Sunday, 29 September 2013

Wheatears and more at Rhyl

I've been to Rhyl for a few days, primarily to see family and friends there but I also managed to fit in a whole day birding too. I try to get to Rhyl at least three or four times a year and stay with my cousins who, luckily for me, live just two streets away from the sea.
On Friday while the family were all at work or school, I made my way down to the beach. The first bird (except for the gulls) I saw, was a Little Egret. Nothing special in that, but that's the first time in five years that I've seen an Egret fishing by the sea.
Oystercatchers were abundant, but hard to get close to.
I spent a lot of time hiding behind breakwaters.
I always see Redshanks on Rhyl beach.
Turnstones are another species that are guaranteed.
You  can see in the picture below, my first view of them through the breakwaters.
Sandwich Tern numbers at Rhyl are up considerably from five years ago. Back then I was lucky to see two or three, but on my last few visits I've been seeing twenty to thirty birds at a time.
The tide had not long gone out, and had left several 'pools' of water quite near to the sea wall. There I found a family group of Ringed Plovers.
One of my favourite places on the beach is further up near Prestatyn. Its a stretch of rubble from old defences buildings. I had great views of Northern Wheatears here back in May, and they didn't disappoint on Friday either. Along with Wheatears I also found Wagtails and Meadow Pipits.
Pied Wagtail
Northern Wheatear
and more......
and more.
I've never fully explored the sand dunes and the area of scrub that are on the border of Rhyl and Prestatyn, but a very friendly gentlemen, seeing me with my bins and camera, told me it was a great place to see Stonechats.
Whilst looking for the Chats I found a Kestrel hunting, and a large colony of House Sparrows.
Then I found the Stonechats. At least four pairs were showing really well.
On the walk back, I found even more Wheatears. These were on garden walls near the Splashpoint area and were very obliging.
I couldn't really ask for better views of these beautiful Thrushes.
All in all it was a very enjoyable day out, and one that I hope to do again in a couple of months time.

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Pigeon eating Red Kite at Lake Farm.

I spent a few hours at Lake Farm today, first of all with Sue and Jasper the bird-dog, and then with Corinna and Mark.
Sue told me some very interesting news. The work on building the new school has been halted while archaeologists examine a section of a wall that has been uncovered. What will this mean for the new school, or for Lake Farm in general ? Only time will tell. The huge great yellow machine that I've seen there on my last three visits, has gone, as have all the construction workers. All that remains is a solo portaloo, and large dug up areas surrounded by fencing.
Sue and I had a wander around the gated off construction site. The new school is meant to be built to one side of the path that cuts across the park, but deep trenches have cut across the path and into an area where I 100% know, Skylarks nested in this year. Looking at the state of the ground now, the Skylarks wont be nesting in that particular area next year.
Above. Is this the mysterious 'wall'  (middle of photo) that has stopped construction at Lake Farm ?
Below. The area to the right of the path is not part of the new school. Its not meant to be built on.
Bird-wise, it was fairly quiet for Sue and me. We watched a couple of Linnets posing for a while, and tracked down a skulking Common Whitethroat.
Common Whitethroat
Jasper the bird-dog
Sue and Jasper left shortly after, and Corinna joined me for a wander. We found a small group of juvenile House Sparrows within the construction site. They had vacated the area when the construction work began, but now its all quiet, they've moved back. Juvenile male below.
Mark joined us at this stage. We had a gander around the BMX track, and were rewarded with six Linnets and a solo male Northern Wheatear (below).
We were chatting by the BMX fence when Corinna noticed all the feral pigeons go up at the other end of the park. Amongst them was a much bigger bird, and as it pulled away from the flock we realised it was a Red Kite. And it had prey. When we first saw it, it was quite near the ground, so our only assumption was that it had swooped and caught one of the many feral pigeons that feed there. Or maybe there was a dead pigeon already on the ground, and the Kite had come down and taken it. Either way whoever was driving or walking along Botwell Common Road, must have had quite a shock witnessing that !
The Kite flew over to where we were, but annoyingly chose to soar close to the sun so sadly my photos are not clear, we could see more detail through our bins. The Kite was plucking its prey while soaring on the thermals. We really thought it would try to find somewhere to land to finish eating, but it didn't, and by the time it soared away towards Stockley Park, it had completely eaten its prey, bones and all. Red Kites are capable of digesting bones and large feathers. The Kite we saw today did pluck a few feathers, but certainly not all of them.
I've watched Red Kites from Watlington Hill, and seen them often going over Cranford Park, and Lake Farm, but I have seen them pluck and eat on the wing. I'm glad that three of us witnessed this behaviour. I don't think anyone would have believed me if I'd been on my own !!

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

It was all about the Hobbys at RSPB Rainham

After the successful meet up on Monday with some of my Facebook mates, and with the two out-of-towners, Tony and Mark, happy to stick around, today we visited RSPB Rainham.
 Its one of my favourite sites to visit, with great wildlife, great cakes and great staff (I have to say that as I know Howard V reads my blog !). But seriously they are great staff, friendly and knowledgeable and incredibly helpful.
So today's outing included myself, Corinna, Susan, Valerie, Tony and Mark. Sue and her friend, another Sue, were also on site but as they arrived later due to traffic, we only really saw them at the end of the day.
Corinna and myself were there extra early, but apart from a closely showing Little Egret by the pedestrian bridge, we didn't see much else.
After we all met up, we went off primarily in search of Water Voles for Mark, but alas, none were  to be seen today. There were plenty of caterpillars around though, nearly all of the same species. Valerie knew what they were, but I neglected to make a note of the name....
We also saw, and heard, a few Marsh Frogs.
Ruddy Darters were abundant.
And we found a pair of bonking bugs. Again, I'm not entirely sure what these bugs are, I'm guessing a species of Shield Bug, but feel free to correct me.
Grasshoppers were also out in numbers.
And despite the cooler weather, there was the odd butterfly about still. This Small Tortoiseshell below I will always associate with Valerie. We first found it on the gravelly path, then Valerie said it'd look better on a buddleia. It must of heard her, as it took off and landed on a buddleia shrub in front of us !
Then came the wonderful Hobby experience. We had already seen two distant Hobbys, but as we neared the Shooting Butts hide, we saw another one much closer. Quickly we darted inside the hide, and for the next hour or more, we watched at least four Hobbys swooping and swirling catching prey. We were even lucky enough to have one land in the short grass in front of the hide.
I only had my short lens (75-300mm), the others had 400mm and 500mm lenses, so I can only imagine what fantastic shots they must have got.
On the way back round to the café, I had to take a phone call and whilst on the phone I spotted this scruffy individual, a Common Lizard shedding its skin.

So a really enjoyable and long day, with great company, and fantastic Hobbys.