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.

Monday, 8 August 2011

A quieter day at Reculver

It was another early start, reaching the towers at 5:30am, but this time the conditions weren't great, overcast with a strong westerly breeze. There were a few terns feeding offshore as i walked down to Cold Harbour, but not much else:
4 Common Sandpipers, 8 Sanderling, 9 Dunlin, 36 Redshank, 5 Little Egrets, 4 Grey Herons, 1 Wheatear and about 35 Yellow Wagtails were the best bits, plus Common and Sandwich Terns.

On my return there was a migrant Whitethroat seeking shelter in bushes east of the towers, in lovely sunshine.

I saw a single Common Darter and a Common Blue Damselfly at Shuart, and on the way home a walk in Thornden Woods had Speckled Wood and Gatekeepers.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Willow Emeralds

I had a text from Marc Heath on my way to Reculver this morning to tell me there were a few terns moving through past the towers, so I headed straight there, but by the time I got out the car it had quietened down. I went up to the towers and sat on the side of the cliff in the sunshine with the towers behind me sheltering from the south westerlt wind. I could see quite large numbers of terns a long way off, but too far to guess what they were. A Peregrine flew west towards the Swale, and a juv Med Gull flew west close by. I gave it an hour, and just as I walked back to the car a Hobby flew in off the sea and carried south.

I took a trip over to Marshside, just the other side of the Thanet Way, and had a slow walk along the road finding quite a few Willow Emerald Damselflies along the hedgerow. They have obviously colonised along Marshside, and i'm hoping they will be around the Chambers Wall area as well, where they were first seen in Kent just last summer.

I took a walk to Brook but there was little around apart from a few Yellow Wagtails, a couple of Willow Warblers and a Sparrowhawk.

A quick walk at Thornden Woods was quiet as well, apart from numerous Gatekeepers. I was at a barbeque this afternoon in a lovely garden in Ringwold, and I was kept entertained by one of my favourite dragonflies, a superb Southern Hawker.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Waders and terns at Reculver

A 4:30am alarm this morning so I could get an early start at Reculver in the hope of a few waders moving. I had just parked up when Marc heath arrived and we set off at 5:30 towards Cold Harbour. We picked up a stray cat which followed us at least a mile along the sea wall before we shook it off. First bird we heard was a Willow Warbler just east of the towers. Further along Common Sandpipers were calling everywhere, and we counted about 16 birds from the towers up to Plumpudding, though there were probably more but it's hard to keep track when they spook so easily. Other waders were 18 Whimbrel, 35 Ringed Plover, 10 Turnstone, 34 Sanderling, 1 Dunlin and 2 Little Ringed Plovers calling as they flew south over the towers.

Also seen were 9 Little Terns, 15 Sandwich terns, 7 Common Terns, 1 Peregrine, 1 Wheatear, 1 Kingfisher, 3 Med Gulls and over 40 Yellow Wagtails.

On the way back there was a young Common Seal on the beach at Cold Harbour.

This afternoon I went back up to the towers and stood sheltered from the stiff south west breeze. After about half an hour I was joined by Chris and Anne Hindle, and Matt Hindle was down at Cold Harbour. I stayed until 5 o'clock. I managed to see 5 Little Terns, 6 Black Terns, about 60 Common Terns, and 15 Sandwich Terns, 7 Gannets and an Arctic Skua flew east. There were also 12 Common Scotors distantly flying east, while a large flock of Whimbrel flew east.