Thursday, 25 August 2016

Night of the bush cricket

Lade - warm, dry, sunny, sw 3 - With the overnight temperature hovering around 20C, and high humidity, it proved to be a stinker for trying to get some sleep, even down here on the coast where normally its a bit fresher. And then at 2am with the window wide open we had an interloper in the form of a `singing` cricket which sounded incredibly loud in the dead of night in a confined space.
As I couldn't sleep I then spent the next hour crawling around the bedroom with a torch trying to locate the noisy insect, but once it sensed the light it ceased its racket and I could not find it. Anyhow, as it had stopped `singing` I drifted off to sleep, only to be rudely woken later by Mrs PT when the cricket hopped up on the bed and crawled over her arm!  Being a caring naturalist I soon had the critter potted up and into the fridge til daybreak, and nodded off back to sleep...
  It proved to be a splendid Great Green Bush-cricket, which was duly released into the garden.

                               Great Green Bush-cricket

And so to moths, predictably there was a decent haul of 41species of macros including Jersey Tiger, Gold Spots, Burnished Brass and a migrant Gem, new for the year. The garden buddleia bush was on top form attracting at least four Hummingbird Hawk-moths, a count of 25 Small Tortoiseshells, Peacocks, Admirals, Small and Large Whites, Holly Blue, Silver Ys, a Comma and several bees that I`m still trying to identify.
  All quiet over the pits with the only warblers of note 10 Common Whitethroats and a Lesser Whitethroat feeding on blackberries.

                                Gold Spot

                               Gem, an irregular migrant

                                One of four Hummers on the buddleia

Dungeness - 1430-1600hrs - Probably the quietest seawatch of the year in the company of PB, MH and BC. Still, the cooling breeze off the sea and lively banter made up for the lack of birds.

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Phew, what a scorcher

Lade - 0600hrs - warm, dry, sunny,  se 2 - We were out early over the local patch, but there were few migrants apart from the ubiquitous Sand Martins, Yellow Wagtails, Common Whitethroats and a Whinchat in Mockmill. Unusually, a party of eight Sandwich Terns were fishing over south lake and every so often they would dunk in the fresh water and bathe.
  On a rising tide this afternoon a count of 320 Curlews, 450 Oystercatchers and 25 Ringed Plovers were logged. Terns comprised 200 Sandwich and 100 Common before the tide swept in sending the lot, plus hundreds of Dunlins and Sanderlings, to roost.
  With the temperature nudging 30C, at high tide I joined my daughter Lucy and grandson Albert for a refreshing swim in the bay, along with Sandwich Terns swirling noisily overhead and two Grey Seals bobbing up and down further out. The garden buddleia attracted two Hummingbird Hawk-moths this afternoon.
  An evening recheck of the bay revealed an Arctic Skua harrying the terns out on the sands amid thousands of gulls and the usual waders. At one stage, just before sunset, hundreds of Black-headed Gulls deserted the bay and flew over the shingle beach to feed on a mass emergence of flying ants in the dead calm. An impressive spectacle indeed.
ARC 1230hrs - Plenty to see from Hanson hide including 100 Golden Plovers, 30 Lapwings, three Little Ringed Plovers, Ruff and Blackwit amongst the eclipse ducks.

Tuesday, 23 August 2016


Lade - 0600hrs - warm, sunny, se 2 - Another session working Mockmill first thing, under a clear blue sky, largely drew a blank as there were few grounded migrants of note, just a few Common Whitethroats and Willow Warblers, but not a sniff of a Sedge Warbler anywhere. Linnets have been thin on the ground this year, so a flock of 30 feeding on bugloss was noteworthy. Several Yellow Wagtails passed overhead along with a steady procession of Sandwich Terns from the bay.

                               Linnets on Vipers Bugloss seed

  The Plovers moth trap was full of mostly common species with only Cream-bordered Green Pea and the first Riband Wave for ages of any note. However, a Hummingbird Hawk-moth on the garden buddleia was a first for the autumn, while it was good to see a few Small Tortoiseshells on the blooms amongst the Peacocks and Red Admirals.

                               Hummingbird Hawk-moth and Small Tortoiseshells

ARC/Burrowes - From Hanson hide a nervy flock of 62 Golden Plovers comprised almost entirely adults apart from two juveniles. The only other waders on the islands were Lapwings, Redshanks, Common Sandpipers and a Little Ringed Plover. Nothing much on Burrowes apart from a few more Common Sands and three Great White Egret, although two juv Buzzards overhead got the gulls going. A Diamond Dove was reported from Dengemarsh Road (SM), new for the plastic year list.
Walland Marsh - Superb evening out on the Flatlands with CP in warm, still conditions with farming operations still in full swing. The highlights were six each of Buzzard and Marsh Harrier, two Barn Owls, Kestrel, 20 Yellow Wagtails, 10 Tree Sparrows, Bearded Tits, hundreds of hirundines and a Whinchat.

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Windy weekend

Lade - Despite the brisk wind over the weekend small parties of Yellow Wagtails and Sand Martins continued to drift overhead, pressing south, while grounded migrants could only be detected by their calls as they sheltered in cover; around the willow swamp Willow Warblers and Common Whitethroats were plentiful. Three Common Sandpipers were present on the margins of south lake, plus a Green Sandpiper on north lake.
  Elsewhere, it was a similar picture on ARC where small waders were largely absent apart from the odd Dunlin, Common Sandpiper and Little Ringed Plover coming and going, plus Ruff and Little Stint on Burrowes. At the fishing boats a morning passage of Balearic Shearwaters, Gannets and terns petered out by the afternoon, along with a few Fulmars and Arctic Skuas.
Dengemarsh - 1000hrs - On Sunday Mrs PT joined us for a circuit of Dengemarsh in blustery, but mild weather conditions. By Springfield bridge plenty of Sand Martins were on the move and every field seemed to hold Yellow Wagtails. A Great White Egret, three Marsh Harriers, a Black-tailed Godwit and two Common Sandpipers were noted around the lake, while two Black Terns flew through. Common Terns continue to bring in fish for youngsters on the rafts amid all the usual wildfowl and grebes. From the back track to Lydd, three Common Buzzards over the farmland being mobbed by crows, a Hobby fizzed through and a couple of Corn Buntings flushed by Barney from a stubble field.

Royal Naval Birdwatching Society - When at sea, during the 1970s, I was a member of the Society and occasional contributor to their newsletters and journal, Sea Swallow. Every so often a local birder kindly passes on the latest copy for me to peruse and there is always much to enjoy for the lover of seabirds, both from the north Atlantic and around the globe. Volume 64 (2015) is packed full of a wide variety of fascinating papers and notes, including an obituary to Bryan Nelson (of Gannet fame) news, reviews and sightings.
  Closer to home though is a paper entitled The fate of Dungeness. The first part was written by Bill Bourne in 1967 and reproduced from the Seabird Bulletin of that year, during which he reflects on visits to Dungeness and Rye Harbour following WW2; fascinating stuff, including comments on Kentish Plovers when they still nested on the outfall of the River Rother, long after the Dunge birds had ceased to be.
   The second part of the paper is written by current Dungeness Bird Observatory warden David Walker during which he sympathises with Bill Bourne regarding the many losses. However, David complements the first part of the paper by bringing the Dungeness story full circle and up-to-date, as well as putting a positive spin on the more recent conservation work carried out by both RSPB and DBO, despite the ongoing effects of nuclear power generation, mass tourism and climate change.
   For any Dungeness aficionados out there it is a worthy read, and if you cannot come by a copy Volume 64 will soon be uploaded onto the Society`s website:

Friday, 19 August 2016

Waders and Terns

Lade - 0600hrs - humid, overcast, light airs - In fact, perfect conditions for moths, and indeed the tally in the garden mv reached a more respectable 32 species with Burnished Brass, Small Blood-vein and Waved Umber all new for the year. Flounced Rustic was the most numerous at 21. Whilst emptying the trap Sandwich Terns were noisily passing over the cottage as they had been throughout the night.
  With the smell of rain in the air we set out yet again towards Mockmill where a party of six grounded Yellow Wagtails was flushed off the Desert along with two Mipits and a Wheatear. The sewer scrub was alive with Reed and Sedge Warblers, Common Whitethroats and Willow Warblers, a few Linnets and Reed Buntings, but nothing of any quality. There was no change to the usual wildfowl and hirundines on south lake. Kestrel and Marsh Harrier also noted.

                               Burnished Brass and Small Blood-vein

RSPB - After dropping off Barney and a spot of breakie my first stop was ARC where Lesser Whitethroat and Cetti`s warbler were added to the warbler tally around the willow trail, plus Long-tailed, Blue and Great Tits, several Robins and a Water Rail. From the hide singles of Wigeon and Pintail amongst hundreds of common wildfowl along with Lapwings, Dunlin, three Little Ringed Plovers, Turnstone, a Greenshank over and a Kingfisher in front of the hide.

                                Juvenile Moorhen, ARC

  On Burrowes further wildfowl included three Garganey and another Pintail, two Great White Egrets, Common and Sandwich Terns and a colour-ringed Mediterranean Gull. From Makepeace hide I joined MH and PB where we enjoyed a `shank-fest` with 11 Greenshanks (one flock of seven), six Redshanks and an orange colour-flagged Spotted Redshank. Several Common Sandpipers, Dunlin, Ringed Plover, Oystercatchers and Lapwings completed a fine suite of waders.

                                Mixed flock of shanks

                                Juvenile Mediterranean Gull with green colour ring

Lade again - A quick check of north lake this afternoon from Seaview Road revealed 10 Black Terns brought down by the drizzle that soon left high to the south. A scan of the beach from the Tavern later delivered a whole host of Dunlins, Sanderlings, Curlews, Oystercatchers and Ringed Plovers, plus 25 Knots, 15 Barwits and three Grey Plovers.
Dungeness - An hour from the fishing boats with MH and PB delivered a steady passage of Common and Sandwich Terns in an increasing south-westerly blow, plus 25 Black Terns and four Little Terns. A few Gannets drifted by and two Arctic Skuas chased the terns.
In summary a pretty decent days birding with 84 species noted and all within two miles of the cottage.

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Stone Curlew

Lade - 0600hrs - cloudy, still, misty - Light airs and high humidity overnight had little effect on  moth numbers resulting in another poor catch with the only bright spot being five species of pugs, including White-spotted and Cypress Pugs. We slogged over the shingle again to Mockmill for little reward; there was fewer warblers in the bushes than yesterday, and no sign of any chats. However, our first Kingfisher of the autumn put on a show around the willow swamp and a flock of 100 Sand Martins and Swallows briefly dropped in over south lake.

                                Fox cub keeping an eye on Barney

                                Toadflax Pug

Conningbrooks Lakes - 1100hrs - Had to go to a steamy Ashford to check out this new country park site for a forthcoming article and take a few pics. Needless to say it was pretty quiet in the midday heat with only a few Willow Warblers in the trees, Green Woodpecker, a Hobby and a Kingfisher along the River Stour of note. Whilst there a phone call from PB delivering news of a rarity back on the Marsh forced my hand to return to paradise...

                                Conningbrooks Lake

Dengemarsh - 1430hrs - The only bird on a bone dry and furrowed Hayfield 3 was a fabulous Stone Curlew, a proper rarity in these parts and only my fourth record in 11 years. This was, of course, a passage bird as the last breeding record at Dungeness was way back in the early 1970s.

                                Stone Curlew in the heat haze

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

First Whinchat

Lade - 0600hrs - warm, dry, sunny, ne 3 - Its that time of year again when I start to think about my bogey bird, the Aquatic Warbler. Although numbers are declining at their central European breeding grounds, about now they`re on the move west along the coastline of the Low Countries and into northern France where a bird was mist-netted on Monday at Wissant. It seems that each year fewer and fewer reach our shores, but we still have plenty of suitable habitat hereabouts and geographically we`re in the zone, although a south-easterly wind off the continent would be more helpful.
  And so it was, more in hope than expectation, that we struck out early slogging across the shingle towards Mockmill sewer with its riot of bramble, juncus and herbaceous growth. Sedge, Reed and Willow Warblers, Common and Lesser Whitethroats were all noted feeding amongst the cover, and occasionally popping up to greet the sunshine. Every Sedge Warblers` streaking and stripes were scrutinised, but to no avail, and none had spiky tails. Just need that little bit of luck, and a southerly blow, maybe Friday...
  However, also noted in the scrub was our first Whinchat of the autumn, plus two Wheatears on the Desert. On south lake more Pochards have moved in reaching 200 or more and two Whimbrel passed over calling. Kestrel, Marsh Harrier and Hobby all noted.

                                First Wheatear of the autumn

RSPB - 1000hrs - A circular walk for five RSPB guests yielded the following highlights: four Great White Egrets, four Common Sandpipers, two Redshanks and a Ruff on Burrowes, eight Greenshanks over Dengemarsh, four Yellow Wagtails over the return trail, two Marsh Harriers (including a stunning juvenile female) and a Common Buzzard. Due to the bright sunshine and brisk wind only a few common warblers and hirundines were noted. Duck numbers continue to steadily build on Burrowes and Dengemarsh.

                                Three of the four Great White Egrets on Burrowes

Lade Bay - 1600hrs - We walked the foreshore from the boardwalk to the Tavern where hundreds of Dunlins, Sanderlings and Ringed Plovers were feeding out on the gloopy mud. Some of the Dunlins were very approachable and took no notice of the holidaymakers running around nearby. Good numbers of Knot, Curlew, Barwit, Oystercatcher and two Grey Plovers were also noted further out on the bay, plus 120 Sandwich and 50 Common Terns, two Shelducks and a Whimbrel overhead calling.

                                Two of the hundreds of Dunlin on the mud