Tuesday, 25 December 2007

I'm dripping from a wet Christmas'

The South Quarry at Cliffe the Xmas Eve late afternoon venue

Christmas Day 2007, certainly not the driest day of the year hence a walk that day at Trosley country park was somewhat wet. Very few birds were seen though incredibly there were several families out walking in the rain also pus a few walkers with their 'packed lunches'

Christmas Eve on the other hand was an excellent day weather wise and a few good birds to boot!

First port of call, Chetney and Funton with 3+Marsh Harrier, 820+ Knot, and an RBMerg. At Lower Halstow, the Whimbrel was in residence on it's usual 'rock' shoreline together with 350+ Brents some of which allowed me to photograph them, plus a Peregrine causing chaos and hassling a male Marsh Harrier. At Motney, very few birds bar a Peregrine and 60 Avocet. Next stop, Copperhouse Lane and 9 cracking Mergs. last stop Cliffe with 2 Scaup on the Timber lake and a second winter Caspian Gull in the South Quarry, not a bad day!!
Admitedly the piccies are pretty naff but the light was very poor by then!!!

Here's a better photo of some Brent Geese at Lower Halstow the same day!

Saturday, 22 December 2007

'Bean and Gone' A Livid Goose chase!

Working Saturday morning for the jolly old NHS I was some waht dealyed from getting across the water to savour the delights of Rainham RSPB, a cracking reserve close to home and a haven for birds and other wildlife. My quest, two species of Geese, Barnacles or 'Barnies' and Bean Goose, another great bird in the LNHS (London Natural History Society) recording area. I quickly rushed around to the area where the Geese wer in view but when I got there there was an absence of all things Goose like and only after nearly circumnavigating the reserve did I connect with the Barnies though sadly the Beanies had done a bunk................ I should have finished work earlier!!

Anyway here's another piccie of the Barnies at home in sunny East london

Thursday, 20 December 2007

Redhead or Deadhead 'Hoo are you'

Just recently there has been an 'Aythya' duck at Cliffe on the Hoo Peninsula that has been very elusive at times and took me two attempts to finally connect with the bird. The bird was initially found on the North Quarry by Paul Larkin but when I looked for it on the Wednesday it was nowhere to be found though I did see a Grey Wagtail, heard two Green Sandpipers and a pair of Yellowhammer (a rare bird at Cliffe) and some cracking Brambling, maybe 20 plus amongst the Chaffinches at Allens Hill Cliffe.
A phone call from Andrew on the next Saturday found me zipping towards Cliffe and the 'hidden pool' on the RSPB reserve. Fortunately Paul was on site still with Dave Mercer and I watched the bird for the next few hours with Mike Buckland and Marcus Lawson though it was very difficult to pick out from the Pochard that it was with. The bird at rest when asleep looked basically like a roughly Pochard sized Aythya with a slightly darker toned upperparts and darker tertials though in the bright light this was extremely difficult to see at times. The best way to pick the bird up was it's habit of 'spinning' which the Pochards tended not to do.
Eventually it work up and then it's appearance changed considerably with a 'Redhead' head and bill pattern!!! The orange-yellow eye was a bit bright but very different to the red eyes of Pochard. The photos show the bill pattern quite well with the black ink 'dipped' into the grey bill which also showed some dark at the base alike a Pochard.
The time spent awake was minimal though until later in the afternoon when it started to feed with the Tufties and nearby Pochards. The photos shown here were taken on the Timber Lake and North Quarry over the next week or so and indicate the features of this bird which is a hybrid for certain but as to which species is a matter of opinion.

Sadly not a 'pure' bird but a very instructive bird that helps in our knowledge of these 'aythya' delights and shows that it's always worth checking out those Pochard and Tufted Duck flocks!!
Thanks to Paul for keeping me posted with the bird and it's movements.

Saturday, 15 December 2007

Caspers the friendly Gulls

As I had a bit of spare time following work on Dec 9th, I visited the Littlebrook/New diggings area of Dartford Marshes in the hope of locating some Caspian Gulls. I was told by Andrew Lawson that a sub adult Caspian had been seen at the New diggings but when I arrived there was a first winter bird here instead. The picture below indicates a bird with apparently dark underwing but this is due to the lighting on the photo and has in fact got a whitish underwing. a cracking bird and worth the visit.

Sunday, 9 December 2007

Weekend Blues and yet more rain

A whole 2 days off from work, there's a Great Blue Heron on Scilly, it's virtually impossible to get over there, a weekend of strong wind and rain, what more could you want!!
I eventually got my act together on Saturday and visited a few sites along the Darent Valley in the vague hope of seeing something of note out of the car window.Near to Lullingstone Villa there was a lone Little Egret feeding along the river and a pair of Teal. Other than that, it was a bird free zone and next stop was Sevenoaks reserve as there's a hide there and I'd be sheltered from the rain. Once in the Tyler hide, there were many Greylags and Black-headed Gulls on view plus 30 or so Teal. Scanning through the Geese I noticed a juv White-fronted Goose and at times it was quite vocal, a good reserve record I expect.

Commuting up town......No thanks

On Friday I had a course to attend as part of work, at Colindale nearly 2 hours from home. I'm not a great fan of trains or London though despite limited viewing across a mass of commuters and oversize papers I did manage to see a Wren feeding alongside the line whilst we stopped for no apparent reason, a Sparrowhawk over Charlton Athletic FC and a Grey Wagtail at Colindale along the brook. I think I'l take a book next time!!

Sunday, 2 December 2007

Allhallows and beyond!

Brent Geese flying over the exposed mud flats off Allhallows with essex in the background. The Black Brant is the third bird in from the RHS.
The Black Brant is clearly visible here showing the 'black' plumage and gleaming white flanks
One of the Snow Buntings that was certainly NOT very photogenic

Saturday 1st Dec found me on the Isle of Grain wandering around in an attempt to see some good birds. First stop was St Mary's Hoo to check out the Biffa tip, complete with Gulls though only viewable as they flew to and from the tip. A scan across the marshes towards St Mary's Bay reveled very little bar ten Mute Swan and a Sparrowhawk. Next stop, Alhallows and a stroll along the foreshore by waking out from the British pilot pub. Almost immediately 2 Stonechat were seen and on the river side of the sea wall, 2 Snow Buntings that managed to remain in the shady part of the river wall and hence difficult to photograph. In the distance I could hear Brent Geese calling but failed to see any! I walked westwards infront of the caravan park and located the flock of Brents on the foreshore. Within minutes I found a Black Brant that from a distance was easily picked out as a result of the very black plumage and the broad white neck 'cob web' collar. I walked close to the birds, 221 Brents plus the Brant. On getting closer to the bird it was still obvious but in the bright sunlight showed some brown tones at times on the upperparts. A search in the evening of Brant images illustrate that this is within range for a pure bird but there's always a nagging doubt that there may be some hybrid influence. Other birds seen were 32 cracking Golden Plover and 200+ Black-tailed Godwits.