Sunday, 28 June 2020

Lifer!! A Tern with the wind!!

Having been tantalised  all week by reports that a Gull-billed Tern had taken up residence at Dungeness's Arc Pit ,I had hoped to go Saturday but with a dodgy weather forecast and not feeling to great, I took a risk and waited until today. I have learnt over the years to go at the first opportunity as the birding "Gods" don't like to be messed around ,so with a bit of trepidation I set off at a respectable 5 AM. Margie had decided this trip wasn't for her , a long drive followed by standing around in the howling wind, possibly for hours on end, as fast moving traffic whizzed by feet away apparently doesn't count as taking her out for the day, I dunno, next thing she will be saying I never take her anywhere!! Can't win!!
So after a strange drive, which somehow was in driving rain and bright sunshine at the same time for most of the way, was a massive rainbow at several points along the route ,I must have been driving at edge of the shower all the way,   I arrived at approximately 6.30, parking at the Long Pits, I walked back up the road at a fast trot, for about 30 paces, at which point I slowed to a fast walk whilst gasping for breath, the single birder present allayed my fears with his "yes" reply to my anxious "is it still here?" enquiry, I set up the scope, by which time the other chap had relocated it and talked me on to the bird ,Lifer whoop!!
I spent the next hour and a half trying to get a decent picture of it!!
I completely failed, with the wind battering the lens ,the bird being miles away for the most part, the cluttered background and the choppy water making autofocus horrendous I only managed a few record shots ,see below!!

Gull-billed Tern

Despite the uncooperative star of the show, was a very enjoyable couple of hours, the bird performed well, continually dip feeding into the wind, looking like a Tern shaped Yoyo. Nice to have the scope out as well don't use it enough really but came into it's own today.  There were Swifts everywhere, not good at estimating numbers but at least 50+. Lots of Common Terns, by the end picking the GBT out amongst them was quite easy. The Common Terns were much more friendly than the GBT crossing the Causeway and generally showing much better, so was able to get a few slightly better pictures.

Common Tern

The Swifts of course were much more difficult and only managed one picture worthy of posting

Other birds feeding on the insects that showed ok were a couple of Common Gulls and plenty of Black-headed Gulls, there were also a couple of Little Egrets about which did a couple of close flypasts

Black-headed Gull

Common Gull

Little Egret
As time went by more birders arrived ,one extremely observant individual pointed out that the Black-winged Stilt being reported from the other end of the Arc Pit was on show , it was miles away but saved me a blooming long walk to go and see it . I have seen a few of these before so made the decision not to traipse about two miles for slightly better views, picture below Stilt highlighted by the Green Arrow
Stilt At the Arrow
With more people gathering and no sign the GBT was going to come any closer I decided to move on walking back to the car, the traffic was quite hairy with one big old tanker nearly bowling me over with it's slipstream!! The wind seemed to be getting stronger ,so against my better judgement I decided to head to the Point, as I predicted to myself, this was a complete waste of time four Sandwich Terns and a couple of Gannets the "highlights" of a half hour Seawatch, the "Patch" only held Gulls and as I was having trouble staying upright in the howling gale I decided to return to the car on the way there I noticed a group of birders intently studying the area in front of them, dreams of Bee-eaters or Hoopoes were quickly dashed as it was the more realistic Black Redstarts they were on to!! Still I like a Black Redstart and had a happy half hour taking pictures of at least 4 different birds including a nice Male and at least one Juvenile. There was also a male Linnet having a brief singsong on a wire and several Meadow Pipits knocking around.
Black Redstart

Juvenile Black Redstart


Black Redstart

I was flagging now and with the reserve closed and the wind really starting to get on my tits ,I decided to head for home excellent morning ,which took my British list to 366!!

Cakewise been quite a good week with a nice Bread n Butter pudding Midweek and some Shortcake yesterday, which was a bit under done but was very tasty!!

Breaking news on the Shed Situation (see previous blogs) A new Shed has been ordered ,with a delivery date of mid August , so I fully expect construction to start at some point Mid 2021, dependant on planning permission and whether I can be arsed ,although there is talk of bringing in outside labour in the form of Margie's son, so hopefully a completion date of early 2022 is a realistic target!!Although Margie "suggests" a target of getting it done by the end of the day it arrives is more desirable!!



Sunday, 21 June 2020

Salvage Job!

With the weather looking a bit dodge for birding ,may go out later, as so often happens I turned my attention to cakes  with the ingredients I had to hand ,the best option was a spiced Ginger Cake that Google kindly supplied the recipe for ,it knows me so well!!!
It started well, although I couldn't work out how to grate Stem Ginger so went down the finely chopped route, plenty of Organic Ground Ginger, Organic Mixed Spice and Organic Cinnamon went into the Flour Mix (think I'm writing Organic to much, just assume ingredients are Organic unless otherwise stated from this point on!)
Black Treacle, Golden Syrup and Dark Muscavado Sugar went into a saucepan (None of these ingredients are Organic as can't seem to get them for love nor money, so I may have gone down the assume all ingredients are Organic route to early!!) This looked and smelt well tasty as I heated it up.

Finely chopped Stem Ginger chopped it some more before it went in as well!!

Flour Mix resembling fine breadcrumbs, if you like you're fine breadcrumbs not to fine!

Black Treacle, Golden Syrup and Muscovado Sugar heating gently smelt so good!! Could try it as aftershave!!

So far so good ,added Milk, heated mix to near boiling point poured, into flour mix, stirring well break in the egg, beat well til mixture goes stiff ,always good :) , pour into prepared tin ,pop into the oven at 160 fan and Bob's ya proverbial!! One problem, I like my Ginger cake loaf stylee, like ye old Jamaican  type! recipe was for circular tin, lets just say there was slightly to much mixture but rather than as Margie suggested taking it out and making two cakes I decided to persevere with the plan and pop the tin brim full of hot bubbling mixture straight into the oven, This apparently because is "I'm a Man and know everything" which is big of Margie to confirm really. Luckily Margie had instructed me to put it on a baking tray, so intense was this period of the process I forgot to take pics!!!

Slightly overfull cake tin (don't worry it will be fine)
The tension was gripping would it stay in the tin, obviously not was coming over the side within minutes!! 35 mins later cake is out of the oven smelling mighty fine but looking a bit sorry for itself to be polite!
Cake with overspill!!
To be fair we soon polished off the overspill ,which was delicious, seems to be a bit of a dip in the top presumably some kind of shrink back ,but I figure serve it upside down with some custard be good to go!! 

Trim it up a bit load of Custard be epic!!
So not a complete triumph but with a bit of imagination and a load of custard the situation can be saved which when you think about it is true of most situations!!

Saturday, 20 June 2020

Patchwork 2

So first chance to get back on the Patch ,had set the alarm for 5.30 but woke up at 4.45 so was on Patch by 5.00 ,this is AM by the way 😉 Margie had made the decision not to come, allegedly because I was going to try to refind last weeks Spot Fly and she didn't want to spend ages in the same place, but I think basically she wanted to have a lay in!! 
Whilst I booted up at the car ,I could hear several Whitethroats singing and a couple of Chiffchaffs calling, through the first field the usual Yellowhammer wasn't on the wires ,but a scan around had him distantly on a Bramble patch, through the crossroads and into the first Glade, the distinctive white rump of a Bullfinch disappearing into the bushes set the tone for this part of the walk with a variety of birds disappearing into the undergrowth before I got a chance to get a pic, Several Song Thrushes, Dunnocks, Wrens and Robins around and plenty of Blackbirds made this an eventful but frustrating part of the walk .
Across the second bridge and turn right , the area opens up nicely it seems very Owly habitat but despite the early hour had no luck ,though to be fair 5.30 was probably a bit late with sunrise at about 4.30 and first light even before that, longest day tomorrow I think so hopefully as the dawn gets later I will have more chance! Still the small birds were waking up now a family of Blackcaps appeared and then just after a family of Nuthatches as well who seemed to be on nodding terms with a young Robin.
Adult Blackcap 

Juvenile Nuthatches being supervised by a Juvenile Robin

One of many calling Chiffchaffs
I paid my first visit to the area where I had previously seen the Spot Fly but was no obvious sign, another area which looks like it could well get Owls, after 10 mins with no sign I moved on, although I managed to spot a Green Woodpecker in a dead tree before he saw me and although distant managed a couple of ok pics, in a similar vein, usually skittish birds sitting still for a picture, a Jay posed as well!


Green Woodpecker
I then decided to head over to the Church ,there are Swallows there and I hoped being early morning they would be sitting still for picture before starting the days feeding activities. On the way there I had what was probably the best encounter of the morning, a Roe Deer stood quietly in the field, now in general when I meet a deer in these circumstances ,it usually takes one look at me and disappear, while I'm trying to get the camera out , not today, froze in position and hardly moved until I was on my way again. 
Roe Deer
Roe Deer

Roe Deer

I arrived at the Church to find the Swallows in flight, zooming about as they do, I was about to give up when they landed ,Hurrah!! However they hadn't read my script, there is a lovely gnarly tree here with a nice sticky out perch, lit up by the early morning sun, the perfect spot for a tired Swallow to rest up while I take pictures. But no they choose to sit on some manky old wire directly in the sun, well they are going to have to up their game if I'm gonna get aesthetically beautiful pics of them!
There were five birds and I think three of them were youngsters. On the return a nice Stock Dove was posing in a large tree in the Churchyard, though I missed the shot of a Robin on a Gravestone which would have been a nice shot! As I headed back to the Spot Fly area again the large hedge alongside the path was alive with birds, mostly juvenile Blue and Great Tits but also another family of Blackcaps and several Chiffchaffs

Juvenile Swallow on wire

Stock Dove

Determined to refind the Spot Fly I headed back to the area, as I approached the area , a bird flew out of a tree on my right and caught a Fly, bingo, now normally a Spot Fly would fly back to the original perch, a nice open perch where photography would be easy ,not this bad boy as before the awkward bugger flew straight into the crown of an Oak tree, I eventually found it again ,getting good views in the bins, the problem was of course there were approximately 100 leaf covered twigs between me and the bird, I tried a few shots but the resulting blurred brown blobs were not great, now a sensible person at this point would have gone to manual focus and got some sort of record shot, I however decided a better idea would be to change the angle ,so walked 10 feet to my left to try and find a gap, of course I couldn't refind the bugger from here and when I walked back to the original spot the bugger had gone!! I waited for another 10 minutes, no show, by now the temperature was rising and with it insect activity was growing as well, a Marbled White Butterfly flew up out of the grass fluttered about and dropped back in ,closer examination showed a group of at least ten of these beauties in a small patch. I also found some nice white flowers in this area as well. So as Margie wasn't here I decided to get some pics ,insects and flowers are usually her area so I hope she likes em.

Marbled White
White Flower

I could now hear a Song Thrush going for it in the dead tree which has been quite productive on previous visits, so giving up on the Spot Fly, I relocated around the corner. I'd had a lot of Song Thrushes this morning but they had all been shooting out of and back into hedges/thickets so was nice to get one out in the open having a singsong. At one point a couple of Goldfinches joined him and a Green Woodpecker flew into a nearby tree which was also good. 

Green Woodpecker

Do you mind keeping the noise down I'm trying to sing.

Song Thrush 
I decided to head back to the car , a Yellowhammer, was on a distant pile of dead wood with a Whitethroat and another Yellowhammer flew over, Chiffchaffs everywhere and plenty of Whitethroats on the walk back. Seems a lot of species have had  breeding success in the area with plenty of Youngsters all over the place.
Yellowhammer with Whitethroat companion

Whitethroat with juicy caterpillar

Singing Whitethroat

That was about it home by 8.30 so just over three hours on the patch, looking forward to exploring this area through the year

Garden Update

I came home today to find a Stock Dove under the feeder which makes a change from the collared Doves, Woodpigeons and Ferals I usually get. which has capped a good week with a charm of 5 Goldfinches , a Juvenile Goldfinch visiting the feeders regularly and two young Chaffinches are the first I've seen for a while.

Stock Dove through Glass

Juvenile Goldfinch


Collared Dove


Collared Dove

Juvenile Chaffinch

All pics by me!!