Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Dungeness - first quarter review

Lade - mild, sunny, w 5-6 - The gale force winds of last night tempered somewhat through the morning but picked up again by late afternoon making for difficult birding conditions. We checked the local patch twice today hoping for a March Swallow but it wasn't to be. Many of the wildfowl were hunkered down out of the tempest or sheltering around the margins, but there were one or two calm spots in the willow swamp with singing Chiffchaffs and Reed Buntings and basking bees and butterflies. The section of the swamp pictured below was completely sheltered and attracted three Chiffchaffs feeding on pussy willow catkins; best of all though for comedy value was watching a Moorhen clambering about in the spindly bushes nipping off the flowers. On the walk back across the shingle the first song flighting Mipit of the spring was in action despite the wind.
On our afternoon visit two Med Gulls went over calling loudly.

                                Willow swamp, Lade

                                Small Tortoiseshell, Lade

First Quarter - Well, that`s the first quarter of the year done and dusted and a quick glance back has revealed a fairly typical collection of birds towards our year list, which now stands at 144 species for Dungeness and Romney Marsh.
The first winter period delivered a good spread of wildfowl, both wild swans, Tundra and White-fronted Geese, sawbills, Bittern, Cattle and Great White Egrets, the Hythe Night Heron, two scarce grebes, Little Stint, Caspian and Yellow-legged Gulls, Pomarine and Great Skuas, Barn Owl and Firecrest. There were however some noticeable absentees, such as Little Gull, Long-tailed Duck, Hen Harrier and Short-eared Owl, while finches were in short supply, with Brambling, Siskin and Redpoll all absent.

                         `White Nun`, a winter classic, Dungeness RSPB reserve

Moving into early spring Sand Martins on the 9th heralded the first of the true summer migrants followed by Wheatear, Little Ringed Plover, an early Willow Warbler at Lade on the 27th and a Common Tern on the 30th at The Patch. Other spring goodies included two Iceland Gulls, Scandinavian Rock Pipit, White Wagtail, Med Gull, Sandwich Tern and an increase in Black Redstart and Firecrest numbers. On the debit side seawatching has been generally poor with only one or two decent days for Brent Geese, but hardly any ducks on the move, while on the land the likes of Garganey, Red Kite, Swallow and Sedge Warbler all lay in wait over the coming days, hopefully... and perhaps a Serin or Woodlark, or maybe something rarer...

                        `White aers`, a welcome harbinger of spring, Dungeness Estate

Monday, 30 March 2015

Iceland Gull

Dungeness - 0730hrs - mild, sunny, sw 3 - Joined TG and PB in the hide for an hour of go-slow seawatching with a trickle of distant Brents, scoters, divers and Gannets moving up-Channel. Several Med Gulls flew towards the Patch, a Sandwich Tern flew east and a couple of Mipits came in off the sea. On the land a scattering of Mipits and Chiffchaffs was about it.
Dengemarsh - An afternoon visit yielded the two Cattle Egrets and Tundra Geese either side of Brickwall Farm, plus two Great White Egrets on Hookers; (T&BH found the first Sedge Warbler of the year by the hide this afternoon).
ARC - Cloud cover and increasing wind made for a dismal walk around the back of Tower pits which was almost birdless. From Screen hide several Goldeneyes and Shelducks amongst hundreds of Shovelers.

                                1st winter Iceland Gull, The Patch

Dungeness - Just as we were about to retire for tea news broke of an Iceland Gull at the Patch, found by DW, so we hot-footed down to the hide and enjoyed brief views of a pale 1st winter bird on the beach amongst hundreds of regular gulls. The first Common Tern of the year was also present.

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Wild weather and Sandwich Terns

Lade - This weekend has been dominated by the weather. Saturday morning witnessed that curious phenomenon of sea mist and wind enveloping the Dungeness peninsula as a warm front pushed in from the Atlantic, nudging aside the colder high pressure system that has recently dominated. As a result a triple whammy of fog, drizzle and wind made for a less that exciting circuit of the local patch; infact barely a passerine was found while most of the wildfowl were sheltering in the willow swamp. The grebes were undeterred however, with several pairs of Great Crested courting out on the open lake amongst the waves and Dabchicks trilling away from the margins. By the time we hit the beach the wind was so strong that Barney got shot-blasted by a low level sand storm, so we headed for home.
During the afternoon a half-hearted attempt at doing the gravel pits quickly foundered due to the weather, but the Black-headed Gull colony is now building up in number with over 100 birds present, and at least one Med Gull calling.

                                Foggy Saturday

                                Listening `Mirrors`, Lade

                                Stormy waters

Sunday wasn't much better weather wise with a strong south-westerly picking up to near gale force by early afternoon. We walked the pits this morning staying mainly in the lee of the wind around the willow swamp where two each of Chiffchaff, Cetti`s Warbler and Reed Bunting were noted. Raptors have to eat, despite two days of blasting winds, and both Marsh Harrier and Buzzard were on the wing hunting low over the airport fields in between the showers.

                                Black-headed Gulls, Lade beach

                                Sandwich Tern, 1st of the year at Lade

By late afternoon the wind slackened off and the sun came out so we headed down the beach for a wander along the tideline. A mixed flock of gulls on the sands comprised mainly Black-headed, plus a 2nd winter Med Gull, and our first two local patch Sandwich Terns of the year. As the tide flooded in hundreds of Sanderlings, Dunlins, Curlews and Oystercatchers swept past heading to roost along with lesser numbers of Barwit and Grey Plover making for a fine end to a quiet weekend.

Friday, 27 March 2015

Early Willow Warbler

Lade - cold, sunny, nw 2 - A fine start to the day with two Firecrests in garden fir trees front and back, plus a Chiffchaff. We followed up with a circuit of the local patch where at least 10 Chiffchaffs were noted, several in song, but beside north lake, through the buddleia scrub, a Willow Warbler burst into song, my earliest here by a week, and our first of the year. Several Goldfinches and Greenfinches flew over calling, plus Green Woodpecker and Little Egret. Two Cetti`s Warblers sang around the willow swamp, while Sparrowhawk and Marsh Harrier soared over the airport fields. On the lakes Dabchicks seemed to be trilling from every reedbed.
ARC - From the causeway road ARC was packed out with hundreds of Wigeon, Shoveler, Teal and Gadwall, plus five Goldeneyes and single redhead, Smew and Goosander. Best of all though was a summer plum Black-necked Grebe. On New Diggings a single, very black, Lesser Black-backed Gull was of note.
Ketchley Copse - After a session on the allotment we wandered over the road to the wood by the roundabout which I`ve always referred to as Lydd Wood, but which has an official name, Ketchley Copse, as per the Woodland Trust sign on the front gate (its only taken me ten years to notice it!). So, there we go, from now on it`s known as Ketchley Copse. Anyhow, it`s not much of a wood really, but has a range of deciduous trees and I visit regularly when at the allotment. The best birds I`ve found over the years include Woodcock, Firecrest and Pied Flycatcher, while this morning a singing Chiffchaff was about it; however the Sage of Littlestone tells a good tale of twitching a Lesser pecker there long ago... The wood does get quite disturbed as it`s a regular haunt of Lydd teenagers where they go to hang out and have a smoke, but still worthwhile checking now again, early morning.  

                                Ketchley Copse, Lydd

                                Violets, celandine, and woodland pond, Ketchley Copse

Dengemarsh - Accompanied the Joker this afternoon for a highly productive session in Dengemarsh hide from where we enjoyed cracking views of six Marsh Harriers displaying over the reedbeds, including two males, one of which was noticeably paler grey on the wings and tail. Two Great White Egrets were present, plus two Tundra Bean Geese in the back field with the feral geese, Wigeons, Lapwings, Stock Doves and Shelduck. A Sand Martin put in a brief appearance over the lake before disappearing towards the battery farm and three Blackwits dropped in just as we were about to leave. 

                                Marsh Harrier and Great White Egret, Dengemarsh

Weekly Summary - Anyone planning a visit to Dungeness this weekend should be able to see a decent variety of winter hangers-on, plus a few migrants. Large numbers of ducks are still on the bird reserve, including Smew and Goosander, while two Tundra Bean Geese seem to have settled on the Dengemarsh fields. Great White Egrets are also in this area and the two long-staying Cattle Egrets seem to be favouring the sheep fields behind Brickwall Farm. Hayfield 3 is currently good for waders, while Raven and Peregrine are regularly seen thereabouts and the Marsh Harriers are putting on a good show over Hookers reedbed.
On the migrant front Dungeness is the place for Wheatears and Black Redstarts, particularly on the old fishing huts opposite Prospect Cottage, plus Firecrests in the lighthouse garden and around the trapping area. While the sea has been quiet of late Brents are coming through along with a few divers wildfowl, Sandwich Terns and Med Gulls.
Sand Martins, LRPs and Willow Warbler have also been recorded locally with more to come no doubt, and a good chance of Garganey, Swallow and perhaps a Yellow Wagtail over the coming days.
Good birding wherever you go.


Thursday, 26 March 2015

Willop Basin

Dungeness - cold, wet, cloudy, ssw 5 - 0730hrs - With the wind at last swinging round to a favourable direction we headed down to the seawatch hide to join the hard core regulars. However, it proved to be slow going and with the rain lashing into the hide not exactly comfortable, so we only lasted an hour; actually, I couldn't stand the pitiful look on Barney`s muzzle when he realised it was seawatching time again. Anyhow, five Fulmars was about the highlight along with our first Sandwich Tern of the year, plus 50 Brents, 10 Common Scoters, 10 Red-throated Divers and a few Gannets.
Willop Basin -  Around noon on the way back from Folkestone I stopped off at Willop Basin, an area of low-lying farmland, drainage sewers, paddocks and rough ground behind a pumping station. The corn fields often flood attracting gulls, wildfowl, waders and the like. Its best viewed from atop the impressive Dymchurch sea defence wall, which also affords views across the bay.
Today it was pretty quiet with two Brent Geese and four Curlews of note on the arable land, plus four Tree Sparrows by the paddocks, a collection of large gulls, two Grey Herons and a Dabchick on the main sewer. But its one of those sites that`s got a good birdy feel to it, the sort of place that could turn up something ludicrously rare one day...
Willop Basin is regularly checked by local birders and often features on the highly recommended Folkestone & Hythe Birds website www.freewebs.com/folkestonebirds

                                Brent Geese, Willop Basin

                               Sea Defences, Dymchurch
                                Willop Basin, Dymchurch

Dungeness - In bright sunshine the old lighthouse garden held two cracking Firecrests, but trying to photograph them amongst the thick vegetation with a bridge camera proved hopeless; there were a number of other Firecrests reported across the peninsula today.
Another 45 minute seawatch from the boats produced a Sandwich Tern, plus a trickle of Red-throated Divers, Common Scoters and a Fulmar.
On the way off the estate a scan of the beach opposite Jarman`s yielded four Wheatears, two Black Redstarts and a Range Rover stuck in the shingle (when will they ever learn...).
The low-loaders were taking away the diggers and dozers from the shoreline so I presume that`s it for the shingle movement until next winter.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Reed Buntings

Long Pits - cold, sunny, ne 3 - A slog around the lakes and out across the desert on another nippy morning delivered little in the way of migrants apart from 10 Chiffchaffs, two of which were in song. Singing Reed Buntings and Chaffinches were much in evidence in the lakeside willows, plus two Cetti`s Warblers, while both Little and Great Crested Grebes were displaying on the water. Singles of Skylark, Mipit, Stonechat and Green Woodpecker also noted on the desert. Best of all though was a Firecrest at the northern end of the lakes. 

                                Great White Egret and Reed Bunting, Dengemarsh

Dengemarsh - The two Cattle Egrets remained faithful to the sheep folds behind Brickwall Farm where a Raven was feeding on sheep afterbirth. From Springfield Bridge two each of Great White Egrets and Egyptian Geese flew over towards the hayfields while a spanking adult male Marsh Harrier courted two females high over Hookers. Hayfield 3 was quieter today with just nine each of Ringed Plover and Dunlin, plus Lapwing, Oystercatcher and 12 Shelducks on the shingle. Spent some time going through a large mixed passerine flock on the stony field beside the sewer which comprised some 150 Mipits and 50 each of Reed Buntings and alba wagtails. Peregrine, Cetti`s Warbler, Little Egret and Chiffchaff also present in the general area.
New Romney - To the north of town around midday three Buzzards were thermaling up into the cloud base.
Lade - A late afternoon check of the local patch for any incoming hirundines drew a blank, but 160 Curlews were counted as they flew between roost sites having been flushed by a loose dog. Around the willow swamp several more Reed Buntings in song, and most welcome they are too, infact I`d go as far as to say they were, `bird of the day`.
ps: Other local news today concerned a Short-eared Owl over Long Pits this afternoon (SC) and a Brambling (virtually a rarity down here) on the feeders in the bird reserve car park (CT).

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Spring hat trick

Lade  - 0730hrs - cold, cloudy, showery, nw 2 - I wasn't expecting a great deal this morning as we trudged down Taylor Road to start a circuit of the local patch. It was grim and grey with rain not far away, but spirits were instantly lifted by a Med Gull flying over calling and the odd sight of an Egyptian Goose wandering around on the shingle ridges, though not for long as it soon flew off towards the lakes where it joined another. Scanning the desert revealed a Wheatear, followed by a Sand Martin zipping low over the water on south lake, searching for insects, and three singing Chiffchaffs around the willow swamp. An encouraging start, but then the rain came which put paid to the bird song and the temperature dipped to a paltry 3C. However, Marsh Harrier, Cetti`s Warbler, Mipits and Green Woodpecker rounded off a decent first leg of the walk.
Cutting back along the beach at low tide, accompanied by a steady drizzle, wasn't so much fun and with the `big` waders well out of range we were left with just a handful of little `uns to check through: Sanderlings, Dunlins, Ringed Plovers and Sanderlings, plus two Grey Plovers. Another Med Gull flew over and four Linnets came in off the sea, so all in all a productive couple of hours birding, before heading off to Alkham for our local B&B association AGM.

Monday, 23 March 2015

The Patch

Dungeness  - 0730hrs - cold, cloudy, nw 2 - Joined DW in the Patch hide for an hour this morning where a thousand plus gulls, mainly Herring and Black-headed Gulls, were milling over the boil or sat on the beach. Despite a thorough search the only two birds of interest were a hybrid type Black-headed/Med Gull and a 3rd winter Yellow-legged Gull.
At least six harbour porpoises were feeding offshore, which eventually attracted several Gannets.
Passerines were in short supply with a Mipit and Pied Wagtail on the power station wall and a Black Redstart in the old lighthouse garden.
Lade - No real change here with a large high tide roost of Black-headed Gulls on south lake and two singing Cetti`s Warblers around the willow swamp of note.
PS: Other local news concerned a Rough-legged Buzzard over Littlestone, mid-morning (TG).  

Sunday, 22 March 2015

March malaise

Lade - cold, cloudy, ne 3 - It happens every year about now, the old March malaise. Encouraged by some early migrants: Sand Martins, Wheatears, Scandinavian Rock Pipit, Little Ringed Plover,  singing Chiffs and thousands of Brent Geese so far, there`s a tendency to get ahead of one`s self, after all said and done it is only the 22nd.
Anyhow, continuing on with our Sunday theme of sticking to shanks pony we flogged the local patch to death this morning, criss-crossing the desert looking for a Stone Curlew or Great Spotted Cuckoo, but having to make do with a Wheatear and 155 roosting Curlews, before scouring the lakes for a party of Garganey (there I go again, but its the expectancy of living here...) and slumming it with a Med Gull amongst a flock of 500 Black-heads. We couldn't even find a Firecrest around the willow swamp. And then, guess what? I had to put up with just a few Sanderlings, Knots, Redshanks and Turnstones on the beach instead of a Kentish Plover.
I don't know, some folk are never satisfied...

                                There`s a Med Gull in there somewhere...

                                Turnstone, Lade

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Catkins and bees

Long Pits - 0800hrs - sunny, cold, ne 4 - En-route to the allotment in Lydd a circuit of the pits and the adjacent desert delivered few birds apart from three singing Chiffchaffs, Skylark, Mipit and 20 Chaffinches amongst the expected tits, Dunnocks, Wrens and the like, plus a single Snipe flushed by Barney. A willow bush on the edge of the desert was smothered in pussy willow catkins and even on a cold day such as this attracted at least ten bumble bees to the pollen-rich flowers.

                               Willow catkins and bumble bee, Dungeness desert

ARC/New Diggings - From the causeway road a redhead Goosander on ARC and a Black-necked Grebe on New Diggings were the only noteworthys.

                                Ruff, Ringed Plovers and Dunlin, Dengemarsh

Dengemarsh - By late morning the cloud cover returned and the cold northerly wind increased bringing back the winter. At Brickwall Farm the two Cattle Egrets were feeding amongst the sheep in the field behind the battery sheds. From Springfield Bridge our first White Wagtail of the season was noted in a mixed flock of Pied Wagtails and Reed Buntings, while two Great White Egrets flew over Hookers. Hayfield Number 3 continues to be the place to watch with a decent collection waders, best of which were four Ruff, plus 23 Dunlins, 12 Ringed Plovers, six Redshanks, two Oystercatchers, a Knot, two Shelducks and two Little Egrets. On the walk back a Raven flew over towards its nest site on the power station with a bulging crop of goodness know what...

Friday, 20 March 2015

Solar eclipse

Lade - cold, overcast, n 2 - Another grim wintry day with single figure temperatures throughout. After checking the lakes and foreshore, where there was no change from yesterday, we arrived home to witness the solar eclipse which turned out to be a bit of a damp squid. With heavy cloud cover there was no chance of seeing the moon partially blotting out the sun, but at around 0930hrs it did become slightly darker, which appeared to suppress the sparrow and Starling chatter for a while. Most noticeable of all though was a drop in temperature and increase in wind speed.
ARC - From the causeway road a Black-necked Grebe and three Goldeneyes were the pick of the bunch out on the lake, plus Teal, Gadwall, Shoveler and Little Egret in the shallows.

                               Shoveler and Goldeneyes, Burrowes

Burrowes - Staff and volunteers have made a grand job of repairing the access road up to the VC this week - congratulations to one and all on a marvellous effort.
An increase in Chaffinch numbers to around 50 in the car park area was probably as a result of the recent influx along the Kent coastline. Around Burrowes it was very much a wintry scene with Little and Great White Egrets, 15 Goldeneyes and hundreds of common wildfowl, including at least 620 Shovelers.

                               Lade desert

Desert/ARC - This afternoon we walked across the desert to Lydd to retrieve Mrs PT`s car from the garage. The desert was desolate apart from a couple of singing Skylarks and a brown hare. Along the railway line one or two Song Thrushes were outnumbered by Blackbirds, while two Marsh Harriers soared over Airport pits.
On the way home a stop off at Screen hide delivered all the usual wildfowl, plus good views of a Barn Owl at dusk.

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Colour-ringed Sanderling

Lade - 1100hrs - cold, grey, drizzle, n 4 - Another shocking day with a bitter wind out of the north in half light. We struggled around the local patch in a fine drizzle, where predictably there were no signs of spring. On the beach I spent some time trying to determine the exact combination of colour rings and flags on the legs of a Sanderling, not an easy task on a bird that is always on the go. Eventually, I think I nailed it and sent the results off to the BTO. Formerly colour ringed Sanderlings on the bay have originated from a Dutch team, and one bird I reported a few years ago in the spring had
wintered in Mauritania, on the north-west coast of Africa, and summered in the Siberian Arctic.
The weather was so grim this afternoon that I stayed in and baked some cakes for forthcoming bird tours.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Scandinavian Rock Pipit

Dungeness - 0900hrs - cold, grey, misty, ne 4 - Spent the day guiding Russell and Carol from Thanet around the peninsula in hazy light with a biting wind off the sea. Firstly, we worked the beach opposite Jarman`s where eventually a smart male Wheatear popped up atop one of the old fishing shacks. Several each of Black Redstart, Skylark, Mipit, Pied Wagtail, Stock Dove and a Kestrel were also located. From the fishing boats a brief seawatch notched up single figures of Red-throated Diver, Kittiwake, Gannet, 50 Great Crested Grebes and 65 Brent Geese in two flocks moving up-Channel. Roosting gulls delivered just the usual Herring and Great Black-backed Gulls, while at least three Chiffchaffs were active in the lighthouse garden.
Dengemarsh - At Brickwall Farm the now resident Cattle Egrets were feeding in a sheep fold. From Springfield Bridge a mixed flock of 50 Reed Buntings and Pied Wagtails was of interest, plus the usual Marsh Harriers over the reedbed. Hayfield 3 looked brilliant with plenty of shallow water and muddy margins, and while yesterdays LRP was absent three Ringed Plovers, and two each of Oystercatcher, Dunlin and Redshank were present, plus Great White and Little Egrets and six Shelducks. Best of all though, on a muddy island, was a Rock Pipit of the Scandinavian race littoralis, showing a pale supercilium and plain, dark-grey mantle.

                                Great White Egret, Dengemarsh

                                Hayfield 3, Dengemarsh

Scotney - On the roadside pit a Black-necked Grebe was still present amongst diminishing numbers of wildfowl, plus two Goldeneyes.Through the farmyard and a flock of 55 Corn Buntings and 40 Chaffinches feeding by the old farmhouse provided a welcome sight. On the new pits six Avocets, four Redshanks and the years first Little Ringed Plover were the highlights, plus ten Pintails and a Buzzard.
On the way back to the coast we called in at a battery farm near Lydd where a Little Owl showed briefly.
ARC - With access restricted to the bird reserve due to road repairs we checked out the lake from Hanson hide where up to 100 Shovelers and ten Goldeneyes, plus a close Marsh Harrier were noted. In the willow scrub several Reed Buntings, Cetti`s Warbler and two Long-tailed Tits.
Littlestone - Out on the sands at low tide Knot, Redshank, Curlews and Oystercatchers were on view, plus hundreds of Black-headed and Common Gulls and a Mediterranean Gull over calling from the Varne boat club.
A decent days birding, despite the weather with the highlight being the Rock Pipit.

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Mediterranean Gulls

Lade - cold, hazy, cloudy, e 2 - 0730hrs - A grim start to the day weather wise was considerably enlivened by the seasons` first influx of Mediterranean Gulls. Both lakes had one or two  `yowing` loudly amongst the Black-heads with further birds on the beach and over the cottage through the day. All were smart adults in breeding plumage and a very welcome sight they were too.
The foreshore boded well with `short` tides just the right height to entice a good few waders to stay put at a decent range. A mixed pack of Knots, Dunlins, Sanderlings and Redshanks proved the mainstay along with a straggle of Oystercatchers and several Ringed Plovers.

                               Mediterranean Gulls, Greatstone beach

We ventured over the back this afternoon in hazy sunshine just to check whether any migrants had dropped in, but the best we could muster was couple of Stonechats, a Skylark and a few Linnets, plus a Buzzard drifting down the coast that set off the local Herring Gulls.
ps: The first Little Ringed Plover of the year was reported this afternoon, on the hayfields at the bird reserve (SB).

Monday, 16 March 2015

Vote Gannet

Dungeness - cold, overcast, e 2 - 0745hrs -  For a change of scene we headed down to the point for a seawatch only to be confronted by the long-faces of TG and PB walking away from the hide (always a bad sign) and indeed it was with nothing on the move. So we wandered down to the Patch where it was also pretty quiet. Around the point several Black Redstarts and Mipits were about the only migrants on offer, while a pair of Kestrels provided some entertainment around the old lighthouse.

                               Meadow Pipit, Dungeness

                               Kestrels, Dungeness

Lade - Nothing much doing here either apart from a seething mass of carp spawning in the shallows around the willow swamp.

Britain`s National Bird - Apparently, according to the national media (Radio 4 Today programme) and much promoted by the `Urban Birder`, Britain needs a `National Bird`; sounds to me like another one of those bloody awful imports from the USA like Grey Squirrels, Canada Geese and Dunkin Doughnuts - America has the Bald Eagle as its bird logo, which always strikes me as slightly ironic as they almost hunted the poor thing to extinction.
Anyhow, I gave this conundrum some thought (about two minutes) whilst doing my ablutions this morning, instantly dismissing `our` two home-grown endemic races: Red Grouse and Scottish Crossbill as too indeterminate (I can`t even convince myself the latter actually exists) and, well, too Scottish. Then the radio informed me that a poll to elect the nation`s favourite bird was already underway and the great British public were voting in their thousands.
How had this great event passed me by? I thought I had my pulse on the birding zeitgeist of the nation, but obviously not. As I was flossing the old molars the radio presenter said that the list was narrowed down to ten species; instantly I thought of classic seabirds such as Manxie, Gannet or Stormy Petrel, all of which had to be on the list. With the majority of the worlds population of each breeding around our coastline and oceanic islands, what more could Britannia wish for than something like the mighty Solan Goose to represent our great maritime nation? It`s as British as curry, real ale and Morris dancing.
So I logged on, full of patriotic fervour to view the list and cast my vote: Barn Owl (too nocturnal), Blackbird (too common), Blue Tit (could you imagine it...), Hen Harrier (too persecuted, but how on earth did it get in the top ten anyway?), Kingfisher (too flashy), Mute Swan (that must be a joke, its not even a `real` bird...), Puffin (fair enough, it is a seabird, but its only with us for four months of the year), Red Kite (too plastic and Welsh), Robin (too associated with ******mas) and Wren (too small).
And guess what the front runner is? Robin sodding redbreast that's what.
Argh! come on Britain we can surely do better than that.
So go on line, shun the Tame Ten and vote for Gannet. You know it makes sense.

                                        Gannet - surely Britain`s `rightful` National Bird

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Wintry blast

Lade - Saturday - cold, dry, sunny, e5. Sunday - cold, cloudy, drizzly, ne 4 - With a cold easterly airflow setting in it was a reminder that winter hasn't let go its steely grip just yet; unfortunately, if the past few springs are anything to go by we could be in for a sustained period of this weather system. However, at least its largely dry and yesterday we had the first Wheatear on the local patch, bobbing up and down on the desert shingle ridges, plus a few Linnets and a Stonechat today. On north pit another first for the season was a cracking adult Mediterranean Gull amongst a small flock of Black-heads on north lake. Other bits and bobs around the pits included several Marsh Harriers, Sparrowhawk, Green Woodpecker, plus singing Reed Bunting and Chiffchaff.
On the main track beside south lake another entrance hole to a large badger sett had appeared overnight with more dung pits scattered amongst the gorse scrub. The badger population down here is enormous and at this time of year there is much activity around setts as bedding is changed and cubbing starts.

                                Badger sett, Lade

                                Guillemot, Lade - one of three tideline corpses

Today we did a full circuit of the patch spending a fair bit of time on the beach, although being as we were up late this morning (too much ale and chatting into the early hours with friends last night, but I was victorious at shove ha`penny!) the tide had receded a little too far, so most of the waders were distant. However, we still managed to notch up seven species including 55 Barwits and 40 Knots.
Sanderlings were the most numerous with a minimum of 400 across the bay, and some were nice and close to the shoreline. Sanderlings are one of my favourite waders and their nervous energy is a delight to watch as they race along the tideline picking off marine invertebrates. Barney too is fascinated by them and sits and watches their every move; often they pass within a few yards of us, particularly when we`re hunkered down on the beach. 
On a sadder note three dead Guillemots were noted between the Tavern and Lade boardwalk, probably drowned in fishing nets judging from the tangled masses that were washed up alongside the corpses.

                      Sanderlings, Lade

This afternoon we spent a couple of hours over the gravel pits to the south. It was largely quiet with a single Wheatear the only migrant, plus several each of Skylark, Mipit and Pied Wagtail. A couple of hundred Black-headed Gulls and one Med were on the islands and Barney flushed two Snipe from the grassy margins.