Monday, 30 December 2019

2019, Looking Back. (Part 2)

The second part of the year started with a holiday to Corfu in mid July. Although primarily a family holiday with the grandchildren, the Canon 7d along with the Canon 100-400 Mk II and my binoculars found there way into the case, a good call as there was a great scrubby area to the side of my hotel and a marshy area that was not a stone's throw from the hotel perimeter. I walked the area every morning for an hour before breakfast, quickly finding a fair bit of avian wildlife right on my doorstep. Also, a few hundred metres away, I found a hotel which was home to a colony of Alpine Swifts.

Alpine Swift

Other birds of note were a family of Woodchat Shrikes,

A lifer for me in the shape of an Olivaceous Warbler, 

and a juvenile Little Ringed Plover were just a few of the varied species list racked up, all within walking distance of my hotel.

August, and it normally starts to slow down, breeding comes to an end and migrating birds are starting to think about leaving with most parent birds showing the signs of a hard breeding season behind them. On reflection, this past August was not too bad on the photography front.

Painted Lady

Migrant Hawker

The three Fox cubs continued to show well for me when calling in at the Brett plant at Ramsgate, this one coming to check me out after I had loaded my lorry.

 Along with just about every other "tog" in east Kent, I was able to photograph Kingfishers from one of the perches in front of the Feast hide at Grove.

No room for any Kingfishers from the perch in front of the Reed Bed hide at the other end and not the first time I have had Common Sandpiper's landing on the stick.

A pair of Garganey were quite obliging from the hide overlooking the Restharrow scrape on the Sandwich Bay estate during August and a few early returning Wood Sandpipers were also seen from the same session.

During September, a 1st winter Grey Phalarope was found at Grenham Bay, in between Minnis Bay and Westgate. As can be with this species, the bird was very obliging, swimming past my vantage point within just a few metres of me.

I was even lucky enough to catch the bird in flight as it sometimes was chased away by the larger Gulls on the beach.

A visit to Bockhill at the start of the month looking for departing migrants to photograph proved fairly unsuccessful but a Green Woodpecker was seen looking for ants on one of the grassy paths around the monument.

Back at base (Grove Ferry and Stodmarsh) some of the more common and expected fare was photographed through the month of September, mainly caught from the hides.

Common Snipe

Water Rail

October provided me with the opportunity to photograph a rather smart looking Desert Wheatear, seen at Seasalter along the sea wall towards Castle Coot. This was my first of this species since 2014, seen at Reculver.

A pair of Tundra Bean Geese arrived on the Stodmarsh reserve during October and were photographed in poor weather which on the whole, apart from the odd day here and there, has not really improved to date, rain being the predominant factor in the daily forecasts.

What amounted to only my second new bird seen throughout 2019, a Juvenile Sabine's Gull, viewed distantly from the beach at Dungeness where all I managed was a poor record shot due to the dismal conditions and the fact that the bird never came within 50 metres of me.

Also during October during another visit to the Brett concrete plant at Ramsgate, I caught all three Fox cubs at play on the sand piles that are dotted around the site.

November started well, a walk around the lakes at Westbere where I recorded at least 6 Firecrests and numerous Goldcrests.

A Great Grey Shrike arrived on the Freedown at Bockhill during November and rewarded the twitcher's and togs who were patient with superb views as it was seen perched on various bush tops as it hunted for prey. Standing along the public footpath, if you waited long enough, the bird would often pop up within range of the camera. Another quite memorable encounter with a superb Shrike.

It was one of those occasions when it never rained and there was blue skies, an event over the past three months that has been somewhat rarer than having a Great Grey Shrike on the end of your lens.

Other notable birds for me during November was a Red Throated Diver taking refuge in the outer basin at Ramsgate harbour and a single Snow Bunting I saw when looking for the Foxes at the Brett concrete plant.

Also the Kingfishers were still obliging from the Feast hide at Grove Ferry throughout the month of November.

And so we come to December. To be honest, December has been a struggle. It seems to of rained constantly, water levels are high wherever you go and mostly, the wildlife seems as cheesed off with the weather as I have been. I did call into the Restharrow scrape on the Sandwich Bay estate during December to see how the new workings have taken shape. All in all, pretty impressive and I am sure once the water levels return and the excavations settle, it will be a vast improvement on what was already an excellent wildlife watching point. A second hide is also a welcomed addition, although not open yet, but will be ready in the not too distant future. A Little Grebe provided me with a little action with the camera.

An end of year visit to the Stodmarsh reserve where a Great Crested Grebe and Stonechat in the reed bed was my only reward and having already mentioned, with December being such a struggle, the only other photos were of a few Muntjacs, seen outside my lodge on a Christmas break with the Grandchildren at the Elveden Forest Centre Parc resort. What a great place for a short break, especially at Christmas time with young Grandchildren.

Great-Crested Grebe

Stonechat in the reed bed

Munjac's, seen on my lodge patio and the surrounding woodland

And that just about mops up 2019, a few decent birds, I remember the Alpine Swifts giving me a buzz on holiday and the Grey Phalarope being pleasing just for its shear closeness. Desert Wheatears are always a pleasure and a few sessions with the Great Grey Shrike was also memorable. Hopefully the rains will abate in the early New Year and we can get out and start the new decade in style. There will be a few good birds around in 2020 I am sure, I just hope I am able to get out and grab a few photos.
 I would like to thank any readers (or lookers) to these pages or to my website Click Here and also a Happy and healthy 2020.

Thanks For Looking.