Monday, 30 April 2012

Ortolan Bunting

Dungeness  - 0745hrs - warm, dry, sunny, se3 - Just as I settled into position in the hide for a spot of seawatching news came through of an Ortolan Bunting found near the Light Railway Cafe - needless to say the hide was rapidly vacated! Initial views of the bunting were poor but it soon flew over towards Lloyd's where it hunkered down to feed on the edge of the gorse scrub, showing well until at least 0915hrs. The yellowish eye-ring was most noticeable along with a yellow throat and moustache, greenish-grey head, orangey underparts and pinkish bill. I`m assuming it was an adult male due to the bright plumage. A stunning little bird and quite a rarity these days in spring; and personally a Dunge tick. Managed a few poor digi-scope pics, but there should be some frame-fillers on the Plodding Birder blog and DBO website to drool over (sorry about that, poor choice of word really, considering the Ortolan is a culinary delicacy on the continent).
A cracking male Common Redstart was also noted nearby plus 2 Yellow Wagtails overhead, Stonechats, Wheatears and Black Redstarts, and a Whinchat later on (PB). A few Swifts and hirundines came in off the sea and both Sparrowhawk and Peregrine were seen.

                                         Ortolan Bunting, Dungeness

1430hrs - An hours seawatching from the point failed to deliver any skuas but several groups of waders moved up-Channel at close range totalling some 40 Barwits, 25 Grey Plovers, 6 Whimbrels and a Curlew. Also, a steady movement of Common and Sandwich Terns, one or two distant Gannets and scoters, a Fulmar and 2 Med Gulls. At least 20 Poms were recorded throughout the day, including a group of 5 just before I arrived this morning and another of 14 around midday.

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Pied Fly & Poms

Lade - heavy rain all morning, ne4, sunny and se2 later - A stinker of a morning was in complete contrast to this afternoons warm sunshine and blue skies. An hour over the pits delivered good views of 2 Cuckoos, Whitethroats and Sedge Warblers plus several Marsh Harriers hunting over the airfield.
Dungeness - 1400hrs - no surprise that one or two migrants came out to play after the rain, including a cracking male Pied Flycatcher in the lighthouse garden; also a Wryneck and Redstart earlier. Whilst watching the flicker news came through of 4 Poms seen from the seawatching hide, so I joined MH for an hour at the end of the concrete road and sure enough we eventually logged 2 Spooners up-Channel along with a single Arctic and another a bit later on. Also, 2 divers, 1 Fulmar, several parties of Gannets, two groups of 20 odd Whimbrels and Barwits and a Manx down-Channel. Could be a good day for Poms tomorrow...

                                            Lade, looking south

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Hirundines & Swifts

Dungeness - 0900hrs - cool, cloudy, damp, ne4 - With the wind swinging round to the north-east seawatching was predictably quiet with just a trickle of Gannets and scoters on the move and around 100 Common Terns coming and going from the Patch. However, a steady flow of Swallows came in off the sea plus two groups of 5 and 9 Swifts.
ARC - 1030hrs - first mass arrival of hirundines and Swifts this spring with several hundreds low over the water, predominantly Swallows. From the south end at least 2 each of Channel and White Wagtails, 3 Dunlins and 2 Ringed Plovers, while from Screen hide a flock of 9 Redshanks, Long-tailed Duck, LRP, Cuckoo, Lesser Whitethroat and my first Common Sandpiper of the year.
Scotney - 1300hrs - Fairly quiet apart from 9 Whimbrels, 5 Ringed Plovers, 2 Marsh Harriers and a lone Wigeon.
Burrowes - 1400hrs  - More Swallows and Swifts drifting over, but little else as the rain returned and the wind speed picked up.
Moths -Needless to say it has been a poor month for moths with numbers down or absent from most local traps (only one moth in the garden trap here last night), particularly when compared to this time last year. However, the Kerton Road Cafe bucked the trend with 14 species, 7 of which were new for the year.

                                         Angle Shades
                                         Red Twin-spot Carpet

Friday, 27 April 2012

Channel Wagtails

Dungeness - 0540hrs - cool, sunny, ssw3 - An early seawatch from the hide delivered much promise with an early rush of birds, but soon petered out; and not a single wader or diver in 2 hours. However, the Bonxies kept coming with 20 during the watch, several very close, and 10 Arctic Skuas. Hundreds of Common and Sandwich Terns milling around the point with several large groups on passage; also, two probable flocks of Arctics, but difficult to nail in such light and distance, plus 12 Brents, 20 scoters, 2 Fulmars, 20 Gannets, 2 Meds, 10 auks and 2 Swallows in.
ARC - 1400hrs - At the south end up to 10 flava wagtails included at least 4 Channel types (pale head, white throat and tear-drop marking on cheek), singles of White Wag and Mipit, LRP, Curlew and 2 Little Egrets. From Hanson another LRP and distant Long-tailed Duck.

                                         Channel Wagtails, ARC

                                         Whimbrels, Burrowes

Burrowes - Stunning views of 2 Whimbrels that dropped in front of Firth for 5 minutes. Also, 2 Swallows, 5 Swifts, Ringed Plover, Redshank and 2 more Whimbrels from Makepeace. Several Whimbrels going over calling from the car park and 6 in the field by Cook`s pool.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Blows Downs, Dunstable

Blows Downs - 1030hrs - cool, cloudy, heavy showers - Had to go `up-north` today so called in at one of my old local patches to look for Ring Ouzels. A bit late in the day really, so something of a long shot, but despite a thorough search of former favourite bushes and slopes I couldn't locate one. A decent spread of migrants tho included loads of Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs, 2 Whitethroats and singles of Willow Warbler and Lesser Whitethroat. All the usual downland breeders in song, such as Skylarks, Yammers, Mipits and Linnets, plus 2 Buzzards and a Kestrel over.

                                           Blows Downs, Dunstable

Dungeness - 1600hrs - Having spent 5 hours on motorways was good to get home and breath some fresh air up at the point. An hour from the concrete road delivered a steady stream of westward Gannets, Common and Sandwich Terns, 5 Little Terns, 2 Little Gulls, 2 Med Gulls, 10 Kitts, plus 3 Arctic Skuas and a Bonxie going east.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

The Sea

Dungeness - 0730hrs - low cloud, heavy rain, se6 - A shocker of a morning with rain lashing into the seawatch hide and slow going due to the viewing conditions. However, a trickle of close Gannets, Fulmars, terns and auks during the hour I was present. The rain continued all morning, easing up to more showery weather during the afternoon, when by all accounts a steady flow of Bonxies moved up-Channel with Arctics and at least one Pom Skua, Arctic Terns and Little Gulls.
On the way back from Folkestone this afternoon the seascape was most impressive from Seabrook to Hythe with huge waves breaking over the coast road in places. A brief stop in the small car park opposite the Hotel Imperial revealed a number of Gannets and Kittiwakes close to shore, plus a single Bonxie.
1500hrs - Another watch from the boats at Dungeness revealed a stream of Sandwich and Common Terns, Gannets, auks, 10 Bonxies and 2 Arctic Skuas rounding the peninsula. With the seawatch hide being manned for most of the day the final tally of seabirds should be impressive.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Farmland Bird Survey

Royal Military Canal - 0700-1130hrs - cool, damp, nw2 - Not ideal surveying weather, but then what morning has been of late; still, at least it wasn't windy. Walked both banks of the section between Appledore and Warehorne (6 miles) via Kenardington Bridge for an RSPB Farmland Bird Survey and also tacked on a couple of Nightingale tetrads. As expected most birds were on the shrubby northern bank where  singers included 8 Yellowhammers, 12 Linnets, 10 each of Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps, 2 Whitethroats, 3 Reed Buntings, 4 Nightingales, 2 Tree Sparrows, 2 Bullfinches, Lesser Whitethroat, Reed and Garden Warblers. Plenty of other bits and pieces noted along the way including 2 woodpeckers, Treecreeper, Long-tailed Tit, Jay and a Turtle Dove by Warehorne Bridge.
What was surprising however was the paucity of wetland birds such as Moorhens and Mallards, and I didn't see a single Coot. I can only think that the water quality in the cut, with all the agricultural run-off, is poor and largely bereft of life; it certainly appeared to be dull and lifeless. As always the Dowels looked superb for something unusual with plenty of soggy ground after the recent deluge, but only delivered a few corvids, woodies and gulls.
Anyhow, a pleasant enough stroll and Barney enjoyed it much more than seawatching on the point; especially when he nailed a grey squirrel that had strayed way too far from the bushes...

                                          Kenardington Bridge

                                          The Dowels

Monday, 23 April 2012

St George`s Day Cuckoo

Dungeness - 0730hrs - cool, cloudy, sse3 - Managed a 90 minute seawatch from the hide that comprised almost as many birds moving west, as east. A steady flow of close Gannets, 100 Common Scoters, 50 Common Terns, 20 auks, 6 Kitts, 6 Brents, 9 Bonxies, 2 Arctic Skuas, 2 Fulmars and a diver. The early watch also had a flock of  22 Little Gulls.
Lade - First Cuckoo of the year seen and heard at the back of south pit plus Sedge, Reed and Willow Warbler. On the walk back a Turtle Dove flew low over the desert heading towards Lydd and was needless to say my first of the year, and then the rain came...

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Luton & South Beds RSPB

Dungeness - 0930hrs - sunny, cool, breezy, sw3 - Good to meet up with Mick Price and a few familiar old faces from south Beds for a days birding around the Peninsula (and catch up on a bit of gossip from Bedfordshire!). Started off with regulars such as singing Black Redstarts on the power station, Stonechats and Wheatears by the Experimental Station, plus Linnets, Mipits, Pied Wagtails, 2 Goldfinches, Blackbird and probably the most unexpected bird of the session, a Song Thrush. The sea was fairly dead with just a few distant Gannets, 3 Med Gulls and up to 100 Common Terns coming and going from the Patch.
RSPB - 1100hrs -  Pulled in at Boulderwall for Tree Sparrows, where 2 Whimbrels landed in Cook`s field, plus Marsh Harrier, Stock Dove and Stonechat. Further along the access road by the bend 6 more Whimbrels in the ant hill field.
A circuit of the hides produced all the usual wetland birds including a pair of LRP`s, Dunlin, Ringed Plover and Little Egret on Burrowes; Dabchick on the pond; Lapwings and Raven over the hayfields; Common Tern, Pochards and Marsh Harriers on Dengemarsh (missed the 2 Garganey and Ruff seen earlier); cracking flight views of a Bittern from the ramp, Sedge and Cetti`s Warblers; Kestrel, Swallow and Whitethroat, return trail. The Long-tailed Duck was reported from ARC.
An enjoyable days birding amongst old friends in gorgeous spring sunshine, what could be better...

                                         Whimbrel, access road

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Bits & Pieces

Dungeness - 0645hrs - cool, cloudy, sw3 - A 30 minute seawatch produced just 2 divers, 4 scoters  and a trickle of Gannets east, plus 50 Common Terns at the Patch. On the land the usual Black Redstarts, Wheatears and Stonechats around the Old Light, Peregrine over the power station, 4 Swallows inland, Whitethroat and a ringed Firecrest in the moat.
Lade - Several Blackcaps singing in the willows was noteworthy.
RSPB - 1400hrs - Plenty of warblers around the reserve, particularly Blackcaps, Sedges and Whitethroats. At Dengemarsh a few Swallows over and a pair of Garganeys. Earlier this morning Nightingale, Garden Warbler and Cuckoo reported elsewhere.
Kerton Road Cafe - The highlight at the cafe was a pristine Puss Moth and the first Muslin of the year.

                                          Puss Moth, Kerton Road Cafe

Friday, 20 April 2012

In Praise of Herring Gulls

Lade - 0800hrs - fine, dry and sunny, sw2 - Having neglected the local patch somewhat this week I decided to have a good look around on this sunny spring morning with the gorse in full flower and the scent of almonds wafting in the breeze. Summer visitors included singing Whitethroat, 5 Reed, 3 Willow and 1 Sedge Warblers, a Chiffchaff, 10 Linnets, 2 Swallows and a Mipit. Resident species holding territory included 2 Cetti`s, 2 pr Shelducks, 4 pr Gadwalls, 2 pr Great Crested Grebes, `trilling` Dabchicks and displaying Kestrel. At least 50 Curlews to high tide roost on the storm beaches and a couple of hunting Marsh Harriers over the airfield.

                                         Whitethroat, Lade
                                         Gorse, Lade
                                          Herring Gulls, Lade

Herring Gulls (or "Seagulls", there, I`ve said it...) are probably the most loathed creatures down here on the coast due their anti-social behaviours, and would definitely receive plenty of avian ASBOs if there was such a thing. But come on lets hear for the good old HG, a truly British Bulldog of a bird. This is no trash species - a-la Canada Goose, Pheasant or Greylag - we`re talking about, but a bird of "conservation concern" whose numbers are plummeting around these islands, so lets have a bit of respect. Anyhow, it was good to see this declining, yet enterprising bird taking full advantage of the acres of solar panels fitted to roof spaces hereabouts; it would seem that the nest fits nice and snug between the panel and tiles. Lets hope this augments the breeding success of this magnificent bird along with the colonies on Burrowes and Scotney, to yield another bumper crop of speckled juvs this summer.  After all, where would all the gull aficionados be without the Herring/Yellow-legged/Caspian/ Gull tribe to pore over? Much the poorer I`d say...

Thursday, 19 April 2012

After the Lord Mayor`s Show...

Dungeness - 0900hrs - cloudy, south-west 2, dry - Following the events of yesterday it was inevitable that seawatching was going to be flat, and so it proved with an hour in the hide yielding just a single Bonxie, 8 scoters, 2 divers, 6 auks, a steady passage of Gannets and up to 50 Common Terns just offshore. However, due to the lighter winds the passerines stuck their heads above the parapet with good views of Black Redstarts, Wheatears, Stonechats, Mipits, Skylarks, Pied Wagtails, Linnets, Greenfinch, Willow Warbler and Whitethroat.
New Diggings - Eight Little Egrets from the causeway road was noteworthy.
Galloways - A scout around the range road delivered a single Corn Bunting, Kestrel, Stock Doves, 2 Swallows and Whimbrel overhead whistling.
In summary another good weeks birding around the Marsh, plus a day in Pas-de-Calais, delivered 121 species. Highlights for the guests included; Crested Tits and KPs in France; Long-tailed Duck, Garganeys and Yellow Wagtails on the bird reserve; and best of all the Big Bonxie passage at Dungeness.

                                          Pied Wagtail, Dungeness

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

A Big Bonxie Day

Dungeness - 0900hrs & 1400hrs - Strong to gale force southerlies, cloud and rain - Only one place to start this morning... and what a memorable day it turned out to be with just over 4 hours seawatching delivering a phenomenal passage of 50 Bonxies; infact it could be a Dunge spring record with over 250 passing east during the day (check the DBO website for the final tally). What made it so mesmerising was the stunning close views, as many of these great bruisers powered along the shoreline just below us due to the strong onshore winds. It`s not often visiting birders are fortunate enough to time their visits to coincide with such an event; Stuart and Ray can count themselves very fortunate indeed. A good supporting cast of close Gannets, Manxies and Fulmars was to be expected with a blow such as this, but a flock of 4 Black-throated Divers, well inside the cardinal buoy, was definitely a surprise. Our seabird list for 4 hours comprised: 8 Black-throated Divers, 20 Fulmars, 15 Manx Shearwaters, 100 Gannets, 50 Bonxies, 10 Arctic Skuas, 20 Kittiwakes, 100 Sandwich Terns, 100 Common Terns (a flock of 20 may well have been Arctics), 10 Med Gulls, 4 auks, 6 Eiders, 20 Brents and 150 Common Scoters.
On the land a Black Redstart and a few Linnets were located on the north side of the power station.
Burrowes - 1200hrs - Nothing much of note here due to the strong winds except Raven, Swallow, 5 Dunlins, Redshank and 2 Ringed Plovers.
Scotney - 1300hrs - Two Little Gulls in a flock of 20 Black-heads was noteworthy.
Littlestone - 1630hrs - Finished off with good views of feeding shorebirds opposite the golf course: 50 Curlews, 30 Oystercatchers, 42 Turnstones (many in summer plum), 20 Sanderlings and 10 Ringed Plovers. No sign of any owls over the fairways.

                                          Stormy Dungeness

                                           Redshank, Burrowes

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Pas-de Calais

Pas-de-Calias - Strong to gale force southerlies all day, rain around midday, followed by sunshine - Went over-the-water today with Ray and Stuart, plus Marshman in the navigators seat, for a days birding around the Calais area.
Guines - 0900hrs - Kicked off in the forest in blustery conditions but soon rattled up plenty of common woodland birds: Nuthatches, Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs, Jays etc followed by 5 Siskins, 6 flyover Hawfinches, Green Woodpecker, Long-tailed Tits, Goldcrests, Kestrel, Little Egret (flyover) and a Bullfinch. Quality came in the form of 4 Crested Tits which showed extremely well low down in scrub and in song, 6 Short-toed Treecreepers and 4 Marsh Tits. Also, calling Tawny Owl, Reeves Pheasant and roe deer.
We then moved onto a nearby marsh for a good old soaking as the rain came hammering down. Despite the wind and rain we still managed, Cetti`s and Sedge Warbler, Blackcap and Chiffchaff from the boardwalk, plus Black Redstart, Reed Bunting, Linnets, Pied Wagtail, Mipits and 2 probable Serins around a nearby farmstead.
Calais Hoverport - 1300hrs - For the second year running we drew a blank with Crested Lark around the old hoverport buildings and all we could find was 3 Wheatears, including one of the Greenland race.
Oye-Plage - 1400hrs Finished the day checking out the coastal lagoons, first from the large hide which yielded 10 Wigeons, 4 Shovelers, 10 Teal, 10 Lapwing, 5 Avocets, 4 Oystercatchers, 4 Gadwall, 4 Dabchicks, 6 Sandwich Terns, Swallow, Mistle Thrush and a Grey Plover. Further east  the lagoons from the roadside hide attracted 3 cracking summer plum Black-necked Grebes, 2 LRP`s, 2 Med Gulls, 100 Sandwich Terns, 30 Avocets, Redshank, Shelducks, Wigeons, Teal, 2 Wheatears and Mipits.
As the rain stopped it was back to the beach and the walk out from the restaurant for KPs. Almost immediately we left the car park 4 LRPs were noted on the saltings ( a most unusual sight to see these freshwater waders on the foreshore) along with 10 alba wagtails inlcuding 2 Whites, Mipits and Skylarks. Further on 6 Ringed Plovers on a shingle/seashell ridge added to the tension before we eventually located 6, or rather 3 pairs, of Kentish Plovers out near the tideline. Through the `scope the long-legged, short-stern jizz was immediately apparent as was the rufous nape on the males. I think this is the first time I`ve ever seen all 3 Charadrius plovers on the same beach! Back near the car park in a sea buckthorn thicket we had the surprise of the day with a `reeling` Grasshopper Warbler, plus Blackcaps, Linnets, Cetti`s Warbler, Chiffchaff and a Stonechat.
On the drive back to the motorway 2 brown hares and a male Marsh harrier noted on farmland.
In summary, 86 species were logged, despite the grotty weather, with the highlights undoubtedly the Crested Tits, followed by the KPs, along with a supporting cast of Short-toed creepers, Hawfinches and Gropper.

                                          Guines - in the rain!

Monday, 16 April 2012

Yellow Wagtails & an Ex Iceland Gull

Dungeness - 0730hrs - cold, ne2, sunny - An hour in the hide delivered singles of Eider, Fulmar and Red-throated Diver, 2 Med Gulls and 5 Gannets. At the Patch at least 30 Common Terns amongst the gulls.
Birdwatching Break
Picked up Stuart and Raymond from Ashford station for a weeks birding. Stopped off at Faggs Wood on the way back where the usual Nuthatches, Treecreeper, Bullfinch, Greater pecker and Coal Tit noted. In Warehorne village the feeders were alive with Tree Sparrows, Chaffinches, tits and a Greater pecker. Nothing much from the bridge except a pair of Mistle Thrushes, Chiffchaff and Goldfinches.
RSPB - 1400hrs - The bird reserve came up trumps this afternoon with a decent array of migrants, chief amongst them being up to 15 Yellow Wagtails on ARC, Burrowes and Dengemarsh. Also on ARC a cracking White Wagtail, 2 LRPs, Sedge, Reed and Cetti`s Warblers, Whitethroat, 2 Ravens over and all 3 hirundines. On Burrowes the Long-tailed Duck, Sparrowhawk, 4 Ringed Plovers, 11 Dunlin, Dabchick and the corpse of a recently expired 2nd summer Iceland Gull, which apparently did not look at all well this morning. On Dengemarsh the usual Marsh Harriers, Lapwings, Redshanks, 3 Wigeons, 2 Garganeys, Wheatear and calling Grey Partridge from the army ranges.
Bird of the day was most definitely Yellow Wag, one our smartest spring migrants without a doubt.

                                          Yellow Wagtails, Burrowes

Sunday, 15 April 2012


Lade - 1100hrs - cold, sunny, ne4 - Despite the chilly wind several Willow Warblers and a Blackcap singing from the sallows along with a couple of Cetti`s, Reed and Sedge Warblers.. Two Marsh Harriers hunting over the farmland and 5 Whimbrels on the grassy ridges by the airfield. Smart birds are Whimbrels and one of the highlights of the spring wader passage at Dungeness. Two Med Gulls still hanging around on south pit.
A few moths in the trap last night, but nothing of any note.

                                           Whimbrel, Lade
                                           Knot Grass, Kerton Road

RSPB - 1430hrs - Several more Whimbrels in the fields from the access road and the Long-tailed Duck on Burrowes. On ARC finally caught up with 2 House Martins over the causeway road.

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Return of the north-easterlies...

Lade - 0700hrs - chilly, sunshine/cloud, ne3 - The blocking north-easter has returned and with it a dip in temperatures and few warblers in song apart from a few Reed and Sedge Warblers. A couple of Med Gulls over calling were the only noteworthy birds.
RSPB - 1300hrs - A few scraps around the bird reserve this afternoon included 3 Whimbrels from the access road, Yellow Wagtail and LRP on ARC, 2 Garganeys on Dengemarsh, plus 5 Avocets and the `resident` Long-tailed Duck on Burrowes. A few Swallows around the place and plenty of singing Reed and Sedge Warblers.
Dungeness - 1530hrs An hours seawatching from the concrete road delivered the poor return of 2 Little Gulls, 2 divers, 7 scoters and 3 Gannets. Plenty of close porpoise activity just offshore with at least 5 counted.

                                           Sedge Warbler, ARC

Friday, 13 April 2012

Sedge Warblers

Lade - 0800hrs - sunshine and showers, w2 - Trudged across the desert to check out the shingle ridges for migrants on a glorious spring morning. At least 10 singing Sedge Warblers from Mockmill Sewer plus 4 more singers at the back of south pit. A steady flow of Swallows heading north, plus a few Willow Warblers, Chiffchaffs, Blackcap, Song Thrush and Stonechat in the scrub. Also noted 4 Wheatears, 6 Med Gulls over, 10 singing Linnets, Skylarks and Mipits, soaring Marsh Harriers, Sparrowhawk and Buzzard.
Dungeness  - 1530hrs - An hour from the concrete road produced just 2 divers, 2 Little Gulls and a Med Gull.
NB: by all accounts a quiet day around the peninsula with just the Long-tailed duck and Garganeys of note on the bird reserve.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Warblers, Redstarts & Swift

Lade - 0700hrs - sunshine and showers, sw2 (the hosepipe ban seems to have done the trick, with rain most days since...) - Cracking day for migrants around the peninsula commenced with Willow Warblers in the garden and others hereabouts; even by late late afternoon birds could still be heard singing away.
Dungeness - 0900hrs Plenty more Willow Warblers, Blackcap and Redstart in a private garden on the point, plus more WWs and another Redstart around Lloyds. At least 10 Swallows over, 3 Sparrowhawks, 5 Goldfinches, 3 Wheatears and 3 Black Redstarts singing from the power station fence.
Tower Pits - 1100hrs First Lesser Whitethroat of the year singing in the scrub near the car park and first Reed Warblers around the pit margins, along with 5 Sedge and 10 Willow Warblers, 3 Chiffchaffs and 5 Cetti`s Warblers. A trickle of Swallows overhead and 2 Sand Martins. At Cockles Bridge an early Swift fizzed over the Dungeness Road and headed fast inland.
Littlestone - 1200hrs - Rounded off the Birdwatching Break with a selection of beach waders: Oystercatchers, Curlews, 4 Redshanks, 13 Turnstones, 12 Dunlins and 2 Ringed Plovers. Also, 4 Sandwich Terns and a Med Gull on the sands.
Lade Pits 1600hrs - At least 10 Willow Warblers around the sallows, 3 Chiffchaffs, 2 Sedge Warblers and a singing Cetti`s. Over south pit, 5 Swallows.
In summary the best day of the spring so far for volume of migrants with Willow Warblers the most numerous. Also around the bird reserve today: Ring-necked Duck, from Springfield Bridge; LRP, ARC and Burrowes; Whimbrel, Boulderwall; Whitethroat, Tower Pits; Ring Ouzel, return trail and loads more warblers at Christmas Dell.

                                          Willow Warbler & Redstart, Dungeness

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Migrants & Seabirds

Dungeness - 0900hrs sunshine and showers, sw 1-2 - Started off dodging a heavy shower opposite Jarman`s with good views of up to 6 Wheatears, 4 Mipits, 3 Skylarks and a scattering of Linnets, Pied Wagtails and Greenfinches. Around the Old Light more Linnets and Mipits, 2 Stonechats, 2 Black Redstarts and singles of Peregrine and Sparrowhawk.
A half hour seawatch from the concrete road delivered a steady flow of Gannets, Sandwich and Common Terns, Common Scoters, 5 Brents, 2 Eiders, 2 Med Gulls and a merganser; the early morning seawatchers noted from the hide, Red-necked Grebe, Black-throated Divers, Little Gulls, Manxie, Arctic and Great Skuas.
RSPB - 1130hrs - On the bird reserve the highlights were LRP on ARC and Burrowes; Long-tailed Duck, Burrowes; Ring-necked Duck, Dengemarsh; Yellow Wagtail and Swallows over; Wigeon, Dabchick, Redshank and Chiffchaff.
Scotney - 1600hrs - Nothing much here apart from 2 Brents and 4 Ringed Plovers on the grass fields.
Galloways - 1700hrs - Finished the day with good views of Stonechat, Kestrel and Corn Bunting from the range road.

                                           Wheatears, Dungeness

                                           Little Ringed Plover, Burrowes

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Ring-necked Duck

RSPB - 1330hrs - cool, sunny, sw3 - Two visiting birders in for three days, Hazel and John from Sussex and Hampshire respectively.
News broke this morning of a drake Ring-necked Duck on Hookers, so there was only one place to head for. En-route we had Slavonian Grebe and 4 Little Egrets on New Diggings from the road, although the views of the grebe were poor due to the glare.
Spent a frustrating couple of hours trying to find the R-n-duck without success. However, plenty to see from the ramp including displaying Marsh Harriers, Bearded Tits, Sedge Warbler, Chiffchaff, Long-tailed Tit, 10 Lapwings, a flyover Snipe and 2 Ravens. From the gate at Dengemarsh good views of a pair of Garganeys and Redshanks.
We then moved on to Burrowes for the Long-tailed Duck which was viewable from Dennis`s hide, along with a few more ducks such as Shoveler and Shelduck. Called in at Boulderwall for the Tree Sparrows on and around the feeders of which we counted 21.
It was then back to Hookers, and low and behold the Ring-necked Duck broke cover from its slumbers in the willow roots and swam into view, albeit into glaring sunlight. However, we did get all salient features before it settled back into the reeds and partial obscurity. Good to see the Ashford 3 on site and have a natter.
Littlestone - 1700hrs Gave the Short-eared Owls an hour, but no joy. Stunning views though of a male Merlin perched atop a thorn bush for 10 minutes. Also, on the golf course a single Grey Plover, 10 Linnets and Skylark. On the beach Curlew, Ringed Plover and Sanderling noted.
In summary a decent enough afternoons birding with the Ring-necked Duck eventually putting on a show. A Dunge tick for me and only about the 3rd site record I believe...

                                           Ring-necked Duck, Hookers (record shot)

Monday, 9 April 2012

Scoters & Brents

Dungeness - 0630hrs - mild, overcast, sw 3 - A grotty sort of a day with intermittant rain plus an increasing south-westerly making it feel chilly by late afternoon. Did an hour and a bit in the seawatch hide during which time a steady flow of scoters, Brents and Gannets moved up-Channel along with 5 Teal, 10 Shelducks, 2 Bonxies, and a scattering of Fulmars, mergansers, Kitts, Sandwich Terns, and divers. Throughout the morning a few more Bonxies and a group of Eiders were noted (TG), plus a Black-throated Diver (CP).
Lade - 1400hrs - Had a look for the 2nd year Iceland Gull that was reported on the sands at high tide yesterday, without success. On north pit 2 Swallows and a Sand Martin.
ARC - Pretty grim here with only a Swallow and a Common Tern of any note. From the causeway road 10 alba wagtails, LRP and RPs, Curlew and 14 Teal.

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Rain, at last

Lade 0800hrs - rain, low cloud, sw2 - Slogged around the pits in the rain for very little reward apart from a couple of Med Gulls overhead. No sign of any migrants.
RSPB - 1230hrs The Long-tailed Duck and Spoonbill could be seen from the causeway road at ARC along with 12 alba wagtails, 10 Mipits and a Curlew; a Water Pipit had been reported earlier. At Springfield Bridge had brief views of a Garganey on the lake and a pair of Ravens on the flood. Otherwise, another quiet day.

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Owls & Dolphins

Dungeness - 0635hrs - mild, cloudy, sw 2, but ne3 by midday - Joined TG for a near hour seawatch in the hide. Very little on the move apart from a handful of divers, Sandwich Terns, Gannets, a Fulmar and a small party of Shovelers and Teals. A Common Tern remained at the Patch.
A stroll over to the Obs revealed 3 singing Black Reds around the power station, a few Mipits and Linnets, a pair of Ravens and a couple of Willow Warblers in the moat.
Later in the morning a pod of 9 white-beaked dolphins were seen off the fishing boats following the range boat (DW).
Galloways - 1130hrs - A hunting Short-eared Owl was about the only bird of note over the ranges while a Little Owl was again seen on the chicken sheds. At Springfield Bridge a single Swallow over.
Very little of note on the bird reserve, but the Spoonbill was reported from ARC and seen to fly towards Lade earlier in the day (OL).

                                           Little Owl, Dengemarsh Road

Friday, 6 April 2012

Lesser Pecker & Iceland Gull

Dungeness - 0815hrs - bright, sunny, nw2 - Just missed an Iceland Gull on the beach near the Patch first thing. A few gulls and a Common Tern over the boil. Seawatching was apparantly poor again.
Park Wood, Appledore - 0945hrs - A brilliant session here in perfect spring weather with all the common woodland birds noted and a fine display of flowers including the first bluebells. Best of all tho was brief views of a male Lesser pecker in the mature oak canopy. Also, Green and Greater peckers, Nuthatches, Treecreepers, Redpolls, Mistle Thrushes, Coal and Long-tailed Tits, Chiffchaffs, Blackcaps and singles of Willow Warbler, Jay, Stock Dove, Goldcrest, Buzzard and Sparrowhawk. The odd sounding Chiffchaff was still present, uttering a couple of `chip-chips` followed by a Willow Warbler-like trill and ending with a couple of `chink-chonks`.

                                           Park Wood, Appledore

                                           2nd winter Iceland Gull, Burrowes

                                           1st Yellow Wagtail, Firth

RSPB - 1400hrs - Caught up with the 2nd winter Iceland Gull roosting on Burrowes and my first Yellow Wagtail of the year near Firth hide, plus a singing Willow Warbler nearby. From the ramp good views of a Cetti`s Warbler and the usual harriers, while the Spoonbill and Long-tailed Duck were on ARC. Swallow, Sedge Warbler and LRP also reported from around the bird reserve today.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Slim Pickings

Dungeness - 0645hrs - Chilly, ne3, overcast - A grim morning with dull overcast conditions and poor viz out across the Channel - just the job for an hour in the seawatch hide... Very little on the move apart from a trickle of divers, Gannets, a merganser, a few scoters, Sandwich Terns, 5 Teal and mixed flock of 12 Curlews and Knots.
RSPB - 1300hrs - Hard work here too with the increasing wind forcing any passerines into cover. On ARC Spoonbill and LRP still present, while plenty of harrier activity over Dengemarsh; couldn't find the Long-tailed Duck on Burrowes amongst the legions of gulls and Cormorants.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Wheatears & Amy Macdonald

Dungeness - 0800hrs - bright, sunny, light airs - A wander opposite Jarman`s, the Old Light and around the Obs revealed a total of 12 Wheatears, 20 Linnets, 6 Black Redstarts, 4 Skylarks, 2 Chiffchaffs, 2 Stonechats, 4 Pied Wagtails, 8 Mipits, 2 Reed Buntings and a Sparrowhawk. However, the highlight was Amy Macdonald, Scottish folkie singer/songwriter, plus entourage, about to shoot her latest music video; well, at least some of us chatting in the Obs garden knew who she was...
Very quiet again at sea, although apparently orca and bottle-nosed dolphins have been seen in the Channel of late by local fisherman.

                                           Chiffchaff, DBO

                                          3 Garganeys, Dengemarsh

                                           Spoonbill, ARC

Springfield Bridge - 1000hrs Joined a couple of regulars on the bridge for a gossip; good job old Hawkeye turned up to point out the birds we were missing! A pair and a half of Garganeys were on the lake, plus Sand Martin over the reedbed alongside displaying Marsh Harriers and a Raven over the flood.
ARC - A couple of goes this afternoon delivered Swallow, Sedge Warbler, Chiffchaff, Spoonbill, Curlew, LRP and Ringed Plover. Very few ducks left now and for the first time didn't notice a Goldeneye.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Sandwich Terns

Lade - 0700hrs- cold, dry, sunny, nw1 - Flogged around the local patch but was unable to find a single passage migrant this morning. Single Goldeneye on south pit, 6 Med Gulls overhead and a couple of Marsh Harriers over the airport was about it on the land. No shortage of Sandwich Terns though with at least 150 moving noisily along the bay.
ARC -  1000hrs Quiet here too with just the Spoonbill in front of Hanson of note, plus a couple of Chiffs from the willow trail (Bullfinch and Willow Warbler earlier).
Dungeness - 1545hrs An hour from the boats produced precisely 2 divers and 10 Brents, although a Bonxie had been seen before I arrived.
The morning seawatch produced up to 1,000 Brents, a steady dribble of ducks and a Great White Egret. On the land c20 Chiffs and Black Redstarts around the Old Light and a Short-eared Owl over the desert.

                                          Tufted Duck, ARC

Monday, 2 April 2012

Barney in Summer Plum

Dungeness - 0645hrs - cold, frosty, sunny, ne1 - Managed to stay for almost an hour in the seawatch hide where a dribble of divers, scoters, mergansers, Brents and Gannets up-Channel, plus 20 or so Sandwich Terns milling around just offshore and 3 porpoises. Black Redstart and Wheatear by the Old Light.
Checked out Lade but very little of note apart from 3 Goldeneyes and singing Chiffchaffs.
ARC 1430hrs - A pair of LRPs at the south end from the causeway road and a Swallow over.
Elsewhere around the reserve today; Spoonbill and Whimbrel on ARC; Long-tailed Duck, Burrowes; Willow Warbler and Sand Martin; Wheatear and Black Redstart, Dengemarsh gully (MH).
Dungeness 1500hrs Another hour staring at the sea produced even less than this morning, although a party of Eiders went through earlier (TG).

                                         Barney seawatching in smart summer plumage

ps: The only other local news concerned the Short-eared Owls which were again seen over the weekend at Littlestone Golf Course.