Monday, 12 March 2012

Something for the weekend

On Saturday afternoon we decided to head coastwards, and drove down the M20 in beautiful sunshine. On the way we passed the entrance to Samphire Hoe and thus unwittingly missed the chance to see (well, maybe 'see' is too strong a word) the Short-toed Treecreeper that was found there at lunchtime. Oh well. By the time we rocked up at St Margaret's Bay the sun was gone and heavy grey clouds blanketed the sky. Again, oh well.

The shingle beach here is tucked into a break in the tall chalk cliffs that extend trom Folkestone to Sandwich Bay. It is made mainly of very dark and chunky flints, with increasing amounts of chalk 'pebbles' the nearer you get to the cliffs. We walked to the western edge of the beach, where there is a rippling plateau of chalk that looks like it is covered by the sea at high tide, and examined the cliff walls.

Below the water line, the chalk was marked with deep pits, many of them apparently made by limpets. Some of the pits still contained a limpet or two while others were packed with tiny periwinkles.

There were a fair few Fulmars wheeling around the cliff face, some coming close enough for photos. That was it for interesting birdlife though - I expect we'd have seen more if we'd taken a clifftop walk but it was too late and too gloomy for that to appeal.

Not sure what to say about this photo. It's a Black-headed Gull with an itchy face. There were a lot of Black-headed and Herring Gulls around, the odd Lesser Black-backed too, but nothing more exciting.

So, on to Sunday. A cloudy morning morphed into a properly sunny afternoon and I walked down to Sevenoaks at about noon to see what was about. We are still in a bit of an inbetween-season slump with the winter birds going or gone (I didn't see or hear a single Siskin today, for example) and not much sign of the spring migrants and insect-life. However, resident birds are full of the joys and it was nice to be out.

This Robin caught my eye because it looked like it had a partly white rump. I thought it must be the pale undertail coverts doing a wraparound thing, but looking closely at the photo there do seem to be a few actual white feathers on the rump itself. I hardly ever see aberrant birds and they are a particular interest of mine so I was pleased about that.

I walked the southern route this time, seeing very little from Tyler hide and continuing towards the one whose name I can never remember (you know, the one under Tower hide). On the way I found a pair of Long-tailed Tits industriusly nest-building.

While watching the Long-tails, I was aware of the growly sounds of Great Crested Grebes 'in the mood' and a little further on found this pair. They were also nest-building, and periodically went to inspect their soggy platform of leaves before hurrying back to each other for another chest-bumping session.

From the Hide-with-no-name I saw this Treecreeper, one of three seen today, scaling the wooden fence that screens off the hide approach. Out on the water a number of Common and Black-headed Gulls floated about, and in the distance a Little Grebe sat on the water.

Oh, and a Tufted Duck flew by. I could have sat here for the rest of the day waiting for things to fly by (I'm enjoying playing with shutter-priority mode at the moment). But I decided to see what the rest of the reserve had to offer.

One of the things it had to offer was this very agitated Wren, who was so busy scolding me that it forgot to hide in thick undergrowth. I suspect I may have been near its nest but I hadn't stepped off the main path - the Wren is just going to have to get used to the occasional passerby. Some way off in the woods I heard my first singing Chiffchaff of the year.

On the small pond on the approach to Willow hide was the young Mute Swan from the Snipe Bog pool pair. I guess they have finally booted it out. Poor thing looked a bit lost there, I wonder how long it will hang around.

From Willow hide were the usual crowd of Canada Geese. Duck numbers seem to have fallen though there were still a few Gadwalls, Teals, Mallards and Tufties, plus a single Shoveler.

I headed home after that, but did stop for a few frustrating minutes to try to photograph this Goldcrest, which was being a typical Goldcrest and zipping about at high speed in the trees.


Christian said...

Lovely set of shots, I especially like the Wren.

ShySongbird said...

You had an enjoyable weekend and clearly made the most of it Marianne. I always enjoy visiting your blog. I don't know what happened on the previous post, I was sure I had commented and I even remember reading some of the other comments, maybe I forgot to hit the publish button :-( I did enjoy it though.

You have some lovely photos here. I don't often get a photo of a Wren, well not a nice one out in the open ;-) You did well with the Treecreeper and Goldcrest too, another difficult pair in my experience!

Marianne said...

Thanks for the kind comments, folks :)

SS, it felt like the birds were conspiring against me yesterday, I did manage a few photos that were alright but there are many, many more that are going straight in the bin... Ah well, we wouldn't keep doing it if there was no challenge!

Phil said...

Shame your coastal trip went misty Marianne. Will have to watch out for that on thursday!
Another good Sevenoaks visit though. I must say i've been impressed with the last couple of visits i've made.
I can never remember the name of that hide, is it Eric somebody? It does feel a bit below par at the moment, can't wait for flying insects etc. to turn up.

Warren Baker said...

Isn't it fun chasing Goldcrests for photo's!! Frustrating, time consuming , but fun none-the-less :-)