Wednesday, 13 November 2013

A sad end for two Merlins

We travelled out to Dungeness early this morning for a day that was going to have some real highs and lows. First stop was a quick visit to Pevensey Bay to look for the Red-breasted Flycatcher that had been reported there. We had no great expectations of finding it and after a quick look around we were about to leave when we saw a flash of red as a bird emerged from one of the bushes. A high quickly dashed to a low as we realised that it was only a Robin.

We then moved on to Scotney where we were faced with thousands of geese and wildfowl. The Barnacle Geese which had returned for another year were probably the most interesting and the flock included at least seven hybrids that looked like Barnacle/Emperor crosses.

Barnacle Geese with Barnacle/Emperor crosses - yellow legs and white heads

We had planned to spend some time searching the Greylags for ringed birds or perhaps a Bean or Pink-footed but just as we were getting ready the farmer came along on a tractor with hay for the cattle and the whole lot relocated to the far side of the pit.

Then on to Dungeness. As we got out of the car we had a flyby by two Marsh Harriers, great start but it then all went quiet. Water levels in the ARC Pit were high and there were very few birds around. A visit to the beach gave us huge numbers of Gulls with a few Great Crested Grebes and Cormorants, but not the Little Gulls we were looking for. There was nothing to be seen around the Bird Observatory. At the RSPB Visitor Centre the reports board gave no indication of anything unusual around the site and, to top it all, they had fenced off the area around the Tree Sparrow feeders so you were too far away for a decent picture. Use the wood to put up a screen instead of trying to keep people away from the birds. I might have a rant about the way the RSPB is going in a future blog.

Finally we decided to settle in the Hanson Hide overlooking the ARC Pit. It had always managed to turn up something good in the past and fortunately it did not disappoint this time.

We had a noisy Water Rail probably defending his territory. He was not coming out into the open but we did at least get views in amongst the reeds.

Water Rail

 A Glossy Ibis was settled out on one of the flooded islands. Again I am amazed by how small the bird is, but this time it probably had something to do with the juvenile gull behind it, which I assume is a Great Black-backed. He is going to be a big boy when he grows up.

Princess with her minder and I think he has spotted me

There were lots of the usual suspects about but the highlight was a Kingfisher that gave good views in front of the hide for about twenty seconds. Not long but enough for some decent pictures.


Almost perfect but no blue showing. The lighting really has to be perfect for a Kingfisher shot.

We then decided to return to Scotney to see if the Greylags had returned. There were a few about but nothing easily viewable. Still it had been a good day and we set of for home feeling happy.

Unfortunately just after setting off we came across two dead birds in the road. Sad at any time but these proved to be two dead female Merlins. I had never seem one close up before and I have not seen one at all this year so it was strange to see two together like this . They are a really beautiful bird and it put a bit of a downer on the trip home.

Dave picked them up and took them home to give them a decent burial. The picture below is lifted from his blog site.

Two dead Female Merlin - original on Friends of Groyne No.4 Blog

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