Saturday, 21 May 2011

May birdrace - part 2

Packing up at Oare, we added this Sedge Warbler, plus Cetti's and a distant Hobby.

A second-summer Mediterranean Gull flew over. It turned out that the Elmley ones were Jim's first, and he had learned the easy way to separate the species from Black-headed Gull in flight - Med has pure white wings. Unless it's a second-summer. We said that maybe with gulls it's best to stick to the adults and ignore all the juveniles and subadults completely. Nigel remarked that when on tour in Africa he blanks out all the female weavers and only identifies the males - sounds very sensible to me.

On to Stodmarsh. In fact Grove Ferry, which we figured would be the best bit of the huge Stour Valley NNR to visit. We paused for a nice lunch at the Grove Ferry Inn, then took the trail out to the big viewpoint, and onwards to the hides.

There were maybe half a dozen Hobbies around, and this one came obligingly close, enabling us to take a shed-load of photos. We took photos of all the others too, just to make sure they weren't Red-footed Falcons (they weren't).

The reedbeds yielded a couple of glimpses of Bearded Tits, while from the Feast hide came our only wader (apart from Lapwings). It was a good one though, a fine Greenshank wading about among dozy Mallards.

On the way back, I noticed what appeared to be a load of scattered scraps of black leathery stuff on some nettles. I identified them as the cast skins of Peacock caterpillars. I explained to Rob that caterpillars moult their skins several times as they grow bigger. He said, 'Is that what they look like when they grow bigger?' and pointed out a boiling mass of well-grown caterpillars on another nearby nettle clump. Impressive spines on these wee beasties.

Nearby was one of the very few Odonata we saw all day but I thought immediately that it looked different to the Common Blues and Azures I've been seeing everywhere (though not today). Looking at the photos, I think it is a male Variable. That's going on the shape of the mark on the first abdominal segment, plus the incomplete antehumeral stripes. Get me with the damselfly anatomical jargon.

Marsh Frog. We heard whole choirs of these but only got a good view of this one.

On to Dungeness, our last stop. On the Lydd road I saw a Little Owl on a dilapidated barn roof so we stopped and turned around for a better look. I managed three shots before it flew, and only the last one was in focus. Damn, damn. Still, a good bird for the list.

There had been a Golden Oriole seen earlier behind the ARC viewscreen, so that's where we went first. No sign. The wind had picked up a bit and there was a steady stream of Swifts flying into it. This slowed them down a bit and provided a rare opportunity to get some relatively sharp Swift photos.

From the viewscreen, Nigel picked up a beautiful first-summer Little Gull bobbing along over the water. It, or another one, later flew away from the lake past where I was standing looking at the Swifts, and I got some distant photos.

We went to the beach next, and stood beside the locked beach hide to watch the terns feeding offshore and to look for other things. I went down to the water's edge and took photos, including this Sandwich Tern in pre-dive mode.

Walking back to the car, we enjoyed nice close views of this Whitethroat, then Jim found a female Black Redstart a little further down. We casually strolled (slightly) closer and watched her sitting on the power station fence with a mouthful of food, before flitting towards the great ugly edifice and her nest, somewhere on or in it.

Jim left us at this point (it was about 5.30pm I think). The rest of us went for a quick look at the visitor centre. Nigel then also left, and Rob and I spent a very pleasant half-hour in the Firth hide, having been tipped off about a pair of Garganeys there.

There were several birds close to the hide, including Coots which were angrily chasing the Mallards around.

Mallard drakes, notorious for their randiness, don't have it all their own way. This female Shelduck was certainly not taking any nonsense from this one.

The Shelducks were fighting among themselves too. These two drakes were having a fierce displaying contest, even though it looks as though they're laughing their heads off.

A pair of Common Gulls were making a nest on a nearby island, and in between collecting material were flying about and calling a lot.

Oh, and the Garganeys? Well, a Coot chased them off soon after we arrived, and they went out of view for a bit, but then the same or another Coot chased them back again, and they settled down near the hide, beautifully lit in the late sun. We stayed til they fell asleep, then very quietly closed the windows and left.

1 comment:

Phil said...

A great account of what sounds like a great day Marianne. Some lovely photos too. I'm very envious of the light in your pics, it's been so dark and wet here nearly all week. Including today! Really nice to see the Hobby with it's talons up and I liked the Avocet/Egret altercation, feisty buggers those Avocets.