Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Seasalter Seafront

16th. Feb.

I just did a bird count along the seafront at Seasalter but not venturing onto the LNR and found 45 species including 2 little grebes, a year tick. Buzzards seem to be a daily record now with two seen on most visits plus a pair of marsh harriers in the area. The high tide roost still held good numbers of dunlin, ringed plovers and turnstones although numbers appear to be fluctuating day to day, maybe birds moving through? On the plots 3 stonechats, 8 gadwall, at least one shoveler plus c.100 teal, 11 snipe, 6 reed buntings, mipits, green wpecker, goldfinch, s.thrush etc..

 Reed Bunting


 Crows 'seeing off 'the buzzards



14th Feb.
Just another trip to SS stopping at the NRA finding; 11 gadwall, 2 coots, a few teal, 21 goldfinches, 2 blue tits, 2 chaffinches (seemed to have just moved in), 1 stonechat, 1 wren, c.500 lapwings, 22 barwits on the mud plus the usual assortment of waders.

On the LNR 3 stonechats, c.25 mipits and 235 brent.

Monday, 16 February 2015

What A Surprise

A day off at last but what grim weather, not the day for photography that's for sure. So, down to the patch at Seasalter, then back home straight away as I forgot my boots and tripod. Finally, at the pumping station dyke the usual teal, gadwall, coots, moorhens and a couple of shoveler were still huddled against the sides of the main drain.  Turning back to the car I noticed a small flock of birds coming down the Swale/maybe across it. At first I thought they were brent and didn't take too much notice but then they turned inland as if going to Stodmarsh. Being a little closer I could see they weren't brent and greylags would have been bigger. Pinkfeet immediately came to mind with their short dark necks and head but here they are rare, I took a couple of distant shots in the gloom, quicker than setting up the scope to confirm I thought.   I counted 52 when viewing on the pc.. 

From the Sportsman, c.1000+ lapwing took flight spooked by a helicopter and shortly after c75 fieldfares flew west over the plots.  I walked up nearly to the white post but it was so quiet, I returned and walked along the footpath around the road only finding a stonechat.

Sunday, 8 February 2015

The Seasalter 10K

This morning I thought I would walk up to the Faversham Creek mouth which is also to the end of the concrete wall and according to my phone app. was 10K by the time I got back to the car at the Sportsman. I wasn't expecting to see much but a flock of 31 mipits dropped in just as I started and seemed to follow me along the way.  It was a sunny morning and skylark song filled the air, I noted 14 on the beach at the eastern end of Castle Coote and a pair of stonechats appeared on the wall a few hundred yards beyond the white post.  Small groups of brents were flying up and down the coast all morning finally settling on a field near C.Coote with the white morph amongst them. The numbers appeared to be half of that seen yesterday numbering about c.500.

Reaching the western end of C.C. a large flock of wigeon came into view just off the beach plus a few shelduck and one egret was on the marsh.  The fields behind seemed empty, I didn't see any harriers or merlin which I was hoping for. Out on Horse Sands 22 seals were hauled out, their numbers well down on the hundred plus just before Xmas.

From the sluice I could see a flock of 92 avocets sheltering below a mud bank in the mouth of the creek. From the reedbed behind the wall I could hear some beardies, the first I have recorded at the LNR for sometime but the ears couldn't get a fix on them. Also a couple of reed bunting appeared on one of the bushes (I dearly hope the KTNC don't remove these bushes).

A couple of egrets were in the open areas in the reedbed having a bit of an arguement allowing me to get a few photos.

On the wall apron near the sluice I saw a rock pipit feeding in the floatsam, a year tick plus got a few photos. It never came out the grassy mess but was quite happy with my presence and I left it to carry on after a few minutes.

On the way back a peregrine swept in over the Coote and continued west along the wall and a couple of minutes later the raven appeared, coming from the direction of the Nagden cottages, maybe from a pylon? It flew over the Coote looking as it was going over to Sheppey but turned back towards Seasalter, both peregrine and raven to distant for decent photos.  As the tide was coming up to the beach dunlin and knot were fairly close but a pale barwit attracted my attention although far out I took a couple of shots as it was tiny through the bins..

A Pale Morph Barwit

As I neared the white post a message from Geoff B who was three miles away on Wraik Hill informing me of a pair of pintail on the flooded flelds on the Seasalter Levels. After the 10K walk I made my way onto the top of Wraik Hill and saw the pintail which I think is a first, actually seen on the 'land' and not on the sea where we normally record them.

Late afternoon, a short visit to the 'rise' near the Sportsman produced 27 linnets gathering to roost in the large tree but no sign of the owl or raven but I was only there thirty minutes.

Saturday, 7 February 2015

7th Feb. Short-eared Owl

I went for a walk along the South Swale LNR late this afternoon noting the brent flock on the arable appeared to have doubled in size, now looking to be a thousand strong including the 'white' one.  Nothing much else but on my return I saw a short-eared owl appearing to either come out of the grass behind the 'Sportman's' beach huts, or came in low off the sea, which I doubt. It then landed seventy five yards out in the field onto a small up rooted bush but then disappeared from view whilst I got my camera out! 

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Raven Brightens Up The Morning

Thurs. 5th.

Another cold morning, 2 deg and an icy blast from the north again plus several rain/sleet showers that persuaded me to bird in a different way.  Covering just the Seasalter coast I decided to do a 'from the inside the car' list. I parked up by the Ski Club and picked up most of the waders although knot was missed, they rarely get down this far plus no sign of any cormorants despite several searches throughout the morning. Moving onto the pumping station or NRA (National Rivers Authority, as it was) where a big number of duck were present.

These included; 26 gadwall, 4 shoveler, c.100 teal and an unusual amount of 19 coots plus a few moorhens. During this time a female marsh harrier flew about over the 'sitting' ducks for some time but none of them took flight, finally the harrier dropped onto the side of the dyke with a couple of corvid guards.

Thereafter, I moved further west looking for blackbird, robin, Grt bb gull dunnock, blue tit, grt crested grebe and wood pigeon, all that can normally be seen from the road but no luck, no woody, that's incredible they are normally everywhere.

 However, a large flock of goldies were on the sheep fields where I also picked up a buzzard which must be attracted to the sheep which are now lambing. I saw a stonechat from the entrance to the sub-station but little else so I retraced my steps back to the ski club picking up several skylarks in the 'Alberta field' and 2 swans in the dyke. 

Late morning, the weather had now improved so I did another about turn and going past the YC towards the Sportsman, going around the corner  I was met by this enormous black corvid twenty or thirty feet above the seawall. Yes, the raven again, I stopped on the side of the road, grabbed the camera and got a couple of record shots, unfortunately it was mainly flying away and the light was not the best so had to be satisfied with all that I could get.

Finishing up, I saw a sanderling on the sandy patch viewable from the NRA bringing the final total to thirty species but with lots of gaps forty could easily be on the cards.  So even with bad weather its no excuse......... start a 'from inside the car list'!

PM; I drove over to Monkshill Farm at Waterham noting several hundred fieldfares and redwings in the pastures opposite.

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Seasalter, Buzzards and Raven

Wednesday 4th

Its been a few days since my last visit so I braved the 2 deg. icy blast straight in off the sea. The tide was just covering the last of the mudflats and lots of dunlin and turnstones were feeding close to the beach, however nothing was visible on the rough sea.  The walk into the plots revealed that some moron had emptied a sack of household rubbish into the dyke by the concrete bridge, what's going on in their heads?  Nothing much else to see as I walked out towards the conifers, just a couple of snipe and crows.

I wanted a good walk this morning so I walked up towards Castle Coote on the LNR finding 3 pairs of stonechats and 4 mipits.  On the fields behind, a few lapwing and over the back c.300 golden plover. It was nice to see the return of c.500 brents which I saw earlier flying onto the mudflats from the NRA, there's normally only a handful.  On the walk back a couple of grey plovers and redshank on the beach, both sporting leg irons.

The field opposite the Sportsman seems to hold lots of curlew and lately plenty of dunlin, redshank, goldies and turnstones. The sheep were already lambing in this freezing weather, poor little things!  A beautiful male marsh harrier flushed all the birds and continued over onto the LNR.

 Looks warm in the sun but its freezing!
Monday afternoon I had a call from Geoff who had seen a raven but I was otherwise engaged at 'softplay' with the 'erberts' so this afternoon I thought I would have a look myself.  Easily done from inside the car on the 'rise' just past the Sportsman or further on at the sub-station entrance, no need to get cold, this is the way to 'bird'.  Whilst sat in the car I saw c.500 lapwings, 1 heron, 2 buzzards flying low across the marsh, ocassionally landing  on posts, a pair of marsh harriers and yes, the raven. Mainly seen on the ground and distant, usually on the mounds, I first saw it towering over a lamb but it was seen off by the mother and then later one of the  buzzards had caught something and the raven appeared and started fighting with the buzzard for posession. There was a good number of duck in the hidden dyke as when flushed by the buzzard, a dozen gadwall, c.50 teal took flight,  seen from the sub station entrance


Friday 30th

Having seen all the wonderful photos of the male smew at Dungeness RSPB I thought I would take a look myself.  First stop was at the ARC hide where all birds were miles away, only a male and female goldeneye ventured close to the hide but still a long way away and a distant GWE. A little later Martin Casemore came into the hide (the only other person) and we discussed how the birdworld should be put to rights as there appeared to be nothing of interest out on the pit!
Soon it was time to go to the Scott Hide as it was midday and almost straight away smew were on the menu including the beautiful male. I met photographers Bob Eades and Pete Varnham who had already filled their boots as the male had come right up close to the hide late morning.  There appeared to be a shoal of perch in front of the hide and all day coots and smew were busy catching the fish although I didn't manage to get a decent shot of a smew with a fish in its bill myself (wrong light).

The male was very edgy when approaching the hide, it clearly new we were there, (a few noisy birders) but if we sat quietly he would swim in and get his fish and we got our photos.

 When disturbed, the male would swim away looking back over his shoulder

For one nano second a kingfisher landed on a post on the righthand side of the hide, only Bob saw it and got one quick shot, I just managed to get a record shot it as it flew of again.

I loved the Mohican crest!

On route home I called in at Scotney Pits noting the big flock of barnacle geese I didn't stop as parking looking awkward plus I was cold and I'd had enough!