Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Tuesday 28th February 2012

Glad to have caught up with the Hooded Merganser, just 20 minutes off patch at East Peckham, late this afternoon after missing out a couple of weekends ago.  Both my lads were in tow, having picked them up straight from school, and it cost be a couple of quid in sweets to entice them along - but once there they seemed quite interested.  I can feel a few trips coming on!

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Sunday 26th February 2012

A short visit this morning to nearby Wateringbury to check out a report of a possible Red-necked Grebe.  This bird couldn't be found, but 2x Little Grebe, 2x Green Sandpiper, 4x Greylag Geese and a Kingfisher were all seen on a newly scrapped out fishing pool between the Millpond and Old Road.  The three former species all new for the Wateringbury Tetrad so a useful visit!

Friday 24th February 2012

Needing some fresh air to combat my jet-lag I followed a tip off that the Great White Egret was still present in nearby East Peckham.  I was lucky as well as seeing the Great White Egret (distantly) with 3x Little Egrets and a Grey Heron, I also saw a drake Smew, 2x Treecreeper, 8x Lapwing, 1x Grey Wagtail.  Not bad for an hour's stroll!  On the way home I also find a Mediterranean Gull and 6x Stock Dove amongst 190+ Black-headed Gulls that were following the plough N of Teston Corner - both new species for the West Farleigh/Teston tetrad.

16-23rd February 2012

My recent trip to China yielded a massive 11 species!  Well it was a business trip, and I only managed to get out for pre-dawn sorties around the conference centre on the outskirts of Beijing!  It was about -5.C most days with smog, so it was hardly surprising I didn't manage more!  The list:

Tree Sparrow
Azure-winged Magpie
Carrion Crow
Chinese Grosbeak
Oriental Greenfinch
Little Grebe
Green Sandpiper
Water Pipit

A partially-iced up, rubbish strewn river near the conference centre proved the most productive area, with up to 8x Green Sandpipers, 2x Water Pipits and fly-by Hoopoe (!) being the highlights.

Unfortunately the only other wildlife I saw was on the end of skewers outside food stalls in the centre of Beijing!

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Wednesday 15th February 2012

 Usual time, usual place - the White-fronted Goose was refound with the Greylag Geese on the research station, a hybrid Canada x Greylag also stood out like a sore thumb.

A new addition was a drake Shoveler with 3x Teal (2 drakes) providing a supporting cast.  Loads (50+) of Common Gulls have come in over the last two days to the freshly thawed out fields.  Fieldfares were also numerous around the site.

Off to China tomorrow with work - looking forward to hearing about the Hooded Merganser touching down in East Malling/New Hythe in my absence!

Monday, 13 February 2012

Monday 13th February 2012

Just 20 minutes over lunch and just enough time to see if anything had dropped in on the East Malling site during the big freeze up.  The Greylag flock were picking waddled through one of the apple orchards, but I couldn't find the White-front amongst them. At Bradbourne Lake (private site) a couple of drake Teal and two pairs of Gadwall were on the lake, and amongst the Black-headed Gull flock was a Mediterranean Gull.

However top billing went to a small, inconspicuous, mouse-like bird that I've waited for over 12 years to find on the research site (unbelievable I know, but  it's not through lack of trying!) - a Treecreeper.  There are areas of habitat on parts of the site that are perfect for Treecreeper, and I've seen one (once!) in East Malling village, but for some reason this species has always eluded me. I managed a quick snap, up to the usual standard!

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Sunday 12th February 2012

An early start down the River Medway to try and relocate yesterday's redhead Smew.  I was in luck as I located two!  They were with a raft of Tufted Ducks just west of the last pontoons in East Farleigh and eventually drifted as far as Barming Bridge.  Nice to have a couple of Smew at the bottom of the road!

I cycled on towards Tovil hoping to connect with the redhead Goosander I'd also seen yesterday - but instead, and in heavy snow I found 10 (ten) Goosanders on the river just east of Farleigh lock.  They took to the air as soon as I braked (squeaky brakes!!), circled up and back on themselves before flying strongly west above the river.  I returned to Barming hoping to find them on the river but I never relocated them.  What a morning!  In addition I had a Snipe just west of Barming Bridge on one of the brooks that runs down to the river, and a sorry looking Green Woodpecker, futilely stabbing at the frozen earth with its beak.

With the heavy snow it was less 'water of a duck's back' but 'snow on a goose's back'!

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Saturday 11th February 2012

The car thermometer read -11.C as I left Barming for Whetsted, 20 minutes away, to see if I couldn't catch up with the Hooded Merganser that had been seen by Marcus Lawson yesterday afternoon.  Three pairs of gloves did little to keep the chill from my fingers as the sun slowly rose.

The River Medway was frozen on one side of the Golden Green lock, and water vapour rose from other demonstrating how cold the air was!  At Whetsted the pit was almost completely frozen, with only a small area of free water and this was crammed with wildfowl.  It made quite a sight to see Little Grebe, Widgeon, Gadwall, Coot, Mallard, Shoveler, Tufted Duck, Goldeneye (single female), Smew (a very fine drake), Red-crested Pochard (two)all crammed into together.  On the ice was a large flock of Greylag Geese and 46x Barnacle Geese!

Unfortunately the Hooded Merganser had left, but I was pleased to add a pair of Goosander to the list as I walked back over the lock gates on the Medway.

Later I cycled into Maidstone along the River Medway from Barming.  I was surprised to see a redhead Goosander on the river by Tovil footbridge, and it was still present but opposite the Lockmeadow complex as I cycled home.  Redwings and Blackbirds were constantly darting ahead of me and I counted 46 on the 2.5 mile journey home - quite some number.  However the best was saved until last; with it almost dark and sure that nothing else was to be seen, I caught sight of a redhead Smew about half way along the river between East Farleigh and Barming bridges.  It was on its own, but as I cycled towrads it a couple of Moorhen shot away from the bank and spooked it.  It took flight down the river towards East Farleigh.  Quite a day for sawbills!

Friday 10th February 2012

With increasingly cold weather coming in I made another quick visit to Bradbourne Lake, East Malling.  Yesterday I managed to dip on what would have been two new patch ticks for me: Egyptian Goose and Curlew (heard).  C'est la vie!  The Teal count was up to 5 birds now (inc. 2 Drakes), with a pair of Gadwall and a female Shoveler added another species to increasing list of wildfowl on patch.  The Lapwings were still on show, and with a bit of winter sun I couldn't resist some more photos.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Wednesday 8th February 2012

Checked out a couple of lakes in the East Malling area on the off chance of a Smew (or two) - Mote Park and New Hythe have both been graced in the last 2 days.  Clare Park between East Malling and West Malling was the first port of call - good to see a Grey Wagtail, but nothing else out of the ordinary.

to the research station and Bradbourne Lake, which produced 3x Teal, 12x Lapwing, Grey Heron and a flock of Black-headed Gulls, one of which had a pinkish tinge to it's breast....but no Smew!

Lots of prints in the snow.

Monday, 6 February 2012

Monday 6th February 2012

A quick sortie across the orchards on the research station, in the snow turned up much of what had been seen on Saturday: the White-fronted Goose was still present and the Deceit of Lapwings had increased to 12.  Their footprints of the latter were found all across one of the fallow fields, indicating how they run from one exposed weed to another!

Another visitor from far materialised in the shape of John Clements, desperately trying to acclimatise from the 36.C heat of Goa to -1.C of East Malling.  Earlier in the day he had a seen Lesser Redpoll in one of the orchards and even a Snipe in the middle of Kiln Barn Road

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Sunday 5th February 2012

The predicted 5 inches of snow turned up right on cue as the Met Office has said.  In between sledging and snowman making with my lads I managed a quick patch walk.  Redwings were everywhere in Barming, with good numbers of Fieldfares in the orchards.  Sledging by St Margaret's church saw 6x Lapwing, 3x Cormorant, 3x Mute Swan, 16x Canada Geese, 2x Jackdaw,1x Kestrel and a Sparrowhawk over.

A walk from Barming to East Farleigh via the orchards and back to Barming Bridge via the River Medway towpath turned up a few 'harsh weather' species including 2x Gadwall, 10x Tufted Ducks and 2x Snipe.

East Farleigh (double-click to enlarge)

 Two species of duck rarely seen on the Barming patch (Gadwall, above, and Tufted Ducks, below)

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Saturday 4th February 2012

A quick afternoon visit in the biting cold to East Malling Heath and the Research Station.  I tried to add a few species to the KOS Winter Atlas on the Heath, and although the I had 8x Goldcrest, 2x Bullfinch and 30+ Fieldfare, none were new for the tetrad.  

Lapwing, looking surprisingly 'petrel'-like in flight!

Moving onto the Research Station I was pleased to relocate the 1st-winter White-fronted Goose - pretty obvious in the flock today (see photo above).  A Teal and 6x Lapwings were new additions to the year list, the former being only the third I've seen one on site.  35+ Coots, 13 Skylarks, 60+ Linnets, 2x Little Grebe, 3x Mute Swan and 2x Tufted Ducks were also on show in the freezing conditions - even the waterfall was starting to freeze over!

Friday, 3 February 2012

Mystery goose

Spotted this 'small' goose amongst a Greylag and Canada Goose flock in East Malling today. 1st winter White-fronted??....I'm rubbish at geese!!!  Any help appreciated :-)