Monday, 24 December 2012

Friday, 21 December 2012

Friday 21st. December 2012

After being stuck in yesterday , and probably again tomorrow , and with two sightings of Waxwings reasonably locally over the two previous days , I was out early to see if the Winter visitors were still about . The first was down the A21 between Locksbottom and Green Street Green , but a good sweep of the area failed to find any sign , so I moved on to the second at the junction of the M25 and the M20 . A small flock had been seen in the edge of an industrial area , by a passing birder in yesterday's rain . Again I drew a blank . With no other plans , I decided to try a third site , an orchard near Horsmonden , just off the A21 , not far from Lamberhurst . 75 birds had been reported there on the KOS site . At least the cloud was starting to break up on my arrival , and unlike EMRS , there were still plenty of apples left on the trees and carpeting the ground below too . A wander along one of the many footpaths that criss cross the area found lots of
Fieldfares , once again , proving very difficult to get near to , and with most of the leaves having fallen from the fruit trees , very little cover to approach and only too quick to give an alarm call to announce my presence . After about half an hour , I was in my own little world listening for any trilling , when a big black Labrador came charging towards me barking .It stopped well short , but the barking had put up the Waxwings that I was searching for , just as I met up with the dog's owner ,
another birder . About 40/50 Waxwings were now on the wires , but as quickly as they appeared , they disappeared , heading out of sight , right over the highest point of the orchard . I spent the next hour or so walking the paths over in the direction the had flown , failing to find them . I made my way back to the car for a coffee and as I reached the lane trilling could be heard , and there was the flock , high in a tree almost over the car . As I got closer , they started to fly in small groups , heading for the area where I had seen them previously . Coffee was forgotten about as I followed them ,
finding them feeding , but with the rows of trees , it was very difficult to be able to focus on them .
Something then spooked them again , and up onto the wires they went again , this time almost
overhead . It was good to get them against the now blue sky , but they were quite high and I was looking fom underneath . A few minutes later and they were gone again , this time out of sight downhill . I headed back to the car for a second time , and this time did manage to get that coffee .
I felt resonably happy with the shots I had managed to get , turned the car around and headed downhill down the lane . As I got almost to the bottom , I pulled over to get a better look at a large
number of birds , once again high up some 50 mtrs. into the orchard , it was the flock again . Another cup of coffee as I watched them start to drop down to feed again , this time on the trees at the end of some rows . Coffee finished , I made my way along the track , finishing up under the tree and within 15 mtrs. of the feeding birds . The next hour or so was magical , as keeping still whilst feeding and moving when they all returned to the tree top , they seemed to accept my presence , and I was able to photograph them face on . The following shots are just a few of the many I was able to take , before once again the flock departed .

As I got back to the car , I must admit with a big grin on my face , another birder arrived . I was able to tell him where the flock's favoured perches were , but was unable to tell him where the flock was . I hope he was as lucky as I was .

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Thursday 20th. December 2012

Monday's sunshine at Dungeness seems a long time ago ,  having been replaced by grey , cold and now rain . I made a short visit to Kelsey Park in Beckenham on Tuesday afternoon , but like other places , it was very quiet . Tucked away amongst the overhanging vegetation , I found one of a pair of
Little Grebe , this one having surfaced with what looked like a fish , but was having some difficulty in swallowing the meal , but it did manage eventually . Down by the waterfall things were very
soporific , especially for this male Tufted Duck , but things were not so good for one of the females , who had managed to get a rubber band around her neck/bill . Fortunately , the band was not stopping
her from feeding , as when food appeared , she was in there battling with all the others , and winning some . Mandarins are still around in good numbers , but as usual , they were to be found on The Beck , at either end of the lake . Come to think of it , I do not remember seeing them ever on the main
lake , they favour the ares where there is overhanging vegetation and also parts of The Beck that
cannot be easily seen from the paths . This female seems to have already got her hair done for the festivities . On the island , many Grey Herons were already taking up residence in the nests , yet to be refurbished . On the way back to the car , someone had obviously passed through with monkey nuts ,
as several Grey Squirrels were tucking into their free meal .
Yesterday I made a visit to Sevenoaks Reserve , once again in overcast , gloomy conditions . I started
at Grebe Hide , and naturally enough found a Great Crested right in front . Hopes of a Winter visiting Grebe did not materialise , it's two years now since a Red-necked and Black-necked visited . Plenty of Geese about , but no sign of a Barnacle or White-fronted , the only stand out was the strange
whitish specimen that seems to turn up every Winter . Today it was out in the fields at the end of the East / Long Lake track . Two flocks of Siskins were found , one either side of the East Lake , the flock near Willow Hide was approaching 100 , the other just half that . One small Alder seemed to be
the tree that most wanted to feed on , about 25 in this shot that had to lightened from a silhouette . When I first arrived and looked out over the East Lake from the ramp , a Grey Heron flew off
calling . Out on one of the islands in front of Tyler Hide , at least 12 Common Snipe amongst the Lapwing and Teal . On my return it had retaken it's vantage point . Finally , a few fungi that caught my attention on the way round ,
Neobulgaria pura var. foliacea ,
Auricularia aurisula  / Jelly Ear , as usual on Elder , and
Corioluss versicolor / Many-zoned Polypore .

Monday, 17 December 2012

Monday 17th. December 2012

I made a decision last night to head for Dungeness today , and set off early down the M20 to avoid the traffic , only to be brought to a standstill just before New Hythe , the aftermath of an accident on each side of the motorway . With nothing moving down the motorway , I managed to slowly work my way over and exited at the New Hythe junction . Reaching the roundabout on the off slip , I then made another bad decision , to spend some time at the East Malling Research Station , where I had Waxwings recently , whilst the motorway sorted itself out . Once off the roundabout , all the local roads were gridlocked and it took over an hour to travel the short distance . Eventually I arrived to find no Waxwings and very few Winter Thrushes , even compared to the small numbers last visit . A
few on the wires and a few on the ground in the orchard beyond the research station buildings . I decided to head back towards the church and then to try Ditton Quarry where Alan had found some birds last week . Adam must have been reading my mind , as he had seen me passing through and texted me with the same thought . The gridlock had by now unlocked itself , but an hour in the quarry produce no sign of Waxwings , even though there were masses of rosehips , on which Alan's birds were feeding .Feeling that today was not going well , I decided to try again for Dungeness , especially as the weather was so good . Halfway down the motorway , another text from Adam , Phil Sharp had just found six Waxwings in the scrub at New Hythe . I decided to carry on , and as it happens , I read tonight that they didn't stay long , so at least that decision was right . Very little was seen driving over Walland Marsh , especially with the low Winter sun and quite a bit of traffic . I arrived at the Arc Pit car park , grabbed a quick lunch , and headed for Hanson Hide , which had the sun behind it . I passed three birders on the way , finding just one in 'Ken's seat' . Very little on the water , but the birder said he had seen a Great White Egret and a Bittern in flight in the last half hour or so . A
couple of minutes later , up popped the GWE again and landed in front of a reedbed to the left of the viewing screen on the far side of the pit . Scanning around , a good number of Wigeon , a few
Gadwall and Tufted Duck and one possibly two female Goldeneye ( pictured ) , but very distant and very mobile . At least two Cetti's Warblers were also heard but as usual not seen , and two Marsh Harriers were hunting well over by the tower . Then all hell broke loose , and from the other side of
the pit , the GWE was flying straight towards the hide , chased by a Grey Heron , who was making most of the noise , but half way over the GWE turned and flew down the pit . It managed to escape
the GH , diving into a reedbed , then later flying back to it's original place , but still at a distance . It would have been good if it had come as close as the Cormorant that had a 'wash and brush up' out
front of the hide , before it too headed off . Heading back to the car , I headed along the road to a spot at the far end of the Arc Pit , where I have been lucky with Smew in previous Winters , but just more of the other species today . On the other side of the road , I think it's called the New Diggings , two more GWEs were seen , one flying in that could have been the Arc Pit bird . Also seen , another
distant sighting , this time a Great Northern Diver , but it stayed well away from the road bank .
Should have checked recent sightings before posting , as it is a Black-throated  Diver rather than a GND . My excuse , very long way off and into the low winter sun . Many thanks  to Mike H for emailing the correction . Another birder pulled up and whilst chatting realised that he too was caught up in the hold up on the M20 too , small world . With the sun going down , and the temperature , I headed for the RSPB Visitor Centre to use the facilities before heading home . Heading back to the car , I spotted a
movement behind the feeders , so got in and waited . A couple of minutes later , this Fox appeared , looking for any morsels below the feeders . When it finished there , it checked out around the picnic
benches , probably a daily routine , and looked very fit on it . My final decision was the route home , the one used to get there or via the A21 . I decided on the latter , wish I had done that this morning , and it was not long before a traffic flash told me I had done the right thing , the M25 at a standstill from Jctn.4  to the Dartford Tunnel and affecting all subsequent routes . Apparently , another 2 lorry accident , air ambulance and the motorway in need of resurfacing . And where was the birder I spoke to from ? Essex . I wonder if he is home yet ?

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Wednesday 12th. December 2012

A round up of the last few days starts with an afternoon visit to Sevenoaks Reserve , in the hope of seeing the Bittern which was seen recently and some Siskins , which seem to be fewer in number so far this Winter . Needless to say , I did not see the Bittern , or much other than the usual waterfowl and gulls , apart from two Kingfishers , which flew straight across Long Lake towards me before doing a 'u turn' and heading back from whence they came . I got them in the viewfinder , but the AF couldn't cope with them coming straight on , so sadly no shots . As I walked round I checked the
Alders for Siskins , but only a single Goldcrest was found , and finding nothing else of interest , made my way back to the car . Then , close to the fishermen's carpark , the chatter of Siskins was finally heard . It was a very mobile flock of 40/50 , which is the largest I have seen there so far , and for
once , a few birds were feeding in the open , rather than their usual thing of being at least half
concealed , but still very high in the tree . On the track leaving the reserve , several Woodpigeons
were gorging themselves on the Ivy berries . Whilst on site , I received a text from Adam / East Malling , Ditton and Barming , that a good sized flock of Waxwings had been found at his place of work , East Malling Research Station , but it was too late to get over then , so started planning for this morning . With freezing fog and cloud , the forecast was not good , but waking to a hard frost but clear , I decided to give it a go . En route , a text from Adam saying that he found 31 birds when he arrived was music to my ears , but further texts of 'flighty' , 'flown off' and 'only 3 returned' , was not what I was hoping to hear . On arrival the car thermometer was showing -2C , but several layers of clothing was donned and I headed for the area that Adam had indicated , which was bereft of Waxwings . In fact , the number of Winter Thrushes seen on the way was also very low , but it was noticeable that there was far less fruit on the trees and on the ground than there has been in previous years . I kept moving up and down the road , as much to keep warm as anything , when another birder appeared , no less than Phil Sharp / Sharp by Nature , who I haven't seen for ages , so it was good to catch up whilst we waited . Then Phil said that he could hear trilling , and a few seconds later 8 Waxwings few into the Silver Birch close by . We fired off a few shots , and they were gone , not
even coming down to the Guelder Rose berries below . I wasn't too worried as the flock I photographed 10 days ago often flew off , only to return after a short while . Unfortunately , these birds hadn't read the book and some time passed . We took the opportunity to get some Fieldfare
shots , but these too were very flighty and always kept at a good distance . As Phil mentioned at the time , they usually manage to get something between themselves and the camera . A bit later , 5
Waxwings flew in and landed in the Silver Birch and although they stayed a bit longer , a passing car
spooked them and they too were gone , and they was the only sightings of the birds whilst I was there . Phil and I gave it a bit longer , but that blue sky turned cloudy and the temperature dropped again . Phil decided to head for New Hythe and I walked back to the cars with him , before checking out the houses on the edge of the site , as a couple of years ago , the birds were feeding on ornamental berries in the gardens , but there was no sign this time , although plenty of berries . I the drove around to the other entrance to the Research Station and had 'lunch on the go' , whilst checking out the orchards . A few more Winter Thrushes were found , but no Waxwings . I returned to where I had originally parked and retraced my morning steps along the footpath , finding less birds than before ,
but managed to find a few Redwing , often being chased off by the larger , noisier Fieldfares , who
acted as if they owned the area , guarding their area of fallen apples . I met two other small groups of birders , neither of which had seen or heard Waxwings , but like me , frozen solid . I also met up with Adam and Ross / The Bald Birder , out at lunchtime , hoping to find the flock , but even with their local knowledge no Waxwings were found , and there was also a cameo appearance from Rambling in Kent by Twisden . I decided to call it a day and headed back to the car , but got waylayed around the church graveyard , trying to find a Nuthatch that was calling , apparently quite a rarity in the area and watching the inter-action between theFieldfares and a Green Woodpecker . My last shots taken were of a beautiful Mistle Thrush , high in a tree , eating Mistletoe
berries and wiping it's bill on the branch to get rid of the seeds , exactly what it says on the wrapper .
Many thanks to Adam for putting out the news and for the resulting impromptu 'Blogger-fest' .

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Sunday 9th. December 2012

Since finishing the berries on the Rowan tree , the Waxwing flock seems to have disappeared , with no reports locally of their where abouts and things have gone very quiet . I had a quick visit to Hayes Farm during the week , but found nothing of interest  . Yesterday morning I thought I would have another try for Brambling and got to Bough Beech early . It's strange visiting at this time of year and not finding Winter Thrushes in the orchard , but the cold , wet Spring put paid to pollination , so there is no fallen fruit to attract them . The main feeder in the orchard was busy , but once again no sign of Brambling , and I don't think I saw one last Winter either . When the sun appeared , I took up a position where I could watch the Kingfisher posts and also another small feeder . Needless to say ,
the feeder was much busier than the posts , with Blue , Great , Marsh and Coal Tits all visiting , but the last two making sure that they visited a port out of sight of the camera . There was also plenty of
activity below the feeder , clearing up the seed tossed away by the Coal Tit and the Goldfinches , which seemed to have favourites amongst the mixed seed . One particular Goldfinch was quite happy
to stay feeding with me standing 5 mtrs. away , unlike others that 'grabbed and flew' . The Kingfisher , like the Brambling failed to appear , but just beyond the posts , a Mute Swan spent quite

some time preening , making sure that every feather was in it's place . Eventually I got down to the causeway , to find that a lot of water had been pumped in from the River Eden since my last visit , meaning that there was no exposed mud on the North Lake , or at the causeway end of the main reservoir , the water already into the surrounding woods , and consequently not much to be seen close to the causeway . Plenty of GCGrebes and Coots out in the middle and Geese down the far end , and the only highlights were a brief glimpse of a redhead Goosander , way down the reservoir , just
before it too disappeared into the trees , and a drake Pintail , probably the one that was on the scrape previously , already in amongst the trees .
Today I did the Down House bird survey , recording just 13 species , but there was a raw NW wind blowing across the site . The visit did though afford a chance of a few Jay shots , one of two
recorded . The other one flew immediately , but this one stayed for a short time , but it would have
been better if the light had been better at the time . Only other interest found was the seed stalk of the most robust Violet Helleborine which is heavy with seeds and so far untouched by deer , so hopefully there will be more plants in years to come .
In our garden , the Callicarpa bush is getting bare of berries now , with both male and

female Blackcaps seen feeding several times through the day , but unfortunately when the berries finish , they will be off .