Elmley Marshes, Sheppey, Kent .... Friday 20th August 2010

A visit to RSPB Elmley Marshes today produced two additions to my year list - Little Stint and Bar-tailed Godwit.
I arrived at 6.30 a.m. and stayed until 2.15 p.m.

The best of the birds seen there today were as follows:

One juvenile Little Stint seen from both the Southfleet Hide and the Wellmarsh Hide (probably the same bird), 7 Green Sandpipers, one Wheatear, 5 Common Snipe, 3 Marsh Harriers, at least 12 Yellow Wagtails, 5 Common Sandpipers, 120+ Ringed Plovers, 75+ Curlews, 2 Golden Plovers, 2 Bar-tailed Godwits, at least 12 Black-tailed Godwits, 5 Ruff, 55+ Avocets and 2 Whinchats.











Dungeness ... Monday 16th August 2010

A visit to Dungeness proved to be the right decision, with plenty of good birds present.

Heading first towards The Patch, the power station proved productive with at least 12 Willow Warblers, a Whinchat, 2 Black Redstarts, a Common Whitethroat and 2 Wheatears present and, perched on the building, there were 2 Peregrines. Not a bad start to the day.


At The Patch there were 3 juvenile Black Terns, 2 juvenile Kittiwakes, 10 Sandwich Terns and at least 100 Common Terns.
Next stop was the ARC Pit where, at the southern end of the pit, a juvenile Buff-breasted Sandpiper was showing well. Also present at the pit were 5 Common Sandpipers, a juvenile Ruff, a juvenile Black Tern, one Greenshank, 2 Dunlin, 2 Ringed Plovers and at least 75 Sand Martins.




On to the main reserve. One adult Purple Heron showed along with 4 Greenshanks, 2 Marsh Harriers and 6 Common Terns.
This was turning out to be a case of being in the right place at the right time.
I headed back towards the power station and, on a patch of gorse near the old lighthouse, there was a gathering of birders watching a juvenile Red-backed Shrike. This bird certainly hadn’t been present earlier in the day.


Also in that area were 2 Whinchats, a Pied Flycatcher and a Wheatear.


By the power station there was another Pied Flycatcher and 3 Willow Warblers and back at The Patch there were now around 300 Common Terns, 3 juvenile Black Terns, an adult winter and 2 juvenile Little Gulls plus 2 juvenile Kittiwakes.




A drive round to Dengemarsh produced a Hobby and that is where I decided to call it a day.
A superb day’s birding.

VIDEO of today's best birds.

(Apologies for the shaky videos, there was a strong offshore wind blowing.)


Holmethorpe Sand Pits ... Tuesday 17th August 2010

A quieter morning than yesterday but the Ringed Plover was still present.
Other birds of note were 2 Common Sandpipers, a Common Snipe, a Kingfisher, a Lesser Whitethroat and 51 Lapwings.
Also, a new record count for Holmethorpe of 30 Egyptian Geese.

Paul & Graham

Holmethorpe Sand Pits, Surrey .... Monday 16th August 2010

An early(-ish) start at the local patch produced the first Wood Sandpiper for this year at Spynes Mere.
This is only the 7th record for Holmethorpe, the last being three years ago.
Today's bird stayed until just before 10 a.m. when the Lapwings it was associating with took fright and it flew up with them.
It circled with the Lapwings, calling all the time, and when the Lapwings eventually settled back on the sand spit, the sandpiper continued to circle before flying off into the distance and heading off to the south. Fortunately, fellow local birders Gordon, Matt and Jerry also managed to get to see it before its departure.

Apart from two Teal, two Gadwall and three Common Snipe (plus the now regular Egyptian Geese, today numbering 13) there was little else of note about.
Warbler numbers have dropped off in the last few days, with only 3 Common Whitethroats and 2 Chiffchaffs noted today.

I decided to head for the Water Colour Lagoons and on arriving realised that there was little chance of much being present due to some workmen in dumpers trucks along the path between the lagoons.
I thought that, despite the disturbance, I would still have a quick look and it was a good job that I did as, on the island at Water Colour Lagoon 2, there was an adult Ringed Plover at the water's edge.


Cuckmere Valley & Hope Gap, East Sussex ... Wednesday 11th August 2010

My wife, Sue, and I visited the Cuckmere Valley and Hope Gap in East Sussex today.
Parking at the Golden Galleon pub car park by Exceat Bridge, we walked the path along the west side of the valley to the cliffs and then along the cliff top to Hope Gap and back.
The first thing we noticed was the large number of Swallows present, with at least 80 birds seen, and around 20 House Martins.
Halfway along the path a Lesser Whitethroat was perched in bushes by the path and allowed close views. A Wheatear was in a field near the path and at least ten Common Whitethroats were in the bushes. Surprisingly, only three Chiffchaffs and two Willow Warblers were noted.


One bird appeared briefly in the bushes and looked very like a Nightingale, but the view was so brief that I wouldn’t dare to tick it.

Being the gentleman that I am, I allowed Sue to carry the back-pack.

On reaching the cliffs, we sat on a bench to pour a coffee and Sue noticed a distant Gannet low over the sea and around 20 Oystercatchers flew by in one flock. A Hummingbird Hawk-moth flew close past us.

Probably one of the most photgraphed views in the south-east.

Heading on along the cliff top to Hope Gap, we saw two Sandwich Terns and at the Gap a male Stonechat was perched on top of a bush with another juvenile bird nearby that I was unsure about. Either another Stonechat or a young Whinchat. The heat-haze preventing a good view (or photo).



We walked up through Hope Gap, but not much was showing, and then headed across a field, where three Green Woodpeckers were present, and back to the path west of the Cuckmere Valley.
Out on the grazing marsh there were 14 Curlews, a Whimbrel, 6 Little Egrets, and, amongst roosting gulls, 12 Sandwich Terns.

The bushes at Hope Gap.

Looking east across the Cuckmere Valley.

(VIDEO) The view from the west of the valley.


The final bird of note was a Hobby that put on an amazing aerial display, stooping like a Peregrine from great height and sending all the Starlings in the area into a frenzy.

Graham & Sue

Oare Marshes NR .... Monday 9th August 2010

A trip to Oare Marshes NR on the North Kent marshes today was pleasing and disappointing at the same time.
Our targets today were Curlew Sandpiper and Little Stint, but we failed miserably with both species.
Around 12 Swallows were perched on the telegraph wires along the access road. Our first bird of note, however, was a Water Rail seen from the seawall, looking back to the East Flood. Plenty of Bearded Tits were pinging away in the reedbed and, eventually, we managed to see about 10 of them flying over the reed tops and diving into cover. Digiscoping them proved almost impossible (as can be seen below)!

Juvenile male BEARDED TIT (Graham)

Juvenile male BEARDED TIT (Paul)

Out on the East Flood there were a lot, and I mean a LOT, of Black-tailed Godwits. Paul estimated about 600 birds, but I have read on one website that the number was estimated to be in excess of 2000 birds. About 10 Ruff, 60+ Golden Plovers, 40 Dunlin, 150 Redshanks, up to 4 Greenshanks, 12 Avocets, a Common Snipe, a Knot, a Turnstone and numerous Lapwings were on the East Flood, with an Oystercatcher and 3 Ringed Plovers along The Swale.

The East Flood (Graham)


DUNLIN (Graham)


RUFF (Graham)

Some of the waders on the East Flood (Graham)

A Peregrine was devouring prey on the pylon by the creek and, later, a Hobby caused panic over the East Flood as it dived and swooped at waders and gulls that were roosting and sent most of the birds present into the air. A female Marsh Harrier was over the West Flood and at least 6 Little Egrets were in the area.



Two Wheatears were in the paddocks near the cottages and by the gate to the West Hide, near to the road there were two Lesser Whitethroats, one of which, uncharacteristically, perched out in the open but seemed to have the ability to turn its head away every time the camera’s shutter clicked. Paul got one good shot though. It proved a little easier to video. A few Yellow Wagtails were present and plenty of Sedge and Reed Warblers.




Juvenile YELLOW WAGTAIL (Graham)






We stayed until after high tide and, on the way home, two Common Buzzards were over A249 near Stockbury.

Paul & Graham

Dungeness ... Thursday 5th August 2010

We arrived at Dungeness at 6.10 a.m. and decided to search The Moat and the trapping area at the Observatory first.
The Moat held a male Stonechat, around 10 Common Whitethroats, 2 Willow Warblers and a female Black Redstart.
A promising start, so we headed for the trapping area. Common Whitethroats and Willow Warblers were in abundance, with at least 15 of the former and 20 or more of the latter species present plus 3 Wheatears and a Kestrel in the area.
Hoping that a seawatch might turn up something, despite the offshore wind, we headed for the Point and, at the power station, we soon spotted a male and female Black Redstart and a small flock of Linnets.



At the Patch, there were at least 60 Common Terns, a Little Gull, 6 Gannets, 2 juvenile Mediterranean Gulls, 8 Sandwich Terns and 3 Harbour Porpoises. On, past the power station, there were 2 juvenile Wheatears and along the path by the power station fence, 2 tired-looking Sedge Warblers, several more Willow Warblers were flitting between the fence and the vegetation on the shingle bank and an immature female Black Redstart was by the path.



Immature female BLACK REDSTART (Graham)

Juvenile WHEATEAR (Graham)

We then returned to the car and headed for the car park at the ARC Pit at the reserve.
On the way to the viewing screen, we met two birders who said that the Cattle Egret was present on an island but was difficult to see as it was hidden by vegetation. On arrival, we scanned the area and found 3 Little Egrets present and eventually the Cattle Egret flew from cover and headed low and straight towards us giving a chance to grab a quick (off-centre and out of focus) shot with the camera. Another year tick for us.


As not much else of note was present at the ARC Pit, we drove on to the Visitor Centre and headed round the reserve.
Common Whitethroats popped up everywhere and another couple of Sedge Warblers showed.
At the viewing ramp at Hookers Pit, a Hobby, a single Reed Warbler, a Bearded Tit and around 30 Sand Martins were present. A Cetti’s Warbler was calling nearby but, as usual, remained hidden from view.
The Dengemarsh Hide didn’t prove very productive, apart from 6 Common Terns so we headed for the nearby gate overlooking the area where the Purple Herons have bred. No luck with them but, in the distance by the reeds, the Great White Egret and the Cattle Egret were spotted by Paul and, although distant, we managed a few shots.





At the Christmas Dell Hide, the only birds of note were two Marsh Harriers in the distance and, as we passed the New Excavations heading for Burrowes Pit, a Whimbrel flew over calling. A while spent at the Makepeace Hide produced the Whimbrel on an island, an Oystercatcher and a Common Sandpiper but not much else, apart from a male Marsh Harrier.



Back to the ARC Pit and to the Handson-ARC hide this time. A Little Gull was amongst the Lapwings and Paul noticed another Common Sandpiper.



We then drove to Dengemarsh Road to see if we could see the Purple Herons but they didn’t show so we decided to try the area by the fishing boats on the beach. By now, the wind had increased in strength and had turned from a north-westerly to a westerly, making the sea decidedly choppy.
Two Turnstones were on the beach and at least 10 Gannets were fishing in the distance and, as we headed back to the car, an adult Yellow-legged Gull was resting along the path.



One last effort at the Point produced an adult and a juvenile Kittiwake and Paul had frustrating views of a possible Manx Shearwater, a possible skua and an auk species all too far to identify with any certainty.
Time to head home after an excellent day’s birding.