Tuesday 15 August 2017

An American Double

North Kent 15th August 2017
A day off... well I never... After polishing off my July Essex bird summary by 8am and the with the early morning deluge and heavy cloud starting to dissipate I decided to stop moping around and head off toward Oare Marshes and its plethora of waders.

The only downside of my enthusiasm was that by the time I got there the weather was glorious, the tide was right out and the sun was in my eyes which was especially idiotic as I tell people several times a week to go on a rising tide and in the afternoon when the light is behind you!

There was plenty to see with a good splodge of Black-tailed Godwits and Redshank still out in the middle of the East Flood and a scattering of Golden Plover and Avocets. The Long-billed Dowitcher was soon found with some Godwits but thankfully came closer before disappearing round a bend and out of sight. It was all just a little frustrating but a kronking Raven that circled overhead will always lighten any day for me.


I suspect that this may well be quite a good record for the site. Yellow Wagtails and great flocks of Goldfinch and Starling escorted me back to the jetty where a quick scan picked up the Bonaparte’s Gull out on the mud but it was now very warm and my camera stayed put. 

And so I resigned myself to go somewhere else and decided that I would try and find Queendown Warren to look for butterflies. 

Queendown Warren - the meadow

Once there I amused myself trying to locate a good flower field and soon stumbled on a wondrous meadow of Birds Foot Trefoil, Clover, Marjoram, Eyebright, Red Bartsia and Wild Basil. 



Red Bartsia

Wild Basil - I think

It was not teeming with butterflies and the sun kept disappearing but I did see several gleaming Adonis Blues but failed to get any images of them perched and only managed some of the stunningly fresh Common Blues also present.   

Common Blue

Common Blue

Small Copper, Small Heath, Brown Argus, Meadow Brown and Gatekeeper were also present but there were no flies of any description and only a few bumbles amongst the numerous Honey Bees.

Brown Argus

I was still feeling dissatisfied from my first Oare visit and so trundled back down the M2 once again and by about 2.30pm I found myself back looking at the waders but now in glorious light and far greater numbers.

That's better...

Over the next hour I was entertained by constantly arriving flocks of whiffling Black-tailed Godwits and associated Redshanks and Dunlin while around thirty sumptuously orange Knots set about having and mass bathe within seconds of landing and thus gave everyone else a shower.

Godwits, Redshanks & Lapwings with Knots to the left!

Dotty Spotted Redshanks strode elegantly amongst the other waders and Turnstone, Ringed Plovers, Greenshank, Whimbrel and Curlew all dropped in. Golden Plover numbers had increased and, when alert they all faced the same way causing the whole flock to almost disappear given their largely summer garb while four young Little Ringed Plovers and two Snipe were feeding on the closest mud.

Black-tailed Godwits - adult and two juveniles

Golden Plover, Lapwing, Starlings and a BHG

The Dowitcher was still probing around and was found actively feeding with the nearest Godwits and gave superb views. I must have a look back to see when I first saw the species here and the chances that it is the same returning adult is not unlikely.  Most of his summer plumage had now been replaced with the grey of winter but there was still some orange on the upper breast and a little on the belly along with a few retained scapulars. The head and tertials were already neat, plain and smooth. 

Long-billed Dowitcher

Long-billed Dowitcher & Blackwits

Long-billed Dowitcher & Blackwits

Given how rarely you see rhynchokinesis in birds, it was quite remarkable just how many times I saw the upper mandible flex up after it caught a prey item.  I have seen it a few times over the years with godwits and Snipe but not repeatedly like the Dowitcher was doing.

rhynchokinesis in action!

Having a scratch... note the widening of the bill tip

It was so close on the final occasion that when it took off I could even hear it call – a quiet ‘kip kip’ so something new to store in the old grey matter. 

Scanning around resulted in at least four adult, a second-winter and three juvenile Med Gulls. One of the adults was green ringed but too hazy to read but a juvenile with a nice red ring appeared easier (right ZHH7 I hope).

adult Med Gull


All it needed now was for the Bonaparte’s Gull to appear and it did just that just yards from the Dowitcher.

Bonaparte’s Gull & Avocets

Bonaparte’s Gull - four or five new primaries and only the old p10 remaining

Bonaparte’s Gull

It had a good wash and brush up before moving back into the throng but although it is one of my favourite gulls it was still the juvenile Meds that lured me back for another look...

Juvenile Med Gull

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