Thursday 27 August 2020

Continental Lizards, American Gulls and Arctic Waders - 27th August 2020

Sam phoned yesterday evening and asked if I fancied a potter out today so we met at mine at 830 and headed east to Oare Marshes in glorious sunshine and without a breath of wind.  I was grateful of the lack of breeze but was hoping that the early morning cloud would prevail a little longer.

As we came through Ospringe I remembered a post some months ago about Common Wall Lizards on the church so I paused to find it and within a couple of minutes we were parked outside this delightful building.  

The sun was on several parts of the main church so we slowly walked around and checked sunny gravestones in the process but had no joy. Sam found a Hummingbird Hawkmoth perched up on a window before it careened off once again and Badgers had been very active in several spots. 

Hummingbird Hawkmoth- Sam Shippey

Wall Rue
Cedar - not sure which species

We were almost back to the car when I spied a young Wall Lizard, well, on top of the wall. It posed briefly before flipping over the top. We walked around the other side and found a second, more olive toned juvenile sunning itself. 

Wall Lizard

juvenile Wall Lizard

juvenile Wall Lizard

Pleased that we had succeeded we made to leave when Sam found a huge male basking on the stone newel post.  He seemed a good couple of inches longer than any Viviporous Lizard with a long, almost spotty face and snaky dorsal stripe. On closer inspection you could see several blue spots on the visible sides of his belly.

male Wall Lizard

We watched him trying to catch flies before slipping out of view.  I had only ever seen them briefly at Portland before so this was a great start to the morning.

On to Oare where the East Flood was incredibly low but had a good splodge of waders in the middle in the grotty sunlight so we parked up at the end by the spring and decided to head around clockwise from there.

Two fawn Wheatears around the KWT building were a good start and Yellow Wagtails were zipping over and once up on the seawall a juvenile Curlew Sandpiper became almost the first wader that we saw as it snoozed with a Ringed Plover down on the mud.  The light was pants for gull chcecking so we ambled along and on the first scan back I picked up Napoleon as he plodded around picking up tiny worms from the sloppy mud with his Black-headed Gull buddies.  He was now in full winter plumage but still cuts a dapper little shape with his neat black bill, short pinky legs and big fat cheek spot.

Bonaparte's Gull

A Spitfire roared over with shark teeth mouth eating up the sky and Bearded Tits and Cetti’s Warblers called from the reeds while flocks of patchwork Starlings raided the Bramble clumps.

Down at Faversham Creek over 300 Redshank fed on both sides on the appearing mud with singles of Ruff and Dunlin amongst them. A Little Egret was stalking fishlets in the shallows. 

Little Egret

The sunshine was slowly not becoming a problem with a quickening breeze and bubbling cloud and the light was fine by the time we got to look at the Black-tailed Godwit flock.  Given how far the tide had dropped it was a little surprising that so many were still on the flood. Twenty-six Avocets, six Ruff, 30 Dunlin and 22 peachy Knot were amongst them and 13 Golden Plover and three Snipe were closer to the road.

Yellow and Pied Wagtails scurried around after flies on the dried up pool surface and Linnet and House Sparrows were around the edges.

A resuced Fox Moth cat from the path

An immature Peregrine made to sorties but surprisingly did not spook the Godwits and only the 80 Lapwing took to the air which was foolish of them and four Buzzards hovered over the Nagden Marshes with another standing sentinel on top of a dead tree out towards the West Flood.



While scanning that way we picked up three Whinchats feeding from the small hawthorns and brambles with a few Whitethroats and a single Lesser Whitethroat for company. I was beginning to wonder if I would actually see one this autumn.

Whinchat and a Whitethroat - honest!

I showed them to a very nice lady out taking pictures but could not find the Wheatears for her upon our return to the car. Lunch was taken sitting on the slipway watching a Yellow-legged Gull and some BHGs and reminiscing on past times...

The clouds were now looking rather ominous so we headed for home.

Wednesday 26 August 2020

RSPB Cliffe Pools 26th August 2020

I did not quite get up early enough to get to Cliffe for the high tide at seven but still headed that way for a circuit of the reserve.

The wind was still blowing constantly and many of the birds were hunkered down including a group of Little Egrets tucked into a sedge bed in a ditch where they looked quite grateful for the respite.

A flock of Redshank whizzed over and I put up a couple of Common Sandpipers from the upper creek reaches as I headed for the Thames.

Common Sandpiper

The Flamingo Pool was disappointingly almost devoid of birds and the plovers and godwits had obviously already returned to the exposed mud. Four Ruff, two Dunlin and three juvenile Little Ringed Plovers were some compensation on the wader front but it was the two juvenile Black Terns that held my attention as they dipped down gracefully to pick invisible items from the surface.  They always fed facing into the wind and would turn to zip back to their chosen starting point. 

Black Tern

Spot the LRP

Two Sandwich Terns roosted with some Black-headed Gulls and 27 Common Terns including some very recently fledged youngsters.

Sandwich Terns

A Wheatear was my first of the autumn but I have still not seen a Whinchat yet while Yellow Wagtails got blown over at regular intervals. Down at the river there were a couple of Yellow-legged Gulls, an adult Med Gull and more Common Terns out fishing and I could see two patches of Avocets and five Harbour Seals up on the Essex mud as well as the distinctive shapes of a Bill Stallard and Martin Jordan birding the other side... they had all my missing waders.

Yellowish-legged Gull

Harbour Seals

Three Whimbrel and a Green Sandpiper tried to make up for the deficit and clouds of Starlings were working their way methodically through the flocks of sheep while the horses were close for a change.


Ovoid Whimbrel

The walk back on the eastern side was very quiet although a Kestrel and female Marsh Harrier became my only raptors.  There were lots of Small Whites and few Red Admirals in the lee of the Brambles and I could hear Reed Warbler fledglings being fed by parents who should by now be stocking up their own fat reserves.

Red Admiral

There was not one wader of any description on the Radar Pool but the three Spoonbills were still present and I got a better look at the two ringed adults which looked like Right: metal. Left White-Black-White and Right metal over faded red, Left Black flag over Yellow.


Great Crested Grebe

I climbed to the Pinnacle viewpoint and scanned around for the Osprey but had no joy so counted 162 Redshank and 77 Teal on the islands instead and heard my first two Greenshank of the day as I came back down. The Spoonbills had a fly round and you could even seen the black flag in flight – not that it was impeding it in any way. Little Egrets were hunting around the edges of every lagoon.


It was quite sapping birding in the constant wind so I decided that lunch would be a better option once back at the car rather than plodding around another windswept patch.