Saturday, 31 December 2016

December 2016............

December 2016.

Saturday 3rd;
Bough Beech Reservoir & Sevenoaks W.R.  Kent. 

With just a few hours to spare I decided to stay local and headed down to Bough Beech Reservoir. I was surprised by how low the water level was; the reservoir is filled by pumping from the River Eden but apparently water levels are currently too low to start as yet. A group of around 20 Mandarin were visible distantly across the water but no goosander and duck numbers were quite low. A stroll away from the main causeway was rewarded with a Marsh Tit but the feeders in the orchard back near the oast house were largely empty and no brambling being reported.

I called in at Sevenoaks as the sun was sinking low on the horizon. The gull roost was quite small and duck numbers low and there were no sign of any goosanders there either. 53 species this afternoon and the best bird a Marsh Tit.

Bough Beech Reservoir

Bough Beech Reservoir

Sunday 4th;
Norman's Bay & the Pevensey Levels, Sussex.

A long-staying Desert Wheatear on the Sussex coast was too tempting to resist and after my son Alex's football match finished we headed south racing to get there whilst the winter sunshine was still shining.
It was very blustery at Norman's Bay but we found the bird straight away and with patience it would return to the same small area of groynes to feed unconcerned by our presence and once flying towards Alex and landing less than 6 feet from him!
Always a delight to see this bird was very obliging and photogenic in the winter sunshine.
We also had a Black Redstart and several Stonechat in the gardens of nearby beach houses.

We finished the day on the Pevensey Levels which were frankly disappointing as I have found the case on several previous occasions. It looks so good for owls and birds of prey and waders but they are really few and far between and today we barely saw a bird of note despite staying until dusk.

Desert Wheatear

Desert Wheatear

Desert Wheatear

Pevensey Levels

Sunday 10th;
Strood & Oare Marshes, Kent

A rare sport-free Sunday gave us the opportunity for a family day out. The boys proved their teenage credentials by staying in bed as long as possible so it was quite a bit later than I'd hoped by the time we drove out of Orpington. My suggestion to look for some Waxwings en route to Oare was met with approval so our first stop was central Strood near Rochester. Three Waxwings had been present a few days and were on view when we arrived, digesting their berries in the top of a tall roadside tree.
Their chosen berry-bearing tree was mostly in deep shade and photography was rather challenging but they were great to watch and I had a chance for a chat with Frank Cackett and Terry Laws.

After an hour with the Waxwings we headed off to Oare Marshes with the sun shining and blue skies all around. After a sandwich in the car park we strolled around the eastern flood, the Swale was like a mill-pond and visibility very good. I scoped two ring-tailed Hen Harriers quartering the Sheppey shoreline whilst waders flew out of the scrape onto the Swale as the tide dropped.
Looking east into the mouth of the Swale we scoped the Common Seals which numbered at least 60 and were romping in the shallows on the edge of Horse Sands. 

Having completed our circuit of the eastern flood we decided against moving elsewhere and instead walked slowly along the sea wall towards Conyer, west alog the Swale. It was peaceful and there were plenty of waders, ducks and raptors to watch. Having watchesunn sink below the horizon we strolled back in the dark at the end of a very enjoyable day.




The Swale at Oare Marshes

The Swale looking east

nr Conyer at dusk

Saturday 17th;
At home.........

Jenny was rehearsing for a concert in London so I was on taxi duty for the boys. After lunch with the weather looking grey and miserable we settled down to watch "Where Eagles Dare"instead of venturing out. A small flock of Redwing spent the day in the garden, mostly in one corner feeding in holly and cotoneaster and I grabbed a few photos from time to time with this the best of the lot.


Sunday 18th;
Cliffe Pools, Kent.

Misty, cold and still. Despite the weather I headed out to Cliffe Pools for the last couple of hours of daylight hoping that it might be clearer near the river. However, visibility was even worse than I expected and I drove only as far as the first viewing mound and set up my scope to check the nearest pools. You couldn't see as far as the sea wall nor the Radar but birds on the nearer pools were discernible and there was enough to keep my interest.
A Water Pipit, Bearded Tits and fair selection of waders including Green Sand were the highlights. Egyptian Geese (3) may even have been a site "tick". The best was saved for last when a Great White Egret flew lazily over heading towards the sea wall.  62 species from one spot in 90 minutes can't be too bad. 

Christmas Eve;
Ashdown Forest.

Grey, cool and damp and that was before Ed slipped over in the stream.
We took an afternoon walk on the Ashdown from "Friends" car park in a 4 mile circuit that took us close to Old Lodge and then back via Camp Hill. A welcome leg-stretch for us all before the Christmas festivities. Winter thrushes, Stonechat and Lesser Redpoll but mostly dogs and mud.

Tuesday 27th;
Cliffe Pools & Eastborough Farm, Kent.

Christmas Day saw the start of a run of dry sunny days. That had continued and Jenny the boys and I spent much of the day taking a long, slow meander around Cliffe Pools before finishing on the Marshland Viewpoint at Eastborough Farm in unseasonally warm, calm and sunny conditions .
I spent a good while scoping through the ducks at Cliffe but it was all pretty ordinary stuff; 5 Goldeneye, c100 Pochard, 400+ Tufted, 300+ Shoveler, 600+ Teal, 10 Pintail and 70+ Wigeon. We were there over high-tide and there was a good selection of waders with highlights 2 Greenshank, 120 Dunlin, 200+ golden Plover and 1,000+ Lapwing.
There were Fieldfare everywhere with a conservative estimate of 1,000 birds and around 300+ Redwing.
Cettis Warbler and Water Rail were heard. Perhaps most notable was the number of Bearded Tits; 27 in one flock and at least 33 on the day.

At Eastborough Farm we walked up to the Marshland Viewpoint and spent the last hour of daylight there. Highlights were the 6 adult Bewick's Swans sat on the reservoir below us, Little Owl, 2 Barn Owls, sadly rather distant, 3 Buzzards and around 20 Marsh Harrier's assembling to roost at Decoy Fleet. Over 2,000 Lapwing were scattered across the fields below us whilst the kids had a Kingfisher from Gordon's hide.  80 species on the day.


Bearded Tit

Bearded Tit

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