Thursday, 11 December 2014

Thursday 11th. December 2014

With reports of a 'weather bomb' hitting at the end of the week , I had an away day in East Kent yesterday with two species in mind . The drive down the M20 into a low Winter sun at times could only be described as perilous , especially in the Maidstone area , but thankfully all went well . My first stop was at Chilham , between Ashford and Canterbury , where a Great Grey Shrike had been showing well over the last week or so . On arrival at it's preferred hunting ground , not a single vehicle or person was present , and my first thought were that the bird had moved on , but as I approached the community car park , a small white spot in a hedge turned out to be my target . Parking up and getting my gear , I went back to the spot , and found that the bird had moved . A walk
down the lane to a small bridge , re-found the Shrike , on top of a bush alongside the small stream , still attempting to warm up in the slowly rising sun . A look down at the back of the camera to check the last shot , a look back at the bush , and the bird had gone again . Having warmed up , it was now in feeding mode , and using the long hedge at right angles to the lane to look for it's breakfast , often disappearing into the hedge at one spot , then reappearing several metres away , but never out of sight for more than a minute or so . At one point it flew and perched on the wires running parallel to the road , but by the time I moved to the spot , it had frustratingly moved back to the hedge line . After an hour or so , three other birders arrived and as they came down the lane towards the bridge , the Shrike
appeared from nowhere and landed on the wires almost in front of me , and at last I managed some reasonable shots . Before they could get to the bird , it flew over my head and proceeded to take it's morning ablutions in the stream , under an overhanging Hawthorn , before hopping onto the tree to
preen . Another flight over our heads , a quick hover over the wires and it was back to it's favoured part of the distant hedge again . I gave it another 30 minutes , chatting with the other birders , but the Shrike seemed happy to just sit in the sun drying itself off , so I made my way back to the car and headed for my second stop , Reculver , which was a different story to the sheltered valley at Chilham . Plenty of sunshine in clear blue sky , but the wind and temperature were definitely not the same , probably the reason for so few cars on my arrival in the car park . No luck with Black Redstart on the boulders around the Towers , and with the tide at it's top , very few birds on the tideline apart from the odd Turnstone and Ringed Plover , but a passing birder said that my target , the Snow Bunting , were showing down by the new outfall , which was good news . Only trouble was , he didn't mention the two people collecting driftwood from the beach , about 200 metres in front of me .
A few Stonechat on the wall and the vegetation inside , but still little on the other side , until a couple
of 'gas guns' went off in the fields by the railway line , putting hundreds of Brent Goose into the air , some landing on the sea , but many just circling around and returning to where they were . By the
time I reached those on the sea , they too were lifting off and returning to the fields . Soon after , and
still alongside the end of the oyster farm , a movement on the shingle produced my first Snow
Buntings , a small flock of 8/10 , but very twitchy , often dropping over the shingle ridge and
reappearing 20 metres or so in front or behind , then on approaching the new position , repeating the move . From there to the new outfall , just before Coldharbour , I hardly saw a single bird , unsurprising , as I had now almost caught up with the driftwood collectors . Three birders had been at the outfall watching a small flock of Snow Buntings and having left them in situ , passed me and confirmed that were still there , but as I got there , so too did the two on the beach , and like the majority of the beach , there was nothing to see . I carried on to the far side of Coldharbour , without success , then retraced my steps back towards the Towers , seeing the driftwood collectors in front of me , but walking along the wall this time , but the damage had been done . With the tide on the turn , flocks of Ringed Plover were moving along the coastline but not stopping , and none of the boulder groins or those around the Towers produced the hoped for Black Redstart . Before heading home , I had a quick look over the Thanet Way at Marshside , an area I had hoped to visit for Willow Emerald Damselfly earlier in the year , but was thwarted by heavy traffic after being successful with the Lesser Emperor Dragonfly at New Hythe . A good look around with not many leaves on the trees will hopefully pay dividends on a trip next season . The trip home was as bad as the morning one , with the setting sun now being the problem , but fortunately the journey home was uneventful .


Warren Baker said...

Thats a lovely Shrike photo Greenie :-)

alan woodcock said...

Hi,very nice photo of the shrike,one of the best I have seen.

RogerT said...

Great Shrike photos.

Ken. said...

What a profitable day it turned out to be. The 2 places you planned to visit and the birds concerned made a appearance. Nice shots of the Chilham Shrike, and Reculver Snow Bunting.