Saturday, 30 November 2013

A Duck Day

Lade - 0830hrs - cold, sunny, nw 3 - A Stonechat was the first bird of note on the storm beach scrub, while even more ducks seem to have moved on to south lake. A quick tally up revealed 350 Gadwall, 150 Tufted Duck, 100 Pochard,100 Teal, 50 Shoveler, 50 Wigeon, 50 Mallard and 500 Coot. Two Marsh Harrier over the back and a large mixed flock of Lapwing and Golden Plover.
ARC -  A run out with MH this morning and at the south end our first Smew of the winter was in the bay close to the causeway road, plus hundreds of Gadwall and Teal further out on the lake. From Hanson hide 5 Goldeneye amongst hundreds more diving ducks as well as Great White and Little Egret and a close Grey Heron in front of the hide. Also noted Marsh Harrier, Water Rail and Reed Bunting.

                                Grey Heron, ARC

                                Great White Egret, ARC

                                Smew, ARC

Scotney - The duck count continued with all the expected Wigeon and diving ducks, 20 Pintail and feral geese. On the grass a scattering of wildfowl, Lapwing, Redshank and Dunlin. At the entrance to the farm the Long-tailed Duck was hiding amongst a Coot and Tufted flock and at one stage came ashore and sat on the bank. A flock of distant Shelduck on the working quarry completed our suite of ducks for the day.
Caldecote Lane - A distant flock of 35 Bewick`s Swans in a rape-seed field included 5 juvs.
Galloways - All we could muster up here was 3 Stonechat.
Burrowes  - From the vc hundreds more common wildfowl, while another Smew was reported in front of Scott hide and a pair of Hen Harrier earlier.

Friday, 29 November 2013


Lade - 0900hrs - mild, cloudy, w 3 - Following two days of Mordor-like gloom a light wind from the west cleared the murk and the sun even broke through on occasions. There was a noticeable influx of thrushes across the local patch this morning, particularly of Song Thrush with at least two small flocks coming in high off the bay. Blackbird too were prominent with the scrub tops over by the airport alive with `em, and there was even one of two Redwing scattered about. Otherwise it was the same old fare on the pits with 2 Goldeneye on north lake the best of the bunch. Water Rail, Cetti`s Warbler, Chiffchaff, Marsh Harrier and Kestrel all noted.
Dungeness - 1430hrs - An hour from the concrete road with MH delivered an expected trickle of Kittiwake, Common Scoter, Gannet, auks and Red-throated Diver moving around the Point.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Still waiting for Smew...

Lade - 0900hrs - mild, overcast, light airs - A repeat of yesterday weather wise along with dull, misty murky light. Plenty of wildfowl and Coot on south lake with a Marsh Harrier taking no more than a passing interest. It was so still this morning that Water Rail and Cetti`s Warbler could easily be heard calling in the willow swamp over the far side of the lake. On north lake 3 Goldeneye and 5 Mipits passed over south.
ARC - 1500hrs - Checked from Hanson for a reported redhead Smew, but could find no sign of it. At least 5 Goldeneye amongst the diving duck and Coot, a flock of 200 Lapwing looking for somewhere safe to roost for the night, plus Marsh Harrier, Little Egret and Kestrel over. A flock of Long-tailed Tit and 2 Chiffchaff from the willow trail. At the south end a Great White Egret amongst several hundred Gadwall and Teal.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Glossy Ibis

Dungeness - mild, overcast, dull - A milder morning due to thick cloud cover and light airs, but grey and misty. At the Patch just the usual couple of hundred gulls, mainly Black-headed, while offshore a few Red-throated Diver and Common Scoter coming and going, plus 100 scoters on Rye Bay.

                                Stonechat, Corral

RSPB - From the causeway road at least 350 Gadwall at the south end of ARC plus 3 Goldeneye on the open water. We parked up at Boulderwall and after a natter with the staff walked Dengemarsh. The wet fields behind Cook`s were full of birds; Goldies, Lapwing, Stock Dove, Wigeon, Shoveler, feral geese, corvids, gulls and the like, plus a Kingfisher and flight views of the Glossy Ibis as it moved between Gun Club pit and the horse paddocks. Two Stonechat were at the Corral and raptors were much in evidence with 6 Marsh Harrier, 2 Kestrel, Sparrowhawk and Common Buzzard. Hookers was quieter with just Reed Bunting, Cetti`s Warbler, Water Rail and a flock of Long-tailed Tit of note, plus 5 Dabchick on Dengemarsh. Burrowes was stacked out with hundreds of wintering wildfowl including 20 Pintail and 4 Goldeneye.
ps: The only other local news concerned a Tawny Owl (rare down here) calling opposite the church in Lydd last night.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013


Hemsted Forest - 0900hrs -  cold, cloudy/sunny - Had a run out with MH this morning to look for crossbills in the forest. During a three hour stakeout we had upward of 20 Common Crossbill, some of which showed well through the `scope, but most were too distant for the camera. There was a wide range of plumages on offer with one or two stunning brick-red males, plus another with a stout, Parrot-type bill, but no sign of either Parrot or Two-barred Crossbills. Nonetheless, crossbills of whatever type are always well appreciated.
Also noted, a Raven being hassled by crows, plus 6 Redwing, 4 Fieldfare, Bullfinch, Goldcrest, Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers, Coal and Long-tailed Tits, Jay and Siskin. 

                                Common Crossbill, Hemsted Forest

PS: News from Dungeness today concerned a Black Kite seen flying out to sea, while the Glossy Ibis was reported on the bird reserve.

Monday, 25 November 2013

Black Kite, Lade

Lade - 0800hrs - dry, sunny, nw 2 - A stunning morning with bright blue skies and only a light wind. We walked Mockmill again where the scrub was full of Blackbirds, several Song Thrushes and Robins plus 2 Stonechats at the northern end of the sewer. Whilst scanning behind the `mirrors` the Black Kite flew over from Romney Salts and was soon mobbed by a gang of crows, diverting it back towards the airfield. Three Marsh Harriers, Kestrel and Sparrowhawk also noted plus all the usual corvids, gulls, Woodies, doves and plovers.
On south lake 2 redhead Goldeneye were amongst the duck and Coot flock.

                                Mockmill Sewer

Hythe - Had to go to the big metropolis today so checked the sea front defence blocks for Purple Sandpiper around midday. The sun was against me and it was low tide, so not great conditions, but managed to find one at the bottom of Stade Street amongst several Turnstone.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Woodcock & Fieldfare

Lade - 0900hrs - cold, sunny, n 4 - Following last nights moshing at the Bellowhead gig the old body felt a bit achy breaky this morning making for a late start. I try not to get tempted away from the local patch at least one day a week, normally a Sunday, and go shanks pony birding, which makes me feel good not burning any fossils in pursuit of birds. Also, Barney loves this kind of walk as it gives him licence to snuffle about in all sorts of nooks and crannies, and fair play to the old boy, for the second day running he flushed a good bird...
We started off in high spirits with a single Fieldfare over the cottage, a bird (along with Goldcrest) that has been largely absent this autumn. The trudge across the shingle to Mockmill Sewer was worthwhile as it was here that Barney disturbed a Woodcock from a damp, grassy patch. Further along the sewer several Song Thrushes and Blackbirds were noted plus a Stonechat. Scanning across the airport fields yielded several Marsh Harriers, Kestrel and Common Buzzard but no sign of yesterdays Black Kite (although it was reported towards New Romney today). Birds were everywhere with large numbers of Black-headed and Common Gulls, Lapwing, Golden Plover, Woodpigeon, Stock Dove and corvids swirling over the fields as the raptors looked for a meal.
On south lake a wide range of wildfowl including 2 Pintail (scarce here) while a drake Goldeneye was the best return on north lake. Cetti`s Warbler, Water Rail, Chiffchaff and Green Woodpecker all noted around the willow swamp.
The final section of the walk back along the beach from Greatstone was not so profitable as the land yachts and kite-surfers were out in force in the bright sunshine. However, we still managed Curlew, Oyc, Barwit, Dunlin and Sanderling on the mud plus a few Turnstone and Pied Wagtail along the foreshore. All in all a satisfying morning in the field in bright sunshine and with a brisk northerly airflow guaranteed to blow away the cobwebs.

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Black Kite

Dungeness - 0900hrs - cold, sunshine/showers, n 3 - Spent some time at the Patch checking the gulls but couldn't find anything unusual with up to 1,000 Black-headed Gulls making up the bulk of birds over the boil and on the beach. Offshore at least 200 scoters on Rye Bay and a few distant Gannets, plus singles of Black Redstart and Pied Wagtail in the power station compound and 10 Goldfinch over.
Whilst at the Patch a call from PB told of a Black Kite flying towards the switch station. The gulls were quickly forgotten as we hot-footed (no running, just fast walking...) along the sea wall towards Penn Bars where the kite appeared from behind the station, heading towards the Army ranges.
The views were poor and I thought that was going to be it so we walked down the side of B station to re-position ourselves to look beyond the switch station when Barney flushed a Ring Ouzel beside the fence! Twenty minutes later and the kite reappeared affording much better `scope views as it flew slowly back towards the bird reserve where it was seen at close range by PB (check for pics later), SB and MH from the car park at ARC. Also noted whilst waiting for the kite: 5 Marsh Harrier, 2 Raven, Common Buzzard and Merlin.
North Lade - 1200hrs - Checked out the fields around the airport where there was a huge flock of Golden Plover and Lapwing over a thousand strong, plus 50 Dunlin and 20 Redshank. From Greatstone School, overlooking Romney Salts, I had further distant views of the kite perched on a straw stack before it was eventually disturbed by a group of crows and headed off towards Belgar Farm.
This individual has been seen across the Marsh for a week or more now and is most distinctive as it has battered/moulting tail feathers.
Folkestone - Living on the wilds of Romney Marsh means that normally you have to travel to see a decent band, but not tonight as one our favs the English folk rockers Bellowhead finished their UK tour at the Leas Cliff Hall. A brilliant gig and as always very visual, what with the 11 band members playing just about every known musical instrument. All the expected blend of old and new folk tunes were there, with a typical Bellowhead spin, a great show.

Friday, 22 November 2013

North Kent

Leybourne Lakes Country Park - cold, showery, n 4 - Spent the day `up north` with the Joker, site recceing for articles. I must say standards were slipping as he didn`t crack a gag `til midday but soon got into his stride during the afternoon... This is the first time I`ve been to Leybourne and a very well laid out country park it is too with a series of lakes and associated woodland and scrub. All the expected wildfowl noted including Goldeneye, plus Kingfisher, Grey Wagtail, Goldfinch and a mixed passerine flock that contained Long-tailed Tit and Chiffchaff.

                                Leybourne Lakes

Funton Creek - Next stop the Medway at low tide where a fine selection of waders and wildfowl were on show out on the mud, if mostly distant. Highlights were 100 Avocet, 100 Blackwit, 20 Grey Plover, 20 Brent and 50 Pintail amongst hundreds of Dunlin, Curlew and Redshank. Due to the rain few raptors were noted apart from a couple of Marsh Harriers.
Harty Marshes - On the island we checked from the usual watch points along the road, which incidentally in one section has had an adjacent, deep drainage ditch dug, so beware. Anyhow, a distant Mute Swan flock held at least 10 Bewick`s Swans, while a closer flood attracted 20 Shelduck, 2 Dabchick and 200 Mallard. By now the rain had eased so Marsh Harriers were constantly in view along with Kestrel and a white-tailed Common Buzzard. A stubble field was full of Starling, gulls, Lapwing and Woodpigeon, plus small flocks of Skylark and goodness knows what else, if only it was accessible.
Oare Marsh - With high tide approaching it was a case of sit back and enjoy the show and the best views of waders coming to roost anywhere in the south-east. Several hundreds each of Dunlin, Blackwit and Redshank made up the bulk along with smaller numbers of Avocet, Ringed Plover, Grey Plover and a few Snipe around the margins. Plenty of Pintail were also on show along with Teal, Gadwall and Shoveler. Also, noted Little Egret, Marsh Harrier, Meadow Pipit, Skylark and a Stonechat.

                                Avocets, Oare Marshes

                                Pintail, Oare Marshes

                                Blackwits & Dunlin, Oare Marshes

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Mystery bird

Lade - 0800hrs - cold, cloudy, rain, ne 4 - The wind direction had driven the large mixed flock of wildfowl and Coot on south pit close to the footpath but there was nothing unexpected in the massed ranks. A Marsh Harrier was hunting over the reedbed, while a flock of 200 Goldies wheeled over the airport fields.
New Romney - Every now and then I get an e-mail or phone call regarding a `mystery bird in the garden`. Most turn out to be regular garden birds some of which, such as this one, in aberrant plumage. The finder said it had been coming to food in the garden for a couple of years and it wasn't long before it `bounced` down onto the lawn, confirming my suspicion that it was indeed a Blackbird; an adult female with two white outer tail feathers and nothing in between! The bird could fly ok, but had trouble landing on a fence due to a lack of counter balance, as a result of which apparently it spends most of its time on the deck. Apologies for the poor pic, but an interesting bird nonetheless.

                                                             White-tailed Blackbird, New Romney

Dungeness - 1415hrs - A 30 minute seawatch from the concrete road with MH, in a brisk north-easterly, predictably delivered very little apart from a few Gannets, Kittiwakes, Common Scoters, 2 Red-throated divers and singles of Med Gull and Bonxie.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013


Dungeness - 0800hrs - cold, cloudy, sw 3, then nw 4 rain - Joined PB for just under the hour for a look at the sea from the boats where the expected trickle of Gannets and Kittiwakes were joined by a few auks, Red-throated Divers, Common Scoters and 50ish Great Crested Grebes on the sea. On the move west were 18 Brents, 15 Wigeon, 15 Dunlin, 2 Teal and a Mallard. And then the rain arrived...
Scotney - All the usual Wigeon, Goldies, Lapwings, feral geese on the grass, while the Long-tailed Duck looked settled in for the duration on the lake. On the way home a Great White Egret flew over the causeway road heading for the reserve.
Lade - With the rain band passing over by mid-afternoon we checked the pits where yesterdays 2 Goldeneyes remained on north lake and a couple of Marsh Harriers hunted over the farmland towards the airport. Chiffchaff, Cetti`s Warbler, Water Rail and Long-tailed Tits were all heard in the willow swamp. In fading light we hung around to see if anything came to roost and indeed 3 Little Egrets flew in along with 26 Magpies plus a few Blackbirds, Song Thrushes and Woodpigeons.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Bewick`s Swans

Lade - 0800hrs - cold, bright and sunny,  nw 4 - A nippy old day due to the brisk north-westerly. Nothing much new on the pits apart from 2 Shelducks. Overhead, single figures of Goldfinch, Mipit and Skylark.
ARC - From Hanson hide several hundred wildfowl on the lake including 3 Goldeneyes. Raptors of note were a Marsh Harrier hunting Coot in mid-water and a Merlin bathing on the far side. Also noted singles of Kingfisher and Great White Egret, 4 Little Egrets and 2 Chiffchaffs in the willows.

                                Bewick`s and Mute Swans, Walland Marsh

Walland Marsh - Bewick`s Swans  - Now, what is there not to like about these beautiful wild swans that grace us with their presence about this time of year. Having abandoned their nesting grounds on the Russian tundra they will spend the next three months or so grazing on oil-seed rape greenery or grubbing around on potato fields. They are easy to see from the back road between Lydd and Brookland, so enjoy them while you can and there should be many more to come yet.

Monday, 18 November 2013

Lade wildfowl & waders

Lade - 0900hrs - mild, overcast, drizzle, light airs - A repeat performance from yesterday on the  weather front and with hardly any wind south pit was covered in gulls and wildfowl, mostly Coot and Gadwall but with around 50 each of Shoveler, Teal and Wigeon plus 4 Common Scoters which are pretty scarce here. North pit held less birds but did include the first 2 Goldeneyes of the season. Passerines were much in evidence with Chiffchaff, Cetti`s Warbler, Mipit, Skylark, 10 Blackbirds, 5 Goldfinches and 2 Song Thrushes. Several Water Rails called from the reed-swamp while 2 Marsh Harriers were on the wing behind the `mirrors`.
To complete the circuit of the local patch we cut back along the beach on an incoming tide where seven species of waders were noted, some of which were roosting on the shingle. The Curlews however flew over the coast road heading for the storm beaches out on the Desert.

                                Oystercatcher roost, Lade beach

                                Redshanks, Lade beach

                               Sanderlings, Lade beach

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Gannets & Blackbirds

Dungeness  - mild, overcast, drizzle, ne 2 - In contrast to yesterdays bright blue skies today was the opposite with low cloud and poor light. However, an hour at the boats delivered about 50 Gannets feeding offshore along with hundreds of gulls. Several Kittiwakes and Red-throated Divers came and went, while a party of 50 Starlings came in off the sea.
RSPB - Spent some time checking the pits for any unusual diving ducks without success with just 3  Goldeneye on ARC, plus a Kingfisher, 3 Great White Egrets, 20 Pintails, 100 Golden Plovers and a Stonechat elsewhere around the site. There was a noticeable influx in Blackbirds on ARC with about 20 on the walk down to the pines along with a mixed flock of tits, mostly Long-tails.
Jean and Sarah ended up with around 90 species over the weekend with the highlights being the Redpolls at the Obs and the `Grey Ghost` coming to roost on Walland Marsh.
A Black Kite was reported on Walland this morning and again this afternoon on the bird reserve.

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Autumn meets winter...

Dungeness - 0900hrs - mild, sunny, light airs - perfect weather for a days birding around the Marsh, and what a great day it turned out for Jean and Sarah. At the Patch a single 1st winter Little Gull was noted amongst the hundreds of Black-heads, while offshore a few Gannets, Kittiwakes and Common Scoters drifted into Rye Bay. On the walk back a singing Black Redstart in the power station was joined by a second bird, plus Pied Wagtails and a flyover Raven.
At the Obs both Lesser and Common Redpolls were studied in the hand, a Chiffchaff in the garden, while a few Mipits and Goldfinches passed overhead.

                                Common Redpoll, DBO

                                Lesser Redpoll, male, DBO

RSPB - From the access road several Marsh Harriers, Curlews, Lapwings and 3 Great White Egrets on the fields at Boulderwall but we could find no sign of the Glossy Ibis. On Burrowes at least 20 Pintails and 2 Shelducks amongst the hundreds of wildfowl. A brief view of a Bittern on Hookers plus Common Buzzard, 2 Peregrines, Cetti`s Warbler, Bearded Tits pinging in the reedbed and a Stonechat at the Corral.
Scotney - As we pulled up by the double bends the Long-tailed Duck was one of the closest birds to the shore and showed well. All the usual feral geese elsewhere plus Golden Plovers and Wigeon with a few Dunlin and Redshanks.
Walland Marsh  - A flavour of winter to finish the day, and fabulous to see them back, a flock of 14 Bewick`s Swan in a distant field towards Old Romney (thanks for the text Plod), 5 Skylarks and a Corn Bunting plus a Little Owl on a nearby barn. The Midley feeders yielded Tree Sparrows and Goldfinches, plus Sparrowhawk and Common Buzzard nearby.
Finished off at a harrier roost site where 6 Marsh Harriers came in plus a spanking male, `grey ghost` Hen Harrier, which was without doubt bird-of-the-day, and the sunset was pretty impressive too.

                                Sunset over Walland Marsh

Friday, 15 November 2013

Egrets & Harriers

Lade Bay - 1330hrs - cold, sunny, n3 - With two of our regulars, Jean and Sarah, down for a weekends birding we commenced at Littlestone checking the bay for waders in superb afternoon sunshine. Of the ten regular winter waders we failed to find a Grey Plover and only singles of Ringed Plover and Redshank. Three Dark-bellied Brents were also noted on the sands along with all the usual gulls.

                                Little Egret, ARC

                                Sunset, Boulderwall

ARC - From Screen and Hanson hides 3 Great White Egrets present plus 2 Littles and several Grey Herons. At least 6 different Marsh Harriers came and went, all of which were juv/females. On the water hundreds of wintering wildfowl including 4 Goldeneyes. A Lapwing flock flying around looking for somewhere to land held a single Golden Plover. A Long-tailed Tit flock by the willow trail contained a Firecrest, a Chiffchaff called from cover near Screen while the Tree Sparrows went to roost in the scrub by the car park.
A quick look from Boulderwall turned up Dabchick and Water Rail on the pool, plus a stunning sunset.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Divers & Spoonbills - Cap Gris-Nez

Cap Gris-Nez - Cloudy, rain clearing, cool, nw 5 - With the weather lords forecasting a north-westerly blow, together with the Joker, and Marshman at the wheel, we journeyed under the sea to arrive at the seawatching hot spot of Gris-Nez for first light. Spent the morning birding from the platform lookout where a flock of up to 150 Common Scoters were on the sea below throughout the watch, plus up to 100 regular gulls and Cormorants. While most of the seabirds we logged were just offshore there were, literally, thousands of auks, Kitts and Gannets passing west in mid-Channel. Seawatching from the Cap is completly different from sea-level Dunge as you`re looking down on the birds and the light is from behind, making identification much easier.
Virtually the first decent bird through was a cracking close Great Northern Diver,  followed by 15 Black-throated and 15 Red-throated Divers throughout the morning along with 30 Pintail, 80 Wigeon, 2 Mallard, 2 Gadwall, 5 Brent Geese, 20 Great Crested Grebes, 2 Velvet Scoter, 2 Shelduck, 200 Dunlin, 8 Bonxies, 20 Med Gulls and 8 Little Gulls. While the divers were the highlight of the watch the biggest surprises was a flock of 4 Spoonbills!
Also around the Cap, a flock of c2,000 Starlings in the fields, 50 Chaffinches, 20 Greenfinches, 10 Goldfinches and single figures of Redwing, Fieldfare, Skylark, Peregrine and Kestrel, plus a Grey Seal offshore. 

                                4 Spoonbills, Cap Gris-Nez

                                Common Scoters, Cap Gris-Nez

                                Seawatching, Cap Gris-Nez

We then spent the afternoon mooching around a few local sites with the fields at Gris-Nez delivering a covey of 5 Grey Partridges and small flocks of Fieldfares, Skylarks and Chaffinches. A small copse near an old gun emplacement harboured a few thrushes, tits, Green Woodpecker and a Chiffchaff.


At Ambleteuse Kingfisher, Sanderling and Rock Pipit were noted and we discovered a good looking wetland reserve separate from the wildfowling lagoons at Tardinghen that held Teal and Dabchick. Driving the lanes back towards Blanc-Nez two small herds of Roe Deer were logged along with up to 10 Brown Hares, plus a flock of 500 Herring, Lesser and Great Black-backed Gulls.
Another great day in the Pas-de-Calais with plenty of jokes and anecdotes along the way.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013


Lade - cool, sunny, nw 2 - 0830hrs - At last a dry sunny day, and with a light frost, the first of the season. Had a good look around the local patch this morning trying to find a few passerines as the winds were light. In the willow swamp the usual singing Cetti`s Warbler and a calling Chiffchaff, Blue and Great Tits, plus a few Blackbirds, Robins, Wrens and Dunnocks. From the causeway scanning across the scrub towards the airport Green Woodpecker, Song Thrush and Reed Bunting noted, while a couple of Goldfinches and Skylarks passed overhead. At the top end of north pit a Kingfisher flew across the lake.
We then completed the circuit along the beach where small groups of Pied Wagtails fed along the tideline with a couple of Mipits. All the usual shorebirds on the mudflats, plus 2 Shelducks.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Scoter flock

Dungeness - 1000hrs - cloudy, drizzle, n2 - Another dismal morning with low cloud and rain, but brighter by mid afternoon - Wandered down to The Patch where at least 5 Little Gulls were feeding around the boil along with 100 other regular gulls, while way offshore on Rye Bay a flock of 500 scoters was noteworthy. From the seawatch hide a few Gannets and Kittiwakes on the move plus one flock of 110 Brents westwards.
Scotney - Plenty of activity on the grassy fields where all the usual hundreds of Golden Plovers, Lapwings, Wigeon and feral Barnacle and Greylag Geese present. Also, 2 Shelducks, 10 Dunlins and 2 Redshanks. The Long-tailed Duck was viewable from the bend in the road, but distant, along with hundreds more feral geese and gulls on the water and plovers on the land.

                                United Nations Conference, Dungeness Beach

                                Woodcock, DBO

Dungeness - 1430hrs - At the concrete road joined BM for an hour staring at the sea. A few Gannets and Kitts passed down-Channel plus a cracking Bonxie with Dulux-white wing flashes and single figures of Common Scoter, Brents, Teal, Tufted Duck, Wigeon, Red-throated Diver and Guillemots and 2 redpolls inbound. Nipped down to the Obs to admire a stunning Woodcock in the hand.

Monday, 11 November 2013

Wildfowl & Waders on the move

Dungeness - 0945hrs - cool, overcast, drizzle, s 4 - Only had limited time in the field today but joined DW, TG, PB and MH for an hour at the fishing boats where there was a decent westward passage of wildfowl and waders already underway; most of which, particularly the Brents were close to shore or just overhead. Whilst I was there we had 200 Brents, 50 Common Scoters, 50 Wigeon, 4 Red-breasted Mergansers, 2 Teal, 2 Tufted Ducks, 6 Red-throated Divers, 10 auks, 50 Dunlin, 6 Sanderling, 5 Knot and singles of Purple Sandpiper (thanks to DW for ironing that one out...) Grey Plover and Med Gull. Further out there were good numbers of Gannets and gulls either feeding or on the move and at least 50 Great Crested Grebes on the sea.
No doubt many more of the above were logged throughout the morning (check the DBO website for full detail), plus a Black Brant within the goose flocks (MH).

Sunday, 10 November 2013

WeBS & Harriers

Lade - 1000hrs - cool, sunny, nw 4 - After the deluge and dullness of yesterday it was good to see the sunshine today, even if it was tempered by a keen north-westerly. Anyhow, today was the monthly WeBS count and most of the wildfowl were conveniently huddled beside the willows on south lake in the lee of the wind. Top count went to 403 Coots with all the usual numbers of diving ducks, plus 4 Shelducks. Several Marsh Harriers were on the hunt behind the `mirrors` along with 2 Kestrels and a Common Buzzard; no doubt the raptors were hungry after sitting out the rain yesterday.
Burrowes - On the lake 2 Great White Egrets and a Black-necked Grebe was about it amongst all the usual wildfowl and gulls. Two Fieldfares flew over and at least 3 Marsh Harriers were hunting over the Oppen Pits.

                                Great White Egret, Burrowes

Harrier Count - Accompanied Marshman in his native habitat out on the flatlands to the usual watch point for the monthly harrier count this afternoon in perfect weather, once the wind had slackened off; and what a stunning sunset as well. There were plenty of Marsh Harriers on the wing but only 12 came to roost, mostly this years juveniles. However, several hundred Golden Plovers and Lapwings were regularly flushed off the flood by a pair of Peregrines that put on a superb show of aerial acrobatics. To complete the raptor fest we also noted 2 Common Buzzards, 2 Kestrels and singles of Merlin and Sparrowhawk. Several Snipe were seen or heard, plus a Ruff amongst the plovers as well as both Little and Great White Egrets. Water Rails were calling constantly along with occasional Bearded Tit and Cetti`s Warbler.
As if that wasn't enough we also had distant views of a Short-eared Owl (courtesy of PB) and stunning views of a Barn Owl which diverted around us, only a few yards away, as it hunted along the bund like a giant moth. After the lousy weather of late the owls must`ve prospered in the fine weather conditions.
In summary a great couple of hours out on the Marsh - and what is it about owls, as it doesn't matter how many years of birding you`ve got under your belt they are always a delight to watch.

Friday, 8 November 2013

Pale-bellied Brent

Dungeness - 1000hrs - mild, overcast, w 2 - Joined the seawatchers from the boats for half an hour where there was a steady westwards passage of Brent Geese on the go, including a pale-bellied individual which I think was a first for me here. Also on the move a number of Gannets, Kittiwakes and Common Scoter, plus single figures of Bonxie, Red-throated Diver, and Little Gull, 2 Red-breasted Mergansers and Tufted Ducks. Several parties of Starlings came in and a party of 50 Goldfinches coasted west.
Previously a Red-necked Grebe and a Snow Bunting were noted.

                                 Brent Geese, Dungeness      

Lade - Checked the pits this afternoon but all was quiet apart from a couple of Chiffchaffs in the buddleia beside north pit. On the bay all the usual waders returning to feed on the mud plus 2 late Sandwich Terns.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Coues`s Arctic Redpoll

Lade - 0930hrs - mild, rain clearing, w 2 - This autumn Goldcrests have been noticeable by their absence, so it was with some surprise that whilst wandering around the willow swamp one came through with a tit flock. Several Water Rails and Cetti`s Warblers were calling and a Green Sandpiper flew across south lake looking for somewhere to pitch up. Overhead a few Goldfinches, 2 Skylarks and a Reed Bunting. A large flock of Golden Plovers and Lapwings flew over the farmland behind the `mirrors`.
Dungeness - 1045-1145hrs - An hour from the concrete road produced a trickle of Gannets, Kittiwakes and auks west, plus 6 Red-throated Divers, 4 Bonxies, 3 Med Gulls and 20 Brents. Heading east were 10 Brents, 15 Common Scoters and 2 Sandwich Terns.
Dungeness Bird Observatory - 1430hrs - Just as the afternoon was petering out, news from the Obs that, "some interesting redpolls have been trapped", neccesited a rapid change of plan. First one out of the bird bag was a stunning Arctic Redpoll of the northern Europe race Coues`s Carduelis hornemanni exilipes. First impressions, even in the hand, was of a puffed up, bull-necked, mainly grey and white redpoll with a stubby bill. On closer inspection it showed an unstreaked white rump, pure white flanks and undertail coverts, broad white wing-bars, white tipped tertials and white fringed remiges and rectrices.

                                Coues`s Arctic Redpoll Carduelis hornemanni, exilipes

Next out for comparison was a Common (Mealy) Redpoll Carduelis flammea, which was noticeably slimmer and more brownish-grey overall with a streaked rump and undertail.

                                 Common Redpoll, Carduelis flammea

                                Common (left), Coues`s (right) Redpolls                               

An interesting and informative afternoon and thanks to David and Patrick for making it so for us  locals who were lucky enough to make it to site. Both these redpolls were new for the year list (210, 211) with the Coues`s a Dunge tick.
And just to complete the hat trick, and highlight how different they are, a yellowish-brown, streaked Lesser Redpoll was also trapped.

                                Lesser Redpoll, Carduelis cabaret

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Great Northern Diver

Dungeness - 0845hrs - dull, calm, drizzle, mild, breezy later, sw 4 - A day out with Wendy and Doug commenced with a three hour seawatch in dreary weather with at times poor visibility. We started off at the concrete road where virtually the first bird of note was an adult Pomarine Skua powering west! A decent start, but to be fair there wasn't much genuine movement throughout the morning apart from several pulses of Gannets, Kittiwakes and Black-headed Gulls. We then decided on a move to the seawatch hide until a call from DW informed us that a Great Northern Diver (a scarce bird at Dunge) had settled on the sea off the boats, so it was back to where we started to connect with this monster diver and enjoy good scope views before it eventually flew off west. 20 Little Gulls went one way then another, as did 5 Med Gulls. Also noted 10 Sandwich Terns, 2 Bonxies, 1 Arctic Skua, 1 diver sp, 20 Brents, 3 Sanderlings, 2 Porpoises and a Grey Seal. On the foreshore 30 Turnstones and a Purple Sandpiper. There were hundreds of gulls on the shingle, mostly Great-blacks and Herring Gulls.
RSPB - On New Diggings a Great White Egret. From the VC all the usual wildfowl on Burrowes plus a Black-necked Grebe, Raven, Dunlin and several Marsh Harriers over the Oppen Pits.
Nothing much on Dengemarsh apart from a couple of Marsh Harriers.
Scotney - All the usual feral geese, Wigeon, Lapwings, 20 Goldies, 2 Redshanks and 20 Brents at the farm end.
ARC - Finished off at Hanson hide where 3 Goldeneyes over the far side plus all the usual dabblers and 4 Little Egrets on what remains of the islands.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Long-eared Owl, nearly...

Lade - 0900hrs - wet and windy, mild, sw 4 - Nothing much to report from the local patch apart from a couple of Marsh Harriers working the grasslands behind the `mirrors`. Overhead a party of Goldfinches and 2 Skylarks.
Dengemarsh - Had a run out this afternoon with MH and PB to look for a Long-eared Owl seen going to roost in a clump of willows. However, by the time we arrived the owl was nowhere to be seen. Compensation was provided by flight views of 2 Bitterns and the usual Marsh Harriers.
We drove the Range road looking for owls, in fading light, but it was not to be.
PS: News from the sea today concerned Great Northern Diver and Sabine`s Gull past the point, plus a light passage of Little Gulls and skuas.

Monday, 4 November 2013

The weather, and matters tidal...

Lade - wet, windy, nw 4, sunny later - One of the most interesting aspects of life down here on the flatlands by the sea is that the weather and tides tend to dominate daily life much more than if living up country, and today was a classic. Last night and early morning was another shocker with heavy rain and a scudding north-westerly rattling the windows around the cottage. However, by mid-morning the wind had backed off slightly and the sun broke through in a bright blue sky; by midday  most of the surface rainwater had soaked into the shingle and was all but a distant memory.
Anyhow, I noticed on the local news that the EA had issued several flood warnings in the south-east (north Kent mostly), due to high tides and a tidal surge coinciding with the heavy rainfall, so after checking the pits we spent a bit of time on the beach at Greatstone, around high tide, and most impressive it was too.

                                "By `eck, looks ruff out there!"

                                Greatstone Beach

It`s very rare that you get such conditions here where long rollers with masses of surf crash up against and undercut the sand dunes. Shingle from further south along the bay was being moved down towards the dunes making a spectacular undertow noise as the waves receded, while further along towards Lade the sea crashed over the first shingle ridge washing away the dead sea kale tops. All pretty riveting stuff, which just highlights the power of mother nature.
As for birds, well they took second place this morning, but few passerines were noted due to the wind. On the beach Meadow Pipit and Goldfinch in the dunes, a gang of House Sparrows by the Tavern and a large roosting flock of Oystercatchers and Barwits on the shingle near Lade. Several Marsh Harriers and Kestrels were hunting behind the `mirrors` and a couple of Chiffchaffs called from the willow swamp. 

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Long-tailed Duck & Purple Sands

Lade - mild, sunny, w 5 - 0800hrs - After a week away it was a sobering sight on the local patch with all the islands and muddy margins now flooded and the water at winter levels. However, we gave it a going over but for little return, although at least 5 Chiffchaffs and a Cetti`s Warbler were calling  around the willow swamp. On the open water two large groups of Wigeon and Shoveler totalled 150 while a juv Marsh Harrier spent some time in the middle of south lake `worrying` a flock of Coot. The harrier seemed to expend a lot of energy in the blustery wind `testing` out the Coots and looking for a weakling with no reward, before retiring to the reed-bed to consider its next move. Coots are regularly taken by Marsh Harriers down here, usually by the larger females, and over the years we`ve witnessed some pretty gruesome encounters which, for a successful kill, usually means the Coot being partially drowned before being ripped apart in the shallows whilst still alive and kicking.
Scotney - Following a call from MH we ventured out this afternoon to see a smart Long-tailed Duck, just out from the grassy spit by the double bend and firmly in Sussex.  As always they`re a real treat, and just about annual down here, with Scotney being one of the most reliable sites.

                                Long-tailed Duck, Scotney

                                Purple Sandpiper, Dungeness

Dungeness - News from PB that the 2 Purple Sandpipers from yesterday were showing well at the boats prompted a last gasp dash to the foreshore, dodging the day-trippers en-route and the huge pot-holes that now dominate the estate road. The two Purps were picking over seaweed with a group of Turnstones so we settled down and let the birds come to us. Now I should have cracking shots but due to the vagaries of bridge cameras focusing on every damm pebble nearby, but not the bird, all I could come up with is the pic above. Most frustrating and if anyone has any way around the focusing problem with this type of camera I`d be pleased to hear.
PS: Other local news concerned the Glossy Ibis and Great White Egrets still on the bird reserve, while two Yellow-browed Warblers were reported in the Trapping Area.

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Pom Skuas & GNDiver

Dungeness - 0900hrs - mild, cloudy, calm, am; showery, windy, pm, sw 5 - After being away for what seemed likes ages (only five days) it was good to get out and about around the peninsula for some `proper` birding. Truth be told I was in a bit of a quandary as to where to start, but eventually we headed down the concrete road and joined TG for what turned out to be a very tidy 90 minute seawatch, in an autumn which has otherwise been generally poor for seabird passage. Anyhow, TG had already noted a few skuas and things were definitely moving with hundreds of Black-headed Gulls, Common Gulls and Kittiwakes rounding the point along with a plenty of close Gannets and a few auks. Inevitably skuas were the highlight, which this morning included 6 Bonxies, 1 Arctic and 2 Pomarines, one of which sported an immaculate set of `spoons` akin to a spring bird. Also noted heading west were 30 Med Gulls, 20 Sandwich Terns, 20 Common Scoters and a long awaited year tick, Great Northern Diver (209), plus several flocks of Starlings inbound, 2 late Swallows out and 2 porpoises and a Grey Seal offshore.
At the Patch 5 Little Gulls amongst the gull melee, while a pair of Raven performed well on the power station roof. At the Obs a Painted Lady butterfly.

                                Raven, Dungeness

ARC - After cake, coffee, dog biscuits, green beans and a good old gossip at the KRC we called in Hanson hide where the Glossy Ibis was still present on the fast diminishing islands alongside 100 Wigeon, Teal and Lapwings. Two Greenshanks flew across the back and a Kingfisher zipped by calling, but I couldn`t find the reported Common Scoter.

                                Glossy Ibis, ARC

Scotney - A thorough check of all the main waters for any seabirds drew a blank, while on the grass the usual flock of feral Barnacles were present, plus a mix of 500 Goldies, Wigeons and Lapwings. A distant Marsh Harrier and Kestrel were the only raptors noted. Drove the Galloways road, but by now the wind had picked up and it was largely a birdless scene.
Called in at the VC for a natter and a scan but Burrowes was quiet with only 2 Black-necked Grebes and a Great White Egret of note.
Dungeness  - Back at the point a 30 minute seawatch from the boats yielded 5 Med Gulls west along with a trickle of Gannets, Kittiwakes and Black-headed Gulls, before the showers set in around 1600hrs enforcing close of play.
Nonetheless, it had been a decent days birding with the Poms the undoubted highlight along with the large number of gulls on the move.

Friday, 1 November 2013


Dorset - Thurs/Fri - Wet and windy - We spent a couple of days in Dorset during which time it didn`t stop raining. Called in at Ferrybridge and Portland Bill on Thursday, but to be fair there was little of note at both sites apart from the expected waders at the former and a few Med Gulls at the latter. On Friday we moved inland from Dorchester at Chilfrome where a few soggy Buzzards were noted along with Grey Wagtail, Redwing and Yellowhammers along the river.

                                Barney, "not more seawatching..."

                                Portland Bill

                                Portland Bird Observatory