Tuesday 5 December 2023

Great Northern Diver

Lade - cold, cloudy, drizzle, NW 2 - After two days of near constant heavy rain it relented somewhat this morning to an intermittent drizzle, but held onto the Mordor-like gloom. Having neglected the local patch of late we spent a couple of hours checking through the numerous wildfowl where the only noteworthy duck was a lone drake Pintail on south lake. Teal topped out at 550, Pochard at 220 and Shoveler at 180; the path to the swing-bridge and `mirrors` is now passable with care. Moving onto the bird reserve we walked out to New Diggings and along the causeway track where a Jack Snipe and 20 Blackbirds broke cover, also noting a Common Buzzard, a Sparrowhawk and two Marsh Harriers. Burrowes still harboured a Great Northern Diver (that was catching tiny fish), four Goldeneyes and hundreds of common wildfowl, while there was much lorry activity on the access road with sand being transported to the Christmas Dell conservation project. On the way home along the Lydd Road, eight Cattle Egrets were in the field opposite the riding stables, plus a Great White Egret and two Grey Herons.

                                  Great Northern Diver, Burrowes

Sunday 3 December 2023

Dog Days

Cold and Wet, SW 4 - Its the fag-end of the year and difficult to get motivated to go out birding when its chucking it down; although when you`ve got a bundle of energy like Ted who has to have two walks a day, out you go, despite the weather! However, to be fair there have been some dry and sunny, frosty days this past week enabling two afternoon visits to Littlestone golf links where we had no joy with the Short-eared Owls, but plenty of wintering waders on the foreshore and an incredibly confiding Skylark (see below). Our farmland walks around New Romney have yielded a few winter thrushes and Cetti`s Warblers along Hope Lane and plenty more Song Thrushes and Blackbirds in the hedges on the Salts, plus good numbers of Meadow Pipits, Stonechats and Skylarks, a few Corn Buntings, Yellowhammers and Linnets, several Marsh Harriers and Common Buzzards and thousands of Starlings, Stock Doves, Woodpigeons, Lapwings, Golden Plovers and black crows over Belgar Farm.

                                 Corn Buntings, Romney Salts

                                  Ted rabbiting

    Skylark, Littlestone

Forays out to Walland Marsh along the Midley road over the weekend have produced hundreds more Fieldfares and a thousand plus Stock Doves, plus 33 Bewick`s and four Whooper Swans from Hook Wall. On and around the bird reserve at least one Great Northern Diver is still present on Burrowes/New Diggings, while the first Goosanders and White-fronts of winter have been reported. Elsewhere, an adult male Hen Harrier has been seen at various locations across the Marsh over the past few days.

                                 St Nicholas church, New Romney

Sunday 26 November 2023


Dry, cloudy, cold, light airs - Today`s Ted walk took us along the rough grass in front of the golf links and back along the sea wall to St Mary`s Bay where, as it was high tide, a count of 135 Turnstones and 56 Sanderlings was noteworthy, plus several Stonechats, Skylarks and Meadow Pipits on the grasslands. The bay was flat calm with only a few close Great Crested Grebes present and distant passing Gannets and Red-throated Divers.

                                 Turnstones and Sanderlings, Littlestone

On Friday, in windy weather conditions, we had a decent count of 650 Teal and 180 Shoveler at Lade pits. Elsewhere over the weekend we`ve been trudging across the local New Romney farmland with Ted where there has been a noticeable increase in Redwings, Song Thrushes and Blackbirds along Hope Lane and on the Salts. Two Kingfishers and a Barn Owl sighting were the undoubted highlights, while Cetti`s Warbler, Grey Wagtail, Goldcrest and Chiffchaff were all located on call. Yesterday morning was cold and frosty, but once the sun reached its zenith one or two Red Admirals were on the wing in the garden. En-route to Hythe on Saturday evening a Barn Owl flew over the coast road at Dymchurch. 

                                 Red Admiral, New Romney

Wednesday 22 November 2023

Divers, grebes and egrets

Mild, dry and cloudy, N2 - A decent day of weather for a guided tour for Pauline and Richard from Folkestone commenced at the point with an obligatory seawatch from the hide where four tardy Swallows were feeding along the shoreline. The flat, calm sea with clear views across to Beachy Head delivered plenty of typical winter seabirds such as Gannets, Kittiwakes, Med Gulls, Common Scoters, Brent Geese and Red-throated Divers, while there was a melee of a couple of hundred gulls over the Patch. On the land we enjoyed good views of three Chiffchaffs in the lighthouse garden, a pair of Stonechats and a few overhead Meadow Pipits, Goldfinches and Chaffinches. Our next port of call was along the Lydd Road where, on the way in I noticed the four Glossy Ibises in the Rhea paddock, but had shifted an hour later; however, we did see eight Cattle Egrets, two Great Whites, three Grey Herons and, at Cockles Bridge, a Common Buzzard and a brown Merlin sat on a bund in a turnip field. Moving on to Scotney where the front sward produced the usual host of geese including 15 Barnacle and 10 Brents, plus a Black-necked Grebe and a Pintail at the Sussex end amongst hundreds of common ducks. On Walland Marsh we logged 19 Bewick`s Swans on a turf field opposite the model flying club, a Little Owl at Midley and several Yellowhammers and hundreds of Fieldfares, Lapwings and Starlings from the drying barns.

                                 Barnacle Geese, Scotney

                                 Brent Geese, Scotney

    Great Northern Diver, Burrowes

    Black-throated Diver, Burrowes

Back at the bird reserve we enjoyed cracking views of both Great Northern and Black-throated Divers, a Goldeneye and a drake Pintail on Burrowes, along with distant views of a Slavonian Grebe, plus all the usual wildfowl and Marsh Harriers. We ended the day at Littlestone where the Shorties failed to show, although we did see six species of waders on the foreshore. In summary a superb day`s birding for the guests with 90 species logged, the highlights being three species of divers, four species of grebes and three of egrets.

Sunday 19 November 2023


Lade - mild, cloudy, WSW 5 - The buffeting wind along with two hunting Marsh Harriers and a Common Buzzard made for difficult conditions for the monthly WeBS count as the duck flock`s swirled over the wetlands. Of note were decent counts of Teal and Wigeon in contrast to just a handful of Coot and not a single grebe as follows: Teal 325, Shoveler 210, Wigeon 110, Pochard 156, Tufted Duck 120, Gadwall 22, Mallard 15, Coot 11, Goldeneye 2. The causeway between the two lakes was flooded preventing access to the swing-bridge, while most of the wildfowl were on north lake.

                                 Pochards and Tufted Duck, Lade north

                                 Black-throated Diver, Burrowes

                                 Black Redstart, RSPB car park

Moving onto the bird reserve where there was a good turnout of birders due to the unprecedented presence of two Great Northern Divers and a single Black-throated Diver on Burrowes, plus a supporting cast of a Slavonian Grebe and the `resident` adult Little Gull. The two knuckle-headed divers were at the top of the lake and continually diving whilst I was there, while the Black-throat was far more obliging close to Dennis`s viewpoint. Whilst chatting to Stephen M in the car park a female Black Redstart posed briefly on one of the picnic tables.

This afternoon I joined Chris P for the monthly harrier count out on Walland Marsh, which did not bode well considering how windy it was. However, a total of 23 Marsh Harriers eventually settled down to roost in the reedbed along with two gorgeous male Hen Harriers, one a sub-adult, the other a full male, the former putting on a superb show. Also noted during our stakeout: two Common Buzzards, a Merlin, a Peregrine, a Raven, several Skylarks, Great White and Little Egrets and calling Water Rail and Cetti`s Warblers. As the light faded hundreds of Greylag Geese flew overhead to roost alongside seven Whooper Swans (a family party of five and a pair of adults, probably the two from ARC), but the spectacle of the watch was provided by thousands of Starlings swirling over the flatlands, hither and thither to their respective roost sites and a fantastic ending to a brilliant birding day on the Marsh.

Friday 17 November 2023

Short-eared Owls

Cool, dry and sunny, light airs - It`s been a mixed week of weather to say the least for our daily Ted walks around New Romney. A few more winter thrushes have been noted, mostly Fieldfares, and the flooded turf fields continue to attract hundreds of Black-headed, Common and Med Gulls along with a few Little Egrets, Grey Herons, Reed Buntings and Stonechats along the sewer margins. Yesterday afternoon, in a break in the rain, we walked Romney Salts looking for owls at the back of the airport, of which there was no sign, but Ted did flush a Lapland Bunting from the main track which conveniently called as it flew off; how many others were out in the stubble fields is anyone`s guess. While small numbers of Skylarks, Meadow Pipits, Blackbirds and Song Thrushes were noted along the way, the main bird bio-mass spectacle comprised flocks of over 1,000 Feral Pigeons, 500 Woodpigeons, 100 Stock Doves, 100 corvids and 500 gulls.  


                                 Ted and flooded Dungeness Desert

Visits to the bird reserve this week have yielded egrets everywhere with round 30 Cattle Egrets scattered amongst the sheep folds along the Lydd Road and opposite the golf club, and plenty of Little and Great White Egrets and the four Glossy Ibises, mostly in the heavily flooded Boulderwall fields. A guided walk on Tuesday for RSPB, in heavy rain, was pretty much a washout apart from an adult Little Gull and a very elusive Slavonian Grebe on Burrowes, where a Great Northern Diver also turned up later in the day and was still there today. A couple of visits to Dungeness to scan the sea were notable for further views of the adult Sabine`s Gull and a light passage of Brent Geese from the hide on Monday. A check of Scotney on Wednesday revealed the usual couple of thousand feral geese, Lapwings and Golden Plovers on the front sward. Late this afternoon we headed down to Littlestone golf links where at least three Short-eared Owls have taken up residence, with one showing reasonably well quartering the rough grassland just before sunset. 

Sunday 12 November 2023

Winter thrushes

New Romney - mild, overcast SE2 - Spent the weekend tramping the local farmland with Ted, north and south of the town. Yesterday the weather was superb with an early morning frost and sunshine throughout, while today it reverted to type, dull and drizzly. There was a subtle change to the birding scene as we slip into winter mode with far less overhead passage than of late, although there were some decent numbers of grounded Skylarks and Meadow Pipits about, particularly on the Salts yesterday. This morning I had my first winter thrushes of the season by Hope Lane bridge comprising a grand total of five Fieldfares and two Redwings. Several Stonechats were noted along the sewer margins, two Grey Wagtails over, a Sparrowhawk chasing Pied Wagtails in a paddock field and a couple of hedgerow Yellowhammers. The turf fields continue to attract hundreds of Black-headed, Common and Mediterranean Gulls, while Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers were noted daily..

                                 Stonechat, Hope Lane

                                 Rook, Hope Lane

                                 Ted ratting

                                 Mediterranean Gull, NR