Thursday, 21 May 2009

What a Prat!

A couple of well-deserved days off work. Well, I thought so anyway.

Monday 18th May. Belvide Reservoir, 11:00 - 12:40.

The last time I visited Belvide was the week before I started this blog. Never been since for one reason or another. A bit of a struggle getting the combination lock on the gate to work, even when entering the number in the right order. The combination just wasn't clearing, but thankfully a couple of gentlemen could open the gate from the inside.

Wasn't that a song by the Pet Shop Boys?

Anyway. Belvide was rather quiet unfortunately. Large numbers of Swifts and House Martins around, as was a drake Wigeon.

Onto Chasewater next. Lots of shoreline here at the moment, pity it attracts more people and dogs walking along there than birds. There were still 20 Ringed Plover and 12 Dunlin next to the Water-Skiing club, none of the scarcer waders however. The wind changing to the south-west has put pay to the magnificent number and variety of waders seen in the midlands only a few days earlier.

Tuesday 19th May. Stodmarsh/Grove Ferry, Kent, 12:35 - 14:45

What did you do on your birthday this year? Well, I spent most of mine in the car! Hopefully to successfully twitch the Black-Winged Pratincole.

Incidentally. On the drive down to Kent, news filtered through on the radio of the imminent resignation of Michael Martin MP, speaker of the house of commons. On Radio 2, Ken Bruce was bombarded with e-mails of suggestions for the new speaker. My personal favourites were:

Mr T. Quit your jibber-jabber fool! And:

Brian Blessed. So he can shout "Gordon's Alive!" in the chamber.

But I digress. I eventually arrived at the Grove Ferry end of Stodmarsh National Nature Reserve.

Straight over to the Marsh Hide, where the Pratincole had been lazing around all morning I was told. Not easy to see either, as the bird can go missing when stood behind islands in the lagoon.

I had just found the bird with my binoculars, then setting my scope to take some pictures, when the Pratincole took off, flew around the lagoon and headed off towards Grove Ferry. On the downside, impossible for me to digiscope the bird now, but much easier to see when in flight. The black on the under-wings was obvious.

When heading back to Grove Ferry a birder from London was looking through his scope then told me he had a Honey Buzzard going across. Bloomin heck it was! A bit distant but longer-winged and tailed than a Common Buzzard, as it carried on it's migration north-west.

The Black-Winged Pratincole was seen a number of times hawking over the reeds from the Harrison's Drove hide, in accompanied by lots of Swifts. Indeed, the Pratincole is reminiscent of a large Swift or hirundine in flight.

Then when leaving the hide and heading back to the car, the Pratincole flew low straight over me, heading back towards the Marsh Hide. An absolutely wonderful moment, and thought that would be a good time to finish, being wary that I ought to get back home.

I've never birded in Kent before, but I must return here at some point. What a great place Stodmarsh is, I was really impressed with it. I tried to give the place as much time as I could, but a whole day could easily be spent there.

In addition to the Pratincole and Honey Buzzard, there were many calling Cetti's Warblers, a few Marsh Harriers, a couple of Hobbies (including one catching a dragonfly right in front of the Marsh Hide), Little Egrets, Avocets. All that in a couple of hours!

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