Monday, 25 February 2008

Monitor is down ! Normal service will resume shortly!

My computer monitor has ceased to be, all reports of birds seen recently will appear as and when normal service resumes!

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Going off the Rails....Deliverance !!

Sunday 17th Feb and another visit to the Hoo peninsula. A brief visit revealed few birds at St Mary's Bay, only an adult Med Gull flying over and some very 'conspicuous shooters waiting to shoot their 3 plastic decoy ducks (always an easy target). At Grain 2 Water Rails managed to swim away very fast as I parked the car though I did manage a few shots, (going going gone) back into cover. Despite by best attempts at making squealing noises more akin to a scene from the film Deliverance (yes I really am that old) they never appeared again. .Nearby the 46 Barnacle Geese were still in company of the bitzer Geese.

Sunday, 17 February 2008

'Old' friends reunited. White wingers win again

The Dunge Gulls minus White wingers !!
Saturday 16th Feb 'should' have been a lovely day out in South Wales enjoying the delights of Welsh resevoirs though with the Pacific Diver doing a bunk, a day in Kent with Gull boy and friends was order of the day.

First stop Boughton Monchelsea Deer Park and a brief look/listen for Lesser spotted Woodpeckers. The early morning frost was still very much evident with the muddy path frozen though unfortunately not frozen enough for one of us weighed down by savoury snacks!!

A few Siskins were seen and Lesser spots were heard though not close enough to see them. Leaving the area with fresh muddy boots our driver James drove down to Dungeness seeing a Common Buzzard not long after setting off and made a bee line for Walland marshes to look for Swans. A couple of Little Owl sites were checked though drew a blank whilst 12 Tree Sparrows showed well in a roadside field and hedge and the Whooper Swan was located amongst the Mute Swans near Midley.
The main purpose of the day was to look for Glaucous Gulls but we failed abysmally to locate any at the beach, fishing boats or on the reserve. There were plenty of Gulls on the patch and sitting on the beach at roost but no white wingers. A couple of spots were checked for Dartford Warbler but again no luck so off to the reserve to get a Slav fix. The 2 Slav Grebes were easily located as well as 5 Goosander and 7 Smew including a stunning drake. 27 Bewick's Swans reside near Cockles bridge and at Lydd 'spicy' sausage was very conspicuous by it's odour both at the time of consumption and later. It certainly brought back memories of my twitches with the lads and the atmosphere!!
A female Goldeneye on the RSPB reserve
The Bewick's Swans at Cockles bridge
At Scotney the Long-tailed Duck put on a great show together with 77 Barnacle Geese (part of an influx in Kent at present) and a flock of White fronts that departed to the fields before being counted.

The Long tailed Duck at Scotney seen in flight between county borders

Last stop was the Woolpack Harrier roost where 15 Marsh Harrier, 2 Hen Harrier and Barn Owl were seen with Cetti's, Bearded Tit and Water Rail being heard. A great day out with touch of spice to savour, shame about the Glaucs !
Marsh Harriers coming into roost at near darkness (1600 ISO)
The moon showed well late on always a good time to see it !!

Sunday, 10 February 2008

Woodland wanderings on the North Downs

A Jay flying over the woods

Inspired by Tim Hodges' photo of a Hawfinch at Reculver (see link below) I headed off to Trosley Country park to look for some.

As it was such a lovely morning I got up to the escarpment for sunrise and spent over four hours wandering around the woods as far as Whitehorse Wood that borders onto Holly Hill. Initially the birding was hard going but gradually things fell into place and finally at 0845 a Hawfinch was spotted sitting atop of a tree bold as brass but silent. It flew to some neighbouring trees and showed well for a few minutes before flying off and out of sight. Other good birds seen were a pair of Marsh Tit, several Great spots and Nuthatches. A pair of Sparrowhawk were 'pished' in and gave good views whilst lower down the slopes viewing from Paddlesworth Lane a Common Buzzard was seen being mobbed by a Crow before flying towards Trotiscliffe. A fantastic morning, the Hawfinch being the proverbial needle in the haystack but one is better than none!
The Hawfinch, always a cracking though sometimes difficult bird to see.
Raptors were not too photogenic as with this Sparrowhawk
A Marsh Tit was very vocal and showy at times

The Buzzard (honest)

Saturday, 9 February 2008

Return to Grain, The Purple Sand is on!

Saturday morning dawned bright and still, with high tide due at midday ish I headed East 'again' to that hallowed land of Grain once more. A brisk walk in the superb weather found me making a bee line for the outfall and 'shore enough' there was ONE wader feeding on the concrete apron, the quarry species, Purple Sandpiper. Camera at the ready I took a few shots before if flew off and joined a small group of Turnstones nearby. I managed to get some good shots when it chose to be awake and you could see the purple sheen on the feathers 'hence the name' . Also seen was a Little Egret and a Stonechat.

The Purple sheen can clearly be seen here

A photo finish with Turnstone
Nest stop the Bittern ,but he/she was not around though a flock of very vocal Bewick's Swans flew over and headed South. At the Mosco pool the Scaup was still present and still asleep. A quick look at St Mary's Bay revealed nothing of note though there were thousands of Black -hd Gull in the Estuary

Sunday, 3 February 2008

Hoo birding at it's best (photography at it's worst)

A late start today with a slow drive towards the Hoo peninsula for some Gull therapy. I hunted high and low for some 'special' Gulls but drew a total blank, not even a Med Gull. A quick look around the top fields at Allens Hill, Cliffe provided me with good views of 10+ Brambling associating with the Chaffinch flock, along with 15+ Reed Bunts.
I continued on towards Grain passing the local hot spots, or should I say 'cold spots' now as the burnt out cars had finished burning before arriving at the St Mary's tip area. It was pretty damn cold so I set up the scope and watched from the car which almost immediately produced the goods with a distant but 'stocky' Pom Skua that quickly set off after a Common Gull which in turn saw the arrival of a second Pom come in for some action. The birds suddenly vanished and throughout the next hour or so provided distant but ok views as one of the birds continued to harass the Gulls. 2007 was a Lemming year, up north therefore Poms in the winter are not unusual and there have been several sightings recently. Also vying for attention were an adult Med Gull and an adult Kittiwake plus a neat female Merlin and two Marsh Harrier.
Next stop, Grain Mosco pool, situated just as you approach the sign 'Isle of Grain' sign. A drake Scaup was asleep and not particulary photogenic but more so than the Poms!!
Last port of call a look for Bittern nearby which fortunately did the decent thing and showed to it's admirers, again not very photogenic more Houdini like in it's movements, still a cracking bird to see.