Archive for the ‘Birds’ Category

A day on the Isle of Sheppey with Keith and Dave. The Isle of Sheppey lies in the Thames estuary and is connected to the north Kent coast by a bridge. Surrounded by water it is a birding hotspot in the South-East. Unfortunately, it is also poorly served by public transport and so not somewhere I can get to regularly.

The weather forecast was not promising as Dave picked Keith and me up at Gillingham. Our first stop was Funton Creek, on the mainland side of the Swale, the stretch of water which separates Sheppey from the mainland. Here the birds were distant as the tide was not as far in as we had expected. There were a variety of wading and waterbirds present but the stars were the large party of Northern Pintail, the drakes showing well in their fresh plumage even at distance.

Sadly many people view these wild spots as just a rubbish dump!

Onto Sheppey and a stop at Capel Fleet, where we saw Marsh Harrier, Kestrel and Buzzard plus a good number of Corn Buntings (this is one of the best sites in the SE), a pair of Stonechats and heard a singing Cettis Warbler.

At the eastern end of the island is the Shelness national nature reserve, where there was a good number of waders roosting on the beach including Oystercatcher, Red Knot, Grey Plover, Ringed Plover, Sanderling and Turnstone. Further out on the marsh there were large flocks of Brent Geese.

Our final stop was at Harty Ferry, so-called because it was the site of a ferry between Sheppey and Oare until 1941. On the way down to the ferry, we see large numbers of Red-legged Partridge on the fields. The tide is now well in and large numbers of Bar-tailed Godwits are the last waders on what remains of the saltmarsh or at least that what it seems. Suddenly, a large flock of Common Snipe take to the air, perhaps 40 or 50 in number and is that a smaller snipe in with them, a Jack Snipe perhaps? Sadly they flew off and we were unable to confirm it. A Barn Owl and a Short-Eared Owl were seen briefly but I didn’t see either of them. The star of the day though was the female Hen Harrier, which flew across the Marsh in front of us. This used to be the commonest of our two Harrier species but is no much rarer than its reed-bed cousin, the Marsh Harrier due to persecution and destruction of its moorland breeding habitat.

Hen Harrier (f)
Photo by Lorenzo Magnus ( )

A Brown Hare had obviously been caught out by the rising tide as we saw it ‘swimming’ back to the dry land through the flooded saltmarsh.

Time for a coffee at the Harty Ferry Inn and then the drive back to Gillingham. Thanks to Keith and Dave for a great day out.

Naturelog: 23rd November

Posted: December 3, 2019 in Birds, Landscape, Natural History

A Saturday morning walk in Hyde Park with Sue. We had gone to see if we could see the Little Owls but they were not showing at either of the usual spots.

The usual waterfowl were present on the Serpentine and it was a beautiful crisp morning for a walk in the park.

Passing the Italian garden on our way out I did see these pair of Red-Crested Pochard – the drake looking particularly splendid

Mandarin Duck

Posted: November 28, 2019 in Birds, Natural History

The Mandarin Duck originates from South East Asia. They were introduced into the UK as part of wildfowl collections in stately homes, but a number escaped from captivity and began to breed in the wild, establishing small feral populations around the country. The majority of these are in Southern England, but populations also occur in other parts of the country.

These were photographed at the London Wetland centre.

Demoiselle Crane

Posted: November 25, 2019 in Birds, Natural History

The Demoiselle Crane comes from Central Eurasia, ranging from the Black Sea to NE China. It figures prominently in the literature of Northern India, where it is seen as a symbol of beauty or of people who travel great distances.

It is said that the bird was named Demoiselle by Queen Marie Antoinette, who was struck by its beauty and grace.

This pair is in the wildfowl collection at the London wetland Centre.

What a cracking little Bird. found in Central America and the northern part of South not likely to be seen in UK.

Stephen G Hipperson

cr_MG_8397Myioborus miniatus – shame I didn’t get the end of the tail.


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The weather forecast had not been too promising so Keith and I headed for the London Wetland Centre. As it turned out all the rain had blown through the night before and we were treated to a dry day.

The morning started well with a Sparrowhawk circling above the River Thames as we crossed Hammersmith Bridge. Arriving at the centre we followed our usual route and were soon getting good views of the wintering wildfowl.

Passing the feeding station, a Coal Tit was a good sighting as were the large number of Eurasian Jays that were on the reserve. Arriving at the Tower Hide, we were soon watching Water Pipit and Stonechats on what remained of the scrape islands (The water level was very high due to the recent rain and most of the Islands had disappeared below the surface). We also had a distant view of a female Goldeneye.

Water Pipit. Photo by Keith

Moving to the other side of the centre, we decided to stake out a good spot for Eurasian Bittern and also to look for the Yellow-Legged Gull that had been seen earlier in the morning. We did not succeed in either, although on a photo of some gulls Keith took, there was a good candidate for the Yellow-Legged Gull, but it was just to distant to be sure.

A very pleasant day considering the forecast.

Corn Bunting

Some wildlife pictures from our recent trip to the West Country

Before going to the meeting of the local RSPB group, Keith and I had a walk along the riverfront at Gravesend. Good numbers of Black-tailed Godwits and Redshank along with a little Egret.

Naturelog: Minsmere

Posted: November 1, 2019 in Birds, Mammals, Natural History, Norfolk, UK

A Saturday morning saw Keith and I on our way to the RSPB reserve at Minsmere with the Gravesend RSPB group. Minsmere is one of the star RSPB reserves in the UK, located on the Suffolk coast. The weather forecast wasn’t great but Minsmere always has a surprise or two.

North Fields
Ring Ouzel
Photo by Stefan Berndtsson ( )

Arriving we were told of two Ring Ouzels near North hide. There has been quite a passage of this highland nesting thrush this autumn, so we headed off to see if we could find them. it took a while but eventually, we saw one fly and I found that or another one perched in a bush (sadly head-view only) and then another flight view. We continued to wait but there were no further sightings and we decided to move on.

Down on the beach, we found Stonechat and a Dartford Warbler and as we walked back into the reserve, we had a collection of Egret species -A Bittern and 2 Great White Egrets to go with the commoner Grey Heron and Little Egret). By contrast, wading birds were very low in number.

At Island Mere we were watching the Marsh Harriers when someone spotted an Otter, which swam across the Mere in front of us.

Distant picture of Otter on the far side of Mere

Common Pheasant [sp] (Phasianus colchicus)
Greylag Goose [sp] (Anser anser)
Mute Swan (Cygnus olor)
Common Shelduck (Tadorna tadorna)
Northern Shoveler (Spatula clypeata)
Gadwall [sp] (Mareca strepera)
Eurasian Wigeon (Mareca penelope)
Mallard [sp] (Anas platyrhynchos)
Eurasian Teal (Anas crecca)
Common Wood Pigeon [sp] (Columba palumbus)
Water Rail [sp] (Rallus aquaticus)
Common Moorhen [sp] (Gallinula chloropus)
Eurasian Coot [sp] (Fulica atra)
Little Grebe [sp] (Tachybaptus ruficollis)
Great Crested Grebe [sp] (Podiceps cristatus)
Pied Avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta)
Northern Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus)
Eurasian Curlew [sp] (Numenius arquata)
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
Great Black-backed Gull (Larus marinus)
European Herring Gull [sp] (Larus argentatus)
Lesser Black-backed Gull [sp] (Larus fuscus)
Great Cormorant [sp] (Phalacrocorax carbo)
Eurasian Bittern [sp] (Botaurus stellaris)
Grey Heron [sp] (Ardea cinerea)
Great Egret [sp] (Ardea alba)
Little Egret [sp] (Egretta garzetta)
Western Marsh Harrier [sp] (Circus aeruginosus)
Common Kingfisher [sp] (Alcedo atthis)
European Green Woodpecker [sp] (Picus viridis)
Eurasian Hobby [sp] (Falco subbuteo)
Eurasian Magpie [sp] (Pica pica)
Western Jackdaw [sp] (Coloeus monedula)
Carrion Crow [sp] (Corvus corone)
Marsh Tit [sp] (Poecile palustris)
Eurasian Blue Tit [sp] (Cyanistes caeruleus)
Great Tit [sp] (Parus major)
Barn Swallow [sp] (Hirundo rustica)
Cetti’s Warbler [sp] (Cettia cetti)
Common Chiffchaff [sp] (Phylloscopus collybita)
Eurasian Blackcap [sp] (Sylvia atricapilla)
Dartford Warbler [sp] (Sylvia undata)
Common Starling [sp] (Sturnus vulgaris)
Ring Ouzel [sp] (Turdus torquatus)
Common Blackbird [sp] (Turdus merula)
Redwing [sp] (Turdus iliacus)
European Stonechat [sp] (Saxicola rubicola)
Dunnock [sp] (Prunella modularis)
White Wagtail (Pied) (Motacilla alba yarrellii)
Meadow Pipit (Anthus pratensis)
Common Chaffinch [sp] (Fringilla coelebs)
European Greenfinch [sp] (Chloris chloris)
Common Linnet [sp] (Linaria cannabina)

On our way back from Devon and Cornwall, we stayed overnight in Gloucestershire and visited the WWT reserve at Slimbridge on the Bristol Channel.

The highlight was a Black Tern, but otherwise, it was very quiet with just the common resident birds being present

Black Tern
Photo by Paul Hurtado ( )