Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Dungeness 23rd December 2011

With Christmas fast approaching and the end of the year nigh I went with Stephen to Dungeness on the 23rd hoping to get a few extra  year ticks before it was too late and despite recent rain and weather reports of cloud with showers it was a nice bright sunny day with little wind.
We started off at the ARC pit; parking up we were greeted by a small flock of Tree Sparrows, we moved on to the hide and were surprised to find it empty. There was a lot going on with Lapwing covering most of the islands, whilst plenty of Tufted Duck, Gadwall, Coot, Widgeon and Teal were in the water, among them was a single Goldeneye. Some Mute Swans flew in and amongst them was a solitary Bewick’s Swan, whilst on the far bank a Great White Egret was chased off by a Heron. It flew to our side of the lake, but disappeared into the reeds.
Great White Egret - Canon 400D + 100-400mm Lens
Gulls were also in abundance, mainly Great Black Backed and Herring Gulls whilst closer to us on our right a Cetti’s Warbler called and made a couple of brief appearances. A flock of Long Tailed Tits with a few Blue Tits in their midst were to our left, a Robin also made an appearance as did a Chiffchaff and a Wren.
Chiffchaff - Canon 400D + 100-400mm Lens
The final sighting at the ARC was a Long Tailed Duck, it was about as far from us as you could get from us and still be seen with a telescope next to the far bank, an excellent start to the day. As we left the hide Stephen showed me the short walk nearby which was fairly quiet except for a Great Spotted Woodpecker clinging to the top of a tree posing very nicely – if it wasn’t for all the twigs.

Great Spotted Woodpecker - Canon 400D + 100-400mm Lens
At the reserve proper we decided to walk clockwise round, taking in Firth, Makepeace and Scott hides, however the sun was to the South dazzling us for over half the lake and making it impossible to identify anything other than by silhouette. There were more Coots and Cormorants plus a fantastic amount of Shovelers to be seen here. From the last hide where the sun effects were not as bad we could also pick out some Pintails which had been hidden behind one of the islands. Pochard, Garganey, Wigeon and Tufted were also present.
Christmas Dell hide had very little on show, a Great Crested Grebe, some Greylag Geese, a couple of Tufted Duck and a pair of Mallards who were courting, not only this but after a short courtship display, they mated. Egg laying in January? According to a couple of dodgy domestic duck sites I have looked at it is unlikely,  mating does go on throughout the year with fertilized egg production only occurring as a result as expected in spring. I am on the search for more learned sources.
Robin ay ARC - Canon 400D + 100-400mm Lens
Denge Marsh hide gave us fantastic views of Marsh Harriers. At one point there was a pair working their way southwards, whilst at the same time another single Marsh Harrier stayed over to the North, this latter eventually sat on a post opposite the hide, remaining there about 10 minutes, sadly my autofocus could not lock-on and all my photos of him came out fuzzy. I checked the pylons and wires for smaller raptors, but found only Starlings and Wood Pigeons. From the hide we saw quite a lot of Dabchicks, one of which was noticeably smaller than the others; this was also noticed by a passing Magpie which made an attempt to grab at it as it flew over. Its small size and the fact it seemed to sit lower in the water led us to believe we may have been looking at something else, but a little book searching left us with the conclusion that it was just a small dabchick. Black Headed Gulls were in the pool, a Little Egret was across hunting across the other side and we also managed to pick out a few Reed Buntings among the reeds on the far bank; then a fellow watcher in the hide with us spotted a Kingfisher sat on an ideal perch in a break in the reeds to the North.
Coot - Canon 400D + 100-400mm Lens
In our travels between the hides we had seen Blackbirds, a flock of about 10 Great Tits, Carrion Crows, a Chaffinch, Green Woodpecker(s) (several sightings),  Shelduck were in small numbers on a couple of the lakes, and we saw Lesser Black Backed Gulls but I cannot remember where though it was probably at the ARC among all the other Gulls, which is where Stephen also saw a Redshank missed by me due to  all the Lapwings being spooked as soon as he saw it and everything rose into the air, it was fascinating to watch the swirling mass of birds, but we never saw the Redshank again.
Reed Bunting on feeder at Visitor Centre - Canon 400D + 100-400mm Lens
We left Dungeness to go to Littlestone to see the Short Eared Owls, checking the back of the ARC as we went, the only new sighting was a Black Tailed Godwit – which Stephen missed, whilst nearer to Littlestone we saw 3 Brent Geese fly over. We arrived just before dusk, but had missed the Owls, apparently they had been out most of the day and dusk was now too late to see them. However soon after parking up a Peregrine Falcon flew past us, his mask clearly visible through the binoculars. We did see loads of Curlews on the beach with some Oystercatchers and Godwits which Stephen identified as Bar-Tailed, also a friendly Pied Wagtail paid us a visit. It was a highly successful day with 53 different species (individually 52 each), topped off with clear sightings of the Great White Egret, Great Spotted Woodpecker and the Peregrine Falcon. We had lovely weather and met some lovely people in our travels.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Chatham Docks

Living in Chatham I took the opportunity on Sunday morning to go with Wendy to the Outlet Centre and walk down to the Marina and Basin No 2 hoping to catch the Long Tailed Duck that has been there for the last few days. I arrived at and the sun was shining brightly. The marina held 3 Little Grebes which were spending more time under water than on top, a few Herring Gulls sat on the rails and several Black headed Gulls buzzed us, I presume looking for handouts – they were disappointed; a Pied Wagtail was also bobbing about on the open footpaths. We crossed the road to Basin No 2 and my luck was in, the Long Tailed Duck was there in full view preening in bright sunshine not 20 feet away. The following are just a few of the photos I took with a borrowed Canon 20D with my 100-400mm Lens attached. I could have spent all day there, but after an hour Wendy wanted to go shopping, that was why we had gone to the Outlet Centre after all, wasn’t it?.


Last week I was lucky enough after a lull of a month to go out walking 4 times and 2 of those specifically for birding. A great time was had on each occasion. Each report will sadly be short but will contain a full sighting list. Unfortunately due to camera problems (mine is currently in Burton-on-Trent) my pictures are substandard, apologies for that. This is the last of the 4 reports, a walk with Alan and Wendy at Reculver on 19/11/2011

Kestrel - Olympus SP590UZ
We walked up to the Towers where some Rock Pipits were feeding with some Pied Wagtails on the sea wall, moving down to the Oyster Farm a Kestrel was sat on some metal work, but soon flew off. There was some life in the Oyster Farm, but it remained hidden, unlike the hundreds of Brent Geese that were in the fields behind. Cormorants occasionally flew over and there were plenty of Gulls at sea. I did spot something small and fast over the sea (auk like), but it landed out of sight before I could identify it. A couple of Shelduck were also well out at sea, whilst a young Mute Swan swam along nearer to shore.
Stonechat - Olympus SP590UZ
Past the Oyster Farm a small group of Stonechats were flying about, they hardly stopped for a moment, I only got one picture in focus; a Meadow Pipit also showed for a moment before flying off. In the distant fields a couple of Little Egrets flew around, whilst Oystercatchers and Redshanks occasionally flew up briefly from the shallows of sunken rivers. As we neared where the Snow Buntings had been seen a Grey Wagtail flew past, sadly no Snow Buntings. A small flock of Linnets were on the embankment of the sunken pond and some Redshank were in it, but little else seen.
Brent Geese - Olympus SP590UZ

Brent Geese - Courtesy of Alan

Brent Geese - courtesy of Alan
We walked back, I decided to walk on the shingle for a bit and saw 3 Turnstone coming towards me along the shore, they did not see me and passed about 6 feet away, it was a great sensation being that close hearing the noise they made as they hunted among the stones.
Turnstone - Olympus SP590UZ
Although the bird list was short we were treated to a terrific sunset. We returned to the Towers where I was hoping to see one of the Little Owls, however a Kestrel had the caravan rooftops to itself and although dusk had fallen no owls were seen. Also seen on this trip were Carrion Crows, Collared Doves, Black headed Gulls, Herring Gulls, Magpies and a Robin.
Sunset over the fields at Reculver - Olympus SP590UZ

Stodmarsh NNR

Last week I was lucky enough after a lull of a month to go out walking 4 times and 2 of those specifically for birding. A great time was had on each occasion. Each report will sadly be short but will contain a full sighting list. This is the third of the 4 reports, a day at Stodmarsh with Stephen on 18/11/2011 .

Sadly there are no pictures with this post, it was a lovely day, I didn’t even put a coat on until 2.45pm, but all birds were too far away or skittish for photography.

Our first port of call was the Reedbed Hide, sadly though all activity was in the far distance which was soon to be seen far closer from the footpath which turned out to be quite active, first off a couple of Cetti’s Warblers were heard from the nearby reeds, then a small russet bullet flew between two sets of reeds, one of the singing Cetti’s. Then we overlooked the lake from which large flocks of Teal, Tufted Duck and Shovelers could be seen, interspersed among them were some Pochards, Mallards and Gadwalls and a couple of Great Crested Grebes.

Further along the path we could see across to the far side where Cormorants were sat in the trees, there were some Mute Swans and a couple of Heron by the bank. A solitary goose behind the island remained asleep and unidentified, though its size suggested Canada Goose (we did not count it); we also thought we had a Scaup among the Tufties and were checking the books frantically for verification features when the whole lot lifted, but no sign of a predator, and no sign of the suspect Tufted when they landed. In the trees around us were numerous small birds, most of which remained unidentified, however a Greenfinch stayed still long enough for identification as did a Chaffinch a little later. A Green Woodpecker flew off to a nearby tree, however a large number of branches helped it hide from my camera.

Tower Hide had nothing new to see, however of interest were a couple of owl pellets on a window ledge when we opened the shutter. It’s the nearest I have been to an Owl this year! We made our way up to the river and followed it towards Grove Ferry. Coots and Moorhens called up from the reeds and occasionally showed briefly, as did a Reed Bunting; as we moved down the river a number of thrushes shot across the river, I was certain they were Redwings, and I eventually managed to get one in the scope as proof. The riverside walk was alarmingly quiet, even a piece of wetland to our right which earlier this year had been teeming with birdlife held only a few Pied Wagtails. A half dozen Starlings, flew overhead, otherwise it was quiet, the river especially so.That was until we got within a couple of hundred yards of Grove Ferry when the trees came alive with a few Goldfinches and larger numbers of Blue Tits and Great Tits. A Kestrel was seen hunting nearby, and just as we were giving up hope of seeing one a Kingfisher shot past, very colourful against the dark river bank.

We ate a late lunch in the Bus shelter at Grove Ferry overlooking the fields of what should have been Fieldfare, but only contained Carrion Crows, Wood Pigeons and a few Rabbits. In the far distance a Buzzard was seen hunting high in the air. We moved on to the ramp to see a few Greylag Geese, hundreds of Teal and a Redshank. As it was getting late we missed out Feast’s Hide and Harrison’s Drove Hide and walked on to Marsh Hide in hope of seeing the Glossy Ibis, however it was a no show and dusk was fast approaching. “En route” we did catch a small flock of Fieldfare, their blue-grey rumps showing well. At Marsh Hide we did get good views of a Little Egret feeding nearby and of a Marsh Harrier which not only spooked what we can only deduce was a Snipe about 20 feet away (all eyes were on the Harrier), but large numbers of Lapwing and Teal as it skimmed over the Marshland. From here we also saw large numbers of passing Brent Geese. A Sparrowhawk also made a couple of very brief appearances just before and after we left the hide. We made our way back to the car park passing through the nature trail where both a Robin and a Wren were nosing around in the underbrush. Also seen during the day but not mentioned above were Blackbirds, Shelduck, Magpies, Great Black Backed Gulls, Herring Gulls and Black Headed Gulls, and a pair of white doves.

An excellent day in excellent company with 46 spots.

Oare Marshes

Last week I was lucky enough after a lull of a month to go out walking 4 times and 2 of those specifically for birding. A great time was had on each occasion. Each report will sadly be short but will contain a full sighting list. Unfortunately due to camera problems (mine is currently in Burton-on-Trent) my pictures are substandard, apologies for that. This is the second of the 4 reports, a day at Oare with Alan. Sadly there are no photos from me as mine was still on holiday and I had left my Olympus at home. The below are Alan’s shots and his Gallery can be seen at :- http://alanfoad.com/photos/

Tuesday 15/11/11 was a very nice day and we started off with a walk down to Dan’s Dock, on the foreshore were Dunlin’s a plenty with a few Ringed Plover and Grey Plover in their midst, whilst a Rock Pipit nagged us from the nearby rocks. To the South of the path a few Reed Buntings were in amongst the reeds whilst in the water were some Mallards, a Heron and a Wigeon. At Dan’s Dock a Robin, a Dunnock, a female Chaffinch and a Grey Wagtail all showed nicely, whilst a small flock of 7/8 birds took off from the Reeds on the seaward side, did a lap before disappearing back into the reeds again. From the few calls and their overall outline I believe these were the Twite that others had seen, but as they were always flying across the sun so all I got was a silhouette and they never showed in the reeds I cannot say for sure.

Grey Wagtail at Dan's Dock
We returned along the same path and then on to the seawall Hide, however the tide had just come in and on the remaining shoreline opposite could be seen a large number of Redshank with Curlews, Oystercatchers, Black Headed Gulls, Herring Gulls and a few number of Bar Tailed Godwits. In the Swale was a Great Crested Grebe whilst a couple of Goldfinches were seen in the nearby bushes.
The East Flood had its usual cocktail of birdlife including Teal, Dabchick, Little Egrets, Cormorants, Tufted Duck, Teal, a couple of hundred Avocets, Canada Geese, Greylag Geese, Coots, a couple of Shovelers, Redshank, Lapwings, Golden Plovers, some Snipe, a pair of Mute Swans and a Little Stint. By the bridge on the East flood Alan and I saw the briefest of glimpses of a Water Rail whilst over on the West flood a Green Woodpecker was spotted.

Grey Heron - near watchtower
Other spots included carrion Crow, Collared Dove, a Jackdaw, Magpies, Moorhens, Wood Pigeon and Starlings, and on the farmland to the South of the Marshes I saw 3 Pheasants. An excellent day with a total of 46 spots.

New Hythe Lakes

Last week I was lucky enough after a lull of a month to go out walking 4 times and 2 of those specifically for birding. A great time was had on each occasion. Each report will sadly be short but will contain a full sighting list. Unfortunately due to camera problems (mine is currently in Burton-on-Trent) the pictures are substandard, apologies for that. This is the first of 4 reports where I went for a non-birding stroll with Wendy around New Hythe Lakes last Saturday.

 Dipping Pond from the Jetty - Olympus SP590UZ

It was a lovely day and we started off along Ocean Lake where the usual Greylag Geese, Coots, Mute Swans, Mallards and Cormorants could be seen along with a distant Great Crested Grebe. We then headed off to the Dipping Pond which had nothing on it at all except a couple of coots and three Black Headed Gulls. It was so serene that I went for a scenic photo (above) whilst there.
We took the path to the North of the dipping pond and found a Great Spotted Woodpecker in the taller of the trees. There was a lot of bird movement in the reeds and bushes along the path but other than the Blackbirds, very little showed itself. We then continued around Larkfield Lake the bushes of which rewarded us with Great Tits, Blue Tits and Long Tailed Tits in a mixed flock, a Chaffinch and a Dunnock, whilst the water provided Canada Geese, Moorhens, more Gulls than I could count, a Little Grebe, some Gadwall, plenty of Tufted Duck and a solitary Shoveler.
Great Spotted Woodpecker -  Olympus SP590UZ

The scrub was fairly quiet other than the Magpies, but we stood and stared at the grass for a little while and a Green Woodpecker eventually showed itself by taking a short flight before disappearing again into the grass with only its head showing. On Roaden Island Lake was a pair of White Mallards and in the stream to our right was a Wren. We took the long way back around Ocean Lake catching sight of a few Goldfinches and some Collared Doves, Tits were again calling from the trees and several Robins were seen whilst a Great Black Backed Gull flew over. It was a nice long walk, nothing special and only 29 on the list, but we both enjoyed the walk. Not listed above are Carrion Crow, Wood Pigeon,and Starlings.
Greylag Goose -  Olympus SP590UZ

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Oare Marshes

My apologies for lack of posts, RSI to blame. This is an amalgamated report for Oare Marshes which I visited on 6th and 14th October and have slowly typed up over the last 10 days. Future posts may have to be less wordy in order to be more timely and less of a historical document.

Ruff - Canon 400D + 100-400mm (6/10)
Thursday 6/10/2011 was a blustery day with a warming sun fighting through broken cloud, however it was still cold enough that I had to wear a coat for the first time this side of summer. I arrived with the tide out and started off with a scan from the ramp being rewarded with a Wheatear by the west gate and a Ringed Plover on the foreshore. 

Ringed Plover - Canon 400D + 100-400mm (14/10)
I travelled along the road where a Meadow Pipit shot off to the west and arrived at the East Flood where the Black Tailed Godwits were gathered in their hundreds, a few Redshank around the periphery. There was also a smaller group of Avocets nearby. Little Egrets were fishing round the edges of the flood and the Cormorants were sat on their usual island. Teal were at the back of the flood with a pair of Mallards, there was also a Little Grebe diving. Small groups of Starlings were flying around and as I moved from my viewing spot a Kingfisher took off from about 6 feet away flying low towards the sluice gate. I passed a group of House Sparrows on the road before heading to the East Flood hide
2 Black Tailed Godwits - Canon 400D + 100-400mm (6/10)
On the path I spotted a Kestrel in a small tree in the field to my right, it spotted me and flew a bit further away alighting on to a fence post. I watched it for about 5 minutes before it swooped onto some prey the other side of the fence, immediately after a Green Woodpecker flew over the same piece of fence in the opposite direction, a blackbird took off from a nearby bush and a hidden Robin became vocal, it was suddenly all go here.

Lapwing - Canon 400D + 100-400mm (14/10)
I went into the hide out of the stiffening breeze where I was able to look closer at the Godwits. At the edge of the flock near the Redshanks were a couple of Curlew Sandpipers a nice find but too far away to photograph. Out of the hide and up to the sluice gate where I had a good look for the Kingfisher, but no joy, that was until I walked across the sluice and once again it shot off this time from under my feet! How can something that colourful stay so well hidden?

Dunlin - Canon 400D + 100-400mm (14/10)
The wind was well up by now and the path to the Sea Wall hide was so blustery that I had to hold my tripod to stop it toppling. From here I got better views of the Teal, but nothing new on the flood. Behind me in the creek there were about two hundred Redshank dotted up and down both banks busily probing the wet silt. The only other sighting before I took refuge in the Sea wall hide was a Reed Bunting and a Curlew.
Little Egret - Canon 400D + 100-400mm (14/10)
I settled down in the hide to watch the tide come in, spending a couple of hours there. In the Estuary were some Great Crested Grebes whilst out towards Seasalter Brent Geese were gathering. On the foreshore of the opposite bank were Turnstones, Cormorants, Shelducks, Oystercatchers, Curlews, Grey Plovers and Redshanks. A mixed flock of about 30 Dunlin and Ringed Plover flew in but were scared off by a low flying military jet as was a Sandwich Tern who was sheltering in a dip along with the Black Headed and Herring Gulls.

Black Headed Gull - Canon 400D + 100-400mm (6/10)
Wendy joined me about , and ten minutes later a bird hit the hide! I leant out of the flap to see if it was hurt, but it was a Kestrel that had landed (heavily) on a ledge attached to the hide. It took off immediately, the below photo is the same bird as it wheeled round in front.
Kestrel- Canon 400D + 100-400mm (6/10)
We left the hide and headed back towards the East Flood for one last look from the road, this gave me four more fresh sightings for the day, this included several Herons who had up until now remained hidden, a sole Golden Plover on one of the islands, 3 Shovelers at the back of the flood and a Snipe by the Southern shore. Seen but not listed above are Carrion Crows, Wood Pigeons, Great Black Backed Gull, Lapwing, Coot, Moorhen, It was a good day with 36 sightings, nothing new, but lots of activity.

Friday 14th was a sunny day so I returned to Oare to try to get some better photos unfortunately something was wrong with the autofocus, nonetheless another good day was had. First up was a Cetti’s Warbler by the car park – as always, heard but not seen. Up to the East flood where the nearest islands revealed a few Ruff, Moorhens, and Ringed Plovers, whilst present in larger numbers were Lapwings, Starlings, Dunlin and Golden Plovers; Avocets, Cormorants, Redshank and Black Tailed Godwits were in the middle whilst at the back were Dabchicks, Teal, Little Egrets, Shovellers and some Mallards.

Group Photo (all facing into the wind) Golden Plover/Little Stint/ 2 Ringed plover/Lapwing - Canon 400D + 100-400mm (14/10)
The nicest spot here were 3 Little Stint that were running around the nearest islands which I had missed the previous week.

Dunlin & Little Stint - Canon 400D + 100-400mm (14/10)

Little Stint - Canon 400D + 100-400mm (14/10)
The Golden Plovers were so dense on one of the islands that it was almost a carpet of gold, highlighted by the reddish heather they were standing on.

Golden Plover - Canon 400D + 100-400mm (14/10)
 The West flood was completely dry, the only spot a distant Green Woodpecker.
A very blurry Green Woodpecker - Canon 400D + 100-400mm (14/10)
The path to the sluice gate revealed a female pheasant in the field to my right, a Robin, some House Sparrows and a Blackbird. A flock of Goldfinches also kept me company for a while whilst a closer study of the Black Tailed Godwits revealed a Bar Tailed Godwit in their midst which I managed to pick out as it stretched its wings revealing its barred tail.
Goldfinch - Canon 400D + 100-400mm (14/10)
The next year spot was a flock of five Bearded Reedlings that flew past me near the sluice gate heading up the creek, despite many visits in the past this was the first time I had seen them. Excuse the blurry picture but they did not want to hang around for photos.

Bearded Reedling - Canon 400D + 100-400mm (14/10)
The walk to the Estuary revealed very little as it was now high tide. The estuary had a few Great Black Backed Gulls and a larger number of Black Headed Gulls whilst in the Swale were Brent Geese. Other spots for the day were Carrion Crows, Wood Pigeons, Herons and a Blue Tit. A total of 33 spots, not bad, especially as the tide was in.