Monday, 30 April 2018

Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve

I have seen a few Black Necked Grebes over the years, but always in their winter plumage, never their breeding plumage, probably because they are a rare breeding bird in the UK, I believe Scotland, Northern England are its favoured breeding areas.

So eight Black necked Grebes turning up at a local nature reserve, some in their summer breeding plumage was a  " must see occasion".

The yellow/gold ear tufts on the side of there head giving them a very special look for me.

There chosen venue for their short visit which only lasted a few days was Sevenoaks wildlife Reserve.

Dates  12.04.18 -7 ,   13.04.18 - 8 ,  15.04.18 - 4 *,   16.04.18 - 0

It's hard to believe as you walk around this site that it was once a sand & gravel quarry. The site converted from a gravel pit to a nature reserve back in the 1950s is almost entirely man-made, the lakes and ponds  created by excavating and flooding former gravel workings with water from the River Darent. Nearly all trees on the site were manually planted, a pioneering project of its time, and a forerunner of numerous industrial sites converted back to natural state around the country.

Unfortunately on my visit, four of the Grebes had left during the night, but four were still there on the lake albeit very distant, good views of them through the bins, but just too far for my camera lens, although I cannot resist taking a photograph, always disappointing, but If I can call it a record shot, it serves as a reminder of the occasion when I look back on it. here are three of the four birds present on my visit.

As well as the Black-Necked Grebes other wildfowl noted were Great Crested Grebes, Cormorant, Mallard, Teal, Tufted Duck, Mute Swan, Canada Geese, Greylag Geese.

Unexpectedly, a singe Whopper Swan looked out of place, seen near the "new Islands" did'nt appear injured.

Also two Little Ringed Plovers, this time I resisted the urge to produce a bad photograph of the distant  plovers.

Whopper Swan
At the North Lake, two Herons were seen on there nests giving excellent views, not quite an Heronry yet, but I expect the numbers will increase with time. A close look at the photograph revealed two little chicks just about reaching the rim of the nest.

A quick look in "Carter Hide " revealed a few Blackcaps in the lakeside tree's, at the back of the hide in the damp boggy area huge number of  Scarlet/Ruby Elfcups some of which were quite big, certainly the most I have seen growing in one area.

Scarlet/Ruby Elfcup
A single Comma butterfly was seen and a number of Buff Tailed Bumblebees and Beeflies.

Awakening Braken

A lovely reserve to while away a few hours, a revisit  to photograph the Heron chicks is surely on the cards.

Monday, 23 April 2018

The Mangrove Forest at Krabi

It's been a long, cold winter or so it seems, my wife was desperate to get away for a winter break, the sunshine and warmth of Southern Thailand beckoned. We decided to revisit the province of Krabi, in particular a small resort just on the edge of Krabi town called Ao Nang.

"The monument of Black Crabs" at Krabi waterfront, Thailand.
The Black crab or Mangrove Crab represents respect to the Mangrove forest and natural environment 

Like most holiday destinations of late I like to take a discrete look at the wild life opportunities, and I was in for a treat, one of Thailands few remaining Mangrove Forests was right on the doorstep. A habitat I was totally unfamiliar with, a quick look at the potential wildlife sightings and the prospect of seeing six different Kingfishers, one of my very favorite bird families, along with many other Mangrove specialties, I was really looking forward to it. I just needed to convince my wife that an interesting boat ride through the mangroves was something she would really enjoy.

As well as the Mangrove forest which incidentally is ranked in the "Ramser" list of international important wetland sites, there are also the tidal mudflats which are also protected.
The main channel within the larger estuary to the Andaman Sea is known as Krabi Tai, one of Thailand's shortest rivers at just over five km long, the other two channels are the Yuan river to the south and the Chi Lat to the west.

From Ao Nang it was necessary to hire a taxi for the the ride to Krabi Town waterfront, (aim for the monument of mud crabs next to the pier) the taxi 's are very accommodating, for a fee of 800 baht roughly £18.00, they will pick you up from your hotel, transfer to Krabi town a 40 mins journey, wait for you, and then return you to your hotel, very reasonable I thought.

The journey to Krabi town brought me my first and only sighting of a White Throated Kingfisher, typically perched on some overhead wires on the roadside vegetation, surprisingly I expected this Kingfisher to be the most common seen.

Not hard to find a Boatman at the pier, they will usally find you, a fee of  600 baht for an hour, I found a two hour boat trip was more than sufficient. maybe longer if you visit the mudflats.

Now my wife is no lover of any habitat that harbors or possibly harbors Frogs, Snakes, Water Monitor Lizards, mosquitoes, not even a great lover of the Long boat which she considers to be unseaworthy.

But she decided to accompany me on this first trip to the Mangroves, needless to say she decided not to join me on the second trip, the hotel swimming pool and tropical gardens seemingly more attractive than the Mangroves.

First visit to the Mangroves, "Buddy" our boatman for this trip cast off and we were making our way up the main channel hugging the banks of the seemingly impenetrable mangrove forest. It wasn't long before the first of many sightings of the Brown Winged Kingfisher appeared perched in a dead tree alongside the river, these are huge Kingfishers, bright orange in colour with obvious brown wings as there name suggests, they are also armed with a huge bright red bill, unmistakable when you see one.
these Brown winged Kingfishers have a bright blue back and rump, very distinctive as they fly away from you.

Brown-Winged Kingfisher

Rear view of Brown Winged Kingfisher

So with two Kingfisher species seen, we moved further up river seeing a good few Brown-Winged Kingfishers, their bright orange plumage making them quite easy to spot.

Two Heron species were seen the riverside mangrove trees, the first was a smallish Heron, typically named  the Mangrove Heron , but also known as the Little Heron or Striated Heron or Green Backed Heron.

Mangrove Heron
The second Heron species seen was this similar sized Chinese Pond Heron, both of which were new species for me.

Chinese Pond Heron
An Egret species flew up from the riverside vegetation, I was hoping it might be the Chinese Egret which have been known to frequent this area, a medium sized Egret with dark legs, yellow feet and a yellow bill, very similar to the Little Egret which has been colonising  the UK recently.
 No such luck it was a Little Egret..

Little Egret

So with the White Breasted Kingfisher and the Brown Winged Kingfisher in the bag my third species made an appearance, and what a stunner, the Black Capped Kingfisher, not as numerous as the Brown Winged, but of a similar size. at least four individuals seen during our trip.

Black Capped Kingfisher - Krabi Thailand

Most of my bird sightings were all seen from the boat on the river, the Mangrove forest looked pretty impenetrable as you can see from the following phone photo's. There are a few channels which cut through the mangroves, a truly amazing natural sight.

As you enter the Mangrove forest , surprisingly very quiet and eerie, no bird sightings within the immediate area surrounding the channel. a look back at my trusty boatmen added to the atmosphere of the place.

The channel soon breaks out into the open river again and bird sightings start to reappear.
A familiar sighting appeared all along the river banks, Common Sandpiper, the only wader seen  within the river system.

Common Sandpiper
A few of these Coucals and Asian Koels were seen high in the trees along the river, just could not get a clear shot of one, so just a record shot of a Coucal for my benefit.

Another familiar bird sighting was the  Common Kingfisher we are all familiar with back home, again surprisingly only one sighting. not so common, but my fourth species of Kingfisher.

Common Kingfisher
As we neared the end  of our tour of the forest, a Brahminy Kite was seen feeding in one of the overhanging trees. made a change from a Red Kite.

And now for the most frustrating moment of the trip, its not easy getting off these long boats, I had packed  my camera equipment away, making it easier to climb on to the pier, as I said my goodbyes to the boatmen, two Collared Kingfishers in dispute, circled overhead before moving off down the river.
But at least they were seen, making my Kingfisher sightings to five out of a possible six, only the Rufous Kingfisher eluding me.

Two sightings of what I presume were long Tailed Macaque in the mangroves.

Long Tailed Macaque

The Tidal  Mudflats of the River Tai estuary

Buddy my Boatman insisted on taking me out to the tidal mudflats where he assured me I would see lots of birds, he was not wrong plenty of waders on the mudflats, most of which scattered as he beached the longboat at speed on to the mudflat.
He insisted on me going for a walk on to the mudflats, I knew that I would not be able to make him understand with his limited understanding of English this was not a good idea, but I did not want to upset him so I set off  on a short walk, keeping a close eye on the rapidly incoming tide.

I always feel slightly disappointed when I travel abroad  and come across birds seen back in the UK.
Ruddy Turnstone being a good example.

Ruddy Turnstone

Closely followed by a low flying Whimbrel  flushed from one of the rapidly filling channels.

Then a nice surprise, Greater Sand plovers scattered all along the tide line.

Greater Sand plover

A slightly smaller Sand Plover with darker legs which I think is the Lesser Sand Plover.

And a possible Pacific Golden Plover which are known to frequent these mudflats, suppose to be longer legged than the Eurasian.

 Although I think I could only tell the difference if an Eurasian Golden plover was alongside.

Pacific Golden Plover ?
A few Great White Herons were seen distantly on the sand bars.

Great White Heron.

Chinese Pond Heron
Safely back on the Boat with Buddy we returned to the pier at Krabi Town, an excellent trip if you are ever in the vicinity.

There is also a Board walk, a short ten minute walk through a small area of mangroves, we saw no birds here, there was a lot of construction work and disturbance on the boardwalk installing a handrail while we were there. probably finished by now.

And for something you don't see every day. the motor bike ferry across the estuary