Tuesday, 30 June 2015

An evening on Walland

Dungeness - warm, dry and sunny - 0800hrs - A casual look at the sea from the hide yielded a few passing Gannets and Sandwich Terns, plus a flock of 30 Common Scoters that landed on the sea off Penn Bars. Whilst nattering at the Obs news came through from PB of an owl in the Trapping Area that was most probably a Long-eared.
Lade - The garden moth trap attracted low numbers of 25 species with Sharp-angled Peacock, Single-dotted Wave and Lackey NFY.
Walland Marsh - This evening we had a wander around Walland with CP in glorious sunshine and clear skies. Plenty of Yellow Wagtails, Skylarks, Reed and Corn Buntings noted plus the first juvenile Marsh Harrier on the wing. Of particular interest was a distinctive adult male bird with a white forewing, rump and pale tail; neither of us had even seen such a remarkable specimen. Also noted two Kingfishers, Kestrel, Hobby, calling Little Owl, Bearded Tit,  Mipit and Goldfinch, plus stunning views through the scope of Venus, Jupiter and Saturn.

                               Now, that's what you call a pile of poo...

Monday, 29 June 2015

Breeding terns and waders

Rye Harbour Nature Reserve - 0830hrs - warm, dry, sunny, sw 2 - For a change of scene we spent the morning `over the border` at Rye for a fix of breeding terns and waders. First off the scrub and willow cover beside Narrow Pit delivered seven species of warblers, including three singing Lesser Whitethroats, plus singles of Cuckoo, Turtle Dove, Green Woodpecker, Sparrowhawk and a family party of Long-tailed Tits. The north-eastern lagoons on Harbour Farm held several pairs of nesting Avocets, Redshanks and Little Ringed Plovers, while a Spotted Redshank was a surprise migrant.
On to Beach Reserve and Ternery Pool where it was great to see that many of the 250 pairs of Sandwich Terns had well-grown juvs on the islands despite the recent attentions of nocturnal Grey Herons. Alongside, a host of Black-headed Gulls had juvs on the water and at least one fledged Mediterranean Gull was noted.

                                Avocet, Harbour Farm

                                Common Terns, Quarry

                                Harbour Farm wader lagoons

                                Sandwich Terns, Ternery Pool

                                Sea Pea, Rye foreshore

From the hide overlooking Quarry the islands were full of nesting Common Terns and Black-headed Gulls coming and going, plus more Redshanks, Avocets, Ringed Plovers, Lapwings and Oystercatchers. Along the beach large swathes of the rare legume, Sea Pea smothered the splash zone, while Skylarks sang aloft and Wheatears and Linnets fed young opposite the red-roofed shack; we also paused for a natter and an update on the breeding bird status with Barry Yates who informed us that at least eight pairs of Little Terns were nesting on Flat Beach, some of which we viewed from the John Gooder`s hide. Whilst walking the path between the shore both Sandwich and Little Terns were seen bringing in what appeared to be the `right` sort of fish, so hopefully it will be a successful breeding season after last years failures. Also noted around the reserve, Little and Great Crested Grebes, Cormorants, Shoveler, Shelduck, Kestrel, five Little Egrets, Grey Heron, Curlew Meadow and Rock (a single along the river) Pipits.
In summary a cracking morning at this superbly managed reserve, amongst some of my favourite birds: waders and terns.
Boulderwall - On the way back from the allotment this evening we had good views of a Barn Owl hunting the fields by Cockles Bridge. We pulled in ARC car park and walked down to the first bend of the access road and watched the owl being attacked by a Marsh Harrier, which it eventually evaded. Cuckoo and Green Woodpecker also noted plus a large flock of Starling with an attendant Peregrine.

Sunday, 28 June 2015


Lade - warm, dry and sunny, light airs - A muggy night delivered large numbers of moths to the garden trap, but only Common Emerald was new for the year.

                                Common Emerald

                                Foxglove Pug

Dengemarsh -  Mrs PT joined us for a circuit of the Marsh starting and finishing in Dengemarsh Road where I was shocked to see Hart`s Farmhouse reduced to a pile of rubble and almost all the mature Scot`s Pines shielding the old building massacred; surely they had a TPO protection...
However, the lake held the usual myriad of moulting wildfowl, Coots, grebes, gulls, Little Egrets, Grey Herons and a few Common Terns, while the bone-dry hayfields held a lone Lapwing and two Oystercatchers. We had good views of Bearded Tits, Yellow Wagtails and Reed Warblers feeding young along the way, the usual Marsh Harriers and two flight views of Bittern out of Hookers reed bed.

                                Flowering Rush, Dengemarsh Sewer                               

                                Hart`s Farmhouse, Dengemarsh Road

Saturday, 27 June 2015

St Mary-in-the-Marsh

St Mary-in-the-Marsh - warm, dry, sunny, sw 3 - A change of scene this morning took us to CP`s two acre garden out on the Marsh to check through last nights moth catch. Over 150 macro moths of 32 species were recorded, including some I`ve not had on the coast this year so far such as Blood-vein, Smoky Wainscot and Flame Shoulder. 
This amazing wildlife garden was alive with breeding birds where both Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers had recently fledged young, amongst a host of finches, tits, thrushes, sparrows and the like. Insects were everywhere in the warm sunshine buzzing around the wild flowers such as Comfrey and masses of Bramble blooms beside towering poplars.
As we joined Chris and Carol for a welcome cuppa on the patio Tree Sparrows came to seed hoppers only five yards away, while several Buzzards and Sparrowhawks soared overhead temporarily disturbing the feeding sparrows and finches. What a fantastic wildlife refuge.

                                House and Tree Sparrows

Dengemarsh - By midday the wind had picked up and a wander around from Springfield Bridge to the hayfields yielded little of note apart from a family of recently fledged Yellow Wagtails being fed by the parents. A male Marsh Harrier delivered prey to a female high above Hookers`s and a few Common Terns came and went.
Lade  - Working in the garden this afternoon the strong winds blew several species of grassland butterflies over, including Marbled White, Meadow Brown and Large Skipper.

Friday, 26 June 2015

A riot of wildlife

Lade - mild, cloudy, w 2 - Muggy overnight weather conditions proved ideal for moths with 26 species in the trap this morning with five NFY including Marbled Coronet, Scarce Footman and Sallow Kitten, also three White Spots and plenty more Small Elephant and Elephant Hawk-moths.
A circuit of the local patch yielded the first Tufted Ducklings on the water, two Little Terns on the beach and over 50 spikes of Dark Mullein in full flower beside north lake. Juvenile birds seemed to be everywhere this morning with the Oystercatcher pair on south lake having got at least two juvs off the island and onto the `mainland` where they were fretting over their brood.

                                   Elephant Hawk-moth

                                  Marbled Coronet

                                An anxious adult Oystercatcher

                                Red Admiral

                                            Dark Mullien

With next weeks forecast of a mini heat wave in the offing Mrs PT decided to give Barney a No. 1 haircut, followed by a bath, which he was less than impressed with. Afterwards we called in at the Kerton Road café to photograph the poppies, where a Roesel`s Bush-cricket was basking on a wall.

                               "I`m so stressed..."

                               Roesel`s Bush-cricket, KRC

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Privet Hawk-moth

Lade - warm, dry and sunny, w 2 - There were plenty of moths in the garden trap this morning of 25 species with five NFY, including a superb Privet Hawk-moth, one of our most spectacular insects.
Whilst emptying the trap news via Twitter told of a fly-over Bee-eater at the Obs and a flock of 10 (yes, ten!) at the RSPB reserve, also on the move westwards, but sadly none hung around.

                                Privet Hawk-moth

                               Sticky Groundsel

It was mid-morning by the time we ventured over the back, and what with all the kerfuffle over the rainbow birds I decided to walk south along the edge of the gravel pits and desert checking overhead wires just in case... However, all was quiet on the bird front, so I quickly got absorbed in flowering plants and the large numbers (at long last) of butterflies on the wing: both skippers, Meadow Browns, loads of Small Heaths, still only a few Common Blues, three Painted Ladies, Small White, Small Tortoiseshell and a Peacock, while in the afternoon we added our first Marbled White of the season at Kerton Road.
Several Emperor dragonflies were patrolling the main track and damselflies were literally everywhere.
An evening walk over the beach delivered a goodly number of Curlews and Oystercatchers returning to the mudflats, plus several Ringed Plovers and Sandwich Terns. A stunning end to the day

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Odds and ends

Lade - warm, dry, sunny, w 2 - It was good to get out and about around the local patch this morning in glorious summer sunshine. The Vipers Bugloss along the old conveyor belt line looked absolutely stunning following Monday`s down pour, as did many of the desert flowering plants. On south lake over 200 non-breeding Coots and Mute Swans covered one end, while large flocks of Starlings descended on the margins to feed on masses of flying insects coming off rotting water weed.
Moths on offer from the 23 species of macros in the garden trap included Elephant Hawk, NFY, and the pyralid, Small Magpie. A Mullein moth was munching its way through a plant on the garden border.

                               Mullein moth caterpillar

                                Plovers climbing rose in full bloom

                                Small Magpie moth

                                A sea of blue Vipers looking south towards Dungeness

ARC - A quick scan from Hanson hide yielded the expected Mute Swans, Coots, grebes and eclipse ducks, plus Cuckoo and Marsh Harrier. The good news for wader aficionados is that the water level is falling fast and islands are starting to appear, just in time for the return passage next month.

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

East Kent sorties and memories of a QPR legend

Lydden Valley - warm, dry, overcast - Probably not the best day to venture over to East Kent, what with Operation Stack on the go and all, but deadlines had to met and sites checked out for Birdwatching  magazine walks. So we went off-piste around the back lanes to Worth, a pretty little village on the edge of the valley in market garden country set amongst fields of spuds, brassicas and linseed, plus hayfields and wheat. The drainage ditch margins were thick with herbaceous cover and flowering plants of the sort favoured by Marsh Warblers, but none were heard amongst the many Reed, Sedge and Cetti`s Warblers; two Corn Buntings, Lesser and Common Whitethroats, Turtle Dove, Reed Buntings, Cuckoo, Kestrel and Marsh Harrier also noted, while Skylarks and Linnets were plentiful in the weedy leys. A bare field attracted two Oystercatchers, five Lapwings, a Curlew and a Hare.

                                North Stream


                                Yellow Water-lily

The highlight of the visit though was watching a shoal of Roach from a footbridge over North Stream, in gin-clear water, closely followed by Barney falling in whilst attempting to have a drink! Boy, does that mutt not like water, what a fuss he made. Also, one or two smart Broad-bodied Chasers on the wing and a Grass Snake in the stream.
A nearby wood supported the two woodpeckers, Blackcap, Chiffchaff and Jay.
In summary, a very pleasant mornings wander in an area new to me and rich in wildlife.

                               Barney after an impromptu `swim`

Bockhill Farm and St Margaret`s at Cliffe - We spent the afternoon checking out a couple of sites where the North Downs tumbles into the English Channel. It reminded me of former haunts on the Chilterns, except when a Fulmar hove into view over the sea cliffs! Birdwise it was pretty quiet as you`d expect on a summers afternoon, although we still notched up Willow Warbler, Lesser Whitethroat, Yellowhammer and Sparrowhawk. The flower-rich meadows and calcareous slopes were a real treat and I found myself stumbling around looking at the plants, but was disappointed in the lack of butterflies.

                                Pyramidal Orchid

                                St Margaret`s at Cliffe

However, it was a profitable day in pastures new with four sites photographed and reconnoitred for parking, access, facilities and the like, and we even managed to avoid the parked lorries on the way home.

                                The Road to Hell

Boulderwall - On the way back from the allotment this evening we called in to see if there was any sign of the Barn Owl out and about, which there wasn't. However, on this beautiful summer`s evening Tree Sparrows were coming and going to nest boxes, Cuckoos calling, Marsh Harriers and Hobby hunting and the first Green Sandpiper of the return passage flew over from ARC calling.

Stan Bowles - Like me I feel sure that many R`s fans of my generation would`ve been saddened by yesterdays news that the great entertainer has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's. Stan graced Loftus Road during the `Golden Years` of the 1970`s when he played alongside the likes of Gerry Francis and Dave Thomas, a period unlikely to be repeated in the era of today's global game where money buys success. Stan was no athlete, but what he lacked in pace he more than compensated for with pure skill and trickery; he was a scallywag, a drinker and a gambler, but an ace goal poacher, and the fans loved him for it.
QPR may have had better players down the years (Marsh, Francis, McDonald and Ferdinand spring to mind in my time), but Stan Bowles will always be the fans favourite, and a true legend of the beautiful game at W12.

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Capel-le-Ferne and Crossbills

Lade - 0700hrs - warm dry and sunny, light airs - A sultry start to the day with a good collection of common moths in the garden trap, plus the now `regular` Bordered Straw; Oh, how blasé we can become.
Due to several boating fisherman on south lake we abandoned all hope of any birding so walked Mockmill instead where there was plenty of Sedge Warblers, Linnets and Whitethroats feeding broods. Also noted Stonechat, Marsh Harrier and Kestrel.

                                Brimstone Moth, Lade

                                     Knot Grass, Lade

Capel-le-Ferne - This afternoon dad and I visited the Battle of Britain Memorial site atop the White Cliffs, and very informative it was too, particularly with the new `Wings` centre open. The memorial wall, with the names of all the fallen `Few`, was a sobering reminder of how lucky us post-war generations are not to have experienced the horrors of war. A highly recommended place to visit.
The view along the cliffs towards Dover and Folkestone was pretty special too.
Lade - Back home I took Barney for his evening walk before the rain set in and was surprised to hear, and just about glimpse, two Crossbills heading north along the coast calling.

Friday, 19 June 2015

Walland raptors

Walland Marsh - 1000hrs  - warm, dry, sunshine/cloud, nw 2 - With nothing much happening on the local patch we headed out for a session on the Marsh, searching for the Black Kite of the past two mornings. An hour from Tickner`s Lane resulted in a decent hooked-beak count with up ten Buzzards, five Marsh Harriers, three Kestrels and a Hobby, plus several distant unidentified soaring raptors and a possible kite sighting, but the view was so brief I could not be sure. Whilst scanning from the seed dump BP arrived (who`d found the Black Kite) and we nattered for a while commenting upon the numbers of raptors, but he`d had no sign of the kite today. I later checked out the Cheyne Court area but there was just the usual harriers present.
There was, however, plenty of other farmland birds heard and seen during our tour, including Common and Lesser Whitethroats, Yellowhammers, Skylarks, Reed Buntings, Tree Sparrows, two Corn Buntings and six Turtle Dove scattered across Walland.
Lade - 1900hrs - By late afternoon the wind died away to nothing: cue a wander over the pits on a gorgeous calm evening, one of the very few this summer, with me old dad who was astonished at the range of wild flowers on the shingle ridges. We also had good views of the adult Stonechats feeding their brood out of the nest.

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Strawberries, Swallows and a Barn Owl

Lade - warm, dry and sunny, nw 2 - Cracking day for taking our guest Mike into the field for a spot of wildlife photography. We mooched about the local patch for a couple of hours, which was full of activity with the hot sunshine bringing forth a host of insects including damselflies, several Emperors, Four-spotted Chasers and Black-tailed Skimmers. Butterfly numbers were low with only a handful of Small Heaths and Common Blues on the wing, plus singles of Painted Lady, Small Tortoiseshell and Large Skipper. Loads of Marsh Frogs seen and heard along with Grass Snake and several huge carp lolling in the shallows of south lake.

                                  Black-tailed Skimmer, female                                 

                                Black-tailed Skimmer, male

                                Lade `Mirrors`

                               Small Tortoiseshell, Lade
                               Large Skipper, Lade

RSPB - From Hanson hide hundreds of common wildfowl, Lapwings and gulls, plus good views of Cuckoo, Marsh Harrier, four Hobbys over the access track and all the usual warblers in song. It was a similar picture on Burrowes with the addition of Curlew and Ringed Plover. We spent some time photographing plants and insects around the car park before walking the return trail where two Grass Snakes and several Common Lizards noted. Finished off at the ramp with protracted flight views of a Bittern, plus more Hobbys and Marsh Harriers.

                                 Painted Lady, RSPB car park

RSPB - This afternoon Albert (4 years 10 months), Barney and I went to the allotment in Lydd to pick strawberries and water the plants. On the way back home we called into ARC to see the Swallow chicks, which looked just about ready to fledge, and then on to the VC where en-route by the double bends, at 1640hrs, the Boulderwall Barn Owl was hunting the shingle ridges. We enjoyed superb views over the course of an hour as it quartered the fields and watched it catch two rodents and return to the nest site. A splendid end to a day rich in variety.

                                Start `em young...

Swallow chicks, ARC

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Stinking Hawksbeard

Lade - warm, dry, sunny, sw 3 - A poor night in the garden trap with only 15 species including two tatty looking Bordered Straws.
This morning we spent a couple of hours surveying the southern section of the local patch taking in the working gravel pits and foreshore between The Pilot and Lade car park. Worryingly there didn't appear to be a great deal of activity around the Black-headed Gull colony; whether or not a predator (such as Badger) had swam out overnight and nobbled them only time will tell. On a positive note though, both Oystercatcher and Shelduck still had young on show. The male Kestrel was seen to take a juv Starling and fly back to the gantry nest site, while plenty of Skylarks sang over the grasslands.
There were some particularly impressive swards of blue scabious contrasting with dead grasses, and great mats of snow-white English Stonecrop, a plant that appears to be doing well this summer.
Butterflies continue to be few in number with only a couple of Common Blues and Small Heaths on the wing.

                                English Stonecrop

Kerton Road Café - Half way round we called in at the café to `do moths` where over 30 species of macros included a number of White Spots, Elephant Hawk-moths, Bordered Sallow and, dare I mention them, several more Bordered Straws...

                                Elephant Hawk-moths, KRC

                                                    Stinking Hawksbeard, KRC

The front garden of the café looked in fine fettle, if a little dry (as elsewhere across the NNR), with a great splashes of red poppies the main feature. However, in and around the margins a number of hawksbeard plants were in flower, some of which were of the nationally rare Stinking Hawksbeard variety. The easiest way of initially locating this innocuous plant is to look for the drooping buds, as depicted above; and curiously, the leaf when crushed smells of Germoline or TCP.
The beach section of the walk failed to locate any breeding Ringed Plovers, but as the tide came in 80 Oystercatchers and 40 Curlews flew to roost on the gravel pits and a flock of six Dunlins pitched up on the shingle foreshore.  

Monday, 15 June 2015

Birthday Barney

Lade - cool, cloudy, drizzle, brighter later, ne 3 - A surprisingly good haul of moths in the garden trap this morning considering how cool it was last night, including Eyed Hawk-moth, Light Arches and Peppered Moth NFY.
A wander over the pits, in fleece and coat, revealed a host of Swifts low over the water hunting insects. Along the beach the pair of Ringed Plovers had miraculously got two juvs to flying stage.

                                Eyed Hawk-moth, Lade

Dungeness - There was nothing much happening at the Patch apart from three Med Gulls, 20 Common Terns and 200 Black-headed Gulls amongst the usual motley collection of big gulls. Two Black Redstarts sang from the power station complex and a Wheatear fed young opposite Jarman`s.
Birthday Boy - Today was Barney`s birthday (how sad is that, knowing the mutts big day...), he`s nine years old, that makes him about middle age in dog years, so similar to me. He is the very best birding companion, always pleased to see me and never argues with any of my identifications..., but isn't too keen on seawatching; he`s just happy to be out and about around the Marsh, snuffling around and has even flushed a few goodies over the years. Happy birthday old mate.

                                Birthday Barney