Monday, 25 August 2008

Bank Holiday wanderings

The last 'proper' bank holiday weekend of the year before Xmas and all that social stuff that I try and avoid. 'Thank God for Gulls'
Saturday was a work day 'again' but with two whole days to kill before work again I decided to wander off to the Hoo peninsula once again where as usual the only disturbance were the cows that decided to play flush the Geese just as I was trying to count them. The walk out from Allhallows produced a Hobby hunting for dragonflies over and a few Little Egrets overhead. Wader numbers were done but varied with a respectable 100+ Blackwits all quietly sleeping plus the odd loner wandering the marshes probing for food. Greenshank were much reduced in number with probably only 6 individuals seen plus a brief Dunlin that flew in and a vocal Turnstone that flew over calling. Duck numbers were certainly up with 550+ Teal and 5 Garganey mixed in. I was hoping for a few Whinchat but 5 Wheatear were ample compensation. A group of 5 Ruff suddenly appeared from nowhere and started feeding near me allowing me to get a few poor shots.

Ruff one of a group of five settled close by
A fine juv Spotted Redshank happily feeding with the ducks and Geese
Marsh Harrier, on patrol across the marshes and keeping the birds alert
Wheatear on the fence posts.

Yet another great visit to this area, and another poor autumn bank holiday weather wise!

Thursday, 21 August 2008

Finfoot in Southfleet!!

Sunday 17th Aug and a recovery day from the exertions of trying to track down a certain elsusive birder, 'PAJM' . A visit to Broadditch duck pond was required to check up on me old mate, Ed the FalcatED Duck. Sure enough he was still there hiding under the trees and awaiting his return voyage to the far East. Incredibly though another Asian wanderer was now on the pond, and in poor misty conditions, bins steamed up, one eye partly closed and remembering the good old days of Krabi and Mr Dai, a Masked Finfoot look alike!
The resemblance is incredible, even the habit of hiding in the shady waters under the trees.
The Falcated Duck
Finfoot plasticus sneaking away from me.
The genuine article, a stunning photo by Gertrud and Helmut Denzau that adorns the superb latest Forktail published by the Oriental Bird Club. Everyone should belong to this club, for details see
Following the excitement of Broadditch a quick visit to the River Thames at Northfleet and Gravesend produced Black and Common Terns in the river.

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Escape to Rutland

Saturday 16th Aug 2008 and my second ever visit to the Birdfair at Rutland . With a full car load to keep the costs down, Gary, Andy, Gordon and myself heading up North arriving at about 9.30am. The car park was already heaving and we immediately made a bee line for the optics marquees in order that Andy could pester the different manufacturers whilst I played with a rather nice Nikon 300mm lens (too nice)! With many friends to see and have a chat to the progress was at times slow and hindered by Andy calling us back to play the telescope comparison game! Eventually I managed to see a few things that I wanted to look at and track down some old mates, some more elusive than others. Colombia was tempting me back, as was Peru, Asia, and even Taiwan.
A photo of some ex Kent birders, David Tipling, Tim and Irene Loseby though shortly after this photo David had to rush off as someone wanted to buy one of his photos, hence the mobile.

Ralph and Brenda Todd were showing well, the second time in a week I saw these 'at times' elusive birders that encouraged many of us from the Dartford and Bexley area through the RSPB to enjoy birding.
Try as he could Gary couldn't escape from Andy, he just always seem to track us down, even the artists in the Art marquee were looking for him.
Late on in the afternoon and a fruitless search of marquees for one very elusive birder, that I never managed to catch up with, he had the habits of a Greater Melampitta, just as you thought you knew where he was, you waited and searched the marquee but evidently he took a different route and sneaked away unseen. (Next time Pete I'll catch up with you)! The commotion outside the mural here indicated a possible sighting of something mega, and Clive Byers greeted me with, 'I've just had my photo taken with Sir David Attenborough'. Sir David Attenborough signing autographs. (for a better photo by Tony see And that was it, a great day, lots of talking, a sighting of the equally elusive sea wanderer, Chris Collins, plus many other birders and a quick visit up the road to do some birding, with two Osprey being seen, though Gordon appeared more interested in looking at grassland management.

Monday, 18 August 2008

A Scenic Left Tern

Tuesday 12th August and a little bit of spare time in the evening found me turning left out of the hospital instead of the usual right. I was then faced with a worse than usual Dartford Tunnel traffic jam probably caused by them taking a quid or more off all the punters making them have to stop! If we didn't stop to pay our duties the traffic would keep flowing!!
Anyway, a detour through scenic Dartford and onto Thames Road to track down Thamemead and it's golf course. As usual I managed to get lost but eventually found that large body of water called the River Thames and after a short wait with other fellow birders enjoyed good views of the moulting sum plum White-winged Black Tern, my sixth in the Thames Estuary and 16th in the UK. It was also a good opportunity to sap up the local sights and enjoy the view of this part of the Thames!!

Sunday, 17 August 2008

Like buses aren't they!

Working all day Saturday, I felt that I had to get out on the Sunday (10th) and I inexplicably found myself on the A2 once again heading East. Incredible as it may seem I chose to go past the Grain turn off and head towards Sheppey. A few preliminary stops to pass away the low tide doldrums produced good numbers of Greenshank, a few Golden Plover and Marsh Harriers at Funton and Lower Halstow. A quick prayer at the church in Lower Halstow for good fortunes and birding and then off along the Elmley track where I exchanged mobile numbers with the THREE JOHNS as a precaution to potential latter events. The windy but dry walk down to the hides was reasonably uneventful and Milvus free. The tide was slowly coming up and on arrival at the Wellmarsh Hide I squeezed in at the back behind the AGP hopefuls. A Spotted Redshank and Ruff were good to see but little else!
Ten minutes of Pluvialis invisiblis I made an executive decision to go to Southfleet Hide with anyone else that cared to join me!
As I wandered off alone in my Billy no mates mode, the ten minutes to the hide flew past as did a Kestrel. Once in the hide I had to literally nudge my way into place amongst the gathered throng of empty seats and continued to wonder whether I'd made a mistake or not. Mobile reception was a little patchy and I placed the phone above the door as there was a signal there.
No sooner had I settled down than Valentino Rossi of the RSPB bike world appeared in front of me in hot pursuit of the cattle. Now, all the birds that appeared to be present from my hide were flying towards Wellmarsh. B*ll**** I thought! Incredibly the birds returned and finally at 1841 following a distant Red Kite and a few other waders to keep me busy the American Golden Plover appeared at the back of the flood. The second one this year that I'd seen in Kent , just like buses you wait ages for them then see two!!
With the mobile at the ready the Wellmarsh troops were summoned via the THREE JOHNS network and incredibly like an Olympian, Mike Buckland appeared 'minutes' later setting the new Wellmarsh to Southfleet Cycling sprint record shortly followed by a mass of birders that quickly filled the hide with much wheezing and breathlessness! The bird fortunately reappeared and all enjoyed the event. No more was I Billy no mates!
Andy Appleton is evidently either stunned by his second AGP of the season or has found that protruding nail in the wooden bench.
A very very poor shot of the bird, it's the small non whitish blurred bit in the middle!

Sunday, 3 August 2008

Tour of the Medway

Funton Creek prime wader feeding
Sunday 3rd Aug, a good time of the year for waders, seabirds, and generally wandering the marshes looking for freshly arrived rare waders. Today was very much a scan, scan again, more scanning, even more scanning trying to find a rarity amongst the waders on the North Kent marshes. I drove my usual route starting off at the marshes adjacent to Kingferry bridge, Sheppey with 6 Little Egret, and a Common Sandpiper but little else. Next stop, Funton and with the tide just on the turn, waders were distant but identifiable. Totals were
Golden Plover 50 (no AGP or PGP though)
Grey Plover 15
Turnstone 31
Greenshank 14
Blackwit 97
Curlew 59
Dunlin 1 ( a poor effort)
Avocet 130
also a Sparowhawk and 2 Turtle Dove. This is such a good spot for waders that I'm surprised not more is found here, then again everyone goes to Oare as the waders are close and the views stunning
Next stop Lower Halstow where the bottle diggers were digging by the 'no digging sign' and a few waders were present
Whimbrel 4
Greenshank 2
Redshank 230+
also a crisp juv Med Gull, stunning birds.
Last stop a drive around the Medway to Allhallows, again!!! and in good company on the marshes a few hours of superb birding especially the waders. Totals were
Green Sandpiper 15+ noisily flying around in tight groups
Wood Sandpiper 1 a real corker, mega views
Greenshank 68 a fantastic sight to see as the flock whirled around calling
Blackwit a paltry 150 today
Snipe 16
Ruff 1
also a few other bits of note
Hobby 1
Sparrowhawk 1
Pintail 1fem
Teal a family party
Marsh Harrier 1

Lower Halstow a great site to bird, excellent for close views of waders as the tide rises, just waiting for that Red-necked Stint to arrive!!!
Greenshank, Redshank and a Ruff
Part of the mega Greenshank flock, all but one were adults
Lestes dryas (female)
Lestes dryas female appendages. At times to tricky to ID but I'm pretty certain this is dryas

Friday, 1 August 2008

Wader fest on the Isle of Grain

A day off work today and an opportunity to visit the marshes in the Allhallows area once again. A very pleasant walk, no cows to hassle me, no rain, but a strong wind that at times made viewing difficult. The walk began as always with a Corn Bunting on the wires near Binney Farm, a few Little Egret flying overhead and still plenty of Ruddy Darters. Having arrived at the fleets and water it was evident that few waders were present though it wasn't yet high tide.
A scattering of Greenshank, and two Green Sandpipers were some compensation but things were looking pretty quiet and the water level had dropped since my last visit of two weeks before. Eventually in the company of Terry and his dog the cumulative counts of waders, ducks etc were as follows.
Green Sandpiper 3
Wood Sandpiper 1
Ruff 4
Blackwit 56
Redshank 30+
Snipe 6
Greenshank 59!!
Garganey 7
Little Egret 18+
Marsh Harrier 2
Hobby 2
The Blackwits were evidently staying in Yantlett creek whereas the Greenshank count of 59 was pretty impressive and I left before high tide!!
Once again an excellent 'longish' walk and some good counts though the birds here are very skittish and have to be viewed sensibly.
At Bluewater in the afternoon, a Peregrine flew high overhead whilst we were protecting our chips from the marauding Canadas!