Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Wednesday 2nd.November 2011

Yesterday , Carol and I travelled down to her brother's house near Rochester , to give him some help with a guttering problem . Unsure how long the help would take , I took the opportunity to put the camera bag and binoculars in the car with my tools , just in case . The job was finished just before lunchtime , in dull , overcast conditions . Whilst we had a sandwich and a cuppa , the sky began to open up , and by the time we were leaving , it was positively barmy . My original plan , if time permitted , was to head for Shellness on the Isle of Sheppey , where a second Rough-legged Buzzard had been reported over the weekend . To get there , we had to almost pass through Chatham , temporary home of a juvenile Long-tailed Duck and reported by Ken / Wildlife in Focus and others recently . On arrival , I parked up alongside No.2 basin , handed Carol her book , and I set off in search of the duck . Having scanned the basin without success , I thought it might have moved on ,
but then I headed for the corner with the footbridge , and found the duck diving and feeding , just the
other side of the footbridge . Not exactly the most striking of ducks , but I certainly haven't come across that many of the species . Having been successful there , we set off for Shellness , hoping that I would be as lucky there . The weather got better and better on the way , and arrived at the start of the Shellness track on what could have been mistaken as a summer's day . Driving slowly down the track , my hopes took a knock , as there were no signs of any other birders , or anyone at all . At the rise in the middle of the track , where you get a view across the grazing marshes , all seemed very quiet , the only movement being the blades on the wind pump out in the marshes . Arrival at the car park at the end of the track , and finding not a single car there also dented my hopes . I parked up with Carol and her book in the sunshine , got kitted up , and at last heard some bird life in the form of a flock of noisy House Sparrows in the bushes alongside the car park . On inspection , there were
also several Reed Buntings , a few Starlings and at least one Dunnock and Robin also in the bushes .The tide was about half way in and could hear calls from the beach and saltings , but as I made my way slowly along the sea wall , I didn't see any more birds until I put up this female ring
tail Hen Harrier from the long grass on the side of the path . Having taken to the air , she then proceeded to fly straight across the saltings and into the sun , making sure no more photographs were
 possible . Further out on the same saltings I found three Little Egrets , seemingly having a
communal wash and brush up , and also a bit further on , one of three Curlew that showed briefly , before fading away into the longer vegetation on the saltings . Whilst scanning the area , I came
across my first sighting of the afternoon of a Short-eared Owl flying low over the saltings , which would turn out to be the start of a true SEO fest . Shortly afterwards , another birder arrived at the car park and made his way up onto the sea wall , and when we met , he told me he had also come for the Rough-legged Buzzard . With two pairs of eyes now scanning the 360 degree viewing area provided by the seawall , and with birds seemingly waking up from their early afternoon snooze , sightings started coming thick and fast , albeit the vast majority being distant . Several Marsh Harriers were sighted , and , with great joy from the other birder , one of the Rough-legged Buzzards hovered for some time before disappearing again . Both male and female Hen Harriers were seen on several
occasions , and at one point , both made it into the same frame , the male higher and on the left , but once again at distance . A brief view of a Merlin was closely followed by that of a Common Buzzard , and the time these sightings was filled with constant SEO sightings . At one point , I had three SEOs in view over the saltings , whilst the other birder had at least another three around the
wind pump , 180 degrees in the other direction , but none came really close . We both agreed that there must have been at least ten , and possibly even more SEOs over the grazing marshes and the saltings in the hour between 3-4 o'clock that afternoon . Well pleased with what we had seen , the other birder left for the Raptor Point at Capel Fleet , whilst , with Carol still happy with her book in
the sunshine , I had a look at the beach , it being just about high water . On the water , still catching the quickly dropping sun , were about 20 Brent Geese , several of them being juveniles with the
white bars on the wing and lack of white neck flash , like the one on the left . In the air , a small flock
of Golden Plover were wheeling , trying to decide exactly where they were going to land . Later , we saw 50+ on the grazing marsh as we reached the end of the track . Further along the beach there were
 a few Turnstones and a small flock of Ringed Plover , the latter proving not to be interested in a
group photo . With the sun dropping fast and darkness not far away , we drove back down the track , once again stopping briefly at the high point , and checking every fence post and high spot along the way . This proved well worth while , as just behind the few houses half way along , but unfortunately
 on the shaded side of the track , a Little Owl was posing on one of the posts . Reaching the end of the track , I failed to see a Kestrel that was perched on top of one of the telephone posts . He flew off over the rough grassland between the road and the beach and I watched it disappear behind a tree . In the same line of sight , but unsure exactly where it came from , appeared a Peregrine , flying low tom the grass and passing right over the top of the car . What a great finish to a wonderful afternoon . I very much doubt if I will ever see so many SEOs again , but feel very lucky to have been there to see them today  and that's not taking anything from the other species on view .


Warren Baker said...

Seems to be many more SEO's about this year than for a number of years Greenie - - giving me a hope of a visitor turning up here!

Derek Faulkner said...

Glad that you was able to enjoy the bird life of my daily stomping ground Greenie, and lucky that you went yesterday, it was far quieter today and the fields where you saw the RLB yesterday also had the Hunt charging about on them today, which didn't help with the birdwatching.

Alan Pavey said...

Really nice post, well done with catching up with a really good selection of birds, it's one of my favourite places.

Mike H said...

Great account of a wonderful day out Greenie. I was also out at Shellness on Monday afternoon but with light not so great. I had 5 SEO from the seawall along with RLB male and female Hen Harrier ,Marsh harriers ,Sparrowhawk and a Little Owl on the big pile on the left of the access track as you drive out.


Phil said...

Great post Greenie, an owl fest indeed. Adam Whitehouse phoned me this morning to say he'd just disturbed one at the research station. Presumably these are migrants.