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. 

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.