Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Wednesday 17th. December 2014

With a return to wet and cloudy weather this morning . I was glad that I got out yesterday in much better conditions . I was torn between Sheppey and Dungeness , but although the Elmley Reserve would be closed , I decided to head for the former . Even though the reserve was closed , a slow drive along the track past the shooting club to the old bridge across the Swale was well worth while . A
flock of about 50 Fieldfare were gorging on the masses of well ripened hawes , and amongst them
was just a single Redwing . This was probably the largest number of Winter Thrushes that I have seen together this year , but they were very twitchy and impossible to get close to . Further along the track
were a couple of Curlew , and then , in the distance , a small bird of prey on a fence post , which turned out to be a female Merlin , confirmed as , as soon as I got two shots , she saw me and dropped
almost to the ground , and flew following every contour of the ground until I finally lost her from
sight . Almost at the end of the track , a Redshank posed willing for a few shots , but this Little Grebe allowed just one shot , before diving and not being seen again , no doubt coming up in an adjacent
reedbed . On the return , a few Fieldfare moved along in front of the car , but the Curlew had moved on . My next stop was Capel Fleet and the Raptor Viewpoint , where the Coot convention seemed to have finished on the former , and on the way to the latter , found a female Marsh Harrier working the
ditch that runs parallel to the road . From 5 metres above the ditch , she suddenly dipped down , then
hovered with talons down . I was sure she was going to come up with a meal , but in the end she
carried on along the ditch empty taloned , so to speak . Three birders were already at the viewpoint , scaning for Harriers or even SEOwls , but things had been quiet since they arrived . I had a listen for Bearded Tits in the nearby reedbed , but failed to hear any , but a female Stonechat posed nicely for
me . Lots of gulls on the area behind the piled bales of straw and hay , lifting off noisily whenever a Marsh Harrier came close , and lots of Starling perched along the wires and dropping down to feed . I did eventually hear one 'ping' , but didn't see the 'Beardie' either fly over or drop into the reeds .
Heading back towards the Fleet , just a single Corn Bunting on the wires , with 2 or 3 others in the brambles below , and a Green Sandpiper lifting and calling , out of the roadside ditch . Heading up the hill after the fleet , a white blob in the distance on the road turned out to be a Magpie , but as I got closer , realised it was having a spat with a Stoat . Both disappeared as I got closer , so I backed down the hill , pulled over and waited . After a while , movement on the edge of the tarmac revealed the
Stoat , but , as soon as I took the first shot , it heard the shutter and dived back into the long grass . Again , I backed off , an after another wait the Stoat reappeared , this time sitting up for a better
look , and again dived back into the grass on hearing the shutter . Once again I backed off and waited , but it didn't show again , until the Magpie turned up again and the spat started again , almost back where I had first spotted them . This time the Stoat was chased across the road , and that was the last I saw of it . Leysdown front was my next stop , finding the tide well out , but surprisingly , a
flock of Sanderling close in , constantly searching for food amongst the flotsam and jetsam further up the beach , looking like characters out of a silent movie . Also around , a couple of very tame

Turnstone , one on the sea wall and the other on the tarmac area off the road . A look down the Shellness track only produced a Kestrel and several Reed Bunting at the car park , a large flock of Brent Goose in the brassica crop and over 100 Mute Swan between them and the hides , and that
number was increasing with new arrivals all the time . A fellow birder said that there were a few White-fronted along with the Greylag Goose , but they were too far away to pick out just with binoculars . On my way back home , I stopped again at the track alongside Elmley , hoping for a SEOwl sighting , but it wasn't to be . Just four of the Fieldfare were still feasting in the Hawthorns .


alan woodcock said...

Hi,nice report,I like Sheppey at this time of the year,have a nice Christmas.

Warren Baker said...

Stoats and weasels are such curious animals Greenie, my encounters with them are always great fun, they seem totally bemused by the sound of the shutter and always come back for another look!!

Phil said...

Nice post Fred. I've hardly seen any flocks of Fieldfares this year and not that many Redwings.
Like the Stoat pics, weasily my favourite critter!

Ken. said...

Sheppey is a great winter birding, especially for birds of prey,pity the reserve wasn't open. Love watching Sanderling,quite often there is a Purple Sandpiper in that area,
The flock of Fieldfare was a great find,