Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Monday 24th. October 2011

Firstly , many thanks to Ken / Focusing On Wildlife for identifying the aircraft on the last post . It is a Noorduyn AT-16 Harvard - 11B . Cheers Ken .
As I set off yesterday morning , still not sure exactly where I was heading , little did I know that it would result in a 55 species day , including 9 birds of prey . RSPB Elmley , on the Isle of Sheppey was my first port of call , but once again the track across to the car park was disappointing . Apart from the main ditches , all the scrapes and smaller channels were
bone dry , and although the sun was shining , a lazy wind was blowing across the site . A few
Lapwing were seen , and even a couple of pairs displaying , and the Skylarks were in the same
frame of mind , with many males hanging on that strong wind and singing their hearts out , when not chasing each other around . I did have a couple of sightings of Marsh Harrier , but they were very distant on the edge of the reserve . By the time I got to the car cark with both windows down , my hands were frozen . I made the decision not to go down to the hides , as the walk down the track would probably be as unproductive as coming in . From the car park I got a distant Common
Buzzard , right into the sun , and on the return to the entrance , found a single Whimbrel , busily
searching through cow pats for it's breakfast . I just missed getting a shot of a Kestrel as it dropped
onto it's prey , but did manage to get one of it manteling whatever it was that it had caught . The only

other interest found were a small flock of Stock Doves and a Rook that was copying the Whimbrel . Disappointed at the morning so far , I headed to Capel Fleet and the Raptor Viewing point , only to be disappointed again with the lack of birds . Eventually , I pulled off the road and sat hoping that something would happen . Another car pulled in behind me , probably hoping that I had found something , then another alonside that . This driver got out and spoke to the driver , then came to my window . 'Birdwatching ?' . Strange question as I had binoculars around my neck , but answered 'Yes' anyway . He then told me of a Rough-legged Buzzard that he had just been watching at Shellness . He explained where , I thanked him , and I arrived at the end of the Shellness track shortly afterwards . There were a few birders up on the sea wall , and they said that the bird had been showng well at distance , but hadn't been seen for a short time . Typical I thought . Then a call of 'it's up again' , and through binoculars I could make out a light coloured bird hovering in the distance , but one birder offered me a look through his scope , which was much better . Soon after it went to ground again , so I decided to walk along the sea wall to what I thought would be the closest point to where it was showing . Four other birders were already there , and fortunately it was possible to get out of the worst of the wind just down the bank a bit . Whilst waiting for the RLB to reappear , we were treated to a Peregrine and one possibly two Merlins , all I must add at distance . Also in the air ,
were several Kestrels , like this one which made a close pass . The RLB did show again , in short spells , and even though I thought I had shortened the distance between , it was still a long way
away , and just a few bad record shots were taken , but they do show the lightness of the bird , and
in particular the almost white leading edge of the wings . Watching it , the most remarkable thing was it's ability to hover , surprisingly with much more finess that the rapid wing beats of a Kestrel , it's low wing beats keeping it's larger frame in perfect position . Eventually it appeared to have caught something , only to be immediately mugged by a couple of the local Corvids . After that it went to ground for a considerable time . During that time , in an even more distant field , we watched a female ringtail Hen Harrier , searching the rough areas and ditches for a meal . By the time I walked back along the seawall and had a look at the beach , the tide was well out and heading further . Lots of Oystercatchers could be seen down on the water line along with several Gull species and a few Little Egrets . Closer in , I did manage to get a shot of two Sanderling , one still in Summer plumage
on the left , the other , just about to leave , already in it's Winter plumage , and on the right a Turnstone . By now , mid afternoon , the light was starting to get poor , with a thin veil of cloud coming over and the wind getting even cooler . Whilst chatting to another birder by the houses , the 8th. bird of prey almost passed overhead undetected , but a silhouette shot , almost into the milky
sun , just about made a record shot of the only Short-eared Owl to be seen today , although several had been seen in the area on pevious days . That birder also mentioned a site for Bearded Tits , so I gave that a try on my way home . As it happens , the path to the Bearded Tit site ran down the other side of where the RLB was showing earlier . On the way down the path I did find a late Wheatear .
Given their liking for high spots , it was open to the wind blowing across the grazing marshes , and didn't make the best of photo opportunities . I had a look for the Bearded Tits , but the reedbeds were so noisy with the strengthening wind , that it proved an impossible task . They did provide the last bird of prey of the day though , when a Sparrowhawk made a sorti along the vegetation , probably hoping that it's tea might be flushed . With the temperature dropping , I made my way back to the car , thinking back to a couple of Red Admirals I had seen earlier , desperately try to get back down South , straight into the strong SEasterly wind . I did get a last glimpse of the RLB , which seemed to be hunting further over towards where we sat in the lee of the sea wall , but that's birding I suppose .
And finally , I hope my brother John had a good birthday , another big one coming up next year !


Alan Pavey said...

Nice one Greenie, I had heard the RLB had been seen. It sounds like it would have been my perfect day, 9 birds of prey, great! Shame the water levels are low though.

Derek Faulkner said...
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