Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Wednesday 27th. November 2013

When I drew back the curtains this morning to a dank, drab day , I was pleased that I had chanced the weather yesterday , with an away-day to Dungeness , hoping for a sight of the elusive Black Kite that had been in the area . I drove down in cloud , but always in the distance was a bright band , and 10 miles before arriving , I was in bright sunshine which held throughout the day , albeit a tad on the chilly side . No sign of any Swans in the fields , never mind the hoped for wild species , nor any Winter Thrushes seen in the roadside bushes . Arriving at the ARC car park , I chose the hide rather than the screen because of the low Winter sun , and found I had it to myself , enabling me to sit in 'Ken's throne' in the corner , but when the flaps were opened , a raw wind blew straight in . Nothing was seen close in on the water , which was exceptionally high , but further out Cormorants filled the island to the right and just Coot , Wigeon , Mallard , Shoveler and Tufted Duck in small numbers drifted aimlessly about or dozed in the sunshine . That changed somewhat , when a
female Marsh Harrier drifted over from the left , one of several seen during the visit . Nearby , two Cetti's Warbler called to each other and two Grey Heron flew over the hide and landed left of the viewing screen on the far side , closely followed by two Little Egret . Shortly after , a Great White Egret emerged from the reedbed and worked it's way to where one GH and one LE had landed on the bank . The GWE was followed by the other LE , and provided a size comparison shot of the three
species . I think the Magpie was just a 'wannabe' . Without a wader , Goldeneye or Pintail in sight , never mind anything rarer , I made my way back to the car park , watched very carefully by a male
Chaffinch . Heading for the beach , I stopped briefly at the far end of the ARC pit , to find a large
flock of Gadwall , somewhere in the region of 75-100 , just part of the spread out flock seen here , and a few more Wigeon further out . I spent some time scanning the fields between the holiday camp and the airfield for the Black Kite , without success , probably as I read in the evening that it was reported flying out to sea at some point during the day . A look around the lighthouses area proved almost birdless , apart from the Gulls loafing on the shingle . I retraced my tracks and headed for the RSPB reserve , and in keeping with the sightings , found not a single Tree Sparrow around Boulderwood Farm , and the car park far from full . A quick scan from reception , then off around the track . A look in at Firth Hide found one photographer , seemingly concentrating on a Little Egret on the edge of an island just off to the left , but after a while , more white could be seen moving about further back in thicker vegetation , but never seemingly showing in the open , but from size had to be
another GWE . As we watched and waited , a large flock of Coot , part of flock here , way out on the water , seemed to be having a 'running on water race' , the cause being another Marsh Harrier passing
over . The MH's appearance also caused the GWE to show , as it lifted off , it must be said somewhat ungainly with that long neck and legs , flew around the small island a couple of times , then landed
back on the righthand side , in the open , and there it stayed as , now joined by a third photographer , we fired off streams of shots , to which it seemed oblivious . Moving on  just the expected wildfowl were seen from the other hides round to Christmas Dell , with very little else from the track , so a
small flock of Greylag Geese flying over at least gave something to point the camera at . As I approached Dengemarsh Hide , a MH came in from the right and what was on the water outside the hide took off in all directions , so when I entered , the hide was empty , matching the water in front .
Heading around to Hookers Pits , a couple of Linnet and another two calling Cetti's Warbler , but just Moorhen , Coot and Tufted Duck on the pits . Just a bit further along , something caught my eye low over the reedbed , and without realizing what , but thinking 'it could be' , quickly aimed the camera and fired off five shots , before it disappeared back into the reeds , as quickly as it appeared . It all happened so quickly I didn't have time to change settings , so it wasn't until I got home and
downloaded the shots and lightened them , that my hopes that it was a Bittern were confirmed . This was the first of the five shots , and as can be seen , the bird wasn't flying , it jumped up above the reedbed , flapped it's wings a few times , and crash landed about 10 metres further on . Given the circumstances , I was pleased to get anything from the encounter . In the same area 'pinging' of Bearded Tits were heard , but no sighting . As I made the right turn onto the smaller path back to the Visitor Centre , I disturbed a Staring that had been feeding on the orange Sea Buckthorn berries on
the left of the main track . The small track proved almost birdless , just a pair of Rook , fossicking on one of the grazed fields . A slow cruise from the car park to the entrance only produced a single male Stonechat and yet another MH , and the feeders at the farmhouse again failed to produce a Tree Sparrow . With the sun still shining , I decided on another look on the ARC site before heading home , heading up to the viewing screen first , finding just rabbits out enjoying the warmth of the sun , but found the area where the GWE,GH and LEs had been seen from the hide earlier , could not be seen from the screen , so headed back over to the hide , finding just two birders inside , neither on 'Ken's throne' , so settled in . Not much had changed , the other birders had been told of two female Smew being seen , but between us we didn't manage a sighting . It was about 1400 , still sunny , and what surprised me was that during the next half hour , 5 or 6 MHs drifted over the pit , each time putting up anything in the area , but I watched each and every one of them drop down into reedbeds around the pit and appear to go to roost , as in the following half hour before I left at 1500 , they hadn't moved . This female seemed very particular , flying around and perching several times , till she
settled in the reedbed directly out from my position . I looked for wild Geese on my way back , but failed to find any again , perhaps next time . The sun didn't last long as I ran into cloud cover before Maidstone , so felt lucky to have chosen the right area for today's trip .
Since my last post I have visited several local sites , but have found very little of interest to post , but
did find an unusual fungi on Keston Common , Auriscalpium vulgare / Ear-pick Fungus , which only grows on buried , decaying Pine cones , and on a visit to RSPB Rainham Marshes , 100s of Wigeon
and a male Kestrel hovering in a very strong breeze , but no sign of the Bewick Swans or Red Mergansers reported the previous day . A visit to Sevenoaks Reserve , found what looks like a
cross Greylag / Canada or Barnacle , but , even rarer , met Phil / Sharp by Nature , good to see you again Phil . And finally , we've had the first visits this Winter from the male Blackcap , feeding on the Callicarpa berries , which are plentiful this year , so hope he makes more visits .
Just looked out the window having finished this , and it's still a dank , drab day , really glad I went out yesterday .


Warren Baker said...

Seems although you saw plenty of decent birds Greenie, there are still many winter birds yet to arrive in any numbers, where have all those early winter thrushes gone ?

I like that bittern shot by the way, nice one :-)

Ken. said...

Nice posting. Sorry that you dipped out on the Black Kite.
You saw some good birds on your outings, finding the Bittern was nice one, quick off the mark with the camera there.
Always good to see a G/W/Egret, but even better to see them flying.
I am glad you posted a shot of the Gadwall, they are a very under rated bird,it isn't until they are seen in the right light they come into their own.
As for your trip to Sevenoaks, well you never know who might be lurking in the undergrowth, do you?
(if you read this Phil then it's a good job you have got a good sense of humour).

Alan Pavey said...

Great post Greenie, lots of stuff there, love the GWE shots, I didn't realise the Black Kite had headed off.

Phil said...

Good to meet up again Greenie and very well done with the Bittern!