Sunday, September 18, 2011

"Walking From House" List additions

A few additions to the "Walking from the house list" to report ...

1. Mediterranean Gull and Herring Gull 80 & 81. I was out on 27 August with just my bins, and noticed lots of gulls on a field being ploughed just east of Lower-Sheering Road. A quick scan revealed a smaller gull which was pale white/brown without any of the distinctive head markings of a BH Gull. It flew, showing heavily black forewing and secondary panel, and a black terminal tail band. I ummed and ahhed about this for a couple of days afterwards, I think because when I saw 15 of these at Lodmoor a couple of weeks previous I'd had my scope and could check the bill, and eye-lids to confirm and couldn't do that on this occasion. But after I'd seen some of the photos of juveniles going into first winter on Birdguides it was stupid not to tick it as they were the spitting image. And belated Herring Gull too.

2. Hobby 82. 17 Sep. An overdue event this. Out with the dogs, and one shot over my head. Nice. That makes for 4 raptors on the list. Could I get another one? Well obviously yes. Red Kite is present in this area, and eventually one will be flying around when I'm out, but after that it's looking fairly impossible.

3. Marsh Harrier 83. 18 Sep. Well, so much for how hard the next raptor was going to be. Out with the dogs in the park again, with a patchy blue and white sky and a dark grey cloud getting closer and closer ... I noticed a few hirundines high up, and after scanning noticed that wherever I looked were swallows and martins. I guessed about a hundred moving in advance of the rain. And then a larger bird. Just as soon as I thought another gull it was obvious that it wasn't. It was flying hard SE, but then turned E and it was clearly a Marsh Harrier. All dark, longish tail, bulky but long wings, and if I looked really hard possibly a cream crown? Then, incredibly, it joined a second bird and they soared round for a while, taking their time, before they slowly drifted East and out of sight into Essex. Well, knock me down with a feather. I remember seeing three of the five UK birds at Minsmere in 1975, and now they are so common that pairs of them are flying over my house. The rain duly came down, but I couldn't have cared less.

So in just over 10 months of moving into the house I'm on 83. The scrape hasn't been playing ball having been dry through the autumn, so if that gets muddy at the right time there's another few species to pick up, and with no chats, starts, or owls on the list then 100 is possible. I'm slightly stunned, to be honest, at what I've seen over the year. I can't wait to see what turns up next.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Choices choices ...

A rare window of opportunity for some birding opened up on Sunday afternoon. Where to go? A guaranteed Sabine’s Gull on KG VI? Or take my luck on an unpromising westerly wind at Canvey Island Point and some waders that have taken up temporary residence at West Canvey RSPB?

I decided to take a third option: to spend an hour swearing, shouting and hammering the steering wheel in frustration whilst being held captive on he A130. Bastards! Whoever they are! I thought the Human Rights Act had abolished this sort of thing. Anyway, eventually Canvey Island Point, conveniently round the corner out of the wind, just me, one other, and a sun-light Thames Estuary.

The other birder found an all-brown dot on the horizon. Over the next fifteen minute it moved painstakingly slowly in our direction until a pair of white wing flashes were visible and with the short-tailed silhouette it was fairly straightforward to diagnose a Great Skua. An embarrassing number of months … err years since I last saw one. Easier and faster was a Manx Shearwater that eased upstream. Otherwise a flock of c100 Black-Tailed Godwits wheeled in unison, a few summer-plumage Grey Plovers were on the mud, and a few Sandwich Terns flew west.

Finally West Canvey RSPB. New to me. Juv Little Stint tick! Spotted Redshank tick! And three Green Sandpipers and a Ruff. Bonus tick!

Birdguides reported a long-tailed skua the same morning, Other local web sites reported Gannets, and Arctic Skua too. But no-one had our Great Skua and Manxie. Which just makes you wonder how many other birds go through un-recorded by these web sites.

Commonly Spotted Orchids

We are fortunate in the UK in that the commonest orchids are also amongst the most beautiful. I spent a morning photographing some on the lo...