Thursday, 3 September 2020

Hard work but some rewards. 3rd September 2020

Another day and more birding opportunities.  Sam and I headed down to Dungeness for the first time this year.  It was grey and overcast after the heavy rain of yesterday evening so I was hopeful that with a light breeze there might be some bird close in at the beach but when we got down there it was proper howling and although the visibility was great, the birds were practically non-existent on the sea with just a few Gannets and Terns in our watch.  To be honest it was too windy to stand up and the angle of wind meant that there was no shelter what so ever.

Brave Swallows
Swallows and Sand Martins flicked low and west over the sea and I saw the Harbour Porpoises appear for air on a few occasions but it really was not worth the discomfort so we retreated to the birdless lighthouse garden although I did suppress a Dunnock.

Rock Samphire was in the final throws of going to seed and the Sea Cabbage looked great in clumps of glaucous green with a hint of pink on the frill while low growing clumps of Sea Campion and miniscule Devil’s Bit Scabious hugged the ground.

Rock Samphire

Rock Samphire

Sea Campion

Sea Cabbage

Devil’s Bit Scabious
We retreated to the ARC car park and although I understand that the main hides were closed I was surprised to see the Hanson Hide still inaccessible and even the screen hide all boarded up so we resorted to sitting exposed in the wind with several other birders on the grass bank beyond it which thankfully did not disturb the birds which was good as the Glossy Ibis was feeding straight out on the island in front of us.

It was a very drab bird and not of my pictures suggest that it had any pigment in it whatsoever but the sky was leaden and the world was fairly monochrome.  It was nice to get a year tick after the disappointment of the seawatch.

Glossy Ibis

A Great White Egret became one of three seen and 130 Golden Plover were mostly out of view on the main island with the Lapwing but occasionally dreaded if a Marsh Harrier came through.  

Great White Egret

Golden Plover

Scanning through the brown ducks produced Pintail and Wigeon and a lot of Gadwall and a rather crisply marked juvenile Garganey for the tally.  Three Ruff, a Dunlin and Common Sandpiper were seen and a group of 11 Black-tailed Godwits took to feeding with the Ibis.  Some were delightfully marked juveniles and were the first I had seen this season. Common and Sandwich Terns were milling about and the main pit was covered with a flickering mass of thousands of Sand Martins jinking back and forth like avian plankton as they stocked up before the sea crossing ahead of them.

Black-tailed Godwits - juv in middle

Gadwall, Teal, Shoveler, Wigeon, Pochard and a Garganey - oh and Sand Martin

Black-tailed Godwits and the Ibis

Two Water Rails squealed and a sudden change in the tone of the Sand Martin calls shouted ‘Hobby!’ and sure enough a whippy scimitar scythed into the throng but they were already alerted and shooting skywards where they would have more chance of eluding their autumn nemisis. The sky was darkening again so we gave up and decided that a coffee was in order en route to Oare Marshes for the afternoon.

The wind was less at Oare and after lunch we had a look at the Swale with the last vestiges of mud visible but got distracted by the Little Egret prancing around under our noses that we did not see that Napoleon was there too!

Little Egret

Napoleon Bonaparte with a BHG

He flew a short way and showed much as he did last Thursday.  Parties of Dunlin and Ringed Plover were pushed off and overhead onto the East Flood and a single Curlew Sandpiper was picked up on call as it joined them while Turnstones stayed put and scrimmaged amongst the seawweedy rocks.

Dunlin and Ringed Plovers

The Flood was a carpet of Black-tailed Godwits as usual with Knot, Avocets, Redshank and Dunlin amongst them but the bulk of the small waders had pitched up on the close island that once again was surrounded by water and wet mud.  At least eight peachy breasted juvenile Curlew Sandpipers were with them and my first Little Stint of the autumn tottered around close to us showing off those intricate feather insides and mantle braces.  If there had been some sunlight it would have glowed!

Curlew Sandpiper luring in the middle

A male Peregrine made two unsuccessful attack sorties and even a juvenile Marsh Harrier did not cause the Godwits to budge much.

There was not a single Golden Plover present as we suspected that the flock would still be out at Shellness and that the American Golden Plover would be with it and just as we were about to leave the news came on that it was indeed on the otherside but the idea of nearly an hour circuit to get out there in the now increasing wind was not appealing so we bid our farewells and called it a day.

Essex Egret Fest 2nd September 2020

With another glorious Autumn day forecast I took myself over to Essex for the day to have a poke around Abberton Reservoir. I made good time and was the only person on the layer Breton causeway to start with and therefore had the Great White Egret fest to myself as at least six birds moved around the willows and hunted in the shallows.

Great White Egret

It is such a delight to see these imposing herons on many a day out it will not be long before they join Cattle and Little Egrets on the county breeding list.

Great White Egret

The causeway was covered in geese with the once scarce Egyptian Goose showing why they are such an adaptable species and there were at least 60 loafing on the concrete while Pied and Grey Wagtails ran amongst them.

Egyptian Geese

Grey Wagtail


Mute Swan

Mute Swan cygnets - part of a family of six
I checked the diving duck that I could see but the view east was predictably glared out and the west end was made up mostly of swirling flocks of eclipse Shoveler spinning around in an effort to draw up something edible from the depths in duck powered vortices. I bumped into Lesvos Trevor and we moved around to check on the screens around Billets farm and although the light was pants and the heat haze abysmal we still did quite well and found several more Great White Egrets, small groups of Pintail and Wigeon and thanks to Richard Allen, a Wood Sandpiper with a Common Sandpiper, two Ruff and one each of the ‘Ringed’ Plovers.

A Wheatear was on the wires and small flocks of Sand Martins and Swallows drifted through while both Whitethroats, Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler and Blackcap were in the hedges with a Long-tailed Tit flock.  Yellow Wagtails called overhead but there were no Cattle Egrets with the sheep.

Long-tailed Tit
Down at the Layer-de-le-Haye causeway we added another Great White and a distant Black Tern and a juvenile Marsh Harrier hunting the edge was one of four seen.

Lunch beckoned and so with a final 13th Great White in the next bay up and a hunting Hobby, I headed back south towards RSPB Old Hall and made an approach from the Salcott end.
A pleasant riverwall amble was taken over the high tide and thankfully the cloud was starting to build up and the at least the nearer birds were no longer shimmering blobs!

Looking south to Bradwell Power Station

After a nice chat with a local out training his gun dog puppy in the art of swimming in the tidal channels I set about scanning for waders roosting up on the saltmarsh and was pleased to find 70 Grey Plover mostly in varying degrees of summer plumages, a single brick red Bar-tailed Godwit and 23 Greenshank. Little Egrets dozed amongst the latter and others were still checking out the still rising creeks.

Grey Plovers and a single Turnstone

I could see four sleepy Spoonbills way out on Pennyhole I think and Green Sandpipers came up from every ditch as I walked along.


I was hoping to find the Cattle Egret flock but the herds I could see were way off in the wibbly wobbly distance so I pressed on to check the group closest to my bit of the river wall alongside the Salcott Channel and rather smugly discovered seven of these fierce looking egrets eyeing up the cows for suitable fly related snacks.

Cattle Egrets

Keeping track of them was difficult and seven was the most I regularly counted at once.  All had orange bills but I am not sure how quickly juveniles lose the dark colouration to their bare parts.

Cattle Egret

The cattle were around a great drying pool which had Green Sandpipers, Yellow and Pied Wagtails, Linnets, Reed Buntings and three Whinchats feeding around it. I contemplated conducting the rest of the ‘small’ circuit but I was already nearly two miles from the car and it felt like unexpected rain was not too far away so I retraced my steps adding three Marsh Harriers in the process before calling ornithological proceedings to a close for the day.

Tuesday, 1 September 2020

In search of Ospreys - 1st September 2020

I tend not to go far on Bank Holiday Weekends and with the Numptyometer still in the red around here there was time to sort out a few bits in the garden as well as a little surreptitious Rede Common scrumping of Damsons and Brambly Apples. There was a chill autumnal feel to the grey air but there were still insects to be found including Volucella inanis and pellucens, Episyrphus balteatus and Myathropa florea representing the Hovers and Bombus pascuorum and terrestris still visiting flowers.  There were many Common Wasps around and Speckled Woods and Small Whites while Migrant Hawkers zipped around the lee of the Sycamores.

Volucella inanis

Volucella pellucens

A Chiffchaff called and a Siskin headed over along with a solitary House Martin.  The female Sparrowhawk terrorised the House Sparrows and two Ravens kronked over.

The winds had dislodged quite a few cobnuts which I collected and I extricated my new potatoes that I tub planted in the spring from two old ones that had developed the power of sight.  My tub of Carrots gave me a few for dinner and even the Grapes are beginning to ripen but it was the giant Tomatoes that needed the most help as they are so laden down with enormous beefsteak fruit and some extra creative support structures were required.

Toms, Carrot and Cobnuts from garden and my scrumped Damsons and Apples

Carrots and New Pots

This morning was a new month and it dawned clear and bright so after a few chores I headed out along the Medway in search of a walk.  I chose well and parked up in Lower Halstow at the entrance to the old Brickfields and enjoyed a very pleasant walk for a few miles along the river wall back towards Otterham Creek.  

The tides was well on the way back in and I hoped that this would push any waders closer to me.  It was quite disappointing to discover that almost without exception they were humble Redshanks and I ended up with singles of Grey Plover, Whimbrel, Turnstone, Oystercatcher and Black-tailed Godwit along with a few Lapwing and a distant raft of Avocet.

Black-headed and Common Gulls and Redshanks

Golden Samphire


Hazy Whimbrel

A single Common and six Sandwich Terns fished on the incoming waters and two wildfowling boats were tearing up and down in an effort to find something to shoot on the first day of the season.  Ninety-two Wigeon were an early surprise and thankfully well out of their way. I inherently do not have a problem with wildfowling but pushing waders from their high tide roosts in your camo boat is not really on.

The Thistle

Black-headed Gull

Disturbed Little Egrets

I was on the lookout for Ospreys but had no joy although there was a constant swirl of activity of Chetney with about ten each of Marsh Harrier and Buzzard often all spiralling together and several hovering Kestrels.

Whitethroat and Chiffchaff moved along the bramble and briar patches as I walked along and two Whinchat left the ditch reeds and headed for a mid-field hedge. 

I do like a spotty Starling

Yellow, Grey and Pied Wagtails called overhead and a few Swallows twittered away. It had a nice autumnal feel to it.  the local Pear and Apple orchards were heavily laden with fruit and it will not be too long before the thrushes arrive to feast on the windfalls.

the oilrig structures are growing

And I found this strange and slightly freaky thing in the woods

I decided to pop into Queendown Warren on the way home to see if anything was still on the wing on this lovely warm day. I was not disappointed with Adonis, Chalk Hill and Common Blues, Brown Argus, Small Whites, Small Heaths, Gatekeepers and a host of Meadow Browns still flicking around. Most however were very tatty and males were still chasing down the last females in the hope of a final roll in the Marjoram.   

Adonis Blue

Adonis Blue

Chalk Hill Blue

Common Mangled Blue

Brownish Argus

Brownish Argus

Muddy Brown

Square Spot Rustic
Dancing Chalk Hill Blues


I was hoping for Clouded Yellow but once again it eluded me. Big clumps of one of the Boletus mushrooms were pushing through the sward. I think they may be Penny Bun but happy to be advised!

Lunch beckoned and I headed for home and with grub in hand I was entertained by three Hobbies overhead as I sat up the garden. A Red Admiral came to visit me and bask in the sunshine. 

Red Admiral