Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Oare Marshes, October 1

Ok, here's what we did on Saturday afternoon. Rob had a coaching course in the morning in Rotherhithe, so I went on an exciting train journey to Surrey Quays, where we met up in a Tesco car park. Then onto the A2 and Oare-wards. Oare seemed like the perfect place to give the new lens (300-800mm f5.6 - yes, we found another used Sigmonster!) a try. You may recall that we had a Sigmonster on loan last summer, but Rob couldn't get it to take sharp photos unless stopped WAY down, even though Sigma checked it over and said it was fine? He has not stopped hankering after one of these lenses, so when we saw this one for sale we decided to give it another try. So we now have no money, and a 6kg lens (with camo lenscoat) in an imposing giant carry case.

Oare was very busy, with boaters as well as birders. We parked on the road as the car park was full, and lugged the gear down to the viewpoints. It was a similar story to the other week, with Avocets, Blackwits and Golden Plovers all over the shop and a scattering of other waders here and there. The nearest island was busy, hosting Ringed Plovers, Dunlins and a lone Curlew Sandpiper.

Most of the Ringed Plovers on the island were juveniles. Here's one that wasn't.

Part of the dirty great flock of Golden Plovers, cooling off in the shallow water.

A sleepy Lapwing, blissfully unaware of how very photogenic it and its reflection looked in the mid-afternoon sun.

A House Sparrow that arrived to enjoy the blackberries by the roadside gave Rob the chance to try out the Sigmonster on something small and close. He was happy with its sharpness, but things weren't all hunky dory - the lens was underexposing everything. He had to put in a full stop of exposure compensation to make it OK. Photoshop has done a good job of fixing the images, but the lens will probably be going off to see Sigma sometime soon.

There were lots of Starlings around, wheeling about, settling on an island, moving on to another island - they seemed about the only birds around that weren't stupified by heat. Here's a Sigmonstered Starling...

... and a whizzy one, from my (relatively) tiny 300mm lens.

Winter wildfowl are still not really in evidence here. There were a few Teals here and there on the flood. This flyover Wigeon was by itself.

When the Curlew Sandpiper went and stood beside a Dunlin, I asked Rob to take a few comparison shots. This pic nicely shows the differences, which I appreciate, having made an embarrassing ID cockup on a Curlew Sand photo a few days ago (d'oh).

Two of the Avocets left the loafing flock and went for a forage, wandering in our direction. However, they veered off before getting very close, and after maybe 10 minutes flew back to rejoin the flock.

This lovely Black-tailed Godwit, one of about six that were feeding nearby, downed tools to have a wash and brush-up. It was amusing to see its efforts to preen itself with that great unwieldy bill.

One last Sigmonster photo. It may be only a Moorhen, but it looked great against that carpet of scarlet algae/vegetation. Then Rob decided he wanted to walk the loop around the flood. I thought he was mad. It's not a long walk, but any walk is too long when you're carrying a huge lens in a very un-carry-friendly case, but he figured there might be things to see from the sea wall, so off we went.

We'd got halfway to the East flood hide when all the birds went up in a panic. Scanning around, we found this Common Buzzard. It posed no threat whatsoever to the birds - it was motoring along and clearly had no intention of stopping. All my rubbish photos show that its bill was open, panting with the heat.

By the hide was an impressive sight - a huge cloud of midges, and eight or nine Migrant Hawker dragonflies plunging into and out of the cloud, having a feast.

We got to the sea wall. The water in the Swale was high and there was little to see besides Black-headed Gulls. We did stop and set up the monster briefly but didn't really find anything to photograph. A Stonechat paused on a reed stem, but not long enough for a sharp pic.

Looking back over the flood, all the waders were silhouettes. I looked the other way and saw this Little Egret gliding down the Swale, looking for a spot from which to hunt as the tide slowly receded.

As we walked on, waders were beginning to leave the flood. They were mostly Redshanks, and they flew past in singles and flocks, heading out over the Swale.

One or two of the Blackwits flew out with the Redshanks, but seemed to change their minds when they saw the wide channel of salty water, and headed back inland.

The sun seemed to drop rather abruptly as we covered the last stretch to the car. From the roadside we looked again at the flood, but both light and nearby birds had pretty much gone, so we went home.

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