Thursday 27 June 2013

Owls and Twitching

Early afternoon yesterday came the news that a Black-winged Pratincole had been seen on my patch, The Swale NNR and so I popped back out there hoping to double up seeing that, with watching the ringing of four Barn Owl chicks, on the way.
The Barn Owl chicks were still in their downy, pre-feathered stage and not looking all that attractive but it's really could to see all four surviving so well. Hopefully they will go on to fledge successfully this year, last year the three chicks at that site all died while still in the nest but no doubt last year's cold and wet summer must of made hunting for food quite difficult for the parents.

 In respect of the pratincole, I could see that some people were in the Seawall Hide with more making their way along the sea wall and so I decided to wander over to there and have a chat with those in the hide. There were three birdwatchers in there when I got there and shortly after a fourth arrived, looking slightly the worse for wear after power walking along the overgrown sea wall on a hot afternoon from Shellness car park. In between gasps for air, he enquired after the pratincole only to be told that it had dropped down at the back of the reserve and wasn't currently visible. Personally I wasn't too bothered, I have seen Oriental Collared, Black-winged and Collared Pratincoles out there in the past so it wasn't going to be anything new for me, I simply enjoyed the friendly chat between the guys there before moving off again. Lo and behold, a few hundred yards further along the sea wall, while talking to a couple of birdwatching friends, the pratincole rose up into the air and briefly flew towards us before departing the reserve in the opposite direction, for inner Harty. With that, most of the birdwatchers decided to make their way back along the sea wall to the car park, where others could still be seen arriving. What fascinated me was the fact that they appeared to speak to the departing birdwatchers as they arrived back and presumably learnt that the bird had moved on, these new arrivals also turned round and went. Why come some distance on a lovely afternoon, to a beautiful spot like Harty and not bother to see what else the reserve has to offer - a strange breed these twitching types.
This fact was emphasised, also yesterday, when a Kent birdwatcher announced on the Kent Ornithological Society Forum that he had room for two others tonight when he was due to make his way up to the Western Isles of Scotland in order to see the White-throated Needletail that had been discovered flying around there. What an incredible and expensive journey to make in the hope that something as mobile as a bird would still be there when you get there. In the event last night, there came the news that the bird had collided with a wind turbine and been found dead - make of it all what you will!

Lastly, we have actually had a few days of summer this week, with warm and sunny weather to be enjoyed, as these Dog Rose flowers testify.


  1. Oh my word, a twitch, you have my sympathy, thankfully I visited on Tuesday before all those list obsessed, soulless monkeys appeared.
    Really enjoyed my late afternoon/evening visit, and yes the walk along the overgrown path took some energy, but hell that's what walking is for. Even the Mossie bites walking back were taken with good grace after such a day in one of my very favourite places. Walking past the Bull was interesting, my what a big boy he is!! He was pretty docile though and not a problem.
    I dont want to sound ungrateful given that English Nature care not a lot for wildlife watchers like me, so whilst it was great that there is a new hide to replace the wonderful old tower hide, who the blazes was responsible for its position, it is awful. No view of the pools but with a great view of the pumping station and that red metal thing.......what a waste of resources??
    Having said that there were excellent views of Hobby and a hunting barn owl all slightly below my sitting position so I shouldnt complain too much......? However no view of the pools is really unforgivable.
    Incidently I didnt see any signage at all to get to that hide, I remember this route as being the old route so it wasnt a problem, however they really should put a no entry sign on the first gate on your left on the bund because I think most people will try and enter here as it seems the rational route to take as a visitor would not realise that the boundary fence curves towards the hide and therefore walking straight on at the gate is counter intuitive. Thanks for the photo's of the young owls. Best wishes. Ian

  2. Apologies for the lack of commas in the last paragraph, got carried away! Ian

  3. Ian, thanks for the comments.
    The twitch was brief and attended by just a few well behaved and chatty birdwatchers.
    Right up until the day that it arrived, it was planned to position the new Tower Hide into the bund that overlooks the pools but a last minute change of mind saw it put on the same mound as the old tower hide. Due to it being lower than the old one and with hindsight, it probably would of been better where it was planned - but its still nice to have it back in place.
    The bulls used out there are normally very placid animals and to date I've never had a problem with them.
    The path to the Tower Hide is illustrated on the new signboards but I agree a sign on the entry gate would prevent confusion when you actually get on the path/bund and I will see if I can get one placed there.

  4. Ian, I've now put a temporary sign on the entrance gate off the seawall, explaining the route, I understand a permanent one will be made up.