Welcome to my birdwatching blog. This blog will contain stories about my bird watching trips, interesting bird news and other tales that may or may not be bird related. I want to make it useful to the avid birder as well as those who may only have a passing interest in bird watching. I enjoy photographing bird life, common and rare through a spotting scope, not that they always sit still long enough for me. Being on the outskirts of North East London, my reports will not only cover my local patch of Redbridge/Waltham Forest, but also dip into deepest Essex, Suffolk, Kent and Norfolk.


Monday, 12 August 2013

Bacon butties, burgers, beer, brilliant birds and butterflies

Blimey.

Every year there are certain days that stand out from the main as memorable and incredibly satisfying. Yesterday was just such a day.

For a few weeks I had been planning a birding trip and had my eye firmly fixed on Kent. Specifically Oare Marshes – one of my favourite sites – and Grove Ferry, more for the delightful watering hole than anything else but the reserve has been good to me over the years so why not?

My good friend Ed was riding shotgun and I would pick him up from his home close to Brentwood. Now Ed is pretty brilliant at many things; it could be Star Wars trivia, BBQ’d kebabs or knowing how to design the interior of a double decker bus. But on this day it was his ability to make the most amazing bacon butty breakfast.

We got down to Oare around 8.30am and already there seemed a larger than usual gathering of camouflauge. Now camouflage isn’t always easy to see but when most of it is squarely positioned on the road with huge tripods and rucksacks then it does stand out a bit. We weaved our way through this and somehow managed to find a spot to park. I suppose Oare was popular because recent sightings of the long-staying Bonaparte’s Gull and a regularly commuting Cattle Egret has had a magnetic effect on a lot of birders.

Temminck’s Stint causes road block
Ed and I played it cool. We decided to walk off away from the madding crowd and headed off along the seawall. We saw plenty of Black-taied Godwits, a pair of Curlew feasting on crab and hoards of Common Redshank busily probing the exposed mudflats. On the East Flood, small parties of Linnet flicked over the reedbeds and the occasional ting-ting call of the Bearded Tit could be heard but the breeze was keeping them down in the depths of the reeds.

Probably time for a picture of a bird or something.

Small Copper, Oare Marshes
Butterflies were a bit thin on the ground but there were a couple of species I hadn’t seen before. The first was a Clouded Yellow. Actually there were at least six of the flighty butterflies about and at no time did they settle or even come anywhere near to us to even give us hope of a picture. The other was the Small Copper which is a delicate and dainty butterfly. Again I heard the Bearded Tits calling and I did eventually see a pair but – and I’ll say it quickly – Ed missed them. He hasn’t seen one yet but we will sort this out soon (I hope)

Little Egret, Oare Marshes
The East Flood held a good number of wader species. From the hide we picked out a Curlew Sandpiper, a few Dunlin, 150+ Black-tailed Godwits, Common Redshanks, 50+ Golden Plovers and a couple of Greenshank. The hide was hot and getting full so we headed back to fresh air and the hoards of birders in the road. We had heard from a friendly local birder that a Temminck’s Stint was about and it would seem all the fuss surrounded this small wader.

Now I was quite excited I admit because I have regularly dipped this bird and looked around for some fetching camouflage but it wasn’t needed. The bird was distant (theme for the day really) but was clear to see as it patrolled the water edge on the West side.

Well I said it was distant!
Temminck’s Stint with Little Egret
With this nicely in the bag, we focused back on the East Flood where a single Little Ringed Plover could be seen. A few more birders, one with serious camouflage on were scoping a small group of birds with a couple of gulls on the water. Yep, one was the Bonaparte’s Gull. And guess what? Yep, it was a bit distant and therefore the shot is a bit crap.

Bonaparte’s Gull. It’s the one on the left!!
Feeling almost as satisfied as eating an Ed bacon butty we journeyed south and just east of Caterbury to Grove Ferry. We had heard some disappointing news about the reserve consisting of neglect and a lack of any development in the reserve from those that should have been building on the reserves past successes but it would possibly be the best place to get Wood Sandpiper and if nothing else, the Grove Ferry Inn is pretty damn good...even on a Sunday.

So, in line with my oncoming dementia, we got lost. I’ve been to Grove Ferry numerous times and I can only think that my mind must have been fixed on where best to buy some snazzy camouflage clothing for the winter. Anyway a delightful lady on my SatNav put us straight albeit taking us on a winding route through single lane tractor roads which the motor didn’t appreciate. Eventually we arrived and parked at the front door of the pub; found a table overlooking the boat-filled river to enjoy a couple of Shepherd Neame’s finest ales and a rather daunting burger.

But we did get lost Ed!
God these were good. And look, mine is so much bigger!!
Two pints later we waddled over to the reserve. It was really overgrown but there was bird life and we could just about see it from the viewing ramp. About 5 Green Sandpipers were on the boundary towards the back of the water but I couldn’t ID any Wood Sandpipers. A few Lapwing, a Grey Heron and a Little Egret sat among the many eclipsing ducks on the scrape. All you could hear was the breeze chasing through the vast fields of reeds...no Ting, ting of the Bearded Tit though.

Green Sandpiper
Grove Ferry/Stodmarsh. A few dark clouds over its future.
We did our best to find a Wood Sands but failed. We did get one brief glimpse of a Marsh Harrier and a hunting Kestrel but little else. A Wood Sandpiper was seen there but while we were eating those burgers. Just about worth the dip if you ask me.

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