Monday, 18 December 2017

Barn Owl

Lade - cold, frosty, sunny, light airs - A nippy start to the day with a light ground frost on the pebbles. Almost the first bird seen on south lake was the elusive Long-tailed Duck working its usual part of the water in front of the linear reed bed south of the wall `mirror`. Goldeneye numbers were slightly up on yesterday and a Kingfisher showed well on north lake.

                                Magpies chattering amongst themselves

                                The elusive Long-tailed Duck eventually surfaced

  This afternoon we tramped across to the south end of the lake to try a different angle on the diving duck, and much to my surprise it was actually on the surface preening for a full 15 minutes, before recommencing its underwater forays. Whilst there attempting a pic, two redhead Goosanders dropped in. Just before lights out a check of the fields towards the airport revealed two Marsh Harriers heading to roost and a distant Barn Owl hunting by a large straw stack.
  Elsewhere around the peninsula today the 13 Bewick`s Swans were still in the field opposite Cockles Bridge and the Long-eared Owl was at roost behind the Dipping Pool (PB). Smew remains an unexplained absentee among the regular winter visitors.

Sunday, 17 December 2017

Long-tailed Duck

Saturday - Lade - cold and sunny, N 2 - Another bitterly cold morning following an overnight frost. On south lake the Long-tailed Duck was back, although it probably hadn't gone away just tucked up on the bank somewhere. It is, however, one of the most frustrating of birds, spending most of its time under water and only surfacing for the briefest of seconds. There was little else of note around the site.

Sunday -Lade - cold, misty, sunny, light airs - This morning dawned frosty and still with sub-zero overnight temperatures combining with the mist to turn the shingle landscape into a winter wonderland. A slippery walk across the hoar-frost smothered shingle to the pits delivered another scene of wonder as a bank of fog rolled across the main lake covered in an icy rime. Looking back to Dungeness the power station loomed threatenly out of the mist.
  Birdwise the Long-tailed duck had gone AWOL again, despite a couple of visiting groups of birders constantly scanning the far side of south lake. However, there was plenty of other stuff to see including a Bittern and Kingfisher on north lake, a Firecrest in the willow swamp and several Goldeneyes across both waters. Raptors were much in evidence with Marsh Harrier, Buzzard, Kestrel and Sparrowak on the hunt.
Walland Marsh - By noon clouds rolled in from the south-west, the temperature rose with rain arriving by mid-afternoon - just right for the monthly harrier count! Chris and I tramped out to our watch point in dreary weather conditions and as a result only three Marsh Harriers came to roost. Two more were noted in the area along with two Buzzards and a ringtail Hen Harrier that went straight through towards the ranges. A mixed flock of Lapwings and Golden Plovers, five Little Egrets, a Great White Egret, plus several hundred Fieldfares completed a quiet session on Walland Marsh.

Friday, 15 December 2017


Dungeness - cold, cloudy, n 4 - A bitter cold day with a cutting wind out of the north, just right for an hour at the fishing boats! All the usual suspects noted including good numbers of Guillemots, Great Crested Grebes and Gannets fishing just offshore, plus a few Kittiwakes and Red-throated Divers, two Med Gulls, three Common Scoters and a distant Bonxie. On the beach an adult Yellow-legged Gull was amongst a throng of a hundred gulls.
  From Cockles Bridge the Bewick`s Swans were still in the corn field opposite amongst Mutes. We then spent some time along Dengemarsh Road where the recently flooded fields contained   hundreds of birds, mostly Common and Black-headed Gulls, Lapwing, Golden Plover, Woodpigeon, feral Greylags and corvids, plus 20 Egyptian Geese, five Brents, two Ruffs and five Redshanks. The weedy field near Springfield Bridge held an interesting mix of passerines including 50 Linnets, 20 Goldfinches, 10 Chaffinches, 10 Reed Buntings, four Corn Buntings and, bird of the week, a Yellowhammer, only the second one I`ve noted on the shingle. 

                                Winter wildfowl on Burrowes

                                   Stock Dove and Tree Sparrows on Boulderwall feeders

  Around the bird reserve the usual array of wildfowl and gulls, although less in number from earlier in the week, and still no sign of any Smew or the Long-eared Owl. The Black-tailed Godwit flock was on ARC where also Great White Egret, Kingfisher and Bittern noted, while the Boulderwall fields held the usual Wigeons and Lapwings. The bird feeders were particularly busy with at least 15 Tree Sparrows counted in the garden.
  A quick look at Lade delivered the Slavonian Grebe on north lake, but no sign of the Long-tailed Duck. Up to ten Goldeneyes remained across both waters.
  We had a great evening at the Romney Morris Christmas sing around at the Shepherd and Crook at Burmash, and on the way home just before midnight a Barn Owl flew across the road on the outskirts of the village.

Thursday, 14 December 2017

Bewick`s Swans

Dungeness - cold, dry, sunny, w 4 - We kicked off at the point first thing where it was very quiet bird wise. Together with PB we had a brief look for the Dartford Warblers by the Britannia without success, although the wind was brisker than expected. A party of six Brents moved down-channel by the fishing boats.
  From Cockle`s Bridge the seven Bewick`s Swans were still in the corn field opposite amongst 50 Mute Swans, where also Buzzard and Great White Egret noted. A check of New Diggings and ARC from the causeway road gate drew a blank on any sawbills, but plenty of common diving ducks and gulls, two Great White Egrets and the usual Marsh Harriers present.
Lade - A thorough scan of Lade south failed to locate the Long-tailed Duck. The Slavonian Grebe, however, was on north lake amongst a flock of Pochards, plus a Redshank and a flyover Bittern.

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Weather break

Lade - cold, frosty, sunny, light airs - After two days of gale force winds the morning dawned bright, and thankfully still, although crossing the welded shingle ridges was fun. Around the local patch raptors were making the most of the pause in the poor weather with Marsh Harrier, Sparrowhawk, Buzzard and Kestrel all noted. On south lake the Long-tailed Duck and Slavonian Grebe were still present along with 10 Goldeneyes across both waters. There appeared to be an increase in Woodpigeons with the bushes around the willow swamp shrouded in grey.
Dungeness - On the bird reserve the Bouldwall fields were full of birds, mostly Wigeon, Lapwing, Stock Dove, corvids, Coots, feral geese and a few Golden Plovers. On the drive out a small flock of Bewick`s Swans flew over towards Cockles Bridge. Burrowes held the usual ducks, Cormorants and gulls, while there was no sign of the Long-eared Owl behind the Dipping Pool. From Hanson hide the usual egrets, wildfowl and waders, plus a Bittern creeping around a reed bed margin. Elsewhere, two Dartford Warblers remained in scrub by the Britannia pub at Dungeness (DW).

Monday, 11 December 2017

Missed list

Lade - cold, heavy rain, ne 7 - A shocker of a day down here; infact it was one of the worst in the 12 years we've lived here with gale force north-easterlies and torrential rain bringing down garden fences, ripping tiles off the cottage roof and flooding the garage - and it wasn't even a named storm!!
The weather conditions were so bad that we were confined to barracks for most of the day as the wind and rain lashed the peninsula.
  However, it did mean that I could catch up on some paperwork and in an idle moment check out the Plovers bird list for 2017. Now, regular readers of this blog will know that I`m not much of twitcher (did a fair bit of that back in the 80`s and 90`), but we do keep a running total of birds seen around Dungeness and across the Romney Marsh during our outings. We normally average about 220 species (228 was out best tally five years ago), although this year we are running low at 214, although with three weeks remaining there`s still the chance of a few more.
  However, the stand out bird on the `missed list` this year is Grey Partridge. I`ve checked all their former haunts and drawn blanks, so unless any are artificially introduced for so called `sporting purposes` they are as good as extinct down here. Several summer visitors eluded us this year including Black-winged Stilt, Roseate Tern, Wood Warbler, Bee-eater, but to be fair they were few and far between, as were sightings of seabirds such as Shag, Little Auk, Sabine`s Gull and that ace rarity, Puffin. Other passage migrants missed were Stone Curlew, Radde`s Warbler, Crossbill and despite much autumn viz migging, Hawfinch...
  There, were of course, one or two goodies during 2017 and plenty of memorable days, all of which will be included in a forthcoming end of year review.       

Sunday, 10 December 2017

Weekend of weather

Lade - A weekend dominated by the weather with a bitterly cold, dry and sunny Saturday contrasting with a vile Sunday morning when gale force winds and heavy rain lashed in from the south. By midday the rain eased off but the wind remained so strong it was difficult to walk across the shingle to the pits to do the monthly WeBS count, while Barney got blown over twice! The wind eventually eased off from the west by late afternoon heralding another cold night.
  As for the duck count I couldn't find the Long-tailed Duck, although the Slavonian Grebe remained on south lake and Goldeneyes totalled 10. Most of the rest were sensibly sheltering in the willow swamp or on north lake.

Friday, 8 December 2017

Dungeness end of week summary

Lade - cold, sunny, nw 2-4 - A cold, dry end to the week, but with a withering wind out of the north-west that picked up through the day. On south lake the Slavonian Grebe and Long-tailed Duck were still present, although it took a while to locate the latter due to its constant diving. At least 10 Goldeneyes were scattered across both waters and several Marsh Harriers hunted the back reed bed.
  Elsewhere today on the bird reserve the Cattle Egret was seen on Boulderwall fields while the Long-eared Owl reappeared at roost behind the Dipping Pool. A Little Gull (PB) was on Burrowes where, throughout the week at high tide, a number of Caspian and Yellow-legged Gulls have been located amongst the thousands of gulls. A flock of eight Goosanders have been mobile between Lade and Burrowes and Great White Egrets can be encountered at most wetlands across the peninsula.
  This week Dartford Warblers have been reported from scrub around the Britannia pub at Dungeness and also in the Kerton Road triangle. Lade sands now has its full complement of wintering waders, while across the wider Marsh small parties of Bewick`s Swans have begun to arrive in the Scotney area of Walland Marsh.
  With the change in weather, surely this weekend will see the arrival of one or two Smew to the  gravel pit lakes, or maybe a white-winged gull, we shall see...

Thursday, 7 December 2017

In memory of Don Green

Don Green - 1935 -2017 - Yesterday we travelled up to Bedford to attended the funeral of one of Bedfordshire`s senior naturalists and a dear friend, Don Green. Inevitably there was a large turnout of birders present who knew Don including several Dungeness regulars from the past such as Peter Smith, Barry Nightingale and Arthur Livett. It was also good to meet up with Rob, Stewart and Pete from the former `Dunstable Wednesday Club`, and Dave Kramer, among many others.
  However, I first met Don in 1978 when I moved to Dunstable and became involved with the Bedfordshire Natural History Society. His farmhouse was a regular meeting point for those involved with the creation of a nature reserve at the nearby sewage works, where we stored gear in his barn and concocted up ideas for the reserve, often over tea and cake with his wife Maureen.
  Don held numerous positions in the Society from the 1960`s onwards and as a result was recently awarded honorary life membership together with Maureen, who was always at his side over the many years when they organised the meetings programme and performed the thankless task of  projectionist for the evening slide shows. 
  Don also used to organise winter birding weekend trips to the Solway in Dumfries and Galloway which were always a fun occasion. We stayed in a family run hotel in New Galloway and after a long day in the field the craic was brilliant in the evening with everyone telling stories from their travels, many of which became more and more embellished as the malt whiskeys flowed! What great memories and Don was in his element with tales of back-packing around Europe in the 50`s and his time in Canada as a lumberjack!
  Even though I left Bedfordshire in 2006 Don often used to phone for a natter to update me on the Bedfordshire scene and to see how things were going down here, and he regularly visited Dungeness with the bird club. I shall miss those chats and visits, but feel privileged to have known such a wonderful human being who had such warmth and verve for life.
  Our deepest sympathies go out to Maureen and the family at this difficult time. 
Thursday - Sweet Caroline - 0900hrs - mild, wet and windy, S 7-8 - I joined BC in the seawatching hide this morning more to watch Storm Caroline batter the Dungeness peninsula than the expectancy of any birds. And sure enough a big sea was running up-Channel with a steady passage of Gannets, Fulmars and a few auks making light of the gale force wind and spray.
  From Hanson hide on the bird reserve a decent selection of wildfowl, waders and gulls included an adult Caspian Gull and 30 Black-tailed Godwits until flushed by a Peregrine. Also present, two Great White Egrets and a Kingfisher.
  The local patch at Lade was windswept and I could find no sign of the Long-tailed Duck.

                                Acadian Flycatcher, Dungeness 22nd September, 2015

Acadian Flycatcher in Kent: new to Britain - The morning of 22nd September 2015 will be forever etched in my memory, as no doubt it will be for many Dungeness birders. It was raining hard outside as I bid farewell to our B&B guests in the porch, the mobile phone trilled on the sideboard and went to answerphone. I cleared the breakfast table and loaded the dishwasher, while Barney looked on expectantly for his morning walk.
  Ah!, yes, the phone message..., from Plodding Birder, sounding as though he was having a heart attack, babbling on in broken tones, due to the usual poor mobile reception at Dungeness:  "There`s an Am...r...can fly...cher at the boats!" I`m not much of a twitcher, but this was local, and within five minutes I was on site with a handful of other awe struck locals (which very soon turned into a flood of hundreds), and the rest is history as they say.
  However, the stimulus for this post is the December edition of British Birds that has just arrived, featuring a full and authoritative account by David Walker of the Acadian Flycatcher found by Martin Casemore on that memorable morning, and a must read for all Dungeness regulars. Well done to all concerned.  

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Wildfowl and gulls

Lade - mild, overcast, light airs - Once again south lake was the main attraction with a flock of eight Goosanders flying in just after daybreak on what was a gloomy day throughout. The Long-tailed Duck and Slavonian Grebe remained on site along with seven Goldeneyes.

                               Goosanders were back this morning

 Several birders went in search of the Long-tailed Duck this morning and reported negative news back to the visitors centre around midday, so I checked the lake out this afternoon just before dusk and can confirm the duck was still present, along with the Slav Grebe, although there was no sign of the sawbills.
  A couple of tips for anyone visiting tomorrow. The Long-tailed dives continuously, surfacing between dives for barely a couple of seconds, so it is easy to miss, particularly as it slumps low in the water. It seems to favour the far side of the lake from the footpath between the 200` wall  `mirror` south to the small islands in front of the reed beds, often amongst the roosting gulls. The Slav Grebe sticks mostly to the north-western corner of the lake by the `mirror` reed bed and occasionally disappears into the channel behind the willow swamp. Good luck!

                                Long-tailed Duck briefly surfacing in late afternoon light

Dungeness - 1000hrs - A guided walk for RSPB around the circular route this morning, in calm weather conditions, delivered a typical range of wintering birds for the guests. Burrowes was heaving with thousands of gulls, Cormorants, ducks and Lapwings, every island being smothered in birds; and if gulls are your bag then this is the place to be with a variety of Caspian and Yellow-legged Gulls amongst the five common species. Also on Burrowes, three Ruff, two Dunlin, 20 Pintails, plus brief views of a Water Rail from Scott hide. At Dengemarsh two Great White Egrets along with  several Marsh Harriers, a Buzzard and two Ravens atop a pylon. Bearded Tits were heard from the viewing ramp while Golden Plover, Green and Great Spotted Woodpecker, Meadow Pipit, Cetti`s Warbler, Goldcrest, Long-tailed Tit and Kestrel were all noted elsewhere during the circuit. There was no sign of yesterdays roosting Long-eared Owl behind the Dipping Pool.

                                Adult Caspian Gull from Firth hide

Monday, 4 December 2017


Lade - cold and frosty, light airs - A stunning view of a `super moon` around dawn made for a spectacular start to the day. On the local pits Long-tailed Duck, Slavonian Grebe and eight Goldeneyes were still present on south lake, but yesterdays Goosanders had moved on. A flight view of a Bittern over the far reedbed was the first of the winter. Also noted, two Marsh Harriers and a Goldcrest.
  On the Dungeness RSPB reserve today a Cattle Egret was noted in the fields at Boulderwall, while a Long-eared Owl had returned to the roost site behind the Dipping Pond for the third year running.

Sunday, 3 December 2017

Water Rails and Long-tailed Duck

Saturday - Lade - cool and cloudy, n 2 - A lot milder than of late and with lighter winds the weather was ideal for a good look around the local patch. Behind the `mirrors` the rough pasture attracted a flock of 50 Linnets, several Mipits and Skylarks and two Common Buzzards, but no sign of yesterdays Rough-legged variety. The lakes were fairly quiet on the wildfowl front with just two Goldeneyes of note, while the recent Slavonian Grebe was still present.
  There seemed to be an influx of Water Rails as virtually every patch of reeds had a squealing bird. Two broke cover and flew across open water by the main track, and I did wonder if the three Marsh Harriers flopping around in the main reed bed were hunting rails? Around the willow swamp plenty more rail vocalisation was underway, plus Cetti`s Warbler, Goldcrest, Chiffchaff and a number of  Blackbirds.
  We hit the beach as the tide was ebbing and rattled up the usual ten species as they returned to feed, plus 30 Black-tailed Godwits, an unusual bird here. Also on the sands, three Brent Geese, four  Shelducks and at least 500 Great Black-backed Gulls.

                               Black-tailed Godwits and Turnstone, Lade beach

Sunday - mild and cloudy, w 2 - A superb morning on the local patch with a noticeable change of wildfowl from yesterday. The star of the show was a female Long-tailed Duck that frustratingly stayed well out in the middle of south lake and, as is the case when they first arrive, spent most of its time diving for fish. The last one I had here was 10 years ago, so a welcome record.
  There were some good back up birds too. A flock of eight redhead Goosanders that after a bout of frantic feeding eventually settled down on the far side of the lake to preen and roost. Goldeneyes were up to eight in number, including three cracking, head-tossing drakes, plus the Slavonian Grebe, now in its second week showing well around the scaffold island. Wigeon, Shoveler and Pochard had all increased in numbers overnight.


                               Long-tailed Duck

                               Slavonian Grebe, Lade south

  Other birds of note around the site included an adult Yellow-legged Gull amongst 1,000 Black-backs and Herring Gulls roosting on the water, two Marsh Harriers working the reedbeds, plenty of vocalising Water Rails, Goldcrest, Chiffchaff, Cetti`s Warbler, Stonechat and Green Woodpecker.
  On Friday I collected my recently repaired bridge camera from Hythe Camera Shop (brilliant service as usual) and put it through its paces over the weekend.

Friday, 1 December 2017

Rough-legged Buzzard

Lade - cold, showery, n 2 -5 -  A thoroughly nasty day weather wise with a raw-bone wind delivering a number of heavy showers. However, bird of the day number-wise was the humble Blackbird which seemed to be everywhere following an overnight drop-in. Birds were seen in coastal gardens, across the shingle  scrub and around the willow swamp; at one stage a party of eight and three came in high off the bay, plus 10 Fieldfares. Also of note, a flock of 15 Goldeneyes that flew across south lake before disappearing towards the bird reserve.
  An early afternoon phone call from Dave Bunney told of a Rough-legged Buzzard that had just passed over Long Pits heading towards Lade. I nipped round to Hull Road and scanned towards the pits where the Roughie was tussling with a couple of Marsh Harriers! Further investigation during the afternoon failed to relocate the bird, so I assume it continued its journey northwards.
Dungeness - From Hanson hide a wader flock of six Redshanks and two Dunlins was on the islands amongst a scattering of common dabbling ducks including eight Pintails and 12 Shelducks. More Blackbirds were noted from the Willow Trail and along the access road where Buzzard, Kestrel and Marsh Harrier present. On Burrowes PB located an adult Caspian Gull amongst the throng while a Black-necked Grebe was seen from Scott hide (P&PB). A Peregrine also put in an appearance.

Thursday, 30 November 2017

First snow of winter

Lade - cold, frosty, nw 2 - A proper nippy winter`s morning for our circuit of the local patch where the expected egrets and herons were working the reed bed on south lake. The highlight though was a flock of 20 Fieldfares flying in off the bay - in a snow flurry!
Littlestone - St. Mary`s Bay - The snow didn't last long though, so in  bright sunshine, and an increasing northerly wind, we walked the foreshore from the beach huts at Littlestone down to the sea defence blocks at St Mary`s Bay checking for buntings and the like, of which there wasn't a sniff. A mixed flock of 20 roosting Grey Plovers, Dunlins and Turnstones were the only birds of note, while a few Gannets and Kittiwakes drifted past way offshore. The golf course was deserted apart from a flyover Great Spotted Woodpecker and a couple of Linnets.
  This afternoon we checked north lake at Lade in bitterly cold conditions, but could only muster two Goldeneyes of note before heading home to the fireside. Not a great afternoon to be out and about.

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Song Thrushes

Lade - cold, cloudy, light airs - One of the pleasures of watching a local patch on a regular basis is finding something different from the norm, and it need not be a rarity; indeed, what may be rare here could be common elsewhere. Take this morning for example, we were tramping around the circuit by south lake, when up popped a Song Thrush, then another and another, until 11 nervy, flighty birds were counted in scrub by the lake. They weren't here yesterday, so where had they come from? Probably Scandinavia, but who knows for sure, and I`ll bet they won`t be here tomorrow.
  The Slavonian Grebe was still on south lake along with the resident Great White Egrets, two Goldeneyes and a host of grebes, Shoveler, Gadwall, Teal and diving ducks. Also around the site Goldcrest,  Mipit, Stonechat, Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers, Chiffchaff, and Cetti`s Warbler.
Dungeness - On the bird reserve Burrowes was packed out with the usual ducks, Cormorants, grebes and gulls. Of note were two Dunlins, two Goldeneyes, a 1st winter Caspian and an adult Yellow-legged Gull. The fields at Boulderwall were full of Wigeons, Golden Plovers and Lapwings, many of which were from ARC where conservation work was underway to install a fish reef. One of the  Cattle Egrets put in a flight view over Tanner`s Pool, while Marsh Harrier and Buzzard were active nearby. 

Sunday, 26 November 2017

A clutch of mini-eggs...

Scotney - cold, dry, sunny, nw 2 - For a change of scene we spent the morning flogging around the Scotney/Pigwell area in glorious winter sunshine, and with some success. The road side fields were largely quiet apart from the usual feral Barnacle Goose flock with their attendant Snow/Emperor hybrids, plus several each of Redshank, Curlew, Lapwing and a Ruff scattered across the grass. We walked along the cycle track to the copse where Barney flushed a Woodcock and whilst scanning the back fields a trio of Bewick`s Swans flew towards the wind farm, our first of the season. Wildfowl on the main lake included 92 Shelducks, 50 Wigeons and 30 Shovelers, plus two Great White and five Little Egrets.
  In the farm complex a Little Owl sunbathed from a barn gutter and two quarrelling Buzzards attracted the attentions of a group of Crows. A Green Sandpiper flew along the main sewer by the conveyor belt, while the first lake through the farmyard was packed out with wildfowl including 300 Grey Lags, 35 Egyptian Geese, 100 Wigeon, two Great White Egrets and a couple of hundred assorted Cormorants, diving ducks and grebes.
  At Pigwell six Bewick`s Swans sat nervously in a rape-seed field, presumably having not long arrived from across the sea. Shortly after a farm vehicle inadvertently flushed them towards Cheyne Court. A couple of Snipe scattered from a damp field near the sewage works where several Stonechat, Mipits, Pied Wagtails and a Grey Wagtail were noted.
  We then backtracked to the old dung heap and game cover strip at Scotney which last winter attracted a couple of Lapland Buntings. I couldn't find any of the latter but could easily have missed one amongst the kale and weed seeds which harboured at least 150 Reed Buntings, 50 Skylarks, 10 Corn Buntings, 10 Meadow Pipits, 10 Goldfinches, five Stonechats, three Wrens and another Woodcock, flushed by, guess who...
  Plenty of raptors were noted during the four hours on site: Buzzard, Marsh Harrier, Kestrel, Peregrine and a Merlin, along with a couple of interesting observations. Firstly, a female Kestrel  caught a Stonechat after hovering in typical fashion and dropping like a stone onto the unfortunate chat. Secondly, on a turf field a female Peregrine had killed a Curlew and was tucking in until a male (presumably its mate) gate crashed the feast and got stuck in itself! The female then moved a few yards away and through the scope I could clearly see a bulging crop full of Curlew flesh. After ten minutes both falcons flew off and the Crows moved in for the clean up.
  One final snippet from today's outing. In the corner of a field I noticed a Larson trap that was baited with a clutch of what appeared to be colourful eggs. On the walk back to the car the farmer stopped for a chat and I asked him about the bait.
  "What sort of eggs are they," said I. "Cadbury`s chocolate mini-eggs of course," he replied!

Saturday, 25 November 2017

Slavonian Grebe and Bullfinch

Lade - cold and sunny, nw 2 - A cracking morning spent on the local patch. Firstly we checked the beach up to the Varne just in case any rare larks or buntings were lurking amongst the tideline litter, but could only find a few each of Meadow Pipit and Pied Wagtail. Out on the sands four Brents and two Shelducks were amongst the usual waders and gulls. Overhead a steady trickle of Woodpigeons came in off the bay and headed inland.
  On the pits the star bird was a pair of Bullfinches in the buddleia scrub alongside north lake, and personally new for the site. Also present in the bushes, 20 Chaffinches, five Reed Buntings, two Blackbirds, a singing Chiffchaff, 20 Blue, Great and Long-tailed Tits and a Goldcrest. On south lake a newly arrived Slavonian Grebe was a sign of the changing weather, while two Great White Egrets and four Goldeneyes were also present. The 200` wall mirror had attracted a range of Grey Herons, Cormorants and corvids to enjoy the sunshine and shelter from the cool northerly airflow.
  Sparrowhawk, Marsh Harrier, Cetti`s Warbler, Water Rail, Green Woodpecker and several Stonechats all added to the variety of 63 species of birds seen within easy walking distance of the cottage this morning.

Friday, 24 November 2017

Wildfowl, egrets and waders

Lade - The past few days have been much-of-a-muchness weather wise being mild and windy. However, today the wind dropped affording ideal birding conditions, and there was plenty to see across the peninsula.
  On the local patch four each of Great White Egret and Goldeneye were present on south lake with two Pintails on north lake. Several Song Thrushes were noted (rare here) in the Desert scrub along with a scattering of Mipits, Stonechats and even some Linnets.
Dungeness - Moving on to the bird reserve and it was standing room only on the shingle ridges, viewed from Hanson hide, where the bulk numbers comprised 500 Lapwing, 300 Golden Plover, 80 Shoveler, 50 Wigeon, 50 Teal, 30 Gadwall, 10 Pintail, four Shelduck and 200 gulls, mainly Black-headed. Also in the mix were four Great White Egret, six Snipe, two Dunlin and a Redshank. A Kingfisher briefly perched on its post, Water Rail and Cetti`s Warbler called from the reedbed while a flock of passerines around the car park scrub included 12 Goldcrest and two Chiffchaff.
  At Boulderwall a Cattle Egret showed well amongst the cows and several Stonechats and Marsh Harriers were noted along the access road. The islands on Burrowes were packed out with 1,000 Cormorant, 800 Lapwing and hundreds more common wildfowl and gulls, plus a few Snipe, Dunlin and Goldeneye. At least one 1st winter Caspian and an adult Yellow-legged Gull were located.
  This afternoon from the fishing boats, on a flat calm sea, yielded a few Guillemots, Gannets, Kittiwakes and a distant Bonxie.
  Smew are due on the local gravel pits about now and it shouldn't be too long before the Bewick`s Swans return to fields on Walland Marsh, perhaps this weekend...

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Black-headed Gulls

Dungeness - mild, cloudy, sw 3 - At the Patch first thing at least 1,000 Black-headed Gulls were feeding over the boil and along the scum line, plus a 1st winter Little Gull and a late Sandwich Tern heading west. Offshore a lone Bonxie passed down-Channel amongst scores of fishing Gannets. An adult Yellow-legged Gull was on the beach by the Fish Hut and a Dartford Warbler showed briefly by the Britannia scrub.
  A check of Lade pits revealed four new Goldeneyes on north lake, plus two Great White Egrets and a Marsh Harrier over. Yesterdays Goldcrests were absent, having probably moved inland.

Monday, 20 November 2017


Lade - mild, cloudy, drizzle, sw 3 - A grim old day weather wise was considerably enlivened by a fall of Goldcrests. Despite the wind picking up through the day they seemed to be everywhere from the back garden, to the willow swamp at Lade pits, the scrub around the bird reserve car park and the Willow Trail where there was also a Firecrest amongst a large passerine flock.
  From Hanson hide a decent show of waders included 300 Lapwings, 30 Blackwits, 20 Dunlins, five Redshanks and two Snipe. Also seen around ARC, four Great White Egrets, 12 Pintails, two Goldeneyes, a Kingfisher, Water Rail and Cetti`s Warbler. From the access road Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, Marsh Harrier, Stonechat and a flyover Cattle Egret by Boulderwall.
  A brief look at the beach this afternoon in grim light revealed all the usual waders, plus a late Sandwich Tern.

Sunday, 19 November 2017

Winter`s coming...

Lade - cold and cloudy, light airs - Having run the garden moth trap this week several times and only caught a couple of Black Rustics I reckon its time to pack it away `til next spring. While we`ve had 11 new species of macro for the trap site, numbers have been down on previous years. However, there were one or two local goodies in the form of Beautiful Marbled and Mocha while we had a record number of Sussex Emeralds come to light in summer.
  With mid-November traversed it feels like the run-in to winter down here, whatever that means now as going on the past few that doesn't seem to mean any `proper` cold weather anymore. Indeed, wandering around the shingle on Friday scores of plants were still in flower, dragonflies and bees were on the wing and a Red Admiral was supping on the garden buddleia. However, a few Goldeneyes have arrived along with increasing numbers of wildfowl on the local gravel pits.
  Elsewhere around the peninsula this weekend a second Cattle Egret turned up on the bird reserve while several Dartford Warblers were still present at the point.
Walland Marsh - This afternoon I joined CP for the monthly harrier count out on the Marsh in perfect weather conditions, cold and still with a stunning sunset (phone pic above). A superb count topped out at a fantastic 26 Marsh Harriers coming to roost, but yet again no sign of any Hen Harriers. Other raptors noted in the area included three each of Buzzard and Kestrel, a Merlin and Peregrine, plus 91 Mute Swans in the oil-seed rape, 200 Lapwings, 10 Golden Plovers, 20 Linnets, 86 Fieldfares, 20 Reed Buntings, 10 Meadow Pipits, a Great White Egret, Stonechat and calling Cetti`s Warblers and Water Rails.
  Worryingly the Marsh continues to be plagued by a lack of water and as a result not a single duck was noted. The reed bed is now bone dry and we could really do with a good drop of rain this winter.

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Dartford Warblers

Dungeness - mild, cloudy, light airs - A circuit of the point this morning was largely uneventful apart from the continued presence of at least three showy Dartford Warblers (if only I had the camera back) in scrub around the Britannia/Sanctuary area. A succession of mild winters has meant that this species is doing well in southern England at the moment with a post breeding dispersal of juvenile birds most likely accounting for some of our sightings. As the Dartford Warbler is also a partial migrant some birds may be from further afield on the near continent. Several others were also located in the Kerton Road triangle today (OL).
  Other land birds were, up to eight Stonechats, 10 Goldfinches, two Goldcrests and a Great Spotted Woodpecker. A flat calm sea yielded a few close Gannets, Med Gulls, Kittiwakes and Guillemots.
  This afternoon I checked out the foreshore at St Mary`s Bay for Snow Bunting without success. The usual variety of waders were on the beach, including 10 Grey Plovers.

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Cattle Egret

Dungeness - mild and cloudy, light airs - Weather conditions were ideal for a guided walk for 17 visitors to the RSPB this morning. A typical selection of late autumn birds were on offer during the two mile circular route, mainly concerning wildfowl on the lakes which did include 20 Pintails and three Goldeneyes on Burrowes; we await the first Smew of winter... Overhead, at least 500 Starlings were noted hurtling inland in various flock sizes, plus a few Goldfinches and singles of Brambling, Skylark and Siskin. A huge flock of 2,000 or more Lapwings and Golden Plovers included 30 Blackwits as they swirled over the fields at Boulderwall after being disturbed by Marsh Harriers.
  Several Stonechats were seen around the trail where we had particularly good views of Goldcrests, a Chiffchaff and Long-tailed Tits. Kingfisher, Cetti`s Warbler and Water Rail were noted at Hooker`s reedbed, two Great White Egrets and the long-staying Cattle Egret from Dengemarsh hide, plus Snipe, Kestrel, Green Woodpecker and two Dunlin.
  In summary, a pleasant enough circuit of the bird reserve during which 65 species of birds were noted, plus many flowering plants still in bloom and flying insects including a Common Darter.

Monday, 13 November 2017

Winter thrushes

Lade/Dungeness - cold, sunny, nw 2 - Spent the day in the field guiding for Trevor and Janet. We kicked off at the Tavern viewpoint where the expected 10 species of waders were located on the sands, plus five Sandwich Terns.
  From the seawatch hide at the point there were plenty of Gannets, Kittiwakes and Mediterranean Gulls offshore and around the Patch, plus a few Common Scoters, auks and a Bonxie rounding the headland. On the land a Peregrine was perched on a pylon and we had reasonable views of two Dartford Warblers in scrub by the Britannia. Also noted, up to 10 Blackbirds, four Stonechats, Pied Wagtails, Mipits, Goldfinches, several small flocks of inbound Starlings and a Kestrel.
  Moving onto the bird reserve we had stunning views of a Green Woodpecker from the access road along with more Blackbirds and Stonechats. On Burrowes all the usual wildfowl, gulls, grebes and Cormorants as well as a variety of migrants overhead from Dennis`s hide that included 100 Starlings, 10 Goldfinches, five Fieldfares, Buzzard, Redwing, Brambling and a Great Spotted Woodpecker. Elsewhere around the reserve Snipe, Marsh Harrier, Great White Egret, Pintail, Cetti`s Warbler, Water Rail, Long-tailed Tit and Goldcrest were all noted.
  We finished the day from Hanson hide with a glorious sunset. A superb days birding, in great company, during which time we rattled up a respectable 83 species seen or heard.

Sunday, 12 November 2017


Lade - mild and damp start, bright and sunny later, NW increasing - A circuit of the local patch was notable for two Avocets that flew over south lake calling before settling down on the back island. The now `resident` four Great White Egrets were scattered around the margins while three redhead Goldeneyes remained on the lake. Kingfisher and Reed Bunting were noted around the willow swamp and a total of 500 Starlings came in off the bay.
  Checked the beach this afternoon, in a rasping wind out of the north-west, but it was a case of similar fare to yesterday.

Saturday, 11 November 2017

2 Great Northern Divers, and much more...

Lade - mild and cloudy, occasional drizzle, light airs - With an old birding pal from Dunstable down for the weekend we kicked off proceedings on the local patch. The usual range of wildfowl were noted, including three Goldeneyes, plus at least four Great White Egrets.
Dungeness - After breakfast we headed for the point where the Grey Phalarope that`s been around since Wednesday was still present on the sea between the two hides, feeding along the scum line coming off the Patch. Also of note a juvenile Little Gull and several Mediterranean Gulls. A seawatch produced a steady flow of Gannets and Kittiwakes, plus two Mergansers and a few auks.
  As the rain stopped we wandered back towards the Britannia and up popped a stunning male Dartford Warbler and sat atop a bramble branch in full view for several minutes; if only I had the camera available...
  Moving onto ARC and all the usual birds from Hanson hide included Great White Egrets, Marsh Harrier, 10 Pintails, five Snipe and a Blackwit. With news from DW of two Great Northern Divers on the sea we returned to the point where the divers were drifting slowly west. This is the first time I can remember seeing two such divers together.
  After a spot of lunch we checked the beach on an incoming tide from the Romney Tavern viewpoint where we bagged all 10 species of waders plus three Brent Geese and five Sandwich Terns. Moving back to the bird reserve at Boulderwall the Tree Sparrows were noted on the feeders while the long-staying Cattle Egret showed well in the field by Cook`s pool. Burrowe`s held the usual wildfowl and gulls.
  We finished the day off back at the fishing boats checking the gulls and another scan of the sea in fading light. In summary a superb days birding for my old mate Rob during which we rattled up 85 species with the highlights being Great Northern Diver, Cattle Egret, Grey Phalarope, Little Gull and Dartford Warbler.
  Now, that would`ve been a great day in Bedfordshire!

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Hume`s Yellow-browed Warbler

Dungeness - dull, drizzle, light airs - 0900hrs - We were over the back of Lade when a call came from through from PB concerning a Hume`s Yellow-browed Warbler that had been caught at the Obs. A smart about turn was in order and we just made it on site as the bird was about to be released in the Trapping Area. In the hand it looked like a dullish Yellow-browed, but the identity was confirmed by in the hand biometrics and its distinctive call in the field. The picture below was taken with a phone camera.

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Dartford Warbler and Grey Phalarope

Lade - cold and cloudy, N 2 - 0800hrs - A distinctly wintry feel to the weather this morning with the wind swinging round to a northerly vector. One or two thrushes were noted in the scrub, mostly Blackbirds, a couple of Song Thrushes, a Ring Ouzel and a few Redwings overhead. Goldcrests and Long-tailed Tits were present by the ponds and a Kingfisher arrowed over north lake. A pair of Great White Egrets were flying over the willow swamp calling to one another in what appeared to be some kind of bonding ritual, surely they must breed somewhere hereabouts next spring...
Dungeness - A circuit of the bird reserve this afternoon produced all the expected wildfowl, waders and raptors including three Goldeneyes, two Snipes and 20 Pintails on Burrowes, more Snipe, Golden Plovers and Ruff on Dengemarsh and a Bittern from Hooker`s ramp. Over the road I spent some time checking through a large passerine flock in the scrub down towards Screen hide. It comprised mostly Blue, Great and Long-tailed Tits, plus a Blackcap, two Chiffchaffs and several Goldcrests. As the flock  crossed the track into the sea buckthorn, by the hide, up popped a Dartford Warbler! At least eight Great White Egrets and 30 Blackwits were present on ARC.
  Just as we were heading for home CT tweeted out news of a Grey Phalarope on the sea between the two hides at Dungeness. It was a fair way offshore, and a bit flighty, but remained faithful to a drifting scum line from the Patch and showed well enough through the scope in fading light.
  Had to drop the Nikon bridge camera off at Hythe Camera shop today for repair, so there`ll be no more piccies for a while.  

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Waders and wildfowl

Dungeness - mild, cloudy, S 4 - Joined MH and DW at the fishing boats this morning for a seawatch, being as the wind was coming up from the south. An hour produced a trickle of Gannets, Kittiwakes, Common Scoters, auks, Wigeon, Dunlin, Redshank and, unusually - a Snipe!
  There was no change on the local patch at Lade with the Goldeneyes and Pintail still present plus the now expected Great White Egrets.
  Called in at Hanson hide around noon where more Great White Egrets were on show along with 100 Lapwing, 30 Blackwits and the usual wildfowl. There was no sign of yesterdays Dotterel.
  Elsewhere today a Yellow-browed Warbler was seen in a private garden on the Dungeness Estate, plus Woodcock in the Trapping Area and a Grey Phalarope on the sea.

Monday, 6 November 2017

West Sussex

We spent the weekend at our Kate`s, based at Littlehampton in West Sussex, researching for forthcoming articles in Birdwatching magazine. Climping Gap, Arundel WWT and Pulborough Brooks RSPB reserve were all visited with most attention paid to the latter site, where thanks are due to two local birders, Geoff and Dave, for providing a wealth of insider information.
  For those unfamiliar with Pulborough Brooks it is primarily an inland wetland site set in the Arun valley flood plain with extensive grazing marshes, drainage ditches and wet meadows. There are four hides and three viewpoints (one of which overlooks the South Downs) along the two mile circular route, plus a superb visitor centre and café set in a converted barn. An adjacent heath and woodland on the High Weald complements the habitat range along with ponds, scrub, weedy fields and hedgerows. The reserve was only acquired in 1989 so all the buildings and hides still have a newish feel.

                                Pulborough Brooks

                                Wigeon and Pectoral Sandpiper

                                View from The Clump

  At this time of year the main attraction is wildfowl with good numbers of feral geese, Wigeon, Teal, Gadwall and Shoveler present, plus a sprinkling of Shelduck and Pintail. Large flocks of Lapwing were kept on the move by a couple of Perergrines, while Kestrel, Sparrowhawk, Buzzard and Marsh Harrier were all noted. Other waders included 50 Black-wit, 10 Snipe, two Dunlin and a surprise Pectoral Sandpiper from West Mead hide, which was easily the best spot on the reserve for close views of wildfowl and waders. A telescope is essential here, by the way, for scanning the valley fields.
  I also noted Stonechat, Kingfisher, Little Egret, Barn Owl, a distant Red Kite and finished up on the heath overlooking a wooded valley in the vain hope of jamming in one of the many Hawfinches that have been reported across southern England of late. Needless to say I drew a blank on that one, but did have good views of a Tawny Owl gliding across a clearing.
  So, a successful weekend then, that was nicely rounded off by seeing Billy Bragg at Bexhill-on-Sea on the way home last night. The Bard of Barking was on top form ranting and railing about everything from Brexit to climate change, in between delivering a mix of old and new songs including, Pat`s favourite, `The man in the iron mask`.
  Driving past Scotney just after midnight and a Barn Owl flew over the road.
Monday - cold and sunny, light airs - Lade - Back on a frosty local patch this morning the highlights were two Goldeneyes, a Pintail and six Great White Egrets on south lake, good views of a Cetti`s Warbler by the ponds, two Marsh Harriers and a Great Spotted Woodpecker. Around the garden suntraps several Red Admirals were on the wing.
  An afternoon walk around Dungeness in glorious sunshine produced a few Gannets and Sandwich Terns offshore but little else of note, while the Dotterel was again reported from Hanson hide on the bird reserve.

Thursday, 2 November 2017


Wednesday - Dungeness - mild, sunny, light airs - For a change of scene we walked Dengemarsh gully first thing. It always looks as though it should be good for something or other, and does have form, but as is often the case, this morning, it was virtually birdless apart from a flock of Redpolls over and a few Great Tits in the bushes. However, the sea was much better with plenty of Gannets, Kittiwakes, auks and several Mediterranean Gulls feeding offshore, plus 20 Common Scoters and two Red-throated Divers flying into Rye bay.

                               Cattle Egret, Cook`s Pool

  Moving onto the bird reserve and it was a case of the same old cat food really, with plenty of Great White and Little Egrets on the lakes and the Cattle Egret still ensconced on the Boulderwall fields, faithfully tracking the cows. Elsewhere, a trickle of finches, Mipits, Skylarks and thrushes were noted in the bushes and overhead, a few Tree Sparrows on the feeders, the usual Marsh Harriers, a couple of Sparrowhawks, plenty of wildfowl, grebes, Lapwings and Golden Plovers. So, just a normal day at Dungeness.
  Probably the best bird of the day though was a Firecrest that spent half an hour in the garden fir trees snapping up small invertebrates.

Thursday - Lade - misty and mild - A circuit of the local patch in gorgeous sunshine delivered seven Great White Egrets amongst 12 Little Egrets on south lake and the first two redhead Goldeneyes of the autumn on north lake. Judging from their nervy reaction I reckon they`d just dropped in. Two Ring Ouzels were flushed from cover along the scrub by the ponds and a Merlin chased Skylarks over the airport fields.

                                First Goldeneyes of the autumn

                                Sanderlings and Dunlins, Greatstone beach

Dungeness - Called in at ARC Hanson hide where a Dotterel had been located within a large flock of Golden Plovers. I missed the one earlier in the autumn making this ample compensation.

                                Dotterel from Hanson hide

Hythe - En-route to Folkestone I paused at the seafront opposite the Hythe Imperial where two Purple Sandpipers were Velcroed to the sea defence blocks along with ten Turnstones.

                               Two Purple Sandpipers, Hythe seafront

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Great Northern Diver

Monday - Dungeness - cold, clear, nw 2 - The first frost of the season on the car windscreen this morning. A circuit of the point searching for grounded migrants produced absolutely nothing apart from the usual Stonechats and Goldfinches. Overhead a trickle of finches, Starlings and several Skylarks came in off the sea, whilst there were plenty of passing Gannets from the turning circle. At the southern end of the Trapping Area a Swallow skimmed low out across the Desert and five Fieldfares `chacked` over heading inland. At least three Sparrowhawks were noted.
Tuesday - Dungeness - mild, cloudy light airs - Called in at the seawatch hide briefly this morning and jammed in on a fly-by Great Northern Diver in company with TG. Offshore the usual Gannets and Kittiwakes drifted by, plus a few auks, Common Scoters and several small flocks of Starlings, although there had been many more earlier and a Sooty Shearwater. It was quiet on the land again with just a scattering of Stonechats, Chiffchaffs and Blackbirds in the bushes, a Dartford Warbler by the railway café and a trickle of finches and Redwings overhead.

Sunday, 29 October 2017

Great White Egrets

Saturday - Lade - cool and sunny, nw 3 - Around the local patch a small influx of 20 Wigeon on south lake hinted at the changing weather conditions. Three Great White Egrets stalked the margins along with 12 of their smaller relatives and six Grey Herons. The bushes were practically passerine free although a few Goldfinches and Mipits drifted overhead, while along the beach a late Swallow flew low across the shingle heading for Dungeness and points south.
  Working in the garden for most of the day fence painting a trickle of finches came in off the bay including two Bramblings and several each of Siskin and Redpoll. A late afternoon sortie down the beach on a rising tide produced all 10 species of winter waders including two Grey Plovers, plus 15 Sandwich Terns and six Brents. Further out in the bay fishing Gannets were active and a few more Brents flew by.

                                Sandwich Terns, gulls and waders


                               Barney on the beach

                                Part of the Great White Egret flock

Sunday - mild, cloudy start, cooler later, n 2 - No doubt about the local highlight this morning, a record count of ten Great White Egrets on south lake fishing along the far reedbed amongst 20  Little Egrets and Grey Herons. Once again it was a repeat of yesterday on the passerine front with just a few common finches overhead and several Goldcrests by the ponds.

Friday, 27 October 2017

Reedbed hunt

Dungeness - mild, sunny, n 2 - A slightly cooler day due to a northerly airflow and clear skies. I decided to set the bar high and check out the reedbeds this morning at Tower Pits, ARC and Hooker`s, being as we`re in the time slot for Penduline Tit. Particular attention was paid to patches of bulrush in sheltered spots behind willow screens. Unsurprisingly none were located but there were plenty of other reedbed denizens to enjoy such as Cetti`s Warbler, Water Rail, Reed Bunting, Dabchick, egrets and Bearded Tit, including one `feeding` on the grit tray at Hooker`s.
  A group of 10 Bramblings dropped into the willows by ARC car park where a mobile tit flock was doing the rounds along with several Chiffchaffs and Goldcrests. A couple of Tree Sparrows showed well on the Boulderwall feeders while the Cattle Egret was out on the fields following the suckling herd. Small flocks of Starlings continued to pass overhead along with finches, Mipits, Redwing, Song Thrush and my first Woodlark of the autumn; just a Hawfinch to come then...
  A number of raptors were on the hunt and enjoying the autumn sunshine, mostly Marsh Harriers but also Kestrel, Sparrowhawk and Peregrine, the latter flushing the wildfowl and waders off ARC.

                                Palpita vitrealis, a migrant from southern Europe

                                Bearded Tit on grit tray, Hooker`s reedbed

Lade - Not a particularly good night in the garden moth trap, but it did include the migrant micro moth Palpita vitrealis. Around the garden this early afternoon several Red Admirals on the late flowering buddleia and a couple of Goldcrests in the fir trees.
  A late afternoon check of the bay on a rising tide produced several Common Scoters, a Wigeon, two Brent Geese and an Arctic Skua chasing a Sandwich Tern.

Thursday, 26 October 2017

Starlings and Redpolls

Lade - 0730hrs - mild and murky, light airs - Its not often the Starling makes the birding headlines, but today was one such day with at least 3,000 in off the bay in variable flock sizes, one of which was around a thousand strong, while many more were logged through Dungeness. There was little else of note locally apart from an increase in Goldcrests with at least 10 around the willow swamp.

                                Lesser Redpolls feeding on willow herb seed

Dungeness - More Starling flocks continued to sweep in over the bird reserve throughout the day, although there was little other overhead movement apart from a few Redpolls, Skylarks, Mipits, Chaffinches, Goldfinches and one Brambling. On Dengemarsh 300 Golden Plovers and 200 Lapwings made up the bulk wader numbers, plus 20 Snipe (a decent count these days), three Ruffs, Redshank and Dunlin. All the expected wildfowl, egrets and raptors were noted and there was three Mandarin Ducks on Burrowes. Over the road on ARC the Cattle Egret put in a brief appearance amongst 12 Great White Egrets, several more Marsh Harriers and, best of all, a flock of 12 Lesser Redpolls feeding on weed seeds in front of the hide. A Kingfisher alighted briefly on its perch while a large mixed passerine flock in the willows contained several Goldcrests and Chiffchaffs amongst the majority Long-tailed Tits. A brief search for a reported Yellow-browed Warbler by the Screen hide drew a blank.
  At the point this afternoon the sea was quiet with just the usual Gannets fishing offshore and a few Kittiwakes and Mediterranean Gulls milling about.

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Little Gulls

Dungeness - mild, murky, sw 2 - Spent the morning around the point where six Swallows and two House Martins were feeding over the beach by the Pilot. At the Patch three Little Gulls were amongst a melee of mostly Black-headed and Herring Gulls over the boil, plus 10 Sandwich Terns. Coasting flocks of Goldfinches numbered at least 200 along with a few Chaffinches, Redpolls and Meadow Pipits. In the bushes a scattering of Goldcrests, Chiffchaffs, Long-tailed, Great and Blue Tits, Robins, Blackbirds, Song Thrush and at least one Ring Ouzel at the southern end of the trapping area. A Peregrine perched on a pylon was my first for a while.
  During a family afternoon in sunny Folkestone we walked the new tramway footpath across the harbour towards the arm which afforded spectacular views across the bay towards the Warren and White Cliffs. Around the harbour several Rock Pipits and Turnstones noted, plus a Grey Wagtail over calling.

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Sandpipers and Brents

Lade - 0730hrs - mild, misty and miserable, sw 3 - We started the day by walking Mockmill Sewer in murky weather conditions with the power station shrouded in mist. It had been a while since I`d ventured out to this part of the site but it was largely quiet apart from a couple of Cetti`s Warblers, a Goldcrest, several Robins and Great Tits. The only glimmer of brightness was a late flush of Ragged Robin in flower.
  Skirting back along south lake the Shoveler count reached a tidy 220, while Great Crested Grebes numbered 52. Across the shingle ridges a scattering of Blackbirds, Song Thrushes and Mipits noted.
Dungeness - A good session with waders from Hanson hide included two Little Stints and a Curlew Sandpiper on the shingle islands, plus a supporting cast of 30 Blackwits, 30 Lapwings, 20 Dunlins, 10 Snipe, Ringed and Golden Plovers. Also noted the long-staying Red-necked Grebe, a Water Rail, five Pintails, four Great White Egrets and five Marsh Harriers.
  A quick call in at Long Pits produced three Ring Ouzels.  

                               Brent Geese heading down-Channel

  An afternoon seawatch from the fishing boats produced a range of seabirds offshore including a trickle of Gannets and Sandwich Terns, 50 Brent Geese, 10 Razorbills, 10 Kittiwakes, 20 Common Scoters, a juvenile Little Gull, an Arctic Skua, two Barwits, five Dunlins and a Red-throated Diver. A juvenile Caspian Gull was on the beach and several Swallows headed out.

Monday, 23 October 2017

Ring Ouzel

Dungeness - 0730hrs - mild, cloudy, sw 2 - A circuit of the point produced hundreds of Goldfinches on the move overhead along with plenty of Mipits and Pied Wagtails and a few Chaffinches, Greenfinches and Reed Buntings, but once again I didn't hear a single Skylark. The bushes by West Beach held Goldcrest and Chiffchaff, whilst a flock of Goldfinches tumbling into the gorse out of the ether were joined by eight Great Tits. Across the desert and margins of the trapping area we flushed a single male Ring Ouzel that dived back into cover, several Blackbirds, Song Thrushes and 10 Redwings overhead. At least 15 Swallows were feeding over the willows while others were seen by the Pilot and along the beach totalling around 50 for the morning. Other bits and bobs included several Stonechats, 20 Linnets, Kestrel and Great Spotted Woodpecker.
  More Ring Ouzels were also seen on the bird reserve this morning.

                                Migrant Great Tit, Dungeness

This afternoon we traipsed around the local patch in a steady drizzle. Needless to say it was pretty hopeless, although several more Swallows skimmed low over the shingle southwards.

Sunday, 22 October 2017

Boring Brian

Saturday - Dungeness - 1000hrs - mild, showery, sw 6 - With Storm Brian whipping up the Channel an hour at the fishing boats seemed the best birding option as any self respecting passerine would be well and truly hunkered down. However, seawatching is rarely brilliant this late in the season with a raging south-westerly, and so it proved to be with just the usual Gannets and Sandwich Terns in the ascendancy, plus a few Kittiwakes through, an Arctic Skua and a drake Eider. Several pulses of Swallows and at least two House Martins went out while small parties of coasting Goldfinches moved west.
  Despite the strong winds, Goldcrests and Goldfinches were noted around the Plovers garden this morning as well as a couple of Red Admirals on the buddleia when the sun poked through the clouds.
  Another hour at the fishing boats this afternoon in poor weather conditions peppered with heavy squalls delivered very little apart from Sandwich Terns and Gannets.
  Once again the Met Office over-egged the pudding and Storm Brian failed to live up to a `proper blow` and deliver a few juicy seabirds. On the plus side though, at least our cottage roof remained intact!
  After a cracking sing around night in the Star at St-Mary-in-the-Marsh, commemorating Trafalgar Day with Romney Marsh Morris, we bundled out of the pub to the magical sound of migrating Redwings calling overhead in the darkness, which sounded a whole lot better than my singing!

                                Great White Egrets and Pintails

Sunday - Lade  - 0800hrs - cool, sunny, nw 2 - With the gale blown out overnight this morning dawned bright and sunny but with a much fresher feel than of late as the wind had veered round to the north-west. We flogged around the local patch where the only migrants noted were two Swallows hurrying south over the Desert and several Chiffchaffs in a mixed passerine flock in the willow swamp. Two Marsh Harriers were keeping the dabbling ducks and Coots on red alert and a Sparrowhawk slipped across south lake, my first sighting for a while. Egret numbers around the margins topped out at 21 Little and three Great Whites, along with 10 Grey Herons, plus 52 Cormorants and 60 Great Crested Grebes on the water, which must be taking its toll on the carp population.
Dungeness - An afternoon tour of the bird reserve in bright sunshine produced the long staying Red-necked Grebe and two Little Stints on ARC, a flock of 20 egrets on Burrowes and a flyover Cattle Egret at Boulderwall. Also noted on the reserve Ring Ouzel, Curlew Sandpiper and up to five more Cattle Egrets, while a Caspian Gull was seen at Dungeness fishing boats. Was also good to bump into some old birding friends from Bedfordshire today.

Friday, 20 October 2017

Garden Song Thrush

Dungeness - mild, cloudy, sw 5 - En-route to the seawatch pitch a late Wheatear was a surprise flitting about amongst the sea containers while several charms of Goldfinches coasted overhead into the brisk south-westerly breeze. An hour at the fishing boats produced plenty of Gannets fishing offshore, a trickle of Sandwich Terns, an Arctic Tern, a Wigeon, two Red-breasted Mergansers, Kittiwake, two Arctic Skuas, several Dunlin, a Sanderling, 10 Swallows and two House Martins. A Black-throated Diver and an Eider had been seen earlier.
  It was pretty quiet around the bird reserve this morning with passerines at a premium due to the strong wind. However, there was eight Great White Egrets from Dennis`s hide on Burrowes and the juvenile Little Stint was still present. The Cattle Egret has also been reported on the fields at Boulderwall.
Lade  - Working in the garden this afternoon singles of Coal Tit (probably a Continental bird), Goldcrest and Chiffchaff moved through the fir trees. Oddest of all though was a migrant Song Thrush that dropped in from on high (presumably having just crossed the Channel) and landed under the firs. It then briefly hunkered down behind a tree mallow, looking exhausted, after which it moved into deeper cover to recover from its exertions. A typical late autumn record of Song Thrush in the garden.
  A trip down the beach late afternoon delivered similar wader numbers to the other day, plus at least 50 Sandwich Terns on the sands.

Wednesday, 18 October 2017


Dungeness - mild, cloudy, se 2 - An hour from the seawatch hide with Lew resulted in a steady flow of Gannets offshore plus a few auks, Common Scoters, Sandwich Terns and at least 20 Mediterranean Gulls coming and going from the Patch. The main event on the land was the arrival of hundreds of finches on the easterly breeze, mostly Chaffinches (c3,000 logged at the Obs) and Goldfinches, but also a scattering of Linnets, Greenfinches, Siskins and Redpolls. Also noted this morning around the point Dartford Warbler, Firecrest, Redwing, Blackcap, Black Redstart, Goldcrest, Swallows, Stonechats, a House Martin, Mipits, Chiffchaffs and a late Willow Warbler. 
Lade - A check of the pits revealed all the usual wildfowl and egrets, a few Chiffchaffs, plus more Chaffinches and Goldfinches. On a falling tide the bay was up to its usual high standard and delivered hundreds of waders of nine species (couldn't find a Grey Plover for the ten). Also, three Brent Geese, 42 Sandwich Terns, 10 Mediterranean Gulls, a Yellow-legged Gull and hundreds of Black-headed and Common Gulls. At sea a few Gannets and a Grey Seal.

                                Bar-tailed Godwit, Lade bay

Scotney - Haven`t been here for a while so we walked out back where 20 Shelducks on the lake were the only birds of note. Around the farm buildings plenty of Goldfinches, Chaffinches, Mipits and Pied Wagtails, plus a Little Owl, Corn Bunting, Stock Dove and all the usual feral geese on the front pits and fields.
  A pretty decent couple of days in the field with Lew during which time we racked up a typical range of October migrants and residents totalling 92 species of birds.

                                            Goldfinches were everywhere today

                                Little Owl, Scotney