Monday, 18 December 2017

Barn Owl

Lade - cold, frosty, sunny, light airs - A nippy start to the day with a light ground frost on the pebbles. Almost the first bird seen on south lake was the elusive Long-tailed Duck working its usual part of the water in front of the linear reed bed south of the wall `mirror`. Goldeneye numbers were slightly up on yesterday and a Kingfisher showed well on north lake.

                                Magpies chattering amongst themselves

                                The elusive Long-tailed Duck eventually surfaced

  This afternoon we tramped across to the south end of the lake to try a different angle on the diving duck, and much to my surprise it was actually on the surface preening for a full 15 minutes, before recommencing its underwater forays. Whilst there attempting a pic, two redhead Goosanders dropped in. Just before lights out a check of the fields towards the airport revealed two Marsh Harriers heading to roost and a distant Barn Owl hunting by a large straw stack.
  Elsewhere around the peninsula today the 13 Bewick`s Swans were still in the field opposite Cockles Bridge and the Long-eared Owl was at roost behind the Dipping Pool (PB). Smew remains an unexplained absentee among the regular winter visitors.

Sunday, 17 December 2017

Long-tailed Duck

Saturday - Lade - cold and sunny, N 2 - Another bitterly cold morning following an overnight frost. On south lake the Long-tailed Duck was back, although it probably hadn't gone away just tucked up on the bank somewhere. It is, however, one of the most frustrating of birds, spending most of its time under water and only surfacing for the briefest of seconds. There was little else of note around the site.

Sunday -Lade - cold, misty, sunny, light airs - This morning dawned frosty and still with sub-zero overnight temperatures combining with the mist to turn the shingle landscape into a winter wonderland. A slippery walk across the hoar-frost smothered shingle to the pits delivered another scene of wonder as a bank of fog rolled across the main lake covered in an icy rime. Looking back to Dungeness the power station loomed threatenly out of the mist.
  Birdwise the Long-tailed duck had gone AWOL again, despite a couple of visiting groups of birders constantly scanning the far side of south lake. However, there was plenty of other stuff to see including a Bittern and Kingfisher on north lake, a Firecrest in the willow swamp and several Goldeneyes across both waters. Raptors were much in evidence with Marsh Harrier, Buzzard, Kestrel and Sparrowak on the hunt.
Walland Marsh - By noon clouds rolled in from the south-west, the temperature rose with rain arriving by mid-afternoon - just right for the monthly harrier count! Chris and I tramped out to our watch point in dreary weather conditions and as a result only three Marsh Harriers came to roost. Two more were noted in the area along with two Buzzards and a ringtail Hen Harrier that went straight through towards the ranges. A mixed flock of Lapwings and Golden Plovers, five Little Egrets, a Great White Egret, plus several hundred Fieldfares completed a quiet session on Walland Marsh.

Friday, 15 December 2017


Dungeness - cold, cloudy, n 4 - A bitter cold day with a cutting wind out of the north, just right for an hour at the fishing boats! All the usual suspects noted including good numbers of Guillemots, Great Crested Grebes and Gannets fishing just offshore, plus a few Kittiwakes and Red-throated Divers, two Med Gulls, three Common Scoters and a distant Bonxie. On the beach an adult Yellow-legged Gull was amongst a throng of a hundred gulls.
  From Cockles Bridge the Bewick`s Swans were still in the corn field opposite amongst Mutes. We then spent some time along Dengemarsh Road where the recently flooded fields contained   hundreds of birds, mostly Common and Black-headed Gulls, Lapwing, Golden Plover, Woodpigeon, feral Greylags and corvids, plus 20 Egyptian Geese, five Brents, two Ruffs and five Redshanks. The weedy field near Springfield Bridge held an interesting mix of passerines including 50 Linnets, 20 Goldfinches, 10 Chaffinches, 10 Reed Buntings, four Corn Buntings and, bird of the week, a Yellowhammer, only the second one I`ve noted on the shingle. 

                                Winter wildfowl on Burrowes

                                   Stock Dove and Tree Sparrows on Boulderwall feeders

  Around the bird reserve the usual array of wildfowl and gulls, although less in number from earlier in the week, and still no sign of any Smew or the Long-eared Owl. The Black-tailed Godwit flock was on ARC where also Great White Egret, Kingfisher and Bittern noted, while the Boulderwall fields held the usual Wigeons and Lapwings. The bird feeders were particularly busy with at least 15 Tree Sparrows counted in the garden.
  A quick look at Lade delivered the Slavonian Grebe on north lake, but no sign of the Long-tailed Duck. Up to ten Goldeneyes remained across both waters.
  We had a great evening at the Romney Morris Christmas sing around at the Shepherd and Crook at Burmash, and on the way home just before midnight a Barn Owl flew across the road on the outskirts of the village.

Thursday, 14 December 2017

Bewick`s Swans

Dungeness - cold, dry, sunny, w 4 - We kicked off at the point first thing where it was very quiet bird wise. Together with PB we had a brief look for the Dartford Warblers by the Britannia without success, although the wind was brisker than expected. A party of six Brents moved down-channel by the fishing boats.
  From Cockle`s Bridge the seven Bewick`s Swans were still in the corn field opposite amongst 50 Mute Swans, where also Buzzard and Great White Egret noted. A check of New Diggings and ARC from the causeway road gate drew a blank on any sawbills, but plenty of common diving ducks and gulls, two Great White Egrets and the usual Marsh Harriers present.
Lade - A thorough scan of Lade south failed to locate the Long-tailed Duck. The Slavonian Grebe, however, was on north lake amongst a flock of Pochards, plus a Redshank and a flyover Bittern.

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Weather break

Lade - cold, frosty, sunny, light airs - After two days of gale force winds the morning dawned bright, and thankfully still, although crossing the welded shingle ridges was fun. Around the local patch raptors were making the most of the pause in the poor weather with Marsh Harrier, Sparrowhawk, Buzzard and Kestrel all noted. On south lake the Long-tailed Duck and Slavonian Grebe were still present along with 10 Goldeneyes across both waters. There appeared to be an increase in Woodpigeons with the bushes around the willow swamp shrouded in grey.
Dungeness - On the bird reserve the Bouldwall fields were full of birds, mostly Wigeon, Lapwing, Stock Dove, corvids, Coots, feral geese and a few Golden Plovers. On the drive out a small flock of Bewick`s Swans flew over towards Cockles Bridge. Burrowes held the usual ducks, Cormorants and gulls, while there was no sign of the Long-eared Owl behind the Dipping Pool. From Hanson hide the usual egrets, wildfowl and waders, plus a Bittern creeping around a reed bed margin. Elsewhere, two Dartford Warblers remained in scrub by the Britannia pub at Dungeness (DW).

Monday, 11 December 2017

Missed list

Lade - cold, heavy rain, ne 7 - A shocker of a day down here; infact it was one of the worst in the 12 years we've lived here with gale force north-easterlies and torrential rain bringing down garden fences, ripping tiles off the cottage roof and flooding the garage - and it wasn't even a named storm!!
The weather conditions were so bad that we were confined to barracks for most of the day as the wind and rain lashed the peninsula.
  However, it did mean that I could catch up on some paperwork and in an idle moment check out the Plovers bird list for 2017. Now, regular readers of this blog will know that I`m not much of twitcher (did a fair bit of that back in the 80`s and 90`), but we do keep a running total of birds seen around Dungeness and across the Romney Marsh during our outings. We normally average about 220 species (228 was out best tally five years ago), although this year we are running low at 214, although with three weeks remaining there`s still the chance of a few more.
  However, the stand out bird on the `missed list` this year is Grey Partridge. I`ve checked all their former haunts and drawn blanks, so unless any are artificially introduced for so called `sporting purposes` they are as good as extinct down here. Several summer visitors eluded us this year including Black-winged Stilt, Roseate Tern, Wood Warbler, Bee-eater, but to be fair they were few and far between, as were sightings of seabirds such as Shag, Little Auk, Sabine`s Gull and that ace rarity, Puffin. Other passage migrants missed were Stone Curlew, Radde`s Warbler, Crossbill and despite much autumn viz migging, Hawfinch...
  There, were of course, one or two goodies during 2017 and plenty of memorable days, all of which will be included in a forthcoming end of year review.       

Sunday, 10 December 2017

Weekend of weather

Lade - A weekend dominated by the weather with a bitterly cold, dry and sunny Saturday contrasting with a vile Sunday morning when gale force winds and heavy rain lashed in from the south. By midday the rain eased off but the wind remained so strong it was difficult to walk across the shingle to the pits to do the monthly WeBS count, while Barney got blown over twice! The wind eventually eased off from the west by late afternoon heralding another cold night.
  As for the duck count I couldn't find the Long-tailed Duck, although the Slavonian Grebe remained on south lake and Goldeneyes totalled 10. Most of the rest were sensibly sheltering in the willow swamp or on north lake.