Sunday, 8 January 2012

Ibis and owls

Sunday 8th January 2012
Westerly breeze F3-4 easing off, dry, overcast and mild.

With the day to myself today, late morning I headed over to Stodmarsh for a wander with the camera hoping for a few photo opportunities. The day was very dull, and the stiff breeze meant most birds were keeping a bit quiet, but I had a really enjoyable walk round to the water meadows, where one Glossy Ibis was busy feeding at the back of the pool. I was just in time because after only a couple of minutes trying for a few distant snaps, the ibis took off and flew to the pools out of sight.

On route to the ibis I had a rather nice encouter with a flock of 7 Bullfinches. I can't remember the last time I saw so many Bullfinches together. I also counted 12 Cett's Warblers calling or singing on the walk round. Out on the main lake there were over 150 Shoveler, and 50+ Pochard. Without a scope it was impossible to be accurate as many duck were tucked in the reeds. I only saw a single Marsh Harrier all trip. With little to photograph, I have below the first entry of a Coot in this diary.

Late afternoon I headed to the eastern end of Reculver, where I met up with Chris and Ann Hindle and Marc Heath. We enjoyed lovely views of a Short-eared Owl and a Barn Owl, plus a Peregrine flew through at great speed. At dusk we all saw at least one Long-eared Owl out hunting. On the fields were about 400 Brent geese, which all took off in the fading light, heading out to sea perhaps?

Monday, 2 January 2012

The start of a new year

January 2nd
Breezy, cool westerly winds, bright sunshine.

I rarely get out on Jan 1st as the family expect to spend the day together, so I read a few blogs last night of the birds seen by others. Today my wife was working all day, so I had the chance to get out for some fresh air. However, as the years go by I enjoy less and less the crowds of people that gather at Reculver. I understand everyone wants to get out and excercise and enjoy the outdoors, but I still remember the days when I was a lad, hardly anyone walked there in the cold of winter. Now, weekends and bank holidays in particular, the car park is full and there's no chance of peace and quiet. And if the sun is shining...

I squeezed into one of the few spaces available at the towers car park, and remaining calm and chilled I set off east past the towers. Quite a few gulls were flying west, mostly 'immature' Herring Gulls, and little else. Not a single passerine or wader on the shore, unsurprising as many dogs were running along the beach. Cormorants and a single large auk were seen distantly, and a few Brent flew west. Before i even reached the end of the oyster farm I gave up and walked quickly back to the car. Even the many cyclists out today were struggling to make good headway, with so many families out walking, as well as dogs and joggers weaving between the crowds. Aaargh.

I drove inland and found somewhere of my own for a while. Quietly I crept up to where 2 Bewick's Swans have been seen, and trying not to disturb the birds I pointed my lens through some hawthorns and took a few photos.

Feeling very relaxed I headed home. As I walked in the garden gate I noticed a Blue Tit fly up from the pond, where it had obviously been bathing by the look of it's feathers. It spent ages preening and fluffing itself up, presumably trying to dry out as quick as possible. I have quite a bit of food out every day, and I would guess this Blue Tit nust have been well fed already, or surely it would have been making the most of the last hor or so to be feeding actively with all the other birds?

Late in the day I noticed 2 Great Spotted Woodpeckers in the garden, and one of them hung around long enough for a couple of pictures.

A summary of December 2011

I didn't have much time for birding during December, with no time off work and weekends seemingly too busy to get out.

Disappointingly i didn't even take notes on the few occasions I went out, but my memory recalls a couple of late afternoon trips to Shuart to look for owls, finding a Long-eared Owl on each visit.

On Christmas eve I had an afternoon walk in Church Woods, which my garden backs onto. It was lovely to stroll round listening to the Nuthatches calling, and watch the Treecreepers among the various tits working through the trees. Around 4:30pm several Tawny Owls were calling, and I was lucky enough to see them flying not far ahead of the path.

On Tuesday 27th I had a trip to Stodmarsh with Patrick Giles, and we walked round to the water meadows, where we located the colour-ringed Glossy Ibis feeding at the back of the pool. Really nice to see were 3 Water Pipits as well. Waiting on the Lampen Wall for dusk to arrive we had probably about 20 Marsh Harriers drifting back and forth across the reed beds, but we found it impossible to count them accurately as they seemed to drop into the reeds, and every so often more would appear, but were they different birds, or the same birds re-emerging from the roost?

Rather nice to see were 2 ring-tail Hen Harriers, plus stacks of Fieldfares gathering to roost. The 2nd Glossy Ibis flew over our heads, but we failed to see where it landed, perhaps it circled and returned to the meadows. Walking back in near-dark I saw 2 Woodcocks flying over.

New Year's eve I went for another stroll through Church Woods. I set off at 3:15pm, a bit later than planned, and set myself the target of finding 30 birds. Although a purely arbitary target, it sounded fairly easy and I soon found over 20 birds, including a pair of Mallard, 2 Redpolls, and a flock of Goldcrests, but I struggled to get near 30, failing to get Nuthatch or Treecreeper. Around 4:30pm the Tawny Owls were calling, at least 4 birds in one small area, and I had some nice views as the big lumbering birds flapped around the trees. Last birds (no. 27 for the walk) were a pair of Woodcocks low over the trees.

I talked myself into thinking it would be easier for a morning walk to see more birds, so on New Year's Day I went out early for a couple of hours before the family woke up, covering much more woodland than the previous evening, but surprisingly I still failed to reach 30 birds. In fact I managed 1 less than the previous day, the 26th species being a flock of Redwings.

No sign of any Marsh Tits or Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers on the walks I've had over the last few weeks, a bit worrying as I used to see both birds regularly not so many years ago.