Tuesday, 30 September 2014

The local patch and bearded reedlings at last

Fri. 26th. - 30th.

Just keeping to the local patch again as I have been all month and the birding has been much the same. On Friday I counted up to six wheatears, along the LNR wall with 216 brents out on the flats plus 35 egrets and a clouded yellow was nice to see as well along the 'apron'.


Some of the egrets gathering to go to the C.Coote roost

On the Saturday I did a whizz around the patch trying to see as many species as possible but only managed 46 which could have been better as I missed some expected ones! Wraik Hill was almost birdless! However, at the LNR a reed warbler was unexpected but there was no big fall of chiffs as on the east coast, reed bunting numbers were building up again and a couple of stonechats on the LNR were nice to see.

Sunday 28th.. For some reason this year I have not managed to see a bearded reedling at Seasalter, although many people tell me they have. Maybe with only one ear in operation now I've not been able to pick up on them, it was bad enough using two! However, this morning it was like waiting for a bus, you don't see one for ages then several come along all at once. As I got out of the car by the Sportsman in the misty fog I thought I could hear a beardie and yes, in the reeds by the road a couple of bearded reedlings. In the wet mist they were not very flighty but there was more 'pinging' from the reedbed and more came into view rising up from the sheltered depths.  Finally, there must have been c.100, several groups of about twenty flying all around me, sometimes only six feet away. They eventually moved out into the marsh along the reed filled dykes. Also a few reed buntings and 2 reed warblers.

Reed Bunting still 'asleep' in the damp mist

  Bearded Reedlings

I left the reedlings after a half hour and went onto the LNR finding a few more beardies in the large reedbed plus a late sedge warbler. Further on the wheatear gang performed nicely for the camera and at least three stonechats were hanging about around the reedbed,  Lots of b.h.gulls were swooping around over the back fields obviously catching something, craneflies I imagine.


Tuesday 30th.  Yet another Seasalter expedition but only along the seafront where I clocked 46 sp this morning with little effort. A handful of chiffs on the plots and one cetti's and in the dykes a few moorhens and two coots. On the flats opposite a few grey plovers and dunlin etc but at the LNR the flats were empty, c.60 blackwits far out plus curlew and oystercatchers were all I could find apart from six redshanks close to the beach. I walked up to the white post finding only two wheatears and four stonechats plus a few reed buntings and two clouded yellows and one peacock. 

Friday, 26 September 2014

Something Else New

Thursday 25th.

After three days, the RB Shrike was nowhere to be found at its temporary home behind the YC. I walked up to the Sportsman PH hoping it could have moved a bit further west but there was no sign of it. However, a male blackcap dropped into the bushes by the Sportsman and along that section of wall that I rarely walk, a wall brown butterfly came into view.  After several frantic minutes of following,  it finally alighted on a flower where I was able to confirm the identification, a first for me at Seasalter, I'd not seen one c.30 years in Whitstable, once common! A buzzard was also hunting over the fields behind theYC.

Wall Brown

Also, when doing the 'school run' this afternoon I saw a hummingbird hawk moth when doing the pick up at Whitstable Castle.

Friday 26th.

A walk along the front at Seasalter was very quiet this morning, virtually no waders on the flats just curlew and oystercatchers. A strong passage of swallows continued, among them a few house martins and mipits. At the LNR, 27 linnets and 5 wheatears as I walked to just beyond the white post where I counted 216 brents and 35 egrets plus one clouded yellow desperately looking for a flower to feed on. A swan was sitting out on the mud looking rather ill waiting for the tide to come in. A rather quiet day!

Just a few of the egrets returning to roost on Castle Coote

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

A New Tick For Seasalter

Sunday 21st.
A bit of a change in the weather this morning, all the low cloud and mist had gone and more like the seasonal conditions we normally expect.  My first stop was at the Seasalter high tide 'island' roost finding; 292 ringed plovers plus a handful of dunlin, turnstones and a couple of redshank. The strong north easterly was pushing a few brents into the Swale and the prospect of skuas looked good. Further on by the Sportsman I saw a total of 14 Arctic skuas, 10 of them sitting on the water and getting up to fly occasionally, 10 wigeon  plus a flock of c.90 brents flew east out of the Swale. Also noted was a strong passage of swallows and small passerines (mipits mainly)  flying diagonally across over the sea towards Sheppey, appearing to have come from the Stour valley/Clowes woods direction.

 Common Gull

Monday 22nd.
Another check on the roost revealed the usual amount of ringed plovers ie c.250 plus 1 sanderling and a couple of egrets etc. Then I parked up at the Sportsman and wandered up to the wall finding just one wheatear but lots of mipits (c. 30 at least feeding in the grasses) and swallows. NB coming back from Canterbury earlier that morning I noticed jays in several places and another over the garden when I got home but none at Seasalter.

Meadow Pipit

Whilst busy at the computer that afternoon a call from Geoff Burton alerted me to a red-backed shrike he had seen whilst testing his repaired scope. Leaving my freshly made cup of tea I zoomed down to the Seasalter YC where the juvenile bird was found in and around the garden of the small wooden dwelling 'Wye Worry'.  The lovely late afternoon light made photography easy and the bird seemed very tame, at one time flying straight over our heads to pounce on something it had seen in the grass behind us. Also a whinchat and wheatear have been seen over the past couple of days plus a red kite and sparrowhawk seen by Steve Ashton the next morning. The shrike was still present Wednesday 23rd at the time of writing.

Juvenile Red-backed Shrike

Thursday, 18 September 2014

The Brents are Back

On Thursday 11th I had a visit to Swalecliffe seeing c.80 scoter, 3 gannets and a dozen brents. I nipped back to Seasalter hoping to see some brents but only found c.100  scoter on the sea and 1 juv. gannet.

Friday 12th  I returned to SS and found 21 brents at Castle Coote plus 10 wigeon and 2 wheatears on the way up.

On Saturday 13th I thought I would try Foreness but on arrival I couldn't muster the enthusiasm to get out and look for birds and didn't know the best areas to find all these reported chats etc..

Sunday 14th. I took a walk around SS church where I found a small pool had been constructed at the edge of the new playing field. Fortunately, a large dragonfly was circling the edges and settled long enough for a couple of photos which I identified as a southern hawker. 

Southern Hawker

At the seafront I counted 32 egrets feeding along the mudflats plus 6 teal and a count of 195 grey plovers.  In front of the YC c.600 golden plovers were roosting on the 'hard', a regular spot and inland a marsh harrier.

On misty Monday the 15th., I went to Wraik Hill seeing 19 jays over the reservoir plus a chiffchaff along the footpath. Nothing much on the 'reserve' except a flyby sparrowhawk so I moved on and stopped at the Mt Pleasant corner seeing mistle thrush (not so easy) plus a cetti's was sounding off and nice to record a stonechat here again.

At the S.Swale LNR, just past the Sportsman, 5 whinchats, 2 stonechats and 3 wheatears.

Tuesday 16th was much the same when I visited the LNR except the 'ringers' were present by the reedbed. It was still foggy with loads of mipits (c.50) about, it was interesting to see that one or two were hanging up in the nets which attracted others to come and look at their plight in the nets.  The ringers had to evacuate quickly as the farmer came along to take the cows out, not giving them any real time to pack up! 

Wednesday 17th., still misty but mild. As I got out of the car a hobby flew over the field opposite the Sportsman which returned later enabling me to point it out to two bait diggers who seemed quite interested. I walked up to the bend, halfway to C.Coote and on route saw; 2 whinchats, 4 wheatears  plenty of linnets, mipits and goldfinches. On the flats, 87 brents, 42 wigeon and 3 teal, overhead a small trickle of swallows and a couple of house martins.

Thursday 18th. back on the seafront again at hightide, a rough count of 415 ringed plovers on the 'island' and c.200 turnstones on the oyster barge  just off the beach. Couldn't find any dunlin or sanderling but as the tide went out there were good numbers of waders further west arriving with c,300 grey plovers, a few knot, barwits and dunlin. Half a dozen grt b.b gulls, 2 lessers, herring, common and blk hd gulls were coming onto the exposed mud to feed plus one Sandwich tern.

Common Gull

Further on by the Sportsman, 1 gannet in the sea mist plus 6 brents on the fresh mud in front of the huts. Along the wall it was much the same as usual  with 3 wheatears and 7 whinchats although most of the whinchats were on the vegetation behind the reedbed. Two clouded yellow butterflies were desperately looking for some nectar to feed on but there was nothing left except poo! However, the cow pats give the chats something to dig around in!

Several reed buntings are back on site or making themselves apparent a few coming up on the wall and fences with the chats and linnets.

Reed Bunting

Wednesday, 10 September 2014


On Sunday the 7th I decided to join the KOS meeting at the SBBOT but woke to find thick fog. Still determined to go I left early and approaching Herne Bay just remembered I had left all my gear at home! So a quick turn around at H/Bay to pick up my bins etc. and start again. It was still foggy but seemed fairly safe and plenty of visibility at 60 mph, then at The Prospect Inn, 'Road Closed', accident!  I know, I'll nip down through Laundry Road, a short cut. Oh no! Road closed for road works, so doubled back to the Prospect Inn again and back through Manston finally arriving 9.03am., 3 minutes late! The group were watching a ringing demonstration which was quite interesting although I don't like seeing birds hanging up on pegs in cloth bags etc.. 
Afterwards, we walked down the road a bit, Mike Bedwell picking up on 9 grey partridges in the field and further on in the gardens several spotflys, chiffs, willows and blackcaps. In the 'Elms', one or two pied flycatchers were high up in the trees and in the gully a couple of redstarts. Back to the 'Obs' for lunch but not before M.B. saw a Monty's harrier flying out over the golf course. After our break back onto the trapping area to see several whinchats, redstarts, piedflys, whitethroat and blackcaps etc. after which I went home leaving the group to get another view of the harrier from the Restharrow Scrape later that afternoon.

Monday the 8th I stayed local at Seasalter finding all the usual waders inc. 1 sanderling and a total of 58 egrets, one big flock of about 30 flying west together. 3 Sandwich terns were patrolling the coastline plus one common tern which landed on one of the marker posts.  The KTNC were ragwort pulling not before I saw a clouded yellow and further on no sign of the wheatears!

A lovely day again on the 9th and a stop along SS Lane revealed a wheatear on one of the hay bales plus a cetti's in the roadside ditch. At the seafront, 43 barwits, 27 g.c.grebes, 2 whimbrels etc and along the LNR, the 3 regular wheatears again. Nothing much else doing so I walked up to Castle Coote to see if the egrets were roosting there and yes they were and another count of 58! On the way back just one swallow and a couple of kestrels and a crow count of 170 in the stubble fields.

Whimbrel opposite the YC

Today, I retraced my steps again but left out the C.Coote walk. Just 2 wheatears were all I could find at the LNR with nothing much on the sea in the brisk NE wind but on the 'island roost', were a group of 6 common sandpipers with the 140 ringed plovers   .

Saturday, 6 September 2014

This Week's round Up

On Monday the 1st. I took a walk alongside the railway at 'Prospect Field' finding a chiffchaff, a couple of blackcaps and a whitethroat, otherwise fairly quiet. Moving west to Seasalter I found 3 wheatears,, 1 whinchat, 1 reed warbler and a buzzard high in the sky, plus just off the beach 3 wigeon.   



Common Darters

On the 2nd  I visited the high tide roost where I met Mark Chidwick who had seen a kittiwake earlier, about the only bird the northerlies swept in, rather disappointing sea watch in the morning with only 24 scoter. Also present that evening  was a common sandpiper and 254 ringed plovers etc.  and  another surprise was 1 adult Med gull plus 3 juvs.

Mediterranean Gull

On Friday another visit to Prospect Field which was very quiet so onto Seasalter finding 43 grey plovers still in their breeding plumage, a juv. common gull, 16 bar-tailed godwits, 2 wheatears, a buzzard, 81 ringed plovers just west of the 'huts' and a kingfisher flew across from the dyke system and landed on a breakwater, something I've not seen for several years.


Juvenile/1st winter Common Gull

Late afternoon a message about a red-necked phalarope at Oare saw me over there pretty quick. Also, a late juv. cuckoo made an appearance plus all the other goodies that we expect to see at Oare.

A very distant red-necked phalarope at Oare

 Common Snipe


Today, Saturday, I first went to Wraik Hill finding 9 blackcaps, mainly females, 2 lesser whitethroats, a couple of chiffchaffs, lots of blue tits and a sparrowhawk. I also went to see how the proposed cutting even further into the scrub this winter might affect the breeding birds, especially the nightingales which I feel may not return if this work is carried out.  However, a lot of flowers were evident along the rides which should provide insects for any breeding birds next year.

Common Blue

It was high tide when I arrived at the seafront so a walk into the plots revealing 2 whinchats but little else. It was good to see the pair of swans had raised their seven youngsters without mishap. Further on by the Sportsman PH a flock of c.160 goldfinches was coming down to drink from the dyke just to the west on the LNR, one of the largest I've seen for several years.  Over the sea a few hirundines were flying east strangely, normally its west but in the mist who knows.  A lone wheatear was all I could find plus several linnets and mipits near the huts and as the tide left the beach 3 Sandwich terns flew east and 1 juv barwit landed close to the beach.  Just opposite the Sportsman in the field and on the wires/seawall c.1500 starlings were going crazy feeding on the abundant and annoying flies. 

 A successful upbringing!

Juvenile Bar-tailed Godwit