Sunday, 7 February 2016

A quick dash to Sheppey

I had a couple of hours spare today so decided that now Sheppey is less than half an hour away it was long overdue a visit to see if the SHORE LARK was still around. After a brief encounter with a smart SANDERLING, a group of three birders approached with the same goal in mind, what was nice is that I found they lived very close to me so hopefully it would be good catch up with them around Boughton Monchelsea, so Barry if you are reading this hope to see you again. One of the group quickly found the Shore Lark as it made it's way towards a group of fishermen it gave brilliant views and was happy to pose for photos until it ran out of beach to explore, when it flew off not too far to start again.
Camouflaged Sanderling

Great views of this Shore Lark

With limited time it was either head to the local patch or take a quick look along the Elmley entrance track, I decided on the latter. As ever birding from the car afforded great views of the many birds spread along the track, from a distant PEREGRINE hunkering low to the ground, to splashing STARLINGS throwing water everywhere. There were good numbers of BLACK TAILED GODWIT, GOLDEN PLOVER, CURLEW and RUFF as well as 2 BUZZARD and at least 5 MARSH HARRIER. As I left a LITTLE EGRET hunted in a pool close to the track, a gust of wind produced a chance to see what Little Egrets would look like with hair gel!!!!!



Stylish Little Egret
Starlings making a splash!!

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Christmas Break Birding

With a few days off and some good weather, a couple of days birding were long overdue. Stephen was free, so yesterday (29th) we headed to Norfolk for some general birding taking in the PALLID HARRIER at Flitcham, which showed very well and was a great start to the day, here we also saw BARN OWL, GREY PARTRIDGE and a fair number of PINK FOOTED GEESE flying over. While here a couple BRAMBLING buzzed as they also flew over, add to that several HARES, ROE DEER and an earlier MUNTJAC completing the scene it was a very productive first stop.
A short drive to Choseley via a shop to pick-up my missing traditional Scotch Egg, we were soon looking for ROUGH LEGGED BUZZARDS. These proved more difficult and a couple of distant short views in an hour or more was all we could muster, still the light was good so weren't disappointed. Where to go next was the question, after a quick stop at Burnham Overy and a quicker drive round the fully rammed car park at Titchwell we headed for a quieter walk at Burnham Norton where we had 5 Goose species plus a few LITTLE EGRETS as well as nice fly-by MARSH HARRIER. Holkham was next and a small lay-by looking north provided a great vantage point to watch the thousands of PINK FEET, several COMMON BUZZARDS (including one particularly light individual), MARSH HARRIERS and a  BARN OWL, no. 2 of the day. There was no sign the Red Rumped Swallow but the GREAT WHITE EGRET flew across the marsh just before we left. Driving to Cley we saw another 3 BARN OWLS, including 2 together just beyond Holkham. At Cley it was a bit too late to pick out the Black Brant but we enjoyed the spectacle as all the Brents and Pink Feet lifted off to head out to roost towards Blakeney Point, a great day out and great to catch-up with Stephen and reminisce about our birding over the years, including a magical morning on a snowy mountain in Poland watching Pygmy Owl and Three Toed Woodpecker............I can see them now as clear as anything :-)

So to today, strong southerly winds forecast, I was a bit late getting up but got to Dunge for around 9am GANNETS, GUILLEMOTS and KITTIWAKES were streaming down channel, many only just off shore giving great views. I was hoping for Sooty Shearwater as a few had been reported on previous days, the shout did come up twice while I was there but these were very distant and I didn't catch-up with them. There was plenty more to keep the attention though, the first winter CASPIAN GULL was seen several times and on the sea RED THROATED DIVERS, several BONXIES a single ARCTIC SKUA, SANDWICH TERN, plus a handful of RAZORBILLS all headed the same way. Trying to even things up were goods numbers of BRENT GEESE all heading up channel several hundred were seen this morning. Other birds here were SHELDUCK, FULMAR and TURNSTONE on the beach. A quick stop at the reserve added the LONG EARED OWL, almost hidden from view, 2 GREAT WHITE EGRETS and good numbers of GOLDENEYE. Driving back across the marsh didn't produce the hoped for Bewick's Swans just a couple of large flocks of FIELDFARE. Finally I dropped into the local patch which was quiet with just a single Snipe, Chiffchaff and Kingfisher.

pics from the last couple of days no particular order!!!
One of many Gannets today

Guillemot and an unseasonal Arctic Skua

Great White Egret - Dungeness

Pallid Harrier - Flitcham

View from Burnham Norton walk

Marsh Harrier

Barn Owl
Just a few Pink Footed Geese

Barn Owl

Sunday, 10 May 2015

A bit of Local birding

After a couple of weeks of inactivity, I enjoyed a nice local walk. The new patch hit 100 species today, a little later than I hoped for but still a nice mark to reach, this year so far the total is 87 with several common species missing.
There were good numbers of SWIFT, SWALLOW and HOUSE MARTIN around the area. Raptors were in good supply with at least 6 BUZZARDS, 1 KESTREL, 2 SPARROWHAWKS, 1 PEREGRINE and a HONEY BUZZARD! Other birds of note were 2 EGYPTIAN GEESE, several TUFTED DUCK, KINGFISHER, LITTLE OWL a couple of CUCKOOS, LITTLE RINGED PLOVER and a BLACK TAILED GODWIT! Some really nice local birds, add to that families of GREAT CRESTED GREBES, LAPWING and MUTE SWAN, it was a very enjoyable couple of hours.

A surprise find today

Young Lapwing

Distant Honey Buzzard

Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Suddenly some activity!

With the new patch being 'unreportable', things to put on here have been a bit scarce to say the least! A couple of visits back to Sissinghurst have yielded the usual suspects which included a couple of flyover SISKIN a week or so ago, a bird that I haven't seen mentioned much this winter and a wintering BLACKCAP in the garden of our house Boughton Monchelsea has been nice.
Anyway to the activity on the 28th Dec I headed to Chilham to look for the GREAT GREY SHRIKE. It was in it's favourite bush by the  when I arrived around 8am and stayed in view moving to the hedgerow by the playing field for most of my time there, eventually I left around 11.30 having thoroughly enjoyed my few hours watching the bird. It was generally not close enough for any meaningful photos but when it was hunting it did come a little closer on one occasion.
Monday 29th, I picked up Stephen and we headed to Pett Level, the LESSER YELLOWLEGS was soon located but distant and among the Greylags there were about 7 WHITE FRONTED GEESE. A walk round Castle Water at Rye was very pleasant, at least 3 MARSH HARRIERS were very active a SMEW was in amongst good numbers duck which also included a few PINTAIL. Stephen picked out a GREAT WHITE EGRET from the viewing ramp in with some sheep and a couple of LITTLE EGRETS. Next stop was Scotney gravel pit, we couldn't find the Scaup but did find the 2 BLACK NECKED GREBES at the far side of the pit. Soon we were along the Dengemarsh Road watching the long staying CATTLE EGRETS, a few photos later and we checked in to the RSPB reserve, here we added GOOSANDER, more SMEW another GREAT WHITE EGRET and BLACK NECKED GREBE. A search across the marsh proved fruitless for Bean Geese and Bewick's Swans but it was as I always say great to be out on such crisp clear winters day.
Finally the 30th saw me on the new patch nothing out of the ordinary was noted but I had a slight mission that I wanted to get a half decent KINGFISHER pic having been watching the area nearly 6 months I had a spot in mind to set myself down for a while, the results are below. After getting a few pics news of a Little Bustard on East Guldeford levels came through and I was soon out with Stephen again searching the marshes a 6 mile walk and 3 hours or so later we admitted defeat, highlight on the walk was probably the 480 GOLDEN PLOVER near the wind farm and the odd MARSH HARRIER. Hopefully someone will have better luck in the coming days.

Thursday, 30 October 2014

An unexpected day out 25/10

Waking early Saturday and checking that there weren't any pressing chores to do!, had me thinking where could I go, Yellow Billed Cuckoo? Surf Scoter.. Norfolk??? I'm not as adventurous as I used to be so settled for a day on Sheppey, always a favourite of mine.
Arriving at the NNR reserve at around 7.15am, the gate was locked but the sign said open at 7am I decided to climb the stile and walk a 100yds down the track and watch the sunrise, whilst waiting for the reserve to open, I was kept company by a couple of REED BUNTINGS and a STONECHAT. A KINGFISHER called several times and my first BRAMBLING of the autumn flew over calling and heading south-west. An early Buzzard drifted through the mist and a Fox was very active hunting in the long grass. The gates eventually opened at 8am by which time I had racked up nearly 30 species.
Along the entrance track more Stonechats were seen plus at least 6 MARSH HARRIERS. Several people were looking for the Long Eared Owl/s in the orchard but it or they were not roosting in sight. From the screen on the bank a flock of AVOCET were added and further along the track I heard the 'ping ping' of BEARDED TITS which drew my attention, and a nice male showed well with others moving around in the background.
Before heading towards the hides a brief stop and chat with another birder, who had just had a WHEATEAR in the fields, this prompted a quick scan which found 2 birds, one of my latest sightings. A hundred plus GOLDEN PLOVER dropped into the fields while I was here, another the first of the autumn for me.
I then did something I don't remember doing before, I walked to Spit End, as the tide was coming in, there were plenty of waders and several Marsh Harriers to be seen, the highlight though was a PEREGRINE taking a wader from the many gathered at the waters edge, may not have been a highlight for the wader though! On the long hike back I stopped in South Hide where there was not a single wader to be seen despite the tide being a fair way in.
Next stop was a short drive and a brief look at the sea at Leysdown not much doing apart from the odd TURNSTONE, so on to the raptor watchpoint along the road from Capel Fleet, I sat and had a quick coffee listening to Liverpool struggle against Hull, when two birds flew by which turned out to be a Marsh Harrier chasing a SHORT EARED OWL, I could just watch these birds for hours, I parked at the edge of one of  larger passing spaces and waited the bird came passed on a number occasions in lovely light, I can never get exactly what I am after but below are some of the images I got, probably as good as I have had of these great birds so far. The final highlight was a ring tail HEN HARRIER that a couple of guys had been watching which I picked out flying next to the SEO, which had moved closer to Capel Fleet, a really enjoyable day out, always better when unexpected :-)

Male Bearded Tit


Short-Eared Owl - overload

Sunday, 5 October 2014

A Week off work and to date

With nothing planned I wasn't sure what the week would bring but a couple of local walks and a couple of days each in Devon and Hampshire were pretty pleasant. Good weather nice scenery and a few birds nothing spectacular just some nice stuff during the w/c 22nd Sept.
The local walks were one around Hollingbourne which produced 2 WHINCHAT, 2 STONECHAT and 2 HOBBY, consistent at least also loads of SWALLOWS, HOUSE MARTINS and MEADOW PIPITS. Then a second walk a little further from home but just into East Sussex at Rye Harbour was fairly quiet although CURLEW SANDPIPER was nice and 3 RUFF dropped in. A small flock of Brent Geese were on the flooded beach with several LITTLE GREBE diving around them.
An early start on the 24th saw us in Devon for 9am not much doing GREY WAGTAIL at Cockington was the highlight, we then headed to Berry Head for some reason the Gyrfalcon I've seen a picture of many times over the years wasn't there! not to worry a WALL BROWN butterfly and a pod of about 8 COMMON DOLPHIN were enough to keep me entertained as was a call that I'm pretty sure was Cirl Bunting that I heard as I got out of the car. Again plenty of Pipits, Swallows and Martins were around and a few CHIFFCHAFFS. Onto Becky Falls and the first DIPPER of the trip plus a HOBBY, next stop was the hotel in the middle of nowhere at a place called Portsmouth Arms where the Northcote Manor Hotel was set in lovely grounds with views to Exmoor from the croquet lawn! The next day we walked A bit of the river Lyn with more DIPPERS, GREY WAGTAIL, BUZZARDS and RAVEN. The way back to Lynmouth along the coastal path we found several STONECHAT and a fine PEREGRINE sitting resting on the rocks. The last morning in Devon we walked near Saunton Sands, I was surprised to find 4 DARTFORD WARBLERS on the peninsula above the Saunton Sands Hotel.
After the walk a 3 hour drive to the New Forest was uneventful and we were ready to explore a bit more the following morning. A walk the hotel recommended to us which was very disappointing as I hadn't realised it actually took us out of the forest, which was surprising with all that forest they advertised as being through their garden and straight into it!
A second walk in the afternoon, this time of our own choosing was more productive, a few DARTFORD WARBLERS again, plus CROSSBILL many SISKIN, loads of SWALLOWS, MARTINS and PIPITS still. A group of FALLOW DEER were the first I've seen for several years. The last day away we headed for Acres Down here we had STONECHAT, BUZZARD (6+), WOODLARK and best of all GOSHAWK, we saw 2 and apparently they are doing quite well the first was very distant and the second a silhouette much closer but even so still great to see.
Becky Falls



Small Copper


Saunton Sands - Devon

Acres Down - New Forest

So holiday forgotten and a busy week at work, the new patch got neglected. A short visit Saturday the 4th didn't produce much a COMMON SANDPIPER was still around the GREYLAG GOOSE flock was up to maybe 150 or so birds a couple of EGYPTIAN GEESE were also around and a few CHIFFCHAFFS called. Also there were 4 TEAL and a female TUFTED DUCK.
This morning a GREEN SANDPIPER replaced the Common and several KINGFISHERS hovered and whizzed around, 20 LAPWINGS flew south and a flock of 12 TEAL flew east. The highlight came when I heard a familiar call I looked up and a BEARDED TIT flew over it went down in some reeds not far away, I was lucky to see it again and get a couple of record shots before it continued on its way, a brilliant surprise and hopefully not the last, the patch moves to 91 species since 4th July.

Bearded Tit - new to patch today

Bearded Tit again