Monday, 5 January 2009

Rye Bay birding

Sunday 4th January - My first guided walk of the year yesterday and a highly successful one. I got to Pett just as it was getting light to find the pools frozen and the levels covered in frost. Scanning from the sea wall there were about 20 White-fronted Geese mixed in with the Canadas and Greylags while out at sea were several large rafts of Great Crested Grebes, a Red-throated Diver (with 2 more flying by) and 4 Common Scoter. An adult Mediterranean Gull and 2 Peregrines flew overhead out to sea, the latter causing havoc with the large Lapwing flock that was on the beach. A walk along the road produced 2 Water Pipits that flew round calling but refused to settle and, as I was almost back at the car to thaw out (it was -4C), a hunting Barn Owl. By 08.30 everyone in the group had arrived so we headed back onto the sea wall. Two Barn Owls were hunting along the Royal Military Canal at the back of the marsh and a male Marsh Harrier flew by. One of the Water Pipits was much more cooperative playing 'hide and seek' in the reeds by the road and entertaining us by sliding around on the ice. Two Stonechats were eking out an existence in the same area. At Rye Harbour the Long-eared Owl did not appear to be in its usual roost at the Narrow Pit, indeed the only birds of note we saw at Rye Harbour were a pair of Goldeneye on the largely iced over Long Pit. We then headed for Scotney Pit where a Marsh Harrier flew over and a large mob of Canada and Greylag Geese was present. With them were at least 60 Barnacles, presumably feral despite the recent extreme weather in Holland. A quick look for the Bean Geese at Lydd was unsuccessful with most of the geese hiding out of view behind some reeds. We did see a small flock of Golden Plover and a couple of Fieldfares as well as hearing from one of the local farmers about the damage Wood Pigeons and grazing Mute Swans cause to his crops.

The RSPB reserve at Dungeness provided a chance to warm up in the Visitor Centre and also some excellent birding from the hides. Bitterns were much in evidence with several sightings of probably three different birds flying over the reedbeds in front of Christmas Dell hide. Also on the reserve were single Black-necked and Slavonian Grebes, a male Red Crested Pochard, 4 Smew (2 superb adult males), 6 Ruddy Duck, Little Egret, 2 Marsh Harriers and 2+ Tree Sparrows in the garden of the house at the entrance to the reserve. Both Water Rail and Cetti’s Warbler were heard calling. The fields around Lydd held a herd of ca. 60 Bewick’s and an adult Whooper Swan from Robin Hood Lane and a very large flock of geese (now much closer) from Dennes Road including 4 Tundra Bean, perhaps 100 White-fronts and 20 Barnacles. Our final stop on Walland Marsh was a very cold one though persistence paid off with 5 Marsh Harriers in the air together, 2 Buzzards, Sparrowhawk, Water Rail and Cetti's Warbler heard calling and, just as we were about to give up and go home, a superb adult male and a ringtail Hen Harrier that flew in and quartered the reedbed, before finally dropping down to roost. A fitting climax to a superb day’s birding.

Bridget and Gareth visited Swanbourne Lake where there were 7 Mandarins and large numbers of Gadwall.

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