Tuesday, 28 March 2017

When the East wind doth blow !!

What a horrible weekend. Bright sunshine spoilt by a bitterly cold Easterly wind gale that at times was so strong it was a job to stand up in. So I done the sensible thing and on Saturday I went down to Rye harbour. Not the best idea to come up with, Rye being situated on an exposed coast line and i got what I deserved which was nothing. There were plenty of Sandwich Terns on the Ternary pool but when they did alight from their sheltered roost, they flew past the hide at breakneck speed, pushed along by a 50 to 60 mph tail wind. Trying for images was pointless and the camera remained in the bag. I did see a Red Breasted Merganser on the pool along with 6 Med Gulls in their summer finery but soon decided to give up and retreated to the Castle Water hide which being a mile or two in land, offered a bit more shelter. My hoped for Bittern's never materialised but my first Wheatear of the year was seen on the walk in. I also had 2 Ravens and a Peregrine over the Castle and managed to photograph a Long-tailed tit that was in the scrub around the entrance to the hide and a Canada Goose out on the water.

Sunday and although the wind was still present, it was not quite as strong. I had a quick stroll around Westbere early on and found three Firecrest's. 

I ended the morning down the beach at Sandwich Bay. I must be glutton for punishment as there was very little to see or photograph and once again I was exposing myself to an  increasingly strengthening easterly wind. My scant reward was an image of a Skylark sheltering along the grassy dunes of the beach.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Gadwall's but no Garganey !!!

A report on social media of 10 Garganey at Grove got the enthusiasm levels pumped a little and I have spent a few hours in between work over the past week seeking out one or two of these rather dapper looking ducks, especially the Drakes when in their breeding plumage. I have been rather lucky with this species over recent years at Stodmarsh, a fine drake in front of the Marsh hide on the 29th of March 2014

and another drake, this time in front of the Reed Bed hide on the 7th of April 2015.

Anyway, after far too much time wasted on what I thought was going to be an easy exercise, (my thoughts being that 10 Garganey would be hard to hide even in a large reserve like Stodmarsh) I finally gave up, having to make do with images of a Gadwall, which funnily enough were numbering 10, (no surely not, they are a different colour lol) on the pool out in front of the Feast hide.

A Water Pipit was in the reed stubble to the right of the Feast hide, three Common Snipe, a Kingfisher and 5 Marsh Harriers in the air together were seen from the Reed bed hide and a Black-necked Grebe that I missed, was reported on the main Stodmarsh lake. I saw and heard a couple of singing Chiffchaffs along the entrance track to the reserve from the Grove end, but in reality, very little rewards for my time and effort.


Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Where have all the Barn Owls gone ?

Just lately, work seems to be in the way of getting out with the camera which is far from ideal as there have been a few nice days weather wise of late. That's not to say that I have not been out at all, just a few grabbed hours here and there when the circumstances allow. Just a thought, but it amazes me how I am constantly alerted to bird sightings through social media when I am at work in the lorry, Beep, Iceland Gull at the patch, Beep, Gt White Egret at Ham Street, Beep, King Eider at Sandwich (ha ha, I wish). Am I the only one that has to work ? (lol)  Any way, I have been thinking that I have not seen many Barn Owls of late so I have been visiting a few known Barn Owl haunts locally (having no interest in the Sheppey Owl carnival) but have on the whole been drawing a blank. I have seen one fairly regularly, but always late into the afternoon in failing light. I knew of another Barn Owl a little further away so decided to take a look although it was a grey and dull day and not ideal for photography. After arriving on site it was not long before I had 3 Owls quartering a field that I was parked alongside but they were the wrong Owls, Short-eared and not Barn Owls. I managed a few images from the car until another photographer arrived, pulling up in front of me and to my amazement getting out of the car to take his photos. Result, no more Owls. Still, he must of got some great arse end shots as they flew away from him towards the top end of the field and out of range of the camera. He then drove to the top end of the field and I sat and watched him standing on top of a grass embankment, not an Owl within 100 metres of him. What a plank.

After a while the slow ghostly white wing beats of a Barn Owl were seen, fairly distant but slowly heading in the direction of my car. Once again, given the conditions, not the best Barn Owl images I have obtained but still nice to watch as it quartered the field in search of its prey. It never ventured as close as I would of liked but its the closest I have been to a Barn Owl for a while so I could not complain.

You can't beat an hour or so watching Owls from the comfort of the car.

Thursday, 2 March 2017

Cranes.......What Cranes !!!

Tuesday (27th Feb) and a trip to Sandwich Bay resulted in no cranes, (did I really think I would see some lol) and an empty Restharrow hide bar a few Duck so a hasty retreat back to Grove where the menu was not a great deal better. 100 plus Lapwings on the mud from the viewing ramp and plenty of Reed Buntings, Finches and Tits in the surrounding ramp bushes. The Feast hide was as you would expect with Duck present in fairly good numbers. A solitary Water Pipit was seen again, a Little Grebe was present as was a Green Sandpiper and 6 Tufted Duck were close in to the hide providing a subject for the camera.

I called into the Stodmarsh end of the reserve on the way home, checking the Reed Bed Hide as I have not been there for a few weeks and was quite surprised to see 3 Pintail, a drake and 2 ducks, somewhat bolstering  a rather poor return for my day's effort. Not a lot else, another Green Sandpiper, 5 Marsh Harriers high in the air together and a Common Buzzard drifted South over the hide.

Monday, 27 February 2017

Grey and Purple.

I had a quick trip out to Hampton this morning, pulling up to a stiff North Westerly, grey skies and drizzle which steadily got harder throughout the 30 minutes I lasted there. Why I bothered I don't know, photography was always going to be an effort and I could probably of listed what I was going to see before I got there. A plus was eventually finding the Med Gull, flying out over the end of the pier but I lost it and could not re locate it. I found the 2 Purple Sandpiper's in their usual place, both looking more miserable than I did. Common, Back Headed and Herring Gulls were loafing about just offshore and 4 Great Black backed gulls were seen further out. Other bits noted were 1 Oyster-catcher, 7 Sanderling, 7 Redshank and the normal large numbers of Turnstones. A waste of time really but I have not been out birding in over a week so it dusted of the cobwebs if nothing else.

A lot more exciting was the news of 36 Common Cranes seen flying North over the Restharrow scrape on the Sandwich Bay estate towards Pegwell. They were then seen later from Pegwell, flying back towards Sandwich and landing somewhere around the New Downs area on the Sandwich Bay estate. (Noted by the observer on twitter) I know Cranes are easily viewed in France and Spain and also they can be found in Norfolk but a sizeable flock in Kentish airspace is indeed a sight worth seeing. I will go have a look tomorrow, 36 Cranes on Restharrow scrape, now that would be something.  

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Thanet Fulmars.

If a Fulmar had the plumage of an Owl or Peregrine they would be the subject of constant attention from both bird watcher and photographer alike, because they resemble a Gull they are largely left alone and their true aerial artistry is somewhat missed by many. Watch as they patrol along the cliff top and it is then that their full mastery of flight can be seen. I have had a couple of sessions over the past week around the coastline of Thanet where several pairs have returned to breed. A first for me was seeing a pair of Fulmars excavating a tunnel in sand/dirt along the top of the chalk cliff at Kingsgate, either cleaning out an old nest site or excavating a new one. The Fulmars at Ramsgate on my first visit were photographed under blue skies and a shining sun.

My second outing was to Kingsgate in the company of Mike Gould. We were not so lucky with the weather, the skies being grey and dull. The Fulmars are closer here as they patrol along the cliff top adjacent to the public footpath, giving superb views and plenty of photographic opportunities as they glide effortlessly past, just a few feet away.

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Winter Waders.

If ever a bird photographer (notice I never used the awful term "tog") needed a fix after a prolonged spell of dull grey skies and very little camera action then the Waders at Minnis Bay in the sun over high tide is a must. Last Tuesday (15th) with a mid afternoon tide was ideal, the sun was out and even the associated disturbance that comes with a public beach, especially during the half term school holiday, worked in my favour. Sitting on the rocks that form the first groyne westward from the Minnis Bay car park, I waited as the high tide roost of waders that were settled on the beach 50 metres away were continually flushed by dogs and walkers, snapping away at them as they flew past the point of the groyne that I was sitting on and then returning a few minutes later to repeat the process all over again.

Waders seen included Redshank, Turnstones and Sanderling, all caught with the camera above and a solitary Ringed Plover that I missed.Several skeins of Brent Geese flew westward towards Reculver and a pair of Stonechats arrived on the rocks to see what all the fuss was about.

A few Meadow Pipits and at least 6 Pied Wagtails were noted and a Kestrel was seen hovering over the fields on the way back to the car. Two distant Marsh Harriers were also noted out on the Reculver Marsh. It was nice to be out in the sunshine again.