Monday 5 September 2016

A flying visit

Back in August my old pal from my time in Kent, Matt Jones, was over from his current home in New Zealand, taking a break from his day job of showing Kiwis to tourists to drum up trade at the annual Rutland Water Birdfair. I managed to pay him and his mum a flying visit at their home near Paddock Wood, and after she had fed us handsomely and made us a packed lunch, we had a great day out around some old birding haunts.
Kingfisher, Grove Ferry, Kent
Note the fish speared on the lower mandible
Even after eating the fish it stayed put
First up was Oare Marshes, the gem of a Kent Wildlife Trust reserve near Faversham which is far more popular now than when we used to be regulars there. This is the place where I took my son for his first day out when he was about a week old, but forgot to take a photo. So in his Baby Photo Album, under the heading of 'My First Outing' is a picture of a Ruff, which I did manage to snap, rather than a picture of George. On this occasion, top billing went to a Bonaparte's Gull, a returning and long-staying visitor from the other side of the Atlantic.
Bonaparte's Gull has pinker legs and a smaller, darker bill than Black-headed Gull
Bonaparte's Gull on the left, Black-headed Gull on the right
In heavy moult, the Bonaparte's Gull eventually flew off to feed on the Swale
After a morning at Oare, we headed down to Grove Ferry, which used to be the place to see Spotted Crake in early autumn. We assumed they are still there, but the chances of seeing them have been substantially reduced by the distinct lack of management, with not so much as a channel cut into the reeds to reveal the shy creatures which lurk within. Optimistic, then, of Natural England to have erected a donations box! We wondered if other Government agencies are so hard up that they have to do the same - not something you would expect to see on a coastal defence scheme, a job centre or a highway project, so why should a National Nature Reserve, near the top of the hierarchy of environmental designations, be expected to rely on charity, especially in the era of 'natural capital'?
Lapwing at Oare Marshes
Reed Bunting at Oare Marshes
Anyway, enough politics, and back to the birds: apart from no Spotted Crakes, we also saw no Bitterns, no Marsh Harriers and no Glossy Ibises, though one had been see earlier in the day. All this was forgiven when a Kingfisher perched up on a stick with its prey in front of our noses from one of the hides. Much to my surprise, it stayed put long enough for a few photos.
A distant but strikingly colourful Yellow Wagtail at Oare
Ruff at Oare
Speaking of flying visits, Matt is already back on Stewart Island, NZ, getting ready for the visitor season to pick up and attend to his duties as Chair of the Ulva Island Trust, as well as being a top tour guide on the island. We hope to get over there one day ourselves to check out the hospitality. If it's anything like his mum's it will be pretty good - a big thanks to both for having me!

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