Sunday, 30 April 2017

More Pomarine Skuas

Dungeness - 0600-0900hrs - cool, cloudy, ESE 4 - What with one thing and another I only had the opportunity to get out in the field first thing this morning, and with a brisk south-easterly forecast there was only one place to be. Unfortunately, many other visiting birders had the same idea and the seawatch hide and surrounding area was swamped with visitors. However, we hunkered down with several other locals and settled in for what proved to be a memorable session.
  The main attraction were good numbers of Pomarine Skuas on the move up-Channel, with the wind having the desired effect of forcing some close to shore. The pics below do not do them justice, as we had stunning views of at least 30 adults in breeding plumage, mostly light phase birds, sporting long `spoons` and so close you could easily see the yellow neck collar and pale, black-tipped bill. They came through mostly in small flocks of two or three and one of seven. There were more further out and no doubt plenty went through unseen in the choppy waters of mid-Channel. We also enjoyed good views of 10 each of Arctic Skua and Bonxie, several of which cut in close along the shingle beach.



                                Pomarine Skuas, Dungeness

  And that wasn't all! Throughout the watch hundreds of Gannets, Common Scoters, Kittiwakes and, particularly Arctic Terns, streamed through, plus Fulmars, 20 Barwits, 100 Common and Sandwich Terns, four Med Gulls, a Little Tern, three Black Terns, a Black-throated Diver, five Avocets, two Grey Plovers, 15 Sanderlings, two Velvet Scoters, five Brents, six Shelducks, four Shovelers, four Teal, two Gadwall and a Pintail. Coasting and incoming land birds included two Swifts (new for the year) several Swallows, Goldfinches, Linnets and a Yellow Wagtail.
  What made this such an exceptional seawatch was that for the most part the seabirds were so close that they could be enjoyed with just binoculars, particularly those that passed through inside the Cardinal buoy, with some of the skuas along the tideline.
  No doubt many more Poms were logged throughout the day; for a full summary check out the DBO website: www.dungenessbirdobs.org.uk

Saturday, 29 April 2017

A passage of Commic Terns

Dungeness - 0600 - 0800hrs - mild, sunny, sw 3 - We joined MH and CP for a seawatch from the boardwalk where a steady flow of hundreds of Common Scoters and Commic Terns were on the move up-Channel. Decent numbers of Gannets, Fulmars and Kittiwakes also noted, plus a few auks, Bonxies, Arctic Skuas, Shelducks and Oystercatchers.

                                "Seawatching - bah!"

1400-1600hrs - Another seawatching session, in warm sunshine with a more southerly breeze, from the Seawatch hide was far more exciting than this morning. Commic Terns were streaming past the point in flocks of hundreds and by the time I left site the tally for the day had already exceeded 7,000! Looking into the sunlight made it very difficult to specifically identify Common from Arctic Tern. Some of the close ones were Arctic Terns, but most were some way offshore and remained `Commic`; there was also many Sandwich Terns on the move. Ten Bonxies and five Arctic Skuas also powered through, some clipping the point inside the cardinal buoy; also noted a Black-throated Diver, several Red-throated Divers, Kittiwakes and Guillemots, a Black Tern, plus hundreds of Barwits and Whimbrels at varying heights. A memorable day of seawatching for the volume of terns alone.

Friday, 28 April 2017

"Much about?"

Dungeness Peninsula  - cool, cloudy, n 2 - Well, what with a Bank Holiday weekend looming, not a lot actually, at least by Dungeness standards. The sea has been mostly disappointing this week, mainly due to the wind direction, although things may change tomorrow as the wind is due to swing around to a southerly vector. An immature Iceland Gull has remained faithful to the Patch, and if you`re considering taking a swim in the balmy waters of the English Channel, then think again - there`s a killer Grey Seal on the loose chomping up Porpoises, and you never quite know what will be next on its menu!
  On the land a scattering of Wheatears, Ring Ouzels and Willow Warblers are still present along with the occasional Whinchat, although Black Redstarts appear to be absent. On the bird reserve the warbler tribe are well ensconced in scrub and reedbed alongside Cuckoos, the first Hobbies over Dengemarsh, `booming` Bitterns, food-passing Marsh Harriers, a Nightingale near Hanson hide and hirundines and Swifts coming and going overhead.



  On the lakes, Slavonian and Black-necked Grebes have been seen on New Diggings and Lade respectively while the Ring-necked Duck has moved to Burrowes, which is looking to be the best bet for a drop in of waders as the drought continues to deliver lots of muddy islands. Few terns have been seen so far and the hayfields are largely unproductive due to the cessation of water pumping and drying out.
  Scotney on the other hand has been most productive with the front fields delivering a host of passage Whimbrels and Barwits, while the farmyard fields have been good for Yellow Wagtails and Corn Buntings. Outback, Avocets, LRP, Common Sandpiper and Greenshank have all been noted on the gravel pit lakes.
  I would expect one or two goodies to be found over the weekend as visiting birders move in. A Red-rumped Swallow or a Hoopoe would be nice, but a Great Spotted Cuckoo or a Little Bittern would be better, we shall just have to wait and see...

Thursday, 27 April 2017

The Warren

Lade - 0700hrs - cold, frosty, sunny, nw 2 - A bitterly cold start to the day with a light frost on the roof-tops hereabouts. However, there was plenty of activity around the local patch with a host of  Linnets, Reed Buntings, Whitethroats, Sedge, Cetti`s and Reed Warblers belting it out along with several Cuckoos, two Lesser Whitethroats, a Chiffchaff and Blackcap. Two pairs of Teal and  Shoveler were still present on the lakes, plus a Black-necked Grebe, while four Whimbrels flew over calling.
  Walking across the Desert it felt more like August underfoot with not a drop of moisture in the desiccated mosses and grasses. The storm ridges do have splashes of yellow from the fading Gorse and emerging Broom, but the underlying colour is brown. We`ve not had any serious rain here since January 16th and as a result many of the plants, like Lady`s Bedstraw, have simply wilted away to nothing in the drought.
The Warren, Folkestone - I was on granddad pick-up from school duty today so spent a couple of hours this afternoon puffing and panting around the chalk hills looking for plants and insects, but due to the cloud cover and cool wind there were few butterflies to be found. I was particularly searching for Horseshoe Vetch, the host plant for the Adonis Blue, which I managed to locate in a couple of suitable south facing chalk hollows, so hopefully next month when I visit on a warmer day there maybe some of these gems on the wing.
  Bird-wise several Lesser Whitethroats, Bullfinches and Long-tailed Tits were noted, plus Raven and two Fulmars soaring around their nest sites on the chalk cliffs.  

                                The Warren


                                Wild Strawberries and Sweet Violets

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Ring Ouzels

Lade - 0830hrs - cold, cloudy, nw 4 - We spent some time checking the sands from the Tavern viewpoint on an incoming tide where the wader count was as follows: Oystercatcher 220, Curlew 24, Bar-tailed Godwit 21 (several in summer plum), Dunlin 10, Whimbrel 2, plus two Shelducks and a trickle through of Swallows and Wheatears.


                                Black-necked Grebe, Lade

  On the lakes 50 odd Swallows and House Martins were scrutinised for a Red-rumper on north lake where a splendid Black-necked Grebe showed like a good `un, along with  a dozen each of Little and Great Crested Grebes. A few Shovelers lingered, a Turnstone did a circuit of the lake, a Cuckoo flew over the willow swamp and there were plenty of Whitethroat, Cetti`s, Sedge and Reed Warbler activity around the ponds.
Dungeness - We finished off the Birdwatching Break for Clare and Peter back at the Desert where much improved views of at least nine Ring Ouzels were gained.
  Over the three days we logged a respectable tally of 113 species of birds, the only disappointment being the lack of seabirds, primarily due to the wind direction.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

First Hobbies

Dungeness - 0900hrs - cold, sunny, nw 2 - With seawatching a non-event due to the wind we searched the land around the point for migrants and came up with 10 Wheatears, 10 Willow Warblers, 10 Whitethroats, two Chiffchaffs, two Mipits, plus singles of Stonechat and Whinchat by Jarman`s. A decapitated male Sparrowhawk was an odd find by Lloyd's cottage which I could only assume was the result of a Peregrine attack. The guests also enjoyed a Willow Warbler being processed at the Obs having been caught in the Heligoland Trust, many thanks to Lee. Plenty of Small Coppers were basking in the moat and a Stoat was seen.

                                Wheatear

                                Small Coppers

                                Headless Sparrowhawk

                                Willow Warbler, DBO

RSPB - We spent most of the day on the bird reserve where the highlight was our first three Hobbies of the spring hawking insects over Dengemarsh, as always wonderful birds to watch and let`s hope for many more to come. The usual range of warblers showed well and the Bittern was still ` booming` at Hooker`s. On Burrowes, a Grey Plover, two Greenshanks, 10 Dunlins, a pair of Pintails and the long-staying Ring-necked Duck, plus the Boulderwall Tree Sparrows, a Common Sandpiper on New Diggings and 10 Whimbrels across the site.

                                Greenshank, Burrowes

ARC - An evening visit down to the pines delivered another `booming` Bittern and a mixed flock of hirundines over the water. We finished off back in the Desert where two Ring Ouzels were briefly seen following a tip off from LG.

Monday, 24 April 2017

Nightingales and Whimbrels

Lade - 0630hrs - cool, cloudy, w 3 - An early sortie on the local patch revealed the first decent fall of hirundines of the spring thus far, comprising mainly 100 Swallows, plus 20 and 10 each of Sand and House Martins respectively. A single Ring Ouzel clacked from the scrub beside the lake where there was a noticeable increase in singing Whitethroats. A Cuckoo called from the swamp, two Common Sandpipers flew across the lake and a pair of Marsh Harriers soared over Airport Pits.
Birdwatching Break - Faggs Wood - 1245hrs - After picking up Clare and Peter from Ashford we headed to the woods where despite the time of day there was a decent crop of songsters performing. Our target was Nightingale with at least four in song and one seen, plus more birds singing from across the lane in Longrope Wood. Also noted two Garden Warblers, five each of Willow Warbler, Blackcap and Chiffchaff, Cuckoo plus a range of resident species including Jay, Goldcrest, Long-tailed and Coal Tits, Nuthatch, Treecreeper and Great Spotted Woodpecker.
  Down on the Marsh we paused at Warehorne Bridge where Lesser Whitethroat, another Garden Warbler and a range of common wayside birds were seen.


                                Yellow Wagtails

                                Corn Bunting

                                Whimbrels and Barwits

                                Wheatear

Scotney - Terrific stuff here with a mixed flock of 80 Whimbrels, 10 Barwits, a Ruff and three Ringed Plovers on the front sward, plus four Med Gulls over and four Wigeon on the causeway.
Out back a flock of up to 20 Yellow Wagtails feeding around the cattle proved the main attraction, plus six Corn Buntings, Skylarks, Linnets, Pied Wagtails, Tree Sparrow, a Greenland Wheatear, Marsh Harrier, Kestrel, Stock Doves, 12 Avocets and a Little Ringed Plover.
Dungeness  - We finished the afternoon at the Patch where a 2nd calendar year Iceland Gull was on the beach amongst the Herring and Black-headed Gulls. A 30 minute seawatch delivered little apart from two passing Gannets, and a few distant Sandwich and Commic Terns.
  A run out this evening logged a hunting Short-eared Owl, a screeching Barn Owl, several Marsh Harriers, Corn Buntings, Yellow Wagtails and a foraging Badger.