Friday, 18 August 2017

Forever Autumn

I watch the birds fly south across the autumn sky,
...and one by one they disappear.....
            J Wayne, G Osborne, P Vigrass

Well....thankfully not all of them!

0600 - 0800 cloudy but clearing, cool but warming SW f1-3

Autumn approaches rapidly....in bird terms its already here.....58 Swallows certainly making a point by slowly moving across site south easterly....

Apples

Ok....this is THE apple tree on site...

Not a huge amount of action on site...plenty of Blackcaps chakking along the way with Chiffchaffs for company.  There was a reasonable sized flock of, mostly, Long-tail Tits accompanied by Blue Tits, Chiffchaffs and I saw at least one yellow Willow Warbler.

Flowers are still....er...flowering...the Toadflax is at its best right now.....

Common Toadflax, Linaria vulgaris

Other birds on site included....

Wren, Woodpigeon, Feral Pigeon, Crow, Magpie, Goldfinch, Goldcrest, Buzzard, Green Woodpecker, Dunnock, Kestrel, Jay, Whitethroat, Robin, Great Tit, Jackdaw, Reed Warbler

30 Mallard, 1 Mandarin Duck, 14 Greylag Geese, 6 Great Crested Grebe, 5 Black-headed Gull, 8 Herring Gull, 56 Coot, 23 Tufted Duck, 4 Mute Swan, 8 Moorhen, 1 Little Egret, 2 Grey Heron

Yarrow, Achillea millefolium




Thursday, 17 August 2017

Twice Phw-Oare

Two awaydays...to the same place.............Oare Marsh up on the north Kent coast...

Monday 14 August.....warm, sunny, cloudy

T-shirt and shorts weather....excellent....

On the way I collected AL and we arrived on site around 0720.....just at the right time....as we jumped out the car there, in front of us, was one of the current 'star birds'.....Long-billed Dowitcher....no more than 50ft away wandering with two Dunlin.  Excellent.  NM turned up within a couple of minutes having tracked the Dowitcher from in front of the hide.

Good start.....plenty of other birds to look at too....Snipe, Greenshank, Ruff, Spotted Redshank, Lapwing....

Eventually we meandered along the sea wall in search of the Bonapartes Gull...which we later found when a small crowd gathered on the wall...

After finding a Water Rail on the creek side I managed to re-locate the Dowitcher further along toward the sluice....however, it soon wandered behind an island and never re-appeared.

All this meant a return was necessary for missing birds....namely....Little Stint and Curlew Sandpiper.

Thursday 17 August.....not warm....not sunny...in fact, rainy on and off to start progressing to just cloudy, windy and quite cool.

The tide was in....

...the most water I've seen here...

As per the previous visit I stopped at the East flood first.....I couldn't locate the Dowitcher today, nor the Bonapartes Gull...never mind....my target were other birds....though they didn't show either....!

Never mind...there was plenty of other birds on offer...

Black-tail Godwit, Snipe, Ruff, Knot, Redshank, Spotted Redshank, Ringed Plover, Little Ringed Plover, Moorhen, Beaded Tit, Reed Warbler, Meadow Pipit, Mallard, Peregrine, Grey Heron, Cormorant, Mediterranean Gull, Dunlin, Robin, Yellow Wagtail, Dunnock, Woodpigeon, Herring Gull, Whimbrel, Common Tern, Kestrel, Starling, Linnet, Goldfinch, Reed Bunting, Little Egret, Swallow, Swift, Greenshank, Mute Swan, Avocet, Turtle Dove, House Sparrow, Shoveller.


Saturday, 12 August 2017

Portugal

25 July - 8 Aug

Two weeks in Portugal.....family holiday....but as usual I was determined to fit in some birding.  I tried to organise a trip to the Tagus estuary area with a local birder but that failed....and armed with the knowledge that it was a pretty impossible area without a person that knows where to go, and potentially only having a day to do it, I gave that up.

We based ourselves about 80km north of Lisbon.  The motorway was great, mostly empty....though the Portugeuse have an annoying habit of driving a few inches from your bumper even if the motorway is clear, they dither a lot about overtaking....and the worst bit is on the minor roads where they do the same, right up your rear end, looking as if they want to or will overtake, but doing nothing.  I found it infuriating after a short time.  No indicating was another annoyance, so you had to be aware all the time.

View from the pool

The weather was a bit unpredictable.  This area north of Lisbon has many modern wind turbines and many old windmills.....this will give you a general idea of the windy times around this area....and it was pretty non stop direct across the Atlantic....it became somewhat tedious, would encourage cloud over night to come in, sometimes mist....but by mid morning to late morning it would clear away to blue skies most of the time...and if you wanted it hot just head inland....where on some days it was well over 30 degrees....shouldn't complain, evenings and mornings the temperature dropped to about 19 ish...but this was still warmer than the day temperatures back home!!

For kids the beaches were good, it was possible to find quiet places too....the sea was damn cold though and even the locals didn't go in....luckily the pool at the house was fine...

Enough about the area....the birding...

....was mostly terrible.  They have forsaken much of their native flora in favour of....urgh....Eucalyptus plantations....swathes of it as soon as you leave Lisbon....why?  They grow it for 8 years, then chop it down for pulp, then re plant it.  This means that as the areas are only a few years old, all uniform, offer little animal friendly territory for anything....its dead.....and quiet...I'm guessing very little actually lives in among the trees.  None of it is old enough for a woodpecker, or big enough.  Nothing moves in it.

Little bits of scrub here and there offered a few bits....open farmland gave up Black Redstart, as did the garden....Jays....a good number of Linnet....some Goldfinches....it took a week to find a Blackbird....Woodpigeon.  A Buzzard was the only raptor.  Swifts and Barn Swallows were around too.  I did get a life tick near the house...I saw a Cirl Bunting on two occasions.

Other than that when I was out and about heres the list...

Greenfinch, Stonechat, House Martin, Blackap, Wren, Pied Wagtail, Little Owl, Crag Martin, Grey Wagtail, Spotless Starling, Sandwich Tern, Yellow-legged Gull.

I think there were a few others but I had generally lost interest, it was hard going and I gave up taking my scope around then gave up taking my binoculars.

A visit to the Lisbon Aquarium....very impressive....provided a life tick....does it count?  I'm fairly unlikely to ever see one in the wilds of South America....

Inca Tern, Larosterna inca

No....I cant really count it....captive and cant go anywhere....they did entertain by being allowed to fly around the area where the public walked and occasionally pooped on people...nice....

One of the highlights out and about visiting was this aquaduct which you could walk along....it was pretty high up...around 40 feet....and no hand rail to stop you falling off...health and safety doesn't really exist in Portugal!  But hey, it made it much more entertaining.


From a birding point of view I couldt wait to get away....family holiday it was ok....I wouldn't rush to go back....but I'm glad I saw dinosaur footprints, the aquaduct and the castle on the island in the river which reauired a boat ride to get to and more terrifying health ad safety-less ramparts....

Whetsted....first Autumn visit

0600 - 0815 overcast, grey, dreary but brightening, occasional light showers

After getting back from Portugal.....report to follow.....I was keen to get over to the pits to see what was happening....both from a bird pint of view and any developments around the pits....

First, the only development around the pits is an extra strand of barbed wire along the gate....nice...though actually this has done the favour of tidying up the looser strands so now its actually easier to get over...

I wandered along the pits in the tedious on - off light drizzly tedium.  A few birds called....first up was Chaffinch and Robin....Starlings flew here and there.....then a rarity for the pits...a Nuthatch was in a group of Blue Tits and Goldcrests.  Don't get many Nuthatches here abouts.....I can only recall one other sighting probably 18 months ish back.

The brightest thing on a dreary morning....

Common Ragwort, Jacobaea vulgaris

The highlight was definitely the 40 or so Sand Martins feeding over the trees though they gradually moved south...later there was about 6 Swallows and another by the paddocks.

Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Goldfinch, Feral Pigeon, 24 Mallard, Green Woodpecker, Blackcap, 2 Buzzards, 3 Herring Gull, 1 Lesser Black-backed Gull, 5 Mute Swan, 8 Great Crested Grebe, 2 Grey Heron, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Jay, Chiffchaff, 35 Coot, Whitethroat, 3 Stock Dove, 20 Tufted Duck, 1 Black-headed Gull, Long Tail Tit, 4 Little Grebe, 3 Moorhen, Reed Bunting, Sedge Warbler, Wren, Bulfinch, Blackbird, Willow Warbler.

Brief

Brief garden update....sadly no pictures...

Yesterday I found a froglet on the grass in the garden slightly smaller than a ten pence piece.....cute or what!

Whilst sitting on the patio in the, eventually, warmer, ish, weather in the afternoon a Hummingbird Hawk Moth appeared around the roses and lavender.....excellent!!

Thursday, 20 July 2017

What was....what is....what will be

0900 - 1100 Overcast, occasionally bright, occasional rain

The July quietness has kicked in big time at Whetsted....for all the warbler action on site jut a few short weeks ago today brought very little song....even though most of the birds will still be on site probably feeding second broods or just fattening up for the journey ahead....

What was...Lafarge are now the ex-owners, or managers, of the pits....the new owners are Tarmac...so...you don't buy something to do nothing with it....so there could soon be 'interesting times' ahead (to quote Terry Pratchett)....there is the possibility of West and Middle pit,  maybe even Island pit, being drained to gain access to the aggregate...how soon is soon....who knows...

What is....

2 Turtle Doves, 1 Lesser Black-backed Gull, 1 Kestrel, 2 Buzzards...the Coot numbers have increased and some Tufted Ducks have returned..a female Mandarin Duck was present on middle pit.....a new Mallard family were also present, 9 chicks.  Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Moorhen, Black-headed Gull, 20 House Martins fed over West pit but then lifted and headed South.....a few Swift were around.
Chiffchaffs were calling, Blackcaps occasionally singing.

Friday, 14 July 2017

Processional Gull

1000 - 1200 Cloud, sunny, cool to warm WSW f2-4

A much needed birding trip....seems like I haven't been out for ages, though probably not that long....so off to Oare....

When I left home it was still sunny, with little cloud, but quite warm....you just forget how it is in more open territory....Rye is a good example where the sea winds blow pretty chilly at times....and Oare....getting out the car it wasn't long before I was pulling on a jumper....thankfully the sun did come back out and it warmed up a little...

JK had given me a tip for Turtle Doves....just south of the cottages in the stubble...and there they were, one on the line I could hear another in the scrub.....good call...there were also some Linnet with them and the House Sparrows at the cottages themselves.  Swifts were jetting overhead.

It was pretty crowded in the car park....though the number of birders seemed limited....whilst I was, er, not booting up...I remained in sandals....a nice man came by and said 'the gull is down the ramp'....he was very happy....so several people trotted off to become happy too....

Down the ramp and tog was busy click-click-clicking....a car came up the ramp and splattered my with mud.....nice....anyway....reaching the tog there was indeed....Bonapartes Gull....catching worms galore....

To me its just a Black-headed Gull really.....and there were plenty of them in support....its not really the star bird I came for, so it was time to move on for a look-a-round....off along the seawall, every time I looked back a procession of birders was up and down the ramp...

Avocet, Meadow Pipit, Lapwing, Cormorant, Herring Gull, Coot, Mallard, Ruff (ragged looking), Grey Heron, Moorhen, Redshank, Starling, Mediterranean Gull, Goldfinch, Black-tailed Godwit, Curlew, Great Black-backed Gull, Great Crested Grebe, Woodpigeon, Pied Wagtail, Swallow, Little Egret....Whimbrel....Sedge Warbler, Oystercatcher, Shelduck, Great Tit family.....

....by this time I had wandered round to the road so stopped at the pull-ins by east flood.....the Bonapartes had relocated to here having stuffed itself......a few scans around the are then produced the bird I had come for....Spotted Redshank....over the far side, nicely summer plumaged still....however, it then flew out of sight.....returning to the car produced Stonechat, Magpie, Crow......and a crowd of birders marauding along the road....time to go....