Sunday, 25 August 2019

A Stick Either End

The Stodmarsh reserve, (my local reserve) has basically two entrances, one from the Grove Ferry end, opposite the Grove Ferry Pub and the other entrance is from within the the village of Stodmarsh itself. A short walk from each entrance brings you to a hide, the Feast hide from Grove Ferry and the Reed bed hide from Stodmarsh. If a complete circuit walk is done which I did on Friday (23rd) both hides can be visited and seemingly as ever at the moment a Kingfisher perched upon the perch from the Feast hide which was rather lucky as I only spent a couple of minutes in there.

and on the perch in front of the Reed bed hide when I got there, a Common Sandpiper, which is not as uncommon occurrence as one would think. I have seen this a few times over the years at Stodmarsh.

The only trouble is, although the perches either end of the reserve allowed me to fire off the camera, there was next to nothing to aim at in the walk in between. In fact the only other reasonable image was a Painted Lady butterfly taken along the path from the Marsh hide towards New Downs farm.

Even this would not open its wings for me.

Other notable bits seen on the circuit was a female Sparrowhawk, a Water Rail, one Green Sandpiper and also along the path where the Painted Lady was a juvenile moulting Whinchat or Stonechat (cannot make my mind up) that was catching insects whilst perched in the reed bed. Just a token record shot as I was looking into the sun and the bird was only present briefly before flying off over the path and down towards the Middle Drove.

No mud to hold any Waders on the reserve, I guess that's why the Common Sandpiper chose to land on the Kingfisher perch, in fact if it was not for the sticks, it would of been a waste of time carrying the camera around. 

Sunday, 18 August 2019

A Grove Ferry Favourite.

Every year......same reserve......same hide......same stick

A Kingfisher.

Not a lot else seen in the hour I spent in the Feast hide, a solitary Swift, a passing Peregrine and a female Sparrowhawk alighted from deep within the undergrowth on the Island. One Grey Heron and a Little Egret were hiding behind the Island and a Water Rail was seen in the overgrown reed fringe to the front edge of the island. Still plenty of feeding activity going on with Reed and Sedge Warblers tending nests and a family of Common Whitethroats passed through the reeds in front of the hide. The above female Kingfisher was one of three birds seen around the pool in front of the Feast hide and the only bird to land on the perch. Photographed every year but still a Grove/Stodmarsh favourite.

Friday, 9 August 2019

A Sunday morning on Restharrow.

Last Sunday morning (4th) I arrived early at the hide on the Restharrow scrape on the Sandwich Bay estate. I wanted to get a visit in as it closes for a while later on in the month for improvement works. Listening to a few of the locals, they plan to make it bigger although in my humble opinion it is one of the best viewing hides in east Kent as it is (especially for photography) and I have seen over the years other improvement works to various reserves that end up no improvement at all. I hope the scrape does not go the same way as it certainly turns up a few nice birds during the course of the year. I am told also there is a plan to add another hide further down from the existing hide which  has to be good news, especially if the expanse of water will be larger in size. First birds seen on the scrape, you cannot miss them really, is a pair of Egyptian Geese with two youngsters. 

They do tend to be on the ugly side!!!

Waders were fairly well represented with two Green Sandpipers, four Wood Sandpipers, a couple of Common Snipe, a single Dunlin and also a juvenile Little Ringed Plover. Unfortunately, when anything approached within range of the camera, after a few seconds they were chased off by a Moorhen with two broods of youngsters. A little annoying but a few images were taken but mostly too far away for anything but record shots.


Wood Sandpiper

There was a Little Egret on the scrape and a pair of Garganey which were looking a lot less dapper on their departure to when they arrived back in March.

and a distant record shot of one of the Garganey with the Little Ringed Plover in the frame.

My first trip out since my return from Corfu and a worthwhile exercise just for the Garganey and Wood Sandpipers alone.

Back to work and a trip to Bretts again in the Ramsgate harbour complex where one of the Port Foxes, that can be easily bribed with a jam sandwich, was very obliging, letting me get a photo with my phone. Lovely charismatic creatures, lets hope they keep a ban on Fox hunting.

Sunday, 4 August 2019

A bit of Corfu birding

A family holiday on the Ionian island of Corfu was undertaken during the back end of July and as normal with my family holidays, the Canon 7d with Canon 100-400mm lens was packed for the few hours each morning at sunrise when I could get out and see the local avian fare the surroundings had to offer. Usually a car is hired but after a quick recce on the first morning, some juvenile birds with tails longer than the local Sparrows (teach me to leave my bins and camera in the room) and several pathways crossing quite a large area of scrub land that the locals used as a shortcut to the beach from  the main road that passed about 500 metres to the front of the hotel meant that there was enough to keep me occupied on my doorstep for my stay, saving 300 euros on car hire fees.

On my second morning there, the distant views I had of the birds with long tails that I suspected to be juvenile Red-backed Shrikes turned out to be juvenile Woodchat Shrikes and I had a bit of fun each morning trying to get close enough to them for some decent images. I found it hard to get that close to anything really, probably the birds living with the threat of being shot by hunters (a sad habit that seems rife from this part of the world) have rather sensibly taken a huge distrust in the human species and have learnt to keep their distance. By hiding away in the bushes I did get a few images, and a few bemused looks from the odd local that passed by. (People were pretty scarce at that time of the morning thankfully)

The parent birds were often in attendance and easily located although they never tolerated me getting too close. They were very wary and seemed to have a set distance they would allow me to approach, which I soon learnt, 

and on one occasion (my last morning there) I was able to get a parent and juvenile bird on top of a bush together. 

As it was a family holiday with my 5 year old twin grandsons and 2 year old grandaughter, my sessions were normally over by 9 o clock but by then the sun was already burning and my presence was always required in the pool. (where do 5 year old twin boys get all their energy from ?) We had two trips to the old town of Corfu where even the boys remarked on the noise coming from the hundreds of Alpine Swifts overhead. They were extremely vocal, even I could hear them with my cloth ears. The overall appearance of Corfu around the town and suburbs had a tired and run down look about it  and you could see Greece was a country that has suffered economically over the past 10 years although there was some evidence that not all people were feeling the pinch.

A rich man's toy,

and an extremely rich man's toy.

Whilst on the subject of boats, (get them all out of the way together) this was the view from my balcony most mornings as the cruise liners docked to unleash hundreds of tourists onto the town of Corfu. Beats looking out to see the postman or the local school run passing my window back home.

There was a small body of water and a reed bed between one of the tracks and the beach which never amounted to much as most of it was inaccessible but I did record European Shag Common Sandpiper and a very distant Red-backed Shrike. Images were not very forthcoming  but I did manage a Little Egret and also a Common Buzzard took me by surprise.

I even managed one lifer in the shape of an Eastern Olivaceous Warbler which was busy feeding fledglings. Although a new bird for me, I had my suspicions of what it was which were confirmed to me by Mike Buckland, thank you for your help.

Waders were not really in abundance, I noticed on two occasions a Common Sandpiper flying along the beach and also a pair of juvenile Little-Ringed Plovers foraging in the grass. Luckily they let me approach slowly to get a few images.

Early in the morning several Hooded Crows would be around the beach area cleaning up after the previous days littering from the beach users.

My particular favourite were the Alpine Swifts. I have never thought much about this species before but they are quite stunning when viewed from close quarters. I even picked up a hapless Swift around the harbour area in Corfu town, showing the twins before placing it back on a perch where hopefully it could relaunch itself and back to screaming around the rooftops of Old Corfu town. It was not there when we returned so hopefully it survived. I found a nesting colony on an old apartment block roughly 500 metres along the coast line from our hotel and early each morning I crept around the back and snapped away as the Swifts returned to their nest sites with food for their young.

And that was that, another ten days in the sun over with, back to overgrown and relatively bird less reserves and an uphill battle with the camera. The joys of wildlife photography in the U.K.

Thanks for looking