Monday, 29 September 2008


A few updates after the events of the weekend... the expected north westerlies brought more visible migration but nothing 'special' - how demanding are we?
Plenty of warblers including this Chiffchaff, and a darkish brown one, but I'm not going to speculate (much).....
Remember our scrawnbag? - I found it (or one very like) on the ground nearby with an injured wing surrounded by feathers - as predicted it'd been hit by a predator, but had managed to escape - it flew with difficulty into the hedgerow.

The Hythe Osprey has finally flown south(ish) after just over a month at Brockhill. He doesn't seem to be going in quite the right direction..... the RSPB site describes him as: still flying, he has missed the Azores. He was at an altitude of 500m and has so far flown 1978miles (3185km). The facts are now clear - on his current course the next landfall is 2470 miles (4000km) away in Suriname,South America - that distance is 3-4 days away.
The female has also left Britain at the same time, and is in Brittany. I suppose that the best that they could say would be 'So long, and thanks for all the fish!'

There was a Great Grey Shrike behing Ripple church on the weekend, and being 'elusive' I managed to miss it three times, or as SteveR delicately put it: 'Three shrikes and you're out'. Ha bloody ha.

Saturday, 27 September 2008

Birds everywhere

This flock of about 100 birds aptly illustrates the day - clear blue sky and plenty of birds.
I was up with the lark, and the first few yards of the walk confirmed that the large number of Goldcrests that had been seen and heard yesterday were still around, along with many Robins and tits.
It seemed that every tree and bush along the Otty Bottom track had warblers, goldcrests, robins and tits in it, flying briskly from one to another. This is the kind of activity that I had been told about but have seen only too rarely.

At the top of the hill, this mixture gave way to skylarks (some singing well), thrushes and two flocks of 7 and 5 Yellowhammers. Wheatears were on the bales, and Swallows and House Martins flew above the stubble -contrarily heading north.
Reluctant to miss the good conditions, I drove over to Sandwich Bay observatory, where an almost birdless Scrape was more than compensated by a well-marked Red-Backed Shrike in the paddock.
I took the opportunity to watch the ringing, and walked the nets in the hope of something special (they had Radde's and Yellow-Browed Warblers yesterday) but was happy enough just being close to the common birds that were there.
Yellow Browed Warbler (copyright SteveR)
The SBBO board show the variety and in some cases the numbers of birds around this week - and it looks good for tomorrow too.

And finally, the bumbles bees are mating prior to the females' hibernation - I guess these are carder bees?
And please don't mention the cricket. It has a stump missing. Like Kent.

Thursday, 25 September 2008

Sea Eagles

OK, so it's not a Sea Eagle, but in the past dark wet days it's the best I could manage. A scrawnbag young Wood Pig, destined to be a meal for one of the Peregrines no doubt.
Anyway, back to the Sea Eagles - the reintroduced birds in the Western Isles were in the news this week, with reports of the large number of lambs that they have been taking. The conflict between conservation and livelihood is a difficult one to resolve.

The last Sea Eagles bred in Scotland in 1916, and this is the subject of a book by a Deal writer, William Horwood, whose book The Stonor Eagles, is partly based in Scotland and Norway, and partly in Deal. There is a long description of the old man (who is feeling the guilt of giving away the site of the last nest to the gamekeepers back in 1916) telling his stories on a seat looking out to sea, near his little house in Compass Street (presumably Coppin Street, with the Three Compasses pub on the corner).
The second chapter of the book begins 'A bitter easterly wind drove ever heavier waves against the grey concrete plies of Deal pier....' - the man knows what he's talking about all right.

I'm only a short way through it, so I can't give away the end, so please go and patronise your local independent bookseller to find out what happens.
One of the RSPB's projects is on Sea Eagles in Mull two of which have had transmitters fitted, while another project is further reintroduction in eastern Scotland.

Later....the sun has reappeared and it looks good for the weekend.

Sunday, 21 September 2008

Time Ball Tower

The rooftops of Deal make an attractive sight - especially from above. A town of few high buildings, one of the few ways to see them is from the top of the Time Ball Tower.
The tower was built in 1820 and until 1927 it provided the official time to ships moored in the Downs off Deal, by raising at lowering the ball at 1pm each day.
The process continues today on the hour, linked to an atomic clock (as indeed are the BBC pips, which were unforgivably slow last week).
Nearby, the Deal Maritime Festival included the Hoodeners dancing around a maypole, keeping the East Kent traditions alive.
The blacked-up faces are a contrast to the usual white-dressed morris men, but the principles of a mixed pagan and Christian symbolism are similar, while the songs and music are shared across the country. The Hoodening tradition is mainly based around Christmas, when the group would tour around the village performing a play about death and resurrection, involving songs, dances and the drinking of much beer.

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Admiralty Pier, Dover

Has a stroll along the western arm of the harbour, or it should be promenade as the ticket office sign said 'Promenaders - £1'. Great views of the Dover Castle and the port, and friendly anglers which is just as well because the path is narrow, requiring much clambering over fishing rods and tackle.
The SeaCat refers anachronisticly to 'pirates' - in this case meaning the established companies that tried to keep Speedferries off their patch.
The pier is showing its age, but some of the ironwork remains attractive, if in need of some paint.
No doubt this would be a good birding spot in a gale - as it was, there were a couple of entertaining Kittiwakes among the gulls, as well as a Wheatear (no surprise there then), a Rock Pipit and a Whitethroat caught in the entrance tunnel.

Monday, 15 September 2008

Two in a bush

No, that Pied Flycatcher is not in a cage, it's on the other side of the fence along the undercliff.

Being protected from humans by a high fence, it was unconcerned, and spent time on the outside twigs snapping at bugs - it posed a challenge for photography though.

Then it was joined by another bird - a Lesser Whitethroat? They stayed close for a while, although turning their beaks up at the nearby blackberries.
There have been numerous reports of migrating Pied Flycatchers this week, as well as Spotted Flys, Redstarts, warblers etc and it's the second for me this autumn.

Sunday, 14 September 2008

Mostly raptors

After yesterday's good birding along the cliffs, a change in the wind meant that there was little to be seen apart from more Siskins flocking north, a Peregrine across the cliff and three Sparrowhawks flying out to sea.
Things were so quiet that we spent time checking that this was indeed a Herring Gull, as it had very little black on its wing-tips.

We walked inland a little and things quickly picked up, with a Hobby hunting over the harvested cornfieldand at least two Whinchats flitting among the bales. Even in search of a better photo, SteveR used his stalking skills, with success.
Back home, a pile of pigeon feathers showed that a raptor had been there - all shafts had been neatly cut.

Later, we called in at Fowlmead, mainly to check the fungi , but a distant raptor caught our eye and as it came nearer it became clear that it was a Honey Buzzard. Its approach stalled over the village of Worth which has some tall trees, and it circled over these for 40 minutes, occasionally flying lower, occasionally very high, then eventually flew towards the sea putting up flocks of birds as it went. It was last seen over Sandwich.
A lovely weekend