Thursday, 13 April 2017


 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



 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,

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. 


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. 


Friday, 18 November 2016


 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


 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.

Friday, 4 November 2016


 I had a couple of hours to spare on Thursday morning and the weather looked OK, so I popped over to Oare Marshes. I'd heard there was a particularly showy couple of Water Rails there and luckily I managed to find them.

 I saw both birds, but one in particular showed really well.

 Some of the time it stayed under the shadow of the small bridge.

But every now and then it ventured out into the better light.

It seemed preoccupied with catching either tiny fish or small insects (or both) from below the surface, it's style very similar to herons and egrets.

I have never had the opportunity of such sustained views of a Water Rail before and was fascinated to watch its behaviour. I was even lucky enough to see it performing its famous squealing call to its mate who was acting like a 'proper' Water Rail and hiding in the reed bed nearby.

I might not get another chance like this so I filled my boots with pics, as you can see.

Tuesday, 25 October 2016


Although often heard and seen flying overhead to and from next door's paddock, I don't often see Green Woodpeckers actually in my garden.

This one, an adult male, stayed and fed on the front lawn just long enough for a couple of quick pics through the window.

On Thursday Marianne and I visited Oare Marshes and Reculver. At Oare we soon located the immature Long-billed Dowitcher in the corner of the east flood. The weather was very overcast and the bird fed constantly, this was really the only picture I managed with its head above the surface of the water. Still, nice to see and a life tick for both of us.

At Reculver, the Lapland Bunting and the pair of Shore Larks managed to evade us, despite our best efforts. But the occasional Stonechat and lots of Brent Geese  provided some interest in a cold, strong, northerly wind.

On friday I visited New Hythe lakes where Green Sandpiper, Kingfisher, Snipe, Buzzard, Redshank and Little Egret were all seen. While scanning the reedbed opposite bucket wood I found a Stonechat, this is my first at New Hythe for seven years and was my 106th species there this year.

And finally. Still at bucket wood, this handsome Fox strolled nonchalantly along the river, up to its ankles in mud, looking for its next meal. It didn't see us until.........


Wednesday, 19 October 2016


The approach track to the car park was fairly quiet with mainly Lapwings, Pied Wagtails, Skylarks, Meadow Pipits, Kestrel and a couple of Marsh Harriers.

A skirmish between a Kestrel and a juvenile Peregrine was entertainment in between Stonechat, Reed Bunting and Bearded Tit sightings on the path to the hides. Although the tide was pretty much fully up, the flood in front of the hide was almost fully down and held just a few waders; Ringed Plovers, a couple of Redshanks, a few Dunlins and a couple of Grey Plovers.

The wind had dropped considerably on the way back to the car park and the Beardies were much more evident.

Monday, 13 June 2016

MULL 2016

 On Friday 7th May Carol and I set off for our annual visit to the Isle of Mull in Scotland. We stayed in the small Hamlet of Knock in the centre of the island just outside the small village of Salen.

 The river Ba runs through Knock and the small amount of through traffic is carried over the river by an old stone hump backed bridge. In previous years we've watched Dippers from here as they carried food to their nest hidden among the tangle of roots and stones along the river bank. This year we were considerably earlier than usual and I think this is a pair still in the throes of courtship. 

 We struggled to find them after this, maybe they were nest building somewhere else along the river this year.

 It goes without saying that the weather in the Northwest of Scotland can be unpredictable, if not downright horrible. This year though, our luck was in and the sun shone bright and hot almost from the start. Even this Chaffinch, just along from our cottage, was pleased about it and took in some rays, seemingly oblivious to our presence. 

 Eager to take advantage of the good weather we booked a boat trip to Staffa and Lunga on the Treshnish Isles for our first full day on Mull. Our pick up point was the tiny harbour at Ulva and luckily we had enough time to stop en route along the shore of Loch na Keal to watch this superb White-tailed Eagle soaring against the blue sky. Sorry it's a bit distant but it does set the scene. 
Staffa is the smaller of the two islands and is home to Fingal's Cave, famous for its fractured columns of Basalt rock and Mendelssohn's 'Hebrides Overture' which was inspired by his visit there in 1829. 

There wasn't too much to see on this small island but the views are terrific and it's always nice to see Eider ducks, even if they are a bit sleepy.

Next stop was Lunga and a spot of Puffin therapy. On the way though, we made a short diversion to see a pod of Bottle-nosed Dolphins after a tip off from the skipper of another boat. This was a brilliant and exciting few minutes of wildlife magic as the Dolphins surrounded our boat and rode the bow wave so close I could have reached out and patted them. The only slightly cropped picture below makes my point.

And so to the island of Lunga where the Puffins welcomed us with open arms.

It's very easy to get carried away by these charming little birds and indeed we did, spending too much of our limited time on the island with them.

I've limited my self indulgence to just three Puffin pics. Here are just a few of the other inhabitants of the island further down at Harp Rock.



Great Skua, aka the Bonxie

Did I mention Puffins? I think they were sad to see us go.