Today, my friends and I decided that our usual Wednesday outing should try to track down some of the migrants which have so far eluded us.
Our original plan was to try Reculver and then move on to Grove Ferry, however as we flew down the M2 Malcolm decided that Bishopstone to the west of Reculver might prove fruitful. As none of us had been there recently, we headed for the car park by the cliffs. With an area known as Bishopstone Glen – a valley full of the trees and shrubs that migrants favour and a stream with reeds in the base the omens were good. Unfortunately the birds had other ideas.
From the car park we saw wood pigeon, collared dove and starling. We walked west for a while – seawatching as we wandered along the cliff, through some more open land which has been cut where the paths are but left elsewhere, and the flowers were excellent. A kestrel hung in the breeze over the cliff edge giving great views (until Sally got the camera out).
On the beach we spotted oystercatchers, carrion crow, herring gull, magpie and black-headed gull. In the shrubs on the cliff top we found blackbird, a juvenile robin, and a superbly marked meadow pipit. There were several linnet feeding on the seedheads which flew ahead of us as we continued along towards Reculver. There were a couple of little egret on the shore. Malcolm and Irene heard a sandwich tern and eventually spotted the bird flying towards the towers, showing well against the blue sky.
At the glen we found a small oak tree (more of a bush really) which was absolutely loaded with knopper galls, amazing growths on the side of acorns. In some cases they have completely covered the acorns with their shiny green sticky growth. The only birds spotted in the area were many wood pigeons, a couple of blackbirds and at least 6 house sparrows.
As we had lunch on the top of the cliff by the car park we found several goldfinches as well and large mixed groups of starling and house sparrow flew over.
After lunch we moved on to Grove Ferry. From the viewing mound we saw cormorant, little egret, lapwing, and ruff. We were just about to move on when another birdwatcher called our attention to a small dark bird in the far corner of the pool. There was a really small line of vision with the reeds blowing around and holding the telescope still enough to get a good view was impossible. However our new friend was of the opinion that it was a spotted crake. We decided that we should give the bird some time and try to get a better view – easier said than done! For every five minutes we waited we got a very quick 2 seconds of part of the bird, with all the bits of the jigsaw put together it was impossible to come to any conclusion and we left having passed on the responsibility of identification to another keen watcher who had arrived.
There had been mention of a spotted redshank which flew off from the pool and into the reeds, so we decided to move to Harrisons Drove Hide. There didn’t seem to be much about as we sat in the hide, but I felt the view might be better from the screen outside. Malcom joined me and within seconds had seen the spotted redshank. As I got the telescope on to it Malcolm roused the others from the hide and we were soon all looking at both a winter plumage bird and summer plumage specimen.
As we watched the birds which moved around feeding frantically, we lost track of the paler bird. When it reappeared the legs did not see to be as red a previously and there was some debate as to Malcolm and my identification skills! We were convinced that it had red legs but had to admit that the bird we were looking at did not seem to. We decided that it must have been replaced by a greenshank – but we only managed to confirm that when I got back and looked at some rather fuzzy photographs that I took. Although not worthy of publication there is a shot of the initial pale bird we saw with red legs – perhaps I had better hold onto the photo for future debates.
On our way back to the car we stopped in at Feast’s Hide where shoveler, mallard, teal, coot, moorhen and mute swan were joined by around 16 green sandpipers. Once again Malcolm came to the fore with the sighting of a juvenile water rail, with the plumage just starting to show 1st winter patterning. A gentleman birdwatching with his young daughter spotted a bittern flying away from us quite high above the reed bed – it gave us good views before disappearing towards Canterbury.
We saw a female marsh harrier hunting and heard a green woodpecker calling from the river area. Having seen the juvenile water rail we were keen to go back to the potential spotted crake and check it out again, so we returned to the viewpoint.
Here a male marsh harrier put up the lapwings and starlings on the island in the scrape. A grey wagtail landed amongst the starlings and a ringed plover was also seen. Although we got a couple more fleeting glimpses of the bird in question, it was impossible to make an identification at that distance with the wind disruption and our level of expertise, so it remains a mystery.
And there we have it – another great day