Tuesday, 29 May 2012

A singing Quail

Tuesday 29th May Having been alerted by Chris Hindle to a singing Quail near Chambers Wall during the morning, I thought I ought to have a trip over in the evening for a listen. Arriving just after 8 o'clock, I had only been waiting about 15 minutes when the Quail started singing not far from the car park. It was a lovely peaceful, calm evening, and hearing the Quail was really quite enjoyable.

Monday, 28 May 2012

Nightjars and friends

Monday 28th May A warm, clear, still evening. At around 8.30pm this evening I decided to take a walk into Church Woods. I am fortunate that my garden backs onto the woods, so it's only a 10 minute stroll to the best area for listening for Nightjars. A couple of Woodcocks flew overhead, and 2 Nightingales were singing when I arrived, and just after 9 o'clock a Nightjar started 'churring' close-by. It sang for a long time, then relocated position and started again. A few more short flight views later, and it settled no more than 40 yards from me at the top of a dead tree. What a fantastic bird. As darkness drew in, I had several sightings of a Hobby, and a Tawny Owl was calling. A second Nighjar started churring for a while, and at 10pm I set off for home.

An unexpected Gropper

Monday 28th May
A warm night, clear skies, no wind.

This morning's report really felt like last night's birding, as the wife accompanied me round some of TR16 woods and scrub listening for Nightingales as part of the night survey for the BTO. We started at midnight, and finished a little earlier than the last night visit, just after 2am, as I had to be up for work in a few hours.

Once again there were several singing birds, this time north of Thornden Woods, and in passing, also in Church Woods.

The 'highlight' I heard out the car window whilst slowly driving towards Greenhill was a Grasshopper Warbler in full song, not far into a field. Even the wife was impressed with that one.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

A hot weekend!

Saturday 26th May 2012 Hot and sunny, light N/E breeze. I was working Saturday morning, and I received a message that 2 White-winged Black Terns had been found by Martyn Wilson at Stodmarsh, so when I got home I had a quick bit of lunch and a change of clothes I headed over to have a look. They are really lovely birds, so I was happy when I got there and they were showing well, feeding over the main lake the whole time I was there. I stayed a couple of hours, enjoying the birds, and attempting some photos. The sun was right in my eyes, so the photos aren't great, and my lens seems to struggle to lock-on to birds in flight. Anyway, record shots below:
Sunday 27th May 2012 Hot and Sunny, light east breeze. This morning I was at Chambers Wall by 5am, in search of migrants, but the day was just too nice. There were hardly any birds of note: 1 Common Sandpiper in Coldharbour, 2 Grey Partridges, 1 Wheatear along the embankment, 1 Marsh Harrier and a few Yellow Wagtails. At about 7:30 I drove round to Shuart, and took a walk up to the coast, where I met Tim for a chat. Again, little to see, a pair of Turtle Doves, more Yellow Wags, the usual warblers. About 9.30 I took a walk down to Brook to look for dragonflies. Loads of Hairy Dragonflies, none of which settled, and plenty of Common Blue Damselflies. Out on lillypads away from the bank were a few Red-eyed Damselflies:
A Common Buzzard flew over being harassed by a couple of crows, and a Hobby passed over as I was leaving. I had a short walk round East Blean Woods looking for butterflies, of which there were none, though a Nightingale was singing by the car park. Last stop of the morning was Thornden Woods, where at last I found a few Heath Fritillaries:
This evening I took a walk at Westbere, inspired by Marc's sighting of a Scarce Chaser recently. On the trail behind the lake, leading to the river, there were loads of Blue-tailed Damsels, and several Red-eyed Damsels, though as at Brook earlier today, the Red-eyeds were away from the bank. There were also many Hairy Dragonflies. I've seen more this year than in any other year. Along the river I came across a few Banded Demoiselles, mostly males but 1 or 2 females:
I spent a couple of hours strolling slowly along the river, finding a few Azure Damselflies, and an immature Scarce Chaser. It must have been my lucky day, because the chaser eventually landed on some nettles, within reach of the long lens.
What a fantastic day out.

Friday, 25 May 2012

Dragons n damsels

Thursday 24th May 2012
Very warm (23C), calm and sunny all day.

The day started wonderfully with Large Red Damselflies emerging this morning from the garden pond. My wife arrived home from work as I was loading the car to set off for the day, when we noticed quite a few damsels fluttering away from the pond. On closer inspection, there were 20 or more exuvia on the plant stems, with some of the newly-emerged adults still waiting for the sun to warm them.

I took a trip down to Lydden to look for Adonis Butterfly, walking up from the KWT car park. There weren't huge numbers of butterflies around, and I guess that even though it felt like a mid-summer's day, it was still only just gone mid-May. Anyway, I enjoyed a lovely walk around the reserve, seeing 4 new butterfly species for the year, and a single Hobby high over. Although I failed to see Adonis, I managed a list of Wall, Common Blue, Dingy Skipper, Orange-tip, Large White and Small Heath.

Next I paid a visit to Stodmarsh. I was hoping to see a few dragonflies, and I wasn't disappointed. The intention wasn't for a long walk birding, but more a relaxing walk along the path to the marsh hide. As soon as I got out the car I saw a 'flock' of Hobbies over the nature trail, so quite excited I set off. There were a few Large Red Damsels by the stream near the car park.

I took the path to the marsh hide, and as the path openes up there are several small pools. There were several Hairy Dragonflies, and 2 immature Broad-bodied Chasers. By now I could see the growing numbers of Hobbies above me, presumably attracted to the same part of the reserve as me because of all the insects in the air. They are impossible to count, but I wouldn't be surprised if there were over 30 birds in the area.

Whilst watching the Hobbies, I also came across a few Variable Damselflies, which were my target for the trip.

On the return walk there was a Speckled Wood flying around, my first seen this year.
Back at the car park I had a bit of a missed oportunity with a distant raptor. Only bins at hand I saw a harrier very high against the bright clear sky, which appeared to have a white rump showing i.e a ring-tail harrier. The choice I had was to run for the scope, which was in the boot of the car, carry on following the bird with the bins and hope it came closer, or try for a 'record shot' with the long lens. I chose the latter, which was a mistake because the lens failed to locate the pale raptor against the bright sky, and I never saw the bird again. A frustrating end to my trip.

The day was extended around midnight, when my wife and I went out listening for Nightingales, as part of the BTO survey night visits. I was kind of hoping not to hear any, indicating the spring-singing birds have been successful in attracting a mate. However, the BTO wish surveyors to wait for 20 minutes in any area that a spring bird was heard singing during the day-time visits. That could have made it a long night!

As it turned out, we managed 3 and a bit tetrads, with quite a few birds singing. It was a perfect night for listening for singing because it was so calm, meaning I could listen for birds from a distance without having to walk too far into woods. Not sure what it all means yet, but it was good fun, hearing a few birds from neighbouring tetrads as well as my own.

Home by 3am and a long day complete, and what a fantastic day it was!

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Common Blue enjoying the sun

Wednesday 23rd May 2012
Light winds, sunny, warm (23C)

This afternoon I took a trip up to Shuart to look for Large Red Damselfly, a rare sighting in the Reculver area. Julian Perry had seen one (or more) at a small dyke and told me where to look, but despite a thorough search in sunny and calm conditions, I failed to locate any. I did manage to see Hairy Dragonfly and Blue-tailed Damselfly.

Next I took a walk around East Blean Woods in the hope of an early sighting of Heath Fritillary, but again I failed to see any. I suspect I am a week or so early for them, but it was such a nice day I thought it worth a try.

I took a look over at Brook, where I finally had a bit of success. Not only were there Hairy Dragonflies and Blue-tailed Damselflies, but my first Common Blue Damselflies of the year, and lots of them, which was really nice to see.

Back at home the Large Reds were drifting around the garden pond on the warm air.

Monday, 21 May 2012

May struggles on

Saturday 19th May 2012.
Calm, mild, overcast with a bit of sunshine.

I had to work Saturday morning, but just as I left home I had a text from Marc to say he had found a spring pumaged Curlew Sandpiper at Coldharbour, so after lunch I headed over to Chambers Wall and took a walk up to the coast. I was struck by how quiet it was, with only a few Reed and Sedge Warblers singing, and a few of the resident birds breaking into song occasionally. There were a few Yellow Wagtails, a Turtle Dove and a Cuckoo, plus a male Marsh Harrier drifting along the dykes.

After a bit of searching I eventually found the Curle Sand, tucked away in the grass. A little later it emerged and started feeding along the muddy bank, rather distantly from the sea wall.

Sunday was very different weather, with a strong north east wind blowing, a heavey showers first thing. I had a short seawatch from the towers from 6am til about 7.30, but all i managed were a few Common Terns, 1 gannet and a large auk flying east.

I drove round to Shuart and as I opened the door I could hear a Golden Oriole sing from the trees just behind me, above the horse paddock. After texting a few friends I poured a coffee and stood listening to it for a couple of minutes, then I took a walk east towards Brooksend.

At waterdrill there was a Cuckoo, a Turtle Dove and a Spotted Flycatcher, as well as a family of Long-tailed Tits, and the common warblers in song. Further east there was a male Cuckoo sat on a telegraph wire.

A pair of Grey Partridges were sitting out in a field, and there were several Red-legged Partridges scurrying along the paths.

This morning (Monday 21st May) I had a couple of hours early morning at Shuart, but it was very quiet. Again, the weather isn't helping, with a strong, cold northerly wind blowing across the marsh.

Saturday, 12 May 2012

The first Large Red of the year

Saturday 12th May 2012 Cool start (6C), clear skies, light N/W breeze, dry. After such a miserable spring weather-wise, and with tetrads still to complete for the Nightingale survey, I was grateful for the company of my long-time birding pal, Patrick Giles. He was staying in Kent for the weekend, and kindly offered to share some survey work this morning. I picked him up in Faversham at 5am, and we started shortly afterwards in TR16Y. I did this tetrad a week ago and heard nothing, and most of it is housing estate, but there is some farmland and scrub by the railway line. I dropped PG off to walk the footpath across the fields, then took myself over the rough ground by the railway. PG didn't hear any, but I was really pleased having heard a bird singing by the footbridge over the railway line, just about audible from the thanet way. Next we covered TR16K, near Tyler Hill. Again we split up, with 2 obvious circular routes leading back to the car. This time we heard a single singing bird each, in exactly the same place as last week when I walked round. This afternoon my wife spotted the first Large Red Damselfly of the year near the pond.
Later I had a short walk at Brook. Little to report on the bird life, but the stream round the reservoir had many large carp splashing around, presumably spawning in the warm weather. Not sure what species of carp they were. This Whitethroat popped up on a bush briefly as I walked back to the car.

Monday, 7 May 2012

A visit to see the Duke

Monday 7th may 2012 Cold start (4C), becoming mild late morning (14C). Overcast becoming quite bright. My day started at 4am in TR16Y, listening for Nightingales, of which there were none to be heard. It was a very calm morning so they would be easily heard if they were singing. I chose Bank Holiday morning to do this tetrad because there would be much less traffic noise. Only a small area of the tetrad is suitable habitat, so by 5am I was on my way to TR16M, which held good numbers of singing birds on the first visit. It didn't take long until I could hear Nightingales, and I made my way along the hedgerows mapping the presence of birds singing. There were plenty of warblers singing as well, and at around 6am I came across a Little Owl sitting in a tree in the middle of a field. Better was to come, and at 6.30am I heard the distinctive singing of a Golden Oriole, not far into some woods. I listened for several minutes, while trying carefully to pick out the bird somewhere near the top of the trees, but I was unable to locate it, and eventually it went quiet. I finished the survey just after 8 o'clock, with 15 singing Nightingales, and headed home for breakfast. By now the sun was breaking through, and after a tidy up and some food and drink, I had to choose between searching Reculver for dragonflies, or heading over to Denge Wood for butterflies. As i'm back to work tomorrow, and the weather didn't look great for the week ahead, I decided to try for butterflies, or one in particular. The Duke of Burgundy should be on the wing by now, and has a limited flight period, which I didn't want to miss. The air was full of the songs of Blackcaps and Garden Warblers as I made my way to the favoured spot for these handsome little butterflies. On route I heard a Nightingale sing briefly, and 5 Crossbills flew over. I wasn't the only person out looking today, and I had a nice chat with a couple of lads also on the search. It wasn't long before we found 3 Duke of Burgundy butterflies, and I spent a little while taking a few pictures. Unfortunately I only had my long lens with me, so no close ups today, but a couple of record shots below:
Other butterflies seen were Large White, Peacock and Orange-tip. After some lunch I took a trip to Shuart, where a stroll up to the beach produced 1 Cetti's, 1 Cuckoo and the usual warblers, a female Marsh Harrier and a Hairy Dragonfly, my first of the year and made my day complete. The wind was really picking up just before I left, and a bit of drizzle seemed to push Swallows through, I had about 75 fly west in half an hour.

Sunday, 6 May 2012

An evening stroll at Reculver

Sunday 6th May 2012 Cold, dry, overcast, N/E breeze. I was glad to get out for a walk this evening after a weekend of wedding and hangover, and I reached Chambers Wall at 4 o'clock this afternoon. The wind had dropped, and I was hoping to maybe hear the Grasshopper Warbler found by Marc Heath early this morning. Just before the car park I met Mark Chidwick as he was leaving, and he told me about a Spotted Flycatcher around the car park bushes, which was helpful. After parking, within a couple of minutes I had found the flycatcher, which was still quite active even in the cool evening air.
I strolled slowly up to Coldharbour, and on route had a Hobby fly fast overhead. I could hear 3 Lesser Whitethroats singing around the hedges, and there were Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Sedge and Reed Warblers and Whitethroats all singing. A Common Sandpiper was in Coldharbour. I walked west along the seawall, and there were a few Yellow Wagtails flying around the fields. One landed on the sea wall, but as I readied myself for a photo, 2 cyclists came steaming past and scared the bird off. Two things I don't understand about cyclists. Firstly, why do they try to hold a conversation with their cycle companion whilst struggling for breath riding the bike? They end up shouting incoherently at each other, everyone for miles around gets to hear the conversation and any wildlife is frightened away. Why not peddle for all they're worth, then stop for a chat afterwards? Secondly, really, why the bright day-glo fluorescent jackets? This couple had a bright yellow and a bright pink jacket, yet there was no traffic to worry about, and no imminent blanket of fog about to engulf everyone. They could be seen for miles and miles. There were 2 Wheatears on the rocks west of Coldharbour, and a few waders on the shore.
The light was starting to fade.
I walked inland at the oyster farm, and as I approached the southeast corner I could see there was a large area of lovely looking mud, with 1 or 2 waders on. By the time I reached the corner, the waders were out of sight, so I hung around for a while hoping to get a decent sighting. Eventually I had to try to get a look at them, so I tried to get closer, but unfortunately they took off before I got a chance for a good view. However, I kept watching as 2 waders climbed high. One was a Dunlin, the other a smaller wader which called twice. A Little Ringed Plover. Cracking stuff, it made the whole walk worthwhile. I could also hear a Greenshank calling unseen. Other birds seen on the rest of my walk were 2 Grey Partridges and a Hepatic female Cuckoo, but no singing Gropper.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

A garden surprise

Wednesday 2nd May 2012
Cool with northerly breeze, overcast and misty with some drizzle.

It was another Nightingale survey early this morning, I visited the Clowes Wood area for the 2nd visit. This time I set off at 4.30am, still dark but before long there was enough light to see ok. Tawny Owls were calling, a Woodcock flew over the path 'roding', there were loads of Blackcaps, Garden Warblers, Chiffchaffs and Willow Warblers, a few Whitethroats, Goldcrests, Coal Tits, 1 Siskin, 3 Redpolls and a lively flock of 10 Crossbills. They landed briefly and all the birds I could see appeared to be juveniles. After 3 1/2 hours round the woods I had recorded 9 singing Nightingales.

There was a lovely surprise waiting in the garden when I got home. I went in the kitchen for a cuppa, looked out the window and saw a male Bullfinch on the ground. I ran to grab the camera, but on my return there was no sight of him. However, a movement in the small apple tree caught my eye, the female Bullfinch. She sat still just long enough for a photo, taken through the double glazing, but it's still nice to see.

After lunch I took a trip to Chambers Wall in the hope of a few migrants, but the north wind looks to have slowed spring down again. I walked up to the beach and sat on the shingle in a bit of shelter to watch the sea, but apart from 5 Gannets flying east there was nothing about. A male Wheatear flew west and landed a little away, there were Shelduck, Gadwall and Shoveler in Coldharbour, a few Yellow Wagtails out in the fields, and the usual selection of waders around. I did have nice views of a male Cuckoo, and back at the car park there were 2 Lesser Whitethroats, as well as many Common Whitethroats.

This afternoon I had just finished cutting the grass when 2 Crossbills flew over calling, which was nice.

Waders and Warblers

1st May 2012
Mild (12C), dry, becoming bright and warm. Easterly breeze.

After some early morning rain, I made my way to Chambers Wall about 7am. The day started really well, with a Yellow Wagtail over the car park, and a male Redstart in the hedge by the car.

Walking north to the railway I added numerous Sedges, Whitethroats and 2 Lesser Whitethroats, plus Blackcap, and Chiffchaff. I wandered up to Coldharbour, and just as I reached the lagoon I could see 2 Avocets in the water. They didn't stay long, which is not unusual for waders in the lagoon itself, but I grabbed the camera as they flew off.

There were also 3 Common Sandpipers in Coldharbour, and as I walked east I had 2 Whimbrel, a Barwit and a Greenshank fly over. There were 4 Reed Warblers singing along the dykes, and 5 Wheatears scattered along the beach. A Bonxie flew just offshore, upsetting the gulls, before landing on the beach at Coldharbour.

1 Gannet flew east, and 8 Sanderling dropped down on the shore, there was a lone Grey Plover and 2 Sandwich Terns on a post at Plumpudding.

I headed inland at the stables, following the embankment slowly back to Chambers Wall. A came across the wonderful sight and sound of a pair of displaying Lapwings near the Wade crossing. As the day warmed up there were quite a few Swallows around, and I counted 17 Yellow Wagtails. I met Tim at the crossing, and we remarked how warm it was now the sun was out, and there were large numbers of flying insects about. I became aware of a growing flock of Swifts, numbers reaching at least 35 birds.

All in all, it felt quite spring-like at last.