Monday, 26 April 2021

Spring Migrants and Chilling Easterly Winds.

A pair of Garganey was seen on the main lake at Stodmarsh on Saturday (24th) always distant but great to get a male and female together. 

A solitary Whimbrel flying over the lake towards the river was a year tick as were 2 Greenshank. Whilst hanging around on the Lampern Wall, two Cuckoo's were seen, these being my first of the spring in the Stour Valley. A Bittern made a short flight behind the Cormorant trees. There were 8 Common Terns back on the Tern raft, several Marsh Harriers nest building in the reed beds and restless ducks on the lake kept me alert with the camera. 

Common Tern.

Marsh Harrier.

Tufted Duck.

Another year tick today (26th) in the shape of 5 Ring Ouzels seen at Chislet before the bitterly easterly wind got the better of me forcing an early retirement and back to the sanctuary of the car.

Tuesday, 20 April 2021

A Lesser Spotted Woodpecker

Seen locally, this Lesser Spotted Woodpecker has a favourite "drumming" tree and has given me the opportunity to get a few images as it drums. A fascinating spectacle, seen at close quarters, although with this species only being about the same size as a Sparrow, the images still required heavy cropping. Hopefully he will attract a female as these birds are in rapid decline throughout the U.K.

An Unlucky Red-rumped Swallow

 An unwise move by this Red-rumped Swallow, having flown miles to end up in a chilly Britain and obviously not the weather it was expecting. Seen on an overhead wire down a lane in Westbere where the cold and fatigue seemed to have got the better of it and whilst watching, the bird dropped from the wire into the garden below. It was taken into care and spent the night under a heat lamp but sadly I learned the bird perished the following day. Although good periods of sunshine, this bird was probably a casualty of the North Easterly winds of late.

The Red-rumped Swallow unceremoniously hanging from the overhead wire just before it dropped to the ground

Monday, 4 January 2021

A Swale Surprise!

 My first outing of 2021 on Saturday 2nd, a walk along the sea wall at Seasalter where the dull and dreary conditions were brightened by the appearance of an adult male Eider Duck seen on the Swale up past Castle Coote and not far from the creek at Oare. Normally found much further North, it was somewhat of a surprise to see a Drake in breeding plumage loafing around the North Kent coastline and it is the first time I have been able to photograph one looking like this. All my previous photos have been either female or 1st winter males. It's quite a smart looking Duck in this plumage. Hiding behind the sea wall, along with Tim Gutsell, whom I met on the walk up, we were able to get a few images between dives as the bird worked its way along the shoreline. The Duck stayed for about twenty minutes before swimming back out into the Swale and being lost to sight.

A smart male Hen Harrier was seen hunting over Castle Coote before returning back across the Swale to Sheppey where it arrived from, (thanks Mark Chidwick for the call) and on the walk back, a solitary Snow Bunting was seen along the concrete apron by the white post. (Thanks Mike Gould and Mark again) 

An excellent start to 2021, I hope it's not downhill from here.

Tuesday, 29 December 2020

Looking Back at 2020 (Part 2)

And to part 2 of 2020. Bird wise, it was probably more memorable than the first six months with a few interesting birds turning up of which two being "firsts" for Kent.

July was all about the two returning "Yanks" to the Oare marsh reserve and I caught up with both of them through the month, the rather smart looking Bonaparte's Gull, seen in its full summer refinery and a Lesser Yellowlegs that always remained distant making it a little difficult with the camera.

Once again I was lucky enough to be able to photograph a young Peregrine family along the coast and not too far from my home. Four youngsters fledged and over a few visits I was able to get some photos as they showed off their aerial mastery. I also was able to get a few images of the parent birds as they patrolled along the cliff face and right past my vantage point. 

I came across a pair of Jays with a small chick that had only just fledged the nest whilst photographing the Peregrines.

The young Peregrines make for a memorable experience both with watching and photographing them as they learn the sufficient skills required to succeed in the forthcoming months when they leave the safety of their nesting site.

 August was my quietest month of the year with hardly any trips out at all. I did manage a few waders at Minnis Bay but that was all. Below, a Turnstone in summer plumage, a Dunlin and a Ringed Plover.

September was hugely better, departing Wheatears were in abundance along my local stretch of coastline, refuelling before their onward journey back to their wintering grounds.

A showy Wryneck turned up at Swalecliffe, staying for a week and performed well for the camera. It was nice to get a showy individual, they are normally quite shy.

Another two American waders were found at Worth, a pair of Pectoral Sandpipers which I saw during September. They were always distant on one of the newly dug scrapes on the RSPB reserve but I did manage a couple of record shots to mark the occasion.

Returning Waders were also plentiful during September and I visited Minnis Bay and Reculver frequently during the month. There were several species of Wader taking advantage of the flies attracted by the washed up sea weed that was strewn along the beach from Minnis Bay to the lagoon at Cold harbour. Below, a Curlew Sandpiper, Knot, Dunlin, Sanderling, Turnstone, Bar-tailed Godwit and a Little Stint. September was probably the best month of the year for variety with the camera.

October was a month for Shrikes. The most memorable with the camera was an extremely showy juvenile Red-backed Shrike that stayed a week around bushes and gorse on the Northern perimeter of Littlestone golf course. I visited firstly on a grey dreary morning and returned on a much better day weather wise later in the week. The bird was an absolute star and must have liked the sound of the shutter.

As easy as the Red-backed Shrike was to photograph, the second Shrike of the month, a juvenile Masked Shrike seen at Reculver, proved to be as difficult. Although the bird mostly remained distant, the enormity of the sighting, a first record for Kent and only a few miles from home, made this the bird for me of 2020. I have seen them before in Cyprus, both youngsters and adults but never thought I would have the privilege of seeing one on my doorstep. Dodgy images hugely cropped and wrongly positioned but a record no less.

October was a month of quality over quantity.

 November and when you can take photos whilst working then it makes working just that bit easier. Visiting the concrete plant at the Ramsgate harbour complex I have had some joy with a family of Foxes that have a den behind the plant. Sometimes I can get very close to them as they play on the sand piles.

I was not expecting to get another 1st for Kent but that is exactly what happened when a Crag Martin was found at Kingsdown. I missed the news on the first afternoon it was seen but arrived in the dark the next morning and soon had another tick for Kent in the bag. (U.K tick as well) 

The bird stayed a week but on most days it would commute about a dozen miles south to Samphire Hoe to spend the day, returning to Kingsdown to roost each afternoon. I saw the bird at Samphire Hoe as well, in much better conditions than my previous encounters at Kingsdown.

December and the close to a year that has been trying to say the least. A new lock down disguised under the term of tier 4 was issued by our rather sorrowful government, so outings have been curtailed somewhat. I have restricted my outings to local, mostly between Reculver and Minnis Bay. A Black Redstart and Kestrel have been photographed by the towers at Reculver during December

And Snow Buntings have been seen and photographed on the beach close to the Wantsum outflow at Cold harbour

Lastly, one of the many Brent Geese seen between the towers and Minnis Bay.

That brings a close to 2020 with the camera, a peculiar year where travel has been severely restricted but still managing a few images and two new Kent ticks was a nice result. Hopefully next year will see a return to some sort of normality but I fear we have a way to go yet. Anyway, here's to a better New Year and above all, stay safe. 

 Happy New Year.