Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Black Brant to Tufted Duck

15th Nov.

Another visit to SS finding 9 egrets, c.1000 dunlin on the roost plus ringed plovers, several ringed plovers plus a handful of barwits and grey plovers. On the sea I counted 6 grebes and a dozen great black backed gulls. I moved onto the LNR finding 3 stonechats, a dozen reed buntings, 1 chaffinch and 1 linnet. On the back fields were c.500 golden plovers and c.500 brent which were back and forth onto the sea and at one point I had a close view of the black brant.

 The Black Brant

House Sparrow


A day out with the other half, I thought Hythe would be a nice place to go and look around the shops and of course I nearly forgot I could spend some time on the seafront, might be something to see. What a surprise, some purple sandpipers, spent a good hour with them waiting until they showed on the rocks.

  One of Three Purple Sandpipers at Hythe


A short visit to SS finding a little grebe on the plots, 12 stock doves over flying, 1 stonechat, very quiet. On the sea shore, 7 egrets and I counted 83 bar-tailed godwits.


Made a visit to Ramsgate harbour to see the shag reported the other day and on the way back I stopped at Hampton to see the purple sandpipers.


Another short visit to SS seeing a few scoter flocks, 3 mergansers and a red-throated diver then mid-morning, no, not a trip to Folkestone to see the Forsters Tern but of home to get ready to attend a 50th wedding anniversary, which was very nice! The time I  heard about it I would have missed it anyway.

Sun. 27th

Back to SS seeing a black redstart in the chalet park, a little grebe in the 'set aside' dykes and back near the car 5 eiders inc. 2 nice adult males were on the sea, which later flew west after 20 minutes. Later a flock of c.60 greylags flew across towards Sheppey, the sea was quiet apart from a small raft of wigeon.  The plots were not very productive except for 2 marsh harriers, 6 fieldfares, 2 long-tailed tits etc..

 Some of the Five Eiders

A nice sunny morning at SS and the incoming tide gave me time to  count 66 redshank in the tidal pools plus 7 grey plovers etc..  On the plots, quiet again but c.25 coots made quite a splash, plus a I saw a male sparrowhawk and lastly a water rail was squealing near the bridge. On the sea, 4 scoters flew west into the Swale and 2 RT divers flew east and just one gc grebe. It was also good to see the return of the lone rook on the sea wall by the toilet block, a regular visitor for a couple of years.   Then  return to Hampton seeing the two purple sandpipers, c.10 sanderling and a couple of redshanks.

29th Nov.

SS again finding the black redstart again but nothing new except for a tufted duck (new for the year)in with the wigeon raft, and a glimpse of the crane flying with a few swans on Sheppey.

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

New Addition To The Camera Bag

11th Nov.

I went out this morning to test my new 1.4 extender Mk3 at Seasalter. Along the wall, by the breakwaters there is normally a few waders resting on the posts at high tide which make ideal subjects.  On my way by the huts a short-eared got up from the grass, looking tired as if it had just arrived.

Later I moved onto Hampton finding some oystercatchers and sanderling plus a kingfisher flew out from the brook and landed on the 'large breakwater'. It was some distance but I thought I would give it a go and try for a photo. Only getting a 1/100 sec shutter speed I was amazed that I got a fair image, not wobbly at all and a large crop.

Later a little egret flew in and landed on the rocks giving more opportunities, the sanderling further back along the beach didn't play ball so I didn't bother any more with them. I met another photographer, Dan Moon who was trying his luck for the purple sandpipers which I have not seen yet this autumn.

Sat 12th Nov.

A miserable looking start to the day with rain in the air so I was going to give it a miss today but a call from Steve Ashton moved me to join him at Seasalter where he wanted to do some kit testing. Fortunately, the rain had just about stopped enabling us to walk up to the wall and have a try at the grey plovers and redshank etc.. As we were about to finish a flock of 8 small birds landed very close to us on the wall apron, snow buntings. We got a few shots but as usual along came man and his dog and they flew westwards but landed. We went back up on the wall and within a minute the snow buntings were running back towards us on the apron.  A few more close shots but at very high ISOs, then off they went again, back over to Sheppey I think.

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

The Last Three Weeks

21st Oct

I took a walk along the seawall at Reculver hoping to see the shorelarks again but no luck. However, I did bump into a snow bunting which was in the deep shade of the wall and managed to get a couple of shots before it wandered a bit further along the beach and then lost. Also I met Gary Faulkner, a Flickr contact. 

25th Oct


I have been researching photographic equipment that would give me a better and lighter kit for some time now. I had always admired results from the new Nikon 300mm F4, small and half the weight of my lens and then the Nikon D500 which was the new all singing and dancing camera from the Nikon stable. With trembling nerves I bagged up all my Canon kit and traded it all in for the above kit plus a 1.4 extender. The first day out it was great, smaller, lighter and seemed to respond in every way as it was the following day.  However, as we all know, its what looks good on the PC and not the back of the camera. Reviewing the shots I got that horrible feeling, 'what have I done', oh know.  

The results were not terrible but clearly not as good as my Canon, rather soft and no real 'bite' in the detail. It was not a focus issue as front and back of the focus point were just the same. I was convinced there was a problem with either the body or lens as this combination should have produced equal or better results than my Canon kit.  Fortunately, I was able to go back to the shop where they took it all back and returned my Canon kit, thanks to them!   

Fingers slightly burned with that experience I was not going to try another kit from elsewhere but it shows that when you buy new, be careful because even paying out a lot of money does not guarantee you will get first class results.  I have known several cases where this has happened so always buy 'on approval', you shell out a fist full of money and you are given a box with gear that's untested and could easily have faults.

28th Oct

A fine day so I went to Stodmarsh meeting up with Steve and Tim. Walking to the Marsh hide we had good views of a heron with an enormous eel which it swallowed without too much trouble.  A couple of beardies showed briefly but otherwise it was fairly quiet.

29th Oct

A visit to SS plots proved rather unexciting, the only thing of note being 14 fieldfares in one of the trees otherwise it was goldfinches, song thrushes, chaffinch, wren, cetti's but it was good to see 2 greenfinches here. On the LNR I took photos of this grey plover resting on the breakwaters.

30th Oct

A rather damp quiet morning.

2nd Oct.

A day out with the other half to Sheffield Park gardens, managed to get in this week, last week we had to abort, crowded, no room in car park.

3rd Nov.

A short pm visit to SS seeing 8 snipe flying over plus a distant barn owl, no shorties today though.

5th Nov.

The weather was doubtful but I went to SBBOT, the hide was unexciting with mainly teal on show so I went along the toll road and found the greys.  I parked up and just waited until they came close (6 off) mizzly rain started but I managed a few shots as they gradually came towards me.

Sunday, 16 October 2016


13th Oct.

After hearing about the two shorelarks at Reculver from Mark Chidwick I paid a visit on Friday morning bunping into Mike Roser who was just leaving after seeing them.  There were no other birders about so it was a bit of  a search and after a while I started to go back as there seemed no sign then thought 'no don't give up'. I then retraced my steps and went on further east and finally found them but they were very skittish in the strong east wind.  I got several pictures and then put Melvyn and Janice Fagg onto their position as they were also eager to see them.

Other birds included a short-eared owl over the fields behind, a wheatear along the beach and far out to sea a bonxie, several gannets and a peregrine.

14th Oct.

Returning to Seasalter this morning finding, c.200 turnstones, 160 ringed plover, 30 dunlin on the island and a wheatear in the beach gardens.

Along the South  Swale LNR I saw; c.600 golden plovers, 1 peregrine, 1 wheatear and on the sea 2K brents (quite a few juveniles) with 225 wigeon plus a handful of teal amongst them and at least 4 pintail. 

16th Oct

2 shorelark were reported yesterday at Seasalter somewhere so I took the long walk up nearly to C.Coote. No sign unfortunately but there were 2 wheatears, the brent and wigeon flock. I also made a point of counting the little egrets coming into roost on the Coote amounting to 94 birds not including those that may have already been at the roost. Plenty of mipits, a few reed buntings on the beach and a flock of c.30 linnets.

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

11th October

8th Oct.

It was a dull, 'about to mizzle' morning but it was very busy on the plots with loads of birds in the bushes.  It kicked off with a pair of stonechats on the way in followed by several jackdaws flying west which is unusual.  Placing myself in one spot I watched the bushes where I saw 6 blackcaps, 3 cetti's, 2 redwings, 10 song thrushes 6 goldcrests, a ring ouzel, c.20 chiffchaffs, 16 long-tailed tits, 1 marsh harrier, 1 great spotted woodpecker, a swallow plus linnets, 17 chaffinches and half a dozen blackbirds, one of which was jet black, black bill and no eye ring, maybe one of the continental types.

There was one small leafless bush holding 4 song thrushes, 5 blackcaps, 2 goldcrests, 1 blue and a great tit plus a cetti's warbler, what was so attractive I don't know!

Unfortunately, no photos, I actually went out with the camera and bins then after a while went back to the car and swap it for the scope as it was difficult to ID the small birds in the distant bushes.

11th Oct

Today the bushes were quiet, just a few chiffs and cetti's so I turned my attention seaward. In the pools left by the receding tide opposite the NRA there were 10 egrets together plus I counted another 17 later on at the LNR.  Near the Sportsman I counted 260 grey plovers as not much else to do and also noted lots of dunlin and c.100 knot and several barwits.

Walking through onto the beach a little bird dropped down onto the front of a boat trailor. I approached slowly as it was on the side I couldn't see and it hadn't flown, I thought it was one of the pied wags but to my surprise it was a brambling that allowed me to get close and take photos.

Thursday, 6 October 2016

5th October 16

5th Oct

Strong easterly winds, I couldn't think where to go and not suffer that blast so Hampton came to mind.  I could even sit in the car, no, there was plenty of shelter and the sun was nice and warm so I sat on one of the benches to seawatch.  Not much was going on but over towards Swalecliffe I could see 10 brents, 42 ringed plovers and 1 knot and closer to me a redshank and a couple of turnstones. Later from the car park I picked up a bonxie heading east and shortly after 12 little gulls approached from the west but doubled back then drifted further out. Also c.200 brents flew west in several small groups plus one Sandwich tern was in the area.

6th Oct.

This afternoon I took a walk along the SS. LNR finding 2 wheatears near the huts, noted one mipit but nothing else except the c.250 brents out on the water riding out the easterly gale.

 This one looks to be a youngster

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

4th October

The last week of September was spent in Rome sightseeing taking in many of the ancient and baroque sites plus the Villa Borghese which holds many paintings and sculptures. One room held six Caravaggio paintings but none of them roped off etc., I could have touched one easily, very little security, plus plenty of illumination, not displayed in virtual darkness - maybe they know more about such things than we do!

'A Caravaggio' - did you know his 'name Caravagio' is the name of the village he lived in, his real name was not allowed to be used as it was Michelangelo Marisi!

Since getting back I nipped out to see the pallid harrier and pm. 30 minutes at Seasalter just seeing a few gannets and 1 arctic skua before having to attend a kids party!

However, on the 3rd, a proper morning at Seasalter finding 31 egrets, a few wader examples but no big numbers. An unusual large amount of herring gulls milling about just off the outfall and c.90 cormorants plus 15 grebes. The plots were quiet, 2 chiffs, 9 linnets, single blackbird, chaffinch, kestrel but a surprise  with a raven honking overhead flying towards Ellenden Wood. A couple of small white butterflies and a southern hawker posed for the camera but very little else.

                               The white spots on the eyes of the hawker must be reflections of some sort

Common Darter

I moved along to the LNR where I saw c.10 bearded tits on the edge of the reedbed where they were cleaning out the ditches, maybe the disturbance caused them to up and leave but they were the first I have 'eyeballed' this year here.  Apart from a few skylarks, 2 reed buntings, 1 swallow and mipits it was again quiet. I could see further west c.250 brents on the mudflats but I didn't go further on.

The best I could do with the beardies, very active, this one with a ring.