Friday, 5 June 2020


Lade  - cool, dry and cloudy, nw 4 - Since my last post two days ago there has been a perceptible shift in the weather with a low pressure system out in the North Sea delivering cooler temperatures, stronger winds and bands of showers to some parts of the region which, so far, have mostly eluded us here on the coast.
  As expected in such weather patterns in June, rain-dodging Swifts have occurred in large numbers hawking insects over the still waters across the Dungeness peninsula. This morning we counted at least 200 over Lade pits, while a visit to the bird reserve around noon, from public footpaths and viewpoints, produced `hundreds` more. I could watch Swifts all day long, although trying to photograph them using a bridge camera is `challenging` to say the least!

                                Swift over Lade south

  Scanning from the east side of Burrowes it was good to see plenty of Common Tern activity on the rafts, which are still covered in willow brush placed there over winter to deter the Herring Gulls. However, the terns appear to be benefitting from the brush cover with at least 30 pairs nesting on the raft in front of Dennis`s hide along with four or five pairs of Black-headed Gulls. More terns were present on the raft opposite the visitor centre and over the road on ARC making for a total of around  100 pairs across the site.
  Moving onto waders, the following were counted on the islands: 15 Curlews, four Bar-tailed Godwits, four Knots (one in summer plum), four Lapwings, two Dunlins and a Turnstone. On the walk across to the causeway a pair of Oystercatchers and a Lapwing with two well grown juvs each were noted, plus two Cuckoos, Hobby, Marsh Harrier, Lesser and Common Whitethroats, Cetti`s   and Reed Warblers.
  Back at Boulderwall, a conversation with RSPB staff confirmed that the Dungeness reserve will remain closed to visitors until further notice.

                                Common Tern breeding activity

Wednesday, 3 June 2020

Dungeness at last!

Lade - warm, dry, overcast, light airs - With muggy, still overnight weather conditions perfect for moth activity, it was no surprise to see the garden trap well loaded this morning when I threw the towel over it just after 4.30am. Of the 23 species of macros eight were new for the year including, two Privet Hawk-moths, Common Wainscott and Common Marbled Carpet, the latter a moth I rarely catch.

                               Common Marbled Carpet


                               Privet Hawk-moth

  The past couple of mornings outback have been a bit samey with just the breeding Little and Great Crested Grebes, Coot and Mallard on the water showing off their young. A pair of Common Terns went over calling yesterday along with a Redshank and four Mediterranean Gulls likewise. A Sparrowhawk took one of the juv Starlings from a flock foraging on the shingle ridges and a Green Woodpecker showed for the first time in ages, otherwise all was quiet on the bird front.

                               Mallard with nine ducklings

  However, wandering along the main track searching for orchids and lamenting the lack of butterflies in general we came across a freshly emerged Marbled White, one of my favourites and a week or so earlier than is normal. It sat amongst a riot of colourful, scorched plants, basking in the weak sunshine and affording superb views, as well as conjuring up one of those special moments that you get from time to time in nature, especially when you consider the various stages of transformation that it has had to go through to reach the final imago. Its always best to enjoy Marbled White`s while they`re on the wing as they only have a single brood with a short two month flight period during high summer.

                                First Marbled White of summer

This afternoon after a hiatus of some ten weeks due to lockdown we paid our first visit to the Dungeness Estate. Mercifully, the overcrowding of last weekend had relented and there were few people present. Walking down the concrete road towards the fishing boats, Skylark, Meadow Pipit, Linnet and Stonechat were all noted in song, plus a distant Wheatear perched atop an old shed.
  I decided on a seawatch; not something I would normally do in early June with an easterly airflow, but these are far from normal times. Barney found an old bit of wood to chew on and I settled down for an hour scanning the Channel seeing pretty much bugger all apart from several passing Common Terns, Black-headed Gulls and Cormorants and a couple of Porpoises offshore.
  But it mattered not a jot; a seawatch from the boats was another box ticked on the road to normality, whatever that may be in future...

                     "Woof-woof, ten weeks without seawatching - pure bliss, woof-woof!"

Monday, 1 June 2020

May lockdown summary

Lade - warm, dry and sunny, ne 4 - Following the lunacy of the weekend when the beaches were packed out with visitors and the coast road reduced to a single lane due to parked vehicles (mostly kite-surfers), today things returned to some sort of normality.
  Around the local patch a few more ducks such as Gadwall and Pochard were noted on south lake while Dabchick and Coot juvs were out on the water. Also confirmed Oystercatcher breeding this morning with the sighting of a well-grown chick on one of the islands, while two Redshanks and five Mediterranean Gulls flew over calling. Butterfly numbers have been in short supply so far this spring, but along the main track I did notice a few Small Coppers, Small Heaths and Common Blues.

                                Small Copper

  Last month was one of the driest on record down here with only 13mm of rain recorded at Littlestone by OL; no wonder the shingle ridges look burnt to a crisp. Due to the lockdown restrictions certain birds that may have tempted travelling birders went unreported until after the event. Most were typical May overshooting migrants from the south and all moved quickly through the Dungeness peninsula, including: Purple Heron, Glossy Ibis, Spoonbill, Cattle Egret, Honey Buzzard, Black Kite, Montagu`s and Hen Harriers, Whiskered Tern, Pectoral and Curlew Sandpipers, Little Stint, Bee-eater and Serin.

Saturday, 30 May 2020


Lade - warm, dry and sunny, ne 4 - More of the same weather wise with a fresh wind off the bay attracting around 100 kite-surfers to enjoy a near perfect sea state. Infact, the beaches around the bay and Dungeness estate were packed out with tourists today like it was a Bank Holiday. There was no change on the local patch apart from a lone drake Pochard, the first of many to come no doubt, while the Cuckoos were busy around the willow swamp.

                                Hayfield 3

  A three hour tramp around Dengemarsh produced all the usual birds such as Marsh Harrier, Buzzard, Bearded Tit, Great White and Little Egrets, Common Tern, Redshank, Lapwing, Shelduck, Shoveler, Pochard, Cuckoo, Raven, plus a drake Garganey, Snipe and Black-tailed Godwit. I was a bit surprised to see a suckling herd on hayfield 3 where the waders were nesting and a dance tent set up by Springfield bridge! There was no sign of any Hobbies though. On the farmland section, Yellow Wagtail, Corn Bunting and Skylark. Small Heath, Small Tortoiseshell and Emperor dragonfly also noted.

                               Busy on the beach this afternoon


Thursday, 28 May 2020

Grass Snakes

Lade - warm, dry and sunny, ne 4 - Another cloudless, sunny day with the shingle ridges outback on the desert burnt to a crisp as though its high summer; infact, I cannot remember such dry weather conditions this early on in the season since living here. The garden moth trap held 20 species of macros with six commoners new for the year, such as Light Brocade, Dark Arches and Willow Beauty; meanwhile, though, at the Kerton Road cafĂ© (which is currently closed as per governmental guidelines) Beautiful Marbled and Spurge Hawk-moth came to light.

                               Beautiful Marbled and Spurge Hawk-moth, KRC

  This morning outback the keen wind kept many passerines out of sight and into cover, while a trickle of Swifts and House Martins passed over south lake early on. Also of note were three separate Grass Snake sightings across the site.
  Depressingly, but unsurprising perhaps, amongst the day-tripper detritus on the beach this evening were, several nappies (used, tied up and ready to go), a throwaway barbeque and, a face mask, the first of many, no doubt, that will litter the countryside over the summer months. Its times like these that I loath some members of the human race.

                               Grass Snake, Lade

However, now for some good news! Yes folks, for once this blogger is not about to torpedo BBC 2`s
annual showpiece jamboree exhibiting the very best of British wildlife; having watched the first two episodes I`m pleased to report that it is a case of plaudits all round.
  Due to lockdown, and all that, the regular team, bar one (more of which anon), are self isolating  around the country in their native haunts, and reporting on the natural world from a personal perspective. So, we`ve got Chris Oak-Tree Packham in the New Forest, Iolo Sing-Song Williams in the Welsh Marches, Gillian Beaver-Burke in Cornwall and Steve Short-Straw Backshall on the River Thames, all doing sterling work live to-camera, which so far has worked well. It`s certainly a big improvement on when they`re all herded around a fire-pit somewhere `up north`, mucking around and trying to keep the midges at bay.
  Anyhow, as always, Lord Packham is the lynch-pin and has kept the gang in good order, with little of the frippery that has so ruined this programme for me, and many others, in the past. There has been the usual pre-recorded interjections throughout the hour from other self-isolating naturalists, whilst a site in the Medip Hills has been given the old camera trap treatment for nesting birds; well, it just wouldn't be Springwatch without a Blue Tit nesting calamity, would it! Also, I was most impressed with Chris Packham`s stepdaughter Megan, herself a professional zoologist, and a knowledgeable and natural to-camera presenter.
  It might sound a bit of a make-do-and-mend-kind-of-a-show, but it worked for me, although it was such a shame that poor old Michaela Strachan was stranded and locked down at home in South Africa! Never mind, we can look forward to her return next year, sometime, perhaps...

Wednesday, 27 May 2020

Ring-necked Parakeet

Lade - warm, dry and sunny, ne 3 - A brisk wind off the bay tempered the heat of yesterday and continued to increase throughout the afternoon. The morning round of the local patch was predictably quiet, although the first Dabchick young of spring were on the water around the willow swamp, where there was no sign of yesterdays Turtle Dove. Scanning from the aerial mound delivered several Marsh Harriers and Buzzards over the airfield.
  Last nights moth trap catch was a little disappointing with only the Shears new for the year.

  This afternoon, en-route to Hythe, a Red Kite upset the Herring Gulls in the airspace above the Academy, while from Aldi car park in Hythe the sound and glimpse of a Rose-ringed Parakeet from the housing estate over the road was a first for me.
  An evening visit to the bay yielded the usual waders and gulls on a falling tide, but not a single Sandwich Tern, what has happened to them this spring?

Tuesday, 26 May 2020

Turtle Dove

Lade - warm, dry and sunny, se 1 - Another belter of a day with a packed moth trap including 30 Cinnabars, but only Grass Emerald new for the year. The only bird of note outback was a Turtle Dove `purring` from cover in the willow swamp, a wondrous sound of summer and the first I`ve heard here for three years.

                                Grass Emerald

  Despite the beach being busy with day-trippers yesterdays confiding Bar-tailed Godwit defied my pessimistic prognosis and continued to feed actively along the strandline, completely ignoring any passing humans. I couldn't resist half an hour this evening watching it from the shingle bank as it probed about in the soft sand pulling out small marine snails, shrimps and the like.

                               Adult Bar-tailed  Godwit