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

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Woodland Pheasants !

The possibility of a Firecrest Sighting tempted me back across the River Thames to Rainham RSPB, unbelievably no traffic holdups. the reserve were reporting a possible three Firecrests on the reserve, a species I don't see very often, and a late report of a Short Earred Owl returning for the winter would be a bonus.

So a slow walk around the woodland and Cordite store was on the cards, but no luck, just a few Chaffinchs, the woodland feeding station looked promising, good numbers of Blue Tit, Great Tit, Chaffinch, Goldfinch a Goldcrest visiting the woodland feeders.

The local Pheasants have worked out that theres a free meal available from the spillage around these feeders, when the sun is shining, the cock Pheasants look pretty spectacular.

The view in front of the Ken Barrett Hide was birdless , just a distant Marsh Harrier.
Little Egrets are quite numerous here and scattered widely around the reserve, always worth checking out. these two were chasing each other around the reedbeds.

Little Egrets in dispute.
At the Shooting Butts hide, the usual birds in front of the hide, Wigeon numbers building up.

Called into the MDZ hide on the offchance the Kingfisher was around, had two Kingfisher fly-bys, but did not perch on any off the strategically placed fishing perches.

The Purfleet hide produced a few Snipe on the muddy fringes of the islands.


So , no Firecrests, no Short Earred Owls on this occassion, but winter has only just begun,
plenty of time to see the Owls.

Saturday, 25 November 2017

Shape Shifter !

As I stared out across the East Flood at Oare Marshes , a large flock of birds took to the air in the far distance, and I do mean very distant, but as the flock started to wheel around the sky the distinctive shape of a ' Murmuration' was forming.

Its been a long time since I have witnessed this spectacle, so long in fact, I can't even remember the last time I came across one.

This murmuration, which I am assuming were Starlings lasted  probably less than sixty seconds at about 15.50 hrs late afternoon, before it melted away, and the birds sank back down to their evening roosting site.

I fired off a few camera shots which shows the amazing 'shape shifting' movements of the flock. not brilliant but you get the idea.

I must make an effort to locate another site where a  spectacle like this can be seen, a nice sunset  to go with it, is probably to much to ask for.

Sunday, 19 November 2017

Black Swan at Leeds Castle

An afternoon stroll around the estate of Leeds Castle in Kent didn't deliver any surprise wildlife sightings,  a Great Crested Grebe on the castle lake and a nice Kingfisher perched on an overhanging tree again on the castle lake were the highlights.

But I found some interest in the captive Black Swans scattered around the estate lakes, which now number eight pairs.

I remember many years ago seeing Black Swans at Dawlish in Devon, seemed to be at home there, I wonder if they still frequent that area, been a while since I last visited .

The Black Swans at Leeds Castle originate allegedly from a gift from Winston Churchill to the then owner of Leeds Castle, Lady Baile for her collection, I believe they were gifted to Winston Churchill from the Australian goverment.

Lady Baile had a love of Birds and for many years a large collection of exotic birds were kept in her private aviaries. These have long gone now, closed down in 2012 to save money, although there is still a relatively small Bird of prey centre in the grounds.

 But the Black Swans seemed to have survived and flourished and appear to be regular breeders on the lakes at Leeds,

I have read that many Black Swans have escaped private collections around the country and are breeding at many sites.

[Black Swan is listed under Schedule 9 to the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 with respect to England and Wales. As such, it is an offence to release or allow the escape of this species into the wild.]

A piece of legislation that appears not to be working .

Some research by the British Trust for Ornithology found back in 2004, Black Swans were recorded at 73 sites with only 11 breeding pairs. In 2009 that there were at least 500 reports of Black Swan at 170 different locations, but of these only 37 locations had breeding pairs.

So numbers are increasing and there is evidence that the Black Swan population is nearly large enough to become self sustaining and may be added to the authorative " British List" of birds found in the UK.

I must admit I have not come across any in the wild, only those in private wildfowl collections.

The Black Swan is said to be more aggressive than its white counterparts to both human and other wildfowl especially when it comes to protecting its chosen territorial waters. these at Leeds appear friendly enough.

There seems to be some mixed opinions that they may be a threat to biodiversity, as they compete with other species for food and habitat. No proposals at present to control the numbers in the wild, so they're safe for the moment from DEFRA

Black Swan adult and Juvenile

Apparently these Black Swans can breed at any time of the year, although the Juveniles find it difficult to survive our winters, At Leeds castle they have had seven Black Swan cygnets this year 2017, some of which you can see in these photographs, hope they make it through the winter.

Certainly an eye-catching bird to see, even in a private waterfowl collection.

Sunday, 29 October 2017

" Common & Widespread "

" Common and Widespread " a small phrase which is the bane of my life at the moment,  a phrase  I frequently encounter with disappointment each time I research a new sighting, especially with my recent foray into the world  of Moths.

I had read recently that the possibility of an influx of rare moths into the country was highly likely, due to recent extreme weather conditions, and the best place to look was on flowering Ivy, which just so happens is available in my garden right now.

I've had the Skinner Moth trap out earlier this month and caught exactly " zilch ", with this in mind thought I would give it another go, so placing the Moth Trap in front of the flowering Ivy.

 I was anticipating a rare specimen or two, but no, once again a very poor catch, in fact just one Moth found its way into my trap. but this looked promising, a Moth I did not recognize, and what a beauty.

A quick look through my latest field guide on Moths, I checked out the "Marbled Green", "Frosted Green" and  " Green Arches "  Moths have such beautiful  names, but none of these looked like my Moth. I flicked through the field guide in anticipation, searching for my assumed rarity, and there it was, staring out at me from the field guide  "Merveille du jour" sounded very European and rare, its name translates to "Wonder of the day" described as one of our most beautiful moths,  a moth that particularly likes flowering Ivy, a moth that flies from September to October, this looked promising, and then that phrase once again "common and widespread" unbelievable.

Merveille du Jour Griposia aprilina

And so, common and widespread it may be, but not in my garden, first time I have seen one.


Another Moth which just happened to be resting on the glass of my porch door caught my attention, which I managed to capture for a few quick photographs before releasing it.

 Once again turned out to be  "common and Widespread" but still a beautiful Moth when looked at closely.

Feathered Thorn Colotois pennaria

The Feathered Thorn moth, so called for the feather-like antennae of the male, another autumnal Moth, described as common, this being the first time I have noticed one venturing  into my garden.

My garden list of  "common and widespread" moths has now moved on to sixty seven species with these two additions.   I live in hope.