Friday, 26 September 2014

Friday 26th. September 2014

Once again , the onset of cabin fever got me out on Thursday , onto the flat site of RSPB Rainham Marshes . Again , the weather didn't live up to forecast but even though windier and cloudier , at least it didn't rain . A quick look at the river , where the tide was on the way in , revealed two Seals , hauled out on the Kent side . As I walked down the ramp onto the reserve , there was an ominous lack of birds on the first pool , and almost every other one after that too . I took the anti-clock route , heading for the woodland area first , which turned out as quiet as the pools , but did produce a singing Chiffchaff . Once out of the woods and into the reedbeds , the first of many Cetti's Warbler was heard , but not one sighting , but in the early light Chicory / Cichorium intybus , a
member of the Daisy family , looked superb . As a Eurostar train sped by to Central London to my right , A Marsh Harrier was harassing the waterfowl in the centre of the reserve . Before reaching the top right corner , a pair of Stonechat perched on the fenceline , and immediately flew onto the adjacent island and disappeared . A chat with another birder who was doing the clockwise circuit , revealed that a few Bearded Tits were all that he had found so far . I wasn't able to offer much hope for the remainder of his circuit either . The view from the Butts Hide produced a Coot , Moorhen and a Little Egret and a lot of empty marshland . The Dragonfly Pool lived up to it's name with a few
Common Darter and Migrant Hawker on the wing and a few non-croaking Marsh Frogs . The top right hand corner failed to produce the Bearded Tits , but with the wind strengthening , they were probably keeping their heads down . At the turnstile to the river bank , a large flock of Goldfinch
were feeding on Teasel , that was until I got within camera range when just this one remained . Heading towards the Visitor Centre some excitement at last , when what I assumed was a Weasel dashed across the stone path , way ahead of me , and disappeared . I made up some of the distance then waited with the camera ready , hoping for a re-appearance , and for once it worked , only the Weasel had moved further down the track before re-emerging from the vegetation , negating any advantage I had gained . Then as I tried to focus , only the second person that I had seen came around
the corner , the Weasel sat upright for a split second and shot into the vegetation again . This was the moment the Weasel saw the other person , and although he froze when he saw it , the Weasel didn't . I did hang around for a while , but it didn't re-appear . The walk to the VC failed to produce any other interest , so I decided to turn around and have another look for the Weasel . As I turned a corner , about halfway back to the first sighting , it was my turn to come face to face with the little creature , but there was no sit up this time , just straight into cover . I backed off some 20 mtrs or so , tucked myself into some vegetation and waited . After half an hour or so , the only thing I got was strange looks from a couple of visitors . I gave up and headed for the Bearded Tit area , failing again to find them , but did have a Kingfisher fly across in front of me just before getting there . A Kestrel on the field behind the Butts Hide and a work party on one of the viewing platforms was as good as it got , until I reached a small bridge with a photographer aiming down in the ditch below . His subject was a

young Water Vole , totally unbothered by us , as it had a wash and brush up , before settling down to breakfast . Chatting between Water Vole sightings the other chap mentioned that he was there , hoping to see Willow Emerald Damselfly , a species both of us had read were on site , but neither of us knew exactly where . A while later , what proved to be the last WV sighting on the other side of the bridge , was followed by a 'possible' Emerald sighting further down the ditch , but it was then blown out of sight . A second more positive sighting was also lost in the swaying reeds , then somewhat of a lull . A very brief spell of sunshine produced a third sighting which was blown over the boardwalk and disappeared amongst the trackside vegetation . With no more sightings around the ditch , I crossed onto the track and almost immediately found two perched low on vegetation , only for them to fly off immediately , not to be re-found , most frustratingly .With thicker cloud moving in , we thought our chance was gone , until , by luck , one flew a short distance and landed a gain . Now we had a subject , but it was perched on vegetation that was being constantly moving in the wind . AF was impossible and on MF , the moving subject was a nightmare . To prove the point , when I got home between 50% and 75% of the shots taken went straight into the bin . Fortunately , a

few of the shots taken were usable , but given better conditions , I would like to get back and hopefully get some better ones , if not this year , then next , now that I know where they are to be
found . I was seen off the premises by this Grey Heron which only spotted me at the last second and took evasive action . I mentioned the lack of birds earlier , but on meeting a local during the visit , he informed me that 'you should have been here yesterday , it was brilliant' , the story of my life !

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Tuesday 23rd. September 2014

With the weather looking good , I made a snap decision yesterday morning to visit Oare Marshes , and hopefully find some waders . It was patchy mist on the way down , but by the time I arrived , that had cleared but there was a keen wind blowing . I had the place to myself and although there were a couple of hours before the top of the tide , there were good numbers of species on the flood . As usual in the morning , anything sighted from the track is almost in silhouette , but along the roadside ditch ,
a Little Grebe was in full shade . After parking up and walking to the top of the sea wall , the full effect of that wind could be felt , with the reedbeds swaying from side to side , but I was still able to hear a Cetti's Warbler calling and a bit further along , 5 Bearded Tits make a short flight , then dive back into the reeds again .The Swale was almost birdless , with just the odd gull like this Lesser
Black-backed , drifting effortlessly past . A small flock of Linnet was no compensation for the hoped for rarity before reaching the seawall hide and a sit on the leeward side . Much of Faversham Creek was lined with birds , but once again , looking into the light didn't make ID easy . A couple of Reed Buntings on the way to the corner of the flood near the sluice , then with the light behind , I was able
to look through the roost of birds . This was just one small area of that roost , but a couple of minutes
later , this happened , as a Marsh Harrier flew from the sluice to the car park , causing probably every bird on the site to take to the air . Fortunately , within minutes things settled down again , and I was
soon looking at several Ruff , one of which seemed to have an exceedingly long neck . In the gully leading from the sluice were several more , including a very light individual with a white collar and
several juveniles . I wandered if this might have been a male , and the white collar the Winter replacement for it's breeding plumes . Singletons of Turnstone , Common Sandpiper and Wigeon were also picked out amongst the gathered species . By the time I left the sluice area it was past midday , so I sarted back to the car for a drink and a sandwich . On the way down the East side of the flood , I checked the ditches for Penduline Tit and Spotted Crake , both species that have turned up around this time in previous years , but they did not this time , or much more than a few Starling and the odd Blue Tit . A work party was on the scrub area of the West flood , so there was no point having a look there , but at the pull in , several birders were watching a Little Stint , one of the species I was hoping to see . I decided to wait a bit longer to let the light come round into a better position before taking any shots . Back at the car and refreshed , a look from the top of the sea wall westwards towards Dan's Dock produced two Wheatear , but too distant for a shot , and more or the
same Bearded Tits were seen . Beyond the West flood , several Konic ponies were busy , keeping the ground vegetation in check . Another mass take off announced a high flying Hobby , but by the time I got back to the pull in area , all had settled down again , and soon managed a first shot of one of the
Little Stints , of which there proved to be at least 3 . Ringed Plover were well represented , with many
juveniles around . The same species provided a size comparison with the Little Stint , even joining

them in syncronied preening . Other species on the flood included ,
Dunlin ,
Black-tailed Godwit , in large numbers ,
Avocet , 1 of 6 seen ,
Golden Plover , some of which were still sporting Summer plumage ,
and Common Snipe . No sign of the juvenile Curlew Sandpipers that have been reported , but with so many birds on the flood , it was impossible to look though them all . My last shot of the Little Stints
was of two of them settling down for another power-nap , no doubt followed by another frantic feeding session . At least 25 Clouded Yellow butterflies were seen , with probably a lot more on site , as the work party said they had been seeing them all day too . Still lots of Common Darters and Migrant Hawkers on the wing too .
A short visit up on the Common over the weekend produced a female Small Copper , egg laying on
the species foodplant Common Sorrel / Rumex acetosa . She laid several eggs in the area before
moving on , and when she did so , I found two of them , looking like mini golf balls .

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Wednesday 17th. September 2014

A catch up on a few recent 'not far from the car' outings .
At Bough Beech Reservoir , 3 local birders were deep in discussion over the identity of this duck , mixing with the Teal on the North Lake . Balance of opinion seemed to be on a female Garganey . I must admit that I kept out of the way , especially when Cinnamon Teal was also mentioned .
A juvenile Tern gaining height over the causeway proved to be another problem for me , as I couldn't get a definite bill colour . At one angle it looked black and at another , not so .
I had hoped to capture two Mute Swan flying down the main reservoir , but a change of mind on
their behalf , had them landing back on the water , and not together as they were flying , wingtip to
wingtip , but splitting up and landing 15-20 metres apart .
100s of geese and other waterfowl , but with the level so low , all out of camera range , but these two Egyptians and a Little Egret posed together a bit nearer . No sign of the Wood Sandpiper and just one Green Sandpiper seen , right at the back of the North Lake .
Just before leaving , 4 Fallow Deer appeared behind the island on the North Lake , and 2 showed reasonably well , until they realised that they were being watched , and disappeared into the woods .
A look up on the Common didn't find much , but this pair of Robber-flies / Asilidae sp. , seemed to be enjoying the Autumnal sunshine ,
and heading back to the car , managed to just get one shot of the camera-shy Jay .
A walk down to Willow Hide at Sevenoaks Reserve found three Shoveler feeding out front ,
close by , a Cormorant , reflecting on life ,

and one of the Egyptian Geese got into a right flap .
I didn't make it down to the small meadow alongside Long Lake , but did find a pair of Migrant Hawkers 'in the ring' on my way back to the Visitor Centre .
A trip to the small reserve with the feeders in the wood , produced a sleepy Grass Snake which allowed a close up of his scales and opaque eye ,
and a flyover , very tatty Common Buzzard , calling continuously , in silhouette , as I was pointing directly into what small amount of light that was around at the time .

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Tuesday 9th. September 2014

Well , my outings have been somewhat curtailed , as I have sprung a hernia . My GP has referred me to the hospital , but am still waiting to hear from them . I am still getting out , but have to keep on the flat and not walk too far , which means that I have had to cancel the remaining transects at High Elms , which is where the whole thing came to the surface , so to speak . Annoying , as there were only five more to do for the season . I did manage the Down House bird survey , just , which produced 19 species , but nothing out of the ordinary , and two Roe Deer , but with all the meadows having been cut , much to the disgust of the chap who does the butterfly survey , they saw me as soon as I stepped into the field , and they disappeared into the woodland . A visit to the causeway at Bough Beech early one morning did produce a long distance shot in poor light , of the Wood Sandpiper that
seems to have taken up residence on the main reservoir . Shame about the rubbish in the foreground .
A trip to Hutchinsons Bank found an almost fully grown Elephant Hawk Moth caterpillar feeding on
Rose Bay Willowherb  , showing how the species gets the 'elephant' bit in it's common name . I only managed the bottom of the site , but butterfly numbers were few . A short walk up on the Greensand Ridge looking for young reptiles failed to produce proof of any successful  breeding , but one female
Adder was found , sunning herself . I'm reasonably sure it was one of the females I saw being mated back in the Spring . I also found a specimen of Hedgerow Cranesbill / Geranium pyrenaicum ,
looking very similar to it's more often found relation , Herb Robert / G.robertianum . I spent the weekend reading about the fantastic fall of migrants around the Dungeness area . Waking Monday morning , and with Carol having an old friend over for lunch , I decided to see if I could see some for myself , and arrived at the ARC car park just after 0800 . My initial feeling was that I had missed the boat , and that was how the day panned out . From Hanson Hide , just the common waterbirds , the drive along the entrance track was devoid of birds , not even the Tree Sparrows at the farmhouse , and in particular no sign of the Red-backed Shrike that was seen on the return track the previous afternoon . As I made my way from hide to hide , having a rest at each , I couldn't believe how few birds were on view , and it became obvious that overnight the migrants had made use of the cloudless sky covered in stars , and headed off . Even though I was disappointed , I hope they make it to their
wintering sites . The only shots I got were of a GBBGull in flight , and another , posing with a
juvenile Common , I hope , and a diminutive BHGull in the foreground . The only raptor seen was
this Sparrowhawk , which was soon sent on it's way by the local Magpie gang . A look around the
lighthouse and power station boundary fence , only found a couple of Wheatear , but better than nothing . I decided to have a last look from the screen at the ARC pit , and was pleased that I did , as ,
after a short wait , the Glossy Ibis showed itself distantly amongst the Lapwing , it's plumage reflecting it's name . At the same time , a Spoonbill was busily sleeping on the rocky Cormorant Island . Only other interest found was a first for me , if I have identified it correctly , a female Grey
Bush Cricket / Platycleis albopunctata , a coastal species . Today , I had a look up on the Common ,
finding a smart male Southern Hawker resting on Gorse , and one of three Beautiful Yellow
Underwing caterpillars found feeding on the Heather .