Sunday, 8 April 2018

BROWN HARES AT ELMLEY



We are just back from a weeks walking in the Alicante mountains in Spain. I couldn't decide whether to take my camera but in the end decided against it. Wise move. The hotel to hotel unguided walking was tough, sometimes very tough and there was no way I could have carried a heavy camera and lens. A couple of days I didn't even carry my binoculars with me. The odd thing was that I didn't really miss either of them. Sometimes it's nice to be unencumbered and to just see the wildlife and birds without worrying about getting the shot or seeing every small detail.


Anyway, here's a few pictures I took the last time I did take my camera out along the Elmley track on the Isle of Sheppey. Brown hares are not easy to find, most that i've seen were stumbled upon by accident when out walking and usually feature a clean pair of heels as they rocket away into the distance.


I actually saw four hares on this occasion. Three were some distance away. They lay motionless and, to the naked eye were just low mounds of earth in the middle of the field until viewed through binoculars. But this one was much closer and was preoccupied with feeding, scratching and generally lumbering around with that peculiar lanky gait that hares have when not in turbo mode.


It was late March, so I hoped I would see some of the 'boxing' action that these animals are so well known for. This is usually the female fending off the unwanted advances of an amorous male, not a 'may the best man win' battle between rival males that it's sometimes mistaken for. It didn't happen though, but I did enjoy watching this particular hare and not just seeing its heels.


Saturday, 24 March 2018

DUNGENESS BLUETHROAT 21ST MARCH 2018




 There have been a lot of pictures on the internet of a couple of bluethroats at Dungeness, which arrived recently courtesy of some strong easterly winds. 


I'm not an avid twitcher, but I'd never seen one before and sometimes i'll make the effort for a particularly nice bird. This male bluethroat is a particularly nice bird.


I arrived at Dengemarsh gully at about 10am and after negotiating what is laughingly referred to as a road (it's more like collateral damage from the adjacent MOD firing range), I walked along to the assembled crowd of fellow twitchers. For some reason I always feel uncomfortable in this situation, like a gatecrasher at a party. I always think they all know each other and are wondering who invited me. Maybe I should get some counselling.


Anyway, I was told that said bird popped out of the gorse bushes about every ten or fifteen minutes or so. I must say I do like reliable birds who think about their audience. So after about twenty five minutes, during which time I was entertained by more firecrests than i'd ever seen in one place, I was getting nervous (or twitchy) and thinking that maybe the bluethroat would turn into a wild goose.
I needn't have worried though, it soon made an appearance to the accompaniment of what sounded like machine gun fire from the aforementioned military range, but was actually all the cameras clicking in unison. 


Despite sometimes being referred to as a skulking species this bird appeared to be very comfortable with all the people (some of whom were getting much too close I think) and the noise of the cameras. 



Tuesday, 6 March 2018

NEW HYTHE LAKES 6TH MARCH 2018

CETTI'S WARBLER

It amazes me that small creatures manage to survive the type of cold spell recently delivered by the 'beast from the east'. But survive they do, or at least some of them do. Here's a survivor, a cetti's warbler who greeted me and Terry as we walked up the west side of Brooklands lake. Just a 'little brown job' you may think, but their ability to stay completely unseen (if not unheard) adds a little mystery to this particular LBJ and makes a sighting like this so much more memorable.


CETTI'S WARBLER


The western side of Brooklands lake isn't our usual route around New Hythe, but it's the quickest path to Abbey Mead lake where the previous day Glenn had found a black-necked grebe. This is a site tick for me so I did actually drive down on Sunday afternoon to see it, nervous that by Monday morning it might have departed, leaving me with the prospect of possibly another ten year wait for the next one at NH. I needn't have worried though as the grebe was still in situ albeit some distance away from the lake side and out of range for any pictures.

DUNLIN 

After watching the Black-necked Grebe on Abbey Mead we made our way to bucket wood to watch the river for a while. As soon as we arrived Terry picked up on a small wader in the shiny mud exposed by the low tide and this turned out to be a dunlin, another site tick for me and species number 73 for the year so far at NH. Sorry about the poor record shot, all the usual excuses apply!


FIELDFARE

And finally. Here's a long distance shot of a fieldfare, one of many at NH during the freezing weather. Make the most of them. Spring is on its way and the fieldfares and other winter visitors will very soon be on their way too.

Friday, 9 February 2018

NEW HYTHE LAKES 8TH FEB 2018


This winter is never ending. It seems longer than usual and colder than usual. Or maybe it's just my age. Still, February is well under way and spring is just around the corner.

At New Hythe lakes on Thursday a brief burst of ever so slightly warming sunshine showed off this local blue tit's  bright plumage as it posed, not for me, but for a prospective mate. They don't need a calendar to know there's light at the end of the tunnel.


Here's another clue to the impending spring. A black-headed gull, red of legs and bill and just beginning it's partial moult into the dark brown head that gives the lie to its name.

I arrived at bucket wood where the River Medway was at low tide. Apart from the usual teal and mallards I was lucky enough to see two common sandpipers, a green sandpiper, an oystercatcher, lapwings, a single redshank, an unusually brave water rail, a snipe, a grey wagtail and my first New Hythe kingfisher of the year.


At abbey mead lake I finally found the female scaup among the multitude of sleeping pochards, gadwalls, grebes, gulls and tufted ducks. There is another scaupy looking duck with a white saddle to its bill on this lake which tends to hang out with this one. I think it's a pochard/tuftie cross or something of that ilk. I hope the one in the distant shot above is the real McCoy, apologies if i'm wrong.

TUFTED DUCK
Several bullfinches were seen around the site as well as green woodpecker in the east scrub, they do really well here despite the ever present humans and dogs. There was a little egret fishing on streamside lake and the long staying goosander was, as usual, staying as far away as possible.

The last bird on my list was a chiffchaff in the wet wood at the car park end of the millstream and was my 47th species of the morning. This included five new ticks for my New Hythe year list which now stands at 69.


Friday, 12 January 2018

NEW HYTHE, NEW YEAR, NEW LIST

LITTLE GREBE ON THE MEDWAY AT NEW HYTHE


I'm not a great keeper of lists but I do like to keep a yearly patch list, the patch being New Hythe Lakes in Kent.

in 2017 I wasn't able to visit the lakes with the same frequency as I have in other years and this resulted in some slightly disappointing totals. This is how it all ended.

Birds            99  Species Including, bittern, little ringed plover, red kite, waxwing, raven, goosander and scaup.

Butterflies   17  Species Including, clouded yellow, brown argus, painted lady and brimstone.

Dragonflies 12 Species  Including, broad-bodied chaser, downy emerald, scarce chaser and southern hawker.

Damselflies 8   Species  Including, small red-eyed and willow emerald.

I'm sure that 2018 will be better, particularly for the birds. It's off to a cracking start with 59 species in the bag so far including a surprise Hawfinch this morning, a super bird and a New Hythe patch tick as well.
Also worthy of mention today were; common sandpiper on the river from bucket wood and scaup and wigeon on Abbey Mead lake.

Thursday, 13 April 2017

A FEW SPRINGY BITS



 It's a sure sign of Spring when the male Long-tailed Tits start sporting impressive moustaches to try and attract a mate.
 


 The Brimstone butterfly above and the Speckled Wood below are two species that are on the wing in early Spring and right through until Autumn. Brimstones overwinter in the adult form but the Speckled Wood will survive the cold months as either caterpillar or chrysalis. The first ones seen in early Spring are usually from chrysalis I think.





The Bee-fly, or Dark-edged Bee-fly, is another harbinger of Spring, appearing usually in March when temperatures begin to rise. I'm always pleased to see these fascinating and slightly fearsome little beasts. They're harmless to us, but their larvae are parasitoids to mining bee larvae.


I know foxes aren't a sign of Spring but I do like to see them and their cubs are born in the Spring. This one was in Bucket Wood at New Hythe and was unperturbed by my close proximity. I expect urban foxes to be a bit fearless of humans but this one i'm sure is more of a country fox.



Sedge Warblers have arrived back from their migration and can be heard and seen in many areas now, although I've not seen one at New Hythe yet this Spring. This one was one of many at RSPB Dungeness this week. 



Also at Dungeness were the resident Cetti's Warblers who were in fine song and were, unusually, happy to pose briefly.




Finally, this Great Crested Grebe was feeding on one of the smaller lakes at Dungeness where a shoal of fish had sought refuge under the overhanging branches and submerged roots of trees on a small island. It was so preoccupied with this food bonanza that it didn't seem to notice me. Once again, this isn't a sign of Spring, but looking so spectacular at this time of year in their breeding plumage and so often overlooked I thought it deserved a mention.


Saturday, 25 February 2017

IT'S AN ILL WIND...........


 Thursday was Doris day. Not the singer, the storm. Maybe it was the storm that bought this stunning male Green Woodpecker into the shelter of my front garden.


 We do get the occasional garden visit from these birds but generally we hear them in the surrounding orchards and paddocks rather than see them.


This chap must have found an ant's nest I think. He stayed for at least half an hour and spent most of the time with his beak in the grass.....


..... surfacing every second or so to check for the local Sparrowhawk, and for me.


I've lost count of the times i've tried to get close enough to one to get a half decent picture, they always see me coming. 


But i'll settle for these despite being behind glass. Thankfully the window cleaner came a couple of days earlier.


After filling up on ants, he sat for a while looking quite relaxed and I got on with the decorating.



Friday, 3 February 2017

NEW HYTHE 2016 & JANUARY 2017

GREY HERON, NEW HYTHE

 2016 was an excellent year at New Hythe Lakes, which produced some very nice birds for the hardy few of us who devoted  lots of sometimes fruitless hours to watching our local inland patch. 
My own New Hythe year list finished at 111 species, a record year for me, which included five site ticks; Pied Flycatcher, Tawny Owl, a properly wild Whooper Swan and small flyover flocks of Brent and White-fronted geese. Other notables included Black Redstart, Red Kite, Ring-necked Parakeet, Wheatear, Goldeneye, Greenshank, Little Gull, Raven, Redstart, Stonechat, Whinchat and Bittern, an over wintering species which is becoming increasingly difficult to find at NH,
 

DUNNOCK, NEW HYTHE
My 2017 New Hythe list kicked off on 2nd January with 56 species recorded on the day. This is over 50 % of the 2016 year list. But these are the easier ones, although Water Rail was a good bird to see as it took until December to find one last year. Another sometimes difficult NH species is the Treecreeper, so it was a bit of a surprise to see four of these across the site. 


BITTERN, NEW HYTHE

I was disappointed to miss what may turn out to be the New Hythe bird of the year, a ring-tail Hen Harrier, which made several appearances near the river in early January. Despite my best efforts though I didn't manage to see it. But I did manage to see a distant Bittern, pictured above, fishing along the ice fringed lake. 



 Another super tick came last Tuesday in the shape of the four Waxwings which have been visiting the west scrub for a few days. I watched them for an hour in very murky conditions as they alternated between feeding on the few remaining berries and drinking from a muddy puddle nearby. The list reached 64 species during January, anything could happen in February. Watch this space. 

WAXWINGS, NEW HYTHE


Friday, 18 November 2016

DUNGENESS AND NEW HYTHE





 I suppose the star bird at Dungeness on Wednesday was the drake Ring-necked Duck (Aythya collaris), currently entertaining the crowds from the small lake just past Boulderwall farm. I believe this is a North American vagrant and at first glance could be mistaken for its cousin the Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula). The drake tuftie on the left of the picture, scratching his head, is clearly confused. Closer inspection though reveals the white ring on its bill, the grey flanks and the lack of a tuft.

 Cattle Egret and Great White Egret (now surely a Dungeness speciality) provided the support cast close by, but most of the assembled optics only had eyes for the duck. 



 From Firth hide, Black-tailed Godwits and all the usual suspects were paddling, dabbling or diving, including more Cormorants than you could shake a stick at. Surely Burrowes lake can't sustain this level of over fishing too much longer. I blame Brexit. 
 


 I paid a quick visit to Hanson hide on the ARC pit before leaving. The empty car park was a clue to the lack of activity here but the Lapwings looked great en masse when spooked by a Marsh Harrier.


If you look closely you can just make out the culprit hovering suspiciously in the background.


And so to New Hythe today, where this Little Egret fished with ruthless efficiency in the small stream that runs out of the creek adjacent to bucket wood and into the tidal River Medway.


Talking of bucket wood, i'm sad to report that the bucket which gave the wood its name is no more. After many years of providing a welcome seat to weary birders it has gone. Was it picked up by a particularly high tide and carried downstream? Or was it an act of thoughtless vandalism? The outcome is the same either way. It's kicked the bucket. 


And finally, this is a long distance shot of the oddly plumaged Lapwing which has been regularly seen along this stretch of river for the last couple of years. 


Wednesday, 9 November 2016

NEW HYTHE NEWS


 The picture above is of a Whooper Swan that turned up at New Hythe lakes in early 2010 I think. It was great to see it, but it was virtually tame, showed no fear of humans, was happy to pose close up and was almost certainly an escapee from a collection somewhere.


These two pictures are also of a Whooper, this one turned up on Abbey Mead lake, New Hythe on  Saturday 5th November 2016 and was found by Glenn Honey. This one is completely unapproachable, extremely camera shy and almost impossible to get near to. It seemed very tired on Saturday morning and  spent most of its time sleeping, surely a 'proper' Whooper for New Hythe this time.



On Tuesday morning Alan Woodcock went to Abbey Mead to see the swan and was amazed to see another one fly over the lake calling. You can read his report  on his blog here



Alan also found a drake Goldeneye while watching the Whooper at Abbey Mead. I went to see it on Tuesday, it was my 108th species for this site this year which is my best total in the last 10 years. I was also surprised to see over 40 Wigeon on the lake, this is by far the most I have ever seen at New Hythe. The Autumn seems to be shaping up nicely.
.