Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Kentish Plover

The birding and more importantly the birding photography have been a bit slow of late. A combination of dull overcast days and the unseasonal cold weather has resulted in a slow start to the spring migration and also to fingers often too cold to press the camera shutter. The lack of anything interesting must have been getting to me as I woke up in the middle of the night and I could feel a "twitch" coming on.

The result, I got up early the next morning and left home at 05.45 to head down to Rye in the hope that the Kentish Plover would still be there. Unfortunately that was not quite early enough. I arrived at Rye only to be told by a couple of birders "you should have been here a few minutes ago, it was on the mud right in front of us". Not the best of news first thing on a cold morning.

We did manage to relocate the bird but it was distant and despite waiting three hours for the high tide to push it closer I could only manage distant record shots. If you have good eyesight you can just see it in the picture below sitting under the Shelduck's backside.

Shelduck and Kentish Plover with Avocets in the background
This was taken with a 500mm lens and 1.4x extender and gives about the same view as you get through a pair of 10 x 50 binoculars. Fortunately Photoshop gives the possibility  of digital magnification and whilst you do not get the best quality image it does enable you to see that it is definitely the Kentish Plover.

Shelduck and Kentish Plover
There were plenty of other birds around the harbour. Sandwich Terns were starting to arrive and there was a Meadow Pipit clearly unwilling to abandon its territory just because we wanted to stand there.

Around seventy Sandwich Terns roosting with the Oytercatchers

Meadow Pipit

So what to do in the afternoon. Wait around for a better picture of the Plover or try somewhere else. There was always the Glaucous Gull that I had missed last time I was down at Dungeness and there would always be the chance of something unusual turning up on the pits.

It could have been a wasted trip. The RSPB site was very quiet, just a few Tufted Ducks and Coot along with lots of Gulls. Even the Tree Sparrows were hard to find. The feeder area seemed to have been taken over by Reed Buntings.

Reed Bunting
Eventually a couple turned up but they seemed less showy than when I had seen them before.

Tree Sparrow

I wasn't sure that I would recognise the Glaucous Gull when I saw it and after walking the beach for an hour looking at multiple variations of juvenile gulls I was starting to give up hope. The wind had been cold all day but across Dungeness beach it was really bitter. Just as I was on the point of leaving a shadow passed over my head. I had been looking for translucent wings with no black on them, front heavy, and aggresive looking, or as a local birder had put it big and dirty looking. When you see it there can be no doubt, there was nothing else like it on the beach.

Aggressive looking perhaps

Translucent wings
More graceful in flight

I believe it is a third winter bird so it has colour on the wings but has not yet developed the yellow beak. Still, it's a great bird to see and it has a bit more character than most of the gulls I come across.

I called in at Rye again on the way back but although the Plover was still around it wasn't coming any closer.

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