Monday, 21 April 2014

Stodmarsh, Grove and Elmley.

The past few weeks have been a bit hard going with not much to photograph and enthusiasm levels close to nil. A few images from the Reed bed hide, nothing too exciting but it gives the camera shutter button a work out.

Now the flood waters have disappeared I have been back to the Feast hide at Grove on a couple of occasions but with the same results as I have been getting of late from Stodmarsh, not much, a Lesser Black-backed Gull being the only images from this venue.

I also spent an afternoon in the car parked along the entrance track to the Elmley reserve on Sheppey in the hope that a Short-eared Owl would put in an appearance. The nearest I got to one was a Short-eared Pheasant (lol). It did come close to the car though so it would of been rude of me not to get an image.

Brown Hares, quite common at Elmley, were seen feeding on the grassy meadows towards the end of the track near to the reserve entrance. Although quite distant from my vantage point, with a fairly large crop, a few usable images were gained.

That's it, not much from the past few weeks but hopefully as May arrives things will look up. A few trips into Northern France are in the pipe line so hopefully a few images will be forth coming. The reserve at Marquenterre is always good for a Spoonbill or two. 

Monday, 31 March 2014

Garganey invasion on the Stodmarsh/Grove ferry reserve.

  Most of my available free time over the weekend was spent on the Stodmarsh reserve in hope that one of the hides would turn up a Garganey, and if lucky, close in on one of the pools in front of a hide. Saturday and the Reed bed hide produced nothing apart from the usual Marsh Harriers and a lonesome Great Crested Grebe.

I went down to the Marsh hide as the path is now passable with care, and wellingtons. Whilst in the hide I saw 6 Garganey, 3 Drakes with 3 Duck. They remained distant while I was in the hide and after an hour 2 flew off towards the ramp at Grove ferry with the other 4 being spooked by a Marsh Harrier and headed off in the direction of the main lake at Stodmarsh. I was entertained by a Little Grebe that flew in and then swam off into the reeds to the left of the hide.

Throughout the morning, the Marsh Harriers hunting out over the flood unsettled the duck, scattering them in all directions. This gave me a chance to get a few flight images as they passed the hide. 

From the Marsh hide I heard my first booming Bittern of the year, A Sparrow hawk nearly flew in through the hide window but landed on the roof instead and the Glossy Ibis was seen in flight over the ox bow. After giving up on the Garganey from the Marsh hide and walking back to see if any of the disturbed Duck had relocated to the pool in front of the Reed bed hide, at least a dozen Jays flew past me, low over the reed bed. I presume these are incoming migrant birds.

As the sun was out and I was fed up with watching Arsenal get stuffed by the so called top premier league sides, I declined to sit and watch Sky Sports latest offering of Arsenal v Man City and trekked back to the Marsh hide in hope that the Garganey were a little closer. It turned out to be a good move as on entering the hide there were 3 Tufted duck, a couple of Shoveller and Gadwall, but best of all a single drake Garganey all feeding on the weedy margins around the pool in front of the hide. I would think this is probably Garganey no 7 for the day as the others were all paired up but they could not be seen anywhere on the flood. It took 5 minutes to open the window, slowly edging the window out fearing that I would disturb the duck out on the pool and they would fly off. Two of the Tufties looked, and the closest ducks were very wary, but I got it open and had 30 minutes before the sun set and I lost the light. A great end to the day. (And Arsenal never got stuffed either)

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Garganey, new for the year, (26/03/14)

I caught up with the 4 Garganey in front of the Reed bed hide yesterday morning, (Wednesday 26th) with 2 Drakes and 2 Duck dropping into the pool in front of the hide. Unfortunately they caught me unaware and within a minute they were gone, chased off by the resident pair of (angry) Coots. I only had time to fire off a couple of record shots, the first Garganey that I have come across this year.

Just after the Garganey were chased off, I noticed the Glossy Ibis flying high above the river, giving me stunning views and a chance to capture the fine feather detail that make up the Ibis's plumage structure.


The Little Owl was seen sun bathing back in its usual spot, 2 more Bullfinches noted and the normal Marsh Harriers hunting out over the reed beds. This morning I went back to try and get the Garganey with decent light. I managed the decent light but the Garganey never read the script. All that was on offer was a Tufted Duck. I did see the (farmyard hybrid) R.C. Pochard from the ramp at Grove this morning.

Monday, 24 March 2014

Returning to a wet and muddy Grove Ferry (23/03/14)

After 6 weeks of being closed, on Sunday morning (23rd) I was able to gain access to the Grove Ferry reserve and had a look around the parts that were not still under water.  A fox was seen picking his way through the dry bits in the paddock and looking out from the ramp the fields are still flooded and home to at least 40 Mute Swans at the moment. A muddy trek up to the Feast hide where I was amused by the antics of 3 Little Grebes that were swimming just under the hide windows. (A result of the high water levels) There is a tide mark around the reed bed out in front of the hide indicating that the water level was about 2 foot higher before receding, amazing as the level at the moment it still up to, around and under the hide.

With just 3 Little Grebes, a Pochard, 2 Mute Swans and a pair of Coots to look at I soon got bored and walked up to the Harrison's hide. The Harrison's drove is still under water and picking out the highest ground along the path I made it to the hide with just an inch of wellington to spare before getting wet feet. I did note several singing Cetti's Warblers, a couple of Reed Buntings and my reward for sloshing up to the hide was a pair of Coots and a Common Snipe which dropped into the grass to the right of the hide. No hoped for Garganey but I did have a few Marsh Harriers fairly close as they hunted out over the reed beds in front of the hide.

The track down to the marsh hide is impassable with still a foot of water covering the fields between the Harrison's and Middle Droves. Plenty of Gulls, Lapwings and Geese seen where the grass has not been covered with flood water. On the way out I saw a pair of Bullfinches, several singing Chiffchaff's and a pair of Lesser Black-backed Gulls were sitting on top of a Telegraph pole. Not a lot but nice to be able to wander around the reserve again.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Out and About (the past 2 weeks)

A few excursions out and about around Kent over the past fortnight but not a great deal to show for it. A drive up and down the entrance track to Elmley looking for Hares produced none but a few bits and pieces seen, although nothing out of the ordinary. 

Little Grebe



The flood water is slowly subsiding at Stodmarsh but the Grove Ferry end of the reserve is still under water with the footpath below the viewing ramp still impassable and again allowing no access to the Feast, Harrison's or the Marsh hide. The Marsh Harriers have found a few dry areas in the reed beds at the Stodmarsh end and hopefully will find suitable nesting sites.

A Snowy Owl had taken up residence in an unlikely spot at a small village called Le Maisnil, just under an hour east of Calais and was seen and photographed by Martin Casemore last week. Armed with accurate directions from Martin and in the company of Alan Ashdown, Martyn Wilson and Steve Ray, we took a day trip to France via the Euro tunnel last Saturday (15th) to see if we could locate the bird.  Unfortunately we dipped the Owl but after our luck with the Northern Hawk Owl in December I could not really complain. (I think I still did though) The trip was not a complete waste of time as we called into the reserve at Claire Marais on the outskirts of St Omer after we gave up on the Owl, where we saw a couple of Serin's and also as on our last trip to this reserve and in exactly the same spot, a pair of Willow Tit's. This is the only place that I have seen Willow Tits but alas an imageless day which was a little bit disappointing.
I have been returning periodically to the woods at Blean looking for Marsh Tits which seem scarce this year and also trying to capture an image of a classic Nuthatch pose.

Marsh Tit