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.

Saturday, 2 November 2013

High Tide at Seasalter, 2nd November

I didn't want to go too far this morning as the weather look far from certain so I stayed local and went back to Seasalter again. The tide was up on the beach and still coming in so any feeding waders were well gone leaving the high tide,  'island roost' where I counted 29 ringed plovers and c.600 dunlin. Apart from 4 g.c.grebes the sea looked empty although much later I did see 5 distant gannets. I headed for the 'plots' it looked pretty quiet with half a dozen moorhens and a gadwall in the dyke and in the bushes, 12 goldfinches, 1 cetti's and a pair of stonechats.


I walked up to the old 'pill box' finding a sparrowhawk perched high up in a popular tree and a kestrel was on the wires  near the main road. Someone told me they looked in the pill box once finding a barn owl  but not for me. A handful of mipits and great tits were feeding just over the bridge along with a single male reed bunting which was wearing a leg iron.

Reed Bunting

Moved on up to S. Swale NNR on the way seeing the two resident rooks on the seawall near the toilet block, these two having been here for the past few years. Nothing around the beach huts but a few turnstones at the bottom of the beach plus a grey plover. Further along and sat in the middle of the freshly germinated crop was a merlin which I was able to show to a couple of regular dog walkers who had always wished to see one on their walks.  Of course no golden plover or lapwing flock seen here as the merlin was still there even when I left for home.

Grey Plover

On the walk back a handful of goldies flew past and a couple of lapwings bringing the morning list up to 41. In the distance over the plots I scoped a marsh harrier and just managed to lock onto half a dozen skylarks over the arable. As the sun had been out for the last hour I was pleased to see two clouded yellows on the bank and plus another pair of stonechats in the field margin.