Sunday, 31 March 2013

Bluethroat Dip

Lade - 0700hrs - cold, cloudy, n1- With only a light northerly airflow a few more passerines stuck their heads above the parapet this morning. The 3 squabbling Black Redstarts were still in the scrub at the bottom of Taylor Road while a stroll along the main broom-clad storm ridge shifted several grounded Blackbirds, Skylarks, Mipits, Linnets, Song Thrushes and 2 `crests. Around the willow swamp singing Chiffchaffs, Reed Buntings and Great Tits, plus the usual Water Rail and Cetti`s activity. Behind the `mirrors` 2 Marsh Harriers and a distant flock of Golden Plovers. Not much on the lakes apart from the usual diving ducks, grebes and 3 Goldeneyes.

                                "You should`ve been here 20 minutes ago..."

                                Samphire Hoe foxes

Samphire Hoe - 1100hrs - Convinced myself that the Hoe would be a good place to go for a family walk, which of course it is; except when a Bluethroat is there and you spend the next three hours staring at a bramble thicket, not seeing it. Of more interest was a couple of foxes high up on the chalk cliff barking and sun bathing between the snow flurries. Also noted Raven and Peregrine along the cliffs and Stonechat and Redwing in the scrub, while around the bird feeders plenty of Blue and Great Tit, Robin, Wren, Blackbird and Dunnock activity.
NB: News came through this evening of a male Bluethroat seen at the back of Hookers this afternoon, on the track to Lydd near the style (so, for those who saw the last one, same area). Got to be worth a look in the morning.

Saturday, 30 March 2013

Will I ever get the moth trap out?

Dungeness - 0630hrs - cold, overcast, hail showers, ne 3 - The weather is now getting plain tedious, this time last year I had the shorts on, today its the full winter gear again - damn that jet-stream.  Anyhow, an  hour in the seawatch hide in failing light produced very little apart from 50 Gannets, a few Kittiwakes and a diver. Luckily I was joined by SO and we got onto talking about birds in warmer climes to pass the time; Morrocco, Lesbos etc...
A smart male Wheatear was the only noteworthy bird on the land and by 0745hrs the hail storm was so bad I retreated down the coast.
A revisit later on near high tide produced the Glaucous Gull at the boats, a 3rd winter Caspian amongst the Herring Gulls and a Merlin chasing a Skylark (which it failed to catch after a long chase).
Lade -Different world here for the next hour at least, until the hail arrived, although largely birdless with just 2 Chiffchaffs on the migrant front. A scattering of diving ducks and grebes on both pits and 2 Marsh Harriers hunting behind the `mirrors` noted before the weather closed in.
Dengemarsh - 1400hrs - Flogged around the back of Hookers and Gun Club field for, well anything new really, but all I could conjure up were 6 (feral?) Bean Geese in the field amongst the Grey Lags, a couple of Bitterns, Sparrowhawk, Green Woodpecker and the usual Marsh Harriers. The wind had picked up again and not a passerine was there anywhere, apart from a lone Song Thrush and a couple of singing Cetti`s Warblers, while 2 hares `boxed` in a stony field alongside the watching Lapwings.
From the visitors centre an adult Yellow-legged Gull and 3 Smew, plus 2 Great White Egrets on New Diggings.
Had several messages concerning the reappearance of the Walland Marsh Common Crane which was seen near the turkey sheds below Appledore this afternoon.
NB: Just a thought, but this blocking high pressure weather system that`s been delivering cold air from Russia, for what seems like ages. Well, according to the Met Office it looks set to continue for a couple more weeks at least and is already causing significant energy supply and agricultural grief, quite apart from the effect it must be having on some of our early breeding birds. I wonder what the outcome would be, if for example it persisted for, say another month or longer? Unlikely, I know, but just a thought...

Friday, 29 March 2013

Black Redstarts

Lade - 0700hrs - cold, cloudy, n 2 - Three Black Redstarts flitting amongst the gorse on the storm beaches were virtually the first birds seen on a circuit of the local patch this morning. Unfortunately, that was about it with no other grounded migrants seen or heard. Around the willow swamp plenty of Water Rail activity, plus Sparrowhawk and Marsh Harrier overhead. On north pit 3 Goldeneyes amongst the grebes and common diving ducks and a Little Egret over.
Dungeness - Walked the scrub around the old light and over to the moat where up to 10 Blackbirds, 5 Mipits, 3 Black Redstarts, 2 Stonechats, and singles of Chiffchaff, Wheatear and Redwing.
RSPB - 1430hrs - Yet again the elusive Penduline Tits were seen and photographed by a handful of birders earlier this afternoon, this time on the Discovery Pond. There doesn't seem to be any pattern to their occurrences as they have been seen at half a dozen randomly scattered reed bed locations over the past month or so. Still, I guess when they eventually settle down to breed we should all be able to enjoy them...
Anyhow, the reserve had a distinctly wintry feel, but without the birds; what with temperatures of 2C, a brisk east wind and occasional sleet showers. On Burrowes 5 Smew with 4 more on ARC plus 2 Great Whites on New Diggings. Elsewhere, a few Chiffchaffs around the site, a Black Redstart at the southern end of ARC and a couple of Marsh Harriers over the causeway road heading towards the Oppen Pits.

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Little Ringed Plover

Dungeness - 0645hrs - cold, cloudy, snow flurries, ne 3 - A 90 minute seawatch from the hide in the company of TG & SO moved along nicely with a steady flow of mainly Gannets, divers, auks and 200 Brents, plus single figures of Pintail, Curlew, Med Gull and Sandwich Tern. As we left the hide a heavy snow shower came in off the sea but didn`t last for long and none settled.
ARC - 1000hrs - From Hanson a distant Bittern, Great White Egret, 18 Goldeneyes and 12 Smews, including the `white nun`. Plenty of activity from the Willow Trail with Long-tailed, Great and Blue Tits, Chaffinches, Blackbirds, Robin, Wren, Cetti`s Warbler, Water Rail, singing Chiffchaff and best of all a stunning Firecrest.
Dengemarsh - The flood and hayfields attracted the now regular dabbling ducks and waders, including 2 Ruff and an open-billed Oystercatcher. Barney confirmed that the anti-predator fence is juiced up...

" Walks me round here looking for some duck or other, only to get me nearly electrocuted, now where`s that number for the RSPCA?..."

                                Oystercatcher with open-bill

                                Little Ringed Plover, Dengemarsh

                                3rd winter Glaucous Gull, Boats

Denegmarsh - 1400hrs - Having missed yesterdays bird returned to Dengemarsh this afternoon with MH to twitch and year tick (146) a Little Ringed Plover (things are that desperate!) which was feeding in a puddle close to the track leading down the gully. Smart birds are LRPs and one of my favourite summer visitors. On the drive out 2 Corn Buntings by the chicken sheds.
Dungeness -  At the entrance to the concrete road a 3rd winter Caspian Gull was located amongst its common cousins (MH could hardly contain himself...) while further down the road the old favourite, the wintering Glaucous Gull was drinking from a puddle. A quick look at the sea yielded more Gannets on the move and loads of grebes on the water.

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Barn Owls

Dengemarsh - 0830hrs - cold, sunny, ne 4 - Decided to give the hayfields a grilling this morning. From Springfield Bridge the recently drilled arable field attracted 21 Reed Buntings intently feeding on, seeds I guess. The flood and hayfields combined pulled in 12 Ringed Plovers, 10 Dunlins, 10 Lapwings, 4 Redshanks, 50 Wigeons, 40 Teal, 20 Shovelers, 10 Shelducks, 8 Gadwalls and a Snipe, but no sign of any Garganeys or LRPs. Several Marsh Harriers were working the reedbed at Hookers and a Raven flew over `cronking`. From the causeway road singles of Smew, Little and Great White Egrets on ARC.
Barn Owls have been easy to see of late across the Marsh and I`ve had many reports from non-birders telling of "white owls" flying beside roads, and in particularly on the outskirts of Lydd near Belgar Farm. This morning I saw this particular owl at 10am in bright sunshine flying a few feet above the verge and perilously close to the road edge. As soon as I saw the bird ahead I slowed down but it wasn't long before a lunatic came past me at 60mph, tooting Captain Slow; and therein lies the problem. I hope I`m wrong but the prospects for this Barn Owl do not look good.
ARC/Tower Pits - 1530hrs - Having spent most of the day at the RM Visitor Centre was good to get out and about for a stroll this afternoon with the mutt. We worked the wet pools behind the pines  searching (unsuccessfully) for a Jack Snipe but could only muster up 2 Common Snipe, plus the duck Red-crested Pochard lurking among the reeds on the main lake. From Screen hide 3 Smews, 5 Goldeneyes and all the usual wildfowl, a Great White Egret and 2 Marsh Harriers. There was no sign of the LRP reported earlier at the south end of ARC.
On the way out of the car park a Barn Owl flew across the road from Boulderwall and started quartering the cleared scrubby area beside the track to Hanson. Yet another cracking view of this gorgeous owl out hunting in broad daylight, which suggests that they may be having trouble finding food.

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Meadow Pipits

Lade - 0800hrs - cold, cloudy, ne 4 - Worked the local patch for a couple of hours with little return apart from a grounding of up to 15 Mipits, plus another 5 overhead. Absolutely nothing was singing due to the biting easterly while the open water was mostly devoid of birds apart from a few diving ducks, including 3 Goldeneyes, and Great Crested Grebes. A couple of Water Rails called from the willow swamp and a Sparrowhawk nipped through.
Hythe - 1100hrs - Had to go to Folkestone today so checked the sea defence blocks on the sea front for Purple Sandpipers. Even though the tide was up all I could muster was a single Dunlin but no sign of the Purps.
ARC - 1430hrs - Just the usual wildfowl here, most of which were sheltering along the far bank, and singles of Great White Egret and Marsh Harrier. From the Willow Trail 2 Chiffchaffs and a Water Rail, plus several Mipits overhead.
ps: News from Rye Harbour from a birder in Hanson hide who`d just returned told of a single Kentish Plover showing `til 0930hrs from Lime Kiln Cottage, after which it headed off high down the coast towards Harbour Farm with no news since.

Monday, 25 March 2013

Kentish Plovers

Dungeness - 0830hrs - Cold, cloudy, ne5, 2C max - A days birding with Wendy and Doug commenced with a 90 minute seawatch from the hide. It was yet another day in the freezer making birder id difficult as everyone we met resembled a mummy! As for the seawatch, well, the least said the better. A trickle of auks, divers and Gannets up-Channel was about it along with 3 Little Gulls, 5 Kittiwakes, 9 Common Scoters, 3 Brents, Med Gull, Sandwich Tern, a Merganser down and 5 Linnets in bound.
On the land a smart male Black Redstart and Wheatear near the old light both showed well.
Down at the Obs while swilling hot coffee and attempting to restore the blood flow to my fingers news came through via DW of a KP at Rye, so it was off to sunny Sussex.

                        Spot the Kentish Plovers! (they`re in the middle somewhere...)

Rye Harbour NR - 1115hrs - From the shelter of Lime Kiln Cottage not one but 2 Kentish Plovers (145) were on show about 100m from the track amongst a mixed group of Dunlins, Ringed Plovers,  Redshanks and Avocets. We spent about an hour in all grilling the KPs, one of which was colour ringed, but they didn`t approach much closer to enable any detail. Was difficult to tell at this range but both appeared to have rusty crowns denoting males. Once again Rye scores with KP for the second year running, a deserved testament to the superb wetland management, and wouldn't it be great if they attracted a mate and stayed to breed...
PB joined us for a circuit of Ternery Pool and Quarry/Flat Beach and hides where the highlights were 50 Sandwich Terns, 100 Oystercatchers, 5 Blackwits and 2 Dabchicks on Ternery, plus 100 Dunlins, 25 Knots, 2 Grey Plovers, Turnstone and Sanderling at the latter. Back at the Cottage we had seconds on the KPs while 3 Med Gulls flew over calling.
As always a cracking session here and many thanks to the ever helpful staff at Rye Harbour NR for vehicular access.
Walland and Beyond - On the way back to Dunge we crossed the Marsh where the bunting flock at Tickners yielded a handful of Reeds and Yellowhammers. Further down the lane two large flocks of winter thrushes on pastureland comprised mainly Fieldfares, while a male Marsh Harrier criss-crossed a field flushing Woodpigeons looking for a weakling. The bird feeding station attracted all the usual tits and finches, although the Tree Sparrows were `chupping` away in cover. There was little to see on a wind swept Galloways but at Dengemarsh a Green Sandpiper flitted along the sewer and a close flock of 50 Wigeons grazed the field. A Great White Egret flew across ARC from the causeway road and we concluded back at Dungeness for a final look at a largely birdless sea.
A slow start to the day which came to life at Rye with the KPs being lifers for both Wendy and Doug.
Was also one of the coldest days I`ve spent in the field for a long time and Barney was quickly ejected from pole position by the fire side when I got home (only joking...).

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Spring Arrivals

Lade - 0800hrs - cold, overcast, e 5 - A wander around the local patch in December-like gloom delivered a couple of bright spots in the form of a splendid drake Goosander on north pit and a lone Wheatear on the beach hunkered down behind a clump of sea-kale. Apart from that it was regulation stuff with few passerines noted apart from one or two Chiffchaffs, Skylarks and Song Thrushes. The two species of grebes seemed oblivious to the weather conditions with much trilling and head shaking from the shelter of the pool within the willows, plus 3 Marsh Harriers and a Buzzard behind the `mirrors` and a flock of 50 Golden Plovers over heading inland.
RSPB - 1300hrs - From Hanson hide 3 adult Little Gulls flying amongst the Black-headed Gulls was the highlight. Also, 4 distant Smew (including a drake) near the far bank, 2 Great White Egrets and 20 Golden Plovers over. From the willow trail a Sparrowhawk overhead plus, in the bushes, a couple of Chiffchaffs and a Marsh year tick in the form of a male Blackcap (144).
From the visitor centre 4 Avocets on Burrowes were new in amongst all the usual diving ducks and gulls. Two Chiffchaffs in the bushes by the feeders and one in the back garden later on confirmed there was something of an arrival today, with others noted at the Point along with a handful of Black Redstarts (DW, MB).

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Ducks & Waders

Dungeness - 0700hrs - cold, grey, e 5 - Another bone-chilling morning with the dreaded easterly scouring the point and looking set to continue into next week; still, at least the wind turbines at Cheyne Ct were making full use of it. TG had elected to seawatch from the comfort of the car at the end of the concrete road, while I did an hour from the hide. Pretty slow going really but a variety of waders and ducks logged up-Channel as follows: Wigeon 15, Shoveler 27, Pintail 17, Common Scoter 8, Teal 7, Gadwall 4, Dunlin 121, Curlew 25, Grey Plover 15, Knot 15 and Barwit 12. Also noted 50 Gannets, 15 Sandwich Terns, 20 Kitts, 10 auks, 2 divers and 5 Skylarks inbound.
Needless to say the land was a bird-free zone.
ARC - Quiet here with just the regulation Smew and Goldeneye on show plus a Great White Egret with another one on New Diggings.
Lade - Checked out Kerton Road pit where no activity on the gull island. However, around the margins 5 Reed Buntings and 2 each of Mipit and Skylark flushed from cover. On the Desert a lone Kestrel and a pair of Ringed Plovers.

"Zzzz, this is more like it, much better than that draughty old seawatch hide he keeps dragging me in, much more of that and I`m onto the RSPCA... mmm, rabbits, bones, zzzz."

Friday, 22 March 2013


Dungeness - 1000hrs - cold, bright, e 5 - A wander along the boats in a cutting easterly was not a particularly joyous experience and only delivered a few Skylarks, Mipits and Pied Wagtails. On the sea the usual grebes and auks plus a few divers, Kittiwakes and one group of 15 Common Scoters.
Called in at the Obs after which a circuit of the moat drew a blank; incredibly there was still a relic snow drift by the Heligoland trap, 10 days after the blizzard which just goes to show how cold its been since.

                                Dungeness Bird Observatory

Lade - Least said the better here with little of note apart from a couple of Marsh Harriers battling against the wind behind the `mirrors` and a Goldeneye on north pit.
Dengemarsh - 1430hrs - Had a run out with MH this afternoon. First stop Hookers where 3 Marsh Harriers were cavorting over the reedbed, flushing Curlews from the back field. A flock of 150 Golden Plovers hurtled over and the usual array of feral geese, Stock Dove, Wigeon and Lapwings noted on the wet meadows. Little of note from Dengemarsh hide but number 3 hayfield attracted a decent number of Teal, Shoveler, Wigeon, Gadwall, Shelduck, Dunlin, Ringed Plover and Lapwing.
Called in at the visitors centre for a natter and a warm up where we picked up the unusual sight of an adult Kittiwake flying over Burrowes pit. Also noted Great White Egret, 5 Goldeneye and 2 Smew.
On the way out near Boulderwall a Bittern flew across one of the lagoons and another Marsh Harrier over. Can honestly say was glad to get home in front of the fire, surely this easterly wind can`t last until Easter... 
Anyone planning a trip down this weekend - either think again, or wrap up well.

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Grey Wagtail & Corn Bunting

Dungeness - 0700hrs - cold, bright, e 2 - Started off ok weather wise but went steadily downhill throughout the day, clouding over with an increase in the wind strength; birding conditions will not be for the faint of heart down here, as according to the forecast the dreaded easterly will be blasting away for the next week at least. Anyhow, joined a surprisingly packed seawatch hide for half an hour during which time a steady up-Channel movement of Gannets, auks and Common Scoters was underway, plus 4 Little Gulls, a few Sandwich Terns, Kittiwakes, divers and Wigeon and a party of 70 Brents.
A scout round the land delivered brief views of a Grey Wagtail (scarce birds here, especially on the deck) on the power station wall before it dived back into the sewage works compound. A few Mipits, Linnets and Goldfinches completed the passerine fest. On the way out jammed in on the 3rd winter Glaucous Gull by the fishing boats whilst looking for migrants.
Lade - Pretty quiet on both lakes with just a drake Goldeneye of note and singing Chiffchaff in the willow swamp. Two Marsh Harriers hunting behind the `mirrors`.
Scotney - A few more birds here today than of late including a flock of 500 Golden Plovers, some coming into summer plum; also 3 Redshanks, 2 Ringed Plovers, Lapwings and Wigeon.
Galloways - The only noteworthy bird here was a single corn Bunting feeding by a sheep food trough.

                                Corn Bunting, Galloways

Dengemarsh - Checked the flood and hayfields in the vain hope of an early Garganey or LRP... Plenty of ducks and waders though with Lapwings, Teal and Wigeon making up the bulk, plus 12 Ringed Plovers, 10 Dunlins, 6 Redshanks, 6 Shelducks, 4 Pintail and 2 Ruff. On the lake the usual diving ducks, grebes, feral geese and several Marsh Harriers active over Hookers.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

First Wheatears

Dungeness - 0730hrs - cold, cloudy, misty, nw 2 - After two days in old London town was good to breathe the fresh, clean air of Dungeness once more. Despite today being the spring equinox the weather remained wintry with a northerly airflow. Kicked off at The Patch where no sign of the recent races of Herring Gull (tee-hee); infact apart from a Kittiwake there was little of note amongst the hundred gulls present. Up to 20 Mipits and 2 Linnets came in off the sea with one of the former getting a warm welcome from a Merlin. A pair of Kestrels by the old light and a Raven over was about it on the land. At sea a cursory look delivered a steady flow of divers and mostly Gannets plus 10 Sandwich Terns and several Harbour Porpoises.
ARC - 1300hrs - Had a look at ARC with MH this afternoon. From the causeway road a Great White Egret on New Diggings, while in front of Screen hide a pair of Great Crested Grebes briefly performed the weed dance before returning to nest building in the reedbed. Four redhead Smews and Goldeneyes noted amongst the few remaining ducks. From Hanson a few more Smew and Goldeneye plus a pair of Peregrines high over the lake, stooping and talon-grappling one another was most impressive.

"He keeps dragging me out here on this stony wasteland where there ain`t no rabbits to chase. Now, where are those damm Wheatears he keeps searching for?"

                                First Wheatears, Dungeness

Around mid-day a couple of Wheatears (143) were found by PB near the lifeboat station, which were eventually relocated opposite Jarman`s where they showed well, perched on concrete blocks and old winches as they do, to a small crowd of rarity-starved locals. True harbingers of spring are White-arses and let`s hope there are plenty more to come.
NB: Also reported this morning was a Red Kite over St Mary`s-in-the-Marsh heading north (CP).

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Urban Birding

Chestnuts Park, Tottenham - 0630hrs - cold, overcast, light airs - An overnight stay on grandparent duties in London resulted in an early morning round of the local park. Chestnuts Park is a standard London park, about 10 acres, complete with footy pitches, kiddies playground, tennis courts, a `conservation area` and loads of splendid London planes and limes (I always feel sorry for the planners who laid out these parks as they would never have lived long enough to see the trees in their full splendour). Even on a grey old morning there was plenty of activity in the park with joggers, dog-walkers, fast-walkers, rough sleepers rousing and two bearded men kneeling on prayer mats paying homage eastwards. Park life, in a nutshell a complete contrast to an early morning circuit of my local patch on the stony wastes of Dungeness.
Anyhow, variety being the spice of life and all that, I was keen to see what was about. On the playing field when I arrived a flock of 100 gulls comprised mainly Black-heads, but also 10 Commons, 2 Lesser-blacks and a Herring Gull. A couple of Canada Geese flew over and there was healthy population of House Sparrows in a shrubby corner of the park. Back gardens bordering the park delivered singing Robins, Chaffinches, Greenfinches, Blackbirds, Dunnocks, Blue and Great Tits and even a lone Wren. On either side of the park 2 Mistle Thrushes were singing from the highest branches and a Pied Wagtail was running about on the patio by the café. Magpies, Carrion Crows, Starlings and Woodpigeons were everywhere and  on my second circuit a pair of Goldfinches flew in twittering.
So, nothing earth shattering but a good start to my days urban birding with 23 species on the day list.

                                Finsbury Park, London

                                Egyptian Goose



                                Grey Heron

Finsbury Park, London - 1000hrs - Finsbury Park is one of the larger London parks and set on a hill with commanding views across the city to Canary Wharf and many other famous landmarks. The park dates back to Victorian times and has plenty of mature stands of timber, open spaces and a large ornamental boating lake which attracts a variety of wetland species.
As soon as we entered the park off Green Lanes I noticed a mixed flock of 100 Redwings and Fieldfares sat atop a group of poplars; to complete the thrush fest several Mistle Thrushes were in song and even a couple of Song Thrushes. Nearby a Nuthatch called along with a `drumming` Great Spotted Woodpecker and singing Goldfinches, while the raucous calls of Ring-necked Parakeets rang out across the park.
The species tally ramped up significantly as we approached the lake where all the expected feral waterfowl were present including Pochards, Tufted Ducks and singles of Dabchick, Egyptian Goose, Shoveler and Mandarin. A sickly looking Grey Heron was being hassled by the crows, two Cormorants perched on a tree trunk and bird of the day, a Grey Wagtail, showed on the island.
In summary ended up with a combined total of 48 species from both parks with the winter thrushes and Grey Wagtail of particular note.

Monday, 18 March 2013

Mid-March Blues

Lade - 0730hrs - cold, overcast, se 2 - I always think that mid-March is one of the quietest periods in the birding calendar; the winter visitors have all but gone and spring migration is yet to get properly underway, and only the sea holds out the chance of something different.
And so it was with more of a sense of hope than expectation that I tramped round the local patch first thing this morning. Anyhow, several Skylarks were up and singing over the Desert and rough grassland behind the `mirrors`. A couple of Mipits flitted over and Barney flushed 3 Snipe from the damp patches along Mockmill Sewer, where Song Thrushes, Dunnocks and a Stonechat were also noted. Marsh Harriers were already on the wing, including a stunning adult male, and a Buzzard perched briefly on the wall `mirror` before being hassled by corvids. The open water held few ducks and even the Goldeneyes seem to have deserted the place. In the willow swamp several Water Rails and a Cetti`s Warbler called and a Little Egret (scarcer than Great Whites of late!) flew overhead.
As the wind was light we walked home via the beach where the usual Curlews and Oystercatchers were present. At the toilet block a fine adult Med Gull showed before being flushed by a crazy dog.
So, nothing out of the ordinary, but as one local keeps ribbing me, "that would`ve been a great days birding in Bedfordshire"!

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Bits & Pieces

Dungeness - 0630-0845hrs - Cold, sunny, se 3 - A bright start to the day that gradually clouded over with a showery afternoon. Joined TG & MB in the seawatch hide for the first hour and a bit where, in between chin-wagging, we noted a steady flow of Red-throated Divers, Gannets, Kittiwakes, auks, Common Scoters, 100 Brents, 10 Wigeon, 2 Little Gulls, 3 Curlews and 2 Fulmars moving up- Channel, plus a Med Gull going east. Spent another hour checking around the land for migrants without much success apart from 20 Pied Wagtails, 10 Mipits, 5 Skylarks and 2 Linnets, plus what I assume was the same brown Merlin that`s been knocking around all week by the fishing cabins.
ARC/New Diggings - A brief check from the causeway road revealed singles of Goldeneye, Smew and Great White Egret, plus all the usual Shoveler, Gadwall and Teal at the south end of ARC.
RSPB - 1400hrs  - A circuit of the bird reserve this afternoon yielded all the regular ducks on the pits including 6 Smew on ARC and 3 on Burrowes (I wonder why you never seem to see them on Dengemarsh?) and up to 10 Goldeneyes (the 3rd winter Glaucous Gull was also noted on Burrowes this morning). The hayfields were full of Wigeon, Teal and Shelduck, plus waders such as Ringed Plover, Redshank, Dunlin and Lapwings and a Raven over. From the ramp, Bittern and Marsh Harriers seen, Cetti`s Warbler and Bearded Tits heard. On the fields plenty of Curlews, Wigeon, corvids, feral geese and Stock Doves. Finished off over the road where the duck RCP was on Tower Pits. At Screen hide had a truncated conversation with a bloke that went something like this:
" Hello, much about?",  said I.
"Yep, got a Slavonian Grebe", said he.
"Nice one", said I, "where?"
"Over by the seagull", said he.
"Mmm", said I, "anywhere near the redhead Smew?"
Exit Seagull Man!
Oh well, it takes all sorts and he went home happy that he`d seen a Slav Grebe...

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Glaucous Gull

Dungeness - 1000hrs - Cold, cloudy, rain, S 5 - Another grim old day with rain showers, some of them heavy, rattling in on a scudding southerly and the sea alive with white horses. Its often the case down here that when you might think a strong southerly would result in loads of seabirds being blown onshore it rarely happens, as this morning proved with only a few Fulmars and Gannets close to shore. I`m sure stuff was out there in the rain and every so a few auks, divers or Kittiwakes would rear out of the troughs. A scout round the fishing cabins and associated detritus for passerines drew a blank but the wintering 3rd winter Glaucous Gull did put in an appearance along the foreshore.
RSPB - From the causeway road the usual flock of Shovelers on ARC plus 2 Goldeneyes, Smew and Great White Egret. The fields at Boulderwall were relatively birdless apart from a few Wigeon and Curlews; many birds having probably moved inland to escape the wind. The visitors centre was almost empty, and Burrowes devoid of birds, so ended up having a good old chin-wag with DF about scuba-diving... The wet and windy weather prevented any attempts at birding this afternoon.

Friday, 15 March 2013

More Brents

Dungeness - 0645hrs - Cold, cloudy, sw 4 - The wind swung round to a south-westerly vector for the first time in ages but it remained quite chilly. Together with MH we seawatched from the end of the concrete road until 0800hrs with the main spectacle being the up-Channel passage of at least 510 Brents. Plenty of Gannets were also on the move at around 200, plus a steady stream of auks, Red-throated Divers, Kittiwakes, Common Scoters, 8 Oystercatchers, 4 Med Gulls and 3 Fulmars, plus a single harbour porpoise, my first of the year. We also watched a Merlin chase a jinking Skylark half way across the Peninsula, without success, as far as we could see.
Lade - Slim pickings here with just the usual wildfowl present, most of which were huddled amongst the willows due to the strong wind, while a smart male Marsh Harrier was hunting low over the reedbed scattering the Teal.
ARC - 1530hrs - A blustery old wind made birding difficult with most wildfowl hugging the margins and reedbeds where 6 Smew and 4 Goldeneye from Hanson and 2 more Smew from Screen, where also 2 Great White Egrets and a Marsh Harrier over. Six Shelduck flew in and the duck Red-crested Pochard remained on Tower Pits.

Thursday, 14 March 2013


Dungeness - 0730hrs - Cold, frosty, sunny, n 2 - A bright sunny day for the most part until it clouded over by early afternoon. A wander along the shingle opposite Jarman`s revealed little apart from a singles of Skylark, Pied Wagtail and Mipit plus a perched Merlin.

                                                           Merlin, Dungeness

                                                              Spring lambs

Rock Pipit, probable Scandinavian race, littoralis - Only had a one minute view before it flew off but I  managed this cropped digi-pic and it did call, a single `wheest`. So, let`s see, its not a Water Pipit cos its way too dark and streaky and lacks a bold supercilium. This bird shows a reasonable super, particularly behind the eye, and a bluish-grey tone to the head, which nominate Rock tends not to. It also has brightish wing bars and a pinkish suffusion to the buffish  underparts (not that apparent from this pic). The legs are a reddish brown and the outer tail feathers appeared brownish. But, its not a `classic` summer plum Scando and I could be swayed back to petrosus Rock if anyone out there has an opinion?...

                                Black Redstart, chicken sheds

 Dengemarsh - 1000hrs - Mrs PT fancied a hike this morning so we parked up at ARC and walked Dengemarsh via the back track to Manor Farm and Springfield Bridge. The fields at Boulderwall were packed out with all the usual feral geese, Wigeon, Teal, Lapwings, Starlings, Stock Doves, gulls, corvids and Curlews. In amongst the throng were 20 Goldies, 2 Ruff, Redshank and Snipe. A Bittern flew out of the reedbed by the Corral and a Stonechat perched up. Around the reedbeds plenty of Reed Buntings and Cetti`s Warblers in song and `pinging` Beardies. The Marsh Harriers put on quite a show with the male `skydancing` out of the clouds; Peregrine, Sparrowhawk and Buzzard also noted at the back of Hookers. The track to Manor Farm was largely birdless apart from a few Wrens and Song Thrushes in the snowy ditches and displaying Lapwings. On the dung heap a probable Scandinavian Rock Pipit showed briefly before hurtling inland high and out of sight, but I did managed to get a few crummy digi-pics. Plenty of new born lambs in the fields (including one with its body wrapped in plastic!) and the chicken sheds held a Black Redstart. From Springfield Bridge the hayfields had 20 Teal, 12 Shovelers, 50 Lapwings, 4 Ringed Plovers and a Raven flew over. We had further views of Bitterns, Marsh Harriers, a flushed Water Rail and numerous singing Reed Buntings but nothing remotely spring-like. Back at Boulderwall there was plenty of activity around the feeders and a Great White Egret flew over from New Diggings.
A Jack Snipe had been reported earlier on the ponds near Hanson hide (SB).

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Bitterns & Barn Owl

Dungeness - 0730hrs - Cold, cloudy, nw 2 - With the weather calming down a bit decided to check out the point first thing. No sign of any migrants along the beach apart from 3 Skylarks and Mipit by the boats. Joined TG for an hour in the seawatch hide during which time we had a steady flow of Great Crested Grebes and Red-throated Divers moving into Lade Bay (by the time I left the diver count was over 200). Also a trickle of Gannets, several mixed flocks of Wigeon, Teal and Common Scoters, while a drake Eider moving west was a Marsh year tick  (142).
Lade - Little of any note here apart from a Great White Egret and 4 Goldeneyes.
Scotney - Another fairly birdless visit although 6 Pintail flying in were my first for a while.
RSPB - 1400hrs - Spent the afternoon with MH on the bird reserve dodging the heavy sleet showers, but seeing plenty of good birds. From the causeway road the usual flock of 200 Shovelers on ARC and a Great White Egret on New Diggings. At Boulderwall plenty of Tree Sparrows on the feeders.
At Dengemarsh we had cracking, protracted views of a Barn Owl hunting behind Hookers reedbed, plus flight views of Raven, Bittern and Marsh Harrier. On the farmland 6 Barnacle and 100 Greylag Geese and all the usual Curlews, Lapwings, Stock Doves and Wigeon. Nothing much on Burrowes, (viewed from the comfort of the visitors centre while a particularly heavy shower went through) but from the access road a Bittern showed well sitting out in the open for at least ten minutes before flying off towards the Corral. Over the road from Hanson 9 Smew and 5 Goldeneyes plus a chattering Cettis`s Warbler and a Green Woodpecker. Further close views of the drake Smew with his harem from a snowy Screen hide, but we couldn`t find the reported Avocet. Nonetheless a superb couple of hours birding with great views of Bittern and Barn Owl, two species which no matter how long you`ve been birding are always thrilling to watch.

Bittern, Dengemarsh

                                                                             Screen Hide

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

More about the Weather

Lade - 1000hrs - Cold, bright, ne 5 - Last night was one of the worst for extreme weather I can remember since moving down here to the coast. I truly thought the roof was coming off the cottage during the early hours as the blizzard reached its peak.Took a while to clear the snow drifts round the back door by daybreak, but couldnt be bothered to dig the car out, so reverted to Shanks`s pony today. As the day progressed the sun broke through and the wind eased slightly.
Spent a couple of hours over the pits checking around the margins where a number of Song Thrushes, Blackbirds and Redwings had taken refuge and were looking for food. Also noted 2 Water Rails, Cetti`s Warbler, Snipe and a Bittern. On the open water the usual diving ducks including 4 Goldeneyes, while the harriers were fighting the strong wind behind the `mirrors` as they hunted.
The wind had formed some pretty neat snowdrifts in places, particularly where it had stacked up behind the gorse bushes on the main track. The deepest one I could find was about four feet.

                                Snowdrifts, Lade

Monday, 11 March 2013

Winter Returns

Dungeness - 0730hrs - Very cold, overcast, snow showers, ne 7 - Ordinarily I wouldn't rush to go out on such a foul morning but had to go to NR at 0700hrs so decided to have a quick look at the sea on the way round. And boy was it a quick look! Only lasted 30 minutes in the hide and whilst fumbling with the padlock on the seawatch hide I had a Ranulph Fiennes moment as the gloves came off...Visibility wasn't that great either, what with the snow flurries. Apart from the usual auks, gulls and grebes the only movement as such was a party of 15 Brents and 2 each of Dunlin and Common Scoter east, plus Fulmar and Med Gull going the other way. In the grass at the base of the power station wall 2 Mipits and singles of Pied Wagtail and Black Redstart were attempting to find food and shelter from the blasting easterly tempest.
It never ceases to amaze me how some people just don't think things through. Today is wheelie bin collection day and you would have thought with a raging gale force wind scouring the peninsula (not an unprecedented weather phenomenon down here) that the locals would`ve taken the relevant precautions. But no, as I drove off the estate, dodging the toppled plastic monoliths, all manner of rubbish was strewn across the road and blowing over the shingle. The regular litter-pickers do a fantastic job down here (mostly clearing up after the beach fisherman) and could well do without more unnecessary rubbish to deal with.

Lade - Hard work here with nearly all the ducks clustered in the calmer waters around the willows; even the Goldeneyes had taken refuge. The only other noteworthy was a Great White Egret in the same area; and what with PB reporting 8 at ARC, that makes at least 9 birds currently in the area.
The poor weather dominated proceedings, so spent most of the day camped in front of the fire with the laptop and set about some long overdue articles.
Slogged across the snowfields this afternoon (more to give the mutt a walk than anything else) to have another look at the pits, and got caught in a blizzard on the way back! Barney doesn't seem to be bothered by the cold, gambolling about in the snow and having a great time

Sunday, 10 March 2013

An Avocet

Lade - 0730hrs - cold, overcast, ne 3 - A truncated days birding today due to a family gathering in Brighton. However, an hour wandering around counting wildfowl delivered all the usual ducks, plus hunting harriers and a Ringed Plover over and an extraordinary encounter with an Avocet (141st Marsh year tick). March is when Avocets move north to breed from their wintering grounds in Iberia and are regularly seen on passage off Dungeness from now into April; but on the pits they are scarce-ish in spring, mainly due to the high water levels ensuring a lack of suitable shallows. Anyhow, I heard the distinctive, `klute-klute` call of an Avocet and as the bird flew around the lake looking for somewhere to land it suddenly plonked down on the water amongst the Coots! After a few seconds with the Coots off it flew again, calling, and joined the roosting Black-headed Gulls floating around on the middle of the lake, where it stayed until I left site. Birding never ceases to surprise me.
NB: Whilst off the Marsh today a steady stream of texts came through telling of the 1st Sand Martin and White Wagtail of the year on the bird reserve, plus the reappearance of the two Penduline Tits on Dengemarsh.

Saturday, 9 March 2013

Brent Geese

Lade - Mild, misty, nw 2 - 0730hrs -  Following on from yesterdays drenching the morning dawned grey and murky but at least it was dry. The Marsh Harriers certainly appreciated a break in the weather as they kept the Lapwing flocks on the move behind the `mirrors`; one wayward harrier ventured over the willow swamp by the camp and immediately incurred the wrath of the local Herring Gulls.
A light movement of Skylarks, Mipits and grounded winter thrushes was noteworthy, while Chiffchaff and Cetti`s Warbler were both in song. On the water 30 Wigeon dropped in and 5 Goldeneyes remained on north pit.
Dungeness - 0930hrs - In company with MH we searched the shingle for any early migrants opposite Jarman`s without success although a few more Skylarks and Mipits noted. A 30 minute seawatch from the concrete road yielded over 200 Brent Geese on the move in several large groups, plus plenty of Red-throated Divers, Great Crested Grebes and auks coming and going around the Point. We saw another large flock of Brents whilst driving out of the Obs road, several hundred strong, and well over a thousand were logged through during the morning. The dry weather had brought forth bevies of weekend birders who`d reported singing Black Reds and Chiffs around the power station, passage Little Gulls and Velvet Scoters on the sea and the wintering Glaucous Gull at the boats.
RSPB - The fields at Boulderwall were full of Curlews, Lapwings, Wigeon, Stock Doves and the like, plus 2 Barnacle Geese, Great White Egret, Water Rail, Green Woodpecker and Shelduck. At Hookers ramp we had two flight views of Bittern and up to 4 Marsh Harriers engaging in some nuptial vocalising, plus plenty of singing Reed Buntings, Cetti`s Warblers and Dabchicks.
From Dengemarsh hide more of the same, plus `pinging` Beardies.
Over the road on ARC 12 Smews and 8 Goldeneyes amongst the diving ducks, 2 Little Egrets and singing Chiffchaff, Goldcrest and Long-tailed Tit from the Willow Trail. The RCP was again reported from Tower Pits. Finished the morning in some style with 3 Ravens `cronking` close overhead, which had me fumbling for the camera, much to the amusement of MH...
Dungeness - 1530hrs - A last look from the seawatch hide delivered little more than a load of Great Crested Grebes on the sea. Along the power station wall a nice little selection of migrants included 2 Pied Wagtails, 2 Mipits and singles of Black Redstart, Chiffchaff and Reed Bunting.
Finished the day back at Boulderwall checking out reports of a Spoonbill, but all that could be found was a Great White Egret with another on New Diggings and a Little Egret on ARC.

                                Meadow Pipit, Dungeness

Friday, 8 March 2013

Singing Chiffchaff & Firecrest

Dungeness - 0730hrs - Dull, foggy, mild, drizzle, ne 2 - The murky conditions continued this morning along with drizzle turning to steady rain by mid-day. Decided to walk the shingle between the lifeboat station and the lighthouse where all we could muster up were 3 Snipes, 2 Skylarks, 2 Pied Wagtails and a Mipit. From the fishing boats visibility was severely limited but a flock of 8 Gannets came in close to shore to fish. On the sea the usual Great Crested Grebes and auks plus a couple of Red-throated Divers, and Kittiwakes. The 3rd winter Glaucous Gull also put in a brief appearance.
Lade - Little of note here in the rain apart from the expected wildfowl and a miserable looking Kestrel perched on a fence post.
Scotney - Another blank canvas, unless you like loads of Herring Gulls... plus a few Lapwings, Wigeons and Greylags.
ARC - Plenty of passerine activity here with singing Wrens and Reed Buntings and 3 Cetti`s Warblers much in evidence, plus `chupping` Tree Sparrows around the car park. Down at the Willow Trail all was quiet on the first look but half an hour later coming out of Hanson the flock came through with 2 each of Chiffchaff and Goldcrest in song plus, to my amazement, a singing Firecrest! This burst of song lasted all of five minutes before the flock moved off. Also noted Long-tailed, Great and Blue Tits, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Robin and calling Water Rail.
From the hide a good selection of wildfowl including 16 Goldeneyes and 8 Smews (including one drake) plus Great White Egret and a Marsh Harrier over.
Red-crested Pochards were reported from the Discovery Pool and Tower Pits (BH).
The afternoon was a washout with heavy rain setting in and poor light.

Thursday, 7 March 2013

More Med Gulls

Lade - 0900hrs - Cloudy, rain, misty, ene 1 - A mild, murky sort of a day with drizzle throughout and by afternoon a misty shroud had enveloped the peninsula and bay. Little of note on the pits apart from the regulation 5 Goldeneyes and several pairs of displaying Great Crested Grebes. In desperation we slogged out across the shingle and worked our way back along Mockmill Sewer where Barney flushed a couple of Snipe and a Water Rail. Angling back across the desert towards Kerton Road pit a Brown Hare broke cover and at least 3 Skylarks were in full song, while a pair of Ringed Plovers flew over calling.
Black-headed Gulls bred successfully on Kerton pit last year and already a dozen or more birds were  back and acting territorially, along with a single Med Gull. On the walk back home another `yowing` Med Gull flew over and I guess from now on they will be regularly encountered throughout the spring across Dungeness.
Checked out Littlestone for the Snow Bunting, but negative news.
Dungeness - 1430hrs - I thought this may have been a bad idea and so it proved to be as you could just about see the cardinal buoy from the seawatch hide. However, despite the poor viz the flat calm sea held a raft of Great Crested Grebes and auks, several Red-throated Divers and a fly-by Med Gull. The land was a virtual birdless wasteland; still, not long now `til the first Wheatears, Black Reds, Firecrests etc...
ARC/New Diggings  - The usual wildfowl here including 6 Smew on ARC and a Great White Egret at the Boulderwall end of ND. Called in the Kerton Road Café on the way back where several species of common early moths came to light last night, which made me think about digging out my trap, until I looked at the forecast for the next week and what looks like a return to winter. Maybe I`ll hang on for a while...

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Sandwich Terns & Med Gulls

Dungeness - 0630-0800hrs - Mild, cloudy, se 1 - A 90 minute seawatch from the concrete road, in the company of MH, delivered a couple of Marsh year ticks in the form of Sandwich Tern (139) and Med Gull (140) with the highlight being the number of divers. Most movement was in the first hour. All birds counted going east as follows: Red-throated Diver 235, Gannet 82, auks 255, Fulmar 6, Sandwich Tern 7, Med Gull 3, Kittiwake 23, Oystercatcher 24, Curlew 5, Shelduck 2 and Common Scoter 82. A Common Seal noted offshore.
Lade - Fairly quiet here although a smart adult Med Gull amongst the Black-heads on north pit was good to see. Across both pits 5 Goldeneye and a Smew amongst the diving ducks. Every year a pair of Oystercatchers nest on the scaffold island on south pit and today was the first time I`ve seen them this season, perched on the scaffold plank cosying up to one another.

                                Oystercatchers, Lade

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Bye, bye, Bewick`s

Lade - 0800hrs - cool, sunny, se 2 - A cool, bright start but by mid-morning warm sunshine and most spring-like. Couldn`t find the Merganser on south pit but it may well have been lurking in its favourite channel by the dish `mirrors`. Several Goldeneyes on the water, 2 Marsh Harriers over the back and singing Skylark and Reed Bunting. Just as we were about to leave the unmistakable trumpeting sound of Bewick`s Swans could be heard flying towards the pit. Eventually, a tight flock of 22 came into view and I followed them as they disappeared high out over Lade Bay, heading east, a truly magical birding experience.

22 Bewick`s Swans, Lade       

Low Weald - Headed up onto the hills this morning in the company of MH. En-route we stopped to scan 3 Common Buzzards at Old Romney with several others seen above the woods. At Park Wood the usual range of tits including, Long-tailed, plus Nuthatch, Mistle Thrush and calling Treecreeper, Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers. Back at the car park we were amazed to see a Marsh Tit feeding low down on a burdock plant only 5 yards away! Elsewhere around Woodchurch several flocks of Fieldfares and more Nuthatches and tits.
ARC - On the way back we briefly called in at Hanson hide where a Penduline Tit had been seen and photographed earlier by PB. Typically it had not been seen for while and to the best of my knowledge was not seen again during the afternoon.
1530hrs - Round two for the tit drew another blank but two Bitterns in front of Screen hide provided ample compensation. Also, 14 Smew (including 2 drakes), 8 Goldeneyes, 2 Little Egrets and a Great White Egret. On the walk back to the car park the wintering Red-crested Pochard emerged from a reedbed on Tower Pits, the first time I`ve seen it for a month or so.

                                Red-crested Pochard, Tower Pits

                                Bittern, ARC

Monday, 4 March 2013

Green Sandpiper

Lade  - 0900hrs - cold, dry, sunny, e 3 - Superb sunny day but still a chill wind coming in off the sea. Green Sandpipers are common enough down here on autumn passage but thinly spread across the Marsh during the winter months. So far this year I`ve seen 3 at Scotney and singles birds at Warehorne bridge, Cheyne Court, Dengemarsh Gully, Cooks Pool and today flying over Lade south calling. The drake Merganser was showing well on south pit along with 3 Goldeneyes, while there were 4 more on north pit plus a redhead Smew. At least 3 Marsh Harriers were hunting the farmland behind the `mirrors` while scores of black crows were thermalling off the 200 foot wall `mirror`. Several Water Rails heard squealling in the willow swamp. On the walk back across the storm beaches the local Herring Gulls were bullying a Grey Heron which they eventually forced down on to the shingle. The poor old heron eventually escaped but not before losing a few feathers in the process!
1600hrs - An evening visit to look for owls on the rough grassland behind south pit delivered a distant Barn Owl hunting the farmland. Plenty of Curlews, Lapwings, corvids and Stock Doves noted, also Skylark, Mipit, Reed Bunting and Stonechat, plus 4 Marsh Harriers heading to roost and a Bittern flying over south pit.

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Tree Sparrows

Lade - 0830hrs - cold, overcast, sunny later, ne 2 - A cold grey start but around noon the big yellow thing put in a long overdue appearance, and out of the wind it even felt warm. On south pit the Merganser was still present along with several Goldeneyes and a flyover Great White Egret.
Dungeness - Checked out the shingle beach between the lifeboat station and the fishing boats just in case an early Wheatear had dropped in... From the shelter of the boats joined DW and PB for a quick look at the sea. The usual auks, Great Crested Grebes, Red-throated Divers, Cormorants coming and going along with lesser numbers of Gannets and Kittiwakes, plus 8 Common Scoters and a white-winged Guillemot.
Boulderwall  - Checked out the fields at Boulderwall where hundreds of Lapwings, Goldies, Stock Doves, Starlings and Wigeon amongst a motley collection of feral geese including a few Barnacles and a lone Snow/Emperor Goose. Also noted a couple of Marsh Harriers, 3 Snipe, Great White Egret, Green Sandpiper and 3 calling Cetti`s Warblers.
Tree Sparrows - RSPB have been trapping and ringing Tree Sparrows again today with a total of 33 birds now marked. Each bird has a silver BTO ring on the left leg and a blue colour ring on the right leg stamped with two individual white letters. The project is an attempt to try and find out where they go on their wanderings, so if you do encounter a Tree Sparrow with the above markings please let the Society know.

                                Tree Sparrows, Boulderwall

Saturday, 2 March 2013

Lade & Dengemarsh

Lade - 0900hrs - cold, overcast, dry, ne 2 - Lighter winds today so didn`t feel as cold as of late. Walking across the storm beaches Snipe and Song Thrush flushed from cover. On south pit the Red-breasted Merganser showed well close to the bank with 3 Goldeneyes further out and five more on north pit. From the causeway track Water Rail and Bittern flushed plus several more rails calling from the reed swamp. Two Marsh Harriers and a singing Skylark over the farmland and a Green Woodpecker on the wall `mirror`.

                                          Red-breasted Merganser, Lade
Dengemarsh - 1500hrs - A wander around the hayfields from Springfield Bridge delivered hundreds of Lapwing, Wigeon and Teal on the wet meadows plus 4 Shelducks, 20 Dunlins, 6 Redshanks, 4 Golden Plovers and a Black-tailed Godwit my first of the year and 137th species on the Marsh this year. Also noted 3 Marsh Harriers, 5 Bearded Tits, 2 Dabchicks and a Raven.