Saturday, 29 November 2014

Saturday 29th. November 2014

Having read of the good array of species found by Warren / Pittswood Birds on his visit to Bough Beech , I made the journey yesterday morning , hoping that the grey skies would clear mid morning . Needless to say , it took till midday for the first signs of clearing . When I pulled up on the causeway in the gloom with the place to myself , I looked first at the North Lake and found a single Moorhen . I thought that Warren's Common Buzzard was around , but it turned out to be someone in the woods behind , shouting at the top of his voice to control his dog , that must have driven any bird in the vicinity to the other end of the main reservoir . Whilst scanning it , a male Goosander came into
view , and eventually came closer , only to be scared off by the odd passing vehicle . It was joined a
bit later by a redhead , female / juvenile , but never came into the frame together , until a tractor and
trailer thundered by , when the pair turned and headed off towards the dam . As they headed off , another visitor appeared from behind the Willows , in the channel down from the Oast house , a Great
White Egret , and at the same time a Fieldfare called and flew off , the only winter Thrush seen or heard during the visit . Another look over the North Lake found two Common Snipe , well tucked
into the bankside vegetation , and a Little Egret which flew in and perched on the scaffold pole on the culvert . A Kingfisher also briefly alighted later on this pole and was also seen in the stream that enters into the North Lake and also flying parallel to the causeway on the main reservoir . The male Goosander , or another , was seen in flight a couple of times , also a pair of Jays looking for a meal
amongst the vegetation on the concrete apron of the reservoir . On another scan , the male Goosander
was found on the left point with Wigeon , Tufted Duck , Gadwall and Shoveler and other of the more common waterfowl , and it looked like it was siesta time . With things quieting down , I decided to move on to the small reserve with feeders in the woods in the hope of finding some Siskins . On arrival , John , one of the 'main men' of the reserve , was already parked up , and with no sign of him at the hide , sure enough , I found him at the feeders with the same idea , but he had been on site for some time and although hearing Siskin , none had come to the feeders , but plenty of other species were . During my time there , the most common visitors were the Marsh Tits , impossible to be sure
of total number , but good to see . Blue , Coal and Great Tits were also present , along with Nuthatch
and Great Spotted Woodpecker , but the latter stayed high in the surrounding trees . Surprisingly , I didn't see a single Finch on the feeders , overhead a Common Buzzard passed calling , and a
Kingfisher called as it flew through . Whilst we were watching , we were being watched too .
Attracted by any spilt seeds , Bank Voles could be heard rustling amongst the fallen leaves , and
occasionally rushing out to collect a tasty morsel , before scampering back into cover . Another unanswered question regarding Marsh Tits , how many seeds can they carry at once , failed to get a
definitive answer too .

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Wednesday 26th. November 2014

Recent outings locally have not been very productive , but put together in one post hopefully are of interest . Starting with a sunny stop at Keston Ponds two weeks ago , finding Common Darters still
ovipositing , although well into November . As usual at this time of year , with other species becoming harder to find , fungi comes to the fore . I haven't been able to visit many of my favourite haunts , thus missing out on several of the rarer species , but on local walks , the following were found ;
Coral Spot Fungus / Nectria cinnabarina , found on dead wood , especially Sycamore ,
Clouded Agaric / Clitocybe nebularis , often found in rings around trees ,
Clavariadelphus junceus , a very easy to miss specimen , found in just one small area on West Wickham Common ,
Deceiver / Laccaria laccata , so called as it is very variable in appearance ,
and from the same family , Amethist deceiver / Laccaria amethystea , a common species , but also easily overlooked amongst the leaf litter ,
looking like a potatoe , Common Earth-ball / Sleroderma citrinum ,
4 Earth stars / Geastrum triplex ,
a nice stand of the chunky form of Honey Fungus / Armillaria mellea . As suggested , a slender form can also be found ,
and finally , the well named Hoof or Tinder Fungus / Fomes fomentarius . At the bottom of the shot , a hole drilled by a GSWoodpecker earlier in the year , but for some reason it wasn't used as a nest site . Recently , the light has been so bad , sadly as a female GSW has been a regular visitor to the
feeders . On this visit , she got into a squabble with a RRParakeet , but after a short spat , she left ,
leaving the RRP to gorge itself on the sunflower seeds . If , the light improves , I'll try and get better shots , along with the male Blackcap which Carol spotted feeding on the Callicarpa berries over the last couple of days . I did manage a visit to Sevenoaks Reserve last Monday but it didn't turn out particularly exciting . Not a sight or sound of a Siskin or Redpoll , lots of Common Snipe , way out on the furthest islands , 4 Mistle Thrush and a Green Woodpecker from Tyler Hide , a shout for a
White Wagtail posing outside Sutton Hide , a pair of Wigeon on the island from Willow Hide ,
and a reflective male Shoveler , making sure everything was in its place just out from the hide . I was hoping to get out today , but the weather put a stop to that idea from the start with drizzle and mist from daybreak and getting worse after lunch . So this morning I started sorting out this post , only to be called by Carol to what she thought originally to be a spill on the road , until it moved . I should add that Carol didn't have her glasses on . Anyway , I grabbed the camera and headed for the front bedroom to find a Sparrowhawk plucking a Collared Dove directly opposite . It was well in the road , about level with the offside of a parked car . I got a couple of shots through the window , then carefully open one . I got a few more shots before I heard a car approaching up the road , which must
have passed within 1/2 metres of the bird . After it passed , the bird surprisingly , was still there .
Shortly afterwards , it or another came down the road slowly and stopped alongside . It was only when the passenger got out that the Sprawk flew off with it's meal into a front garden , to be disturbed twice by passers by , before flying off again and out of sight . The light was appalling , but fortunately the F2.8 lens was on the camera and a few reasonable shots , in the conditions , were obtained . From what I can make out , it looks like a juvenile female , which probably explains how it nearly got run over . We heard youngsters calling for food from adults in the late Summer , from the local woods , so could well have been one of them .

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Wednesday 19th. November 2014

With the promise of some November sunshine along the south coast yesterday , I made an early start and arrived at RSPB Dungeness just before 0830 . I had the ARC car park to myself , along with Hanson Hide , where I settled into 'Ken's Corner' , to see what was about . Opening the two corner flaps , my hopes were dashed as the closest birds were on the almost flooded Cormorant island . A half hour wait only produced 3 Coot emerging from the right hand reedbed and a Cetti's Warbler bursting into a single burst of song . Deciding to return later , it was back to the car and down the track across the road to the Visitor Centre , noting no Tree Sparrows on the feeders at the entrance . The odd gull and Cormorant passing overhead was all that was noted before reaching the car park , where once again , I was the only one there . A look around Denis's Hide found a few birds including
at least 2 Goldcrest and 2 Tree Sparrow , one pictured , feeding with a mixed Tit flock amongst the vegetation . A look from the hide was almost identical to that from Hanson Hide , a few waterfowl around and beyond the islands . Birds were in short supply , but large flying , probably biting insects were not . With little wind , the place was swarming with them , shame the Summer visitors had gone , they would have got well stocked up for their journeys . With the VC still shut , I made my
way along the hides alongside Burroughs , finding a few Shoveler outside Firth Hide and at least 4 Gt. White Egret along the far bank . Makepiece Hide was very similar , apart from a single GWE that flew immediately from the island in front , to join the others . There were more birds from Scott
Hide , but again very distant , but included a Black-necked Grebe . Constantly diving , it was feeding along the right hand bank , and although I waited hoping it would move closer , it stayed in the same area . Moving on towards Dengemarsh Hide , just Dunnock and Robin were seen , and on the first flooded hayfield , a flock of Greylag Goose took off noisily as I approached . Arriving at the track to Hookers Pits , I could hear cattle beyond the viewing mound and headed in that direction , hoping that one of the Cattle Egrets might be with them , but when I arrived at the viewing mound I found the cattle being herded from one field to another , and was informed by a birder on the mound that the Cattle Egrets had flown off when the herding started , the story of my life . It wasn't all bad though , as whilst there we had a Bittern in flight near Dengemarsh Road , a Kingfisher zip past in front and lots of Bearded Tits 'pinging' amongst the reeds , but none seen . 4 more birders arrived hoping to see the Cattle Egrets , they too disappointed with the news . 2 left , but the other two stayed on , and we
were treated to a couple of distant fly-byes by one of the visitors . As it worked out , if it had been with the cattle it probably wouldn't have been seen as only the heads of the cattle were in view behind the reedbed . A Grey Heron and Little Egret completed the set of 5 on view . I decided to retrace my steps back towards Scott Hide , hearing several more Cetti's and seeing 2 of only 4 Marsh Harriers
seen on the visit , hunting the ditches and reedbeds . As I neared Scott Hide , probably the rarest sighting of the day , Phil / Sharp by Nature , doing the circuit in the opposite direction . After a catch up and comparison of sightings , we carried on our own ways . With the promised sunshine starting to show , the view from the hide was better too , with 7 GWEs now on show , five and a Little Egret

on the island out from Makepiece Hide and another two on the edge of the Cormorant roost Willows .
No sign of the BNG this time , but there were two drake Pintail , once again very distant . On the way back to the car , a 2nd. and 3rd. Water Rail was heard , but not seen . A few Pochard headed off at
speed from behind the Willows on the left , but one female stayed just long enough for one shot before joining the rest . A last look from alongside Denis's Hide for the Goosander which has been around failed , a fellow birder telling me that it was there a couple of minutes ago ... Hardly a bird seen heading back down the track , and even the 3 Sparrows seen on the feeders turned out to be the House variety . Heading for the sea , I followed a police car and intended to pull over and have a look at the end of the ARC pit , but just before that point the police car pulled over behind a car parked on the road , the occupants , young birders , over the fence of the new diggings with scopes and tripods . Looking back as I continued , the police seemed to be moving them , and more particulary their car , from it's dangerous position on a fast narrow road . At the power station I had a look for Black Redstart without any luck , but there was very little bird movement at all , so I headed back to the ARC car park , where , again , I found that I was the only one there . No trouble reclaiming 'Ken's Corner' and at least there were more birds around , starting with a redhead Smew , a small bird at a
great distance . Even further away from the hide , towards the far bank most of the time , at least 5 Goldeneye , soon followed by the 2 Slavonian Grebe , to the left of the Cormorant island . I had hoped to get both in one frame , but the only half
decent but distant shot was a singleton . The old saying goes 'lightning doesn't strike twice' , but it did today when a birder made his way down the dark hide and sat to my right . A while later the penny dropped , it was Phil again . The few birders that arrived started to leave and it was soon down to Phil and myself to close up and head home . Just before leaving the hide , 2 Marsh Harriers , one a fine
male ,started looking for their evening meal and everything took off , making it even more difficult to find any of the less common species . Heading up towards Ashford , and after being in sunshine , the sky became as black as night and then a heavy rain shower , lucky us . Other interest found on the
visit , remembering we are in the second half of November , Bramble in full flower and Evening
Primrose / Oenothera erythrosepala , a member of the Willowherb family , still in flower , and found along the track to Hanson Hide , and on the track alongside Hookers Pits , Viper's Bugloss / Echium
vulgare , a member of the Borage family also in flower .
And finally , on a look around the reserve with the feeders , hoping for a first Siskin of the year ,
found instead 3/4 Marsh Tits , 2 bearing rings , probably fledged from boxes on the site , amongst
other species . Just a shame the light was so bad .

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Sunday 2nd. November 2014

Today started really autumnal , with rain , wind and leaves starting to cover everywhere , a far cry from last Friday , when Summer was still around and I headed off to the Isle of Sheppey to make the most of it . Perfect conditions greeted me at Elmley NNR , just a shame that the birds didn't do the same . The entrance track was almost devoid of any sightings , apart from a distant Marsh Harrier , Corvid or flock of Starling . From the last cattle grid , past the wild seed crop which did produce a few Goldfinch , Reed Bunting and Linnet , and on a gate post the first time I reached for the camera
was for a Kestrel , still warming up in the sunshine . A movement way down the track beyond the
gate turned out to be the only Brown Hare seen during the visit . The car park held only a few House Sparrow and a pair of Pied Wagtail , and not even the LEOwls were seen in the orchard , though I learned later in the day that they had moved on earlier in the week , but at least 2 Red Admiral were still on the wing in the area . Disappointed , I made my way back down the track , finding the same or
another Kestrel in one of the of the only two bushes that are found , the area where the Stoat appeared last visit , but not this time . Another gate post provided a juvenile Common Buzzard , like the one
local last year , looking for a wormy breakfast , and sure enough , it did find a couple of 'tasty' morsels while I watched . As I moved on , I noticed a rabbit , sat within a few metres of where the
CB was perched . I can only think that the rabbit realised that , being a juvenile , it wasn't on the menu , yet . A couple of Grey Heron and a speeding Kingfisher along one of the ditches , a
motionless Common Snipe half hidden in the grass ,and I was back at the entrance again . My next stop was at Capel Fleet , where the road dog-legs left and looking right onto the Fleet , was
confronted by 200+ Coot , at a conservative estimate , some sort of convention I suppose , as no other waterfowl were seen at this end of the Fleet . A scan around found only Starlings along the wires , but just before moving on , was over-flown by a flock of c10 Bearded Tit , 'pinging' as they went . The raptor viewpoint failed to produce a single raptor , most unusual , but a look at the reedbed below the mound did produce a very vocal Cetti's Warbler that never showed a feather , a couple of Reed Buntings and a return of the 'pinging' , just three birds this time . They dropped into the Phragmites and disappeared and with the reedbed swaying in the wind , were difficult to follow . But eventually ,
a single male showed briefly enough to fire off a few shots , before the 'pinging' moved further away as they moved further along the ditch . Whist there , 2 Red Admiral , one Clouded Yellow and a Small Tortoiseshell were seen . The only other interest found was a small number of RLPartridge in the brassica crop as I made my way back and on to Leysdown , where I found the tide as far out as I think I have ever seen it . A reminder to check the tide tables in future . The only species still on the beach were a few common Gulls and a small flock of Redshank , down by the first houses on the way to Shellness . A scan over the grazing marshes inland failed to find the hoped for SEOwl , or anything else to be honest , but three Clouded Yellows along the seawall were nice to find . A look around the area surrounding Muswell Manor failed to turn anything up , so I decided to retrace my steps and return to the raptor viewpoint , in the hope of finding some more Bearded Tits . The car park was much busier than before , one being Graham , a fellow visitor to Sevenoaks Reserve , who had also come for the Bearded Tits , having read that 100+ were seen down on the ground , 'taking grit' from the track around the outside of the car park , the same as described on Autumnwatch this week . That must have been a sight to behold . As Graham and I caught up , another arrival turned out to be Terry , another enthusiast I meet on occasions at SR . With more eyes and ears searching , we were hopeful to pick up the BTs , but the only sightings were of a pair of Stonechat , the male showing
well on the top of the swaying Phragmites , but the female keeping further back in the reedbed , until
she flew forward and landed on the post and rail fence of the car park . A few Marsh Harriers were sighted in the distance , some frustratingly flying directly along the ditch towards the viewpoint , then veering off or turning back on themselves before getting into range . Just one juvenile came within a
reasonable distance , be it too veered off . Another raptor sighting , way over towards Muswell Manor , and seen through the swaying reedbed , turned out to be the best sighting of the day , when the white rump of a Ring-tailed Harrier was seen , flying in .a line from Shellness to Minster . I tried to get a shot , but the distance and the swaying reedbed didn't allow the AF to do it's work , and all I
finished up with was a blurry image , but it did show the white ring-tail . Whilst waiting and watching , something disturbed the Marsh Frogs , as the chorus started one end of the reedbed and slowly progressed for right to left , before petering out again . Our wait was rewarded with a single
male  BT 'pinging' and landing low down briefly in the reedbed to the left , giving little opportunity to
view never mind photograph , but a couple of images were managed . He didn't hang around though , moving further down the ditch to the right . The Stonechats continued to entertain , appearing and disappearing at will . At one point , two landed on a gate behind the reedbed and I fired off a few
shots . It wasn't until I processed those shots on the computer that one turned out to be a Whinchat . Before leaving , we had some good distant views of a pair of Kestrel playing tag on the large pile of straw bales beyond the mound . Another Red Admiral and Clouded Yellow completed an enjoyable visit in good company and in exceptional weather .
And finally , a couple of sightings from the garden . Whilst helping Carol with the Autumn clear-up , two moths were disturbed , photographed on the Callicarpa berries which will hopefully attract Blackcaps when fully ripe , and returned to where found . They turned out to be The Herald , a
species that over-winters as an adult and is one of the last species seen in the year as well as being one of the first seen , and a scruffy RRParakeet that was gorging on Laburnum seeds in my
neighbour's garden .