was distant and the best I could get was pictures of it in the presence of a wood sand and a little later a green sand – the difference in size showing really well.
Temminck's plus Green Sandpiper

Temminck's plus Wood Sandpiper
But slowly it started to make it’s way closer and eventually it landed on the island in front of the hide and came pretty close as it fed.
Temminck's Stint
After a while it gave up feeding and went to the left of the island (by the posts favoured by the wood sand) and started preening.

Temminck's Stint
Soon after that a squall came along and the rain tipped it down. This had the effect of scattering all the birds and when it rain cleared the Temminck’s was way over to the right and there it stayed until I departed. This was a little unfortunate because Tony Morris arrived after the rain and never got a close view.
Needless to say these were the best views I have had of a Temminck's.

Finally, in my last post I mentioned Steve's in-growing toenail. Now this has prompted 2 comments (more than any of my other posts) which seems to indicate there is more interest out there for gossip on malformed or injured feet/toes than there is for my bird sightings. If anyone out there has a tale they would like to share then please feel free to post a comment though I may have to rename the blog if the interest gets too high.

Friday, 5 August 2011

Backsand Again

Day started wander around the estate with willow warblers and lesser whitethroats showing well (See SBBO report) and the wood sandpiper and LRPs still in residence on Restharrow scrape.
In the afternoon I went down to Backsand hoping that some of the bird Phil saw yesterday at Pegwell may have spilled over onto Backsand (namely the curlew sandpipers  and little stints).
Needless to say it didn’t happen and today was very much like the previous few visits - common sands (5), green sands (8), wood sand (2), greenshank (14), redshank (1), little egret(2).  Juvenile shelduck were more numerous than previously (5 plus 1 adult) and a family group of 4 kestrels were around for the first part of the afternoon. The young tufted ducks were still there but I didn’t see an adult all afternoon.

Tufted Ducklet

Slowly but surely most things came past the hide and late on in Tony Morris came in it. We had a good chat (which made a welcome change after Steve’s toe nail) and continued to photograph any and everything that came close.

Little Egret

I had packed the camera and was having one last scan when 5 little ringed plovers dropped in. I thought they were all juveniles but looking at my pictures one or two appear to be adults. Whatever, they made a welcome changed and looked fantastic in the afternoon light.
Little Ringed Plover

Little Ringed Plover

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

The Estate and Backsand again

Todays outing was a very similar day to yesterday in that it started with a tour of the estate and ended at Backsand. Unlike yesterday today there were a decent number of birds around the estate though these were restricted to the “Whitehouse” and “Oasis”with little being seen in the Elms and gullies. The totals were - willow warblers (20+),  a similar number of white throats, a lesser white throat and a lot of green woodpeckers.
From the sea wall south of the sailing club we found 5 wheatears (they had been reported earlier in the week but have a habit of disappearing completely) and along the fence with the golf club there were 3 or 4 corn buntings. One was particularly interesting in that it had a near white tail (though not so easy to see in this picture).
Corn bunting with a white tail
The wood sandpiper was still on Restharrow as were a heron and little egret but while we were there 5 little ringed plovers turned up – 4 juveniles and 1 adult.
Wood Sandpiper

Little Ringed Plover
Steve Ashton was also at Restharrow so after a coffee at the Obs I met up with Steve and we went down to Backsand.
On the scrape were 2 wood sandpipers, 11 greenshank, 8 green sandpipers and 4 common sandpipers. Plus a little egret, a l;ittle grebe and a family of tufted ducks.
Camera wise it was pretty slow with only the woodsand, common sand coming really close though a greenshank was just about within shooting distance.
Wood Sandpiper

Common Sandpiper

We waited for the redshank to turn up at high tide but they didn’t so Steve spent the rest of the time discussing his (ex) in-growing toe-nail.
Halfway through the session we noticed Gadget in the adjacent hide and we joined him for a little while then scrounged a lift back to Newdowns.
It was good to have the A700 back and it performed perfectly – thankfully the pictures were of better quality than with the A200 (though I’m sure Steve will continue to insist on me swapping to Canon).

One thing I noticed whilst processing the common sandpiper pictures was it had a palmation between the outer and middle toe. I assume this is normal. Click on the picture for a larger version or see my flickr site.
The palmation can be seen on it's left foot.

Palmation can be seen on it's rught foot

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Backsand at High tide

The day got off to a good start as the wood sandpiper was still at Restharrow however a search of the estate was disappointing with a few willow warblers being the only autumn migrants on show.
Wood Sandpiper
Whilst having a coffe what I think was a harlequin bug alighted on the table but soon flew off.
Harlequin Bug

After a coffee I went down to Backsand to await the high tide.
During the walk down flock of 25 golden plover flew past at Newdowns and disappeared south.
When I arrived at Backsand there was a reasonable show of green sandpiper (4), green shank (11) and common sandpiper (3) but the highlight was another wood sandpiper. Also on show was a little egret, a family of tufted ducks, some mallard and a teal. I then settled down to await the high tide influx and hope that some of the waders came close enough to photograph.
The first to come near (though not close) was a common sandpiper but then the wood sand right by the hide:
Wood Sandpiper

As it got closer to high tide more birds started to come in in quick succession – first up at 12.25 were 5 more greenshank and a second wood sandpiper, at 12.40 10 redshank, at 13.00 30 lapwing turned up to bring the total up to 55 with the final arrival being Steve Raynaert. During this period some more common sandpipers had arrived unseen bringing the total to 6.
A little later a golden plover arrived though it didn’t stay too long as it was harassed by a couple of lapwing. Although present in high numbers in Pegwell Bay I think this is the first I’ve seen at Backsand.
Golden Plover

As the afternoon wore on a common sandpiper came very close and a trio of greenshank were feeding close but not close enough for a decent picture.
Common Sandpiper


I’m not sure when I left (15.00?) but on the way back I found 125 lapwing on Newdowns farm and 5 more common sandpipers on the reservoir.
What was nice was to find my camera had arrived back from Sony. Hopefully it will be back to new though it must be said that the old alpha 200 has produced some reasonable pictures during the last month or so.