Tuesday, 29 December 2020

Looking Back at 2020 (Part 2)

And to part 2 of 2020. Bird wise, it was probably more memorable than the first six months with a few interesting birds turning up of which two being "firsts" for Kent.

July was all about the two returning "Yanks" to the Oare marsh reserve and I caught up with both of them through the month, the rather smart looking Bonaparte's Gull, seen in its full summer refinery and a Lesser Yellowlegs that always remained distant making it a little difficult with the camera.

Once again I was lucky enough to be able to photograph a young Peregrine family along the coast and not too far from my home. Four youngsters fledged and over a few visits I was able to get some photos as they showed off their aerial mastery. I also was able to get a few images of the parent birds as they patrolled along the cliff face and right past my vantage point. 

I came across a pair of Jays with a small chick that had only just fledged the nest whilst photographing the Peregrines.

The young Peregrines make for a memorable experience both with watching and photographing them as they learn the sufficient skills required to succeed in the forthcoming months when they leave the safety of their nesting site.

 August was my quietest month of the year with hardly any trips out at all. I did manage a few waders at Minnis Bay but that was all. Below, a Turnstone in summer plumage, a Dunlin and a Ringed Plover.

September was hugely better, departing Wheatears were in abundance along my local stretch of coastline, refuelling before their onward journey back to their wintering grounds.

A showy Wryneck turned up at Swalecliffe, staying for a week and performed well for the camera. It was nice to get a showy individual, they are normally quite shy.

Another two American waders were found at Worth, a pair of Pectoral Sandpipers which I saw during September. They were always distant on one of the newly dug scrapes on the RSPB reserve but I did manage a couple of record shots to mark the occasion.

Returning Waders were also plentiful during September and I visited Minnis Bay and Reculver frequently during the month. There were several species of Wader taking advantage of the flies attracted by the washed up sea weed that was strewn along the beach from Minnis Bay to the lagoon at Cold harbour. Below, a Curlew Sandpiper, Knot, Dunlin, Sanderling, Turnstone, Bar-tailed Godwit and a Little Stint. September was probably the best month of the year for variety with the camera.

October was a month for Shrikes. The most memorable with the camera was an extremely showy juvenile Red-backed Shrike that stayed a week around bushes and gorse on the Northern perimeter of Littlestone golf course. I visited firstly on a grey dreary morning and returned on a much better day weather wise later in the week. The bird was an absolute star and must have liked the sound of the shutter.

As easy as the Red-backed Shrike was to photograph, the second Shrike of the month, a juvenile Masked Shrike seen at Reculver, proved to be as difficult. Although the bird mostly remained distant, the enormity of the sighting, a first record for Kent and only a few miles from home, made this the bird for me of 2020. I have seen them before in Cyprus, both youngsters and adults but never thought I would have the privilege of seeing one on my doorstep. Dodgy images hugely cropped and wrongly positioned but a record no less.

October was a month of quality over quantity.

 November and when you can take photos whilst working then it makes working just that bit easier. Visiting the concrete plant at the Ramsgate harbour complex I have had some joy with a family of Foxes that have a den behind the plant. Sometimes I can get very close to them as they play on the sand piles.

I was not expecting to get another 1st for Kent but that is exactly what happened when a Crag Martin was found at Kingsdown. I missed the news on the first afternoon it was seen but arrived in the dark the next morning and soon had another tick for Kent in the bag. (U.K tick as well) 

The bird stayed a week but on most days it would commute about a dozen miles south to Samphire Hoe to spend the day, returning to Kingsdown to roost each afternoon. I saw the bird at Samphire Hoe as well, in much better conditions than my previous encounters at Kingsdown.

December and the close to a year that has been trying to say the least. A new lock down disguised under the term of tier 4 was issued by our rather sorrowful government, so outings have been curtailed somewhat. I have restricted my outings to local, mostly between Reculver and Minnis Bay. A Black Redstart and Kestrel have been photographed by the towers at Reculver during December

And Snow Buntings have been seen and photographed on the beach close to the Wantsum outflow at Cold harbour

Lastly, one of the many Brent Geese seen between the towers and Minnis Bay.

That brings a close to 2020 with the camera, a peculiar year where travel has been severely restricted but still managing a few images and two new Kent ticks was a nice result. Hopefully next year will see a return to some sort of normality but I fear we have a way to go yet. Anyway, here's to a better New Year and above all, stay safe. 

 Happy New Year.

Sunday, 20 December 2020

Looking back at 2020 (Part 1)

I don't know why anyone would want to look back on a year as bad as 2020 was but I have nothing but time on my hands now that the south east has been given tier 4 status. I always knew that this year would end in tiers. (My feeble attempt at humour).

January and after a good end to 2019, it was back to the mundane and a grey and gloomy start to the year (little did we know that this was a sign of things to come) and a Great White Egret and the obligatory Kingfisher were picked out of the Grove Ferry gloom.

Bossenden woods provided the usual January fix of woodland birds, noticeably with the aid of a few strategically placed props.

Reculver is worthy of a visit at this time of the year for the large Brent flock that seemingly always provide photo opportunities. Yellow-hammers and surprisingly a small number of Tree Sparrows (quite a rare site nowadays) were seen and within range of my camera as I walked down the sea wall by the green wall intersection.

I also had a session with a small flock of Bearded Tits at Oare late into January, they were very confiding and for me, one of the year’s highlights.

A Long-tailed Tit passed through the reed bed with the Beaded Tits.

February was very quiet; the only photos were of Pintails taken at Oare. I recall at least a dozen birds there on my visit. 

March was even quieter with some rather poor weather and the introduction of the lockdown coming. Before the lockdown came into force I did manage some Fulmars at Foreness under a rarely seen sunlit morning, albeit accompanied by a strong south westerly breeze.

April, and the start of lockdown started to affect the places I could walk to on daily exercise allowances. Walks now changed to local public footpaths between my home in Sturry across arable farmland to Upstreet and back. I was surprised at just how many Yellowhammers I came across.

I saw most of the common species you would expect to see in the habitat I was walking through throughout February but sadly no Tree Sparrow's which was a species I was hoping to find locally.


Common Whitethroat

Garden Warbler


I was slightly surprised as to how many Cuckoo's were seen around my newly chosen path ways. I recall seeing four birds chasing each other along a hedgerow that skirted a reed bed behind the village of Hersden and I was able to get several photos on various days throughout April.

May arrived and so did a male Red-footed Falcon at Stodmarsh. Being my local reserve and just a few miles from my house, I parked along the Grove road and walked one of the several public footpaths that skirt alongside the eastern edge of the reserve and connected with the bird. It was always fairly distant but a few record shots were taken to mark the occasion

I had a few sessions with the local Barn Owls and as in previous years, sitting quietly unnoticed in the tall grass and vegetation reaped rewards.

A Marsh Warbler was also seen and photographed in May.

June and half way through the year. Another Red footed Falcon turned up at Stodmarsh, this one, a first summer male and the second of what became a steady influx of individual birds visiting the reserve.

The normal summer migrants were now arriving in numbers a Turtle Dove seen at Grove was one of quite a few on the reserve this year and several parties of Swift's were seen hawking insects over the reserve reed beds.

I think the biggest surprise of the year came in the shape of a fully summer plumaged Snow Bunting, a bird not out of place on the snow capped peaks of the Cairngorms in Scotland but on the sea front at Walmer and Deal was not to be expected. A smart individual that posed nicely for the visiting Paps

My first lifer came along in June. A Gull-billed Tern at Dungeness was a bird I should not really of gone to see but it was visible from the causeway road alongside the ARC pit so contact with anyone would be minimal. As it was, I connected with the bird straight away and was also able to get a few pics as it fished quite close to where I was viewing from.

The month finished with an opportunity to get some close up images of Jay's, a species that I never seem to have a lot of luck photographing. Once again, thanks to Andy H for this opportunity.

Back at Stodmarsh and towards the end of the month I finally caught up with the long staying Pink footed Goose.

And that brings to a close the first half of 2020, a year that has affected us all. I still managed a few quality birds, the Red Foots at Stodmarsh and the Tern at Dungeness and photographing a Marsh Warbler I remember as being particularly memorable. The Cuckoo's, Bearded Tits and the Jays, although common birds, were also highlights from the first six months of the year out and about with the camera. Part two, the second half to follow.

Merry Christmas and stay safe.