Sunday, 30 March 2008

Stonker saves the Weekend, another game set and match to Essex!

The weekend was reasonably quiet for me in North Kent,despite a few short visits out to look for migrants. I had a walk in the fields and adjacent woods to Camer Park, near Meopham where a Swallow quickly zipped past in a rain storm, 'sign of summer and Wimbledon', a superb group of seven Brambling with some cracking males plus a Sparrowhawk overhead and a Chiffchaff singing were the best I could manage. Sunday I visited Cliffe RSPB and had a look on the Thames where the best bird was a Short-eared Owl showing distantly quartering the river wall, ................. in Essex at Coalhouse Fort. A Wheatear was near Coastguards and a Little Gull plus two very vocal Med Gulls on the quarries but despite much searching Iceland Gull scored zero.
I was at home briefly before a timely email indicated a Stone Curlew at Rainham RSPB in Essex, a mere 20 minutes away. I paid my dues at the Dartford traffic pollution jam, as all the vehicles slow down before acceleerating again and called in at Rainham. After a brisk walk the bird was nailed and photoshop had it's work cut out with the photos I took!!! is there a competition for the worst bird photo?
Also at Rainham a few Little Egrets and a good crowd of Stonker watchers!! Incredibly it's the third bird I've seen in this area with two on the Dartford side of the river.

For all photos and recent news of East London birding see

Friday, 28 March 2008

Love is in the air... rock hard loving!

Can you tell what it is yet? Thursday 27th was a day off work and an opportunity to photograph some things in the glorious sunny weather, a bit of a rarity of late. Once again I found myself at Danson Park near Bexleyheath attempting to get better shots of the Black throated Diver. A brief visit to Swanscombe in Kent was reasonably quiet bar one brief view of a Scandinavian Rock Pipit, six Ringed Plover and 5 Teal !!! Attempts at Jack Snipe drew a blank but I did prove that my wellies are still waterproof!

The Black throat put on a good show again but once again didn't provide me with the 'ultimate' shot. As you can see it was quite close at times and seems to be feeding well.
Whilst waiting for the BTD to come closer I walked around the park, an excellent site for getting photos of commoner birds.

This Coot evidently should have gone to Specsavers, as it appears to have misjudged 'the jump' and ended up on this nearby stump. Fortunately the situation was righted and Mrs Coot was duly near drowned in the water!!

The Great Crested Grebes display is now in full swing though sadly this is the best shot I could manage. House Martin nests for sale at Sandwich Bay Bird Observatory, a great place to bird and pick up some bargains, and what a fine pair they are!!

Monday, 24 March 2008

8 Years away from SAGA. Black th Diver saves the weekend

March 24th, hair trimmers at hand, grey stubble, thinning on top, only 8 years away from SAGA membership , can life get any better. The weather is still rubbish, my Easter egg has all gone, oh for some birds to look at. Then suddenly things looked up, a Black throated Diver is found at Danson Park lake, near Bexley and I head off down the A2 in the snow and watch the bird in the snow until finally there's a break in the weather and I celebrate my 42nd old day with a corking BTD.

At Bough Beech a Robin shows well but little else whilst forunately at Knole Park the snow stopped for a while otherwise I would never have seen this albino Deer.

The Meaning of Easter. Birds, Chocolates, Churches and Poor photos !!

Easter was very early this year and fortunately for all of us we won't be around for the next one this early again as the weather was pretty appalling and Church would have been the best place to shelter from the rain and snow and you'd think it was Xmas with the weather !! Well I may have passed many churches this weekend, Cooling is a a rather smart one, but as per usual birds and pictures were on my mind plus of course Chocolate, a good excuse at Easter to eat more than usual. The series entitled Willy's' wonky Chocolate Factory has now ended but a look on the website indicates that the Cacao farm is situated within Henri Pittier National Park a fantastic park in Venezuela teeming with birds. The other association that I remember well between Venezuela and Chocolate is that when I was there in 1994 it cost me more to buy a Mars bar than to fill the car up with fuel !!! Imagine that scenario in Britain !
Anyway my best attempts and worst attempts at bird photography in Kent this Easter as pictured here taken in rain, snow, poor light, birds too close, too far, windy, eating chocolate, dog scared them off etc. the Med Gulls were at Copperhouse Lane situated just West of Riverside CP in Medway a great area for birding and enjoying the Easter weather. The beauty of Copperhouse is that the tidal mud is right next to the are where you view hence easy birding. The only other birds of note were 86 Brent Geese whilst Wood pigeons put on a good show and a pair of RB Mergs were in Funton Creek with a Peregrine nearby.
hoorah (crap light though)
It was snowing, bird too far away!

Friday, 21 March 2008

Nice weather for Ducks !!

I found this note on a Wellie boot in a shop in Gravesend quite strange, as the local area is not known for it's one legged residents!!! Still a bargain that will provide one with plenty of pleasure in this spring weather!!On the way back from work I stopped off at Southfleet duck pond where activities were in full swing. I failed to find any bunnies or eggs but the Falcated Duck was still present along with his long distant migrant mates as below!
Arundel eat your heart out

Isle of Grain. Binney Farm, Allhallows

A day off work on Monday and a brief visit to some sites on the Isle of Grain. There were 5 cracking adult Med Gulls at St Mary's Tip whilst at nearby Binney Marsh, Allhallows I recorded my first Wheatear of the year plus 3+ 'White Wagtails' amongst the very inquisitive horses. Binney Farm and marshes is a great little area and worthy of a quick look.

The Swanscombe Pipits

The Bridge at Dartford viewed from Swanscombe foreshore last weekend. Prime habitat for wintering Pipits, with historical records of 80+ birds!!! In recent years 10-20 birds is more usual with 13 seen on 28th Feb this year and 8 on 15th March.The best spot for the Pipits, adjacent to the old jetty. The bird above and below were taken on 15th March 2008 and show a bird that is not very well advanced in it's spring 'Littoralis' Scandinavian Rock Pipit plumage. The underparts streaks are becoming more diffuse but there is only the slightest hint of a pinky flush. One of the birds seen this day was in much better plumage similar to the birds at Sandwich at the moment, see

The bird below was photographed at Swanscombe a few years ago also in Mid march and is a much better looking bird.

Thursday, 20 March 2008

Irish Birding. The Final Chapter. West End Gulls

The after brekkie birding was as good as the pre cholesterol birding, with the Ring-billed Gull showing well with his Common cousin at Nimmos and the Iceland Gulls still waiting for bread!
A return to Nimmos in the afternoon turned up this second winter Kumlien's Gull for a short while whilst as can be seen below, another bird was at Rossaveal though as with Nimmos no Glaucs waiting for their photo opportunity.
A couple of piccies of the Rossaveal Kumlien's, above and below

As a final treat we visited Limerick on route to Shannon airport to give Gull Boy James more practice and enjoyment at feeding the Swans 'from a safe distance' . No white winged Gulls though, but a cracking first visit to the Emerald Isle, seen in all it's glory in the continuing rain. We managed to record over 90 species including all the hoped for species. Many thanks to the excellent company and Ryan Air flights.

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

It's a long way to Tick a Rarity (Pre breakfast bird bonanza)

The famous Nimmo's Pier at Galway host to many a rarity over the years and a cracking place to see Mute Swan and Feral Pigeon up close!! Also a good site for mega views of Iceland Gull, a wintering Forster's Tern, Ring-billed Gull, a pair of female type Surf Scoters, an adult and first winter American Herring Gull, plus Kumlien's, Pale-bellied Brent Goose, Great Northern Diver and Sandwich Tern all before 9am !! What a fantastic place!! I first heard of Nimmo's Pier way back in the late 1980's and always hoped to visit the place one day to savour the Gulls up close and with the added bonus of the American Herring Gulls, a recently split species on this side of the pond, it was time to extend my British (long since forgotten) list to a British and Irish (for 1 weekend only) list!! To see six individuals of four different North American species in such a small area is incredible, something I've only previously achieved in the Americas 'as expected' and the Isles of Scilly, one of the best places to bird and holiday in the British Isles. The adult American Herring Gull, that has been returning to Nimmos for several winters now, identifiable by it's streaky head and bulky size. The bird is not always around and goes missing for a while though we were fortunate enough to see it almost immediately on arrival and later in the day. Luck was also on our side with the continued presence of the first winter bird that was incredibly approachable.
Ring billed Gull. One of 2 adults present, cracking birds and ridiculously tame as they are used to being fed bread by the locals.

American Herring Gull (first winter). The star of the show if Gulls are the bag you're into, with it's smoky underparts, paler contrasty head, thickset bill, virtually all dark tail and off white tail base/rump.
Forster's Tern . Super views during pre breakfast birding working up an appetite for the bacon, snorkers and tons of toast, that's my type of birding.

Ring-billed Gull having a wander
Ring-billed Gull
American Herring Gulls. Father and son !! Will there ever be a twitchable bird in Kent or nearby??
Iceland Gull (adult and 1st winter) A brilliant site for these birds, always in view with over 10 seen.
Iceland Gull (first year)

Common Gull, Common but what a stunning Gull
Common Gull (adult) . Even more stunning, a lovely Gull in adult plumage.
Iceland Gull (first year)
Iceland Gull (adult)
Iceland Gull (first year) The memory cards took a pounding this morning, that's the beauty of digital piccies, finger on the trigger and shoot away at no cost whatsoever once you've got a pocket full of memory cards!!
If this wasn't good enough we still had Rossaveal to visit, a return visit to Nimmos' and Limerick for the continued Irish adventure.