Friday, 16 September 2011

Garden Chiffchaff

Here in Kent, we've had a splendid week of sunny weather. On Wednesday night I had time to sit on the Dungeness beach and share an hour's solitude in the company of a rare Long tailed Skua and watch the sun go down. Tonight, and back in the garden a migrant Chiffchaff is happy to mix with a resident flock of Blue Tits and Great Tits which frequent the over grown plants and Sedges around the garden pond. Once again, the late afternoon sun has enabled me to get a decent photo of a fast moving bird. It's possible in September that many dozens of Chiffchaffs stream through our gardens turning to just a trickle in October and eventually the majority in Africa for the winter.

Whilst we've had a few flights of autumn Meadow Pipits pass over, there are still plently of late summer Swallows and Martins around and also their arch enemy the Hobby. The odd Buzzard is never too far away and a party of 6 Cormorants flew north over the village to.

It may never happen again, so here's a couple more pics of the Long Tailed Skua watching the sun go down on Dungeness Beach.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

2nd summer Long tailed Skua at Dungeness

I spent sometime up on the shingle at the fishing boats watching this Long tailed Skua at close quarters tonight. Unconcerned by visiting Birdwatchers, but always keeping an eye on passing Gulls and Sandwich Terns, this was a rare ocassion for me with a very special bird - my second ever Long tailed Skua. When this bird returns north next spring it may well have its dramatic long tail feathers, and will be returning to an Arctic homeland in the company of Arctic foxes and Lemmings at least for the summer.

But as I write, this bird seems in no rush to make it back to the Equatorial waters of West Africa for its winter home. Sadly this Squa has a missing foot, and also should really be west of the British Isles out in the Atlantic on a more standard path south. However, it's healthy and feisty bird, every bit a Squa chasing Terns and stealing prey at will. It may well be the highlight of the year seeing this bird today, so I'd like to thank Martin - aka the Ploddingbirder for placing pics and information, enabling myself and other birders to catch up with a very close Long tailed Skua. Cheers Martin!

Monday, 12 September 2011

Arctic Tern at Dungeness

Back to the fishing boats at Dungeness on Sunday morning for a 2 hour sea watch. My birdwatching was dominated by Swallows accompanied by House Martins and Sand Martins bravely heading off the point and over a choppy channel sea to France, on then onwards to Africa. Passing low over the water in waves, I estimated 40 birds a minute were passing in front of me, inshore. Also travelling south was this Arctic Tern.

Now Arctic Terns are not such a common site for in Kent as their ousin the Common Tern, and this one is an adult bird moulting from its summer plumage to a winter plumage. It has a white an interesting white cheek effect, created by black fringing on the cheek feathers meeting the grey feathering of the underpart plumage. Its loosing its black cap, but still has a blood red beak to sport. The overall effect is distinctive, if a bit scruffy.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

The Dungeness Glaucous Gull

On Tuesday afternoon, gale force winds and heavy rain raced through the English Channel forcing the ferrys to stop running, but also providing the opportunity for some off-course seabirds to be seen at Dungeness. When I arrived at the the fishing boats, the wind and driving spray were fiercely present, but sadly any seabird rarities were were few and far between:- well, in fact there weren't any!

Common Terns fed along the stormy tide line with little problem from the wind, and 'Stubby' the second winter Glaucous Gull, and yet to find his true home back in the Arctic, just sat it out feeding on sprats thrown up on to the beach by the waves. Despite sheltering to the side of the boats, I was soaked to the skin in an hour. My camera too, seemed very wet and salty taking pictures at 1600 and 800 iso with just a few keepers to make the trip worthwhile.

Stubby will one day grow out of his adolescent plumage to be dazzingly white with elegant silver wings fitting for his native home in the arctic.

Common Terns feeding on the tideline seemingly little bothered by driving rain and stormforce 7 gales.