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.

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Fifty Shades of Grey.

Dull, grey and then duller and greyer. Not a week of good weather so hardly surprising that the camera has mostly remained in the bag. Just one outing midweek, a brief walk around the Grove Ferry end of the Stodmarsh NNR, catching up with the 4 Bewick Swans from the viewing ramp, 3 adults and a juvenile bird, these being the highlight of a rather dull trudge under a damp grey sky. A single Water Pipit was seen from the Feast hide along with 100+ Teal, 9 Gadwall, several Mallard, Shoveller, 4 Tufted Duck (2 Drakes and 2 Duck) and a solitary Drake Wigeon. Two Grey Heron's passed Northward towards Reculver and a Ring-tailed Harrier flew westward along the river bank towards Stodmarsh followed by a Little Egret. Three Marsh Harriers were noted, 1 Green Woodpecker and several Thrush species in the trees down towards the Marsh hide. A fox trotted across the wet marshy area in front of the Marsh hide and a pair of Stonechat's were present but I could not locate any Water Pipits from here. Calling back into the Feast hide on the way out, a Kingfisher zipped along the dyke but not stopping, and a Green Sandpiper was taking advantage of the newly cleared reed bed on the left, foraging for food in the mud as were two Common Snipe and a Water Rail. Not that exciting I'm afraid, hopefully the weather will soon improve, there were a few signs that Spring is just around the corner. 

The new view from the Feast Hide

You know its poor when you start taking photos of Coots.

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Gone Fishing !!!

I wanted to see what work had been undertaken to the Feast hide pool at the Grove Ferry end of the Stodmarsh reserve, having not visited this part of the reserve for a few weeks. I went down on Friday (3rd) for a few hours sitting in the hide with Tim Gutsell, then a little later, Mel and Jan Fagg. The view from the hide has been transformed, the old Tern raft has gone, as is the small grassy island just the other side of the dyke and a new mud Island has been shaped, out in the middle of the pool. Also the encroaching reed bed has been cut back, opening up the view to the left and right of the pool. Hopefully the Terns will use the Island as a replacement for the rotting Tern raft that was need of replacing. All in all, a massive improvement and a "well done" to the N.E staff who have their work cut out trying to make ends meet with the ever shrinking budget handed to them from the government. 
Whilst sitting in the hide, two different Kingfishers were present at various times during my stay, both a Male and Female. A Ring-tailed Harrier which looked to be a young bird passed through westward along the reed edge by the river, at least 3 Water Pipit's were seen, a Drake Wigeon was amongst the expected wildfowl and surprisingly only 1 Marsh Harrier was seen in 4 hours. A hoped for Bittern sighting never materialised so our time was spent mostly with the Kingfisher's. 

Below are a few images from a visit to the Marsh hide in the middle of the reserve during the last few days of January when the reserve was still frozen.

Common Buzzard



Water Pipit (Definitely NOT Rock Pipit)