Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Chatham Diver !

Its getting to be a regular occurrence with Great Northern Divers appearing at Chatham Maritime, always on number Two Basin which is obviously to their liking, usally appearing early December and staying until late January.

A quick check of the Kent records for this site shows the following appearances :-

 9th December 2010 to 23rd January 2011.
 6th December 2015 to 30th January 2016.
 7th  January 2018  and  still on site  16th January 2018.

These have all been Juveniles. the photograph below is of the latest Juvenile seen  by me on the 16th January.

Annoyingly the Divers always seem to be in the middle of the Basin, and these are quite large expanses of water, today their was an eye-watering wind blowing across the basin which made viewing very difficult,  always too distant for my camera, but surprisingly, some reasonable images, even with a shaking hand.

Juvenile  Great Northern Diver at Chatham Maritime  Basin 2
 The photograph below shows the 'scaly' effect of the first winter plumage on the back,
 apparently indicating a juvenile.

The steep forehead, whitish eye ring and half collar diagnostic features of the Great Northern Diver shows well on the photograph below.

These Divers have dark red eyes, although not clearly shown here which helps them see underwater, they have a habit of dipping their head under the surface, searching for fish which they chase down, being very powerful swimmers, they can eat these fish underwater although some of the larger fish caught are brought to the surface, I have seen many photographs of these divers eating Crabs which they must also be rather partial to.

These Divers will be returning to their Icelandic breeding grounds soon, around April time, so its nice to catch up with them when they do visit these inland waters.

Sunday, 14 January 2018

' Owls That '

 Thirteen days into the new year and my first opportunity to get out for some wildlife watching, a quick drive down to Thannet, my destination Reculver Towers and another opportunity to look for Snow Buntings, these Buntings blend in with the shingle tide line very well, and unless they fly up in front of you, pretty difficult to locate, as was the case for me once again. And so after the long cold walk down to Coldharbour Lagoon and back, no sign of the Snow Buntings.
 I did manage to see good numbers of Brent Geese flying low along the coast line.

Brent Geese

Other birds noted along the tide line included, a small flock of nine Ringed Plovers and a single
Sandling,  a couple of Turnstone, Oystercatchers and Redshank.
 On the sea , Great Black Backed Gull, Herring Gull, Common Gull and Black Headed Gull and a few Cormorant.
In the bushes on the other side of the sea wall,  Linnet, Reed Buntings and House Sparrows with a single Stonechat.


It was now early afternoon, I thought I'd try my luck on the Isle of Sheppey as I was passing that way,
always a chance of  a Hen Harrier or a Short Earred Owl around  the Capel Fleet area, the Raptor View point was rammed with birdwatchers, birding scopes pointing in all directions, not for me, I find myself becoming more and more anti-social the older I get, so I moved on down the road that cuts through Capel fleet, lots of Red legged Partridges scurrying around the roadside verges, it would be nice to come across some Grey Partridge, but these are becoming harder to locate.

Red Legged Partridge

The Bramble scrub is always a good place to check for Corn Buntings along this road, but they always seem a bit to distant for my camera, fortunately I came across one on the road side power line taking in the late afternoon sunshine.

Corn Bunting
One last opportunity still remained, the entrance track to Elmley NNR is always worth checking for late afternoon Raptors, although I was also  hoping for  a sighting of some Hares.
Good numbers of Lapwing all along the track,  two Ruff feeding on a roadside pool were a surprise, a few Curlew were disturbed, a few Raptors were seen, a couple of distant Marsh Harriers, two Buzzard.

Common Buzzard.
The entrance track to Elmley is a good mile or so leading to Kingshill Farm and the car park, just enough time to turn around and make my way out before the gates are locked, as I scanned the fields adjacent to the track, a white bird caught my eye quartering the field just behind me, a Barn Owl, hunting in the late afternoon daylight, the Barn Owl quartered the fields all around my car, allowing me in my excitement to grab some images.

Good fortune was now smiling upon me, or so it seemed, the Barn Owl swooped down into the long grass not more than twenty feet away from me, It glanced at me a few times with those large black eyes, but remained there for a few minutes, occasionally stabbing down with its beak.

Unseen by me the Owl had successfully captured a vole and was obviously dispatching it, and it was not until it decided to take off that I could see the prey.

 Interesting to note how the feathers over the beak are raised after the prey capture, see first image when feathers laying flat over base of beak.

What an ending to the day, its moments like this that make it all worth while.

Friday, 8 December 2017

' Alway's a Pleasure '

 My intention today was a  flying visit to Rainham RSBP to search again for the Firecrest, but a twenty six minute delay to get through the Dartford Tunnel found me heading in the opposite direction, can't do traffic jams any more ! Stodmarsh and Grove Ferry was now my destination, Have'nt been down there for a long time now, so it was nice to reaquaint myself with this lovely nature reserve.

It was bitterly cold, and at every hide the opening shutters seem to face into the eyewatering wind.
Just a short visit to each hide as I needed to keep moving in case I froze to death, my first stop was the Reedbed Hide, huge numbers of very skittish Teal, noisey Greylags Heron, Cormorant, Black Headed Gulls, Mallard and a single Great Crested Grebe which occassionally entered the pool in front of the hide for a fishing session. no sign of a Kingfisher here.

Teal at the Reedbed Hide

Winter plummaged Great Crested Grebe
Around the main lake and the Riverside trees along the River Stour, good numbers of Fieldfare were seen, these seem to take flight the instant they catch sight of you, a small Tit flock held Long-Tailed Tit, Great Tit, Blue Tit and a single Goldcrest,

I had warmed up by the time I reached the Feast Hide at Grove Ferry, the pool in front
of the hide looked good , but just a few pairs of Gadwall, Mallard, Coot, a distant Marsh Harrier floated by, no sign of a Kingfisher on the obligatory ' Kingfisher perch '.

A short walk back towards 'Harrison Drove' hide  in the hope of a Water Pipit or two did not materialise, a distant Great White Egret appeared from the reeds at the top of the pool, before leaving and flying over the River Stour.

Great White Egret

Finally as I began to think of moving on, a beautiful male Kingfisher appeared from nowhere and landed briefly on the strategically placed perch, just managed to get a quick photograph when it flew up from the perch and begun to hover above the water, I thought I was going to be lucky and see a dive for a fish, but no fish, the Kingfisher moved further down the reedbed and hovered again for a few seconds before moving off again, must of done this at least four times before deciding to move off, presumably for a better fishing opportunity. Always a pleasure to see one of these.

Third time lucky, I was feeling really pleased with myself as I walked back across the freezing marshes towards the Marsh Hide, not much to be seen here, a few Konik ponies out on the marsh looked very atmospheric of times gone by.

Konik pony

A few Stonechat flew up from the Reed beds as I passed by, now feeling very cold.

All in all, a very enjoyable day despite the cold weather, and what a pleasure  to see the Kingfisher once again.

Friday, 1 December 2017

Faversham Creek - Redhead !

As the waters of Faversham Creek spilled back into the Swale, the waders began to return to there endless search for food along the freshly exposed margins of the creek. I could see a duck-like bird pulling itself out of the water onto the mud of the far bank, looked very ungainly.

Quickly identified as a Sawbill of sorts, my first thought was a redhead  Red-Breasted Merganser, these are often seen on the Swale here in the winter, nearly all my views of these have been fairly distant through a birding scope, so I was quite excited to see one relatively close, something did not look right with my initial identification, Mergansers have a more wild and wispy looking crest  around the head.

 As it moved back into the water and began fishing it was clearly not a Merganser but a fine looking female Goosander, another duck that I rarely see at close quarters.

This one moved up the creek , ocassionally dipping  its head underwater searching for prey, before it dived.
 I managed to get some relatively close photographs of this Sawbill which I usally only see at Dungeness through the winter months.

I have noticed on the local bird reports, that a second redhead Goosander has also be seen in the last few days on the creek.

 It would be nice to see the Red-Breasted Mergansers this close, you never know.

Thursday, 30 November 2017

Reculver Towers-Search for a Bunting !

There was a time when the search for a Snow Bunting meant a timely visit to Shellness on the Isle of Sheppey, where more often than not a flock of Snow Buntings usally numbering 30 plus would  be in residence for the winter. I can't remember the last time a largish flock has been around North Kent.

To see one of these lovely Snow Buntings now, a trip to Reculver Towers is usally a good bet, just recently there have been up to six individuals feeding along the shingle ridge between the Towers and Coldharbour Lagoon.

Unfortunately my trip coincided with a dog walker who proceeded to walk along the beach with his hyper-active spaniel,with no regard to waders feeding along the tideline, much to the annoyance of the birdwatchers searching for the Buntings. Fortunately he turned around  before reaching the Lagoon.

A single Grey Plover looking for a meal as the tide came in gave me a nice photo opportunity as a wave caught him unaware.

Grey Plover

As I reached the far end of  Coldharbour Lagoon, three Snow Buntings were feeding on the Ridge, one Bunting gave me a fleeting glimpse, before dropping down the far side of the ridge and out of view, frustratingly not to reappear again.

Before starting the long walk back to the Towers I noticed a Dunlin, posibly a first winter juvenile feeding on the Lagoon, just starting to moult into its winter plumage, most of the Dunlin I have seen recently have all been in full winter plumage.

So no photographs of a Snow Bunting which I really wanted, looks like another trip to the Towers is on the cards very soon.

Reculver Towers