Monday, 28 April 2014


Today I went to Stodmarsh.
At times Stodmarsh can be a deeply frustrating place to visit. Lots of interesting birds to see or hear but very few seem to venture in front of the camera.
From the w/e reports I'd planned my day - start on the Lampern Wall to try for some common tern pictures then walk the circuit hoping that the hobbies turned up as I got back to the Marsh Hide side of Alder wood.
When I arrived ( at a leisurely 8.00 am rather than the 4.30 start preferred by some!) I had a wander through Alder wood and along the board walk, seeing a water rail who was also using the board walk to get around, before going out on the Lampern wall where the terns were showing well and occasionally quite close:

Common tern

In front of where I was standing a pair of reed warblers were very active and after a few dozen attempts I finally managed to catch one in the open.

Reed warbler

Cetti's and sedge and whitethroat were all very vocal with a whitethroat singing away, out of sight, in a bush immediately behind where I was standing.
2 or 3 male cuckoos were also calling and one of these landed less than 10 feet away; only problem was it too was on the wrong side of the bush and I would have had to walk on water to see it.
I did the circuit clockwise walking from the Lampern wall to the river, hearing 2 nightingales, with marsh harriers active in front of the Reedbed hide and out towards the Marsh hide and most of the time a bittern was booming.
Little of note on the water meadows other than a couple of little egrets and from Harrison's drove I saw my first grey heron, followed almost immediately by another two.

Grey heron

I was crossing the open fields between Harrison's and Middle drove when I had my first sight of the hobbies - there were 5 in all. They were pretty high up and not hunting in any particular area though I did stand around for about an hour hoping one would come close.... it didn't.


I had a brief stop in the Marsh hide - lots of swans, geese and a few lapwing but little else until I spotted a cuckoo flying straight at me. It shot past the hide at window height less than 6 feet away and landed in a bush on the main track.


It stayed there for a few minutes then flew off along the track only to return a minute ior two later where it again past the hide only a few feet away - one of those occasions where you wish the darned thing hadn't come so close.

That was about it really with the only other notable sighting being of Mr Ashton who was just leaving to do some work......someone has to!

Friday, 25 April 2014

..and a female ring ouzel today

Not a lot of difference between today and yesterday at Sandwich other than the male redstart who was conspicuous by his absence.
2 male ring ouzels were seen (though only one by me) but there was a welcome addition to the ouzel bonanza in the form of a female. I'm sure she wasn't there yesterday.
I took up the same position in the bushes as yesterday but neither the male or female came as close (I use the term loosely) and after about an hour a steady flow of people trying to see them meant there was little chance of improving on my previous achievements.

Male ring ouzel

Female ring ouzel

Female ring ouzel

Thursday, 24 April 2014

A Day For The Thrushes

A few chiffs and backcaps singing as I reached the old rifle range at Kingsdown was an encouraging sound as were 2 common whitethroats "singing" in the scrub. Other than the resident robin, wren, linnets and blackbird however that was it in the scrub though at the southern end I found 2 female wheatears - the first for several weeks.
I spent a few minutes trying to get some shots but the only time I got reasonably close was when one was perched on a danger sign.

Wheatear (femmale)

Next stop was Restharrow scrape where things were a lot quieter than my last visit with both the little ringed plovers and blue-winged teal having moved on; the latter it seems to some of the pools that persist on St George's Golf Course. I didn't try to find it myself.

Since wheatears had turned up at Kingsdown I thought it reasonable to expect some near the sailing club as indeed there were - I saw a female and a couple of hours later a male. As normal the male was very flighty though the female was a little more cooperative....until a woman with a pack of hounds came past.

Wheatear (female)

I was going to go to the Elms but a report of the ring ouzel still being present near the Cellars saw me half hidden in some scrub hoping it would appear. It did.

Ring ouzel

From the fence it dropped down onto the rabbit cropped grassland to feed and gave excellent if distant views. At times it returned to the scrub but always returned to continue feeding.

It was quite a surprise when a second dropped in - 2 males one a little browner than the other.

They never came really close but one came a lot closer than I normally experience.

I stood there for probably 90 minutes hoping one would come really close but no such luck. However my patience was rewarded when a superb male redstart turned up and whilst too distant for decent shot getting  a redstart and ring ouzel in frame together was a nice end to the session.

Redstart (male) and ring ouzel
To get this shot I upped the aperture to f8 and focused on the middle fence post.....and hoped.
I think it came out quite well really.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Gropper, Blue winged teal and Blue-headed wagtails.......

I've not posted anything for a couple of weeks because I've seen little of interest and what I have seen (hooded crow, cranes) were so far away I couldn't even manage a blog shot. The problem with a poor run is that you get to the point where you expect not to see anything and wander around not trying very hard.
Well today I felt like that but drove to Grove anyway. My hopes weren't high with my ambition restricted to getting a sedge warbler shot; my mood not helped by the very light rain and overcast sky that greeted me - it was brighter back at home.
There was a moment of excitement as I approached the ramp because I could hear a grasshopper warbler down by the river..............but it went silent. Nothing worth talking about from the ramp and the Feast hide but a lot of sedge warblers were singing but nearly all were deep in the reed beds.
One was a little closer to the path on Harrison's drove so I spent a little time there but never managed a clear shot.

Sedge warbler

Nothing in Harrison Drove hide either so I walked down to the river and back towards the car. As I reached the path back to the ramp the gropper started up again (as did a nightingale on the far side of the river) so I went along the path a little way to get closer to the gropper. Needless to say I wasn't that close and I couldn't find it. I'd actually given up and was moving away when it started reeling again only this time it seemed a lot closer - it had moved to one of the closer bushes. So I stopped and watched again and saw it fly low into some dead reed close by. There I found it moving low through the reed like a mouse.
It was in (very obscured) view for several minutes when it decided to have another reel. By now it was around 10 yards away and still obscured by reeds but it was a little higher up:

Obscured view

And by moving the tripod back and forth I managed to find a way through the reed stems and grabbed a few shots where the head was in the clear.

Grasshopper warbler

My mood had picked up remarkably!

Next stop was Stodmarsh but soon after I arrived I got a text alerting me to a blue winged teal at Sandwich so it was back to the car.

At Restharrow the teal was out of sight so I (along with several others) settled down for a long wait. The wait actually proved to be very productive with 2 redshank and 2 little ringed plovers providing the entertainment. Most of the time they were on the emerging island or on a distant bank but both also came right in front of the hide.

Little ringed plover

The redshank actually was displaying to it's mate but I couldn't get the whole bird in shot it was so close.


Eventually I had distant views of the teal and on one occassion it flew past the hide and I managed 1 reasonable shot.

Blue-winged teal

Around 2 pm I gave up and was putting my kit in the car when I was alerted to the presence of some blue-headed wagtails in the still flooded Restharrow Dunes.
Eventually I had managed record shots of all 4 of the yellow wags present.
One was a normal male flavissima:


One was a superb male flava:


A third male was strange looking because it looks if it wants to be a blue head but hasn't quite managed it - jury is out on this one. The extent of the blue on this one seemed to vary with the angle of viewing.

Who knows?

The final bird was a female. It could be a late developing male but as it was collecting feathers I'll stick to female, though whether it's a flava or flavissima I let you decide. (This one looks a lot yellower in the shot than it did in the fieldd)

female something

All in all a good day

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Today I will be mainly photographing Blackcaps

Today I decided to have a break from finding nothing to photograph and I went to Grove.
The change of venue brought instant results in the form of a blackcap feeding in some blossom - I'd been trying to get a blackcap picture for the last 2 weeks with no success so it was a very nice start to the day.

At the ramp I had a quick scan of the pool with a pintail being the most noteworthy of the few ducks present then I heard the grasshopper warbler reeling. I'd been told one was present but it had been quiet for a while. It only called half a dozen times and only in short bursts of 4-5 seconds then it fell silent. The bird must only have been 10-15 yards from the picnic table but I couldn't see it.

A couple of sedge warblers were calling between the ramp and the hide and on the way from the ramp to the river I had the first of 3 whitethroats.
Along the river quite a few blackcaps and chiffs but the most common warbler was Cetti's they seemed to be calling everywhere.


Around the oxbow area there was a flock of ~30 sand martins plus 3 swallows but not a lot else (other than the common warblers) and the water meadows only held 1 reshank and 3 little egrets.
The main attraction on the lake was ~ 10 great crested grebes but none came close.
I spent quite a  bit of time around Alder Wood again photographing blackcaps which was made somewhat easier than normal because 3 males were squabbling for the attention of a lone female which made them oblivious to my presence.

Nothing much from the Marsh hide though a ring tail hen harrier did put in a very brief appearance.
I had hoped for some sedge warbler shots but I only actually saw one the rest remaining hidden/low down - the brisk cold wind not helping my cause.

Marsh harriers were on view most of the morning but I have no idea how many there were; 4-6 I suspect but don't quote me on that.

Marsh Harrier

Thursday, 10 April 2014

A lot of effort for little reward

The last 2 weeks have been hard going. Most days have followed the same routine - starting at Kingsdown I wander along the rifle range then check out the scrub by the toilet bock, occasionally I walk to Hope Point. Then it's off to Sandwich to check out Restharrow, the Elms and the gullies (which are still full of water). And on most days I have seen next to nothing.
Migrants have been almost totally absent from the Kingsdown patch with only a couple of chiffs showing in the last 2 weeks. The main interest has been provided by my pet linnets who are now feathering their nest:

Linnet (female)
A pair of peregrines have turned up on occasions, this pair being made up by a young, quite brown, female and a grey male with no sign of the hybrid. I don't know if it's the same pair as Tony Morris has been seeing at St Margaret's.

Peregrine (female)
At Sandwich Restharrow has been marginally better and although I missed the geese that had recently flown all the way from Egypt I did manage to see the little ringed plover though it was always distant. I also managed an even more distant yellow wagtail tick.

Little ringed plover
The main interest and amusement on the scrape remains with the little grebes. When feeding they come very close to the hide and every now and then a couple of them will decide to have a bit of a dust up.

Little grebe
Unfortunately their pugilistic activities never seems to be close enough to get some shots of their attempts to fly but it leaves you wondering - how do they migrate? They can hardly get off the water!

The Elms and Gullies have been a little better in that there have been a couple of chiffs and several blackcaps present reminding you that spring has sprung but thus far these have eluded the camera.
Yesterday (Wednesday) when I arrived I was told of a common whitethroat (the first of the year) and this surrendered to the camera after about 15 minutes.

Common whitethroat
Today I did something different. Well not that different as it only involved driving to Langdon Cliffs.
I parked on Reach Road and the first bird I saw was a corn bunting, and must have seen half a dozen along the top there and all around was the song of skylarks. Walking down into Langdon hole there were quite a few linnets (30-ish?), a few yellow hammers plus a few chaffinch but that was it. No chiffs chiffing. Lots of jackdaws and a few blackbirds but overall it was looking pretty grim.....very Kingsdowny in fact.
I took quite a long time in the Hole looking for the ring ouzel reported there the previous 2 days but I couldn't find it.
I left the Hole and was walking up the hill towards St Margs watching and photographing some of the mippits (why do they only pose on fence posts?) when I spotted a black redstart....yippee. But that was as good as it got  as try as I might it wouldn't let me get withing 50 yards.

Black redstart

I followed it up to the top of the fence line where it upped and flew past me back down towards the Hole. I followed but as I went through the kissing gate into the Hole I spotted the ring ouzel.
It was on an open patch of short grass feeding but disappeared into a bush. I decided to wait and see if it would come out. I would have liked a closer hiding point but there was nothing on offer so I sat in amongst some short scrub watching the grass where it had been feeding which was between me and it's bush. Whilst waiting I saw 2 chiffs who were both silent and a yellow hammer landed pretty close.
Yellow Hammer
Eventually the ring ouzel showed itself but needless to say it came out on the far side of it's bush on a different grassy area. It didn't stay there long though as a couple of dog walkers flushed it back into it's bush and there it stayed for another 15 minutes or so.
Out it flew and landed 40-50 yards away atop another bush then flew down to it's original grassy patch. It was still too far away for good shots but it was feeding nicely and slowly getting closer.........that is until some more dog walkers, then 2 joggers and finally a family came walking past.

Ring Ouzel (male)

I new my luck was out when the family decided to stand just behind me, right out in the open, to watch what I was doing sitting in brambles. I did what any sensible person would do under the circumstances I gave up and walked away.

I walked up the hill towards St Margs again and spotted a peregrine distantly clinging to some flints on the cliff face. Eventually he/she let go and flew past but it was pretty distant and I was looking straight into the sun .....well that was my excuse.
Peregrine - another quite brown bird
And that was that.