Holmethorpe Sand Pits, Surrey ... Tuesday 25th May 2010

A visit to our local patch this morning proved to be more productive than expected. It was much cooler than yesterday with a brisk NE blowing.
There were plenty of warblers about, with five Blackcaps, six Chiffchaffs, six Common Whitethroats and a Willow Warbler all in full song.


On one of the pits, seven Egyptian Geese were gathered on the bank and around the small reedbed, four Reed Warblers were pumping out their song, with another heard at one of the other pits. A Lapwing flew over, as did a Cuckoo, calling as it went, and a Common Sandpiper flew around the water’s edge with possibly another landing behind an island.
On the farm fields, eighty-one Greylag Geese and twelve Canada Geese were feeding as a Skylark flew overhead in song-flight. A few Sand Martins were over the pits as were about twenty Swifts.
As we wandered towards Mercers Lake, Paul noticed a raptor being mobbed over the North Downs in the distance – a Red Kite, whilst two Common Buzzards were soaring over the ridge to the south of the local patch.
At another area of the Holmethorpe Sand Pits complex, a sub-adult Hobby was perched on a fence post, occasionally putting on an aerobatic display as it hunted insects.

HOBBY (Paul)

HOBBY (Graham)

The final notable bird of the day was a Common Tern that alighted on a pump on one of the pits, remaining there for some time.


Showers are forecast for tomorrow, so expectations are high that something out of the ordinary may drop in.

Paul & Graham

Dungeness & Rye Harbour ... Tuesday 18th May 2010

Gordon and I took a trip to Dungeness and Rye Harbour today and it turned out to be well worth the effort.
Starting out from home at 5 a.m., we avoided the worst of the traffic and were soon up at the Patch at Dungeness for a seawatch.
In the distance, about 15 Gannets were cruising back and forth, occasionally diving for fish, whilst one Little Tern, 3 Sandwich Terns, around 80 Common Terns and 3 Arctic Terns were closer to the shore. Two Fulmars were present and a winter-plumaged Guillemot was on the sea whilst a first-year Kittiwake was on the beach with some Common Terns. Eighteen Common Scoters headed east in two groups.


We were soon joined by Dave Walker, the Dungeness Bird Observatory warden, and we soon picked out 2 Red-throated Divers in the distance on the water and Dave located 3 Shelducks heading east. Six Oystercatchers also passed by. The bright, clear conditions were soon transformed when a thick mist rolled in off the sea. Several Porpoises were feeding in the area.


A pair of Black Redstarts were at the power station and possibly a second pair were near the observatory. Five Wheatears were noted around the estate and a Hare, a Skylark and 2 Red-legged Partridges were on the beach not far from the fishing boats.


Heading on to the RSPB reserve, where the mist had not reached, 4 Red-legged Partridges were by the access track. Burrowes Pit was very quiet with little of note, the water level being very high at present, but a Cuckoo was heard calling in that area. A very smart Wood Sandpiper was on the partially flooded field by Christmas Dell.


At Christmas Dell hide we hit the jackpot when Gordon spotted the Purple Heron in flight. It landed in a reeded area at the back of the pit and remained elusive for some time. Eventually it appeared in a clearing and eventually flew passed us. Distant views, but good enough to see all the features for a possitive ID.


At Dengemarsh Hide, a male Marsh Harrier was patrolling and we later saw a female. A pair of Common Terns were on one of the rafts, the male having caught a Rudd that was obviously too large. He tried presenting it to the female, who refused it, so he endeavoured to swallow it himself. This took some time and he eventually manged to devour it, but not without some obvious discomfort. A Black-tailed Godwit and a few Oystercatchers were present in this area.


Cetti's Warblers were calling all around the reserve and we counted at least nine birds and got views of two of them.
By Hookers Pit, a Lesser Whitethroat gave its rattling song and at the viewing ramp, 2 Bearded Tits gave brief views whilst 2 Hobbies were circling overhead.
Near the return trail, a Tree Sparrow was feeding on the ground and 2 Mediterranean Gulls flew over calling.



We returned to the car and headed for the Hanson-ARC Pit. A Little Egret was by one of the pools near Boulderwall Farm. The Hanson-ARC Pit proved to be very quite, with little on show so we decided to head for Rye Harbour reserve.

Rye Harbour proved worthwhile, although visbility was poor with mist shrouding the area.
Around 10 Avocets, many Oystercatchers (probably reaching three figures), 10 plus Redshanks, 5 Turnstones, around 20 Mediterranean Gulls, 30 plus Ringed Plovers, 53 Dunlin, 2 male Wheatears, about 50 Common Terns, 3 Little Terns, 40 Sandwich Terns, 9 Black-tailed Godwits, 15 Bar-tailed Godwits, 3 Sanderling, 4 Whimbrel, 3 Grey Plover, 1 Knot, a male Shoveler and 2 Cuckoos were all on show.


Gordon & Graham

Oare Marshes NR, Kent .... Mon 17th May 2010

We arrived at Oare Marshes Nature Reserve on the North Kent Marshes at about 7 a.m. Target birds for today being Turtle Dove, Garganey (which Paul needs for his year list) and Nightingale.

After parking the car, the first bird we saw was a male Marsh Harrier over the East Flood, this bird appeared on and off throughout the day and a female was seen distantly over Sheppey later on.

Two Cuckoos were noted, one calling near the paddocks and another seen and heard past Dan's Dock. A few Oystercatchers, a single Curlew, twelve Avocets, a few Lapwings and well over one hundred Black-tailed Godwits were all the wader species we could find.

AVOCETS (Graham)

A Lesser Whitethroat rattled out its song at the paddocks near the cottages but it took some time to get a glimpse of it. At least three Cetti's Warblers were heard but none were seen.


At least six Little Egrets were seen and, at about 8 a.m., as we were heading for the West Flood, an egret flew past us heading west and quite low. A broad-based pale yellow bill, long legs with no yellow on feet and obviously larger and with slower wing-beats than a Little Egret ... a Great White Egret!


At the reedbed at the East Flood, five Bearded Tits were a treat to see. Two Common Terns were also at the East Flood with another six noted along the Swale. Only about six Yellow Wagtails were seen along with several Meadow Pipits.


Two adult Mediterranean Gulls flew over the sea wall and out over the Swale and the final bird of note was a Hobby that flew low over the East Flood heading west.

All in all, a very good day's birding, despite the changeable weather today that started chilly and breezy, changed to sunny, calm and warm, then to heavy showers accompanied by claps of thunder and then ended with sunshine but threatening clouds in the distance.

Although we failed to connect with any of our target birds, seeing the Great White Egret made up for that.

Paul & Graham

More shots of the Red-necked Phalarope at RSPB Elmley ... Thursday 13th May 2010



Red-necked Phalarope ... Thursday 13th May 2010

Today, we visited RSPB Elmley Marshes on the Isle of Sheppey in North Kent on yet another mission - the intention being to add Spoonbill and Red-necked Phalarope to our year lists, both species reported to be present yesterday.
Setting off at 6 a.m., we arrived at Elmley at about 7 a.m. and headed along the access track that crosses Elmley Estate towards the RSPB car park. Many Lapwings, some with chicks, were beside the track and a few Yellow Wagtails, although not as many as have been seen in past years, Redshanks, Oystercatchers and a Black-tailed Godwit.
Once at the reserve, we passed Kingshill Farm and headed down the track to walk the mile and a quarter to the Wellmarsh Hide (the first hide on the reserve).

A Barn Owl was still quartering the ground near the sea wall by The Swale. We watched it for some time before it headed back past us and landed on a gate post.


A Corn Bunting was perched on a low bush and was singing its jangly song. Good numbers of Sedge Warblers, Reed Warblers and Reed Buntings were present and all showing very well.


A Mediterranean Gull flew high over our heads calling as it went, which was what alerted us to it. This was the first of nine summer-plumaged adults seen.
Several Pochards, Teal and Gadwall were present plus a single male Wigeon.

On arriving at the Wellmarsh Hide, another birder was already present and soon put us on to the female Red-necked Phalarope but it was very distant and the low sunlight gave poor views. After a long stay at the hide, hoping the bird would oblige and swim closer, many more birders arrived and so we decided to head on to the South Fleet Hide and return later in the day to get better views of the bird.
Fifty plus Avocets were present at South Fleet and four Common Buzzards spiralled together in the distance. Two more Black-tailed Godwits were feeding distantly, as were a couple of Curlews.
At least nine Little Egrets were around the reserve and, in addition to the buzzards, raptors were represented by at least five Marsh Harriers and two Kestrels.

It was not that long before many of the birders that were in the Wellmarsh Hide joined us at the South Fleet Hide and so we decided that this would be a good time to return to the first hide.
On our return, the Red-necked Phalarope had move a bit nearer and eventually swam very close to the hide. Paul managed to get some good shots of it now the light conditions had improved.


Satisfied that we had completed part of our quest, we started back to the car park. Four Common Terns were present and two partridges were heard but not seen. Were they Greys or Red-leggeds? We were not sure but both of us still need Grey Partridge for our year lists - frustrating!
A Wheatear suddenly appeared on top of some mounds of earth and, back at the car park, we scanned the marsh for a last time and picked out a Whimbrel.


Two Swallows were perched on wires by the farm but the return trip back along the access track failed to produce much more in the way of birds.

No sign of the Spoonbills today, but I guess you can't have it all.

Paul & Graham

Red-rumped Swallows and more … Tuesday 11th May 2010

Paul and I decided that we really shouldn’t miss out on the Red-rumped Swallows at Arlington Reservoir in East Sussex so we set off in pursuit at 6 a.m. this morning.

Arriving at the reservoir at about 7 a.m., the first bird we noted was a Cuckoo, silently flying by.
We soon bumped into another birder who was just leaving and we were pleased to hear that two Red-rumped Swallows were present and showing nicely.
Not long after, we were on to them and they gave amazingly close views as they skimmed low along the concrete skirt of the dam. Occasionally one would perch briefly on the barbed wire of the fence by the path. A year tick for Paul and a life tick for me. Mission accomplished.
We were soon joined by several other birders and, as far as we know, everyone present got good close views of the birds.









We stayed for about 3 hours before deciding to head for Seaford to watch the Kittiwake colony. What a spectacular sight.

KITTIWAKE colony (Graham)

KITTIWAKE colony (Graham)




I have no idea of how many Kittiwakes were present but it was well in excess of 200 birds and could well have been double that figure. The cliffs had row upon row of nesting birds.
All was tranquil until a Peregrine decided to perch high on the cliff face nearby and this sent the Kittiwakes into a temporary panic. Eventually peace was restored until the Peregrine decided it was time to move on and the Kittiwakes went into a frenzy again.




A Rock Pipit sang from the cliff above us and a single Fulmar was seen cruising the cliff top.

After a good spell watching the Kittiwakes we headed on to RSPB Pulborough Brooks reserve.
A report of a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker drumming near the car park was too good to ignore, but we failed to locate it.
Apart from two Pintails, seven Wigeon, four Teal and five Little Egrets, little of note was on show.


After the Red-rumped Swallows, we were not too worried though.

Graham & Paul