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.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

An upgrade

I've been waiting for the new Canon 7d Mk2 to arrive after many rumours and now after pre-ordering I finally have my hands on one.  The previous 7d had been plagued by noise issues although not all of them, mine being one of the good ones so one of the first tests was to check out the high ISOs capabilities. As promised Canon seem to have sorted this really well, shots taken at 1250 and 3200 show virtually no noise at all, a much improved situation, I don't think there will be any problem shooting at ISOs 640 -1250.  Of course early days but other things have improved;  the focusing system, so fast and accurate - dual cards, the fast SD cards download so fast - uses the same battery, although it appears to eat a fair bit of power, more than the old 7d, no doubt needs the power to operate the fast AF system - the only tiny grip at the moment for me is that the adjustment on the viewfinder diopter appears to be +/- 2 whereas I needed another 0.5 to get the viewfinder info pin sharp but you can by other diopteric adjusters from Canon for about £30 if its a real problem.  So at the moment its a real winner for me. I'm told I can use a 1.4 converter on it as it will focus at F8 like the IDs which might be helpful at times.  Below are a few shots, others on my Flickr site;

 ISO 500

 ISO 400
 ISO 400
ISO 400
 ISO 2500
 ISO 2500
 ISO 3200
ISO 2500