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.

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