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.