Wednesday, 31 December 2014

A Surprise at Chilham

31st Dec.

I started the morning at Seasalter and a quick look at the roost, nothing different and very quiet on the flat calm sea. Next, to the woods, where I met Dave Barnes where we soon had lesser spot, nuthatch, goldcrests, firecrest, coal tit, treecreeper, grt spot, long tail/blue/great tits. Following this I went to Chilham for another look at the GGShrike which always kept its distance but the surprise was a distant 2nd winter glaucous gull spotted by a young eagle eye. I managed to get a few photos but only had my 300mm fitted.

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Bits and Pieces

Friday 19th.

After the early morning rain cleared up I went to Dungeness or perhaps should I say Lydd and pay my respects to the two cattle egrets alongside the Denge Marsh road.  As I arrived one was sitting on a roadside fence post but I was unable to get a photo and had to wait when they were walking about in the mire! A quick stop at the ARC finding a goldeneye and GWE then onto the RSPB where there were 6 goosanders, 1 fem smew, 1 Slavonian grebe. 200 cormorants and 1 ruddy duck (keep that one a secret).
On the way home stopped at Chilham to say hello to the shrike again.

Sunday 21st

Just a quick trip down to the Seasalter roost lunchtime after having a special breakfast with the kids and 'Santa'.. Plenty of dunlin and a good count of 16 sanderling

24th Dec.

A bit of birding and Xmas shopping this morning......First stop was at Seasalter, a rather cold morning, finding 22 gadwall, c.50 teal in the NRA dyke, nothing much else here so onto a mission to get 'Buckaroo' if that's how its spelt.  After Canterbury was searched by my other half I was sent to Tesco's etc but we both failed to come up with the goods.  Someone said, 'try Kids Corner', Herne Bay and yes, bingo they had some.  Going back to Whitstable I thought I'll have a look at Hampton and yes, the 4 purple sandpipers were on show. I then took a walk along the prom back towards Swalecliffe hoping to see the Med gull I saw the other week but no luck, just turnstones.

26th Dec.

A couple of hours out this morning visiting Swalecliffe finding the 6 snow buntings and a huge goldfish or Koi c.18 - 20 inches long in the Brook. How on earth did that get there?
Back at Seasalter, a kingfisher at the NRA plus teal, coots and mallard. Out on the mud, c700 knot, the odd grey plover etc.

28th Dec.

A morning at the cold Stodmarsh 'Reedbed Hide' proved rewarding with 3 bitterns seen plus distant marsh harriers and sparrowhawk.

30th Dec.

Another look around the patch, the first stop was along SS Lane, the whole area white with frost. No small birds about but a few swans, a heron plus two hares chasing across the fields to the south.  At Mt Pleasant corner a peregrine was on a pylon plus 4 song thrushes, 6 fieldfares flying over and a chaffinch.
At the seafront the usual waders plus 65 barwits just off the NRA, c1000 knot, c.100 goldies on the flats and good numbers of dunlin all over. I walked into the plots which were quiet except for a flock of 32 mipits which seemed unusual, a group of 17 teal were sitting on the ice covered dyke and two snipe were flushed by something. Lastly, a marsh harrier flew west over to the fields behind the LNR.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

To The Woods

14th Dec.

This morning I visited the local woods and after a while came across a tit flock which held c.20 long-tails plus great/blue, 2-3 coal tits and 3-4 goldcrests. Also amongst them was a lesser spotted woodpecker, nuthatch and a couple of treecreepers. Green and great spotted woodpeckers were also seen plus jay, wren and chaffinch.

Distant record shots!

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Harrier Day

Sat.13th Dec.

Another morning on the patch as it was a lovely day, perhaps I could get a good specie count today. Starting at Wraik Hill reservoir I picked up a dozen birds for the list which included 6-8 greenfinches, a rarity down below at Seasalter plus a marsh harrier heading for the marshes. It looked as it had come from Stodmarsh,  I have seen them before in Clowes Wood heading in the same direction.
Next stop was the 'Wraik Hill Country Park', looked as it had suffered a nuclear attack after its scrub bashing. However, c25 redwings were feeding on the berries on the remaining bushes but there was little else.  Moving down to the levels a bullfinch flew across the road near the Thanet Way flyover and at Mt Pleasant corner a cetti's burst into song. 
On the seafront by the pumping station, the usual array of waders including 52 lapwings by the outfall. On the plots c.50 teal, 3 gadwall and a dozen mallard plus several snipe jumping up from the wet grass in various places and a pair of stonechats.  Back on the beach, 5 sanderling, c.250 brents, barwits, goldies, c.1000 knot, dunlin, grey plovers etc. and in the distance on Horse Sands, 136 seals. 

Fairly happy with 52 species I left for an early lunch as I had permission to go to Stodmarsh in the afternoon!  With the intention of seeing a hen harrier I headed for the Marsh Hide arriving just before 3.00pm. Within a few minutes I a ringtail flipped over the bund and landed in front of the hide just a few feet beyond the expanse of water. It then flew another 30yds and sat in the grass for thirty minutes, finally flying off at 3.30 pm. No more 'hens' to be seen from here just a few marsh harriers plus a few more on the walk back.  Amazing numbers of fieldfares in the bushes plus a stonechat close to the hide.  Finished off by going out onto the Lampen Wall where I met Dave Brown who earlier had a very quick sighting of a male 'hen' diving into the reeds but now only 'marshes' were left so at 4.30 it was nearly dark and time to go home.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Did you Know

3rd Dec.
Not many people know this but if you wake up one morning or all of a sudden you lose your hearing in one ear, you must go to A&E straight away to get emergency steroid treatment, its appears its your only hope to get some hearing back.  It happened to me at the beginning of June and after  two months of 'lets see if its better in a fortnight' then try this spray and then take these antibiotics I finally got to an ENT consultant where of course it was much too late, my inner ear was shot to pieces. (Cause, unknown). The odds are one in ten thousand which does not sound a lot but that could be six to seven  thousand a year across the UK, yet nobody seems to be aware of it.  If you lose you sight in one eye its clear and you get attention straight away but ears don't appear to be important. 

However, today I finally got two hearing aids this morning which are helping but not much to my bad ear.

That's the health warning over.

4th Dec.

A visit to Swalecliffe on a cold gloomy morning finding the 13 snow buntings plus a chiffchaff and a male blackcap.

Snow Bunting
5th Dec.
The weather was still cold and gloomy, I stopped by the pumping station to look at the high tide roost finding; 130 ringed plovers, c.1000 dunlin and 9 sanderling plus a few turnstones, redshank and 30 brents etc.. In the dyke, 20 teal, 3 coots, 2 mallard and a kingfisher which seems to be quite a regular sighting now.  I received a call from Geoff who surprisingly was at Castle Coote where on walking back had seen two whooper swans on the arable. I shot up there just in time to see them fly off west (par for the course)!

 Grey Plover


The reedbed was quiet as usual apart from a couple of stonechats and a few waders roosting on the breakwaters.

Sat. 6th Dec.
A beautiful day after a heavy frost and light winds, I had a look at Hampton Pier where just  one purple sandpiper was on show then back to Swalecliffe finding 4 snow buntings and 5 sanderling.

Purple Sandpiper at Hampton

Snow Bunting 

I then went back to Seasalter to catch the high tide wader roost and a chance for some photos as it was a lovely day.

Ringed Plover and Dunlin 


Arriving back at home another high ISO 4000 test for the camera, through the patio doors.

Collared dove at ISO 4000

PM. had a wasted trip to Elmley, saw and watched two SEOs but they were flushed by togs who had permission to walk out into the field!

Sun. 7th
A bit rainy, finally ended up at Hampton seeing the four purps and a walk west to the Coastguard Cottages produced a Med gull on the breakwater.


Went to Stodmarsh, nothing from the Reedbed Hide except a marsh harrier etc. and in the aldercarr lots of goldfinches plus a few redpolls etc..

Marsh Harrier

Tues. 9th

Another heavy frost and a trip to Seasalter produced the usual teal, coots, etc. in the pumping station plus the kingfisher again. By the road here two stonechats were busy feeding plus a couple of pied wagtails. Further on in the field opposite the Sportsman; c.300 golden plovers plus a mix of 70 lapwings, several redshank starlings and curlew. Out on the mud, c.1200 knot and dunlin etc and on the sea 31 wigeon.


Oh dear, another year has passed.  Try something different so I went to Bossenden finding 2 nuthatches, 3 coal tits, and 2 treecreepers plus as I was leaving, a red admiral flew past settling briefly on a fence post.


I then went over to Chilham where the GG shrike was out on show but always too distant for a decent shot together with a pair of buzzards circling over the wood behind.

Back to Seasalter and the high tide roost, 19 sanderling this time plus the dunlin etc.

19 Sanderling today

Sunday, 30 November 2014

A Wet Week

I went to Swalecliffe to see the 4 male eiders, the first for sometime,  not easy to find now, odd when I think back twenty five or more years ago to the flock of c.50 plus that were always in the Swale often on the old wreck just below Harty Church. One August I remember a flock of over three hundred flew in and dropped down on Shellness briefly! Back to today, the long staying black-throated was on show albeit rather distant plus a nice slavonian grebe along with c.30 grt crested grebes, an unusually large count I think. 

After yesterdays washout I made a visit to Seasalter finding a dozen mallard, c.8 teal and 4 coots on the main dyke by the pumping station. The plots were quiet just finding the usual dunnocks, robins, blackbirds, 4 goldfinches, 2 song thrushes, 1 distant buzzard, 1 cetti's and 2 snipe. In the football field behind Walden's a group of 19 pied wagtails together.

I then nipped over to Hampton finding the 4 purple sandpipers and c.25 redshanks on the rocks.

Another trip over to the shrike at Chilham, it didn't come close during my time there, the post in the field being the nearest.

Walked into the village mid morning to take a few shots of the church ( I've got to photograph other things)!

I thought you would like this
I went  up to Wraik Hill to see how much more scrub had been removed by the KTNC heavy machinery.  Another severe scalping, I am worried as to whether the nightingales will return, they were informed many times as to their tenuous hold on the site. I understand the plan is to make it grass so they can graze animals. Started to rain so abandoned the morning but went out in the afternoon down to see the high tide roost counting 16 sanderling and c.1500 dunlin etc.. Further on by the Sportsman there were 230 lapwings, 800 golden plovers and c.600 starlings in the field opposite.

It was time I made use of my membership to SBBOT and went to the Restharrow hide etc., plenty of teal and a few gadwall.

A walk along the road revealed the two pairs of stonechats around the gorse but little else.

Friday, 21 November 2014

The Wader Roost

Today, I had another look at the wader roost finding much the same as yesterday, the only surprise being a merlin which flew along the beach and out through the wader roost. It never caught anything but set all the birds in a frenzy and finished off landing on the beach briefly before heading off again.

The 'island' nearly covered by the tide

Just managed to keep up with the merlin after it went through the roost

16 Sanderling today and c.1000 Dunlin

Out on the sea a few gannets and scoter occasionally came out of the mist but never came close. In the pumping station dyke 9 mallard, 8 teal, 3 coots and 5 moorhens.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Shore lark

I missed a shore lark by an hour on the 19th as when counting the 13 sanderling on the high tide roost a chap came up to me asking about a bird he'd seen but didn't know what it was but managed to get a reasonable shot of it. Yes, a shore lark just a 100 yds west of the tractor, I walked all the way west to the white post and back but no luck. No doubt the many dog patrols persuaded it to move off!

Today, 20th, the high tide roost held a record 24 sanderling plus c.1500 dunlin  the usual supporting cast.  A great spotted woodpecker alighted on a telegraph pole as I was getting out of the car, a good record I've not seen one here for c.3 months and Steve Ashton saw a ring necked parakeet flying along the beach, a new site record!

 Out over the sea it was a surprise to see a Sandwich tern, my latest ever record.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

The Chilham Great Grey Shrike

I hadn't been out much over the past few days, just a couple of short trips to the local Seasalter patch where I have seen, peregrine, sparrowhawk, little gulls and red-throated divers etc.. On the 12th I noted an influx of c.3000 knot and c.4000 dunlin plus the Wraik hill area saw a few flocks of redwings dropping into the bushes.

On Sunday I saw Dave Brown had tweeted 'great grey shrike on the wires' at Chilham so I ventured over there but not expecting to see it. I parked in the sports centre car park and walked back to the bridge with just my bins. At the bridge a couple of grey wagtails were chasing one another but of course no sign of the shrike but then it appeared 15 yards from camera, how times have I done this, I never learn!  Mind you if I had taken the camera there probably would have been no sign of the bird! A quick run back to the car for the camera but on return it was of course gone.  It did return but on a rather distant bush, then disappeared again.  However,  when I was leaving I stopped on the bridge and there it was, even closer. I kept the camera in the car, just in case and was able to get a few poor shots.

I returned Monday but only got a brief view then nothing but today the 18th things improved late morning.  I went to Seasalter first hoping to see some pilot whales that were in the Medway yesterday but no sign of them. However, I just checked the high tide roost finding; 127 ringed plover, 13 turnstones, 5 sanderling, 19 great black backed gulls and c.300 dunlin. On the sea 38 shelduck were further west off the Sportsman. 

Juvenile Great Grey Shrike

I then went back to Chilham as tweets reported the shrike was back on show. Several people were there watching but it had cleared off again and didn't return until 11.53am when it stayed in the area until c.12.30.  Whilst there a fox came close and a couple of red admirals were on the wing.

Spoilt by the branch across the picture as I was panning!

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Away To The Desert

Thurs. 6th

A lovely sunny day I thought I would have a change of scenery and go to Dungeness. Upon arrival I got out of the car and the phone sounded off  'Desert Wheatear at Reculver', oh no!  Dungeness looked quiet especially as the red-rumped swallow was nowhere to be found  so it was about turn and head back to Reculver.  A few people were already there and it was only just a short walk to the other side of the towers where the bird was making its home on the big rocks. Fairly tame and approachable plus 350 shots later it was 'in the can'. I stayed for the rest of the day which was a good move as a little auk was found swimming fast into the beach late afternoon allowing ridiculously close shots. The rest is history as hordes of folk came along to see the wheatear  during its four day stay.

 A late pm Shot

First day photos


I returned on Friday afternoon wanting to see the shorelark and snowbuntings which I finally caught up with near Cold Harbour' late pm.. I managed a few shots but at 3.30pm and in the shade I didn't expect much.

All I Could Manage in the 'Dark'


A visit to Seasalter was quiet but out on the flats my first decent group of knot, about 200 I thought and a similar number of grey plovers which were scattered all over. At the pumping station 24 GBB gulls, 63 redshank and 32 lapwings etc., There was a light passage of chaffinches and siskins along the wall and further up on the LNR 'old' musselbank c.1500 golden plovers.  After this I went back to the excitement at Reculver and another look at the goodies. 

Better light today


Another look around the local patch revealed nothing of particular interest although a few flocks of redwings were dropping into Wraik Hill and feeding on the berries. Down on the seafront by the Sportsman. 35 goldfinches, a couple of stonechats, a fieldfare in the pub 'garden' and c.2000 goldies in the stubble field further on behind the LNR.


Another visit to Reculver on Monday thinking it would be quieter but no way, still thronging with birders, some from Essex and west London (they should be at work or the retired doing domestic duties). However, it was good to catch up with a lot of folk I'd not seen for a while, too much time talking spent talking though!  The 'star' unfortunately, had vanished overnight and moved everybody to concentrate on the snow buntings and shorelark at Cold Harbour. I got some shots of both with Mr. Ashton and also met Flickr contact Graham Nicholls, goodness knows how many other Flickr contacts I may have walked past but didn't have a clue who they might have been.  After a while it felt uncomfortable with so many of us 'chasing' the bird so we left shortly after getting a few shots. Mind you the birds and birders kept a good distance allowing them to feed continuously, everybody behaved correctly whilst we were there.