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.