Monday, 20 November 2017

Quality over Quantity.

Last Thursday (16th) I heard that there was a Red-Necked Phalarope present on the garage pools at Pegwell Bay. I have not seen one of these in the U.K and indeed my only sighting of one was at Marquenterre in Northern France a few years ago but it was a very long way off and could only just be identified. Last Thursday was a miserable day, dull and dismal but I have missed too many of these so I gathered my gear and made the short drive over to Pegwell. Walking from the car park at the garage I saw a few birders looking into a pool further along the track and was soon watching a 1st Winter Red-Necked Phalarope, feeding and whizzing about a small pool just away from the main larger garage pool. As mentioned, the light was abysmal and far from ideal for photography but I managed a couple of record shots to mark the occasion.

On the next day, Friday (17th) the sun was shining and I patiently awaited through the morning for news of the Phalarope, trawling various social media sites for information. If it was reported then I decided to visit again in the afternoon when the light would be at its best. By midday there was no word on the bird so I drove the short journey to Pegwell on the off chance it had remained throughout the clear starlit night. The Phalarope was surprisingly still present and I enjoyed the afternoon photographing the bird and chatting to various birders and photographers who were all there for the same reason.

Whilst with the Phalarope I was told of a Black-Throated Diver that had found its way into Ramsgate harbour. This is a species that I have only seen occasionally and always at a distance out to sea. I went down on the Sunday (19th) and was soon watching the Diver in the outer basin of the harbour. It was continually on the move but did come close to our vantage point a few times allowing for some images. Easily the best views I've had of this species and as the title says, Quality over Quantity. I would take that every weekend please.

I have now seen and photographed all the Phalarope species in the world (thanks Bob Eade) but being as there are only three Phalarope's worldwide, it's not such an amazing feat. (lol)

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.