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.

Persistence doesn't always pay off

Pegwell Bay, tranquil, an early morning view as the sun breaks over the garage pools and the start of a new day and a new set of sightings on the excellent Planet Thanet website .
This should have been one of those memorable days when suddenly everything came together, goals were achieved irrespective of red beach balls in the play zone and a new UK and Kent bird could be enjoyed and photographed for posterity............NO CHANCE
Eagerly awaiting the first rays of sunlight across the bay the gathered troops from near and far waited in anticipation for Mr Zitting Cisticola or , Cisticola invisiblis as it turned out !
The expected Zit time arrived, 0800, 0830, 0900 but still no Zit, just more and more birders looking on, chatting, scouring the landscape for this tinker of a bird, the Chihuahua of the Bird World. But no, nothing bar a Wren, an excitable cyclist and a distant Peregrine. I stayed until 1400 but nothing. Undefeated I returned the next weekend following another appearance by Houdini and as a glutton for punishment I was back again the next day. In total I spent 19 hours over 4 trips looking at a Cisticola free zone but on the plus side getting to see some old mates including Mr Peggers himself Phil Milton and many mates from over the years.
In all all then not a total waste of time and an indication that this superb birding locality doesn't give up it's trophies easily and surely deserves the attention it gets with a long list of great birds and some great habbo to boot 'so to speak'
One day I'll clap eyes on a Zitty in the County and the 19 hours of birding and scanning will be but a distant memory.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

A week in Devon

As has been the theme for the last few autumns I tend to have a weeks hols in Devon in Sept allowing me a week to relax with Louise and the dog and not worry about what's being seen in Kent!!
2006 saw a Paddyfield Warbler at Seasalter that fortunately didn't show to the masses and I survived that year. 2007 saw another Paddyfield this time at Bockhill which I managed to get home for on the Sat afternoon and enjoy this mega bird. 2008 was the year of the Zit as Mr Burton kindly found a Fan tailed warbler whilst I was driving through Plymouth,this time distance beat me and I dipped! 2009 well would you believe it, Mr Tufty was still fresh in my mind whilst Cockles the Booted Kite tormented me as I enjoyed a relaxing day at Beesands to the constant sound of my mobile and the dog barking. Fortunately this time the bird was re identified as a Black Kite and even though the incredible Zit had made another appearance at Pigswill Bay I manged to enjoy my time in Devon, relaxed, good pasties, ice creams, a well deserved break from work and some good birds thrown in as well.
Stonehenge is always a good sight as you drive along the A303 and this time I thought we'd stop to pray to the Zit Gods and another Kent tick...............NO CHANCE

Incredible as it may seem a quick peruse of the Birdguides website revealed that 6, yes SIX Messy Ibi has made landfall at Seaton, Devon home of the Haig and top seawatching spot. As we drove through Chard, Somerset, the place name rang a bell but I failed to remember why to start with. On arrival at Seaton the Glossy Ibi were on view feeding with Curlew and following the recent Stodders bird were a welcome sight and well worth the A303 diversion. Mr Haig was not on view though and it was then that I realised that Chard was the home of the Egret, a Great white only 12.3 miles away. Following a last look at the Ibis as they flew off on route to Duffy's friends house Dorset, I noted that a large white camouflaged brimmed has was on view, a good move in the superb sunny weather. In the absence of a white hat though the small child has hidden himself under a coat to avoid the harmful UV!
The Seaton 6( part of)
The GWE at Chard initially proved hard to locate on the small Chard Res, and it became apparent that a big white gleaming Heron on a small Res isn't always easy to find, but persistence paid off and I located this monster of a bird that was doing better than the local danglers and their fishing rods
Of course the punishment for all this 'holiday' birding was a detour back to the Hee Haw Sanctuary at Sidmouth, which allowed me and the dog some kip whilst Louise had her donkey fix. Once at home in our cosy cottage near Kingsbridge we had a superb cream tea and sat down to watch yep, you've guessed it ........... the X Factor.
The week passed by and was very enjoyable bar, Mr Zit, Blocky the Beagle and a couple of Wryneck dips.
This Dotterel at Bolberry Down, my favourite locality in Devon, I just need to move nearby and I'd be out birding all the time at this great migrant locality home to many a missed rare I expect.

One day we visited Port Isaac, home of Doc Martin and as can be seen from the pap shot above (the Doc wasn't it) the inquisitive tourists trying to take a peek into The Docs house!
Hawaii 5 dog
Port Issac, busy, hot and very touristy.. Dipped Martin Clunes.
A great sign, a no longer constipated dog drops a pebble.
Gadwall at Beesands, another great locality, and another mega place to live, much nicer than Slapton ..........and free parking!
A surprise find one evening off South Huish, a corking adult Red throated Diver just offshore
A Merlin at Bolberry defeated following a scrap with a Peregrine
The Peregrine and prey, in heavy morbid moult (certainly it's last few moments of life). Bolberry, Soar and Bolt Head all great areas superb for migrants with Whinchat, Wheatear, Tree Pipit, Restart, Spotted Fly and the no show Wryneck!
The Royal Oak Pub, Marborough home of Twiggs and Wright way back in 1986 following a Bonelli's Warbler that we twitched in the August
Sunset looking towards Rame
Another surprise and another Ibis, my eighth this year and a good bird at South Huish following an initial dip in the morning
Rocky's Cafe, South Milton Beach !!! No comment

A day out at Wembury and this excellent little Pink Stink with the Starlings
Viewed from Tintagel, Lundy an island I've visited a few times and seen Ancient Murrelet, Veery, Swainson's Thrush, not a bad trio of birds over 3 trips !!
Davidstow airfield, Cornwall MEGA . A Ringed Plover shows well

The long staying Baird's Sand at the airfield (not totally deserted) as we kept being buzzed by small planes as well as an HGV driver having lessons, still a cracking bird though and my first Yank wader at last at Davidstow. Ans so, back To Kent to the delights of Pigswill Bay........but that's another story.