Saturday, 28 February 2009

To Sussex and back. A birders tale

For several weeks I'd been pondering as to whether a drake King Eider first seen in Sussex off Pett would return to Kentish waters having been seen off Dunge and nearby at Galloways. Fortunately a weekend was free and the King Eider, only the second Kent record and first for Sussex had once again been seen gracing Kentish waters. JT and myself headed off to the area known as Galloways, the Brooks, Midrips, closed for shooting again, and luckily the red flags weren't flying and we could access the area along the military road where at the end a collection of cars belied it's presence. We started walking West towards Sussex and potentially to Hants as we appeared to walk for ever and the small assembled crowd seemed further away each time as the bird drifted West with the tide. Eventually just short of Hayling Island or so it seemed the bird was seen, enjoyed in all it's finery as well as large numbers of Scoter, a few Velvets and a Long-tailed Duck. Team Hunter were out in force complete with overnight bag, New Forest guidebook and worn out buggy wheels from the punishing walk cross county borders. The remainder of the day produced Med Gull, Barn Owl, Slav Grebes and a brief Bittern but despite all efforts team Ryan and Burton couldn't produce the holy grail of Red-crested Pochard from Christmas Dell hide. Defeated they retreated back to local patches starting with an S.
Stunning photos of the Eider through a toilet roll attached to a box brownie

All eyes North except Brendan looking lost and trying to locate the Stour Valley.

Another brief jaunt out in the County and these stunning Waxwings in Edenbridge again near the Sussex border, part of a group of 12 birds. Simply stunning.

Saturday, 7 February 2009

Bring on the blizzards

The past week has been an interesting one with a drop in interest rates, the pound rallying against the Euro, a drop in attendance at work nationally and huge amounts of snow in the SE and beyond. Last Sunday John and myself ventured East towards East Kent but briefly called in at Lower Halstow to appreciate an empty tree devoid of Waxwings before heading off to the arctic wastelands further East and two superb Long-eared Owls sitting quietly in the trees out of the ridiculously cold and biting wind. At Collard's lake Stodmarsh, a Bittern was feeding along the reed edge in the distance whilst a redhead Smew swam nearby. An assemblage of Gulls failed to reveal anything of great note so onto Stodmarsh where upon arrival it started snowing and then blizzards conditions. A Brambling feeding on Brendan's carefully placed seed provided some easy viewing whilst the lakes held a huge number of Teal which soon become invisible in the arctic conditions. A walk into the alder wood produced a very tame Robin whilst two Woodcock or Timber Dick, or apparently in some parts of the UK, Mahogany love truncheon, as there known battled their way through the snow, great stuff. A quick stop by Stodmarsh church for photographs was noting compared to what we were about to see, as a Jack Snipe was seen on the small stream by the church, stunning views. Next stop Seaton where very little was seen but brought back memories of last autumn and the Black Stork. A Merlin quickly passed through nearby and by 4 pm we decided that the weather looked a bit dicey and headed home, just in time as snow then fell heavily all around.
Monday morning and the journey to work was entertaining to say the least but once at work and at lunch break I ventured into the blizzards to look for displaced birds though found nothing. The Tuesday was a different story though with reports of a Waxwing by the hospital I went on a Waxwing quest and located 3 at the East end of the hospital. This paled into insignificance though as whilst speaking to a work colleague, I noticed there were Waxwings in the trees outside the lab. These birds were still present to Thursday at least one of which was colour ringed in Aberdeen in Nov last year. The birds provided great views and some amusement for the hospital staff with this guy standing in the snow with bins and camera!!

The Robin at Stodmarsh. Great Xmas card setting.
Jack the Snipe believing we couldn't see him!
JT on the slippery boardwalk at Stodmarsh NNR.
One of the two LEOs putting on a good show.
Wingham off road driving, before the snow falls?
Stodmarsh in the snow, very scenic.
Seaton in the winter

The A2 on Monday, blizzard conditions prevailed and ground part of the SE to a halt!

Darent Valley Hospital, last Monday.