Thursday, 15 January 2009

Mud, Mud, Glorious Mud

During high tide at Pegwell Bay all the waders and gulls go onto Shellness point to roost, bathe prepare for another round of feeding when the tide retreats.

Sitting in the hide today the light was good and although the birds were about 500 meters away they were pretty clear through my telescope. I was lucky that I was able to chat to the man who knows more about the birds in Pegwell Bay than anyone else, Phil Milton. Not only that but he also produces a very entertaining annual (or nearly so) report on the birds of Pegwell Bay with a great introduction, giving an "off the wall" account those birders who are regular watchers here.

Because I'd been doing other things (yes I occasionally don't have binoculars round my neck), I was a bit later than I meant to be and missed the last of the rising tide, and so had to wait for it to begin to drop before many birds can close. Flocks of waders, even common ones like Dunlins are always great to watch and as soon as small patches of mud were available they began to arrive.

Once they landed they were soon busy with their sewing machine feeding method.

The long legged Curlew quickly made use of the shallower water, their evocative calls echoing round the bay.

The nearest birds were Redshanks, they were a few scattered around probing the mud when suddenly all the birds took off in a coordinated panic.

I looked for the cause and saw a small raptor chasing a Dunlin. It turned out to be a Sparrowhawk, and luckily for the Dunlin it was unsuccessful on this occasion. Sparrowhawks often hunt at the end of the day, especially when birds are going to roost. In this case it was the reverse, with the birds leaving the roost to feed, but for the Sparrowhawk the advantages of a dense flock of birds and evening light to hunt in were the same.

I watched the dunlins flying round before settling again. I always like the way they look all dark at one time before they turn, and then the flocks looks predominately white.

I left in time to have a quick look for Owls on the way home, but unfortunately I completely failed, with no Barn Owls or Short-eared Owls on display for me this evening.


John Young said...

Hi Tony, makes me want to go and look at some waders. Nice post.

lee said...

hello Tony, nice photo of the sparrowhawk,i love these action in flight shots especially raptors