Friday, 28 July 2017

Pectoral Sandpiper

Scotney - 1000hrs - mild, shower, sw 5 - A windy morning with light rain quickly moving through, not ideal for Scotney, but seeing as I`ve not been here for ages we soldiered on. The front lakes were full of feral geese, swans, Cormorants and gulls and not much else apart from a couple of Common Sandpipers and a steady passage of Swifts. Since my last visit I noticed a series of lifebuoys around the lake sides suggesting a move to some kind of water sports. Outback Kestrel, Marsh Harrier, Corn Bunting, Yellow Wagtail and Skylark noted, but the lakes were largely deserted.
Dungeness - A circuit of Dengemarsh produced a Wood Sandpiper, Redshank, several Common Sandpipers and hundreds of Sand Martins and Swifts over the water. By the time I`d worked my way round to Burrowes a Pectoral Sandpiper had been found on a distant island. A dark, adult bird in summer plumage, it showed reasonably well from Dennis`s hide moving busily around the island alongside Common Sandpipers, Little Ringed Plovers and a Little Stint. A welcome return to form for this Nearctic wader following a blank year in 2016.

                                Adult Pectoral Sandpiper, Burrowes

Thursday, 27 July 2017

Re-tern Project

Dungeness RSPB - Next week, commencing Monday 31st July, the long awaited Re-tern project gets underway on Burrowes pit. The plan is to use a mechanical digger to improve the existing islands by raising their height so that even with high winter water levels there will always be a safe refuge for birds to use. New islands will also be created, as depicted on the site plan below, while the sand bar in front of Firth hide will be enlarged.
  The ultimate long-term aim, as the project name suggests, is to encourage breeding terns to re-colonise Dungeness on the newly created islands, along with three new tern rafts that will be put in place next spring; the habitat enhancement will also benefit passage and breeding waders. The work is due to be completed by October.
  Many thanks to the warden, Craig Edwards, for the briefing and supplying the site plan. Further information on the Re-tern project is available in the Visitor Centre.

                                             Working site plan of Burrowes pit

0700hrs -  An early morning saunter along the beach at Dungeness yielded at least six Wheatears, plus several Mipits, Linnets and Skylark. A brief look at the sea from the fishing boats with LG revealed the expected fishing Gannets and terns, plus a distant Balearic Shearwater.

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Little Stint

Lade - muggy, overcast, light airs - 0700hrs - A little more action in the garden MV this morning  following humid, overnight weather conditions. Another Jersey Tiger was the highlight, while Marbled Green was new for the year.
  On the local patch Little Egret numbers hit 15 and several Common Sandpipers flitted around the margins. The scrub by the ponds was alive with juvenile Blue and Great Tits, Reed and Sedge Warblers and Whitethroats.

                                  Jersey Tiger and Marbled Green

Dungeness - 1400hrs - An afternoon visit to the bird reserve was notable for a cracking adult Little Stint on Burrowes, in front of Firth hide, plus a supporting cast of 13 Dunlins, two Ringed and Little Ringed Plovers, Common Sandpiper, Ruff, a family of Egyptian Geese and a Yellow Wagtail amongst 10 alba wags. Elsewhere, a pair of Little Ringed Plovers still had two juvs, a Sparrowhawk briefly flushed the waders and a stunning adult male Marsh Harrier flapped over the access road.
  Over the road on ARC, as the wind picked up with drizzle in the air, hundreds of Swifts and Sand Martins swarmed over the lake. From Screen hide Snipe, Little Ringed Plover, Dunlin and several Wigeon were amongst a host of common wildfowl, grebes and Coots.

                                Adult Little Stint in front of Firth hide

                                Party of Dunlins

                                Common Sandpiper

                                Egyptian Goose family

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

An ibis and a stint

These past few days I`ve spent some time out on the Romney Marsh proper (so east of the Rhee Wall between the New Romney to Appledore Road) ranging across random areas of farmland that birders don't normally visit. My tactic, for want of a better word, is to park up and walk the lanes/footpaths, so nothing scientific, just listen, observe and record.
  With the harvest in full swing, and tractors and trailers racing along the narrow Marsh lanes, you have to be on your toes or end up in a ditch. The oil-seed rape is all but in and some fields have already been turned over, with one near Burmarsh attracting a large mixed flock of Lapwings and  Golden Plovers amongst the usual corvids and gulls. Two Common Buzzards were also noted there feeding on invertebrates and were by far the commonest raptor across the flatlands.
  The combines have moved onto the winter wheat with great clouds of dust in their wake; I waited by one field as the last section was mown to see what emerged - a single Pheasant! Another wheat field was already being ploughed through with a few Black-headed Gulls in the tractor wake and a flock of House Sparrows around the margin, but otherwise it was a birdless scene.
  There are few headlands on this part of the Marsh with the fertile earth turned over close to hedgerow or reed-fringed sewer, where most of the few passerines can find safe sanctuary. Of the scarcer farmland birds Tree Sparrows were noted at three sites, all close to dwellings with trees, and probably bird feeders, while singing Corn Buntings were noted at two sites around Snave and Burmarsh. It was good to find Turtle Doves near St Mary in the Marsh and Newchurch, with  juveniles at the former location, although I found no sign of Grey Partridge anywhere; indeed I only saw two Red-legged Partridges.
  Of the so-called commoner farmland species, Kestrel, Yellowhammer, Whitethroat, Skylark, Yellow Wagtail and Linnet were thinly distributed and mostly found in and around the few remaining sheep folds, along with plenty of corvids, Stock Doves and Woodpigeons. Reed Buntings and Warblers were also noted at several places where the reeds were thickest, while Swallows were common enough around farmyards and villages. Little Owls were seen at two locations, and a juvenile Cuckoo at one.
  Observations on crops concerned the increasing acreage of maize being planted this summer. This head-high, hungry fodder crop forms an impenetrable thicket (as I found out when trying to locate a Looker`s hut near Dymchurch) and what long-term effect it will have on the landscape and birdlife only time will tell. Turf fields also appear to be on the increase, especially around New Romney and there were a fair few fields of linseed. Where potatoes are grown and irrigated are nearly always the best spots for Yellow Wagtails.
  In summary, it was pretty much as I expected, with most of the bird activity near farm buildings and around the villages, as well as sheep folds and sewer margins, but very little on the intensively farmed arableland.
  Almost as rare on the Marsh these day are pubs, and of the few that remain my recommended top three are: The Bell at Ivychurch, The Star at St Mary in the Marsh and the Shepherd and Crook at Burmarsh. It`s thirsty work surveying - mine`s a pint of Harvey`s Best!

                               Harrowed oil-seed rape, Burmarsh

                                Maize field, Dymchurch

                                Sewer margins, St Mary in the Marsh

                                Grass turf field, Newchurch

Dungeness - warm, dry, cloudy, nw 2 - 0730hrs - A wander down the point delivered very little on a flat calm sea apart from a few passing Sandwich Terns and Gannets. With the power station outlet turned off there was nothing doing at the Patch. On the land a scattering of Willow Warblers was noteworthy.

                                Kestrel from the access road

                                 Kingfisher from Hanson hide

                                Great White Egret, Dengemarsh

ARC - 1100hrs - With island strimming in progress on Burrowes, hundreds of Cormorants, ducks, feral geese and swans had decamped onto ARC. In amongst the throng was my first Wigeon of the summer, although waders were surprisingly few in number with only Snipe, Wood Sandpiper and Turnstone new in, plus the usual Little Ringed Plovers and Redshanks. A Kingfisher posed nicely on a willow perch in front of the hide, while several pulses of Swifts and Sand Martins went over, plus a Cuckoo. Back at the car park more Willow Warblers and a Spotted Flycatcher were snapping up flying insects and flocks of Sand Martins and Swallows adorned the overhead wires.
 Scanning across towards the water tower just after midday yielded several soaring Buzzards and Marsh Harriers, plus a high Glossy Ibis that disappeared over towards Dengemarsh, but despite a thorough search this afternoon the ibis was not relocated. However, a Great White Egret was present along with many more Swifts and Sand Martins, plus a few Common Sandpipers and Redshanks.
  Just as I completed a circuit of the Marsh TG called telling of a Temminck`s Stint on Burrowes, a scarce passage migrant and not by any means noted annually. It was an adult bird in moult and viewable from the lookout point near Dennis`s hide, and a great way to finish any birding day.

Saturday, 22 July 2017

Beautiful Marbled

Lade - warm, dry, cloudy, showers overnight, sw 2 - At 04.30hrs I staggered outside in a heavy rain shower to cover up the moth trap to protect the catch from the local spadgers. A casual glance into the trap revealed a small purplish moth and as I threw a towel over the top and staggered back to bed in a daze I began to ponder its identity.
  Several hours later I went through the trap recording Oak Eggar and Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing, new for the year, and there on the final egg box was the unfamiliar purple moth. In my 1st edition Lewington guide Purple Marbled was the only moth that came close to it, but it certainly wasn't that, and I couldn't find anything to fit-the-bill in the new micro-moth guide.
  However, a trip to the Kerton Road Café soon cleared up the mystery, as there in the 2nd edition Lewington was our moth: Beautiful Marbled, a rare immigrant and only the 3rd for the Dungeness recording area. Thanks to DB and SC for confirmation and stats.
  The overnight rain had also grounded some waders on the local patch with six Common and two Green Sandpipers around the margins, plus Ruff and Greenshank on south lake island. Best of all though was a party of 16 Whimbrels overhead calling wildly and several more Greenshanks. Whilst counting the Curlews to roost on the Desert, amongst the 190 were four Whimbrels and three Bar-wits. At least 12 Little Egrets were fishing around the willow swamp.

                                Beautiful Marbled, a rare immigrant from central Europe

                                Little Egrets, Lade

Dungeness - A late morning visit to the bird reserve revealed many more passage sandpipers and shanks around the site including Wood and Curlew Sandpiper, plus Ruff, Blackwit and Snipe.

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Portland Moth

Lade - warm, cloudy, showery, sw 2 - 0700hrs - With moth friendly weather conditions it was no surprise that one or two goodies had dropped into the MV overnight. The highlights were, new for the site, a battered Double Kidney, plus a superb Gold Spot, one of my favourite moths, along with yet another Plumed Fan-foot, our 10th Sussex Emerald of the summer (best ever total in 10 years) and several migrant Silver Ys and Dark Sword-grass.

                                Gold Spot, one of my favourite moths

                                Sussex Emerald, 10th of the summer

St Mary`s in the Marsh - I then moved onto the Marsh to check CP`s MV which was bulging with moths including 42 Dusky Sallows and 55 Reed Daggers! The highlights of 42 species were a rare immigrant Portland Moth, plus Dark Sword-grass, Webb`s Wainscot, Blood Vein, Drinker, Gold Spot, Rosy Rustic, Coronet and Red Twin-Spot Carpet.

                                          Portland Moth
                                  Rosy Rustic

Dungeness - A midday check of ARC revealed nothing new on the wader front with plenty of Dunlins, Lapwings and Little Ringed Plovers still present amongst hundreds of wildfowl, Coots and feral geese.
  The Kerton Road café was a hive of activity this afternoon as local moth`ers gathered to discuss the various moths; it became apparent that last night had delivered a bumper crop of rare moths to local traps. On show were Tamerisk Peacock, Mere Wainscot, Speckled Footman and a Ringed Border from Sussex. In the DBO fridge a Pale Shoulder trapped in Lydd was another rare immigrant.
  An hour at the fishing boats with the regular seawatchers delivered plenty of Gannets and Sandwich Terns offshore, plus two light phase Arctic Skus. Several Porpoises were also feeding offshore.

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Wader dump

Lade - 0700hrs - humid, overcast, sw 4 - The thunderstorms that swept up from the south missed this part of Kent completely last night, although lightening could be seen away to the west in the early hours. It was very windy yesterday evening so I elected not to run the MV, which was a big mistake as the wind dropped off during the night. However, a cracking Jersey Tiger on the summerhouse wall was ample compensation this morning.

                                Jersey Tiger, first of the summer

A brief walk out back delivered two Redshanks on south lake island, which is a little unusual, plus two Common Sandpipers around the margins and 15 Curlews overhead. Then news came through from the bird reserve of an overnight drop-in of waders...

Dungeness - 1000hrs - A guided walk around the RSPB circuit for four guests from north London this morning was notable for waders. Oddly enough it was Dengemarsh that stole the show with a roosting flock of 22 Redshanks and 18 Ruffs on a tiny muddy island opposite the hide, plus several Green and Common Sandpipers. On Burrowes a Greenshank and Blackwit showed well along with Ringed and Little Ringed Plovers and several Dunlins. There was more of the same reported over the road on ARC.
  Also of note, two Sandwich Terns amongst the Common Tern colony, Marsh Harriers, Little Egrets and plenty of Sand Martins moving through. Masses of common grassland butterflies, damsels and dragons were on the wing in the sheltered reaches of the Return Trail.

                                Greenshank and Blackwit on passage