Thursday, 26 January 2012


On monday Alan Roman and I paid a visit to Sheppey to try and see the Lapland Buntings which have been in the news so much lately. With a bit of help from a couple of Kestrels who were hunting over the RSPB fields and a lot of help from Rob Clements (thanks again Rob), and after various false alarms involving Skylarks and Reed Buntings, we did see a flock of c.35 Laplands who swirled about for a while in the gloom before coming down just about as far away from us as they could get. Never mind, at least we saw them, who knows when we might see a flock that size again in Kent.
Other birds seen while we waited for the Buntings to put in an appearance were a pair of Peregrines, a couple of Marsh Harriers and what we were pretty sure was a covey of Grey Partridges.
Rob was going off to try and see the Rough-legged Buzzard over at Mocketts so we struck a deal whereby Alan provided a lift over in his car in exchange for Rob's local knowledge. It was a good deal even though we didn't positively ID the RLB, just a brief 'maybe' from the footpath near Mocketts Farm. What we did see though were very good views of at least two female Hen Harriers, a Common Buzzard, and a couple more Marsh Harriers. In the bushes further down the path we found thirty or more Corn Buntings and in the middle distance we watched a couple of small flocks of geese touch down which turned out to be White Fronts. All in all a nice visit despite the cold, gloomy conditions which once again denied me any pictures.

I didn't really intend going out today, it just happened really. One minute I was watching the non stop activity around the garden, fruitlessly hoping for a Coal Tit or Lesser Redpoll and the next I was striding out of Brooklands car park. It wasn't quite like that but you know what I mean.

At the river, the tide was out and hardly anybody was in, although a Kingfisher, a single Redshank, a Little Grebe, several Teal and a couple of Gadwalls did make it worthwhile. From the mound I watched the mechanical diggers scraping away, half hidden at the side of the sunken marsh and noticed that the pumping had now stopped. Maybe the pipe has been repaired and the diggers were just reinstating. I couldn't see anybody to ask but I hope that's the case.

While on the mound I watched a troupe of Long-tailed Tits foraging for goodness knows what among the bare branches and undergrowth. Once again my limited abilities with a camera were severely tested in the semi darkness. The effort above, dissected as usual with a couple of twigs, was courtesy of an outrageously high ISO number, so high as to be completely new territory for me.

Two Goldcrests were hanging out with the LT Tits and I did at least manage to record the occasion. Their inability to stay still for more than a nano second and all my other usual excuses apply to the effort above and the one below.

It's such a lovely little bird, with its stunning gold crest and it's on nearly everybody's favourites list, so somebody tell it to cheer up!
There were at least 115 Coots on Abbey Mead today. I couldn't see all the lake and there must have been a lot more lurking in the reeds. They were in the company of a couple of Shovelers, noticeable by their absence this year I think, a few Gadwalls, Pochards, Gt Crested Grebes and of course lots of Tufties. Good to see such a lot of activity here.

I bumped into a fellow birder near the Railway lake who told me he'd just seen a Firecrest down the millstream path. I couldn't find it but hopefully it will stick around for a while. While I searched, another birder arrived who turned out to be Mike Hook who has commented on my blog quite a few times. Good to meet you at last Mike. We headed off together to relocate the Goosander which i'd seen earlier, still in residence on the Streamside lake. As we set off I heard a Chiffchaff calling from the other side of the stream, we located it but by now it was raining quite hard and photos weren't an option. The Goosander was found eventually and Mike got his hoped for shots, it was, as usual though, out of range of my 70-300mm lens. Time I added something with a bit more reach to my wish list I think.


Marc Heath said...

A nice account and like the Goldcrest shots, they are a real pain to photograph. Must have been a very nice sight seeing that many Lapland Bunts.

Warren Baker said...

All those Coots, and I get excited about one here! :-)

All those duck species too, i'm well envious Phil, as for your photo's you did well enough in that light. If you get a bigger lens phil dont get one too big, they are a pain to hand hold, I find 400mm is about right :-)

ShySongbird said...

Sounds like two very good days out Phil with lots of interest. I think you got some very good photos. My lens is only 50-250mm. I do have a longer one but it just never goes anywhere as it is much too heavy to hand hold and I don't fancy carting a tripod around. I would be so thrilled if they could come up with one that is long but light, the manufacturers don't seem to consider women who don't have large muscles might want to use a long lens :-( it is a huge gripe for me, you should never have got me started :-)

I love the Goldcrest photos especially the second one and you are so right, they always looks terribly grumpy!!

Greenie said...

Phil ,
And there was me thinking you'd popped over to see Santa .
Sounds like a great day on Sheppey , and great to have some local knowledge to help .
Never seen a Lapland Bunting myself . Might have to give it a try .

Bob Bushell said...

Good news to have the Goldcrests near to you, even when you're trying the photograph them, and it is well done, superb.

Mike H said...

Glad to put a face to the name at last today and thanks for showing me round part of your patch. The goldcrest photos have come out quite well they do not like to keep still for long. I managed to see a pair of Bullfinch in the bottom corner of Abbey Mead next to the railway crossing but they didn't hang around for pics.

Redgannet said...

Hi Phil,
I am still hoping to bump into you at New Hythe. I missed you again today, but to keep you in the loop, the Bittern showed in the normal place.
There are some pictures at

Alan Pavey said...

Great account Phil, glad you found some Laplands and some good raptors too. Like the top Goldcrest pic especially :-)

Jason K said...

Sounds like you had a good day out at Sheppy Phil...sounds an interesting place.

I would settle for distant views of Laplands as they would be a lifer for me

Chris said...

Well done Phil on the Lapland. IĆ°ll sign for it over here as it is also rare. We have some flocks time to time but I never managed to see it... Your goldcrest shots are beautiful. I've tried here this winter but the light was too abd ;-)