Sunday, 26 October 2008

Ospreys' progress

Since August I've been following the progress of two Osprey chicks from Scotland that had tracking devices fitted - one (a male) stayed near Hythe for a month, then set off in a slightly wrong direction and presumably ditched exhausted into the Atlantic.
The female spent a similar time in southern England, around Oxford, then made steady progress south across western France, across the Med (not via Gibraltar) then across the Sahara. She is now in Senegal, near the Senegal River and lakes which should provide a good food supply.
While checking her current position, I noticed a strange moon-crater-like image, and zooming in can see that it is a village. The layout of houses and enclosures is clearly shown, and there are clues about the inhabitants' lifestyle.

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Where did all the leaves go?

No. 31 Pheasant (which woke me up by clucking at a local cat, which slunk off, the coward).

Monday, 20 October 2008

Great October Word-Botch

Just for the record, the total number of specious birds seen in the October Word-Botch was 31:

31. Peasant
30. Goldfinger
29. Soul Tit
28. Sqawk
27. Wide Pagtail
26. Tublit
25. Fong Frush
24. J
23. Goldpest
22. Grey Herring
21. Blond-Tailed Tit
20. Common Crossword
19. Chiffchaffchiffchaffchiffchaff
18. Dunnink
17. Dollared Cove
16. Chaffink
15. Greenfink
14. Agent Starling
13. Great-Spitting Pecker
12. Carry On Crow
11. Heron Gull
10. Tate Grit
9. Ren
8. His kin
7. Mipit
6. Hows Martin
5. Block-Headed Gull
4. Wrobin
3. Mudpie
2. Slackjaw
1. King Pigeon

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Subtle change in the weather

A subtle change in the weather has brought more birds to the feeders, including a new arrival of tits (sorry Michelle) but regrettably nothing new for the October list.

A very surprising arrival was this Snow Bunting, which is hanging around beside (and sometimes on) a quiet road near St Margarets. Congratulations to Phil the finder (on a bicycle) and thanks to Tony for the directions.
I saw that one had turned up in Northumberland and wondered how many months it would be before one would be sighted in Kent this winter - there's always a surprise waiting around the corner.
(Thanks PPW for the better photo.)

Saturday, 18 October 2008

Sanderlings and other favourites

One of the most pleasurable birding experiences in Kent is watching small waders around the coasts between Autumn and Spring, and one of the best places to do this is Foreness on the Isle of Thanet.
A high tide, Sanderlings, Ringed Plovers, Turnstones and Purple Sandpipers can be seen foraging on the sands and over seaweeds, more concerned about the next wave than the human activity on the nearby sea-wall.
Ringed Plover and Sanderling

Sanderling and Turnstone

Sanderlings, Turnstones and Oystercatcher

On two sheltered beaches nearby, roosts of waders congregate to wait out the high tide.

About 160 Sanderlings, 100 Ringed Plovers and three Purple Sandpipers were counted at the Foreness site - and none this time at Fayreness. These birds have flown down from the tundra after the short breeding season; some may stay here but some will continue south to Africa, using these beaches as a staging post for refuelling. Some will fly 3000 miles in each direction, taking about seven weeks.
The Purple Sandpipers, however, are probably close to the end of their migration and may well stay on this beach for the winter - others should join them, as a group of about 20-30 is normal. Studies of migration indicate that those arriving in this part of Britain are likely to be from the Canadian breeding population. No surprise that these recent arrivals wanted to get their heads down.

Sunday, 12 October 2008

Indian Summer

It started out misty as befits a good autumn day.
Spiders' webs caught the dew......and the far side of Restharrow Scrape couldn't be seen.

Two Meadow Pipits posed in the murk, which soon cleared to give a glorious sunny warm day.
Up at Hope Point there were flocks of Goldfinches and Wagtails flying south, while on the sea a lone Shag drifted with the current.

A Grey Heron was disturbed from the rocks below, where two Little Egrets also foraged.

In the stubble fields , I found no Fluellen but there were Field Pansies ('freak'd with jet' thought Milton).
Insects enjoying the Indian Summer included a Small Copper (the first ever in my garden) and the first (and very late) Humming-Bird Hawk Moth - the only 'humming-bird' we get, and it may have flown in from France on the warm southerly wind.
And finally....
Mrs K is expecting a cold winter, so a load of logs had to be shifted from the front to the back garden. This gave an opportunity for keeping an eye and an ear open for any more birds for the October list, and a few more were added, including this Coal Tit.
Jays were abundant, with a party of four flying over at one point.
The Met Office is forecasting another mild, drier, winter this year, by the way.

Friday, 10 October 2008

On the Stump

As a nod to the elections approaching in the US (can't avoid them) and Canada (who?).
For the record, the Canadian elections are on October 14th.

Some will, of course, sit on the fence.

Perhaps it depends if you're a hawk
or a dove.
In their place and in the face of the economic problems, if I were a politician I'd say 'after you, Cecil!'.

Sunday, 5 October 2008

Cap Gris Nez (day 2)

Cap Gris Nez from Cap Blanc Nez

One of the reasons for my interest in the remarkable sightings from Cap Gris Nez on Friday was our imminent visit to France yesterday. Things had quietened down considerably as the wind swung round to the SW, and very few birds were reported by the French observers (apart from 1172 Gannets).
The weather was good for the morning crossing and we were accompanied by a host of Kittiwakes (kits in the wakes), with plenty of Gannets crossing our path. Three Little Gulls and one Med Gull were seen, as well as three Skuas which we reckoned were one Arctic and two Pomeranian.
The rest of the day was spent eating and shopping (being with a group of avi-atheists and auk-gnostics) but a flock of about 40 Sanderlings was on Calais beach.

As the return crossing-time approached, the wind built up to a gale (hurricane Laura), and we spent a couple of hours (not uncomfortable) bobbing around off Kingsdown, waiting for a safe entrance to the harbour.

Friday, 3 October 2008

Cap Gris Nez, France

Just across the channel, at Cap Gris Nez and Le Clipon (Dunkirk), there are occasionally huge sea-watch counts. Today was one such day at Cap Gris Nez, as reported below. Note, visibility is described as very poor! Oh to have been there.

Counting period: 7:30-19:30
Weather: SW 2 ->NW 5-6 Bft - temps variable
3 grains - 8->12°C - très mauvaise visibilité (artéfacts)

Red-throated Diver 21
Great Crested Grebe 4
Red-necked Grebe 1
Fulmar 62
Sooty Shearwater 113
Manx Shearwater 48
Balearic Shearwater 5
Storm Petrel 1
Leach's Petrel 3
Gannet 2,290
Brent Goose 9
Shelduck 6
Wigeon 3
Eider 6
Common Scoter 157
Pomarine Skua 29
Arctic Skua 139
Long-tailed Skua 9
Great Skua 1,389
skua spec 6
Mediterranean Gull 6
Little Gull 189
Sabine's Gull 2
Common Gull 10
Kittiwake 152
Sandwich Tern 472
Common Tern 34
Arctic Tern 13
Razorbill 2
Razorbill/Guillemot 12

Total: 5200 individuals, 30 species, 12:00 hours

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Garden Watch

Bad weather causes decline in robin numbers

That was a headline in one of the papers a month ago, referring to a BTO report on summer breeding, and the lack of migrant arrivals. The intervening few weeks have seen a large arrival of robins (as well as goldcrests) on the easterly winds, so that one seems to be singing or calling from every bush and tree.
The headline could also refer to a poor start to the Great October Bird Count (Kingsdown version) as strong winds and squally showers reduced the number of birds seen to a miserable single figures.

While our colonial cousins are adding hummingbirds to their lists, my list has hardly started....but there's still a month to go.

An interesting relevant link is to a BTO webpage, which shows the results by county of Garden Birdwatches in 2006 - although for Kent there is a surprisingly large number of Willow Tit sightings.

Returning to the newspaper article about robin et al, mention is made of lower insect numbers, which had not struck me before - it was interesting to read the St Margarets blog comment that there is a much lower 'strike-rate' of bugs on windscreens at night, compared with past years.

The robin could become a rare sight this winter due to a decline in numbers caused by bad weather. The British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) has recorded a drop in the number of robins this year due to a poor breeding season.
The usual influx of robins from the continent has also failed to materialise because of adverse weather conditions. BirdTrack, the collaborative online bird recording scheme developed by the BTO and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), shows sightings are down by 8 per cent on last year.
There are also fears birds will go hungry this autumn and winter after experts warned insect numbers are down because of the wet weather. Mark Grantham, population biologist at the British Trust for Ornithology, said the wet spring breeding season was responsible or the lack of native robins, while the corerct winds had not yet brought songbirds from the continent. "We should be seeing a lot of song thrushes and robins coming into the country at this time of year but we have not yet," he said.

"If you do not get a nice long easterly wind then birds are not going to move, they are going to stay where they are in Scandinavia or the near continent."
Other small birds that should come across in the early migration are songthrush, fieldfare, goldcrest and redwing.
Mr Grantham said last year was the worst in 25 years of records for birds in Britain and this year does not look like it is going to be much better.
Gemma Rogers, of the RSPB, urged people to start putting out feed early to ensure birds do not suffer from a shortage of insects. "We do know that bird numbers in gardens generally are declining, and if the insect decline continues there is every chance it could have a bad effect on our garden favourites," she said.