Monday, 28 December 2009

At the 12th year of waiting, an Owlet came to me !!

Way back in 1997, the astonishing news broke that Forest Owlet, Athene blewitti as it was known then was rediscovered in India after a very long absence!! Fortunately seeing this species has become reasonably easy as long as you contact the necessary people, make your way to the right area and have scouts working ahead of your arrival to locate the bird and get it lined up ready for you.
December 2009 was the year that I finally got a chance to feast my eyes on this critically endangered species during what proved to be a mega trip to NW and Central India pre Xmas, with over 300 species recorded, some really rare stuff and in great company. Once time allows I'll update you on the highlights of this must visit area of India complete with loads of wintering wildfowl, raptors, Wheatears and Warblers galore and some superb mammals 'furries' for good measure
stay tuned!!

Sunday, 29 November 2009


Quiet of late
I have done a bit of birding, a few trips to Dunge, Sheppey and some local Atlas work. At Dunge, Glossy Ibis, Cattle Egret, Great White Egret and some friendly Barnacle Geese. Common waders at Shellness and close to home two Common Buzzards at Darenth on Friday, 2 adult Yellow legged Gulls today at the Eastern Quarry near Bean and a superb Merlin and Peregrine at Southfleet recently whilst doing a TTV. I don't quite know how people keep up to date with blogs, websites etc, they must be retired or immediately get home from birding and make a beeline for the computer.
Regular updates will appear again soon once work allows me to escape the evil bacterial clutches of the petri dish!!!

Monday, 2 November 2009

A spare hour at Swanscombe

The first day of November was very very wet and an opportunity to catch up on some paperwork and homely things. A spare hour in the afternoon saw a break in the weather and I quickly visited Swanscombe for a quick shifty to see what had dropped in during the tropical storm!!!
Black headed Gulls were present 'as always', plus 2 Blackwits and the grotty eclipse Teal that are slowly getting back to their winter finery. A couple of Snipe probed around the muddy fringes whilst a few Herring Gulls dropped in for a bathe then flew again.
After a while a super adult Yellow-legged Gull dropped in for 10 mins and had a bathe, the first one I've actually seen on the CTRL pools. it's legs 'glowed' in the afternoon light and was easily compared with the bog standard 'Herring Gulls'
One of the showy Water Rail. Despite much trying this autumn I never did find a Crake, better luck next year hopefully.

Saturday, 31 October 2009

5th time lucky...The Mythical Zit

31st Oct 2009, the final day of an interesting month that had seen me both local and not so local of recent weeks. Despite some excellent local birding and some great days out elsewhere the day to day workload had prevented me at times having much flexibility this autumn. An autumn that has so far seen virtually no Goldcrests, lots of Redwings flying over, a few megas and some superb showy Water Rails at Swanscombe. Fortunately I had an extended weekend last week and all was going well until 10.32 on Weds when news of the continued presence of the Fan-tailed Warbler at Pegwell had me thinking about what I was going to be doing Xmas day pre Turkey....................a morning at Pegwell maybe!
Back to work on the Thurs and Mr Zit starts his routine of performing to Phil and the visitors once again following a 10 days absence ! This morning I found out at work that the bird was still present and decided 'yet' again to head East to Pegwell Bay for a presumed fruitless session.
And so it came to pass that at approx 1145 having been on site for 30 mins and with news that that the bird had gone to ground again that suddenly whilst walking through an area behind the hide, Mister Sept 6th 2009 had finally decided to show himself to me in my 20th hour of searching for this Enigma. I could hardly contain my excitement and soon a few birders arrived to feast their eyes on this globally abundant species that hopefully, 'if not already' gain a foothold on British soil
Calling occasionally the bird showed well at times and testament to the fact that I don't give in easily and this day fortune was on my side. I also had a Jack Snipe drop in, 2 Brambling flew over and a mixed flock of Chaffinch and Reed Bunting in the area.
The afternoon was spent looking for the equally mythical St Augustines' Park in Ramsgate that I eventually found under a different name and despite not locating the Pallas's had two cracking Firecrest and a Woodcock(Timber Dick) that I though was a Partridge originally, 'way out there' but the views were brief, flying away, drizzle, wooded, etc. I then spent an hour or so wandering around with Phil Milton where we saw a few bits and pieces and so ended a memorable afternoon in the field seeing some great birds, great company, some new sites for me, and special thanks to Gadget of Planet Thanet for the 'birders guide to Ramsgates unknown park names' !!

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Egrets I've had a few.........I dipped it my way

With news of an Egret fest at Dungeness JT and myself decided to have a day looking for white birds with the possibility of an Ibis thrown in for good measure. We were on site at Caldicott by 0800 but despite getting good views of Corn Bunt, Curlew and lots of sheep, the Sheep Egret was nowhere to be seen. We continued onto Denge marsh and careful scanning across the flood revealed a Little Egret, a white plastic bag and plenty of ducks and Lapwing. Undeterred we carried on scanning as 4 Swallows flew over and South but still no 'big egrets' or Ibis! At Denge marsh gully we had a concerted look for fresh migrants and managed another plastic bag or two, a Wren, Robin, and best of all Merlin! My attempts at the traditional short cut back to the road across the concrete 'dam' failed abysmally as my ageing body could no longer master this simple feat of wall climbing.........such is old age!
We had a good session at the ARC stacked with birds and eventually the Great White Egret made an appearance back on Denge marsh, but despite being huge, white and near to the above birders they appear not to have noticed it getting up and flying.
The BIG BOY of the Egret World
Finally the two Glossy Ibis flew into Dengemarsh, having dipped them earlier at the ARC, my 10th and 11th individuals this year !!

A Gull that I'm pretty certain is a Caspian Gull was on the ARC and showed well at times from the Hanson Hide.

Arthur the hide, another tragedy presumably of the recession with it's 'missing' back ?
As the day progressed we managed, Little and Great White Egret, Grey Heron, Bitterns, Glossy Ibis but try as we may we never did find the Cattle Egret that had been around a little while. I remember seeing my first UK Cattle Egret in 1986 near Yeovil having travelled down from Scotland overnight with me old mate Poxing Steve. Nowadays they have bred in the UK and appear at times in small flocks, another great addition to the list of breeding birds in the UK

Sunday, 25 October 2009

South Shields has got the X factor **MEGA**

I knew that one day I would be heading North once again to the heavily industrialised, cold, wet and mega birding area of Tyneside. The area is generally not known to be very scenic unless of course you spot that real Northern MEGA, Cheryl Cole, pictured above in full birding gear ready to tick off another local mega avian sprite. At 2203 on Thursday I decide to check the bird news and was amazed to see that an Eastern crowned Warbler had made landfall at Trow Quarry, South Shields. Plans were made on the Friday to travel up in the Howard tractor with JT to join the crowd. I rarely travel long distances these days but this one seemed too good to miss, and despite Cheryl being in London at least we knew that there was one potential mega on the cards
The day dawned, dull, drizzly, a stiff wind, and then we all got out of the car to a more pleasant outdoor wind. Fortunately the bird had stayed overnight and soon we were enjoying this mega along with a Yellow-browed Warbler that at times allowed great scope views despite the poor weather and deciding on which end of the scope was best to look through.
The crowd of happy punters enjoying the pleasant weather and well mown grass complete with Growler turds, GT's and some old friends from the past.
smile please
The boy, a real crippler and an educational bird that could in the past have been overlooked given brief or less than ideal views

The crown of the East
Next port of call was Port Clarence near where the Glaucous winged Gull was in the winter, and we duly added this distant and very wet Blue winged Teal to the tally as well as a very showy Pec Sand amongst the bird filled flood and meadows, a great place to bird
We were very fortunate to have the opportunity to photograph at close range the Gibbo in full plum age complete with his new coat, and unlit fag. All the clinching features can be seen here, and it was good to see that our Kentish cultural attache was on site
Last stop, Bempton RSPB following a long dreary drive in rain, mist and heavy traffic. The bird on show was Red-flanked Bluetail, annual in the UK now but way back in 1993 the Winspit wonder was a huge crowd puller, and a mythical bird to see in Britain, how times have changed
The Bluetail, 3200 ISO, for 20 mins exposure, the weather was simply atrocious

It had been a long day, out of Kent and the opportunity was taken to have a kip and dream of the days events. Ever ready for action the bins remain in place. Another great day out and a good set of birds, bring it on

A weekend in North Kent

Last weekend I decided to make a second visit to the Stoke area on Grain to look for the Glossy Ibis that had been present over the past week or so. I walked out to the area adjacent to the railway crossing and started scanning across the marshes for the bird. Eventually I picked it up in the bins very distantly and it appeared to drop near to the Mosco Pool. I walked off towards the area also seeing plenty of Little Egrets, 3 or 4 Marsh Harrier and a stunning male Hen Harrier that was drifting around, a fantastic bird that sadly was too distant to photograph. I eventually located the Ibis with 5 or so Little Egret but it flew back towards Stoke, an evidently very flighty individual compared to some. I did manage a few shots though of my 9th Glossy Ibis for the year, quite incredible really.
The Glossy Ibis feeding on a small flood
Having not been to Sheppey for a while I visited some old haunts starting with the Leas at Minster, the site of the 1983 Rock Thrush. The place looks great for migrants and I managed to find not one. The highlight was seeing a family scattering the ashes of a loved one which it would appear were tasted by the chap as their was a slight breeze. One of the ladies then stated that could have been one of their departed relatives legs!! Lovely place Minster !
Last stop was Shellness and quite surprisingly the road to the Hamlet was in pretty good shape and I spent an enjoyable few hours watching the waders as the tide dropped
One good Turnstone deserves another
Lesser Knot
Lots of Knot
Tripod Pipit, Anthus manfrotti
Redshank, this was a ringed individual
Just good friends, Oyk and Sheldy

A fine cock Pheasant
Amazing as it may seem but I'm almost up to date with the blogs, just one more to go. The blog Police will not be able to whinge anymore as we head up North to the land of the Mega!

Thursday, 22 October 2009

LNHS birding

It's been a funny old autumn so far, with trips to Pegwell, a complete lack of Goldcrests, a quiet Scilly (glad I'm not there) and some very sunny weather. Still not complaining, I've seen some cracking stuff locally and even near the garden in Northfleet have had Redwings, Chiffy, Sproghawks, and a few Mipits. Sunday 11th I found myself at Northfleet next the Thames that little known seaside resort complete with car park, shops, and a good place to view the Thames. I'd got a call that Paul larking had seen a Manx Shearwater pass Cliffe heading up river and I was in position ready to intercept this great little seabird close to home. The other reason was that Northfleet is the outermost limit of the London Natural History Societys' recording area, ie 20miles from St Paul's. By a stroke of luck the bird appeared and I duly snapped it, my 250th LNHS bird. With the powers of modern technology others were in waiting further up the Thames but the trail had gone cold, very cold until Andy Lawson indicated he's found it off Swanscombe!!! Excellent news and John Archer was ready at Crossness for this avian delight.......Nope, a GBB had taken a liking to a Manx munch and set about killing the bird and eating it a sad end to an epic voyage in the Thames.
News late on the afternoon of Oct 12th was incredible in that a first winter Shrike had been re identified as a Brown Shrike, a mega in the UK and for me a UK lifer and useful bird to see and study for future reference. 1200 Oct 13th and the Vectra was off heading West to Staines Moor a mere 56 miles away. On parking the car I noted the name of the pub, rather apt I thought.
A good bird to see and a good call from an ID point of view from a brave man indeed.

It was good to see that West London is just as picturesque as East London
The carefully sited sign and map of the area well suited to dwarf and those unable to look upwards!
The Shrike paparazzi, and a man photographing a fish
Chris Collins and trademark jumper(surely not the same one from the 90's) looks intently on at the river assessing it's suitability as a staring point for another seabird spectacular pelagic..............QUITE
Batman scores a lifer
Mike and co peruse the bird in the glorious sunny weather

Is it a bird is a plane............................NO RN Parakeet, rare if you live up North and for some I expect that day another lifer. They should live in Thanet !! hordes of them.