Saturday, September 12, 2020

Building the list - Oare Marshes 11 Sep

An American Golden Plover had been around on and off, and Oare is an easy run and an always productive visit so it wasn't much of a decision.

I arrived 9:30ish to a largely muddy and bird free puddle.It was clearly going to be hard. Never mind the AGP, there were no GP and hardly anything else. High tide was around 6 am so soon the estuary side would be solid mud. Time was tight to get anything on the mud.

There was a group of birders further up, they pointed out the long staying Bonaparte's Gull just in front and mentioned they'd had two Little Stint and a Curlew Sandpiper back where I'd just come from. There were lots of Dunlin and Ringed Plover on the foreshore as well as a few Redshank and Black-tailed Godwits but I could see no other waders. I was beginning to get a sinking feeling. 

By nature I am impatient and twitchy when birding. This leads to frustration and bad decisions. Yes, I am talking about that White Rumped Sandpiper again. My birding mates always help me calm down and concentrate on the birds in front of me, but without them I was struggling.

At the corner of Faversham Creek There were about 30 Avocets and the group of birders pointed out a very distant Osprey over Shellness. Could I tick it? Well ...

Down along Faversham Creek, Getting into a more relaxed state, going through the Redshanks by the waters edge. A Ruff, then a juvenile Curlew Sandpiper. Phew. I really like these birds, the long legs, scaley back and apricot wash on the neck looks so neat to my eyes.

There was quite a lot going on. Lots of Bearded Tits flying round, plenty of Meadow Pipits over, then the group of birders caught up and found two Little Stints on the East Flood. Again, that pinkish wash on the neck is just gorgeous. Really neat birds even at a distance.

Round back to the road, thirty Golden Plover flew in, sadly no AGP amongst them, a Water Rail was found by other birders on the reeds edge, then a juvenile Hobby came belting through and a Cream Crown Marsh Harrier sauntered in from the east.

Back to the car park and a juvenile Whinchat had been found on a nearby bush. A quick look over the estuary again and a commotion slightly up stream on the opposite bank - an Osprey, possibly the one from earlier, doing some fishing, then slowly drifting off west with an entourage of Crows. 

In the end a decent list. I always seem to have to go through a period of calming down, of accepting that I can't magic birds up, so I have to concentrate on looking at what's in front of me. Harder than it sounds, or should be, sometimes.

Thursday, September 03, 2020

In praise of my patch.

I rarely see other people on my patch (apart from the thoroughfare that is the riverside path). Most often the farmer, occasionally dog-walkers. But recently there was a man loitering suspiciously, binoculars in hand. We got chatting and he said he was a birder who lived in the village, came here occasionally but never saw anything so preferred to go to the local reserves.

Well, how an individual chooses to watch birds is their business and no-one else's, and everyone does it differently. But the comment about never seeing anything did trigger me. I thought about it on a patch walk recently with Mike who had come over.

We walked down the lane to the park, passing the Wasp's nest. As we entered the adjacent field 2 Nuthatches were calling to each other across the field. A female Sparrowhawk cruised along the top of the hedge causing 38 Goldfinches to rise in anger above it with 2 House Martins for company. On the brambles there were loads of wasps again many coming and going from another nest entrance, and on this occasion a Hornet was cruising along the top. Always massively impressive for an insect.

Down to the river, and a few tits flying through and on their tail a Treecreeper flew into a bush above our heads. We watched it for a couple of minutes before it flew off. A classic patch bird, I haven't seen on for a few months so as always a treat to see this wonderfully patterned bird close up. 

Up into the chat field, and sadly for us no Whinchat. there have been three records of juveniles this autumn all in the same place on the wire. I have no idea if they are the same bird, but I suspect not. 

Along with the disappearing Whinchat there were fewer flocks of Willow chiffs, last night's clear sky seeming to have cleared out a few birds, but we had Whitethroat and Chaffinch.

Over the railway line and road and round a couple of fields to the higher ground. Mike was pointing out that whereas our oaks are laden with acorns this year, there were very few Hazelnuts on the tree in front of us, when there was a bustle from the hedgerow and we managed to get a sighting of three buck Fallow Deer heading off. Round the corner and 5 Red-Legged Partridge. My first for the patch were two last year, then a pair again in spring so perhaps they have bred and we now have a colony.

No Skylarks at the moment. I had 6 a couple of weeks ago but we seem to be in a lull between breeders and winter visitors.

A pause at the top to survey. A late Swift through west, some Swallows were still at the farm, a Common Buzzard high up, and then another distant Sparrowhawk, probably a female.

Back down past the field of grain. It looks a mess with lots of blue flowers, but the farmer explained to me that it is a special mix of nine flowers selected to fix nitrogen in the soil and improve nutritional quality of the grain. Some juvenile goldfinches here and 12 Linnets on the wires show it is popular with birds too.

We stopped to inspect a small tree in the hedge bearing large hard green fruit,. We didn't recognise it but the massive leaves were a give away, and further research confirmed this as a Walnut tree. 

Back down toward the river and a large overgrown hedge that recently had 2 Spotted Flycatcher. Not today but we had a Lesser Whitethroat briefly and another Sparrowhawk, this time a blue-backed orange-flush male. Some Common Darters, Migrant Hawkers and an Emperor by the river, then a Muntjac in the usual place in the wet field, and that was it.

Nothing to bother RBA or birdguides with, but a visit that never stopped to give interest. In my opinion to get the most out of a patch you have to accept it on its own terms. Understand its limitations and enjoy whatever wildlife it has to offer. Take Linnets; on a trip to Norfolk or elsewhere these are walked past with barely a look as we search for rarer offerings, but a summer plumage male is a beautiful bird and on my patch I have the time to have a god look and enjoy its fine plumage. If instead of a common bird it was confined to Mongolia, whenever a fellow birder returned from there we would ask if they saw the Linnet, and was it as beautiful as the books show? And why don't we have birds like that in the UK? But we do have them, in number, on my local patch.

This Covid year has placed a strain on all birding, but the patch has never failed to deliver. There's always something new, something I'd not previously noticed, and always a bird sighting that makes the day.

Commonly Spotted Orchids

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