Monday, 30 September 2013

Monday 30th. September 2013

Carol was having an old friend over for lunch today , so decided to head off and leave them to it .  The best of the weather was forecast for the North Kent coast , so decided to see if I could do better with the Spotted Crake than on my last visit , which wasn't to be too difficult , given that I dipped on that trip . Got down to Oare about 0900 , and found three birders already in position alongside the ditch behind the East Hide . The Crake had been seen earlier in flight , but hadn't been seen for over an hour . The good weather turned out to be a pain , as with the sun out behind the ditch , any sightings would have the Crake in between the camera and the sun , in the shadows of the reedbeds . It was deja vous for the first hour , with the four of us squinting into the sun , but finding nothing , until one birder spotted the bird in the corner , alongside the path to the hide , but I could not find the bird , and was frustrated with cameras firing off around me . I thought my chance had gone , but a short time later , it appeared some 15 metres away on the edge of the reedbed that was almost like
night , and started to preen . I could see the bird , but found it very difficult to get the right settings for the situation . For the next hour and a half , the bird led the four of us a merry chase , appearing
suddenly in one spot , disappearing as quickly as it appeared , only to reappear some distance away , but always managing to get vegetation between itself and the camera . Most infuriating being when it made it's way under cover with tantalising views , to the end of a reedbed , with all cameras trained on the spot where it would break into the open , only to turn around and disappear again . Not once
did it show well in the open , but did appear to swim a couple of times in the shallow water . After the ninety minutes it was not seen for some time , so most took advantage to stretch the legs and grab some lunch . I did likewise , doing a circuit via the sluice and the Sea Wall Hide . Apart from the
BTGodwits , Golden Plover and other waders on the flood , there wasn't much else about . I heard a few 'pings' in the phragmites , but never saw a Bearded Tit , but several Reed Buntings were seen
alongside Faversham Creek . No sign of the Water Rail alongside the road this time , but a Little Egret , possibly the one I photographed on the bridge last visit , was feeding in the bridge area , and
seemingly doing very well too . Plenty of Lapwing and Teal from the road , a single Spotted
Redshank at a distance and a few Ruff , two pictured . After a bit of lunch , I headed back to the East Hide area , hoping for better views of the Crake . From what I could make out it hadn't been seen since the last sighting I had , and things appeared very quiet in the ditch . Even the return of the other two original birders didn't manage to rustle up a sighting , but a while later , the Crake was relocated some 20 metres down the ditch towards the sluice , and the birders , now numbering about ten , decamped along the path , just past the seat , where , over the next 25/30 minutes , the Crake showed better than anyone could have hoped for , with the sun behind the camera , and the bird feeding and preening and sunning itself , with short spells disappearing into the reeds , but always returning to get the cameras snapping again . During that time , I managed to take over 500 shots , some ruined by swaying vegetation , but many to keep to remember that magical time . I'll close with just 4 from that number .

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Sunday 22nd. September 2013

Hardly been out over the last two and a half weeks due to contracting a very debilitating ecoli / urinary / bladder infection combined with a fever , whilst working out in the woods , which had me staying very close to the toilet and probably the most excruciating pain I have every experienced . Thankfully , antibiotics finally got to work , and apart from feeling totally knackered , even when just sitting about , things seem to be heading in the right direction again now .
For a bit of fresh air , I had a visit to Sevenoaks Reserve mid week , and on Friday visited Oare Marshes . I made my way straight to the ditch at the back of the East Hide hoping to see the Spotted Crake which has taken up residency there , but the single birder there had not seen it in the previous hour and my wait proved just as fruitless . The only thing I did see was a distant Grey Heron way out
on the flood , trying to get down it's breakfast of Eel or Grass Snake . The object at the end of it's bill was a rock in the water beyond . Heading off on a circuit of the flood , the most noticeable thing was
the large number of Golden Plover at roost , but every now and again , all taking off and circling several times before landing back down to continue their constant calling . The shot above was just a small part of the total which must have numbered 1000+ . Many of the males were still showing the
remains of their breeding plumage , but could have done with some sunshine to show it off better . As high tide approached , more waders came in to roost , including a small flock of Avocet , but they roosted well out on the flood with most of the Black-tailed Godwit , but a few of these did come
closer to the road . As I walked towards the car park , I passed a birder clicking constantly at something on the far side of the roadside ditch . As I passed him I couldn't see anything because of the high vegetation , so doubled back to where he stood , which turned out to be the only spot that a
preening Water Rail could be seen . I carefully managed to find a small space , and the water \Rail carried on preening as if we weren't there , and took no notice of the clicking either . Once it was
finished , it made it's way down the reeds , across a more open area , then disappeared into another
large area of reeds , not to be seen again . Once again some sunshine would have improved the images , but beggars can't be choosers . I thanked the other birder for spotting the bird and letting me
get into his space to get the shots . The high tide also brought a few Ruff in to feed in the shallows ,
unfortunately none were males with left over breeding plumage like the Golden Plover . I was waiting to see if one of the Ruff would wade under the small bridge , and was surprised when this
Little Egret hopped up , it must have been feeding just on the other side , out of sight . Just a single Yellow Wagtail hurried through , and a single Marsh Harrier was seen hunting along Faversham Creek . I didn't find the Curlew Sandpiper , but without a scope , I didn't have much chance . A single
small wader turned out to be a Dunlin , not the Little Stint that has been seen there . I heard at least two Cettis Warbler on the circuits , one close to the East Hide where I made two more stops to look for the Spotted Crake . Both times I was told that it had showed , in the periods when I was away , once a brief view as it scampered through the reeds , but the other time it was photographed in the open . Trouble is , I'm not good at standing and waiting , I'd sooner be on the move , even though I
might miss things . Heading back to the car , with the sun now out , the Lapwing were coming in for their evening wash and brush up . Some small consolation for dipping the Spotted Crake , were three
'spotted' Moorhen juveniles , one pictured .
Went hedgelaying yesterday , having missed the first outing a fortnight ago . Felt as if I had just finished a session before I started , I think this thing is going to drag on for some time , unfortunately .

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Wednesday 4th. September 2013

A catch up on outings during the last few days , which included meeting Warren /  Pittswood Birds , in Willow Hide at Sevenoaks Reserve , both of us after Kingfisher shots . I also had the pleasure of meeting his long suffering wife , like Carol , I don't know how they put up with us , never in . Warren and I had a good catch up , in between visits from the Kingfisher . Also performing in front of the
hide was a Little Egret that was definitely on something , a Grey Heron that couldn't work out what
 all the chasing about was in aid of , and a Mute Swan that made quite a performance out of a wash
and brush up . I never did get the 'fish in beak' shot that I was hoping for , but got a few more of the Kingfisher trying . A look up on the Common found things very quiet , the only interest found was a
Buff Tip Moth caterpillar , looking fully grown and very smart . Back home , whilst having a cup of tea in the garden with Carol , we watched a Buff-tailed Bumblebee fly straight into a large spider web . From nowhere , a large spider scampered down the web , and within seconds , the Bumblebee
was wrapped up in silk and unable to move . The spider , which I think is a Garden Spider / Araneus diadematus , then attached a silk to the prey , and hauled it behind , up into the cover of the hedge . The High Elms butterfly transect over the weekend produced 12 species with dwindling numbers all round . On Tuesday I made another attempt at the 'fish in beak' shot , in cloudier conditions than before . I did manage to get a couple of shots , only problem being , the Kingfisher having dived front
on , but returned to the stick , back on , great , still a work in progress . When sunny and nothing happening outside the hide , I spent some time down at the meadow at the end of Long Lake , where
several male Migrant Hawkers were on the wing , but with cloud cover , the occasional specimen did
pose on the bankside vegetation . A female did emerge from the vegetation , but was immediately set upon by the males and that was the last I saw of her . On the Lily leaves , a few male Small Red-eyed
Damselflies were loafing , no doubt waiting for females to arrive at the water . The most interesting ting found on the visit was a very late brood of Great Crested Grebes . A female was some way out
on East Lake with four youngsters , one of which was being carried on her back , whilst the male was
trying and succeeding , to find food for his young family . The light was all wrong , as it often is on this lake , but have included the shots anyway . Today I did the Down House bird survey , finishing up with a reasonable , for the site , count of 22 species , but nothing out of the ordinary . With the 3 meadows having been cut recently , butterfly numbers were well down , with just 24 specimens of 6 species recorded . But , in the walled vegetable garden , the stripped leaves of some Horseradish
plants revealed a minimum of 50 Large White caterpillars , some fully grown like the one above , but
the majority in earlier stages of their development . The surviving caterpillars will pupate , spend the Winter as chrysalis , and emerge as adults next May/June . A very quick stop at the House Martins under the eaves at the farmhouse , found adults still feeding young at the nests . They'd better get a move on , but could be third brood . A look in at Hutchinsons Bank before
lunch found just two Clouded Yellow males fighting over ownership of the Cutting , along with two more amenable Small Tortioseshell and a good number of Common Blue . In the Rosebay Willowherb I found another two Elephant Hawkmoth caterpillars . Both were brown , I was really hoping to find an earlier instar of the species , which is green , but I think I'm too late this year .