Sunday 31 January 2010

New camera and Sandwich bay area

I got a new camera yesterday so took the chance this afternoon to try it out , there had been reports of Great White Egret at Worth near Sandwich and also Bean , Pink Footed and White-Fronted Geese had been seen there to, so my mind was made up and of i set to Sandwich in pursuit of these great birds.

On arrival at the Observatory i was given the info i craved and set of to the desired area to try and find some of these birds , the field the Geese had been seen in  a small pool in it and was totally frozen over ,there was no Geese anywhere to be seen however the field held plenty of Lapwings , Golden Plover and 2 Curlew plus the surrounding fields held 100s of Fieldfare and Redwing which are always good to see.

All of a sudden everything took too the air , there was a raptor being mobbed in the distance by Crows , it was a Common Buzzard which is quite a good sighting here , a little later a Marsh Harrier drifted over quite high .

No Geese or Egret , things were looking quite bad , then my pager went of alerting me to the news of a Tundra Bean Goose showing in a paddock near Walmer castle in Deal which was only about 15 mins away , so of i went and sure enough as soon as i arrived i was looking at the Tundra Bean Goose, i have manged a couple of photos , see below .

Tundra Bean Goose

After having a decent look at the Tundra Bean Goose i then headed back to Sandwich to try and locate the Great White Egret , and as luck would have it after my first scan i located it standing on a bank near a ditch , it was just looking around minding its own business, although distant you could see its yellow bill , long neck and its overall size  was much more prominent then Little Egret, wow not only was this a new bird for my year list it was also a new bird for me at this site .

 I did not add much more to my afternoons birding however these are some of my photos that i took with my new camera , first picture is of a Grey Squirrel , second picture is of some Mallards can anyone spot the female Tufted Duck ??? and the third picture is of course a Moorhen up a tree trying to be a Squirrel ......

Grey Squirrel

Mallard & Tufted Duck


Sunday 24 January 2010

100 up Reculver and Stodmarsh / Grove Ferry

I started the day at Reculver with 2 target species in mind  which were Snow Bunting and Barnacle Goose, overcast , misty and a little bit chilly was the weather , so on arrival i wrapped up warm and headed of towards the towers and straight away i had 25 Dark-Bellied Brent Geese fly over my head, wow what a sight , i carried on along the sea wall adding Common and Black Headed Gull to my days total at the same time dodging cyclist ( do they have to go that fast ? i nearly speared one with my tripod ....  )  and dog walkers who always shout " don't worry it don't bite " yeah rite !

Anyhow abit further along the seawall i scanned across the fields just beyond the oyster farm when i noticed a small number of geese in a field , getting better views through my scope i had connected with one of my target species in the form of 11 Barnacle Geese these superb little black and white geese always impress me so after looking at these for awhile with my spirits high i headed on my journey towards cold harbour along the seawall, still no sign of any Snow Buntings but i had plenty of waders to keep me interested such as Sanderling, Turnstone , Ringed Plover and Grey Plover with plenty of Lapwings constantly flying around.

I checked over the sea and added another 70+ Brent Geese and then i caught sight of 10 Common Scoter flying east towards Birchington ( i think that's east ? )  i carried on abit further and then i finally connected with the Snow Bunting 16 in total flew past me circled a couple of times and then flew high of into the distance i followed them until they went out of sight , wow what stunning birds they are i never tire of seeing them , i spent another hour there just adding Little Egret and even more Brent Geese plus 3 Wigeon on the sea otherwise the sea was very quite , so back to the car quick coffee and sarnie then of to Stodmarsh / Grove ferry.

I started of very well with great views of a Little Owl at its regular tree just outside of Stodmarsh village , then onto the reserve and bumped into Martyn who is a regular birder here and i got abit of an update of what is about and with that info my target birds were : Bittern , Hen Harrier , Siskin , Lesser and Mealy Redpoll ( Mealy would be a new Stour Valley tick for me ) cool i had a plan , Alder woods first for the finch flock then onto the reed hide for possible Bittern , i set of through the woods and could hear distant Siskin calling but i could not pinpoint them having got half way through i located a single Lesser Redpoll preening itself.

 I managed to get a picture of this, but that was it no other birds were with it, i carried on and then back tracked around the other side still no finch flock , i did have 5 Reed Bunting , 2 Great Tits and 3 Blue Tits feeding on the path along with 2 Robins .

Finally i reached the start of the woods again and located the finch flock , really great views of Siskin their were approx 10 of these and about 30 Redpolls were with them, after scanning through i came across 1 Mealy Redpoll showing a broad white greater wing covert and white braces on its mantle , i could not get anything on its rump but its overall appearance was whiter and bulkier compared to the Lesser Redpolls .

 I was soon joined by 3 other birders whom i put onto the Mealy and we all enjoyed good views of these fine birds, i just love the way they feed upside down its really great . so happy with my views i headed of to the reed hide in pursuit of Bittern and after about 30 mins ( not long i know ) i left Bitternless .

I headed of to Grove with the hope of adding the target species that i had missed at Stodmarsh , on reaching " the ramp " at Grove i bumped into another local patch watcher Mark, and we spent the next 2 hours scanning the marshes and came up trumps with  5 Marsh Harriers , 1 ringtail Hen Harrier ( yes ! ) and great flight views of a Bittern (an even bigger yes !) i also saw a male Stonechat sitting on top of a reed mace , 2 fly over Grey Herons and 75 Cormorants coming into roost were almost the last birds i saw , i said almost , on my way to visiting the toilets on the way back i heard then saw 2 Ring-Necked Parakeets flying over which brings my year list up to the 100 and my days birding to a very enjoyable end , great birding and good company too !

Lesser Redpoll


The top picture is of a Lesser Redpoll taken on my first walk through the Alder wood ,the second two pictures are of course of a Robin which kept me company whilst i was checking through the finch flock at the start of the wooded trail .

Saturday 23 January 2010

Harty Marshes and Leysdown

I started of on my journey to Isle of Sheppey with a year tick flying over the Thanet Way in the shape of a Great .S. Woodpecker , good start to the day i thought . On arriving on Sheppey i headed straight for Harty Marshes in the hope of some good raptor watching and hoping to connect with some wild swans and geese.

As i passed Mocketts farm i noticed a large flock of swans in the fields quite close to the road at the bottom of the hill , so i made my way there and set up my scope to scan through and to my delight among 200 + Mutes their was approx 40 Bewick's Swans and as much as i tried after several scans i could not turn any of them in to Whoopers .

I then carried on towards the raptor watch point taking my time checking everything that moved / flew and i soon come across a small flock of pipits on the telegraph wires which turned out to be 26 Meadow Pipits which had 3 Corn Buntings mixed in with them , whilst watching these a party of 7 Red-Legged Partridge run down the road in front of me then took flight across the fields .

Once at the raptor watch point i done several scans for approx an hour and came up with 5 Marsh Harriers ( 1 male , 2 females and 2 juvs ) 2 Kestrels and that was it a little disappointing  , i was hoping to connect with Merlin , Peregrine and S-E Owl but i guess you cant have everything , there's always another day ! I also added 6 Ruff from this site and had approx 50 Golden Plovers fly over.

2 Black Headed Gulls & 1 Oystercatcher

From here i headed to Leysdown to try and catch up on some waders and was soon adding 10 Grey Plover, several Turnstone , 200 + Oystercatchers plus smaller numbers of Redshank, Dunlin and Curlew to my days total, checking through the gulls produced good numbers of Common Gulls mixed in with very large numbers of Black Headed Gulls .

The above picture is of 2 Black-Headed Gulls and an Oystercatcher taken at Leysdown .
I popped into Oare Marshes on the way home again and added Bearded tit, Rock Pipit , Ringed Plover and Little Egret to my year list , plus there was good numbers of the usual ducks and waders you would expect to see there i wont bore you with all the details except i thought 200 + Avocet and 50 + Common Snipe were good totals .

Sunday 17 January 2010

Tale of Two Marshes

I visited RSPB reserve Rainham Marshes yesterday for the first time and had 3 target species which were : Caspian Gull which would be a lifer , Glaucous Gull and Serin which would be 2 very good year ticks .

I made my way to the visitors center and got positive news on the Serin and Glaucous Gull  but no news of any Caspian Gulls, i decided to head off to try and see the Serin first, its been awhile since i have seen one and i set of along the seawall towards the Mound where it had been seen mostly , the weather turned quite nasty on the way there and things looked dodgy wind and driving rain is not the best recipe to see a small passerine !!!  However i continued in my task and had 2 Reed Buntings fly across the path in front of me which were shortly followed by a pair of Pintail, checking over the reserve as i went i soon added 3 Curlew, 50 odd Canada Geese , approx 100 Wigeon and several small flocks of Starling and Chaffinch were flying around in no particular direction.

Having reached the mound still in driving rain and strong wind i was the only birder there ( i wonder why that was............. ) i gave it half an hour and only me and a lonely Blackbird which seemed to be looking at me in a strange way were present so i headed back towards the reserve when i flushed a small finch from the side of the path i noticed two smallish wing bars but didn't get anything on the rump , it also had a notched tail , i did not hear it call although woolly hat and wind in my ears might of been the reason for that, alas sadly it flew away from me and out of sight so it could have been the Serin but i am not 100 % sure so won't count it , of note it was seen again later that afternoon in the same area , perhaps i am being to fussy ???

Having got back to the reserve and making my way to Target Pool where the Glaucous Gull had been seen earlier, my pager went off  informing me of  a Caspian Gull  on Averly pool Rainham marshes , HELP which pool is Averly ?? panic took over and half way around the reserve which was devoid of birders at that moment i remembered i had a map the warden gave me stuffed in my pocket ( Doh ).

Checking the map told me i was on the wrong side of the reserve Damn ( to be honest that was not the first word that came to mind ! ) anyhow i had to go past Target pool to get there , as i arrived at Target pool i asked if the Glaucous Gull was still about and the news was negative it had flown off 20 mins ago , great my day is going really well , then the nice chap said , and i quote " but i do have an adult Caspian Gull in my scope if you want to have a look " OMG i could have kissed him (sorry no confessions there i was just so excited about the Caspian Gull ...) so i gratefully accepted his offer and was soon looking at a superb adult Caspian Gull , what a stunner and all credit to the guys for picking that one out amongst several thousand gulls not sure if i would have been so confident if i was on my own as i have very little experience with Caspian Gulls .

Having had good views of this stunner i set up my scope and decided to check through the gulls myself then after about 20 mins i came across a first winter Caspian Gull roughly the same time as the other birders present, this was much more easily identifiable ( if that's a word ? ) it had a very white head and breast which was quite bulky the mantle was very pale almost appearing white in certain lights , noticeably long black bill the wing coverts were pale brown with even paler edges , it stood up a couple of times showing its long legs, i was much more comfortable and confident with this bird than i was with the adult , i also saw a second 1st winter Caspian Gull abit later on , so after spending 2 hours gull watching i had scored with 1 adult & 2 1st winter Caspain Gulls  .

So very happy with this i made my return journey back to the visitor center adding 10 Snipe , 10 Shelduck and a Sparrowhawk to my Rainham list , What a great reserve and one i will be visiting again .


I popped into Oare briefly on the way home and added 50 Avocets, 500 Dunlin and 20 Brent Geese to my year list , other birds of note here were : Pintail approx 50 , several Snipe and Curlew plus good numbers of Wigeon , Shoveler and Tufted Duck .

Friday 8 January 2010

Kites Galore

Just a short post, whilst travelling along the M40 near Beaconsfield,  i saw not 1 or 2 Red Kites but  7 , its was quite amazing seeing them soar around in the snow  i think its great that they are doing so well and coping with the extremes of our weather , i also saw 3 Common Buzzards and a Sparrowhawk and 2 Kestrels on my journey , plus i added Pied Wagtail and Gbb Gull to my year list ( they all count )

Saturday 2 January 2010

New year starts well !!!!!!!!!!

View from Scott Hide.

Well plans to head off to Dungeness Rspb reserve to start the new year proved to be a really good day out, travelling through snow to get there produced hundreds of both Redwing and Fieldfare between Ashford and Lydd , almost every bush held tons of thrushes , and on the approach road to Dungeness from Lydd i noticed a medium sized raptor sitting in a field so instantly i checked it out and it turned out to be a very obliging Common Buzzard , i reported into the visitors center to find out what was about and the news wasn't overwhelming but not bad either.

So i headed of to the Makepeace hide and straight away i saw hundreds of Wigeon and Teal plus lesser numbers of Gadwall, Mallard, Shoveler ,Tufted and Pochard, i also saw 1 male Pintail , 2 female Goldeneye and 3 male & 3 female Ruddy ducks , so pleased with this i continued my track around the reserve and onto the Scott hide and almost as soon as i sat down and set up my scope i found one of my target birds in the form of an elegant drake Smew, simply stunning , god i wish i had a decent camera my pathetic thing ( camera that is ... ) is useless and couldn't catch a cold let alone a good picture !! Anyhow i watched this wonderful sawbill for quite awhile picking off one or two year ticks as i went such as : Dunnock , Common , Herring and Black-Headed Gull .

My next stop was the Denge Marsh hide where 2 species of  scarce winter grebes had been reported , once again after setting up my scope and doing a rather to quick a scan of the pool all i picked up were Little and Great Crested Grebes which were both year ticks i might add, then after a more controlled scan i eventually came across a smallish black and white looking grebe which of course decided to play hide and seek and dived out of sight straight away,  ( my god cant they hold their breaths for along time ) or at least it seems like that when you want to see them, anyhow it decided to surface and to my delight it was an adult winter Black Necked Grebe  , steep forehead , darkish below the eye being two distinct features, and soon after looking at this bird another adult winter Black-Necked  Grebe appeared, their had been Slavonian Grebe reported here to but alas my luck run out with that one , however other birds of note from here were Marsh Harrier , Green Woodpecker , Bearded Tit several hundred Lapwing, Golden Plover and 3 Kestrels.

So very pleased with this i decided to call into Grove Ferry on the way home .
on entering the reserve i saw A flock of 6 Long Tailed Tits , plus Great Tit , Blue Tit , Goldfinch, Greenfinch and several House Sparrows on the feeders , from " the ramp " it was very quite only 2 Redshank and 100 Greylag Geese were new for the year, i did see Marsh Harrier and another Kestrel for my troubles and after an hour of freezing to death i decided to head home as the light was fading , on the way back to the car i saw a Sparrowhawk and a Woodcock flew overhead plus i  heard a Water Rail which brought the days birding to a very nice end.

The above picture was taken by me and is the view from the Scott hide at Dungeness
and believe it not one of the tiny ducks is a male Smew .