Weirwood and Bough Beech Reservoirs ... Wednesday 28th July 2010

An early morning start at Weirwood Reservoir in East Sussex produced 7 Green Sandpipers, 4 Common Sandpipers, 5 Common Terns, 18 Mandarins, a Common Buzzard that perched in trees in the west end car park on two occasions, a female Blackcap, 2 Nuthatches and a distant Kingfisher all at the west end of the reservoir. At the dam end, 2 Goldcrests were in the car park and at the reservoir, a Yellowhammer was heard and two House Martins and a Swallow were over the reservoir.

Weirwood Reservoir

(VIDEO) GREY HERON with large Bream which it did managed to swallow! (Paul)

Female MANDARIN (Graham)



Mid-morning we headed to Bough Beech Reservoir in West Kent. This site was pretty quiet too with just one Green Sandpiper and one Common Sandpiper, 8 Common Terns, a Shelduck with 6 well-grown young, around 20 House Martins very high over the main reservoir, a Swallow, a Kingfisher and a Nuthatch near the Oast House, a Willow Warbler and a Mistle Thrush, 4 Common Whitethroats and 6 Egyptian Geese on the North lake. A white deer (presumably a Fallow) was on the bank of the main reservoir.

We then headed back to our local patch at Holmethorpe Sand Pits in Surrey and, being early afternoon, it was as quiet as we had expected with just a juvenile Shelduck, a Hobby and a single Green Sandpiper of note.

Paul & Graham

(Apologies for the even poorer quailty of my photos today. I had somehow set my camera to take photos at 1mp instead of 10mp!!!) Graham

Holmethorpe Sand Pits, Surrey … 26th & 27th July 2010

Early on Monday the 26th, I found a Dunlin at one of the pits at Holmethorpe. It appeared to be an adult moulting out of summer plumage, as can be seen in Paul's photo below.
Two Green Sandpipers and a Common Sandpiper were also present and a Common Tern flew over.

Monday's adult DUNLIN (Paul)

Early today, Tuesday the 27th, I found what I first thought was the same Dunlin at the same pits as yesterday but, on closer scrutiny, it turned out that this bird was a juvenile, showing the white bands on the mantle. It did a disappearing trick on me and, by the time Paul had joined me, the bird was nowhere to be seen. Hopefully someone else will relocate it later today.

Tuesday's juvenile DUNLIN (Graham)

The supporting cast today included four Green Sandpipers, two Common Sandpipers, one of which appeared to be a juvenile with barring on the wing-coverts and with exceptionally dark plumage for a Common Sand, looking more like a Green Sandpiper at a distance. Also present was a Common Tern.



It is pretty obvious that waders are on the move and hopefully the run of birds passing through Holmethorpe will continue. A Wood Sandpiper would be rather nice ………….

Graham & Paul

Holmethorpe Sand Pits, Surrey ... 21st - 23rd July 2010

There were signs of wader movement locally this week.

On Wednesday the 21st, I received a call from local birder Matt Farmer in the early afternoon to say that he had found a Greenshank at one of the pits at Holmethorpe. As he was birding during his lunch break, he couldn't hang about so I headed for the pits to add this species to my local year list. Living in a land-locked county means that even common waders are scarce locally.
When I arrived, Matt had already left but, fortunately, the Greenshank was still present, feeding around a sand spit.



Then, during the following evening, Thursday the 22nd, a phone call came from local birder Neil Randon (of Randon's Ramblings blog fame) to say he had found another wader with a reddish breast. Neil is fairly new to birding but has already proved to be a very capable birder with a very respectable Surrey list for the year.

Neil wasn't 100% certain of the bird's identity but, from his description, it sounded good for a godwit.

I headed for the pits again and Neil was still present watching the bird. Sure enough, it was a Black-tailed Godwit being only the fifth record of this species at Holmethorpe.

I returned the following morning and the godwit was still present, feeding in exactly the same spot as the previous evening and in the same place that the Greenshank had been earlier in the week. This time I was joined by Paul and we managed a few digiscoped shots of the bird.




I emailed the other local birders and both Matt Farmer and Kevin Guest (from Beddington SF) turned up around mid-day, but the bird was nowhere to be seen by then.

Holmethorpe is usually better in the spring for wader passage but, hopefully, this autumn will see a few more birds turn up.


North Kent Marshes ... Tuesday 20th July 2010

We arrived at Oare Marshes just after 6 a.m. and spent the morning there. It turned out to be a hot and humid morning with hardly any breeze at all. The Swale estuary was like a mirror - not a ripple to be seen. We arrived two hours before high tide and by the time we left it was nearly low tide.

A Spoonbill appeared on the East Flood mid-morning and there were also at least 33 Little Egrets present.






A few of the LITTLE EGRETS present (Graham)


Two Greenshanks, 4 Ruffs, a Green Sandpiper, 10 Avocets, 1 Common Snipe, 3 Dunlin, 30+ Redshanks, 2 Whimbrel and around 350 Black-tailed Godwits were also present on the reserve and at least two Marsh Harriers were in the area, a male and a female. Six Teal were also on the East Flood.





AVOCET (Graham)




RUFF (Paul)

A Peregrine was perched on a distant pylon to the east of Oare Creek and what we believe was a second-year Mediterranean Gull was amongst the Black-headed Gulls on the East Flood.

Distant PEREGRINE (Graham)


Along The Swale, there were 6+ Common Terns, at least 10 Curlews, 10+ Oystercatchers and 100+ Redshanks. A Sandwich Tern was on the mud beside Oare Creek. Six Sand Martins flew east and 5 Bearded Tits were in the reedbed near the seawatching hide. Two Yellow Wagtails were along the seawall by The Swale. A Cetti’s Warbler was heard but remained hidden, as they do. At Uplees, Paul saw a Turtle Dove at the copse.


Although we cannot be certain, at the edge of the mud by The Swale at Uplees, we found what we believe to be Otter footprints. They were far too large to be those of a Mink.

Otter prints?

We then headed for Little Murston, a few miles west along The Swale. A few Common Terns, that appeared to be bringing food from The Swale to young on the pits behind the seawall, a few more Curlews and Little Egrets, a female Pochard and two broods of Tufted Ducks on the pits and a female Marsh Harrier, but not much else was present, as the tide was really low by now. Another singing Cetti’s Warbler eluded us as we returned to the car to head home.

Paul & Graham

Purple Heron success .... Monday 19th July 2010

Great news has broken that the Purple Herons at RSPB Dungeness have bred successfully.

On the RX Wildlife website, the RSPB have stated:

"The Purple Heron chicks were seen for the first time over the weekend. It is not possible to say how many are present but it appeared to be at least two individuals. We are expecting the oldest chicks to fledge shortly."

White-tailed Plover ... Wednesday 14th July 2010

Paul couldn't hold out any longer and he phoned me last night to arrange a trip to Dungeness today .. we had to add the White-tailed Plover/Lapwing to our life lists.

We set off at 5.15 a.m. and arrived at the Hanson-ARC Pit precisely one hour later. Two birders were already present at the viewing screen and kindly pointed out the plover, which was showing well but somewhat distantly.
To begin with, it was overcast but after 30 minutes or so, the skies cleared and viewing and digiscoping became a little more difficult.





One of the birders present pointed out a female Garganey not far from the plover and three Green Sandpipers were also nearby.

After having our fill of the plover, we headed for the 'Patch' for a seawatch. By now a decent onshore wind was blowing and we were expecting some decent birds to be on the move. On arrival, we met up with Steve Gale, who is staying at the Observatory this week.

Gulls at the Patch

The Patch was covered in gulls, with a good number being Mediterranean Gulls (many of which were juveniles - 73 birds were reported as being present) and at least one Little Gull was present. Apart from a few distant Gannets, several Common Terns and three or so Sandwich Terns, nothing much else was noted.
We bid our farewells to Steve and headed on past the power station where we found three Wheatears. On our return walk, we located one female Black Redstart that conveniently perched on the roof of the concrete hide on the beach.



Decision time -should we traipse around the trapping area or head for the RSPB reserve? We decided on the latter and, on our way, we spotted a Little Egret in flight at the Hanson-ARC Pit.

We saw at least two (maybe three) Hobbies at the reserve and three adult Mediterranean Gulls were roosting with other gulls not far from the car park. Three Marsh Harriers were quartering around the Dengemarsh/Hookers Pit area and several Cetti's Warblers were heard and one seen briefly but the reserve proved remarkably quiet, but it is July, so we couldn't expect it to be alive with birds yet.


We spent some time at the viewing ramp and at the Dengemarsh Hide in the hope of seeing the Purple Herons, Bitterns or the Great White Egret that had been present yesterday, but we had no luck with any of them.

On leaving the reserve, we stopped by the entrance at Boulderwall Farm and saw seven Tree Sparrows, always a welcomed sight.

We ended our visit with a drive round to Dengemarsh Road where we joined several other birders waiting to see the Purple Herons, but they didn't show. As far as we could make out, they hadn't been seen today up to the time we left.

A few Yellow Wagtails were flying low across the field by the road.

Paul & Graham

Tern ID results:

There have been just four votes on the poll as to the identification of the tern in the previous post but I have also received five emails with opinions.

The results are:

Common Tern 3 votes
Arctic Tern 2 votes
Roseate Tern 4 votes

The emails have been widely differing in opinion and reasoning:

"Definitely Roseate, no other tern has a bill like that"

"..the long thin legs and black bill with red base make this a Roseate Tern."

"100% sure that this is a Common Tern, upperparts are the right shade of grey and I have often come across Common Terns with black bills."

"Common Tern in my opinion. Cannot be anything else."

" The bird is an Arctic Tern, saw some a couple of weeks back on the Farne Islands."

I will pull the plug on the voting (earlier than intended) as it seems that we are getting no nearer to nailing this bird's true identity.

Tern ID needed

The bird in the photo below was seen at Rye Harbour LNR in East Sussex on Tuesday 22nd June 2010. Please click on the image for a larger view. (The second photo being a heavily-cropped version of the first.)

It was seen from the Denney Hide and stood out from the many Common Terns present.
Paul managed to get the photo above.

It tended to keep away from the rest of the terns and appeared to have a dark bill with maybe a trace of red at the base. The bill seemed to be slightly thinner than on Common Tern and the bird appeared slightly lighter-built than the rest of the Commons present.
To me, the legs appeared too long for it to have been an Arctic Tern (and I wouldn't have expected to see an Arctic along the south coast towards the end of June) and, although the photo does not really show it, as the bird was at distance and seen through a slight heat haze, the legs were a slightly-orangey red. Neither did it show the 'white cheeked' appearance of an Arctic Tern.
To me, the upperparts seemed a shade too dark for Roseate Tern but, as the bird always seemed to be facing us at the same angle, we never got a good side-on view to judge this colouration or its tail-length properly.
Although from the cropped photo, I believe that I can make out the wing and tail lengths, but I may be wrong.

All the terns occasionally took off and landed again and this bird was easily picked out from the others at rest on each occasion. always landing in a position away from the other terns. Unfortunately, we did not, however, manage to pick it out in flight amongst the many Common Terns.
As a Roseate Tern has been seen on and off at Rye recently, including today (4th July), I am leaning towards this being a Roseate. Others have suggested it is just a Common Tern and one has suggested it is an Arctic Tern.

Your comments and opinion on this bird would be most welcomed. I don't mind at all if you shoot me down in flames over this bird, I would just like to know what it is.