Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Most obliging Gropper yet, and a mooch about Kent

Grasshopper Warbler

This morning I arrived at the Watchpoint and had a bit of a scan; as usual, nothing was moving overhead. I followed the usual routine of checking the area around the barns behind Canons Farmhouse before arriving at Canons Lane and gradually heading up towards Banstead Woods. It was by these barns that I heard a very unfamiliar song. The only thing I could think it could be was a juvenile Robin trying to sing, I had almost dismissed it as that when the vocalist came into the open, it was another Grasshopper Warbler! A first-winter and it was making a very strange noise, I'd best describe it as a high-pitched abrasive warbling whistle. I hung around for a while and after less than ten minutes the thing popped out again and started feeding in brambles about fifteen feet away from me and I fired away. I then watched it through the scope as it walked stealthily through the brambles, it soon slipped into the dark interior. More photos at cfbwbirds gallery.

I visited the spot again mid afternoon and it was showing again. Roy Weller and Mark Stanley added it to their patch lists while Richard Horton and Richard Sergeant who had come to look for Little Owls also got good views.


Yesterday, after a quick check of the patch, Ian and I spent a long day in north Kent. A missed exit deposited us at an unplanned venue, Oare Marshes. We saw little of any significance here but it was nice to see a Whinchat and good numbers of common waders.

Merlin at Elmley Marshes

Next, our originally intended destination, Elmley Marshes. We were surprised to see that most of the place had been drained, presumably to get rid of that viscious blue-green algae. The ground was cracking in the usually busy area in front of Wellmarsh Hide and it was amusing to see Ringed Plovers and Dunlin filling cattle footprints here, despite it being akin to a desert.

A Whinchat and a Wood Sandpiper showed well from the Counterwall Hide and there were a few Ruff and a Peregrine further on; there were very few small waders to look through, disappointingly. Yellow Wagtails were seemingly everywhere, their liquid calls filling the air and small flocks busying around the feet of bullocks.

Wood Sandpiper at Elmley Marshes

A quick slash before heading home actually got Ian a lifer. Earlier on I could have sworn I had seen a Merlin briefly in flight in the area behind the toilet block but it disappeared behind a tree before I could get enough on it. While we were scanning the area behind the fenceposts before setting off, Ian pointed out an interesting shape on one of the gates on the marsh, I got the scope on it and indeed it was a beautiful female Merlin. I don't see many of these and it was Ian's first so it had made both our days.

Curlew Sandpipers at Cliffe Pools

We decided to have a look at Cliffe Pools on the way home. It was starting to get dark when we got there. I picked up a juvenile Spotted Redshank and fourteen Ruff were on site. I then got onto the pair of juvenile Curlew Sandpipers that had been reported as they frantically probed about. Another lifer for Ian; his list is growing nicely but he's running out of common stuff.