Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Tuesday 11th. September 2012

With a change in the weather on the cards , I decided yesterday to see if I could catch up with some migrants , before they all left our shores . The weekend's almost unbroken sunshine was replaced with low cloud and some drizzle , how we could have done with that whilst hedgelaying on Saturday with the temperature in the high twenties . In fact , as I arrived at RSPB Emley , chasing the last remnants of brightness way to the East , the wind was blowing the drizzle almost horizontally across the track . Looking towards the car park , not a single vehicle was seen . Not only vehicles , but also birds were missing , with a few Starlings around the entrance and a few Swallows on the fence wires around one of the gardens . The next sighting , when almost halfway along the track , was a female Marsh Harrier that just appeared from one of the ditches , hung on the wind briefly , then disappeared
as quickly as it arrived , but in those few seconds , looked almost ghostly in the strange morning light . She was a marked bird with a plastic identification tag attached to her left wing , but in the light I had no chance of reading it . A Pheasant family crossed the path and quickly made for cover ,
then , at last , my first migrant , a Wheatear , which turned out to be the first of 10/12 birds , mostly seen just before the car park . Whilst photographing a pair on a fence , I spotted a smaller bird a bit
further along , which turned out to be a Whinchat . At the exact same moment , a tractor appeared coming my way down the track , and another Marsh Harrier started giving grief to the residents of the lake below the toilets . I concentrated on the Whinchat and got a few more shots before the inevitable happened , and everything disappeared at once . The usual House Sparrows were around the car park , along with several Pied Wagtails and just two Yellow Wagtails , seen just once . On the roof of
the machinery store and on the wires running above the car park , the Swallows were collecting ,
some very excited about what was in front of them , and some just casually making sure that all the equipment was in best working order . A look at the board showed that very few people had visited the site recently and very little recorded . As the tide was on it's way out as I crossed the Swale on my way there , I decided just to have a walk down to the first cattle grid , checking the orchard and small pond on the way . At one time , Long-eared Owls could be seen roosting in the orchard , but I've haven't seen one for ages . No sign either of the Little Owls in the Oaks below the track , but I did have a pair of Kestrels hunting to the right of the track , a few Teal on the flood to the left , and a small flock of Meadow Pipits trying to decide where to land , but unable to decide before they disappeared from sight . Just before getting back to the car , a distant Egret , looking too big to be a Little , had me snapping in hope of a Great White , but when I got the shots on the computer , it was confirmed as the former . No sign of the Whinchat on the way out , but as I approached the fenceline , a Weasel raced across the track a few metres in front , of course , by the time I stopped the car and picked up the camera , it was in the long grass on the other side and well gone from view . A couple more Wheatear sightings , then , near the first cattle grid , a flock of 13 Whimbrel feeding
right of the track . They were well spread out , but I managed to get six of them together in the viewfinder . The rest of the way out was uneventful until I got to the last gate , where sitting on one
of the posts was a juvenile Kestrel , trying to maintain it's position in the wind . From Elmley I headed for Shellness , right at the end of the island , stopping briefly at the beach at Leysdown . The tide was well on it's way out , and with it most of the birds , just a few Turnstones around the high water mark . Down on the water's edge , hundreds of Oystercatchers along with many Gulls and a
few Curlew . Down the track to the car park at the end , then a walk out on the edge of the saltings . Near the blockhouse , several Little Egrets were feeding on the receding tide , but on land , just a few
Meadow Pipits , and on my way back a couple of Wheatear , one posing for just a second . Just before reaching the first/last house of the hamlet , a raptor lifted from the shingle beach and flew directly away from me , turning later and flying along the water , I managed to get a couple of distant
shots . At the time I thought Sparrowhawk , but on looking at the shots on the computer , I would be interested in what the reader thinks . Along the path by the houses were a couple of typical plants of
the area , the first Sea Aster /Aster tripolium , although finishing , an obvious relation in the Daisy
family to the Michaelmas Daisy , and still from the same family , Golden Samphire /Inula crithmoides . My third visit was Harty Ferry Road / Capel Fleet , and after having to follow two Red-legged Partridges most of the way up the hill , slowly headed down the other side , not seeing very much on the way , until almost at the corner at Capel Fleet where another Wheatear , one of three
seen at the corner , posed just inside the fenceline , bringing the total number of the species seen to just under 20 . Just a single Marsh Harrier seen on the way to Harty Ferry and very little else . As turned around in the car park of the pub , a brewery lorry was delivering . I slowly made my way back along the very smooth resurfaced road , and just after the raptor viewpoint , spotted a male Marsh Harrier working the roadside ditch in the near distance in front of me . I carried on slowly getting closer , then got a rear view mirror full of the brewery lorry . I got into the next passing place and waved it on , and waved goodbye to probably the best opportunity of a shot , as the lorry passed
the bird , and off it flew . The only shot that was left was a rear end , as many of my shots of the species seem to be . All in all a most enjoyable day , with migrants found at all three sites , but a worry was the fact that I only saw 8 Lapwing , at Elmley , and 3 Redshank , on the saltings at Shellness .


Warren Baker said...

Got a good few migrants in the end Greenie, plus some bonus's. Soon be time for the winter thrushes, are you taking part in the BTO winter thrush survey ?

Phil said...

A good read Greenie and very nice to get a few migrants. I remember when I used to be able to get out for the day! We have a new house now and although we haven't moved in yet, it's taking all my time at the moment.
Nice Wheatear shots, a very photogenic species I always think.

ShySongbird said...

A very enjoyable read Greenie, I felt I was there with you. Lovely photos too, I particularly liked the juvenile Kestre, Wheatears and flowers.

It was a shame you missed out on the Weasel photo and that you didn't have the hoped for Great White Egret, I have never seen one...a GWE that is. Not good on raptors I'm afraid, I did wonder about Merlin but maybe that is too small and a silly suggestion?

Warren Baker said...

PS: I would go for a Kestrel on your mystery raptor :-)

Rob said...

Another interesting read, Greenie.
I also like that real 'countryside' shot of the juvenile Kestrel on the gatepost, and the Swallow on final approach.