Thursday, 29 October 2020

My Kent October Birding Highlights.......

                                           October 3rd  :  Dungeness Area


Glossy Ibis

First bird we saw going along the track at Galloways on the 3rd October was a very bright looking Yellow Browed Warbler, however  only brief  views were obtained of this really smart leaf warbler.

Common Redstart.

The trapping area held 2 each of Common Redstart & Garden Warbler, plus 25+ Lesser Redpoll & 100+ Siskins overhead, on checking my notes the Siskin is a new species for my Dungeness bird list.

2 Glossy Ibis from the Rspb entrance track was another good bird to see today.

                                                 October 6th  :  Oare Marshes



An undoubted highlight of October was this superb Wryneck seen on the 6th , and new bird for my Oare Marshes bird list, i had  really good views of this superb Woodpecker species on & off for approx 1 hour.


October 14th  :  Dungeness NNR

Red Flanked Bluetail

Another trip to Dungeness NNR with 2 target birds on offer, well for me it was about seeing the Red Flanked Bluetail as it would not only be a new bird for my Dungeness bird list but it is also a stunning bird to see !!!

Lovely Blue tail.

Thankfully the Red Flanked Bluetail showed really well , with fading light and the weather closing in we tried for the Short toed Treecreeper which was seen in the Old Lighthouse garden.

Sadly i never managed to see this bird but having seen 2 Short toed Treecreepers at Dungeness before i wasn't to disappointed and who be after seeing the superb RFB.

Red Flanked Bluetail.

October 16th  :  Oare Marshes

An afternoon visit to Oare Marshes and this time my target bird was Dartford Warbler, a walk out from the car park towards Dans Dock and i was soon enjoying some views of the Dartford Warbler which was keeping close company with 2 Stonechats.

This was a welcome addition to my Oare Marshes bird list.

October 17th  :  Shuart Farm

1st winter Masked Shrike.

I have already done a blog post this month on the Masked Shrike seen at Shuarts farm , however i could not leave it out of my October highlights, a truly remarkable addition to my Kent bird list.

Also seen this day at Chambers wall was a delightful Pallas's Warbler which also showed well at times.

Pallas's Warbler.

October 20th  :  Oare Marshes

American Golden Plover with Golden Plover.

A morning spent at Capel Fleet & Leysdown which resulted in seeing a superb male Hen Harrier over the fields at Capel Fleet plus several Goldcrest & Redwing in the bushes at Leysdown on Sea.

An afternoon visit to Oare marshes was rewarded with superb views of the moulting American Golden Plover  which was roosting with a large number of Golden Plover.

24th October  :  St. Mary's Bay & Capel Fleet

Red Backed Shrike

Having seen lot's of photos of the 1stw Red Backed Shrike online, temptation got the better of me and a trip to St.Mary's Bay on the 24th was the plan.

A long story short , the Red Backed Shrike showed very well indeed and was a very tame bird , the only RBS as tame as this one i have seen before was on Shetland.

Red Backed Shrike.

There was also a showy Shorelark nearby which was keeping company with Meadow Pipits.


An afternoon visit to Capel Fleet was rewarded with distant but good scope views of the Great Grey Shrike which is a new bird for my Sheppy bird list , great to see 25+ Corn Buntings in the bushes here to.

Well that about covers my October Kent bird highlights, let's hope November is just as good !!!



Tuesday, 20 October 2020

Crazy Saturday & Mega Monday Birding

                               October 17th :  Hampshire & Kent

                                            Keyhaven Marshes 


1st winter Wilson's Phalarope.

On Saturday the 17th October we headed to Keyhaven Marshes in Hampshire in the hope of seeing the long staying Wilson's Phalarope.

However approx  1 & half hours into the journey the MEGA alert went of informing us that an Eastern Rufous Bush Chat had been found at Stiffkey campsite in Norfolk.

Our heads were spinning at this point , do we divert to Norfolk or carry onto Hampshire, we decided to carry on to Hampshire for fear of the huge crowds (covid-19 being the real fear) which would no doubt descend on Stiffkey .

Digi scoped Wilson's Phalarope.

Having made the decision we kept on going and just as we reached Keyhaven Marshes the MEGA alert went off again , the message read : MASKED SHRIKE Shuart Kent !!!!!

Now this was becoming a joke , a first for Kent no more then 25 mins from my home and i am in Hampshire !!!!!!

Wilson's Phalarope.

Well as you can see we had some fantastic views of the Wilson's Phalarope and having now seen 5 of these superb waders i have to say this is the best & closest views i have ever had of one.

We spent an hour watching this superb bird in all it's glory , however we decided that it was time to head full speed to Shuart in Kent for the Masked Shrike !!

Shuart Farm    Kent

1st winter Masked Shrike.

So after a 3 hour long drive from Hampshire and hearing from a couple of birding friends telling us how great the views of the Masked Shrike are (not feeling gripped at all) we finally joined the assembled birders in the field and had some wonderful views of the 1st winter Masked Shrike , 

A really great find by dedicated 'patch watcher' Derek Smith and many thanks for putting the news out for us all to enjoy.

Cracking looking bird.

The  Masked Shrike is a first record for Kent and only the 5th record for Britain, we watched this bird on & off for 1hr & 30 mins before we left to try our luck at Chambers Wall.

We reached Chambers Wall which was less then 10 mins away and walked along the concrete track towards the fisherman's car park hearing Lesser Redpoll & Redwing on route , we no sooner arrived at the car park when we saw the delightful Pallas's Warbler buzzing around with several Goldcrests.

Pallas's Warbler.

That was one crazy Saturday but a fantastic day with great birds.

October 20th :  Stiffkey Campsite  

Eastern Rufous Bush Chat

I finally gave into temptation and teamed up with RR & PE and headed to Stiffkey in Norfolk , we decided to wait on news before we set of and sure enough positive news came through at approx 9.45am Monday morning.

An uneventful journey (apart from some nail biting & plenty of butterflies in the stomach) saw us  arrive on site at 1.25pm, a quick dash around to the stubble field and after a short wait the superb  EASTERN RUFOUS BUSH CHAT showed briefly in flight, the pale overall plumage was clear to see as was the striking rufous tail.

Record shot.

We had to wait a bit longer to get the view we all craved for and eventually the Rufous Bush Chat once again flew up and this time landed out in the open in a hawthorn bush and promptly started to pump it's glorious tail .

The best views came after another period of time without any sign of it, it flew up into a dead tree where i had superb scope views for over a minute.

It was good to see social distancing was generally being observed. 

My photos are only record shots and are all Digi scoped , i just spent most of my time enjoying watching this bird, my 2nd lifer of the year and what a bird it is to !!!!

Eastern Rufous Bush Chat.

Tuesday, 6 October 2020

Siberian Thrush & Masked Shrike .......

4th October  2020 ;  Kilminning  Fife

Siberian Thrush 1st winter ♀ Photo by Oli Mockridge.

With no autumn holiday this year due to covid-19 my chance's of seeing any new birds this year were quite slim , however the Siberian Thrush at Kilminning in Fife was being seen most days since it's discovery and would be a new bird for me .

Plans were put into place with RR to leave Saturday evening if the Siberian Thrush was seen during that day.

We reached the car park at Kilminning at approx 8.05am Sunday morning after driving through the night, the local roads were flooded in places which meant there was a great chance the bird would still be there with all the overnight rain (we hoped anyway, birders logic...).

As we were setting up our gear the already assembled birders had a glimpse and then someone said they had got it, well i saw a dark thrush fly but was it the Sib Thrush ?? probably  but not tickable on those views.

Evenyually after 3 more brief sightings which i missed everytime the holy grail 1st winter female Siberian Thrush gave herself up to her adoring crowd , thanks to RR who let me look through his scope i could finally add Siberian Thrush to my UK bird list.

Siberian Thrush Photo by Oli Mockridge.

Other birds seen were  Common Rosefinch , Yellow Browed Warbler, Brambling & Barnacle Geese (lots).

There were plenty of  Redwing, Blackbird & Song Thrush which kept us entertained, i never managed a photo of the Siberian Thrush however Oli Mockridge managed to get a couple and has kindly let me use them on my blog, Thanks Oli.

4th October 2020 :  Hartlepool Headland

Masked Shrike Photo taken at Spurn in 2014.

We decided to head to Hartlepool headland on the way home  and try to see the Masked Shrike as this would be a new species for RR and a welcome year tick for myself, 

We got to the site quite late in the day but managed a really great flight view of the Masked Shrike and another perched view before it flew out of sight , sadly yet again i failed with the camera on this occasion.

Overall a very successful trip and both target birds achieved, at the same time keeping social distancing at the premium. 


Monday, 28 September 2020

Seawatching Totals from Oare Marshes & Hampton Pier over the weekend



Great Skua from previous trip in 2018.

A long weekend of Seawatching at both Oare Marshes and Hampton Pier at various times and days was my schedule this weekend , here are my personal highlight  totals :

                                              24th September : Oare Marshes

                                              to 13.45 pm

                                      Early rain clearing on a strong NW wind

POMARINE SKUA       1 Juv      flew into Faversham creek

                               (New bird for my Oare Marshes bird list)

Great Skua     6+

Arctic Skua    1 Dark Phase

Arctic Tern     2+

Sandwich Tern  35+

Pintail  5+

Teal  100+

Eider  3  on sea near Castle Coote

Med Gull  1 Adult

                                                25th September  ;  Oare Marshes

                                                           7.45am to 10.20am

                                                              Strong NW wind

Great Skua  7+

Arctic Skua  1

Arctic Tern  1 juv

Sandwich Tern  5+

Wigeon  5+

Teal  5+

Hen Harrier  1 'Ringtail'     Flew up Faversham Creek then over East flood.

Merlin  1  over Swale

Marsh Harrier  2 over Swale

Egyptian Goose  6 flew over Swale towards Nagden

                                           25th September :  Hampton Pier

                                                   12.11pm to 17.35pm

                                                  Strong NNW wind

SOOTY SHEARWATER     1  East  picked up first by SC ,  good but distant views.

Manx Shearwater    4 west

LONG TAILED SKUA  1 juv west    in with a group of 4 Arctic Skuas

Arctic Skua  7+ west

Great Skua  15+  west

Black throated Diver 1 west       close in,  in partial summer plumage

Red Throated Diver   1 west

Sandwich Tern  15+ west

Kittiwake  1 adult west

Gannet      100+         mostly west & mostly juv birds

Common Scoter  6 east

Teal  5+  west

Brent Goose 1 west

Common Snipe  2 west

Golden Plover  20+ west

Probable Leach's Petrel  1 west. 

Really distant views of a Petrel species (as far out as the wind turbines)  and only got onto the bird late, flight pattern & size looked good, at that range can't think what else it could be ??

                    27th September :  Hampton Pier   (should have gone to Oare !!!) 

                                                       7am  to 9.30am

                                                    Strong NNW wind

Great Skua  2+  west

Arctic Skua  1   west

Fulmar    1         west

Gannet   50+      west

Little Gull  1 adult west    close in  only seen by AE.

Common Scoter  10+  west & east

Wigeon  25+  west

Teal  2+ west

Brent Goose  15+  west

Red Throated Diver  2 east

Fulmar from a previous trip in 2018.

Monday, 14 September 2020

Top Kent Birding ......

                                       September  1st   : Oare Marshes


                      American Golden Plover photo by AE

On the 1st September i joined AE at Oare marshes in the afternoon to check the waders on a rising tide, we had already seen 6 juv Curlew Sandpipers & 1 juv Little Stint amongst 100's of waders , they were all flushed by a Common Buzzard and we noticed  a small flock of  approx 20+ European Golden Plovers flying around the East flood with 100's of other waders .

AE soon went through them and picked out the American Golden Plover which was a really great find , we believe this is a returning bird and was first seen in 2018 , but this date is the earliest it's been recorded at Oare Marshes , (Oct 2018 & 7th Sept 2019).


Grey Underwing seen in flight, Photo by AE.                                    

Broad white supercilium & dark cap obvious at rest. 

Many thanks to AE for the use of his photos and once again congratulations on a great find.

                            September 6th :  Swalecliffe  

So on a  Sunday morning at approx 7am i was stood by the football pitch at Swalecliffe, joined by AE, SA & 2 other birders i don't know , we waited patiently in the hope the Wryneck would appear , anyhow at about 8.05am one of the birders i don't know called us all over and thankfully the Wryneck put on a wonderful show.



Wryneck looking for Ants.  

Many thanks to the guys who birdwatch this area ie : GB , AT  et all, they do a great job watching this site in difficult circumstances (if you been to the site you know what i mean), but they always share there finds with everyone which i for one certainly appreciate . 

           September 6th  :  My Garden     

After the excitement of seeing the Wryneck at Swalecliffe i went home and spent an hour or so in my back garden and was delighted to see & hear  10+ Siskin fly over and they become the 60th bird species seen in or from my garden.

September 10th :  Worth Marshes

On Thursday 10th i paid a visit to Worth marshes in the afternoon and had some really great views of the 2 juv Pectoral Sandpipers which have been visiting a small pool by the Great Wood, here are a small selection of photos i took (all digi scoped).

Both Pectoral Sandpipers together.

Pectoral Sandpiper with a Ruff.

Pectoral Sandpiper.

Many thanks to Andrew.L. who found these superb birds plus gave me some onsite directions, much appreciated.



Monday, 31 August 2020

Seawatching at Oare Marshes

                                     Saturday 29th August  :   8.15am - 11.25am  


Juvenile Long Tailed Skua  Photo by Dominic Mitchell.

On Saturday the 29th i headed to Oare Marshes to do a seawatch as strong NNW winds were forecast , already present in the hide were MW,RR,DM,Y & another birder i can't remember their name (sorry about that) , i joined AE & DS outside of the hide.

Here are my personal totals :

LONG TAILED SKUA        2 Juvs     New bird for my Kent & Oare Marsh bird list.

GREAT SKUA                     65+

ARCTIC SKUA                   90+

FULMAR                              3+          New bird for my Oare Marsh bird list.

GANNET                             200+

BLACK TERN                     4

ARCTIC TERN                    8

COMMON TERN                20+

SANDWICH TERN             8+

LITTLE GULL                     2 Adults

KITTIWAKE                        2+

EIDER                                  1 imm

TEAL                                    4

GUILLEMOT                      1  on Swale

MERLIN                               1  over Swale

COMMON SWIFT              1  over Castle Coote

Really great seawatch in good company, Long tailed Skua being a particular highlight especially the first bird which appeared out of nowhere in front of the hide. 

Dominic Mitchell manged to get a very good photo and allowed me to use it on my blog, many thanks Dominic.

                                        Sunday 30th August  :   7.50am - 10.45am

Great Skua.

After yesterdays sea bird spectacular another visit to Oare marshes beckoned this morning as the NNW-N wind was still strong and high hopes of the continued Skua passage were anticipated .

Needless to say there were quite a few more birders here than Saturday when there was only 8 of us, and the sheer numbers of  Skuas were mind blowing.

Here are my personal totals :


LONG TAILED SKUA              7 juvs

GREAT SKUA                            65+

ARCTIC SKUA                          175+

SABINE'S GULL                       1 Adult       New bird for my Oare Marsh bird list.

KITTIWAKE                             3+

ARCTIC TERN                         1

BLACK TERN                           1

COMMON TERN                     20+

SANDWICH TERN                   5+

EIDER                                         2 imm's    near Castle Coote

PINTAIL                                     11

WIGEON                                    10+

COMMON SANDPIPER          4    in front of hide.

RAVEN                                        2   over Swale.

Once again a truly remarkable sea bird passage , i have never seen so many Skuas, the reported actual total of Arctic Skuas for the entire day was 500 birds !!!!

It was good to see and catch up with so many Kent birders today which makes the whole experience more rewarding.


Arctic & Long Tailed Skua.