Sunday, March 02, 2008

Sheppey 2/3/08

I went to Sheppey today, this was the second time I have tried to fit three Sheppey sites into a day, and the second time that it didn't quite work!
We left just after 10am (later than planned, yet better than normal) and arrived at Capel Fleet at around 11:40am, after constant scanning into the distance, starting to go a bit mad with how unlucky I am with this site (been 3 times, best I've seen is a very breif ringtail Hen Harrier). I went ver to another birder, hoping he'd be able to get me onto something good, but he was having no more luck than me... there were some Bewick's Swans amongst about 40 Mute Swans, which I was pleased with. We moved on to the raptor viewpoint, saw nothing but a male Kestrel and left. As we drove past I saw a frustratingly Corn Bunting like bird on a wire, surely it was one, but we couldn't stop! I wish we could have stopped because Corn Buntings always prove to be a pain to get onto the year list. I will have to pay Sheppey a visit in late 2008 when the winter migrants come back, to get the species I missed today (basically everything!). We almost ran over a Stoat on the way back!
We arrived at Swale/Shellness NNR, I was very hopeful with little doubt that I would miss the Hooded Crow or Barnacle Geese. I went over the ridge and started walking towards the beech... oh dear... no Geese on the marsh. I arrived at the beech, there were loads of waders running around, but I just knew that the Crow wasn't there... I could just feel it in the atmosphere. Relentless scanning revealed some year ticks, mostly waders, which I haven't had much of this yearr. My 2008 ticks seen at this site were: Little Egret, Black-tailed Godwit, Dunlin, Grey Plover, Bar-tailed Godwit and Knot.
I scanned the site for anything like Divers, Red-breasted Mergansers or anything that would be a lifer to make up for the Crow, I was right, 8 Red-breasted Mergansers on the sea, 2 of which were gorious males. A lifer!
When we got back in the car we discovered that mum had left her sun glasses on the beach, time was getting on and I was getting stressed up, I had already spent too much time on the beach not accepting that I had missed the Geese and Crow (over an hour, and by this time it was getting on 4:00pm). Dad badgered me into going back to get them with mum, which turned out good because I added the latter two species at the end of the last paragraph onto my year list.
We finally left and as we approached Elmley Marshes, I saw an unusual Bird of Prey hunting over the field next to us. I got my binoculars on it and shouted "HEN HARRIER!!!". It was a gorious ring tail showing fantastically and I got some pleasing video footage of it as we stopped the car up a drive. This was a very nice surpise after missing the two Birds that I thought were almost garunteed today. I watched it for nearly 5 minutes before we had changed postition, ending up in the middle of the road and there was no choice but to go. We stopped by the round about further on and looked cross the field but failed to locate the Bird.
We arrived at the begginning to the long entrance track at Elmley and soon saw a Red-legged Partridge right out in the open! A year tick, great video opportunity and one of the few times I've seen one for a while before it ran away into cover! There were loads of Little Egrets along the track, a few Kestrels (one was on a post next toa cattle grid, letting us get very close), loads of Coot and Wigeon and some other stuff. There was a very close Skylark right by the car which I photographed. There were Lapwing, Redshank and Ringed Plover flying about and a few Pheasants and Grey Herons. I couldn't go past the car park because we had to be back soon to take someone out for a meal, so, frustrated as I was at being so close to getting Short-eared Owl, Peregrine and more I had to make do with what I could see around and from the car park. People told me about the Short eared Owls and Peregrines they'd seen just 10 minutes down the track! Inside one of the owl nest boxes on the trees behind the toilets, there was a Little Owl type thing... it could have been patterns in the wood, but others seemed to think it was a Little Owl. In the 20 minutes or so that I was there, I didn't notice it move, so I am going to have to not accept it. It was too dark to see what it was really. I went back to the car reluctantly, and as we left, we saw a lot of the same things along the track that we did on the way in, as well as a male and a female Gadwall flying up.

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