Thursday, 5 March 2015

Thursday 5th. March 2015

A sunny visit n Monday to Old Lodge Reserve on Ashdown Forest , in the faint hope of finding the Little Bunting with a small flock of Reed Bunting , was fated from the start with a very strong wind blowing across the site . To keep warm as much as for anything , I criss-crossed the reserve , finding very little , and after 3 hours , the only sighting of interest was the back end of a Raven , heading
towards the usual breeding area . In an attempt to salvage something from the day , I headed for RSPB Broadwater Warren , a reserve that I have never visited before . A previous conifer plantation , still in the process of being cleared , and revealing heathland habitat as a consequence . Fortunately maps were available at the car park , and with one in the pocket , set off along one of the tracks . The site with surrounding woodland was more sheltered than Old Lodge , and in the sun it was pleasant , but very few birds around . Halfway across a cleared area , a male Stonechat was my first sighting , closely followed by the melodious bubble of Woodlark , and the sight of the backend of two birds flying away and disappearing in the distance . At a junction , the map showed a pond to the right and that's where I headed . Still in it's early stages , but given time I can see it becoming a very productive Odonata habitat . On a sunny bank were some refugia , felts and tins , which needless to say were
turned over , producing my first amphibian of the year , a Toad under one of them . A bit further along the track I met the only other birder there , and fortunately he was a local , who had been told that the Larch area on the side of the quarry held good numbers of Siskin and was out looking for them . I tagged on and we slowly climbed to the far side of the reserve , with the wind increasing with every step . By the time we reached the quarry , the wind was as strong as at Old Lodge and the tops of the Larches were swaying in it . But even so , above the wind , the constant chattering of Siskin , a sound I have missed this Winter , could be heard , and with strained necks , we started seeing them in
the tree tops . Every now and again , the odd one or two dropped down a bit lower , like this pair . Impossible to get an exact figure , but my estimate was 50+ . Other species were also seen or heard including at least 3 Lesser Redpoll , my first of the Winter , Marsh , Coal , Great and Blue Tit and even Nuthatch . My fellow birder could only stay a short while , but I stayed on enjoying the sights and sounds . Eventually I started back to the car , and must admit was glad to get out of the worst of the doing so . When I reached the junction where I saw the Stonechat and the Woodlark , I turned off the main track , and before long re-found the Stonechat ,
which turned out to be a pair . They were very flighty , but eventually I managed to get each into the
viewfinder . Feeling well pleased I retraced my steps , when within seconds I heard again the bubbling song of Woodlark , and searching , found a bird just 10 metres away , looking for food , and blending in very well with the heathland habitat . I had it in front of me for just a few seconds , before
the second bird appeared and the two flew off . What could well have been an almost bird-less visit had turned into a very enjoyable one , thanks in a large part to that fellow birder .
On Wednesday , I did the Down House Bird Survey , which produced a very good total for the site of
24 species , which included Common Buzzard , for only the second time , Sparrowhawk , Fieldfare  Redwing , and at least two Goldcrest . Once I finished the survey , I went back to the area where I had seen the Goldcrests , and spent a very pleasant half an hour attempting to photograph this difficult species , which don't know how to keep still , constantly on the move looking for food . Once home and looking through the shots taken , a large proportion went straight in the bin being
blurred , rear ends or headless specimens , but the odd few were worth keeping , thank goodness for
digital photography . With the weather remaining reasonably mild , I made my first visit of the year up onto the Greensand Ridge to see if any reptiles had emerged yet . After an hour of searching ,
three males were found , enjoying the warmth of the sun . If the weekend proves to be as warm as
predicted , many more animals should emerge from their underground hibernation and start showing
across the site . Also noticed was a pair of Long-tailed Tits , busily going about the construction of
their nest , somewhere amongst the Gorse .
Today , whilst working up on the Common I saw my third species of butterfly this year . After Red Admiral in January and Small Tortoiseshell in February , a male Brimstone .

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Sunday 1st. March 2015

A picture catch up on three recent outings .

At Kelsey Park in Beckenham , the Nuthatch was still guarding it's nest hole , whilst calling .
The pair of Egyptian Goose were noisily claiming squatter's rights over the old Grey Heron nest used by a Greylag pair last year .
Much to the annoyance of a pair of GH , nesting just a couple of metres above .
Still around with a Greylag mate , the Canada / Greylag hybrid .
The second visit was to a chilly Sevenoaks Reserve , where apart from the juvenile White Ibis , the other interest was a drake Goosander that managed to be on the opposite side of the East Lake to

where I was standing , until whilst in Sutton Hide and about to give up , it lifted off the water over by
the clay spit and gave a fly by , before landing down at the far end of the lake .
A single drake Shellduck seen from Tyler hide along with 5 Common Snipe .
Good numbers of Scarlet Elf Cup / Sarcoscypha coccinea , one of my favourite fungi , were found ,
 showing well against the moss covered wood that they were growing on .
Only other interest , the remains of a meal on the dining table of a raptor . I could only take a shot at distance , but would have been interested to get closer and look at the wing feathers , especially given the talons , which I didn't spot till I got home .
The third visit was to the small reserve with the feeders in the woods , where the Bank Voles put on a
good show as usual .
Also around , this cock Pheasant that was cleaning up under the feeders , within 3 metres .
My second and probably the same male Siskin that I saw on a previous visit , as only one has been
recorded this Winter .
Lots of Tits as usual , but only 1/2 Marsh Tits , but plenty of Coal Tit visits .
On the way home along the A25 , 2 Common Buzzards were soaring majestically overhead . I
managed to stop and get a few shots before they drifted off towards Sevenoaks .

Friday, 20 February 2015

Friday 20th. February 2015

Two days of almost Spring weather was enough to produce two consecutive away days . The first was a return to RSPB Dungeness , in a second attempt to photograph the drake Smew outside  Scott Hide . As before , an early start had me in the hide before 0900 , and this time , not a single 'white horse' in sight . Things were quiet outside on Burrowes Pit , but the odd redhead put in an appearance , but seemed much more cautious than on the previous visit . Whilst waiting , I was treated to constant song from a Cetti's Warbler somewhere down to the right , but never seen , a flyby from a Kingfisher and a half run , half scrambled flight of a Water Rail , squeeling whilst doing so , as it passed across in front of the hide . Eventually 3 female Smew started feeding , but over to the right of the hide and directly in the sun's reflection on the water . The odd time , one did pop up out
of the reflection , but it was just the odd one . It was about an hour after my arrival and further out from the hide , when the drake first showed , being , what I can only describe as being harassed by
one of the redheads , and it didn't take too much to work out what was on her mind . They and the other two redheads moved further out , where one of the redheads took up a position low in the water
with her back end raised . The drake for most of the time looked totally uninterested , but in the end , probably for some peace and quiet , did the deed and mated with her , dunking her under the water
with just bill and top of her head showing . When finished , and like a child with a rag doll , he tossed the redhead to one side , before mating with a second redhead . The four were last seen heading into the overhanging vegetation , once again directly in the sun's reflection , but I'm sure I saw a smile on the drake's face . I left the hide shortly afterwards and whilst heading towards Christmas Dell in the hope of a hare or two , which didn't materialise , found a female Marsh Harrier working the nearby
reedbeds . A look in at Dennis's Hide produced 2 Goldeneye and a Great White Egret , and the
feeders at the entrance , which were empty on arrival , now held several Reed Buntings and just a single Tree Sparrow nearby . A look from Hanson Hide on the ARC pit produced another couple of Goldeneye , and a Small Tortoiseshell on the way back to the car . No sign of the Cattle Egrets on Dengemarsh Road , so I headed out onto the marsh in search of wild Swans and after a bit of searching , found the flock , a mix of adult and juvenile Bewicks with apparently a single Whooper
amongst them , but I didn't see the latter , in a field between Lydd and Brookland , on the way back finding a few Fieldfares along the lanes and a noisy Rookery on the outskirts of Lydd . With little found at Scotney Pit too ,  I made the decision to try for the Lesser Yellowlegs that had been at the Winchelsea end of Rye Harbour Reserve for a while , but I hadn't seen any sightings for a couple of days . It didn't seem such a good idea as when I had only just started walking the path towards the reserve , a convoy of six massive yellow vehicles , the type that you see working in a quarry , that had just deposited shingle from the mouth of the Rother further along the beach towards Fairlight , and were returning for another load , headed by a Land Rover with flashing lights , forced me off the path and the path shook as they trundled by . I did find the green bin , a marker for one of the sightings but did not find any sign of the American visitor , nor did a couple of other birders that I came across . Regardless of the failure , I must say it was very pleasant in the sunshine , when the trucks were in the distance .
The second outing was onto the Isle of Sheppey , again hoping for hares , and once again disappointed . I headed for Capel Fleet and the raptor viewing mound . Along the way , Corn
Buntings were found noisily chatting in Bramble and a pair of Stonechat almost escorted the car
along to the raptor viewpoint . Several Marsh Harriers were seen , including this female / juvenile
working one of the ditches . Two Common Buzzard also passed high over , heading towards Muswell
Manor . The raptors continued with a female Kestrel , seen hunting and later , resting on overhead
cables . No sign or sound of Bearded Tit in the reedbed below the viewing mound just the odd Reed
Bunting and an inquisitive Wren on a fence post . Then down to Elmley Nature Reserve to start a much better than usual slow drive down the entrance track . Straight away , Lapwing and Skylark in song and displaying and in very good numbers . In one of the ditches , a probable juvenile ,

diminutive Little Egret showed very well and was more than willing to pose for a few shots . Further
along , a male Marsh Harrier suddenly went from cruise mode to attack mode , the object of the
attack being a juvenile Common Buzzard which appeared to be 'worming' on the MH's patch . The
juvenile put up with a couple of dives , before taking evasive action and heading into the distance .  Approaching the two bends before the car park , I spotted a fast moving bird along the ditch , which it dropped into before reappearing and settling on the side of the track . I only had time to get it in the binoculars before it was off again , adding again to the raptor count , a female Merlin . Around the second bend , for some reason , the only two small trees along the whole length of the track have been cut down . Can't see the reasoning for it myself , as they provided look-out and resting places for many species . Between there and the car park , I sat for some time as the area has produced some good mammal sightings in the past , especially for hares , but it wasn't to be this time . The car park was packed and the overflow area , behind the orchard was packed too , I've never seen so many vehicles on site . With 5 o'clock closing , there was insufficient time to get down to the hides and back , so settled for another slow drive back to the entrance . I had seen a few Curlew flying about ,
but on the way back spotted at least 40/50 to the left of the track , and with them were a few Black-tailed Godwit , and also found a few Dunlin in amongst the Lapwing . On the right , a pair of
Shellduck , the male with the prominent , bulbous red knob at the base of it's bill . Approaching the
exit , many birds were engaged in their afternoon ablutions , like this , one of many Redshank seen . Good to see so many birds on site , and congratulations to the management team .