Tuesday, 25 July 2017

An ibis and a stint

These past few days I`ve spent some time out on the Romney Marsh proper (so east of the Rhee Wall between the New Romney to Appledore Road) ranging across random areas of farmland that birders don't normally visit. My tactic, for want of a better word, is to park up and walk the lanes/footpaths, so nothing scientific, just listen, observe and record.
  With the harvest in full swing, and tractors and trailers racing along the narrow Marsh lanes, you have to be on your toes or end up in a ditch. The oil-seed rape is all but in and some fields have already been turned over, with one near Burmarsh attracting a large mixed flock of Lapwings and  Golden Plovers amongst the usual corvids and gulls. Two Common Buzzards were also noted here feeding on invertebrates and were by far the commonest raptor across the flatlands.
  The combines have moved onto the winter wheat with great clouds of dust in their wake; I waited by one field as the last section was mown to see what emerged - a single Pheasant! Another wheat field was already being ploughed through with a few Black-headed Gulls in the tractor wake and a flock of House Sparrows around the margin, but otherwise it was a birdless scene.
  There are few headlands on this part of the Marsh with the fertile earth turned over close to hedgerow or reed-fringed sewer, where most of the few passerines can find safe sanctuary. Of the scarcer farmland birds Tree Sparrows were noted at three sites, all close to dwellings with trees, and probably bird feeders, while singing Corn Bunting were noted at two sites around Snave and Burmarsh. It was good to find Turtle Doves near St Mary in the Marsh and Newchurch, with  juveniles at the former location, although I found no sign of Grey Partridge anywhere; indeed I only saw two Red-legged Partridges.
  Of the so-called commoner farmland species, Kestrel, Yellowhammer, Whitethroat, Skylark, Yellow Wagtail and Linnet were thinly distributed and mostly found in and around the few remaining sheep folds, along with plenty of corvids, Stock Doves and Woodpigeons. Reed Buntings and Warblers were also noted at several places where the reeds were thickest, while Swallows were common enough around farmyards and villages. Little Owls were seen at two locations, and a juvenile Cuckoo at one.
  Observations on crops concerned the increasing acreage of maize being planted this summer. This head-high, hungry fodder crop forms an impenetrable thicket (as I found out when trying to locate a Looker`s hut near Dymchurch) and what long-tern effect it will have on the landscape and birdlife only time will tell. Turf fields also appear to be on the increase, especially around New Romney and there were a fair few fields of linseed. Where potatoes are grown and irrigated are nearly always the best spots for Yellow Wagtails.
  In summary, it was pretty much as I expected, with most of the bird activity near farm buildings and around the villages, as well as sheep folds and sewer margins, but very little on the intensively farmed arableland.
  Almost as rare on the Marsh these day are pubs, and of the few that remain my recommended top three are: The Bell at Ivychurch, The Star at St Mary in the Marsh and the Shepherd and Crook at Burmarsh. It`s thirsty work surveying - mine`s a pint of Harvey`s Best! 

                               Harrowed oil-seed rape, Burmarsh

                                Maize field, Dymchurch

                                Sewer margins, St Mary in the Marsh

                                Grass turf field, Newchurch

Dungeness - warm, dry, cloudy, nw 2 - 0730hrs - A wander down the point delivered very little on a flat calm sea apart from a few passing Sandwich Terns and Gannets. With the power station outlet turned off there was nothing doing at the Patch. On the land a scattering of Willow Warblers was noteworthy.

                                Kestrel from the access road

                                 Kingfisher from Hanson hide

                                Great White Egret, Dengemarsh

ARC - 1100hrs - With island strimming in progress on Burrowes, hundreds of Cormorants, ducks, feral geese and swans had decamped onto ARC. In amongst the throng was my first Wigeon of the summer, although waders were surprisingly few in number with only Snipe, Wood Sandpiper and Turnstone new in, plus the usual Little Ringed Plovers and Redshanks. A Kingfisher posed nicely on a willow perch in front of the hide, while several pulses of Swifts and Sand Martins went over.
Back at the car park more Willow Warblers and a Spotted Flycatcher were snapping up flying insects and flocks of Sand Martins and Swallows adorned the overhead wires.
 Scanning across towards the water tower just after midday yielded several Buzzards and Marsh Harriers, plus a high Glossy Ibis that disappeared over towards Dengemarsh, but despite a thorough search this afternoon the ibis was not relocated. However, a Great White Egret was present along with many more Swifts and Sand Martins, plus a few Common Sandpipers and Redshanks.
  Just as I completed a circuit of the Marsh TG called telling of a Temminck`s Stint on Burrowes, a scarce passage migrant and not by any means noted annually. It was an adult bird in moult and viewable from the lookout point near Dennis`s hide, and a great way to finish any birding day.

Saturday, 22 July 2017

Beautiful Marbled

Lade - warm, dry, cloudy, showers overnight, sw 2 - At 04.30hrs I staggered outside in a heavy rain shower to cover up the moth trap to protect the catch from the local spadgers. A casual glance into the trap revealed a small purplish moth and as I threw a towel over the top and staggered back to bed in a daze I began to ponder its identity.
  Several hours later I went through the trap recording Oak Eggar and Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing, new for the year, and there on the final egg box was the unfamiliar purple moth. In my 1st edition Lewington guide Purple Marbled was the only moth that came close to it, but it certainly wasn't that, and I couldn't find anything to fit-the-bill in the new micro-moth guide.
  However, a trip to the Kerton Road Café soon cleared up the mystery, as there in the 2nd edition Lewington was our moth: Beautiful Marbled, a rare immigrant and only the 3rd for the Dungeness recording area. Thanks to DB and SC for confirmation and stats.
  The overnight rain had also grounded some waders on the local patch with six Common and two Green Sandpipers around the margins, plus Ruff and Greenshank on south lake island. Best of all though was a party of 16 Whimbrels overhead calling wildly and several more Greenshanks. Whilst counting the Curlews to roost on the Desert, amongst the 190 were four Whimbrels and three Bar-wits. At least 12 Little Egrets were fishing around the willow swamp.

                                Beautiful Marbled, a rare immigrant from central Europe

                                Little Egrets, Lade

Dungeness - A late morning visit to the bird reserve revealed many more passage sandpipers and shanks around the site including Wood and Curlew Sandpiper, plus Ruff, Blackwit and Snipe.

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Portland Moth

Lade - warm, cloudy, showery, sw 2 - 0700hrs - With moth friendly weather conditions it was no surprise that one or two goodies had dropped into the MV overnight. The highlights were, new for the site, a battered Double Kidney, plus a superb Gold Spot, one of my favourite moths, along with yet another Plumed Fan-foot, our 10th Sussex Emerald of the summer (best ever total in 10 years) and several migrant Silver Ys and Dark Sword-grass.

                                Gold Spot, one of my favourite moths

                                Sussex Emerald, 10th of the summer

St Mary`s in the Marsh - I then moved onto the Marsh to check CP`s MV which was bulging with moths including 42 Dusky Sallows and 55 Reed Daggers! The highlights of 42 species were a rare immigrant Portland Moth, plus Dark Sword-grass, Webb`s Wainscot, Blood Vein, Drinker, Gold Spot, Rosy Rustic, Coronet and Red Twin-Spot Carpet.

                                          Portland Moth
                                  Rosy Rustic

Dungeness - A midday check of ARC revealed nothing new on the wader front with plenty of Dunlins, Lapwings and Little Ringed Plovers still present amongst hundreds of wildfowl, Coots and feral geese.
  The Kerton Road café was a hive of activity this afternoon as local moth`ers gathered to discuss the various moths; it became apparent that last night had delivered a bumper crop of rare moths to local traps. On show were Tamerisk Peacock, Mere Wainscot, Speckled Footman and a Ringed Border from Sussex. In the DBO fridge a Pale Shoulder trapped in Lydd was another rare immigrant.
  An hour at the fishing boats with the regular seawatchers delivered plenty of Gannets and Sandwich Terns offshore, plus two light phase Arctic Skus. Several Porpoises were also feeding offshore.

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Wader dump

Lade - 0700hrs - humid, overcast, sw 4 - The thunderstorms that swept up from the south missed this part of Kent completely last night, although lightening could be seen away to the west in the early hours. It was very windy yesterday evening so I elected not to run the MV, which was a big mistake as the wind dropped off during the night. However, a cracking Jersey Tiger on the summerhouse wall was ample compensation this morning.

                                Jersey Tiger, first of the summer

A brief walk out back delivered two Redshanks on south lake island, which is a little unusual, plus two Common Sandpipers around the margins and 15 Curlews overhead. Then news came through from the bird reserve of an overnight drop-in of waders...

Dungeness - 1000hrs - A guided walk around the RSPB circuit for four guests from north London this morning was notable for waders. Oddly enough it was Dengemarsh that stole the show with a roosting flock of 22 Redshanks and 18 Ruffs on a tiny muddy island opposite the hide, plus several Green and Common Sandpipers. On Burrowes a Greenshank and Blackwit showed well along with Ringed and Little Ringed Plovers and several Dunlins. There was more of the same reported over the road on ARC.
  Also of note, two Sandwich Terns amongst the Common Tern colony, Marsh Harriers, Little Egrets and plenty of Sand Martins moving through. Masses of common grassland butterflies, damsels and dragons were on the wing in the sheltered reaches of the Return Trail.

                                Greenshank and Blackwit on passage

Tuesday, 18 July 2017


Dungeness - 0730hrs - warm, dry, sunny, e3 - We joined DW by the seawatch hide for a scan of the sea where at least 200 Gannets were busily feeding offshore. Our largest seabird is a given at any time of the year here, but infrequently in these kind of numbers and as always a marvellous spectacle when seen plunge diving on high for fish.
  Closer to shore smaller, mixed flocks of gulls and terns were mopping up whitebait just below the  surface and included in their ranks at least two juvenile Yellow-legged Gulls, two Kittiwakes and a juvenile Mediterranean Gull. Several Porpoises were also in on the feast of fish, while a party of Sand Martins struck out for France and beyond.
Lade - The wind picked up this afternoon followed by cloud cover and high humidity. A check of the lakes delivered 11 Little Egrets and a juvenile Marsh Harrier of note, while there was little bird activity on the bay, but plenty of kite surfers enjoying the strong wind.

Monday, 17 July 2017

Ruddy Shelduck

Lade - 0730hrs - warm and dry, E3 - We had our first sighting of two freshly fledged juvenile Marsh Harriers flapping confidently over the main reedbed on south lake this morning. These first few weeks away from the safety of the nest site will be some of the most testing of their lives as they learn to become independent. Thankfully the weather conditions are good and there is plenty of potential prey on offer, so hopefully they`ll pull through.
  Common Terns still seem to be fishing successfully on the waters, a few Sand Martins drifted over and a Common Sandpiper flitted along the near margin on bowed wings.

                                Ruddy Shelduck, ARC

                                Red Underwings, Hanson hide

                                ARC from Hanson hide

ARC - Called in at Hanson hide around midday only to discover a Ruddy Shelduck hunkered down on one of the shingle islands. It appeared to be an adult female that was seen earlier on Dengemarsh. Almost every year in mid-summer this species turns up locally, either around the bird reserve or Scotney and more often than not on Lade Bay at low tide. There is an established population of feral Ruddy Shelducks in the Netherlands, and the general consensus is that `our birds` originate from that quarter, a case of post-breeding dispersal. However, as with many of the wildfowl tribe which are widely kept in (and escape from) wildfowl collections, you can never be sure.
  Elsewhere, at least two Golden Plovers had joined 200 Lapwings on the islands, plus 10 Dunlins, 10 Little Ringed (juvs still alive) and two Ringed Plovers. As the picture above testifies conditions for waders on ARC are spot on this summer, and what with major island construction work due to start soon on Burrowes, the more secluded ARC pit is favourite to harbour one or two goodies.
  The now expected Red Underwing moths were clinging to the outside of the wooden hide soaking up the warmth with at least six present.

Sunday, 16 July 2017

First Golden Plover

Lade - warm, dry, cloudy - The muggy weather conditions over the weekend have been conducive to good moth catches in the garden MV. Another Plumed-fan Foot, several more Rosy Footman, Garden Tigers and Sussex Emeralds being the highlights among 40 species of macros. Grassland butterflies such as Marbled White, Meadow Brown, Painted Lady and Hedge Brown have also drifted over into the garden during the afternoons.

                                Garden Tiger

                                Hedge Brown and Marbled White in the garden

Bird Reserve -  This afternoon I called in at Hanson hide where a decent collection of waders was present on the shingle islands including Greenshank, Blackwit, Golden Plover (my first of the autumn), six Dunlins, 10 LRPs with juvs, Lapwings, Oystercatchers and a Ringed Plover. On Burrowes more of the same, plus Common Sandpipers and a Sanderling that dropped in briefly.