Saturday, 31 March 2012


Dungeness - 1000hrs - drab, grey, cold, e3- Weather back to the seasonal norm this morning with even a bit of drizzle. A few Wheatears, Stonechats and Black Redstarts around the Old Light, plus a Chiffchaff by Lloyd's and 2 Redwings and a Song Thrush in the moat.; however, a Rouzel and Brambling seen earlier, while a pair of Grey Partridges were candidates for rarity of the day! The sea was again quiet apart from a distant Red-necked Grebe. Also a lively social gathering at the Obs, plus a few good moths to study.
RSPB - 1200hrs A scan from the causeway road revealed a lone Swallow and a flock of 12 Dunlins, although up to 4 LRPs reported throughout the day. In the afternoon 2 Sand Martins with the Swallow.
From Firth had good views of a dozing Spoonbill in front of the hide. The Long-tailed Duck was still on show from Dennis`s plus Goldeneyes and all the usual wildfowl. A Rouzel near the Corral/access road proved elusive and elsewhere around the reserve throughout the day, House Martin and Sedge Warbler reported.
Arrived home to news of a QPR, 2 - 1 victory over Arsenal; hope springs eternal...

                                           Spoonbill, Burrowes

Friday, 30 March 2012

A few more Migrants

Dungeness - 0900hrs - cool, sunny, e2 - Had another crack at spring passerines this morning with the area around Jarman`s holding 10 Linnets, 6 Wheatears, 4 Mipits, 4 Black Redstarts, 6 Skylarks, 2 Pied Wagtails and a Stonechat. Around the old light another 2 Black Redstarts, 2 Stonechats, 2 Kestrels and 4 Mipits, plus a singing Black Redstart on the power station and 2 Redwings in the moat.
RSPB - 1100hrs - Pottered around looking for the LRPs on ARC, without success, while over the road the Long-tailed Duck remained on Burrowes.
Finished the week on 111 species for the London Ladies, the highlights being displaying Marsh Harriers, Long-tailed Duck, Raven and Tree Sparrows on the bird reserve; Sandwich Terns and Med Gulls at Rye; Crossbills in the woods; Corn Buntings and Short-eared Owl at Galloways; and spring migrants at the point.

                                           Kestrel, Dungeness

Dungeness - 1700hrs - A late seawatch from the boats revealed very little apart from 20 each of Sandwich Terns and Gannets offshore and 2 divers east.

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Over the Border - Rye Harbour NR

Rye Harbour NR - 0930hrs - Spent the morning on the coastal section of the reserve (many thanks to Lucy for arranging access for the group) where major civil engineering works was underway along the western bank of the Rother. Despite the comings and goings Flat Beach looked in superb nick and was full of birds. We quickly rattled up a fair old wader list: 13 Avocets, 10 Oystercatchers, 12 Ringed Plovers, 10 Lapwings, 20 Redshanks, most of which were in breeding mode; plus 20 Dunlins, 2 Grey Plovers and a flock of 315 Goldies close to the main path. Also, 4 Brents, 20 Shelducks, Little Egret, Skylark, Mipit, Linnets, and a Rock Pipit.
The seabird colony on Ternery Pool, with the new shingle islands was an incredible sight and alive with the cacophony of around 1,000 Black-headed Gulls, 300 Sandwich Terns and 400 Mediterranean Gulls, which was very much a minimum count. The views from Crittal hide of the terns and Meds was simply stunning. As the tide came in 100 Oystercatchers and 11 Barwits joined the throng to roost.
A brilliant morning and testament to the management teams vision and hard work; and there`s still the Common and Little Terns to come!
Pett Pools - 1330hrs - A check from the roadside revealed 15 Curlews, 12 Redshanks, 30 Turnstones, 6 Wigeons, 2 Shovelers, Little Egret and Dabchick. From the seawall several Fulmars on the cliffs at Cliff End and a `kettle` of 5 Buzzards over the distant hills.
Woolpack - 1500hrs- A quick look across the reedbed revealed very little apart from a few harriers. On the reservoir over 100 Common and 20 Med Gulls.
Dungeness  - 1600hrs - Back on the coast and nothing much of note on the bird reserve, although  Black-necked Grebe and LRP reported from the south end of ARC. On the sea, from the boats, a brief seawatch produced 8 Common Terns, 20 Sandwich Terns, 3 Brents, 3 mergansers, 2 divers and 3 porpoises.

                                           Avocets, Flat Beach

                                           Ternery Pool

                                          Med Gulls & Sandwich Terns, Ternery Pool

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Crossbills in the Woods & Owls on the Marsh

Warm (hot!) 20C, dry and sunny, light airs - Is it really March?... Anyway, day 3 of the Birdwatching Break during which we added some real quality onto the bird list for the week. Started in the woods and came back down onto the flatlands later; Chiffchaffs seemed to be everywhere this morning.
Warehorne Bridge - 0915hrs - Always a good spot to stop and scan and it was no different today with a Green Sandpiper along the canal, a perched Buzzard, singing Chiffchaffs and plenty of common residents including Song and Mistle Thrushes, Green Woodpecker, Kestrel, Yammer and the like.
Faggs Wood - 1000hrs - Jackpot time here for the ladies with 2 groups of Crossbills in the car park area; a flyover flock of 9 and a cracking group of 4 feeding at close range for 15 minutes, first in a lombardy poplar, then in a spruce tucking into seed cones. Also around the car park Nuthatches, Treecreepers, Coal and Long-tailed Tits, Jays, Bullfinch, Chiffchaffs and Greater pecker. Insects noted around the wood included brimstone and loads of orange underwings, a common day-flying moth of birch woodland.
Park Wood - 1200hrs  - More of the same here, but a lot more Treecreepers, plus Blackcap, Sparrowhawk and an odd sounding Chiffchaff. Also a decent show of early spring woodland flowers.
Kenardington - 1330hrs - Good views of a Little Owl near the bridge and a range of wayside birds along the canal towards Warehorne including Bullfinch, Blackcap, Tree Sparrow and Chiffchaffs. The Dowels held a large flock of 500 Common Gulls that included at least 20 Med Gulls.
Walland Marsh - 1430hrs - Up to 6 Marsh Harriers, Mipits, Skylarks and 6 Med Gulls over. Another field full of Common Gulls and a few more Meds nearby.
Galloways - 1600hrs - A flock of 15 Corn Buntings feeding amongst the sheep, plus Stonechat and a hunting Short-eared Owl on the ranges. The chicken sheds on the corner of Dengemarsh Road produced a Little Owl, the first I`ve seen here for ages.
Springfield Bridge - 1700hrs - Finished off with 100 Wigeon on the fields, 60 Golden Plovers overhead, Redshank on the flood, 6 Marsh Harriers over the reedebed and a `booming`Bittern.

                                           Chiffchaff, RMCanal

                                           Corn Buning, Galloways

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

First Swallows

Dungeness - 0900hrs - cool, sunny, ne3 - Another fine bright day with a keen wind off the sea. Went searching for migrants with mixed success. A cracking male Stonechat was singing from overhead wires near the wood yard, while around Jarman`s 5 Wheatears, 10 Linnets, 6 Pied Wagtails, 4 Mipits, 4 Skylarks, Greenfinch, Dunnock and Reed Bunting. Around the old light singles of Black Redstart, Stonechat and Kestrel. A cursory look at the sea produced very little apart from a few Kitts, Gannets, Sandwich Terns, 2 Red-throated Divers, 2 parties of Brents (5 & 15) and at least 6 porpoises. On a pylon near the power station a pair of Ravens were tussling with a crow.
At the Obs paid homage to the newly installed Ray Turley memorial.

                                                                  Wheatear, Dungeness

                                                    Ray Turley Memorial, DBO

RSPB - 1230hrs - The south end of ARC from the causeway road eventually delivered a Water Pipit amongst, at times, 18 alba wagtails of which 5 were Whites; also noted here 5 Dunlins, Knot, Little Egret, Merlin and Sparrowhawk. From the access road the usual Tree Sparrows at Boulderwall, 10 Curlews, 50 Wigeons, several Marsh Harriers and a brown hare. Burrowes produced the Long-tailed Duck, 2 Ringed Plovers and the first Swallows of spring. On the hayfields Curlew and displaying Lapwing, marsh frogs and grass snake; Dengemarsh 4 Dabchicks, 55 Golden Plovers, Snipe and up to 5 displaying Marsh Harriers from the ramp; singing Cetti`s Warbler and Chiffchaff; from Screen hide 3 Pintail, 100 Shovelers, but failed with the reported Garganeys, and a  weasel in the car park.

Monday, 26 March 2012

London Ladies

Lade - 0630hrs - At least 10 Redwings in garden bushes first thing with many more passing overhead.
Dungeness - 0800hrs - cool, dry, sunny, ne3 - An hours seawatch from the hide produced very little seabird movement, although the banter was lively... A single Bonxie was the highlight, plus a trickle of Gannets, Sandwich Terns, 2 Med Gulls, 2 mergs, 33 Brents, Merlin and  Curlew.
Birdwatching Break - Picked up the London Ladies (Val, Sandra and Barbara) from Ashford at midday for their 13th visit to Plovers.
ARC - 1345hrs - From the causeway road we had good views of 2 White Wagtails, 3 Goldeneyes, Little Egret and the usual variety of ducks. Hanson delivered more common wildfowl, 2 Med Gulls plus singles of Pintail and Avocet, Marsh Harrier and Kestrel. From the Willow Trail, common lizard, small tortoiseshell and peacock. Over the road on the Boulderwall feeders up to 10 Tree Sparrows and 2 Reed Buntings. Also, a very sickly looking hare close to the road.
Burrowes - 1530hrs - Got the Long-tailed Duck on the list for the week just in case it does decided to do the off. The sandy bank with the colony of bees near Dennis`s hide are apparently Andrena cineraria (thanks to Pete Akers, former Dungeness RSPB warden for that) and were active today.
Littlestone - 1700hrs Finished the day down by the Romney Bay Hotel, where I didnt hold out much hope for the Short-eared Owl but eventually we saw 2, one perched and one in flight, plus Linnets and Skylark. On the beach Turnstone, 2 Ringed Plover, Curlews and Sanderlings.

                                          Ringed Plover, Littlestone

                                          Brown Hare, Boulderwall
                                                       Nut-tree Tussock, New Romney

PS: Swallow and House Martin on the bird reserve today, plus a Garganey at Dengemarsh. The Nut-tree Tussock was an early record trapped in New Romney at the weekend.

Sunday, 25 March 2012


Spent the weekend in Dunstable catching up with old friends and doing a bit of birding.
Saturday - 1500hrs - Dunstable Sewage Treatment Works - warm, dry and sunny - Visited the old site with Rob Dazley and Don Green on a warm, spring afternoon with brimstones, small tortoiseshells, peacocks and a comma on the wing. From the hide overlooking the scrape had good views of a Water Rail creeping in and out of a small reed bed. On the lagoons a good selection of wildfowl including a pair of Shovelers, 20 Teals, 30 Gadwalls, Pochard and Tufted Ducks, plus a Green Sandpiper and 2 Grey Wagtails with another pair along the brook. At least 4 Buzzards on the wing, including one perched on a post within the site boundary, 2 Kestrels, 2 Long-tailed Tits, 4 Reed Buntings, 3 Chiffchaffs and a Green Woodpecker.

                                          Dunstable, wader scrape

Sunday - Blows Downs - 0700hrs warm, dry, hazy sunshine, e1 - Flogged around another former local patch this morning with RD. The only migrants on show were a number of Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps in the scrub, but no sign of any Wheatears on the paddocks. Good to see and hear several classic downland breeding species on territory; Skylark, Mipit, Lotti, Linnet, Bullfinch and Yammer.
Year ticked Lol Carmen, who I`m sure must have been wandering around this site for the past 30 years or more...

Friday, 23 March 2012

Chiffchaffs & Mining Bees

Lade - 0800hrs - warm, dry, hazy sunshine, light airs - With the cold easterly wind gone it felt quite warm from the off this morning. An overnight fall of Chiffchaffs in the gardens and willows over the pits comprised about 10 singing birds, but precious littel else on the migrant front apart from a furtive Song Thrush and half a dozen raucous Sandwich Terns on the bay. Mipits, Skylarks, Reed Buntings and Cetti`s Warbler all in song and couple of harriers hunting the airport farmland.
ARC - 1300hrs From the causeway road singles of Avocet and Little Egret, 3 Goldeneyes, Wigeons, Shovelers, Shelducks, Oystercatchers and a Curlew.
Burrowes - 1530hrs The Long-staying duck was still viewable from Dennis`s  where a colony of mining bees was actively burrowing into a sandy bank nearby (per CT). A Dartford Warbler was reported from the return trail, while Ruff and Golden Plovers were elsewhere around the reserve. At the point this morning a movement of 1,500 Brents was noteworthy (TG), plus a scattering of Chiffchaffs, Wheatears and Black Redstarts.

                                          Coltsfoot, Lade

                                           Chiffchaff, Lade

                                          Mining Bee, Burrowes - probably Andrena fusipes

There was negative news on two of Dungeness`s long-stayers, with both Great White Egret and Glaucous Gull not been seen for at least one and two weeks respectively.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Hazy Days

                                           Wheatear, Dungeness

Lade Bay - 0915hrs - Hazy sunshine, brisk easterly 3 - Had a quick look at the bay on an incoming tide for waders, despite the light being all wrong. Most of the larger ones had already gone to roost but we had superb views of a group of Sanderlings near the boardwalk.
Dungeness - 1000hrs Spent the rest of the morning flogging around the point looking for migrants. Eventually found a single Wheatear opposite Jarmans plus 2 Pied Wagtails and a couple of singing Mipits and Skylarks. Around the old light a pair of Stonechats, 10 Linnets, 4 Greenfinches, 2 Mipits and a Kestrel. Very little movement on the sea apart from a trickle of Kittiwakes, 2 scoters, a diver and 4 Sandwich Terns. Finished with a pair of Ravens flying along the foreshore.
Finished up with 89 species for the Birdwatching Break the highlights being a wide range of wildfowl including the wintering Long-tailed Duck; `booming` Bittern; displaying Marsh Harriers; Avocets, Ruff and Golden Plovers; Little and Short-eared Owls; Black Redstart, Wheatear and Stonechats; Raven, Tree Sparrows and Corn Buntings. 

                                           Mipit, Dungeness

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Fog, Midges and a few Birds...

Dungeness - 0915hrs - Fog, followed by warm sunshine and by late afternoon a chilly easterly - Had to revert to Plan B due to thick fog around the point `til midday.
Lade - 0930hrs - Started off with a Black Redstart and Chiffchaff along the fence line by the caravan park, plus several more Chiffs singing in the willows. On the pits 4 Goldeneyes, 2 Shelducks, 6 prs of Great Crested and 2prs of Little Grebes.
RSPB - 1030hrs - From the causeway road on ARC Little Egret and 2 Goldeneyes while the fields at Boulderwall held 7 Snow Geese, 2 Beardies, Kestrel, Green Woodpecker and 100 Wigeon. On the circular walk; a plague of midges at Burrowes, single Ruff, Lapwings and singing Chiffchaffs in the bushes; 6 Dabchicks, 4 Redshanks and good views of displaying Marsh Harriers at Dengemarsh; `booming` Bittern from the ramp and the dreaded Snow Geese again; from Springfield Bridge 31 Golden Plovers landed on the stony field.
Galloways - 1600hrs Around the range road we had 25 Corn Buntings, 2 Mistle Thrushes, 7 Curlews, 2 Stonechats,  2 Linnets.
Lydd - 1700hrs - Good views of a pair of Little Owls on the chicken sheds.

                                           Midges, Burrowes

                                           Golden Plovers, Stony Field

                                           Corn Bunting, Galloways

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Birdwatching Break

ARC - 1330hrs - cool, sunny,  ne2 - Four birdwatchers in from St Albans for a 3 day bird tour. We kicked off at ARC with superb views from the causeway road of a Curlew, 5 Dunlins, Shelducks, Goldeneyes, Shovelers and all the usual common wildfowl. From Hanson and Tower Pits Dabchick, 6 Goldeneye, Teal, Pintail, 3 Snipe, Ringed Plover and a couple of Marsh Harriers. Plenty of Tree Sparrows from the car park, singing Chiffchaff, Cetti`s Warbler and Reed Buntings.
Boulderwall - 1500hrs Over the road 7 Snow Geese amonsgt the feral Grey Lags, plus 100 Wigeon.
Burrowes - 1600hrs - Cracking views of the Long-tailed Duck and 5 Avocets from Dennis`s hide.
Littlestone - 1700hrs Finished the day in some style with good views of the Short-eared Owl hunting over the golf course. On the beach, Knots, Dunlins, Sanderlings, Grey Plovers, Curlews and Oystercatchers.

                                          Shovelers, ARC

                                           Avocets, Burrowes

                                           Long-tailed Duck, Burrowes

                                           Sunset, Lade

Monday, 19 March 2012


Lade - 0730hrs - frosty, nippy start, sunny, light airs - Having neglected the local patch a bit of late decided to flog round for a couple of hours, especially as it was such a cracking morning and the fact that Barney was up for it. Anyhow, we managed to rattle up 62 species in two and half hours the highlights being several singing Chiffchaffs, single Wheatear, 2 Stonechats and a trickle of Mipits, Skylarks and Linnets overhead; on the pits 4 Redshanks, 4 Goldeneyes, 300 Black-headed Gulls, 4 Dabchicks (trilling) and a Little Egret; on the farmland 3 Marsh Harriers, 2 Buzzards, 50 Curlews, singing Reed Buntings, Cetti`s Warblers and a `cronking` Raven over heading towards Lydd.
Back at the Ariel mound spent a bit of time watching a pair of Oystercatchers on the Scaffold Island. Must confess Oycs are one of my favourite birds as they are an integral part of the birding scene down here. In the winter anything up to a thousand haunt the sands of Lade Bay and when they fly over the coast road to roost on the shingle at high tide it makes for quite a visual spectacle; laying in bed in the wee small hours the silence is often broken as they clip the cottage roof clamouring away to one another, pure magic. However, (before I get too dewy eyed) I digress, about now they`ve paired up and are noisily displaying around the Peninsula and looking for somewhere daft to nest; but in the case of the Scaffold pair, not so daft as every year they seem to get young to flying stage from this small island; that pair that nested on the tern raft in front of Dengemarsh hide last year should take a leaf out of the Scaffold Two`s book when it comes to nest site selection.
I mean, what is there not to like about Oystercatchers? They`re long-lived, smart looking, as tough as old boots, easy to identify (without any of that racial-splitting-hairs nonsense to worry about), they`ve got plenty of attitude and character and I`ve seen them defend their chicks against everything from a clumsy sheep to attack by a Marsh Harrier. A top bird without a doubt.

                                                            The Scaffold Two, Lade

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Greenfinches & Stonechats

Dungeness - 0630hrs - sunny, cool, ne2 - Following yesterdays rain, dawn broke with bright sunshine and blue skies with fluffy white clouds, although it clouded over later on. Kicked off with a brief seawatch from the hide during which time a trickle of Gannets, divers, scoters, Fulmars, Sandwich Terns, Kitts, mergansers and auks noted up-Channel (TG had a few Brents earlier).
A wander around the Point revealed a number of Greenfinches, particularly around the lighthouse garden, plus 6 Stonechats, 2 each of Firecrest, Wheatear and Black Redstart, a Sparrowhawk and a scattering of Mipits, Pied Wagtails and Skylarks.

                                           Greenfinch & Stonechat, Dungeness

RSPB - 1100hrs A guided walk around the bird reserve for beginners produced a good variety of wildfowl including Garganey, Pintail and Egyptian Goose on Dengemarsh, Goldeneye and Long-tailed Duck on Burrowes and a redhead Smew on New Excavations. Also noted, a Firecrest, singing Chiffchaffs and Green Woodpeckers.
Also reported today was Scaninavian Rock Pipit on ARC and a 1st winter Glaucous Gull on Burrowes (DW).

Saturday, 17 March 2012

1st LRP

Kerton Road Pit - 0900hrs - cool, cloudy, sw2 - As it was Saturday and all was silent decided to have a quick look around the quarry that runs from Kerton Road towards Lade. Several pairs of Oystercatchers and a pair of Lapwings were displaying at the northern end near the island, along with singing Reed Buntings, Mipits and Skylarks. Several migrant Chiffchaffs and Linnets were in the gorse at the southern end, while on the dry part of the pit a Little Ringed Plover called in flight and briefly landed before disappearing over the far side of the quarry; my first of the year.
Pigwell Pit, Lydd - 1030hrs - Checked the washout pit which is normally attractive to Avocets, but not so this morning, as all that was present was a couple of Shelducks and a group of gulls. Reed Buntings and a pair of Stonechats elsewhere.
Galloways 1115hrs - A white-winged Crow, 2 prs of Stonechats, a Kestrel and 8 Corn Buntings was about all I could find here.
RSPB - 1145hrs A distinct change over the past week around the bird reserve as many of the wintering wildfowl have shipped out as the daylight hours rapidly lengthen, while Marsh Harriers have gone into breeding mode and a Bittern is now booming from Hooker`s reedbed.
Today the best I could muster up were, 3 Brents and a Gypo amongst the feral geese on Dengemarsh fields, Great White Egret New Digging, Long-staying Duck Burrowes and a Wheatear in the gully.

                                          White-winged Carrion Crow, Lydd

                                           Corn Bunting, Galloways

Friday, 16 March 2012

A Fall of Migrants

Lade - 0900hrs - overcast, chilly, sw2 - Last night started clear and starry followed by low cloud which seemed to have done the trick as there was a decent arrival of migrants around the Peninsula this morning. From the Ariel mound I could hear Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps in the willows, plus another singing Chiff in the garden; it was time to head up the Point...
Dungeness  - checked around the fishing boats where at least 10 Wheatears amongst the old sheds and winches, plus 2 Black Redstarts and a Chiff. Several Mipits and Pied Wagtails on the open ground and at least 10 Skylarks and 20 Linnets in off the sea. The garden and bushes around the Old Light had double figures of Chiffchaffs, single Blackcap, several Wrens and Blackbirds, and 4 more Black Redstarts, including 2 stunning adult males. There were more Chiffs in the gorse by the Light Railway Cafe, 2 Sand Martins overhead and up to 6 Firecrests and 4 Redwings around Lloyds. No doubt many more migrants were seen by others or lurked in unseen corners of the black hole that is the trapping area.
Two flocks of Brents numbering around 250 passed eastwards above the shingle bank, while over 3,000 had already been logged this morning.
This was the best fall of migrants of the spring so far and as there are now only a handful of such occasions each season its always good to be present when it happens.

                                          Wheatear & Black Redstarts, Dungeness

                                           Early Grey, Kerton Road Cafe

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Brents, 1st Wheatear & Iceland Gull

Dungeness - 0700hrs - misty, hazy sunshine, mild s2 - As the viz was poor decided to flog across the shingle by the boats looking for passerines of which a single Black Redstart noted plus several Mipits, Skylarks and Reed Buntings in song.
At 0800hrs joined TG in the hide for an hours seawatching just as a large flock of Brents cut across the Point. Over the next hour had 2,300 Brents moving up-Channel in various size flocks clipping the Point just offshore with some of them just below the seawall; how many we missed in the murk or cut behind us is anyones guess. As always a terrific sight and sound as these wintering geese head north to breed. Also noted during the watch a trickle of Gannets, Kitts, Common Scoters, Common and Black-headed Gulls (TG also had Sandwich Terns, Med Gulls and a variety of ducks earlier).
On the bird reserve no sign of yesterdays Black-necked Grebes from the causeway road, but 3 redhead Smew on ARC.
Royal Military Canal - 1000hrs - Met Karen from the National Trust to discuss a bird survey I`m carrying out this spring along the canal from Appledore to Warehorne. Good to see plenty of water on the Dowels where a large flock of migrant Common Gulls held 30 Med Gulls. During the course of the recce, in glorious sunshine, a good number of Yellowhammers noted, plus Long-tailed Tits, Bullfinch, 20 Redwings, 10 Song Thrushes, singing Cetti`s Warbler and Chiffchaff, Buzzard, 1pr Sparrowhawks, Kestrel, Little Egret and a flock of 250 Brents overhead following the line of the Low Weald eastwards (wonder how many have departed today...).
On the way back from Ashford checked out the fields around Lydd where a pair of Little Owls noted on the chicken sheds at Caldicott. On the bird reserve the Garganey at Boulderwall proved elusive, but year ticked BP (well, the sun was shining!) and managed to jam the Wheatear, my first of the year, near the return trail; spring has officially arrived!
Dungeness - 1600hrs An adult Iceland Gull was found in the roosting gulls by the boats this afternoon by a visiting birder, and kind of expected considering how many there have been elsewhere of late. Just managed to get there in time before it flew off towards Lade. A stunning full adult and the first of its kind for ages and a cracking end to yet another great day on the Marsh. A Caspian Gull was also in the roosting flock.

Brent Geese on the move - one of the great birding spectacles of spring at Dungeness. The pics just don't do the event justice as the flocks also make an evocative babbling contact call. Throughout the morning over 4,000 moved eastwards

                                          Royal Military Canal, Kenardington

                                          Adult Iceland Gull, Dungeness

2nd winter Caspian Gull, Dungeness

ps: A large tortoishell butterfly was noted in the garden at the Kerton Road Cafe this afternoon.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Off Piste

Faggs Wood - 0820hrs- dull, murky, start, brighter later, e2 - In company with Marshman deserted the flatlands today for the woods, kicking off in Orlestone forest. Plenty of activity around the car park where food continues to be placed out for and gratefully received by the birds; Nuthatch, Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers, Treecreeper, Long-tailed and Coal Tits all noted, plus a Redwing and Sparrowhawk overhead. A circuit delivered Siskins, Redpolls and a couple of parties of Crossbills calling overhead, several Bullfinches, Goldcrests and more Long-tailed Tits and Nuthatches. So, despite the grotty conditions not a bad return.
Hothfield Common - 1045hrs - First visit for quite a while to this terrifically atmospheric site managed by the Kent Wildlife Trust; an open valley bog with relict heathland and scattered timber, grazed by a small herd of Konik ponies. Best bird here was Yellowhammer of which there were at least 4 singing males, also Mistle Thrush, 2 peckers, Long-tailed Tits, Nuthatches and Treecreepers.
North Downs - 1200hrs - Revisited a raptor viewpoint site from last year, but as the sun had only just broke through all we could muster were 4 Buzzards, 2 Kestrels and a Sparrowhawk. Also present Linnets, Green and Greater pecker, singing Skylarks and Yammers.

                                           Hothfield Common & Konik or Polish Ponies

ps: back on the Marsh there was no sign of yesterdays Bean Goose, but an Egyptian Goose was reported on the fields at the back of Hookers, plus 2 Black-necked Grebes on ARC.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Garganey & Bean Goose

Dungeness - 0815hrs - cold, grey, e2 - Today`s murk was in complete contrast to the brightness of yesterday, but hey, did we let that dampen our spirits, definitely not, that`s what makes Dunge such a great place to be, variety is the spice of life and all that, and there was certainly plenty of variety amongst today's birds. Picked up the Joker and headed for the Point to check for Wheatears, of which there were none. The sea was very quiet with just a trickle of Kitts, Gannets, Red-throats and the usual string of Great Crested Grebes on the sea.
On to the bird reserve and 2 redhead Smew on New Diggings.  From Springfield Bridge, Marsh Harriers over the reedbed, 50 Wigeons on the field and a Raven overhead. A drive around the Galloways road produced at least 14 Corn Buntings in different locations and a pair of Stonechats.
We then had a look for yesterdays Garganey at Boulderwall without success, but returned later for brief views of a splendid drake amongst the Wigeons and Teals, plus a pair of Smews and the Great White Egret. From the ramp the Bittern `boomed`, Marsh Harriers displayed over the reedbed and Cetti`s Warbler were in fine voice; but yesterdays Taiga Bean Goose was not visible amongst the mixed flock of feral geese in the fields behind Hookers. On Burrowes the Long-staying Duck was still present at the north end.
Had another couple of goes at Dengemarsh this afternoon which resulted in better views of the Garganey and distant views of the Taiga Bean Goose in fading light.

                                           Garganey, Boulderwall - a horrible record shot

Monday, 12 March 2012

Midges & Sanderlings

Lade - 0900hrs - ridiculously warm, dry and sunny, light airs - A belated WeBS count this morning in fine spring sunshine recorded, predictably, low numbers of wildfowl with 2 Goldeneyes being the only point of interest, plus a couple of hunting Marsh Harriers, a good view of a Water Rail and my first 4 Linnets of the spring twittering overhead.
However, there were millions of midges (and I do mean millions) hovering above the gorse as the temperature climbed into the high teens centigrade. A flock of hirundines and Swifts could have had a field day, but it was not to be with just a disinterested Dunnock singing amongst the myriad of flying insects.
Two patches of coltsfoot in flower added to the sense of spring renewal.

                                          Lade, Midges                                          

                                          Dunnock & Midges, Lade

                                          Sanderlings and Dunlins, Greatstone Beach

New Diggings - 1030hrs Had a cursory look from the causeway road, en-route to the allotment, where the single Great White Egret was again on the far bank along with 2 Littles; there may have been a second GWE secreted behind a bush nearby, but there again it could have been a sheep, as after all, they are very similar at a distance... being white and all...
Greatstone Beach - 1530hrs With the tide on the way out and a fog bank rolling in off the bay paused for a quick look at the beach where a count of 580 Sanderlings was of note. Also 200 Dunlins and 50 Knots, but too early for the big boys to return.

Sunday, 11 March 2012


Dungeness - 0900hrs - warm,dry and sunny sw1 - Very pleasant mornings weather to finish this weekends Birdwatching Break for Sarah and Jean from Sussex. Around the old light several singing Mipits, a few Pied Wagtails but no sign of any Black Redstarts from yesterday. However, a pair of Stonechats brightened up the scene, with sporadic bursts of song from the male which was a very bright individual: white rump, thick white neck collar, white wing patch and leading edge; orangey underparts, streaked on flanks; black head and tail; brown and black streaked mantle. I think this makes it of the continental race Saxicola toruatus rubicola that shows a white rump and larger neck patch than the British race, S.t. hibernans, but I`m open to offers... Anyhow, damn smart bird, whatever the race.
ARC -1100hrs Had another go for Bittern down at the Screen hide without success but plenty of wildfowl, more Marsh Harriers, a Kingfisher on Tower Pits and a small flock of Chaffinches in the pines. From the causeway road 2 distant Buzzards over Lade, plus the Great White and 2 Little Egrets on New Diggings.
A cracking weekends birding with the undoubted highlights for the visitors being: Great White Egret, Smews, Marsh Harriers, Barwits and Knots, Glaucous Gull, Little and Short-eared Owls, Black Redstarts, Stonechats and Tree Sparrows.

                                           Sea Kale, budding - Dungeness

                                           Stonechat, male - Dungeness

                                           Stonechat, female - Dungeness

                                          Yellow Horned Moth - Kerton Road Cafe

Somewhere-on-Romney-Marsh - 1645hrs Accompanied CP on the final harrier count of the winter where 18 Marsh Harriers came to roost. Also noted 2 Buzzards, Kestrel, Shovelers; calling Water Rails, Cetti`s Warbler, Dabchick, Reed Buntings, Wrens and at dusk a number of Snipes and White-fronts amongst flighting Grey Lags.
Most surprising of all was a screeching Barn Owl on the walk back to the car; but even better on this crisp early spring evening was the sight of the four planets, Saturn, Jupiter, Venus and Mars, shining brightly in the cosmos high above the Marsh landscape. What a stunning end to a superb day.