Sunday, 22 October 2017

Boring Brian

Saturday - Dungeness - 1000hrs - mild, showery, sw 6 - With Storm Brian whipping up the Channel an hour at the fishing boats seemed the best birding option as any self respecting passerine would be well and truly hunkered down. However, seawatching is rarely brilliant this late in the season with a raging south-westerly, and so it proved to be with just the usual Gannets and Sandwich Terns in the ascendancy, plus a few Kittiwakes through, an Arctic Skua and a drake Eider. Several pulses of Swallows and at least two House Martins went out while small parties of coasting Goldfinches moved west.
  Despite the strong winds, Goldcrests and Goldfinches were noted around the Plovers garden this morning as well as a couple of Red Admirals on the buddleia when the sun poked through the clouds.
  Another hour at the fishing boats this afternoon in poor weather conditions peppered with heavy squalls delivered very little apart from Sandwich Terns and Gannets.
  Once again the Met Office over-egged the pudding and Storm Brian failed to live up to a `proper blow` and deliver a few juicy seabirds. On the plus side though, at least our cottage roof remained intact!
  After a cracking sing around night in the Star at St-Mary-in-the-Marsh, commemorating Trafalgar Day with Romney Marsh Morris, we bundled out of the pub to the magical sound of migrating Redwings calling overhead in the darkness, which sounded a whole lot better than my singing!

                                Great White Egrets and Pintails

Sunday - Lade  - 0800hrs - cool, sunny, nw 2 - With the gale blown out overnight this morning dawned bright and sunny but with a much fresher feel than of late as the wind had veered round to the north-west. We flogged around the local patch where the only migrants noted were two Swallows hurrying south over the Desert and several Chiffchaffs in a mixed passerine flock in the willow swamp. Two Marsh Harriers were keeping the dabbling ducks and Coots on red alert and a Sparrowhawk slipped across south lake, my first sighting for a while. Egret numbers around the margins topped out at 21 Little and three Great Whites, along with 10 Grey Herons, plus 52 Cormorants and 60 Great Crested Grebes on the water, which must be taking its toll on the carp population.
Dungeness - An afternoon tour of the bird reserve in bright sunshine produced the long staying Red-necked Grebe and two Little Stints on ARC, a flock of 20 egrets on Burrowes and a flyover Cattle Egret at Boulderwall. Also noted on the reserve Ring Ouzel, Curlew Sandpiper and up to five more Cattle Egrets, while a Caspian Gull was seen at Dungeness fishing boats. Was also good to bump into some old birding friends from Bedfordshire today.

Friday, 20 October 2017

Garden Song Thrush

Dungeness - mild, cloudy, sw 5 - En-route to the seawatch pitch a late Wheatear was a surprise flitting about amongst the sea containers while several charms of Goldfinches coasted overhead into the brisk south-westerly breeze. An hour at the fishing boats produced plenty of Gannets fishing offshore, a trickle of Sandwich Terns, an Arctic Tern, a Wigeon, two Red-breasted Mergansers, Kittiwake, two Arctic Skuas, several Dunlin, a Sanderling, 10 Swallows and two House Martins. A Black-throated Diver and an Eider had been seen earlier.
  It was pretty quiet around the bird reserve this morning with passerines at a premium due to the strong wind. However, there was eight Great White Egrets from Dennis`s hide on Burrowes and the juvenile Little Stint was still present. The Cattle Egret has also been reported on the fields at Boulderwall.
Lade  - Working in the garden this afternoon singles of Coal Tit (probably a Continental bird), Goldcrest and Chiffchaff moved through the fir trees. Oddest of all though was a migrant Song Thrush that dropped in from on high (presumably having just crossed the Channel) and landed under the firs. It then briefly hunkered down behind a tree mallow, looking exhausted, after which it moved into deeper cover to recover from its exertions. A typical late autumn record of Song Thrush in the garden.
  A trip down the beach late afternoon delivered similar wader numbers to the other day, plus at least 50 Sandwich Terns on the sands.

Wednesday, 18 October 2017


Dungeness - mild, cloudy, se 2 - An hour from the seawatch hide with Lew resulted in a steady flow of Gannets offshore plus a few auks, Common Scoters, Sandwich Terns and at least 20 Mediterranean Gulls coming and going from the Patch. The main event on the land was the arrival of hundreds of finches on the easterly breeze, mostly Chaffinches (c3,000 logged at the Obs) and Goldfinches, but also a scattering of Linnets, Greenfinches, Siskins and Redpolls. Also noted this morning around the point Dartford Warbler, Firecrest, Redwing, Blackcap, Black Redstart, Goldcrest, Swallows, Stonechats, a House Martin, Mipits, Chiffchaffs and a late Willow Warbler. 
Lade - A check of the pits revealed all the usual wildfowl and egrets, a few Chiffchaffs, plus more Chaffinches and Goldfinches. On a falling tide the bay was up to its usual high standard and delivered hundreds of waders of nine species (couldn't find a Grey Plover for the ten). Also, three Brent Geese, 42 Sandwich Terns, 10 Mediterranean Gulls, a Yellow-legged Gull and hundreds of Black-headed and Common Gulls. At sea a few Gannets and a Grey Seal.

                                Bar-tailed Godwit, Lade bay

Scotney - Haven`t been here for a while so we walked out back where 20 Shelducks on the lake were the only birds of note. Around the farm buildings plenty of Goldfinches, Chaffinches, Mipits and Pied Wagtails, plus a Little Owl, Corn Bunting, Stock Dove and all the usual feral geese on the front pits and fields.
  A pretty decent couple of days in the field with Lew during which time we racked up a typical range of October migrants and residents totalling 92 species of birds.

                                            Goldfinches were everywhere today

                                Little Owl, Scotney

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Dartford Warblers

Dungeness - mild, overcast, light airs - Spent the day guiding for Lew, one of our regulars from north Kent. We kicked off with a brief seawatch from the hide but all was quiet apart from the usual Gannets, 20 Kittiwakes, a few auks, two Sandwich Terns and several Mediterranean Gulls. However, the land was considerably more lively with the highlights being up to five Firecrests in the old lighthouse garden and a pair of Dartford Warblers near the Sanctuary. Also in the garden several Chiffchaffs and Goldcrests, Robins, Wrens, Dunnocks, Goldfinches, Chaffinches, Blue Tits and a Great Spotted Woodpecker. Elsewhere around the point 10 Stonechats, six Swallows, 20 Mipits, 10 Pied Wagtails, two Black Redstarts and a Grey Wagtail over.
  A quick word on the weather, which once again was weird. The sun, when it did poke through the clouds, was still orangey and by mid-morning it rained briefly and was so dark I thought we were having a solar eclipse!

                               Black Redstart, an unusually scarce migrant this autumn.

Moving onto the bird reserve around noon and first stop ARC where a large passerine flock by the car park contained more Chiffchaffs and Goldcrests. From the hide 30 Blackwits, three Great White Egrets, two Marsh Harriers, five Pintails, a Snipe, plus calling Water Rail and Cetti`s Warbler were the highlights. At Boulderwall two Tree Sparrows on the feeders and flight views of the Cattle Egret in the field following the cows. On Burrowes, 12 Great White Egrets, 200 Golden Plovers, two Ruffs and a juvenile Little Stint from Makepeace hide. On Dengemarsh eight Ruffs, Marsh Harriers, Buzzard, Kestrel, Raven two Grey Plovers over calling and all the usual gulls, wildfowl and Lapwings. Also, Clouded Yellow and Red Admirals on the wing.
  We finished the day back at the sea from the fishing boats where an Arctic Skua showed well chasing a gull. Also, Razorbill and Guillemot, two Mediterranean Gulls, Sandwich Tern, Grey Seal and Porpoise.

Monday, 16 October 2017

Orange skies over Lade

Dungeness - 0730hrs -  warm, cloudy, s 3 - A circuit of the point in unseasonably mild weather with a warm southerly airflow delivered a steady flow of overhead Goldfinches, plus a few Mipits, Skylarks, Swallows and other assorted finches, but none of the heavy-billed variety that have been noted elsewhere across the south-east. However, the surprise migrant was a superb male Dartford Warbler in scrub by the Britannia pub that posed briefly atop the brambles before skulking deep and occasionally uttering its scolding alarm call. Nothing much was happening on the sea apart from fishing Gannets, a few Common Scoters and a Red-throated Diver down. A check of the beach for jellyfish drew a blank.

                                Delicate, a migrant that now also breeds locally

                                Mallow,  a scarce visitor to the Plovers trap

Lade - With overnight temperatures barely going below the mid-teens centigrade and light winds it was no surprise to find the garden mv stuffed with moths. All the usual autumn species were present including 35 Black Rustics, but tucked away in the bottom of the trap in the last egg tray was a Delicate and a Mallow, both new for the year.

                                Mid-afternoon sun

    6pm sunset over Lade made for a weird, ethereal atmosphere

  A couple of visits to the local patch were largely uneventful apart from the weird weather associated with Storm Ophelia that had pushed a plume of warm air up from the Azores. The afternoon temperature peaked at a humid 23 C along with dark skies and a hazy reddish-orange sun occasionally poking through the clouds. As sunset approached the sky turned orange, giving a spectacular, almost end-of-days feel to the place which apparently was due to a combination of Saharan dust and ash debris from wildfires in Iberia.
  Weird weather indeed. 

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Harrier count

Saturday - Dungeness - 0730hrs - mild, dry, sunny, sw 2 - A balmy morning for a wander around the point where to be honest it was very quiet bird wise apart from the regulation Goldfinches, Mipits and Skylarks overhead and on the deck. At the Patch a couple of Med Gulls was about it and in the lighthouse garden Goldcrest and Chiffchaff. The most extraordinary sight of all was watching a French Bulldog and a Fox cavorting around like a pair of puppies playing together - Barney was not impressed!

                                Fox and dog at play

  However, on the walk back we called in and had a chat with Dave Bunney who`d just photographed a Radde`s Warbler in his garden. Unfortunately, we couldn't stay and by the time I returned in late afternoon the bird was showing all too briefly, not that it had been very showy throughout the day by all accounts. The last one was also here in 2006, and I missed that one too. Another great find by DB and well done to Dave and family for being so accommodating to the many visiting birders.
  Also, on the bird reserve today, a Red-backed Shrike by the Return Trail and a Cattle Egret on Dengemarsh. On the way out to Brookland this evening we had good views of a Barn Owl at Midley.

Sunday - Lade - On the beach this morning eight species of waders opposite the Tavern included both Grey Plover and Sanderling plus an Arctic Skua chasing the only Sandwich Tern on the bay! Several small parties of Goldfinches and Swallows hurried south into the brisk southerly breeze. All quiet on the pits with the now expected Goldcrests and Chiffchaffs around the ponds and willow swamp.
Walland Marsh  - This evening was the first harrier roost count date of the `winter`. In misty, mild weather conditions I accompanied CP for a run out to our usual watch point overlooking a very dried up reedbed. However, this didn't seem to bother the Marsh Harriers with an impressive 22 coming to roost. Also noted a Barn Owl, 20 Golden Plovers, 100 Linnets, 50 Reed Buntings, two Buzzards, a Kestrel, Redpoll over, plus calling Water Rail and Cetti`s Warbler.

Friday, 13 October 2017

Local patch blitz

Lade - mild, cloudy, sw 4 - We seem to have hit the birding doldrums down here with weather fronts sweeping in off the Atlantic and blocking any hope of an arrival of drift migrants from the east. Today I decided to spend some time hammering away at the local patch on shanks pony, despite the unpromising blustery, but humid, weather conditions. The result was that after three visits totalling six hours a grand total of 65 species of birds was recorded.
  An early overhead trickle of finches included several parties of Redpolls and Siskins, while at least 20 House Martins and 10 Swallows moved through and two Jays flew in off the bay. A mixed passerine flock of at least 60 birds in the willow swamp kept me busy for over an hour, comprising mostly Chiffchaffs, Blue, Great and Long-tailed Tits, plus 10 Goldcrests, two Reed Buntings, two Blackcaps, a few Chaffinches and a lone Firecrest, always a bonus. Also around the willows and ponds, two Cetti`s Warblers, squealing Water Rails, Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers, 12 Little and one Great White Egret. Plenty of Migrant Hawkers and Ruddy Darters were active in the shelter of the ponds.
  On the lakes an influx of 150 Mallards was a notable count, while two Pintails were the first of the autumn. The usual large numbers of grebes and Shovelers were hugging the far side of south lake. The desert to the south delivered several Stonechats and a Wheatear, although Mockmill was largely deserted due to the brisk wind. Scanning across towards the airport resulted in Kestrel, Marsh Harrier, Lapwing, Stock Dove and Curlew being added to the day list.
  The garden moth trap attracted 11 species of macros, but nothing unusual.