Sunday, 20 November 2011

A late flourish saves the day.

20th November 2011
Cold, foggy, calm start, becoming sunny and warm.

News of a Blackpoll Warbler in Tonbridge Wells on Saturday late afternoon had me re-organising my plans for Sunday. I'm not a huge twitcher, but an American warbler in Kent was too good to miss, so I joined a small crowd on the housing estate this morning. Sadly, the bird didn't show while I was there, I stayed until late morning. As far as I'm aware, it wasn't seen all day.

After lunch, and having knocked off a few jobs at home, I took a late walk up at Reculver to look for owls. Once winter arrives, when the weather is cold and still, I really enjoy late afternoon walks, sometimes at Stodmarsh to see the harriers coming in to roost, and other days out looking for owls as they start to hunt at dusk.

I parked at Shuart at 3:45pm, still light enough to see across the fields a fair distance, and walked up the path towards the railway line. I stood at a good vantage point where I could see in all directions and waited. Soon I had 2 Marsh Harriers fly west, presumably off to roost somewhere on the marsh. A small number of Redwings were flying around calling, and a Waterail was squealing from the reeds near the railway.

Just after 4 o'clock I had a wonderful moment when I saw a Barn Owl flying low up the path towards me. I fully expected it to veer off any second, but instead it flew right over my head very low, and as it passed I looked right in its eyes it was so close, no bins needed. A Cett's was calling, 2 Corn Buntings flew over and a Buzzard sat on one of the large bushes out in the fields.

About 4:15pm, with the light rapidly fading, I watched a ring-tail Hen Harrier hunting, then I wandered slowly back towards the car. Near some hedges I waited a while, and then I saw the first of 2 Long-eared Owls hunting on the edge of the field, and a second bird flying along the path beside me. What a fantastic last hour of the day.

Hen Harrier

Saturday, 19 November 2011

A late Darter

Saturday 19th November
Cold, misty, calm, becoming warm and sunny.

My old friend Patrick Giles was in Kent for the weekend so I picked him up for a trip out birding this morning. We reached Chambers Wall about 8am, and the mist was still over the marsh. Walking up to the railway line there were plenty thrushes along the hedge, but otherwise it was quiet. After a short walk along the embankment we joined Marc Heath and Phil Parker on the sea wall near Coldharbour, where they were trying to i.d a distant grebe on the sea.

After a bit of a chat we walked east of Coldharbour for about 400 yards, and Patrick spotted a Short-eared Owl, which we watched for a while. Little else was around so we headed off to Oare for a couple of hours.

At Oare we found another Short-eared Owl, several Marsh Harriers, about 60 Avocets on a sand bank, around 300 Black-tailed Godwits flew in to the east flood over our heads, and a Greenshank flew west, calling.

Short-eared Owl at Oare

After dropping Patrick off home, I grabbed some lunch, and on such a lovely day I didn't want to give up and go home, so I paid another visit to the Reculver area, this time parking up at Shuart. Whilst finishing off a coffee in the sun before leaving the car, I saw what I thought was a Common Darter briefly, but as luck often has it, just as it landed another car pulled up beside me and it was gone.

I walked slowly up the path north, and stood for a while at a couple of gaps in the hedge. Fisrtly looking west I saw a Common Buzzard sitting in a tree, eventually flushed by a Marsh Harrier. Next I spent a while scanning the fields to the east, and out the corner of my eye spotted the shape of a harrier flying low. I managed to get some nice but distant views of a ring-tail Hen Harrier, although the photos I took weren't very good. A Kestrel flew quite close, which did allow a quite nice picture.

Kestrel at Shuart

There was also a female Blackcap in the ivy, and a male (presumably Common)Darter briefly flying overhead.

Back at the car I stood for a while in the sun and there it was again, a female Common Darter. This time I saw it land on the front tyre of a car not far away in the parking bay. I guess the black tyre would be warm in the sun, which attracted the darter. I crept towards it to take a few photos, but typically just at that moment, with me only a few feet away, crouched down by their car, the 2 ladies that owned the car walked back. I showed them the dragonfly and explained what I was doing and they seemed fascinated and thanked me for pointing it out.

Common Darter, Shuart

This is the latest date I have seen a Common Darter, or any dragonfly for that matter, at Reculver.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Warm and sunny November morning

Sunday 13th November
Bright and sunny, warm, dry, light south east breeze.

It was a cracking morning as I headed over to Shuart, I was hoping to avoid the crowds I expected to be out on such a nice day. I was alone where I parked up, and set off towards the sea. I could hear crests and Long-tailed Tits calling in the hedges, and loads of Blackbirds, Song Thrushes and Redwings.

Along the path leading up to to the railway crossing I saw a large bird fly out and along the far side of the hedge. I had my suspicions, and sure enough a bit further along a Long-eared Owl flew out and this time right in front of me fly up the path, then dived right and through the hedge again.

Other than Reed Buntings and Meadow Pipits, little else was seen until I got near the stables, where there were stacks of Pied Wagtails. Someone let their dogs run wild and flushed a flock of 62 Lapwings off the ploughed field, and once I reached the seawall I could see in all directions people out walking their dogs. Although most were on the sea wall, there's always one or two that walk along the beach, flushing all the birds. I wandered a few hundred yards west, and enjoyed 8 Snow Buntings flying around, althouogh they were struggling to find somewhere quiet to land. Eventually they settled up at Plumpudding, and I couldn't be bothered fighting the traffic to see them on the deck.

I was back at the car around 10am, and hoping the breeze would pick up and move easterly, I set of to the towers for a seawatch. Mickey Baldock was already having a look out at sea and said there a few birds moving. Encouraged, I gathered up the scope and set off to stand up by the towers for a couple of hours. It was really quite enjoyable, with a nice variety of birds:

25 Gannets, 1 Bonxie, 18 Kittiwakes, 3 Little Gulls, 1 Little Egret, 8 Red-throated Divers, 2 large auks and 2 Eider all flying east. On the sea were 5 Great Crested Grebes, 1 drake Goldeneye, a mixed flock of about 80 or so duck, comprised of Teal, Wigeon, Mallard and Gadwall, and on the rocks was a Black Redstart.

Elusive Black Redstart

Saturday 12th November
Cool, misty, calm and dry.

This morning started with a bit of a hangover, so I didn't leave the house until nearly 8am, and I parked up at the end of Bishopstone lane. I decided it might be nice to have a peaceful walk below the cliffs, looking for rare wheatears etc. I was somewhat disappointed whereupon opening the car door I was treated to some very loud disco music pumping out of some woman's 'ghetto blaster' and 2 rather substantial people were jogging round the grassy area. I guess it's some kind of fitness class, perhaps not that popular with only 2 members, but do they really require pop music on a cliff top at 8am on a Saturday morning?

I moved quickly down to the beach and out of earshot of the music, and as it was low tide I walked east to the towers at Reculver. There were a few Curlew and Sanderling along the shore, and small numbers of Brent in the shallow water, and some Starlings and Redwings flew west, but otherwise it was quiet.

Around the rocks just west of the towers there were loads of small birds flitting around, so I was hopeful of finding something interesting, and my patience was rewarded with views of a beautiful male Black Redstart. I managed a few distant photos but it was quite tricky to get anywhere near. I was joined by Marc Heath and we chatted a while and waited for it to show better, which eventually it did. However, the rocks, the background, the light and the bird are all dull, so the pictures weren't great.

Black Redstart Reculver

We also had the 7 Snow Buntings fly in off the sea, presumably they had been flushed off the beach further east.

Other than several Robins and Meadow Pipits there wasn't much to add, so I wandered back to Bishopstone along the cliff top. There were many Skylarks, continually flushed by the dogs running around, and a single Redpoll flew south.

After a drink back at the car I took a short trip to Brook. Here I saw adult male and female Marsh Harriers, a Sparrowhawk and heard a Green Sandpiper calling in the distance. A couple of Mistle Thrushes flew overhead as I walked back up to my car. All in all a pleasant morning.

Monday, 7 November 2011

A seawatching weekend

Saturday 5th November
Drizzly, dull, light N/W breeze.

Like most birders I suspect, I keep an eye on the weather forecast for the days ahead, and the prediction all last week was for strong north or north east winds this weekend. Needless to say, I was quite excited.

However, my daughter was making a very welcome trip home from university for the weekend, and I was looking forward to seeing her again, as long as it didn't get in the way of my birding of course. My wife had other plans, suggesting a Sunday lunch together, and I was to make the trip taking Chesk back to her accomodation. Then to cap it all, I discovered I was working Saturday morning.

I must admit I was a touch irritable towards the end of the week, but resigned to squeezing in some short trips where i could. On Saturday I dashed home after work, chucked some soup in the microwave, dropped Chesk in town, home again and stuffed my lunch, grabbed the scope and bins and reached Reculver just before 3 o'clock. I met 2 of the Saganauts (Martin and Terry) just leaving, and the news was that it was quiet. Undeterred I walked up to find some shelter at the towers and gave it an hour and a half, until it was near enough dark. I managed 1 Bonxie west, 2 Gannets east and a juv Shag, which I watched for about 10 minutes as it fished close inshore, before climbing out onto the rocks just east of the towers for a few minutes, then flew off east. Whilst obviously smaller than the Cormorants, the Shag was quite brown all over, shown well when it stretched its wings. A small white chin patch was the only white on the bird, and it's flesh-coloured feet were easy to see while sitting on the rocks. I went home reasonably content, and still excited about the following day's seawatch to come.

Sunday 6th November
Strong north winds, cool, misty.

Disaster struck this morning when my alarm didn't go off, or maybe it did and I turned it off. Typical, all autumn I've been up early and out at dawn, but this morning, when it really mattered, I overslept. With a real panic when I did wake, I noticed it was light outside, never a good sign. I lept up, grabbed my clothes and went downstairs to look at the clock. 7:35am. By 8 o'clock I was out the door after a quick breakfast, and just about to set off when I received the dreaded text from Chris Hindle. Something had been seen already at Reculver and I still hadn't left home. With trepidation I had a quick look, and of all things, 2 Great White Egrets had flown past the towers. Unusual birds for a seawatch, and worse for me, I have never seen GWE in the area. Not a good start to the day.

By the time I reached Reculver I was on the end of a line of birders keeping out the wind, with restricted viewing. It was a fun 5 hours birding, I saw 30 or so Bonxies, a Pom, a couple of Arctic Skuas, many large auks, 8o+ Little Gulls, loads of Kittiwakes and Gannets, Mergansers, Scotor and Wigeon.

Monday 7th November
Strong north east winds, dry, mild, dull and misy at sea.

I had a few hours out before work today, so headed up to the towers in the hope of another seawatch. I got there a bit earlier than yesterday, before 8am, and stayed until mid day. It was great fun, just a few birders sheltering from the strong winds. There were plenty birds on the move, mostly flying east. Highlight was undoubtedly a Great Northern Diver close in to the towers for a while, allowing brilliant scope views. Later it was seen flying out to sea.

Birds seen were:
4 Poms, 1 GND, 6 RT Divers, with many more too distant, 20 Kitiwakes, 6 Mergansers, 23 Wigeon, 2 G C Grebes, 3 Eider, 1 Razorbill, many Guillemots and unidentified large auks, and around 980 Lapwing flying out to sea.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Autumn easing off

Saturday 29th October
Light S/W breeze, mild, dry, overcast

With autumn drawing to a close I decided to have almost a final-fling at finding something good, and with scarce birds turning up all over the country I set off quite excited today. For a bit of variety I went to Shuart around 7.30am, just before daylight, and set off towards the coast. I could hear Goldcrests in the trees straight away, and they were to be heard in the bushes throughout my walk. If I could have counted accurately i'm sure I would have had a big total. Also quite a few Redwings knocking about, though they are so wary it's not easy to get a photo.

It was really a bit quiet and the early promise seemed to disappear when I realised there weren't that many birds around. There were a few finches flying west, but only small numbers, and nothing like the large flocks seen a few weeks ago. Around the stables were Corn Buntings and stacks of Reed Buntings, plus a few Chaffinches etc but nothing to get relly stuck into.

Reed Bunting

I walked west along the coast to Coldharbour, enjoying the pleasant weather and very few people about, then returned along the embankment. There was a lovely Wheatear on the beach, and 3 parties of Bearded Tits in the reed beds. A couple of Stonechats were my first for a while, and a single Grey Wagtail flew west.

Blackbird bathing

Eventually I was back at the car at Shuart, so i stopped for a drink and snacks, then set off to Netherhale and Brooksend. Again, there were Goldcrests to be heard, and 2 Crossbills flew overhead at Netherhale, followed shortly after by another 9 birds. Not much else to note, apart from a few Chiffchaffs, but a really nice long walk, lasting over 5 hours.

With the darkness of winter setting in at the beginning and end of the days, there might not be many more autumn birding days left for me this year.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Another quiet seawatch

Friday 28th October
Mild, overcast, dry with a light N/E breeze.

I'm on a late shift at work today, and keeping an eye on the forecast I chose to take a half days leave, so I don't need to be at work until 4pm. My intention when setting off this morning was to walk the lanes and hedges and cover as much of the area as possible, but after an hour walking round the back of the caravan park and seeing nothing but Blackbirds and a few Goldcrests, I took a look at the sea. First thing I saw were 7 Little Gulls flying slowly west, and there was a northerly breeze blowing, so I went back to the car and grabbed my scope and some warm clothes and headed up to the towers.

For a short while there was little to see, apart from a single Bonxie and a few Gannets, and a couple more Little Gulls. I was joined by Mickey Baldock, and gradually we built up a fairly good selection of birds, with several large flocks of Gannets reasonably close, quite a few Little Gulls and a single Pom Skua a little distant.

Highlight was stumbling on 2 Slavonian Grebes sitting on the sea, a little way out, just far enough to sow some seeds of doubt re Black-necked Grebe. They had clean white cheeks and a distinct cap which led Mickey and I to be fairly sure they were Slavs, and Chris Hindle joined us a little later, using a larger magnification on his scope to confirm their i.d.

We stayed until the wind dropped off completely and nothing was moving. Totals were:
1 R T Diver, 1 G C Grebe, 2 Slav Grebes w, 287 Gannets w, 6 Bonxie w, 1 Pomarine Skua w, 46 Little Gulls w, 13 Kittiwakes w, 20 Common Scotor w, 8 Wigeon w, 2 Swallows w, 1 Grey Wagtail w and a Wheatear around the towers.


This afternoon I took a walk over at Shuart, where 3 Corn Buntings flew west, as did around 80 Siskins in small flocks, and distantly I saw over at Brooksend a flock of around 30 Greylags. A couple of Redpolls and a few crests were about all else today.

Other short visits recently were a trip to Chambers Wall to see the Rough-legged Buzzard on Sunday 23rd, also managing to see a Goosander fly over Coldharbour (poor photo below)

And on Wednesday morning I had a short visit to Bishopstone, where not much was to be seen, but I did try to get a photo of a Firecrest (another poor photo below)

Sunday, 23 October 2011

A teasing Cetti's

Saturday 22nd October
Breezy southerly winds F4, mild, dry and sunny.

When i got to the car park this morning Marc Heath's car was already there. He was desperate for a Crossbill, the only local not to have seen one this autumn, and I could see him on the embankment to the west. I walked slowly up the path north, and just before reaching the railway line I heard a crashing about in the hedge and Chris Hindle appeared, having walked up the east side of the hedge. Shortly after, Ann appeared walking up the path behind me, claiming to have heard an unusual call halfway up the path.

We three walked up to Coldharbour, where we met Julian and Alex Perry, but it was quite obvious there wasn't much about today. I walked back inland, Chris and Ann walked the coast, and about an hour later the 3 of us met up at the railway crossing, and were joined by Marc. He had at last had some Crossbills, but other than a few Siskins, Redpolls and Chaffinches there was little to see, so we all headed back to the car park.

Part way down the track 2 Bullfinches flew out the hedge, not a common bird in the area. Then we heard a strange call, and Chris and I both thought out loud, could be a Raddes, it had a sort of 'squeaky' call. Eventually a bird moved to the front of the bush and we could see it was a Cetti's, but making a really unusual call. This was the bird Ann had heard earlier.

This afternoon Chris sent me a few photos of a Rough-legged Buzzard he had found near Netherhale this afternoon:

Rough-legged Buzzard - Chris Hindle

More vis mig

Thursday 20th October 2011
Sunny, cold, w/n/w breeze

I set off from my usual spot at Chambers Wall this morning around 8am, walking up to the railway crossing, then slowly north to Coldharbour. There were finches starting to move west again today, and i stopped to listen to some Redpolls when a Short-eared Owl flew from the reeds at the side of the path. I was slightly startled but enjoyed watching this cracking bird for a few minutes befor eit dropped into another reed bed near the seawall. Only a few yards further on and a 2nd bird flew from the reeds and drifted away to the west of Coldharbour, before dropping down into scrub. Even better, just a little further on and another Short-eared Owl came in off the sea high over my head. Cracking stuff.

For a change I walked west along the seawall to the oyster farm, and along the Green Wall inland, then back towards Chambers Wall along the embankment. On a clear day the sun is straight in your face walking east early in the morning, but i had walked so slowly this morning the sun had moved to the south.

I started counting finches again, and anyone who enjoys the vis mig on days when large numbers of birds are moving through will tell you how exciting it is, and how the hours just drift past. I did eventually make my way back to the car about 2 o'clock, watching 8 Crossbills fly overhead whilst having a coffee, and with another page filled with records of birds:

38 Skylarks, 93 Goldfinches, 8 Greenfinches, 182 Siskins, 54 Redpoll, 10 Crossbills, 20 Linnets, 97 Chaffinches, 17 Reed Buntings, 3 Pied Wagtails, 660 Fielfares, 42 Redwing, 3 Bearded Tits all moving west. Also seen were 6 Goldcrests, 1 Peregrine, 1 Merlin, 3 Kestrels, 1 Sparrowhawk, and a Little Owl. Back at the car a Robin was singing away:

The only downer today was my car failed to start and i had to call the RAC to tow me home. A failed petrol pump was the cause.

Finches galore - but no Bluetail

Monday 17th October
Light S/W winds, becoming stronger through the morning. Mild, dry, sunny.

I returned on Sunday night after 4 days away in Spain. Flying out on the Thursday I was aware of the change in the winds, and I feared the worst. The whole autumn until now has been pants, and the weekend i'm away it goes mad. The messages I received while out the country were of Dusky, Pallas's and Yellow-browed Warblers, and of course the bird I have long dreamed of finding myself (I alweays knew one would turn up one day) a Red-flanked Bluetail.

Clear skies Sunday night suggested everything would be gone on my return, and sure enough on Monday there wre no 'specials' to be seen. I set off from Chambers Wall car park around 7.30am, and made my way up to the railway embankment. There was plenty of vis mig so I wandered west then back east slowly along the embankment, counting the flocks of finches heading mostly west, or south-west.

My note book was full of numbers of birds seen, and it really was a fantastic spectacle, thouroughly enjoyable, and a little consolation for missing the Sibes. I stayed until 2.30pm, and totals below are from 7 hours on my own:

Redpoll 139, Siskin 419, Goldfinch 349, Crossbill 40, Chaffinch 354, Linnet 12, Grey Wagtail 1, Pied Wagtail 33, Starling 660, Skylark 64, Song Thrush 33, Meadow Pipit 23, Reed Bunting 47

Also seen on my wander were:
Bearded Tit 6, Swallow 1, Cetti's 2, Kingfisher 1, Sparrowhawk 3, Marsh Harrier 2 and a single Peregrine.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

A finch day

Wednesday 12th October 2011
Breezy west winds, warm, dry, overcast.

Well it wasn't a classic day of finches moving, but it was still a good day. I arrived at Chambers Wall just before 8am and headed straight to the railway embankment. Marc Heath was already there, having a pre-work visit, but it was obvious straight away not much was happening yet.

I wandered slowly east towards Shuart and fairly soon a few small flocks of Goldfinches flew past, with a few Siskins amongst them. Then a bit of luck, just south of the railway a flock of 18 Crossbills flew west, and shortly after a fantastic moment when 14 Crossbills flew west low along the embankment at head height, calling all the way, weaving in and out of the bushes as they went by. I followed them as the went away and I could see the lovely red males in the flock.

In total I spent 3 and a half hours drifting east, then back to Chambers Wall, and most of the time small flocks of finches were flying by, mainly Goldies and Siskins; as time went by more and more Chaffinches were migrating past, and I had another Crossbill flock.

I came across a Long-tailed Tit flock. As mentioned before, it can be quite exciting to stand among the flock and not only enjoy these lovely birds, but search through the flock to see what is being 'carried' with them. Today was no exception, as well as Blue and Great Tits, there were 4 or 5 Chiffchaffs, and best of all a stunning little Firecrest.

Totals today flying west:
12 Song Thrushes, 43 Skylarks, 7 Meadow Pipits, 247 Goldfinches, 216 Siskins, 5 Redpoll, 54 Crossbills, 153 Chaffinches, 16 Greenfinches, 8 Reed Buntings.

Also seen were 12 Chiffchaffs, 1 Common Buzzard, 1 Marsh Harrier, 1 Sparrowhawk, 20 Long-tailed Tits, 1 Firecrest, 60 Lapwing and 8 Golden Plover. Great stuff.

Friday, 7 October 2011

A late starter

Friday 7th October
Strong WNW winds (F4-5), mild, dry, sunny

With the promise of strong north westerly winds and the first proper seawatch of the year, I was up early and at the towers as the sun came up around 7.30am. A few of the lads were already there, and the signs weren't good, little had been seen. All in all, it was a really disappointing morning, just a single distant skua and diver, and a few Arctic Terns. Quite where all the birds were, i'm not sure. I was convinced there would at least be a few more skuas, and perhaps some Kittiwakes.

By 11am we had all gone our various ways, and I went home for lunch. About 1pm I had a text to say there had been a few Bonxies and 2 Manx off Bishopstone, and shortly after Matt Hindle rang to say a Grey Phalarope was in Coldharbour.

I made my way down to see the phalarope, and what a cracking little bird it was. I sat for a while watching it feed while others were taking photos. They are great fun to watch as they peck away at insects on the water surface.

A quick look at the sea indicated birds were around, I saw 2 Arctic Skuas come off the sea, and several Gannets were distantly making their way west.

Back at the towers I had another seawatch until nearly dark, giving up at 6 o'clock. I managed to find 2 distant Pom Skuas, including an adult bird with full 'spoons' and a little later 2 much closer Poms, plus 12 Bonxies, 1 Arctic Skua, 1 Sandwich Tern, about 35 Common/Arctic Terns, a Red-throated Diver and about 9 Gannets all flying west.

Good fun after a long wait today.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

A few birds moving

Tuesday 4th October 2011
Warm, dry, cloudy with S/W breeze.

Mentioned before I know, but west or south west winds I find uninspiring, but this is October, birds are on the move, and recently there have been loads of Siskins flying west, so I was hopeful there might be some vis mig.

I started out at the car park at Chambers Wall around 7.30am, taking a slow walk up to the embankment. Apart from a few Chiffchaffs and the usual Chaffinches it was quiet, but I did flush the Little Owl from the same spot I saw it last week.

Walking west I stopped to check out a couple of calling birds, which were rather smart Lesser Whitethroats, there were a few Blackbirds along the hedges, and 3 small flocks of Golden Plovers flew over. Whilst trying to locate a warbler gently singing on the far side of the railway line, which I never did see but strongly suspect was a Blackcap, I noticed a small bird fly in from the east, and a quick look confirmed it was a Redstart, which was nice. It didn't stop long, and I watched as it continued 'hedge hopping' it's way west.

I then turned back and walked east along the embankment. The only birds of note really were a steady trickle of Skylarks heading west, a few small parties of Siskins west, and highlight of the morning a flock of 13 Crossbills flying west. It was brilliant to watch them approach, then hear the 'chip' calls as they fly just overhead, and turn to follow them with the light
behind me and see their fantistic colours as they disappear along the embankment.

Monday, 3 October 2011

All's quiet again

Monday 3rd October 2011
Light S/W winds, warm, dry, sunny.

I missed out on the opportunity to see a Great White Egret, found by Matt Hindle yesterday evening, going to roost south of Reculver, so I headed up to the towers early this morning in the hope of catching the egrets leaving their roost.

I spent a while around the bushes south of the towers, hearing a few Chiffchaffs and a couple of Snipe flew over, but nothing much else.

I walked over to Brook and back, but there were far fewer birds around than over the weekend. Highlight was watching a Peregrine unsuccessfully chasing Woodpigeons over the fields. On the way back there was a Wheatear on the ploughed field, and another on the rocks west of the towers. Three Little Egrets were on the shore, but none of their larger cousins.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Something to rave about!

Sunday 2nd October 2011
After a chilly start becoming hot (28C), dry, clear and very sunny.

I started this morning at Chambers Wall just before 7 o'clock, the light just about ok to see a few birds flitting about. After lingering around the car park listening for warblers I walked slowly up towards the railway crossing. There were a few Chiffchaffs and a couple of Goldcrests along the hedge, as well as the regular Chaffinches, and in the field east of the hedge were 9 Grey Partridges.

Just the other side of the crossing along the path to Coldharbour were quite a few Blackcaps and a smart Lesser Whitethroat. Just as I was thinking of turning back to the embankment to check the bushes I had a call from Marc Heath to say an Osprey was sitting on a post at Coldharbour. I made my way quickly up to the seafront and sure enough, there was an Osprey sitting on a breakwater post just below the rasied shingle ridge. I took a couple of photos from distance, just in case it flew, then walked up to join Marc. Before I could attempt any better shots, it was off, but luckily for others it landed in the Oyster Farm, where it seemed quite settled.

Osprey in flight

While enjoying the Osprey with a few other birders, I heard a deep 'cronk cronk', and looking round a Raven was flying south along the Green Wall, not only a new bird for Reculver for me, but the first I've seen in Kent. Marc also spotted a Little Tern offshore flying east.

My walk back was against the bright sun, making viewing difficult, but along the embankment I managed to find more Chiffchaffs, Blackcaps and another Lesser Whitethroat, as well as many small flocks of Siskins flying west, along with 4 Redpolls.

A text from Chris Hindle had me rushing over to Bishopstone where a Yellow-browed Warbler had been seen and heard, but although I gave it half an hour I couldn't relocate it. I went to Shuart for another walk but the heat was intense and very few birds were calling, so I gave up around midday and went home.

Todays totals:
1 Marsh Harrier, 3 Kestrels, 9 Grey Partridge, 12 Chiffchaffs, 11 Blackcaps, 2 Lesser Whitethroats, 2 Cetti's, 1 Reed Warbler, 2 Goldcrests, 4 Snipe west, 1 Raven, 1 Little Tern, 126 Siskins west, 4 Redpolls west, 95 Skylarks west, 400 Starlings west, 20+ Blackbirds and 2 Song Thrushes, plus the usual selection of local birds.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

A more promising morning.

Sunday 25th September 2011 7.45 - 10.30am
Light southerly breeze, cool, dry and overcast.

I arrived this morning at Chambers Wall car park to the sound of a singing Cetti's and a few Chiffchaffs calling. It was quite cool, and just a gentle breeze, and as I set off towards the railway line there were Chiffchaffs feeding actively in the small vegetation next to the path. It's amazing to see these newly arrived migrants so close up, and in such large numbers again today.

I caught sight of a flash of an orange tail, a Redstart disappearing into a bush. I waited a while but couldnt see it again. I walked west up the embankment with Marc Heath, noting more Chiffchaffs and a Blackcap, plus a lot of Blue Tits.

Marc carried on towards Reculver, and I returned east along the embankment, and a few minutes later he rang to say he was watching a Short-eared Owl. I managed a couple of distant photos of this cracking bird.

Short-eared Owl

I heard a few flocks of Siskins fly west as i continued back to Chambers Wall, counting 21 in total, and 2 Ring-necked Parakeets flew west. A flock of Long-tailed Tits made their way south down the hedge, carrying with them were loads of Chiffchaffs and a Blackcap. Long-tailed Tit flocks are always worth a look through, just in case something good is with them.


There were 2 Great Spotted Woodpeckers near the car park, and I relocated the Redstart, though getting close enough for a photo was much harder.


I heard a 'chiff chiff chiff' and looked up to see a smallish dark wader with a white rump flying north, presumably a Wood Sandpiper, although it is a rather late date.

Driving away I had a Sparrowhawk low over a hedge and a female Marsh Harrier over the felds hunting. A really enjoyable morning's birding.

A long walk on a beautiful morning

Saturday 24th September 7am - 10.30am
Warm, sunny, calm and dry.

I arrived in misty conditions at Shuart this morning, and in the company of Julian and Alex Perry, I walked up to the railway embankment and headed west. It was very much another day of Chiffchaffs, though the cool start to the walk meant I we probably didn't see as many birds as were in the area. An example of this was a small tree up the lane which had 5 Blackcaps, but none were calling and we could have overlooked them quite easily.

A single Willow Warbler was calling, and there were around 25 Blue Tits working their way through the bushes. I saw a Peregrine sitting in the middle of a field near Wade farm, and a little later the same bird chasing the Woodpigeons.

Walking down to Chambers Wall there was a Kingfisher calling from the river, and more Chiffchaffs, the total for my walk about 60 birds.

I walked back to Shuart along Potten Street Road, and 8 Ring-necked Parakeets flew over towards Shuart, calling loudly.

Friday, 23 September 2011

A surprise owl

Friday 23rd September 2011
Light winds, cool start soon warming up, sunny and dry.

I arrived at Chambers Wall at 7am, just as the light was good enough to see a few birds. Once again I could hear the calls of Chiffchaffs and a singing Cetti's when i got out the car. I was quite hopeful because the day had a good feel to it.

I walked up the sunny side of the hedge towards the railway, and as I neared the end of the hedge I noticed many Chiffchaffs, at least 15 birds, excitedly flitting around a few bushes, calling continuously. At first I thought they were just enjoying the warmth of the sun and perhaps plenty of insect activity, but then it dawned on me, rather slowly i admit, they were mobbing something.

As I approached quite close a Little Owl flew out the hedge and landed in a Hawthorn a bit further away, chased by the small birds it had attracted.

Little Owl

It flew west along the railway embankment, and distantly I could watch it's progress by the following flock of mostly Chiffchaffs.

I walked west along the embankment, along the Green Wall to the seafront, then to Coldharbour and back to the car. On route I managed around 60 Chiffchaffs, 1 Lesser Whitethroat, 3 Whitethroats, 3 Blackcaps, 1 Sedge, 3 Kestrels, 3 Little Egrets flew east, and along the Wantsum 3 Great Spotted Woodpeckers, presumably migrants.

Quite a nice start to the day.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Flycatcher in the garden

Sunday 18th September 2011
Light west (F2) winds, sunny, cold, dry.

I was loading the car up this morning around 7.30am and as usual there were Chiffs calling from the trees, and Blue Tits, Great Tits and a party of Long-tailed Tits. Then an interesting bird caught my eye, so I grabbed the bins out the car and watched as a Spotted Flycatcher was flitting around. Torn between heading to the coast, and staying to watch the flycatcher, I decided as the sun was out it was a great chance for a photo.

Spotted Flycatcher

I headed over to Shuart, where again there were many Chiffchaffs. I counted around 35, as well as a few Blackcaps, 3 Ring-necked Parakeets and 2 Kestrels. I then walked over to Netherhale, counting over 40 Chiffchaffs, 4 Blackcaps, 3 Buzzards drifting south, 1 Marsh Harrier and a Sparrowhawk.

There were plenty Migrant Hawkers and Common Darters on the wing, as well as Large and Small Whites, Comma, Peacock and Red Admirals, and a Painted Lady, one of the few i've seen this year.

Painted Lady

Back at home there are still Chiffchaffs in and out the garden, as well as a few Goldcrests calling.

Friday, 16 September 2011

A seawatch on my last day :-)

Friday 16th September 2011
Light S/E winds (F2-3), mild, overcast, dry.

I arrived at Chambers Wall car park at 7am this morning to the sound of Chiffchaffs calling all around. I tried to make a stab at counting them, but to be honest it was a real guess, they were flitting in and out the bushes. I walked slowly up to the crossing, then took the embankment east to the riding stables, checked all the hedges befor eturning back west along the seafront. The whole walk up to the seafront was accompanied by the calls of Chiffs, but little else. The walk west was quiet, though there was a single Wheatear on the beach, and an Arctic Skua flew slowly east close in.

At Coldharbour I turned south, then walked the embankment west, before returning to the car for a bite to eat. I had several sightings of Sparrowhawks during the walk, and a Hobby came flying low over the bushes while I was at the car.

Approximate totals for the walk were: 95 Chiffs, 11 Blackcaps, 5 Whitethroats, 2 Reed Warblers, 1 Cetti's, 1 Yellow Wagtail, 1 Arctic Skua, 2 Gannets, 25 Scotor, 1 Wheatear, 4 Lapwing west, 8 Brent, 5 Sparrowhawks, 4 Kestrels, 1 Hobby and 4 Grey Herons.

Early morning Grey Heron

Around 11:30am I drove over to Reculver towers, where Matt Hindle was already on a seawatch. I was walking up to join him when he rang to say there was a Long-tailed Skua flying east. I ran up to the watchpoint and saw the bird, but it was distant and flying further away. All I can say is that it was a small, pale skua. I joined Matt for a really pleasant few hours, sitting on the cliff in the sun with a moderate south east wind. A little later Chris and Anne and Mickey Baldock joined us, and we stayed until about 3pm.

Plenty of interest, as a trickle of Bonxies (50+) and Arctic Skuas (20) flew past, mostly east, as well as 6 Black Terns, 30 Sandwich Terns, 5 Little Gulls, a Razorbill, 70 Gannets, a Red-throated Diver and probably the highlight a juv Montagu's Harrier in off the sea.

Although the information about birds seen further up the coast in Essex and Suffolk had us wishing for a slight northerly breeze, it was a lovely day and a great way to end my 2 weeks off work.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

The joy of Chiffchaffs

Wednesday 14th September
F3 westerly winds, mild, dry and sunny

I arrived at the car park at Chambers Wall this morning at around 8am, with little hope or expectation of much. The first bird I heard as soon as the car door opened was a Cetti's Warbler singing, and as I set of towards the east side of the hedge I could hear several Chiffchaffs calling. There was a Corn Bunting in the car park, and a Yellow Wagtail flew over, calling.

The Chiffchaff is an undervalued bird, in my opinion. Not as pretty as a Willow Warbler, and more common than most other warblers this time of year, it can be walked past too easily. On a day when there isn't a lot to see there is comfort from watching several Chiffs flitting in and out along a hedge. Apart from being enjoyable to watch, they are constantly calling so you know there are more around, and their presence promises something even better may be just round the corner.


Today I counted 34 Chiffchaffs as I walked up to the railway crossing, and walked west to the Green Wall and back, and i'm sure many more were in the area. Other warblers were 2 Whitethroats and a Reed Warbler. Walking north I heard the familiar sound of Siskins calling, and overhead flew a flock of 8 birds heading west. A sign of autumn.

2 Grey Wagtails flew west along the embankment as I walked into the strong wind. One sat on the sluice at the Wantsum just long enough to tempt me into trying for a photo, which didn't come out good. The only other birds of note were 54 Meadow Pipits flying west.

Driving away from Chambers Wall I noticed over fields west of the track all the gulls were up, and there were 1 or 2 raptors amongst them. I spent about half an hour watching the skies, seeing 2 Common Buzzards together, at least 4 Marsh Harriers, a Peregrine and 3 Kestrels.

Distant Buzzards

All in all a pleasant morning.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Goodbye Chesk

Monday 12th September
Very windy, F6-7 south westerly. Warm, sunny and dry.

Surprise surprise, the wind was howling from the south west again today. This is turning into the most disappointing September for birding I can remember.

Anyway, yesterday was an emotional day for me. My wife (Steph) and I took our daughter Francesca (Chesk) to Anglia Ruskin Uni in Cambridge. Driving away was so hard, but they grow up and move on. I'm looking forward to the Christmas holidays already :-)

The last supper

When I got up today I really could have done with a long day out birding, but instead, because the weather was miserable, I mooched around the house all morning. Eventually I dragged myself up to Reculver towers after lunch in the hope that somoething would be displaced into our bit of the North Sea. I had just got out the car when Chris arrived, so we stood in some shelter at the towers and managed 4 Little Terns, a few Common and Sandwich Terns, and unusually, a pair of Gadwall flew west.

If the wind was in exactly the opposite direction we would have spent the whole day there, counting skuas and more, and yet the winds have ensured next to nothing is to be seen.

Perhaps the end of the week will be better?

Friday, 9 September 2011

A bit of competition to liven things up.

Friday 9th September
Light drizzle first thing, then brightening up. F 3-4 south westerly winds. Mild

The weather was much better today, any day in autumn starting with drizzle is promising. A chat with Tim Hodge yesterday led to us having a small competition to see as many birds as possible by 11am, when we would meet up at Chambers Wall to see how many birds more than me that Tim had seen. We've been here before...

A text from Tim told me he had seen 18 sp before I had reached the Reculver area. Undeterred, I set off from the car park, enjoying a day without strong winds. I soon heard a selection of warblers, including Willow Warblers, Chiffchaffs, Blackcap and 2 Lesser Whitethroats, and at the crossing there were 2 Turtle Doves. I carried on up to Cold Harbour then walked east along the seafront. I planned to walk to loads of different parts of the marsh in an attempt to beat Tim's total, but I soon gave up on that and enjoyed the day. There were good numbers of Wheatear along the beach, and at Plumpudding a nice variety of waders, including a Whimbrel, 3 Bar-wits, 1 Knot and around 30 each of Dunlin and Sanderling. Plenty of Yellow Wagtails about as well.

I walked back west and eventually met Tim at the Oyster Farm. On my approach I heard a wader call and looked up to see it fly off high south west. Tim confirmed when I caught up with him that it was a Dotterel. We spent a bit of time counting the Wheatears, reaching a total of 31 birds, though there must have been many more in the area as a whole. There were 2 Stonechats and a Whinchat in the scrub around the Oyster Farm.

We walked back along the Green Wall and the embankment to the car park, adding a few more warblers to then list. My total was 62 species seen in the morning, and Tim managed 78. Between us we reached a reasonable 84 species of bird seen in the morning.

Altogether a really enjoyable walk, with a lot of birds around. Great fun.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Another dull day

Thursday 8th September 2011
F 3-4 south westerly winds, mild, dry, overcast.

No change in the weather, and no change in the birding. If anything, it's getting worse! I had an hour's seawatch from the towers around mid day, I only saw a Peregrine fly west, a few Sandwich and Common Terns, and pretty much nothing else.

I had a short visit to Chambers Wall, up to the crossing, managing to hear 2 calling Chiffchaffs, I saw 2 Turtle Doves tucked away in a tree keeping out the nasty wind, and a Kingfisher was playing hard to photograph. I waited quite a while for it to come close enough for a decent picture, but in the end I got bored and gave up. There were a few Sand Martins, House Martins and Swallows around the car park, and that was just about it really.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

In search of a rare plant...

Wednesday 7th September 2011
Strong (F6) westerly winds, bright and warm

Poor weather for birding again today, I was still tempted out this morning, reaching Chambers Wall around half eight. I started out along the east of the hedge running north, keeping out the fierce wind, hoping some migrants might be sheltering. It was really quite pleasant, but very quiet, apart from a few Chaffinches and singing Robins, and several calling Chiffs (I counted 8 in total).

I had a call from Tim Hodge around 9am, suggesting we walk up to the oyster farm to look for a rare plant he had been tipped off was growing there. Pleased of the company I sauntered slowly up to the embankment while Tim made his way to catch me up. We both had a Grey Wagtail fly west, and enjoyed a young Hobby hunting along the dyke by the sea wall.

There were at least 4 Wheatears feeding along the footpath and on the beach, which was nice.

Following rather ambiguous directions we started searching for the plant. I had no idea what I was looking for, Tim just said it was a rather thin plant with a small yellow flower, which may or may not be out at the moment. There were yellow flowered plants everywhere, which made it even harder to find the mystery plant. After some prompting, Tim agreed to use his mobile to find a picture on the internet, so we at least knew what to look for.

It didn't take long to realise we had very little chance of finding our quarry, so Tim agreed to find out a bit more before we would return another day. Still, it was a lovely walk, and great to get out for some fresh air and have a chat about better days and past holidays.

Walking back we had lovely views of a confiding Stonechat and a Whinchat.


Tuesday, 6 September 2011

A real struggle

Tuesday 6th September
Very strong S/W winds (F9), heavy showers, mild.

All summer i've been looking forward to the beginning of September and my 2 weeks holiday. As usual I have taken leave at the start of the autumn, hoping for a really good sea-watch in a northerly gale, or a few days of light north east winds and some drift migrants. Not this year, it would appear. Rubbish weather struck Kent yesterday on my first day's leave, and got worse today.

I went to Chambers Wall yesterday (Monday 5th) for a couple of hours in strong westerly winds, managing to see a Wheatear, a few House Martins moving west, over 20 Chiffchaffs, a Reed Warbler and 2 Willow Warblers, but not much else. I then went over to Shuart for another couple of hours and saw 2 Turtle Doves, 1 Grey Wagtail and around 100 Swallows around the farm and fields.

Along the hedges in shelter I managed 8 species of butterfly and 4 of dragonfly, which kept me amused for a while.

Common Darter

Today, I really couldn't face walking around in such strong winds, struggling to see anything. Eventually this afternoon I gave in and went up to the towers at Reculver about 3:30pm, just as the tide was coming in. You never know, with a bit of luck something might fly past. I took a walk down to the beach behind a breakwater for a while, and then sat up on the cliff behind the towers out the wind as much as possible.

It was actually quite nice to be out, even though, as expected, there was little to see. Highlight was a summer plumage Red-throated Diver feeding just off-shore. I watched it for a while as I sat on the beach, and a few terns were flying west, then I went back to the car, got some warmer clothes and my camera and headed up to the towers.

Red-throated Diver
(It's a poor record shot, but it was taken in dull light, rain, gale force winds etc )

By 5:30pm, in addition to the diver, I had seen 64 Common Terns, 8 Sandwich Terns, 1 Black Tern and a second winter Med Gull all fly west. There were also 6 Swifts flying round the towers then heading south.

Unfortuanately, the weather looks pretty crap for the rest of this week, and possibly into next week as well.

Monday, 29 August 2011

Seeking shelter

Monday 29th August; 8am - 11am
Cool, overcast, some sun, dry, F3-4 westerly winds

The winds were still blowing from the west today, and forecast to stay that way all day, so I had a trip down West Brook Valley this morning, hoping to find some birds sheltering out the wind.

It was quite nice walking slowly down the valley as the sun came out and warmed the air. I found several clumps of elderberries with loads of warblers, mostly Whitethroats and Blackcaps feeding actively. At the far end of my walk there were stacks of Chiffs in the tall sycamores, as well as a flock of Long-tailed Tits. A Common Buzzard flew out a tree very close by as I was trying to watch the warblers flitting about.

Long-tailed Tit

The sunshine brought out the butterflies (Red Admirals, Commas, a Holly Blue, Small Whites) and dragonflies (Migrant Hawkers and Common Darters)


Migrant Hawker

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Not nice winds

Sunday 28th August; 7am-9am
Cool, dry, cloudy, westerly breeze F2-3

I set off for Shuart this morning with little expectation of seeing much due to the rotten westerly breeze thats been blowing for a few days. Anyone who spends time in the Reculver area knows the least favourite wind is from the west, especially in autumn. Still, any birding is better than no birding :-)

As soon as I got out the car I had 2 noisy Ring-necked Parakeets fly over. They are quite easy to see over at Brooksend, and there are a few sightings as far as Shuart, but surprisingly few any further west than that. I took a slow walk up to the coast, scouring the bushes and scanning the fields, seeing a few Blackcaps and Whitethroats on route, and I heard my first Chiffchaff of the autumn. Waiting patiently I was rewarded with views of a rather damp and bedraggled bird.

There were plenty of the usual Woodpigeons and Stock Doves out in the fields, and I saw 4 Turtle Doves and small numbers of Swallows flying west. At the coast there was a Wheatear on the beach. Walking back there were 2 Sparrowhawks hunting north of the railway line, and back at Shuart farm 2 more Sparrowhawks were seen. I also heard 3 Willow Warblers in the area this morning.

There was a hedge planted along the south side of the path from Shuart to Netherhale a few years ago, and I had a quick look this morning and it is looking really quite promising for the next few weeks, hopefully it will hold a few birds when we get a north or easterly wind.

Friday, 26 August 2011

A wet start

Friday 26th August
Stiff ENE breeze, rather wet, mild.

I headed off this morning to Chambers Wall hoping to find a few migrants grounded by the poor weather, but as I headed off from the car I wondered whether I should have contemplated a sea-watch from the towers as the wind was so strong. I saw a Peregrine hunting Woodpidgeons, and a lovely male Marsh Harrier on the walk up to Cold Harbour, then I sat on the beach sheltered by a breakwater and stared out to sea. I was surprised to see very little fly by, just a couple of Knot, 2 Whimbrel and a single Arctic Skua, plus a few Sandwich Terns.

I was joined by Chris and Matt Hindle on the beach for half an hour, and after a bit of a social we moved on, my time up I walked back to the car.

There were a lot more birds on my walk back, and along the hedge near the car park were 6 Blackcaps, 3 Willow Warblers, 2 Reed Warblers, 2 rather soggy looking Turtle Doves, and a Kingfisher flying up and down the Wantsum.

Turtle Dove

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Chambers Wall before work

Thursday 25th August
Warm, dry, cloudy with a S/W breeze.

I decided to make the most of my late shift at work today by paying Chambers Wall a visit this morning for a couple of hours birding. It's tempting to be out really early when i have a late start at work, but it becomes quite tiring by the end of the day, which is an 8pm finish in Ashford, so I had a lay in and didn't get to the Reculver area until just after 7am.

Just after getting out the car, 7 or 8 partridges flew away from me straight into a field, and I really don't know whether they were Red-legged or Grey. I guess I should have been more alert as soon as I opened the car door.

Not a great deal else about today, though there were a few warblers, mostly heard, on a walk from the car park up to the embankment and east towards the Wade crossing, befor ereturning slowly to my car. I had 3 Willow Warblers, 23 Blackcaps and 25 Whitethroats. Both a Greenshank and a Green Sandpiper flew over calling, though I saw neither. I had a Hobby fly fast south over towards Chambers Wall, then another flying high east. A little later there was a Hobby hunting just south of Chambers Wall crossing, which may have been the earlier bird, or maybe it was a 3rd bird. Cracking birds, always good value.

The only other bit of interest were 2 waders, slightly smaller than Golden Plover that flew quite fast, cutting inland dropping down behind me when I was walking along the railway embankment. I really ought to have got more on them, so it wasn't great birding even though I was looking into the sun. They appeared to be landing somewhere near the Wade crossing, but I lost sight of them. I bumped into Marc Heath a little later and he had seen 2 waders which he thought may have been Dotterel fly over. I suspect I saw the same 2 waders as him, but whether I will ever know if I saw Dotterel or not is unlikely.

Monday, 22 August 2011

An early walk before work

Monday 22nd August

Being on a late shift at work today, I took the opportunity to have a couple of hours fresh air early this morning. I set off from Chambers Wall at about 7 o'clock and walked slowly up to Cold Harbour. It was quiet today, most of the breeding warblers seem to have cleared out, although still a few Whitethroats about, and several Blackcaps. There are a few Swallows lingering along the Wantsum, and their alarm calls alerted me to a Sparrowhawk which flew past. The light was still low so not a great picture.

Sparrowhawk- Derek Smith

A Wheatear was nice to see just south of Cold Harbour, but there were no waders in Cold Harbour lagoon as usual, but there was quite a stiff northerly breeze, so I sat on the beach for a while but couldn't see much moving. I wondered whether there might be a bit of a seawatch from the towers, but it was too late for me as I had to head back to the car.

A stroll along the embankment was pleasant, with large flocks of Linnets, and more Whitethroats, but not a lot else.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

The first signs of autumn

Sunday 21st August

I had arrange to meet up with Marc Heath at Shuart at 8 o'clock this morning, so there was a little time to wander elsewhere before then. I stopped off just after 6am at a small 'nature-reserve' on route to Reculver, an area that is growing wild and has some water and muddy margins, as well as small reed beds. As I wandered quietly round the edge of the pool I flushed 3 Green Sandpipers, which was a nice start to the day.

I then dropped in at Chambers Wall for an hour, taking a walk up to Cold Harbour, then a short wander along the embankment. Cold Harbour was it's usual exciting self, with almost no birds at all. The water levels look quite high, perhaps too high for small waders to be attracted down to. Heading inland was a flock of 4 Whimbrel and 3 Curlews, only seen because Whimbrels are brilliant and call reularly in flight. Other than that, all I managed to find were a couple each of Willow Warblers and Blackcaps and around 30 Whitethroats, a Corn Bunting near the car park, presumably the same bird hanging around from yesterday, plus a Peregrine sitting in a field and a Sparrowhawk hunting.

Whimbrel and Curlew

On route over to join Marc at Shuart, I saw 5 Mistle Thrushes on wires at Potten Street, as per yesterday.

Walking north from the Shuart parking bay, Marc and I could see a lot of warbler activity in some large elderberry bushes. There were about 11 Blackcaps and a few Whitethroats, but best of all a Restart flew out and into bushes further south along the path. Redstarts are among my favourite birds of the autumn, brightening up any day.

There weren't many other birds of note seen until we reached the railway crossing, at which point Marc picked out a small chat on a post at the edge of the riding stable fields. Using his long lens he took a record shot and zoomed in to confirm it was a Whinchat. The next hour or so was spent wandering up to the sea and back to the railway crossing, passing 3 Corn Buntings on the way. There was a Pied Wagtail in the paddocks which had a completely white face, it looked rather odd amongst normal Pied Wagtails.

Back near the farm there were Common Darters enjoying the warmth, and a few Migrant Hawkers and a single Southern Hawker. Butterflies seen included several Red Admirals, Gatekeepers, and a few Speckled Woods.

Common Blue Damselfly

Common Darter

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Another quiet morning

Saturday 20th August

I arrived at Chambers Wall at 6:30am this morning, hoping for a few migrants. I have been reading notes from the last couple of years for around this date, and loads of good birds were seen, so as always I expect it to be the same again this year, but we all know it's never quite as easy to predict. And so it was today, and I very quickly realised there wasn't much about.

On a good day I will see a Whinchat or other birds sitting on bushes on the drive up to the car park. Today there wasn't a bird to be seen. On my walk up to the railway I saw little, just a Blackcap and a Willow Warbler. I walked west to the Green Wall, counting around 60 Golden Plovers in a stubble field, and quite a few Whitethroats, I guess around 35 or so. There were 13 Little Egrets near the oyster farm, and walking back toward the Chambers Wall crossing there were 2 Sparrowhawks.

I met Marc Heath and Phil Parker, and we walked slowly back to the car park. There was a distant juv Marsh Harrier, a Corn Bunting flew west and there were 2 lovely Willow Warblers in bushes in the car park.
Willow Warbler

I left the others and drove to Shuart. On route i saw 5 Mistle Thrushes on a telegraph wire at Potten Street.

At Shuart there were 2 Peregrines together, plus a Sparrowhawk and a Common Buzzard. Numbers of Common Darters are low this year, but a few were sunning themselves on the path, plus a few Speckled Woods.

Common Darter

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Summer drags on

Sunday 14th August

Another early start at Chambers Wall, arriving at 6:30 this morning. Late summer is quiet here, and today was no exception. The change in birds seen from day to day seems to take forever. Gone, though, are the swifts and many of the breeding warblers seem to be departed. The flock of Golden Plover in the stubble field is up to 61 birds now. There was a single Turtle Dove at the railway crossing, and a nice selection of warblers as I walked up to Cold Harbour, then back to the embankment and up to the Green Wall.

Willow Warblers seem to favour the vegetation south of Cold Harbour in autumn, and today I spent some time with Marc Heath trying to get a decent photo of one of around 8 birds present in the scrub and bushes there.

Willow Warbler - Derek Smith

My totals for wandering the area this morning were: 12 Willow Warblers, 35 Whitethroats, 2 Lesser Whitethroats, 2 Blackcaps, 4 Reed Warblers and 14 Sedge Warblers. I also saw or heard about 15 Yellow Wagtails, plus a Hobby was hunting around the car park briefly on my return, and a Sparrowhawk flew over.

I had a short walk over at Shuart before heading home, seeing Lareg and Small Whites, Speckled Wood, Holly Blue, Meadow Brown and Gatekeepers. There were also Common Blue and Blue-tailed Damselflies, Migrant Hawkers and Common Darters.

Holly Blue - Derek Smith

This afternoon I could see a lot of small birds flitting about in the trees in the bottom garden, so i sat with the camera and tried to take a few photos. The light was against me for most shots in the bushes, but a young Robin did pose nearby for a while. Other birds were mostly tits and Goldcrests.

Young Robin

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Silver-spotted Skippers

Wednesday 10th August

I went over to Chambers Wall this morning and wandered up to the embankment, then over to Cold Harbour. I had only just set off when i could hear a commotion, looked up and a juv Marsh Harrier was upsetting the Swallows and finches. In a stubble field to the west I could hear Golden Plover calling, and counted approximately 25 birds. Then the Marsh Harrier flew across the stubble field and put all the plovers up, and I counted 54 of them flying back and forth, as they tried regaining enough confidence to settle back in the field. Just shows how hard it is to count birds when they are in fields!

There were about 25 Yellow Wagtails along the fields and hedges, and around 40 Whitethroats along the embankment. A couple of Whimbrel flew over calling, and 3 Common Sandpipers were in Cold Harbour. Walking back to the car a Sparrowhawk flew over, again causing the Swallows to create much chatter.

A call from Marc Heath to say he was watching Silver-spotted Skippers near Lydden hurried my return to the car, and after a flask of coffee and some snacks I set off for Lydden.

This time I walked to an area where the skippers have been seen regularly, and within a few minutes I was watching one at close range. I found a couple of Silver-spotted Skippers, as well as a couple of Dingy Skippers, and a few blues.

Such excitement over such a small butterfly!

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Not much of a seawatch....

Tuesday 9th August

The alarm went off well before 5am again today and i could hear the wind blowing strongly outside, so it was with great excitement I headed off to Reculver towers in anticipation of the first proper seawatch of the year. When I arrived I found Marc Heath and Phil Parker already set up and gazing out at an empty sea. To be fair, there were a few terns, and one or two Gannets drifting by, but it soon became apparent that we had misjudged the wind direction, it was way too far west to blow any birds towards Reculver. Never mind, a bit of banter and plenty of snacks and the time passed as we waited for the wind to change direction. I gave up at 9:30am having witnessed the passing of a few hundred Sandwich and Common Terns and a single distant skua.

A quick visit to Chambers Wall was uneventful, though the alarm calls of the Swallows alerted me first to a passing Hobby, then a Sparrowhawk drifting along the hedge.

After lunch I headed over to Temple Ewell to try for Silver-spotted Skipper, but despite walking miles around the reserve I failed again. However I did manage to find a few Dingy Skippers, a Large Skipper, a couple of fresh Adonis Blues, a few Chalkhill Blues, some tatty Common Blues and loads of Small Heaths, Gatekeepers and Meadow Browns.