Friday, 29 February 2008


A visit to Oare creek today, where the grey/brown scenery matched the weather, which grew chillier as the morning went on.
Highlights were 123 Avocets (count them, above) .........

......a good number of Widgeon, Teal, Shoveller and Pintail.....

.....and five Ruff including these three.

Also much in evidence were Black-Tailed Godwits, including two having a scrap. I think it was a scrap and not a mating ritual - standing on your partner's head and pecking him/her doesn't seem very romantic.

Returning to Kingsdown, there were plenty of birds on the newly-harrowed field opposite the playing fields - a score of Crows, a dozen Stock Doves, a few Jackdaws, Starlings and Wood Pigeons, 20-30 Chaffinches, two Mistle Thrushes and a Yellowhammer.

Thursday, 28 February 2008

Farewell to Fanet

The time has come to say goodbye to the Isle of Thanet, as I've got a job elsewhere.

My arrival in Thanet three years ago stimulated the revival of my interest in birding, as it is such a good place for it. I shall especially miss the waders on rising tide at Foreness.......

....and the raucous calls of the Parakeets.

I shall also miss the lads of Planet Thanet, who have encouraged (mostly) me to develop my skills and inspired much of the style of this blog.
So (if you ever read this amateur stuff) to Dylan, Gadget, Phil et al - a sincere thank you and keep up the good work.

Wednesday, 27 February 2008

Bird listening (not watching)

There are times when you don't see birds, but hear them, and today was one of those days. A walk in the woods at Chilham brought plenty of birdsong but few clear sightings. Only Goldcrests, Robins, Coal, Blue and Great Tits were easy to see, while the calls of Nuthatch, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Marsh Tits and (at 10.30am in bright sunshine) Tawny Owl were not complemented by views.The most enigmatic bird was, however, a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, which drummed frequently on at least three posts, but despite my careful approach and patient waits (a pheasant walked over my foot, squirrels fed from my hands - well, almost) I could not get a glimpse.
The sound was pleasing enough, though, as I had never heard one drumming, and it sounds quite different to the Great Spot - softer, longer (2 - 3 seconds at a time) and quieter, so you're actually closer than you first think.
Hole in a Silver Birch, made presumably by a Great Spotted Pecker.

On the way home, a quick walk through Captain's Wood to see if similar LSW drumming could be heard, but no luck - however, Wood Anemones are starting to emerge....
....and the ground is covered with the small leaves of Lesser Celandines, with the occasional early flower.
The one below with mottled leaves looked so perfect I had to feel it, to make sure it wasn't made of silk. It has 10 petals, while the one above has 12 - apparently they do vary, but without photos I'd never noticed.

Sunday, 24 February 2008


Dungeness is a promentary built up from ridges of shingle that mark the position of centuries of beaches. As it sticks out into the sea, miles from anywhere, it has attracted a nuclear power station, lighthouses, strange shacks, fishing boats, flotsam and jetsam, unusual plants, unusual birds and the usual birders. The Dungeness National Nature Reserve is 1031 hectares (or 2½ thousand acres), and the whole shingle area forms the largest example in Europe.
Derek Jarman's cottage and garden

Isn't that a huge loco?
Er, no, actually it's rather small.

I spent a pleasant hour sitting on the point (ouch, let me rephrase that - sitting on the shingle at the point) listening to the swoosh of the waves and watching the passage of gulls, auks and cormorants - up to 60 sitting just offshore at a time. Also a couple of Red-Throated Divers and a few Guillemots benefitted from the food underwater where the tide eddied around the point. OK - you don't want to read any more.
No really - the next bit's horrible. Go back to ebay or whatever.
OK, I warned you. There was a rabbit at the side of the track to the RSPB reserve, being attacked by a Stoat - maybe the rabbit had been injured by a car, or maybe the stoat had run it down.

You can tell it's a stoat - it' stoatally different as it has a dark tip to it stail.

Friday, 22 February 2008

More oil

Another badly-oiled Guillemot to report - this time on the rifle range, so it must have scrambled over the broken down wall at high tide. I called Dinah, who responded quickly and we were able to catch it without too much trouble.
This gave me another chance to visit to Beryl at Wildlife Careline, who is a mine of information.
Her advice to the local paper was taken up by the TV news, and although the rescue system is busy, it is working well. More problems are expected over the weekend.
I saw an oiled gull near the guillemot, and apparently two oiled Slavonian Grebes have been rescued on Deal beach. Great Crested Grebes and divers have also been affected. If a grebe is caught, the advice is to make a soft cushion for its breastbone, to avoid internal damage.
The sign above was seen at Broadstairs (where there is no oil, as far as I know) but there are no signs around here (where there is). All we have is yet another silly sign from the MOD.

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Yard Birds

As I cut the grass today I thought about the birds that have been seen in, over and around the garden during the winter. This is what is known across the water as a Yard Birds List.
  1. Blackbird - a female spends each day hanging around under the feeders, waiting for crumbs to fall - a male turns up occasionally
  2. Wood Pigeons - always some in the trees behind the garden, or waddling around the lawn
  3. Blue Tits - frequent visitors to the feeders every day
  4. Coal Tit - male is a regular-as-clockwork visitor to the crushed peanuts; female visits occasionally
  5. Great Tits - two pairs seem to visit
  6. Long-Tailed Tits - a small flock turns up on the fat/peanut butter balls late each afternoon
  7. Robin - fights a constant battle to get onto the tit feeders - also has its own mealworm supply
  8. Dunnock - occasionally loafs around under the mealworm feeder
  9. Wren - snuffles around in the undergrowth
  10. Mistle Thrushes - overfly occasionally
  11. Magpie - noisily rules the roost in the trees, and struts around the lawn
  12. Jays - early morning visitors, in twos and threes
  13. Collared Doves - few this year, but will probably return in time to coo endlesly through the spring
  14. Greenfinches - numbers recently increased - keep to the front garden for some reason
  15. Chaffinches - also increased in the last fortnight - mostly keep to the trees
  16. Goldcrest - occasional visitor high in the trees
  17. Carrion Crow - frequently in trees
  18. Jackdaws - rarely in the garden, but often fly over from the cliff roost
  19. Great Spotted Woodpeckers - frequently fly over, but not yet enticed in
  20. Green Woodpeckers - occasionally we hear the yaffle
  21. Tawny Owls - at least three separate birds calling at the moment
  22. Kestrels - occasionally fly over
  23. Sparrowhawks - -"-
  24. Herring Gulls - noisily keeping to the highest roofs nearby
  25. Black-Headed Gulls - fly in from roosting on the sea every day, to feed on the fields
  26. Starlings - infrequently fly over
  27. Curlew - can sometimes be heard if the wind is from the sea
  28. Pheasant - occasional calls from behind the garden fence
No Song Thrushes have been seen or heard this winter, although they are usually regular here; also no House Sparrows nearby. No Bullfinches have been seen for a couple of years.

No warblers have overwintered, although both Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps were with us last year. I expect their calls soon, given the weather, and swallows may arrive early.

Thanks to the NW Nature Nut for the peanut butter recipe.

By the way, I saw The Yardbirds in Deal last year, and although they had some of the original members, Clapton, Beck and Page failed to turn up.

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

My daughter, the Hero

An early morning trip to the beach confirmed the continuing bad news - more corpses and two Razorbills coming onshore to rest.

Despite our previous failures, the sight of the corpses reinforced the need to catch and treat the birds, so I dragged the daughter from her half-term rest and togged up to try again.
Needless to say, the wellies were unhelpful, as the first wave washed over them and the lower part of my body, but after an undignified scramble we had the Razorbill wrapped in the towel. And then, to add insult to injury, we drove it in a cat box to Beryl of the Wildlife Careline in Dover (
Beryl gave the bird first aid, pumping oil from its stomach, and it was then put in a box to await the next visit from the RSPCA.As we had seen another bird on the beach, we returned and were again successful. This Razorbill was given directly to the RSPCA collector, who was returning to Mallydams Wood centre near Hastings, for treatment, recuperation and release.

Monday, 18 February 2008

But still the sun shines

As expected, there were corpses of Guillemots on the beach this morning. I covered three of them up, to prevent scavenging crows from ingesting the oil.

Looking at reports of oiled birds in Dorset, the Isle of Wight and Sussex recently, they seem to follow the progress of the timber from the sunk ship - however, the oil is apparently not the same as in that ship, and there are suggestions that other ships have taken the opportunity to clean out their tanks near the wreck to avoid blame - good grief.

There was only one auk visible on the sea (flapping its wings, as if oiled unfortunately), but there were six Great Crested Grebes and a passage south of divers, including at least one Great Northern.

The Black-Headed Gulls are developing their dark heads, as shown by the three models below:
Coltsfoot flowers shone brightly in the sunshine, and are starting to grow leaves - the plant is also known as Son-before-Father, because the flowers are followed by the leaves.

The umbiliferae are sprouting fast on the verges, with Wild Carrot and Hogweed flower stems shooting up.Yes, still the sun shines - all but one day in the last two weeks has been sunny (if not particularly warm). Good for walking.