Sunday, 25 January 2009

Wierton Waxwings, North Kent birding and lots of rain!

Following a few weeks of blog free zone, 'excellent I hear you say' I've finally found time to update the blog. The past few weeks have been busy at work, busy with the KOS and an attempt to spend an all nighter at Martins' following a meeting plus the inauguration of Barack Obama in the USA and attempts to see Waxwings around and about. News from the duck pond at Broadditch indicated that the Falcated Duck may have finally left his chosen pond , 'but' sure enough Sat 24th he was back again with his Mallard mates and food fest. A visit to Northfleet Blue Lake revealed an increased number of Tufted Duck and an adult Med Gull seen on the lake and the nearby car park of the CTRL. Attempts to find Waxwings locally have failed abysmally though it's been interesting to check out new areas for future reference. A flying visit to Wierton last weekend produced the hoped for Waxwings though only two were seen, one depicted above happily munching on apples carefully placed on the trees by other photographers. The marvels of modern photography indicate that post digestion an apple can indeed look like a Chili as the photo below shows caught beautifully in the camera just post Waxwing! Other birds at Wierton were a Little Owl, a few Siskins and 54 Golden Plover overhead. A visit to East Malling for Waxwings drew a blank though 15+ Brambling were excellent to see amongst the Fieldfares and Chaffinches in the orchard behind the church.

Finally, a quick visit to New Hythe for the hoped for Bitterns didn't disappoint with 3 on show in an area no larger than Farmer Howards' Range Rover! The birds showed well in the rain though sadly no good for photos though I could post some of my efforts to reveal just how poor the light was!

Monday, 12 January 2009

Teeside. Refineries, frozen wasteland and Gulls

Saturday 10th Jan ended up being a day out of Kent, heading just a few miles North of the Dartford Tunnel, 300 or so to the winter wonderland of Teeside complete with the choking chemicals that is Billingham, and the spectacular backdrop at dawn more akin to Grain on a good day!
As dawn broke and the frozen pools of Dorman's, Reclamation and the superb picturesque adjacent tip were admired, the Gulls started to fly in and either settle on the ice or feed on the tip. My previous visits to this area have been few, with the famous Great Dot, the Long-toed Pec Stint, Double crested Cormorant and believe it or not many eons ago, Black winged Stilt!! This time though the goal was a rare wanderer from the Pacific, Glaucous winged Gull only the second British record and a good excuse to have a day out of Kent. The gulls were scanned by the slowly growing crowd which numbered several hundred as the morning wore on. An adult Glaucous Gull performed on the pools and the tip whilst the banter of Clements taxonomic lumps and where have you been lately kept the pangs of hunger and cold at bay. Fortunately a lone mobile musically announced the presence of the gull on Saltholme pool and within seconds like a scene from Wacky Races the cars sped off to the line of scopes and there it was in all it's brutish ugly glory, Glaucous winged Gull
There were literally masses of Gulls but the boy had chosen a small group to settle in and the views were excellent for the next few hours as it sat down, preened, flew around a bit and performed to the crowds.

Guy and John taking a break from watching the GWG in the extremely cold conditions,whilst Mike sat in the car pondering over whether to eat his remaining halve a Twix biscuit!
The boy in flight above and below.

Eventually we decide to leave the area and go looking for some Waxwings allowing us the opportunity to sample the local housing estates, very nice indeed and 85+ Waxwings were seen in roadside trees at Ingleby Barwick just South of the river, a fitting end to a great day out.

Sunday, 4 January 2009

Bearded Bonanza

This weekend I decided to stay local, despite the lure of a 'nice' (if that's the term) Glaucous winged Gull up North. I seem to be far more sedentary these days ans decided with the fine weather to go out with the dog for a long walk/birding session. The first bird seen was a Chiffchaff near the bus garage evidently mourning the sad recent loss of the great Reg Varney. Many years ago I actually ticked off Olive and Stan at Barking, that dates me!! The weather was superb and despite all my efforts the atmosphere was a Waxwing calling free zone, only Fieldfare and Redwings on the berries. The pools of water that remain near to the CTRL tunnel and buildings are roughly where historically the best bits of reed and marsh used to be on the marsh and fortunately despite the CTRL some fine habitat remains. This superb spot held a multitude of birds though once again despite straining me ears for that loud carrying Remiz call the reeds were Penduline free.
Water Rail were particularly visible including this bird that probed around the edges. Up to eight birds were seen plus a good number of Teal, a Black-tailed Godwit, Green Sand, a superb Water Pipit and some stunning Snipe out in the open.
The distinct 'ping' sounds emanating from the reeds led me eventually to four Bearded Tits, stunning views with two male, two female. One of the males had a silver BTO type ring on it's right leg.

On the Sunday at Bough Beech this fine Bearded Tit performed brilliantly next to the track to the Oast house, great stuff.

Other birds at Bough Beech, 2 Mandarin, lots of Gulls but nothing unusual amongst them and a Sparrowhawk overhead. For updates on Bough Beech birds and the history of the site go to the following website.

Friday, 2 January 2009

This day in history

Thinking back over the years and inparticularly this day it suddenly dawned on me that Jan 2nd was for various reasons a memorable day and as ten years has passed I guess I should 'celebrate' still being here!!
Jan 2nd 1969. I was only 2 years old had a very small bird list and probably was watching 'Watch with Mother' on the black and white TV
Jan 2nd 1979. I was now birding but have no bird notes for then!!
Jan 2nd 1989. A trip to Theale in Berks for 4 American Wigeon hybrids !!!! Why. I also saw a Red necked Grebe at Wraysbury, 4 Waxwings at Burnham, wherever that was and an adult Med Gull at Footscray.
Jan 2nd 1999. Panajachel, near Lake Atitlan, Guatemala and a stroll down the hill from the viewpoint found us Rusty Sparrow a much wanted tick and then feeling the barrel of a gun in my back as some bleeding Guatemalans decided to rob myself and Keith of our bins, tape recorder and cameras!! Neil fortunately dipped Rusty Sparrow thereby saving him from this 'trial of life' and found us running down the hill in pursuit of the first vehicle we saw having been released unhurt. I'd like to think that those 7 X 30 Swarovski SLC bins are still in good working order and hopefully being used for conservation purposes in Central America therefore hopefully some good will come of them.
What will Jan 2nd 2019 hold I wonder?

A Nip in the air. New Years Day 2009

New Years day 2009 and the start of a new year list half heartedly as ever, with interest waning by Jan 2nd!! John and myself decided to do a few sites in Kent allowing us to get to grips with a few key birds and hopefully have a good day out. The weather was cold, still and cloudy ideal for birding and as a result passerines were easy to see and thus many were recorded. The day began at West Hythe land of the herons where the 'resident' Night Heron performed well on the rocks near the dam and Chris Gibbard played with his new toy, he's digital camera. There'll be no stopping him now, Surfbirds, KOS website, Birdguides are you ready! Gibbo was looking a bit concerned as he had an appointment elsewhere as a matter of urgency. Anyway the Night Heron put on a good high speed display with the occasional blink of the eye and foot movement easily frozen by the digital World and 640 ISO. A Firecrest performed in the nearby bushes and Bullfinches showed well. Next stop Hythe for the Purple Sands, 3 of them at the Slade Court Hotel plus 20 or so Red throats on the sea and a few adult Gannets.
Off to Folkestone and the business park at Park Farm. The amassed crowd were enjoying the Waxwings, 22 of them whilst the offer of one of Mick's peppermints could not be turned down, a truly memorable New Years day mint that warmed me up a bit.

Having had my breath taken away and the the Waxwings playing difficult to get photo wise we headed off to Seaton. If you note below a Waxwing can be viewed on the digital screen on the camera complete with I think a Wimberly no wobbly head and mega pricey lens!

The huge crowd!

At Seaton a Goosander performed well on the ice plus large numbers of duck, a Grey Wag and Kingfisher. Finally in the Collards' Stodmarsh area great views of 4 Crossbills in the small patch of pines near Stodmarsh village, a few Marsh Harrier and a fem Goldeneye. another good day out and hopefully another good year in the making. A new UK record of 137 species was set in Kent today by Marcus, Andrew, James and Mike, well done lads