Thursday, 12 January 2012

Chatham Dockside 11-1-2012

Yesterday I merged a shopping trip with bird watching and went to Chatham Dockside. After the shops I took a stroll around the Marina and Basin No2. The Marina had loads of boats but little in the way of birdlife, Feral Pigeons were around and a Pied Wagtail was flitting between low rooftops and the boardwalk. There were also a large number of Black Headed Gulls about but no sign of the Dabchicks I saw on my last visit. I moved on to Basin No2 where there had been consistent reports of a Long Tailed Duck and intermittent reports of a Great Northern Diver.
I crossed the road and quickly scanned the basin, there was a Cormorant happily sat on a buoy, a pair of Mute Swans and a couple of distant Coots but no sign of the two birds I had come to see.  However I did get these three Black Headed Gulls to pose for me. The lighting was perfect with the sun behind me, if only I had got the depth of field correct (the one at the back is slightly out of focus).
Black Headed Gulls - Canon 400D + 100-400mm
I had a closer look at the Cormorant on the buoy, which revealed its true identity; it was actually a Shag. I had heard of them on the Thames, but had not expected to see one, especially this close.

Shag - Canon 400D + 100-400mm
I walked along the south side of Basin No2 and saw the Long Tailed Duck diving on the opposite side. I walked round and managed to get quite close, however I was now facing into the sun. Fortunately the Long Tailed Duck was quite close to the pontoon which runs alongside the north side of Basin No2 and so was able to get an angle without too much glare.

First Winter Long Tailed Duck - Canon 400D + 100-400mm
Nicely chuffed with the short outing, I made my way back to the Marina where I saw a Cormorant flying over my head, a few Blue Tits in someone’s front garden and a couple of Carrion Crows on the grassy area in front of the shops. In the Marina were another couple of Mute Swans, I am not saying they were tame but they swam straight towards me and when just below where I was standing one of them barked (it was probably more like a cough) at me four or five times staring straight at me, presumably to feed them!!!

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Stodmarsh NNR 9-1-2012

Yesterday Stephen had a day off work so we decided to check out Stodmarsh NNR where the Glossy Ibis had been seen. The weather was overcast all day, so apologies for the grainy photos, a high ISO helped a little, but not much. Stephen had already seen a Cetti’s Warbler before my arrival. We decided to walk anti-clockwise around the reserve starting off with the nature trail but it did not reveal anything other than the call of a Pheasant, but once beyond it a scan of distant trees with the scope revealed a large flock of Fieldfares, which were also using nearby telephone wires alongside a Starling and a Chaffinch, the only bird nearer was a Blue Tit or two moving through the nearby trees.
Mute Swan - Canon 400D + 100-400mm
The stroll to Marsh Hide was fairly uneventful, Long Tailed Tits were about us and large numbers of Carrion Crows in the distance. We had a couple of brief glimpses of a Sparrowhawk as it flitted across the path ahead of us, disappearing behind a tree, re-appearing with something in its talons before disappearing behind the trees again.
Marsh Harrier - Canon 400D + 100-400mm
We reached Marsh Hide where there was a fair amount of activity from a small number of Water Pipits pottering about on mud mounds, constantly on the move, one eventually came slightly closer than the others to get a half decent photo.
Water Pipit - Canon 400D + 100-400mm
A little Egret was feeding here as was a Redshank and two Ruffs. Patient scanning revealed a couple of Marsh Harriers, and then I spotted a ringtail Hen Harrier over by the river disappearing as soon as I saw it, it then reappeared less than a 100 yards in front of the hide before disappearing off to the East. How it had got from the river to us in so short a time baffled me and it must have been very low to get so near undetectcted.
Redshank and 2 Ruffs - Canon 400D + 100-400mm
Walking from Marsh Hide towards Grove Ferry we came across a Stonechat which was happily posing, so I took advantage of its generosity. Further along the footpath we climbed up to the Stour bank where we found Blue Tits and a Great Tit, also a Kestrel showed well in a tree.
Stonechat - Canon 400D + 100-400mm
We ate our lunch in the Bus Shelter at Grove Ferry where we could see skittish Lapwings take off from the viewpoint lake, on one of these flushings smaller waders could be seen in their mist, and on another occasion instead of settling again as normal, the whole flock kept climbing until almost out of sight, we assumed to get above a specific predator – but we did not see any ourselves. Whilst sat here a couple of Ring-necked Parakeets flew past behind the shelter (sadly unseen by Stephen).

Turfted Duck (Feast Hide) - Canon 400D + 100-400mm

After lunch we checked out the feeder at Grove Ferry where a couple of Dunnocks and a Robin were enjoying themselves. Next we walked up on to the ramp which gave us views of a large flock of Lapwings and about 50 Greylag Geese, a few Starlings were amongst them as were about 5 White Doves; Teals and a couple of Pintail Ducks were in the water along with a pair of Mute Swans, I also saw a Great crested Grebe on my first sweep of the lake, but it disappeared and was not seen again.
Little Egret (Marsh Hide) - Canon 400D + 100-400mm
The next stop was Feast Hide, however the only birds present were some Mallards (including two which were crossbreeds with something, probably a Domestic Duck), Teal, Tufted Ducks and some Gadwalls, I tried for some photos but the light was waning fast and this is the best I could get.
Pair of Gadwalls - Canon 400D + 100-400mm
Leaving the hide we saw another Kestrel. We walked back along the river, scouring the water meadows, but no joy with the Ibis, however of interest were a large number of Pied Wagtails, there were more than 30 of them feeding on one small patch. Small groups of Jackdaws flew overhead as dusk approached ever closer.

We reached Tower Hide where we had good views of large numbers of Cormorants, Shovelers, Pochards and Teal with a smattering of Gadwalls and Mallards also a solitary sleeping Great Crested Grebe. A Great Black Backed Gull was in the water towards the SW of the lake. The walk back to the Car Park was uneventful with Wrens and Cetti’s Warblers calling but both remaining hidden. Throughout the day we had seen Cormorants flying overhead, small flocks of Fieldfares on the move, larger flocks of Lapwings being disturbed and Blue Tits wherever there were a few trees, Coots were in most of the Water courses we had passed as were Moorhens though not in quite as many as the Coots and Carrion Crows were in all parts of the reserve. Others sighted and unmentioned above include Wood Pigeon, Black Headed Gull, Blackbird, Magpie and one Heron we had seen in flight.
Mute Swan - Canon 400D + 100-400mm
It had been a good day despite the bad light, I make it 43 sightings each (if you include the Doves) with a total of 44 seen and 2 heard (Wren and Pheasant).

Sunday, 8 January 2012

New Hythe Lakes 7-1-2012

On Saturday afternoon Wendy and I went for a quick stroll at New Hythe lakes we only took binoculars so no pictures I’m afraid. We started off by checking the footpath by Strikers Lake, nothing other than a Coot and a Tufted Duck on the lake, however Blue Tits were in among the trees, just above our heads, a Robin was bobbing around at knee height, whilst at the very top of one tree a Great Spotted Woodpecker could be seen. Down to Ocean lake where we saw Canada and Greylag Geese, some Mallards, Mute Swans, Moorhens, Coots, and Tufted Ducks also what I assume are White Mallards. A few Herring Gulls were interspersed among the Black Headed Gulls.
We walked alongside the woodland by Strikers Lake towards the scrape, however other than a few Wood Pigeons, Magpies, Carrion Crows and a Blackbird, not much else was about. At the Scrape all was quiet, however we did pick out a pair of Jays at the far end. As we moved towards Round (Dipping) Pond a flock of about 20 Goldfinches rose up from the ground and chattered from the trees, we moved quickly on. A couple of Coots and BH Gulls was all there was at the Round Pond.
We then walked round the back of Round Pond where we saw a pair of what from their behaviour could only have been Wrens, however we never got a clear look at them and not a peep out of them either; we also saw a mixed flock of Blue Tits and Long Tailed Tits, at the same time there was also a couple of Great Tits but I am not sure they were travelling with the other two.
Due to limited time we decided to walk between Streamside and Railway Lakes as far as the bridge and then return, this was a good choice, on Streamside we saw Gadwalls and a pair of Shovelers, whilst on Railway we added Great Crested Grebe to the list. The return walk between the lakes gave us the best treat, a small flock of Siskins in the trees about 10 feet from us, constantly on the move, the wing bars in the dimming light confirming their identity, also with them was a Chiffchaff. The rest of the Walk back was uneventful though a couple of Cormorants had flown in and were now roosting on a boat one of them drying its wings. Not a long list, but still some nice spots for what was a walk with my girlfriend and not a Birding walk.

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Oare Marshes 6-1-2012

Friday was a lovely day with lots of sunshine and with a drop in wind from Thursday the perfect birding weather, Thus with a song in my heart and a skip to my step I made my way to Oare Marshes. Parking up I made my way up to the ramp to find the tide was already on its way out. Despite a tide table that Wendy has given me, I never seem to catch it right at Oare, I am either just too late for the tide going out or far too early waiting for it to come in. From the ramp I saw Curlews, Ringed Plovers, Dunlins, Redshanks and a Grey Plover feeding on the shore whilst a Common Gull watched me from a nearby pole. 

Redshank - Canon 400D + 100-400mm
I had decided to go anti-clockwise today and so walked back up the road passing a small flock of Greylag Geese to my right. On the East Flood my first scan revealed a couple of Snipe (sleeping), some Teal, Pintail Ducks, Starlings, Moorhens, Lapwings and Black Tailed Godwits on the islands, whilst in the water I saw some Shovelers, Mallards, Coots  and Wigeon.
I then made my way to the West Flood Hide, you never know your luck – the West Flood Hide either has nothing or a couple of nice surprises. On the way there I saw a Green Woodpecker, whilst from the hide itself a Greenshank was clearly visible and then a Green Sandpiper showed up (I am willing to be corrected see photo below), 2 Pheasants also chose to feed nearby one walking across straight in front of the hide, a Dunnock was in some distant Brambles and a heron flew overhead.
Greenshank - Canon 400D + 100-400mm

Greenshank & Green Sandpiper - Canon 400D + 100-400mm

Green Sandpiper - Canon 400D + 100-400mm
Back walking around the East flood I found a Robin and a Blackbird to the south of the Path and a Little Egret which took off from near the hide, fresh looks over the flood revealed a Ruff feeding nearby with Coots and Tufted Ducks out on the water. A check of the reeds on the opposite bank provided a Dabchick. Walking towards the sluice gate a Reed Bunting sat and posed on a wire fence, but not long enough for me to get the camera out of its case.
Pheasant - Canon 400D + 100-400mm
The creek banks were home to loads of Redshank and Dunlin, a few Oystercatchers were interspersed among them. From the Seawall hide I saw Turnstone with one feeding quite close to the hide, it was interesting watching him climbing over the rocks and with his whole head bulldozing the seaweed around searching for food. A small flock of Brent Geese flew east, a Cormorant was the only non-Gull amongst the Herring and Black Headed Gulls on the Swale. Looking across the Swale Common Seals were basking on Horse Sands whilst in the far distance a flock of Avocets could just be seen. Some Shelducks were over towards Whitstable and on most of the exposed sandbanks in the Swale.

Turnstone - Canon 400D + 100-400mm
Having warmed up again in the hide I walked back towards the car park, I had one last look at Sheppey from near the ramp top where 2 other birders were with their scopes; and what wonderful people they were initially pointing out 2 Kestrels, one in a tree on the west flood, the other on a tree half way up Mocketts on Sheppey and then guiding me to a Short Eared Owl which was patrolling the fields and ditches to the East of Ferry House Inn. I doubt if I would have picked out any of them myself. A fantastic finish to the day. Seen but missed off the list above are Magpie, Carrion Crow, Wood Pigeon, Mute Swan and Great Black Backed Gull. The tally was 46, not bad for me.
Greenshank - Canon 400D + 100-400mm