Tuesday 27 October 2009

Dungeness. The rare egrets.

Arrived at Dungeness hoping to get a better view of the dusky warbler but no luck. In recompense, managed reasonable views of the two rare egrets, the cattle egret and the great white egret.
The cattle egret was in a field next to the Dengemarsh Road. The barren field doesn't make a very good backdrop but that's where he was!!

Cattle egret, Dengemarsh, Kent

I walked to the Dengemarsh hide in search of the great white egret and perhaps even the glossy ibis which some had seen. Had my lunch there and scanned the gulls for any rarities. No sign of the great white, so I wandered back to the car again. As I arrived, the great white egret was just coming out of some nearby reeds. I crept up to a large fencepost to put my beanbag on and took a few shots before it went into the reeds again. I like this one particularly.

Great white egret, Dengemarsh, Kent

Thursday 15 October 2009

Glossy Ibis, Snipe, Pectoral sandpiper, Brown shrike and cattle egret

David Campbell and I have been getting around recently. We decided to go for the glossy ibis at Oare Marshes. We arrived early (well, about 9 a.m.) but a diligent search of both the West Flood and the East produced no glossy ibis. We were walking back to the road when it suddenly flew off towards Sheppey. I managed to get one or two distant shots before it flew out of view.
We did a tour around the East Flood to the sea watching hide. We were just about to leave Oare when a man told us that the glossy ibis had been seen from the West Flood. We raced to the hide. After a few minutes the ibis came out from behind the reeds.

Glossy Ibis

I wasn't supposed to be doing much birdwatching in September because I'm in the process of moving offices after 25 years at Balham. However, we went to the theatre in Chichester a couple of weeks ago and the report came of a pectoral sandpiper on Hayling Island, not a million miles away. It only took about 20 minutes to get there but a search produced no pectoral sandpiper. However I got talking to some other birdwatchers and, when I rang one of them later that day, it turned out that I had been looking in the wrong place. Lynne was with me by now. We jumped in the car and drove about a mile down the road to another car park where a short walk brought us to quite a small pond with a magnificent pectoral sandpiper in the middle, all on its own. This bird was very tame and came quite close. The light was perfect. At one point a dog walker with a large dog came. One bark from the dog and the sandpiper was off. Fortunately, it came back a few minutes later and landed on the far side of the pool. If I had had more time I would have waited for it to come closer. As it was, I was very happy to have seen the bird which was a lifer for me.

Pectoral sandpiper

The following weekend Lynne and I took Louise back to Durham. On the way back the following day, we stopped at Draycote Water to try and see the long staying lesser scaup. We walked well over a mile but the bird was undoubtedly associating with a flock of a least 100 tufted ducks on the other side of the water. Because we had to get back, I didn't have time to go round to the other side. However I took a picture of what I thought was the lesser scaup.

In the meantime, Lynne had been speaking to another couple who recommended Brandon Marshes just up the road for kingfishers.Kingfishers are Lynne's favourite bird so we had to go. Brandon marshes is a very nice reserve. We saw a very close snipe on the way to the Kingfisher hide.


While waiting for the kingfishers to arrive we had lovely views of a grey heron fishing.

Grey heron

After about an hour, I heard the unmistakable sound of a kingfisher approaching. Sure enough it perched on a very long thin perch which had clearly been put there for the purpose. This gorgeous bird treated us to very nice views for about 10 minutes before flying off.


On Sunday the 10th of October David and I went to St Margarets at Cliffe, in Kent, hoping to see a yellow browed warbler. Shortly after we arrived David got a message on his pager of a wryneck about 1 km away. While walking down there we met the man who had discovered it and he mention that there was also a barred warbler.

We didn't see the barred warbler that we did see the wryneck which proved fairly tame, but we did not approach it too closely because there were about 10 people in the pack and we didn't want to frighten it off.

We went briefly to Samphire Hoe to look for two ring ouzels but David wouldn't let me stay very long because a cattle egret had been reported at Lydd. It was getting late. A cattle egret was a lifer for me and a British lifer for David. We got to the place but no sign of the egret. We drove towards the farm buildings passed several fields until we came to one with cattle in it. True to its name, the cattle egret was there but distant.

I had the Monday off as part of my new regime of working three days a week. I spent the day shopping in Kingston and doing a few things about the house, as well as an hour or two at the wetlands in Barnes. A nice, but not that rare, red backed shrike had been seen on Staines Moor. This bird was later re identified as a much rarer brown shrike. David rang me in the evening and said he was planning to go and see it after school the following day. I had to work but I took my scope into work with me just in case!

I eventually got away at 4:25 p.m., missed the 4.40 train from Streatham Hill and had to wait 20 minutes for the next one. When I arrived in Ashford the sun was going down. The minicab came quickly but there was at least a 10 minute walk at the other end. I met a woman who said she thought I was too late because the shrike had gone to roost. I met up with David (who had already taken several photos and had observed it for at least half an hour) just as the sun was setting. The shrike had not been seen for a least 10 minutes. As we were looking into the sunset, I suggested we go round the other side so as to have the light behind us. One or two other bird watchers were already there and, as we arrived, one of them had just seen the shrike go into the middle of a Bush. I managed to pick it out using my scope and it flew several times from bush to bush before the light failed. David took the only picture that didn't suffer from severe camera shake from the soft ground. Those fleeting last minute glimpses of the shrike before Sunset were profoundly unsatisfying. I knew there was a reason I didn't want to become twitcher!?

Brown shrike