Friday, 30 November 2012

Friday 30th. November 2012

With the sunny weather continuing today , and with jobs lined up to do , I managed three visits to the Rowan tree today . The first just after 9 o'clock finding 28 Waxwings in the area but not yet feeding . A second visit shortly before lunch finding a few less , but making regular sortis to the berries and disappearing around midday . The third was about 1.30 , arriving to find about a dozen cold birders but no Waxwings . One of the birders was there when I left after the second visit , he told me that not a single one had been seen since I left . I got out the camera and tripod , got set up , and a matter of a couple of minutes later , in flew the flock , all 33 birds this time , and landed in trees close by . I won't mention what I got called by the other birders , but they were well pleased to see and photograph the birds . I'm posting a series of shots to try and give a flavour of the three visits .

31 of the flock , the other two were in a adjacent tree .
I had just focused on this bird , when it decided it was time for another meal .
As yesterday , there were cameo appearances by ,
the lone Redwing ,
just a single Fieldfare today ,
and the Mistle Thrush , that insisted on staying behind twigs .
We're coppicing for the next hedgelaying project and with the small amount of berries left , I think the flock will have moved on by Sunday , but they have been great to watch and photograph over the last two days . I didn't see a single specimen last Winter , but seem to have made up well and truly this one , and the best of it being , they were only five minutes away . The camera will probably happy if the flock moves on having worked very hard over the two days .

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Thursday 29th. November 2012

I read on the web last night that 33 Waxwings had been seen during the afternoon , only five minutes away from home , just over the county border in Surrey . A check on the weather forecast , bright spells , and my mind was made up to try and find the birds as they got out of bed , and before I set off for the workday up on the Common . An early breakfast , and with the first light of the morning I headed off , arriving at a chilly Rowan tree in Shirley . Unfortunately the first light never got any better than that , and there was definitely no sign of any bright spells . Added to this , the tree in question is right in the middle of an estate and the workers were heading off for their day of toil , followed a bit later by the children , heading for or being taken to school . But , there were a few quiet periods in between , and it was during these that a flock of about 40 Starlings made their sortis on the Rowan tree . Things were not going well , but from nowhere , on three occasions , a single
Waxwing appeared right at the top of the tree , but never attempted to feed , flying off after a short period of time . In the dull , overcast conditions and a good breeze , the bird/birds were not shown at
their best , but at least I had seen it/them . Apart from the Starlings , other species breakfasting at the
tree included a single Redwing ( pictured ) , two Fieldfares which always flew into the back of the tree to avoid being photographed , and a single Mistle Thrush , which only showed with it's back end
to the camera . With my time running out , I had to get back home and get ready for the workday , swallowing a quick coffee whilst doing so . The weather remained the same for the rest of the morning , but , just before midday , the clouds parted and the sun appeared , and my thoughts strayed to what might be happening back at the Rowan tree . As luck would have it , we got our work done by two o'clock , and leaving two to finish off the fire , I chased back home , grabbed the camera , and headed for the tree . As I approached it , the sun was in my eyes , but I could make out several birds in a nearby tree and turning the corner , five birders on the pavement . Parking up and grabbing the
camera , I could now see that the birds were in fact 8 Waxwings , and they were using the tree to digest the berries from the Rowan , before making their next sorti . Talking to the other birders , most having arrived about midday , the 8 birds had only just appeared a few minutes before I arrived . For
once the plan had worked . The tops of both trees was in the sunshine , but the fast setting sun was
 reducing the sunlit area very quickly , but I had about an hour watching these beautiful visitors , before they finally flew off to roost , and I headed home for a hot drink , well pleased that the work had finished earlier than anticipated .

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Tuesday 27th. November 2012

An awful morning was followed by an even worse afternoon , at times feeling that it was already night , Winter is well and truly here . I had some bits to do around the shops this morning , then settled down to process some recent photographs .
I think the birds had the same feeling re. Winter , as during the afternoon , there was a feeding frenzy around the feeders . A large mixed flock of Finch sized birds were doing the rounds of the gardens , and having gorged on the sunflower hearts , retreated to the Sycamore next door to digest the meal ,
just part of the flock shown here , silhouetted against a very grey sky . Then , one by one , they returned to the sunflower hearts , leaving the mixed seed untouched . With so many trying to get on
the two sunflower feeders , there was plenty of squabbling , especially amongst the Greenfinches and the Goldfinches . It wasn't too long before the female/juvenile Blackcap showed up , very nervous
compared to the Finches , but after a few attempts and being scared off , finally started to feed avidly
on the Callicarpa berries . Then , without having been to the pub , I started seeing double .
I know Warren mentioned some time ago that the juvenile males get their black caps during the first Winter , so it could be two females , juveniles or female and juvenile , but no sign of the male today .
Well pleased with that , I then got another surprise in the form of a Marsh Tit trying to pluck up
courage to get to the sunflower seeds , the first record in the garden for the species . With persistence , and waiting till a couple of passing Jackdaws spooked the other birds , it finally
managed to get it's first , of many , sunflower heart . In all , 18 species were seen through the back bedroom window , which added to the poor quality of the shots . As I said , most were attracted to the
sunflower hearts , apart of course the Blackcaps , but , just as the light was almost gone , a movement
at the bottom of the feeder revealed that the hearts go down very nicely with the Callicarpa berries too . I had kept hoping that a Redpoll or Siskin would join the flock and come to the feeders , perhaps next time .

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Saturday 24th. November 2012

Before getting absolutely soaked whilst hedgelaying today , I took advantage of yesterday's dryer weather , and headed off for the Isle of Sheppey .
Arriving at RSPB Elmley in still cloudy conditions , but with the hope of better to come , I started the track from the road to the car park . From the start , it was obvious that it was going to be hard going , with very few species other than Lapwing , Starling and Mute Swan being found . By the time I reached the car park , apart from the odd Corvid and Gull , just a small flock of Curlew , a few Meadow Pipits , and a flock of Linnet  was all that was added . Pied Wagtail in the car park and small numbers of Wigeon and Teal on the pool behind , and that was it . Until a male Marsh Harrier
appeared from nowhere and put everything up . Just Goldfinch and House Sparrows around the feeders in the orchard made my decision not to walk the mile or so to the hides , so I returned back down the track , finding nothing different , but added a female Marsh Harrier in the distance , in front of the new bridge . My next stop was Harty Ferry Road and the raptor viewpoint , which turned out to be just as quiet apart from a single Kestrel and a Grey Heron flushed from the roadside ditch . I decided to head down to the Ferry Inn , in the hope of finding something of interest . Along the lane I found a small covey of Red-legged Partridge and slowed , but at the same time a van wanted by , and
that flushed the group , but I managed a shot of some of them in the roadside field before they took flight for good . The odd Winter Thrush , mainly Fieldfares , flew out from the heavily ladened Hawthorn bushes as I passed , making themselves almost un-photographable , if there is such a
word , but a bit further down I found three , sitting , digesting their last foray onto the bushes . Apart from lots of Woodpigeon , the trip to the Inn and back to the raptor viewpoint was hardly exciting . Between the viewpoint and the corner at Capel Fleet , a dark raptor was seen approaching from the right , but , once again , I had a vehicle behind and needed a layby to let it pass . By the time I did so , the bird was heading into the distance and I had all the camera settings wrong , but am posting a very
bad shot of the Common Buzzard to show a very hearty breakfast has obviously been had . A look at the front at Leysdown , with the tide already well out , showed the usual good number of Oystercatcher , a few Curlew and mixed Gulls feeding . The track down towards Shellness has been patched up with road planings , but with all the recent rain , there is still plenty of standing water to negotiate to get to the car park at the end . Having reached the car park , very little had been seen ,
but in the bushes nearby , House Sparrows , Reed Buntings ( male pictured ) and Goldfinches , vied for the best perches after bathing in the plentiful puddles . The return trip was equally quiet , apart from several Meadow Pipits on the wires , Corvids on almost every fence post and another flock of
Linnets in the stubble fields . On the local football pitch , one of the Curlew decided to feed there rather than down on the mud , whilst down on the front , the local Pied Wagtails were hanging around
for any bits and pieces that might have been dropped by passers by . I next went to see if I could locate the small flock of Waxwings that were reported the day before around the creek at Lower Halstow , not too far from the new bridge over to Sheppey . Not only did I not find the Waxwings , I didn't even find Lower Halstow , mainly due to road closures , so I gave up and headed the short distance back to Elmley for a return visit before heading home . Unfortunately the track to the car park was even quieter than in the morning and with no cars parked , once again I did not walk down to the hides . Heading back down the track , a flock of small birds landed in the two bushes ,
halfway to the first gate , but flew off as I approached , that was all but one , who was prepared to pose in the afternoon sunshine , a winter plumage cock Linnet , showing a 'lark-like' rear toe , but he too flew off with the approach of a tractor and trailer full of cattle coming along the track . No more
than 20 metres further on , I was stopping again to photograph a very colourful Fox , just the other
side of the ditch . It took no notice of me or the camera , but , when a second tractor and trailer appeared , I had to move , and so did the Fox . My last shot , just before reaching the road , was a
Starling , looking very smart with the now low sun catching it's plumage .

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Wednesday 21st. November 2012

Another horrible day , with drizzle all morning and heavy driving rain on a strong wind this afternoon , I was quite pleased to have some pictures to work on , taken last Sunday on a visit to Bough Beech , in much better conditions .
I arrived well before the Visitor Centre opened which was handy , as the place got very busy soon after opening with the visit of an optics firm showing off their wares . I headed straight to the feeder in the orchard in the hope of finding a Brambling , but the chance of that was nullified by the
incumbent occupant . Regardless of who tried to land on the feeder , the Grey Squirrel quickly got rid of them , even the pair of Gt.Spotted Woodpeckers with their dagger-like bills were driven off with ease , so it was not surprising that the Bramblings were not showing . Leaving that feeder , I made my way to a newly placed one in the hop garden , where there was a lot more activity , but still no Brambling . A pair of Nuthatch were making constant sorties , grabbing some seed and flying off again . With no cover , I just stayed very still and waited for the birds to accept me being there ,
which they did very quickly , and even the Nuthatch accepted my presence . It was a nice surprise when after some time , a Marsh Tit worked up enough courage to fly in and feed . At times there

were so many birds at the feeder , it had to wait it's opportunity on the post . By now cars were starting to arrive and the birds disappeared , and I went for a look down on the causeway . A small number of Fieldfare could be heard in the orchard , but with few apples on the ground , there was little to keep them and they soon moved on . Apart from a few Common Snipe on the North Lake , it was just the usual species to be found . An orange spot on the concrete culvert on th North Lake was
indeed a Kingfisher , but a car stopping on the road right alongside the culvert disturbed her , and she was off . No sign of any raptors , surprising given the conditions . The causeway was now getting busy , time for me to be leaving . Carol had some good news when I arrived home , she had seen both male and female Blackcaps feeding on the Callicarpa berries whilst I was out . No sooner had she told me , the two of them came back for more , one after the other . I managed a couple of shots through the kitchen window , after which , with the sun going off the bush , they weren't seen again

that day . Hopefully they will over-winter again in the area this year and give me the opportunity of some better shots .
Oh for some of that sunshine today .

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Wednesday 14th. November 2012

With more 'brownie points' than you could waggle a stick at , I set off yesterday morning to use some of them , not for the first time not knowing where I would finish up . The North Kent coast looked as if it was going to get any sunshine that was going , and by the time I got onto the M20 , I had decided  that Oare Marshes was going to be the place to be . Mind you , as I climbed Wrotham Hill , headlights and fog lights were the order of the day , and I was questioning my decision . Dropping down the other side towards Maidstone , the fog cleared somewhat , but very little sign of brightness in the direction I was heading . I arrived at the Kent Wildlife Trust reserve in overcast conditions and no sign of any other birder . Half way down to the car park , I pulled into the lay-by , to have a look at the East flood . The tide was just about full , so there were a good number of species around . My
first shot managed to catch three Plover species , Ringed , Grey and Golden from left to right on the back row , and several Dunlin in front . All that was needed was some sunshine to show them off
better . Nearby , a Common Snipe , one of several seen on the visit , was dozing amongst the grass tussocks . All the time , more and more Golden Plover arrived on the flood , and having landed ,
started their continual chattering . How any of them get any rest is beyond me . There were in fact three cars in the car park , all turned out to be dog walkers , with plenty of proof left along the sea wall , as I started towards the hide at the end of the wall , keeping a watch and listen for Bearded Tits in the reeds . Several Cettis Warblers called from Bramble patches along the way , but none were seen . Turning alongside Faversham Creek and still finding no species on the Swale or the Creek apart from the odd Cormorant , I did find a pair of Reed Buntings . The male was particularly shy ,
keeping a good distance , but the female was much more of the posing type , until she got a call and
was off too . A few bushes further along , a pair of Meadow Pipits posed together , but once again ,
keeping their distance . Just before reaching the sluice , another pair of LBJs flew across in front of me and landed on the flooded saltmarsh . One disappeared completely , but I managed to find the
other one and got a few shots . Given the prominent eyebrow and light breast , a possible Rock Pipit ?
Passing the sluice and heading for the East Hide , a Kingfisher passed me , heading back towards the sluice , a favoured fishing spot I believe . I had a good look at the area where I had the Penduline Tit on my last visit , and even though the sun had broken through , there was no sign . It was heard the following day , but nothing since . Crossing the track to the car park , I found a few Redwings amongst the Hawthorn scrub , along with many Blackbirds and good numbers of House Sparrows . Heading for the West Hide , I got 'pinged' from the ditch on the right , and eventually saw three Bearded Tits , but so fleeting I didn't manage a shot . They disappeared into another reedbed , still
 'pinging' . Almost at the hide , a pair of Stonechat , this time the male was the poser and the female the shy one . The view from the hide was disappointing to say the least , just a single Coot and several ponies grazing in the distance . Retracing my steps back to the track , the Bearded Tits had obviously moved on . Walking back passed the lay-by where I had stopped earlier , the light was
much improved , and the colours on the three Plovers showed better . On another island further out ,
it appeared that it was Golden Plover and Dunlin only territory , and this was just one small part of
the island . Even though , Golden Plover were still flying in and trying to find room to land . Some
chose spots away from the throng , perhaps for a bit of peace and quiet ? Mind you , with many
Lapwing / Peewit / Green Plover around , peace and quiet was a rare commodity . Some , like this
drake Teal , just got their head down regardless . A few shots of a fly by Common Gull were also
possible with the improved conditions . A last look for the Penduline Tit had the same result as earlier . With 53 species recorded , I decided to try for the Barn Owl on my way home , but on the
way into Oare village saw some brown lumps in one of the fields . The lumps turned out to be 7 Grey Partridge , arguably the rarest species if the day , and finished off the visit nicely .
I arrived at the Barn Owl site just as the light was going , and didn't have long to wait for the female to appear . She flew towards her favoured fence post , but just before landing on it , swooped onto the ground below it . She didn't reappear for a few minutes , but when she did , she had her tea in her
talons , and flew straight back to where she had come from . Well , you can't win them all . I headed off for my dinner , the species count up to 55 on the day .