Saturday 28 April 2012

A day out in Kent

We meet Brian at six, and head for Dungeness. On the way, we make a slight detour to visit Northward Hill RSPB reserve looking for the Turtle Dove that was reported the previous day. There's no sign of the dove, but we do add a Lesser Whitethroat to the year list and dad also adds Common Whitethroat to his list. There are also several singing Nightingales present. The rain starts to get heavier so we cut the visit short and head for the car. 
Arriving at Dungeness we make our way to the beach, but with North Easterly winds there's not much passage. With only double figures of Gannets, four Common Scoters, two Kittiwakes and four Swallows of any note. We did manage to add another year tick before leaving when four Swifts came in off the sea and headed inland. The only other notable sightings were of several Harbour Porpoises breaking the surface and then disappearing from view only to re-appear moments later only to disappear again.
The Old Lighthouse
Leaving the beach we make a brief stop and take a look over Arc Pit. A scan from the car produces four species of Wagtail, with four Pied, one Yellow, two White and a channel Wagtail (Motacilla flava flava). Also present are two Little Ringed Plovers. 
It's on to Rye Harbour, We pick up a map at Lime Kiln Cottage information centre and head for the Ternery Pool hide. There's a lot of gull and tern activity out on the scrape, with Black-headed, Herring, Lesser-Black backed and Mediterranean Gulls all present along with Common and Sandwich Terns. There's no sign of any Little terns though which is disappointing. From here we take the track to Harbour Farm barns. Avocets are on one of the pools with at least twenty present. Scanning the larger pools and the grass banks beyond Brian spots a Whimbrel feeding in the long grass, There are five in total and it's another year tick for the three of us. We re-trace our route back to the car and make it back just before the rain starts to get heavier again.
It's been a mixed day, with heavy rain at times, then light rain and gusting winds at other times, but it's still produced three more year ticks and not a bad day list. 

Sunday 22 April 2012

The patch comes alive

It's 5.45am and I'm already at Cornmill Meadows. Soon after going through the wooden swing gate I'm adding a patch tick in the shape of a Mistle Thrush. It's feeding on the wet grass and takes no notice of me.
There's no sign of the Barn Owl on my way round to the Wake Hide, but there are three Sedge warblers singing in the reeds by the hide. Entering the hide there's a nice surprise when I see that the wooden bench that has been missing for my last couple of visits is back in place. There's another very welcome surprise when I scan the pool and spot a Greenshank feeding along the edge of the muddy margins. It's not only a patch tick but also a year tick. I text Brian to let him know and it's not long before he's added it to his list.
I decide to turn right after leaving the hide, and it proves to be a good decision. Just by the metal gate there's a Bullfinch calling, it's a female but still a welcome addition to the day list. Walking on I'm stopped in my tracks by the call of a Coal Tit coming from trees on the opposite side of the Old River lee. It's another five minutes before I get a view of it, But the wait was fruitful because a Kingfisher flashes past and disappears around the bend. I struggled last year to add Kingfisher to the patch year list so I was very pleased to see it, even if it was all to brief. A quick check of the day list on the walk back to the car tells me I've added five patch ticks and one year tick.
A quick drive round to Fisher's Green and as usual I start at Seventy Acre's Lake, But again as usual the Bittern Hide is locked. While waiting for the guy to arrive with the key I scan the lake from the viewing platform and I'm pleased to see several Common Terns circling the lake. It should be an interesting time on the wooden rafts, with the Black-headed Gulls competing with the Terns for the best nesting spots. The guy arrives to open the hide and once inside I quickly add Reed Warbler and a distant calling Cuckoo. Next stop is a short walk round  to Fisher's Green Island, before reaching this area I can already hear Nightingales singing. It proves more difficult to actually get a view of one. 
There's not much happening at the goose fields apart from Greylag and Egyptian geese that already have chicks in tow.
The area around Langridge Scrape provides yet another patch tick when I spot a Common Whitethroat.  It's in the bushes around the bottom of Paynes Lane. The two Little Ringed Plovers are present again but not on the scrape, they are on the adjoining fields this time. The walk back to the car doesn't bring any extra ticks, But in the space of a morning I've added ten species to my patch year list and four to my UK year list.
Still no sign of any Wheatear. But It's been a very productive morning on the patch.

Monday 16 April 2012

Hoopoe, The Bogey bird laid to rest

Nine attempts, Nine dips!
That's the total number of trips we made in 2011 to try to add Hoopoe to our life lists. We came close a few times, reaching the car park at Rainham before not being allowed any further. Missing one at Canvey by quite literally minutes. Another one missed at KGV Reservoir. All local sites, all failed attempts.
So it was with mixed emotions that we set off at 5am heading for Waxham. A quick check of the directions for the site and we find it without any problems. We head down the track and follow the path until we reach the area it's been seen most often in over the last five days. There's a couple of local birders already there looking for the recently reported Serin that has been seen amongst a flock of Linnets. There's no sign of the Serin despite the presence of two flocks of Linnets. There is also no sign of the Hoopoe and after spending the best part of two hours mainly looking at a blue toilet block in the middle of the field it begins to feel all too familiar.
A male Ring Ouzel in the top left-hand corner of the same field lifts the mood. 
Another local birder's pager goes off and he tells us that the hoopoe has been seen at Nelson's Head track. We head off in that direction in the company of the local birder (Julian Bhalerao). We reach the area where it has been reported to be told that it's been flushed by a dog.
The mood drops a little, but we stay positive with the knowledge that at least it's been seen and it's still present.
After 10-15 minutes of scanning, Brian spots a bird in the field behind us heading towards the beach. The flight pattern is very distinctive, it can only be a Hoopoe.
We head back along the path and find the bird feeding on the grass edges of the sandy track a short distance away. It's in the scope, It's a Hoopoe, and it's finally made it on to our life lists. It's high fives all round.
Photo by Julian Bhalerao
After enjoying superb views of the bird for the next hour, with the sighting of Wheatears and another four male Ring Ouzels feeding together, plus the sight of a colony of Grey seals along the beach we head back towards the car. A quick stop at the food stall for a celebratory Sausage Bap and we are heading off home.
News comes through that the Osprey at Ranworth Broad is still present, we are only 4 miles from the site so it's not long before we are heading off along the boardwalk towards the area it's been seen in. After a ten minute walk and a quick scan, we find it perched on a post at the back of the lake. We are well happy and quickly add Common Tern to the year list before leaving.
We start the journey home but Brian makes a short diversion and heads for The Brecks, it's not long after arriving that we have a Stone Curlew in the scope. Another very welcome addition to the year list.
A fantastic day, The day I finally got to put Hoopoe on my life list. 

Saturday 14 April 2012

A waiting game on the patch

A quick stop for petrol, and I arrive at the farm car park at 7.15.
The first stop is Seventy Acre's Lake, where there's still no sign of any new arrivals and with the Bittern hide still locked I wander round to Fisher's Green Island hoping for an early Nightingale. Sadly no Nightingales but there's plenty of Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs around. 
The goose Fields prove quiet as well with only a single Shelduck of note. I must have the only patch in the London area without a Wheatear on it.
Onto the Grand Weir hide and a look over Holyfield Lake. No sign of any of the target species (Kingfisher, Grey Wagtail, Red-Crested Pochard), but a scan of the pylons does get me a patch tick in the form of a Peregrine (82), perched on pylon 5.
The next stop is Langridge Scrape, where the water levels are still high despite the supposed water shortages and forced hose pipe bans. There's plenty of tufted ducks present and amongst them is a very smart drake Pintail. A really graceful looking duck and one I'm always happy to see especially on the patch. No sign of either of the LRP's seen on the last two visits though and the only waders present are in the shape of nine Lapwings. A startled  Red-Legged partridge is flushed from the long grass while walking along the Eastern edge. 
A look over the Eastern side of Holyfield Lake for Red-Crested Pochard doesn't prove fruitful but does give me another patch tick when two Swallows (83) briefly fly low over the lake and then disappear from view.
Up at the farm, there's a couple of Yellowhammers singing and Skylarks are numerous and very vocal.
On the whole, it's still pretty quiet but another week may well make all the difference. 

Sunday 8 April 2012

Back on the Patch

A later start than expected, saw me arrive at the farm car park at 7. (Fisher's Green car park gates still locked) which means that the Bittern hide will also still be locked. I still take a quick walk round to Seventy Acres Lake, but no new arrivals to be seen. So headed off towards "The Goose Fields". Reaching the overflow car park I could see some geese in the first field. A scan with bins and then scope got me onto the Pink-footed Goose that was reported the previous day by Mike Oakland. A patch tick and the list reaches 80.
The goose fields hold pairs of Redshank, Shelduck, and Shoveler, but despite my best efforts and constant scanning, I can't find any Yellow Wagtails or Wheatears in either field. Two Pied Wagtails are all that show.
I continue on with a circular walk around Langridge Scrape which produces plenty of Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs, and Skylarks, but again no Yellow Wags or Wheatears. Returning to Langridge Scrape I do at least spot one of the LRP's first seen on the 5th.
The Rain starts to get heavier so I start to make my way back towards the car. Reaching the corner of the field and hedgerow there are more singing Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs and a very noisy Cetti's. Then I hear and soon locate my first Willow Warbler (81) on the patch this year.
Two-morning visits in the last three days produce seven patch ticks, not bad at all. With more migrants arriving within the next couple of weeks, it should be a productive time on the patch. 

Saturday 7 April 2012

Garganey's save the day

A text from Brian Friday night saying meet at the usual spot at six, and the planning for the following day is over.
We meet at six and head for Dungeness. The reserve gates are still closed when we arrive, So we pull over further along the road, and scan Arc Pit where Brian quickly locates the Spoonbill which has been present since the 31st March. It takes to the air and flies directly over our heads, circles around and lands back on the pit and starts to feed.
From here we drive on to the beach, We find a few Wheatears on the shingle around the old lighthouse, but apart from these, the area proves to be really quiet with only a couple of Willow Warblers, Chiffchaffs and a single Black Redstart of note.
We move on to the reserve where again it's quiet, We hear 3-4 Sedge Warblers on the walk round to Denge Marsh, But there's no sign of the Garganey that was last reported from here on the 5th.
News of a Garganey comes through on the pager, so we head off to Rye Harbour in search of it. After a walk of about a mile, we reach the hide at Camber Water, which is a short walk from Camber Castle. A couple are already in the hide and they ask Brian "What's the strange duck called in front of the hide" This proves to be a drake Garganey and with it a female.


Scanning the lake we find another pair of Garganey along the back edge, and among the Black-headed Gulls, there are nine adult Med Gulls and a 1st winter. Then Brian picks out two Yellow Wagtails on the grass bank, and high in the sky are 10+ House Martins and five Swallows. A final scan of the lake reveals a fifth Garganey another drake and we have all five Garganeys in the same view through the scope.
The walk back to the car is not as hard as the walk out, even so, it doesn't stop dad trying to get a lift back in the farmer's trailer.
A quiet start to the day ends with seven year ticks. 

Friday 6 April 2012

Morning at Lee Valley

I spent the morning at Lee Valley Country Park (my local patch). 

The morning started well with a singing Blackcap heard and then seen almost as soon as leaving the car. Chiffchaff was quickly added soon after around the overflow car park, and I  saw or heard double figures of this species by mid-day. A pair of Shelduck flew on to one of the small pools on the Goose Fields while I was heading down towards the Grand Weir hide. 

On the way around to Langridge Scrape, I added Rook to my patch list total with 5 birds feeding on the ploughed field around the scrape. After dropping down into the ditch and viewing the scrape from the middle ridge, I bump into Mike Oakland and he like me was searching for the first Little Ringed Plovers of the year,  A Snipe is spotted along the front of one of the islands, but no LPR's. I decide to walk around to the north side and view the scrape from the other side. It turned out to be a good move, as two LRP's were seen at the end of the small island. A first for the year and another patch tick. 
The top field added another patch year tick with two Red-Legged Partridge. The walk back to the car produced two Little Owls, One in the usual spot at the farms and another flying into the trees on the ridge.
A good morning with Five patch year ticks and one year tick added.