Friday, 13 February 2015

Saturday 7th. February 2015

Just two cold outings to catch up on . The first was the bird survey at Down House , which produced 17 species , strangely the same number as on the garden count last weekend , but not a single Winter visitor to be seen . With sheep grazing two of the three paddocks , there was no sign of deer , but when I approached the formal gardens on my way back to the car , a distant lump in the corner of the
fungi lawn turned out to be a female Roe Deer . She had most probably spotted me well before I
spotted her , but she stayed put till I got to within 50 metres of her , before getting up , clearing the
stock fencing and hot-footing it across the meadow , heading for the cricket field and beyond . No sign of the buck , but he would have no interest anyway if she was pregnant . Interestingly , if mated after the rut last late July / August , any embryo would only just have started to grow , having been held in diapause since then . Birth would take place late May / June , ready for the cycle to be repeated again . On the way back home , the usual stop at Keston Ponds found all three ponds 75% +
frozen , with most waterfowl concentrated in the open water of the middle pond . From the road I could see several Mandarin congregated under overhanging vegetation , and there they stayed until I
threw in a couple of handfuls of grain , which enticed them out . I counted 19 , 15 in this shot , 10
drakes and 9 ducks , strangely the same number counted at Kelsey Park in Beckenham during a recent visit . I thought about going there and seeing whether they were the same birds , but getting home and a hot drink won the day . Whilst having that hot drink at home and in a temperature of
about 5C , this Buff-tailed Bumblebee , with well filled pollen sacks , was spotted visiting the Winter Honeysuckle in the front garden .
Yesterday I decided to get out early and hopefully see and photograph the drake Smew which has been favouring the area outside Scott Hide at RSPB Dungeness . Finding the gates still locked on arrival , I must admit that I questioned my decision when I stepped out of the car in the ARC car park , being hit by a bitter NE wind . Another birder arrived with similar hopes and soon after and we managed to have the gate opened . On the way down the track I stopped briefly to see about 20
Curlew feeding over to the right . If opening the car door at ARC was bad , it had nothing compared to opening it at the main car park . The wind blew me along to Scott Hide , where I found the other birder already settled in , watching hundreds of  'white horses' charging down the length of Burrowes Pit . Plenty of wildfowl , mostly Wigeon , Shoveler , Tufted and Teal , getting what shelter they could , tucked under Makepiece Hide , appearing and disappearing into and from the troughs of the waves and the Willow stands were jam-packed with Cormorants . We mutually decided only to open the windows if any photo opportunities arose . Well , over the next four hours , a few such opportunities did arise , but not for the hoped for drake Smew . We did see him a few times , but he stayed well out in the middle , sometimes with a couple of redheads and sometimes with a small group of Pintail . Possibly 8/10 redhead Smew were seen , impossible to get a true number , and a
couple of them did come towards the hide , they stay around for long , probably as they didn't seem to
be very successful finding fish , just one was seen making a catch . A bonus sighting was a Kingfisher , which fly by into the wind and finding it very difficult . Only other interest found was a
Chiffchaff found feeding on the way back to the Visitor Centre , which couldn't come quick enough . After thawing out and having to be back home by 4pm , I had just enough time to look in further along the coast at Hythe , in the hope of finding Purple Sandpiper . On arrival at one stone groyne , a bulldozer and lorry were working on the beach between it and the other one further along the beach ,
relocating the shingle . Not expecting to be successful , I searched the leeward side of the first groyne
and eventually found just two of these delightful little birds . I left them to carry on with their nap , and was glad again to get back into the car and get the heater on .


Phil said...

Nice pics of the Smew Greenie.
Marianne and I also visited the Purple Sandpipers at Hythe. The best spot was the groyne at the Seabrook end of the beach towards Folkestone where there were at least five possibly six in residence.

Warren Baker said...

That was one cold wind Greenie!! Well done with the Smew shots :-)