Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Wednesday 27th. February 2013

Another cold , drizzly morning , although not as bad as yesterday , so I headed off for a look around Kelsey Park in Beckenham . On arrival , I searched for the Blue-crowned Parakeets , but once again I failed to find them , there were of course plenty of the Rose Ringed variety all over the park . Always a chance of something out of the ordinary on a visit there , but today it wasn't to be . Lots of noisy
Black-headed Gulls , with more than the single found last visit in Summer plumage . The most numerous species after them were the Tufted Ducks , with a count of over 50 in the area of the
waterfall , and probably 75/100 in total around the lake , sorry for mentioning that Warren . Out on the island , at least 10/15 nests are now occupied in the heronry , with new nesting materials being
delivered all the time . This particular bird looked really fed up when I first saw it , but a few minutes
later , it was settled down in the nest , possibly already on eggs . Whilst near the waterfall , I noticed a Little Grebe searching for food , close to the bank to my left , and after a few dives , it came up with
quite a sizable fish , which it tried for ages to consume , but to be honest , I'm not sure if it managed
it . The next time I saw it , it swam quite close across in front of me , heading for an overhanging conifer , and started diving again , and again coming up with a fish , a smaller specimen this time ,
and after thrashing it about on the surface for a while , managed to get this one down . It was deja vu in the stream below the waterfall , with the , or another Cormorant on the same log , but this time
sporting it's white breeding patch . It was also in this area where I found the only non BHGull of the day , when I came across a Lesser Black-backed specimen , which flew off immediately . Fewer Mandarins were seen today , but one particular male with attitude was running things on the other side of the stream , and was prepared to stand his ground to all comers , including the Geese and

Muscovy Ducks , and me for that matter . The only other interest found was plenty of flower buds on
the Yews , which should mean plenty of berries for next Winter , and a flock of 10 or so Redpoll that landed , calling nasally , in the tall trees near the play area as I made my way out of the park . On my way home , I had a quick look at some ponds that have just been de-silted , and it looks like a good job . In the same area , a Long Tailed Tit scolded me continuously . As I made my way back to the
car , the reason became apparent , when a second bird arrived with nesting materials , and dived into a nearby Yew . The day finished with a surprise , some sunshine , but it still remained cold .
Work day up on the Common tomorrow , checking on the Buzzard on the way . I passed it twice this week in miserable conditions , but it was still sat out on a fence post each time .

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Tuesday 18th. February 2013

A catch up on three days of Spring-like weather , once the sun got up and got rid of the overnight
frost .
On Sunday , I had a walk over the Common , in the hope of finding a Brimstone or Red Admiral , roused from it's hibernation by the warmth of the sun . But neither of those species were found , but
 two bumblebees were found , both I think Buff-tailed queens , one of them having collected a
group of hitchhikers during it's Winter slumber . Hopes for the coming Summer were raised with a
few Purple Hairstreak eggs being found on the buds of Oak , that will be the caterpillar's first meal . Back at home , the local Jackdaws were constant visitors to the feeders , and of an evening , large
numbers use the tall Limes trees in the road as a pre-roost .
After finishing a few chores this morning , I headed off to High Elms LNR , to see how Spring was progressing there . I had to search hard for one of the first flowers of the year , but finally found a few flower heads of Butterbur / Petasites hybridus , a member of the daisy family , emerging from the
ground . Apart from the leaves appearing after the flowers , the stamens and styles are found on separate plants . With lots of Hazels displaying lots of male catkins , it wasn't long before some of the female flowers were found , once pollinated , these will produce the Cobnuts . The pollen from the
male catkins can be seen on the left hand side of the twig . On my way back home , I find it very difficult not to stop at the horsefield where the juvenile Common Buzzard has taken up residence ,
and today was no different , especially with the light conditions , and as a bonus , the bird performed
very well too . But , eventually I had to tear myself away and head home , passing at least 25 Rooks in their chosen tree , and more on the ground in the surrounding area . As can be seen , some already
paired up , but no real sign of nest building yet .

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Saturday 16th. February 2013

With some reasonable weather forecasted , I decided on an away day on Friday . Dungeness was my ultimate destination , but with some nice clear sky , I detoured to Barming for another try for the Hawfinches . I arrived at 0800 , but was not the first on site , as a schoolboy , in full uniform and his dad , who was supposed to be taking the boy to school , were already scanning the trees . Later , 'Mr. Hawfinch' / Adam arrived , but he must have forgotten to let the birds out , as the boy had to go off to school without a sighting . Mind you , I did no better , but Adam had a brief sighting in the big Ash , but it few to the back of the churchyard and I couldn't relocate the bird . Adam left , and I gave it a while longer , before continuing my journey .
Heading over Walland Marsh , I was hoping to find some of the good numbers of the species that I have seen reported recently , but I didn't even see a Mute , never mind a Bewick . On arrival at the reserve , I decided to do the ARC pit first , but found very little from the viewing screen , so headed for the Hanson Hide . On the way around , a female Marsh Harrier drifted over the pit , and for once ,
the sun was behind me , and I managed to fire of several shots before it drifted effortlessly down to
 the far end . As I neared the Hanson Hide , I caught up with a group of birders that were just entering , so I knew I would not be able to sit at 'Ken's seat' , and finished up right at the far end . To be honest , there wasn't much to see from there either and what there was , was at a great distance .
Two pairs of Goldeneye , the males displaying to the females was nice , after missing out at New Hythe , and even further away was one drake and a harem of redhead Smew . Apart from the expected species , the only other interest was a calling , unseen , Water Rail , and 3/4 Marsh Harriers tumbling , high above the tower opposite . Crossing onto the main reserve , I stopped at the feeders at Boulderwood Farm , which were devoid of birds , but the constant chattering of Sparrows could be
heard , and sure enough , some were the Tree variety . Three parked cars and lots of scopes said something of interest was in the fields to the right , about 100mtrs. along the track . I pulled over and stopped and one of the birders was good enough to point out 5 Bean Geese in his scope , a first of the species for me . It was very reminiscent of the Cranes at Sheppey , the geese were a long way
off and difficult to find by human eye . I took a few shots , and this was about as good as it got . They are the five birds across the middle of the shot . Not far away and mixing with the Canada Geese ,
were a few Barnacle Geese . Before moving on , I did see the first Swans of the visit , when a pair of
Mutes did a fly past . Also in the fields that side were large numbers of Lapwing and Curlew , together with a large flock of Golden Plover , which were a sight to behold when they lifted off
circled with the sunshine glinting on their undersides , when one of the many Marsh Harriers got too close . After that initial excitement , the track around the reserve was very quiet , as were the hides . At Dengemarsh Hide , I had just settled for a scan around , when the group from Hanson Hide arrived
with all their gear , time I was off . A Kestrel performed an aerial ballet overhead in a sky that was becoming more and more cloudy as I headed towards Hookers Pit . From the viewpoint , white blobs in the distance only turned out to be more Mute Swans , not Bewicks or the Great White Egret . As I passed the large reedbed beyond Hooker's , a whirr of light brown lifted out of the similar coloured reeds , and crash landed again 10 metres away . By the time I got the camera on the bird , the Bittern
was disappearing back into the reeds as this blurred shot shows . A bit further on , another blob of white in the far distance did prove to be the elusive GWE . By now I was almost back where I saw the Been Geese again , and had the walk back along the main track to the car park . There , a quick look at the feeders showed that they were dominated by Chaffinch , Great Tit and Moorhen , but I did get a very brief , rear end , view of a Crest , but couldn't determine whether it was Gold or Fire . I decided to head for the fishing boats to see if I could catch up with the resident Glaucous Gull , but as I approached that point on the track again , a much closer white image appeared from behind a
reedbed , the elusive GWE , for once showing well at last . On the way to the fishing boats , I stopped briefly at the far end of the ARC pit , a point where I have been lucky in the past with drake Smew ,
but it seemed that the Shoveler convention was on , with really good numbers of the species , but not a sign of my hoped for target . When I reached the fishing boats , the tide was fully in , and all the Gulls were roosting in groups on the shingle between the ridge and the road , and were impossible to approach any closer than 100 mtrs. without them all taking off , so the Glaucous Gull could well have
been in one of these groups , who knows ? A look around the lighthouses didn't produce anything , nor did Long Pit , so I decided to call it a day . I decided to return via Camber and the A21 , so a slow drive down Dengemarsh Road on the way produced yet another female Marsh Harrier , but also the
first lamb of this year that I have seen . The pits along the road from Lydd to Camber were very quiet , but with the impending gloom of early evening , I didn't hang around too long .

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Thursday 14th. February 2013

Didn't think I would be posting today , but , just before I set off for the work day up on the Common , I spotted a report of a small flock of Waxwings , on a main road , just about a mile from home . It was too late to see if they were still there before going out , so had to leave things till I finished up on the Common . Then , it was a quick change and off again , with camera and binoculars . No sign of any birds as I arrived , so pulled up a side street and parked up . Walking back to the busy main road ,
and right next to a bus stop , the flock of 20ish Waxwings , some of them pictured , flew in and settled in a Silver Birch in the adjacent front garden . After a session of trilling , they performed the usual 'smash and grab' raids on the Cotoneaser berries and Rose hips in the gardens below . The weather was very variable whilst I was watching them , dull overcast one minute , then a sunny gap and included a rain shower or two . But a most enjoyable time was spent with the camera working overtime . Below are a few of the many shots taken .

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Wednesday 13th. February 2013

Firstly , a catch up on yesterday , when I with other SHG members , went to help prepare a hedge that could only be described as 'out of control' , that will be the last hedge to be layed this season , just off the Hogsback at Tongham , Surrey . Just before reaching the site , I came across another worming Common Buzzard that flew up onto a fence post as I slowed down . Needless to say , as I tried to reach for the camera , it flew off , with it's worm still dangling from it's bill . I replaced the camera and was about to pull away , when a Weasel ran across the entrance drive of the adjacent house . I carried on to the hedge wondering if my plan to try for the Great Grey Shrike that has been wintering on Thursley Common , if the work was finished in time of course , was worthwhile . That happened shortly after 1300 , and although the weather was dull with the odd snowflake , I decided to go for it , arriving at the Moat car park some 20 minutes later . Heading out across the Common , it was a case of trying to keep the feet dry as most tarcks were flooded , so unlike the dry sandy ones during the Summer when the dragonflies are about . At one time I had to turn around and find a different way as I just couldn't get through the flood . Eventually I managed to get to the area that the Shrike had been seen in and spent nearly two hours searching , to no avail . In fact I saw very little in those two hours , just four birds and another two when I got back to the car park . The light level had been dropping all through the time on site , so if the Shrike had appeared , I probably wouldn't have been able to get a shot of it anyway , but it would have been nice to have got a sighting , perhaps next time .
This morning my first stop was at the horse field , and in poor conditions again , found the juvenile Common Buzzard still working hard for it's worms . I took a few shots , the one I liked best was as it
returned to one of the fence post after wrestling with it's last meal , just a shame it was in sunshine . From there I headed for Kelsey Park in Beckenham , finding it much colder there , with a chilly wind blowing through the park . The first side of the lake didn't produce much more than a
BHGull that was already living up to it's name , the remainder of the species still sporting their spots . As I passed the heronry , at least two bird could be seen tucked down in their nests . Beyond the waterfall , the waterbirds looked hungry , approaching every person who passed by , and this Carrion
Crow , normally very timid , didn't fly off on my approach , just standing it's ground and calling . Not
everyone was interested in food though , as I passed this Cormorant , I'm sure I heard the odd snore . Heading back on the other side of the lake , at least another two nests had birds snuggled down , and
there were probably more that I could not see . I had been on the lookout for the Blue-crowned Parakeets on my way around , but only the more numerous RRParakeets were seen , may of which were in pairs , looking for potential nest holes . This pair of Jackdaws had the same intention , but
with several pairs of Parakeets looking in the same London Plane tree , they might well have a fight on their hands for possesion . On the lawn near the bridge at the start of the lake , an old friend 'Angel
wings' seems to have made it through another year , the affliction being caused by being fed white bread , and now unable to fly . A rather drab visit , but made more colourful by three Mandarins in
The Beck , where it enters the park .
Work day up on the local Common tomorrow , weather permitting .

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Sunday 10th. February 2013

With foul weather today , the only good thing is that it gives a chance to catch up with the last few days . After seeing a drake Goldeneye reported from New Hythe , the work day up on the Common meant that I could not get down there on Thursday , but read later that evening that Phil had seen the bird in the morning , so I set off Friday morning to try and find it . It was a nice bright morning , ideal for photography , all that was missing was the Goldeneye . The best sighting on Little Alders lake was a Little Egret , but it was no compensation for the target , which must have departed sometime Thursday . The large Alders lake was busy with the usual Coots and two floats of Geese , one of Canadas the other Greylags . Both left , noisily , whilst I was there . Another sign of Spring was
found with the head plumage of the Cormorants having turned silver/grey . A check of the stream along Lunford Lane didn't turn up any surprises , but at the bend by the entrance to the lakes , a Song
Thrush was filling the surrounding area with song . I decided to have a look around the other lakes , to see if the Goldeneye had moved onto one of them . Nothing much was seen until I got to the high viewpoint above Abbeymead , when whilst scanning the surface , two small ducks flew in and landed two thirds of the way down towards the paper works , and I could just make out that they were
redhead Smew , as can be just seen on this distant record shot of the pair . Even the river was against me on the visit , with it being as high as I have ever seen it , filling the inlet by the 'Bucket Wood' . A couple of Bullfinches were heard but not seen , and at the heronry several birds were noisily
discussing squatter's rights from the sound of it , whilst doing their pterodactyl impersonation . Alongside the millstream , four Long-tailed Tits were foraging in the vegetation on the bank , and
carried on , seemingly oblivious to my presence . I was hoping to find some Siskins in the many Alder trees on site , but only had one small flock fly over near the Diver's Bridge . With no other interest found , I decided that as I was so close , I would give the churchyard at Barming another try for the Hawfinch , but it was not a good sign to find another birder packing up , having spent nearly two hours on site without a sighting . I still decided to give it a try , and having spent about the same period of time , finished up with the same result . The question ' has Adam put them back in the box for another year '? came to mind . But , not only were the Hawfinches missing , there was very little
of any species seen , but at least this Wren that I watched fossicking amongst the grave stones put on a good show . On the way home , and just as the cloud was rolling in , I stopped briefly at the horse
field , and for once found the juvenile Common Buzzard  perched on one of the closer fence posts . It wasn't long before it flew off towards the woodland , but as it did so , I managed to get a few flight
shots against the sky rather than against the ground . Yesterday's hedglaying took place in almost constant sleet and drizzle , and by the time we were leaving the site , the track was beginning to resemble the Somme . Several birders passed by whilst we were there , some hoping to find the Pallas's Warbler that had been around recently , but none had seen it by the time we left . Apparently there were good numbers of Goosander , many already paired up on the more distant pits according to the birders , and a Barn Owl was seen hunting not far away from the hedge , but nobody told me until after it moved on .
And finally , an update on the Barming Hawfinches , I see that on the KOS site , Adam had two birds mid afternoon yesterday , so they haven't been put away yet .