When I'm not out birding, my main (and original) passion on the leisure front is alpine plants and I regularly travel the length and breadth of the country - spreading the word. So, when the Tunbridge Wells group of the Alpine Garden Society asked me to speak, this was a golden opportunity to take in a few Kent birds as well?
A Paddyfield Warbler - in St Margarets at Cliffe seemed irresistable for starters on the Sunday morning. Having delighted observers for the previous couple of days, it had decided to move on however, much to the frustration of myself and the many other birders. Oh well, there was a juvenile Red-backed Shrike on show just 400m away so I didn't come away empty handed.
Then, off to Samphire Hoe where Greenish and Yellow-browed Warblers were both ticked but not a chance of a photograph as these were both distant and elusive. The camera stayed in the bag and it was back to a good old 'scope session (which I quite enjoyed!) Got the bag back out when I got to Dungeness though.......
Difficult conditions for photography shooting seaward into the light. Nevertheless managed to pick out a Mediterranean Gull being harried by a Herring Gull (both 2nd Winter). Sandwich Terns were more obliging with a parent/youngster duo landing on the beach for a short while. There were plenty of other birds seen: Gannet, Arctic & Common Tern, Little Gull, Common Scoter, Razorbill to mention but a few.
Sunday saw the weather conditions become dire with what would be best described as gale force drizzle of the type that gets you soaked in seconds. The only bird I photographed was from the refuge of the car! I'd been watching a male Marsh Harrier from the access road, drove to where I reckoned he'd cross over and considering the shocking light was pleased with this shot. And also pleased I was pointing the camera out of the window downwind! A brief view of Firecrest was had later by the visitor centre, then definitely time to retreat and dry off!
The final morning was spent at Bough Beech reservoir where impatience got the better of me. My third Pec Sandpiper of the autumn was a welcome sight but I really fancied the Long-billed Dowitcher, nowhere to be seen of course. I gave it a couple of hours and then decided to do battle with the motorways and miss the worst of the mayhem. You can guess the rest - driving up the M1 - got a text telling me the Dowitcher was back.....
I was philosophical, the change of scene was good and I was there on plant business anyway! One lifer in the shape of Greenish Warbler and a few other decent birds. A very brief stop at VP on return to Shropshire made me realise just how good murky Kent really was in comparison!!!!