Thursday, 23 May 2019

Ringed Plovers

Dungeness - warm, dry and sunny, sw 2 - This spring I`ve been surveying breeding Ringed and Little Ringed Plovers for RSPB, primarily on their land where so far four pairs of Ringed have been located, plus another pair on the Desert at Lade. Along the foreshore this species has to avoid disturbance from us humans and our four-legged friends, most of it unintentional it has to be said, and so far I`ve only found one pair between Greatstone beach and The Pilot; however, wandering around between the lifeboat station and the lighthouse this morning I came across another pair. It really is quite incredible that Ringed Plovers survive here at all as a breeding species, but long may they continue to do so.

                                     Ringed Plover and Crimson Clover, Dungeness

 Pied Wagtail, Meadow Pipit, Wheatear and Skylark were all flying to and fro with food for juveniles. Also called in at the Obs to pay homage to the spectacular Crimson Clover plants in full flower.
  This afternoon on the way home from the allotment we stopped off at the Screen hide from where it was good to see a few pairs of Common Terns on the new raft, despite the presence of several Herring Gulls. Cuckoo, Marsh Harrier and a flyover Bittern also noted. Other news today concerned a Bee-eater flying over the point this morning (DB).

Wednesday, 22 May 2019

Red-backed Shrike

Dungeness - mild, cloudy, light airs - An early morning Tweet from DBO necessitated a change of plan from the local patch before doing breakfasts for guests from Croydon RSPB members group. A Red-backed Shrike is not a given anymore down here on passage, so a smart male found in the moat first thing was most welcome. When we arrived a small clutch of locals already had the bird pinned down at the back of the trench as it hawked insects from old fence posts and atop thorn scrub. Also noted, Peregrine, Wheatear, Stonechat and a singing Black Redstart.

                                Red-backed Shrike in the Moat

                                Singing Black Redstart

                                Barney enjoying the sunshine

  An evening visit over the local patch and along Kerton Road pit delivered very little apart from a lone Common Sandpiper over the water, while yesterdays Whinchat had predictably moved on.
  Elsewhere today the Serin was still performing at Littlestone and a second Red-backed Shrike was found on the bird reserve along the Willow Trail (JH).

Tuesday, 21 May 2019


Lade - warm, dry and sunny, N 2 - A circuit of the local patch first thing produced what I thought was a Bee-eater calling over the Desert, but I wasn't sure; however, a second visit early afternoon confirmed it was a `rainbow bird` when its distinctive rippling call was followed by a sighting high up over the shingle flying towards the water tower. There was little else of note apart from a few Mediterranean Gulls over and a distant Grey Plover.
  A good show of butterflies were on the wing in the warm sunshine along the old railway track, including several smart Common Blues, Small Heaths and Coppers and a Grizzled Skipper.
  An evening visit in still conditions to look for Bee-eater drew a blank, but was compensated by a confiding male Whinchat on the Desert fly-catching from dead plant stems. This was my first of the spring on the local patch where it is a scarce passage migrant, but slightly more numerous on the return.

                                        Whinchat, a scarce spring migrant

                                Common Blue

Dungeness - Checked out Burrowes around midday where all was quiet after yesterdays double rare tern event. A small flock of Curlews contained a Whimbrel and several Bar-tailed Godwits, while Ringed Plover, Dunlin and Redshank also noted.
  The Serin was again reported from Littlestone, singing from the clump of pines opposite the golf club entrance (SG).

Monday, 20 May 2019

Whiskered Tern

Lade - cool, cloudy, N2, muggy later - On south lake a Common Sandpiper and Greenshank had managed to make landfall around the margins, plus another of the latter over calling. A Hobby sat on the shingle heap on the Desert waiting for the temperature to rise and become more suitable for hunting flying insects. Cuckoo, Marsh Harrier and Sparrowhawk were all active around the willow swamp.

                                Whiskered Tern, Burrowes

Dungeness - A late morning call from MH told of an adult Whiskered Tern on Burrowes lake flying up and down between Dennis`s and Makepeace hides. By the time I arrived on site it showed well from Firth hide hawking insects over the water and eventually settling on the islands opposite Dennis`s amongst the Common Terns. A stunning bird in full breeding plumage, particularly so at rest sporting a dark grey body and wings with contrasting white cheeks and a dark cap; a sturdy dark red bill and legs completed the ensemble. In flight the dark grey rump, tail and wing coverts contrasted with a silvery forewing, as it hawked prey in typical marsh tern fashion.
  There was also a decent showing of waders on the islands too with at least four Red Knots among a small mixed flock of Curlew, Whimbrel, Bar-tailed Godwit, Ringed Plover, Sanderling and Dunlin, plus Common Sandpiper and Redshank.
  This afternoon I called in at Littlestone where the Serin continues to perform like a good `un, singing from its usual pine clump. Other news today concerned a Bee-eater over the point calling this morning (DBO).

Sunday, 19 May 2019

Cup Final v Eurovision

Saturday - warm, dry, cloudy, E 3 - We kicked off at the point where precious little was happening, although the early seawatchers had recorded a Pom and a few terns through. At the Patch a lone Black Tern paused awhile amongst 50 Common Terns and a host of regular gulls. Black Redstart, Wheatear, Mipit, Stonechat, Whitethroat and Linnet were all in song on the land, while the male Peregrine sat atop its usual vantage point on the power station. After tea and a natter at the Obs the sun broke through long enough to encourage a few butterflies on the wing including Small Copper, Small Heath and around the old lighthouse several Brown Argus.

                                Loafing Common Terns, the Patch

                                Fading male Brown Argus by the old lighthouse

  Following on from my recent success with Poms crossing the bay a high tide seawatch hour from the boardwalk at Lade in a freshening easterly delivered five Manx Shearwaters heading west, plus 20 Common Terns, five Black Terns and two Little Terns east. More Sandwich Terns and Gannets could be detected further out.
  It was then back home to watch the most one-sided Cup Final I can remember. Watford are my `second team` after QPR, so it was an unedifying spectacle watching them getting a thrashing from probably the best Premiership team of all time. Enough said...
  The latter part of the evening however was far more entertaining as we hosted a fun Eurovision party at Plovers, as always a bewildering spectacle of primary colours and rubbish songs with a voting system that defies logic - and from a country, Israel, that's not even in Europe! None of that matters though as you`re transported into a surreal world of Euro-trash pop complete with the most outrageous costumes and sets; the Australian act (I know...) were singing from atop a swaying pole!! Many of the acts were simply barmy, but as the evening wore on and the alcohol kicked in it certain gave us all a good laugh. We scored Sweden the winner (The Netherlands won, but who cares!) and put the UK bottom propping up the rest as is now traditional, right and proper - why is everyone so beastly to us! A cracking evening all round though that eventually finished at 1am.

Sunday - mild and overcast, NE 2 - Ran the moth trap last night, for the first time in three weeks, due to the cold nights, and had a pretty decent haul with over 100 macros of 16 species. Tawny Shears and Light Feathered Rustics were in the ascendancy, while it was good to see Mullein and Satin Waves, Buff-tip, Light Brocade and the micro-moth Ethmia bipunctella. I was ably assisted by my 8 year old grandson Albert who reminded me of some of the names I`d forgotten from last year! 
                                Ethmia bipunctella
                                Light Feathered Rustic

  Sitting in the garden this morning in warm sunshine supping tea and watching Holly Blues mating I noticed a brown butterfly settle on one of the wall flowers; it was a Speckled Wood, and rather surprisingly the first I`ve recorded in our coastal garden.
  A check of the pits this morning was notable for Cuckoo activity around the willow swamp and a Greenshank over calling, while an afternoon check of the bay on a falling tide drew a blank apart from the usual waders.

                                Speckled Wood, new for the garden

Friday, 17 May 2019

Little Stint and Little Gulls

Rye Harbour NR - cool, cloudy, NE2 - Spent the day guiding for Gretchen from the USA. During the morning we did the Beach Reserve where the highlights were the waders, including 20 Red Knots, 30 Grey Plovers, 20 Bar-tailed Godwits, 50 Dunlins, 10 Tundra Plovers, 10 Turnstones, five Golden Plovers, Common Sandpiper and a Little Stint. The Sandwich Terns have this year conveniently settled down to nest on the closest island to the hide on Ternery Pool; although there were very few Common Terns, most having de-camped to Dungeness according to the warden. About 20 pairs of Mediterranean Gulls sat amongst hundreds of Black-headed Gulls, some of which already had chicks. Also noted on Flat Beach, a Brent Goose, several Wheatears, 10 Little Terns, Kestrel, Meadow Pipit, Skylark and Little Egrets.


                                Bar-tailed Godwit in summer plumage
                               Little Egret
                                Summer plumage Grey Plover

Sandwich Tern colony on Ternery Pool
                                A host of plovers and sandpipers

  The afternoon was spent at Castle Water where we walked around to the hide noting Cuckoo, Marsh Harrier, Peregrine, Green Woodpecker, Pochard, Sedge, Cetti`s and Reed Warblers, Bullfinch, Long-tailed Tit, Lapwing,  `booming` Bittern and three 1st summer Little Gulls. Hundreds of Swifts and House Martins swarmed over the wetland in the cool conditions.
  In summary, a successful outing for our guest during which time we noted 83 species of birds.

Thursday, 16 May 2019

Poms and Serin

Littlestone - warm, dry and sunny, NE 3 - Another trip down the road early afternoon to see the Serin really delivered as it sat out in the open singing its head off for at least 20 minutes, after which it hurtled away, presumably to feed, but soon returned to the pine clump opposite the entrance to the golf club.

                                Serin, Littlestone

Lade bay - Following news of Poms in the Channel further west this afternoon (thanks to MH for the tip off, as my Twitter feed had gone down)  I spent an hour between 1630-1730hrs scanning from the boardwalk and was rewarded with a flock of three distant Pomarine Skuas crossing the bay just after 1700hrs; although I should`ve carried on as 12 went past Dungeness at 1741hrs! The strong easterly obviously done the trick and I also noted a steady trickle of Common and Sandwich Terns, Gannets, two Grey Plovers and a Fulmar.