Saturday, 21 May 2011

May birdrace - part 1

We didn't manage it last year, but after about a month of furious emailing some of the Helm gang got together for a May Kent birding day yesterday - Nigel, Jim, Rob and I. We met at Bough Beech at 6am - only Jim didn't, perhaps because he'd got very lost last time we'd tried to meet here, and he opted to join us later, when we reached Elmley. Nigel was already scoping the reservoir when Rob and I arrived, but without success ('success' here defined as finding a Mandarin duck). Our other Bough Beech target, however, did oblige - there was a quick blast of Nightingale song from behind a gate as we headed for the visitor centre.

A Bough Beech Swallow in first (well, OK, second) light. It was quite cloudy at this point but no sign of rain.

Next stop was Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve. Rob nipped home to pick up his monopod - he was very sleepy and thought it would help him to stay standing up. Nigel and I collected Egyptian Goose from the access track, Garden Warbler in the car park, and Little Ringed Plover from the viewing mound. Very efficient. We were also entertained by a family of recently fledged Long-tailed Tits, and a showy Blackcap.

On to Elmley, and when we got to the start of the track, Nigel noticed a flock of Mediterranean Gulls on the track ahead of us. We drove slowly along the track in the time-honoured fashion, to meet Jim who was waiting at the other end.

The usual suspects were all present. From the top, Skylark, Yellow Wagtail, Meadow Pipit and Redshank. We met Jim halfway along and he turned around and followed us to the reserve entrance end, where Nigel and Jim had a Whinchat. Rob and I missed this treat by going on too far ahead, a double blow for me as I'd dipped one at my own local patch yesterday.

 The good news was that the sun was out properly now, and was shining attractively on the many Goldfinches that were around Kingshill Farm at the reserve entrance.

There were also plenty of Swallows around. My lens decided to play up while I was photographing them, and ruined most of my shots.

The sparrow terrace box here is in use, with much cheeping coming from within, though I'm not sure if they are using more than one of the compartments. Here's the proud dad.

Looking over the wall next to the loos, we saw Avocets around the pool at the bottom of the hill, and Nigel spotted a drake Garganey picking its way along among the Mallards.

The return trip along the track brought more of the same, plus our first Marsh Harriers and one extremely tatty and distant Common Buzzard. More attractive to us camera-wielders were the hares - lots of them.

Next stop was Oare Marshes. We were hoping to get lucky and find Spoonbills - some have been around the Swale for a while now. We didn't. However, there was a very charming Avocet family right by the viewpoint, which provided a great moment of drama when a Little Egret came along.

Hope I got these in the right order. Basically, the egret flew over to the Avocet family, and the male Avocet chased it and kicked it in the head hard enough to knock it into the water. Then both Avocets escorted the egret from the premises, amid much angry shouting.

Part 2 coming up...

1 comment:

Mike Attwood said...

Thats what I like to see, some very good action shots.