With the day dawning a lot more clement than yesterday I decided on a visit first thing to Reculver. Reculver is situated on the coast between Herne Bay and Thanet. It is well known for its towers that can be seen for miles. I set off along the sea wall in bright sunshine enjoying several skeins of Brent Geese looking grand against the blue sky. Turnstone, Redshank, Sanderling, Ringed Plover and Oystercatcher were all seen going about their business along with a Kestrel that was so engrossed with finding food it let me have time to watch before drifting away. A pair of Stonechat also gave close views, these are the birds that let you practise with your camera. Eventually I arrived at the lagoons, not much here though. just a few Redshank and Black Headed Gulls. The Snow Buntings that had been around for a while I was unable to locate which was disappointing. A brisk walk back to the car taking 20 minutes or so left me feeling as if I had been dragged through a hedge backwards having battled against a brisk cold wind. Next stop was Oare, a short drive up the Thanet way to try and see the Short Eared Owl that's been showing throughout the week. On arrival I met Andy Hills and Steve Ashton who had managed a few photos earlier, they informed me that 3 Owls had been sighted. We waited in front of the East flood where one had gone to ground out on the island. Within minutes of my arrival a weather front came through bringing a shower of rain, we took cover in the car as it past over. As the sun came out the owl burst back into action quartering the road several times although distant. We decided that the best chance for a photo was from the hide, so took up position and waited for the owl to come by. The lighting from the low winter sun was brilliant, we could see the owl coming towards us, we waited with great excitement for a flyby but sadly the owl had other ideas turning away from the waiting cameras and duly headed across the creek towards castle cot. O well maybe next time. We made our way back towards the cars noting Pintail and Wigeon amongst the ducks. Distant views of another Owl were had however I had to except that although privileged to watch Short Eared Owls in action a memory would be all I would have for today's efforts. If you decide to visit Oare the best time is either side of a high tide as the birds drift up from the coast to roost. Evening time has the best light for the east flood from the car parking bays if you want photos. A great way for whiling away a few hours for us all. Finally a pleasing image of the Great White Egret which left the area this morning.
With a day of sunshine promised I decided I needed to make the most of it so inspired by the local sightings and pictures on flickr etc through the week it was Dover docks for my first port of call ( excuse the pun).Having paid for two hours parking the Great Northern Diver that had been about all week was my first target especially as this would be a life tick. I crossed the swing bridge and walked to the life boat station where I knew it had been, here I found a close in Guillemot, good views were had but the life boat roared in to action and the Guillemot dived surfacing a fair distance away. Making my way back to the swing bridge a smiling engineer informed me that it was now out of action for the day and a long walk around the inner harbour was required to get back, as Victor Meldrew would say..I don't believe it!!. Anyway I was soon back and disappointed that my car park ticket had been eaten into. Setting off on to the pier I bumped into Mark Chidwick and Adam Faiers, here we spotted a Black Throated Diver and a few more Guillemots .We soon reached the end of the pier with no sign of the Great Northern however Mark eventually located it across the other side of the basin. Another route march was required if I wanted a photo so with time ticking away on my ticket it was best foot forward all the way. Phil Parker joined us, we were soon the other side enjoying reasonable views of the bird, it must look magnificent in summer plumage. Back to the car with minutes to spare my next stop was Oare . Arriving just after midday I met Steve Ashton who put me on to the Great White Egret. It stood grand in the sunshine allowing a few shots. This was my third life tick of the day. Phil Parker arrived and joined the camera action. There has been a Short Eared Owl hunting most days for a while now so I hoped to catch up with it, Steve said it had a tussle with a Male Hen Harrier earlier, shame I missed it. We stayed in the sunshine where there was plenty to see and fire the camera at including two Kingfishers, Knot, Lapwing, Avocet, Barwits, Goldfinches, Snipe,etc. As the sun started to drop Phil went and found Twite along the sea front and Steve and I were joined by Andy Hills. We kept ourselves amused trying to capture flight shots of Knot and Lapwing. Just as we thought the Owl was a no show, Andy picked it up flying across the east flood. It gave distant views as it quartered the marshes, sadly a little to far for the camera but well worth the wait capping off an eventful day.
The golden autumn colours are slowly disappearing into the winter gloom as yet another dreary weekend slips away it is becoming difficult to find enthusiasm at this time of the year to get out with the camera. That said, I ventured out to the reed bed hide Stodmarsh where I hoped there may be a Bittern or two showing. Their numbers are boosted through the winter with birds from the near continent and it is not unusual to gain several sightings, even on a short visit. Although dreary it remains mild for the time of year making it comfortable sitting in the hide. I was on my own for a while noting Heron, Cormorant, three Marsh Harrier, Teal, Mallard, Water Rail, Bearded Tit, Wren and Carrion Crow .I was joined by two gents who were new to birding, they were thrilled when I pointed out the first of two Bitterns that gave us good in flight views although distant for the camera. As the morning raced by I moved on to the alder wood noting a large group of Long tailed Tit and several Fieldfares feeding on berries .Again the light was poor so no photos. Making my way to the lampern wall a Great Spotted Woodpecker called and showed briefly. A scan of the main lake produced lots of Teal which took off in a real commotion. Its not long now to the official start of winter and it would be nice if we can have a little Sunshine to brighten up the short days. Yesterday morning I joined a work party driven by Natural England where we cleared the pools adjacent to the feast hide which is at the grove end of the valley, a few years ago this area was a must to visit but the pools became overgrown losing valuable habitat which used to attracted the likes of Baillons and Spotted Crake. We were let lose with pitch forks and rakes etc and made short work of the task. Hopefully the area can remain under control and views of the Crakes will be possible again next autumn.............Photo from a sunny day.