Sunday 30 September 2018

Buff-breasted Sandpiper, Scotney GP

Another trip this morning to Dungeness hoping to finally see a Buff-breasted Sandpiper. It's a bird I've not managed to see,  having dipped four individuals on each of the four occasions previously.
This Buff-breasted Sandpiper was first reported at Scotney GP on the 25th but had been very elusive and seemed to go missing for long periods.
We started the morning with a drive along galloways, however, this was cut short when the MOD red flags were raised. Stonechat, Meadow Pipit and Reed Bunting were seen before leaving.

We had a quick drive along the entrance track of the reserve and managed to see six Cattle Egret still at roost in the field near Boulderwall Farm. At Arc Pit, a Bittern flew in and landed among the reeds right in front of the hide. It then emerged from the reeds giving stunning views.

The only news of the Buff-breasted Sandpiper all morning had been negative! On the 1km walk along the track, we met several returning birders but none of them had seen the bird despite lengthy searches. Reaching the double metal gates we began scanning the fields. We had been told it favoured an area in front of the green and white generator and this is where we began the search. After several scans across the fields, Brian picked up movement in the short grass close to the water's edge. It was the Buff-breasted Sandpiper! Too far for a photo, but I was quite content with the scope views I was enjoying. After putting the news out we headed for home, dropping in at Elmley on route, where we found another six Cattle Egrets along the entrance track.

Thursday 27 September 2018

Beluga Whale, River Thames

When I checked Birdguides on Tuesday, I was greeted with the message below!

Beluga Whales belong to the same family as Narwhal and are sometimes called "Melonheads" because of the shape of their heads. The bulbous structure of the whale's forehead is called a melon and is believed to aid them in echolocation. They are also called "sea canary" this comes from the whale's rich and varied vocal range. They would normally be found in the Arctic and subarctic waters. The distinctive white colour of the adults helps them blend into their arctic surroundings and acts as a camouflage to protect them from Polar Bears and Killer Whales. Unlike other whale's they have no dorsal fin, this is thought to help prevent heat loss in the Arctic waters.

The whale was still being reported this morning, so we decided to head for Gravesend and hope to get a sighting of it. We parked close to the Ship and Lobster pub along Mark Lane and headed East along Saxon Shore Way. After a walk of around 1.5 miles, we reached the three barges where the whale had been seen most reliably. After a wait of around thirty minutes, the whale was spotted close to the third barge. We watched it for over an hour, and it followed the same pattern throughout our stay. It surfaced to breathe 4 times then the tail flicked up and that was the moment it dived. It would surface again five minutes later, and it was so reliable you could set your watch by it.

Monday 24 September 2018

Pectoral Sandpiper, Rainham Marshes

A Pectoral Sandpiper dropped in at Rainham Marshes yesterday, but the first reports this morning were all negative. Late morning the bird had been relocated on Tringa Pool the same pool as the previous day. With this news, we made the relatively short trip. Although I have been going to Rainham for many years I had never heard of Tringa Pool. So a brief stop at the reserve centre was needed to get directions. 

Tringa pool is not present on the Rainham Marshes map, but it is between Aveley Pools and Butts Scrape along the Northern boardwalk.

As soon as we reached the pool the Pec Sandpiper was showing superbly! I was expecting it to be quite distant, but it was showing much closer than expected. After 15-20 minutes it walked out of view but reappeared shortly afterward along the front edge of the reeds. 

Pectoral Sandpiper

A Ruff was also seen feeding in the same areas as the Pec Sandpiper several times. Wagtails were present in good numbers with three Yellow and double figures of Pied and White Wagtails.

Sunday 23 September 2018

Pallid Harrier: Therfield, Herts

The forecast for this morning was rain, rain, and heavy rain! Not exactly the weather you need when your searching for a Pallid Harrier. The weather was set to improve in the afternoon so with that in mind we decided to wait and make the trip shortly after lunchtime. After taking the footpath at the end of Mill Lane we joined a small group of birders. The bird had been seen briefly before our arrival but had not been seen for 20-30 minutes since. Thirty minutes had passed when I picked the bird up flying just above the hedge line in the second field. It didn't stay in the air long and several people present didn't manage to see it. Another hour went by before the Harrier appeared again, this time it was more distant but showed well for all present. During our 3 hour visit, it showed several times allowing superb scope views.

Map of where we parked, where we viewed from and the area the bird was seen hunting.

Several Red Kites were also showing well, with one flying directly in front of the car as we left the area. Red-legged partridge were present in good numbers along the hedges bordering the fields and a small herd of Fallow deer were also seen.

Sunday 9 September 2018

Wryneck, Landguard

Having failed on two occasions to connect with the Wryneck at Dungeness in the past couple of weeks, we decided to head for Landguard NR this morning hoping for better luck with one or both of the Wrynecks reported the previous day. Arriving shortly after first light, we managed to locate one of the Wrynecks after a brief search. One of the birds had been reported with leg rings, but this individual had no rings on either leg. The small group of birders watched the bird feeding in front of a bramble bush before it took flight and headed back towards the compound fence. It seemed to fly and feed in a triangle circuit for much of the morning but would also disappear for periods of time before being refound.

Wryneck (B Anderson)

Several walks along the length of the compound fenceline and surrounding areas failed to locate any Pied Flycatchers, but we did manage to find several Whinchats, Whitethroats, Lesser Whitethroats, Wheatear, and single Black Redstart, Redstart, and Willow warbler along with the numerous Linnets.

Saturday 1 September 2018

Dungeness, Migrants soon to depart.

Another visit to Dungeness this morning, Arriving around 7am we drove along Galloways and found hundreds of Hirundines gathering around the sheep fields and on the telegraph wires. Mainly Sand Martins with a few Swallows and House Martins among them. Whinchats, Wheatears, and Stonechats were present in good numbers and several Common Whitethroats and a stunning looking Lesser Whitethroat were also seen.



A search of the Lighthouse gardens and surrounding areas produced several more Wheatears and a Sparrowhawk which flew low across the grass between us and dropped into the garden. 
Eight Cattle Egrets were reported in the fields close to Boulderwall Farm yesterday, today only a single bird was seen. Although quite distant it did show well among the cattle.

Cattle Egret

Another drive along Galloways and Dengemarsh Gully produced sightings of a pair of Raven and a single Spotted Flycatcher. We ended the trip with a long walk around the Long Pits area but failed to turn up anything of note other than a Grass Snake which Brian spotted swimming across the pit.

Grass Snake (B Anderson)

Before heading for home, we stopped off at Wanstead Flats for another hour session with the Red-backed Shrike. This time it was showing well upon arrival but was constantly on the move looking for prey. Crickets and Bees seemed to be the main targets. A Hobby flying directly above our heads was a nice bonus to end the day.

Red-backed Shrike