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

Monday, 8 September 2014

A few recent pics

The new patch continues to produce new birds, 4 GADWALL were new on Wednesday this week when there were 2 GREENSHANK, 2 GREEN SANDS and a COMMON SAND, unfortunately my visit was just 20mins so who knows what else was around. Sunday morning I added MEADOW PIPIT as the autumn the first signs of autumn movement for this bird, there were also 3 YELLOW WAGS, 2 GREEN SANDS, COMMON SAND, 3 EGYPTIAN GEESE, at least 3 KINGFISHERS and loads of CHIFFCHAFF, I tried hard but couldn't find any Pied Flys or anything else different. Also added Sunday was a WATER RAIL, a bit earlier than I would expect at Sissinghurst.
Talking of which a couple of recent visits have produced SAND MARTIN, WHEATEAR plus yesterday HOBBY, YELLOW WAGTAIL and TURTLE DOVE.
Below are a few various pics from recent walks around Kent.
Squirrel in Twisted Hazel

Common Tern

Greylag Geese

Strange Fuschia pic!

Southern Hawker

View from the White Cliffs

Silver Spotted Skipper

Reed Warbler

Monday, 4 August 2014

Pastures new

Finally I have just a few moments to just to say I have moved from Sissinghurst to Boughton Monchelsea. I have managed to find a new patch but it is private and the owners aren't too keen on news coming out about what is there, which I will respect. This does give me quite a dilemma as I enjoy attempting to chronicle what I see. So far it has been very productive with 77 species since July 4th, so I will keep watching, as I think the potential is good for an inland site. I'm hoping to aid Don Taylor, (not that he needs my help :-) ) once we get things sorted in the new house, on his patch some weekends as access for me at the new patch is not as easy at the weekend.
I will do the odd post of any birding/mothing type things I do and I will have to come up with a different title for the blog, so watch this space for sporadic posts!!!!!!!!!!!!
A few random photos taken recently

Small Tortioseshell

Great Crested Grebe

Tree Lichen Beauty from the new garden

Small Ranunculus from the new garden

Monday, 26 May 2014

Back on patch and a photography present :-)

Pictures first for a change :-)


Garden Warbler

An intent looking Little Owl

Large Red Damselfly

Mediterranean Gull
The patch has been neglected over the past couple of weeks, so the list has no doubt suffered, I know I have missed another Red Kite at least! I did manage to add 4 HOUSE MARTINS (82) at the end of a guided walk back on the May 12th. Since coming back from Suffolk, I have managed a couple of walks, a CUCKOO (83) calling early on the 23rd was good, I was starting to wonder if I would get one on the patch this year. On Saturday from the house a couple of MEDITERRANEAN GULLS flew north and seemed to go down nearby. A walk Sunday morning produced 47 species which included KINGFISHER, LITTLE OWL, COAL TIT, a singing REED BUNTING. I also came across a family of NUTHATCHES and found a second nest with young in being fed regularly. The highlight was finally finding SPOTTED FLYCATCHER (84) although just one which is slightly worrying as we normally have at least three pairs here. There were a few Damsels and Dragons around, Beautiful Demoiselle, Blue tailed Damselfly, Large Red and Azure as well as well as a Four Spotted Chaser and several Downy Emeralds. Butterflies were scarce though with  just an Orange Tip, Brimstone and about 4 Common Blues. Back at home and 11 MED GULLS dropped into a field opposite us giving a chance for a couple of pics.

On Friday I attended a photography course that my Wife bought for me for my birthday back in December. The course was on how to take pictures of birds in flight and how to set-up etc.. It was a really enjoyable day and not sure how much I retained from the day but certainly it was good practice and I did use a different set-up to the one I normally use and will give it a go in the coming weeks. Here are a few results from the day......

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Suffolk Secrets....

There aren't really any secrets but the title is the name of the company we booked a little flat in Aldeburgh with, for our stay in the area from the 17th- 22nd May. An early morning walk after a five star Fish and Chip supper on Saturday night proved pretty productive. We walked towards Thorpeness and cut in onto the North Warren reserve. LITTLE EGRETS fed in the shallow lagoons and SEDGE, REED and CETTI'S WARBLERS all sung in the first few hundred yards, best of all was the BEARDED TITS whizzing across the reeds regularly and dropping into to what must have been their nest site. Along the disused railway line NIGHTINGALE, GARDEN WARBLER and BLACKCAP were all heard. The reedbed area was also very busy 4 HOBBY, 1 BITTERN seen flying flying low across reeds and a couple of MARSH HARRIER completed the scene. Later in the day a SANDERLING and a WHIMBREL were seen during a stroll along the beach.

Hobby just about to take an unfortunate dragonfly!!

Our next long walk was the Sailors Path heading from Snape Maltings back towards Aldeburgh, this wasn't quite as long as we had anticipated as an early morning 5 mile run had taken it's toll!!!!!  Despite the aching limbs we walked probably another 5 miles or so. A NIGHTINGALE was heard near Snape Warren where a WOODLARK was found with a beak full of food and a DARTFORD WARBLER called a couple of times otherwise it was fairly quiet but I did enjoy good views of GREEN HAIRSTREAK butterflies something I don't see often and a couple of CUCKOOS were calling on and off. An early evening visit to Hen Reed Beds near Southwold added a second BITTERN in as many days.
Green Hairstreak - Snape Warren

One of my favourite walks was the one we did Tuesday, we parked on Westleton Heath and walked on to Dunwich Heath followed by Minsmere to the Island Mere hide. There is always a lot to see from the large herd of RED DEER to DARTFORD WARBLERS and WOODLARK to AVOCETS, BITTERNS, HARRIERS and HOBBIES not forgetting a few SOUTHERN MARSH ORCHIDS. We missed Adder which I was hoping for and also missed the Purple Heron that appeared later in the day.
Dartford Warbler - Westleton Heath

Woodlark - Dunwich Heath

Sand Martins - nesting near the Minsmere Visitor Centre

The other thing I was really hoping to see was OTTER, so at around 5am Wednesday I walking to Island Mere Hide again and was going to stay there for approximately 3 hours with just Otter in mind. I arrived to find a couple in the hide who had seen Otter at 4.30am!!! this is a familiar story for me and Otters, by 7 am they left with no more sightings, although we had seen BITTERN in flight 7 times including 3 in the air at once and had been continuously serenaded by booming Bitterns, Bearded Tits and Water Rails. I stayed in the hide and at 7.25 a ripple on the left caught my eye then nothing..... until a couple of minutes later when my first OTTER came into view! brilliant!! not fantastic views but that didn't matter.
The last action of the break was another walk around North Warren where a HARRIS HAWK sat on the edge of the marsh and most excitingly a TURTLE DOVE flew through.
One of several Bitterns seen while waiting for Otters

Not exactly sure what this male Marsh Harrier had caught but a hearty meal, possibly a Little Grebe??