Friday, 31 December 2010

New Years Resolution....

Must try and keep this blog up to date....................
Have a great 2011

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Return to South America

Once I get a chance I'll update the blog with my recent adventures in Guyana. A great trip with nearly 50 new species seen out of a total trip list of 380+. Great company, food, great birding in simply the BEST continent in the World SOUTH AMERICA
The Rufous Crab Hawk above was one of many specialities seen, a species difficult to see in Venezuela but easy in Guyana

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

And so to Winter

A few weeks blog absence and not much to say really, a few TTVs a few good birds, lots of rain, even more work, loads of KOS work, lots of blogs read and a break from Moths...........looking forward to next year though
When all is quiet a perusal of websites and a bit of fun thrown in

Monday, 18 October 2010

East Kent........again

As I was working Saturday I decided to once again head East to the promised land with JT. A late start due to work we arrived at Shuart and nearby and wandered around for an hour trying to jot everything that was moving down.......... Fortunately I had a large piece of paper and an unlimited supply of ink in my pen for jotting down
Brambling 1
Siskin 1
Buzzard 2
Goldcrest 4
Fieldfare 5
East Kent birding at it's best, what to look at next. Following the first hours birding heading West and back home seemed a good idea but we ploughed on to Elmwood Avenue. A quick chat with the lady at the riding school who seems to have been there forever but never ages as if it was still the early 1990's! Again notebook at the ready bins poised the migrants flooded in, Redpoll 1, Siskin 1, Dunnock 2, Mipit >20 . Again heading West looked the best option
Next stop a cup of tea and a sandwich at the pumping station where the ambiance of a charity cycle race was the main interest. JT spotted bird of the morning, a Whitethroat in one of the 3 bushes. Excellent, things were really looking up now, next stop North Foreland where a Wheatear showed well on the clifftops and on the beach below uncle Tom cobley and dog patrol chased the Turnstones on the beach. Time to head West yet?
Next stop the ever reliable Northdown Park, another cup of tea and a text from Gordon ........Pallas's at caravan park Reculver
We dithered, birded the area a bit longer notching up a handsome group of 37+ Bramblings, good numbers of Blackbird, 5+ Chiffs, a male Blackcap ,a Lesser Redpoll then spent a while scraping the migrant turds that had hitched a ride on our boots . As if set in a scene from Slumdog Millionaire the Parakeets kept the background alive with their tuneful racket!
Time to head West, yes onto Reculver with the sweet scent of GTs (growler turds) wafting in the warm car air . The Pallas's Warbler put on a good show to it's small appreciative crowd. This really is one of the best looking migrants to grace our shores. Overhead a Peregrine flew over
Things were finally looking up and off to Grove we headed. Over the years there's been various birding spots named after events like a certain lane near Scotney and Belshaw's Bush at Capel and we decided to park at Howard's Bend turning the car at a 190 degree angle before locking up and entering the reserve. Immortalised for ever this quiet section of road will always be remembered for two things Wilson's Phal and International rescue for GNH!
At Grove the Wilson's Phal was again present from the Harrison's Drove and showed brilliantly through JT's revamped Kowa. A look for the GGShrike drew a blank and we returned towards the car when we had ten minutes of cracking birding
The Wilson's was from the viewing ramp, a Jack Snipe flew over us and away and just before Howards bend, the Great Grey Shrike zipped past us
That's why East Kent is so good for birding it just needs time, perseverance and a willingness to check those areas that you feel others may not have checked yet and well done to Gordon and Chris for finding that wee Sibe cracker that's what it's all about

Friday, 15 October 2010

Why oh why did it have to be sunny!

Last Sunday was a day in East Kent with high hopes and a 'hoped for list of special birds'. Sadly, despite the rest of Britain being bathed in rares, with Red flanked Bluetails literally popping up all over the place later on, East Kent was very hard going.
Despite living in North Kent, I've always enjoyed birding the outer reaches of East Kent around North Foreland and more recently got to know more about the birding sites nearer to Ramsgate
and Pegwell village. Saturday was dreary, strong E'ly winds and very overcast you could almost smell those rares flying overhead. A call to Nigel Jarman Sat pm revealed that bad news...........starlit sky, Sunday was going to be hard work. East Kent deserves more attention from birders, geographically well paced for migrants with lots of nooks and crannies to look at and always that possibility of something special amongst the migrants. First stop for JET and myself was Margate Cmy where bird of the day appeared almost immediately..........DCG (Dave Gilbert) a real rarity in the field beyond the Margate triangle and great to see him again and looking well. I'd spent a lot of time in the past birding with Dave and have fond memories of travels to Anglesey, Norfolk, South Wales, on the Scillies and even in Ecuador for three weeks !! Still in characteristic migrant plumage we spent a short while birding the area also bumping into Simon Fogg, Jeremy, Bob, Alan and Brenda Like the grand daddy of Kent birding Dave was as keen as ever and his repertoire of jokes as fluent as ever. I've had to alter the exposure on the pictures due to the clash of autumn colours from Jeremy in camouflage mode
Below Courtstairs north of Pegwell village an excellent looking area for migrants and worthy of coverage. The area South of here, Milton ranges, and Solly moth garden a great piece of coastline that allows for great birding and an opportunity to see migration as it happens on a good day with some truly great counts from Phil and Craig in the past week.
Elmwood and the lighthouse, another hotspot for migrants with Bramblings overhead, a Black Redstart, a distant Grey Heron and good numbers of Mipits. Back in the late 80's early 90's I used to bird this area quite a lot with the are adjacent to the old St Stephens college particularly productive. A hard days birding some good migrants with Chiffs, Siskin, Redpoll, a Tree Pipit and a few Swallows but still no star bird despite visiting Northdown Park and King George V park full of sun seekers and ice creams. A last ditch attempt at something rarer at North Foreland revealed a couple of Wheatear and then finally Steve Blaskett informed us of a Shore Lark at the pumping station nearby. Off we shot and there it was very very tame and almost run over a few times by cyclists.

So there you have it, a superb area for birding and a very enjoyable day. Good luck to Dylan, Francis, DCG, Steve, Phil and Craig and monitor the years events with some great photos not just avian on Planet Thanet, Margate Cmy blog and the Dumpton Non Conformist.
Anyone lucky enough to live in this part of Kent enjoy it, as despite rampant development and loss of habitat the birds common and rare will still be there just a bit trickier at times to find, good luck to you

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Yank Waders in Kent

It's pretty rare that you get an opportunity to see more than one or two species of Yank wader in a year in Kent, therefore with a White-rumped Sand continuing it's stay at Oare I decide to finally visit this superb reserve. With luck on arrival I saw the bird almost immediately as it flew onto one of the close islands (close for Oare) and almost immediately fell asleep amongst the Goldies. A cracking little bird and yet another good wader this autumn.
A week later and I was back at Dunge where two Buff breasts had taken up residence in the Kent part of Scotney. Parked in Calandra lane I walked with Alan and Brenda Fossey along the cycle track whereby the two birds were seen well amongst the Goldies and Ruff. The views were excellent though having recently seen the bird at Davidstow, I'd been spoilt with point blank views. The rest of the day turned us ome good birds with Whinchat, two Little Stint, Black and Arctic Tern, Black throated Diver, Merlin and a surprise Barred Warbler on the RSPB reserve that was actually quite showy
Barred Warbler crashing it's way around the bushes and scrub
Nearby, the Two Egrets showed well, Little and Large. A scene like this would have been unthinkable years ago yet Great White seems almost resident at Dunge now and Little Egret are common. A great day out and a good opportunity to see Barred Warbler well

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

A NON Birding week in the West Country

As has become a tradition over the past few years Lou and myself have been visiting the South West in September for a week to stay at a cottage. Acting as a substitute Scillies as that has become very expensive we've managed to coincide with some good Lou weather and some good me birds!
This year we stayed at Botallack near St Just allowing me an opportunity to explore some of the Cornish valleys a bit better as well as stopping at Davidstow on route to see the 'hoped' for Buff breasted Sand.
The week was superb throughout, nothing turned up in Kent, Scillies was quiet, I wasn't at work and most importantly dog walking, relaxing beaches and some great birds thrown in as well. Above is one of six Golden Plover that we drove up to at Davidstow just before Pc Plodette arrived informing us we were on private property and not permitted to drive on the airfield.........that's news to me and to every other birder I've spoke to.
At Marazion a Pec showed well through the scope but not the camera

On an early morning walk this Wryneck showed brilliantly a few mornings at Botallack pre breakfast, and testament to the fact that this really is a great part of the UK and warrants lots of attention from birders that can rival Scilly sometimes
On the way back home two Dotterel showed well by the car at Davidstow and even better no Pc plodette
Buff breasted Sand the star of the show and one of my most wanted 'close views' birds. Davidstow ranks as one of the better places in the UK for this species and as expected the views were mega
A juv Spotted Sand at Turf near Exminster was equally approachable and worth the twenty minute walk from the car park. Add to this a Rosy Starling at Lands End on the Tardis, Lap Bunts, Sooty and Balearic Shears, Red backed Shrike at Treeve Common Lands End and a pair of Choughs not a bad non birding week
As usual the blog is behind once again but will be updated ASAP with more Yank waders, a corking ShoreLark in East Kent and a chance meeting with Kent legend Dave Gilbert in a cemetery! All to be revealed soon when life allows

Monday, 27 September 2010

What's the (Blakeney) POINT !!

Why oh Why oh Why!
I've been asking myself this since my first wanderings into the Birding World beyond the local area way back in 1981. I've virtually given up twitching but will venture away from Kent for the odd twitch and this certainly fulfilled both of those short words. My association with Blakeney Point is very limited and from an age when I was young fit, very keen and had some good mates living in Norwich, namely Alan 'Huey' Lewis and Pete (trendy) Morris. It was ages of Nancy's cafe, sleeping overnight in the car in Wells car park awaiting the moving on questions from the local constabulary. Marcus and Andrew Lawson often were part of the crew and Bryan Blands beard was made available to the breeding Parrot Crossbills to make their nest more comfy. Birders that were simply names to me then became good friends, Pete Milford, Neil Bostock. Over my few visits to Blakeney I'd seen a few good birds with a White-billed Diver offshore in 1985 having not seen a Lancy that was reported and in 1987 following a few days seawatching in Cornwall and seeing very little, Pete, Alan, Rob and myself drove in my old orange Chevette to Petes' house in Norwich to recoup before heading up to the coast to look for migrants.
Barred Warblers, RB Shrikes, Ickies then on to Blakeney Point for a Great Snipe that showed very well and I distinctly remember two things that remain etched in my mind. The bird landed on the shingle and a guy next to us couldn't see the bird but Alan decided to assist but was struggling to find it 'allegedly' whilst he grilled it through the scope unbeknown to the poor soul who had yet to see it!. The second was a young Dick Filby proclaiming that the bird should be left in peace now , and those words of Bob Geldof uttered from his lips, 'the lesson to day is how to die' !!
Anyway back to Sunday 26th Sept 2010, a walk up Blakeney Point in reasonable weather for an Empidonax flycatcher that had settled in the plantation on the point the previous day. It was going to be a hard walk whatever and Guy and myself set off from the car park with the intention of walking to Halfway house and waiting for news. Just before we got there news came through that the bird was still there and so off we set the 40 somethings heading towards the point still another 1.5 to 2 miles away. It was now that I realised why I rarely walked up Blakeney Point, in fact Barbet Moutain in Peru seemed somewhat easier but nonetheless the adrenalin cut in, the legs moved forward and apart from a dead seal on the beach the journey continued. The crowd was eventually reached, the legs ached and the shingle was merciless but there we were and there it was after a tense wait an unidentifiable American Flycatcher!

About to leap off it's perch
Hiding in the vast wilderness that is the plantation (on a par with the vegetation at the Captain Digby Margate)!
A great little poser, showing all the salient features to prevent it's identification
I'll leave the ID to the Demi Gods of birding and can add little to the discussion but felt happy to see the bird and see some old mates. I sincerely hope I'm fully retired from this young mans game by the time I'm 60 but all credit to the lads out there that were in their 70's
The photos above show the bird and the almost snow like beach caused by the spray and foam at high tide. A good shot here of some bald patches and what looks like a guy praying on the left. The weather is deceptively sunny, but that was soon to change !The plantation as you can see is tiny and fragile but home to an amazing bird
The walk back was horrendous, cold, wet, wetter and even wetter. A scene akin to the front line in Afghanistan with the troops moving up through the field
One picture tells a thousand words!
Sitting in the car with no trousers in says it all(the pic is carefully cropped)
Was it worth it?
Would I do it again?
Of course I would but hopefully in drier conditions
My heart goes out to those that missed it Saturday and returned Sunday to score
After that a difficult Bonelli's in Wells and memories of a great bird (I even saw the bill) and wet day
Ce'st la vie

Saturday, 4 September 2010

Birds, yes I do still see a few!!

RCP at Reculver, a Reculver tick and well worth the wait.............. more medication please!
The last few weeks, and I finally managed to escape the grip of the NHS and relax birding locally. A flying visit to Cliffe produced the hoped for Shelducks plus a bonus Pec Sand, a regular visitor to Kent but one I don't see every year. Also here was a Wood Sand, 2 Greenshank and a soon to arrive KP from Essex, by which time I was at Elmley.

A small group of Curlew Sands part of a flock of nearly 50 birds

Willow Emerald at Reculver, (cheers Derek) a small colony is present hopefully the start of something bigger in the County

At Reculver this 'common' Mipit put on a good show once it settled down and I'd failed to string it into anything else beforehand with it's sneaky habits!

Red-backed Shrike at Reculver, always a good one to see and this was a particularly showy individual.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

What a Beauty...birding still taking a back seat!

The Mothing continues thanks to John Young and Tony Morris. Probably 50-60 species in the garden now, not bad for a couple of weeks. Should have done this years ago !!

I will start birding again soon once work allows me to escape from the laboratory!!

Friday, 6 August 2010

A Whole New World.............

A chance encounter with John Young in Dene Park a few weeks back and talk of Moths etc etc, found me visiting Johns' house a few days later with the offer of borrowing a moth trap, books and even some egg boxes....fantastic.
Like a kid with a new toy I set about with Louise re designing the garden in order that a moth trip could be sited and light up the neighbourhood. Lou and myself were keen to say the least and at midnight instead in being in my slumber I found myself competing with Lou for every moth that happened to venture into our airspace.
A few nights later, exhaustion setting in with working all day and with the kind help of Tony I started to be able to give names to some of these moths. It was a great new World to me and many an hour spent misidentifying them has ensued before Tony's' help!
It would appear that despite being a regular visitor to the DBO fridge over the years I've learnt very little but enthused by this new venture I feel I will also like others become addicted!!
Thumbing through the book I even found one named the Nonconformist!!
Well I never !
Shuttle shaped Dart
Oncocera semirubella
Knot Grass

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Odonata bonanza

In recent weeks I've done very little birding, instead I've turned to my other favourite subject, Dragons and Damsels. We still have a situation in the UK where birding is incredibly popular, either the casual observer, or the hardened obsessive twitcher and this exists to a lesser smaller scale with the Odonata.
A few have reached the 47 mark in terms of UK species, whilst I'm on a paltry 42 and surely it's only a matter of time before someone reaches the big 50!!
Lestes dryas is very common on the North Kent marshes these days having been a very rare damselfly one time. The picture above shows one of the 'many' at Cliffe. Incredibly someone found a few barbarus, Southern Emeralds at Cliffe still a very rare species in the UK but hopefully a new colonist.

Above Southern Emeralds
The incredible news that there was a small colony of Aeshnea affinis, Southern Migrant Hawker at Hadleigh Essex found me waiting with 30 to 40 other manic Dragon twitchers a few hours for the sun to shine and the show to commence. We were not disappointed with two males seen .
Amazingly enough a pair was also found at Cliffe ovipositing, fantastic hopefully another UK colonist
Th Odonata paparazzi
The 'elite' of Dragons discuss the finer points of anal appendages at Hadleigh.
So, no birds but the next step is Moths!!!!
Oh dear I think I've bitten off more than I can chew this time round!!!
To be continued..........................