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Wednesday, 25 November 2020

The Ticks Keep On Coming.

Watching the football on TV throughout last Saturday afternoon and evening (21st November) I was blissfully unaware of the hive of activity on my various social media feeds alerting the world, barring me, to the presence of a Crag Martin along the cliff face at Kingsdown near Deal. It was too late to go when I found out about it so was on site at 5.00 am the next morning. (Sunday) Keen or what, I was the first on site, even beating the night Owls (Martyn Wilson and Barry Wright) At first light, the Martin was not where Martin Wilson had left it the preceding night giving fears that it had departed during the hours of darkness. About 7.30 AM, the Crag Martin was first picked up flying along the cliff face from a southerly direction and landing on a flint right in front of us about half way up the cliff face where it sat for a while preening, periodically getting up and flying around before returning to the flint, eventually departing in the direction it arrived from and lost to view as it climbed over the cliff face heading in the direction of the memorial tower at Bockhill. 8.30 am and it was all over, it was not seen again that Sunday and the photos I took in the dull dark gloom were useless and deleted but a UK and Kent tick was achieved. A look for the Lapland Buntings and the Eastern Yellow Wagtail on Worth marshes on the way home proved fruitless, most of the time was spent chatting to various birders that had moved on from the Martin and were all searching for the elusive Wagtail.

Surprisingly, the Crag Martin returned to Kingsdown on Monday (23rd) and was also seen again on Tuesday (24th). I finished work at lunchtime on the Tuesday so hot footed it back to the rifle range at Kingsdown for another look. Unfortunately for me, the morning sun had disappeared before my arrival and the light was not too dissimilar from my previous visit but marginally better. I managed a few record shots of the bird on its favourite flint but the flight shots were very poor. 




The second new bird for Kent in as many months, I wonder if a third is on the cards before the year ends. Sorry about the dodgy images. The Martin is still present as I write this at 2.30 pm on Wednesday 25th November; it's worth a look if you have not been to see it yet.

Sunday, 8 November 2020

Shriking it Lucky.

First post for quite a while but to be honest, I have not done much, seen much or found much enthusiasm Camera wise lately. A Masked Shrike, found by Derek Smith at Reculver, was another matter and enough to tempt me out to firstly see it and secondly to try and get a few photos of the bird, given the rarity value of a Masked Shrike in Kent. News broke on the morning of the 17th (October) and as I was kicking my heels in doors, I was down at Shuarts lane and parked within an hour and made my way down to where it had been reported. There was a group already assembled as I arrived at the field just south of the railway crossing on the shuart track and it was only a matter of minutes before I had clapped eyes on my first UK Masked Shrike. A 1st calendar year bird, it always remained distant and when it did pop up onto a bush top, given the position of the field we were in, it was always into the light although it was for the most of the time, drab and dreary.



A grey bird into a dull grey light with a huge crop equals pretty poor images but it is a first for Kent and only the 5th record for the U.K

When the sun did pop out, unfortunately the Shrike was even further away but I still kept on trying.

Whilst on site, a White-tailed Sea Eagle passed overhead, missed by me, I really should pay more attention. The crowds as expected continued to arrive so I left with the idea of returning on the next day (Sunday 18th) which I did, arriving nice and early. The bird was still present and although the crowds assembled were a little nearer to the bushes that the Shrike seemed to favor, the distance was just a bit too far for my camera and lens. The weather was much the same as on my previous visit, dull and grey in the morning but a little brighter in the afternoon which did help a little. I managed to get a few more record shots, recording what was a remarkable find for Derek Smith and thanks to him for getting news of the bird’s presence out to the general public quickly.




A pity the photos never done the magnitude of the find any justice but by far the bird of my rather poor year so far.

I did do a lot better down at St Mary's Bay on the Romney Marsh during October, when I went for the juvenile Red-backed Shrike. It was favoring a few bushes and Gorse at the Northern perimeter of the Littlestone golf club and was at times very close to my vantage point. As difficult as the Masked Shrike proved to photograph at Reculver, this obliging bird was completely the opposite.







On Thursday 5th November, I was able to add Dartford Warbler to the birds I have seen within the Stour Valley boundaries. Standing on the viewing ramp at the Grove end of the reserve, a male bird popped up in a bush next to me, allowing me to even hear it call a couple of times, something that does not happen often.


Monday, 14 September 2020

Wryneck revisited and an American duo

Having seen images on the internet showing the Wryneck at Swalecliffe was still present and becoming a little less elusive, I returned to see if I could get a few more shots of this stunning looking bird. It seemed to disappear for a while but then was usually picked up flying into the surrounding bushes before dropping down onto the grassy perimeter of the football pitch alongside the small brook that runs between the park and the water treatment plant. It was a lot more confiding than on my first visit and being a bit closer, allowed the watching audience, (there were a few) to marvel at the birds superb cryptic plumage detail.









The Wryneck is certainly one smart looking bird.

I caught up with the two Pectoral Sandpipers on the new pools situated south east of the Great Wood on Worth marshes. An area of marshland taken under the RSPB's wing and although not the best place for wildlife photography (subject's are usually a long way off) it shows huge potential, especially if you own a scope. The two Pecs were easily found, foraging alongside the back edge of a small scrape carved out of a field used for grazing cattle. The footpath ran alongside this field and in places the hedgerow was low enough to see over and catch sight of these two American waders as they went about their business. Being short was a hindrance but I did manage a few heavily cropped record shots to mark the occasion.




Not a bad week with the camera and hopefully the rest of September and October will throw up a few goodies. Thanks for looking.



Monday, 7 September 2020

A Weekend of Wheatears and a Wryneck

A visit to Sandwich Bay and Seasalter on Friday (4th September) produced for me the most Wheatears I have seen in a day, with at least 18 being seen along the beach between Sandilands and the Prince's golf course clubhouse and another 10 seen along the seawall at Seasalter from around the beach huts and westward past the white post.  A lot posed on various fence posts allowing me to get quite close with the camera.






A Wryneck found at Swalecliffe favouring  the bushes alongside the brook that runs between the water treatment plant and the football pitches caught my attention and although Long Rock (Swalecliffe) is not a great place to visit due to public disturbance (dog walkers, joggers, cyclists) I thought I would chance my arm on Sunday morning. Arriving early to miss the anticipated weekend crowds, a few birders were already on site and it was only a 30 minute wait until it was first sighted. Relieved it had stayed put overnight, I set about getting a few images that proved a little difficult being down to the habitual nature of this rather attractive species. Keeping at a respectful distance, a few rather distant record shots were taken, all largely cropped to show just how smart a Wryneck is. One of my favorites off the scarcer migrant species that we occasionally see at this time of the year.




My first blog post for a while but I have not really seen much to post about. Hopefully a bit more will turn up through the months of September and October and a few more post will arise from my sightings. 

A link to my facebook wildlife photography  page



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

Thanks for looking.