Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Wednesday 14th. January 2015

A pictorial catch up on a few recent outings .
A windy Bough Beech , full to overflowing now , produced very little apart from one redhead Goosander , at distance on the main reservoir .
Moving on to the feeders in the woods , at last my first Siskin of the Winter , still no Redpoll or Brambling .
It wasn't long before the Bank Voles appeared , looking for spillage from the feeders . Their MO was
to fill their pouches with as many seeds as possible , before heading off to deposit them in their store .
Mind you , sometimes it was a case of first come , first served .
It took quite some time for the Nuthatch to work up the courage to come in , but he did .
No such problem for the Marsh Tits .
Since the last post , I have returned to Kelsey Park on two occasions to try for the Firecrest in better light conditions . Although sighted once since , no sign on my visits . Whilst waiting :

In The Beck , under the overhanging vegetation , a Little Grebe , already showing signs of breeding plumage , caught , and was fastidiously washing what looked like a 3 spined Stickleback , before swallowing . Highest Mandarin count now 21 .
Stock Doves like this one already thinking about breeding .
Two Grey Squirrel who seemed to be de-lousing each other .
A male , determined by size , Egyptian Goose , constantly 'cackling' , as he watched his partner
getting into a bit of a flap after a wash and brush-up .
A very cold bird survey at Down House , only produced 15 species , and not a single Winter visitor .
Today's sunny start encouraged a visit to Sevenoaks Reserve . No cars in the car park wasn't a good omen .
From Willow Hide , only interest , a few male Shoveler .
A walk down to the 5 bar gate found the juvenile American White Ibis still on site , and quite close .
The first island from Tyler Hide produced a count of 67 Common Snipe , 19 in this shot . No doubt there were many more both on this island and others .
From the view-point between Tyler and Sutton Hides , distant views of the Goosander pair on the East Lake that have been around for a few days now .
And finally , two Jays along the track on the way back to the car park .

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Wednesday 7th. January 2015

Having dropped Carol off at a friend's and with the weather decidedly on the turn , I stopped off for a look around Kelsey Park in Beckenham , in the hope of finding the Firecrest that was seen there last Monday . Having driven through rain to get there , the wet stuff caught up with me just as I got out of the car . I could almost see the bridge where the bird was sighted , but when I got there , the only
sighting was a very brazen Brown Rat feeding on some crumbs on the bridge , which only moved on when I got within touching distance . On either side of the bridge , a minimum of 19 Mandarin Duck were counted on The Beck along with a similar number of Mallard types . After about 15 minutes in the area , a lady stopped and surprisingly asked if I was looking for the Firecrest , as she had spoken to a couple of birders yesterday that were looking for it . As we talked she asked ' Is that it there ? ' . Looking into the what light there was , all I could make out was a small bird 'ballet dancing' in a nearby tree . ' Could be I replied ' and with that it flew back towards the bridge . The lady continued on her walk , and I headed towards the bridge . After a few minutes , a movement in a shrub caught my attention , and in the mirk , I finally managed to get binoculars on the bird and saw the orange
crest and more importantly , the white eye stripes . As usual with ' Crests ' , it didn't stop moving and that with the poor light made capturing any sort of shot almost impossible . I just tried to follow it , firing off shots , in the vain hope that it would come to rest . Most were rubbish , and many never even had the bird in them when looking back , but just one caught the bird , just before it moved off
again . After a couple of minutes it disappeared and even though I returned several times to the area , I never caught sight if it again . A walk around the lake and The Beck where it leaves the lake , found just the expected waterbirds , until I crossed the last bridge but one , and found a black duck with a
bottle green head , having a wash and brush up in The Beck , something I wasn't expecting . Even
more unexpected was when it had a shake down , revealing green and blue colouration all over . A group of walkers stopped as I was photographing it and asked what species it was . ' I haven't got a clue ' was my reply ' but I hope Google will be able to tell me when I get home ' . The duck seemed to
be part of a double act with an American Peking Duck type , one following the other's every move . My last shot was looking down The Beck from that bridge , with over half of the Mandarin seen
earlier , interspersed with some of the Mallard types . Back home , ' iridescent green duck ' was entered into Google and up popped Cayuga Duck , a resident of North America  and first seen I here at the Great Exhibition of 1851 . Almost definitely both escapees , but , could they possibly have teamed up with the American White Ibis at Sevenoaks Reserve for the flight over ??

Friday, 2 January 2015

Friday 2nd January 2015

A catch up on a few recent outings .
A trip to Kelsey Park in Beckenham found a handful of Redwings feeding on Holly berries , but definitely not in the mood to be photographed . Most of the lake was frozen over , but The Beck ,
which flows into the lake remained free of ice and most species were concentrated there , including at
least 18 Mandarin . The females looking very smart in their new livery , but as usual , the more
numerous males were not to be outdone for colour . It wasn't even New Year but the Grey Heron
were already taking possession of several of the nests on the island heronry .
A very cold look around Hayes Farm found the Trout Fishery awash with waterfowl due to a JCB working on the far bank , but of the 100+ birds on the water , nothing better than a pair of Little Grebe . As I left the fishery , the Common Buzzard flew from the woods behind , chased by the local
Corvids , eventually landing in one of the large Oaks . The Corvids didn't give up though , taking it in
turn to buzz the Buzzard , until once again it took flight , and last seen disappearing over the athletics track in Norman Park .
Another cold visit was to Bough Beech Reservoir , which is already almost full , which means that the water is already into the surrounding woods , giving plenty of hiding places for birds . The notice board showed 34 Goosander seen at dusk a couple of days earlier , all I could manage was a single redhead , well out in the main reservoir . A look at the feeders in the orchard produced Nuthatch and GSWoodpecker , but once again no hoped for Brambling , or Fieldfare or Redwing either . On the way back home , a look around Keston Church car park produced it's usual early flowers , Winter
Heliotrope / Petasites fragrans , a member of the Daisy family , with 25+ flower spikes found . Another site , usually good for Winter visitors , also failed to produce .
Whilst watching 2 Fieldfare and 5/6 Redwing , feeding on next door's Cotoneaster berries , a flock of 10/12 , the most I have seen locally for some
time , RRParakeets descended on the bush , dispersing all other feeders .Four was the most I managed to get in any one shot , as when others arrived some got moved on , but some just sat
quietly gorging on the ripened berries .The shots were taken from the back bedroom window , too far off to get any decent shots of the Winter Thrushes .
This morning , I managed to secrete myself amongst the greenery in the garden , and finally managed a few .

Mind you , today was probably my last chance , as the berries are disappearing at a fantastic rate .

Thursday, 25 December 2014

Thursday 25th. December 2014

When Carol told me yesterday morning that she didn't need any help with the final shopping for the festivities , I was gutted ! A look at the weather forecast said that a dull start would get better , and that was enough to head for Dungeness , on some unfinished business . The forecast was not wrong , as between Maidstone and Ashford it tipped down , and was drizzling on and off when I arrived at Lydd , where the two Cattle Egret that I only managed to photograph as a distant fly over on my last visit , had taken up residence with the cows in the field next to the football pitch on Dengemarsh
Road , and sure enough , in the mirk on arrival , found them sheltering around the bales of cattle feed . I took a couple of record shots , in the hope of better weather later on , then on to the ARC car park and a wet walk up to the screen , hoping for a Bittern , but it wasn't to be . Some compensation
was a Great White Egret that flew in from the other side of the pit , and it wasn't long before it struck
into it's breakfast . At almost the same moment , a female Marsh Harrier rose from it's roost in the
reedbed , and almost immediately dropped behind the reeds , and that was the last I saw of her . Before leaving the screen , I did see my hoped for Bittern , but it lifted from the reeds beyond the Hanson Hide and seemed to drop down on the other side of the road . A slow run up to the RSPB visitor Centre in heavier rain , failed to find anything of interest , but the feeders did produce a single Tree Sparrow , a few mixed Tits and a Moorhen cleaning up underneath . A quick dash to Dennis's Hide only produced Shoveler and Coot , both in good numbers , but no sighting of the Goosander that had been seen recently . On the way back down the track , a female Kestrel didn't bother to move as I
passed , the look on her face saying 'I'm wet' or maybe , 'What you doing birding in this?' A drive down to the lighthouse didn't set the pulse racing with little seen other than the gull roost that held
many Great Great Black-backed along with a multitude of Herring . Another look in at the Cattle Egrets in slightly better light , found one of them playing 'King of the Castle' , keeping the local
Jackdaws from taking it's throne . Scotney Pits were wild and windy and I quickly lost hope of finding the male Scaup that had been seen recently . The feral flock of Barnacle Goose , with a few
Emperor type amongst them , the first time I have seen the latter there . With some brightness appearing in the distance , I decided to make my final stop at Rye Harbour Reserve . That brightness had also brought families , dog walkers and cyclists out , so I wasn't expecting much . Hundreds of Golden Plover were swirling over the site , but apart from a small flock of Linnet and about 25 Reed Bunting that were disturbed from their feeding as I passed , that was about it .
And finally , I thought I was mad birding in the conditions , but that was nothing compared to how
some people spent their day !
Have a good one .

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Tuesday 23rd. December 2014




Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Wednesday 17th. December 2014

With a return to wet and cloudy weather this morning . I was glad that I got out yesterday in much better conditions . I was torn between Sheppey and Dungeness , but although the Elmley Reserve would be closed , I decided to head for the former . Even though the reserve was closed , a slow drive along the track past the shooting club to the old bridge across the Swale was well worth while . A
flock of about 50 Fieldfare were gorging on the masses of well ripened hawes , and amongst them
was just a single Redwing . This was probably the largest number of Winter Thrushes that I have seen together this year , but they were very twitchy and impossible to get close to . Further along the track
were a couple of Curlew , and then , in the distance , a small bird of prey on a fence post , which turned out to be a female Merlin , confirmed as , as soon as I got two shots , she saw me and dropped
almost to the ground , and flew following every contour of the ground until I finally lost her from
sight . Almost at the end of the track , a Redshank posed willing for a few shots , but this Little Grebe allowed just one shot , before diving and not being seen again , no doubt coming up in an adjacent
reedbed . On the return , a few Fieldfare moved along in front of the car , but the Curlew had moved on . My next stop was Capel Fleet and the Raptor Viewpoint , where the Coot convention seemed to have finished on the former , and on the way to the latter , found a female Marsh Harrier working the
ditch that runs parallel to the road . From 5 metres above the ditch , she suddenly dipped down , then
hovered with talons down . I was sure she was going to come up with a meal , but in the end she
carried on along the ditch empty taloned , so to speak . Three birders were already at the viewpoint , scaning for Harriers or even SEOwls , but things had been quiet since they arrived . I had a listen for Bearded Tits in the nearby reedbed , but failed to hear any , but a female Stonechat posed nicely for
me . Lots of gulls on the area behind the piled bales of straw and hay , lifting off noisily whenever a Marsh Harrier came close , and lots of Starling perched along the wires and dropping down to feed . I did eventually hear one 'ping' , but didn't see the 'Beardie' either fly over or drop into the reeds .
Heading back towards the Fleet , just a single Corn Bunting on the wires , with 2 or 3 others in the brambles below , and a Green Sandpiper lifting and calling , out of the roadside ditch . Heading up the hill after the fleet , a white blob in the distance on the road turned out to be a Magpie , but as I got closer , realised it was having a spat with a Stoat . Both disappeared as I got closer , so I backed down the hill , pulled over and waited . After a while , movement on the edge of the tarmac revealed the
Stoat , but , as soon as I took the first shot , it heard the shutter and dived back into the long grass . Again , I backed off , an after another wait the Stoat reappeared , this time sitting up for a better
look , and again dived back into the grass on hearing the shutter . Once again I backed off and waited , but it didn't show again , until the Magpie turned up again and the spat started again , almost back where I had first spotted them . This time the Stoat was chased across the road , and that was the last I saw of it . Leysdown front was my next stop , finding the tide well out , but surprisingly , a
flock of Sanderling close in , constantly searching for food amongst the flotsam and jetsam further up the beach , looking like characters out of a silent movie . Also around , a couple of very tame

Turnstone , one on the sea wall and the other on the tarmac area off the road . A look down the Shellness track only produced a Kestrel and several Reed Bunting at the car park , a large flock of Brent Goose in the brassica crop and over 100 Mute Swan between them and the hides , and that
number was increasing with new arrivals all the time . A fellow birder said that there were a few White-fronted along with the Greylag Goose , but they were too far away to pick out just with binoculars . On my way back home , I stopped again at the track alongside Elmley , hoping for a SEOwl sighting , but it wasn't to be . Just four of the Fieldfare were still feasting in the Hawthorns .