Saturday, 18 November 2017

The Third Phalarope.

Plans for another trip to Dungeness on Friday changed suddenly on Thursday afternoon with news that a Red-necked Phalarope had been found at Pegwell Bay at the far end of Kent. Having already seen the Grey Phalarope locally and the rarer Wilson's Phalarope at Oare Marshes this Autumn I was keen to see this 3rd species as this would mean I would have seen all the World's Phalarope species. With Pete and David in the car we set off hoping for positive news that the bird was still there. However, after a 2 hour drive news still hadn't come through and we all thought we would arrive to find the bird had moved on. Parking the car, we didn't know quite where to look. Fortunately I spotted someone with a pair of binoculars looking at something in the flooded marshland and there it was. With shooting straight into the sun photography was not at all easy, even though the bird was quite confiding. Such a treat seeing this wonderful bird on such a great day. Like all Phalaropes the bird was active all the time picking insects off the surface of the water and it was quite difficult getting sharp shots with the head bobbing about constantly.

Juvenile Red-necked Phalarope.

With the light being so difficult to get good photos we decided to move on to Reculver where a few Snow Bunting had been seen over the past few days. We thought there would be time to hopefully see the Buntings and then be able to return for better lighting at the Phalarope. At Reculver we saw a few birders walking back to the car park and nobody had seen the Buntings. However, we decided we may as well walk along the sea wall in the hope that we may spot them. After about a mile David spotted a couple of Buntings which turned into around 12 once they flew. With several birds there they were however much flightier than usual. At one point we were watching them when 6 of them took flight. We then saw why as they were being harassed by a Merlin. One Snow Bunting was singled out by the Merlin and with no cover, being out to sea, it looked a lost cause for the Bunting. However, the Bunting managed to outwit the Merlin and managed to escape. A fabulous spectacle to witness.

Snow Bunting on the beach.

It was then back to the Phalarope where the sun had now moved round making the lighting much better. A few of the Kent birders had now arrived, as they knew the light was better in the afternoon!! We then all managed some much better photos before the sun eventually started to set.

Red-necked Phalarope.

A wing flap following a preen.

Red-necked Phalarope and reflection.

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Tits and Peckers.

I had another invite out with Phil yesterday hoping to get some close views of Buzzards and Jays. Unfortunately, those particular birds remained elusive with just a very brief Jay in the morning and the tantalising sounds of 2 nearby Buzzard as they flew overhead several times. Fortunately we were still entertained by large numbers of smaller birds, and although all were common garden birds, they still added a nice bit of colour as they flitted about in the bushes before coming to feeders. The berries on the local bushes added some extra interest to the photographs as did some Autumnal leaves to the Woodpecker shots. Any day spent with Phil is always enjoyable as well as being educational and another big thanks to Phil. Let's hope the Buzzard eventually performs for me!!

Blue Tit on Hawthorn.

Coal Tit on Hawthorn.


Great Tit.


Male Great-spotted Woodpecker.

Great-spotted Woodpecker.

Great Tit on Blackthorn.

Blue Tit.

Blue Tit.

Saturday, 11 November 2017

Wader World.

A little stroll down to Tide Mills on Thursday produced 10 Purple Sandpipers on the East Pier. Unfortunately they were not sitting on the top of the pier so the attached photo is from last winter. I then had a surprise of a Knot in Mill Creek, the first time I have seen this species on the Creek.

Purple Sandpiper. (From winter 2016).


A planned trip to try for Sanderling on Friday was on and off due to a changing weather forecast. A last minute decision to go when it changed yet again paid off with almost continuous sunshine?? The Sanderling wasn't as easy as I was hoping but eventually a few did come close. Grey Plover also showed well with the incoming tide. Turnstone were there in big numbers too.

Grey Plover having a shake.

Don't look behind you!!

Grey Plover.


Sanderling feeding.

Roosting group of Sanderling.


David and I then moved on to Widewater hoping for the approachable Kestrel. We only saw him briefly and a couple of quick shots was all I managed. A close Little Egret and a showy Stonechat also posed well, but there wasn't much else of interest there.


Little Egret.

Male Stonechat.

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Kent Calling.

With a sunny and still day forecast I once again headed over into Kent, with the main aim being the Bearded Tits again. My good friend Phil, who has helped me with countless birds, hasn't as yet managed a shot of these beauties, so I was really hoping that I could help him to achieve this. David also came along hoping to get more shots. Everything was looking good to start with as we started to see the Bearded Tits early on, although they were staying pretty well hidden in the Reedbed. Eventually a couple showed very briefly, and at least Phil managed a few grab shots. Not really as good as we wanted, but better than the last time Phil came along. Soon the birds had vanished and that was it as far as the Bearded Tits went.

A showy Starling.

Female Bearded Tit.

We then headed to the ARC pit at Dungeness where a Dotterel had been seen at the end of last week. We certainly wasn't expecting it to still be around, but it was worth a look. On entering the hide one of the ever present Great White Egrets was quite close to the hide, and unlike our visit a few weeks ago, this time it was in the afternoon sunshine.

Great White Egret hunting.

Great White Egret flypast.

Just after this I was scanning the far bank of the pit when I spotted a bird on its own away from the large quantity of Golden Plover. I was pretty sure I had spotted the Dotterel, fortunately one of the Dungeness regulars was there with a scope and looking through this it was confirmed to be the Dotterel. 

Friday, 3 November 2017

Stonechat on the Downs.

Wednesday turned out to be a really warm and sunny day, so being undecided what to do I thought I would mix a bit of birdwatching in with trying to find a late Adder. Walking over the Downland the Adders, not surprisingly, didn't show at all. The birdlife was also pretty poor, although halfway through the walk I came across a male Stonechat that was a little more approachable than is usual. He was quite relaxed about me getting close enough to photograph him, and at times he would actually fly towards me to catch an insect. I managed several photographs of him, although several of the pictures I wanted to improve. On Thursday I thought I would head back and see if I could relocate him. It wasn't long before he was once again reforming well and several more pictures were taken.

The Male Stonechat.

On the Wednesday I also visited a local marshland to see if I could find any Bearded Tits. I wasn't successful with these and the only bird I photographed was a Great-crested Grebe that was doing an impression of a submarine!!

Great-crested Grebe. (Up periscope)!!

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

A Duck and a few Beards.

A great day out yesterday with David started at Pett Levels for the immature Long-tailed Duck. Last year one of these was at West Rise Marsh on the lake and it always kept its distance. That wasn't the complaint this year. It actually came too close and was most of the time out of sight as it stayed close to the bank behind the reeds!! Great to see though and also good to see a few Bearded Tits nearby.

Juvenile Long-tailed Duck.

We then headed into Kent where we were treated to many more sights of Bearded Tits moving through the Reedbeds and occasionally showing themselves. Several Marsh Harriers were also seen as well as one Clouded Yellow and many Red Admirals.

Male Bearded Tit.

Thursday, 26 October 2017

Kingfisher in the rain.

On Sunday evening I had a call from Phil inviting me out to hopefully see and photograph the Kingfisher from one of his hides. With the weather forecast looking very poor it was a bit of a gamble, but these opportunities do not come up too often, and of course, if there is one British bird out there to brighten up a dull day it would probably have be the Kingfisher!!
The rain actually started just as we arrived at the hide and the light was poor. Fortunately being in the hide at least kept us dry and with many small birds coming in to the feeders there was plenty to see. 

We didn't even have to wait too long for the first visit from the male Kingfisher, when without warning it suddenly appeared on the Reedmace in front of us. Here it sat for some time looking down at the water as it hunted for small fish. It was also very aware of other birds flying over, at one point it watched very carefully as one bird flew over, although we didn't see what it was watching it was possibly a raptor of some kind.

Male Kingfisher on Reedmace.

A sequence of shots as it watched a possible raptor fly overhead.

Once the Kingfisher had moved on we were entertained by several visits from a Grey Wagtail and a Wren. 

Grey Wagtail.


With several further visits by the Kingfisher, including one where he caught a fish, the light actually got even worse, despite it looking brighter every now and then in the distance. I kept saying to Phil, 'Is it getting brighter', unfortunately it didn't and it eventually made us decide to call it a day. However, it was an absolutely brilliant day with some unforgettable moments. One would never tire of seeing these spectacular birds, and this one was in perfect condition. As ever, a special thanks to Phil for making this possible and for the time he spends making sure I get the opportunity. 

As for the weather, well we would have to have waited another 48 hours before the sun was seen and it is now back to dull and damp conditions. Is it getting brighter? Well, not yet!!

The male Kingfisher on Hawthorn.