Saturday, 14 October 2017

Oare Marsh's revisited !!!

Following last weeks visit to Oare Marshes to see the Wilsons Pharalope and Long Billed Dowitcher thought I would have a return visit to practice my wader identification skills on the vast number of waders there at the moment, this time armed with my trusty old spotting scope, camera and binoculars I was prepared for all eventualities, except for the excessive weight of my ever-growing amount of optical equipment.

Weather was not good this time either, very grey, with a cold northerly wind blowing.

After a quick walk along the sea wall to view the Swale and Faversham Creek in the hope of seeing the Black necked Grebe I found the tide well out, and a slow trickle of water in Faversham Creek which meant no sign of the Grebe.

I could see a few seals hauled up on Horse sands out in the Swale, but far to distant.
My first few waders came into view in the mouth of the creek,  Avocet, Dunlin, and Redshank.

By far the best position for viewing the waders was the road which runs between the two floods, fortunately, roadside viewing areas are available.

Wader number four came into view here the Black Tailed Godwit, most were in the wader roost at the far end of the flood, but theirs always a few feeding in the shallow waters of the flood.

Black Tailed Godwits
These are quite easy to identify with their long legs and bill, much harder were the few Bar Tailed Godwits which were roosting with the Black Tails, in the end I did manage to pick out four Bar Tailed Godwits, slightly shorter legs and upper  plumage appeared more streaked almost Curlew like.
To far for a photograph but five waders now identified.

A few of the Godwits were colour ringed, but I couldn't get a clear view of the complete series of coloured rings.

Colour ringed Godwits at Oare
The Long Billed Dowitcher was still on the East Flood feeding alongside the Godwits, but never coming close on this occasion, wader number six.

Long Billed Dowitcher feeding with Black Tailed Godwits
 Small numbers of Ruff were feeding along the shallows, seen as individuals, the Buff coloured juveniles looked quite smart. wader number seven.

Juvenile Ruff

Ruff and Dunlin

The Wilsons Pharalope was soon picked out feeding in the middle of the flood today and following close behind the dabbling ducks, picking food from the surface brought up by the ducks feet, very clever. together with numerous Lapwings the wader number moved up to nine species.

Wilson's Pharalope

Another wader in huge numbers on the flood were the Golden Plovers, not hard to identify and bringing the wader species count to ten. surprisingly no Grey Plovers seen on the flood.

Golden  Plover

Dunlin were quite numerous out on the flood although not so obvious, I always use the Dunlin as my 'base line' for small wader identification,  ( bigger than a dunlin, smaller than a Dunlin etc )


My next wader sighting was definately smaller than a Dunlin and looked to me like juvenile Little Stints, feeding along the edge of the reed fringed flood, and only giving the briefest of views. shorter bill, brighter plumage, clean white underparts,  I saw at least three or four of these on my visit, I believe up to ten have been seen. wader number eleven.

Juvenile Little Stint

Not a hundred percent on this next observation, just a single bird which looks to me like a juvenile Curlew Sandpiper, there have been several reported of late.  wader number 12

Juvenile Curlew Sandpiper
With a few sightings of Snipe in the reed fringes ( number 13 ) and a single Ringed Plover which landed on the shingle island and promptly took off again bringing the total wader sightings to fourteen.

A water Rail was also picked out skulking along the reeds  with several Little Egrets, Grey Heron .

A good site to visit especially in the autumn for waders, bringing along the spotting scope certainly made a difference.

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Yankees !!!

The shallow floods at Oare Marshes have played host to several American vagrants of late, situated on the southern edge of the Swale, a very attractive site which draws in vagrants, passage migrants, and our own resident waders species alike.

High Tide on the Swale is always a good time to view the waders which rest and feed on these floods.

East Flood -  High Tide wader roost

So far this year there have been visits by a Bonaparte's Gull, revisiting the site in July for its fifth year running apparently, a small delicate gull of North America and Canada.

A juvenile Red Necked Pharalope, a bird of the arctic regions of North America, arrived for a short visit  at the end of August.

And now in October the opportunity to see another two birds from the Americas, a Long Billed Dowitcher which arrived in the middle of August, and a Wilsons Pharalope which has only recently arrived on the 3rd October. definitely time for a visit to see these rare vagrant species. and maybe the opportunity to see a Black-necked Grebe that was also reported in Faversham Creek which runs alongside the flood.

The Wilsons Pharalope was showing well from the road which bisects the two floods, not hard to find with the line of admiring bird watchers stretched out along the road, this individual reported as a first winter. This is where a field guide comes in very useful showing the salient  id points to look for, a nice looking bird in breeding plumage which we in this country are very unlikely to see here.
You can see quite clearly that its a Juvenile moulting into its first winter plumage.

First winter Wilson's Pharalope

Fortunately for me, the sun was shining in the right direction for a change and the Pharalope was feeding relatively close to the road. the bird was spinning in the typical Pharalope fashion picking food particles from the surface. a little distant for my camera lens, but the Pharalope was moving around this area of the flood, sometimes close, sometimes out of sight behind the reeds, but plenty of opportunities to watch its feeding techniques, and grab a picture or two

 The delicate size of the Pharalope can be appreciated when you look at the photographs below, and this, the larger of the three species of Pharalope.

Occasionally pausing to preen with some of the other resident birds,

It wasn't long before the Long Billed Dowitcher put in an appearance, another bird from the wet tundra of North America, these normally migrate down to the southern American states, some even as far as South America, there always appears to be some that get blown off course and find their way to our shores.
The Long Billed Dowitcher on migration and in winter prefers shallow muddy water pools with some emergent vegetation. it appears Oare Marshes fits the bill nicely.

Long Billed Dowitcher
Looking at photographs of this bird when it first arrived back in August ( 8/8/17) it was showing some red colouring to its underside, this appears to have moulted away now.

The Dowitcher when feeding spends alot of time probing through the mud, the above photograph was  the typical view, I found it quite difficult to get a photograph showing the full length of its bill.

Occasionally the two American waders would pass close to each other causing a hushed murmur of excitement, and a flurry of camera shutters firing off to record the moment. This was my best effort.

Long Billed Dowitcher & Wilson's Pharalope
It  wasn't long until the peace and tranquility of the marshes was shattered, all the waders around the flood taking to the air. A  juvenile Peregrine had arrived causing panic and mayhem, the Pharalope and Dowitcher were lost to sight as the waders scattered in all directions.

Fortunately both the Dowitcher and Pharalope survived the Peregrines attentions, both were reported the following day.

 No luck with the Black Necked Grebe, but I was more than happy with the days viewing.

Saturday, 7 October 2017

Great Whites !!!

 'Great White Egret' or the 'Great White Heron', or is it the 'Common Egret', or maybe the 'Large Egret', or as some of the Bird recording sites refer to it now as the 'Great Egret'.

 I think I prefer the title of Great White Egret, whatever the current name is for this spectacular Egret, Dungeness is usually a good bet to see at least one, here in Kent.

Like its smaller cousin the Little Egret, sightings of the Great White Egret are becoming more regular as it expands its range, probably from the Netherlands and France, once considered a rare occurrence in this country they now appear to be breeding in places such as Somerset and now Norfolk.

At Dungeness they come in to roost with Grey Herons and Little Egrets, flying in from various localities around Dungeness RSPB late in the afternoon, their chosen spot appears to be the sheltered bay of Burrowes pit where they can be viewed, albeit distantly from 'Denis's Hide'.
I was fortunate in seeing at least nine of these beauties at the roost by the time I had moved on.

I would love to see one of these in its full breeding plumage displaying their ornamental breeding plumes for which they was once persecuted for, maybe sooner than I think.

While watching the Egrets come in to roost, I was entertained by several Chiffchaffs in the surrounding trees, there seemed to be  good numbers all around the reserve, as well as Common Whitethroat, Stonechat, Robins, Starlings, a few Swallows flying over the waters.



Great Crested Grebe
Quite a few Great Crested Grebes on the inland waters, most molting into their winter plumage.

Most of the day was spent on the reserve in some lovely warm sunshine, unusally I thought still a few Butterflies being seen, including, Red Admiral, Peacock, Speckled Wood, Small White, Meadow Brown, Common Blue and two Clouded Yellows, my first and probably last for the year.

Common Blue

Meadow Brown

male Small White

Clouded Yellow
Nearly every time I see these Clouded Yellow Butterflies they are always nectaring on a yellow flower. Probably an obvious observation.

A small patch of Honeysuckle was attracting a few Bumblebee's, as well as some Common Darters.

Garden Bumblebee (Queen ?)

Ruddy Darter ( correction should be Common)
Still a few Migrant Hawkers around enjoying the last of the summer warmth I suspect.

Common Fleabane seed heads
No Tree Sparrows on show today at the entrance, probably because the feeders were all empty.

A few Hours spent in Hansons Hide on the other side of the reserve revealed some nice birds.
Lots of these bright Yellow flowers growing along the entrance track to the hide,  I think they are possibly  Evening Primrose but not definite.

Evening Primrose ?
 A flyby Kingfisher was a good start as I settled down in the hide, unfortunately not interested in the stick perch placed outside the viewing windows on this occasion.

A couple of  Marsh Harriers put in an appearance scattering the roosting waders, all female birds,  one seen carrying off a Lapwing from one of the shingle islands.

female Marsh Harrier
Marsh Harrier with Lapwing
On the water in front of the hide two juvenile Black Terns were picking insects from the water surface. Not an easy bird to photograph.

Juvenile Black Tern

Waders on show before they were disturbed by the Harriers included,  Black Tailed Godwit, Dunlin, Golden Plover, Redshank, Lapwing, Spotted Redshank(2) and a few Knot.

Black Tailed Godwits & Knot

As always, an interesting reserve to visit, looks like a winter visit will be on the cards.