Friday, 16 March 2012

Sevenoaks Wildfowl reserve 15-3-2012

Yesterday I went off to Sevenoaks Wildfowl Reserve, it was a nice day and I got there about 10.30. I started off at Grebe Hide overlooking West Lake, but other than a few Tufted Ducks, a Coot and a fast disappearing Cormorant, all was quiet. The bird feeders which are next to the hide were of equal low activity, only attracting one each of Great and Blue Tit so it was time to move on.
Coot - Canon 400D + 100-400mm

 I walked half way to Tyler hide where I could see out over East Lake and the islands, most of which were covered with Gulls; Black Headed, Common and Herring. On the non-Gull islands were a few Teal, Coots, Lapwings and Moorhens, I also managed to find a Snipe and a Pied Wagtail.

Long Tailed Tit - Canon 400D + 100-400mm

Long Tailed Tit with a bug in its beak which it had just dug out of the bark of the branch its perched on. Taken at Carter Hide later in the day - Canon 400D + 100-400mm
I wandered up towards Willow Hide and was pleasantly surprised at the activity from a variety of Passerines. Long Tailed Tits, Blue Tits, Great Tits, Dunnocks, Wrens, Blackbirds and Robins were all fairly vocal, I also saw a single female Blackcap. A bit further up the path I came across a Treecreeper which did its very best to avoid being photographed, and a Chiffchaff calling from the upper branches who was equally photophobic, these were the best I could get.
Treecreeper - Canon 400D + 100-400mm

Chiffchaff - Canon 400D + 100-400mm
Willow Hide gave views of Teals, Mallards, Greylag Geese, Canada Geese, Coots, a pair of Shovelers and a couple of Gadwall. A Kingfisher was heard but not seen, as was a Green Woodpecker. I left Willow Hide and made my way towards the end of the path where it looks out over fields to the North. These were being grazed upon by Greylag and Canada Geese, whilst further back Carrion Crows and Jackdaws were wandering about occasionally being joined by a Magpie or two. At the very back of the field were a couple of Fieldfares whilst a Pheasant was seen wandering about at the Eastern edge near some Rabbits. I was more than surprised to see sitting in a tree less than 50 yards away 5 Ring Necked Parakeets, they were unusually silent, not even calling when they later flew off.  

Ring Necked Parakeet - Canon 400D + 100-400mm
 Back to Willow Hide where there were no new additions but some spectacular displays of Goose bathing habits which included Canada Geese completely submerging themselves (head and everything) for up to 3 or 4 seconds and both Canada and Greylag rolling on to their backs with their legs in the air, I have never seen this behaviour before and found it fascinating.
Greylag Goose (back) and Canada Goose (fore) - Canon 400D + 100-400mm
On to Carter Hide where a pair of Gadwall kept me entertained for a while, a pair of Mute Swans, a Robin and a Long Tailed Tit paid a visit but nothing else.

Female Gadwall - Canon 400D + 100-400mm

Male Gadwall - Canon 400D + 100-400mm
 I walked back to the car park seeing a Great Crested Grebe in West Lake.

Great Crested Grebe - Canon 400D + 100-400mm
Although the majority of the birds seen yesterday were fairly common I am still amazed that for the whole walk there was a general background noise of birds, this was wonderful and contrasts heavily with most of my usual woodland walks where it can be ages between bird calls.   
Mute Swan - Canon 400D + 100-400mm
 Only 41 birds seen and another two heard, but still a very nice day at a nice venue. Those missed off the above account but seen (all from the main path around East Lake) were Chaffinch, Collared Dove, Jay, Little Grebe, Wood Pigeon, Starling, and Song Thrush.

Monday, 12 March 2012

New Hythe Lakes 11-3-2012

Wendy and I took a long walk round New Hythe Lakes on Sunday. Being a sunny day it was very busy and the amount of wildlife was down. Ocean Lake had the usual Coots, a few Mute Swans, Moorhens  and Mallards, also a pair of White Ducks (Aylesburys? White Mallards? Domestic? I know not which category they fit into). Greylag Geese were also around in increased numbers. The Dipping Pool had nothing other than Coots and Black Headed Gulls, the stroll round its north side provided sightings of Great Tits, Blue Tits, Long Tailed Tits and Chaffinches.
Mute Swan - Canon 400D + 100-400mm
The stroll between Streamside and Railway was peculiarly silent, a few Tufted Ducks and Great Crested Grebes joined the Coots on both lakes and other than the Blue, Great and Long Tailed Tits the only sightings on the path were a Wren and a Dunnock. The highlight of the day was a Kingfisher I saw briefly on the far side of Streamside. We went down to Brooklands Cafe where we ate our sandwiches watching 3 Pied Wagtails, a couple of Robins and several rabbits on the grass.
Pied Wagtail - Canon 400D + 100-400mm
After lunch we went round Brooklands Lake seeing Coots, Tufted Ducks, Black Headed Gulls and a couple of Great Crested Grebes. Walking through the Marsh we heard a couple of unsighted Ceti’s Warblers but not a lot else. This was probably due to several Motor Boats ploughing up and down the Medway, with the tide as high as it was their wash was coming over the footpath in places and one boat in particular wanted the world to know they were having fun!
Grey Herons - Canon 400D + 100-400mm
The Heron’s were nicely on display as can be seen by the photos, though the sound of someone with a chainsaw a couple of fields away caused them some alarm every time it started up again.  

Grey Heron - Canon 400D + 100-400mm
Abbey Mead had nothing different to the other lakes, just Tufties, Coots and BH Gulls. Whilst I was looking over the lake Wendy had the joy of a Long Tailed Tit nest building in front of her, apparently oblivious to her presence it flew in front of her to alight in the half built construction partially hidden in a bush, pecked around a bit then spun round in the nest to ensure all was comfy before flying off again for the next bit of material, we moved on quickly so as not to alarm it. Back over the Railway line we caught a distant Cormorant, a Green Woodpecker, and a pair of Collared Doves, the latter going through some courtship manouvres.

Great Crested Grebe - Canon 400D + 100-400mm
Our last look at Ocean lake revealed a dabchick bringing the number for the day to a sad 29 seen and 1 heard. Unlisted were the Carrion Crows, Magpies, Blackbirds, Wood Pigeons, Herring Gulls and Starlings. I am also counting a Kestrel we saw over the central reservation of the M2 on the way back home (on a low count day I need every single one I can get) Wendy would have us count the rabbits too, the list being that short I was tempted, but I have to draw the line somewhere.
Black Headed Gull - Canon 400D + 100-400mm

Northward Hill RSPB 10 - 3 - 2012

When Wendy heard about all the rabbits at Northward Hill it had to be our destination for the brief spell of sunshine on Saturday. I only took my Olympus as it was not to be a photographic trip so apologies for the sub-standard photography. We took the same route I did on Thursday and in short the sightings were quite similar. To save time (so I can get Sundays walk written as well) I will just list what was seen and expand on the differences.
Blue Tit and Great Tit - Olympus SP590UZ
The feeders were not quite as busy, probably as the seed feeder was empty, here were Goldfinches, Chaffinches, Greenfinches, Great tits, Blue Tits and Dunnocks. From the Marsh Viewpoint we saw Teal, Mallard, Lapwing, Little Grebe, Gadwall, Greylag Goose, Canada Goose, Rook, Jackdaw, Heron, Wood Pigeon, Oystercatcher, Moorhen, Coot, Tufted Duck. Wigeon were still grazing though the flock looked slightly smaller.

Blue Tit and Great Tit - Olympus SP590UZ
The Shovelers and the Godwit were missing but were replaced by some Pochards and a solitary Shelduck. A pair of Mute swans were flying about not seeming to settle in any particular spot. The Sky Lark was again heard but not seen.
Blue Tit - Olympus SP590UZ
The Ernie Helmsey Viewpoint was quite quiet, but we waited patiently and were rewarded after about 15 minutes with a Marsh Harrier which was quartering the land to our west eventually landing on something in a field in the far distance. Whilst watching the Marsh Harrier a Peregrine Falcon flew over it, making its way North towards us then East. We heard a Red Legged Partridge from the orchard to our left along with a Pheasant and a Green Woodpecker alighted in a tree about 75 yards away.

Green Woodpecker - Olympus SP590UZ
Returning to the feeders I was telling Wendy about the Great Spotted Woodpecker when there it was again, on the nut feeder. House Sparrows were present instead of the Collared Doves. Also seen in the travels were Blackbird, Starling, Carrion Crow, Dunnock, Black Headed Gull, Herring Gull, Jay, Magpie, Robin and Long Tailed Tit. The homeward journey provided us with a Kestrel. Total for the day was 40 with 3 more heard.

Friday, 9 March 2012

Northward Hill RSPB 8-3-2012

Yesterday afternoon the sun shone briefly and I took the opportunity for a quick trip to Northward Hill RSPB especially as their bird feeders offer photo opportunities. All todays photos were taken at the feeders and this is where I started off my short walk. They were busy with Finches and Tits, Green, Gold and Chaff of the former and Great and Blue of the latter, a couple of Dunnocks were also nearby picking up fallen seeds from below.
Goldfinch and Greenfinch - Canon 400D + 100-400mm
Moving on to the Marsh Viewpoint a Jay took off from where it had been feeding among the bushes. At the viewpoint the left hand reservoir provided a pair of Tufted Ducks, some Mallards and a Dabchick. The right hand one was a lot busier with about 80 Wigeon, some Teal, Lapwings, Coots and Black headed Gulls, there were half a dozen Gadwall a couple of snoozing Shovelers and a solitary Black Tailed Godwit. The nearby grass held a couple of Oystercatchers probing the soft earth whilst behind the reservoirs was a pair of Canada Geese and further off a few Greylag Geese grazed.

Goldfinch - Canon 400D + 100-400mm
Greenfinch - Canon 400D + 100-400mm
The skies were surprisingly empty, a loan Heron flew past and there was a slow but steady stream of Rooks flying to and fro interspersed with a few Jackdaws, one of these passing Rooks took umbrage at a hunting Kestrel and harried it for about half a mile coming dangerously close to it on a couple of occasions. I had hoped to catch a few passerines from here, but other than a Blackbird and a distant Chaffinch the only activity around the bushes was from the numerous rabbits happily grazing.

Great Tit - Canon 400D + 100-400mm
I walked towards the Heronry as far as the Orchard, however a small logging encampment had appeared as RSPB workers were rapidly doing some repair work on the Orchard which involved a certain amount of tree felling – no passerines to be found here. I then took the scenic route back through the car park to the other viewpoint, en route I heard but could not find a Sky Lark, I also saw a Green Woodpecker that took off from the scrub about 6 feet to my left while I was watching a Robin to my right, it was about time I saw one as I had been hearing them all afternoon.

Blue Tit (facing into the afternoon sun) - Canon 400D + 100-400mm
The only new spot from the second viewpoint was of a pair of Moorhens in the field, a distant Pheasant called repeatedly but without coming into view. One last visit to the bird feeders before going home gave me a Long Tailed Tit, a Collared Dove, a Great Spotted Woodpecker and from the bushes behind me a small flock of 10 Redwings. During the 2 hour walk I had also come across Carrion Crows, Herring Gulls, Wood Pigeons, and some Starlings.

Greenfinch with afternoon sun to its right - Canon 400D + 100-400mm
The day was not quite finished, on the journey back to the M2 I caught a couple of Mistle Thrushes in a sports field and a Buzzard over the A228. Total for the trip was 40 with another couple heard but not seen.
Female Chaffinch - Canon 400D + 100-400mm

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Oare Marshes 28-2-2012

Stephen and I made a visit to Oare Marshes on Tuesday. It was dull, grey and overcast all day, as this photo of a small skein of Greylags shows, it made photography difficult however it was pleasantly warm and at ground level almost windless.  
Greylag Geese - A very grey day - Canon 400D + 100-400mm
We started our day with a look over the Swale from the ramp, Redshanks, Grey Plovers and a couple of Bar Tailed Godwits were on the foreshore with a few Common and Black headed Gulls. A Pied Wagtail was also flitting around the ramp. On Sheppey there was a Marsh Harrier sat on a fence post near the church, sadly in the dull light little else was identifiable including another raptor which seemed to just disappear into the hillside.
We wandered up towards the East flood, passing a Heron looking particularly striking on our right.
Grey Heron - Canon 400D + 100-400mm
a number of Wigeon were grazing nearby and a pair of Mute Swans were partially hidden in the stream.
Wigeon - Canon 400D + 100-400mm
The East Flood was very busy with plenty of Tufted Ducks, Pintail Ducks, Shovelers, Coots, Mallards and a couple of Little Grebes occupying the water while large numbers of Lapwings, Starlings and Golden Plovers were on the islands. The islands were also home to five or six Snipe (hard to keep tabs on them as they kept moving about), four Ruff and a few Pochards.
Snipe nicely showing crown stripe - Canon 400D + 100-400mm
The West Flood is known for being very quiet but there is often something different there, no surprise then that whilst having our lunch in the hide the only activity was a couple of Mallards, three Teal and a trio of passing Greenfinches. The something different was a pair of Gadwall which flew past landing in the depths of the marsh not to be seen again, they were the only Gadwall we saw all day.
We headed back towards the East Flood, near the road was the usual chattering from the House Sparrows in the bushes, which is where we also saw a solitary Long Tailed Tit. From the hide we saw that the Golden Plover numbers had been augmented and were up to about 200, Shovelers were also present in large numbers, a Cormorant had arrived as had a Little Egret, an Oystercatcher and a Little Stint, whilst Greylag Geese could be seen grazing on the grass.
Male Shoveler - Canon 400D + 100-400mm

Female Shoveler - Canon 400D + 100-400mm
The walk up to the sluice was uneventful. Walking along the creekside we scanned the only mud flat which was yet to be covered by the incoming tide (yes I had mistimed it again, the tide was well in and only a short stretch remained above the waterline). On it were some Black Tailed Godwits, Redshanks, a large number of Dunlin and three Little Stints. A check of the length of the opposite bank gave a Curlew, some Oystercatchers and more Redshanks. Walking towards the Sea Wall hide we heard a pheasant, but it was nowhere to be seen. One of the highlights of the day was a large flock of about 2000 Brent Geese which had gathered on the Swale, their honking carrying for quite some distance to us over the dead calm water. They were quite restless, flying off in large groups, then returning about 15 minutes later – or perhaps this was just a staging post for a larger gathering elsewhere.
Brent Geese in the Swale (more arrived later) - Canon 400D + 100-400mm
From the Sea Wall Hide the Swale was flat without a ripple and the surface unbroken except for the odd nose of a Common Seal here and there. Searching Sheppey again I eventually found a Short Eared Owl towards the Shellness end, but it wasn’t around for long. The walk back to the Car Park gave us three Rock Pipits feeding among the rocks and disappearing in the holes in the revetment, they were in company of a solitary Turnstone. To our left a Cetti’s Warbler called out, however the birds we saw among the reeds were a pair of Reed Buntings whilst back at the Car Park a Wren sang briefly from a bush.
We had enough light left to wander to Dan’s Dock and back, the journey out gave us a pair of Sky Larks, for once standing out quite nicely against a grey sky and a number of Stock Doves on and around the block houses. Dan’s Dock itself was very quiet, however Stephen scoping towards Uplees and to the West found a hunting Buzzard which we watched for about 15 minutes, first perching on a telegraph pole, swooping down to take a kill, eating it back on the pole and then moving on. Stephen believed it to be a Rough Legged Buzzard but it was too far for my eyesight to confirm. We also picked out in the distance Wood Pigeons and some Rooks. On the return trip we heard a Green Woodpecker, from the West Flood area, while repeated scans of the swale gave us our last spot for the day a Great Crested Grebe.
Lapwing (on East Flood earlier) - Canon 400D + 100-400mm
Throughout the day we had seen plenty of Shelduck and the odd Avocet, other spots included Blackbird, Collared Dove, Herring Gull, Moorhen, Magpie Canada Goose and Robin. The full list was 57 seen, 3 others heard (sorry Stephen I cannot count the Rough Legged Buzzard).