Monday, 13 November 2017

still no hawfinches...............

Saturday 12th November, 2017.
Denge Wood, Kent.

In previous weekends during what may well prove to be a record influx for them, I have failed to find any hawfinch at Bedgbury nor had any overhead at St Margarets. My working day rather precludes me seeing any birds as I leave home in the dark and return in the dark.
During the week hawfinches continued to trickle into Britain and a handful were seen at another former haunt of theirs south of Canterbury in Denge Wood.
A dismal wet morning made me use the time to get stuff done at home but early afternoon I headed down to Denge Wood and eventually located the right spot, after a bit of help from Chris Gibbard, where I bumped into Chiddy.
We stood and scanned and listened and scanned for a couple of hours until dusk but alas no hawfinches and apart from a few Siskin there was little to show for our effort.
A Little Owl on a telegraph wire near Mystole after dark was good to see but little consolation.


Sunday 13th November, 2017.
Cycling around Lullingstone.

Alex persuaded me that as he'd gone birding the previous Sunday I should go cycling with him this Sunday and he won..........
We did a 15 mile circuit out from Orpington to Chelsfield, through Lullingstone to Eynsford and back via Crockenhill.
Ever optimistic I wondered if the beech woods might have dragged in a hawfinch or two so I was even more watchful than usual.
The highlights were a Little Egret on the R. Darent at Castle Farm and a Kingfisher at Eynsford plus a few Buzzard and Fieldfare. I have cycled that area on and off since I was a teenager and 30 years ago a Little Egret or a Buzzard would have been amazing !
However, back then Lapwing and Yellowhammers and finch flocks were common place but notably absent today.

First real signs of winter..........

Sunday 5th November, 2017.
Cliffe Pools RSPB.


It felt like the first day of winter in many ways today. Cold, dry and bright.
I saw my first Fieldfare of the autumn, watched Corn Buntings flying in flocks to roost and as the sun set soon after 4.15 a Barn Owl glided silently overhead to hunt over the long grass by the pools.
Duck numbers were quite low with Shoveler perhaps the most numerous (250+) and just a handful of Pintail. A single Black-necked Grebe was on show whilst Little Grebes numbered in excess of 130.
The high-tide wader roost was quite spectacular with around 1,500 Black-tailed Godwit, 1,100+ Dunlin, 600+ Grey Plover, 240+ Curlew and 80+ Avocet.  There were 4 Greenshank on the Radar Pool at dusk, a single Green Sand in the ditches by viewing mound 2 and a single SpotShank on the Black Barn pool.
The only harrier was typically a Marsh, and other than a couple of (resident) Buzzards and a few Kestrel there were no other raptors.
Aside from the flock of Corn Bunting which was heartening to see passerines were few and far between. I had a small flock of Fieldfare (c25) and just 2 Redwing.




waders roosting over high-tide on the back of the flamingo pool

Lapwing

Curlew 

Curlew

Curlew

Black-tailed Godwit

Black-tailed Godwit

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

In search of hawfinches................

Saturday 28th October, 2017.
St Margarets & Bedgbury Pinetum.

Soon after first-light I was standing on the cliff top at St Margaret's in the shadow of the Dover Patrol monument hoping to observe some visual migration on a cool late October morning in a light to moderate SW breeze.
Before too long I was joined by local birder Nigel Jarman and we had 3 solid hours of almost constant passage of birds. The majority were Chaffinches, over 1,500, but we also had 160+ Goldfinch, 18 Siskin, 2 Bullfinch, 100+ Redwing, small numbers of Blackbirds, Song Thrushes, Starling, Skylark and a single Woodlark.  Two Peregrines hunted over the sea and we had the odd Chiffchaff and Blackcap in the adjacent scrub.
Passage had dropped significantly by 11.00 and we wandered off to check out the paddock, Bockhill Wood and the free-down.
Highlights were a showy Firecrest in the paddock, a couple of Brambling flying around over Bockhill and a few Chiffs, Goldcrest and Blackcap.
Arriving back at the Monument at 12.30 I glanced up to see 3 egrets high overhead; Great Whites !
They moved steadily north, a site-tick for Nigel so clearly a rare bird at St Margarets!
I went to Langdon Cliffs next, and finding the lay-by on Reach Road full I parked in the NT car-park and approached from that direction among hoards of tourists! There had been a handful of Ring Ouzel reported earlier in the day but I had no such luck though I bumped into Andy Appleton who had seen 1 flying into cover near the coastguards station. Around an hour later I'd had a Clouded Yellow butterfly and a Lesser Redpoll.
On my drive out I chose to drive back up the lane to Reach Road and onto St Margarets and as I reached the entrance to the coastguard station a male Ring Ouzel flew across the road in front of me.
It was now just after 3pm and I decided to see if there were any hawfinch at Bedgbury Pinetum, a notable site for them up until recent years when numbers had dropped into low single figures.
After an interesting 90 minute drive virtually due west on a number of minor roads I reached Bedgbury and slipped into the pinetum.
I left at 6pm as the sun set. No hawfinch, no brambling, just a handfull of siskin, c65 Chaffinch, Marsh Tit, Raven and a few Redwing.
Disappointing.





first light over the Channel from St Margarets


Firecrest

Firecrest

Firecrest

Firecrest

Firecrest

the freedown




White Coral Fungus

Jay

3 Great-white Egret's flying north over St Margarets

Langdon Cliffs nr Dover


Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Oare Marshes

Sunday 22nd October, 2017.
Oare Marshes.

Another foray to Oare Marshes, Kent's premier wader spot.
I arrived just after high tide and found both the long-staying "yanks" still present.
The Long-billed Dowitcher gave cracking views feeding close to the road with a mixed flock of Lapwing, Black-tailed Godwit and Ruff. The Wilson's Phalarope was less confiding today spending most of its time in the deeper water by the main flock of godwits.
As we reach the back-end of October wader species variety is declining and numbers falling. Today there was just a single Curlew Sandpiper and 2 Little Stint.
It was good to see so many Dunlin on the scrape, at least 800, and their wheeling flocks were a spectacular sight before they began to leave and head back to the Swale to feed as the tide dropped.

Late on I picked up a single ringtailed Hen Harrier quartering the foreshore on the Sheppey side of the Swale below the Harty Ferry Inn.







Long-billed Dowitcher

Long-billed Dowitcher

Golden Plover, Lapwing, Dunlin & Redshank

Dunlin

Dunlin


Grey Heron

Brents

Bar-tailed Godwit

The Swale looking towards Sheppey

The Swale


Sunday, 15 October 2017

Dungeness

Saturday 14th October, 2017.
Walland Marsh, Denge Marsh, the "Point", Scotney & ARC pits.

Sometimes you just feel that you've made the wrong move!
The previous night I'd chatted with Barry Wright and he'd said that he was going to Wales to twitch the Rock Thrush with Guy Bailey and John Tilbrook. I was tempted but put off by the long drive and lack of a supporting "cast". If it had done a Friday flit another long shit day in Wales was on the cards and I've had my fill of those! Don't need it, don't go; find something yourself!
So early next morning my alarm sounded and ..........I went back to sleep!

Eventually I surfaced and drove down towards Dungeness telling myself that I should have gone to Wales!
I explored Walland Marsh, venturing into the least visited corners but saw little beyond a Hobby and a few Buzzards and Yellowhammers.
Onto Denge Marsh the ranges were closed so I drove down to the end of the road and checked the Gully; virtually birdless.  Then I looked at Twitter and saw that there was a Radde's Warbler on the Point; in the garden of South View (of course!), Dave Bunney's famous oasis of a garden.
I shot round and found a motley crew staking out the garden including Dave Walker, Gill Hollamby, Martin Casemore, Ray O'Reilly and Mark Hollingworth.
Over the next 3 hours it performed in typical Radde's Warbler fashion; rarely showing and then very briefly and mostly close to ground level. Dave very kindly let me watch from inside his garden and I had several brief but good views.
I grabbed a sandwich in Lydd and went to check out Scotney and the adjacent new diggings but it was very quiet. I circled round and did another circuit of Denge Marsh before heading to the ARC pits and the Hansen Hide where I bumped into Stephen Message. From the hide there was a smattering of waders and wildfowl to look at but pride of place went to a Bittern stalking along the front of the reedbed at the back which was distant but great through a scope.
It was well after 4pm but leaving the ARC I drove initially towards the Point before turning round to check out a report of a Red-backed Shrike on the RSPB entrance track. I met up with Stephen Message again and after a brief search located the Shrike just west of the access track 200m short of the car park. It was a bit back-lit but perched up on a bramble and clearly a Red-backed. I watched it for a while hawking insects in the sunshine as a small crowd gathered.
Now that was a better day out than I expected.




Stonechat - male, Denge Marsh


Stonechat - female, Denge Marsh

Little Egret, ARC

Marsh Harrier over ARC

Marsh Harrier over ARC

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Oare Marshes.

Saturday 7th & Sunday 8th October, 2017.
Oare Marshes, Kent.

Oare marshes has to be one of the best places for waders in the southeast, certainly in Kent, and especially now that Elmley appears to have really declined in terms of management of the scrapes etc. The water levels have looked excellent for weeks and I was not surprised to hear that another good wader, in the shape of a Wilson's Phalarope, had been found on Tuesday. I just hoped it would still be there at the weekend!
Luckily it was still present and "available" both days. I went down both Saturday and Sunday afternoon when the tide was high and as you are looking east the light is behind you. Unfortunately, on both days it was overcast and gloomy, especially on Saturday when the Wilson's was right next to the road! Scope views were excellent but photography difficult.
A good selection of waders were present both days including up to 6 Little Stints, 4 Curlew Sandpipers, hundreds of Dunlin, Redshank and Lapwing and over 1,500 Black-tailed Godwit.
Small numbers of Wigeon and Pintail were also present; winter's on it's way.




Wilson's Phalarope

Wilson's Phalarope

Wilson's Phalarope

Wilson's Phalarope & Teal  - if frequently followed Teal, presumably their feeding action kicked up food to it's liking.

Wilson's Phalarope & Teal  - if frequently followed Teal, presumably their feeding action kicked up food to it's liking.

Wilson's Phalarope

Long-billed Dowitcher
Black-tailed Godwit
Curlew Sandpiper 
Little Stint

Long-billed Dowitcher
























Sunday, 1 October 2017

St Margaret's & South Foreland, Kent.

Saturday 30th September, 2017.
St Margaret's, South Foreland Valley & Reach Road.

Mike Buckland and I teemed up to see what we could find in Kent on a day that didn't seem to promise much in the light south-westerlies that were forecast.
We decided upon St Margaret's as we drove off from Mike's and arrived at the Dover Patrol Monument around 07.45. Within a few minutes we'd had dozens of Chiffchaff's in the adjacent bushes and small numbers of finches.
Some of the "regulars" then appeared; Brendan Ryan, Phil Chantler & Simon Warry and Mike and I joined them to bird the clifftop down to Hope Point. Before long I kicked out a locustella which I felt was probably a Gropper but as it's always better to check we spent a while relocating it before getting good views in a bramble that left us with no doubt that it was.
A steady stream of Swallows and House Martins passed south along the cliff edge and around us and there were quite a few Chiffs.
At Hope Point we all went our separate ways and Mike and I combed the scrub in the hollow which was quite productive; single Reed Warbler, Lesser Whitethroat, Turtle Dove and 4 Bullfinches, c20 Blackcap and dozens of Chiffchaff. We flushed a Short-eared Owl which quickly returned to the area and we later learned that it had been present for a couple of weeks.
A single Firecrest was seen just beyond Hope Point but with little to encourage us further north we headed back up towards Bockhill Farm with Brendan. Bockhill was quiet and early afternoon saw us at the beach cafe for a quick snack before we turned our attention to the South Foreland valley.
We parked at the lighthouse and explored the area but it was very quiet with just a few Firecrest  and small numbers of Goldcrest and Chiffchaff.  Peregrine was added to the day list but after an hour or so we drove out to Reach Road to see if the cliff-top fields held anything of note. A thorough scan of the area produced 3 Wheatear, 2 Yellow wags and around 200 Meadow Pipits. It was late afternoon and we called it a day. 64 species seemed a fair haul on what was a pleasant days birding that just lacked that "special" bird.



St Margarets, looking north towards Hope Point.

Hope Point.

Chiffchaff


Reed Warbler


Short-eared Owl

Short-eared Owl

Short-eared Owl




Looking towards the Dover Patrol monument from the South Foreland.