30 Mar 2010

Yesterday a visit to Sheppey overcast and damp a few wigeon and Teal about, one Marsh Harrier at distance, a few Egret a couple of Heron one Dabchick lots of Coot, Lapwing till now well below expectations, couple of Skylark and a lone Redshank. To summarise should have stayed in bed. Took the shots below just for something to do.

A very wet RSPB ELMLEY

16 Mar 2010

A nice sunny day which has been a rarity for some time although the wind was a bit cutting. My day started at 10pm and took me to Leysdown and produced the Sanderling and Turnstone pics, then on to Harty, no luck this week with the Barn Owl pictured earlier, five Marsh Harrier were in evidence and two seemed to be displaying a few Mallard about and seemed to be paired off, Reed Buntings were about, not much else. On to RSPB ELMLEY turned off the main road and just by the farm two crows were harrassing a Marsh Harrier the Curlew was very obliging in my pic's below, there were a great many scattered over the reserve, lapwing were in evidence but well down on previous years, still a hell of a lot of surface water everywhere but there were a few Lapwing who entertained me with some spectacular stunt flying and trying to impress the females. I arrived at the Wellmarsh hide there were hudreds of waders but they were not on the scrape in front of the hide but much further over and the reason for this was that there were no islands evident in front of the hide save a couple of high spots, the water level is such as I have never before seen, so the birds moved further out on the marsh. see picture below. I do hope that this situation improves before the arrival of the Godwits and the Avocets. Good Birding Dave.

From Wellmarsh Hide, Elmley

Taken from the hide, this shot starts beyond the far bank of Wellmarsh and this water is about 100yds further on, not even the scope could identify the occupants.


A few pictures of one of my favourite birds.






Last feed before the tide takes over.


These delightful little birds were take at Leysdown, just as the tide which was flooding robbed them of their feeding area.


This bird has established an area for himself and has a mate and is ready to breed. Taken at rspb Elmley, Kent

Carrion Crow

I think this lad took umbridge at being photographed when crowing rather loudly at me I think he was trying to tell me to go away, or words very similar.

Carrion Crow

This crow I think has had to much contact with the waders!


This Egret is having a rest after a mornings feeding.

10 Mar 2010


Today was memorable for two reasons, firstly when at Leysdowne about 10 of the clock I have never experienced such extreme windchill, care of a North Easterly wind which, I always called a lazy wind, meaning that it would sooner go through you than round you, and secondly and more pleasurable was the bird encounters as you can see by the pictures below, I have hardly been out since before Christmas and if I did it was for essentials, I prefer to leave the Arctic conditions to you fit and healthy young guys. . . This being the first serious attempt at photography, and exposure to the elements, I was amazed at the birdlife I had access to, the Barn Owl was the result of my second visit of the day to Harty, the owl was resting on a post close to the Raptor Viewpoint, after a few shots he took off and alighted on a post only twenty yards away, I sneaked up on him a little clumsily but he humoured me and allowed a few more shots, most obliging I thought! . . Next I visited Elmley only driving as far as the farm, there is a great deal of surface water which seem to favour the coots for they seem to be everywhere. . A quick breakdown of the day. Leysdowne Dunlin 30+ Turnstone 60+ Gulls Loads Curlew 6 Harty Barn Owl Mute Swans 50 no whooper or bewicks Marsh Harrier 2 Fieldfare 30+ Egret 1 . Finally RSPB Elmley Curlew 50+ Wigeon not seen but heard. Lapwing does not seem as many as this time last year LBG's 5 little brown job's


Driving from the farm to the main road at Elmley I spotted this little chap huddled against the bank in the lee of a bitterly cold wind, I have not seen a snipe for a couple of years and never one this close.
Taken from the car, passenger window open.






BARN OWL in retreat

Still retreating

Black Headed Gull


Lots of these at Leysdowne.


Possible stint perhaps?
Lots of these at Elmley.


This and quite a few birds were in evidence at RSPB Elmley


A nicely turned out lapwing all ready and bedecked ready for entertaining the ladies.

8 Mar 2010


An interesting article on the Kites demise in 1939 and a year before I was born. In view of the misleading state­ments ... it is thought desirable to issue a statement of the facts concerning the Kite in the British Isles. . . . Two pro­fessional egg and skin dealers began to work South Wales systematically in 1893, and between that date and 1903 usually took from two to three clutches annually ... in 1905 only five birds were known to exist. Professional egg-taking ceased. ... At the same time, as recently as 1920, no fewer than four adults were sent to Aberystwyth alone for preser­vation. ... A search through the sale catalogues for forty years past has only resulted in tracing 28 British Kites' eggs . .. only 12 of which are of Welsh origin. In 13 cases I have been able to ascertain the prices realised, which work out at about six shillings per egg! "At the present time one of the greatest dangers to the Kite is the inflated idea as to the value of its eggs current in Wales. ... In addition to this, the Welsh Kites are a some­what decadent race. The infertility of their eggs, a tendency to desert the nest and inability to hold their own against hordes of Carrion Crows, are all dangerous and disquieting signs . . . the egg collector is blamed for what, after all, is really the work of the gamekeeper."—The late Rev. F. C. R. Jourdain, The Truth About the Kite (pamphlet), 1932. "In all, six pairs were traced, five of these located as carrying to a nest. . . . No. 1.—Was definitely a young pair which carried to first one site and then another within a mile, but did not settle down . . . the pair were much disturbed by the odd freak cock, known by his conspicuous white feathers, who fought with the cock of the pair continuously. No. 2.— This pair . . . successfully reared one young bird. An attempt was made to approach this nest at dusk; this was prevented by the prompt action of the watcher and a near by farmer. No. 3.—In a spell of very hot weather, crows were attracted to the site by the increased food brought in, attacked the nest and the young were destroyed. No. .4 This pair ... we could not trace. ... I believe this to a pair which raised the two young seen in July in an area further North. No. 5.— . . . the tree was definitely climbed before night and day watchers were put on. . . . this nest was lost through the 'freak cock' fighting with the cock of the pair. There was continuous fighting for two days . . . The cock of the pair was badly injured if not killed. It did not return to the nest with food and after twenty-four hours the hen left altogether. No. 6.—This pair was seen . . , early in March, but nest was not found."—From the Report of Kite Preservation Fund, Bwlch, 1939.

5 Mar 2010

More on Bird Migration

Now let us have something to say about methods of studying bird migration, although I do not wish to use the term "studying" in the sense of regimented bird study by bureaucratic, but by scientific and democratic, organisation. Ordinary casual watching by the week-end visitor to bird haunts provides the bulk of those "records" which not only fascinate the bird-watcher but have contributed much valuable information to the study of bird migration, and many field-reports for the surveys organised by some of the scornful critics of amateur ornithologists. Perhaps it is the element of surprise as to what may turn up next which gives bird migration such a wide appeal. In my particular area the arrival on local waters of the wild duck is of an endless interest. Pochard and Tufted Duck, the two commonest divers, first appear in August, probably coming from British nesting haunts. They are followed by Teal, Shoveller and Scoter in September, the fishing Mergansers reach the estuary, and a few Pintail come to the lakes and estuaries in October. Wigeon, Scaup and Goldeneye appear in Novem¬ber along the marine lakes when the holiday crowds have gone home from the seaside. In December there is a large immigration of Mallard, presumably from North Europe where the cold weather is setting in for the winter. Many Mallard visit the sea off the Lancashire coast by day—and then in January one usually sees a few red-headed young Smews on lake or mere. One day early in October I was astonished at the numbers of Black Duck, or Scoter, I could see in Liverpool Bay. For at least a couple of miles a great raft of these sea duck extended over the choppy waves. There must have been many thousands of birds there, and another raft of some ten thousand duck extended over the Formby Channel when I moved farther up the Lancashire coast. Possibly a strong westerly wind blowing at the time held up their usual September migration through the Irish Sea. On another occasion, during a very severe frost, it was vividly impressed upon me that plovers must travel far in search of the open marshes of the coast, for on the coastal plain two enormous flocks of Lapwings momentarily joined together until the sky was full of their broad, flapping, almost black and white wings. I estimated ten thousand Lapwings there, and I watched to see if their wailing cries were part of a rivalry between the two flocks over such useful feeding ground, but shortly afterwards the flocks broke up again and departed. For several successive winters I used to watch a white Oyster-Catcher in the Dee Estuary, and as white Oyster-Catchers are not, by any means, common, this was probably the same bird returning each year to the same winter haunts at Hilbre Island. Merely to watch and note the names of birds misses half the fun in bird watching. Once you have learned to know birds, a closer scrutiny will sometimes reveal one of the Continental races that can be distinguished by sight, like the larger, more highly-coloured Greenland Wheatear, the paler Continental Song Thrush, the white-headed Northern Long-tailed Tit, or Continental forms of Goldfinch, Bullfinch and Great Tit with their brighter colours. Perhaps a Greater Spotted Woodpecker whose whiteness is clear white, not the dirty white of our native bird, will be the Northern or Con¬tinental form? In the Eastern counties such -differences are most often seen, but there is always interest in looking twice at even the commonest bird. I have seen the members of a field club on one of their afternoon walks dismiss a party of White Wagtails under the illusion that they were Pied Wag¬tails ; often a flock of Yellow Wagtails on spring migration will repay closer attention by the discovery that they include one or two of the blue-headed form. We hardly ever see the shore in winter without its noisy mob of Herring-Gulls: but are we sure they are all Herring-Gulls, and that there is not one without the black tips to its wings? And then by the wing tips extending to or beyond the tail we can deter¬mine if the visitor is a Glaucous Gull or less frequently an Icelander. When great flocks of Golden Plover foregather in April before their homeward migrations, the Northern race can be determined on sight by the enormous extent of black edged with white on the cock bird's underparts. The bird-watcher will look twice at the legs of a Ringed Plover to make sure it is not a Kentish Plover, and so on. He who has learned to look at small details will notice the seasonal changes of plumage, and sex and age his birds by such means. He will see minor changes such as the Oyster-Catcher's white neck-band in winter, and the cock Fieldfare's yellower bill in May; he will notice how many of the roving party of Long-tailed Tits wear the brown tints of juvenile days. But when bird-watching is organised at suitable places at the same time, it is possible to learn how extensive is a migration, like that of Tern passing inland in May. This avoids the danger of making generalisations from casual and local records. Places of equal migration dates can then be linked on a map by lines called migrant isophenes. Thus we see how the spring migrants invade progressively the South-West, the West, and the South, and later the Midlands and the North-East of Britain, keeping close to the spread of spring weather, while the autumn arrival of the Fieldfare is almost the reverse, starting with North-East Scotland. Such migration maps can be compared very easily with the physical conditions and the weather which influence the invasion. Prehistoric migration routes may be located from prehistoric bird remains unearthed in places which may not always coincide with their present range. An ornithologist who is also an archaeologist told me that by this means, remains of the Lesser White-fronted Goose in Sweden indicated that' this scarce British visitor had changed its nesting range in modern times.