Friday, 20 February 2015

Friday 20th. February 2015

Two days of almost Spring weather was enough to produce two consecutive away days . The first was a return to RSPB Dungeness , in a second attempt to photograph the drake Smew outside  Scott Hide . As before , an early start had me in the hide before 0900 , and this time , not a single 'white horse' in sight . Things were quiet outside on Burrowes Pit , but the odd redhead put in an appearance , but seemed much more cautious than on the previous visit . Whilst waiting , I was treated to constant song from a Cetti's Warbler somewhere down to the right , but never seen , a flyby from a Kingfisher and a half run , half scrambled flight of a Water Rail , squeeling whilst doing so , as it passed across in front of the hide . Eventually 3 female Smew started feeding , but over to the right of the hide and directly in the sun's reflection on the water . The odd time , one did pop up out
of the reflection , but it was just the odd one . It was about an hour after my arrival and further out from the hide , when the drake first showed , being , what I can only describe as being harassed by
one of the redheads , and it didn't take too much to work out what was on her mind . They and the other two redheads moved further out , where one of the redheads took up a position low in the water
with her back end raised . The drake for most of the time looked totally uninterested , but in the end , probably for some peace and quiet , did the deed and mated with her , dunking her under the water
with just bill and top of her head showing . When finished , and like a child with a rag doll , he tossed the redhead to one side , before mating with a second redhead . The four were last seen heading into the overhanging vegetation , once again directly in the sun's reflection , but I'm sure I saw a smile on the drake's face . I left the hide shortly afterwards and whilst heading towards Christmas Dell in the hope of a hare or two , which didn't materialise , found a female Marsh Harrier working the nearby
reedbeds . A look in at Dennis's Hide produced 2 Goldeneye and a Great White Egret , and the
feeders at the entrance , which were empty on arrival , now held several Reed Buntings and just a single Tree Sparrow nearby . A look from Hanson Hide on the ARC pit produced another couple of Goldeneye , and a Small Tortoiseshell on the way back to the car . No sign of the Cattle Egrets on Dengemarsh Road , so I headed out onto the marsh in search of wild Swans and after a bit of searching , found the flock , a mix of adult and juvenile Bewicks with apparently a single Whooper
amongst them , but I didn't see the latter , in a field between Lydd and Brookland , on the way back finding a few Fieldfares along the lanes and a noisy Rookery on the outskirts of Lydd . With little found at Scotney Pit too ,  I made the decision to try for the Lesser Yellowlegs that had been at the Winchelsea end of Rye Harbour Reserve for a while , but I hadn't seen any sightings for a couple of days . It didn't seem such a good idea as when I had only just started walking the path towards the reserve , a convoy of six massive yellow vehicles , the type that you see working in a quarry , that had just deposited shingle from the mouth of the Rother further along the beach towards Fairlight , and were returning for another load , headed by a Land Rover with flashing lights , forced me off the path and the path shook as they trundled by . I did find the green bin , a marker for one of the sightings but did not find any sign of the American visitor , nor did a couple of other birders that I came across . Regardless of the failure , I must say it was very pleasant in the sunshine , when the trucks were in the distance .
The second outing was onto the Isle of Sheppey , again hoping for hares , and once again disappointed . I headed for Capel Fleet and the raptor viewing mound . Along the way , Corn
Buntings were found noisily chatting in Bramble and a pair of Stonechat almost escorted the car
along to the raptor viewpoint . Several Marsh Harriers were seen , including this female / juvenile
working one of the ditches . Two Common Buzzard also passed high over , heading towards Muswell
Manor . The raptors continued with a female Kestrel , seen hunting and later , resting on overhead
cables . No sign or sound of Bearded Tit in the reedbed below the viewing mound just the odd Reed
Bunting and an inquisitive Wren on a fence post . Then down to Elmley Nature Reserve to start a much better than usual slow drive down the entrance track . Straight away , Lapwing and Skylark in song and displaying and in very good numbers . In one of the ditches , a probable juvenile ,

diminutive Little Egret showed very well and was more than willing to pose for a few shots . Further
along , a male Marsh Harrier suddenly went from cruise mode to attack mode , the object of the
attack being a juvenile Common Buzzard which appeared to be 'worming' on the MH's patch . The
juvenile put up with a couple of dives , before taking evasive action and heading into the distance .  Approaching the two bends before the car park , I spotted a fast moving bird along the ditch , which it dropped into before reappearing and settling on the side of the track . I only had time to get it in the binoculars before it was off again , adding again to the raptor count , a female Merlin . Around the second bend , for some reason , the only two small trees along the whole length of the track have been cut down . Can't see the reasoning for it myself , as they provided look-out and resting places for many species . Between there and the car park , I sat for some time as the area has produced some good mammal sightings in the past , especially for hares , but it wasn't to be this time . The car park was packed and the overflow area , behind the orchard was packed too , I've never seen so many vehicles on site . With 5 o'clock closing , there was insufficient time to get down to the hides and back , so settled for another slow drive back to the entrance . I had seen a few Curlew flying about ,
but on the way back spotted at least 40/50 to the left of the track , and with them were a few Black-tailed Godwit , and also found a few Dunlin in amongst the Lapwing . On the right , a pair of
Shellduck , the male with the prominent , bulbous red knob at the base of it's bill . Approaching the
exit , many birds were engaged in their afternoon ablutions , like this , one of many Redshank seen . Good to see so many birds on site , and congratulations to the management team .


Derek Faulkner said...

Greenie, two possible answers.
Hares on Harty have been much scarcer this winter and possibly as a result of both the fox hunt and the Beagle packs hunting across most of Harty fairly regularly - and hunting unfettered by any Hunting Ban laws.
Its probable that the two bushes along the Elmley track have been removed because they serve as watching posts for corvids looking for plover eggs and chicks in the Spring.

Warren Baker said...

The fine weather was good while it lasted greenie!

Some really good sightings for you on your travels, with a few good images collected, I like the Wren :-)