Sunday, 30 April 2017

More Pomarine Skuas

Dungeness - 0600-0900hrs - cool, cloudy, ESE 4 - What with one thing and another I only had the opportunity to get out in the field first thing this morning, and with a brisk south-easterly forecast there was only one place to be. Unfortunately, many other visiting birders had the same idea and the seawatch hide and surrounding area was swamped with visitors. However, we hunkered down with several other locals and settled in for what proved to be a memorable session.
  The main attraction were good numbers of Pomarine Skuas on the move up-Channel, with the wind having the desired effect of forcing some close to shore. The pics below do not do them justice, as we had stunning views of at least 30 adults in breeding plumage, mostly light phase birds, sporting long `spoons` and so close you could easily see the yellow neck collar and pale, black-tipped bill. They came through mostly in small flocks of two or three and one of seven. There were more further out and no doubt plenty went through unseen in the choppy waters of mid-Channel. We also enjoyed good views of 10 each of Arctic Skua and Bonxie, several of which cut in close along the shingle beach.

                                Pomarine Skuas, Dungeness

  And that wasn't all! Throughout the watch hundreds of Gannets, Common Scoters, Kittiwakes and, particularly Arctic Terns, streamed through, plus Fulmars, 20 Barwits, 100 Common and Sandwich Terns, four Med Gulls, a Little Tern, three Black Terns, a Black-throated Diver, five Avocets, two Grey Plovers, 15 Sanderlings, two Velvet Scoters, five Brents, six Shelducks, four Shovelers, four Teal, two Gadwall and a Pintail. Coasting and incoming land birds included two Swifts (new for the year) several Swallows, Goldfinches, Linnets and a Yellow Wagtail.
  What made this such an exceptional seawatch was that for the most part the seabirds were so close that they could be enjoyed with just binoculars, particularly those that passed through inside the Cardinal buoy, with some of the skuas along the tideline.
  No doubt many more Poms were logged throughout the day; for a full summary check out the DBO website:

Saturday, 29 April 2017

A passage of Commic Terns

Dungeness - 0600 - 0800hrs - mild, sunny, sw 3 - We joined MH and CP for a seawatch from the boardwalk where a steady flow of hundreds of Common Scoters and Commic Terns were on the move up-Channel. Decent numbers of Gannets, Fulmars and Kittiwakes also noted, plus a few auks, Bonxies, Arctic Skuas, Shelducks and Oystercatchers.

                                "Seawatching - bah!"

1400-1600hrs - Another seawatching session, in warm sunshine with a more southerly breeze, from the Seawatch hide was far more exciting than this morning. Commic Terns were streaming past the point in flocks of hundreds and by the time I left site the tally for the day had already exceeded 7,000! Looking into the sunlight made it very difficult to specifically identify Common from Arctic Tern. Some of the close ones were Arctic Terns, but most were some way offshore and remained `Commic`; there was also many Sandwich Terns on the move. Ten Bonxies and five Arctic Skuas also powered through, some clipping the point inside the cardinal buoy; also noted a Black-throated Diver, several Red-throated Divers, Kittiwakes and Guillemots, a Black Tern, plus hundreds of Barwits and Whimbrels at varying heights. A memorable day of seawatching for the volume of terns alone.

Friday, 28 April 2017

"Much about?"

Dungeness Peninsula  - cool, cloudy, n 2 - Well, what with a Bank Holiday weekend looming, not a lot actually, at least by Dungeness standards. The sea has been mostly disappointing this week, mainly due to the wind direction, although things may change tomorrow as the wind is due to swing around to a southerly vector. An immature Iceland Gull has remained faithful to the Patch, and if you`re considering taking a swim in the balmy waters of the English Channel, then think again - there`s a killer Grey Seal on the loose chomping up Porpoises, and you never quite know what will be next on its menu!
  On the land a scattering of Wheatears, Ring Ouzels and Willow Warblers are still present along with the occasional Whinchat, although Black Redstarts appear to be absent. On the bird reserve the warbler tribe are well ensconced in scrub and reedbed alongside Cuckoos, the first Hobbies over Dengemarsh, `booming` Bitterns, food-passing Marsh Harriers, a Nightingale near Hanson hide and hirundines and Swifts coming and going overhead.

  On the lakes, Slavonian and Black-necked Grebes have been seen on New Diggings and Lade respectively while the Ring-necked Duck has moved to Burrowes, which is looking to be the best bet for a drop in of waders as the drought continues to deliver lots of muddy islands. Few terns have been seen so far and the hayfields are largely unproductive due to the cessation of water pumping and drying out.
  Scotney on the other hand has been most productive with the front fields delivering a host of passage Whimbrels and Barwits, while the farmyard fields have been good for Yellow Wagtails and Corn Buntings. Outback, Avocets, LRP, Common Sandpiper and Greenshank have all been noted on the gravel pit lakes.
  I would expect one or two goodies to be found over the weekend as visiting birders move in. A Red-rumped Swallow or a Hoopoe would be nice, but a Great Spotted Cuckoo or a Little Bittern would be better, we shall just have to wait and see...

Thursday, 27 April 2017

The Warren

Lade - 0700hrs - cold, frosty, sunny, nw 2 - A bitterly cold start to the day with a light frost on the roof-tops hereabouts. However, there was plenty of activity around the local patch with a host of  Linnets, Reed Buntings, Whitethroats, Sedge, Cetti`s and Reed Warblers belting it out along with several Cuckoos, two Lesser Whitethroats, a Chiffchaff and Blackcap. Two pairs of Teal and  Shoveler were still present on the lakes, plus a Black-necked Grebe, while four Whimbrels flew over calling.
  Walking across the Desert it felt more like August underfoot with not a drop of moisture in the desiccated mosses and grasses. The storm ridges do have splashes of yellow from the fading Gorse and emerging Broom, but the underlying colour is brown. We`ve not had any serious rain here since January 16th and as a result many of the plants, like Lady`s Bedstraw, have simply wilted away to nothing in the drought.
The Warren, Folkestone - I was on granddad pick-up from school duty today so spent a couple of hours this afternoon puffing and panting around the chalk hills looking for plants and insects, but due to the cloud cover and cool wind there were few butterflies to be found. I was particularly searching for Horseshoe Vetch, the host plant for the Adonis Blue, which I managed to locate in a couple of suitable south facing chalk hollows, so hopefully next month when I visit on a warmer day there maybe some of these gems on the wing.
  Bird-wise several Lesser Whitethroats, Bullfinches and Long-tailed Tits were noted, plus Raven and two Fulmars soaring around their nest sites on the chalk cliffs.  

                                The Warren

                                Wild Strawberries and Sweet Violets

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Ring Ouzels

Lade - 0830hrs - cold, cloudy, nw 4 - We spent some time checking the sands from the Tavern viewpoint on an incoming tide where the wader count was as follows: Oystercatcher 220, Curlew 24, Bar-tailed Godwit 21 (several in summer plum), Dunlin 10, Whimbrel 2, plus two Shelducks and a trickle through of Swallows and Wheatears.

                                Black-necked Grebe, Lade

  On the lakes 50 odd Swallows and House Martins were scrutinised for a Red-rumper on north lake where a splendid Black-necked Grebe showed like a good `un, along with  a dozen each of Little and Great Crested Grebes. A few Shovelers lingered, a Turnstone did a circuit of the lake, a Cuckoo flew over the willow swamp and there were plenty of Whitethroat, Cetti`s, Sedge and Reed Warbler activity around the ponds.
Dungeness - We finished off the Birdwatching Break for Clare and Peter back at the Desert where much improved views of at least nine Ring Ouzels were gained.
  Over the three days we logged a respectable tally of 113 species of birds, the only disappointment being the lack of seabirds, primarily due to the wind direction.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

First Hobbies

Dungeness - 0900hrs - cold, sunny, nw 2 - With seawatching a non-event due to the wind we searched the land around the point for migrants and came up with 10 Wheatears, 10 Willow Warblers, 10 Whitethroats, two Chiffchaffs, two Mipits, plus singles of Stonechat and Whinchat by Jarman`s. A decapitated male Sparrowhawk was an odd find by Lloyd's cottage which I could only assume was the result of a Peregrine attack. The guests also enjoyed a Willow Warbler being processed at the Obs having been caught in the Heligoland Trust, many thanks to Lee. Plenty of Small Coppers were basking in the moat and a Stoat was seen.


                                Small Coppers

                                Headless Sparrowhawk

                                Willow Warbler, DBO

RSPB - We spent most of the day on the bird reserve where the highlight was our first three Hobbies of the spring hawking insects over Dengemarsh, as always wonderful birds to watch and let`s hope for many more to come. The usual range of warblers showed well and the Bittern was still ` booming` at Hooker`s. On Burrowes, a Grey Plover, two Greenshanks, 10 Dunlins, a pair of Pintails and the long-staying Ring-necked Duck, plus the Boulderwall Tree Sparrows, a Common Sandpiper on New Diggings and 10 Whimbrels across the site.

                                Greenshank, Burrowes

ARC - An evening visit down to the pines delivered another `booming` Bittern and a mixed flock of hirundines over the water. We finished off back in the Desert where two Ring Ouzels were briefly seen following a tip off from LG.

Monday, 24 April 2017

Nightingales and Whimbrels

Lade - 0630hrs - cool, cloudy, w 3 - An early sortie on the local patch revealed the first decent fall of hirundines of the spring thus far, comprising mainly 100 Swallows, plus 20 and 10 each of Sand and House Martins respectively. A single Ring Ouzel clacked from the scrub beside the lake where there was a noticeable increase in singing Whitethroats. A Cuckoo called from the swamp, two Common Sandpipers flew across the lake and a pair of Marsh Harriers soared over Airport Pits.
Birdwatching Break - Faggs Wood - 1245hrs - After picking up Clare and Peter from Ashford we headed to the woods where despite the time of day there was a decent crop of songsters performing. Our target was Nightingale with at least four in song and one seen, plus more birds singing from across the lane in Longrope Wood. Also noted two Garden Warblers, five each of Willow Warbler, Blackcap and Chiffchaff, Cuckoo plus a range of resident species including Jay, Goldcrest, Long-tailed and Coal Tits, Nuthatch, Treecreeper and Great Spotted Woodpecker.
  Down on the Marsh we paused at Warehorne Bridge where Lesser Whitethroat, another Garden Warbler and a range of common wayside birds were seen.

                                Yellow Wagtails

                                Corn Bunting

                                Whimbrels and Barwits


Scotney - Terrific stuff here with a mixed flock of 80 Whimbrels, 10 Barwits, a Ruff and three Ringed Plovers on the front sward, plus four Med Gulls over and four Wigeon on the causeway.
Out back a flock of up to 20 Yellow Wagtails feeding around the cattle proved the main attraction, plus six Corn Buntings, Skylarks, Linnets, Pied Wagtails, Tree Sparrow, a Greenland Wheatear, Marsh Harrier, Kestrel, Stock Doves, 12 Avocets and a Little Ringed Plover.
Dungeness  - We finished the afternoon at the Patch where a 2nd calendar year Iceland Gull was on the beach amongst the Herring and Black-headed Gulls. A 30 minute seawatch delivered little apart from two passing Gannets, and a few distant Sandwich and Commic Terns.
  A run out this evening logged a hunting Short-eared Owl, a screeching Barn Owl, several Marsh Harriers, Corn Buntings, Yellow Wagtails and a foraging Badger.

Sunday, 23 April 2017

An early pulse of Pomarine Skuas

Dungeness - 0645 - 0815hrs - mild, overcast, se 1 - We joined CP and MH for a seawatch from the Britannia boardwalk where a steady trickle of up-Channel Common Scoters was underway totalling around 100 in small loose flocks. Also noted lesser numbers of Gannets, Kittiwakes, auks, Fulmars, two Red-throated Divers, two Med Gulls, a pair of Mergansers, 20 Commic and 10 Sandwich Terns, two Garganeys, six Little Terns (new for the year), 10 Bonxies and a superb pale phase Arctic Skua that cut in close to harry a tern, pick up a fish and pause briefly on the sea.

                                Egyptian Goose

                                Bee hives

                                Sedge Warbler

Dengemarsh - 1100hrs - Pat joined us for a circuit of the marsh where the highlights were a cacophony of Sedge, Reed and Cetti`s Warblers, Common and Lesser Whitethroats, Reed Buntings and a Cuckoo. Also several Bearded Tits and a Marsh Harrier food pass from the ramp, plus Swallows hurrying inland, four Med Gulls and a Greenshank over calling. The Hayfields looked a sorry old sight now pumping has ceased, being bone dry and attracting mostly feral geese, although there were several pairs of Lapwings and Redshank on No 3. The back track to Dengemarsh Road is not an advisable route for anyone allergic to oil-seed rape pollen, but a clutch of hives by the dung heap was busy with worker bees going about their business. The only birdlife in this arable factory was a single singing Reed Bunting and a flyover Yellow Wagtail.
Dungeness - 1615-1715hrs - Around midday the wind swung round to a brisk SSW and news came through from `down- the-road` at Splash Point, Sussex concerning a pulse of Pomarine Skuas moving up-Channel. By the time I arrived on site at the seawatch hide 15 Poms had already been logged, with four more at 1630hrs that showed reasonably well considering the bright sunshine. Such a number this early in the `Pom season` is quite unprecedented, although with the wind due to swing back to a cool northerly our expectancy levels may be quashed somewhat. Also noted during the hour a trickle of Kittiwakes, Gannets, Fulmars and Common Scoters, plus 100 Commic Terns, three Bonxies, three Little Gulls and a Black Tern. 
  Thanks are due to Matt Eade and PB for the regular Pom tweets.

Saturday, 22 April 2017

10 species of warblers and a Lesser Yellowlegs!

Lade - 0600hrs  - cool, overcast, drizzle, n 2 - Superb range of warblers on the local patch this morning commencing with garden-singing Willow Warblers and Blackcaps whilst clearing the moth trap (30 macros of five species, mainly Tawny Shears). We stomped across the shingle to Mockmill Sewer which was jumping with singing Linnets, Reed Buntings, Sedge and Reed Warblers, Common Whitethroats, two Cetti`s and a `reeling` Grasshopper Warbler, only my second Lade record. In the scrub behind south lake a Lesser Whitethroat and Garden Warbler were seen and heard along with two Cuckoos and a distant Short-eared Owl quartering the rough ground by the airfield. A Grey Plover and several Med Gulls flew over calling, a summer plum Black-necked Grebe swam on the water and two Common Sandpipers flitted over the lake, our first of the year, if only I was keeping such a list... A singing Chiffchaff in the willow swamp was the 10th species of warbler for the morning.

                                Brimstone moth

Dungeness - 1330hrs - News came through of a Lesser Yellowlegs on Burrowes this afternoon. Unfortunately during the hour or so I was on site it stuck to the distant islands giving only limited views, although through the scope you could clearly make out its needle-like bill and yellow legs. As always a very `busy` species, darting here and there and taking short flights across the island, and a first for me at Dungeness.

                                Distant Lesser Yellowlegs

  Also on Burrowes: six Dunlin, two Greenshank, Grey Plover and Sanderling, plus the long-staying drake Ring-necked Duck, a pair of Pintail and four Whimbrels over.
Fishing boats - A 90 minute seawatch from boats this afternoon delivered a steady up-Channel passage of Common Scoters and Commic Terns, a party of two Knot and five Barwits, a few Sandwich Terns, Gannets, and Kittiwakes, plus a Bonxie.
  A text from DB told of a clutch of chats behind Jarman`s and sure enough we were soon watching two Whinchats, seven Wheatears, a Stonechat and two Whimbrels on the Desert. The lighthouse garden was also lively with Willow Warblers, Blackcap and a Redstart.  

Friday, 21 April 2017

A fall of warblers

Lade - 0600hrs - mild and cloudy - At last an overcast night with light airs, perfect for running the garden MV trap, and as anticipated there were some moths on the egg trays this mornings - 15 Tawny Shears and a Common Quaker to be precise, not great, but its early days still.

                                       Tawny Shears

  A light overhead passage of coasting Goldfinches was noteworthy early on as we tramped across the shingle before doing breakfast for guests. Several Willow Warblers sang from back garden trees and a couple of Whitethroats announced their arrival from gorse scrub, but joy upon joy the main event was our first Cuckoo calling from the willow swamp followed by a flight across the lake as if to say "Hello, I`m back"! And a very welcome sound and sight it was indeed, and long may it continue.

                                New roof being sweated onto the Seawatch hide

                                Early Purple Orchids

Dungeness - 1000hrs - Our second decent fall of passerines this spring occurred overnight, comprising mainly Willow Warblers. I must`ve seen 50 wandering around the point, but there were probably hundreds scattered across the Trapping Area and scrub around the Old Light and down to the Sanctuary; some of the private gardens along the front were alive with Willow Warblers. The birds on the gorse seemed to be feasting on small, black flies in the yellow flowers. Also in the mix, three Redstarts, a `reeling` Grasshopper Warbler, Garden Warbler, Lesser and Common Whitethroats, several Blackcaps and 10 Wheatears.

                               Willow Warblers and Wheatear, Dungeness

  In the dappled sunshine several Small Coppers and a single Grizzled Skipper were noted and the Early Purple Orchid show near the Obs was impressive. The seawatch hide was being fitted with a new lid today by CP and team, just in time for the Pom passage, we hope...

                                Small Copper

Also reported across the NNR today: a scattering of Greenshanks, Whinchats, Common Sandpipers, Nightingales, a Spotted Redshank and a singing Wood Warbler at Long Pits.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Where have all the migrants gone?

Lade - cold, sunny, n 2 - These past mornings I`ve scoured the local patch for spring migrants and all that could be found were a handful of Willow Warblers, Chiffchaffs, Blackcaps and Wheatears, plus a Black-necked Grebe yesterday. True, the nights have been clear and dry (infact there was a light frost this morning) which has encouraged nocturnal migrants to press on northwards, but looking around at other local and regional blogs and websites its a similar picture - the numbers of birds just simply aren't there anymore. Looking back at my birding logs (remember them, old fashioned pen and paper jobs) from 40 years ago only hammers home the decline in the likes of migrant pipits, wagtails, starts, chats, flycatchers and most of the warbler tribe.
  Spring falls of warblers in the hundreds at Dungeness, once a regular feature, can nowadays be counted on the fingers of one hand; this year so far there`s been just a single day, concerning mainly Willow Warblers. In the 1960`s and 70`s falls of up to 40-50 Redstarts were often recorded at Dungeness, in comparison to todays single figure reports, for the entire spring period.
  I could go on, but its just too depressing. The worst of it is, in the main, we know the reasons why, as usual us meddling humans. Fair play to Chris Packham for highlighting the ongoing slaughter in the Mediterranean, but equally as sinister is hunting in the migrants` winter quarters and an increasingly hostile landscape here on their breeding grounds.
Dungeness - Anyhow, onwards and upwards, being as its Dungeness there`s always something to lift the spirits and give one hope. As I paused along the causeway road to admire a cracking summer plum Slavonian Grebe on New Diggings a Cuckoo called and flew over, our first of the spring. On ARC a Garganey hunkered down on the island, a Cuckoo showed again and a Lesser Whitethroat sang from Tower Pits near a booming Bittern!
Scotney - After toiling at the allotment news from PB of waders on the grass around midday had me scuttling down the road to check out my favourite birds. Sure enough a tally of 52 Whimbrels, six Barwits, two Ringed Plovers and a Ruff bucked me up no end, plus four Brents sat on the grass and  a Greenshank overhead calling.


Fishing Boats - 1615hrs - A cursory half an hour seawatch, in hazy sunshine, delivered just a few Gannets, Sandwich and Common Terns, two Med Gulls and a line of 12 Common Scoters, plus five Porpoises and the `killer Grey Seal` that yesterday was seen chomping on a Porpoise calf.

Monday, 17 April 2017


Dungeness -0630hrs - cool, cloudy, nw 3 - For a change of scene we headed down to the point first thing where four Wheatears were on the beach opposite Jarman`s. After a quick chat with the seawatchers it was no surprise that nothing much was being seen offshore due to the wind direction. At the Patch a 1st year Iceland Gull sat on the beach preening amongst a small flock of Black-headed Gulls, while at least six Common Terns hawked over the boil. The land was virtually birdless, although a Pied Flycatcher was reported in West Beach scrub later.

                                Iceland Gull, the Patch

  From the causeway road the usual Slavonian and Black-necked Grebes hugged the sheltered bank on New Diggings, while three Garganeys and a Yellow Wagtail dropped onto the south end of ARC. Around the car park scrub and Tower Pits, Willow, Sedge, Reed and Cetti`s Warblers, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Lesser and Common Whitethroats all sang, plus a `booming` Bittern. Nothing much at the pines, but a drake Red-breasted Merganser was something of a surprise find at the north end of ARC. Also noted, Marsh Harrier, two Kestrels, Long-tailed Tit, Green Woodpecker, Lapwings, several Tree Sparrows, 10 Swallows, Teal, Shelducks and Little Egret. On the main body of the reserve the Ring-necked Duck and Long-eared Owl were at their usual locations, plus four Whimbrels from the access road.
  A scan from Springfield Bridge this afternoon revealed a Greenshank and Great White Egret, plus several Yellow Wagtails overhead, a `booming` Bittern, a White-fronted Goose and two Marsh Harriers. Called in at Cook`s Pool to look for two Water Pipits that had been reported earlier, but there was no sign, although two unidentified `pipits` did a brief flyover.

                                Garganeys, ARC

Sunday, 16 April 2017


Lade - cool, cloudy, nw 2 - 0630hrs - By heck it was cold first thing trudging across the shingle to Mockmill where a few more Sedge Warblers had dropped in overnight. Yesterdays Wheatears had moved on, but this mornings surprise was a Nightingale singing intermittently from scrub behind the 200` wall `mirror`, not a species I get here every year. A scattering of Willow Warblers and Chiffchaffs sang from the swamp, but still no Whitethroats yet in the dry scrub.

                                Bluebells and Stitchwort, Park Wood

Appledore - Welcome sunshine and warmth greeted us on the hills for a family wander around Park Wood, although access was difficult due a push bike race terminating in the car park entrance. The main purpose of the visit was to view the Bluebell vista in the Oak wood, which did not disappoint, in the dappled shade amongst carpets of Primrose, Stitchwort and Wood Anemone. All the usual woodland species were seen or heard including two Nightingales, Great Spotted and Green Woodpeckers, Coal and Long-tailed Tits, Bullfinch, Nuthatch, Treecreeper and Buzzard. We also bumped into Dave E who informed us of a third singing Nightingale.
  On the way home we paused at Kenardington where Yellowhammer and our first Lesser Whitethroat were heard, before repairing to the Bell at Ivychurch to sample their fine selection of ales.

Saturday, 15 April 2017

Reed Warblers

Lade - cool, cloudy, nw 3 - These past couple of mornings we`ve stuck to the local patch as I can`t see much point in going to a crowded Dungeness over a Bank Holiday weekend, particularly as a north-westerly airflow renders any seawatching pretty pointless.
  Yesterday, as quarrying activities were suspended for Good Friday, we poked around in Kerton Road pit where there was evidence of breeding Ringed Plover, Shelduck, Redshank, Oystercatcher, Skylark and Mipit. A Greenshank over calling was our first of the year, while out on the Desert a couple of grounded Wheatears and a pair of Stonechats were noted.
  This morning, under a glowering dark sky that threatened rain, but failed to delivered yet again, we continued our breeding bird survey. Reedbeds that were silent yesterday, today harboured a host of chattering Reed Warblers as the vanguard took up temporary residence following an overnight drop-in. The wonders of bird migration also delivered at least eight Wheatears perched atop scrub on the Desert, an almost unprecedented number for spring.

                               Wheatears, Lade Desert

  Around the site 15 singing Sedge and five Cetti`s Warblers were belting out their territorial songs amongst a scattering of Linnets, Dunnocks, Chaffinches, Wrens, Blackbirds and Reed Buntings. A pair of Oystercatchers had settled to breed on scaffold island, while good numbers of Great Crested and Little Grebes were already on eggs. Several pairs of Teal and Shoveler lingered, but it remains to be seen if they stay to breed. Having seen my earliest ever Whitethroat a fortnight ago, there has been no sign of any since; still, early days and all that. Finally, there was evidence of 41 species of birds breeding hereabouts, although that figure should rise slightly as the last few migrants drift in by the month`s end.
  Passage migrants noted this morning included several Willow Warblers and Chiffchaffs, Swallows, Sand Martins and oddest of all a Snipe flushed from Mockmill by Barney. The beach on a falling tide delivered several hundred each of Curlew and Oystercatcher, 50 Knot, 20 Dunlins, 20 Sanderling and 12 Barwits.
  Working in the garden this afternoon several Med Gulls and a single Yellow Wagtail flew over calling.

Thursday, 13 April 2017

St Omer

Foret de Rihoult Clairmarais - cool, sunny, w 2 - After dropping off the ladies in town CP and I spent the morning in the forest which was alive with bird song. Mainly Willow Warblers, Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs, plus Nuthatches, Great Spotted Woodpeckers, tits, Bullfinches and a host of resident woodland birds. Several Buzzards soared over the canopy while we had superb views of a Short-toed Treecreeper. The highlight though was a `reeling` Grasshopper Warbler and a `drumming`  Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, both briefly seen in flight. The woodland flora was a treat, as were five sightings of Roe Deer.

                                Roe Deer

                                Lesser pecker terrain

Romelaere - During the afternoon we moved onto the nearby wetland reserve where more of the same warblers were noted, plus Whitethroat, Sedge and Cetti`s Warblers and White Wagtail. A single White Stork sat atop a huge stick nest, but we could find no sign of any Bluethroats in an area that formerly held a small population. Our first Cuckoo of the year put on a fine show, several Swallows flew through and a Sparrowhawk flapped over.
  From the hide, overlooking a large Cormorant and Black-headed Gull colony, six nests of Little Egrets and several Mediterranean Gulls were present, plus the extraordinary sight (considering the time of year) of a flock of over 100 Jackdaws in the trees. Marsh Harrier, Buzzard, Shoveler, Wigeon, Teal, Egyptian Goose, a Red-crested Pochard, Grey Heron, Common Tern and Great Crested Grebe all noted, plus quality in the form of four Little Gulls and a stunning Black Tern.
  Also seen, plenty of Orange Tips, Brimstones, Green-veined Whites, Small Whites and a Musk Rat.
Another superb outing to France and many thanks to Chris for driving.

                                 Romelaere boardwalk

                                Mob of Jackdaws

                                White Stork on nest

                                White Wagtail

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

`Scarce grebes`

Dungeness - 0900hrs - cool, cloudy, w 4 - A brisk westerly airflow with cloud cover certainly supressed temperatures down to something like `normal`. Although conditions weren't ripe for a seawatch we stuck it out for half an hour in the hide, during which time 40 Common Scoters trickled up-Channel and 20 Gannets fished to and fro. At least six Porpoises were noted offshore, while the land was Dodo-like.

                                Slavonian Grebe, New Diggings

RSPB - From the gate entrance overlooking New Diggings we had distant views of two Black-necked Grebes, but a much closer encounter with a pair of summer plum Slavonian Grebes. At ARC there was plenty of warbler activity including our first Reed Warblers of the spring and singing Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Sedge and Cetti`s Warblers. From Hanson hide we watched several Great, Blue and Long-tailed Tits rip apart a clump of Bulrush spikes and then descend the stems to extract an unknown worm-like invertebrate. A couple of Marsh Harriers showed well and a mixed three species flock of hirundines came and went. From the Willow Trail boardwalk two Speckled Wood butterflies struggled to warm up in the intermittent sunshine.

                                Marsh Harrier and Speckled Wood, ARC

  We completed the three day Birdwatching Break for Ann and George on 95 species with the highlight being Mondays`s fall of migrants. Quality sightings included: Black-necked and Slavonian Grebes, Little Ringed Plover, Long-eared Owl, Yellow Wagtail, Redstart, Ring-Ouzel and Pied Flycatcher, plus the birds we take for granted such as Marsh Harrier, Tree Sparrow and Corn Bunting.