Monday, 30 July 2018

A Pec at Pegwell.

Seeing images posted on various social media sites, I could see that the Pectoral Sandpiper at Pegwell Bay has at times been very close to the path that passes the garage pool so decided to pay it a visit on Tuesday 24th. I was the only person there and immediately found the bird, resting in a shallow divot on the water's edge and just a couple of metres from me.

After 10 to 15 minutes, the bird got up and started feeding around the edge of the pool, seemingly oblivious to my presence. 

A smart looking Wader and although Britain's commonest American vagrant, always great to see and especially so close to home. I also noticed a juvenile Little Ringed Plover land on the far side of the garage pool, a year tick for me.

A not so smart looking Crab.

Saturday, 21 July 2018

A Stilt family at Oare.

For the past week I had read reports of a family of Black-Winged Stilts that had stopped off at Oare Marshes, fresh from their nesting site somewhere on Sheppey. I visited the reserve last Monday (16th) and watched the Stilts feeding way out on the East flood. I set myself up by the pull in along the road that splits the two floods and eventually one of the two juvenile birds flew nearer to me and started feeding along the edge of the pool close to the road and my vantage point.

Throughout my stay all four Stilts took turns in feeding along the nearside edge of the flood, affording superb views and great photo opportunities. Next, one of the adult birds joined the juvenile and started foraging for food alongside the waters edge .

To watch and photograph Stilts so close in the U.K was once a very rare occurrence but over the last few years I have been lucky, twice at Stodmarsh and now at Oare. With breeding records at Cliffe and now Sheppey, I wonder if this species will follow in the Little Egret's footsteps and soon be a normal daily sighting. Hopefully yes as they are stunning birds to watch. This is also the first time I have seen a juvenile bird, although I did see an egg in a nest whilst in Malaga in Spain a few years back. Other bird's noted along with the normal Oare Marsh fare for this time of the year was a Spotted Redshank, looking rather tatty, the Bonaparte's which was way out on the flood, several Ruff that were slowly loosing their summer coats but for me the Stilt's were the main attraction.

Friday, 13 July 2018

A Return to Bempton Cliff's in East Yorkshire

Returning after a five year abscence, a two night stay at the coastal village of Flamborough in East Yorkshire gave us an opportunity to see and photograph the many sea birds that nest on the cliff face around Bempton and Flamborough head. We had mixed fortunes on the trip with the arrival day bathed in nice warm sunshine and ideal for photography but the second day we endured a stubborn sea mist that hung over the cliff face all day, making any attempt at photography a pointless exercise. Martyn Wilson, Steve Ray and Alan Ashdown all met at my house for 4 o clock on the morning of Monday 25th June and a straightforward run to Bempton (even though I missed the M11, it must be an age thing) saw us arrive just after 10.00 am. Wasting no time, we went straight to the RSPB reserve at Bempton cliffs and soon had superb views of the Gannets, effortlessly patrolling along the cliff tops, gliding past and giving wonderful opportunities with the camera's.

We wandered up and down the cliff top path for a while, taking in the views from each of the specially erected viewing points, trying to work out the best positions for photographing the Gannets the following morning. (We needn't of bothered)

Having the need to drive the few miles back to Flamborough to check into our hotel, we left Bempton with plans laid for an early start the next morning to make the most of the superb Gannet action that is to be had at this spot. We checked into the Flaneburgh, a detached property halfway along the North Marine Road in Flamborough, the road that leads down to the Northern landing, a series of coves and beaches between Bridlington and Bempton. The hotel has the look of  Faulty Towers from the outside and although the interior has become a little tired, it is very clean and a great breakfast is on offer in the mornings. We have stopped here twice before and scores 10/10 for location and accommodates exactly for our needs. It is the first hotel I try when booking a couple of nights stay in this area and the £50 per night single occupancy for bed and breakfast is excellent value for money. The landlady likes to talk a lot but we let Alan bare the brunt of her endless chat, lol.

The Northern Landings, photo courtesy of Alan Ashdown.

After checking into the hotel we were straight back out again and drove the few hundred metres down to the Northern Landing area. It is here that we stumbled upon a small cove and spent a pleasant afternoon on the nearly deserted beach watching and photographing Auks as they left their cliff face ledges to go out to sea to fish. (although we never saw many return with fish) I was impressed with the Puffin action and is probably the best spot I have found on mainland England to catch Puffins in flight. The weather was also glorious which always helps.

Atlantic Puffin.

We were also able to get a few Guillemot's and Razorbill's as they flew in and out of the cove but generally these stayed a little further out than the Puffins.



Another mental note was taken for a return the following day, a great site and within easy walking distance from the hotel. A shower and change before a nice evening meal in the North Star Inn, again walking distance from the hotel and where plans were made for an early start back at Bempton in the morning. I set the alarm for 04.00 am but that was not required, a steady sound of fog horns from the nearby North Sea getting me out of bed just after 3.00 am. Fog horns, I should of cottoned on but it was not until I went downstairs to meet the others that I realised the whole area was shrouded in a heavy fog rolling in off of the North Sea. We rocked up to Bempton and soon realised that until it lifted we would not be seeing anything so decided to travel in land a bit, up onto the North Yorkshire moors, a spot we visited on our last trip 5 years ago. It took a little time but eventually we found where we wanted to be and now the sun was out so set about trying to get a few Red Grouse images. We never did that well, when we saw a Grouse it always seemed to be into the sun and the birds having young with them, scurried for cover as soon as we slowed the car. Needless to say, no usable images from the moors for me. As the sun was now out, we returned to the hotel for breakfast and then back to Bempton but the fog was still stubbornly hugging the coastline, just over the seabird colony. Travelling inland for a distance of 500 metres and you were in lovely sunshine but the coastline was a no go area for the rest of the day which was a shame.

Our Hotel looking even more like Faulty Towers in the mist. (Photo courtesy of Alan Ashdown)

Looking from the visitors centre at Bempton towards one of the viewing platforms in the fog. (Photo courtesy of Alan Ashdown)

Bright and sunny from the Bempton RSPB visitors centre but just a couple of hundred metres down the path towards the cliff top and the stubborn sea fog remained for the whole day. (Photo again courtesy of Alan Ashdown)

Needless to say, a return to What we now called Puffin Bay at the North Landing was out of the question so we returned back to the moors for another look round. We returned to the hotel, had an evening meal in the Rose and Crown in Flamborough, again walking distance from the hotel, but was not as good as the previous evening in the North Star. We decided that an early start in the morning, again hoping to get the Gannets at Bempton but all deciding that if it was again foggy, we would set off early for home. Again no need for the alarm clock, having showered and down stairs at 04.00am to meet the others. (It's a good job I do not need much sleep) We drove up to Bempton again and standing by the visitors centre a Grasshopper Warbler could be heard reeling in a hedgerow to our left. It was 5.00 am as we drove out of the reserve at Bempton, the headlights helping us pick our way through the heavy fog which we never lost until heading South on the A1. Although the fog was a hinderance, our saving grace was our arrival day, warm and brilliant sunshine and worth the trip for that day alone.

A few more images from the RSPB reserve at Bempton and our aptly named Puffin Bay at Flamborough.

Great company as usual and thanks to Martyn, Steve and Alan for making it an enjoyable trip. No doubting a return is on the cards for sometime next year, after all, the place owes us a couple of days.