Monday, 11 October 2010

Monday 11th October

Well I'll cut straight to the chase - today was one of those days that make patch birding all worthwhile - seven GLOSSY IBIS high over the East Malling Research Centre at 13:40 heading NE.  An unbelievable, and totally unexpected sight, especially as I'd only gone out to see if I couldn't get my first Redwing or Brambling of the autumn!  I've pasted the report I've sent to KOS to give the full description along with two of the appalling images I took (literately black dots!):

Glossy Ibis (Plegadis falcinellus), East Malling, 11th October 2010

I was cycling back to work west along the Kiln Barn Road entrance track to the East Malling Research Station at approx.13:40 after spending 30 minutes of my lunch hour birding the local area.  A Green Woodpecker flew off a post ahead of me and a flock of Starlings and Wood Pigeons also took flight from the orchard adjacent (North) of the track and suspecting a Sparrowhawk might have put them up I scanned the area around and above the main research station buildings.  I failed to see find the Sparrowhawk but picked out a group of seven distant, ‘dark’ birds flying in loose formation at height approx 0.5km (0.3 miles) to the west.  They were high, but I’m unable to judge the height in m/ft, if looking  directly above me that was 12 o’clock then these birds were at 11 o’clock (sorry that’s the best I can do).  Initially I though they might be Cormorants, a fairly regular bird over the site, but usually as singles rather than groups.  The birds were flying in a NE direction (diagonally across my line of vision) in a rather loose and undulating formation.  After about a minute I got good side-on-views of the birds through my binoculars and could clearly see a narrow, long, elongated neck and head, trailing legs/feet and a distinctive, narrow and down curved bill on each bird clearly discounting my early ID of Cormorant and recognizable as Glossy Ibis.  The heads on the birds appeared ‘bulbous’ in comparison to the narrowness of the neck. The general impression was of a rakish, out-stretched bird.  The wings were broad and long, but with no apparent ‘fingers’, which only accentuated the spindle ness of the neck and legs.  I expected to see a ‘brownish’ colouration as the birds came closer and in full sun but they appeared all black, almost silhouetted, with no discernible colouration even with the sun now shining directly on them.  There were no other birds at the same height or distance to make a size comparison.  The flight was purposeful in its direction with no glides, but ‘flappy’ and ‘buoyant’ in the headwind, with individuals occasionally ‘leap-frogging’ others and catching and being buffeted by the wind – quite undulating in nature.  I had a digital camera (Canon PowerShot S5) with me and attempted to get three photographs of the birds but the autofocus failed to lock onto them as they were so distant.  I then decided to alert the only other birder I knew locally who might be at home, John Clements, as the birds were flying towards and then over his house!  I managed to get through to his wife who told me he was on the Scillies – great.  There was no one else in the locality so I watched the birds as they continued NE.  They lost some height as they flew over the Aylesford area so that they were lost momentarily by the backdrop of the North Downs, but quickly gained height again.  I last saw them at what I estimate was 5km (3miles) or so away in the Blue Bell Hill/Tyland Barn area where they were gaining height but continuing in a NE direction.  I returned to my office and immediately sent out emails to Kent-birders and Kentbirders email groups (that were picked up by RBA and BirdGuides) and texted other birders who I though might have a look in, in the hope that other birders on the flight path might be able to pick them up.

Now for the amazing photos:

Worth waiting for eh! You'll have to take my word for it that they weren't crows (I got 2 of those as well, below)!

So the rest of the day; a slight mist hung in the air as I set off on my bike but had started to clear by the time I'd reached Gallagher's Gallop.  Nine Stock Doves fed out on the pasture along with 4x Herring Gulls and a LBB Gull.  As I past the gulls took the air and seemed agitated and vocal at what I first though was me, but I soon picked up on a Common Buzzard flapping around the northern perimeter of Oaken Wood.  The Sweets Lane paddocks held a couple of Pied Wagtails but not much else.  The old Routemaster on Easterfields looked kinda sinister in the mist and the sun burning through:

As I entered the Research Station I noticed a 'fat dove' that didn't fly when the Wood Pigeons took flight.  Looking closer I saw it was an albino Wood Pigeon, on it's own and seemingly unfazed by my approach.  

Checking my strawberry plots late morning I was pleased to see 6x Meadow Pipits balancing on the tunnel metalwork.

Then came lunch -only 30 minutes to see if I couldn't get myself Redwing...little did I know!  Before seeing the Glossy Ibises, which I managed to get just before getting back to the office, I saw a couple of Kestrels but not much else. 

Phew -  a big blast of sunshine to end what had been quite an eventful day!


Phil said...

Fantastic sighting and a great account of it Adam. Just wish I'd been around. I was in Dorset and also missed the opportunity of re-finding the Gt White Egret which was reported in the area.

Greenie said...

Adam ,
Well , I believe you that they are Glossy Ibises , not so sure about the Corvids and Kestrels .
Great sighting .

Warren Baker said...

Well done Adam !! What a find ! You just never know whats up there do you :-)
your undoubted camera skills were utilised again I see :-) :-)

Anonymous said...

Love that shot of the Routemaster.


twisden said...

Its an RT ,a Routemaster would be RM.

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