Thursday, 21 June 2018


Wednesday - King`s Wood, Challock - 2000hrs - 2230hrs - Yesterday evening CP and I deserted the Marsh for the trees and a spot of long overdue Nightjar hunting. We found a large clear-felled area of coppiced Sweet Chestnuts with a few standard trees overlooking a valley and settled down to wait- and-see. With the setting sun at our backs we had panoramic views of the distant canopy. A few Swifts and gulls drifted over followed by a smart Hobby and a close Buzzard, plus Nuthatch and Great Spotted Woodpecker.

                                Classic Nightjar habitat, King`s Wood, Challock

  The silence was then shattered as we were `discovered` by a dog practicing its rescue abilities. Having `found us`, with a couple of barks it then bounded off to its handlers and carried out the procedure three more times. Eventually the handlers came into the clearing and explained that the dog was being trained to locate humans by smell, for a canine charity that works with the police, mostly on search and rescue locating dementia patients; not that we`d got the dreaded disease, but we certainly must`ve ponged a bit for the dog to find us so quickly! It`s amazing what odd encounters I`ve had over the years whilst out searching for Nightjars, but that`s another story...

                                Tree Pipit, King`s Wood

  Anyhow, once that was over peace and quiet resumed and we were soon watching a pair of Tree Pipits singing and displaying close by, a real treat as they are such scarce birds nowadays. As the sun dipped a chorus of Song Thrushes wafted on the zephyr along with half-hearted laments from Chiffchaff, Robin, Bullfinch and Blackbird.
  Twilight slowly descended, out came the first bats and moths followed by distant hunger calls from Tawny Owlets and a `roding` Woodcock over the canopy. And then at 2140hrs a male Nightjar broke its slumbers and wing-clapped across the glade, flashing white wing patches in defence of its territory. It soon settled down and for the next three quarters of an hour moved between song posts giving superb flight views as well as perching along dead branches with a clear-sky silhouette showing off its `churring` technique. Two more Nightjars sang nearby which probably accounted for the intensity of `our` singing bird.
  A successful foray into the woods then, and as we returned to the car we could still hear distant  Nightjars `churring` into the blackness.

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Curlew Sandpiper

Lade - cloudy, cool, SW 3 - The past few days have witnessed dull early mornings with bits of drizzle bringing down a few Swifts and House Martins until eventually the sun burns off the cloud lifting the temperature. I`ve noticed more Common Terns feeding over the lakes of late, presumably from the bird reserve and Sandwich Terns from Rye flying to and fro from the bay with fish, calling raucously. On the Desert shingle ridges last week I located a pair of Ringed Plovers with chicks and miraculously they still had three well-grown juvs this morning. A pair of Oystercatchers also have a family on the scaffold island judging from the racket whenever a crow flies overhead. On the bay a wader count yesterday delivered: 50 Curlews, 120 Oystercatchers, 10 Dunlins, five Ringed Plovers and a Whimbrel.
  In the garden moth trap the first Elephant Hawkmoth of summer was the highlight amongst a paltry 15 species.

Dungeness - At the Patch first thing the 1st summer Common Tern and an adult Mediterranean Gull were the highlights, plus a Fulmar down, but no sign of a Royal Tern...
  After doing moths on the bird reserve a check of Burrowes revealed a Curlew Sandpiper in non-breeding plumage from Makepeace hide, plus family parties of Oystercatchers, Ringed Plovers and Egyptian Geese. The long staying 1st summer Little Gull was in front of Firth hide and a Common Tern chick was noted on one of the islands from Dennis`s hide.

                                Coot, Curlew Sandpiper and Little Gull, Burrowes

Sunday, 17 June 2018

Marbled Whites

Saturday - Dungeness -  warm, dry, sunny,  SW4 - A visit to the Patch hide yielded the usual Common Terns and gulls, including an adult Mediterranean Gull over the boil and on the beach. Offshore in the brisk wind a few Gannets and Sandwich Terns drifted by, plus two flocks of Common Scoters totalling 60 birds.
  On the bird reserve, Burrowe`s resembled a wildfowl collection with feral Egyptian, Canada and Greylag Geese, plus a pair of Black Swans. A flock of 20 Curlews flew in with the long staying Whimbrel and a Blackwit. Redshank, Ringed Plover, Oystercatcher and Lapwing all noted while post breeding flocks of Pochard and Gadwall continue to increase in number. A few pairs of Common Terns are nesting on three of the islands, although many of the Herring Gulls have now got young making for easy pickings when the tern chicks do hatch.

                                Black Swans and Little Gull, Burrowes

Sunday - Lade - Once the early morning murk cleared the Swifts and House Martins quickly departed and the sun broke through bringing forth a number of grassland butterflies along the old railway line track. Meadow Brown, Large and Small Skippers, Small Heath and Painted Lady were all present, plus our first two, freshly emerged, Marbled Whites, one of my favourite butterflies. Cuckoos were still active across the site, while an arrival of Reed Warblers from earlier in the week were in good voice in reedbed territories. Otherwise all was quiet.

                               Biting Stonecrop, a common Sedum of dry shingle ridges

                                Two pristine Marbled Whites, first of the summer

                                White Mullein, an abundant biennial around the aerial compound

Friday, 15 June 2018

Barney at 12

Lade - warm, dry and sunny, NE 2 - We trudged around the local patch this morning more out of a sense of duty than anything else, searching for and finding a few more Pyramidal Orchids. The old railway line track was full of highly active Common Blues, Small Heaths and Painted Ladies in the hot sunshine. My faithful companion Barney, 12 years old today, never tires of his morning stroll, although like me he is slow to get going sometimes.

                                Barney, 12 today

Thursday, 14 June 2018


Dungeness - cool, cloudy, drizzle, SW5 - That`s more like it, a good old blow off the Atlantic from Storm Hector, just the job after weeks of an easterly airflow; and hopefully the wind will rid us of the awful pong that has been in the air from rotting sea weed out in the North Sea. Anyhow, with an overcoat on we joined DW in the Patch hide to grill the gulls and terns, the highlights of which were two Mediterranean Gulls over the boil and a 1st summer Common Tern on the beach, an unusual plumage type not often seen in these parts. Offshore, a few Gannets and Sandwich Terns noted, plus 10 Swifts moving west.
Lade - With a brisk wind whipping across the water there was never going to be much on offer, but it was good to see 50 Swifts and 100 House Martins over the water, both of which have been in short supply this spring.
  Well, the hype is over, the wall chart is up and the Greatest Show on Earth is underway. My tip for the World Cup; easy - Germany!

Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Little Gulls

Lade - warm, dry and sunny, SW 2 - At least the east wind relented overnight and swung round to a more `normal` vector this morning, although not in time for another poor catch in the garden moth trap. On the local patch a number of feral swans and geese have already moved onto south lake in preparation for their annual moult. I watched a family of Mallards commit suicide as for some unknown reason they crossed the widest part of the lake with ducklings, all eight of them were soon predated by Herring Gulls from the coastal housing colony.

                                1st summer Little and Black-headed Gulls

                                Oystercatcher family

Dungeness - A circular walk for RSPB this morning was of interest for a wide range of plant species; seven species of butterflies, including Painted Lady and Small Tortoiseshell; Black-tailed Skimmer dragonflies and many Blue-tailed, Common Blue and Azure Damselflies. Birdwise the only migrants noted were several Lapwings, a Whimbrel, Dunlin and two Swifts. The islands on Burrowes harboured two Avocets, 12 Curlews, Redshanks, Ringed Plovers, Oystercatchers, Common Terns on three islands and plenty of post breeding eclipse Pochards and Gadwalls on the water, plus Egyptian Goose, five Teal and five Shovelers.
  A small flock of mainly Black-headed Gulls in front of Firth hide contained an obvious first summer Little Gull and another odd looking immature gull which I mulled over for a while. It was between Little and Black-headed Gull in size and I must admit that Bonaparte`s Gull crossed my mind, but the legs weren't either short or pale enough for that species. In the end I went for Little Gull at the larger end of the size range. Common and Herring Gulls both had young on the islands and nest boxes. Elsewhere across the site Hobby, Marsh Harrier, Buzzard, five Cuckoos and all the usual breeding warblers noted.

Monday, 11 June 2018

Leaflet drop

Lade - warm, dry and sunny, NE 3 - There`s been little change across the local patch these past few days with migration now at a standstill. The wild flowers and butterflies along the old railway line are keeping the natural history interest ticking over. On a slightly more depressing note it was sad to see that two of the new interpretive signs have again been vandalised at Lade, the mentality of some people is beyond me.

                                Painted Lady

                                Poppies and Bugloss, Lade
                                New signage already despoiled

Rye Harbour - Had to go to Rye to drop off our revamped leaflets today so called into the Beach Reserve where we had a natter with Barry the warden about the forthcoming new visitor centre, among other things. The Sandwich and Common Tern colonies were doing well, as were the Mediterranean Gulls, although the Little Terns are yet again struggling with under ten pairs present. Plenty of Avocet chicks were noted along with a range of common waders and at least 50 Shelducks.

                                Pale Grass Eggar caterpillar, Rye Harbour

                                New Plovers leaflet