Friday, 13 December 2013

Sheppey and Oare

Still neglecting the patch a bit at the minute, with busy weekends and work but a couple of days out over the last week were very enjoyable with generally calm days and a bit of brightness thrown in.
Saturday we arrived at Elmley at around 7.15ish the entrance track produced a couple of BUZZARD, BARN OWL and a possible MERLIN, with good numbers of CURLEW and LAPWING present. A brief stop at the farm found at least 2 BARN OWLS in residence in the owl box also 2 PEREGRINE were stationed on gate posts to the north of the car park, we scanned for SEO in the rough areas but with no success there were a few MARSH HARRIERS though, also just a lone BLACK TAILED GODWIT was in the pools again north of the farm buildings. As we left Elmley a small covey of GREY PARTRIDGE were viewable in fields near the entrance to the reserve. Next stop was Shellness point via Muswell Manor a good flock of finches was near the barn at Muswell including good numbers of GREENFINCH and CHAFFINCH, it was nice to find 1 BRAMBLING in amongst the flock. Shellness point was really quiet the sea/swale was a long way out, we did add the expected waders KNOT, BAR TAILED GODWIT, SANDERLING to name a few but no sign of any Snow Bunting. The high and lowlight of the day was firstly watching a MERLIN chasing a Pipit then landing not too far away for brief scope views then later it was seen on one of the posts on the saltmarsh, as we were leaving the drama unfolded as 2 PEREGRINE drifted over and started harassing the MERLIN, it took flight and within 50 yards or so 'BANG' it was in the talons of the larger female PEREGRINE, I've rarely seen Peregrine actually take a bird but for it to take the Merlin was certainly not what we were expecting at all! Our last stop was the raptor view point we gave it a good go but didn't really add many species a couple of GREEN  SANDPIPERS were whizzing around and another MERLIN sat for a while without incident, 73 species at the end of the day was nice as it seemed a quiet day at times.
On Tuesday this week Dad and I went to Oare Marshes, the water levels understandably high after the recent conditions. There were several Ruff on the west side as we drove up to the car park, we spent the first 5 minutes just watching from around the car park a WATER RAIL was seen disappearing into a ditch next to the approach road and REED BUNTINGS were very evident, as was the explosive CETTI'S WARBLER announcing its presence nearby The light was superb as we walked the sea wall towards Dan's Dock, the were good numbers of COMMON SNIPE and CURLEW, a BUZZARD was seen on the south side of the reserve and the odd MARSH HARRIER commuted across the Swale. After a quick bite we headed to the sea wall hide there were lots of DUNLIN and REDSHANK, with a nice gathering of 94 AVOCET at the mouth of Faversham Creek. 1 CORN BUNTING flew up from the saltings along the east path and there were 20 or more PINTAIL scattered around the east flood with more of both TEAL and SHOVELER also present. Another enjoyable day 64 species and a misty drive home.
Reed Bunting




Reed Bunting


Marsh Harrier

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

A Weekend in Suffolk

Visiting friends in Suffolk is always a treat and some nice weather this weekend meant some good walking was to be had. I was hoping to get a few pics of Red Deer which can be seen around Westleton and Dunwich heaths. There weren't many birds around but after a while we did find around 6-8 DARTFORD WARBLERS a couple of crests and 2 COAL TITS on Dunwich Heath, none of them wanted to stay put for long, I managed to add LESSER REDPOLL, BRAMBLING and MEADOW PIPITS flew over. FIELDFARES and REDWINGS were sparse with only 3 REDWING and about 15 FILEDFARE seen all weekend.
We found Red Deer on both days but just one of them let me close enough for some pics, the rest were a fair way away. Here are a couple of pics from the weekend.
Green Wood on our friends lawn

Red Deer 'teenagers'

Red Deer

Red Deer, looked at us now and then whilst eating

Coal Tit

'Coal Tit finds caterpillar'

Sunday, 17 November 2013

More Crossbills

A beautiful morning yesterday (Saturday 16th) saw me heading to Hemsted Forest for only the 4th time, in recent weeks, hoping to get a few pics of either the Two-barred Crossbill or a maybe a Parrot Crossbill. On my own for the first few minutes I enjoyed brief views of a 1st year male PARROT CROSSBILL and managed a couple of quick photos. It flew before the first birders arrived. A young PEREGRINE came and landed on the edge of the clearing and with no Crossbills for a short time I headed over to get a couple of shots, before reaching the Peregrine a dozen or so Crossbills flew almost over my head and landed in the favoured Oak. One slightly buzzy call drew my attention and there was the TWO BARRED CROSSBILL, I took more shots but was really the wrong side of the tree but did have some excellent views of the bird, I didn't really check the other Crossbills much as I was enjoying views of the Two Barred, I went back and joined the few gathered birders and found that at least one Parrot was also in that small group. The Crossbills put in several appearances in my two and a half hour visit giving flight views and different calls to try and decipher. Here are a few pics from the visit.
Early Parrot Crossbill

Two Barred and Common Crossbill

A couple more of the Two barred

Three species of Crossbill together

Three species together again

Not sure what's happening to Blogger this picture doesn't want to appear at the end of the blog as intended!!

Last Parrot of the morning for me

After visiting Hemsted, a quick walk round the patch at Sissinghurst didn't really produce a lot but 3 COMMON BUZZARDS were nice and one came close enough for a pic.
This morning was very grey and drizzly but it was brightened by the appearance of my first FIRECREST (103) of the year excellent, there were around 200 BLACK HEADED GULLS in the field s but despite a long search I couldn't find any Meds. I'm hoping for a clearer morning in the week and hopefully relocate the Firecrest for a couple of pictures.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Finally a post!!

After nearly two weeks of man flu! and some poor weather in the mornings, I got out this morning for an hour and it was a beautiful morning. I didn't see a lot, about a dozen SKYLARK came up from the field, while this years piglets decided to follow me thinking I had their breakfast. FIELDFARE, REDWING, REDPOLL and SISKIN were around in small numbers and a male SPARROWHAWK drifted low over the trees in the lovely early light. The new pond did have 2 MALLARD on it, again the light illuminated the drake wonderfully, I don't think my photo does it justice but it was worth a go. (click for larger image)
Hopefully I'll get a decent walk in at the weekend or another look at Hemsted.

We have lift off!

Sunday, 27 October 2013


With just a short time available this morning I did a quick patch walk, things have been reasonably quiet apart from the visits to Hemsted, obviously to see more of the Parrot Crossbills, unfortunately I haven't seen the Two Barred again but there is probably still time unless it gets blown away tonight!!
So on the patch Dad had a LITTLE EGRET  in the week the first time for several months. This morning in gusty conditions there wasn't a lot about but the YELLOWHAMMER flock was upto about 30 birds with god numbers of HOUSE SPARROWS and CHAFFINCHES thrown in. Just one SISKIN went over and there was no sign of any Redwing or Fieldfare. The other bird that has been missing recently is Greenfinch I've hardly seen or heard one for months? So with little to report here are a couple of recent pics.
Sunrise a few days ago

Great Tit





Tuesday, 15 October 2013

The Crossbill Tale!

With all the Crossbills being found, Two Barred and now Parrot, the two Steves have been checking out Hemsted regularly since around July! finally Steve B found a male Two Barred Crossbill on Sunday late afternoon! I was lucky enough to be at home only a couple of miles away and found the bird fairly quickly.
Yesterday there was a possibility that Parrot Crossbill was also in the area but maybe not conclusive. I spent a while listening to Two Barred and Parrot on Xeno Canto a great website for bird calls and songs last night! This morning at 7am I was at the forest nothing happened for the first quarter of an hour then a few Crossbills started whizzing around, two Sparrowhawks drifted over and a few alarm calls were heard including what I would describe as a single note not too different in tone from a Blackbird and definitely deeper than the other Crossbills calls, I couldn't find the bird and it appeared to stop when the Crossbills flew off. A Brambling then called as it flew over as I left for work at around 7.45am, a couple more Crossbills called then one single bird perched up a quick look through bins and I thought that does look a bit different, I grabbed the camera and snapped away unfortunately the bird wasn't that close, I started to re set up my scope and the bird flew off, it was there for just a few seconds really. My thought were that it could have been Parrot Crossbill and I sent a pic to Stephen who had since found a female Parrot Crossbill in the same spot and had put the news out. I've never seen Parrot Crossbill before, so was cautious, and as I looked at the pictures and chatted to Stephen who was pretty positive, I'm happy this was my first one, I would like to go back though and get some better pics, you can make your mind up from the one pic below of the Parrot against the Common Crossbill also taken this AM. Note the less tapered bill on the bottom picture and the curve on the underside of the lower mandible. Any comment of course are more than welcome.
Common Crossbill

Parrot Crossbill, not a great pic unfortunately

Sunday, 13 October 2013

A Change of Sea..nery? and a Guided Walk

With the winds looking good for sea-watching in north Kent, I headed to Reculver on Thursday 10th for a full day in the field. It wasn't the busiest sea-watch ever but enjoyable nonetheless and the longest one I had ever done! The day started with a steady trickle of BONXIES all heading west at varying distances, I saw 23 birds by the end of the day. A few of ARCTIC SKUAS also headed west with one coming in close to tackle a MED. GULL. A few more species gradually got added to the list including COMMON SCOTER, GANNET and LITTLE GULL, a nice flock of 10 birds in great light went through around midday. As well as seabirds a few other species appeared, 2 PEREGRINES flew in off the sea as did a MARSH HARRIER, the best 'in off'' bird was a SHORT EARED OWL that came in high to east of the towers. After a few lulls things picked up a bit when a MANX SHEARWATER was picked up mid distance and then around 5.15pm with just 3 of us left a LEACH'S PETREL flew west, if I had stayed a bit after this I may have also seen Little Auk and Grey Phalarope! A very enjoyable day bird wise and chatting to a couple of fellow watchers.
So with another windy day forecast another sea watch was on the cards, Stephen and I arrived at Shellness around 7.30am almost the first bird was a LEACH'S PETREL! the first of 8 sightings through the day of probably between 3 and 5 birds. More BONXIES, ARCTIC SKUAS and LITTLE GULLS were also seen today. There were a couple of little surprises, a SNOW BUNTING flew north up the beach mid morning and a SHAG, not a bird I've seen many of in Kent was in the surf just off the beach. As the wind dropped we headed to Warden Point in a downpour in difficult conditions we picked up a few REDWING, CHIFFCHAFF and a handful of FIELDFARE. The wind picked up again so it was back to Leysdown and some sea-watching from the car, there was much of the same but we added SANDWICH TERN and a second ARCTIC TERN of the day, the most noticeable movement was of 1500-2000 BRENT GEESE mainly heading into the Swale, a quick walk around the bushes did produce a single BRAMBLING.
The only pics this week are from the Shellness trip.
Early morning at Shellness Point

Different takes on this young Little Gull, click for larger image, not sure if it helps though!

Just a few of the Brent Geese seen

A small flock of Turnstone

Before a short account of yesterdays guided walk, I did find a STONECHAT (101) last week to add the year list which was a bird I thought might could miss this years list.
So yesterday at 7am, 11 of us set off from the car park, there were lots of ROBINS and one of the first birds that went on to the list was a flyover BRAMBLING, 1 of 3 during the day. It was apparent that things were moving as REDWINGS, CHAFFINCHES and PIPITS were whizzing over. Within half an hour we had amassed 24 species. I happened to look up when we were in the wood and picked up a flock of about 100 BRENT GEESE flying south-west another unexpected addition to the list. In the wood we added all the Tit species including a very obliging MARSH TIT which fed above our heads for a few minutes. A single LESSER REDPOLL near the ticket office meant that by breakfast at 9.15 we were on 45 species, with a walk round the fields to come it was a good total. After breakfast we added the expected SKYLARK, YELLOWHAMMER and eventually COMMON BUZZARD of which, we had 9 in the air at once, a record for here! A couple of GREYS came next in the form of HERON and WAGTAIL. 2 late SWALLOWS were over the ploughed fields near Digdog Lane and probably the highlight of the walk came when all the STARLINGS in Rares hedge got up and just above was a fine male MERLIN! (102) which carried on high south west. In the end we had 55 species for the morning in beautiful sunshine and light winds quite a contrast from the previous two days.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Finally 100 for the year

It's taken a bit longer than usual but yesterday a LAPWING (100) flew over making it the hundredth species for the year about 8 days later than last year.
Rewinding slightly, a walk on Sunday with Dave, Phil and Warren (Pittswood Birds), we managed just over 40 species of the usual suspects, plenty of MISTLE THRUSHES, NUTHATCHES and JAYS were evident. there were a few CHIFFCHAFF, BLACKCAP and SWALLOWS still around as as well. the SKYLARK and YELLOWHAMMER numbers are building now getting to about 20 of each.
In the last few days a GREY WAGTAIL has been hanging around and several 'ALBA' WAGTAILS have flown through. CHIFFCHAFF numbers have dropped to only 3 birds yesterday and 2 today, with 2 BLACKCAP yesterday and none this morning. 1 SISKIN flew south yesterday and both days 100 or more SWALLOWS and HOUSE MARTINS also flew south during my hour long visits. A GOLDCREST put in an appearance this morning and a KINGFISHER heard somewhere near the new pond.
We are still checking the moths and yesterday we managed to SCARCE BORDERED STRAW and GREEN BRINDLED CRESCENT to the year list, this morning Steve added CONVOLVULUS HAWK MOTH, MERVEILLE DU JOUR and FOUR SPOTTED FOOTMAN.
Long Tailed Tit

A few rays

Friday, 27 September 2013

Since the last time....

Well to be honest, it's been reasonably hard work finding stuff recently in the hour before work each morning, highlights have been the first few SISKINS of autumn and 1 TREE PIPIT, which flew south yesterday morning. MEADOW PIPITS, SWALLOWS and MARTINS still continue to flow southwards, a SAND MARTIN on Saturday was the only one of the autumn for me which is unusual. A few SPOTTED FLYCATCHERS have been hanging around and Dad had a HOBBY on Tuesday 24th. CHIFFCHAFF numbers remain steady at around 10 birds each morning and a couple of BLACKCAP were heard this morning while a SNIPE flew over the first of the autumn.
We have been checking the moths regularly and on Wednesday morning counted over 500 LUNAR UNDERWINGS!! almost a record. Other moths have included FROSTED ORANGE, RED UNDERWING, PINION STREAKED SNOUT, BORDERED BEAUTY, AUTUMNAL RUSTIC and a couple of BEADED CHESTNUTS certainly enough to keep us interested.
A guided walk last Saturday did produce 50 species although only 3 participants!!! hopefully they enjoyed it though. Here are a few random pics from the last few days.

Reed Bunting

Autumnal Rustic

Frosted Orange

Red Underwing

Great Spotted Woodpecker

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Long overdue Kent tick!!!!

This morning I headed to Oare Marshes to look for the well photographed Spotted Crake. It was a beautiful morning hardly any wind and bright sunshine. The tide was high, as Debbie Harry would say! and there were good numbers of waders on the East Flood. A WATER RAIL disappeared into the ditch by the road as I headed towards the East Hide. The Crake was seen at 6.30am, I arrived at about 7.40am and waited until around 10am before moving on with no sign of the Crake. Luckily I was talking to Steve Ashton and mentioned I needed Spotted Crake for Kent, I had been gone a minute or two and the Crake came into view!! I noticed Steve waving, thankfully and went back to and had good views of the SPOTTED CRAKE at last. With a couple hours left I headed around the rest of the reserve, a HOBBY flew west and there were a few SAND MARTIN, HOUSE MARTIN and SWALLOW heading south.

Spotted Crake

Reed Bunting

Little Egret

Waders included GREENSHANK, CURLEW SANDPIPER, AVOCET, BAR and BLACK TAILED GODWITS, GOLDEN PLOVER, RINGED PLOVER, RUFF, SNIPE, DUNLIN and lots of REDSHANK and LAPWING. Overall a very enjoyable morning talking to fellow birders and a rare trip off patch!!
Back on the patch this afternoon SWALLOWS and HOUSE MARTINS were heading south and a COMMON BUZZARD posed in the field above Park Field, otherwise there wasn't much else to report.
Thanks again to Steve for attracting my attention as I wandered off aimlessly.