Wednesday, 31 December 2008

A year to remember

As 2008 nears it's end and the Aussies start to enjoy 2009 time to think back to a year that had good birds, some memorable dips, and not just the FTSE, some good friends that sadly were taken from us and memorable trips to India, Cornwall and Ireland. The good birds of 2008 were many from a Kentish perspective and though there were lean times through the year the autumn threw up some great birds and the spring had a few good moments of magic 'in the valley'. The star birds would have to be the Green Heron at West Hythe, Black Stork at Seaton, American Golden Plovers, Desert Wheatear and Red-footed Falcons. From a national perspective I rarely wandered out of the county bar a few trips to Essex, a trip to the White-crowned Sparrow in Norfolk early in the year and a memorable day in South Wales watching paint dry 'plus a few Little Egrets'
I gained five Kent ticks this year and saw some good local birds with Caspian Gull, Waxwing, Firecrest, Dartford Warbler and Fulmar!!
The World list neared the magical 6000 mark only to be cruelly brought back down 30 species or so again with the recent Clements updates and American alliance species lumping session! Hopefully 2009 will be bird filled, and another batch of goodies in Kent and maybe' just maybe that 'Great Bustard' will once again set toe in the grand old county of Kent for all to see
Happy New Year

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Fairytale of New Medway !

Last weekend I was just about recovering from a bad week of flu like illness and decided to bird the North Kent marshes 'for a change' pre Xmas just to get a bit of fresh air. Now I'm certainly not a festive person, the meaning of Xmas is either going to work and getting paid extra or going birding with a bit of socialising thrown in. Long gone are the days of the build up to Xmas MFI or no MFI, no Woolies, Whittards on the brink of coffee meltdown, it's a pretty depressing time of year that warrants getting out in the field with your bins and seeing a few festive birds.
WAXWING That'll do as one conveniently was found by Frank at lower Halstow and off I shot past the Medway shoppers looking for a bargain to the bottle bank of Medway, Lower Halstow, Sure enough there it was still on it's favoured tree and performed well for the next 30 mins or so.
Next stop Sharps Green a good locality for photos of Gulls and as luck would have it a Med Gull seen strutting it's stuff and attempting to charm the feathers off a Common Gull. That would be an interesting hybrid, must get a feather sample and send it for DNA analysis and time wasting.

All was going well, fine weather, no disturbance, birds showing well then suddenly all the Gulls flew and the viewfinder in my camera went dark/yellow.

Fred bleeding Skuttle of the camouflaged photographers club had entered the arena and all the birds flew off while megaphone bird scarer and camo man wandered up to a boat to photograph it oblivious of the disturbance he'd caused. Hopefully his camera didn't work.
I drove off disgruntled and partly blinded by his attire.......certainly no parking attendants needed here.
And there ends the pre Xmas moan.
Oh well nearly Saturday It'll all be over!!!!

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Dartfords like Sewage farms!

Sunday 7th Dec was a wonderful sunny day, not a breath of wind, clear skies and a heavy frost early am. A visit to Camer Park near Meopham was very enjoyable with an orchard full of Thrushes and a few finches, the best of the bunch being 400 Fieldfare, 35 Redwing, 2 Redpoll and a Brambling. In the afternoon I stopped at various spots along the Medway hoping to find a Green winged Teal or Black Brant or even a Shrike but at the back of my mind was the possibility of a Dartford Warbler that hopefully would be lurking but show itself in the still and sunny weather.
The orchard at Sole Street, near Meopham, Thrush heaven!

One of the many abandoned shopping trolleys at Motney RSPB, neglected by the shoppers, empty and not an RSPB gift in sight!
At Lower Halstow, I failed to find the wintering Whimbrel and the Brents were too far off to be sure that there was a Brant amongst them, though a possible was seen. These bottle diggers were showing very well though and very proud of their finds, that apparently can be found on EBay under "pot lids" !! Apparently it's not allowed here as the sign above says but as soon as the tide comes in the holes are filled in and they appeared to be far way from the river wall to cause any damage to sea defences, though I expect the birds are slightly further away than they would normally be.

One of the prize pot lids found that day.

Anyway, the birds were hard to come by but all of a sudden whilst walking around Motney Hill, I heard the distinctive call of a Dartford Warbler and sure enough there it was just inside the turd farm sitting up on top of the vegetation for all to say. My hunch had paid off and it's not often I find a migrant Dartford so I was well pleased with the find. Once again another superb site for birding that just needs coverage, it's a place I've only ever seen other birders a few times and during severe winters the deep water channel can be a great site for Scoter, Divers, rarer Grebes and other sea Duck.

Woodlarks like Stubble

Saturday 6th Dec, a busy morning at work, I'd just got home when something started vibrating in my pocket..... I'd missed a call from Guy but got the message that there's a report of nine Woodlark off Riverside Rd, near Footscray Meadows, close to Albany Park. Following a short break we made our way towards the area using our state of the Ark navigational tool, the Mot mot of the Sat Nav World with up to date maps, no indication of hidden speed cameras and very small print, the 'compact A-Z of London. The site was duly found and within minutes the crowd of two birders was boosted by the arrival of the A Team, fresh in from Sheppey, all Raptored up and ready for action. The Manfrottos and Kowas were assembled, placed in a seemingly good spot overlooking the stubble field (that's what the gen said) and shorty after I managed to see the sneaky sods shuffling along in the stubble at the end of the field.
Excellent, Woodlarks this close to home, well former home, and showing incredibly well. Photos were taken, birds were counted and verified by an independent birder and as the birds got to their closest position so far, the mere hint of a video being carefully taken out of a camera bag found them flying off to the back of the field out of sight. Or it could have been the lady with the Hound of the Baskervilles.

An excellent break from work and a great bird in the LNHS recording area. Cracking stuff.

Grey weekend in North Kent

In the last weekend of November I was really hoping for a final farewell to a good autumn and a last minute Brucie bonus with a good bird or two........... Sadly it didn't happen, not only did we see a Strictly favourite leave the floor and no longer brighten up a Saturday night but the birding was pretty quiet and at time hard, and wet work!! A visit to Abbott's Court on Grain failed to produce the pale bellied Brents and I settled for a Kingfisher, 2 Goldcrest, 69, yes 69 Moorhen!! and a few Little Egrets.Sadly their larger cousin wasn't on the cards and the best I could do was grab a shot of something big and white flying away in the drizzle......................... Mute Swan. Once again another great site in North Kent to bird but that's the problem with Kent, too many good birding sites, it just needs time and patience. Some regularly watched sites may only produce a really rare bird once in a blue Moon ?? but they're worth waiting for. Think of the Royal Military Canal at west Hythe, no rares then like buses two rare Herons in a short period of time!
Sunday afternoon was spent on Sheppey, looking for the teeny cousin of Little Egret, Cattle. Now I did wonder as I was driving across Sheppey what I was doing looking for 'another' Cattle Egret, a cosmopolitan species I've seen millions of, but I tried, and I failed to locate the Swale Egbert. I did manage a Pink-footed Goose, an unexpected Goosander on the reserve and the usual array of Harriers plus a huge Peregrine. The Rough-leg was not visible but two SE Owls put on a great show at the mega raptor fest that is Capel Fleet.