Saturday 29 September 2012

Oare Marshes: Little Stint

 It's a much later start today, and a relatively short trip. We meet Brian at the normal spot and set off for Kent and Oare Marshes.
Golden Plover
We reach the marshes at around 10am and start to scan the islands and surrounding area hoping for something to drop in.
Hundreds of Godwits are packed in the middle of the water, standing motionless waiting for the tide to turn so they can return to their feeding areas.
There's large numbers of Golden Plovers present, well into treble figures.
Ringed Plovers and Dunlin are either sleeping or feeding close in, with fifty plus of both species present.
A Little Stint is found tucked down behind a mound of mud.
A Lapwing lands close by and we get great views of the stint as it stands on top of the mound.

Little Stint
Scanning the flocks of Ringed Plover and Dunlin, two Curlew Sandpipers are found. 
A Water Rail makes a brief appearance as it feeds along the edge of the water, but moves out of sight as quickly as it appears.
A few Ruff are seen on various islands and feeding on the water. Next to be seen is a Kingfisher as it flies low and fast across the waters surface.
There's a Hobby seen high in the sky above the pylons.
The plovers take to the sky and when they settle back down again we find four Little Stints in among them. A mixture of adult and juvenile birds.

A nice few hours spent just waiting and watching for anything that might drop in.

Sunday 23 September 2012

Short-billed Dowitcher, Lodmoor

Having been present since the 3rd September and being only the 2nd record for Britain, The Short-billed Dowitcher finally tempts us to make the 163 mile journey to try for it.
We leave at 5am and after a brief stop for coffee we reach the car park at Lodmoor around 8am.

Leaving the car we meet the same birder who got us on the Pec Sandpiper at Minsmere the previous week. He's already leaving, but tells us that the bird was showing really well. After some brief directions we set off across the road and head off along the track.
Short-billed Dowitcher
Reaching the area where the bird has been favouring, We get straight onto the bird as it is seen feeding along the edge of the reeds.

I grab a couple of very poor record shots and continue to enjoy the great scope views that the bird is giving. It seems to favour the area in front of the back edge of the reeds and works it's way right and then turns and heads back along the same path to continue to feed.
While enjoying the views of the Dowitcher, there's also good views of Water Rail, juvenile Med Gull, adult and juvenile Sandwich Terns and Snipe to be had.
A Common Buzzard is spotted by Brian perched on a fence post and a Grey Heron flies in and starts to fish in front of us.
It catches a fish and while some birders try to work out what kind of fish it's caught, the heron makes very short work of it.

Migrant Hawker
Having enjoyed great views of the Dowitcher, we leave and head off towards Portland Bill. Here I enjoy views of Wheatears and Meadow Pipits feeding among the rocks.
Next stop is the BTO bird observatory . the moth trap has been out the previous evening and there's plenty of moths on view as we sort through the egg cartons in the bucket.
A Raven flies through and calls noisily as it moves off. It's quiet this morning with nothing of note being trapped or seen. 
Radipole Lake is the last stop, and with not much on show we concentrate on dragonflies.
Migrant Hawkers and Common Darters are numerous and I grab a few shots when they finally decide to settle on the reeds.
House Sparrow
We head for home, the drive at this time of day is slower and an accident on the M3 adds extra time to the journey. But it's only a minor inconvenience to us and we're thankful it's not us involved in the accident.

Home at 5.30 having enjoyed great views of the Dowitcher and added another Mega to my list.

Monday 17 September 2012

Minsmere: Pectoral Sandpiper

Brian's back from his week long Norfolk break. He's had a great week, bagging Barred Warbler, Baird's and White-rumped Sandpiper.

 He's well pleased to find that the Baillons Crake at Rainham is still present, and wastes no time Saturday morning getting to Rainham. He's there before first light and by 7am he's added the crake to his life and year list.

So Sunday morning we meet up at 6am and make the 100 mile drive to Minsmere. Punching Dunwich into the satnav takes us a slightly different route than normal.
Red Admiral
Turning off the main roads and onto minor roads, produces the biggest number of Red-legged Partridges I have ever seen. They are everywhere, across the roads and in every field we drive past.

We reach Minsmere car park by 7.30 and make our way to the Bittern Hide. Two Marsh Harriers are sitting up in the bushes as I open the hide flap. We spend a couple of hours in the hide which produces four Marsh Harriers, Great views of a Bittern as it flies across the reeds, a Kingfisher which I pick up in flight through the scope and then watch as it lands on reeds at the side of a small pool.
Bearded Tits are "pinging" all around us, but proving much more difficult to get views of.  As are the Cetti's which are very vocal but frustrating difficult to pin down.
A Red deer wades through the nearby channel, it climbs the bank and then it stands at the side of the path so I grab a quick shot before it moves further up the path.
After two hours we take a walk round to Island Mere Hide, A quick scan of the water reveals very little. Then a Sparrowhawk is spotted perched on a log in the middle of the water. It spends the next fifteen minutes flying between here and another log on the water. Even the appearance of a large flock of geese (mainly Canada with a couple of Greylags amongst them) don't move the Sparrowhawk on.
Little Egret
The return walk doesn't produce to much in the way of birds, but does provide plenty of Butterflies and Dragonflies. Red Admirals are everywhere and there's also good numbers of Speckled Wood. Small and Large Whites are also seen.
Dragonflies are also plentiful with Red darters and Migrant Hawkers the main species on show.

There's been no news of the Pectoral Sandpiper this morning, but we make our way to the Konik trail and  reach the bottom pool where the bird had been reported from the previous day.
There's a few birders already present and scanning for the sandpiper, We learn that the bird has been seen this morning by the warden at around 9.30am and was amongst the Greylags at the time. After a good scan of the pool, made harder by the thick vegetation surrounding it there's still no sign of the bird.
It does produce a very smart Little Stint, at least 15 Spotted redshanks, 4 Greenshanks, double figures of Snipe, along with Little Egret, Lapwing, Teal, Redshank and Black-tailed Godwits.
We start the walk back  towards the sluice, when a fellow birder who we were standing with waves to us from further along the trail.
Konik Pony
He's just seen the pectoral Sandpiper fly in and land on the second pool. After a minute of searching we are all on the bird and enjoying great views. It gets flushed by some geese flying overhead, but lands again and continues to feed.
4 Ruff are also feeding on the pool along with a couple of Garganey and 2 calling Greenshank drop in and start to feed.
Well pleased with the views of the sandpiper we make our way back along the trail and stop to look at the Konik ponies. The sign on the gate as you enter says they can kick and bite if alarmed. I took a chance and grabbed a photo before making my way back to the beach.

A great day's birding with the added bonus of seeing Alun Armstrong from one of my favourite TV series New tricks walking along the path with a group of people. No idea if he is a birder, but it was nice to see him there.

Saturday 8 September 2012

Baillon's Crake, Rainham Marshes

Breaking news of a Baillon's Crake present at Rainham Marshes.

So it's not difficult to decide where to head for this morning.
It's just myself and dad this morning as Brian is birding down in Norfolk for the week. 
With the reserve opening at 6am thanks to staff and volunteers we pull into the make shift car park at 6.20. Which is about the same time that the Baillon's is giving good views to the birders already present in the hide feeding along the edge of the reeds.
Butt's hide is as expected packed with birders as we enter, but we are told that the crake had been showing best from the far end of the hide.
So avoiding the tripods, scopes and birders we edge our way to the far corner of the hide. 
Speaking to a birder who had already seen the bird, I'm told it was feeding along the edge of the reeds and that it had then walked into the channel and hadn't been seen since.
All is quiet until 7.10, when a Coot flushes the crake out of the reeds. It jumps briefly into the air and flies across to the near bank and again out of sight.
With the bins now trained on this area, I'm hoping it's going to walk back into view as it moves along the edges.
It's another ten minutes and then the Baillon's is seen again in flight. This time it's a slower unhurried flight with legs trailing below.
It lands briefly at the edge of the reeds and then quickly moves into deeper cover and again it's hidden from view.
We watch and wait for another three hours but there's no more sightings in that time. So we decide to make our way back towards the car.
Pleased with the flight views, and the brief views when it landed on the edge of the reeds, but as always wishing we had got better views.
Rainham is only 25-30 minutes from home so if the bird hangs around maybe another trip over in the hope of better views will be made.

Home for some breakfast with another lifer added to my list.

P.S: Thanks to Howard and the team of volunteers who opened the reserve up early and closed late. To give as many people as possible the chance of seeing the bird. 

Saturday 1 September 2012

Dungeness: Skua Delight

A 6am meet and it's off to Dungeness. Arriving at around 7.30 it's straight up to the beach for some sea-watching. Reaching the top of the shingle bank we find the hide locked, which is not uncommon here, but at the patch we find a new hide being built and although not yet complete this will be very welcome when the work has finished.
Looking out over the patch, the main target bird for me is Black Tern. Having still not managed to catch up with one this year despite numerous attempts.
I scan the area several times without any sign of a Black Tern, there are plenty of Common Terns present and in amongst these are some Arctic and Sandwich Terns.
Gulls are present with Great Black-backed, Lesser Black-backed, Black Headed, Herring and I manage to pick out an adult Little Gull among them.
Brian then adds a juvenile Kittiwake to the days total as it flies in and lands close by to give great views. There's also a group of thirty Common Scoters seen and then a smaller group of eight fly through shortly afterwards.
It's now 10am and the winds start in increase in strength, and with it there is some Skua movement. Firstly in the shape of two Arctic Skuas. They fly through and after a brief stop to harass the terns they continue on. Another Skua call goes up and the gathered birders get on it. It's a cracking Pomarine Skua, and behind it is another year tick when a Great Skua is spotted.

In the three hour session here we have single Pomarine and Great Skuas along with eight Arctic Skuas. Still no Black Tern seen and there's no sign of the recently reported Roseate Tern either.
Denge Marsh Hide
It's off to the cafe for a quick coffee and slice of toast, before heading for the fishing boats. Two Arctic Skuas appear and give great scope views as they approach quite close. There also a distant Bonxie seen but it remains distant and continues to fly straight through.
Some Porpoises are seen from here which is a welcome sight, as I had managed to miss numerous sightings from the patch earlier.
Then two juvenile Black Terns appear in Brian's bins, he quickly directs me on to them and I finally have my Black Tern tick for the year.

From here we drive round to Denge Marsh, there's no sign of the Great White Egret although it would be reported from here shortly after we have left. We are not too disappointed as we had already added it to the year lists earlier in the year.
There are hundreds of Sand Martins seen flying over the water, busy feeding up before they make their outward journeys.
Another good trip, with three more year ticks added.