Monday, 31 December 2012

2012 in Retrospect

                                            Romney Marsh Birding Year, 2012 

Looking back 2012 was another bird-rich year during which we recorded 230 species on our travels across the Romney Marsh with visiting birders on Plovers Birdwatching Breaks and day-to-day birding; an annual tally which is about normal, although full of unexpected encounters and memories as testified below.
  The first winter period was notable for wintering Short-eared Owls at Littlestone golf links and on the Lydd Army ranges, in contrast to a shortage of resident Barn Owls following another cold winter. On Walland Marsh flocks of Bewick`s Swans and White-fronted Geese concealed themselves amongst their feral cousins, testing birdwatchers` identification skills, while healthy numbers of harriers and Common Buzzards hunted the sewer margins and grasslands. A Dotteral was found within a Golden Plover flock near Lydd Airport, while on the Dungeness RSPB reserve Bitterns and Great White Egrets were regularly noted along with a wintering Long-tailed Duck, Slavonian Grebes and thousands of common wildfowl including Smews, Goosanders and Goldeneyes. Site faithful visitors such as Purple Sandpipers and a Glaucous Gull took up their seasonal stations at Hythe sea front and Dungeness fishing boats respectively.

                                          Bewick`s Swans, Walland Marsh

                                          Garganey, Dengemarsh

   In the heat wave of mid-March the first Wheatears, Garganeys and Little Ringed Plovers heralded the arrival of spring across the Marsh along with good numbers of pipits, wagtails, Firecrests, Stonechats and Black Redstarts at Dungeness. Offshore, thousands of Brents moved up-Channel along with a variety of sea ducks, divers, waders and the first of the terns. The skua passage proved to be a memorable one, in particular for a large movement of Bonxies and some stunning close flocks of ever popular Pomarine Skuas. In early May the Peninsula also played host to an unprecedented fall of passerines comprising hundreds of warblers, flycatchers and chats, as well as cracking rarities in the shape of Crested Lark, Bee-eater and Ortolan Bunting. Spring also hosted two Iceland Gulls, Wood and Melodious Warblers, Red-breasted Flycatcher and several Woodlarks at Dungeness, two White Storks at Scotney and decent numbers of passage Whimbrels and Bar-tailed Godwits on the hinterlands. Not to be out done, on the bird reserve we recorded singles of Bean Goose, Spoonbill, Glossy Ibis and Penduline Tit, while a Red-rumped Swallow was located in the salubrious surroundings of New Romney sewage works amongst hundreds of Barn Swallows. Rye Harbour proved popular with twitchers when a Kentish Plover and Temminck`s Stint were discovered in a large flock of Ringed Plovers. Once again Dengemarsh delivered two top rarities when a Ring-necked Duck and a gorgeous Squacco Heron visited all too briefly.

                                          Purple Heron, Dengemarsh

   Moving into the summer months reed bed bird such as Marsh Harriers, Bittern, Water Rail, Bearded Tits and Cetti`s Warblers all nested successfully on the RSPB reserve and elsewhere around the Marsh, while Black Redstart, Wheatear, Peregrine and Raven produced young from the sanctuary of the nuclear power station. An immature Purple Heron only briefly graced Dengemarsh, dashing hopes of any further nesting. Once again summer visitors such as Yellow Wagtail and Turtle Dove were in short supply across the Marsh farmland, while Lapwings and Ringed Plovers had another poor breeding season; likewise resident Grey Partridge, Yellowhammer and Corn Bunting proved difficult to find. On the plus side the woodlands on the Low Weald were full of summering Nightingales and Blackcaps, while down on the coast the first migrant Crossbills and Green Sandpipers began to appear, along with a singing Golden Oriole in a garden at St Mary`s-in-the-Marsh.

                                         Green Sandpiper, ARC

   The autumn wader passage proved to be a stilted affair mainly due to a shortage of habitat as water levels remained stubbornly high following the wet summer. However, Pectoral and Curlew Sandpipers and Little Stints occurred on the bird reserve along with a controversial stint/`peep` which may have been a rare trans-Atlantic Semi-palmated Sandpiper. A Montagu`s Harrier loitered on the Army ranges and a Cattle Egret visited Dengemarsh. Record numbers of Sand Martins continued to stream south throughout the period along with a steady flow of Yellow Wagtails, plus a trickle of Whinchats, Redstarts, flycatchers and singles of Wryneck, Barred Warbler and Red-backed Shrike across Dungeness. At Lade migrant Osprey and Honey Buzzard were noted following the coastline south where they received a` warm` welcome from the local Herring Gulls!

                                          Great White Egret, Hamstreet
  At Dungeness Pallas`s and Yellow-browed Warblers delighted rarity hunters amongst the late autumn migrants, which also included a few Ring Ouzels and Lapland Buntings within the thrush and finch flocks. At sea there was a memorable passage of Long-tailed Skuas with a supporting cast of Leache`s Petrel, Grey Phalarope, Sabine`s Gull, Sooty and Balearic Shearwaters. A movement of Jays off the continent in search of food proved exciting with small flocks seen coming in off the sea and occurring at atypical locations along the coast. A small influx of Long-tailed Ducks was noteworthy at Lade and Burrowes pits, a Black-throated Diver temporarily settled on New Diggings and the short-tailed Glaucous Gull returned for its third winter at Dungeness.

                                          Glaucous Gull, Dungeness

   As the daylight hours decreased another welcome invader headed our way as large numbers of Waxwings crossed the North Sea from Scandinavian forests in search of their staple diet of berries. Mobile flocks of Waxwings delighted birdwatchers across the Marsh from Rye to Hythe, but perhaps the most watched group was at Hamstreet. The year ended with returning wild swans, sawbills and Common Crane at their traditional haunts, Snow Buntings at St Mary`s Bay, Purple Sandpipers at Hythe, five Great White Egrets and another Ring-necked Duck briefly on the bird reserve.

                                          Jay, Dungeness Bird Observatory

  It is always difficult to select a standout memory from a birding year as so much happens throughout the seasons. Often it is the regular stuff that impresses visiting birders, such as the Channel passages of Brents, skuas, waders or terns and roosting harriers. I`m always a sucker for those first Wheatears on the beach and Swallows zipping in off the sea in early spring - and is there a smarter British bird than a Firecrest? The vast numbers of Sand Martins passing across the Peninsula from mid-summer onwards is always a sight to behold and this year we had an incredible fall of spring warblers at Dungeness, while late autumn was memorable for Pallas`s Warblers, Jays and Waxwings. 

                                          White-tailed Eagle, Guldeford Levels

  But if I had to select a single birding memory to treasure from 2012 then it would have to be `that eagle`. Back in February reports came in of a White-tailed Eagle at West Hythe. The following day it was relocated near Cheyne Court Wind Farm and provided local birders unique views of a bird unseen before on the Romney Marsh. As it flew across the Guldeford Levels we all marvelled at the sight of this massive bird of prey as it disappeared inland over the Isle of Oxney.
  What will the New Year deliver? Well, we`ll just have to wait and see, but surely it`s about time one of those continental woodpeckers crossed the English Channel...
  Good birding to one and all in 2013.

                                          Common Crane, Cheyne Court

ps: I`ve had quite a few e-mails concerning my hairy companion during the year, especially after his operation. Well, I`m pleased to report that he is fighting fit and looking forward to more bush-bashing in 2013, but less of the static stuff like seawatching!

                                          Barney, in seawatching and bush-bashing pose

Last Rites

Lade - 1000hrs - Mild, cloudy, sw 6 - Final visit of the year at the local patch was hard work in the blustery, gusting to gale force south-westerly wind. South pit resembled a small sea complete with white horses atop the waves. Most of the wildfowl were sheltering in the willows or on north pit where 3 Goldeneyes and a redhead Smew were the highlights. Despite the winds Cetti`s Warbler and Chiffchaff noted in the willow swamp, plus calling Water Rail and a Green Woodpecker.
Couldn`t find any unusual ducks lurking in the flocks that may have been of interest for the NYDay bird count, so with rain on the way headed home with Barney to prepare for tomorrow.

Sunday, 30 December 2012

Rye Harbour

Scotney - 1000hrs - Mild, sunny, sw 4 - Checked out the pits en-route to Rye where the highlight was a flock of 10 White-fronts on the water at the Sussex end. All the usual feral geese, Grey Lags, Barnacles and the like on the grass, plus hundreds of Goldies, Lapwings and Wigeons.
One of the roadside pits west of Camber had a redhead Smew and 2 Goldeneyes.
Rye  - Did a circuit starting at Narrow Pit where we had good flight views of a Bittern. Nothing much on the lake apart from a few grebes and diving ducks. As it was high tide Ternery pool was stacked out with beach waders; Oycs, Barwits, Curlews, Grey Plovers, plus Lapwings, Dabchicks and Wigeon, and  quality in the form of a Slavonian Grebe and Spotted Redshank. Flat Beach was also busy with wildfowl and waders including 50 Goldies, 20 Ringed Plovers, 10 Little Egrets, 10 Shelducks and 5 Brents. Was also good to see a few Skylarks and Mipits along the Rother.
Crossing Walland Marsh on the way back 40 odd Bewicks Swans were noted amongst the Mutes, plus 2 Marsh Harriers and a Merlin.

Saturday, 29 December 2012


Lade - Mild, wet and windy, sw 4 - 0800hrs - Checked out the beach first thing with the tide pushing the shorebirds close to land. 560 Oystercatchers and 245 Curlews were the first to go to roost followed by 45 Barwits, 25 Grey Plovers and 12 Redshanks. Also noted at least 300 Sanderlings and Dunlins, 20 Turnstones and 10 Knots. Couldn't find any Ringed Plovers, although 5 Brents came and went.
Tottenham - 1130hrs -  Having dropped off 2nd born and Big Al in London I went for a wander over the local park with Barney. Surprisingly, a small flock of Lottis and Goldcrests noted plus singing Mistle Thrush and the inevitable Rose-ringed Parakeets.
Lade - 1530hrs - Got home just in time to count the roost over the pits, in the pouring rain of course, which comprised 100 Woodpigeons, 50 Starlings, 20 Mapies, 20 Blackbirds and Song Thrushes plus 2 Little Egrets. Two Goldeneyes amongst the ducks on south pit.

Friday, 28 December 2012

Red Crested Pochard

Galloways - 1330hrs - Mild, dull, sw 3 - Not sure why I bothered to bird Galloways on a blustery, overcast afternoon in mid-winter; but hey, ho you never know... Apart from a couple of crows the grasslands were bereft of birds. Had a quick look at the bay where a few divers, Kitts, auks and Gannets were noted, plus 10 Common Scoters.
RSPB - Dengemarsh too was a birdless wasteland with the hay field empty and only a score or more ducks on the lake. On Burrowes 3 Smew including a cracking `white nun`, 3 Goosanders, 5 Goldeneyes, a Great White Egret and a reported Scaup which eluded me. Over the road a duck Red Crested Pochard in front of Hanson amongst the Wigeon, Teal and Pochard, plus 4 Goldeneyes and a redhead Smew. Two Chiffchaffs from the willow trail, another GWEgret, 3 Marsh Harriers and a flying Bittern from Screen hide was about it before early lights out due to the low cloud base.

Thursday, 27 December 2012

Great White Egrets

Lade - 0800hrs - Mild, showery, sw 3 - The mild weather continued, along with some hefty showers. First bird of note on the pits this morning was a Great White Egret arguing with a Grey Heron over `ownership` of a small reedbed at the southern end. The egret then flew out across the desert and settled on a shingle ridge to contemplate its next move. There are up to 5 GWEgrets currently on the Marsh with the majority centred on the bird reserve, although they have also been regularly seen along the RMCanal, Scotney pits, the Army ranges and at Lade; in fact at the moment GWEgrets are more numerous than Littles!
ARC - 1400hrs - From the causeway road 3 Smew on New Diggings, while on ARC a mass of ducks included 220 Gadwall and 440 Teal; also 2 Marsh Harriers and a Little Egret. Strolled down to Screen hide with PB where 3 more Marsh Harriers, 2 Great Whites, `pinging` Beardies and a Chiffchaff. A flock of 6 Goosanders dropped in on the far side of the pit.

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Raptors, Sawbills & a Grey Seal

Dungeness - 1000hrs - Mild, sunny, sw 3 - A cracking mild morning with blue skies and a brisk south-westerly, the ideal antidote to the excesses of yesterday. Down at the Patch, Med Gull, Little Gulls and 2 Kitts amongst a couple of hundred Common and Black-headed Gulls. A dead Grey Seal was on the beach between the seawatch hide and the Patch. Peregrine and Raven noted over the power station, plus a Black Redstart by the sewage works.
From the fishing boats 300 plus Great Crested Grebes, 50 Guillemots, 10 Razorbills and 10 Red-throated Divers on the sea. Further out a scattering of Gannets and more Kitts, divers and auks fizzing around the point. As it was high tide the Glaucous and Yellow-legged Gulls were hunkered amongst the Herring and Black-backed Gulls and a Merlin flew over the shingle looking for a meal.

                                          Deceased Grey Seal, Dungeness

ARC/New Diggings - Even though the main body of the bird reserve was closed with a sign on the gate there was a steady procession of cars driving up and trying to gain access. I redirected several cars over the road into the ARC car park but they still kept pulling up. On New Diggings, 3 Smews, 5 Goldeneyes and a Great White Egret, plus 2 Marsh Harriers and a Kestrel over the bank. On ARC 200 Gadwall from the causeway road plus singles of Goosander and Smew, 2 more Marsh Harriers, 15 Tree Sparrows and another Great White Egret elsewhere.

Monday, 24 December 2012

Sawbills & Egrets

RSPB - 0830hrs - Mild, drizzle, overcast, sw 4 - A blustery, mild day with the rain petering out through the morning. Either side of the causeway road, 3 Smew and a Great White Egret on New Diggings, plus another Smew and a Goosander on ARC. At least 10 Goldenyes scattered across both waters. A stroll down to Screen hide produced 2 Marsh Harriers, 2 Little Egrets, Bittern and Green Woodpecker, plus all the usual wildfowl.
Lade - All the usual wildfowl on the pits, plus 2 Brents on north pit. Checked the beach briefly where 7 species of shorebirds present including 23 Grey Plovers.

Sunday, 23 December 2012


Littlestone - 1000hrs - Mild, cloudy, sw 2 - Wandered along the coastal path to St Mary`s Bay and back across the golf links in spring-like temperatures that reached 13C. Best bird was a `brown` Merlin chasing what must`ve been the only Mipit on site! Merlins are regularly seen hereabouts throughout the winter period when they can be encountered just about anywhere from the beaches to around towns and villages. Also noted on the links, Kestrel, Mistle Thrush and Green Woodpecker while a scattering of Ringed Plovers, Sanderlings and Turnstones along the foreshore.
Lade - 1500hrs - Plenty of activity around the willows just before lights out with at least 20 each of Song Thrushes and Blackbirds coming to roost, plus 3 Little Egrets, 23 Magpies and a couple of hundred Woodpigeons and Starlings. Duck numbers on south pit were high due an influx of 200 Wigeons and Teals. At least 4 Marsh Harriers drifted over behind the `mirrors` heading for reedbeds on the bird reserve.

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Seabirds & Sawbills

Dungeness - 0900hrs - Mild, rain, overcast, sw 4 - Another dull, miserable day with rain throughout and at times heavy, although on the plus side it was mild with temperatures reaching 12 C by the afternoon. A seawatch from the fishing boats produced the expected Gannets, Kittiwakes, Guillemots, Great Crested Grebes and Red-throated Divers, many of them close to shore, plus 2 Fulmars and a Red-breasted Merganser. Groups of gulls loafing on the beach included several Kittiwakes while the Glaucous Gull was patrolling its usual stretch of the foreshore.
RSPB - Stopped on the causeway road where 3 Smew, 2 Goldeneyes and a Great White Egret on the New Diggings side, while over the road on ARC a single Goosander amongst the legions of Gadwall, Shoveler, Teal and Wigeon. From the comfort of the visitor centre all I could see on a rain lashed Burrowes were 3 more Goldeneyes and a pair of Smew. And that was about it for the day.

Friday, 21 December 2012

Dering Wood

Lade - 0800hrs - Mild, sunny, sw 2 - What a difference a day makes with the sun shining and light airs making for pleasant conditions all round. Raptors were much in evidence over the pits this morning with 3 Marsh Harriers and two each of Sparrowhawk and Kestrel taking advantage of the break in the weather. Plenty of Teal and Shovelers on the water and a Kingfisher noted in the willows.
By the time I`d got back home the warm sunshine had elevated temperatures into low double figures centigrade with steam rising off any piece of saturated wood. While this `heat wave` was underway I noticed several House Sparrows clinging to side wall of the building next door. At first I thought they were picking insects out of the joints in the brick work, or maybe gritting, but on closer inspection reckoned they were just simply enjoying the warmth bouncing off the bricks.

                                          Basking Sparrows

                                          Dering Wood, Pluckley

Dering Wood, Pluckley - Having dropped a certain 2 year old off at reindeer world I skived off to Dering Wood with Barney for a quick couple of hours birding. Woods are generally quiet places in the dead of winter and this one was no different. However, a few Jays were logged along with Bullfinches, Treecreepers, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Kestrel and Buzzard. Best of all was a flushed Woodcock and 2 Marsh Tits within a roving tit flock.
On the way home across Shirley Moor there were at least 10 Bewick`s Swans in a flock of 50 Mutes feeding on a rape-seed field.
The other piece of local news today concerned a small flock of Waxwings flying along the coast at Greatstone (OL).

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Rain, Rain & More Rain

Lade - 0900hrs - Mild, overcast, rain, se 4 - A shocker of a day with heavy rain falling for the past 24 hours resulting in even higher water levels on the gravel pits. On Lade pits singles of Smew and Goosander, plus 5 Goldeneyes with most of the wildfowl skulking in the shelter of the willows. A small tit flock included 3 Goldcrest in their midst.
RSPB - Crossing the causeway road the Black-throated Diver was showing on New Diggings along with 3 Smew and a Great White Egret. Over the road on ARC the usual hundreds of dabblers in the shallows. Nothing much from the visitors centre, overlooking Burrowes, apart from a Raven battling into the wind and rain.
Walland Marsh - Plenty of standing water on the farmland tracts where distant views of 40 plus Bewick`s Swans amongst the Mutes. Driving rain prevented any further useful birding today.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Divers & Smew

Dungeness -0830hrs - Mild, overcast, se 3 - A change in wind direction to a south-easterly pushed the seabirds closer to shore with plenty of auks, Red-throated Divers, Kittiwakes and Gannets rounding the point. Whilst chatting to DG by the seawatch hide had superb views of a knuckle-headed Great Northern Diver lumbering eastwards just off shore. Also past, 6 Oystercatchers and 3 Common Scoters. At the Patch several hundred, mainly Common and Black-headed Gulls, plus 2 Kittiwakes and an adult Med Gull, while a Peregrine upset the gulls and pigeons on the power station roof. The Glaucous Gull remained at the fishing boats.
RSPB - 1345hrs - With rain threatening had a run out to the bird reserve with the Joker this afternoon. First stop the causeway road and New Diggings where we had no success with the Black-throated Diver (although it had been reported earlier) but did note a Great White Egret and 4 Goldeneyes. On ARC from the road, 200 Gadwalls, 50 Shovelers and a Goosander, and from Hanson, 6 Goldeneyes and a squealing Water Rail. A scan from Dennis`s hide looking back to New Diggings revealed 3 redhead Smew, while a drake and another redhead landed in front of the hide on Burrowes alongside 4 more Goldeneyes. A Marsh Harrier drifted over and an adult Yellow-legged Gull on the water were the only other birds of note.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Waxwings & Spotted Redshank

Lade - 0800hrs - Mild, cloudy, sunny later, nw 2 - At least 15 grounded Song Thrushes were flushed from cover this morning along the main track by south pit suggesting an overnight arrival. Several Marsh Harriers were already quartering the ground behind the `mirrors` along with a Common Buzzard and 2 hovering Kestrels. Nothing much of note on the pits apart from 5 Goldeneyes.
Scotney - 1300hrs - All the expected Wigeon, Barnacle Geese, Golden Plovers and Lapwings and not much else besides.
Rye Harbour - On the approach road, by the ostrich farm, a small flock of Waxwings winged over the road, probably between 7-10 in number, and headed towards the town.
Flat Beach was full of birds, due to the high tide, with all the usual shorebirds, Barwits, Ringed Plovers, Grey Plovers, Curlews and the like, plus 200 Golden Plovers, 10 Little Egrets and the wintering Spotted Redshank. The old hide overlooking the wader pool has now been dismantled and is soon to be replaced by a shiny new one.

                                          Flat Beach

                                         I`m sure there used to be a hide here...

Monday, 17 December 2012

Great Crested Grebes

Dungeness - 0800hrs - Mild, sunny, sw 2 - An hour at the fishing boats delivered all the usual auks, Kittiwakes, Gannets, a few Red-throated Divers and at least 350 Great Crested Grebes on the sea before I lost count. Plenty of gulls on the shingle including several Kittiwakes, an adult Yellow-legged Gull and the wintering Glaucous Gull.
A quick scan from the causeway road delivered the Black-throated Diver and singles of Smew and Great White Egret.

                                          GBB Gull & Kittiwake, Dungeness

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Goosanders, Plovers & Harriers

Lade - 0900hrs - Mild, showery, sw 3 - Started off with the monthly WeBS count over the pits this morning. Nothing much of particular note on the wildfowl front except 254 Teal and 2 Goosanders which flew in high from the east. Also, yet another Bittern flushed from the ponds, Kingfisher, Green Woodpecker, Water Rail, Cetti`s Warbler and Goldcrest. Over the back hundreds of Lapwings and Golden Plovers, plus 3 Marsh Harriers, Kestrel and Buzzard.
Walland Marsh - 1445hrs - Accompanied Marshman for the monthly harrier count this afternoon. Few winter thrushes seen on the drive out, but plenty of swans grazing the oil-seed greenery. Many of the fields were under water due the recent heavy rains as we squelched our way out to the roost site. Whilst watching a couple of Buzzards and Marsh Harriers tussling with one another a superb male Hen Harrier ghosted over the marsh and 10 Snipe broke cover. The spectacle of the afternoon went to the many thousands of Golden Plovers and Lapwings swirling over the site; the rushing sound of the plovers wings as they raced overhead was phenomenal and they had good reason to be nervous what with a Sparrowhawk and a pair of Peregrines on the wing. Amongst the plovers were at least 100 Dunlins and 10 Ruff. We also had good views of a Bittern flying over the reedbed from where a group of Bearded Tits `pinged` and the wintering Common Crane trumpeted away before flying around for a bit and eventually returning to roost amongst the reeds. The feral geese also added to the spectacle along with flocks of Wigeon and Shoveler.
But we were here to count harriers, and as the daylight faded in they came, 19 in total over a 30 minute period with all the usual faffing about you get at roost sites as they jostled for the best position in the reed bed. On the walk back the evocative sound of Bewick`s Swans coming to roost on the flood was a fitting end to a cracking winters afternoon on Walland Marsh.

Saturday, 15 December 2012

A Day of Weather

Lade - 0745hrs - Mild, overcast, sw 4, showery - A day of strange weather kicked off with an eerie pinky-orange glow over the peninsula making for an end-of-the-world kind of atmosphere. It was, of course, the sun rising over the bay with shards of sunlight bouncing off the sea and the low, dark cloud base; oh, and there was also a rainbow and some hefty showers chucked in for good measure. Incredible, never seen anything like it down here before.
Dungeness - A quick scan from the seawatch hide produced the usual Kittiwakes, Gannets, auks, divers and grebes offshore, plus 8 Brents up-Channel. From the fishing boats more of the same, plus the Glaucous Gull on the shingle.
PM - A run round this afternoon produced a few bits and pieces. From the causeway road a Slavonian Grebe had joined the long-staying Black-throated Diver on New Diggings. Over the road hundreds of Gadwalls, Shovelers and Teal, plus 3 Shelducks. At Scotney the fields were full of Barnacle Geese, Wigeons, Teal and Lapwings and more Shelducks. The flooded fields around the range road were packed with Common and Black-headed Gulls, plus a flyover Bittern on Brett`s Marina.
The hayfield at Dengemarsh was also flooded and stacked out with dabbling ducks and Lapwings, 2 Little Egrets and a Kestrel. Along the access road a very confiding fox posed on a shingle ridge and a Great White Egret flew over. In the visitors centre I joined the Gull Appreciation Club (DW and PB) scanning the Larids on Burrowes. They`d already sorted out a 3rd winter Yellow-legged Gull which was soon joined by a full adult; a Caspian had been seen earlier. Also, a Peregrine and a couple of Marsh Harriers, while elsewhere on Burrowes several Smew and Goosanders, plus all the usual winter wildfowl.
Lade - Finished up at the aerial mound for the roost which comprised a lot more Blackbirds and Song Thrushes coming in, alongside all the usual Woodpigeons, 35 Magpies, a few Starlings and 3 Little Egrets. Plenty of noise from the Water Rails and a group of Magpies were mobbing `something` over by the `mirror`; one of these days they`ll put me onto a Leo...

Sunrise over Lade Bay - For about 10 minutes it was like another world.
                                          Fox, Denge Beach

                                          Sunset, Lade

Friday, 14 December 2012

Wet & Windy

Dungeness - 0830hrs - Mild, overcast, rain, se 6 - An increasingly mild and wet day with the wind veering to the south-west by mid afternoon and gusting to near gale force. A lively seawatch from the fishing boats produced plenty of Kittiwakes, Gannets, Guillemots and Red-throated Divers rounding the point plus loads more auks and Great Crested Grebes on the sea. Had distant views of a probable Pom Skua and the first Fulmar of the winter. Also, 35 Wigeon, 14 Gadwall and 8 Brents down-Channel, plus the Glaucous Gull hunkered down amongst the gulls.

                                          Glaucous Gull, Dungeness

Crossing the causeway road en-route to Ashford the Black-throated Diver and a Smew noted on a choppy New Diggings, plus hundreds of Gadwall, Teal and Shoveler on ARC. Passing Johnson`s Corner with the rain lashing down 20 plus Waxwings atop an ash trees by the lay-bye.
On the return journey a drive around Walland Marsh delivered 30 odd Bewick`s Swans from Midley railway crossing and a much reduced number of winter thrushes in the hedgerows. Little else of note due to the weather conditions.
Called in at a deserted visitor centre at the RSPB where Burrowes had taken on the appearance of the sea complete with waves! Only a Great White Egret of note here battling to stay upright in the tempest. By 3pm it was almost dark, roll on the spring...

Thursday, 13 December 2012


Lade - 0800hrs - Cold, overcast, se 2 - Weather wise much quieter today staying just above freezing and a change in the wind direction to a south-easterly. Due to one thing and another didn't venture far from Plovers today. Checked the pits first thing where all the usual wildfowl, although in low numbers, but did include 3 Goldeneyes and a Goosander. Plenty of Marsh Harrier activity behind the `mirrors` and hundreds of Lapwings and Golden Plovers on the move over the fields.
On Greatstone beach a decent selection of shorebirds with 200 each of Sanderlings and Dunlins, 50 Barwits and 20 Grey Plovers the highlight. A Merlin nipped along the foreshore scattering a flock of Starlings feeding on the tideline.
Another look at the pits from the aerial mound, just before lights out delivered 35 Magpies and 3 Little Egrets coming to roost in the willows along with several hundred Woodpigeons.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012


Lade - 0830hrs - Cold, sunny, nw 2 - With overnight temperatures dipping to -4 C many of the reedbed shallows were frozen solid, which is not great if you`re a Bittern. As a consequence I had five sightings today starting with two birds flying around north pit calling and being mobbed by a Grey Heron. Last weekends Teal had mostly dispersed and apart from a couple of Goldeneyes and a Kingfisher there was little else of note.
New Diggings - From the causeway road a flyover Bittern, Black-throated Diver and Great White Egret. On ARC at least 250 Gadwalls in the frozen shallows, plus 2 Marsh Harriers and Peregrine by the railway line.
Lydd Allotments - Checked out the apple trees several times today, where several Waxwings were reported earlier (PB) but without success.
Burrowes - An adult Caspian Gull had been found by DW in front of the visitor centre when I arrived. Smew, Goosander and Great White Egret were also present. Driving back towards Boulderwall another Bittern flew in front of the car.
ARC - A stroll down to the pines revealed a small mixed flock of Long-tailed Tits, Goldcrests and a Chiffchaff, plus Green Woodpecker, 20 Stock Doves, 2 Marsh Harriers and a Sparrowhawk. From Screen hide yet another Bittern alongside a Great White Egret.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Dungeness Gulls

Dungeness  - 0900hrs - Cold, overcast, nw 2 - A nippy old morning with a bit of drizzle in the air at times. Strolled down to The Patch with DG to scrutinise a large flock of gulls loafing on the beach. All five common species present, plus 4 Kittiwakes and singles of adult Mediterranean and Yellow-legged Gulls. Offshore, plenty of Great Crested Grebes on the sea, a few Kittiwakes and Gannets further out and a steady flow of Red-throated Divers and Guillemots moving between Rye and Lade Bays. Also, 35 Oystercatchers and 16 Brents moving up-channel, whilst a Peregrine scattered the Feral Pigeons on the power station roof. A check through the gulls by the fishing boats revealed the wintering Glaucous Gull patrolling the beach.

                                         Kittiwake, The Patch

New Diggings - From the causeway road singles of Black-throated Diver, Great White Egret, Smew and Goosander, 4 Goldeneyes and a Raven over. On the ARC side 150 Gadwall, 2 Little Egrets, 2 Marsh Harriers, 3 Goldeneyes and a Kingfisher.
Scotney - Just the usual feral Barnacles on the grass, plus plenty of Golden Plovers, Lapwings and Wigeons.
Dymchurch - Had brief views of a flock of 10 Waxwings by the church this afternoon. The Hamstreet birds were also reported again by the war memorial at Johnson`s Corner.

Monday, 10 December 2012


Lade - 0800hrs - cold, sunny, nw 3 - Virtually the first bird of the day was a Brambling calling in the garden fir trees. It eventually came down onto the bird feeders but didn`t stay for long before departing high to the west. Large numbers of Teal remained on the pits and several Marsh Harriers were already hunting behind the `mirrors`, otherwise similar stuff to yesterday, plus a single `cronking` Raven.
Walland Marsh - 1330hrs - A drive around Midley delivered 32 Bewick`s, 2 Whooper and 3 Black Swans, 2 Common Buzzards, 3 Marsh Harriers and distant flight views of the Common Crane
RSPB - 1400hrs - Crossing the causeway road the Black-throated Diver was still present on New Diggings along with a Great White Egret. There was no sign of the Ring-necked Duck on New Excavations, but 2 each of Smew and Goosander on Burrowes. Over the road a stroll down to Screen hide delivered a fly over Bittern from Tower pits and several Marsh Harriers, plus the usual Tree Sparrows in the car park.
ps: I couldn`t find any sign of the Waxwings at Hammonds Corner this afternoon, but that was probably because the same flock was reported in Lydd earlier today. Elsewhere across the Marsh there were reports of 36 at Johnson`s Corner, Hamstreet; 15 at Pontins, Camber Sands; 20 in the centre of Dymchurch and 5 at Midley.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Bitterns, Teal & Ring-necked Duck

Lade - 0800hrs - mild, cloudy, w 3 - Following the excesses of yesterday (a family gathering and marathon food and drink fest in Hertfordshire) was good to get out and about around the local patch this morning, in what was relatively mild weather conditions for the time of year. First surprise was a big increase in Teal numbers since my last visit and I counted at least 540, which is exceptional for here; perhaps a cold weather movement off the continent, but whatever the reason they are most welcome. Other wildfowl included 3 Shelducks, 2 Goldeneye and a redhead Smew. Couldn't find the Long-tailed Duck but whilst walking across the causeway to the swing bridge Barney flushed an irate Bittern out of one of the small reedbeds, and a short while later a second bird flew across the pit at the far end. Other padders noted were Kingfisher, Jay, Greater pecker, Chiffchaff, Water Rail and Cetti`s Warbler, also Marsh Harrier, Kestrel and Peregrine, while on the walk back across the storm beaches, a Woodcock, courtesy of the dog again.
RSPB - 1400hrs - On arrival at the visitors centre a Ring-necked Duck had been reported this afternoon, so strolled down with DW to New Excavations where a drake bird was asleep within a pack of Tufted Ducks. There was some talk of it being a hybrid, but from what we could see it looked the real deal on shape and plumage, although I only had the briefest views of the bill, and was a nice surprise on a dreary winters afternoon. On Burrowes, 2 Great White Egrets, 8 Pintail and singles of redhead Smew and Goosander amongst the legions of ducks.
Checked out a local harrier roost where 3 Marsh Harriers came to roost. Also in the area, Barn Owl, Merlin, Great White Egret and another Bittern.
ps: 30 and 20 odd Waxwings were reported today from Hammonds Corner, between Lydd and New Romney and Johnson`s Corner, Hamstreet, respectively. While at Dungeness Little Auk and Pomarine Skua were noted (per DW).

                                  Drake Ring-necked Duck & Tufted Ducks, New Excavations

Friday, 7 December 2012

Pomarine Skua & Waxwings

Dungeness - 0830hrs - Cold, showery, nw 5 - Following torrential overnight rain the brisk, raw northerly airflow made for `proper` winter birding conditions; and Barney was in his element, he loves the cold and wind, running along the beach, rolling around on dead fish and cocking his leg up the fisherman's kit... (sorry chaps!).
A scan from the seawatching hide delivered all the usual Kittiwakes, auks, grebes, Gannets and Red-throated Divers milling around the point and on the sea. The highlight, however, was a Pomarine Skua just offshore which attacked the gulls over the Patch before disappearing down to Penn Bars. The only passerine of note was a Black Redstart on the power station wall.
Down at the boats more of the same seabirds just offshore, plus that old favourite, the 3rd winter Glaucous Gull.
New Romney - Whilst in town this morning 2 Waxwings flew over the high street calling.
New Diggings - 1300hrs - Took a bit of locating but the Black-throated Diver was still present, hugging the bank by the causeway road, plus 2 Great White Egrets on the far bank. A redhead Smew flew in to join 3 Goldeneyes, before the group flew over the road onto ARC where all the usual wildfowl present including c200 Gadwall in the shallows.
Walland Marsh - A circuit round the lanes produced 2 Whoopers and 36 Bewick`s Swans amongst the Mutes, hundreds of winter thrushes, 3 Waxwings at Midley, Merlin, Marsh Harrier, Common Buzzard, Jay and Greater pecker. The sparrow and finch flock at the seed dump contained at least one Brambling.
Lade - Finished off at the local patch where at least 20 Magpies and 3 Little Egrets came into roost amongst a hundred Woodpigeons and Starlings. Didn`t get a chance to check out the Long-tailed Duck, but it was reported earlier on north pit as were 20 odd Waxwings at Johnson`s Corner, Hamstreet.

                                          Sunset, Lade

Thursday, 6 December 2012


Lade - 0730hrs - Cold, sunny, n 1 - A frosty morning with frozen shingle underfoot making for hazardous walking across the storm beaches where a couple of Song Thrushes and Blackbirds flushed from cover. The pits were full of common wildfowl, plus 3 Goldeneyes, a Shelduck and the Long-tailed Duck on north pit. The water around the willows was iced over but there was plenty of Water Rail and Cetti`s Warbler activity and a single Kingfisher flashed over. A small flock of tits contained 4 Goldcrests and Chiffchaff and both species of woodpecker were noted. The oddest sight of all this morning was that of 4 Sparrowhawks chasing one another over the `mirror`s. The usual Marsh Harriers and Kestrel were hunting the farmland.
Crossing the causeway road this afternoon 2 Great White Egrets were noted on New Diggings and at least 10 Waxwings remained in the vicinity of Johnson`s Corner, Hamstreet.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012


ARC - 0930hrs - Cold, overcast, occasional snow/sleet, n 3 - Had a run round with MH & BP on what was a nippy old morning with wintry showers and a scudding northerly. MH kept our spirits up with a steady stream of jokes (some new material amongst the old duffers, the jokes, I mean!) while BP kept talking up the merits of hibernating for the rest of the winter and searching for Garganeys amongst the ducks in the vain hope that the warmth of spring wasn't far away... (see you after the equinox Bob!). Anyhow, from Hanson a Kingfisher zipped across the lake in front of the hide while a Bittern flew between reedbeds and a Peregrine cruised towards Tower pits. A decent enough start, plus all the usual ducks including 3 Goldeneyes and a Shelduck. From Screen hide one of at least 4 Great White Egrets present on the bird reserve and a couple of Chiffchaffs in the reedbed. Plenty of activity in the car park where the seed bait attracted a host of Tree Sparrows, Chaffinches, Magpies, Great and Blue Tits.
Johnson`s Corner - News concerning a flock of Waxwings found earlier by BB on the main road near the war memorial necessitated a change of plan; and most worthwhile it was too with 23 birds on show. Unfortunately the light was poor, so only managed a few grainy digi-pics. Other Waxwings were also reported today from Brenzett, Midley and New Romney.
Walland Marsh - A drive back across Walland delivered a tidy flock of sparrows and finches at Midley, thousands of winter thrushes and raptors including Marsh Harrier, Common Buzzard, Kestrel and Sparrowhawk. There was no sign of the wild swans in the field opposite the drying barns.
Burrowes - Back at the bird reserve and a scan from the comfort of the visitors centre produced another Great White Egret and all the usual wildfowl, gulls and Cormorants, where a redhead Smew was reported from Makepeace hide.

                                         Waxwings, Johnson`s Corner

                                          Common Buzzard, Walland Marsh

Tuesday, 4 December 2012


Dungeness - 0800hrs - Cold, sunny, wnw 2 - A spell at the fishing boats produced hundreds of Guillemots on the sea; I counted at least 200 and there was probably another 100 coming and going around the point. Also, at least 20 Red-throated Divers, 100 Great Crested Grebes and 50 Kittiwakes, 6 Common Scoters and a few distant Gannets. The Glaucous Gull was loafing around as usual looking for an easy meal from a recently beached fishing boat.

                                          Guillemots, Dungeness

Lade - A few Siskins and Redpolls overhead on the walk out to the pits, plus several Song Thrushes on the storm beaches. Wildfowl of note included 3 Shelduck, 2 Goldeneye and the Long-tailed Duck on north pit. Plenty of Marsh Harrier activity on the rough ground behind the `mirrors` on this fine sunny morning.
RSPB - 1500hrs - Two Great White Egrets on New Diggings and another on Burrowes. Apart from that not much else apart from a few Goldeneyes amongst all the usual wildfowl and a flyover Bittern from the causeway road.
ps: Waxwings and Bewick`s Swans were reported from Walland Marsh this morning.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Walland Marsh

Walland Marsh 1500hrs - Cold, sunny, nw 1- Drove out onto Walland with Marshman this afternoon. First stop Midley where the Bewick`s Swans had increased in number to 36, of which at least 12 were juvs; no sign of the Whoopers though.The usual gang of sparrows around the feeders further along the lane and hundreds of Fieldfares, Redwings, Blackbirds and Song Thrushes in the hedgerows. Finished off at a reed bed roost site where 2 Marsh Harriers came to roost, with ten or more in the general area. Also, distant views of Common Crane, Peregrine and Barn Owl, with the latter (or a second bird) coming much closer at dusk. Several Water Rails calling from the reed bed along with Cetti`s Warblers and `pinging` Beardies.
On the celestial front, stunning views this evening of the planet Jupiter, the gas giant, showing 3 of her many moons in the eastern sky.
ps: Elsewhere today the Glaucous Gull was reported from Dungeness, plus Black-throated Diver, Smew and Great White Egrets on the bird reserve.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Swans, Raptors & Waxwing

Walland Marsh - 1030hrs - Cold, sunny, nw2 - A late start due to B&B guests, but eventually got underway and headed out onto the Marsh to look for the reported Waxwings. En-route the Black-throated Diver was still on New Diggings and an adult male Peregrine flew over the causeway road with prey, heading towards the power station; Kestrel and Marsh Harrier also noted.
A quick stop opposite Midley drying barns and a herd of 120 swans contained 2 Whoopers and at least 18 Bewick`s amongst the Mutes. Hundreds of Fieldfares and Redwings along the lane to the Cheyne Ct triangle where I had distant views of a single Waxwing perched atop a hawthorn with winter thrushes. At least 30 Tree Sparrows in the bushes opposite the farm, plus scores of Chaffinches and a Sparrowhawk over. Whilst gossipping with the locals about cameras at the triangle the 2nd winter male Hen Harrier showed well over the nearby oil-seed rape field. Common Buzzard and Kestrel noted on the drive back to the coast.

                                          Bewick`s Swans & Tree Sparrow, Midley

                                          Barn Owl, RSPB

RSPB - 1500hrs - Another sortie out (while the garden fence posts were setting - I`ll never get that fence repaired at this rate!) to look for the Lesser Whitethroat found earlier by NB et al in front of the visitor centre drew a blank. However, was amply compensated by a showy Barn Owl hunting in the field by the bend on the access road. Barn Owls are a bit like Bitterns, in that it doesn't matter how long you`ve been birding they just cannot be ignored (for proper pics refer to Plodding Birder blog).
A quick look over the road revealed a small flock of Goldcrests on the track to Screen hide, a flyover Great White Egret, a redhead Smew and another Sparrowhawk.
Another decent couple of sessions in the field birdwise, and as always was good to meet up with a few weekend birders and have a natter.