31 August 2013
Birchington and Grove Ferry
The weather charts all week predicted variable NNW winds on Saturday. The charts on Friday evening suggested the wind would strengthen from first light for a few hours before receding into the afternoon. This coincided with high tide along the north Kent coast. Although the winds coming off a low pressure bringing westerlies to northern Britain, rather than the preferred direct blow from the north, the reports of Long-tailed Skuas off Norfolk and Suffolk on Friday hinted at a few good birds in the southern sea. I was up at the crack of dawn and drove out. With the winds only expected to be about force 4, maybe 5 further east I drove on past Reculver and tried the clifftop at Birchington. I knew any Skuas would be generally more distant, but the dream of a Cory's Shearwater lured me east.
Well in the event I needn't have worried about where to watch. Quite frankly I wouldn't have seen much less if I'd stayed in bed. Despite the slow start I kept convincing myself it would get better in the next half hour. After 2.5 hours with scant reward for my effort, and similar news from Foreness, Reculver and Shellness I called it a day. The sum total was:
Great Skua 5W
Arctic Skua 3E (with one hanging around a feeding flock of Terns offshore)
Sandwich Tern 53E (there were about 50 offshore and many very distant birds went uncounted)
Gannet 5W, 6E (probably the same birds seeing Sheppey and turning around)
Common Sandpiper 1E (flushed off the sea wall by a kite boarder)
I'm surprised by the lack of birds and the rather distant views. I had expected a small passage of Skuas, though I thought Shellness and probably Reculver would see more. But that is birding and sea watching. Maybe in hindsight the wind was not quite right, but I'd rather be there and have a no show than not be there and miss a good passage. Maybe next time....
I drove to Grove Ferry and walked out to the viewing ramp. As I arrived there were about 15 other birders, but as I walked up the ramp they all packed up and walked away - the Spotted Crake had just shown itself. With Mike Enty and John Brighten I scanned the distant reed edge to no avail. A Ruff and about 30 Lapwing joined the mass of moulting ducks. I walked to the Feast Hide where Marc Heath informed me he had found another Spotted Crake from Harrison's Drove. After a quick scan I walked around to find half of Sussex occupying the hide and nowhere to sit. The Spotted Crake had not been seen, though one optimistic individual had seen a spotted blackish bird vanish into the grass and claimed it - only a Starling came out the other side and the two bird theory began. A Kingfisher dashed across the pool and away over the reeds to an unseen pool, and a Little Egret fed quietly in a shallow.
I decided to walk back to the Feast Hide which was pleasantly empty. As I setup a Sparrowhawk flashed across the pool spooking the Lapwing and nearly landing on the roof, until it caught my eye looking back. Just then a female Kingfisher flicked around the reeds and landed on the perch just in front of me. I carefully lifted my camera and it stayed put. As I fired off the first few frames the hide door opened - thankfully the three guys were very quiet and careful and soon we were all enjoying the close-up opportunity.
A couple of Bearded Tit called from deep within the reedbed. Scanning the reedy edge two Water Rail gave surprisingly good views. A Black-tailed Godwit appeared and 40 Lapwing dropped in briefly.
After a brief look around Hersden where there was no sign of the Hoopoe or the Wryneck I drove out to Denge Wood to check the Larch avenue for any Crossbills. Walking down the track two trailbike riders came racing toward me. I waited until they were quite close and stepped confidently into their path. Riding motorbikes is not only banned in the forest its actually illegal - the Police can and do confiscate and destroy the bikes if they catch the culprits. They skidded to a halt, turned their bikes and raced away - idiots! Luckily for them I had no phone signal as the Police have signs all around the woods asking for information. Peace was restored.
The pathside vegetation was absolutely alive with Migrant Hawkers, which appeared to have had a massive emergence. There must have been over a hundred along a 500m stretch. In addition a few Southern Hawkers and Common Darter were also seen.
|Migrant Hawker - female|
|Up close with a Migrant Hawker|
|Migrant Hawker - female|
|Migrant Hawker - male|