Tuesday, 14 November 2017

An Early Smew.

After hearing of a Smew on the pool in front of the Feast hide I decided to spend a morning  there in hope that it had stayed and not moved on or relocated overnight to a different part of the reserve. I visited on the morning of the 6th with nice bright sunshine but for the first hour I only saw the usual common ducks that frequent the pool at this time of the year. The Gadwall are starting to look good, especially in the sunshine.

Also a female Wigeon was present, swimming fairly close to the hide.

I was beginning to think that the female Smew had moved on, it's not a big pool and I had been sitting there for over an hour but then from nowhere up popped the familiar looking red head, heralding the arrival of my target bird. I think it had been behind the large reed clump in front of the hide, probably asleep. It swam around the island a couple of times allowing for a few images to be taken. It's the first time I have seen a Smew at this end of the reserve, usually I have to make do with long distant views of them on Collards, just to the west of Stodmarsh.

After the Smew had appeared, the obligatory Kingfisher visited the perch in front of the hide. A bird I have photographed hundreds of times before from this hide but never can turn down the opportunity as that little bundle of turquoise and orange flies low across the pond and then up onto the perch, inviting you to fire away to your hearts content.

I ended up staying for the entire morning in the hide, the Smew appeared from behind the reed clump on a few more occasions but the later it gets the sun moves round and is not ideal for photography. A Marsh Harrier casually drifted past, scattering everything in its path below and both a Green and Great Spotted Woodpecker passed over the pool but catching me unawares. Several Fieldfare and Redwing were seen and the Bearded Tits were vocal but mostly buried in the reed beds. A pleasant morning spent in the Feast hide on the Grove Ferry reserve.

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

A Dusky....Sandwich.

I wanted to try again for the Water Pipits at the Marsh Hide on the Stodmarsh reserve, this time with a bit better light. I failed miserably on that score as I got side tracked on the way down by a flock of Bearded Tits and by the time I reached the Marsh hide the light had dipped and after 15 minutes of being there, a 13 ton excavator arrived to finish up its work programme before being off hired that afternoon. I did manage a few shots just before the arrival of the excavator but not too dissimilar to my last efforts. This shot was taken with the help of a 2x converter, not a fan of these really but it does get you a lot closer to the subject and I did not think the result given the light and distance was too bad..

As mentioned, I got distracted by a flock of Bearded Tits on the way down to the Marsh hide and a few sat up nicely in the sun. It's nice to be able to photograph them with no reed bed clutter in the way which is so often the case with this species. A local patch icon bird.

Birds noted on the reserve today (Friday 3rd November) was not much different from my trip two days earlier but there were 2 Black-tailed Godwits from the viewing ramp and a Green Sandpiper seen from the Marsh hide. (Slim Pickings)

Green Sandpiper with more help from the 2x converter.

Also, as on my last visit, Stonechat's were numerous and whilst again photographing the  showy male individual by the metal bridge through the first field from the Harrison's Drove, a flock of Long-tailed Tits noisily passed through, a few images grabbed as I stood and watched.

On the way from the Marsh hide along the path just before the cattle crush, I was distracted by a movement in the grass and after waiting a few minutes, a small mouse, a Field Mouse I would presume, revealed itself and allowed a quick snap before scuttling off back to the safety of the longer grass.

On Sunday (5th November) I had a free morning so decided to try for the Dusky Warbler at Sandwich Bay. The spot by the Chequers along the Ancient Highway was easily found, a small huddle of birders and photographers all standing on an elevated vantage point, the spoil from a newly excavated pond dug out by the by the Royal Cinque Ports Golf course. Steve Reynaert was present and informed me that the bird had been seen and heard that morning so all was well and not a wasted trip. I do not usually do these tricky Warbler twitches, they are notoriously hard work for a photographer, my earlier results with this species being plenty of head shots, plenty of tail shots but unfortunately never together in the same frame. This bird was a little easier to see, flying around a small area of low scrub and was out in the open for brief periods although always a little distant. I was even able to hear the bird as it flew past me quite close. Due to a cold wind that was in my face for the three hours I remained, (the first frost of the winter) I had an eye watering chilly stay but did manage to get a record shot of the bird as it came to rest in a dead Elder bush. My 3rd Dusky Warbler in Kent.

Also, whilst standing on the excavated sand pile, a Woodcock flew in off the sea and landed somewhere just beyond the Ancient Highway.

Thursday, 2 November 2017

Water Pipits Return to Stodmarsh.

My first outing in a while yesterday, (Wednesday 1st November) parking at the Grove Ferry end of the reserve and a slow walk down to the Marsh hide and back. Birds of note were not that many I'm afraid but seen were several Fieldfare and Redwing in amongst the trees and bushes around the entrance track and Paddock, a Goldcrest and a pair of Mistle Thrushes also along the entrance track and a solitary Drake Pintail from the viewing ramp. I popped into the Feast hide but due to the reeds growing in the dyke in front of the hide, viewing was restricted which resulted in me leaving just a few seconds after arriving. A few Bearded Tits were seen en route to the Harrison's Drove hide but they were in no mood to pose for the camera. Mel and Jan Fagg were having some success with a Kingfisher at the hide so I left them to it and walked down to the Marsh hide. A Kestrel was seen hovering and a pair of showy Stonechat's sat up and these were interested in having a camera pointed at them. It's a pity the sun was not shining.

On arrival at the Marsh hide, a quick scan with the binoculars resulted in a Peregrine Falcon being seen, sitting in the grass, staying for a further for 20 minutes or so before taking off and flying towards the boat house at Grove. Also I picked up on a couple of Common Snipe but no more waders.
Taking advantage of some recent digger activity around the hide were a Pipit flock of which 4 or 5 were Water Pipits. Always nice to see these birds returning to Stodmarsh every year. A little tricky to photograph in the dullish light but a few images below as they fed in amongst the recently turned mud and fairly close to the hide.

A couple of Marsh Harriers were seen, several Long-tailed tits around the cattle crush on the way back to the car and a high Common Buzzard over the boat house as I reached the car.

Sunday, 22 October 2017

A Most Confiding Bunting.

With all the excitement of the recent Wilson's Phalarope and Long-Billed Dowitcher and a trip to Boppard near Koblenz in Germany for a Rhine river break, I had forgotten about the Lapland Bunting that was on the sea wall walkway at Bishopstone Glen a few weeks back. A very confiding bird, sometimes a little too confiding for its own good, witnessing a small Terrier off its lead snapping at the bird as it escaped it's attention but only by inches. I saw the bird immediately on arrival and gained a few images, for me one of the easier birds to photograph due to their tolerance of people.

Not too much else about to shout about at the moment, but in truth I have not looked that hard.

Nice views to be had on my trip to Germany. A trip up a mountain, well large hill really, that overlooked the small town of Boppard where we were staying, right alongside the River Rhine. Bird life was not great but numerous Red Kites and Common Buzzards were seen and best of the rest was a Nuthatch seen from our chair lift and several Grey Wagtails along the rocky shoreline of the Rhine. There were a few Egyptian Geese in with a large flock of Greylags on the river.

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

An American invasion.

I am not sure that two Waders constitute an Invasion but it is a little bit special having two American waders present on the east flood at Oare at this moment in time. I have seen both species before, one a Long Billed Dowitcher, first seen 10 years ago funnily enough again at Oare and I think it was 7 years ago that I saw a Wilson's Phalarope at Grove Ferry, distantly on the top pools in front of the Harrison's Drove hide. Last week along with a lot of other birders and photographers, I caught up with both species as there is one of each currently residing on the east flood, a part of the Oare marsh reserve near Faversham. There was also a Black-Necked Grebe seen in the creek and I wandered over and settled on the bank and waited, the Grebe eventually coming close enough for a few shots although the lighting was not great.

After, I went back around to the road and waited, hoping the sun would come out and the Dowitcher and Phalarope would be close enough for some images. When I first started photographing birds, Oare Marsh was a favourite destination for me but I find it difficult now. The muddy fringes seem more distant each year with encroaching vegetation slowly pushing the waters edge further from the road and the long line of photographers. Also the water levels are very low, with the pool drying out and further pushing the feeding areas for the waders away from our vantage point.  
I was lucky, the sun did come out and both the American waders passed by as close as it was possible, any nearer and they then became hidden by the vegetation on the waters edge.

Long-Billed Dowitcher

1st winter Wilson's Phalarope

I went to see the Phalarope on three occasions, the day that news broke of its arrival, but the bird remained very distant feeding around the island in front of the hide on the east flood. My second visit, the bird was a lot closer, feeding quite near to the road but it was a dull grey day and the light was very poor. My third visit, Thursday 12th, the sun was out and the Phalarope did come in fairly close once again allowing for the above images. It's not often that you can get a Long-Billed Dowitcher and a Wilson's Phalarope together in the viewfinder, something I was able to do but unfortunately it was on the dull grey visit.

A female Goosander appeared from nowhere, I only saw it swimming for a few minutes in the north west corner of the flood and whilst watching the bird, it suddenly took off and flew over the road close to where I was standing. It was a case of camera up and fire with a few pleasing results as it crossed the road and headed out over the Swale and towards Sheppey.

To round off a few good visits to Oare over the last week, there were 10 Little Stints seen, I think that may be my biggest numbers with this species, 2 Curlew Sandpipers and all the usual waders that make this venue so good. A particular favourite of mine are the juvenile Ruff taking their first look at Oare, smart looking waders and always a pleasure to see.

Another spectacular sight at Oare are the Golden Plover, especially when they are spooked and all take off, flying around the flood in one huge flock. I caught one returning to the roost after everything was spooked by a Peregrine.

All in all, a worthwhile few visits to Oare, catching the two visiting American Waders and also catching up with a few faces that I have not seen in a while.