Monday, 31 March 2014

Garden moths

Lade - mild, overcast, drizzle, light airs  - With a mild still night in the offing I ran the mv trap for the first time last night and caught six species, all typical early spring moths, plus only my second record of Pine Beauty, common enough in wooded country, but rare as hens teeth down here.
A circuit of the pits was memorable for being, extremely quiet with not a single migrant to be heard. Two Sandwich Terns over the cottage this morning were the first of the year, plus more calling Med Gulls.
At the Kerton Road Café this afternoon a Barred Tooth-striped was the main topic of conversation, trapped locally by the Moth Lord.

                                        Early Grey

                                        Pine Beauty

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Coast Drive Fulmar

Dungeness - 0615-0745hrs - mild, hazy, light airs - Another early morning crack at the sea from the concrete road was nowhere near as interesting as yesterday, although a small group of Eiders were seen again. Totals up-Channel as follows: Red-throated Diver 11, Fulmar 2, Gannet 22, Brent 36, Shelduck 2, Eider 3, Common Scoter 95, Kittiwake 15, Sandwich Tern 8. The Glaucous Gull flew by, while 8 Med Gulls and 15 Sandwich Terns passed west
Lade - The lakes were quiet this morning but on the gravel pit the Black-headed Gulls were back on the island along with six Meds. Working in the garden today the `yowing` call of Med Gulls was regularly heard overhead.
Dungeness  - 1550-1650hrs - An afternoon hour staring at a mill-pond calm sea totalled 8 Red-throats, 2 Mergansers and 43 Brents up-Channel. Fifty grebes were on the sea and two Harbour Porpoises in it. Dungeness always feels a bit spooky with no wind and looking out to sea into the haze you couldn't differentiate the sea from the sky at the horizon, if you catch my drift...
Driving home along Coast Drive I followed a Fulmar which flew arrow straight above the road at about 50 feet, as I turned into Taylor Road the seabird continued on towards Greatstone, how weird...

Saturday, 29 March 2014

Eiders & other ducks

Dungeness - 0600-0800hrs - mild, hazy sunshine, ese 2 - With nobody in last night and no breakfasts to cook we rose with a blood-red sun and headed for an early morning seawatch from the concrete road. As is often the case with seawatching the first hour is usually the best and so it proved today with the highlight being a party of 25 Eiders and a total of 7 Garganeys amongst an array of wildfowl, plus a steady passage of Gannets. Full up-Channel details as follows:
Red-throated Diver 7 , Fulmar 1, Gannet 205, Brent 7, Teal 3, Mallard 4, Pintail 30, Garganey 7, Shoveler 42, Eider 25, Common Scoter 72, Merganser 3, Oystercatcher 1, Ringed Plover 1, Kittiwake 4, Sandwich Tern 7.
Incoming passerines included at least 20 Linnets, several Chaffinch and Greenfinch, while a pair of Wheatears posed on the concrete blocks (no point in photographing them any more now the Trophy has been dished out.... see: ) Carrion Crows came and went and the 1st winter Glaucous Gull put in an appearance. On the sea were the expected Great Crested Grebes and Cormorants, plus 2 Harbour Porpoise, alive and swimming. MH, DW, PB & CP all joined the merriment.
Lydd Allotments - With the sun shining and a light breeze I fully intended to dig for England and sort out me perches, but as ever got distracted, this time by a singing Blackcap in Lydd Wood and a flock of gulls feeding on adjacent farmland that included four Meds; even clocked a pair of Red-legs that were new for the year, if I was only keeping a year list...

                                Spring lambs, Lydd

Lade - Becoming a habit this Saturday afternoon visit to a nearby gravel pits. However, there wasn't a Black-headed Gull to be seen on the nesting island, probably as they were feeding on farmland out on the Marsh. All the usual birds present and correct including 20 Mipits, 10 Skylarks, 10 Pied Wagtails and a decent collection of common ducks, plus a pair of Pintail, while a sickly looking Kittiwake on the water was a surprise, but no summer migrants though. Both fox and hare noted.

                                Kittiwake, Lade

Friday, 28 March 2014

Harbour Porpoise

Dungeness - 0830hrs - cool, hazy sunshine, se 2 - Joined DW and PB on the concrete road for a seawatch this morning. A trickle of wildfowl and waders kept the interest going with east bound totals during the hour as follows: Red-throated Diver 15, Gannet 2, Brent 1, Shelduck 3, Common Scoter 30, Oystercatcher 3, Avocet 1, Grey Plover 3, Barwit 45, auk 5. The 1st winter Glaucous Gull also put in an appearance along the foreshore.
We spent another hour wandering across the peninsula the highlight being brief views of the Hume`s Leaf Warbler at the southern end of the trapping area. The only migrants of note were 3 Chiffchaffs and singles of Wheatear and Black Redstart. A Grey Heron near the Sanctuary caused the Herring Gulls to throw a wobbly, eventually driving the heron onto a cottage roof.

                                Harbour Porpoise, Lade

Lade - 1600hrs - Whilst wandering along the tide line collecting fire wood this afternoon we came across a dead Harbour Porpoise, sadly not a rare sight around Lade bay. Most of these little cetaceans are washed up with barely a scratch on them, presumably having been drowned in fishing nets, so called "by-catch" from a shockingly wasteful industry. Often they wash up minus their fins where they`ve been cut out of the nets.

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Linnets are back

Mockmill Sewer - 0900hrs - chilly, hazy sunshine, ne 2 - With only a light breeze coming off the sea this morning we decided on a slog across the shingle to work Mockmill Sewer. I don`t venture out here nearly as much as I should but whenever I do there is always a sense of expectancey that something good may be lurking amongst the tangle of gorse, bramble, sedge, tussock grass and bog. On the way out several Skylarks and a Mipit were in full song, two Med Gulls called overhead and a Sparrowhawk skimmed the storm beaches. At the southern end a smart dog Fox dashed from cover, quickly followed by a Border Terrier (who shall remain nameless) for about ten seconds. Two male Reed Buntings were singing a jaunty song and a Snipe was flushed by the returning terrier; further along the sewer a Green Sandpiper was a surprise as it flew towards the back of the `mirrors`.
Down here on the shingle Linnets are greeted as harbingers of spring along with Wheatears and Sand Martins and over the past week have become more noticeable as they return from their winter quarters, probably in southern France and Iberia. Linnets are a welcome splash of colour and song before the Sedge Warblers and Whitethroats take up residence in a fortnights time.

                               Linnet, Mockmill Sewer

Dungeness - 1430hrs - An hour at the fishing boats was enlivened by the presence of the long-staying Glaucous Gull that plonked itself right in front of us on the foreshore for half an hour. It seemed to be fascinated by the breaking surf, every so often walking out into the waves, bathing and generally enjoying life. Great Black-backs entering its orbit were given short thrift by this beast of a bird. I don't suppose our Arctic visitor will be around for much longer so I made the most of it and took a few more piccies. As for seabirds, well, there weren't any, apart from a couple of west bound Sandwich Terns and a few Great Crested Grebes on the sea.

                                1st winter GBB & Glaucous Gull, Dungeness

                                1st winter Glaucous Gull, Dungeness

Wednesday, 26 March 2014


Lade - 0900hrs - cold, sunny, ne 3 - The local patch was again quiet this morning with the only evidence of any migration being a few Mipits over and a Chiffchaff singing from the willow swamp. Oystercatchers are a regular feature of daily life down here with a large wintering flock on the bay and a handful of breeding pairs around the gravel pits. The small scaffold island on south lake at Lade always attracts a pair to nest in what is an unlikely spot.

                                Scaffold island, Lade

RSPB - The reserve was dead with more birders present than birds. The scarce grebes and divers appear to have gone leaving only several Goldeneye, Wigeon and Pintail as left overs from the winter. Great White and Little Egrets were noted from the causeway road from where three Little Gulls were hawking insects over ARC along with the Black-headed Gulls. The fields at Boulderwall had the usual feral geese, Grey Heron, Curlew and Stock Dove present.
NB: The springs first Little Ringed Plover flew over Dengemarsh Gully this morning (BP), while the wintering Hume`s Warbler was reported from the southern end of the trapping area (OL).

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

South-easterly Seawatch

Dungeness - 0900hrs - cold, overcast, light rain, se 3 - That rare beast, a south-easterly wind availed itself on Dungeness this morning, but as is so often the case with trying to predict suitable seawatching conditions it failed to deliver very much at all. We arrived late due to breakfast duties and as the heavy machinery was in action shifting shingle by the seawatch hide opted for the fishing boats. After a quick chat with PB & MH on the concrete road I wasn't expecting much and so it turned out to be with a 45 minute watch delivering single figures of Gannet, Sandwich Tern, Red-throated Diver, Kittiwake, Oystercatcher and Med Gull. On the sea just offshore were the usual Great Crested Grebes, several Guillemots and Red-throats. We then moved to the old coastguards lookout for another half an hour from where it was much the same, plus 5 Common Scoter and the long staying 1st winter Glaucous Gull patrolling the foreshore.
RSPB  - An afternoon visit to various parts of the bird reserve delivered very little apart from the usual wildfowl, Little Egrets, Marsh Harriers and a few Chiffchaffs, although the Slavonian Grebe was reported from Burrowes and a Firecrest in the scrub by Scott hide. 

Monday, 24 March 2014

More of the same

Dungeness - 0745hrs - warm, dry and sunny, se 2 - Joined PB at the Patch to look for yesterdays white-winged gulls of which there was no sign; infact gull numbers in general were low. Migrants were also thin on the ground with only a couple of Chiffchaffs around the old light and a Wheatear opposite Jarman`s.
Dengemarsh Gully - En-route a Black-throated Diver was present on New Diggings. The gully was quiet with only single figures of Reed Bunting, Chiffchaff, Wheatear and a Black Redstart of note, plus Raven, Peregrine, Kestrel and Shelduck elsewhere nearby.
Lade - Only a few Chiffchaffs to report here in the willow swamp and 45 Curlews flushed off the beach looking for somewhere to roost over by the airport.

Saturday, 22 March 2014

More Sand Martins

Lade - 0830hrs - cold, showery, sw 4 - A much colder morning with hail showers moving quickly over on a scudding wind. Having first had Sand Martins here ten days ago it was good to see five over north lake feeding on insects in the lee of the willows. A sprinkling of Chiffchaffs in coastal gardens and the willow swamp was the only other obvious reminder that it was spring. A few Mipits drifted over and an unusual thrush-like song had me going for a while until I actually located the culprit singing from a causeway willow - a Blackbird! The usual ducks were on the lake and two Marsh Harriers worked the fields over towards the airport.

         " Before you start laughing at my ears, you wanna have a look in the mirror"

                                Pintail, Lade

1430hrs - Continuing on with our shanks-pony weekend theme we checked out the quarry to the south this afternoon in blustery conditions where there was continuing activity on the Black-headed Gull island along with 8 Med Gulls, while hundreds of large gulls loafed on other islands. No surprise to see several more Sand Martins pausing a while before heading north, but passerines were few and far between with only single figures of Pied Wagtail, Mipit and Skylark. We scoured the margins for LRP without success, although 8 Oystercatchers and 2 Redshanks were noted. On the lake a stunning (aren`t they always) drake Pintail was a nice surprise along with a scattering of Gadwall, Teal, Shoveler and Tufted Duck.
As we slogged back home across the shingle the biting wind picked up to gusting Force 6, a reminder that winter hasn`t finished with us quite yet. The afternoon was rounded off in fine style as I supped a cuppa char and heard that QPR had beaten Middlesbrough 3-1 at the Riverside, rarely a happy hunting ground for the R`s.
NB: Elsewhere across the peninsula today more Sand Martins were reported from the bird reserve along with Wheatears, plus all the long-stayers seemed to be in place (BD et al).

Friday, 21 March 2014

First Blackcap & Goldcrest

Dengemarsh Gully - 0900hrs  - cool, sunny, sw 3 - Once the overnight rain had cleared a bright, sunny day followed, but with a keen wind. The gully produced our first Blackcap and Goldcrest of the spring along with 10 Chiffchaffs, 3 Stonechats, 2 Reed Buntings and single figures of Mipit, Skylark, Wren, Robin, Great Tit and Dunnock. A pair of Teal were disturbed from the sewer and both Raven and Med Gull passed overhead. MH joined us, while at the Penn Bars end there was at least six Wheatears on the shingle.
From Springfield Bridge the usual Marsh Harriers over the reedbed, plus 8 Shelduck and 2 Ringed Plovers on the hay field. The range road around Galloways was virtually birdless apart from a few corvids.
Scotney - Pretty quiet here too, apart from a pair of Avocets, 35 Dunlin, 10 Redshank and 2 Grey Plovers. A small party of Wigeon was still present and a Great White Egret flew over the new gravel pits.
Dungeness - 1430hrs - An hour from the fishing boats delivered no actual movement although single figures of Gannet, Kittiwake, Guillemot and Red-throated Diver were milling around offshore, along with 50 Great Crested Grebes and 2 Harbour Porpoises. A Sandwich Tern passed west along with an unidentified grey goose. On the beach the 1st winter Glaucous Gull was still present and I managed to id a 2nd winter Caspian Gull amongst several hundred large gulls.
NB: Also reported on the RSPB reserve today were Smew, Long-tailed Duck, Pink-footed Goose, Black-throated Diver, Firecrest and the years first, and early, Willow Warbler.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

First Garganey

Dungeness  - 0800hrs -  warm, dry, sunny, w 2 - A cracking morning for walking the foreshore between the lifeboat station and the concrete road where the highlight was a fall of 15 Wheatears. Quite why the early birds nearly always seem to favour this section of the peninsula is something of a mystery. Also present were 25 Mipits, 10 Skylarks, 5 Linnets, 4 Pied Wagtails, a Black Redstart and a pair of Shelducks. Around the old light things were much quieter with singles of Black Redstart, Stonechat and Chiffchaff being the only migrants on offer. The 1st winter Glaucous Gull was patrolling the foreshore and a flock of 30 Brents moved up-Channel; DW had many more earlier, plus a small flock of Garganey.

                                Shelduck, Dungeness

                                Wheatear, Dungeness

RSPB - News from SB & PB concerning two Garganey on the bird reserve necessitated a visit to Burrowes where distant views were had from Makepiece hide of a pair within a duck flock, that also included several Pintail. Two Smew, eight Goldeneye and a Black-necked Grebe were also noted. The fields at Boulderwall delivered 50 Grey Lags, 10 each of Curlew and Stock Dove, Great White Egret, Marsh Harrier, Common Buzzard and a Pink-footed Goose. From Screen hide on ARC there was little to see apart from a few wildfowl and large numbers of Black-headed Gulls hawking emerging insects over the lake. 

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Singing Chiffs

Lade - 0900hrs - mild, cloudy, sw 4 - A gusty wind made it feel cooler than it actual was this morning. A couple of singing Chiffchaffs in the willow swamp was the only evidence of migration. Cetti`s Warbler and Water Rail were both heard and a pair of Shelducks were on north lake. As high tide approached 67 Curlews flew over heading to roost on the farmland by runway; if the airport expansion ever gets the go ahead that`ll be the end of them.
RSPB - A quick look at parts of the reserve delivered the Pink-footed Goose in the Boulderwall fields, plus Long-tailed Duck, Great White Egret and singing Chiffchaffs on ARC.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Scary owls...

Dungeness - 0800hrs  - mild, dry, cloudy, sw 3 - Another dry day, although the wind picked up through the afternoon. A Wheatear on the shingle opposite Jarman`s and a Chiffchaff in the lighthouse garden were the only two migrants I could find. A brief seawatch from the hide produced up to 50 Gannets feeding offshore and 25 Red-throated Divers east bound into Rye Bay. Joined DW at the Patch were 2 Med Gulls and a Kittiwake were among the hundreds of large gulls on the beach and over the boil. The bird scarers were in operation on B station including two large plastic owls which the Herring Gulls didn`t seem to mind.
Whilst chatting to DG and OL by the car the 1st winter Glaucous Gull flew towards the Patch.

                                One scared Herring Gull, that worked then...

                               Orange-breasted Owl, Dungeness

ARC - From Hanson hide the Long-tailed Duck was being particularly difficult to see as it spent more time under the water than on the surface. Otherwise there was only a handful of diving ducks on show and a distant Little Egret. With the water level so high its going to be months before any islands appear here suitable for waders and other migrants.

Monday, 17 March 2014

Herring Gulls

Lade - warm, dry, cloudy, nw 2 - Love `em or loath `em, but you cant avoid `em, Herring Gulls are everywhere down here on the coastal strip. They are the first noise I hear in the morning and last thing I hear at night; and often during the night as well. The buggers crap on the washing, crap on the car, crap on me, mob the dog, terrorise the cat, nest on the roof, nick the bread from under the Blackbirds beaks and last summer one even clobbered the postie and cut his head open.
Apparently, the dear old "seagull" (there, I`ve said it...) is in decline and numbers are at their lowest ebb since records began in 1969/70; although the surveys fail to take into account the amount that now nest on buildings around the British coastline and some inland towns and cities. Herring Gulls even feature as a species of "Conservation Concern" under the UK BAP (Biodiversity Action Plan). Now, let me think about that, do we want to encourage a few more of the brutes at the expense of, say, Sandwich or Common Terns, mmm, its a close one that...

                       Herring Gull on the cottage roof and within water pistol range

                                "Ha-ha, you can`t reach us up here"

Anyhow, you`ve probably gathered by now I`m not a great fan of Larus argentatus, but hey-ho, they`re only exploiting resources provided by us humans, such as a limitless supply of waste food and first class nesting and roost sites, a case of evolution in action and all that really. But their saving grace for me is an ability to spot a raptor a mile away. As soon as they kick off its always worth a look skywards, mostly its either a Grey Heron or Sparrowhawk, but every so often, such as yesterday it was a Red Kite, and they`re good at spotting Ospreys too.  So, I suppose every cloud has a silver lining, as the saying goes.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Red Kites & Harriers

Lade - 0200hrs - Was rudely awoken by Barney in the early hours due to a kerfuffle in the garden, When I let the old boy out a fox launched itself over the garden wall like an Exocet. Once things settled down I was surprised to hear a light a passage of Redwings passing overhead in bright moonlight, a species that has been largely absent from these parts this winter. 
0900hrs - warm, dry and sunny, w2 - A cracking spring morning proved warm enough for Mrs PT to join us on our usual Sunday circuit of the pits and foreshore. The monthly WeBS count didn`t take long as there were only a few laggard ducks left over from the winter, including 20 each of Wigeon and Teal, plus a single Goldeneye. Scanning from the aerial ramp with thermals bouncing off the shingle two Marsh Harriers and a Sparrowhawk were soon up and soaring into the bright blue sky and it was no surprise when a call came through from PB alerting us to a couple of Red Kites over the water tower. About an hour later one flew down the coast getting a hammering from the Herring Gulls, while another was reported over Greatstone by MH; these may well have been the water tower birds from earlier. Walking back along the beach with the tide flooding in at least 150 Dunlin and 100 Sanderling were scurrying around feeding up until the last minute.
After a brew and a biscuit back at Plovers we set off again to check out the gravel pit to the south where at least 200 Black-headed Gulls were on the nesting island along with four Med Gulls. A high tide roost of up to a thousand large gulls was also present, no doubt pushed off their usual Dungeness haunts on this sunny Sunday. Included in the melee was a 3rd winter Yellow-legged Gull and, presumably, the long staying 1st winter Glaucous Gull from Dungeness. Skirting around the margins we managed two Redshanks and six Oycs plus eight Shelducks and four Shoveler on the lake. A Scandinavian Rock Pipit was amongst a group of Mipits and Pied Wagtails, while a single Black Redstart was along the fence line; at least two Mipits and ten Skylarks were in song.

                                Adult GBB & 1st winter Glaucous Gull

                                1st winter Glaucous Gull & 2nd winter Herring Gull

                                1st winter Glaucous Gull, Lade

Walland Marsh - 1600hrs - This evening we accompanied Marshman on the final harrier count of the `winter` at our usual stakeout on Walland. The weather was more mid-summer than mid-March with warm sunshine and a pleasant breeze out of the west. A flock of 40 Fieldfares was a good start along with three hares in a ploughed field. A feral Greylag Goose flock attracted 18 White-fronts and 2 Bean Geese (probably the two that were seen back in January at Scotney), plus 8 Shelduck nearby. Cracking views of Bearded Tits were had along the edge of the reedbed, along with calling Water Rails and toad. Also noted singles of Green Sandpiper, Great White and Little Egrets, 20 Lapwings and a scattering of Grey Heron, Dunlin, Snipe and Reed Bunting. Raptors included five Common Buzzards and a Sparrowhawk. From the lookout point 19 Marsh Harriers came to roost with the final bird settling down at 1840hrs in bright moonlight, a fine end to another superb days birding across the Romney Marsh.

                                Moonrise over Walland Marsh

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Much of a muchness

Lade - 0900hrs - mild, sunny, w 2 - We flogged around the local patch for little return on the bird front apart from three Goldeneyes on south lake and a good view of a Water Rail in the willow swamp. Marsh Harrier, Green Woodpecker and Kestrel were all active over the back, while Skylark and Reed Bunting were both in song. Scanning the skies for any overhead migrants from the aerial ramp proved fruitless, although OL reported a Red Kite north over New Romney around noon.
RSPB - 1430hrs - A brief tour of the bird reserve also delivered very little apart from yesterdays Scaup and Slav Grebe on Burrowes, plus Glossy Ibis and Pink-footed Goose on the fields at Boulderwall. A wander down to the pines at Tower pits yielded Chiffchaff and Long-tailed Tit while a Great White Egret flew over ARC heading towards Dengemarsh.

Friday, 14 March 2014

Pink-footed Goose

Denegemarsh Gully - 1100hrs - hazy sunshine, fog later, sw 2 - The weather was similar to yesterday with the fog rolling in by mid-afternoon. However, we walked the gully which was pretty much a bird-free zone apart from singles of Cetti`s Warbler, Reed Bunting, Stonechat, Mipit and Black Redstart, plus the usual Dunnocks and Wrens. The Raven was getting mobbed by a gang of crows and a Kestrel out on the shingle at Penn Bars.
Several Marsh Harriers were quartering Hookers and from Springfield Bridge we walked the hayfields which were empty apart from a flock of 35 Curlews that suddenly dropped in, eight Shelducks and a small mixed flock of Mipits and Reed Buntings feeding on weed seeds by the fence line. Conditions on the hayfields look perfect for a drop in Garganey, LRP or Wipit, but not today, perhaps over the weekend...
Lydd - Called in at the Grange to check the heronry where at least ten pairs were on nests alongside scores of Rooks and a number of Jackdaws.

                                Pink-footed Goose, Boulderwall

Boulderwall - 1400hrs - Once again the dreaded fog rolled in but we eventually located the plastic Pink-foot hunkered down with Greylags just past Boulderwall cottage. Still, at least that means I`ve not got to look at another grey goose this year... not that I`m year listing of course...
The Black-throated Divers were on New Diggings along with a flyover Great White Egret and the Long-tailed Duck was reportedly on Burrowes.
Anyone planning a weekend visit will be pleased to learn that the access road was being repaired today.

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Fogged Off

Lade - 1000hrs - foggy start, clear mid-morning, fog back from midday - A day dominated by thick fog with only a three hour window of hazy sunshine between 0900-1200hrs affording any decent visibility. The only migrants on the move was a light passage of Mipits south over the shingle, plus a few Chaffinches and Skylarks. On the lakes two Goldeneyes were still present along with the remaining few common ducks and several pairs of displaying Great Crested Grebes. Behind the `mirrors` two Marsh Harriers were working the rough ground, one of which had what looked like a grass snake in its talons. At least three Cetti`s Warblers were in good voice around the willow swamp, plus singles of Chiffchaff and Green Woodpecker. Two Black Redstarts were still on the fence line at the southern end of the caravan park.
RSPB - A call from PB informing of a Pink-footed Goose had us scurrying down to the fields at Boulderwall this afternoon only to be thwarted by the Marsh mist. Shame really, as it would`ve been new for the year, not that I`m keeping a year list of course...
News from the reserve, when it was clear, concerned the Long-tailed Duck back on Burrowes along with yesterdays Scaup, Smew, Black-necked and Slavonian Grebes and Black-throated Divers on New Diggings.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

First Sand Martins & Wheatear

Lade - 0630hrs - misty, murky, cold start, sunny later, ne 2 - An early morning walk with Barney over the pits before doing breakfasts paid off handsomely with 2 Sand Martins over south lake, my first of the spring. While Sand Martins are a numerous autumn passage migrant down here, surprisingly spring birds can be few and far between.
Dungeness - 0845hrs - En-route to meeting Wendy and Doug at the point for a days birding I stopped off by Jarman`s where a Wheatear was flitting about by the old sheds. It was a shy and retiring individual and I only managed a poor record shot, but as it was the first one and all that I`m afraid you`ve got to suffer the appalling pic below (sorry SG!!). Anyhow, Wendy and Doug turned up and saw it and we also enjoyed Skylarks, Mipits, Linnets, Pied Wagtails and a Black Redstart in the same area. Several more Black Redstarts (seven at least) and a Stonechat were seen around the power station and Obs, while a 30 minute seawatch from the hide delivered single figures of Gannet, Red-throated Diver, Kittiwake and hundreds of gulls. We then trekked out to the Trapping Area for the Hume`s but drew a blank, although it was reported earlier.

                                1st Wheatear, Dungeness

                                Black Redstart, DBO

Dungeness - En-route to the reserve three Black-throated Divers were noted on New Diggings. From Dennis`s hide overlooking Burrowes we had good views of a drake Scaup which was our first of the year (not that I`m keeping a year list...); this former regular wintering duck has now almost changed status to that of an irregular passage migrant. We spent a fair bit of time checking every duck across the pit but could find no sign of yesterdays Green-winged Teal. However, Slavonian and Black-necked Grebes were noted, plus three Smew and eight Pintail. Also noted around the site Kestrel, Marsh Harrier, Little and Great White Egrets.

                                Scaup, Burrowes

                                1st winter Glaucous Gull, Dungeness

Dungness - A return to the point for seconds on the Wheatear drew a blank but we did have good views of the 1st winter Glaucous Gull on the shingle. In all a decent days birding in great company with three firsts for the year and lots else besides.
NB: Also reported today from Dengemarsh Gully, Wheatear, Firecrest and a fly over Shore Lark (AP).

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

A fall of Chiffchaffs

Lade - 0900hrs - cold, overcast, ne 4 - As me old dad would say today's weather could be described in a single word - "raw-bone", as a cold, nagging wind out of the east with bits and pieces of drizzle kept the temperatures down into single figures. Despite the uninspiring conditions the first singing Chiffchaffs were heard in gardens hereabouts, with several more in the willow swamp between the two lakes. However, the main focus of interest was on a small flock of Mipits and Skylarks on the desert at the south end of the lake where a short-tailed, bat-winged lark flew in, landed briefly and then headed off like a rocket back south. Unfortunately it didn't call and I failed to get any plumage details, but my instinct led towards a probable Woodlark. Wandering aimlessly back that way, by Kerton Road pit, did however deliver a stunning Firecrest in a patch of gorse as compensation.
Dungeness 1400hrs - A tour of the point found four Black Redstarts between the boats and the power station, another Firecrest by Westbeach and the `resident` Hume`s Leaf Warbler at the southern end of the Trapping Area. We flogged out across the desert and along the edge of the Trapping Area in a vain attempt to relocate this mornings lark but could only find a few Skylarks, Mipits and several singing Chiffchaffs in the willow scrub.
News came through late afternoon concerning a Green-winged Teal on Burrowes (per OL).

Monday, 10 March 2014

March Migrants

Dengemarsh Gully - 0930hrs - warm, dry, sunny, ne 2 - Picked Barney up from our friend in Lydd where he`d spent a weekend of R&R, so decided on his favourite walk this morning in an effort to make amends to the old boy. We parked up at Springfield Bridge where several Marsh Harriers were quartering the reedbed, plus six Shelducks and a Great White Egret in the hay field. The gully was quiet to start with, walking into the sun, with only a couple of singing Reed Buntings and a Linnet to break the monotony. Then a Kestrel flew down the sewer flushing a pair of Teal and a Black Redstart and Stonechat sat atop the gorse. A Raven flew over calling, a Mipit displayed by the car park and a Ringed Plover flew out across the shingle. Walking back by the pump my first Firecrest of the season showed well in the shelter of the gully feeding low down in gorse; as always a cracking little migrant and one of my favourite British birds. Another Black Redstart was noted nearby, along with a singing Chiffchaff, while a small party of alba wagtails moved east along the coast. So, all in all a decent little session of classic March migrants.
  On the way home a single Black-throated Diver was still on New Diggings where it spent most of its time roll-preening.

                                Black-throated Diver, New Diggings

RSPB - 1400hrs - Had a run out with the Joker this afternoon. First stop the gully where we `twitched` this mornings Firecrest, which again showed well in the bright afternoon sunshine. On Burrowes nine Goldeneyes but little else. After a natter in the VC we went over the road to the Screen hide where the usual wildfowl on the lake included another five Goldeneye, but there was no sign of any Smew.

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Sunny Suffolk

Friday - Spent a cultural, beer drinking (sampling as many Adnams brews as possible) type of a weekend based at Wangford in sunny Suffolk visiting old friends, and crow-barring in a spot of birding too. En-route we stopped off at North Warren RSPB reserve near Aldeburgh (having first paid homage to the site of the 1999 Ivory Gull, and a nearby ice cream parlour) where the lagoons and water meadows were packed full of common wildfowl and Lapwings, several Little Egrets, Marsh Harrier and several hundred gulls, including two Mediterranean Gulls.

                                North Warren, Aldeburgh

Saturday - An early morning walk in Henham Park, Wangford proved beneficial with two close Woodcocks flushed from cover, 10 Crossbills overhead and a flock of 200 Fieldfares. This parkland site close to the river Wang also delivered, Siskin, Linnet, Long-tailed Tit and Coal Tits, Jay, Nuthatch, Treecreeper, Buzzard, Green and Greater peckers and Grey Wagtail along the river.
After breakie we visited the impossibly posh town of Southwold on the coast, or rather Mrs PT and her mate did, while we checked out the nearby Town Marsh where several Med Gulls were noted in amongst hundreds of commoners, along with more wildfowl and Lapwings, plus singing Mipits, Skylarks, Reed Buntings and two Stonechats.
Next stop Hen reedbeds, a Suffolk Wildlife Trust site with hides and viewpoints and not a soul about apart from one very helpful local birder. A flyover Bittern was seen here along with Buzzard, an active heronry and all the expected waders on the Blyth estuary.
We spent the afternoon at Minsmere which was full of people, gulls, wildfowl, a few Avocets and to be honest, not much else besides.

                                Town Marshes, Southwold

                                Hen Reedbeds, Blythburgh

Sunday - Spent a couple of hours wandering around another Wildlife Trust site, Reydon Wood where all the usual common woodland birds where noted, plus a Marsh Tit which was a pleasant surprise as they have become something of a rarity back home. An interesting fungi was also noted which I`m pretty sure was Birch Polypore, Pipoporus, betulinus, a common bracket on birch.
All in all, a very a pleasant weekend and change of scene in glorious spring weather.

                                Reydon Wood, Wangford

                                Birch Polypore, Reydon Wood

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Sandwich Terns

Dengemarsh Gully - 0900hrs - mild, sunny, sw 3 - After a quick chat with Barney we decided on a change of scene and headed for the gully, one of his favourite haunts, as this gives him plenty of scope for a spot of rabbiting; but fear not dear reader as being a great big softie the bunnies come to no harm, they just look on and laugh before slinking into cover.
Anyhow, we parked up at Springfield Bridge where a Marsh Harrier was quartering the reedbed and walked the gully to the sea and back. It was pretty slow going with only single figures of Greenfinch, Linnet, Great Tit, Wren, Dunnock, Blackbird, Reed Bunting and Song Thrush in the gorse. At the far end three Stonechats perched on the fence line, a Meadow Pipit sang and a Raven flew over tussling with a pair of crows. A 20 minute gaze out to sea was notable for two Sandwich Terns, heading into Rye Bay, my first of the year.
As you can see from the pic below the Environment Agency have a pump in the sewer that`s running 24/7 to clear water directly into the sea. This is one of several such pumping operations they have in place across the Marsh to keep our feet dry and the farmland drained, quite apart from their regular winter time sea defence work. The EA have come in for a fair bit of stick elsewhere across southern England over recent months, but down here all their hard work certainly seems to have paid off.
On the way back home the Glossy Ibis was in a paddock near Cockles Bridge and the long-staying two Black-throated Divers were on New Diggings.

                                "Now, where did that rabbit go..."

                                Dengemarsh Gully

Lade - Not much change here with three Goldeneye and the Slavonian Grebe still on north lake. Several small tortoiseshells and a couple of red admirals were noted during the day.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

First singing Chiffchaff

Lade - 0900hrs - Following a night of clear skies and light airs we awoke to only our third frost since last November, albeit a light one and nowhere near cold enough to freeze the garden pond. Otherwise it was a superb day throughout with warm sunshine enticing bumble bees, small tortoiseshells and myriads of small flying insects onto the wing. We worked our way along Mockmill Sewer where Barney flushed a Common Snipe and a Water Rail from cover and a party of five Linnets over were the first of the year. Several Reed Buntings were in song, while Song Thrush, Blackbird and Great Tit were also noted. On south lake an influx of 12 Goldeneyes was of note and the Slavonian Grebe remained on north lake where it continues to attract a steady flow of visiting birders. In the willow swamp a singing Chiffchaff was the first of the year and two Black Redstarts were on the southern fenceline of the caravan park.

                                Flying insects, Lade

                                Turnstone, Dungeness

Dungeness -   1430hrs - From the fishing boats a large flock of several hundred Great Crested Grebes and Cormorants were feeding offshore along with at least 25 Red-throated Divers amid the usual melee of gulls, including a few Kittiwakes. The Glaucous Gull was present earlier, as was the Hume`s Leaf Warbler in the trapping area (per DW).

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Many-zoned Polypore

Dungeness - mild, sunny, ne 2 - 0845hrs - A superb spring morning that brought forth many fair weather birders into the field. We checked around the sea containers and old sheds for early migrants and did manage to find a Black Redstart along with several Pied Wagtails, while the 1st winter Glaucous Gull was on patrol by the fishing boats. An hour from the seawatch hide in the company of the Monday Club (yes, I know its Tuesday, but...) and the Joker was slow by Dungeness standards with just a trickle of east bound Red-throated Divers on the move. Milling around offshore were hundreds of Great Crested Grebes, eight Common Scoter, several auks and Mediterranean and Little Gulls amongst the many commoner species. As nothing much was happening, predictably the gags started flowing and by the time the conversation had moved on to the Archers it was time to call it a day.
We wandered over to the Obs checking for passerines, of which there were none, but whilst nattering on the moat, two male Peregrines put on a terrific fly past, noisily tussling with one another before settling on a pylon by `A` station. Earlier, the Hume`s Leaf Warbler was seen at the southern end of the trapping area (OL).
Greatstone - An old tree stump in the Joker`s back garden was covered in a spectacular fungi which I`ve tentatively identified as a Many-zoned Polypore, Coriolus versicolos, a common bracket fungi that eventually reduces such hardwood stumps to dust - isn`t nature just wonderful...

                                Many-zoned Polypore - Coriolus versicolos

Littlestone - Finished off at the golf links where we had distant views of a Short-eared Owl quartering the roughs and fairways amongst the golfers.

Monday, 3 March 2014

March malaise

Lade - cold, cloudy, sw 3 - An overcast sort of a day with only brief glimpses of the sun, although enough to bring spring flowers such as coltsfoot into bloom. There was little of note on the pits apart from the Slavonian Grebe on north lake and a pair of Goldeneyes.
RSPB - A run out with MH this afternoon confirmed what we expected it to be, a typical quiet early March day with reduced numbers of wildfowl on the pits and a sense of winters end before the (hoped for) spring surge of migrants. However, from the badly potholed access road we watched a Merlin playing havoc with a flock of Starlings while a couple of Marsh Harriers drifted over the fields past grazing Wigeon and a distant Great White Egret. From Dengemarsh hide a few Greylags, Shelducks and Wigeon on the back fields, plus two Marsh Harriers sat in a stubble field, one of which was tearing up an item of prey. There was little on the lake apart from the usual wildfowl. A party of nine Mipits overhead hinted at the forthcoming passage.
We then hit the VC where the old boy kept the Vols entertained with a steady flow of anecdotes and gags. On the water a Smew, four Goldeneye and two Pintail.
With news that the Penduline Tits had been seen earlier from Hanson we nipped over the road but without success. At least 20 Tree Sparrows were chupping away in the car park scrub, while from the hide four Smew and six Goldeneye were noted but little else.
The Glossy Ibis was also reported from its usual muddy field near Cockles Bridge today.

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Larks, pipits & wagtails & a Man City win

Lade  - 0900hrs  - mild, sunny, s 4 - With a warm, southerly airflow flooding the peninsula, and continuing with our weekend Shanks`s pony birding regime, we decided to head south and work around the margins of Kerton Road pit. The plan was to try and bag the first LRP of the season, just not today anyway, a little early I know but hope springs eternal and all that. However, there were one or two pleasant surprises with at least 10 singing Skylarks and as many again running around on the quarry floor, along with 25 alba wagtails, four Meadow Pipits and one very smart Rock Pipit, a bird I rarely see here. Six Shelducks were cavorting on a small pool, while four pairs of Oystercatchers displayed over the water which held a small flock of Gadwall, Tufted Duck and a single Goldeneye. Around 100 Black-headed Gulls were already pair bonding on one of the islands and I spent some time checking the large gulls on another island but without anything of note.
Back at Lade pits it was pretty much the same as yesterday with the Slavonian Grebe still in situ at the north end of north lake amongst the ducks.
Greatstone -1400hrs
Mrs PT (lifelong Man City and Colin Bell fan) and I spent an entertaining afternoon at the Jokers abode watching the League Cup final which City thankfully won, so there wasn't too much swearing. Mrs PT`s footballing punditry for many years has centred on players hair styles, so their midfielder with the bad pony tail, Demichelis, came in for some fierce stick throughout the afternoon. It was a pretty good game to be fair with some cracking goals, just a shame not a single Englishman featured in the City team.

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Spring, at last...

Lade - 0830hrs - dry, sunny, nw 2 - Spent the morning mooching around the environs of our dog-friendly local patch in glorious spring sunshine; as it`s the 1st March, for me winter is officially over, no sense in waiting for the equinox... However, we worked Mockmill Sewer where Barney flushed a couple of Snipe; also noted singing Reed Bunting, two Stonechats, a Cetti`s Warbler, several Blackbirds and Song Thrushes and two Marsh Harriers hunting over towards the airfield. The sun trap along the caravan park fence line offered up a second Black Redstart in as many days, plus Great Tits, Dunnocks and a Chiffchaff. On the still waters the usual wildfowl, Great Crested and Little Grebes, Cormorants, two Goldeneyes and the Slavonian Grebe on north lake that at last came close enough for a few pictures, albeit of the heavily cropped variety commonly seen on this blog. There was even a few birders on site, no doubt attracted to the grebe.

               "Now what`s he up to, been trying to photo that grebe all week..."                               

                                Slavonian Grebe, Lade

We completed the circular walk back along the foreshore checking for tideline corpses as a Gannet had been washed up yesterday, but all I could find was one long dead, badly oiled auk. A small roost of shorebirds comprised mainly Oystercatcher, Barwit and Sanderling, plus a few Knot, Grey Plover and Turnstone. To finish on a spring theme a Small Tortoiseshell flew along the beach and several Sea Kale plants were already sprouting from the shingle ridges.

                               Sprouting Sea Kale

                                Shorebirds, Lade Bay