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Saturday 26 April 2014

The past week at Hoo

My visits during week have been Monday and Thursday, Monday in particular gave up some good birds but will also be remembered for the car packing up along with the camera. The car, a Focus has been remedied at a dent in the pocket of £370.00 for a new Alternator, the camera, a D300 however may have to go away to be fixed. The problem comes from the lens mounting to the camera, the camera mounting has worn and there is movement and it switches from F4 to F6 and will not Auto Focus.

It is getting on so it is time for a new camera, my eye is now on a D700, a full frame camera and superior all round I am told to my D300, we will see hopefully shortly.

Anyway back to the birds and Monday.
Lapwing on my particular area have all successfully bred and I have 3 pairs, very mobile with up to 4 young apiece over the site, good to see but I suspect that some may well fall foul of predation,
there are simply too many Corvids in the area. The flooding during the winter has also helped them quite a lot and opened up a food source

A good count of 8 Whimbrel were seen which included a flock of 5 going east over land and the now ever present Mediterranean Gulls peaked at 24, they should be gone shortly and I will miss there constant contact calls.
Bearded Tits numbered 4 birds and good numbers of Yellow Wagtails were seen, 12 all moving west, unusually only 1 Wheatear was seen but not one to complain. To see one is a pleasure, it is what the first sighting signifies, spring has arrived.


On arrival and walking out to check the nests it was immediately obvious that the Mediterranean Gulls were absent, many Black Headed Gulls but during the course of the morning I only saw one pair.

On the walk out and armed with my D80 instead, I picked up 2 Whimbrel flying towards me, camera was still in the bag but managed a couple of shots on the totally wrong settings.

I located a Redshank nest site, finding the actual nest is another matter, didn’t give it too long for fear of keeping them off the eggs/chicks too long but will hopefully have another look on Monday.

Common Buzzard on pole - dangerous given its wingspan and the electricity?

More Wheatear on site today with 5 seen and other noteworthy birds included a flock of 17 Avocet overhead and 3 Yellow Wagtail seen. Roll on Monday.

Friday 18 April 2014

The week at Hoo

Blessed with great weather on both dates, Monday and Wednesday it was a pleasure just to be out here, as I have said before the wildness of the place and the solitude is for me. Sky dancing calling male Marsh Harriers high up overhead and the constant calls of Mediterranean Gulls all around makes it a very special place. If I was more expressive with my words and had taken school, my education, a little more seriously instead of keep bunking it to go fishing, I could possibly describe it a lot more eloquently.

Regulation Parka, long hair, probably about 14 or 15 and a catch of Tench

Sunrise at Hoo

The week has been good, on the entrance track I had my first Hairy Dragonfly on Wednesday, 2 Corn Buntings are on territory singing and I await the arrival of the first Hobby, the Fleets and Dykes with the dragons are a magnet for them.

The 2 mornings however have been about finding nests and marking them, to date I have found 3, 2 Lapwing and a Skylark, both Red Listed birds now unfortunately, Lapwing eggs in particular are stunning.

In a massive field Lapwing are canny birds and will walk into the nest from 50 metres away, once there incubating there pretty visible but as soon as they come off them it’s another matter. You have to keep eye contact with the blade of grass you have marked and then walk out there; it’s the only way to find them. If you get distracted along the way you’ve had it, you won’t find that blade of grass again.

I suspect by Monday all will be hatched and mobile

There is also a pair of Redshank, I have the area marked but as yet have not located the nest, I intend to take the scope on Monday, I should be able to locate the nest from distance, by Monday also I suspect that a pair of Oystercatcher in another field will have laid.

Can you ever get fed up of seeing them?

On Wednesday’s visit I had the highest count also for the site with 46 Mediterranean Gulls seen, all working the fields with the Black Head’s, I could also see that a number of them were ringed.

Just part of the Med Gull flock

This many together is quite a sight, no doubt en route to their breeding grounds.

Jay in the garden - getting closer

My next visit is Monday, hopefully Hobby.

Monday 14 April 2014

Ingrebourne Valley


Before I start I have a little bit of a rant, Dogs, or more precisely owners who have a lack of control over their Dogs.
I have had Dogs most of my life, only of late have I not, I am a dog lover but irresponsible owners are beginning to piss me off. Just to be clear I used to show English Bull Terriers a good few years back and love the breed along with others, so it’s not a dog thing. I also know a few of the people over there with dogs, this is not directed at any of them either, they are responsible.

On Saturday morning last week I firstly had 2 dogs running up barking at me before being recalled by their owners, they got them back, instead of putting them on their leads the dogs then rang back to me, the explanation was that they didn’t like my camera bag. This happened 3 times; I said I will make sure I won’t have it with me next time to save upsetting the dogs.

There then followed a little argument before I moved onto Berwick Glades, 2 owners again walking away from me with 3 dogs, all off the lead, one a Japanese Akita type sees me and comes up barking, owners, oblivious carry on walking. From this I gather that it is normal for their dog to bark at people, I shout out to them, get your dog under control, they turn round and say sorry mate, I got the impression I had interrupted their conversation.

Really though it’s not good enough is it, if the dog behaves that way it should be on a lead shouldn’t it? Not blowing my own trumpet but I am ok with dogs but imagine if I wasn’t, what if it was someone with a nervous disposition or even a child?

While I am in dog rant, how about the doggie bags littering the trees here and there, I know it’s only a minority but it’s not on is it, crap hanging everywhere from the branches???

Nice isn't it

The doggie rant pales into insignificance compared to the Gypsies who broke in at Ingrebourne Hill last week, what can you say, the authorities are weak for letting it happen, yes but from what I understand their hands are tied due to the stupid bloody laws in this country.

Not too bad or so I thought

When I arrived I thought there was some rubbish on the right and thought that was not too bad, then I walked up the hill looking for Wheatear and this was the sight that greeted me when I looked back.

Why do we let this happen wherever they go? A good 200 metres of rubbish dumped

What can you say, there’s something drastically wrong if people can break in, can’t move them on for up to a week, they leave rubbish and crap (literally) everywhere and then we have to foot the bill indirectly for clearing it up?????

Rants over, back to the bird stuff, the viewing area or rather the back area with the exposed mud is looking very good and has a Wood Sandpiper written all over it or some other rarer wader, if it stays the way it is we could be on for some goodies come May.

Back area - Wood Sandpiper territory

Well done to Dave McGouth and Russ for getting not one but 2 Ospreys near the viewing area, photos below from Russ Sherriff, thanks for letting me use them.

The list continues upwards with recent additions being Reed and Sedge Warbler, Swallow and Sand Martin, Common and Lesser Whitethroat and 5 Shelduck bringing the list up to 82.Keep missing the Little Ringed Plover but the back area has held up to 4 Green Sandpipers and 15+ Common Snipe. Cuckoo and Hobby should be next up along with Garden Warbler, it’s been a year or two since we had a Nightingale, one wouldn’t go amiss, it seems there range is diminishing.

Thursday 10 April 2014

Hoo Peninsula

April 9th

You will recall from my last Hoo post that I thought that would be it until hopefully next winter, if it goes ahead again.
However lady luck has come along again and I am surveying for nest sites at least until the end of April, I am a lucky chap.

I visited on Wednesday in glorious weather to check for ground nesting birds, primarily Skylark, Meadow Pipit, Lapwing, Redshank and Oystercatcher. Of course walking a large part of the site you will see many other species although the expected hirundine passage failed to live up to expectations with only 3 Swallows seen.
It is still very early so next week, if the winds are right there may be a bigger passage hopefully, it lifts the spirits seeing Swallows etc..whizzing through.

Always worth waiting for come Spring


If Swallows were not present Mediterranean Gulls most certainly were, I kept an eye open for them whilst searching for nests and recorded no less that 32 birds moving through going west, all adults. This included a flock of 14 with the remainder made up of paired birds, many announced themselves contact calling as they went over.

Also seen was my first Short Eared Owl, never picked one up on the winter surveys so this was very welcome, seen in bright sunshine distantly towards Egypt Bay with the usual Crow attachment.
Other species included a singing Corn Bunting, no less than 4 Bearded Tits, 4 Wheatear, 3 Green Sandpiper and a Yellow Wagtail over.

Eye watering just looking at it

On the Raptor front, no sign of the female Merlin seen on Monday but both Marsh Harrier, Kestrel and Common Buzzard were seen.

Surprise sight of the morning goes to a Black Swan, I know there a feral population but there a cracking looking bird and quite stunning in flight.

Back on Monday, hopefully good weather again.

Tuesday 8 April 2014

Dungeness and Rye

April 6th

My last visit was for the Glaucous Gull, it’s still being seen often so headed down there pretty early with a set plan for the morning – Arc/New Diggings onto sea watch and then finish up at Rye Harbour.

Arriving at New Diggings I scanned around for the Black Throated Diver and perhaps a Great White Egret, none of these failed to materialise but instead found a summer plumed Black Necked Grebe, e great start. Not sure if the bird has been seen previously and as far as I know not a breeding site so put the news out, grabbed a couple of photos (the weather was absolutely foul).

Record shots of the Grebe

Wildfowl had thinned out as well and with the weather no migrants seemed to be present so moved onto the beach.

In a sea watch from 8.15am to 9.30am I had the following

Sandwich Terns 52 – all heading west
Gannet – 18 the same direction
Dark Bellied Brent Geese – 79 all east – flocks of 26, 22,11,8 and 12.
Common Tern – 4 west
Black Throated Diver – 1 west
Red Breasted Mergansers – 2 Drakes west

Land based birds included up to 4 Wheatears, 2 Corn Buntings, a single Swallow and a male Sparrowhawk.
All the time I was looking for the Glaucous Gull but failed to show, I understood that it showed again later that afternoon.

Red Breasted Mergansers

Somehow I don't think the plastic Owls are working - 2 Herring Gulls asleep

Harbour Porpoises were seemingly everywhere and at times feeding very close to the shoreline.

Harbour Porpoise

Moving on I headed straight to Rye, quite obvious as I walked out that Sandwich Terns were present in numbers, up high calling and displaying, the weather unfortunately was still very overcast and drizzly, not ideal for photos.
I spent an hour or 2 at the Reserve, there must have been at least 130 odd Sandwich Terns present but there was so much coming and going to the sea it could easily have been double that number.
This proved correct as I scanned the shoreline on the sea, 2 flocks were present numbering around a 100 birds.
Also on the beach were 2 Curlew and 4 Bar Tailed Godwits, scanning the shingle ridges produced 4 Ringed Plovers.


I then decided to try and get a few flight shots of the Terns, not ideal conditions but a good chance to drive myself nuts on the challenge of the settings and getting it right.

All in all a very good morning, as someone once said,” I’ll be back” but definitely in better conditions.

Thursday 3 April 2014

Rainham RSPB

April 3rd

Spare time so I headed for the Reserve, the year list now stands at 89, hopefully today’s visit could bolster that number.

It was noticeable that there was a haze, as you know all over the news at the moment straight from the Sahara, the car this morning had a film of red dust over it so there is weight to what they’re saying it seems.

Saharan haze?

As long as it’s not camel droppings falling out of the sky it’s ok, trying to sell the car at the moment.

Arriving at the Centre I undertook the usual route – Sea Wall then on to the Reserve, one of the first birds seen as I scoped the scrape in front of the Centre was a Little Ringed Plover bombing around, I suspected probably 2 as the birds seen was displaying Moving along the sea wall and the river produced very little in the way of migrants, best bird undoubtedly went to a Yellowhammer calling flying west, always a hard bird to get at Rainham.

The Bay was pretty empty with singles of Oystercatcher, Curlew and around 30 each of Redshank and Shelduck being the highlights .

Moving into the Reserve, Reed Buntings everywhere and then got my 2nd migrant, a singing Sedge Warbler in the Dragonfly Pools, a good start, moving on it got better.

Walking past the toilets intending to scope the Target Pools for Garganey, I heard the unmistakable pinging of Bearded Tits, after a while they showed and were in fact a pair. Watched these for a while and got a couple of record shots and then scanned the Targets, heaps of wildfowl, no Garganey but 5 Pintail were seen.

Record shots of the male

Target Pools - looking good but no Garganey as yet

From here I headed for the northern boardwalk – en route I picked up a calling flyover Yellow Wagtail so definitely on a roll so pressed on. The boardwalk produced no less than 3 Sedge Warblers, someone had heard an early Reed Warbler but despite giving it a while I couldn’t hear it.
Aveley Pools held the usual wildfowl, no Greenshank or Green Sandpiper which was a couple of birds I had in mind so after giving it the once over I headed for the Woodland.

Here I nailed another migrant in the shape of a Willow Warbler, again this can be a difficult bird to get at Rainham as they never seem to stay, good numbers of Blackcap and Chiffchaff singing as well.

I bagged the last year tick as I left, 2 Great Spotted Woodpeckers nest site prospecting, they rounded up the morning nicely and I ended up on 96, still a long way to go to my best year of 160. Who knows, you can’t see where there all coming from but it’s going to be enjoyable trying to match that total or even exceed it.

Not Rainham but a London Jetty - pair of Egyptian Geese nest site prospecting