Sunday, 29 December 2013

So Quiet

I have had a few trips down to Seasalter over the Xmas period but there's been nothing to get excited about except maybe the build of the seal population. The gale on Xmas Eve resulted in me losing 5 ridge tiles and a dozen or more along the gable ends plus 3-4  panels down (new fence required now), so a big bill coming up I think. However, on the 28th I saw 34 brents, 24 sanderling at SS plus 11 teal on the sea plus the usual bits and pieces, the best sighting was a count of 94 seals on Horse Sands, somewhat a record for me. They have been building up for some reason during the last few weeks, hopefully they will top a hundred soon.  A big flock of c.3000 knot and slightly lesser numbers of dunlin have been regular on the distant mudflats. Sadly, hardly any passerines seen although c.15 reed buntings on the plots were unexpected.

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Divers Galore

I went over to Hampton Pier this morning as it was high tide hoping to see the purple sandpipers of which there were three roosting on the rocks with a group of redshank. There wasn't much else but I stayed for a couple of hours watching small groups of red-throated divers going east all morning. I noticed another birder sat in his car which turned out to be Mark C. and together we counted 64 red-throats, 1 razorbill and lastly two magnificent great northern divers on the sea not far offshore. They fed on crabs and  drifted east past the pier towards the H/Bay pier. Cormorants were numerous, possibly 200, again going east in large parties, maybe to the roost on the end of H/Bay pier.

A distant record shot of one of the GNDs who stayed together feeding on crabs

Just as I was packing my gear in the boot Mark shouted 'Med gull' which had just flown in onto the beach. Mark had a loaf of bread which came in handy as we enticed the gulls over for a photo shoot.

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Seasalter Visits

I had three visits down to the patch this week, nothing much but a couple of birds were of interest. On the 9th I picked up 45 species including a kingfisher by the pumping station and the usual 8 gadwall, 3 coots and 1 teal etc. were still present. A flock of 145 lapwing were in the field next to the Sportsman plus a similar number of curlew and on the flats c.1250 knot. Very few small birds about, 3 mipits, a pair of pied wagtails and 13 linnets.
After becoming a fully fledged pensioner this week with a day off I duly went back down to the Swale on the 12th finding very little except a buzzard hovering over the fields behind S.Swale near the sub-station plus 51 seals on Horse Sands. Busied myself making one of the gates less muddy to walk through whilst behind me a couple of black-tailed godwits came in fairly close at the bottom of the beach.

Today, the sea was a flat calm and  a beautiful, clear sunny day,  finding the scope buried in the boot I got set to do some sea-watching. Almost straight away a great northern diver flew east followed later by two red throats and whilst counting the 41 g.c.grebes I picked up a velvet scoter on the sea.
Moving onto the plots I found 6 reed buntings, 8 goldfinches, 1 wren and a rare surprise finding 2 bearded tits plus a marsh harrier when leaving.
Stopped on the beach by the chalets to do some photography and whilst wedged against a breakwater I watched two pied wagtails having a set too, finally moving out over the sea. The resulting 'fight' finished with one of the birds being forced down into the water but after a little swim it flew off again.

It's ok, I can swim

As the tide left the beach the expected big flock of waders coming in for photos didn't happen, just a handful of dunlin and oystercatchers which were all too distant and a group of 117 brent were feeding near the start of the concrete seawall.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Oare Marsh

I visited Oare Marshes this morning, mainly to see the effects of the tidal surge on Friday. A stop in Oare village revealed some of the extent of the flooding down towards the Creek which was covered in water on the western side. One of the residents told me that on Friday morning it looked much, much worse as the water levels were much lower and the Shipwright Arms was flooded totally plus the fields along Ham Road.

I had to park at the top end of the road at Oare Marsh as the car park and most of road was underwater. Several black-tailed godwits and a couple of ruff were feeding on small grassy areas poking through the water on the western side plus several pintail were dotted about.

West Flood

Making my way on the path to the Creek I turned right and walked back towards Oare where I could see all the 'New Acquisitions' were covered in seawater, the only birds being a couple redshank, 5 greenfinches, 2 mipits and 1 reed bunting.

About turned and headed to the sea-watching hide seeing at least 40-50 pintail on the main east flood but no waders as all the islands were still completely underwater. The gate and footpath near the sluice must have been almost three feet underwater at this point judging by all the grass wedged into the fences.

Met up with Murray and co. at the car park where we turned and retraced our steps back to the cars with a brief stop at the sea-watching hide again. Tried to count the avocet flock at the mouth of the Creek and made it just over one hundred but when I got home on the pc. the flock totalled 158!

Two rock pipits whizzed around the corner and landed briefly on the seaweed covered rocks but no long enough for a decent photography. 

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Seasalter High Tide, 6th December

I went down to the beach Thursday pm expecting a bit of a high tide after listening to all the forecasts on the radio and tv but the tide looked quite low....what are they on about.  The early Friday morning high tide (2.00am) was again said to be high and as Seasalter seafront was evacuated it seemed things were going to be bad. I thought about going down to Whistable harbour just after midnight too witness the event but whilst I was asleep, I forgot all about it!  However, next morning listening to Radio Kent the expected high tide happened. I arrived at SS to see the road had been closed but access could be had all along the front. Fortunately, I think everybody had a narrow escape as there was no sign of flooded properties just flotsam very high on the beach and on some people's drives.

Moving up to the Sportsman and South Swale things were quite different as the chalet car park and the and wedge of land beyond was completely flooded.

The piece of land between the huts and the seawall has been eroded several feet already this autumn and today's tide took another two metres, the tide will soon reach up to the earth bund at this rate. Interestingly, I have a friend who has been monitoring this erosion over the past ten years with measurements and photos. He was out there earlier this week after I told him it was eroding fast this autumn, not expecting this today's surge but it appears that it has eroded back by about sixty feet!

A glance out onto the mudflats revealed that 3-4000 knot had just arrived plus plenty of dunlin and today (7th) there was a record number of 74 coots by the pumping station, normally only up to two or three plus a water rail calling.

Monday, 2 December 2013

Black Redstarts at Seasalter, 1st December

After yesterday I just took a short walk at Seasalter finding 112 ringed plovers on the high tide roost plus c.300 dunlin along with a few redshank and the odd grey plover. At the plots entrance a pair of stonechats, 5 reed buntings, a green woodpecker, 7 goldfinches and a couple of mipits plus 3 coots in the dyke.

Further on by the Sportsman 2 black redstarts were hanging around the huts, managed to get a shot of both on the breakwater, quite a surprise and were seen again today, Monday the 2nd by Geoff Burton.

Black Redstart - today by Geoff Burton

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Dungeness Produces the Goods, 30th November 13

After an uneventful morning yesterday along Sandbanks Lane, Graveney to Faversham Creek I needed to see some birds so I headed down to Dungeness. First stop was at the ARC and a walk down to the screen hide as 3 marshes harriers were circling the area. They never approached near enough for the camera so I turned back just after seeing two chiffchaffs in the bushes. I then went to the fishing boats but all was quiet so I indulged in some other photography.....a long way to go I think!

I hoped to see a Caspian Gull but there were no gulls flocks at this time so I moved on down to the lighthouse but it didn't look promising either so I headed over to the RSPB stopping at the roadside to look over the ARC. A huge flock of at least 300 gadwall were all milling around together and in the southern corner plus one redhead smew and half a dozen goldeneye..  At the RSPB reserve I walked the circuit and from the first hide saw two chiffchaffs, one GW Egret, one black-necked grebe plus lots of wigeon, coots, shoveler etc.


Great White Egret


Called in at the other hides but nothing really different but at Denge Marsh hide the 3 marsh harriers were active putting up the ducks and lapwings plus a peregrine went past carrying a small duck. Arriving back at the car I returned to the ARC  and the Hanson Hide. Another chiffchaff, a flock of l.t.tits with blue and great tits and the usual duck which were put up by a marsh harrier again.

The weather had perked up a bit so I thought I would give the fishing boats and gull flocks another try. On route to the southern end of ARC I stopped to pick out 3 smew plus a GWE. Upon arrival, I met Martin Casemore leaving the beach car park who told me Mick Southcott and Richard Smith had seen a juvenile Caspian Gull in the flock earlier. With a spring in my step I met up with Mick and Richard who were parked up, Richard in the back covered in loaves of bread etc and Mick in the front.  Of coarse, no gulls were present but with a little enticement they returned after 20 -30 minutes and amongst them the juv. Caspian (1st winter) quickly pointed out by Mick. The cameras were busy for a good twenty minutes plus plenty of time to get acquainted with the plumage differences to the herring gulls.

 Long neck and bill, flatter forehead, 'anchor' marks on scapulars.

Whitish head and much paler overall

The legs are supposed to be longer but not readily apparent

Underwing and flanks rather pale c/p to herring gull below

Looked bigger than the herring gulls

Darkish scarf/boa around lower neck seen on shot below

Fairly clean rump and tailband

The day ended on a high as it was a bird I needed for my Kent List, many thanks to Mick and Richard.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Changes at Wraik Hill. 26th November

I thought I would take a look at Wraik Hill having not been there for a few weeks.  Extensive scrub bashing had been carried out where c.33% of the scrub has been removed, it needed doing a bit but this was something else. I hope it will not disturb the two nightingale pairs that breed there when they return!  Bound to look different for them. Perhaps it will mature in time and come to attract plenty of wildlife again.

I only saw a couple of redwings and blackbirds here but little else although a sparrowhawk flew past over the road.  Made my way to the seafront where the tide was out, quite a few dunlin on the mud to the east. Moving west the birdlife declined especially at the S.Swale LNR which was not helped by the 'cockler dredger' that sits on the mud every day at low tide then starts sweeping the flats at high tide.  By the white post you can see the lines stretching across the flats where it has 'ploughed' the surface, no doubt killing all the shellfish hence no birds!
The only thing of note was out on Horse Sands, where a record count of 58 seals were hauled out on the bank in two separate groups, one of 15 (the usual group) and the others 250 yds away, a visiting group perhaps.

A late afternoon shot as the tide was coming in.

Monday, 25 November 2013

Shellness, sunny but cold.

I've not been out for a couple of days, what with the weather and a dose of man flu I thought I should try somewhere different today. So with the hope of snow buntings I went straight to Shellness where I immediately bumped into Derek Faulkner who pointed me in the right direction. 

There were quite a few sanderling on the mudflats plus a few grey plovers and redshank and thankfully no other people apart from one local dog walker on my return. I slowly got onto the 12 snow buntings and sat on the beach close to them whilst they fed, not worrying about my presence. 

I left them to it after about fifteen minutes and walked back to the blockhouse where I found another on its own.

On the way back to Leysdown I stopped along the seawall to photograph some gulls with my new little compact camera........need to take other photos as well as birds but can't resist!

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Cattle Egret, 19th November

Walked out over to the middle drove in the mud  seeing a hare running about in the field and being photographed by Steve Ashton. I didn't get any shots myself but joined Steve where we waited for the cattle egret to come a bit closer amongst the cows. It was quite wary of our presence, a hide would have been the answer but managed a few shots. Took some photos in flight as it had a fly around but luckily always returned to the field of cows.

Apart from the egret it was quiet, a few fieldfares, 2 marsh harriers hardly any small birds.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Gloomy Sunday

Couldn't think where to go this morning so ended up at Seasalter as usual. A look over the high tide roost revealed 126 ringed plover plus 3 sanderling which have not been that forthcoming this autumn. Also c.75 turnstones dotted about along the beach and on the 'island' with a few dunlin amongst the ringed plover. A short visit into the plots only produced 2 reed buntings, a mipit and a kestrel, very quiet but in the dyke a gadwall, 2 coots and a couple of moorhens. Moving up to S.Swale LNR I thought I would up to Castle Coote (about 2 miles). A flock of c.600 golden plovers was circling the first field as I walked up to the wall but I couldn't see what was disturbing them, in fact they seemed to be circling all morning.  Further on, the brent flock was on the arable, the white one still with them, virtually no passerines at all..........not sure as to whether I heard a bearded tit call but never saw it.

The tide was nearly high as I pushed onto C.Coote, several turnstones were at the base of the wall plus a couple of grey plovers. Out on the sea there were 3 g.c.grebes plus a small flock of c.60 wigeon with a dozen teal amongst them. On the Sheppey side a flock of c.40 avocets were flying up the Swale, no doubt going to Oare Marsh.

Further on near C.Coote a couple of juvenile brents were feeding close to water's edge and on C.C. 2 shelduck plus a lot of waders were roosting on the beach. On the western side of C.C. 136 grey plovers were on the shingle plus a knot and barwit etc. and in the central part c.600 lapwing and c.200 redshank plus 3 egrets (a few weeks ago there was about 80).

A rather poor morning, very dark and gloomy, looked like rain was imminent all morning but I managed to see 45 species..... when will things get better and with some decent birds!

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Out for a Gander 11th Nov. - 14th November

Down to Seasalter again on 11th., the weather was mild and dull, I was not expecting anything of note but whilst scanning the sea and counting 8 g.c.grebes I picked a couple of sawbills.  I was hoping for some mergansers soon for this autumn but these two were goosanders, a most unusual record. Last seen about ten years ago by me on the pumping station dyke but never on the sea.  Further on at S.Swale, Amco Ltd was constructing their little campsite as they were going to be repairing some of the seawall further up near C.Coote as the sea was beginning to undermine the concrete sea wall.
The tide was now out and the mudflats were almost deserted except for c.300 knot and on the landward side the c.1500 flock of brent were on the arable including the 'white one'. Mid-morning a few flocks of fieldfares were going west, c.250 plus a few chaffinches.

Another visit on the afternoon of the 12th only produced a cetti's along the wall plus the brent flock and a flying display by a peregrine chasing a lapwing for about ten minutes. All the brents, goldies and lapwings went up as the peregrine approached, cutting out one poor lapwing which gave a good account of its ability. Either the peregrine was just having a game or the lapwing was more agile but I watched for ten minutes before the peregrine finally pounced on it near the ground. Once caught and about a minute after the peregrine started to fly up and over its kill as if showing off then flew off without it!

Today, 14th.  Stopped at the beach roost counting 63 redshank, 88 ringed plover (another 100 roosting by the huts) plus dunlin etc.. The wind was getting stronger all morning so abandoned my walk at 11.30 not before seeing a green sandpiper fly across the road by the Sportsman and drop into the dyke to the west.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Quiet end to the week. 7th & 8th

More visits to Seasalter as everywhere else seemed quiet so no point wasting diesel. On Thursday, just the usual birds seen including, one marsh harrier over the plots, the odd blackbird, blue tit etc.. At the S.Swale LNR, c800 golden plovers on the arable fields, hardly any small birds, just the occasional mipit, my ears couldn't register anything from the reedbed either. Plenty of egrets out on the water's edge, at least twenty noted and the c.1500 strong brent flock was on the arable again until spooked (I noted Ian Shepherds pm. visit recorded  a raven on a pylon) when they all landed on the mudflats.  I was able to see the aberrant brent goose, virtually all white.

On the way back a butterfly swept over my head, not giving me a chance to ID it and I also saw a peacock in the front garden when I got home. 
Friday was a little better as I carried the scope and tripod as well as the camera, I need a pack horse! Looking far out into the 'cut' quite a few waders were present including c.500 knot and most other regular species. Out on the arable at S.Swale a merlin was sat in the field back towards the substation and on one of the pylons near Nagden two peregrines were perched, I often see two peregrines hunting together! As the tide came in 14 g.c.grebes were coming in closer and the c.50 curlews flew overhead to roost on the fields.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Gannets Galore, 4th Nov.

Strong north westerlies prompted me to get down to Seasalter beach again for a sea watch, conditions seemed just right with high tide at 12.30pm.. Parking by the Ski Club the tide was already crashing up on the beach, its gonna be high!  Straight away two juvenile gannets were seen flying close inshore but first I walked back along Marine Parade where yesterday Derek Flint saw a snow bunting but of course no sign of it this morning. Plenty of waders along the water's edge feeding amongst the flotsam/weed etc. that the tide was washing up onto the beach.

Redshank feeding amongst the flotsam

From the Ski Club I saw about 80 gannets in the Swale plus 14 scoter and 2 wigeon and just off Whitstable there was possibly a couple of little gulls but it was too far away to be sure. A total of 110 gannets for the morning.

Mostly juvenile gannets seen this morning- Sheppey on the left

Gannets with the western edge of Shellness in the background

Adult and almost adult Grt.B.B. Gull

In front of the clubhouse parties of turnstones, ringed plover and dunlin were dodging the foam as the tide was sweeping further up the beach.

Dodging the waves

I moved along to S.Swale NNR where the high tide was eating into the 'hard' section of the beach between the concrete seawall and the beach huts. It won't be long before it spills over into triangle section of the reserve which is considerably lower.......should be good! Its lost about 30 feet over the last few years.

The sea eating back into the land

Clods of  land being reclaimed by the sea

I walked up to the white post seeing the c.500 strong flock of brent now on the arable crop which won't please the farmer and on the next field c.1250 golden plover and c.500 lapwing. A couple of times when sea watching I looked back to see them all in the air, no doubt a peregrine or something.  A couple of mipits and skylarks plus a stonechat on the wall were the only passerines seen.


I made my way back to the beach huts where I sat on a wicker chair that seems to  have got lost but made a useful piece of kit as I watched and photographed the turnstones, ringed plover and dunlin etc. on the water's edge. Quite a good morning I thought, plenty of fodder for the camera.


By mid to late morning the wind had eased slightly and the sky had brightened up which signalled all the dog walkers to come out but by this time I had done all my photography and none of the birds on the water's edge would be chased off.


Quite a few of the dunlin had these longish bills, bigger than I normally see, maybe the alpina race from N. Scandinavia or perhaps I should study them closer next time.