Sunday, 29 November 2020

Back for the Crag Martin.

Saturday morning (28th) and after a misty start to the day, the sun rose and burnt away the fog leaving clear blue skies and sunshine along the east Kent coastline. I arrived about 9.00 am at Kingsdown to find a mass exodus of birders leaving the site as the Crag Martin seen during the week had re located about 10 miles further south along the coast at Samphire Hoe according to the online media services. I waited for about an hour in case the bird returned but with no sign and social media confirming the Martin was still hawking insects along the cliff face behind the Hoe visitors centre, I made the short journey and immediately connected again with the bird on arrival. The light was superb but unfortunately there is a railway line between the path that the bird was viewed from and the cliff face, meaning the distance was considerably greater than when seen at Kingsdown earlier in the week. All the same, the views were superb throughout the day and a few more rather distant images were taken but in much better light.

 A walk along the concrete concourse back towards Dover and a Black Redstart proved a lot easier to take photos of than the Crag Martin, looking quite smart on the sea defence rocks in the early afternoon sunshine.

 It makes a change lately to get something that is close to the camera, not happened since the Red-backed Shrike down at St Mary's. 

Wednesday, 25 November 2020

The Ticks Keep On Coming.

Watching the football on TV throughout last Saturday afternoon and evening (21st November) I was blissfully unaware of the hive of activity on my various social media feeds alerting the world, barring me, to the presence of a Crag Martin along the cliff face at Kingsdown near Deal. It was too late to go when I found out about it so was on site at 5.00 am the next morning. (Sunday) Keen or what, I was the first on site, even beating the night Owls (Martyn Wilson and Barry Wright) At first light, the Martin was not where Martin Wilson had left it the preceding night giving fears that it had departed during the hours of darkness. About 7.30 AM, the Crag Martin was first picked up flying along the cliff face from a southerly direction and landing on a flint right in front of us about half way up the cliff face where it sat for a while preening, periodically getting up and flying around before returning to the flint, eventually departing in the direction it arrived from and lost to view as it climbed over the cliff face heading in the direction of the memorial tower at Bockhill. 8.30 am and it was all over, it was not seen again that Sunday and the photos I took in the dull dark gloom were useless and deleted but a UK and Kent tick was achieved. A look for the Lapland Buntings and the Eastern Yellow Wagtail on Worth marshes on the way home proved fruitless, most of the time was spent chatting to various birders that had moved on from the Martin and were all searching for the elusive Wagtail.

Surprisingly, the Crag Martin returned to Kingsdown on Monday (23rd) and was also seen again on Tuesday (24th). I finished work at lunchtime on the Tuesday so hot footed it back to the rifle range at Kingsdown for another look. Unfortunately for me, the morning sun had disappeared before my arrival and the light was not too dissimilar from my previous visit but marginally better. I managed a few record shots of the bird on its favourite flint but the flight shots were very poor. 

The second new bird for Kent in as many months, I wonder if a third is on the cards before the year ends. Sorry about the dodgy images. The Martin is still present as I write this at 2.30 pm on Wednesday 25th November; it's worth a look if you have not been to see it yet.

Sunday, 8 November 2020

Shriking it Lucky.

First post for quite a while but to be honest, I have not done much, seen much or found much enthusiasm Camera wise lately. A Masked Shrike, found by Derek Smith at Reculver, was another matter and enough to tempt me out to firstly see it and secondly to try and get a few photos of the bird, given the rarity value of a Masked Shrike in Kent. News broke on the morning of the 17th (October) and as I was kicking my heels in doors, I was down at Shuarts lane and parked within an hour and made my way down to where it had been reported. There was a group already assembled as I arrived at the field just south of the railway crossing on the shuart track and it was only a matter of minutes before I had clapped eyes on my first UK Masked Shrike. A 1st calendar year bird, it always remained distant and when it did pop up onto a bush top, given the position of the field we were in, it was always into the light although it was for the most of the time, drab and dreary.

A grey bird into a dull grey light with a huge crop equals pretty poor images but it is a first for Kent and only the 5th record for the U.K

When the sun did pop out, unfortunately the Shrike was even further away but I still kept on trying.

Whilst on site, a White-tailed Sea Eagle passed overhead, missed by me, I really should pay more attention. The crowds as expected continued to arrive so I left with the idea of returning on the next day (Sunday 18th) which I did, arriving nice and early. The bird was still present and although the crowds assembled were a little nearer to the bushes that the Shrike seemed to favor, the distance was just a bit too far for my camera and lens. The weather was much the same as on my previous visit, dull and grey in the morning but a little brighter in the afternoon which did help a little. I managed to get a few more record shots, recording what was a remarkable find for Derek Smith and thanks to him for getting news of the bird’s presence out to the general public quickly.

A pity the photos never done the magnitude of the find any justice but by far the bird of my rather poor year so far.

I did do a lot better down at St Mary's Bay on the Romney Marsh during October, when I went for the juvenile Red-backed Shrike. It was favoring a few bushes and Gorse at the Northern perimeter of the Littlestone golf club and was at times very close to my vantage point. As difficult as the Masked Shrike proved to photograph at Reculver, this obliging bird was completely the opposite.

On Thursday 5th November, I was able to add Dartford Warbler to the birds I have seen within the Stour Valley boundaries. Standing on the viewing ramp at the Grove end of the reserve, a male bird popped up in a bush next to me, allowing me to even hear it call a couple of times, something that does not happen often.