Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Lade meeting

Lade - cold, dry sunny - There was no real change on the local patch apart from a Bittern that flew across south lake towards the main reedbed and was the first sighting of the winter. Both the Slavonian Grebe and Great White Egret were still present, also on south lake.
  On the bird reserve this afternoon the two wintering Long-eared Owls were showing well in the willows behind the Dipping Pool.

Lade Pits Nature Reserve Meeting -  Wednesday 1st March - 6pm-8pm

Venue -  Scout and Guide Hut, Greatstone Primary School, Baldwin Road, Greatstone

The RSPB are hosting an informal meeting to discuss the future of Lade Pits this Wednesday evening. Its a public meeting and any ideas or suggestions to improve the reserve are welcome. Hopefully there will be a good turn out.

Monday, 27 February 2017

Polar gulls

Dungeness - mild, wet and windy - The intention this morning was to check out the Patch, but en-route news came through concerning a Glaucous Gull found by DW that had just landed on the beach by the rubber house. And what a brute of a bird it was, an enormous 1st winter specimen as big as a Great Black-back. Whilst watching and photographing the Glaucous Gull from the car the regular Caspian Gull flew in and they preened together side by side for a while.

                                1st winter Glaucous Gull, Dungeness

                                1st winter Caspian and Glaucous Gulls, Dungeness

  A wander down to the beach by the fishing boats yielded another white-winger in the shape of a 1st winter Iceland Gull, presumably one of the duo that has been hanging out at the Patch. Offshore a few Gannets and auks came and went along with our first Fulmar of the year.

Sunday, 26 February 2017

What did the Victorians ever do for us?

Saturday - cold and blustery - Kearsney Abbey - We were on grandparent duty today so decided to spend the morning at what was a new location for us. After picking up the little fella in Folkestone we drove to Dover along the scenic Alkham Valley, a classic dry downland valley with sheep-grazed lynchets, Buzzards overhead and the roadside banks on the sunny side smothered in Primroses and Snowdrops.

                                Kearsney Abbey

  Kearsney Abbey, on the outskirts of Dover, is something of a misnomer as there is no abbey, set as it is on the site of an old merchant bankers manor house from the 1820`s. There are, however, plenty of splendid old trees set in a traditional Victorian style parkland with lakes and the River Dour flowing through. The park was dog-friendly, so Barney tagged along, and it had the usual accompaniments of kids play area, follies and a tea room that, incidentally, sold a damn fine mug of hot chocolate; the car park was also free, a rare event these days.

                                Moorhens were abundant

                                Yew tree roots

                                Cedar of Lebanon

  Birdwise it was your typical town parkland fare with loads of common wildfowl (including a dodgy Pintail) and gulls on the lakes which were duly checked, being mostly Black-headed with a few Herring and Common Gulls thrown in. Probably the best birds were a Grey Wagtail at the far end of the park, where water babbled up from an aquifer amongst a tangle of tree roots, and a singing Goldcrest in conifers by the main lake. Nuthatch, Treecreeper and Mistle Thrush were also in song and I counted 64 Moorhens feeding on the lawns, with more on the water totalling at least 110 birds; I can`t recall the last time I saw so many Moorhens in one place...
  So, what did the Victorians ever do for us -  forget the Empire, Brunel, Darwin, Dickens and all that, how about town parks? I have the greatest admiration for town planners of yesteryear as all over the country they laid out these fantastic open spaces for Joe public to enjoy - and this little 10 acre gem is no different, as it is stuffed full to the gunnels with some marvellous trees.
  Some of the older specimens, such as a spectacular and ancient Cedar of Lebanon, and one or two of the Yews and Oaks have been here for hundreds of years, but the Victorians retained them and added a variety of native and exotic species to complement and contrast; the avenue of Limes on the hillside and an Indian Bean tree in the cark park being typical examples. There is also a rare Lucombe Oak somewhere in the park which I failed to locate.
  It always saddens me a little to think that these former landscapers and tree-planters never saw the full fruits of their labours, but we can, so a silent thank you to the visionaries of yesteryear whoever you were for a job well done.

Sunday - Lade - cold and blustery - It was back to the treeless, shingle wastes of the local patch this morning where the Shoveler flock topped out at 124 and a Great White Egret lurked in the main reedbed. I couldn't find the wintering Slavonian Grebe, but it too was probably also tucked away in the reeds.


Friday, 24 February 2017

Post Doris

Dungeness - 0700hrs - cold, sunny, nw 3 - An early morning sortie down to the Patch revealed the two 1st winter Iceland Gulls still present, one over the boil, the other settled on the beach. Also amongst the throng of gulls at least two Mediterranean Gulls, while a Peregrine put in a brief appearance scattering the loafing gulls on the power station. A quick look at the sea revealed very few seabirds, as confirmed by the two stalwarts in the hide.

                               Sunrise, Dungeness

 As for Storm Doris, once again the Met Office over-egged the pudding, and while blustery yesterday it was nowhere near as strong as Storm Barbara in November that caused widespread damage down here.
Lade - After doing a few chores, a circuit of the local patch in pleasant sunshine produced the usual wildfowl, plus singles of Smew, Slavonian Grebe and Great White Egret. It was also good to see a few Reed Buntings about the willow swamp, plus a pair of Stonechats on the Desert and a Chiffchaff by the caravan park.
  Around the bird reserve this afternoon the Ring-necked Duck, Slavonian Grebe and Long-eared Owls were all on station, plus Pink-footed and White-fronted Geese, Smew and Great White Egret scattered here and there.

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

A blustery day

Dungeness - mild, cloudy, drizzle, sw 5/6 - Met Lew from north Kent for a days birding around the peninsula today, in far from ideal weather conditions with a blustery wind whipping in off the Channel and roughing up the sea. We kicked off with a seawatch from the hide where the usual ranks of Guillemots and a few Razorbills were either on the sea, or fizzing to and fro, plus Gannets, Kittiwakes, Great Crested Grebes and Red-throated Divers. At the Patch a single 1st winter Iceland Gull hunkered on the beach amongst the regular gulls.
  On the RSPB reserve a Slavonian Grebe was sheltering from the wind on the far side of New Diggings and we eventually saw the Ring-necked Duck which was also keeping away from open water and hugging the reeds at the far end of Cook`s Pool. It was difficult going in the developing gale but we eventually teased out Tree Sparrows and Curlews at Boulderwall, Raven, Dunlin and  Goldeneye on Burrowes, Golden Plovers, six Ruffs, Marsh Harrier, Great White Egret and a ringtail Hen Harrier at Dengemarsh, plus a Pink-footed Goose amongst a mixed flock of feral geese on the arable land. 
  We eventually racked up 70 odd species, but it was just one of those days when the weather conditions ran out the winner.

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Bewick`s Swans on the move

Lade - mild, cloudy, w 3 - With news that most of the Walland Marsh Bewick`s Swans were seen to fly off out to sea yesterday afternoon I was surprised to see five flying towards me this morning. They came from ARC direction so I presume were birds that had roosted over night and decided to leave at first light. Bewick`s Swans are fabulous birds and it would be a shame if we lost our wintering flock, which seem to diminish in numbers each winter. I watched the five go out until they disappeared from view over the Channel and silently wished them safe passage on what is a perilous journey to their northern breeding grounds.

                                Slavonian Grebe, Lade

  The Slavonian Grebe made a reappearance on south lake, although it could`ve been skulking in  reedbeds across the site all along. Goldeneyes were much in evidence at 10 and Shoveler numbers had risen to 60. A Great White Egret lurked in the main reed bed and a Marsh Harrier drifted behind the wall `mirror`. Passerine wise a pair of Stonechats were new and several Mipits flew over calling.
  The usual bits and pieces were on station around the bird reserve including the drake Ring-necked Duck at Boulderwall and two Slavonian Grebes on New Diggings.
Dungeness - Joined DW and PB at the fishing boats this afternoon where the 2nd winter Iceland Gull drifted by towards the Patch, rudely ignoring our attempts to lure it in with bread. On the sea plenty of auks, Great Crested Grebes and Red-throated Divers, plus passing Gannets.
PS: The 2nd winter Iceland Gull did join the two 1st winter birds at the Patch (PB).
The wind picked up through the day as Storm Doris approached out of the Atlantic.
  We enjoyed a great set by legendary folk rockers, Fairport Convention, at Canterbury this evening. This being their 50 anniversary year there was a good mix of stuff from the back catalogue and the new album. Chris Leslie was on top form, what a legend; singer song writer, multi instrumentalist, and he even made his own fiddle!

Sunday, 19 February 2017

First Sandwich Tern

Saturday - Dungeness - warm, dry, sunny, sw 2 - A superb spring-like morning with the highlight being our first Sandwich Tern of the year passing up-Channel off the fishing boats. On and over the sea hundreds of Great Crested Grebes, Guillemots, Gannets and Cormorants, plus a few Brents, Red-throated Divers and Common Scoters on the move. At the Patch two 1st winter Iceland Gulls and a Caspian Gull. The land was pretty much deserted apart from a Peregrine perched on a pylon by A station, while a search of the complex for Black Redstart drew a blank.
  On the bird reserve the usual Ring-necked Duck on Cook`s Pool, Slavonian Grebe on New Diggings and a Smew on ARC. I had to call in the visitor centre around midday where the car park was jam-packed with weekend birders, needless to say that`s as far as I got.
  This afternoon the intention was to check for birds going to roost behind the pits until a bank of fog rolled in off the sea, and that was that for the day.
Sunday - Lade - warm, dry, cloudy, w 3 - Another fine day for a circuit of the local patch where the only birds of note were a Great White Egret on south lake and a showy Cetti`s Warbler in the causeway scrub. A balloon fest on the beach made for a colourful spectacle whilst checking the shorebirds on a flood tide.
Walland Marsh - Accompanied CP for the monthly harrier roost count this afternoon to our usual spot on Walland where 15 Marsh Harriers came to roost, including eight adult males, plus a ringtail Hen Harrier.  Also noted in the area were four Common Buzzards, two Merlins, Kestrel and Sparrowhawk on the raptor front. On the arable fields, 91 Bewick`s Swans and 500 Golden Plovers, plus 12 Corn Buntings, Stonechat, Cetti`s Warblers, Bearded Tit, Reed Bunting and several Water Rails calling from the reedbed. Yet again there was no sign of any Barn Owl activity.

Friday, 17 February 2017

Walk in the woods

Lade - mild and misty, light airs - A stroll across the shingle to the lake was quickly thwarted by a sea fret rolling in off the bay, but I just had time to note a Great White Egret in a reedbed and a Marsh Harrier disappearing into the murk.
Park Wood, Appledore - By mid-morning the weather had improved considerably with warm sunshine bringing forth several bees and a small tortoiseshell butterfly in the garden, so we headed for the Wealden uplands as originally planned and a walk in the woods. Several other local birders also had the same idea and after swopping woodpecker news we spent a pleasant couple of hours criss-crossing this semi-natural deciduous wood in search of the elusive Lesser Spotted Woodpecker. I last found one here two years ago, but had no luck this morning, despite the calm weather and time of year being suitable.
  However, there was no shortage of Great Spotted Woodpeckers rattling away and we must`ve heard at least ten birds `drumming` merrily in the still air. Green Woodpecker, Nuthatch, Treecreeper, Coal and Long-tailed Tits, Goldcrest, Jay, Mistle and Song Thrushes and Bullfinch were all either seen or heard amongst a host of common woodland birds. Walking along the south-facing flank of the wood, beside the vineyard, a red admiral butterfly basked on a hornbeam stump and several patches of primroses were nearly in bloom on the boundary bank. The vines are positioned in a sun-trap between two `arms` of the wood on sloping ground, the perfect aspect for drainage and receiving maximum sunlight.
  Looking out across the scattered woodland of the ancient Orlestone Forest and beyond to the landscape of the Romney Marsh, four Buzzards and a Sparrowhawk soared above the distant canopy. We could hear no human-made sound, just bird song and a light zephyr causing the hazel catkins to drop their pollen dust, and for a moment everything seemed so right with the world...

                                Trees and vines, ancient and modern

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

First Bittern

Dungeness RSPB - mild, sunny, e 2 - A guided wildlife walk this morning around the circular route delivered a typical range of wetland birds for a lively group of individuals that included a couple of families with youngsters, which is always good to see. A pair of Marsh Harriers put on a fine show over Hooker`s reedbed, where we also had brief flight views of a Bittern, my first of the year. All the expected wildfowl were present on Burrowes, including several Goldeneyes and Shelducks, plus hundreds of Lapwings, gulls and Cormorants, the latter already repairing nests in the tree colony.
  With the temperature in the low teens several honey bees were actively feeding on gorse flowers, while songsters such as Great Tit, Greenfinch, Dunnock and Cetti`s Warbler hinted that spring is only just around the corner. Also noted during the circuit, Great White and Little Egret, Grey Heron, Raven, Little Grebe, Linnet, Skylark and 200 Stock Doves on the fields at Dengemarsh.

Tuesday, 14 February 2017


Dungeness/Lade - mild, cloudy, se 3 - We wandered down to the fishing boats this morning for a look at the sea which was smothered in hundreds of Guillemots, scores of Red-throated Divers, Cormorants and Great Crested Grebes and a few Razorbills, plus more of the aforementioned flying between the bays. At the Patch at least one of the 1st winter Iceland Gulls was still present, plus three Caspian Gulls (DW).
  A tour of the gravel pits revealed the Slavonian Grebe and Ring-necked Duck on their usual waters around the bird reserve, while two Shelducks were new at Lade along with 12 Goldeneyes. Take-em-for-granted type of birds such as Tree Sparrow, Stonechat, Chiffchaff, Great White Egret and Marsh Harrier were all present around the reserve.

  However, there was a noticeable increase in Lapwings with thousands scattered across the fields at Dengemarsh, Boulderwall, Lade north and the islands on Burrowes. Without doubt one of our smartest waders and definitely in my top ten.

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Weekend wildfowl

Saturday - Dungeness - cold, grey, sleet, ne 3 - A grim Mordor-like morning with a rasping wind and a light covering of wet snow, a rare event down here on the coast (the latter, not the former). At the Patch the two long-staying 1st winter Iceland Gulls were among the melee of Black-headed, Herring and Black-backed Gulls over the boil and on the beach. The shoreline was rammed with fishermen competing in the `World Dab Fishing Competition` - honest, I`m not joking!
There was little seabird movement offshore and the land was dead.

                                Wintry Dungeness

                                Iceland Gull, the Patch

  A check of the bird reserve gravel pits revealed a drake Smew on New Diggings, plus a Slavonian Grebe, the drake Ring-necked Duck still on Cook`s Pool and a flock of five Scaups on Burrowes, a scarce bird these days and one I didn't see last year, not that I`m keeping much of year list...

                                Oystercatchers and Barwits, Lade Bay

Sunday - Lade - cold, grey, dry, e 3 - Another miserable morning for the monthly WeBS count on the local patch with an increasing easterly wind throughout the day. On the duck front Goldeneyes were back into double figures at 12 and a redhead Smew dropped in and out on south lake. Tufted Duck, Pochard and Wigeon remained in the low hundreds, but where have all the Coots gone?
  On the bay, with the tide flooding in, counts of 640 Oystercatchers, 45 Knots and 20 Barwits were noteworthy. The Curlews had already gone to roost while about 100 each of Sanderling and Dunlin were following the tideline in.

Friday, 10 February 2017

Bernard Skinner

Greatstone - cold, overcast, ne 3 - I`ve got a soft spot for Curlews; I mean what`s not to like about our largest, longest billed wader with the evocative voice. So, when they abandoned their traditional high tide roost site at Lade recently (probably due to increasing disturbance) I just had to go in search of the `lost 500`. Actually, to be honest I`d had a tip off that they were using the paddocks behind Dunes Road at Greatstone, and sure enough there they were this morning, all 520 of them, some asleep and others probing the pasture for invertebrates. This private site is just the job for a Curlew flock while their feeding grounds are temporarily under the sea, being a short flight from the bay, out of bounds to Joe public and with good all round visibility to spot an incoming predator. Also present were 23 Barwits and 10 Oystercatchers.

                                Some of the `lost` Curlews


  Whilst down at Greatstone we checked the wood at the end of Dunes Road where a Goldcrest, Chiffchaff and 10 Fieldfares were of note. The fields out back were virtually birdless (due mainly to a party of pigeon shooters) apart from a lone Kestrel, several Reed Buntings and Goldfinches and a mixed flock of Black-headed and Common Gulls on a sheep fold.
  A quick look at Lade pits revealed eight Goldeneyes amongst numerous wildfowl, but no sign of the wintering Slavonian Grebe.

Bernard Skinner 
It was with great sadness that we learned this week of the death of Bernard Skinner the eminent lepidopterist. A passionate moth man, Bernard had a long list of publications to his name, including his seminal work, Moths of the British Isles. He also developed a collapsible, and therefore highly portable, rectangular moth trap affectionately known as the `Skinner trap`.  
  Bernard was a regular autumnal visitor to Dungeness and often stayed with us at Plovers, particularly when the wind was in the south and there was a goodly chance of migrant moths to be trapped. He loved nothing more than doing the rounds of Dungeness trap sites and having a natter and a cuppa with the likes of Barry Banson, Dorothy Beck, Sean Clancy, David Walker and Keith Redshaw. It goes without saying that he was highly knowledgeable on all matters moth related.
  I found him an easy going character who was full of anecdotes and stories about fellow moth`ers and the pursuit of moths across the British Isles over many years. It was a delight to clear the traps with him when he stayed here, and being old-school he would refer to the moths` names in Latin!
  Bernard Skinner will be sorely missed, but what a terrific legacy he left behind for future generations of moth enthusiasts to benefit from and enjoy.

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Isle of Sheppey

Swale NNR - cold, grey and grim, ne 2 - Its been two years since I last visited the Island in order to research for an article on the `new` Elmley, and part of this trip was a follow up to that article. Today I had company with the ever sharp-eyed Chris Philpott and what a cracking day it turned into despite the gloomy weather. Our first port of call was a scan from Muswell Manor where we were treated to 150 White-fronted Geese and 300 Brents in distant fields along with several Common Buzzards, Marsh Harriers, Peregrine and Kestrel, so not a bad start. More Brents were noted on the sea, en-route to the car park at Shell Ness Hamlet where a walk along the sea wall produced more raptors, Mipits, Skylarks, Reed Buntings, Snipe, Curlew and a flock of 200 Golden Plovers.
  With high tide approaching we walked out to Shell Ness. On the beach large flocks of waders were swirling to roost including 2,000 Knot and hundreds of Grey Plovers, Sanderlings, Dunlins and Oystercatchers, 12 species in all and a fantastic sight.

                               Shell Ness waders

Harty Marshes - Moving on to Harty viewpoint, many more raptors were noted along with 100 White-fronts, 10 Blackwits and plenty of Wigeon, Teal, Curlew, Lapwings and Golden Plovers. Around the dump, 50 each of Chaffinch and Goldfinch, 20 Corn Buntings, several Red-legged Partridges and two Stonechats.

                                Pale Common Buzzard, Capel Fleet

Elmley NNR - We spent the afternoon on this fabulous reserve with its wide open spaces and thousands of waders and wildfowl, Stock Doves, corvids and Starlings on the wet meadows. Some of the Lapwings were already displaying and everywhere you looked there were birds of prey; goodness knows how many Marsh Harriers and Common Buzzards we saw today. On the walk out to the hides an immense flock of several thousand Wigeon were bobbing up and down on the Swale, while hundreds of shorebirds fed along the beach on an ebb tide. From the main hide we had plenty more wetland birds and raptors including a brown Merlin.
  In the newly designed car park area, complete with bird feeders, we met Philip Merricks, the landowner, who showed us around the recently renovated barn and updated us on the on going conservation work at Elmley. Game cover strips along the main driveway attracted a flock of Linnets, thrushes and the like, and we had close views of a Brown Hare on the way out.
  A terrific day of winter birding was enjoyed with the highlights being the vast numbers of wildfowl and waders on offer, the like of which are unknown back home on the Romney Marsh.

                                Elmley NNR

                               Marsh Harrier and Lapwing

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Sky full of birds

Walland Marsh - cold, grey and grim, ne 2 - 0800hrs - For a change of scene me and the dog headed out for a wander around the Cheyne Court area of the Marsh, in less than inviting weather, and at times accompanied by a fine drizzle. However, we didn't meet another human in almost three hours; sometimes you just need to be alone with nature, and there was plenty of that on offer this morning.
  The name of the game was numbers with an enormous flock of 2,000 Golden Plovers and 1,000 Lapwings swirling over the wet meadows every time a Common Buzzard, Marsh Harrier or Peregrine threatened, which in turn also attracted hundreds of Common and Black-headed Gulls, corvids, Woodpigeons, Stock Doves and Starlings into the sky to make quite a spectacle.
  There were plenty of smaller passerines present too with Song Thrushes the most numerous thrush at 50, along with 20 Blackbirds and 10 Mistle Thrushes, but only a handful of Fieldfares. Also noted were small groups of Corn Buntings (20), Skylarks, Mipits, Pied Wagtails and Chaffinches.
  A rape-seed field held around 500 Greylags and 20 Canada Geese, plus 25 White-fronts and five Tundra Bean Geese, while amongst 120 Mute Swans were five Bewick`s Swans, although there could've been a few more in an adjacent field which was difficult to view without flushing the lot.

                                Midley drying barns

  On the way back to the coast I drove passed Midley to check on the bird feeders where the usual Tree Sparrows, finches, tits and the like were feasting on seeds and nuts. Further along the lane by the drying barns I was reminded of the down side of humanity when confronted with a fly-tipped load of freshly dumped building materials. I had a look through to see if there was anything of a personal nature in the rubbish in an attempt to identify who`d done the dirty deed, but could find none, and reported it to Shepway DC via their website when I got home.
  This kind of incident is becoming more and more common across the Marsh and there doesn't seem to be any way of preventing it, particularly in remote spots such as Midley, although I`m sure a more thorough analysis of fly-tipped stuff would better the chance of nailing the perpetrators. Apparently, the Magistrate Courts can dish out a maximum £50,000 fine or 12 months in prison (I wonder how often that is dished out?) and in exceptional cases, crush the vehicle (which is probably hardly ever done).

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Long-eared Owls

Dungeness - mild, cloudy, sw 2 - Down at the Patch there were far fewer gulls over the boil than of late, although a 1st winter Iceland Gull was amongst a small flock on the beach along with a 1st winter Caspian Gull. At sea plenty of Red-throated Divers, Gannets, auks and Kittiwakes coming and going, plus six Common Scoters (scarce of late) west bound. On the land a small mixed flock of Pied Wagtails and Mipits by the sewage plant contained a Grey Wagtail, while a lone Goldfinch fed on weed seeds by the wall.

                                 Goldfinch, Ring-necked Duck and Long-eared Owls

RSPB - The two wintering Long-eared Owls roosting behind the Dipping Pool were showing particularly well this morning, with the drake Ring-necked Duck and Slavonian Grebe on Cook`s Pool and New Diggings respectively. Elsewhere, Burrowes had the usual wildfowl, plus hundreds of Cormorants, Lapwings and gulls, while a Slavonian Grebe and two Great White Egrets remained on Lade pits.

Monday, 6 February 2017

No coat required

Lade - warm, dry, sunny, light airs - Having been away at the weekend it felt good to be out and about around the local patch this morning in glorious spring-like weather conditions. By midday a heat haze had developed over the Desert which encouraged several Marsh Harriers, Common Buzzards and a Sparrowhawk to soar skywards on the thermals. Mockmill Sewer attract a few Stonechats, Mipits, Skylarks and Reed Buntings, plus a flock of 200 Stock Doves on the fields towards the airport and ringtail Hen Harrier.

                               Teal and Great White Egret, Lade

  On the water a Slavonian Grebe remained on south lake, but most of the Goldeneyes and Smew from last week had departed. Two Great White Egrets looked at home in the reedbed and flying over the willow swamp calling raising hopes for future breeding this spring. Also noted in the willows, Cetti`s Warbler, Chiffchaff and calling Water Rails.

Friday, 3 February 2017

Glaucous Gull

Dungeness - warm, dry, sunny, s 4 - Despite the portents of doom from the Met Office much of the day was spring-like with warm sunshine, once out of the breeze. En-route to the point news came through of a 1st winter Glaucous Gull at the Patch, and sure enough when we eventually arrived around midday it was sat on the beach amongst a thousand gulls, mostly Black-headed and Herring Gulls. Also in the throng was one of the `regular` 1st winter Iceland Gulls (plus another over the boil), several Kittiwakes, an adult Mediterranean Gull and a 1st winter Caspian Gull. Offshore the usual Gannets, Cormorants and gulls.

                               Iceland and Glaucous Gulls, the Patch

  Elsewhere today, on the bird reserve, Ring-necked Duck, Slavonian Grebe, Smews, Great White Egrets and White-fronted Geese were all reported, plus Red-necked Grebe at Camber, a Common Scoter at Scotney and Purple Sandpipers at Hythe.

Thursday, 2 February 2017

Bird records

Lade - mild, sunny, s 4 - The morning kicked off in grand style with our first Firecrest of the year flitting through and calling in the garden fir trees. As we trudged across the shingle to the lakes I wasn't expecting much, but was surprised by 20 Goldeneyes across both waters, plus two Smews and a Slavonian Grebe on south lake. Barney too was enjoying the spring-like weather before the rain kicked in, enthusiastically sniffing bushes, bounding about with his doggy mates and trying to mount an Alsatian puppy twice his size; how wonderful to still have a sex drive at ten and half (probably 70ish in human years) on a blustery February morning!

                                Two distant Smews

  The walk back along the beach, into the wind and the first spots of rain, wasn't exactly pleasant but did yield good views of three Grey Plovers.
Bird Records 
  Its that time of year when the New Year optimism has worn off, resolutions are broken (I`m back on the beer and chocolate already) and if you haven't done so yet, bird records should be submitted to your regional/county recorder. I suppose being a former Bird Recorder (Bedfordshire) and from a pre-internet generation I`ve always felt duty bound to send in records, however meagre they may be. I still love the old fashioned hard copy bird reports and firmly believe they`ll be around far longer than an electronic version that could easily disappear into the ether one day. Having written a few in the past I do realise, however, how much time and effort goes into producing one.
  So, why send in your bird records in this information age of instant news with Twitter, blogs, Facebook and the like? Well, firstly it makes for good discipline and neatly packages up the previous year, but more importantly a set of records from a number of observers across a county will enable trends to be discerned over a period of time. This hard data could also lead to conservation methods being put in place to preserve a species and stop a habitat being destroyed by a development.
  And don't assume that someone else will always send in a record of that well observed scarce or rare bird; its much better to have several submissions than none at all. Negative reports are also useful, so if you didn't note a Turtle Dove or Cuckoo locally for the first time last year, tell the recorder. First and last dates for migrants are always welcome, as are large numbers of common birds, roost gatherings or anything unusual, odd colour morphs, for example, like the Lydd-on-Sea Stonechat!
  I always find it easier to make a list and then add to it through the year rather than try to extract the information at the years end. And don't forget that its not only bird records that count, most counties have recorders for each biological discipline who will welcome your moth, butterfly, dragonfly, mammal, plant or whatever records.
  So, if you haven't already done so now is the perfect time to get started before the distractions of spring arrive.