Wednesday, 30 April 2014

A proxy Fieldfare

Lade - mild, foggy, light airs - The perfect morning for walking Mockmill Sewer, but as we slogged across the shingle one of the regular dog-walkers hailed me and said she`d just seen an unusual bird that had flown off towards the back of the pits. Oh dear, I get a lot of this kind of thing, but listened patiently as she described a bird that was, " bigger than a Blackbird and mainly grey and rufous". Pretty good thought I, it could only be one thing, and sure enough it was, as an hour later a Fieldfare rocketed from cover behind the wall `mirror`.
However, we continued our walk along Mockmill which was alive with bird song - Whitethroats, Sedge Warblers, Linnets, Dunnocks, Wrens, Reed Bunting and a pair of Stonechat. At the airfield end two smart Whinchats were perched on a wire fence, plus a Cuckoo, with another one behind the `mirror` reed swamp where Reed, Sedge and Cetti`s Warblers were in song, plus a singing Lesser Whitethroat. On south lake just the usual diving ducks, grebes and Coots, but still no hirundines.

                               Linnet, Lade

Dungeness - 1500hrs - Joined PB in the hide for a short seawatch in poor visibility. A flock of 30 scoters was about it, plus a few Commic and Sandwich Terns coming and going from the Patch. Apparently the Yellow-browed was not seen today in the lighthouse garden.

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Yellow-browed Warbler

Dungeness - 0915hrs - warm, dry, sunny, ne 2 - Nothing much happening on the sea during the 45 minutes I was on site with a 100 Commic Terns offshore and only a passing Bonxie of any note.
Dengemarsh - The field opposite the chicken sheds had a Raven feeding on a dead fox, but as I fumbled for the camera the huge corvid took flight and left me cursing my lack of foresight in not having the camera at the ready in time. Checked out the hayfields but there was no sign of the stilts, or any other waders for that matter, with just Shelducks and Little Egrets present. Bearded Tits showed well from Springfield Bridge and a Sedge Warbler posed for a piccie.

                                 Sedge Warbler, Dengemarsh

Lade - The garden moth trap held six species including the first Buff-tip of the year, amid numerous Tawny Shears and Light Feathered Rustics.

                                Buff-tip, Lade

Dungeness - 1815hrs - An evening visit to the lighthouse garden for an elusive Yellow-browed Warbler delivered two brief views of the bird as it moved through thick cover, just good enough for a year tick if, of course, one was keeping such an irreverent list... A spring Yellow-browed is a rare beast indeed down here, and all the more odd considering the dearth of `common` passage migrants. And, what has happened to the hirundines? Normally by now the waters hereabouts are swarming with Swallows (and one or two Red-rumpers), but not so far, I think 50 over ARC is the most I`ve seen over a couple of days, perhaps next week ...

Monday, 28 April 2014

Garden Firecrest

Dungeness - 0600-0800hrs - mild, sunny, ne 2 - A seawatch from the concrete road with CP, in balmy conditions was slow going, but perked up mid-way through. The usual feeding Sandwich Terns, Gannets and a Fulmar were feeding offshore, plus the following on the move up-Channel: Red-throated Diver 1, Black-throated Diver 3 (one over the sea, one on the sea and another behind us over the land), Gannet 25, Brent 3, Common Scoter 27, Whimbrel 1, Arctic Skua 4, Bonxie 2, Kittiwake 2, Commic Tern 90, Black Tern 4, auk 5.
Romney Warren - Had to go to St Mary`s Bay this morning so called in at the KWT site. Singing Chiffchaff, Blackcap and Reed Warbler, plus two pairs of Dabchicks were the birding highlights. Along the back track, orange tips and green-veined whites were on the wing and two slow worms were warming up under an old carpet tile.
Lade - Very quiet here with just a soaring Buzzard over the airfield and a Cuckoo in the willow swamp of any note. Highlight of the day though, was a Firecrest in the garden fir trees that actually burst into song and showed briefly before disappearing into next doors firs.
Dungeness - 1530hrs - Another look at the sea off the boardwalk delivered nought apart from fishing Sarnies and Gannets.

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Another good seawatch & hayfield heaven

Dungeness - 0615 - 0830hrs - cold, wet, cloudy, sse 3 - By the time I arrived the seawatch hide was already packed so we headed for the old coastguard tower to find shelter from the elements where we joined NF from Folkestone. The viewpoint wasn't ideal, being too low down and I`m sure we missed some close terns, but at least it was dry, and it was still a very good seawatch. The tern count was very much an approximation as there was so many birds swirling up and down, many of which were probably Arctics, but it was difficult to tell due to the poor viewing conditions.
However, up-Channel totals logged as follows: Black-throated Diver 1, Fulmar 10, Gannet 92, Eider 3, Common Scoter 245, Red-breasted Merganser 2, Bar-tailed Godwit 110, Arctic Skua 13, Bonxie 2, Med Gull 2, Kittiwake 2, Little Gull 4, Sandwich Tern 50, Commic Tern 950, Little Tern 12, auk 10.   

                                Black-winged Stilts, Dungeness RSPB

                                Whinchat, Dungness RSPB

Hayfield One/Two, RSPB - 1100hrs - With the sun shining and temperature rising I couldn`t resist seconds on the Black-winged Stilts. Due to the noise of venting steam from the power station they`d moved to the Dengemarsh end of the flooded hayfield, but were happily feeding and have a kip during the hour or so I was on site. Also picked up a couple of tidy year ticks in Wood Sandpiper and Whinchat, both of which can be difficult to find in the spring - I really must find that check list... On the walk down from Springfield Bridge two Barwits in summer plum briefly dropped onto Hayfield Three.
ARC - From the causeway road the few remaining terns included 30 Common, five Arctic, two Black and one Little Tern.

Saturday, 26 April 2014

A feast of terns & waders

Dungeness - 0615-0745hrs - cloudy, rain, s4, poor viz - Arriving at the concrete road as the rain band crossed the peninsula necessitated a rapid switch of position to the fishing boats, not ideal but at least there was some shelter from the elements. About 100 each of Sandwich and Common Terns were coming and going between the bays, plus 80 Gannets, 55 Common Scoter, 20 auks (five Razorbills) and 10 Fulmars heading down-Channel. Moving up-Channel were 30 Gannets, 10 Fulmars, 35 Common Scoters, 15 auks, three Arctic Skuas and singles of Bonxie, Kittiwake, Red-throated Diver and Little Gull. Several harbour porpoises were feeding offshore. We cried off as the weather worsened and headed home for breakfast; although I learnt later from CP that a large pulse of scoters, waders, terns, divers and skuas passed offshore throughout the morning, including several Poms and a Great Northern Diver.
Lade 1100hrs - With the rain easing we checked the pits where a small flock of hirundines hawking insects over the causeway contained all three species. Just as I was about to leave a flock of ten Arctic Terns rained down on north lake, flew around calling for five minutes and headed off high east.
Littlestone - From Dunes road a walk onto the farmland and a recently trenched spud field attracted two Yellow Wagtails (scarce this spring) and a singing Corn Bunting towards Belgar Farm. Also noted Kestrel, Red-legged Partridge, Skylark, Mipit and Whitethroat. In the woodland singing Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Song and Mistle Thrushes. Checked the hirundines on the sewage works, but only Swallows present, plus Green Woodpecker and Linnet in an adjacent paddock; also noted a large patch of Japanese Knotweed by the railway line.
From the Varne a flock of 25 Bar-tailed Godwits, mostly in summer plum, was quite a sight along with all the usual beach waders, plus ten Whimbrels over calling.

                                Japanese Knotweed, Littlestone

                                Swallows, Littlestone

Dungeness RSPB 1530hrs - News of a pair of Black-winged Stilts had us hot-footing to the bird reserve and the flooded hayfield behind Christmas Dell for superb views of this ridiculously long-legged wader, where they certainly looked at home. A Wood Sandpiper seen earlier had departed the flood but on the walk back to the car park both Whimbrel and Greenshank passed overhead calling.

                                Black-winged Stilt, Dungeness RSPB

On ARC a flock of a couple of hundred terns were not only hawking insects, but also sitting on the water. Although the majority were Commons on closer inspection many of the 50 on the water were Arctics, along with at least 20 Black Terns in full summer plum and two Little Terns. Only wished I`d had a bit more time to grill them further.
In summary, a sensational day across the peninsula dominated by terns and waders.

                                Arctic and Black Terns, ARC

Friday, 25 April 2014

Lydd heronry

Lade - 0830hrs  - mild, cloudy, ne 3 - Spent a couple of hours wandering around the local patch this morning during which time we recorded our first Swift of the spring over south lake heading north. A 30 minute viz mig from the aerial mound delivered 12 Swallows, four Goldfinches, two House Martins and a Redpoll. Several broods of Mallard were on the water including one with 14 ducklings, which appeared to relate to a single brood. The male Blackbird that has been singing with great variation throughout the spring in the willow swamp was doing a Mistle Thrush impression today, having previously done Fieldfare and a pretty passable Golden Oriole already this month. More breeding warblers had dropped in over the past few days with Whitethroats just about everywhere in the scrub and Reed Warblers in the reedbeds.

                               Whitethroat, Lade

Lydd Heronry - 1115hrs -  Counting the Lydd heronry from the ground is not as easy as you`d think, particularly as most of them nest in the holm or evergreen oaks which have thick green foliage the year round. However, standing atop the church tower of All Saints (aka the `Cathedral of the Marsh`) looking down is a different matter and enables a far more accurate count, combined with a walk around The Grange, looking up. This is my third visit to the heronry this spring and the good news is that with 21 occupied nests the old Grey Heron is doing very nicely thank you with plenty of healthy looking `branchers` clambering around the tree tops. Also noted were five nests of Little Egrets, two more than last year.
Whilst at The Grange I passed on the latest news to the owners, Mr & Mrs Eagar, who were fully aware of what a privilege it is to have such a thriving colony of herons and egrets in their grounds. Thanks are also due to Pat Carter for arranging access to the church tower and to Rocyn Williams for opening up and climbing the tower with me.

                               Grey Heron `branchers`, Lydd

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Four Ring Ouzels & 11 Black-winged Stilts!

Dungeness - 0900hrs - warm, dry, hazy sunshine, light airs - We finished off the Birdwatching Break for George and Ann birding around the peninsula this morning. The first hour was spent on a quiet seawatch from the concrete road. Sandwich Terns were fishing offshore along with a few Common Terns and Gannets, several Med Gulls and Fulmars came and went while up-Channel movement included 17 Brent, four Whimbrel, 18 Common Scoter and two Arctic Skuas, plus several inbound Swallows and Yellow Wagtails. Up to ten harbour porpoises were also feeding offshore.

                                It was a quiet seawatch ...

After a coffee break at the Obs we wandered over to the Trapping Area and stumbled across a flock of four Ring Ouzels in the low gorse. Two `clacked` away towards the Sanctuary, but a pair pitched back down close by with the male showing for at least 20 minutes, mostly on a turf patch under a bush. These were some of the best views I`ve had of Rouzel here in the spring, and for the guests they were a new species, so they were very lucky to enjoy such protracted views of their first, nervy moorland thrush.
Two Lesser Whitethroats, Willow Warblers, Common Whitethroats and Chiffchaffs also noted in the scrub, plus a spanking male Black Redstart on the power station.

                                Ring Ouzel, Dungeness

The guests certainly enjoyed a wide variety of birds during their stay with 96 species logged, the highlights being Purple Heron, Bean Geese and Ring Ouzels, plus a supporting cast of Black-necked Grebe, Hobby, LRP, Barwits, Arctic and Great Skuas, Little Gull, Cuckoo, Yellow Wagtail, Black Redstart, Tree Sparrow and Corn Bunting.

                                Half a Black-winged Stilt, New Excavations

Black-winged Stilts, Dungeness RSPB - At around 1100hrs Douglas and Wendy Stewart were checking out the Bearded Tits behind Christmas Dell hide when they noticed a flock of ten waders on the flooded hayfield. Doug managed a few pics and they were soon confirmed as Black-winged Stilts - all ten of them! Unfortunately, they were flushed around noon, presumably by a Marsh Harrier, although it was unclear exactly in which direction the flock flew. However, another bird (11th?) was located on a bund on New Excavations, which by the time I arrived, about 1400hrs, spent most of its time hunkered down and partially obscured by vegetation and gulls. Still, they all count towards that year list...
A great find by Douglas and Wendy, but if only that flock had stayed a while longer...

    Black-winged Stilts, Dungeness RSPB (by Douglas Stewart)

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Bonxies & Bean Geese

Dungeness - 0900hrs  - warm, dry and hazy, se 2 - We soon located the requested Wheatears, Skylarks, Mipits and Linnets before heading for the concrete road and a seawatch with MH and CP from 0915 - 1045hrs. A steady flow of Gannets, Common and Sandwich Terns were fishing offshore with some on the move up-Channel along with, six Bonxies, two Arctic Skuas, 40 Brents, two Med Gulls, 16 Whimbrels and a Kittiwake. Several harbour porpoises and a grey seal were feeding just offshore.
Whilst admiring the early purple orchids a small copper basked on bare earth and flowers, although we failed to find a Black Redstart on the power station.

                                Small Copper, Dungeness

Scotney - From the double bends we were surprised to see two Bean Geese on the grass, one of which had a dodgy looking wing. Avocet, Ringed Plovers and Little Egret were noted from the lay-bye, plus Yellow Wagtail and Corn Bunting by the farm. 

                                Bean Geese, Scotney

Galloways - Plenty of Whitethroats, Sedge Warblers and Linnets in song plus a couple of Stonechats and a soaring Buzzard, with another one on the outskirts of Lydd.
Burrowes - Very quiet here with just Wigeon, Shoveler and a flyover Greenshank of note from the hides, plus Tree Sparrows and Willow Warbler around the car park. On the Discovery pond we had cracking views of a pair of Dabchicks with five juvs.
Lade Bay - On the gravel pits two two Black-necked Grebes on north lake. We checked the bay on an incoming tide from the Varne where 18 Barwits included four in summer plum. Two Knot also noted, plus 15 Sanderling, four Dunlin, 100 Oystercatchers and 35 Curlews.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Purple Heron, Dengemarsh

Dungeness - 0615 - 0730hrs - mild, wet, ssw 3 - Joined the early birders in the hide for a seawatch in a sad and desperate attempt to year tick Arctic Skua ... A steady flow of Sandwich and Common Terns came and went from the Patch with some moving through, plus a trickle of up-Channel Gannets as well as 200 Common Scoter, 10 auks, five Black Terns, four Little Gulls, three Med Gulls, two Red-throated Divers, four Arctic Skuas, singles of Kittiwake and Bonxie and an odd small, pale duck in a scoter flock which was most likely a Garganey.
Dengemarsh - 1330hrs  - With George and Anne down from Essex for a three day Birdwatching Break there was only one place to start - from the viewing ramp overlooking Hookers where MH had earlier found a Purple Heron. We had an hour to wait before it showed properly, but wow what a show it put on with cracking views of the bird wading along the reedbed edge, flying around and preening. As always a stunning rarity and let`s hope it stays around and finds a mate as in 2010.
Unfortunately my bridge camera was playing up so I dipped on any pics but I`m sure Plodding Birder will have some crackers on his blogsite.  During the two hours on the ramp we had Hobby (new for the year) `booming` Bittern, Cuckoo, plus plenty of Sedge and Reed Warblers, Reed Buntings, Bearded Tit, Swallows, a Greenshank over, Shelduck, Pochard, two Marsh Harriers and plenty of Lapwings on the farmland, including a well grown chick.
The hayfields were largely empty with just a scattering of Little Egrets, Shelducks, Gadwalls, Ringed Plover and, thanks to a call from Craig, we saw a Little Ringed Plover on No 1 hayfield. Two Whimbrels went over, while on Dengemarsh the Common Terns were back in force. Whilst by the hayfields we watched a Hairy Hawker emergence.

                                     Hairy Hawker, Dengemarsh

ARC  - Pretty quiet here with three Little Gulls amongst the Common Terns and Black-headed Gulls, five Little Egrets, two Shovelers and `booming` Bittern. Around the car park the usual Tree Sparrows, Chiffchaff, Lesser Whitethroat, Whitethroat, Sedge Warbler, Linnets, Long-tailed Tit and Green Woodpecker.

Monday, 21 April 2014

Cuckoo & Jay

Lade - 1030hrs - warm, dry, hazy sunshine, nw 2 - A much warmer day than yesterday and around noon it actually felt quite hot. In the garden MV last night, Bright-line Brown-eye was new for the year.

                                   Bright-line Brown-eye, Lade

We checked the gravel pits first where all the usual gulls, waders and wildfowl were present. Mockmill Sewer was alive with Whitethroat and Sedge Warbler song, plus Stonechat, Linnets and Reed Buntings. Behind the `mirrors` had good views of a perched Cuckoo before it flew off to sing. Whilst Cuckoos are declining up country they continue to prosper here with plenty of moth caterpillars to feed on and Reed Warblers as host species for their eggs. Oddest of all though was a Jay flying over south lake, a bird I normally only see in late autumn.

                                Cuckoo, Lade

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Black-necked Grebes

Lade - mild, overcast, rain, nw 3 - Pulses of rain continued throughout the day with one or two longer spells making unpleasant birding conditions. Being as it was WeBS weekend we covered all angles of the pits but predictably duck numbers were low with only a pair each of Shoveler and Pochards remaining amongst the Gadwalls, Mallards and Tufted Ducks. However, three Black-necked Grebes livened things up on north lake and were probably the trio from the bird reserve seen earlier in the weekend. A party of 20 hirundines was split about equal Swallow/House Martin. The rain eased off for a while and encouraged several Sedge, Reed and Cetti`s Warblers into song, plus Whitethroat.

                                Black-necked Grebes, Lade

ARC - from the causeway road similar numbers of Little Gulls to yesterday, plus flyover Greenshank and Grey Plover. Two Yellow Wagtails briefly dropped in at the south end and a Sparrowhawk headed towards Tower pits over the water.
Dungeness - 1500hrs - I fully intended to check the Patch out this afternoon, even before a text from PB informed me of a Black Tern! Which did happen to be new for the year, not that I`m year listing you understand... Anyhow, with the front moving over and in terrible light we joined PB and BM in the hide for an hours worth of trickling Common and Sandwich Terns, Gannets, three Fulmars, three Little Gulls and singles of Kittiwake, Red-throated Diver and Bonxie.
Bank Holidays always attracts loads of tourists to Dungeness, and long may they continue to come (some of them even stay at Plovers), but the little charmers that came up on the train from Dymchurch this afternoon were most unwelcome. A right old kerfuffle was going on outside the old light as yobbos had been hurling stones onto the people and cars below. The rozzers were on site trying to restore order, including the sub-machine gun toting, power station boys (well you never know when a Fifth Columnist is going to strike). Anyhow, I stopped and had a chat with one of the locals who said the baying mob were out for blood from the culprits, so I drove on before I got pelted too - roll on Tuesday...

Saturday, 19 April 2014

First Greenshank

Dungeness - cold, dry and sunny, ne 4 - 0910hrs - Spent a convivial hour seawatching by the hide with NB and family during which time we were entertained by a steady trickle of seabirds, mostly Sandwich and Common Terns coming and going from the Patch; where there was at least 100 of the latter milling around over the boil and on the beach (DW). A few distant Gannets moved up-Channel, plus four Red-breasted Mergansers, 14 each of Barwit and Whimbrel, Fulmar and four Common Scoters down. Best of all though was the `resident` 1st winter Glaucous Gull that appeared at the Patch, then coasted past us putting on a grand show.
ARC - From the causeway road at least 10 Little Gulls, 20 Swallows and five Common Terns amongst the Black-headed Gulls hawking emerging insects over the water.
Galloways - We walked the road from top to bottom and back again hoping for a `reeling` Gropper. Nothing heard, but plenty of Sedge Warblers, Whitethroats and Linnets in song, plus lesser numbers of Mipits and Reed Buntings, a Wheatear and three pairs of Stonechats, one of which had an ankle bracelet.

                               Stonechats, Galloways

Dengemarsh - Nothing much of note from Springfield Bridge but at Hayfield 2 a tidy little collection of ducks and waders on the flood included eight Shelducks, six Shovelers, two Wigeon, two Redshanks, two Blackwits and a cracking Greenshank, new for the year. The Raven was active and several Swallows headed inland.
Lade - Lesser Whitethroat was new for the local patch and one of seven species of warblers present. A flock of 12 hirundines contained two Sand Martins.
NB: There was a report of a Crane that toured the peninsula this afternoon, last seen heading towards Walland Marsh, and a Jack Snipe was seen at Tower Pits (per SB).

Friday, 18 April 2014

A trickle of spring migrants

Dungeness -0615hrs - cold, dry, sunny, ne 3 - It was no real surprise that the seawatching was hopeless given the wind direction and clear skies. However, along with TG and BB we lasted just over the hour in the seawatch hide for a trickle of Common Scoters, Gannets, Common and Sandwich Terns, two divers, four Shelducks, three Little Egrets, six Oystercatchers and two Whimbrels, which were new for the year. The oddest bird of all was an unidentified swan that crossed and probably made landfall on the ranges. At the Patch two Arctic Terns amongst a flock of 20 Commons were also new for the year.
Lade - Only three species of moths in the trap last night including the first Tawny Shears and Muslin Moth of the season. The only migrant of note locally was a year tick House Martin over the causeway at Lade pits with 5 Swallows, plus a further trickle of Swallows into the north wind along the beach during the morning.

                                Muslin Moth, Lade

                                       Tawny Shears, Lade

RSPB - 1400hrs - A tour of the bird reserve kicked off on ARC from the causeway road, where along with SB and BP we noted three distant Black-necked Grebes in summer plum, plus a close drake Garganey at the south end. Up to seven Little Gulls were hawking insects alongside the Black-heads out on the lake.

                                Garganey, ARC

Next stop Hayfield 2 where we bumped into PB and seven Blackwits on the flood which looks superb for drop-in passage waders at the moment. A Raven flew towards the ranges and a couple of Marsh Harriers were over Hookers. It was then back to ARC to get better views of the grebes from Screen hide, but to no avail, although a `rattling` Lesser Whitethroat was new for the year.
In summary, a decentish day with five new for the year - now, where`s that check list...

                                Blackwits, Dengemarsh

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Barney`s spring hair cut

Lade - 0630hrs - mild, sunny, dry, sw 2 - A quick walk over to south pit before doing breakfasts resulted in three singing Whitethroats, my first of the year on the local patch. Several Swallows and Med Gulls over during the afternoon.
Dungeness - 0900hrs - An hour in the seawatch hide delivered a steady up-Channel passage of birds plus plenty of Sandwich and Common Terns coming and going from the Patch. Counts for the hour as follows: Black-throated Diver 1, Fulmar 1, Gannet 10, Brent Goose 50, Common Scoter 150, Little Gull 20. Highlights from earlier this morning included single figures of Arctic and Great Skuas, plus three Velvet Scoters.

                                Winter plumage


                                Summer plumage

Lade - Mrs PT decided it was high time Barney had his spring spruce-up, so out came the clippers and scissors and off came his winter coat. Everything went like clockwork until we`d finished and then the old boy went awol as he knew what was coming next - his bi-annual bath!! Eventually I grabbed the beast, wrestled him down and into the bath where Mrs PT went to work with the shampoo and shower. Result, one shiny new Border Terrier in summer plum smelling of lavender!

                                Give a dog a bone

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Bar-tailed Godwits

Lade - 0600hrs - cold, dry and sunny, warmer later, e3 - A pre-breakfast walk over the pits yielded very little on the passerine front due to a biting east wind. I could however hear the distant `boom` of a Bittern from Tower pits, while two Marsh Harriers were already hunting the rough land behind the `mirrors`. On south lake just the usual ducks and grebes.
New Romney - A pair of Buzzards were calling and displaying over the northern edge of the town around midday, while Blackcap and Chiffchaff were both in song.
Scotney - The long-staying Long-tailed Duck was on the far bank of the small pit on the eastern side of the farm road this afternoon and two Little Gulls were amongst the Black-heads hawking  emerging insects, plus several Swallows. On the roadside grass three Avocets, Little Ringed and Ringed Plovers, Redshanks and Shelducks were noted, but best of all was two single figure flocks of migrant Bar-tailed Godwits, several of which were in summer plum. Others were noted off the point this morning along with Whimbrels and a light passage of Little Terns.
Dungeness  - With Little Terns in mind I joined PB and MH on the concrete road for a seawatch, but it was dead with just a few distant Gannets and Sandwich Terns.

Monday, 14 April 2014

A walk in the woods

Dungeness - 0615hrs - warm, dry and sunny, nw 2 - As this was the only day I could get down for an early seawatch this week we pitched up at the hide with BM already present and were joined later by TG and PB. To be honest it was dreadful with hardly any movement and most stuff miles out. Anyhow, we toughed it out for 90 minutes for the following up-Channel movement: Red-throated Diver 2, Brent 4, Gannet 6, Merganser 2, Curlew 1, Sandwich Tern 20, Common Tern 23, Shelduck 3, Common Scoter 67. A Swallow and 13 Crows came in, plus an unfortunate black and white Feral Pigeon which was spectacularly clobbered by a pair of Peregrines with the female feeding on the corpse for at least 15 minutes on the beach before the male was allowed in on the feast. The only other bird of note was a 1st winter white-winged gull that came off the Patch and headed towards the boats, only had bins views in the bright sunshine, but I couldn`t be sure, although Iceland Gull was called.
ARC - Checked for yesterdays Black Terns but to no avail, good job I`m not year listing...
There was only one moth in the garden trap, a Flame Shoulder, which was new for the year.

                                   Flame Shoulder, Lade

Park Wood, Appledore - 1000hrs - Seeing as it was clear last night and there was nothing doing on the coast we decided on a walk in the woods this morning. In truth it turned into more of an expedition with Mrs PT, No 1 & 2 daughters, plus 3 year old grandson, Barney and enough victuals and paraphernalia to sustain a trip to the South Pole! There were snacks, coffee, tea, flasks, biscuits, boots, coats, hats, gloves, sunglasses, rucksacks full of goodness-knows-what and a potty. Our progress through the wood was not silent, but we still managed to hear a couple of Nightingales, along with numerous Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs, Green and Greater peckers, Nuthatch, Treecreeper, Jay, a hooting Tawny Owl, Buzzard and Bullfinch. Best of all though was the fabulous display of bluebells and other woodland flowers, plus six species of butterflies in the warm sunshine including speckled wood and orange tip. A great time was had by all with the little fella particularly interested in the wooden bivouac and the shoe-tree.

                                Bluebells, Park Wood

                                Primroses, Park Wood

                                Speckled Wood, Park Wood

Sunday, 13 April 2014

A fall of Willow Warblers

Lade - 0600-0900hrs - warm, dry, sunny, light airs - A stunning morning and ideal for a circuit of the local patch. We started at the gravel pits and then crossed the Desert towards Mockmill sewer and carried on around the lakes behind the `mirrors`, returning via the ponds. The gravel pits held all the usual gulls, common wildfowl and waders, Mipits and Skylarks, Kestrel and a Black Redstart, plus a pair of Little Ringed Plovers, our first of the year locally. Crossing the shingle ridges with more singing Mipits and Skylarks we approached the sewer and it was apparent that quite a few warblers had dropped in overnight. Sedge Warblers were song-flighting from bramble patches and the first of at least 20 Willow Warblers sang from gorse bushes along with many Linnets. A Snipe flushed from the bog, Reed Buntings sang and a pair of Stonechats perched on scrub at the airport end. Scanning from the fence line towards the runway revealed a Wheatear, more larks and pipits, Marsh Harrier and 12 Curlews. Working our way behind the `mirrors` there were more Reed Buntings, Willow, Sedge, Cetti`s and Reed Warblers singing and a Green Woodpecker flew over being chased by a large Sparrowhawk! At the north end two Ring Ouzels burst from cover on the scrubby ridges and a Corn Bunting jangled from a distant post. Skirting around north lake more Willow Warblers and Chiffchaffs called from the buddleia and willow swamp and all the usual ducks and grebes were noted on the water. From the aerial ramp Goldfinch and Yellow Wagtail flew over, plus 10 Med Gulls and 20 Sandwich Terns heading Rye way. As we got home for a life-saving cuppa two Willow Warblers sang from adjacent back gardens and throughout the morning more passed through our garden. The only down side was the lack of whitethroats and hirundines, but otherwise it was a superb morning on the local patch where we eventually rattled up a tidy 69 species of which 48 species were, or will, probably breed hereabouts.
An afternoon visit yielded little else apart from two Swallow over the causeway.

                                Lade north

                               Mockmill Sewer

                                Reed Bunting, Lade

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Slim pickings

Dungeness - 0800hrs - warm, dry and sunny, sw 2 - A circuit of the point produced a few migrants the best of which was a single Redstart in scrub mid way down Long Pits and a singing Nightingale. Elsewhere a scattering of Willow Warblers, Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps in the Trapping area, several Chiffchaffs in the lighthouse garden and two Yellow Wagtails and Swallows over, but to be fair it was slim pickings for two hours slogging across the shingle.
Lade - Wasn't much better here either with just a Chiffchaff and Swallow on the migrant front, two Med Gulls over, a Sparrowhawk and Kestrel, plus unusually for this time of year, a Greater pecker by the ponds.

Friday, 11 April 2014

A flurry of migrants

Lade - 1000hrs - warm, dry and sunny, e 2 - After the excitement of yesterday it was back to more mundane fare on the local patch. The only migrants were a singing Chiffchaff and Blackcap in the willow swamp, plus a lone Swallow heading north. A party of 55 Curlews flew in from the bay to roost and a pair of Med Gulls circled noisily over south lake. Otherwise it was pretty quiet with duck numbers down to the bare bones and only Tufted Duck into double figures. A pair each of Teal and Shoveler skulked around the willow margins, so hopefully they`ll stay to breed.
RSPB - 1400hrs  - Nothing much from the causeway road apart from 8 Little Egrets feeding in the shallows on ARC and a couple of Swallows over New Diggings. From Dennis`s hide I had my first Common Whitethroat of the year with another in the kiddies mini-beast scrub. From Boulderwall the usual Tree Sparrows while around the ARC car park singing Blackcap, Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff noted, plus Sedge Warbler in the paddock brambles. We then wandered up to the pines picking up more Sedge and Reed Warblers along the way, Cetti`s and Willow Warbler, Green Woodpecker and a pair of Red-legged Partridges, one of which briefly tried to perch atop a willow! Nothing much at the pines apart from Long-tailed Tit and Linnets so we decided to walk down the railway line and cut in towards the Airport pits, which eventually paid dividends with a pair of Ring Ouzels out on the shingle ridges. A Wheatear bounded by and a hare ran across towards Lade.
On the walk back whilst scanning from Screen hide a Bittern`boomed` several times from the Tower pits reedbed and we finished off in grand style with a flyover Cuckoo, another spring first; if only I was keeping a year list...
Lade - Another search for Rouzels this aft drew a blank, but first Sedge Warblers and Common Whitethroats were noted in Mockmill sewer.
NB: Elsewhere several more RingOuzels and Common Redstarts were reported from across the peninsula today from the Trapping area to Galloways and the Long-tailed Duck was back at Scotney on the eastern pit nearest the farm access road. 

Thursday, 10 April 2014

A trio of Kentish Plovers!

Joined the Joker and Marshman for a day over the water in the Pas-de-Calais, and what a cracker it turned out to be.
Cap Gris-Nez - 0730hrs - cool, sunny, w 3 - Not something I`ve done before, a spring seawatch at Gris-Nez, where the conditions are completely different from Dunge, being elevated on a cliff top with the sunlight coming from behind, making identification a whole lot easier. During the hour there was a steady flow of Gannets, Sandwich and Common Terns, Kittiwakes and Fulmars eastbound, while most of the 200 Common Scoters were heading west. Up-channel highlights were 5 Black-throated Divers in summer plum, 10 Red-throated Divers, 2 Arctic Skuas, and singles of Black Tern, Red-breasted Merganser and two Shoveler. A small flock of Eiders and scoters loitered offshore while several Med Gulls came and went. Whilst on the seawatch small numbers of coasting Swallows, Mipits, Goldfinches, Chaffinches, 4 Redpolls and a singing Rock Pipit were all noted.
The fields at the Cap were full of Mipits, Skylarks, Yellowhammers, finches, several Chiffchaffs and Stonechats, a Willow Warbler plus a Marsh Harrier over. Nearby arablelands held breeding Lapwings and hawkeye Marshman located a pair of Grey Partridges, a species that is just about finished at home.
Foret de Boulogne - We headed inland to the trees stopping at two random spots across this largely deciduous forest which was full of birds and not a grey squirrel or muntjac deer in sight. The broad verges beside the tracks were full of wild flowers: bluebells, wood anemones, cowslips and the like. Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps were abundant, along with Blue and Great Tits, several Willow Warblers and at our first stop we added Sparrowhawk, Bullfinch, Nuthatch, Greater pecker, Cuckoo and Marsh Tit. At the second stop hooting Tawny Owl, Buzzard, Short-toed Treecreeper, Long-tailed Tit were all new for the day, but best of all a pair of Willow Tits put on a terrific show, a species now probably extinct in Kent and across much of southern England. We all agreed that it was a long time since we had last seen the two black-capped tits at home in the same wood.

                                Foret de Boulogne

                                Willow Tit avenue

Oye-Plage - The afternoon was spent back on the coast at one of our favourite birding haunts to the east of Calais where the lagoons were full of birds. En-route in the Oye flood plain the Joker  called "harrier" and a Hen Harrier drifted over the road to be greeted by mobbing Lapwings.
From the main hide large numbers of wildfowl were on offer: 50 Shelducks, 30 Shoveler, 20 Pintails, 10 Teal, 2 Egyptian Geese and a stunning close drake Garganey. Small numbers of Redshank, Avocet, Little Ringed Plover, Lapwing, Oystercatcher all added to the variety, plus 10 Dabchicks, loadsa gulls, singing Cetti`s Warbler, Kestrel, a flyby Brent, a Mistle Thrush and a musk rat.
The lagoons further east held hundreds more gulls (including Meds), Cormorants, Greylags, Avocets, 200 Sandwich Terns, a stunning pair of Black-necked Grebes, a sleeping Spoonbill, another pair of Garganeys and 2 Spotted Redshanks, one of which was a dusky job almost in breeding plumage. Phew! What a session.

                                Black-necked Grebe, Oye-Plage

                                Garganey, Oye-Plage

                               Spotted Redshanks, Oye-Plage

Our final port of call was the vast intertidal foreshore back towards Calais where we walked out onto a sea-shell ridge and scanned - several close Ringed Plovers, a long dead beached porpoise, singing Skylarks over the dunes, and, hang on a mo, what`s that pale, long-legged, short-ended plover teetering in the heat haze being hassled by a Ringo...?  A short move along the ridge and bingo, a trio of Kentish Plovers materialised like spectres out of the haze amongst a mixed flock of 20 each of Dunlin and Ringed Plovers. We then sat tight and one of the little beauties came close enough to offer up a record shot with the bridge camera, a cracking end to a brilliant days birding, as always in great company.

                               Kentish Plover, Oye-Plage

We ended up with 103 species for the day, but that was immaterial really when you look at the quality of the birds logged. Standouts of the day were the Black-throated Divers, Kentish Plovers, Spot shanks, Garganeys, Sandwich Terns and that pair of Willow Tits, a bird I used to be so familiar with and appears to be on a one way ticket to oblivion in England.