Friday, 24 February 2017

Leysdown-On-Sea, Sheppey

As I spend more time in Leysdown than anywhere else - it's where I live, so that seems right - and I haven't had the chance to go far from it recently, I thought I'd do a blog on some of the more common bird sights of the area. There are so many more birds to see around here than featured in this blog -  including in my garden, which I may get round to writing about sometime. (You may notice I'm not exactly good at keeping up with the blog.)

This selection of pics will give you some idea of what you can see on an ordinary winter's day :

 Leysdown has amusement arcades that run down to the sea, and Gulls of different kinds and Starlings are the most common visitors in winter - not many people about - along with the Pied Wagtails that brave the roads.

If you walk down to the seafront and catch the tide right, you will usually see a selection of waders - Oystercatchers, Turnstones, Sanderlings, Redshanks and Curlews among others, flying low across the water, dotted along the tideline and up and down the beach.

At this time of year, you're also likely to see Brent Geese, marching across the pools on the beach or bobbing in the sea. Noisy lot.

Magpies, Jackdaws and Crows are here in quite large numbers - but I've not seen a Rook in Leysdown, though they are numerous elsewhere on Sheppey. (That may mean I just haven't seen them, not that they're not here.)

Magpies gather in the bush at the end of the road and often foray into the gardens and guttering of the bungalows opposite.

Jackdaws hang around the village, looking ready for a fight.

There are so many more - thrushes, raptors, finches etc etc - and not least the House Sparrow - but one of the constants and one of my favourites is the Kestrel. One hovering over the fields opposite me, or perched on the telegraph poles is always a welcome sight.

Leysdown is just one small area of the Isle of Sheppey - and there are many others which are well-known to birders, but for me, as a local patch, it always seems to produce something new or wonderfully familiar to see. 


Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Madeira 2016

There's nothing like a regular blog - and this is nothing like a regular blog. Unless you call once a year regular.

However, I've just had my first break in three years and I'm celebrating. Admittedly, it wasn't actually a birdwatching holiday as such, but there were birds, so I watched them - when I could. If you're looking for exciting birds - like Petrels, for example - look away now. I didn't see any. Or not knowingly anyway. Petrels, as I'm sure you know, tend to be out at sea a lot, and I hate boats, so...

However, the island is incredibly beautiful, and though there aren't that many birds - seriously, I see more in my garden at home - they are still worth watching. And the background to them is magnificent.

The dominant bird at low levels, away from the coast, seems to be the Blackbird. According to my guidebook, the one on Madeira is a subspecies endemic to Macaronesia - and I am in no position to argue. In fact, my guidebook says this of practically every bird you can see there which you think you recognise from England.

This one was in the hotel gardens, where there were also plenty of Blackcaps and Canaries. (I know, if you spot a canary in the garden at home there'll be an owner not far behind frantically looking for it - so great to see them flying wild and free.) :

Along the coast, there are plenty of Rock Doves, mainly feral, and gulls and terns. The terns wheeled around the harbour and cliffs and I couldn't get a close view or shot, but they appeared to be Common Terns (though other Terns are available) :

Also not sure about the gulls, but the one pictured has yellow legs and is the spitting image of the one in the guidebook, so I'm going with Yellow-legged Gull (subspecies endemic...)

Up in the hills (mountains), there was less to see than I had expected. I saw one Buzzard, but otherwise all I could see were Chaffinches, which, as you'd expect, hung around anywhere where tourists stopped to have a snack.

I also saw Swifts (Plain Swifts endemic...), Grey Wagtails (subspecies endemic...) and the odd feral Muscovy Duck!

The hotel kept a Harris Hawk - very tame - supposedly to scare birds away. Poor thing was terrified one day when it was allowed to fly and two wild Kestrels mobbed it for nearly an hour. It sat on the roof for a while getting really flustered, and then it took refuge in one of the hotel balconies and refused to fly back to its handler until the kestrels went away. Needless to say, no other bird was taking any notice of it.

As well as the birds, there were some beautiful butterflies, which I singularly failed to get a shot of, and loads of lizards.

At the right time of year, and with the courage to go out on the boats, or just prepared - and fit enough - to walk more inland, there are lots more birds to be found here which you may not see anywhere else. It's a truly wonderful island - sunny, friendly, colourful and safe. Birdwatcher or not, I recommend it.


Sunday, 28 June 2015

Leeds Castle

Can't believe I forgot to include Leeds Castle in my last update. Again, not a birdwatching trip as such, but plenty of wonderful birds there, and in one of the most beautiful settings you can imagine.

The lake, moat and gardens have swans, geese, ducks and other birds aplenty :

Peacocks roam the grounds, and for the first time ever, I saw peachicks :

There were wagtails all around the castle walls, but one of the most striking birds was the jackdaw. They were everywhere, competing with the geese for the food some of the visitors were providing. But one of the best sights was a jackdaw that kept flying in and out of a gap in one of the walls - to a nest by the sound of it. It certainly didn't like it if you came anywhere near the wall (I kept my distance) :


 There are raptor displays at Leeds Castle too :

I feel uneasy about these (captivity and performing), here and at Eagle Heights - but it is amazing to see these birds which I might not otherwise see, or at least not so close.

Caught a few shots of dragonflies too :

All right, the same dragonflies but from different angles.

Leeds Castle is one of my favourite places - so much to see. I still can't believe I forgot to include it!


Thursday, 25 June 2015

June update

I've not been out and about much this month, which has been particularly frustrating as the weather has been so good. My garden has fortunately been full of life, particularly with young house sparrows, starlings and goldfinches all competing for attention and food. Down by the seaside I've also been lucky enough to watch terns diving - spent a good hour watching them - no camera though.

Only two brief visits to Elmley, some highlights of which were :

I had to go up to London one day and managed about an hour in Dulwich Park - nice to see all the old favourites :

And finally, I had a great day out at Eagle Heights in Eynsford.  I know it doesn't count as birdwatching - but it's a wonderful place to see some very exciting raptors up close, including during the flying displays. And there are some other surprises there too. It's also set in the most beautiful scenery, with panoramic views of the Kent countryside.

So it's not been all bad - but I'm looking forward to getting out and about more in Kent and beyond maybe while the weather's good.