Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Wednesday 19th. November 2014

With the promise of some November sunshine along the south coast yesterday , I made an early start and arrived at RSPB Dungeness just before 0830 . I had the ARC car park to myself , along with Hanson Hide , where I settled into 'Ken's Corner' , to see what was about . Opening the two corner flaps , my hopes were dashed as the closest birds were on the almost flooded Cormorant island . A half hour wait only produced 3 Coot emerging from the right hand reedbed and a Cetti's Warbler bursting into a single burst of song . Deciding to return later , it was back to the car and down the track across the road to the Visitor Centre , noting no Tree Sparrows on the feeders at the entrance . The odd gull and Cormorant passing overhead was all that was noted before reaching the car park , where once again , I was the only one there . A look around Denis's Hide found a few birds including
at least 2 Goldcrest and 2 Tree Sparrow , one pictured , feeding with a mixed Tit flock amongst the vegetation . A look from the hide was almost identical to that from Hanson Hide , a few waterfowl around and beyond the islands . Birds were in short supply , but large flying , probably biting insects were not . With little wind , the place was swarming with them , shame the Summer visitors had gone , they would have got well stocked up for their journeys . With the VC still shut , I made my
way along the hides alongside Burroughs , finding a few Shoveler outside Firth Hide and at least 4 Gt. White Egret along the far bank . Makepiece Hide was very similar , apart from a single GWE that flew immediately from the island in front , to join the others . There were more birds from Scott
Hide , but again very distant , but included a Black-necked Grebe . Constantly diving , it was feeding along the right hand bank , and although I waited hoping it would move closer , it stayed in the same area . Moving on towards Dengemarsh Hide , just Dunnock and Robin were seen , and on the first flooded hayfield , a flock of Greylag Goose took off noisily as I approached . Arriving at the track to Hookers Pits , I could hear cattle beyond the viewing mound and headed in that direction , hoping that one of the Cattle Egrets might be with them , but when I arrived at the viewing mound I found the cattle being herded from one field to another , and was informed by a birder on the mound that the Cattle Egrets had flown off when the herding started , the story of my life . It wasn't all bad though , as whilst there we had a Bittern in flight near Dengemarsh Road , a Kingfisher zip past in front and lots of Bearded Tits 'pinging' amongst the reeds , but none seen . 4 more birders arrived hoping to see the Cattle Egrets , they too disappointed with the news . 2 left , but the other two stayed on , and we
were treated to a couple of distant fly-byes by one of the visitors . As it worked out , if it had been with the cattle it probably wouldn't have been seen as only the heads of the cattle were in view behind the reedbed . A Grey Heron and Little Egret completed the set of 5 on view . I decided to retrace my steps back towards Scott Hide , hearing several more Cetti's and seeing 2 of only 4 Marsh Harriers
seen on the visit , hunting the ditches and reedbeds . As I neared Scott Hide , probably the rarest sighting of the day , Phil / Sharp by Nature , doing the circuit in the opposite direction . After a catch up and comparison of sightings , we carried on our own ways . With the promised sunshine starting to show , the view from the hide was better too , with 7 GWEs now on show , five and a Little Egret

on the island out from Makepiece Hide and another two on the edge of the Cormorant roost Willows .
No sign of the BNG this time , but there were two drake Pintail , once again very distant . On the way back to the car , a 2nd. and 3rd. Water Rail was heard , but not seen . A few Pochard headed off at
speed from behind the Willows on the left , but one female stayed just long enough for one shot before joining the rest . A last look from alongside Denis's Hide for the Goosander which has been around failed , a fellow birder telling me that it was there a couple of minutes ago ... Hardly a bird seen heading back down the track , and even the 3 Sparrows seen on the feeders turned out to be the House variety . Heading for the sea , I followed a police car and intended to pull over and have a look at the end of the ARC pit , but just before that point the police car pulled over behind a car parked on the road , the occupants , young birders , over the fence of the new diggings with scopes and tripods . Looking back as I continued , the police seemed to be moving them , and more particulary their car , from it's dangerous position on a fast narrow road . At the power station I had a look for Black Redstart without any luck , but there was very little bird movement at all , so I headed back to the ARC car park , where , again , I found that I was the only one there . No trouble reclaiming 'Ken's Corner' and at least there were more birds around , starting with a redhead Smew , a small bird at a
great distance . Even further away from the hide , towards the far bank most of the time , at least 5 Goldeneye , soon followed by the 2 Slavonian Grebe , to the left of the Cormorant island . I had hoped to get both in one frame , but the only half
decent but distant shot was a singleton . The old saying goes 'lightning doesn't strike twice' , but it did today when a birder made his way down the dark hide and sat to my right . A while later the penny dropped , it was Phil again . The few birders that arrived started to leave and it was soon down to Phil and myself to close up and head home . Just before leaving the hide , 2 Marsh Harriers , one a fine
male ,started looking for their evening meal and everything took off , making it even more difficult to find any of the less common species . Heading up towards Ashford , and after being in sunshine , the sky became as black as night and then a heavy rain shower , lucky us . Other interest found on the
visit , remembering we are in the second half of November , Bramble in full flower and Evening
Primrose / Oenothera erythrosepala , a member of the Willowherb family , still in flower , and found along the track to Hanson Hide , and on the track alongside Hookers Pits , Viper's Bugloss / Echium
vulgare , a member of the Borage family also in flower .
And finally , on a look around the reserve with the feeders , hoping for a first Siskin of the year ,
found instead 3/4 Marsh Tits , 2 bearing rings , probably fledged from boxes on the site , amongst
other species . Just a shame the light was so bad .

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Sunday 2nd. November 2014

Today started really autumnal , with rain , wind and leaves starting to cover everywhere , a far cry from last Friday , when Summer was still around and I headed off to the Isle of Sheppey to make the most of it . Perfect conditions greeted me at Elmley NNR , just a shame that the birds didn't do the same . The entrance track was almost devoid of any sightings , apart from a distant Marsh Harrier , Corvid or flock of Starling . From the last cattle grid , past the wild seed crop which did produce a few Goldfinch , Reed Bunting and Linnet , and on a gate post the first time I reached for the camera
was for a Kestrel , still warming up in the sunshine . A movement way down the track beyond the
gate turned out to be the only Brown Hare seen during the visit . The car park held only a few House Sparrow and a pair of Pied Wagtail , and not even the LEOwls were seen in the orchard , though I learned later in the day that they had moved on earlier in the week , but at least 2 Red Admiral were still on the wing in the area . Disappointed , I made my way back down the track , finding the same or
another Kestrel in one of the of the only two bushes that are found , the area where the Stoat appeared last visit , but not this time . Another gate post provided a juvenile Common Buzzard , like the one
local last year , looking for a wormy breakfast , and sure enough , it did find a couple of 'tasty' morsels while I watched . As I moved on , I noticed a rabbit , sat within a few metres of where the
CB was perched . I can only think that the rabbit realised that , being a juvenile , it wasn't on the menu , yet . A couple of Grey Heron and a speeding Kingfisher along one of the ditches , a
motionless Common Snipe half hidden in the grass ,and I was back at the entrance again . My next stop was at Capel Fleet , where the road dog-legs left and looking right onto the Fleet , was
confronted by 200+ Coot , at a conservative estimate , some sort of convention I suppose , as no other waterfowl were seen at this end of the Fleet . A scan around found only Starlings along the wires , but just before moving on , was over-flown by a flock of c10 Bearded Tit , 'pinging' as they went . The raptor viewpoint failed to produce a single raptor , most unusual , but a look at the reedbed below the mound did produce a very vocal Cetti's Warbler that never showed a feather , a couple of Reed Buntings and a return of the 'pinging' , just three birds this time . They dropped into the Phragmites and disappeared and with the reedbed swaying in the wind , were difficult to follow . But eventually ,
a single male showed briefly enough to fire off a few shots , before the 'pinging' moved further away as they moved further along the ditch . Whist there , 2 Red Admiral , one Clouded Yellow and a Small Tortoiseshell were seen . The only other interest found was a small number of RLPartridge in the brassica crop as I made my way back and on to Leysdown , where I found the tide as far out as I think I have ever seen it . A reminder to check the tide tables in future . The only species still on the beach were a few common Gulls and a small flock of Redshank , down by the first houses on the way to Shellness . A scan over the grazing marshes inland failed to find the hoped for SEOwl , or anything else to be honest , but three Clouded Yellows along the seawall were nice to find . A look around the area surrounding Muswell Manor failed to turn anything up , so I decided to retrace my steps and return to the raptor viewpoint , in the hope of finding some more Bearded Tits . The car park was much busier than before , one being Graham , a fellow visitor to Sevenoaks Reserve , who had also come for the Bearded Tits , having read that 100+ were seen down on the ground , 'taking grit' from the track around the outside of the car park , the same as described on Autumnwatch this week . That must have been a sight to behold . As Graham and I caught up , another arrival turned out to be Terry , another enthusiast I meet on occasions at SR . With more eyes and ears searching , we were hopeful to pick up the BTs , but the only sightings were of a pair of Stonechat , the male showing
well on the top of the swaying Phragmites , but the female keeping further back in the reedbed , until
she flew forward and landed on the post and rail fence of the car park . A few Marsh Harriers were sighted in the distance , some frustratingly flying directly along the ditch towards the viewpoint , then veering off or turning back on themselves before getting into range . Just one juvenile came within a
reasonable distance , be it too veered off . Another raptor sighting , way over towards Muswell Manor , and seen through the swaying reedbed , turned out to be the best sighting of the day , when the white rump of a Ring-tailed Harrier was seen , flying in .a line from Shellness to Minster . I tried to get a shot , but the distance and the swaying reedbed didn't allow the AF to do it's work , and all I
finished up with was a blurry image , but it did show the white ring-tail . Whilst waiting and watching , something disturbed the Marsh Frogs , as the chorus started one end of the reedbed and slowly progressed for right to left , before petering out again . Our wait was rewarded with a single
male  BT 'pinging' and landing low down briefly in the reedbed to the left , giving little opportunity to
view never mind photograph , but a couple of images were managed . He didn't hang around though , moving further down the ditch to the right . The Stonechats continued to entertain , appearing and disappearing at will . At one point , two landed on a gate behind the reedbed and I fired off a few
shots . It wasn't until I processed those shots on the computer that one turned out to be a Whinchat . Before leaving , we had some good distant views of a pair of Kestrel playing tag on the large pile of straw bales beyond the mound . Another Red Admiral and Clouded Yellow completed an enjoyable visit in good company and in exceptional weather .
And finally , a couple of sightings from the garden . Whilst helping Carol with the Autumn clear-up , two moths were disturbed , photographed on the Callicarpa berries which will hopefully attract Blackcaps when fully ripe , and returned to where found . They turned out to be The Herald , a
species that over-winters as an adult and is one of the last species seen in the year as well as being one of the first seen , and a scruffy RRParakeet that was gorging on Laburnum seeds in my
neighbour's garden .

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Monday 27th. October 2014

With October almost over , I made a visit to Knole Park at Sevenoaks to see if the deer had got into rutting mood . Arriving at the back of the park , I was surprised to find eight Sika Deer , feeding just inside the gate , two adult and a juvenile buck and five does . The dominant buck with a fine set of
antlers , keeping a sharp eye on the other two males , whilst the does continued to feed , and took
absolutely no notice of my presence . Every now and again , the second adult got a bit too close for
the dominant buck , and the was a bit of 'handbags' , nothing that could be described as rutting . To the left of the 'handbagging' pair is the juvenile buck with unbranched antlers . Apart from being darker in colour to the Fallow Deer , this species has a light roundel marking , just below the knee on the back legs , seen best on the female above . I next went to Echo Mount , the high point of the estate , where , before a massive cull a few years ago , most of the action took place . The dominant Fallow buck would hold the area under the Sweet Chestnut trees , tending to his harem , and surrounded by other bucks in pits outside the trees , hoping for a chance to mate with some of the
does . Today , a very sorry sight , a single buck , and not another animal to be seen . In total , I saw no more than 40/50 Fallow Deer on the visit , compared to the 500+ that used to roam the estate . The only other large buck seen was on the golf course , where , in a sheltered dell , he was chilling out
with some does and four juvenile bucks , until a new doe trotted in , when he got up to inspect the newcomer . Birds were few and far between , but whilst watching these deer , a single Fieldfare circled overhead a couple of times before flying on . The usual Jackdaws , Carrion Crows , RRParakeets , the odd Green Woodpecker and a few Goldfinch were the only other species seen / heard . The hoped for migrating Ring Ouzel failed to materialise .
Fungi did much better , with lots of Parasol Mushroom / Lepiota procera found in all stages of
development , ranging from 'lollipops' to 'dinner plates' , the latter with a 35mm. film canister for size
comparison . The open short grass of the golf course proved good for the colourful Wax Cap / Hygrocybe family . Those found were :
Blackening Wax Cap / H.nigrescens ,
Scarlet Hood / H.coccinea ,
H.ceracea ,
Snowy Wax Cap / H.nivea , and
Meadow Wax Cap / H.pratensis .
In the same area , a left-over from Summer in the form of Harebell / Campanula rotundifolia .
Back with the fungi , Hoof Fungus / Fomes fomentarius , of which there are some really large specimens on site ,
at the base of a Scots Pine , Cauliflower Fungus / Sparassis crispa ,
and finally one of the Slime Moulds , Fuligo septica .

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Tuesday 21st October 2014

A couple of recent visits proved very uninteresting , with very little found . A visit to Kelsey Park in
Beckenham proved otherwise , with the Mandarins already in their finery and paired up , even though April is their normal breeding time . As usual , females are in short supply , so unpaired males had to
make do with a bit of showing off , hoping a female might change her mind . A noticeable change was the number of Brown Rats all over the site . Notices ask people not to leave food around and put
the explosion in numbers down to the last wet Winter and Spring . One individual must have been
watching the Grey Squirrels on site , begging to be fed as I approached . On the way home , I stopped again at the woods at Crystal Palace and again heard and got a possible glimpse of a Firecrest , possibly two , high in a Yew , but looking into the sun I was only looking at silhouettes . Then two dogs decided to start WW3 directly under the tree , and that was that .
Yesterday , I decided to visit the Isle of Sheppey before the arrival of the latest ex-hurricane . As it
was high tide on arrival , I started at Leysdown , finding little more than a few Turnstone , picking over the small area of beach that wasn't covered by the tide . Down the Shellness track , just a flock of Brent Geese feeding in a brassica crop and a couple of Reed Buntings on arrival at the car park . A flat walk out to the point found a large number of waders , mostly Godwits with a couple of Little
Egret , out in the middle of the saltmarsh . But that was nothing compared to the main hightide roost
on the beach . Impossible to estimate the number of birds , and this shot is only of the centre of the roost . Shortly after I took the shot , a walker put half of the birds up , so I didn't go any further ,
instead went to have a look at the male Hen Harrier painted on the blockhouse , a superb piece of art , I just wished I saw a real one , or a SE Owl , but the only raptor seen was a male Kestrel . By the houses , I was photographing a Redshank perched on a half submerged post , when I got just too
close , and it flew off and neatly fitted in between 6 Grey Plover , perched a bit further out . At the same time , a small flock of Ringed Plover , flew in from behind the houses , and landed on the beach
just 10 metres from where I was standing . I managed to fire off six shots before they realised I was there , and flew off further down the beach . At the time I thought I had photographed a Rock Pipit
directly behind the last house , but on looking at home , I think it is a Meadow Pipit . On returning to the car park , the sound of geese , although a good distance away beyond Leysdown was incredible ,
and once again , I only managed to photograph the middle of the flock as it flew out to sea , wheeled , and settled on the sea , seemingly between Leysdown and Warden Point . I expected to come across them on my way back to Leysdown , but didn't .
A drive down to Capel Fleet and the raptor viewpoint was quiet apart from several Marsh Harriers ,
including this juvenile , which were throwing the waterfowl into panic as they passed over . My last stop was at Elmley Nature Reserve for a look along the track , with clouds building , but there was
still time for a very confiding Wheatear along the track , both male and female Stonechat amongst
the ripened seed heads , but only the male was willing to pose . At the car park , the resident House
Sparrows were in constant conversation , by the old wardens house , at least three Red Admirals were

enjoying what remained of the sunshine . In the old orchard , two LEOwls were busy at roost , one
almost completely shrouded in vegetation , but the other a little less so . Several Migrant Hawkers
were on the wing in the area , and one came to rest on one of the Shepherds Huts . On the way back
down the track , Skylarks were singing and displaying , a pair of Mute Swan were practising their
synchronised flying , a male Clouded Yellow and a Stoat that raced across the track in front of me .