Lade - mild, cloudy, rain, S 8-10 - The day started off windy but by mid-afternoon had developed into storm force winds and heavy rain lashing the peninsula. Birding was futile; infact it was down right dangerous on the beach this afternoon, so we settled down in front of the fire and listened to the wind howling around the cottage, hoping the roof stays on.
So, here comes another retrospective... and this will be the last post for a while... unless that Snowy Owl at Sangatte gets blown across the Channel...
2013 Wader Highlights
During the course of the year we clocked up 32 species of waders, or shorebirds to use the modern parlance, across the Marsh. Why, you may ask, am I reviewing waders in particular? Well, its pure self indulgence as I love `em and am fortunate enough to encounter up to ten species regularly on my doorstep on Lade Bay. At night time the sound of Curlews and Oystercatchers flying to high tide roosts on the storm beaches behind the cottage is one I never tire of.
However, I digress. Yes, 2013 has been a pretty fair year for waders mainly due to the short, hot summer sunshine reducing water levels around the bird reserve providing suitable feeding conditions, particularly from Hanson and Firth hides on ARC and Burrowes respectively.
Both winter periods saw large numbers of Dunlin, Sanderling, Curlew and Oystercatcher on the bay, along with lesser numbers of Knot, Grey Plover, Barwit and Turnstone, while Ringed Plover and Redshank are always the scarcest with less than 20 of each. Thousands of Golden Plovers and Lapwings frequented the wet fields at Scotney, Walland Marsh, Dengemarsh and Lade, although Snipe remained few and far between. At Hythe seafront a handful of Purple Sandpipers continued to prove faithful to the sea defence blocks.
The first proper migrants in March were small numbers of Little Ringed Plovers and Avocets on the fresh water pits, plus two rare Kentish Plovers down at Rye Harbour. Whimbrel, Barwit and Greenshank moved through Dungeness in April and May with the majority noted on seawatches or calling overhead, as well as a few on hinterland fields. One or two stunning summer plum Little Stint, Curlew Sandpiper and Grey Plover were noted on the Midrips and elsewhere, while the three fresh water sandpipers were in low numbers on spring passage. Probably wader of the spring went to a superb Pectoral Sandpiper that performed like a good un on the hayfields in May.
As for breeding waders I failed to find any Ringed Plover nesting along the beach at Lade, such is the human disturbance there nowadays, although LRP, Redshank and Oystercatcher did succeed on a working gravel pit nearby. I don't think any Lapwing fledged young on the bird reserve and I doubt if any did elsewhere around the Marsh due to the high levels of predation from the likes of corvids, foxes, badgers and raptors.
And so to the eagerly anticipated return wader passage, which normally kicks off in mid-summer with the first post breeding flocks of Lapwings on the fields at Boulderwall, and Green Sandpipers on the pits. LRPs soon followed along with Wood and Common Sandpipers, Greenshanks, Whimbrels and singles of adult Ruff and Spotted Redshank in breeding plumage. As the summer progressed three Pec Sands were logged through and the first Blackwits arrived. Small numbers of Little Stints and Curlew Sandpipers found ARC to their liking and a Semi-palmated Sandpiper was the rarity of the year at Dungeness; and yet again proved to be a learning curve for most of us. At Scotney a Dotteral was found amongst the returning Golden Plovers, while at Dungeness two Purple Sandpipers delighted the seawatchers.
I managed to miss Terek Sandpiper and Temminck`s Stint at Rye in the spring and as far as I`m aware there were no records this year of Stone Curlew, Buff-breasted Sandpiper or any phalaropes.
But wader of the year in my book has to be that crippling Jack Snipe that delighted so many of us from Hanson hide in October, perfectly positioned in the reedbed and bouncing as though on springs. Pure magic.