Saturday 31 January 2009

31 January 2009 - Aylesford

A brief afternoon walk along the Medway at Aylesford produced one female blackcap.

Saturday 24 January 2009

24 January 2009 - East Malling

After recent comments from Warren and Steve, complaining about Adam and I going on about 'our' Waxwings, I would like to take this opportunity to say sorry for talking about them, not sharing them and not trying to encourage some of these avian jewels to fly to Pittswood or New Hythe.
Instead of going on about Waxwings, here, just for the benefit of Warren and Steve are my first pictures of Winter Aconites, captured in their glory as they bring a splash of vibrant colour to an otherwise cold but still winters day.
In other news today the Little Egret performed well along the road beside Hatton Gardens - a very confiding chap. Grey Heron and Siskins also at Bradbourne House.

Elsewhere on site, this fine male Fieldfare showed well on the top of the apple trees - admired by many and doubtless eyed-up by the local Sparrowhawks that were buzzing around.

And finally, one Waxwing seen today in a brief check by East Malling Church. Fantastic wee beasties if you ask me, such a pleasure to have them on site for such a prolonged spell and so pleasing that they have performed (on occasion) for the visiting birders. I just can't enough of Waxwings - and I'm sure that Adam agrees!!!

Waxwing - my favourite bird (at the moment!)

Ken - Nice to meet you mate. I hope we can lure you back to East Malling for other birds soon - or the King and Queen for a pint!

Wednesday 21 January 2009

21 January 2009 - Operation Waxwing

With Adam off site today, my target was simple - get the highest number of Waxwings ever recorded on site and get a better Waxwing photo than Adam.

And the result.....

...... wait for it........

One Little Egret. Oh, and let's not forget that two Mute Swans arrived on the lake today (and not even a ****ing Whooper Swan amongst them).

The Barnacle Goose hasn't been around for a couple of days.

Tuesday 20 January 2009

20 January 2009 - East Malling

Another day of Waxwings on site - and for those of us on site (Adam, The Bearded One and I), it's been great to enjoy these northern nomads.

Clearly the birds have got at least three favoured feeding areas - The Church at East Malling, Garner Drive and probably some of the research plots on site - but quite where they go for some prelonged periods of time, we don't really know yet.

As a rather bald birder, these Waxwings are taking the p**s. Just as well they're pretty fantastic birds - otherwise we'd send them to Hadlow, Halling and Birling...!

Monday 19 January 2009

19 January 2009 - various points around East Malling, Kent

An early lunch was taken to enable me to check for any Waxwings near east Malling Church before Adam... Sure enough, despite no records since last Wednesday, I could see something interesting in the lime trees in the Church yard. Bins up and flippin eck - there's loads of them.

I phoned Adam whilst counting, 20, 21, 22 ish. Adam was suitably gripped - and very polite and complimentary about the find. Whosh, and they departed North, just as I got to 26 birds in total. Steadily they tracked towards The House of The Bearded One, but then changed West and dropped a bit. Collecting the Bearded One we were in hot pursuit - one complete lap of East Malling and no sign - bugger!

After dropping the Bearded One off near his car, I returned to the office. Handbrake, neutral, car door open, step out and hear lots of little trilling sounds from the tree the other side of the walled garden - open car door, extract bins and confirmed ID - the Waxwings.

I then shot round to Garner Drive and had the birds coming down to Viburnum berries - nice.

Several Siskins heard calling - doubtless Adam will arive, miss the Waxwings but get cracking snaps of Siskins....

Sunday 18 January 2009

18 January 2009 - West Hythe and Camber

A Sunday trip down to West Hythe for the Night Heron was rewarded with an excellent performance of this very confiding (at times) individual.

I say 'performance', it just sat there and occasionally looked up when there was a noise.

After our fill of the Night Heron and a Sunday roast, we headed down to Camber for the King Eider. It's probably accurate to say I didn't have the correct attire on - I'd not taken a coat with me - but most folk on the sea front were hardly spending a great deal of time examining this arctic wonder.

For the record - here's what a King Eider looks like when you try and digiscope in a hurry whilst you're freezing your knackers off!

Saturday 17 January 2009

17 January 2009 - Larkfield Lakes

Barnacle Goose in amongst the Canada Geese. Last year there was up to three - commuting between here and the fields at Bradbourne House, East Malling. Category C on the bedroom list - at best!

Sunday 11 January 2009

11 January 2009 - East Malling

A quick wallk this afternoon round East Malling Church revealed 4 Waxwings high in the top of a tree.

The first walker to be heading towards me was soon ID'd was Kent Butterfly Recorder, Mike Easterbrook - thankfully the birds sat firm as Mike walked underneath them.

After phoning the news out and contacting Adam the Waxwings flew off South - we wandered on.

A few Bramblings on site as we headed back. As we neared the Church, Adam walks towards us with what he claims to be pictures of one of the Waxwings taken at point blank range - nice one Adam, I'm sure I've seen that image in a book somewhere!!!!!

Notice how cleverly I managed to get either a shadow or a twig across some part of every bird - now not everyone can achieve that!

Saturday 10 January 2009

10 January 2009 - East Malling and Larkfield Lakes

With so many thrushes on site an early start saw the Bearded One and I setting nets pre-dawn in -6oC temperatures. We've had some really interesting recoveries and retraps from this activity in the past - making the conditions almost seem bearable...

Everything was going fine until after the first net round, freezing fog came in (or down or through or whatever fog does) and froze to the nets. The result was pure white nets that every bird in the world could see. As it was, the 75 (ish) birds that we ringing represented a fraction of what could have been processed.

Highlights included:
6 Green Woodpeckers in the net at one time
1 female Brambling
2 Fieldfare
1 Jay
30 Redwing

Female Brambling - hatched in 2008

This male Green Woodpecker was a retrap from Jan 2003 (ringed as an adult) so now at least 8 years old.

The tertials were clean with hardly any barring.

After packing up, this Kingfisher showed well in the Bearded One's garden - my hurried attempts at a picture failed to impress me!

A walk round Larkfield Lakes produced this male Stonechat on the edge of Tesco Lake...

as well as numerous camera-shy Little Grebes

Friday 9 January 2009

9 January 2009

The Brambling count at East Malling gets ever higher - probably cos Adam and I are looking harder and harder. Dunno how many we saw today but conservative estimates could 20-30+. I'll try and start ringing them this weekend to get a fuller picture of numbers.

Adam mentioned an unconfirmed report of a Waxwing on site - the first for several years. On returning back to my office, sure enough one Waxwing readily located along the road, in the top of a tree. The bird was then disturbed by walkers and couldn't be relocated, but is there somewhere....

Later I went back to try and take a picture while Adam wasn't around - only to find Adam, attempting exactly the same thing, and no Waxwing!

Thursday 8 January 2009

8 January 2009 - Nr Adam's Office, East Malling

Went to Adam's office today to have a look for these supposed Bramblings - after finding one female and then another and then another, I then started finding male Bramblings

Had at least fours males and four females - including this shot of four birds together.
Some of the males were cracking - even if these pictures are not!
A few thrushes also around to practice pictures with - all very nice for a quick lunchbreak.

Wednesday 7 January 2009

7 January 2009 - East Malling

Went round the labs at the research station at lunchtime - just to try and grip Adam on his patch..! Hundreds of winter thrushes everywhere including a high percentage of Redwings - there must be thousands on site.

Had my first attempt at digiscoping - a nice male Fieldfare

Friday 2 January 2009

2 January 2009 - Scotland, Cleveland, Kent

News late yesterday of a probable Glaucous-winged Gull in Cleveland was intriguing.

I had missed the Welsh bird as its appearance had coincided with my first wedding anniversary. Having left work the Friday afternoon when news first broke, I dipped that evening and eventually at midday on the Saturday had to jack it in to meet up with the Good Lady Wiff. It was as I got to Reading that news of its reappearance came through on the pager.

If that wasn't bad enough, I stood around like a lemon at Beddington Sewerage Farm with several others and for several hours the day after it was found there by Johnny Allan.

Glaucous-winged Gull - the only bird that I've (so far) missed cos of family.

So fast forward to 1st Janualry 2009 - interesting news indeed. We were due to head south on 2nd or 3rd of January, and had been contemplating a trip to see Barnacle Geese on the West coast and then visit friends in Cheshire... On the Thursday night plans were on hold and a mega alert at 10.11am changed our plans for good - the East coast route it was.

With a wee spog needing feeding, changing, etc and saying goodbye to relatives who wouldn't see the little lad until the Summer, I had to bide my time till departure at 11am. The sat nav said an arrival time of 15.00 hours - this was surely going to be tight (we made provisional plans for overnighting in Cleveland) and set out.

The world and his wife were on the roads around Edinburgh, every time I made up a few minutes I then lost a few in traffic. A stop for petrol; a stop to fill the washer bottle - these were all costing time. The sun hadn't ventured very high in to the sky as was now slipping ever further towards the horizon - a Cleveland bed seemed the only option, especially as the bird hadn't been since since 11 something this morning.

At 14.40 the Good Lady Wiff asked what our ETA was? A check of the sat nav read 1.8 miles away; the pager read Glaucous-winged Gull again at Cowpen Bewley. Three minutes and a couple of roundabouts later and there was a crowd, thirty seconds and a jump over a fence and there was the Glaucous-winged Gull.

Was it the most attractive bird I've ever seen? No
Was it at the most attractive site in the UK? No
Will it get accepted by the BBRC? Gulls are difficult - I am sure that its journey will not be straight forward, so let's not count our chickens too early.

But, for the time being at least, Glaucous-winged Gull sits on my UK list - and that makes me smile! (photo from Newton Stringer blog - thank you!)