Friday, 31 May 2013

Southern Marsh Orchid

Lade - 0630hrs - cool, dry, sunny, nw2 - A cracking morning for a circuit of the local patch where all the usual warblers were merrily singing away along with Cuckoos in the reed bed, Med Gulls over and a Marsh Harrier catching a frog. The Southern Marsh Orchids are now fully out with 42 fully developed spikes which is about the normal number. There were very few Swifts over the lakes this morning.

                                            Southern Marsh Orchids, Lade

There were 7 species of moths in the trap this morning, none of which were new for the year.
ARC - Just the expected warblers around the site, plus Little Egret, Hobby and Marsh Harrier.

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Swifts & Craneflies

Lade - 0630hrs - cool, misty, rain, n 1 - A murky start to the day with low cloud and drizzle sending hundreds of Swifts low over the shingle ridges hawking emerging craneflies. It really was quite an experience to stand among the broom with Swifts zipping around your body and reminded me of a time long ago when we used to flick net Swifts for ringing purposes at Maple Cross. Jackdaws and Starlings were also joining in the feast along with a single Hobby. High over south pit there were many more Swifts and House Martins, numbering well over 1,000.

                                Amwell, Lee Valley

Lee Valley -Had to go up to the Lee Valley in Herts to recce for a couple of magazine articles. First stop Fishers Green where the tern rafts were busy with breeding Black-headed Gulls and Common Terns. Plenty of warblers in song and a Water Rail dashed across a clearing in front of the Bittern hide.
Further up the valley near Ware, from the Amwell viewpoint, there were more waders on show than at Dungeness RSPB reserve! Lapwing, Redshank, LRP and Ringed Plover breeding, plus Turnstone and Dunlin on passage (and I just missed a Wood Sand). More tern/gull activity here plus Little Egret, Wigeon, Shoveler and a Spotted Flycatcher by the railway line.

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Spotted Flycatcher & Cuckoos

Lade - 0700hrs  - cool, sunny morning, cloudy by noon, nw 2 - A decent start to the day weather wise which was reflected by the high level of bird activity in the morning stillness. A Spotted Flycatcher by the ponds was the most noteworthy bird, picking off flying insects with great aplomb, along with Reed and Sedge Warblers and Whitethroats. Once again Cuckoos were much in evidence around the reedbed and calling over the back garden; infact everywhere I went today I heard or saw Cuckoos: Littlestone, Greatstone and Lydd.
Poor fare in the trap with just 4 species of moths.
ARC - 1600hrs - A stroll down to Screen hide revealed the Garganey still in front of the hide and swarms of Swifts and hirundines over the water due to the rain and low temperatures. Two Little Egrets were perched in the willows and a Bittern flew over, while Cuckoos called and `bubbled` from overhead wires and tops of willows.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

1st Summer Common Tern

Lade - 0800hrs - Cool, heavy rain `til late afternoon, sw 2 - A complete contrast to the weather of yesterday with a return to cool, damp conditions. Six species of moths in the trap included Buff-tip and Muslin Moth. Got a good soaking over the pits looking around for a reported small heron seen flying towards Lade at dusk yesterday. No joy but will try again this evening.

                                1st summer Common Tern

                                Buff Tip

                                Muslin Moth

Dungeness  - A brief break in the rain enabled a quick look at the Patch where a 1st summer Common Tern was on the beach among the adults. Two Black Redstarts were feeding juvs along the power station wall, while a Carrion Crow swooped down grabbing a juv Pied Wagtail being hotly pursued by the adults.
Lade - A pleasant enough evening, if a little chilly, and certainly too cold for it to be worthwhile a Hobby hunting, as testified by one sat out on the Desert shingle attempting to warm up. They must be having a tough time at the moment getting into breeding condition and I`m not surprised an emaciated corpse was found at the Obs recently. The only birds of note over the lake were a `skimming` Common Sandpiper and a calling Med Gull.

Monday, 27 May 2013

Breeding Bird Survey

Lade - 0600hrs - cool, dry, sunny, ne 2 - With bright sunshine and light airs what better morning to carrying out a survey of the breeding birds of Lade and Kerton Road Pits. In all 47 species recorded as breeding including 5 species each of waders and warblers. Couldn't find a Wheatear this year and Mipits were down to just 2 pairs, but Cuckoos were, once again, much in evidence.
As for passage birds a Greenshank over calling and a few Swallows hurrying north was about it.
There were six species of moth in the trap this morning including Muslin Moth which was new for the year.
ARC - 1700hrs - An evening walk down to Screen hide delivered a drake Garganey on the lake and a couple of Hobbies. Small Heath butterflies noted along the track with Blue-tailed Damselflies  by the hide.

Sunday, 26 May 2013

What`s that wader!

Lade - 0600hrs - cool, cloudy, ne 2 - The storm beaches were swarming with juv Starlings accompanying the adults on feeding trips to plunder the numerous cranefly larvae and emerging adult insects. House Sparrows joined in too and at least two Sparrowhawks were abroad mopping up any unsuspecting fledglings. All the established summer visitors were in song and many of the resident species were feeding young.


Midrips and The Wicks - With negative news coming through on yesterdays Terek Sandpiper down at Rye, and in an attempt to avoid the crowds, we decided on the solitude of the wader pools instead, and for once it turned out to be a good move. There was a decent selection of passage and resident waders, particularly on the pools at The Wicks. PB had the same idea and we were soon joined by CT, no doubt trying for a repeat performance of relocating a Terek here as he did a few years ago!
Anyhow, all was fine and dandy until a stubborn, sleepy wader, albeit at range and in the heat haze (that`s our excuse..) had us guessing as to its identity amongst the Redshanks, Greenshanks, Ringed Plovers and Turnstones. As we pondered and pontificated, mentioning just about every wader on the Western Palearctic list and beyond, from Sharp-tailed Sandpiper to Wandering Tatler (even Barney had an opinion - Ruff, of course!), the little bugger woke up and morphed into a Knot in some sort of odd transitional plumage. Oh well, we can dream...
Totals of passage waders included 20 Ringed Plovers, 2 Grey Plovers, 10 Dunlins, 10 Greenshanks, 11 Turnstones and singles of Barwit, Whimbrel, Curlew and Knot, plus 18 Avocet, 6 Lapwing, 4 Oystercatchers and 20 Redshanks. Also noted 40 Shelducks, Gadwall, Kestrel, Mipits, Reed Buntings, Skylarks, 2 Med Gulls and a Raven. Comedy moment of the morning (the Knot aside...) went to a fox being seen off by two drake Shelducks!
Burrowes - A quick call in at the VC and a check of Burrowes delivered two Sanderlings in summer plum and little else.
Lade  - With the sun out this afternoon another visit to the ponds yielded small copper, common blue and hairy hawker on the wing and 2 basking grass snakes.

                                Lade `Mirrors`

Saturday, 25 May 2013

Turtle Dove & Nightingale

Lade  0700hrs - cool, cloudy, ne 3 - Following a spectacular thunder and lightening storm over the bay during the early hours, this morning dawned dry with broken sunshine and a keen north-easterly. Once again due to the low temperatures I didn`t bother to run the moth trap.
Over the pits the undoubted highlight was a Turtle Dove flushed from cover in the willows, plus a Nightingale which called but did not sing and even showed briefly in the bottom of a blackthorn bush; maybe a late arriving female? All the established summer migrants were in song and once again there was plenty of Cuckoo activity; I think we`re fortunate down here to have retained this  unique bird on the NNR as it has disappeared from so many of its former haunts up country.
The first Linnet chicks were out of the nest this morning, while a Sparrowhawk hunting low over the gorse was obviously on the lookout for just such an easy meal ticket. Swifts and hirundines continued to hurry overhead pressing northwards, as was a late Yellow Wagtail.
Walland Marsh - With the wind dropping and the sun shining decided to have a tour around the Marsh, and very rewarding it was too with the highlight being a Red-rumped Swallow  within a small hirundine/Swift flock at Midley. Despite further searching I could not relocate what was my third Red-rumper of the season. All three species of bunting were located with Yellowhammer the most numerous and Corn Buntings at two sites. Yellow Wagtails were very thin on the ground, as were Turtle Doves, also at two sites, but was good to see at least 20 Lapwings at one location. Also noted Little Owl, Kestrel, Sparrowhawk, Teal, 4 Med Gulls, 6 Hobbies, Lesser Whitethroat and several other breeding species far too scarce to mention on an open forum such as this...
ps: Late breaking news this evening concerned a Terek Sandpiper on Ternery Pool at Rye Harbour NR.

Friday, 24 May 2013

Red-rumped Swallow & Bee-eater

Lade - 0700hrs - cold (5C!), rain, nw 2 - On one of the coldest May days I can remember it was no surprise that the only birds of note over the pits this morning were hundreds of Swifts and hirundines attempting to feed on emerging insects. A singing Blackcap in the garden, however, suggested that there had been some overnight migration.
ARC - 1200hrs - Incredibly, in such unfavourable weather conditions, two cracking southern rarities turned up today in the shape of the season`s 5th Red-rumped Swallow and a Bee-eater.
By the time I arrived on site the multi-coloured job had gone awol so I headed for Hanson hide where together with several other birders we enjoyed superb views of the Red-rumper hawking insects over the lake along with hundreds of Swifts and hirundines.  Unfortunately, a Hobby appeared which spooked the lot, and when they returned were much further out over the lake. Almost as good as the rumper was a cracking close Spotted Flycatcher in the willows by the hide, plus another singing Blackcap with an odd flourish at the end of its song.
Dungeness -  After a fair bit of flying around the Desert and Trapping Area the Bee-eater (193) eventually settled down for a bit on the wires near the Light Railway car park where it performed quite well, calling and sallying forth to catch bees (surprisingly with much success on such a cool day). Then suddenly up it went, calling away, off high and out of sight to the north-west at 1400hrs.

                                Bee-eater, Dungeness

Scotney & Galloways - Joined MH for a quick scout around to look for Cattle Egret to the east of Lydd. No joy but we did notch up a chicken-shed Little Owl. Scotney was alive with hundreds of Swifts and lesser numbers of hirundines. On the grass a pair of Ringed Plovers and a Barnacle Goose was about it. The Galloways Road yielded plenty of Cuckoo v Mipit action, plus Kestrel, Sedge Warbler and Whitethroat.


Thursday, 23 May 2013

Winter returns

Lade - cool, sunshine and showers, nw 3 - With the temperature dipping to 7C just after dawn it was no surprise that there was little moth activity around the trap last night. However, of the paltry 6 species Lime Speck Pug and Pebbled Prominent were new for the year and another Brimstone was trapped.
Very quiet over the pits with a cold, blustery north-westerly suppressing both bird song and insect activity.


                                Pebble Prominent

Lade - 1600hrs - Following news of a Bee-eater over Boulderwall (SB) heading north I checked out the Desert and the rough ground behind the `mirrors` without success. However, there was plenty of Cuckoo activity while a male Whinchat was a bonus perched atop gorse in Mockmill Sewer. The cold and rain had driven down 100 Swifts and 50 House Martins over south pit.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Its not all about birds...

Lade - 0700hrs - mild, cloudy, occasional sun, dry, n 2 - Today was one of those days when I realise how lucky I am to be able to show an appreciative visitor what Dungeness has to offer. We didn`t stray off the NNR all day and still managed to find a stunning array of flora and fauna.
First off the Plovers moth trap rattled up an `impressive` 8 species!! Rustic Shoulder-knot and Brimstone were both new for the year and Tawny Shears reached 25, including the pale job below.

                                Rustic Shoulder-knot

                                Tawny Shears

Liz particularly wanted to see some butterflies, so as the sun was out we headed for the ponds at Lade a bit sharpish. The sun-trap paid dividends with our first Small Copper of the year, a pristine insect that looked  as though it had just emerged. Also on the wing were a few Large Whites, an Orange Tip, a Hairy Hawker dragonfly and several Blue-tailed Damsels. The cloud cover then resumed, and that was that, show time over. Close views of Reed Warblers and Whitethroats were had, a few spikes of Southern Marsh Orchids were in flower and the Marsh Frog chorus was in full voice.

                                Small Copper, Lade

                                Southern Marsh Orchid

Next stop the Kerton Road Café (which for once had less moths than my garden trap) followed by a viewing of the wild flower meadow where Yellow Rattle was in flower (thanks to DB for the guided tour).
Dungeness -  Moving on to the point where Linnets, Whitethroats, Wheatear and Black Redstart all showed well and a migrant Chiffchaff called from cover. Several large parties of Swifts moved overhead and a half hour look at the sea yielded 150 Common Scoters up-Channel, plus 2 Kittiwakes, 20 Gannets and all the usual Common and Sandwich Terns. Flora of interest included a carpet of Birds-foot Trefoil, flowering (at last) Sea Kale and Prostrate Broom also in flower.
At the Obs we met up with DW who kindly showed us where he`d recently seen Grizzled Skippers, but by now the sun had retreated behind a blanket of cloud and it was a no show.
RSPB - From the causeway road at the southern end of ARC Little Egret, Shoveler and Ringed Plover of note, plus 50 Swifts and a Cuckoo. From the access road there was a couple of Hobbies over Cook`s but no sign of yesterdays Cattle Egret in the fields, while the usual Tree Sparrows were on the Boulderwall feeders.
Liz set a toughish wish list of Grass Snake, Bearded Tit and Bittern, all of which we eventually recorded; the snake under tin, Beardies seen from the ramp, plus a `booming` Bittern. Also noted around the circuit: Sedge, Reed and Cetti`s Warblers, Whitethoat and Lesser Whitethroat, Green Woodpecker, Cuckoo and Marsh Harrier. The hayfields yielded a Greenshank amongst the breeding Redshank and Lapwing, plus Shelduck, Shoveler and Garganey. On Dengemarsh the usual Common Terns on the rafts, while Burrowes delivered Wigeon, Common Sandpiper and two 1st summer Little Gulls. Bird of the afternoon however was up to 10 Hobbies, some of which gave stunning views hawking insects and perched on posts and shingle, simply superb.
Back at the VC a Fox showed well in the car park and more Hobbies were seen on the drive out.
In summary, just another steady old day at Dungeness...

                                Fox, car park

                                Hobbies, Dengemarsh hayfields

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Little Owl

Lade - 0700hrs - mild, cloudy, n 2 -  The best catch of what up until now has been a poor moth trapping season down here on the coast; of the five species the majority were Tawny Shears. Whilst emptying the trap two Cuckoos flew over the garden calling loudly which is pretty unusual.
Over the pits there was further Cuckoo activity with at least four different individuals either cuckooing over the reed bed or hunting caterpillars on the scrub and slumped on overhead wires. At least 50 Swifts over the willow swamp.
RSPB - The Cattle Egret was still among the cows in the field near Boulderwall while the drake Scaup remained on ARC. At the south end singles of LRP, Oystercatcher, 2 Little Egrets, a Hobby and 30 Swifts over the causeway road. The Little Owl showed well this afternoon.
Walland Marsh - After picking up Liz from Ashford station (down for a three day stay from Northumberland) we criss-crossed the Marsh from Warehorne but saw very little apart from a few Yellowhammers, Whitethroats and the like, plus a brown hare near Brenzett.

                                Little Owl

Lade - 1800hrs - An evening visit yielded 2 Med Gulls, Hobby and 2 Marsh Harriers. All the usual warblers singing plus a passage of 50 Swifts northwards.

Monday, 20 May 2013

Turtle Dove twitch & Cattle Egret

Lade - 0800hrs - mild, cloudy, drizzle, mist, nnw 2 - A most unpleasant day with rain and low cloud throughout. With guests staying over for a couple of days I ran the trap last night and got precisely 18 Tawny Shears and a Shuttle-shaped Dart. At the Kerton Road Café things were a little better with a nice Chocolate Tip and Toadflax Brocade, plus Broad-barred White, Cinnabar, Knot Grass, Foxglove Pug and even more Tawny Shears and Light Feathered Rustics.

                                Chocolate Tip, KRC

                                Little Owl

                                Toadflax Brocade

Dungeness - 1000hrs - Nothing much of note on the sea apart from a few passing Gannets and terns, plus 10 or more porpoises offshore. At the Patch an assortment of immature gulls and 50 Common Terns. On the power station wall a Black Redstart. Just missed an Osprey heading north being hassled by Herring Gulls.
Lade - The only bird of interest here was a ringtail Hen Harrier behind the `mirrors` along with 2 Marsh Harriers.
Somewhere on Romney Marsh - 1400hrs  - This afternoon we ventured out onto the Marsh in search of a year tick in the shape of Turtle Dove (191). I employed the services of a local guide who said he could guarantee a result at a secret location, "somewhere on the flatlands". With Barney blindfolded and myself being sworn to secrecy we set off into the mist and drizzle. First stop at a seed dump drew a blank but several singing Yellowhammers was some compensation. Further along the lane we located our target bird perched on the cross-trees of a telegraph pole with another `purring` bird nearby. Success at last and a Boy Scout bird-finders badge to my trusty guide.
We triumphantly retired to the bird reserve seeing Little Owl along the way and two 1st summer Little Gulls from the VC.
Boulderwall - 1815hrs - Just as we were settling in to listen to the Archers this evening, PB has to go and find a Cattle Egret (192) on the fields near Boulderwall! So it was back to the bird reserve where the egret perched obliging on the back of a cow, albeit at some distance. One local birder, who shall remain nameless, realised that he may be able to get the egret on his `from-the-house-list`, so off he went to do just that...

                                Cattle Egret, Boulderwall

Sunday, 19 May 2013

West Sussex

Saturday - Spent the weekend in sunny West Sussex primarily to attend the RSPB`s Farming Alliance jolly-up at Pulborough Brooks, a reserve I`ve not been to before and very smart it was too, complete with spectacular views across the Arun Valley from the visitors centre.
First up was a presentation by Michael Blencowe on Extinct Birdwatching, which was one of the funniest and thought provoking talks I`ve attended; if you get a chance to see it go, you will not be disappointed. Chris Corrigan then followed with details on the survey work and the problems facing farmland birds such as Turtle Dove and Grey Partridge. While he cited glimmers of hope overall it was a pretty depressing picture with the likelihood of the dove (still haven`t seen one this year yet) going the same way as the Passenger Pigeon if we`re not careful. Anyhow, following a terrific spread (I now know why birders talk about the café in glowing gastronomic terms!) we had a wander around the reserve listening to, and seeing, Nightingales among other bits and pieces. The scouts were out listening for Nightjars, on what was a perfectly still night, but none had arrived yet.
Thanks are in order to the RSPB staff and vols at Pulborough for a thoroughly enjoyable evening.

                                Pulborough Brooks, West Sussex

Sunday, Bracklesham Bay - Having crashed at our nipper`s place for the night this morning Barney and I wandered down to the recently acquired RSPB wetland reserve situated between Bracklesham and Selsey Bill. This large flood plain just behind the sea wall with meadows, ditches, reedbeds and meres is currently undergoing the heavy earth-moving treatment to improve it for birds. Skylarks, Linnets, Whitethroats and Mipits were much in evidence along with Shelducks, Oystercatchers, Redshank, Ringed Plover, Kestrel and Buzzard, plus 2 Med Gulls and 20 Sandwich Terns noted on the sea. In a year or two I reckon it will complement Pagham Harbour and start pulling in the birds.

                                Bracklesham Bay, West Sussex

Friday, 17 May 2013

Red-spotted Bluethroat, Dungeness

Dungeness - 0730hrs - cool, cloudy, ne 2 - A half hour look at the sea delivered nothing of note apart from a few terns and distant Gannets. At the Patch 80 Common Terns and a couple of hundred immature gulls was about it. On the power station wall two male Black Redstarts were going at each other hammer and tongs, otherwise there was just the usual Linnets and Whitethroats in the bushes towards the Obs.

                                Common Terns, The Patch

                                Sea Pink, Dungeness                               

                                Puss Moth, KRC

Called in at the Kerton Road Café where last nights moth traps yielded a few Light Feathered Rustics, Tawny Shears and a smart Puss Moth.
Dungeness  - 1300hrs - Whilst in Sainsbury, New Romney news came through on the text of a Red-spotted Bluethroat (189) at the fishing boats! By heck, that`s the quickest I`ve ever checked out of that place; the girl on the till must`ve thought my house was on fire.
However, eventually arrived on site just as the bird had done the off, but mercifully it was quickly relocated by the fisherman`s cottage and over the next hour performed a treat to one and all as it hopped around, uncharacteristically, feeding in the open. The views of what was a full adult male Red-spotted Bluethroat  were sublime, the only problem for me was it proved difficult to digi-scope, so only managed one or two pics, but the usual suspects with the proper kit should`ve mopped up. After an hour it flew off towards the sea containers, so I let it be having enjoyed some of the best views ever of this classic drift migrant. Well done to Patrick, the Assistant Warden for finding this little spindly-legged cracker.
Another  Serin was noted at the point this morning (DW).

                                Red-spotted Bluethroat, Dungeness

ARC - 1600hrs - Wandered down to Screen hide where hundreds of Swifts were feeding over the water along with Swallows and House Martins. The drake Scaup showed well among the Tufteds and a party of 30 Common Terns briefly dropped in. Lesser Whitethroat and Garden Warbler (190) noted on the walk to the water tower. Also, had good views of a Little Owl nearby.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Urban Birding

Tottenham, London - Whilst on grandparent duties an early morning circuit of the local park in cool, wet conditions yielded, unsurprisingly, very little bird activity. However, on the plus side there seemed to be plenty of breeding House Sparrows and Starlings, while a Mistle Thrush `bounced` around on the football pitch dragging forth worms. Several Goldfinches twittered away, a pair of Lesser-black Backs flew over and a Green Woodpecker called from the hospital ground in St Anne`s Road.
  We took the little bloke to the Natural History Museum today and I swear the bird exhibits haven't changed since I first visited back in the 60`s (the 1960`s that is...); that big case of hummingbirds is now so faded that all of them now look the same opaque colour. Anyhow, at 2 years and 9 months some of the little blokes` identification was astounding (his mother has obviously been priming him) as he nailed animals as diverse as Rock Hyrax, Woolly Mammoth, Pangolin and Great Auk!
  The Natural History Museum is simply the finest building in London (although St Pancras Station gives it a run for its money). Forget Buck House and the Tower, just go to South Kensington, stand back, admire and look on in wonder at this work of art, both inside and out. Alfred Waterhouse, the Victorian architect who designed it must`ve been a genius, and as for the fellas who built it, what top artisans.

                                            Natural History Museum

  Anyhow, back to birds, and surprise, surprise when we emerged from the tube station at Seven Sisters, on the way back to base, the sky above was thick with Swifts. What a fabulous sight as over a 100 of these sickle-shaped racers careered through the airspace feeding on aerial plankton just above the roof-tops.

Dungeness Spring

Thursday 16th May - Tottenham - 0630hrs - cool and sunny - Another circuit of the local park revealed pretty much as yesterday. The highlight was a pair of Mistle Thrushes feeding their fledged young and a party of Swifts feeding on what looked like greenflies coming off the parkland lime trees. The only new bird was a Kestrel winging over the park clasping freshly caught prey.

Dungeness Spring - a snap summary
As we move into the second half of May spring migration is slowly grinding to a halt; although there could still be one or two goodies to come (perhaps a Red-footed Falcon or Bee-eater, or maybe a decent wader such as a summer plum Red-necked Phalarope, a pratincole or Marsh Sandpiper). Some will say it never really got going and it has been depressingly quiet for bread-and-butter passerines on the land - and what`s happened to the Spotted Flycatchers, Mipits, Garden Warblers, Turtle Doves, Swifts and House Martins? Still, maybe there`s time for them to come yet. But let`s not dwell on the doom and gloom, as after all migrant numbers were down elsewhere along the south coast, and there have been some notable highs this spring.
Seabirds - When all else fails we can rely on the sea to deliver the goods and while seawatching was patchy at times it did produced some memorable watches with DBO record day counts for Red-throated Divers and Commic Terns at 3,175 on 7th April, and 12,500 on 5th May respectively. As for sea-ducks, Common Scoters came through in good numbers and there were some decent counts of Velvets, Red-breasted Mergansers, Eiders and even a few Garganeys, Pintails, Red-necked Grebes and Long-tailed Ducks. As already mentioned there was no shortage of Red-throated Divers throughout April and as the month ended small numbers of Black-throats appeared along with several Great Northern Divers. However, wader numbers were generally poor with few Whimbrels and nothing like the Barwit passage of recent years.
  One of the undoubted highlights of the seabird passage is the up-Channel exodus of Brent Geese as the great skeins head for their northern breeding grounds. Early April saw the peak movement with 5,790 recorded on the 7th. But for many visitors to Dunge the migrant most birders want to see is Pomarine Skua and while around 60 were logged through many were pushed well off-shore due to the strong westerlies. Arctic and Great Skuas also showed throughout with one or two days of 50 plus of the latter. Little Gulls and Black and Little Terns were in short supply but a Roseate Tern and a few Manx Shearwaters were noted into May.
  During all the hours spent staring out to sea there are often some amusing or unusual occurrences: Carrion Crows and Collared Doves came and went while a flock of Mute Swans drifted by and Great Crested Grebes displayed on the sea. Several Serins hurtled overhead calling and Swallows were seen heading south! A leaucistic Herring Gull was noteworthy as was a coasting male Montagu`s Harrier which eventually came inland at Hythe.
                                Wheatear, Dungeness, 20th March

Landlubbers - Spring duly arrived with the first Wheatears on 20th March followed by a small influx of Black Redstarts, Firecrests, Goldcrests and Chiffchaffs. Into April and a trickle of Willow Warblers, Blackcaps and Yellow Wagtails moved through while several passage Ring Ouzels showed well within a fall of thrushes; plus later, small numbers of Whinchats, Redstarts and a Pied Flycatcher alongside the breeding Whitethroats and Linnets. The only scarcity on the land was a grounded Serin that showed briefly to a lucky few on the 13th April.
Around the Bird Reserve - On the RSPB reserve sightings of the elusive wintering Penduline Tits eventually dried up while the Great White Egrets shipped out to goodness knows where. A Purple Heron was flushed from the gully, a White Stork and Spoonbill dropped in and out, a Bittern `boomed`, Ravens `cronked`, Garganeys `rattled`, Marsh Harriers `sky-danced`, while several Red Kites were tracked across the Peninsula. An Iceland Gull put in an all too brief appearance on Burrowes and a flock of flava wagtails contained one or two Blue-headed/Channel types. A few Lesser Whitethroats and Nightingales were heard amongst the numerous Sedge and Reed Warblers and by early May Cuckoos and Hobbies were more noticeable.
  It was slim pickings for wader enthusiasts due to high water levels but the hayfields did eventually attract a trickle of Greenshanks, Whimbrels, godwits, Wood Sandpiper, Knot and best of all a showy Pectoral Sandpiper, while Little Ringed Plovers and Common Sandpipers were in short supply everywhere. A Ring-necked Duck that was originally on Lade pits relocated all too briefly to New Diggings while a Green-winged Teal was equally as elusive. Other wildfowl included 3 Scaup on Burrowes and ARC, Black-necked Grebes on Hookers and Lade and a Long-tailed Duck on Scotney.

                                Pectoral Sandpiper, Hayfield 3, 11th May

  Probably the `event` of the spring was the occurrence of four separate  Red-rumped Swallows amongst the hirundines on the bird reserve. While three were tricky to see the last one was not and showed to one and all as it swooped close to the hides around Burrowes and in front of the Visitor Centre. And finally to the Alpine Swift. After putting in a brief appearance at Boulderwall, the following day it was relocated over the ponds at Lade where it performed at close range skimming over the adjacent caravans in the bright blue sky, and for me the `bird of the spring` due to the close and protracted views of what can be a `difficult` rarity to get to grips with.

                                Alpine Swift, Lade, 18th April


Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Out & About

Lade - 0700hrs - cool, cloudy, w 3 - Pretty much a repeat of yesterday with a party of 50 Swifts over the willow swamp the only migrants of note. With less wind there was a bit more bird song about this morning, particularly from the main reed bed where the Reed Warblers were `chugging` away, while a Cuckoo looked on sussing out potential clients.
On the botanical front the gorse continues to look spectacular, while the sea campion is carpeting the storm beaches and the first of the prostrate broom flowers are breaking through at last.
Willington, Bedfordshire - A trip up to the old county for magazine articles yielded few birds in blustery wet conditions. However, this wetland site in the Ouse valley did turn up Grey Wagtail and Kingfisher along the river, plus Common Terns and a Little Gull over the main lake.
Warden and Galley Hill, Luton - Didn`t stay for long as it was lashing down by now, but the usual downland Linnets, Yellowhammers and Skylarks noted.
ps: News from back home at Dungeness filtered in throughout the day with the Green-winged Teal once again reported early morning only, this time on Hayfield 1, plus Little Stint on the bird reserve and a Black Kite on Walland Marsh.

Monday, 13 May 2013

Red-rumped Swallow, Burrowes

Lade - 0700hrs - cool, cloudy, w 4 - Another breezy old day slogging around the local patch checking out all likely spots that may attract dabbling ducks, particularly teal. None found here but the Green-winged Teal did put in another brief appearance at the south end of ARC just after 0800hrs (PB). Spent some time checking through a flock of 100 hirundines and Swifts over the willow swamp, while 2 Yellow Wagtails passed overhead calling.
Burrowes - 1300hrs - King Hirundine (SB) struck again with his 4th Red-rumped Swallow of the spring, which showed a treat over Burrowes between Dennis`s and Makepeace hides amongst a large flock of Swallows and Swifts. It also performed in front of the visitor centre; my second of the season and a much improved view than the New Diggings bird.
Also on the bird reserve today the summer plum Knot and Pectoral Sandpiper on Hayfield 3 and a pair of Scaup on Burrowes, plus a drake on ARC.

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Green-winged Teal

Dungeness  - 0500hrs - cool, sunny, w 3 - Not sure why but gave the sea an early morning look and lasted 90 minutes before caving in. A large feeding flock of c 200 terns offshore included at least one Little Tern and 20 Gannets. Moving west were 2 Manxies (186), 100 auks and 12 Fulmars, while the only eastbound birds of note were singles of Arctic and Pomarine Skuas.
At the Patch at least another 100 Common Terns over the boil. Nothing on the land apart from 2 Goldfinches and a Black Redstart.

                                Drilling ship, Dungeness

                                             Early Purple Orchid, Dungeness

                                Green-winged Teal, ARC                               

ARC - Whilst checking through a flock of Swifts by the gate at the southern end of ARC a Cuckoo flew over. Further along the causeway road way two birders (Craig Sammels & Chris Dyatt) flagged us down to tell of a drake Green-winged Teal dabbling in the shallows alongside a couple of Mallards. To all intents a drake nominate Teal, apart from the distinctive white vertical slot on the side of the breast, while it also lacked the white scapular bar of Teal. Managed a couple of poor record record shots into the sun and alerted the local bird hounds; TG arrived just in time before it flew off towards Tower Pits at 0750hrs. Needless to say it was new for the Marsh year list (187) and a personal Dungeness tick.
Dungeness - Spent an hour chatting to DB whilst staring into his amazing bird garden where Spotted Flycatcher (188) was new for the year. Also had brief views of 2 Common Redstarts and heard a sub-singing Blackcap. Across the road Skylark, Wheatear and Mipit.
As an example of how late the plant growth is this spring the two pics below were taken at the same location on 12th May last year and today, where the sea kale is probably three weeks adrift.

                                Sea Kale, Dungeness 12th May, 2012

                                Sea Kale, Dungeness 12th May, 2013

Burrowes - 1500hrs - A scan from Dennis`s hide yielded a pair of Scaup out in the middle battling with the waves being whipped up by an increasing westerly blow. Several parties of Swifts and hirundines over the lake plus a few Common Terns. Otherwise spent most of the time nattering in the visitors centre. The Pec Sand was still on Hayfield 3, another drake Scaup on ARC and a Hen Harrier through. There was no further sign of this mornings Green-winged Teal despite extensive searching. The rain arrived by 1630hrs.

Saturday, 11 May 2013

Cup Final Day Cuckoo & Pectoral Sandpiper

Lade - 0800hrs - cool, sunshine, showers, sw 5 - Another blustery day with winds sweeping off the Channel keeping temperatures low and making for poor birding with most passerines skulking in cover. Despite the wind Cuckoos were much in evidence this morning with two around the willow swamp and another feeding on caterpillars in the gorse scrub; on closer inspection it seemed to be setting about the `tented` brown-tailed moth caterpillars (hooray!) of which there is a plentiful supply. Once the little buggers leave the `tents` and start shedding their hairs they can cause irritation to the skin.

                                Cuckoo, Lade

A steady stream of Starlings were flying out from their coastal housing nest sites to feed on cranefly larvae on the storm beaches, while a passage of 30 Swifts briefly paused over south pit and that was about it really.
Once again the moth trap was empty this morning.
Dengemarsh -1300hrs - It`s a well known fact that good birds always turn up on Cup Final Day, whatever the date; many`s the time I`ve had to rush out before the big game and twitch a rare bird, and so it proved today with a Pectoral Sandpiper (Marsh year tick 185) dropping onto Hayfield no. 3. Fortunately, this cracking little wader decided to feed as close to the track as possible and afforded superb views as it fed in company with a Dunlin and Ringed Plover. Unfortunately, due to the buffeting wind I could only manage a few poor dig-scope shots.
Mid-May is a classic spring arrival date for this trans-Atlantic wader; although this bird may well have been from the small, but established, population on this side of the Ocean. Whatever its origins it was most welcome in what has been a relatively rarity-starved spring.

                               Pectoral Sandpiper, Hayfield no. 3, Dengemarsh

Friday, 10 May 2013

Change of Scene

Park Wood - 1000hrs - cool, cloudy, sw 4 - With very little happening on the coast a change of scene was in order, so together with Marshman and the Joker we headed for the uplands. Despite the blustery wind and late start there was still plenty of bird song on offer around the `Nightingale Walk` where at least 5 male Nightingales were singing away; and we even glimpsed one as it flew across a ride. Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps were in good numbers and there was at least 2 singing Willow Warblers in the bare canopy. Due to the late spring the bluebells were still in full flower along with many of the early species such as primroses and celandines. Also noted, Buzzard, Kestrel, Green Woodpecker, Mistle Thrush, Cuckoo, Coal and Long-tailed Tits, Nuthatch and Treecreeper. We could find no evidence of Turtle Dove, Spotted Flycatcher or Garden Warbler, all of which were present last summer, and surmised that they were just late this year,  hopefully...

                                Park Wood

Shirley Moor - We drove across the moor and pulled over and scanned a couple of likely spots, one of which was obviously in a Stewardship Scheme which had a pair of Grey Partridges, several pairs of Lapwings, Yellowhammers, Linnets and Buzzard. Elsewhere, Whitethroat, Reed Bunting, more Yammers and 2 Jays.
Kenardington Bridge - One of my favourite spots on the Marsh and despite the windy conditions there was plenty to see. Reed Warblers sang near the car park along with Chiffchaff, Blackcap and 2 Lesser Whitethroats either side of the bridge. Best of all though was fleeting views of a Kingfisher along the canal, a `piping` Bullfinch and a perched Hobby. Also noted Green and Greater peckers, Yellowhammer, Reed Bunting, Linnets, Long-tailed Tit, Buzzard, Lapwings and 50 House Martins, plus a green-veined white butterfly.

Thursday, 9 May 2013

White Spot & Swifts

Lade - 0600hrs - cool, sunny, sw 2 - Ran the trap last night and much to my surprise, seeing as how the temperature had dropped off during the night, there was the grand total of four species (this time last year I was getting an average of 10 species per night). However, one was a White Spot which is something of a Dungeness speciality where the lava feed on the seeds of Nottingham Catchfly, an abundant plant found on the shingle ridges hereabouts. White Spot is a Red Data Book 2 species (meaning that it occurs in only six to ten 10km squares in Britain) so I always feel quite privileged when one is trapped in our enclosed garden.
A wander around the pits delivered few passerines due to the increasing south-westerly which by late afternoon picked up to force 5/6. A party of 20 Swifts over the willow swamp was noteworthy as so far this spring few have passed this way.
Dengemarsh Gully - 1445hrs - Together with MH we worked the gully in blustery conditions where just the usual Sedge Warblers, Whitethroats and Linnets present. Four Ringed Plover flew over from the hayfields and a distant Raven headed towards the switch station. Barney was beside himself at the bottom of the gully when presented with 50 odd rabbits to chase, none of which needed to worry as they slipped into the gorse leaving the daft old mutt running around in circles like a kid in a sweet shop.
More Swifts were noted over the causeway road between ARC and New Diggings and a passage of 50 went over the cottage late afternoon.

                                   Dengemarsh Gully

                                    Swallow Prominent

                                    White Spot, RDB2 moth

ps: Late news from the Wiltshire Birders who were joined in the seawatch hide by LGRE this evening, who has predicted the Portland Poms off the point in the morning...