Sunday, 18 February 2018

WeBS and Harriers

Dungeness - 0730hrs - warm, dry and sunny, S 2 - Another stunning day with blue skies and light airs. At the Patch the 1st winter Glaucous Gull was on the beach amongst a large mixed flock of gulls before being spooked by a Peregrine. It then flew over the power station complex and eventually settled down on B station. Offshore the usual Gannets, a few auks and a party of eight Brents up-Channel. On land several Mipits and plenty of singing Dunnocks, Great Tits and Chaffinches, plus a Goldcrest in the moat.



                                Glaucous Gull, B Station

Lade - Plenty of wildfowl across both lakes with a top count of 340 Shovelers, plus the now expected two Long-tailed Ducks and three Goldeneyes. Whilst counting the ducks an Avocet briefly dropped in and spin-fed amongst a pack of Shoveler looking for all the world like a massive pied phalarope!
A Bittern flew along the far reed bed where a Marsh Harrier was also noted. The Dartford Warblers proved elusive again, unlike Dunnock, Great Tit, Greenfinch and Chaffinch which all sang from atop the gorse scrub.


                                Finches enjoying the sunshine

RSPB - After a spot of breakfast we moved onto the bird reserve where the fields at Boulderwall were packed out with Wigeon, Lapwing, Golden Plover, Curlew, Stock Dove and Starling. Several Marsh Harriers kept the birds alert and two redhead Smew were on Tanner`s pool. On Burrowes the Black-throated Diver proved difficult to locate as it dived for food while the Glaucous Gull roosted on an island opposite the visitors centre. The drake Smew and Slavonian Grebe were reported from Christmas Dell pool.
Walland Marsh - A run out this afternoon on the Marsh with CP for the monthly harrier count in perfect weather conditions delivered 21 Marsh Harriers coming to roost, including six males. The last two counts in foul weather delivered three and nil birds, so this was a real treat and a return to more normal numbers of roosting birds. Also noted our first Barn Owl for a while, plus several Buzzards, two Sparrowhawks, 105 Mute Swans, 25 Corn Buntings, 200 Fieldfares, Bearded Tit, Cetti`s Warblers, Reed Bunting, Raven, Stonechat and calling Water Rails.

Saturday, 17 February 2018

Sunshine birding

Lade - warm, dry, sunny, light airs - A splendid morning to be out and about birding in pleasant sunshine and no coat required for the first time this year. The two Long-tailed Ducks were active on south lake and the Shoveler count reached 250, where at least four pairs of Great Crested Grebe had teamed up. Goldeneyes though were down to just three birds. The Dartford Warblers proved frustratingly difficult to see despite the fine weather with just fleeting glimpses but lots of vocalising.
By mid-morning three Marsh Harriers and a Buzzard took to the thermals behind the wall `mirror` where a film shoot was underway.

                               Long-tailed Duck, Lade south


                                Crows nest, Kerton Road

Dungeness - By midday the point was busy with visitors and fisherman in the sunshine. A Grey Seal showed well offshore opposite the seawatch hide, while at the Patch the 1st winter Glaucous Gull went between the beach and the power station complex, where both Raven and Kestrel noted.
  A wander around the Kerton Road triangle and down beside the quarry produced several Dartford Warblers, Stonechats and a small flock of Skylarks and Meadow Pipits.

Friday, 16 February 2018

Off-piste

Godmersham - 0930hrs - cold, dry, sunny - A cracking winters day for a trip off the Marsh with CP and MH to view the churchyard Hawfinches. However, despite the clear blue skies and bright sunshine we could only muster brief views of two birds in trees outside the church, in contrast to last week when up to 20 were noted hereabouts. There were plenty of other species on offer though, many in full song such as Mistle and Song Thrushes, plus Marsh, Coal and Long-tailed Tits, Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Nuthatch, Treecreeper, Goldcrest, Jay and Buzzard.

                                Spring lambs, Godmersham

                                Red Kite over the downs

North Downs - We then moved onto a downland viewpoint to scan for soaring raptors. With the morning wearing on and warm sunshine forcing draughts of air off the bare farmland into the ether conditions were ripe for a decent count, but even we were surprised at the numbers of birds of prey on the wing. During the course of an hour we totalled up to 25 Common Buzzards airborne at any one sweep of the optics, including a `kettle` of 13 and one near pure white individual perched atop a tree. Best of all though was up to four Red Kites, one of which soared virtually overhead, plus four Sparrowhawks and three Kestrels. While all this was going on, Skylarks were constantly in view and singing over the arableland, while Yellowhammer, Linnet, Meadow Pipit and Red-legged Partridge were also noted.
  More often than not on this blog I`m moaning about the loss of this bird or that, but at least the raptors are faring well. I couldn't have imagined seeing such numbers even 20 years ago.

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Winter regulars

Lade - cold, cloudy, S 3 - Not too bad a start to the day weather wise, although the wind picked up again during the morning meaning passerines were at a premium. The wintering Long-tailed Ducks continue to remain faithful to south lake and a Great White Egret was again present in the main reedbed.


                                Winter ducks on Burrowes

Dungeness - A guided walk for RSPB this morning around the circular walk made for difficult birding conditions in the strong wind. However, three Smew and a Slavonian Grebe were located on the lakes in front of Christmas Dell hide, while a Goldeneye showed well from Makepeace hide. At Dengemarsh a Great White Egret and male Merlin were the highlights. Also noted hundreds of Golden Plovers, Lapwings, Stock Doves, Starlings and Linnets on the fields behind Dengemarsh and on Boulderwall. Elsewhere, the Black-throated Diver was back on ARC and the Glaucous Gull was at the Patch.

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Southerly gale

Dungeness - cold, cloudy, wintry showers, S 6 - What a difference a day makes. Yesterday morning Dartford Warblers were singing atop gorse scrub at Lade in light airs against a blue sky backdrop. Not so today though with a vicious southerly blow making walking out in the open difficult, and by late morning building up to gale force with a rash of sleety showers.
  While it was still dry we opted for an hour at the fishing boats gazing out across a choppy Channel with plenty of gulls, Cormorants and auks fizzing by. As is often the case with a big sea running here seawatching is not at its best, and so it proved this morning with only a few Red-throated Divers, Kittiwakes, Gannets, Fulmars and a Merganser to keep the interest going.
  The bird reserve wasn't much better with most of the wildfowl hunkered down at the south end of Burrowes sheltering from the blow, although a drake Smew didn't seem to be phased by the conditions as it fished in open water in front of the visitors centre. There was no sign of yesterdays plastic Pochard on the Dipping Pool, although it could have been hunkered down just about anywhere across the reserve. On the way out the Boulderwall fields attracted a large mixed flock of Golden Plovers and Lapwings.

Sunday, 11 February 2018

Ringed Plovers

Lade - cold, sunny, nw 4 - These past couple of days have been spent without using the car, so on shanks pony, criss-crossing the local patch and along the beach down to Littlestone, up to the Pilot and around Kerton Road pit. We must`ve done a good few miles of shingle stomping and to be fair there were one or two bits and pieces of interest.
  On the lake nothing much has changed with the two wintering Long-tailed Ducks still present among around 800 wildfowl including 200 Shovelers, eight Goldeneyes and a brief flirtation by two Goosanders yesterday. This morning a Great White Egret in the main reed bed was new for the year and at the top end of north lake a Green Sandpiper fed along the shingle margin. The Kerton Road waters held only small numbers of ducks, plus hundreds of gulls and Oystercatchers at high tide.
  Yesterday morning we took in Mockmill where a new Dartford Warbler was located way out on the Desert in a gorse thicket, the perfect site for a breeding pair to settle down in... The regular birds were also noted in the Kerton Road triangle and beside the south lake track at Lade, along with singing Dunnock, Chaffinch and our first Linnet of the year. Around the willow swamp Cetti`s Warblers were in good voice along with Great Tits, where Reed Bunting, Goldcrest and Chiffchaff also noted.
  On the bay nine species of waders were seen with a flock of 15 Ringed Plovers suggesting some sort of movement of what is a scarce shorebird here. Numbers of most other species appeared to be similar to last months count with only Redshank absent.
  A profitable enough weekend then with 62 species logged, and all within two miles of Plovers cottage; now that can`t be bad.

                                Ringed Plover, from the archives

Friday, 9 February 2018

Weekly Summary

Lade - cold, cloudy, nw 4 - A miserable morning with rain throughout, but brighter later. On the local patch this afternoon the two Long-tailed Ducks were still present on south lake while at least one Dartford Warbler called from gorse scrub beside the track.
  Its pretty much a case of as-you-were bird wise this week across the Dungeness foreland. Black-throated Diver, Slavonian Grebe and three Smew are still on the bird reserve but mobile; the diver goes between Burrowes, ARC and New Diggings, while the grebe and Smews favour Christmas Dell.
Best bet for Bittern and Great White Egret are from Hanson hide on ARC and Dengemarsh hide.
  Elsewhere, the two Tundra Bean Geese are still attached to the Greylag flock at Scotney while the 1st winter Glaucous Gull tends to spend the morning at the Patch and the afternoon on Burrowes. On a calm day Dartford Warblers can be encountered just about anywhere there is gorse scrub from Lade to the Kerton Road triangle, onto the Dungeness estate and Dengemarsh.
  As far as I`m aware there have been no reports of the Bewick`s Swans this week on Walland Marsh or coming to roost on the bird reserve at dusk.