Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Reserve News

Since before Christmas there has been a Richards Pipit along part of the sea wall of the reserve and all has been quiet until an eagle-eyed birdwatcher spotted it 3-4 weeks ago. This species is an uncommon visitor to Britain from Asia, mainly during the autumn/winter months. On the reserve it has spent most of it's time frequenting the long grass at the base of a half mile stretch of sea wall - the area to the left of the photo below.

Of course, as is the way with all birds rare or uncommon, it has attracted regular groups of birdwatchers from near and far, who presumably needed to see such a bird, although to be honest it's a pretty non-descript little brown job.
Being out there most mornings it's been interesting to see how the various birdwatchers separate into various factions. There are the guys that simply walk along the top of the sea wall, stopping at regular intervals, in the hope that it puts in an appearance and if it doesn't then simply walking on, looking at what else might be about. I had some pleasant chats with a few of those guys, they were all about common sense and enjoying the birds and the day.
Some others however, not happy at not seeing it, walk up and down in the long grass determined to flush it up from where it might be hiding and if they do, the bird can be quite flighty, it will fly some 20 yds and drop down in the vegetation again. There then unfolds a scenario whereby, especially if they have cameras, where the bird is continuously re-flushed/disturbed until it runs out of grass or patience and flies into an adjacent rape field for some peace and quiet.
Several hundred yards past where the Richards Pipit hangs out there is a fairly new hide with views over a large area of part flooded marsh that we know as "The Flood". In recent weeks several hundred various duck and geese species and at high tide, many hundreds, if not thousands, of roosting waders have been using it. Most days it is a spectacular sight and yet to my surprise, many of these "birdwatchers", having seen the Pipit, simply ignore "The Flood" and retreat back along the sea wall, seems odd to me,  I can only guess that a one-bird tick is more important than a whole plethora of every day birds.
The Richards Pipit aside, quite close to them in an adjacent field, a pair of Black Swans have teamed up with a herd of Mute Swans just lately and look quite impressive when they take flight. They briefly appeared this time last year and presumably take a late-winter wander from a private collection somewhere. I wonder if they've appeared on any "tick" lists?

Moving on, there was an interesting article on the front page of the Daily Telegraph today that caught my eye. Apparently under laws passed yesterday, pest control services will now be allowed on to private land without permission from the owner, to eradicate plants or animals that pose a "significant threat" to the surrounding environment. Landowners who fail to comply with these incursions onto their land will be committing a criminal offence. And what are these pest officers looking for and removing, well "invasive and non-native species" such a Japanese Knotweed, Ring-necked Parakeets, and Ruddy Ducks are the stand out examples. So it looks as though some of the Parakeet colonies around the country could well be on borrowed times now, regardless of whether the landowner enjoys them being there or not.  Ruddy Ducks should be OK, if the people that still find the odd one or two left, stop reporting them blogs, bird forums, etc. I used to love watching the courtship displays of those ducks when they still bred on The Swale NNR and was never convinced that the males had any interest in flying south regularly and shagging White-headed Duck females.

Lastly, the lone Hooded Crow was still about on the reserve yesterday and as it has been all winter, on it's own. Despite a huge corvid flock nearby on Harty, I've not seen the Hoodie mixing with them at all, I wonder if crows have a prejudice thing and have told it to clear off back to Scotland, which it will presumably do anyway before long.
So that's it for the moment, in a few weeks time some lucky person will spot the first Sand Martin or Wheatear and the rest of us will get both excited and jealous at the same time.


  1. Flushed and re-flushed. Unfortunately with all the big camera guys out there now, the competition is greater than ever to get 'the best' photo.

  2. Yes, some camera people have got a lot to answer for, birdwatching used to be such a nice, easy pursuit, now everything has to be a competition, thankfully I still enjoy the old-fashioned version.

  3. It's their 287th tick. There are no ticks to be had on the Flood, so no need to stop there. The next one is down in Somerset, so stoke up at Farthing Corner and off we go. Then 289 is in Norfolk.

  4. I always reckon certain twitches can be studies in human behaviour, and your skulking pipit mirrors a Crested Lark twitch we had down here a few years ago when one of the photographers nearly got lynched for repeatedly flushing said bird. By the way I laughed out loud when I read your randy Ruddy Duck comment, spot on !

  5. Thanks Paul, nice to get a comment from Plover himself.

  6. Derek, I remember working at Rye Harbour Nature Reserve when a Semi-Palm Sand turned up. Sitting in the hide I could hear the approach of some 'birders'...all noise and pagers and phones...entered the hide and just asked 'where is it'?...they looked for a couple of minutes then asked how they could get to the Tree Sparrows quickly. From where they were there was no 'quick' way....the look on their faces told the story.
    On a visit to Norfolk, that a friend and I did every winter, we came across a twitch. We had taken another birder who almost ended up in a fight with these other guys, about 50 of them, because they didnt like the fact he had walked over to a hedge....despite the bird being about a mile away....

  7. talking of Lodge Hill....have you ever been. I thought I would take a look this year. Im intrigued to hear so many Nightingales, even though there were about a dozen at Whetsted last year. Any idea of site access? Its my favourite bird song, could sit and listen for hours. I used to ring at a Nightingale site so we had their song for hours when on site. Fabulous.

  8. GPB, since writing that posting, the number of twitchers quite intensified this weekend and when the bird moved onto the saltings on Saturday, so did the ring of twitchers. In the end only a high Spring Tide that covered the whole of the vegetation, saw the bird move to somewhere more peaceful and the twitchers move away.
    Afraid I've never been to Lodge Hill, so can't help you there.