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Tuesday, 28 July 2020

A Yankee Double at Oare Marshes

Two American visitors currently residing at Oare marshes at this moment in time, a smart looking summer plumaged Bonaparte's gull, returning for what I think is its 7th year and a Lesser Yellowlegs which is probably last years bird returning again. It's fairly difficult at the moment to get images of anything on the east flood due to the length of the grass between the road (where viewing is from) and the floods muddy edges, meaning the birds have to be a fair distance out on the pool to enable a shot free from the tall vegetation. The Yellowlegs has started to molt and looks rather disheveled at the moment.




A trickle of returning waders are starting to appear, birds seen include a single Spotted Redshank, 5 or 6 Red Knot looking rather smart in their summer attire, half a dozen returning Ruff all in various molt stages, a solitary Curlew Sandpiper, Dunlin numbers are growing and a juvenile Little Ringed Plover was also seen on a couple of occasions.

Ruff



Little-ringed Plover (juvenile)


Black-tailed Godwits, an Oare specialty, could be found roosting on the east flood at high tide, probably a thousand if I counted (I did not) and as the tide started to drop, leaving freshly exposed mud out on the Swale, the Godwits would leave the food and easily intercepted by me on the sea wall, made for good targets with the camera. Early morning and late evening giving some wonderful light as is the case with this venue during the latter stages of summer.







Avocets are another species that can be found usually on the east flood at Oare. A pair has one juvenile in tow (I think originally there were more) and the parent birds are very territorial fending off anything that comes anywhere near to their offspring. This gives an opportunity to grab a few flight shots as they chase around the flood.



I was struggling to get anywhere near close enough for images of the Bonaparte's Gull, always seeing it but always at a distance. I was sat on the sea wall watching the gull way out on the tide line through binoculars and I lost sight of it before realizing that it had flown towards me and landed on the rocks at the bottom of the sea wall and only 15 meters from where I was sitting. It's nice when you get a stroke of luck.






Raptors seen at Oare on my latest visits have been Marsh Harrier, Kestrel, Hobby, Peregrine Falcon, Common Buzzard and a pair of Red Kites. The familiar sound of a Spitfire overhead had the camera pointing skywards.


Whilst walking around the east flood, a couple of juvenile Bearded Tits caught my attention although the breeze kept the birds down low. They did venture out in the open occasionally and a couple of useable images were obtained.



Oare Marshes seems to be the place to be if in east Kent at the moment, the two visiting Yanks a bonus and with a trickle of returning waders showing up each day, there's plenty to see and photograph. Hopefully, someone will soon cut the grass and we will be able to see what is on the flood close in.


More photos on my facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/Steve.Ashton55

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Saturday, 4 July 2020

A Special Encounter.

Once again I have been lucky enough to watch a Peregrine family, two adults with three youngsters now up and flying around readying themselves for when they leave the relative safety of their parent’s supervision. They give wonderful entertainment as they are taught how to survive in the harsh environment they will live in, learning how to hunt and I have watched them chasing Gulls, Pigeons, Crows and Fulmars, sometimes catching up with their targets but unsure what to do once they do so. Watching from a respectful distance along a public right of way, with patience, (some days a lot of patience) the youngsters will chase their quarry and sometimes each other along the cliff face and right past my vantage point, giving great photo opportunities.









On a few occasions, the youngsters would perch on a headland about 50 meters from me and just in range of the camera. 





The parent birds can also be seen regularly, they seem to oversee proceedings when the youngsters are honing their hunting skills and also periodically they will arrive with a kill although it is usually passed to the youngsters out at sea and then the youngsters disappear onto the cliff face to eat their meal. They make a lot of noise and even I (cloth ears) can hear them constantly calling to each other.





Wonderful birds and always a pleasure to watch, especially at such close quarters. I did see a few other birds whilst waiting for the Peregrines to fly by, a very young Jay, heard before seen, was hopping about the sea wall, the parent birds looking on from the cliff face.





There were several Shelduck in the area, sometimes flying up and down the tide line, giving me something else to point the camera at.




Also, and a target for the young Peregrines although the Peregrines were never really in with a chance, were a few remaining Fulmars on the cliff face. Far too quick, their superb aerial maneuverability meaning they were always one step ahead of the chasing Peregrine youngsters but not too fast for me waiting with the camera.



Some memorable visits over the past three weeks and one of the highlights of my year with the camera.

More photos can be seen at https://www.facebook.com/Steve.Ashton55

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Sunday, 28 June 2020

Gull-billed Tern at Dungeness.

Having never seen a Gull-billed Tern before and one being reported on the ARC pit at Dungeness for the past few days, I went down this morning (Sunday 28th) to take a look. Being on the ARC pit and with the reserve still closed, I was not very hopeful of getting any photos but I went with the intentions of seeing the bird as it would be a first. Martyn Wilson and Sue Morton were looking at the bird on my arrival and they put me on to it straight away. Although very distant, it was fishing up and down the back edge of the pit as we viewed from the road, I could easily see the size difference from the numerous Common Terns it was keeping company with. It did venture a little closer allowing the bill to be viewed but a photo from this position was totally out of the question. I was contemplating on leaving for home, the wind was gale force and dark clouds were looming but thankfully the rain skirted our position and the Tern flew over the road and started fishing on the pit opposite the ARC pit and was now a lot closer. It was still difficult waving a lens about in wind that was now reaching speeds of 50 mph, and the sun went in but it was a lot better than being 200 meters away from it which was the case for the first two hours of viewing.





We took a bit of a buffeting from the wind but all in all a worthwhile trip to Dungeness, returning with another tick for the list I don't keep. I also managed to see the Black-winged Stilt that was feeding on one of the islands down by the screen hide at the opposite end of the ARC pit.

I finally caught up with the long staying Pink-footed Goose that has been at Stodmarsh for a good chunk of the year. Probably an escaped bird but I prefer the idea that it arrived wild but has been in the company of the local Greylag flock and has forgotten to leave. It sounds better than “an escapee".



I have just set up a facebook wildlife photography page and can be seen at  


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