Sunday, 25 October 2015

Blue tails and Dartford warbler

I seem to have spent the last week chasing round after the red-flanked blue tail which continues to be caught in the ringers nets.
The bird was first caught on the 20th and I went to the Obs to get some shots and watch it's release. After release it flew into some bushes and within a few minutes had disappeared despite half a dozen people watching said bush.

Later that day it was caught another 2 times.
The next day ( 21st)  I went to Sandwich again and arrived just as they were about to release the blue-tail....again.

Again it managed to disappeared almost immediately but it was re-caught and released again later in the day.

Also on the 20th this juvenile great grey shrike was caught:

In between then and now I have spent quite a long time trying to find the blue-tail around the Oasis field and even in the trapping area but no luck. Not a sniff.
Today the blue tail was caught again despite it's previous release being some way away from the trapping area - I think it must like getting caught!

Most of the crests and warblers seem to have disappeared from the areas I frequent so this morning I decided to walk from the Obs along the beach towards the point. A lot of Dartford warblers have been found in the last few days so I thought the sea buckthorn around Price's Golf club worthy of a look. It's also about the time snow and lapland bunting could start turning up so they were also on the menu.

There was very little on the beach/grass between Kings Avenue and the end of St George's golf course but there were reasonable numbers of mippit and skylark from the start of Prince's. More noteworthy however was the number of reed buntings. I must have seen 40-50 with the birds mainly feeding on the seed heads of the coarse grass that grows on the beach up there (no idea what the grass species is).

Once I reached the buckthorn I stopped every 50 yards or so and waited for 10 minutes to see whether a Dartford warbler would show or call.
Opposite the main club house my efforts were rewarded when I spotted a small dark bird flitting between buckthorn bushes low to the ground. It was moving about in an area about 30 yards wide so I took up a central position and waited.
At first it seemed more intent on feeding and showed only fleetingly and low down but then it started showing really well and even perched in the open to have a sing several times; a couple of times very close to where I was standing.

Whilst it was in the open and singing I'm sure I heard another one call 30-40 yards south of where I was standing.

Eventually it was time to go and as I headed off south I found a wheatear and was trying to get close to it when a Dartford warbler  showed and called around 100 yards  south of where I had been watching the previous one reinforcing the idea there were two of them.

Monday, 19 October 2015

Pallas's warbler

Another dull grey day on the coast but at least the wind was not too strong today.

As normal I started at Kingsdown with the intention spending the rest of the day at Sandwich trying to re-find yesterday's great grey shrike.

Other than chiffs (~10) and goldcrests (~ 7) things were pretty quiet at Kingsdown though I did spend a few minutes trying to photograph a totally un-cooperative brambling and the only redwing seen was flushed by a dog.

I moved on to Sandwich but on the way it started raining. I had 15 minutes in the hide looking at teal and gulls (black headed and herring) but without even a snipe to look at I soon tired of this so returned home to do some work.

I was just settling down to lunch when Ian Hodgson phoned informing me of a Pallas's warbler on the Cinque Ports golf course and whilst I didn't have any great expectations I was off.

On arriving Ian was still present and told me where the bird had last been seen so Gerald Segelbacher and myself went in search. It soon "showed" but only fleetingly but getting any kind of picture was proving a little challenging. The few times the bird appeared to be in the open it was either partially obscured or facing away:

Another complication was the presence of 4 or 5 goldcrests. Several times I confirmed the id of the Pallas's only for it to have gone before I'd even fired off a shot. In the end I photographed anything that remotely showed after all it's easy enough to differentiate between them..

Eventually Gerald had to go but I stayed and had some reward.

By 3 pm the light was fading fast, the bird was showing increasingly infrequently and it started to rain - it was time to go. I'll try again tomorrow. One final thought. I was there nearly 3 hrs and it didn't call once.

Monday, 12 October 2015

Oodles of Ouzels

The last week or so I have been visiting Langdon Hole looking for ring ouzels and hoping against hope that one will let me get closer than 50+ yards. I had seen some (ones and twos) but on every occasion they had disappeared as soon as I'd found them. Today my luck changed.

I'd started as normal at Kingsdown but it was cold and pretty blowy and only a few chiffs were found amongst the resident tits.

Approaching the Hole from Reach Road I decided to take the footpath along the top of Harbour Field and found 2 ring ouzles immediately. I was looking into the light and they flew off towards the sea and disappeared. I walked toward South Foreland thinking they had gone that way but nothing.
I turned back towards the Hole and as I was coming down the east side of Harbour Field two ouzels flew out of the only bushes there; then a third, a forth and then a fifth. It quite amazing just how difficult they are to see when in bushes. The birds all flew to just below the gate into the Hole (where the path get very steep). I could see 4 of them; the question was how close could I get.

I spent a few minutes watching them and pondering my next move. 4 were in sight but one of them looked strange - it seemed to have white on it's head?

Close up of the shot above

After a while, and having nothing to lose I moved down the path to where it forms a narrow gully and where I was partially hidden by bushes and set up shop hoping they would come to me.
One did - a young female with almost no cresent on her chest.

Another followed clacking away and landed to my left but out of sight. I remained patient.
I was just think wouldn't it be good if one landed on a bush that was only a few yards away and pondering what camera settings would be appropriate when it did!!!!!

Not only was it less than 10 yards away but it was the strange looking bird with white on it's head - I'm glad I'd been fiddling with exposure setting!

After a minute or so the bird flew off to the right but was still within camera range (just):

My fun ended when 3 walkers came by and decided they wanted to look at the sea from where the remaining birds were. The birds flew off into the bottom of the hole....I followed.

It was clear there had been a significant influx because there were around a dozen birds clacking away in the bottom of the Hole.

Again I watched trying to identify a place where I could hide and hope they would come nearer.
I was successful (sort of) in that I found a place and one came and sat on a bush 25 yards or so away for several minutes but it was the only one.

Eventually I gave up and was leaving when Phil Smith showed up. He'd been watching a similar number of birds over the ridge from my group making 20+ birds.

Also seen were several song thrushes, a few chiffs and a few goldcrests. Linnets, yellowhammers and goldfinch (over) were pretty numerous and a pair of stonechats were around. All in all a good morning.

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Yellow-browed warblers

Over the last few days there has been a significant influx of yellow-browed warblers to the Sandwich area. I suspect there are more elsewhere. I've tried to look at my normal haunts in Kingsdown but because these are on the sea front the wind precludes seeing and hearing anything.
At Sandwich the main areas of wood/scrub are set back a little from the sea front so miss the full force of the easterlies with YBWs being found in the gullies, The Elms, and along the Ancient Higway close to the junction with Kings Avenue. In these 3 areas there were probably 7 warblers yesterday and up to 5 today with additional birds being caught in the Whitehouse area by the ringers.

Yesterday my attempts to get a shot of one of these little gems were pretty unsuccessful. I waited around the Kings Avenue area for several hours but whenever one showed it was deep in the scrub, or if it was in the open I couldn't get on it (well I could have if I'd pushed some of the others out of the way). The only shot I managed was when one showed briefly high up in a bird tree:-

Today when I arrived there was only a couple of people around Kings Avenue and one of them left almost immediately leaving just 2 of us waiting - John Ball and myself.
The bird was again keeping low most of the time but came into a partial opening in the scrub a couple of times resulting in some OK shots but where the bird was partially obscured by leaves/stems etc.

John and I  then did some "gardening" clearing away the worse of the offending leaves/stems and leaving us with a narrow opening into the scrub around 2 feet wide.
Whilst we waited a couple of YBWs flew into the scrub and others flew out along with 2 or 3 goldcrests.
Several times a bird came close without staying into the opening but eventually one did (just after John had disappeared for a cup of tea!) but sat on a branch facing away from me!

Not the view of a YBW I wanted!

Eventually my luck changed and one came in and sat for a few seconds looking one way then the next.

The bird then dropped down to within a couple of inches of the ground and worked it's way along the base of the hedge away from me.
At this point half a dozen people turned up so I called it a day. A good day actually!