Saturday, March 30, 2013


White-spotted Bluethroat
A 260 mile round trip yesterday produced two new British birds and a lifer! My youngest son, Nolan and I set off at a fairly civilized time of 07:00 am; en-route to Kent. First on the agenda was a Kentish Plover reported at Swalecliffe. On arrival (09:00 am) we met one of the patch watchers on this site who told us the bird had not been seen. He informed us that birds would start to show soon as the tide was turning, though we were about an hour early for that. With that in mind we headed south to Dover to chase another rarity.

A small group of birders were already gathered at Samphire Hoe Country Park and it was only minutes before we connected with a female WHITE-SPOTTED BLUETHROAT! This individual played hide and seek for most of our 40 minute vigil and only afforded me a small window to snap a quick record shot. Cracking bird, my only other was a trapped bird in Russia in 2000. 

Rye Bay Nature Reserve 
As there was no news on the Kentish Plover at Swalecliffe from the RBA, we decided to head west to Rye Harbour Nature Reserve in East Sussex where two Kentish Plovers had been reported. While walking out to the site at Rye we spoke to a few birders who said one of the Kentish Plovers was around but was elusive. It took about 40 minutes to finally connect with this bird, which was hidden in with some Dunlin behind what looked like a railway sleeper. Our only view, initially, was this individual poking its head up for a split second from time to time. After about twenty minutes of wiping my watering eyes in the cold and wind, the group of Dunlin flew to some shingle. Scanning through I finally got my first decent look at my lifer KENTISH PLOVER! The distance was too far for my camera but had good views through my scope. 

With two good birds in the bag we decided to chance our luck and have a third attempt at locating the over wintering Glaucous Gull at Dungeness. We made a very quick pit-stop at RSPB Dungeness to see if the reported Garganey and Penduline Tits were still around. No re-sighting of Garganey on Denge Marsh and the Penduline Tits were not showing. Onward's! At Dungeness point I scanned through three roosting groups of gulls with no luck. One bird flying away from the last group caught my attention, especially when it banked and I caught sight of its primary feathers: GLAUCOUS GULL! 

I made my way over the shingle bank to the sea where I got great views of this gull flying up and down the beach; finally flying out to an incoming fishing boat.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Natural History

Have been slacking in the twitching front of late but did manage to get out and enjoy some natural history none-the-less. Our first trip was to Gilbert White's house in Hampshire. We were really impressed with this historical home and the Captain Oates collection. I highly recommend a visit here.

Our next excursion was to the Natural History Museum in London. This fantastic venue needs no introduction from me. Its amazing. Go see it. While we were there we attended one of Nature Live Talks at the David Attenborough Studio; this covered the life history of the Tuatara.

We also had some luck; and got picked with five other people to go on a unique visit to the basement of the museum. Here we got to see a huge room full of specimens from snakes and fish to mammals and lizards. There was, however, two surprises. The first was a cabinet full of small specimens. At first glance they seemed the same as all the others; but on closer inspection they were very different and special. The labels read C. Darwin - The Beagle. I was absolutely blown away and felt very privileged to look upon these historical artifacts.

The second surprise was much bigger. Much! Not surprising as it was the intact specimen of Archie the Giant Squid.  We were not allowed to photograph in the basement but I have found a few links which might be of interest. Our science educator was really informative and did a fantastic job explaining the history of the museum.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Black Redstart

Black Redstart (male)

A quick trip to Kent this morning produced great views of Black Redstart. I learned about this site from Paul Mattos who kindly posted on the Surrey Birders site. Thanks Paul! I arrived around 11:00 am (west of Rainham Marshes and north of the Thames) and joined some other birders who were already scanning the beach and industrial buildings. The birds had not been seen yet. Luckily, I spotted the female down behind some pallets and everyone got to see. Not two minutes later the male arrived and we all got great looks at this stunning individual.

Photo by Shaun Harvey
Shaun Harvey kindly forwarded me a crown shot from today. Check out Shaun's site below:

Valley Birding