Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Grebes, Lesser Whitethroats & Kite

Dungeness - cool, sunny, ne 3 - 0630hrs - Oh dear, the last day in April and seabirds should be flooding through, but this morning was about as bad as it gets; hopefully it will pick up a bit for the expected influx of Bank Holiday weekend birders. A few Gannets, Common and Sandwich Terns were fishing offshore along with half a dozen porpoises, while an hour long vigil from the hide produced 14 Common Scoters, 2 Red-throated Divers, 1 Arctic Skua and a Fulmar up-Channel, plus a Hobby and 4 Crows inbound. A quick scout round the bushes yielded nothing so it was off to the local patch to try and find some birds.
Lade - There seemed to have been an overnight arrival of Lesser Whitethroats as at least 4 were `rattling` away around the site, along with 15 Common Whitethroats, 6 Sedge Warblers, 2 Cetti`s and c20 Reed Warblers. From the causeway had cracking views of Cuckoo, 2 Marsh Harriers and a Hobby behind the `mirrors`, while all 3 hirundines were twittering away as they hawked insects over the willow swamp; despite the cool temperatures there seemed to be loads of flying insects on the wing, particularly over the ponds. Also noted 6 Med Gulls, 2 Green Woodpeckers and a Kestrel.
Lade pits is a great site for grebes with at least 15 pairs of Great Crested and around 10 pairs of Dabchicks currently breeding and this morning they were joined by a gorgeous Black-necked Grebe on north pit in full summer plum, without doubt the bird of the day.
Back home I `emptied` another barren moth trap. Without wishing to harp on about the effect the cool spring has had on moth numbers, one local mo`ther who has been trapping down here for 30 years or more said to me this morning, "that its the worst spring for moths by a country mile". We can only hope it improves as the temperature steadily rises towards the weekend.

                                Black-necked Grebe, Lade

New Romney Sewage Works - A flock of around 50 hirundines over the workings comprised mainly House Martins. Another singing Lesser Whitethroat heard, plus Mistle Thrush, Blackcap and Chiffchaff along the railway line scrub, while 5 Yellow Wagtails briefly alighted in a potato field.
Dengemarsh - 1400hrs - A circuit of Dengemarsh with Mrs PT this afternoon commenced at Springfield Bridge and the hayfields where the wader tally was 12 Ringed Plovers, 6 Lapwings, 4 Oystercatchers, 2 Redshanks, 2 Dunlin and a Whimbrel. The Ravens flew over several times `cronking` loudly, several Marsh Harriers were active and the Bittern `boomed` regularly. There was plenty of warbler activity in the scrub and gorse including 2 Lesser Whitethroats, while the smell from the gorse flower in the bright sunshine was intoxicating. As we approached the Corral a text from OL told of a Red Kite (178) on the peninsula of which we had distant views as it sailed over ARC towards the water tower and probably over the local patch at Lade. Also noted several Yellow Wagtails, Green Woodpecker and Common Buzzard, plus 2 hares and a grass snake.


                               New born lamb, Dengemarsh

Monday, 29 April 2013

Scoters & skuas

Dungeness - 0630hrs - cool, sunny, w 3 - Back to proper birding this morning after a couple of days inland. A 90 minute seawatch from the hide delivered a steady up-Channel passage of seabirds including 155 Common Scoters, 10 Arctic Terns (175), 4 Eiders, 2 Arctic Skuas, 1 Bonxie, 2 Red-throated Divers and 1 Black-throated Diver, plus scores of Gannets, Common and Sandwich Terns milling to and fro feeding. Heading west were 4 Fulmars and a cracking close drake Velvet Scoter (176), my first of the year.
On the land 2 singing Black Redstarts on the power station, several Chiffchaffs in the lighthouse garden and a Firecrest by West Beach.
Scotney - Eventually located the Long-tailed Duck (177) close to shore at the Scotney farm end of the main pit; although when I returned later in the morning for a better look I couldn`t find it. Apparently at the weekend it spent a fair bit of time sat on the spit at the eastern end.
ARC - All the expected warblers were singing between the car park and around Hanson hide, including a Willow Warbler. Nothing much on the water, or at the southern end from the causeway road.
Lade - 1830hrs - A stroll over the pits this evening delivered little apart from a few Med Gulls, 2 Shelducks and a Sparrowhawk.

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Chiltern Hills

Speen, Bucks - sunshine and showers, cool - Spent the weekend in the Chilterns with friends during which time a couple of forays out delivered the expected Red Kites and Common Buzzards floating over the wooded hillsides and valleys. Singing Yellowhammers were noted in two places during a four mile walk through farmland while a single Skylark sang above a barley field, but otherwise there were few passerines about and not a single Linnet or Whitethroat.
Things were a little better in the woodlands where Green Woodpecker, Nuthatch, Blackcap and Chiffchaff were all vocalising; while one mature beech wood, with a wide dappled clearing, delivered the surprise of the weekend in the form of a singing Wood Warbler, a species that not that long ago was widely, albeit thinly, distributed across the Chilterns. Two roe deer were also logged grazing on the woodland edge and the first bluebells were in bloom.

Friday, 26 April 2013

Waders, Whinchat & Brindled Beauty

Dungeness - 0615hrs - overcast, drizzle, cool, nw 2 - Despite the wind swinging round to a northerly vector I was determined to do a seawatch this morning as, after all, it is the end of April and shouldn't there be waders, skuas and terns on the move? Of course there should, but just not yet...(me thinks they`re going up the Bristol Channel, at least the terns and godwits as loads have been reported in the Midlands) Lasted 30 minutes before boredom set in with just 2 Gannets and a Fulmar noted. Barney agreed, so we set off for the bushes in a fine drizzle. Expectations rose when we bumped into a birder who`d heard via twitter that there`d been a "big fall at Portland", well that's that then, must be birds out there somewhere; after all, it was a clear night with rain at daybreak and a low cloud base, perfect for a mass drop-in at Dunge, surely..
Anyhow, a Black Redstart was singing from the power station with another in the lighthouse garden along with several skulking Chiff/Willows, Blackcap and Whitethroat. A few more Whitethroats and Chiffs en-route to the moat where a Redpoll zoomed over and what looked like the back end of a Firecrest disappeared into a bush near Lloyd's. Managed to miss a Whinchat in the moat but decided to move inland on the premise that nothing much more was going to emerge until the rain stopped.
ARC - A quick look at the south end from the causeway road delivered a decent clutch of waders with 3 Blackwits, 2 Whimbrels, 2 Oystercatchers and the moulting-into-summer-plum Spotted Redshank; very nice, just a shame there isn`t a bit more of this type of habitat elsewhere around the peninsula...
Lade - Couldn`t find yesterdays Ring-necked Duck, but it could still be lurking in a reed bed somewhere on site. Anyhow, there were plenty of birds about with a number of Willow Warblers, Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps in the willow scrub, plus Cetti`s, Sedge and Reed Warblers all going for it in the swamp and Whitethroats in the gorse. Spent a bit of time checking out a large flock of Swallows hawking insects over north pit, along with several Sand Martins and 10 Swifts. Two Whimbrels flew over calling, a Yellow Wag likewise, plus while 4 Med Gulls and 2 Shelducks on the water.
On the walk back a cursory scan of the fence line beside the gorse scrub revealed the bird of the morning, a cracking male Whinchat (173), a migrant that has declined to the extent that it can be easily missed during the spring.
Back home I checked the moth trap which had a single insect, but it was new for the garden, a Brindled Beauty! Whoopee, doo, I was so flummoxed at actually catching a moth I had to ask DB to confirm the id, which she kindly did, while also commenting on how pale it appeared.
Littlestone - Plenty of shorebirds here including an increase in Barwits (at long last) to about 100, many in summer plum and one which allowed a close approach. Ringed Plover, Knot, Sanderling, Dunlin, Redshank, Curlew and Oyc also noted.

                                Bar-tailed Godwit, Littlestone-on-Sea

                                Brindled Beauty, Lade - new for the garden trap

ARC - 1500hrs - An afternoon return to the pits in heavy hail showers delivered hundreds of hirundines (mostly House Martins), 3 Great White and 2 Little Egrets and a year tick Lesser Whitethroat (174). More overhead waders included 2 Greenshanks, 4 Whimbrels and 10 Barwits.

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Ring-necked Duck, Lade

Lade - 0730hrs - mild, foggy, sw 1 - Yet again this morning we awoke to a shroud of sea mist smothering the peninsula, which prevent an early seawatch at the point. However, as the saying goes every cloud has a silver lining and over the local patch a cracking drake Ring-necked duck loomed out of the swirling mist on south pit and onto the Marsh year list (171); it was also a personal site tick. Although lurking amongst a group of Tufted Ducks the distinctive head shape, white vertical body slot and bill stripes were immediately apparent. Texted out the news and the first bird hounds were on site in 15 minutes, including PB our newest resident Marsh birder.
I returned a couple of hours later once the fog had lifted and the Ring-necked was just about as far away as it could be feeding beside a distant reedbed with Pochards. With warm sunshine bouncing off the shingle Marsh Harrier, Sparrowhawk and Common Buzzard were all up and soaring behind the `mirrors`. Also noted 6 Whimbrel and a Greenshank over, Yellow Wagtail, Cuckoo and the ever present Med Gulls calling overhead.
A couple of afternoon visits failed to relocate the duck, although it could have retreated into the reeds. Common Sandpiper and Little Gull on south pit, plus at least 5 grass snakes and loads of marsh frogs active on the walk to the swing-bridge provided ample compensation.

         Ring-necked Duck, Lade - a dreadful record shot in the early morning gloom

ARC - Finally caught up with Spotted Redshank (172) for the year from the causeway road working its way in and out of the willow scrub. Also here 2 Little Egrets and a Whimbrel. Also on the bird reserve today a Wood Sandpiper on the Dengemarsh flood (PB).

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Foggy Dungeness

Dungeness - 0730hrs - cool, overcast, thick fog, sw 3 - It is often said that Dungeness has its `own` weather system and today was one such instance with a dense sea mist enveloping the peninsula for much of the morning, along with a brisk south-westerly which should`ve cleared the murk but didn`t. Needless to say a seawatch was out of the question and after a brief circuit of the bushes I hardly saw a bird; any migrants that had dropped in overnight were staying firmly put.
ARC - There was no sign of yesterdays Spotted Red at the south end from the causeway road but while chatting to BP in the car park we were surprised to see a Short-eared Owl (170) flying around in the mist; I later saw it again going out over the desert from the pines. Despite the poor weather conditions Reed, Sedge and Cetti`s Warblers and Whitethroat all in song and a Great White Egret from Screen hide.
Dengemarsh - 1500hrs - Spent a couple of hours wandering around Dengemarsh checking hirundines (a Red-rumped Swallow had been seen earlier by SB) of which there were few and far between and mainly House Martins. However, nice views of Bearded Tits and Marsh Harriers at  Hookers, 10 Snipe over Cook`s pool, Sparrowhawk, Yellow Wagtail, Green Woodpecker and all the usual breeding warblers.

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

St George`s Day - Cuckoo

Lade - 0800hrs - warm, dry, sunny, sw 2 -  A stunning morning with blue skies and a light breeze, until a bank of fog briefly rolled in! Walked out to Mockmill Sewer where the first Cuckoo of the year (169) was good to see on its traditional arrival date of St George`s Day. Plenty of Sedge Warblers, Whitethroats, Linnets and Reed Buntings in song, plus 2 Snipe flushed by Barney. At the back of the airport 5 Whimbrels on the deck and a Greenshank over calling, while 8 Med Gulls loafed on south pit. The sun returned as we checked out the ponds and another Greenshank passed overhead.
As for moths, well there just haven`t been any (at least not in my trap) with another negative `catch` from last night. This is my 5th year of trapping and by far the worse start so far, although most other local moth`ers are also having poor catches as a result of the lousy early spring weather.
ps: News from around the bird reserve today included Common Redstart, Pied Flycatcher and Spotted Redshank.

                                Grass Snake, Lade ponds

                                Mockmill Sewer

Peacock, Lade ponds

Monday, 22 April 2013

First Hobby

Lade -0900hrs - warm, dry, sunny, sw 3 - Another pleasant spring morning in the sunshine but little viz mig on the go apart from several Yellow Wagtails and Whimbrels over calling. Most of the phylloscs and Blackcaps seem to have shipped out from the willows overnight, although a few more Reed Warblers were chugging away in the reed beds. Two Marsh Harriers and a Kestrel noted behind the `mirrors` and a Green Woodpecker basking on the wall, plus two grass snakes by the ponds. The now usual cacophony of Black-headed and Med Gulls flew over south pit along with a steady flow of Curlews coming off the bay to roost.
Galloways - A circuit of the range road produced half a dozen Yellow Wagtails and 2 Whimbrels, Whitethroats, Linnets and Sedge Warblers.
RSPB - Another steady day on the bird reserve although a Hobby at Boulderwall was new for the Marsh year list (168). A few Yellow Wagtails passed over, a Great White Egret was on New Excavations and there were plenty of Sedge Warblers and Whitethroats singing between Christmas Dell and Dengemarsh. A Spotted Redshank was at the southern end of ARC, but was gone by midday, while Garganey, Common Redstart and Blue-headed Wagtail were all noted.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Skylarks, and long-lost memories

Lade - 0800hrs - mild, sunny, ne 2, sw 3 later - A stunning spring morning with warm sunshine and light airs, ideal for birding Kerton Road Pit, particularly as it is closed on Sundays. Checked the islands at the north end where the Black-headed Gull colony had swollen to about 50 pairs. They were making a right old racket courting and flying around along with 12 Mediterranean Gulls (no wonder I`m seeing them regularly over the cottage) who certainly looked as though they were interested in settling down to nest. On the open water a pair of Garganey was a surprise, plus 6 Teal, 4 Shelducks, 2 Shovelers and a few Pochards. In the quarry bottom around the workings 2 pairs of Little Ringed Plovers and a pair of Ringed Plovers noted along with 5 Yellow Wagtails, Kestrel and a pair of Stock Doves, while at least 10 Oystercatchers and 2 Lapwings present around the pit margins and islands.
Best of all though was at least a dozen Skylarks singing over a relatively small area of rough undisturbed grassland, yet to worked by the diggers. It was a real treat to lay down and bask on an east facing bank and enjoy their uplifting song, which for some reason reminded me of a yarn my old grandad regaled me with when I was a nipper. In the early 1900`s, before our farmland was soaked with chemicals, he would cycle out from Shepherds Bush in London to work in the market garden fields of the Thames Valley (now largely covered in urban sprawl and Heathrow airport). As a kid he planted spuds by hand and hoed the weeds while the air space above was full of lark song. A few years on when suffering the horrors of trench warfare, the sweet song of the Skylark in the Flanders skies would remind him of those halcyon days in the Middlesex countryside.
Funny how such a thing as singing Skylarks can trigger long-lost memories. Anyhow, I digress.

                                Kerton Road Pit gullery

RSPB - An afternoon visit to the bird reserve yielded very little apart from the common warblers, a few hirundines, Yellow Wagtails and a Great White Egret. Lesser Whitethroat, Hobby and Cuckoo had all been reported today, while there was no further sign of yesterdays Penduline Tit.
Lade - An evening stroll over the storm beaches and a Greenshank flying over calling was new for the Marsh year list (167). Two Siskins overhead earlier in the afternoon.

Saturday, 20 April 2013

First Common Sandpiper

Dungeness - 0630hrs - cold, sunny, ne 4 - Up early for a seawatch that didn't really happen apart from a few divers, Gannets and terns, although AJG had a Red-necked Grebe just before I arrived. We wandered down to the Patch  just in case yesterdays Iceland Gull had tarried, but no joy; later on a flock of 30 Arctic Terns was reported here.
Checked the scrub opposite Jarman`s where a decent number of birds noted in the bright sunshine including 10 Wheatears, 3 Black Redstarts, 10 Linnets, 4 Skylarks, 2 Mipits and singles of Blackcap, Stock Dove and a Merlin.
Lade - A mixed flock of hirundines hawking insects over the willows comprised mainly Sand Martins, while in the bushes Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff and Blackcap noted. Along the main track by south pit at least 6 singing Linnets and 2 Whitethroats, plus Reed and Sedge Warblers in the main reedbed. On south pit a Common Sandpiper (166) over the water on bowed wings was a Marsh year tick and 4 Med Gulls moved over. First grass snake of the year seen basking in the sun by the ponds.

                                Linnet, Lade

ARC/Tower Pits - A couple of visits today revealed a few common migrants similar to Lade, plus 2 Little Egrets and a Yellow Wagtail over. The main news here was the sighting of an adult male Penduline Tit between Screen hide and the willow scrub around the car park.

Friday, 19 April 2013

Red-throated Diver

Lade - 0900hrs - warm, cloudy, nw 2 - Mercifully the strong winds of yesterday abated to leave a pleasant if overcast sort of a day, which even felt muggy by mid-afternoon. First off an hour long scan from the aerial mound to check for `the swift` over the caravan park, of which there was no sign. However, during the course of the stake out 8 Med Gulls, 2 Marsh Harriers and a Buzzard over plus a steady trickle of Swallows pressing northwards. Around the willow swamp plenty of migrants in song including Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Whitethroat, Sedge and Reed Warbler; also singing, Cetti`s, Reed Buntings, Great Tits, Linnets and Greenfinches.
The lakes were thinly populated with the usual grebes, gulls and common wildfowl, while at the southern end of south pit I noticed a diver fly in from the bay and plonk down heavily on the water. On closer inspection it proved to be a badly oiled Red-throated Diver, probably with the sticky gunk that has been affecting other seabirds along the Channel coastline of late.

                                Yellow Wagtail, Burrowes

                                Red-throated Diver, Lade

Littlestone - 1200hrs - Spent an hour checking the shorebirds (in between shell-hunting with a 2 year old) and there was plenty to see. Nine species in all with several Bar-wits coming into summer plum and 2 pairs of Ringed Plovers looking for somewhere to nest (some hope along here). The best of the rest amounted to 30 Knot, 10 Turnstone, 8 Redshanks and hundreds of Curlews, Oycs, Sanderling and Dunlins; the only one `missing` was Grey Plover.
Burrowes - 1500hrs - From Dennis`s hide a Great White Egret and a drake Garganey. Further along the pit, near Makepeace hide, a flock of wagtails comprised 12 Yellows, 1 Channel type, 2 Pieds and a White, plus several Mipits and Reed Buntings.
Later in the afternoon DW found a 1st summer type Iceland Gull on Burrowes amongst the high tide roosting gulls.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Alpine Swift - at Lade!

Lade - 0900hrs - mild, sunny, sw 6 - Having spent the early shift entertaining our 2 year old grandson (including `emptying` another barren moth trap) it was with some trepidation that I trudged out across the storm beaches with Barney and into the buffeting south-westerly wind to do a round of the local patch. First stop the gorse at the south end to search for yesterdays Rouzel, but without success. A Whitethroat broke cover further along the track, plus 6 Linnets and a couple of Blackbirds. On the open water there wasn't a bird to be seen due to the near gale force winds, although a steady movement of calling Med Gulls moved over Lade and down the coastline throughout the morning. It was turgid stuff working along the willow scrub; a Chiffchaff here and a Sedge Warbler there, 2 calling Cetti`s, a trilling Dabchick and 2 Marsh Harriers over the reedbed. North pit was devoid of wildfowl apart from a few diving ducks and grebes.
As we retraced our tracks back across the causeway I could scarcely believe my eyes as 30 feet above me was an Alpine Swift! Initially all I saw was a large grey-brown swift, until it `rolled` revealing a white belly and throat patch; on closer inspection it was much larger and with a more ponderous flight action than an adjacent Swift. Having confirmed the id next job was to get the news out and its wasn't long before the local bird hounds began to arrive, by which time it had settled into a pattern of feeding over the adjacent caravan park and the ponds, along with 3 Common Swifts and at times all 3 species of hirundines. I managed a few record shots with my cheapo camera but for the real deal check out Plodding Birders blog or the DBO website
1500hrs - Couldn`t resist seconds on the swift which performed a real treat all afternoon over the caravan park and from the east side of Lade pits adjacent to the willows, and was still present when I left site just after 1700hrs. Even on such a windy day the ponds between the pits and the camp bund are a sun trap and as a result thousands of emerging insects were probably wafted up into the airspace over the camp which kept the swifts and hirundines interested; indeed, you could see their swollen crops bulging with food.
Incredibly DW called to say he and GH had seen a Serin on the grass amongst the caravans near the site entrance. By the time I arrived we heard the distinctive trilling call and I watched a tiny, bouncy finch fly away which may well have been the bird.
That makes 3 more Marsh year ticks today bringing the revised total to 165 species.
Its every patch workers dream to find such a gem as an Alpine Swift (even if it was most likely yesterdays bird seen briefly over the reserve) which I guess is what drives us on, as you just never know....

                                Alpine Swift, Lade Gravel Pits

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Alpine Swift

Lade - 0700hrs - cool, damp start, warm and sunny later, sw 2 - A wander over the pits before doing breakfasts revealed the first Common Whitethroat of the year on the local patch, plus a scattering of Chiffchaffs, Goldcrests, Willow Warblers and 5 Swallows. Two Whimbrels flew over and at least 10 Med Gulls passed over Littlestone late morning.
Spent most of the afternoon off the Marsh so missed out on the first rarity of the year (although by the sound of things so did most of the locals), an Alpine Swift found by SB. It was first seen over Boulderwall, then Dengemarsh before returning to Boulderwall and away. Also around the bird reserve today were the first Cuckoo (BP) and Greenshank (PB), 3 Garganey and Common Swift, while a Ring Ouzel was reported this afternoon at the south end of Lade Pits (OL).

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Lydd Heronry

Lade - 0630hrs - cool, cloudy, drizzle, sw 4 - Another hopeless moth catch with just a single clouded drab, which was hardly surprising considering how windy and nippy it was last night. The grotty weather continued throughout the day with fog enveloping the Peninsula by late afternoon.
Flogged around the local patch looking for migrants, which were few and far between with the sum total being 2 Swallows, 2 Chiffchaffs, 3 Mipits, 6 Linnets and 2 Wheatears, plus 5 Whimbrels heading north whistling. A pair of Marsh Harriers were wheeling over the `mirrors` and a Sparrowhawk nipped through.
Lydd - Having taken over the Grey Heron census from Ted Carpenter I made my third visit of the season this morning to the Lydd heronry which is set among the private grounds of the Grange, opposite the `Cathedral of the Marsh. You might think that counting nesting herons is easy; after all, they`re gigantic birds that build huge stick nests, but not so. For a start the majority of nests are situated atop evergreen holm oaks and Scots pines; the oaks in particular being almost impenetrable to view at ground level, and all set within an enormous rookery with some of the older Rook nests almost as bulky as the herons. Patience is required to watch for returning birds and I reckon there was at least 8 occupied nests. However, a planned trip up the church tower soon should enable unparallelled views into the oak canopy to at least double that figure.
Dungeness -  1600hrs - An hour seawatching from the coastguards lookout delivered a feeding party of Gannets, Cormorants, Common and Sandwich Terns and 5 porpoises just offshore. The only eastbound birds were 3 scoters, 2 divers and an Arctic Skua.
ps: Three Garganey were reported on Dengemarsh this morning (SB).

Monday, 15 April 2013

A party of Eiders

Dungeness - 0630hrs - mild, sunny, sw 2 - Seawatching was much improved this morning with a steady passage of Gannets, terns, divers and scoters moving up-Channel, plus a few auks, 2 Little Gulls and singles of Bonxie, Arctic Skua, Fulmar and Merganser during the hour we spent in the hide. Best of all though was a party of 16 Eiders that passed within the cardinal buoy, the drakes looking resplendent in the bright sunshine. On the land there was a notable arrival of Linnets and Chaffinches with the former twittering away atop gorse bushes across the point. Also noted 2 Wheatears, 2 Chiffs , 2 Goldcrest and a Firecrest.
At Lade and Littlestone throughout the morning several pairs of Med Gulls moving south while on three occasions Whimbrels flew north whistling. Ran the moth trap last night for the first time this year and caught precisely one moth, a clouded drab.
Dengemarsh - 1400hrs - Reports of a probable Dotterel seen flying over the bird reserve around midday had the local bird hounds out checking likely arable fields. Whilst scanning from Cockles Bridge noted a female Peregrine mantling and tearing into feathered prey of some sort or other (probably an exhausted Dotterel!).
Dungeness -  1600hrs - A look at the sea from the boats this afternoon proved largely fruitless with just a few terns milling around off shore, plus a couple of porpoises.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Spring, at long last

Dungeness - 0700hrs - mild, grey, drizzle, s 3 - The day started off mild and wet but by early afternoon the skies cleared and a southerly airflow bathed the Peninsula in welcome sunshine.
From the seawatching hide few birds were on the move up-Channel this morning with an hour delivering a paltry 2 divers, 30 scoters and a trickle of Gannets, Common and Sandwich Terns; although behind the weather front in the afternoon came the first reports of Pom Skua passed the point. A check around the bushes was notable for 2 Firecrests, 5 Goldcrests and several Willow Warblers and Chiffchaffs.
ARC - My first Sand Martins (161) of the year among a group of Swallows and House Martins was a welcome sight from Screen hide, where Bearded Tits were pinging away and a Yellow Wagtail passed overhead. The oiled Red-throated Diver flew around the pit, where 4 Goldeneyes remained within the common wildfowl; also noted Great White and Little Egrets, 2 Marsh Harriers, Green Woodpecker and a flyover Bittern. The walk down to the pines produced another Marsh year tick with a Reed Warbler (162) singing in a reedbed on Tower pits, plus Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff. At the pines, 2 Goldcrests, Blackcap and Chiffchaff.
Lade 1400hrs - The warn sunshine had brought forth plenty of amphibian activity in the ponds where marsh frogs and newts were basking in the warm rays. Along the causeway suntrap coltsfoot flowers attracted several small tortoisehells and peacocks, while several Swallows hawked the myriad of black flying insects. On north pit a single Goldeneye and 2 Med Gulls over with a single Little Gull on south pit. Willow Warblers, Chiffchaffs, Cetti`s Warbler and Water Rail all making noises in the swamp.
A final scan from the aerial mound was most productive with an adult male Hen Harrier flying behind the wall `mirror` heading towards the bird reserve; 3 Marsh Harriers and a Kestrel too.

                               Marsh Frog & Coltsfoot, Lade

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Firecrests & Ring Ouzel

Lade - 0800hrs - mild, sunny, ssw 3 - A Willow Warbler singing in the garden conifers heralded a promising morning with plenty more in the willow scrub around the pits along with Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps. The suntrap by the ponds had brought forth legions of flying insects and the hungry warblers were greedily snapping them up, alongside Reed Buntings, Great Tits and even Chaffinches. On the waters there were few ducks although a single Goldeneye remained on north pit, while Dabchicks and Great Crested Grebes were much in evidence trilling and courting respectively.
Water Rails and Cetti`s Warbler were also vocalising and a pair of Green Woodpeckers chased one another around the wall `mirror`. A scan from the aerial mound revealed 2 Marsh Harriers over the airport fields, a party of Sandwich Terns moving along the coast and several groups of Linnets inbound.
Dungeness - With very little happening on the sea we opted for a scout around the bushes at the Point where although there wasn't the number of birds of yesterday at least 3 Firecrests were seen among the Goldcrests and a scattering of Chiff/Willows. News came through of a Serin found by NB and family which despite a thorough search was not relocated, but ample compensation was provided by a cracking male Ring Ouzel which posed atop a gorze bush behind the railway station.
RSPB - 1515hrs - A run out this afternoon in cool, wet conditions commenced at the causeway road where the usual dabblers and Little Egrets noted, plus 2 Swallows. At Boulderwall a Great White Egret by the main pool, while on Burrowes a Goldeneye and 2 Sanderlings were the pick of the birds. A couple of Yellow Wagtails by the Discovery Pool were struggling in the strong wind and a Firecrest popped out by the feeders.

Friday, 12 April 2013

First Skuas

Dungeness - 0900hrs - mild, cloudy, showers, sw 6 - The first decent passage of skuas this spring comprised at least 40 Bonxies and 7 Arctic Skuas (AJG) up-Channel. Only spent an hour in the hide during which time I saw a dozen Bonxies and 2 Arctics (159). Most of `em were, `half way to France`, except one dark phase Arctic which came in close, passing within the cardinal buoy. Also on the move was a steady passage of divers, scoters, Gannets, Brents and 2 Mergansers. Milling around were a few Fulmars, Common and Sandwich Terns, auks and a Med Gull. The land was a waste of time due to the strong winds.
Lade - On the local patch a Marsh year tick in the shape of a House Martin (160) alongside 3 Swallows on south pit. In the willows several Chiffchaffs, Willow Warblers, Blackcaps and Goldcrests. Back at the cottage a singing Blackcap in the garden, 2 calling Goldcrests and a pair of Med Gulls over.
RSPB - Very little of note on Burrowes except another Swallow and House Martin. Two Great Whites on New Diggings, Goldeneye and Little Egret on ARC. The hayfields held the usual Ringed Plovers, Dunlins, Lapwings, Redshanks and dabbling ducks, while a Bittern flew over Hookers reed bed.
Dungeness - 1400hrs - A return to the point with MH for a seawatch from the boats was predictably poor with only a few divers and Gannets on the move. Close to the beach though were several Kittiwakes, Common and Arctic Terns and a Swallow flew in.
On arriving home Mrs PT, prompted by a positive weather forecast, decided that "her two boys" needed a haircut, so out came the clippers and both of us were soon in full summer plumage. To complete the moult, maybe shorts by Sunday?...
PS: I know its been a phenomenal winter for Waxwings but there still seems to be plenty about. This morning I had a report of 40 plus in the Kingsnorth area of Ashford, while in Folkestone Waxwings were seen at two locations, including Park Farm retail park. Surely they can`t stay for much longer? Or maybe some will stay on and breed...



Thursday, 11 April 2013

Fall of Migrants

Dungeness - 0845hrs - mild, cloudy/sunshine, sw 4 - A breezy start to the day and the first time for ages that a taste of the Atlantic could be felt slapping the face and covering optics with salt spray. Predictably the seawatching was lousy with just a trickle of Brents, scoters and divers on the move and Fulmars and terns milling both ways. We used the new Patch hide for once where the melee of gulls over the boil included several Kittiwakes, Sandwich and Common Terns and best of all a cracking pink-breasted adult Little Gull.
As the morning progressed the sun came out to play and so too the recalcitrant migrants that had been lurking in cover. We worked the scrub around the old light and down to the moat and back again which delivered a tidy return on warblers and thrushes. Most numerous were Blackbirds, closely followed by Robins, most of which were probably continental birds as they appeared greyer than `our` race and more furtive. Difficult to judge accurately but we probably had something like: 2 Swallows, 10 Mipits, 4 Pied Wags, 20 Robins, 4 Black Reds, 4 Wheatears, 1 Ring Ouzel (moat), 50 Blackbirds, 2 Fieldfares, 12 Redwings, 10 Song Thrushes,  1 Whitethroat (1st for the year, 158), 2 Blackcaps, 10 Chiffs, 10 Willow Warblers, 10 Goldcrests, 1 Firecrest (moat) and 6 Linnets.
We finished off at the fishing boats where amongst the gulls was a smart 1st winter Med Gull and the long staying 3rd winter Glaucous Gull.
Ray and Stuart ended up with a 3 day list of 112 species complete with a decent spread of migrants and lingering winter visitors. They both agreed though that the highlight was the Brent Goose passage, which is of course, in my humble opinion, one of the wildlife spectacles of the spring at Dungeness.

                                1st winter Mediterranean Gull, Dungeness

ARC - A late afternoon sortie with Barney from Screen hide delivered the usual Smews and Goldeneyes on the water, plus a Water Rail and singing Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff in the scrub. On New Diggings 3 Great White and 2 Little Egrets.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Penduline Tits - at last!

Lade - 0700hrs - Cold, wet start, brighter later, nw 2 - A pre-breakie walk with the dog struck gold as  we flushed a male Ring Ouzel (154) from the storm beach scrub. It hurtled off like a rocket clacking away over towards the airport. Also grounded were 26 Mipits, 5 Song Thrushes and 4 Blackbirds.
Dungeness - 0900 - An hours seawatch from the hide was most productive with the highlight being over 800 Brents in six flocks, followed by 47 Red-throated Divers, 60 Common Scoters, 18 Common Terns and a trickle of Fulmars, Gannets and Sandwich Terns. At the Patch hundreds of common Gulls including 5 Mediterraneans. A small fall of passerines along the power station wall was of interest and comprised 10 Chiffchaffs, 2 Goldcrests and, new for the year, a Willow Warbler (155). With the temperature rising and masses of black flying insects on the wing the warblers had plenty to fuel up on; the crests were hanging on the wall picking off the flies. Around the old light several more Goldcrests, Chiffchaffs, 2 Black Redstarts and 4 Wheatears. On the edge of the trapping area we had brief views of another male Ring Ouzel feeding on the ground. A few more Goldcrests noted plus singles of Fieldfare and Kestrel.
RSPB -  We spent the afternoon on the bird reserve rattling up a fair old list and year ticks all round. On ARC 12 Smew still present on the far side, plus 5 Goldeneyes, 2 Great White Egrets, 2 Little Egrets, Blackwit, Grey Plover and a flyby Bittern. Around the car park and willow trail singing Willow Warbler and Chiffchaffs, plus Long-tailed Tit carrying nest material, Tree Sparrows, Reed Buntings, Linnet and Blackcap.
Over the road a Whimbrel from the access road was new for the Marsh year list (156) and when news broke of the Penduline Tits at Hookers (SB) we hot-footed it to their last known location. After an hour we had no joy but did have good views of a summer plum Black-necked Grebe; also Dabchicks, singing Sedge Warbler, skydancing Marsh Harriers, a soaring Buzzard and several large flocks of Golden Plovers flew over calling mournfully.
However, from the ramp we had brief views of the 2 Pendulines (157), at long last, after not seeing them throughout the winter. Despite putting the news out and further waiting they did not re-emerge from the reedbed. Some consolation was provided by half a dozen Bearded Tits that put on a fine show for the assembled crowd. Elsewhere around Dengemarsh we had 2 more Bittern sightings and good views of a Raven, but could find no sign of the 3 Spoonbills that had been seen earlier.
Littlestone - Finished the day searching for shorebirds of which we noted 7 common species, including a Bar-wit in near full summer plum, and 15 Sandwich Terns on the sands.

                                Willow Warbler, power station wall

                                Whimbrel, access road

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Trio of year ticks

Dungeness - cold, cloudy, rain, se 3 - 0630hrs - A 90 minute seawatch in poor light with rain delivered a steady trickle of mainly ducks, plus  my first Common Terns (151) of the year and went something like: Red-throated Diver 15, Fulmar 1, Gannet 30, Common Scoter 50, Merganser 2, Pintail 2, Shoveler 30, Teal 10, Gadwall 8, Mallard 6, Dunlin 25, Oystercatcher 5, Sandwich Tern 10 and Common Tern 6.
Bird Watching Break - Picked up Ray and Stuart from Ashford for a three day stay at Plovers.
We had a quick look in Orlestone Forest around the car park area for woodland birds which delivered Treecreeper, Nuthatch, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Coal Tit and Jay among the commoner tits, thrushes and finches. Crossing Walland we had Redwings and Fieldfares at Warehorne, plus all three buntings at the Tickners Lane seed dump.
Dungeness - 1500hrs - An hours seawatch from the fishing boats deliverd a steady passage of birds up-Channel including, 120 Brents, 55 Common Scoters, 9 Little Gulls, 6 Common Terns, 20 Sandwich Terns, 2 Mergansers, 20 Red-throated Divers and 50 Gannets, with scores more of the latter two species feeding offshore alongside the usual Great Crested Grebes, Cormorants, gulls and at least 6 porpoises. On the way out we stopped opposite Jarman`s and noted 4 Wheatears (including a singing male), 2 Skylarks and a Linnet.
ARC/Tower Pits - From the causeway road 12 Smew, 2 Goldeneyes, Shovelers, Teal, Gadwalls, 2 Snipe, 6 Mipits and a Little Egret. On the walk down to Screen hide a pair of Garganey and a singing Sedge Warbler pushed the Marsh year list up to 153, while other migrants included singing Chiffchaff, 2 Swallows and a Yellow Wagtail over. At least 3 Cetti`s were singing while a party of Bearded Tits `pinged` and showed briefly in front of the hide. At the pines Goldcrest, a fox basking in the sun and a Great White Egret over.
A decent start to the birdwatching break with year ticks all round and 81 species logged.

                                Garganeys, Tower Pits

                                Fox, ARC

Monday, 8 April 2013

Yellow Wagtail & Spoonbill

Lade - 0700hrs - cold, cloudy, e 3 - The nagging easterly returned this morning and steadily increased in intensity through the afternoon. Hardly anything of note at the local patch apart from a singing Chiffchaff and a couple of Med Gulls over.
RSPB - 1400hrs - A run out with MH this afternoon delivered a Marsh year tick (150) with brief views of a male Yellow Wagtail from the causeway road where also a White Wagtail amongst a small flock of Pieds and Mipits. On the water the expected dabbling ducks and a single Blackwit, while on the far shore 2 drake Smews and 5 redheads. Down at Dengemarsh we had flight views of the Spoonbill on the hayfield. It then flew over to ARC where it was briefly viewable from Screen hide before being flushed by a Peregrine. Marsh Harriers and Bittern also noted at Dengemarsh.

                                Spoonbill, ARC

NB: News from the seawatchers told of a steady movement of divers, Brents and seaduck again, but nothing like the numbers of yesterday.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Divers, Gulls & Spoonbill

Dungeness - 0645hrs - cold, frosty start, warm and sunny later, nw 1- The day commenced with a seawatch from the boardwalk for a change, although due to the poor light we soon moved back to the seawatch hide. It was a similar picture to yesterday with large flocks of Brents and divers moving up-Channel, many of them just off shore, and they just kept on coming throughout the day. By the time I left over 1,500 Red-throats had been logged and over 1,000 Brents (see DBO website for details) with the final tally undoubtedly being much higher and heading for a record count; 8 Black-throats and a Great Northern were also noted along with a steady flow of scoters, auks, Gannets, Kittiwakes, Sandwich Terns, Red-breasted Mergansers, Curlews, Little Gulls, Fulmars, 3 Sanderlings, a Shelduck and 10 Med Gulls west. Cormorants and grebes were everywhere and once again there were thousands of gulls on the sea.
Moving down to the Patch the full magnitude of the gull influx was apparent with maybe 10,000? present. They appeared to be surface feeding as far as the eye could see and when a Marsh Harrier came in virtually the whole lot took to the air. Couldn't find any further sign of the pale gull (which was confirmed as an albino Herring yesterday) but the 3rd winter Caspian was on the beach along with 10 Med Gulls and 8 Kittiwakes.
On the land singles of Black Redstart, Goldcrest and Wheatear.

                                Brents, Dungeness

                                Gulls galore, The Patch

                                Wood Anemones, Park Wood

                                            Footwear tree - any idea what that`s all about?

Park Wood - A spring-like stroll through the wood with CP and the ladies delivered plenty of Greater pecker `drumming` activity but not a lot else except a few Nuthatches, Chiffchaff, Treecreeper, Coal and Long-tailed Tits, Jay, Green Woodpecker, Stock Dove, Bullfinch and a pair of Red-legged Partridges flushed form the woodland floor; overhead, soaring Buzzard and Sparrowhawk. Very pleasant in the warm sunshine and good to see wood anemones, primroses, celandines and violets in bloom.
ARC - A wander down to Screen hide this afternoon delivered a Marsh year tick in the shape of a Spoonbill (149) that had been seen earlier on the hayfields. It didn't stay put for long and circled the lake a few times before drifting back over Tower Pits. A Swallow and a singing Chiffchaff were the only hint of spring, while 5 Smew and 4 Goldeneyes were reminders that winter hasn't lost its grip quite yet. At the south end from the causeway road, Little and Great White Egrets and 10 Pied Wagtails amongst the usual dabbling ducks.
PS: Thanks to AJG for e-mailing through the co-ordinated seawatch totals for the up-Channel passage today at Dungeness. The highlights are as follows:
Red-throated Diver - 3,171
Black-throated - 8
Great Northern - 1
Fulmar - 55
Gannet - 443
Brent - 5,612
Common Scoter - 1,166
Velvet Scoter - 13
Eider - 24
Merganser - 18
Shelduck - 18
Curlew - 159
Little Gull - 118
Sandwich Tern - 455
auks - 113

Saturday, 6 April 2013

White-winged Gull

Dungeness - 0700hrs - cold, dull, n 2, bright & sunny later - Kicked off the day in the seawatch hide where the highlight was a continuous stream of Red-throated Divers, which throughout the morning passed the 500 mark. A steady stream of Gannets, hundreds of Brents and a trickle of Common Scoter, Wigeon, auks, Sandwich Terns and Kittiwakes made for a lively watch. Offshore and at the Patch were thousands of gulls, mostly Black-headed, Common and Herring Gulls, plus a sprinkling of Kittiwakes, Med Gulls and at least one Little Gull. Around the old light 2 Wheatears, 3 Black Redstarts, 2 Mipits and a Stonechat, while the scrub around West Beach and along the edge of the Trapping Area attracted an impressive 40 Blackbirds, 5 Song Thrushes and a Redwing.
I returned a couple of hours later with CP to look for the reported Iceland Gull at the Patch where we had distant but obscured views of a white gull, sat on the beach, with a small amount of grey on the mantle and a Herring Gull-like bill and head structure which we considered to be an albino Herring Gull. It was then flushed by walkers and flew around like a beacon, looking for all the world like an Iceland Gull, before eventually being relocated on Burrowes a short while later. Due to poor, on-the-deck views, (so we didn't note the leg colour) in my opinion the jury`s still out until I get a better view; if it hangs about of course.
Also at the Patch Med Gull and a 3rd winter Caspian Gull.
ARC - From the causeway road, singles of Little Egret, Redshank, Ruff and Ringed Plover, 3 Blackwits, scores of dabbling ducks, 3 Goldeneyes and 13 Smews. On New Diggings a Great White Egret and another Little Egret.
Me old mate Pete Marshall and a crew of birders from Dunstable turned up this afternoon, having twitched the KP down at Rye. After tea and biccies at Plovers we wandered down the Point for a late seawatch in glorious spring sunshine (at last) where a steady passage of Gannets was still underway, along with a trickle of divers, auks, Kittiwakes and Sandwich Terns. On the land the usual Black Reds, Wheatear and Stonechat. Good to see you all, and safe journey back `up north`.
NB: A White Stork found by SB around midday at Boulderwall flew over the visitor centre and power station before drifting over Lade. It was not relocated but presumably the same bird was seen over New Romney and then Folkestone this afternoon. Also reported on the bird reserve today, a male Hen Harrier at Dengemarsh and a Garganey on ARC.

Black Redstart & Stonechat, Dungeness

Friday, 5 April 2013

Winter continues

Lade - cold, cloudy, sleet/rain showers, ne 6 - Awoke at dawn fully prepared for a seawatch until I heard the easterly wind and driving rain rattling on the window pane. It was a slow start to the day spent at the keyboard catching up on magazine articles and drinking too much tea. Eventually we ventured out into the tempest (only because Barney kept sitting by the back door whinging) and spent the next hour tramping around the local patch getting soaked and not seeing a great deal. On the pits it was a typical winter scene with diving ducks, grebes, 6 Goldeneyes and a Shelduck. A Great White Egret was lurking in a reed bed and the only passerines were singles of Song Thrush and Skylark flushed off the storm beaches.
RSPB - 1430hrs - Spent a couple of hours birding with MH this afternoon commencing at the boats where we only lasted 20 minutes; a trickle of Sandwich Terns, Gannets and a couple of divers was about it. From the causeway road a wintry scene on ARC with Shovelers, Teal and Gadwall in the ascendancy plus Ringed Plover, Redshank, Little Egret and 3 Pied Wagtails. Nothing much else from the access road and on Burrowes (where we scanned from the comfort of the visitor centre) except a few Goldeneyes and a Smew.
The only other local news was a male Hen Harrier at Dengemarsh and a Blackwit on ARC.
Such is the effectiveness of this blocking high pressure weather system on migration that so far this spring I have yet to see Willow Warbler, Yellow Wagtail or Garganey, while Wheatear, Swallow, LRP and even Chiffchaff have been difficult to come by. Its my 8th spring down here and by far the slowest, so things can only get better, perhaps over the weekend...

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Swallow at last

Lade - 0800hrs - cold, cloudy, snow flurries, ne 5 - After the excitement of yesterday it was back to basics on the local patch with the only new bird being my first Swallow of the year (species 148 for the Marsh) flying over the cottage heading north into a snow shower - welcome to springtime in England. I`m reluctant to yarn on about the poor weather down here as its getting tedious, and compared to some places up north all we`ve got to moan on about is the blasting east wind, which if you believe the Met Office may be about to bugger off by the weekend. Good job too, we might get a few more migrants coming our way and bit more action on the sea, where incidentally the first Common Terns of the season were reported this morning (PB).
Scotney - 1200hrs -  The grass leys around the pit have been seared dry by the cold winds and low temperatures and as a result show no green spring flush; added to which there is no standing water, so not much to attract waders or wildfowl. No shortage of Herring Gulls though, settling down to multiply on the islands.
ARC - From Hanson 5 each of Smew and Goldeneye and precious little else. From the causeway road 2 Ringed Plovers, Shelduck and all the usual dabblers, while a Great White Egret was sheltering in the bushes and a Sparrowhawk zipped over.

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Middle Spotted Woodpecker - in France!

Pas-de-Calais - Deserted the Marsh today at 0500hrs, in company with CP, MH, PB & TG, for a spot of cross-Channel birding on the shuttle, a fun-filled day full of good hearted banter - as well as  one or two good birds.
Crecy Forest - First stop in cold, but sunny calm conditions, the ancient forest of Crecy for woodpeckers, and while we failed with Black Woodpecker we scored well with 2 pairs of Middle Spotted Woodpeckers at two random locations in the forest. Superb views were enjoyed as they flew amongst the bare canopy and clambered around the tree trunks showing their red top-knot, ladder back, pale cheeks and weak bill. They were very vocal, repeatedly giving a raptor-like `kek-kek-kek` call. Green and Great Spotted peckers also noted along with plenty of Nuthatches, common tits, 6 Marsh Tits, Short-toed Treecreepers, Chiffchaffs and singles of Siskin, Firecrest, Goldcrest and Hawfinch. At one location we had hundreds of Redwings feeding on the forest floor amongst the leaf litter which then flew into the canopy to a give a mass Starling like cacophony; with some actually breaking into song. Also, Red Kite and Buzzard noted over the woodland canopy.
Saille Bray - As we parked up my first Swallows and Sand Martin of the year sat on wires twittering away. No sign of any Bluethroats (they`re all in southern England!) but a scattering of Reed Bunting, Stonechat, Chiffchaff, Black Redstart, White Wagtail, Skylark, Long-tailed Tit, Mipit, Corn Bunting and Great White Egret. Raptors `claimed` here included Kestrel, Common Buzzard, Red Kite, Marsh and Hen Harriers, Sparrowhawk and Goshawk - honest!!
Le Crotoy - As always a very productive spot on the coastal marshes with plenty of common dabbling ducks including 5 Pintail and a pair of stunning Garganey. Several Med Gulls were noted among the Black-heads and at least 10 Common Snipe were present. Four fly-over White Storks gave teasing views but 2 Spoonbills showed well along with Great White and Little Egrets and Grey Heron. Best of all though was one spot that attracted 2 cracking pink-breasted Water Pipits, 2 White Wagtails and 3 Little Ringed Plovers.
Sangatte - Our final stop was back in the blast-chiller on the Channel coast where we logged a single Stone Curlew hunkered down in the quarry alongside a few Lapwings. A Marsh Harrier moved along the coast and somehow CP managed to `scope a Fulmar at sea!
It had been another great days birding in France with a load of old blokes who, it has to be said, have seen better days, are falling apart a bit and never stop farting!!! Between sites, and under the Channel, we were regaled with legions of birding tales from the `good ol days at Dungeness`, along with a steady stream of anecdotes and jokes`.
Bird of the day was undoubtedly the Middle Spots (check Plodding Birder blog for pics), although personally I enjoyed Le Crotoy for the Wipits and dabblers; we also noted Grey Partridges at several places driving between sites and notched up 87 species. Clocked up 190 miles and arrived home by 1930hrs.

                                Crecy Forest

                                Garganey, Le Crotoy

                                Spoonbill, Le Crotoy

  Romney Marsh Stringers - discussing the finer points of raptor identification!!!

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Common Snipe

Lade - 0800hrs - cold, sunny, ne 4 - A slight reduction in the wind this morning made it feel a little more like spring, although the wind increased as the day progressed. With something of a mini-influx of Bluethroats in progress along the south coast decided to deviate from my normal route and give Mockmill Sewer a look, a perfect spot for the spindly legged skulker. En-route a Black Redstart noted on the storm beaches along with singing Skylarks and Mipits, plus at least 10 grounded Song Thrushes and 2 Med Gulls over calling, heading towards the bird reserve.
At first glance the sewer looked birdless but by the time we got to the other end had yielded 8 Common Snipe (most I`ve seen here this year), 2 singing Reed Buntings, 5 more Song Thrushes and a host of Blackbirds, Robins, Wrens and Dunnocks. A Sparrowhawk zipped over and 2 hares broke cover.
On south pit there was no sign of yesterdays Black-necked Grebe with only 5 Goldeneyes of note.
ARC/New Diggings - 1000hrs - From the causeway road the usual dabbling ducks on ARC along with 4 Blackwits in the shallows. Three Smew flew in and 2 Great White Egrets were taking shelter at the eastern end of New Diggings.
Littlestone -1300hrs - Checked the beach out at several places for shorebirds in a stiffening easterly wind. All the usual suspects present including 50 Barwits, 30 Knot, 10 Grey Plovers and 8 Ringed Plovers.

Monday, 1 April 2013

Bits & Bobs

Lade - 0730hrs - Cold, sunny, dry, ne 5/6 - One of the great things about local patch birding is the element of surprise which at time defies logic. Take this morning for example, once I returned from the land of the fairies and went out into the blast-chiller I reckoned on another duff hour slogging into the wind seeing very little. But, hey-ho, it is April after all, so there has to be birds out there somewhere. Anyhow at the bottom of Taylor Road a scan across the storm beaches revealed a male Black Redstart and a Stonechat on a patch of gorse scrub. Walking round the lee side a bird flitted out and immediately dived back into cover; mmm, a short wait and out popped a Firecrest! The day was made, one of me favourites. Continuing onto south pit and at first glance a birdless lake with white-topped waves, but just out from the bank, in bright sunshine, there was a summer plum Black-necked Grebe, simply stunning, and all within a 10 minute walk from the cottage! It was then back home to do the guests breakfasts, I`d only been out for 30 minutes and bagged two cracking local patch birds.

                                Black-necked Grebe, Lade south

RSPB - 1400hrs - A mooch around the bird reserve started on the causeway road where 5 Black-tailed Godwits were busily feeding in the shallows on ARC along with 2 Ringed Plovers and a Redshank. All the usual dabbling ducks in the shelter of the willows and a couple of Goldeneyes. On the far side of the pit sheltering from the wind was a splendid flock of 9 Goosanders, including 3 drakes, a bird that has been in short supply this past winter. On New Diggings another summer plum Black-necked Grebe. Along the access track 2 Wheatears (sorry about the pic SG, but the award has been made!), 100 Redwings, 50 Wigeon and 50 Goldies over. Not much on Burrowes apart from 3 Smew and a few Goldeneyes. Wandered down to Hookers to check the back track but the wind was so strong you could hardly stand upright. The expected Marsh Harriers were struggling too and a Bittern flopped over, while the 6 Bean Geese remained in the back field. From Screen hide 2 Great White Egret and more common wildfowl.

                                Wheatears, access road

                                Great White Egret, ARC

                                Distant Goosanders, ARC

Fantasy Birding

0630hrs - I awoke to a wet nose pressed against my face.
"Morning master, here`s your early morning cuppa, just the way you like it, and there`s a bacon sarnie waiting for you in the kitchen". At last, Barney had made himself useful.
"Come on then, the wind is from the south, the suns shining and the birds are singing."
I pulled on me shorts and T shirt and wandered into the garden drinking tea. A male Bluethroat sprang from the side of the pond, sat on the bird bath and burst into song. Mmm, a good start, best go birding I thought. As we strolled down Taylor Road an Alpine Swift swooped overhead while the  Herring Gulls mobbed a Black Kite heading north. A scan across the Lade Desert revealed a flock of Little Bustards and as we moved closer a Calandra Lark flushed from cover. The mobile trilled telling of a massive fall down at the Point, including Dark-eyed Junco, Short-toed Treecreeper and Subalpine Warbler; apparently the Obs had 10 bird-ringers working flat out. The seawatchers had already had King Eider, Brunnich`s Guillemot and Harlequin Duck fly past and distant views of what appeared to be a Great Auk swimming just outside the marker buoy.
"Hurry up master", barked Barney, "lets go for a seawatch".

And then the alarm sounded, and I heard the blasting east wind slapping against the window pane...