Monday, 2 January 2012

Hooray for bank holidays...

... because New Year's Day itself was rainy and horrible. Today, though, was a beautiful sunny one, though there was a chill in the wind, especially in the wide open spaces of Sheppey which was where we went for a few hours this afternoon. It wasn't a stellar day for photos, so apologies in advance for that.

Last year I posted my very first photo of the year even though it was rubbish. This year's first is even worse, but it's always good to press that shutter button for the first time in a new year, and while the photo may not be much good the bird is lovely. Marsh Harrier through the car windscreen at the start of the Elmley access track.

The harrier did come a bit closer. In fact it was the closest bird we saw along the track. There was other stuff about but it was all distant.

Some of the other stuff. A mixture of Curlews, Lapwings and Starlings, all put up by something or someone but we didn't see what (or who).

When we reached the car park, we noticed four or five people scoping something off to the left, which turned out to be a flock of Fieldfares coming down to drink and bathe in a puddle on a track to one of the houses.

Being short of time (and lazy) we didn't go into the reserve but went back, to look in at a few more Sheppey spots before it got dark.

On the return trip along the track we found some slightly closer Curlews to admire.

We went down towards Leysdown then took the turn-off for the raptor viewpoint. We crawled down the lanes, noting Corn Buntings and Red-legged Partridges, more Marsh Harriers, and stopped to photograph two different Kestrels.

At the raptor viewpoint, the Great White Egret that has been hanging around the area showed briefly over the reedy ditch, and on the other side of the road a distant Hen Harrier bobbed up into view for a moment.

 We carried on towards the Harty Ferry Inn, turned round and pootled back again. On the way we saw a flock of some 20 Corn Buntings on an overhead wire, and watched another Marsh Harrier spooking a flock of Teals from the broad ditch on the west side of the road.

We went on to Leysdown, and paused briefly (it would have been longer if it had been up to me) to watch gulls at the sea wall, coming to hoover up some bread crusts being lobbed their way.

Although most of the gulls coming to this bready bounty were Black-headeds, there were a fair few Commons among them.

On the fields on the other side of the road, a flock of a couple of hundred Brent Geese were munching on some well-watered grass.

We finished the day at Shellness. We'd left things a bit late for much of a walk here, but we headed south for a little while, scanning the fields (in vain) for raptors. The beach was busy with waders though, with plenty of Oystercatchers, Curlews, Knots, Grey Plovers, Ringed Plovers and Dunlins all out on the mud (high tide not til 6pm, alas).

 A couple of distant long-necked things were dismissed by Rob as Cormorants but when I bothered to lift my lens I saw they were geese. However, I didn't realise they were White-fronts til I blew up the photo massively - pity we didn't get a better view.

I couldn't see a way to get closer to the waders feeding on the shore without spooking them, so contented myself with a long-range shot of a lot of Dunlins.

This lone Turnstone was on the path we were walking, both on the way out and back, scampering ahead of us but not by very far. It was too late now for anything but a super-noisy photo. Although many of the Oystercatchers we saw had lost their white winter 'collars' the Turnstone was still in winter attire, but you can see hints of chestnutty summer plumage beginning to appear.


Marc Heath said...

A nice account of the day with some nice shots to look at as well, Happy New Year.

Derek Faulkner said...

Well done on the 2 Whitefronts, we had a total of 13 on The Swale NNR there yesterday morning, the first this winter.

Alan Pavey said...

It's always great to get on to Sheppey, sounds like you did well for your afternoon visit.

Anonymous said...

Hi Aiki,just got your book "Birds Of Prey"from library,can only say wow what a fantastic book and congratulate you on such a knowledgable book on this subject.No words here really do the book justice,thank you and best wishes Sooty.