Sunday, 19 November 2017

Winter`s coming...

Lade - cold and cloudy, light airs - Having run the garden moth trap this week several times and only caught a couple of Black Rustics I reckon its time to pack it away `til next spring. While we`ve had 11 new species of macro for the trap site, numbers have been down on previous years. However, there were one or two local goodies in the form of Beautiful Marbled and Mocha while we had a record number of Sussex Emeralds come to light in summer.
  With mid-November traversed it feels like the run-in to winter down here, whatever that means now as going on the past few that doesn't seem to mean any `proper` cold weather anymore. Indeed, wandering around the shingle on Friday scores of plants were still in flower, dragonflies and bees were on the wing and a Red Admiral was supping on the garden buddleia. However, a few Goldeneyes have arrived along with increasing numbers of wildfowl on the local gravel pits.
  Elsewhere around the peninsula this weekend a second Cattle Egret turned up on the bird reserve while several Dartford Warblers were still present at the point.
Walland Marsh - This afternoon I joined CP for the monthly harrier count out on the Marsh in perfect weather conditions, cold and still with a stunning sunset (phone pic above). A superb count topped out at fantastic 26 Marsh Harriers coming to roost, but yet again no sign of any Hen Harriers. Other raptors noted in the area included three each of Buzzard and Kestrel, a Merlin and Peregrine, plus 91 Mute Swans in the oil-seed rape, 200 Lapwings, 10 Golden Plovers, 20 Linnets, 86 Fieldfares, 20 Reed Buntings, 10 Meadow Pipits, a Great White Egret, Stonechat and calling Cetti`s Warblers and Water Rails.
  Worryingly the Marsh continues to be plagued by a lack of water and as a result not a single duck was noted. The reed bed is now bone dry and we could really do with a good drop of rain this winter.

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Dartford Warblers

Dungeness - mild, cloudy, light airs - A circuit of the point this morning was largely uneventful apart from the continued presence of at least three showy Dartford Warblers (if only I had the camera back) in scrub around the Britannia/Sanctuary area. A succession of mild winters has meant that this species is doing well in southern England at the moment with a post breeding dispersal of juvenile birds most likely accounting for some of our sightings. As the Dartford Warbler is also a partial migrant some birds may be from further afield on the near continent. Several others were also located in the Kerton Road triangle today (OL).
  Other land birds were, up to eight Stonechats, 10 Goldfinches, two Goldcrests and a Great Spotted Woodpecker. A flat calm sea yielded a few close Gannets, Med Gulls, Kittiwakes and Guillemots.
  This afternoon I checked out the foreshore at St Mary`s Bay for Snow Bunting without success. The usual variety of waders were on the beach, including 10 Grey Plovers.

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Cattle Egret

Dungeness - mild and cloudy, light airs - Weather conditions were ideal for a guided walk for 17 visitors to the RSPB this morning. A typical selection of late autumn birds were on offer during the two mile circular route, mainly concerning wildfowl on the lakes which did include 20 Pintails and three Goldeneyes on Burrowes; we await the first Smew of winter... Overhead, at least 500 Starlings were noted hurtling inland in various flock sizes, plus a few Goldfinches and singles of Brambling, Skylark and Siskin. A huge flock of 2,000 or more Lapwings and Golden Plovers included 30 Blackwits as they swirled over the fields at Boulderwall after being disturbed by Marsh Harriers.
  Several Stonechats were seen around the trail where we had particularly good views of Goldcrests, a Chiffchaff and Long-tailed Tits. Kingfisher, Cetti`s Warbler and Water Rail were noted at Hooker`s reedbed, two Great White Egrets and the long-staying Cattle Egret from Dengemarsh hide, plus Snipe, Kestrel, Green Woodpecker and two Dunlin.
  In summary, a pleasant enough circuit of the bird reserve during which 65 species of birds were noted, plus many flowering plants still in bloom and flying insects including a Common Darter.

Monday, 13 November 2017

Winter thrushes

Lade/Dungeness - cold, sunny, nw 2 - Spent the day in the field guiding for Trevor and Janet. We kicked off at the Tavern viewpoint where the expected 10 species of waders were located on the sands, plus five Sandwich Terns.
  From the seawatch hide at the point there were plenty of Gannets, Kittiwakes and Mediterranean Gulls offshore and around the Patch, plus a few Common Scoters, auks and a Bonxie rounding the headland. On the land a Peregrine was perched on a pylon and we had reasonable views of two Dartford Warblers in scrub by the Britannia. Also noted, up to 10 Blackbirds, four Stonechats, Pied Wagtails, Mipits, Goldfinches, several small flocks of inbound Starlings and a Kestrel.
  Moving onto the bird reserve we had stunning views of a Green Woodpecker from the access road along with more Blackbirds and Stonechats. On Burrowes all the usual wildfowl, gulls, grebes and Cormorants as well as a variety of migrants overhead from Dennis`s hide that included 100 Starlings, 10 Goldfinches, five Fieldfares, Buzzard, Redwing, Brambling and a Great Spotted Woodpecker. Elsewhere around the reserve Snipe, Marsh Harrier, Great White Egret, Pintail, Cetti`s Warbler, Water Rail, Long-tailed Tit and Goldcrest were all noted.
  We finished the day from Hanson hide with a glorious sunset. A superb days birding, in great company, during which time we rattled up a respectable 83 species seen or heard.

Sunday, 12 November 2017


Lade - mild and damp start, bright and sunny later, NW increasing - A circuit of the local patch was notable for two Avocets that flew over south lake calling before settling down on the back island. The now `resident` four Great White Egrets were scattered around the margins while three redhead Goldeneyes remained on the lake. Kingfisher and Reed Bunting were noted around the willow swamp and a total of 500 Starlings came in off the bay.
  Checked the beach this afternoon, in a rasping wind out of the north-west, but it was a case of similar fare to yesterday.

Saturday, 11 November 2017

2 Great Northern Divers, and much more...

Lade - mild and cloudy, occasional drizzle, light airs - With an old birding pal from Dunstable down for the weekend we kicked off proceedings on the local patch. The usual range of wildfowl were noted, including three Goldeneyes, plus at least four Great White Egrets.
Dungeness - After breakfast we headed for the point where the Grey Phalarope that`s been around since Wednesday was still present on the sea between the two hides, feeding along the scum line coming off the Patch. Also of note a juvenile Little Gull and several Mediterranean Gulls. A seawatch produced a steady flow of Gannets and Kittiwakes, plus two Mergansers and a few auks.
  As the rain stopped we wandered back towards the Britannia and up popped a stunning male Dartford Warbler and sat atop a bramble branch in full view for several minutes; if only I had the camera available...
  Moving onto ARC and all the usual birds from Hanson hide included Great White Egrets, Marsh Harrier, 10 Pintails, five Snipe and a Blackwit. With news from DW of two Great Northern Divers on the sea we returned to the point where the divers were drifting slowly west. This is the first time I can remember seeing two such divers together.
  After a spot of lunch we checked the beach on an incoming tide from the Romney Tavern viewpoint where we bagged all 10 species of waders plus three Brent Geese and five Sandwich Terns. Moving back to the bird reserve at Boulderwall the Tree Sparrows were noted on the feeders while the long-staying Cattle Egret showed well in the field by Cook`s pool. Burrowe`s held the usual wildfowl and gulls.
  We finished the day off back at the fishing boats checking the gulls and another scan of the sea in fading light. In summary a superb days birding for my old mate Rob during which we rattled up 85 species with the highlights being Great Northern Diver, Cattle Egret, Grey Phalarope, Little Gull and Dartford Warbler.
  Now, that would`ve been a great day in Bedfordshire!

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Hume`s Yellow-browed Warbler

Dungeness - dull, drizzle, light airs - 0900hrs - We were over the back of Lade when a call came from through from PB concerning a Hume`s Yellow-browed Warbler that had been caught at the Obs. A smart about turn was in order and we just made it on site as the bird was about to be released in the Trapping Area. In the hand it looked like a dullish Yellow-browed, but the identity was confirmed by in the hand biometrics and its distinctive call in the field. The picture below was taken with a phone camera.

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Dartford Warbler and Grey Phalarope

Lade - cold and cloudy, N 2 - 0800hrs - A distinctly wintry feel to the weather this morning with the wind swinging round to a northerly vector. One or two thrushes were noted in the scrub, mostly Blackbirds, a couple of Song Thrushes, a Ring Ouzel and a few Redwings overhead. Goldcrests and Long-tailed Tits were present by the ponds and a Kingfisher arrowed over north lake. A pair of Great White Egrets were flying over the willow swamp calling to one another in what appeared to be some kind of bonding ritual, surely they must breed somewhere hereabouts next spring...
Dungeness - A circuit of the bird reserve this afternoon produced all the expected wildfowl, waders and raptors including three Goldeneyes, two Snipes and 20 Pintails on Burrowes, more Snipe, Golden Plovers and Ruff on Dengemarsh and a Bittern from Hooker`s ramp. Over the road I spent some time checking through a large passerine flock in the scrub down towards Screen hide. It comprised mostly Blue, Great and Long-tailed Tits, plus a Blackcap, two Chiffchaffs and several Goldcrests. As the flock  crossed the track into the sea buckthorn, by the hide, up popped a Dartford Warbler! At least eight Great White Egrets and 30 Blackwits were present on ARC.
  Just as we were heading for home CT tweeted out news of a Grey Phalarope on the sea between the two hides at Dungeness. It was a fair way offshore, and a bit flighty, but remained faithful to a drifting scum line from the Patch and showed well enough through the scope in fading light.
  Had to drop the Nikon bridge camera off at Hythe Camera shop today for repair, so there`ll be no more piccies for a while.  

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Waders and wildfowl

Dungeness - mild, cloudy, S 4 - Joined MH and DW at the fishing boats this morning for a seawatch, being as the wind was coming up from the south. An hour produced a trickle of Gannets, Kittiwakes, Common Scoters, auks, Wigeon, Dunlin, Redshank and, unusually - a Snipe!
  There was no change on the local patch at Lade with the Goldeneyes and Pintail still present plus the now expected Great White Egrets.
  Called in at Hanson hide around noon where more Great White Egrets were on show along with 100 Lapwing, 30 Blackwits and the usual wildfowl. There was no sign of yesterdays Dotterel.
  Elsewhere today a Yellow-browed Warbler was seen in a private garden on the Dungeness Estate, plus Woodcock in the Trapping Area and a Grey Phalarope on the sea.

Monday, 6 November 2017

West Sussex

We spent the weekend at our Kate`s, based at Littlehampton in West Sussex, researching for forthcoming articles in Birdwatching magazine. Climping Gap, Arundel WWT and Pulborough Brooks RSPB reserve were all visited with most attention paid to the latter site, where thanks are due to two local birders, Geoff and Dave, for providing a wealth of insider information.
  For those unfamiliar with Pulborough Brooks it is primarily an inland wetland site set in the Arun valley flood plain with extensive grazing marshes, drainage ditches and wet meadows. There are four hides and three viewpoints (one of which overlooks the South Downs) along the two mile circular route, plus a superb visitor centre and café set in a converted barn. An adjacent heath and woodland on the High Weald complements the habitat range along with ponds, scrub, weedy fields and hedgerows. The reserve was only acquired in 1989 so all the buildings and hides still have a newish feel.

                                Pulborough Brooks

                                Wigeon and Pectoral Sandpiper

                                View from The Clump

  At this time of year the main attraction is wildfowl with good numbers of feral geese, Wigeon, Teal, Gadwall and Shoveler present, plus a sprinkling of Shelduck and Pintail. Large flocks of Lapwing were kept on the move by a couple of Perergrines, while Kestrel, Sparrowhawk, Buzzard and Marsh Harrier were all noted. Other waders included 50 Black-wit, 10 Snipe, two Dunlin and a surprise Pectoral Sandpiper from West Mead hide, which was easily the best spot on the reserve for close views of wildfowl and waders. A telescope is essential here, by the way, for scanning the valley fields.
  I also noted Stonechat, Kingfisher, Little Egret, Barn Owl, a distant Red Kite and finished up on the heath overlooking a wooded valley in the vain hope of jamming in one of the many Hawfinches that have been reported across southern England of late. Needless to say I drew a blank on that one, but did have good views of a Tawny Owl gliding across a clearing.
  So, a successful weekend then, that was nicely rounded off by seeing Billy Bragg at Bexhill-on-Sea on the way home last night. The Bard of Barking was on top form ranting and railing about everything from Brexit to climate change, in between delivering a mix of old and new songs including, Pat`s favourite, `The man in the iron mask`.
  Driving past Scotney just after midnight and a Barn Owl flew over the road.
Monday - cold and sunny, light airs - Lade - Back on a frosty local patch this morning the highlights were two Goldeneyes, a Pintail and six Great White Egrets on south lake, good views of a Cetti`s Warbler by the ponds, two Marsh Harriers and a Great Spotted Woodpecker. Around the garden suntraps several Red Admirals were on the wing.
  An afternoon walk around Dungeness in glorious sunshine produced a few Gannets and Sandwich Terns offshore but little else of note, while the Dotterel was again reported from Hanson hide on the bird reserve.

Thursday, 2 November 2017


Wednesday - Dungeness - mild, sunny, light airs - For a change of scene we walked Dengemarsh gully first thing. It always looks as though it should be good for something or other, and does have form, but as is often the case, this morning, it was virtually birdless apart from a flock of Redpolls over and a few Great Tits in the bushes. However, the sea was much better with plenty of Gannets, Kittiwakes, auks and several Mediterranean Gulls feeding offshore, plus 20 Common Scoters and two Red-throated Divers flying into Rye bay.

                               Cattle Egret, Cook`s Pool

  Moving onto the bird reserve and it was a case of the same old cat food really, with plenty of Great White and Little Egrets on the lakes and the Cattle Egret still ensconced on the Boulderwall fields, faithfully tracking the cows. Elsewhere, a trickle of finches, Mipits, Skylarks and thrushes were noted in the bushes and overhead, a few Tree Sparrows on the feeders, the usual Marsh Harriers, a couple of Sparrowhawks, plenty of wildfowl, grebes, Lapwings and Golden Plovers. So, just a normal day at Dungeness.
  Probably the best bird of the day though was a Firecrest that spent half an hour in the garden fir trees snapping up small invertebrates.

Thursday - Lade - misty and mild - A circuit of the local patch in gorgeous sunshine delivered seven Great White Egrets amongst 12 Little Egrets on south lake and the first two redhead Goldeneyes of the autumn on north lake. Judging from their nervy reaction I reckon they`d just dropped in. Two Ring Ouzels were flushed from cover along the scrub by the ponds and a Merlin chased Skylarks over the airport fields.

                                First Goldeneyes of the autumn

                                Sanderlings and Dunlins, Greatstone beach

Dungeness - Called in at ARC Hanson hide where a Dotterel had been located within a large flock of Golden Plovers. I missed the one earlier in the autumn making this ample compensation.

                                Dotterel from Hanson hide

Hythe - En-route to Folkestone I paused at the seafront opposite the Hythe Imperial where two Purple Sandpipers were Velcroed to the sea defence blocks along with ten Turnstones.

                               Two Purple Sandpipers, Hythe seafront

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Great Northern Diver

Monday - Dungeness - cold, clear, nw 2 - The first frost of the season on the car windscreen this morning. A circuit of the point searching for grounded migrants produced absolutely nothing apart from the usual Stonechats and Goldfinches. Overhead a trickle of finches, Starlings and several Skylarks came in off the sea, whilst there were plenty of passing Gannets from the turning circle. At the southern end of the Trapping Area a Swallow skimmed low out across the Desert and five Fieldfares `chacked` over heading inland. At least three Sparrowhawks were noted.
Tuesday - Dungeness - mild, cloudy light airs - Called in at the seawatch hide briefly this morning and jammed in on a fly-by Great Northern Diver in company with TG. Offshore the usual Gannets and Kittiwakes drifted by, plus a few auks, Common Scoters and several small flocks of Starlings, although there had been many more earlier and a Sooty Shearwater. It was quiet on the land again with just a scattering of Stonechats, Chiffchaffs and Blackbirds in the bushes, a Dartford Warbler by the railway café and a trickle of finches and Redwings overhead.

Sunday, 29 October 2017

Great White Egrets

Saturday - Lade - cool and sunny, nw 3 - Around the local patch a small influx of 20 Wigeon on south lake hinted at the changing weather conditions. Three Great White Egrets stalked the margins along with 12 of their smaller relatives and six Grey Herons. The bushes were practically passerine free although a few Goldfinches and Mipits drifted overhead, while along the beach a late Swallow flew low across the shingle heading for Dungeness and points south.
  Working in the garden for most of the day fence painting a trickle of finches came in off the bay including two Bramblings and several each of Siskin and Redpoll. A late afternoon sortie down the beach on a rising tide produced all 10 species of winter waders including two Grey Plovers, plus 15 Sandwich Terns and six Brents. Further out in the bay fishing Gannets were active and a few more Brents flew by.

                                Sandwich Terns, gulls and waders


                               Barney on the beach

                                Part of the Great White Egret flock

Sunday - mild, cloudy start, cooler later, n 2 - No doubt about the local highlight this morning, a record count of ten Great White Egrets on south lake fishing along the far reedbed amongst 20  Little Egrets and Grey Herons. Once again it was a repeat of yesterday on the passerine front with just a few common finches overhead and several Goldcrests by the ponds.

Friday, 27 October 2017

Reedbed hunt

Dungeness - mild, sunny, n 2 - A slightly cooler day due to a northerly airflow and clear skies. I decided to set the bar high and check out the reedbeds this morning at Tower Pits, ARC and Hooker`s, being as we`re in the time slot for Penduline Tit. Particular attention was paid to patches of bulrush in sheltered spots behind willow screens. Unsurprisingly none were located but there were plenty of other reedbed denizens to enjoy such as Cetti`s Warbler, Water Rail, Reed Bunting, Dabchick, egrets and Bearded Tit, including one `feeding` on the grit tray at Hooker`s.
  A group of 10 Bramblings dropped into the willows by ARC car park where a mobile tit flock was doing the rounds along with several Chiffchaffs and Goldcrests. A couple of Tree Sparrows showed well on the Boulderwall feeders while the Cattle Egret was out on the fields following the suckling herd. Small flocks of Starlings continued to pass overhead along with finches, Mipits, Redwing, Song Thrush and my first Woodlark of the autumn; just a Hawfinch to come then...
  A number of raptors were on the hunt and enjoying the autumn sunshine, mostly Marsh Harriers but also Kestrel, Sparrowhawk and Peregrine, the latter flushing the wildfowl and waders off ARC.

                                Palpita vitrealis, a migrant from southern Europe

                                Bearded Tit on grit tray, Hooker`s reedbed

Lade - Not a particularly good night in the garden moth trap, but it did include the migrant micro moth Palpita vitrealis. Around the garden this early afternoon several Red Admirals on the late flowering buddleia and a couple of Goldcrests in the fir trees.
  A late afternoon check of the bay on a rising tide produced several Common Scoters, a Wigeon, two Brent Geese and an Arctic Skua chasing a Sandwich Tern.

Thursday, 26 October 2017

Starlings and Redpolls

Lade - 0730hrs - mild and murky, light airs - Its not often the Starling makes the birding headlines, but today was one such day with at least 3,000 in off the bay in variable flock sizes, one of which was around a thousand strong, while many more were logged through Dungeness. There was little else of note locally apart from an increase in Goldcrests with at least 10 around the willow swamp.

                                Lesser Redpolls feeding on willow herb seed

Dungeness - More Starling flocks continued to sweep in over the bird reserve throughout the day, although there was little other overhead movement apart from a few Redpolls, Skylarks, Mipits, Chaffinches, Goldfinches and one Brambling. On Dengemarsh 300 Golden Plovers and 200 Lapwings made up the bulk wader numbers, plus 20 Snipe (a decent count these days), three Ruffs, Redshank and Dunlin. All the expected wildfowl, egrets and raptors were noted and there was three Mandarin Ducks on Burrowes. Over the road on ARC the Cattle Egret put in a brief appearance amongst 12 Great White Egrets, several more Marsh Harriers and, best of all, a flock of 12 Lesser Redpolls feeding on weed seeds in front of the hide. A Kingfisher alighted briefly on its perch while a large mixed passerine flock in the willows contained several Goldcrests and Chiffchaffs amongst the majority Long-tailed Tits. A brief search for a reported Yellow-browed Warbler by the Screen hide drew a blank.
  At the point this afternoon the sea was quiet with just the usual Gannets fishing offshore and a few Kittiwakes and Mediterranean Gulls milling about.

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Little Gulls

Dungeness - mild, murky, sw 2 - Spent the morning around the point where six Swallows and two House Martins were feeding over the beach by the Pilot. At the Patch three Little Gulls were amongst a melee of mostly Black-headed and Herring Gulls over the boil, plus 10 Sandwich Terns. Coasting flocks of Goldfinches numbered at least 200 along with a few Chaffinches, Redpolls and Meadow Pipits. In the bushes a scattering of Goldcrests, Chiffchaffs, Long-tailed, Great and Blue Tits, Robins, Blackbirds, Song Thrush and at least one Ring Ouzel at the southern end of the trapping area. A Peregrine perched on a pylon was my first for a while.
  During a family afternoon in sunny Folkestone we walked the new tramway footpath across the harbour towards the arm which afforded spectacular views across the bay towards the Warren and White Cliffs. Around the harbour several Rock Pipits and Turnstones noted, plus a Grey Wagtail over calling.

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Sandpipers and Brents

Lade - 0730hrs - mild, misty and miserable, sw 3 - We started the day by walking Mockmill Sewer in murky weather conditions with the power station shrouded in mist. It had been a while since I`d ventured out to this part of the site but it was largely quiet apart from a couple of Cetti`s Warblers, a Goldcrest, several Robins and Great Tits. The only glimmer of brightness was a late flush of Ragged Robin in flower.
  Skirting back along south lake the Shoveler count reached a tidy 220, while Great Crested Grebes numbered 52. Across the shingle ridges a scattering of Blackbirds, Song Thrushes and Mipits noted.
Dungeness - A good session with waders from Hanson hide included two Little Stints and a Curlew Sandpiper on the shingle islands, plus a supporting cast of 30 Blackwits, 30 Lapwings, 20 Dunlins, 10 Snipe, Ringed and Golden Plovers. Also noted the long-staying Red-necked Grebe, a Water Rail, five Pintails, four Great White Egrets and five Marsh Harriers.
  A quick call in at Long Pits produced three Ring Ouzels.  

                               Brent Geese heading down-Channel

  An afternoon seawatch from the fishing boats produced a range of seabirds offshore including a trickle of Gannets and Sandwich Terns, 50 Brent Geese, 10 Razorbills, 10 Kittiwakes, 20 Common Scoters, a juvenile Little Gull, an Arctic Skua, two Barwits, five Dunlins and a Red-throated Diver. A juvenile Caspian Gull was on the beach and several Swallows headed out.

Monday, 23 October 2017

Ring Ouzel

Dungeness - 0730hrs - mild, cloudy, sw 2 - A circuit of the point produced hundreds of Goldfinches on the move overhead along with plenty of Mipits and Pied Wagtails and a few Chaffinches, Greenfinches and Reed Buntings, but once again I didn't hear a single Skylark. The bushes by West Beach held Goldcrest and Chiffchaff, whilst a flock of Goldfinches tumbling into the gorse out of the ether were joined by eight Great Tits. Across the desert and margins of the trapping area we flushed a single male Ring Ouzel that dived back into cover, several Blackbirds, Song Thrushes and 10 Redwings overhead. At least 15 Swallows were feeding over the willows while others were seen by the Pilot and along the beach totalling around 50 for the morning. Other bits and bobs included several Stonechats, 20 Linnets, Kestrel and Great Spotted Woodpecker.
  More Ring Ouzels were also seen on the bird reserve this morning.

                                Migrant Great Tit, Dungeness

This afternoon we traipsed around the local patch in a steady drizzle. Needless to say it was pretty hopeless, although several more Swallows skimmed low over the shingle southwards.

Sunday, 22 October 2017

Boring Brian

Saturday - Dungeness - 1000hrs - mild, showery, sw 6 - With Storm Brian whipping up the Channel an hour at the fishing boats seemed the best birding option as any self respecting passerine would be well and truly hunkered down. However, seawatching is rarely brilliant this late in the season with a raging south-westerly, and so it proved to be with just the usual Gannets and Sandwich Terns in the ascendancy, plus a few Kittiwakes through, an Arctic Skua and a drake Eider. Several pulses of Swallows and at least two House Martins went out while small parties of coasting Goldfinches moved west.
  Despite the strong winds, Goldcrests and Goldfinches were noted around the Plovers garden this morning as well as a couple of Red Admirals on the buddleia when the sun poked through the clouds.
  Another hour at the fishing boats this afternoon in poor weather conditions peppered with heavy squalls delivered very little apart from Sandwich Terns and Gannets.
  Once again the Met Office over-egged the pudding and Storm Brian failed to live up to a `proper blow` and deliver a few juicy seabirds. On the plus side though, at least our cottage roof remained intact!
  After a cracking sing around night in the Star at St-Mary-in-the-Marsh, commemorating Trafalgar Day with Romney Marsh Morris, we bundled out of the pub to the magical sound of migrating Redwings calling overhead in the darkness, which sounded a whole lot better than my singing!

                                Great White Egrets and Pintails

Sunday - Lade  - 0800hrs - cool, sunny, nw 2 - With the gale blown out overnight this morning dawned bright and sunny but with a much fresher feel than of late as the wind had veered round to the north-west. We flogged around the local patch where the only migrants noted were two Swallows hurrying south over the Desert and several Chiffchaffs in a mixed passerine flock in the willow swamp. Two Marsh Harriers were keeping the dabbling ducks and Coots on red alert and a Sparrowhawk slipped across south lake, my first sighting for a while. Egret numbers around the margins topped out at 21 Little and three Great Whites, along with 10 Grey Herons, plus 52 Cormorants and 60 Great Crested Grebes on the water, which must be taking its toll on the carp population.
Dungeness - An afternoon tour of the bird reserve in bright sunshine produced the long staying Red-necked Grebe and two Little Stints on ARC, a flock of 20 egrets on Burrowes and a flyover Cattle Egret at Boulderwall. Also noted on the reserve Ring Ouzel, Curlew Sandpiper and up to five more Cattle Egrets, while a Caspian Gull was seen at Dungeness fishing boats. Was also good to bump into some old birding friends from Bedfordshire today.

Friday, 20 October 2017

Garden Song Thrush

Dungeness - mild, cloudy, sw 5 - En-route to the seawatch pitch a late Wheatear was a surprise flitting about amongst the sea containers while several charms of Goldfinches coasted overhead into the brisk south-westerly breeze. An hour at the fishing boats produced plenty of Gannets fishing offshore, a trickle of Sandwich Terns, an Arctic Tern, a Wigeon, two Red-breasted Mergansers, Kittiwake, two Arctic Skuas, several Dunlin, a Sanderling, 10 Swallows and two House Martins. A Black-throated Diver and an Eider had been seen earlier.
  It was pretty quiet around the bird reserve this morning with passerines at a premium due to the strong wind. However, there was eight Great White Egrets from Dennis`s hide on Burrowes and the juvenile Little Stint was still present. The Cattle Egret has also been reported on the fields at Boulderwall.
Lade  - Working in the garden this afternoon singles of Coal Tit (probably a Continental bird), Goldcrest and Chiffchaff moved through the fir trees. Oddest of all though was a migrant Song Thrush that dropped in from on high (presumably having just crossed the Channel) and landed under the firs. It then briefly hunkered down behind a tree mallow, looking exhausted, after which it moved into deeper cover to recover from its exertions. A typical late autumn record of Song Thrush in the garden.
  A trip down the beach late afternoon delivered similar wader numbers to the other day, plus at least 50 Sandwich Terns on the sands.

Wednesday, 18 October 2017


Dungeness - mild, cloudy, se 2 - An hour from the seawatch hide with Lew resulted in a steady flow of Gannets offshore plus a few auks, Common Scoters, Sandwich Terns and at least 20 Mediterranean Gulls coming and going from the Patch. The main event on the land was the arrival of hundreds of finches on the easterly breeze, mostly Chaffinches (c3,000 logged at the Obs) and Goldfinches, but also a scattering of Linnets, Greenfinches, Siskins and Redpolls. Also noted this morning around the point Dartford Warbler, Firecrest, Redwing, Blackcap, Black Redstart, Goldcrest, Swallows, Stonechats, a House Martin, Mipits, Chiffchaffs and a late Willow Warbler. 
Lade - A check of the pits revealed all the usual wildfowl and egrets, a few Chiffchaffs, plus more Chaffinches and Goldfinches. On a falling tide the bay was up to its usual high standard and delivered hundreds of waders of nine species (couldn't find a Grey Plover for the ten). Also, three Brent Geese, 42 Sandwich Terns, 10 Mediterranean Gulls, a Yellow-legged Gull and hundreds of Black-headed and Common Gulls. At sea a few Gannets and a Grey Seal.

                                Bar-tailed Godwit, Lade bay

Scotney - Haven`t been here for a while so we walked out back where 20 Shelducks on the lake were the only birds of note. Around the farm buildings plenty of Goldfinches, Chaffinches, Mipits and Pied Wagtails, plus a Little Owl, Corn Bunting, Stock Dove and all the usual feral geese on the front pits and fields.
  A pretty decent couple of days in the field with Lew during which time we racked up a typical range of October migrants and residents totalling 92 species of birds.

                                            Goldfinches were everywhere today

                                Little Owl, Scotney

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Dartford Warblers

Dungeness - mild, overcast, light airs - Spent the day guiding for Lew, one of our regulars from north Kent. We kicked off with a brief seawatch from the hide but all was quiet apart from the usual Gannets, 20 Kittiwakes, a few auks, two Sandwich Terns and several Mediterranean Gulls. However, the land was considerably more lively with the highlights being up to five Firecrests in the old lighthouse garden and a pair of Dartford Warblers near the Sanctuary. Also in the garden several Chiffchaffs and Goldcrests, Robins, Wrens, Dunnocks, Goldfinches, Chaffinches, Blue Tits and a Great Spotted Woodpecker. Elsewhere around the point 10 Stonechats, six Swallows, 20 Mipits, 10 Pied Wagtails, two Black Redstarts and a Grey Wagtail over.
  A quick word on the weather, which once again was weird. The sun, when it did poke through the clouds, was still orangey and by mid-morning it rained briefly and was so dark I thought we were having a solar eclipse!

                               Black Redstart, an unusually scarce migrant this autumn.

Moving onto the bird reserve around noon and first stop ARC where a large passerine flock by the car park contained more Chiffchaffs and Goldcrests. From the hide 30 Blackwits, three Great White Egrets, two Marsh Harriers, five Pintails, a Snipe, plus calling Water Rail and Cetti`s Warbler were the highlights. At Boulderwall two Tree Sparrows on the feeders and flight views of the Cattle Egret in the field following the cows. On Burrowes, 12 Great White Egrets, 200 Golden Plovers, two Ruffs and a juvenile Little Stint from Makepeace hide. On Dengemarsh eight Ruffs, Marsh Harriers, Buzzard, Kestrel, Raven two Grey Plovers over calling and all the usual gulls, wildfowl and Lapwings. Also, Clouded Yellow and Red Admirals on the wing.
  We finished the day back at the sea from the fishing boats where an Arctic Skua showed well chasing a gull. Also, Razorbill and Guillemot, two Mediterranean Gulls, Sandwich Tern, Grey Seal and Porpoise.

Monday, 16 October 2017

Orange skies over Lade

Dungeness - 0730hrs -  warm, cloudy, s 3 - A circuit of the point in unseasonably mild weather with a warm southerly airflow delivered a steady flow of overhead Goldfinches, plus a few Mipits, Skylarks, Swallows and other assorted finches, but none of the heavy-billed variety that have been noted elsewhere across the south-east. However, the surprise migrant was a superb male Dartford Warbler in scrub by the Britannia pub that posed briefly atop the brambles before skulking deep and occasionally uttering its scolding alarm call. Nothing much was happening on the sea apart from fishing Gannets, a few Common Scoters and a Red-throated Diver down. A check of the beach for jellyfish drew a blank.

                                Delicate, a migrant that now also breeds locally

                                Mallow,  a scarce visitor to the Plovers trap

Lade - With overnight temperatures barely going below the mid-teens centigrade and light winds it was no surprise to find the garden mv stuffed with moths. All the usual autumn species were present including 35 Black Rustics, but tucked away in the bottom of the trap in the last egg tray was a Delicate and a Mallow, both new for the year.

                                Mid-afternoon sun

    6pm sunset over Lade made for a weird, ethereal atmosphere

  A couple of visits to the local patch were largely uneventful apart from the weird weather associated with Storm Ophelia that had pushed a plume of warm air up from the Azores. The afternoon temperature peaked at a humid 23 C along with dark skies and a hazy reddish-orange sun occasionally poking through the clouds. As sunset approached the sky turned orange, giving a spectacular, almost end-of-days feel to the place which apparently was due to a combination of Saharan dust and ash debris from wildfires in Iberia.
  Weird weather indeed. 

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Harrier count

Saturday - Dungeness - 0730hrs - mild, dry, sunny, sw 2 - A balmy morning for a wander around the point where to be honest it was very quiet bird wise apart from the regulation Goldfinches, Mipits and Skylarks overhead and on the deck. At the Patch a couple of Med Gulls was about it and in the lighthouse garden Goldcrest and Chiffchaff. The most extraordinary sight of all was watching a French Bulldog and a Fox cavorting around like a pair of puppies playing together - Barney was not impressed!

                                Fox and dog at play

  However, on the walk back we called in and had a chat with Dave Bunney who`d just photographed a Radde`s Warbler in his garden. Unfortunately, we couldn't stay and by the time I returned in late afternoon the bird was showing all too briefly, not that it had been very showy throughout the day by all accounts. The last one was also here in 2006, and I missed that one too. Another great find by DB and well done to Dave and family for being so accommodating to the many visiting birders.
  Also, on the bird reserve today, a Red-backed Shrike by the Return Trail and a Cattle Egret on Dengemarsh. On the way out to Brookland this evening we had good views of a Barn Owl at Midley.

Sunday - Lade - On the beach this morning eight species of waders opposite the Tavern included both Grey Plover and Sanderling plus an Arctic Skua chasing the only Sandwich Tern on the bay! Several small parties of Goldfinches and Swallows hurried south into the brisk southerly breeze. All quiet on the pits with the now expected Goldcrests and Chiffchaffs around the ponds and willow swamp.
Walland Marsh  - This evening was the first harrier roost count date of the `winter`. In misty, mild weather conditions I accompanied CP for a run out to our usual watch point overlooking a very dried up reedbed. However, this didn't seem to bother the Marsh Harriers with an impressive 22 coming to roost. Also noted a Barn Owl, 20 Golden Plovers, 100 Linnets, 50 Reed Buntings, two Buzzards, a Kestrel, Redpoll over, plus calling Water Rail and Cetti`s Warbler.

Friday, 13 October 2017

Local patch blitz

Lade - mild, cloudy, sw 4 - We seem to have hit the birding doldrums down here with weather fronts sweeping in off the Atlantic and blocking any hope of an arrival of drift migrants from the east. Today I decided to spend some time hammering away at the local patch on shanks pony, despite the unpromising blustery, but humid, weather conditions. The result was that after three visits totalling six hours a grand total of 65 species of birds was recorded.
  An early overhead trickle of finches included several parties of Redpolls and Siskins, while at least 20 House Martins and 10 Swallows moved through and two Jays flew in off the bay. A mixed passerine flock of at least 60 birds in the willow swamp kept me busy for over an hour, comprising mostly Chiffchaffs, Blue, Great and Long-tailed Tits, plus 10 Goldcrests, two Reed Buntings, two Blackcaps, a few Chaffinches and a lone Firecrest, always a bonus. Also around the willows and ponds, two Cetti`s Warblers, squealing Water Rails, Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers, 12 Little and one Great White Egret. Plenty of Migrant Hawkers and Ruddy Darters were active in the shelter of the ponds.
  On the lakes an influx of 150 Mallards was a notable count, while two Pintails were the first of the autumn. The usual large numbers of grebes and Shovelers were hugging the far side of south lake. The desert to the south delivered several Stonechats and a Wheatear, although Mockmill was largely deserted due to the brisk wind. Scanning across towards the airport resulted in Kestrel, Marsh Harrier, Lapwing, Stock Dove and Curlew being added to the day list.
  The garden moth trap attracted 11 species of macros, but nothing unusual.

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Summer returns

Dungeness - 0800hrs - warm, dry, sunny, sw 2 - A glorious, almost summer like day, with temperatures peaking at 20C by early afternoon. At the Patch at least ten Mediterranean Gulls and Sandwich Terns on the beach while distant Gannets continued to pass down-Channel. There was a fair bit of movement on the land with plenty of grounded Goldfinches and Meadow Pipits, plus more overhead along with a trickle of Skylarks, Siskins, Redpolls, Linnets, Chaffinches and Swallows.
Around the trapping area Chiffchaff, Goldcrest, Stonechat and Blackcap all noted, plus a late Whitethroat. Several Small Coppers, Painted Ladies and Clouded Yellow butterflies were also on the wing.
  From Hanson hide on the ARC the Red-necked Grebe was still present way out on the lake, but there was little else on the shingle ridges apart from a few Lapwings and dabbling ducks.
  An afternoon visit to the fishing boats to check the sea yielded very little apart from a couple of Arctic Skuas beating up Mediterranean Gulls and a Kittiwake. The usual Gannets and a few auks were further offshore.

                                Small Copper

                                Back garden Red Admirals

 Lade - In the Plovers garden this morning Goldcrest and a Continental Coal Tit moved through the fir trees, while several Red Admirals, Peacocks and a Speckled Wood fed on the buddleia blooms and basked in the warm sunshine.

Wednesday, 11 October 2017


Dungeness - 1000hrs - mild, cloudy, showery, sw 5 - A guided walk for RSPB this morning around the circular route was notable for close views of up eight Great White and six Little Egrets corralling fish in front of the visitor centre, along with Grey Herons and Cormorants. Also on Burrowes hundreds of Lapwing, Wigeon, Gadwall, Pochard and Shoveler, plus two Pintails, Dunlin, Little Stint and Common Sandpiper. Despite the blustery wind a large mixed passerine flock by Christmas Dell  included several Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps. From Dengemarsh hide 40 Black-tailed Godwits, two Ruffs, two more Great White Egrets, several Marsh Harriers and hundreds more Lapwings and feral geese. Also noted along the way several Stonechats, Kestrel, Linnet and singing Cetti`s Warblers.
  An hour at the fishing boats this afternoon was memorable for the hundreds of Gannets streaming down-Channel, plus a handful of Kittiwakes and several distant shearwaters (probably Manx). Closer to shore were a trickle of Sandwich and one Common Tern with cracking views of at least six Arctic Skuas, in all their many plumages, creating the usual havoc.

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Yellow-browed Warbler

Lade - 0700hrs - mild, cloudy, nw 2 - The usual light passage of finches, Mipits and a couple of Skylarks passed overhead around dawn. The only other evidence of migration concerned several Swallows over the desert and a few Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps in the bushes.

                               Yellow-browed Warbler, Dungeness

Dungeness - An early afternoon run out to the old lighthouse for a Yellow-browed Warbler proved frustrating, but eventually it broke cover and briefly posed out in the open atop a stunted crab apple tree.

Monday, 9 October 2017

Wilson`s Phalarope

Oare Marshes - mild, cloudy, sw 2 - Spent the morning in north Kent with CP on a wader fest. The highlight was the long-staying juvenile Wilson`s Phalarope which showed well on the east flood where, at times, it fed close to the road. It was regularly flushed when spooked by a raptor, but quickly  returned to the lagoon to `spin` energetically in circles, often in association with a Ruff or Teal.
As always with this superb wetland there was always something happening and we soon rattled up an impressive wader list including hundreds of Lapwings, Golden Plovers, Redshanks, Blackwits and Avocets, plus 12 Snipe, four Little Stints, Curlew Sandpiper, Turnstone, 10 Dunlins, two Grey Plovers,  Curlew, five Ringed Plovers and a Barwit.
  Plenty more waders, Brents, Shelducks and several Little Egrets were noted on the Swale, plus three Marsh Harriers, Sparrowhawk and Kestrel, an overhead passage of Skylarks, Mipits and Reed Buntings and in the reeds and ditches Bearded Tits, Stonechats and a very showy Cetti`s  Warbler. Also noted 20 Linnets, Grey Heron, Grey Wagtail and hundreds of common dabbling ducks.
  A superb mornings birding and a good turn out of Dungeness regulars to natter too from the roadside viewpoints.

                                   Cetti`s Warbler by the roadside sluice

                                Wilson`s Phalarope following a Ruff

Lade - 0600hrs - The first Redwings of the autumn flew over the cottage in the dark this morning, calling as they headed inland.

Sunday, 8 October 2017

Bits and pieces

Saturday - Lade - mild, cloudy, w4 - 0700hrs - Very little happening on the viz mig front due to a blustery westerly first thing. On south lake an Avocet on the island was a nice surprise amongst the Shovelers. Two Great White Egrets lurked in the reedbed and a Sparrowhawk over was about it really.

                               Avocet, south lake

Dungeness - From Hanson hide around noon 40 Blackwits, 20 Dunlins and a Grey Plover amongst numerous dabbling ducks and gulls. Also, Great White Egret, Kestrel, Marsh Harrier and a Red-necked Grebe from the causeway road.
  An hour seawatch from the boats this afternoon with a couple of regulars produced a very obliging Arctic Skua chasing the fishing Sandwich Terns close to shore, plus up to 20 Gannets and nine Common Scoters down-Channel. The skua was a very distinctive pale juvenile with a white rump, ginger head and grey barring on the under fore-wing.

                               Juvenile Arctic Skua

Sunday - Lade -mild, sunny, nw 2 - Today was the monthly WeBS count with 125 Shovelers and 62 Great Crested Grebes of note. Many of the grebes were juvenile birds, as this species has had a particularly productive breeding season. With lighter winds a few more Chiffchaffs and Goldcrests were in evidence around the ponds, while a trickle of Swallows, Mipits, Goldfinches and Chaffinches passed overhead.
  Whilst Pat trimmed Barney`s coat in the garden in the midday sunshine a couple of Goldcrests called from the fir trees and several Goldfinches dropped onto the bird feeders. Red Admirals came and went attracted to the ivy flowers and the last of the buddleia blooms.

                                Barney`s third and final clipping of the year

                                Enjoying his hide `bone` for being a good lad

We spent 90 minutes at the fishing boats this afternoon where a steady trickle of Gannets fished or passed offshore. Moving down-Channel were, 15 Kittiwakes, 80 Brents, two Velvet Scoters, an Eider, four Dunlins, a Guillemot and a Red-throated Diver, but no sign of any terns or skuas. Several Harbour Porpoises and a Grey Seal were also competing with wall-to-wall beach-casting fishermen.

Friday, 6 October 2017


Lade - 0700hrs - cool, sunny, nnw 3 - A pretty decent viz mig session on the local patch with a steady trickle of southbound Mipits, Goldfinches, Chaffinches and Pied Wagtails, plus a couple of Skylarks, five Redpolls, two Siskins and a late Tree Pipit. Also of note 200 or more House Martins and Swallows over the willow swamp, two Sparrowhawks and a scattering of Chiffchaffs and Goldcrests in the bushes.
  On the desert several large flocks of grounded Mipits, Starlings and Linnets, five Wheatears, three Stonechats and a Redstart in a small patch of scrub near Kerton quarry. There were plenty of Lapwings, corvids and gulls on the move over by the airport.

Thursday, 5 October 2017

Great White Egrets

Lade - mild, cloudy, w 4 - 0700hrs - A viz mig from the aerial ramp on the local patch in blustery weather conditions resulted in a trickle of overhead Swallows, House Martins, Mipits, Chaffinches and Goldfinches, plus one or two Reed Buntings and Greenfinches. More hirundines were over south lake where there was a noticeable increase in Shoveler and Teal since my last pre-holiday visit. Great White Egrets are a given across our local wetlands but I was still surprised to see five flying over the willow swamp heading towards the bird reserve. A flock of 20 Blackwits came in off the sea and headed inland and a couple of Sparrowhawks zipped over the Desert, one of which gave a half-hearted pursuit  of a Green Woodpecker. In the shelter of the wind a few Goldcrests, Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs were noted along with a large mixed flock of tit.

                               Goldfinches pausing a while

Dungeness - Most of the bird activity on the reserve was on ARC where the long-staying Red-necked Grebe was still on the lake viewable from the causeway road. From Hanson hide a decent selection of waders coincided with high tide included 100 Dunlins, 60 Lapwings, 80 Golden Plovers, 30 Blackwits, two Barwits, five Knots, a Snipe and two Curlew Sandpipers. A Kingfisher showed well on its usual post and four Great White Egrets were scattered around the margins and islands. Ducks included plenty of Shoveler and Teal plus a handful of Pintails and Wigeons.
A grizzly sight awaited on the walk down to the hide where a Stoat had just pulled two squealing  baby Rabbits from a burrow. As it loped off down the track it dropped one but disappeared into the brush with the other.

                               Egrets and Golden Plovers

                                Kingfisher, Hanson hide

                               Baby Rabbit killed by Stoat

Not much happening over the road where five more Great White Egrets were scattered around Burrowes. A Merlin flew over the access road and a few parties of hirundines pushed on south.