Friday, 26 February 2016

A Two-day Tour of Kent - First Stop Dungeness

16th February 2016

Stuart and I have annual pilgrimages to Dungeness and the Isle of Sheppey, so this year decided to combine them over two days with an overnight stay near the Medway. First stop was Dungeness and we were still travelling along the road near the fishing boats when Stuart espied the juvenile Glaucous Gull with his naked eye. Not too surprising really as it was huge and white and stood head and shoulders amongst the other gulls on the shingle.

As luck would have it the 1st Winter Caspian Gull was standing next to it. Now, whilst I am more than happy to identify all the commoner gulls, I don't normally get too involved with the various plumages of Yellow-legged and Caspian Gulls, but even I could see that this individual was indeed a Caspian Gull.

The area by the Observatory was deserted, so on to the patch which was a heaving mass of gulls, almost exclusively Black-headed, but nothing else of note. On the way back Stuart spotted a pair of Black Redstarts behind the perimeter wall, but always too far away for photographs. I therefore had to be content with a Meadow Pipit on the shingle bank and then on the barbed wire. It is worth remembering that the rather atmospheric background of the shot on the wire is in fact a blurred-out nuclear power station.

At the RSPB reserve the drake Shovelers were looking resplendent in their breeding attire and were showing off their finery with many wing flaps. A larger group a little further out were engaging in some cooperative feeding where they circled around stirring up the food from the bottom of the pit

But the biggest surprise today was on the return leg when I spotted a Chiffchaff flitting around in the lakeside Sallows. It was keeping fairly deep inside the trees but occasionally approached the edge revealing a rather warm brown plumage rather the the traditional grey-green effect. Unfortunately it didn't call while I was there and when I got the syringe out to take a DNA sample it flew away. However, this photo shows that it is a candidate for a Siberian Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita tristis.

A great day at Dungeness so now off to the hotel for a slap-up meal and a few beers. I could get used to this birdwatching lark!!

WATCH THIS SPACE for tomorrow's trip to the Isle of Sheppey.

Monday, 22 February 2016

My Quest for a Red-necked Grebe

11th February 2016

After a superb morning at Mistley it was time to head off for Alton Water in search of the Red-necked Grebe. I had photographed both Slavonian and Black-necked Grebes at Abberton just two weeks ago and therefore it would be nice to add the third rare grebe and also be rather special as I have never photographed Red-necked before.

Thankfully I had received some good directions from Barry Woodhouse and therefore as soon as we arrived at the car park we set off for the hides. On the way along the lakeside path we rounded a corner and came across this female Goldeneye which appeared to be as surprised we were.

Once inside the first hide there was no sign of the Red-necked Grebe, but there was some activity on the nearby feeders. Now as you all know I normally refuse to photograph birds on feeders, but who can resist a Lesser Redpoll at eight yards?

I then moved on to the second hide and BINGO!!!!, the Red-necked Grebe was diving just 15 yards outside the window. How good is that?

Now that I have achieved my hat-trick in just two weeks I have reproduced shots of all three for comparison.

Red-necked Grebe
Black-necked Grebe
Slavonian Grebe

Thursday, 18 February 2016

Another Visit to Magical Mistley

11th February 2016

For the first time since we have been visiting Mistley the Quay was absolutely dead with all the usual suspects present, but distant. Therefore, after some breakfast and a cup of tea we moved straight on to The Walls to see what that would bring.

The tide was still a long way out but that allowed some time to snap some of the locals that were happy to sit around just off the beach such as this Black-headed Gull and Curlew. As the tide began to creep in there was the usual local movement of waders involving Redshanks and Black-tailed Godwits flying from one feeding area to another as the mud was gradually covered.

As the tide edged in the waders were pushed even closer including good numbers of Dunlin, Redshank and just a single Knot. Today there were also some Turnstones which I have seen here before albeit distant, but today they were showing well on one of the small muddy islands. The weather was so good with virtually no wind such that even on the estuary it was possible to get some reflections of the waders.

As the tide was getting higher some of the residents from The Quay such as these Pintail ventured out into the estuary and passed quite close to the beach

The Mute Swans were also active, most sporting their colour rings. One of the birds passed so closely I could I only get a head shot.

But the star of the show today was this rather splendid drake Shelduck. Shelducks are very common here but usually stay well out in the middle of the estuary, only venturing on occasions to within 50 yards. But this individual was flying past when it suddenly veered towards the beach and landed just 25 yards away and proceeded to feed and loaf around on the islands, allowing endless opportunities for some close-ups.

Well, that was rather superb so now on to Alton Waters, so WATCH THIS SPACE!!!.