Sunday, 22 January 2017

Ice patrol

Lade - cold, misty, sunshine by noon - With clear skies and light airs overnight the thermometer quickly plummeted and for the first time in three years the garden pond froze over. Sub-zero temperatures transformed the landscape hereabouts into a winter wonderland with a hoar frost forming magical patterns on the vegetation in the foggy atmosphere. The surface of both lakes was almost completely covered in a rime of dust on a thin layer of ice with only two penalty area size patches open which were packed out with wildfowl, including a redhead Smew and a dozen Goldeneyes.

                                South lake, Lade

  But it was the beach that provided the main spectacle with frozen sea water on the bay and layers of ice along the tideline, in places forming shards of long flat icicles in the sand, an amazing sight.

                                 Frozen sea-ice, Lade bay

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Grebes galore

Lade - cold, dry and sunny, e 2 - Another cracking winters day with blue skies and sunshine throughout, although the temperature only peaked at 4C, so for the most part it remained nippy. A Slavonian Grebe was back on south lake and there was a good show of Goldeneyes across both waters with at least eight spanking drakes. Two Goosanders put in a brief early afternoon appearance and a female Marsh Harrier was delivering the coup de gras on an unfortunate Coot by the main reed bed.

                                Goldeneye and Slavonian Grebe, Lade

  En-route to Rye this morning from the causeway road, between ARC and New Diggings, another Slavonian Grebe and several more Goosanders were noted, while the Red-necked Grebe had returned to the small, partially frozen, lake west of Camber. On the way back a small collection of Tundra Bean and Pink-footed Geese were viewable from the double bends and a Black-necked Grebe made it another five species day.

Friday, 20 January 2017

Dungeness weekly roundup

Lade cold, dry and sunny, e 3 - Another superb bright winters day, although tempered somewhat by the `beast from the east`. A circuit of the local patch failed to produce anything new.
  For anyone contemplating a visit to Dungeness this weekend for wintering birds the weather looks set fair and you should be assured of a wide range of species across the peninsula. At the point two Iceland Gulls have remained faithful to the Patch for several days amongst a blizzard of gulls (including Meds, a Little and Caspian) along with a drake Eider. Offshore there`s the usual auks, divers, Gannets, Kittiwakes and one or two Bonxies to contend with, although sea duck remain scarce.
  On the RSPB reserve the wintering Ring-necked Duck is still on the pool at Boulderwall along with the usual Tree Sparrows on the feeders in the old farmhouse garden. Slavonian Grebes have been noted on New Diggings and Lade, but are mobile, as have one or two redhead Smews (first `white nun` of the winter on New Excavations today) and Goosanders. Around the bird reserve Great White Egret, Marsh Harrier, Bearded Tit (viewing ramp), Water Rail (Scott and Hanson hides), Bittern and Kingfisher (Dengemarsh and Hanson hides) are all present along with good numbers of ducks, gulls and Lapwings.

  Scotney continues to be the place for geese with a few Tundra Bean and Pink-footed Geese amongst larger flocks of White-fronts and Greylags, either on the roadside fields or out back behind the farm. The back pits have more wildfowl and a Black-necked Grebe, plus a large Corn Bunting flock and a couple of Lapland Buntings in a stubble field and the chance of a Peregrine or a ringtail Hen Harrier. 
  Elsewhere, around 50 or so Bewick`s Swans have been feeding on fields near Horses Bones Farm, Lydd and sometimes come to roost on the ARC lake, while down at Hythe several Purple Sandpipers remain faithful to the sea defence blocks at either Stade Street or opposite the Hythe Imperial.
  And finally I`ve had a few birders asking after Barney of late. Well, I`m pleased to report that he is fit and healthy and enjoying these crisp mornings.

Thursday, 19 January 2017

The lonely Stonechat

Lade  - cold, dry, sunny, e2 - On the strength of reports concerning a "funny looking duck" at `my` end of the Kerton Road quarry we wandered down to inspect the lake but without any success, although the first Shelduck of the year was of note. Not much further down the track, in the broom scrub beside the workings, was our old friend the grey Stonechat. It looked so lonely without an attendant band of twitchers in pursuit that I felt it only right and proper to pay personal homage; if only it realised all the kerfuffle it had caused...
  However, we headed back north to Lade and continued our usual circuit where a redhead Smew remained on south lake along with two Great White Egrets in the reedbed. A Kingfisher showed well around the willow swamp, while two Marsh Harriers quartered the fields behind north lake. A drake Goldeneye displaying to his harem and a pair of head-shaking Great Crested Grebes hinted at things to  come as the days lengthen. All was quiet along the foreshore where huge quantities of cockles had been washed up near the Romney Tavern.
RSPB - A scan from Boulderwall revealed the Tree Sparrow flock merrily `chupping` away by the old farmhouse and the wintering Ring-necked Duck on Cook`s Pool. Further out on the wet fields large flocks of Wigeon, Lapwings, pigeons and corvids were repeatedly flushed by hunting Marsh Harriers and a Common Buzzard. There was nothing much to report on Burrowes apart from a single Smew and a Great White Egret amongst hundreds of common ducks, feral geese, Lapwings, Cormorants and gulls.
                                Sunset over Lade Desert

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Common Buzzards

Old Romney - cold, sunny, ne 2 - With a bone hard frost on the ground it was the perfect morning for a wander along the old green lane behind the church. The trees around the farmhouse were alive with thrushes, finches, tits and two each of Great Spotted Woodpecker and Jay, while the pastures further down the lane attracted hundreds of Fieldfares, Common Gulls and Lapwings, plus a few Curlews, Golden Plovers, Green Woodpeckers and 20 Tree Sparrows feeding around a dung heap. A Little Owl had positioned itself in the crack of an old willow soaking up the weak winter sunshine as a couple of Moorhens slithered across a nearby frozen sewer.

                                Old Romney

                                Sunbathing Little Owl

  When we first moved down here eleven years ago a buzzard was a rare sight: infact, there was almost as much chance of a winter bird being a Roughie as a Common. How times have changed. Today a drive around the Marsh lanes will yield a number of these magnificent raptors, which over the past decade have become the most numerous bird of prey in the country, outstripping the Kestrel. This morning was no different as I noted three Common Buzzards here and another two en-route to Lydd, which is probably one of the contributory factors in the disappearance of partridges locally.

                              Common Buzzard and Fieldfare, Old Romney

Scotney - At least nine Bewick`s Swans were in a field behind the sewage works at Pigwell, plus 20 White-fronts nearby along with a 10 Corn Buntings, two Stonechats, a Grey Wagtail and four flushed Snipe. The front fields at Scotney attracted the usual feral Barnacles and Wigeons plus a scattering of Shelducks, Redshanks, Curlews and a Ruff. A group of Sussex birders who`d walked out back reported 120 Corn Buntings and 30 Tree Sparrows along with more White-fronts.
Dungeness - An afternoon walk along the foreshore by the fishing boats resulted in very little of note in the biting east wind.The two Iceland Gulls were again seen at the Patch along with the drake Eider.

Monday, 16 January 2017

The Patch

Dungeness - cold, cloudy, light airs - With improved weather conditions we returned to the point this morning for seconds on the 1st winter Iceland Gulls at The Patch. One was feeding around the boil while the other was sat on the beach amongst a host of Black-headed, Common and Herring Gulls, so once again not much chance of a piccie. The splendid drake Eider was also present amongst the gulls on the water.

                               Iceland Gull and Eider, The Patch

  An hour seawatching between the two hides was most productive with hundreds of auks, Gannets, Kittiwakes, Cormorants, gulls, Red-throated Divers and Great Crested Grebes on the sea, or coming and going, plus a party of 20 Brents heading up-Channel and a Bonxie going down.

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Iceland Gulls and `that Stonechat`

Lade - cold and wet, w 2 - After a day in London yesterday it felt good to be out and about around the local patch this morning, and despite the grim weather it proved to be a decent wildfowl count with plenty of variety. A Slavonian Grebe was back on south lake, plus a duck Smew, while a drake Goosander dropped in on north lake and Goldeneyes tallied 14 across both waters. Other birds of note included a Great White Egret, two miserable rain-soaked Marsh Harriers, a Chiffchaff and Cetti`s Warbler.

                               Goldeneyes, Slavonian Grebe and Goosander, Lade pits

  The walk back along the beach was more to inspect the damage caused by Friday`s storm surge, and indeed the sand dunes by the Romney Tavern had taken a bit of a battering with marram grass roots strewn along the tideline. However, the Turnstones were taking full advantage of this `new habitat`, foraging amongst the detritus delivered from both land and sea.
  Further south along the shingle beach the spring tides had dragged up huge quantities of pebbles with the ebb causing a long reach of stones back to the muddy bay. Every so often the steeper part of the shingle beach that had absorbed the sea was still spewing out streams of water forming intricate patterns in the sand like varicose veins. 

                               Storm damaged sand dunes, Romney Tavern

                                Flood water in the shingle bank

Dungeness and Walland Marsh - Joined CP for the monthly harrier count this afternoon. En-route we diverted to The Patch where two 1st winter Iceland Gulls were feeding around the boil. The light was dreadful, so no chance of any piccies. Also present amongst the throng were several Mediterranean Gulls and Kittiwakes. Around the sewage plant on `A` station two Grey Wagtails were noted alongside a few Pied Wagtails and Mipits.
  With the rising temperatures and light airs came mist, plus a persistent drizzle, making for difficult viewing conditions out on the Marsh. On the walk out to site we noted 42 Bewick`s Swans and a couple of perched Marsh Harriers, but not a single harrier came to roost in the reedbed.
The Lydd-on-Sea Stonechat -  Oh dear! There seems to have been a bit of an admin problem at the DNA lab where the sample from the grey chat was processed. Apparently, there was a mix up between two sets of poo and following a retest it now transpires that `our bird` is nothing more than a common or garden Stonechat, and not a Stejneger`s type as first thought.
  And to think that Shepway District Council went to all the trouble of erecting that smart new Kerton Road sign so the twitchers could find the site...