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.

Sunday, 3 April 2016


It's been a couple of months since I last posted about New Hythe Lakes. To be honest there wasn't much happening as Winter drew slowly to a close. But now things are changing and on a warmish, bright, last day of March, Spring seemed to have arrived at the lakes.
I hadn't seen a Water Vole for some time in the narrow ditches that skirt the east and west scrubs. So I was really pleased to see this very young individual feeding in the edges and showing little concern about the humans and dogs who passed by every few minutes. 

On the bird front, things are changing too with the arrival of the first Summer migrants, notably the Chiffchaffs. There have been a few on site right through the Winter but now numbers seem to have risen and the air is full of their monotonous but very welcome song. More melodious was the first Blackcap song of the year from the individual below who was singing from the area around the NW corner of Brooklands lake. Further round the lake, close to the NW corner of the sunken marsh, was where a Ring-necked Parakeet flew by me and over bucket wood. That was a surprise and although not a site tick, was only my second ever in the area. Buzzards deserve a mention too. I lost count of how many I saw that day, but a minimum of nine in the air all at once was bordering on a flock. Good to see, even without all the other individuals and pairs and trios also drifting over during the morning. 

Yesterday morning I got a text from Glenn to sat he'd just had a probable Short-eared Owl from bucket wood. This has now been confirmed by his own pics that he managed to take and is a great record for the site, especially as it came across the river and over to the sunken marsh. Am I jealous? I sure am. That's why I visited this morning in the very faint hope that it would return. Of course it didn't, it was probably just passing through. But I did manage to find my first Sedge Warbler of the year, singing intermittently right alongside the Blackcap who was also still in full voice.  

On the first of October 2015 I drove down to Dungeness to see and take some pics of the Firecrests and Goldcrests who had arrived to spend the winter here and were feeding up before dispersing into the wider countryside (including New Hythe as it happens).  On the first of April 2016, exactly six months later I went back down to Dungeness to see their return.  

I was a bit late to see them in the numbers that were there a few days earlier but I probably got to see half a dozen or so as they fed incessantly, along with a few Goldcrests.

Unfortunately the sun shine was a bit patchy and the breeze didn't help, but I was quite pleased with some of the pictures that I managed to take when they stopped for half a nano second!

Here's a Goldcrest who wasn't too shy.......

.......and here's another who was.....

.....and here's another who looked a bit odd posing on the grass.

The RSPB reserve was a bit quiet. I did spot this rather distant Gt White Egret. But apart from that it was mostly Reed Buntings really. Although just before I reached the approach to Dengemarsh hide a pair of Bearded Tits flew straight over my head. Somebody a bit sharper than me (no pun intended) might have got a quick shot of them, but my 'birds in flight' skills are notoriously poor. Must try harder.

I don't know who was more surprised when this Stoat ran across the path in front of me and disappeared into a patch of Gorse. When I tried to call it back it surprised me again by popping up behind me. Just as well I wasn't a Vole in distress or I'd have probably been lunch.

Anyway, realising he'd been duped, he left the scene double quick. 'A clean pair of heels' I think this is called.

On my way round the reserve I'd heard and seen a few Marsh Frogs. And at first I thought this was one. But it was crossing a wide track away from the water and it was walking, not hopping. Must be a Toad then..........