Tuesday, 25 April 2017

First Hobbies

Dungeness - 0900hrs - cold, sunny, nw 2 - With seawatching a non-event due to the wind we searched the land around the point for migrants and came up with 10 Wheatears, 10 Willow Warblers, 10 Whitethroats, two Chiffchaffs, two Mipits, plus singles of Stonechat and Whinchat by Jarman`s. A decapitated male Sparrowhawk was an odd find by Lloyd's cottage which I could only assume was the result of a Peregrine attack. The guests also enjoyed a Willow Warbler being processed at the Obs having been caught in the Heligoland Trust, many thanks to Lee. Plenty of Small Coppers were basking in the moat and a Stoat was seen.


                                Small Coppers

                                Headless Sparrowhawk

                                Willow Warbler, DBO

RSPB - We spent most of the day on the bird reserve where the highlight was our first three Hobbies of the spring hawking insects over Dengemarsh, as always wonderful birds to watch and let`s hope for many more to come. The usual range of warblers showed well and the Bittern was still ` booming` at Hooker`s. On Burrowes, a Grey Plover, two Greenshanks, 10 Dunlins, a pair of Pintails and the long-staying Ring-necked Duck, plus the Boulderwall Tree Sparrows, a Common Sandpiper on New Diggings and 10 Whimbrels across the site.

                                Greenshank, Burrowes

ARC - An evening visit down to the pines delivered another `booming` Bittern and a mixed flock of hirundines over the water. We finished off back in the Desert where two Ring Ouzels were briefly seen following a tip off from LG.

Monday, 24 April 2017

Nightingales and Whimbrels

Lade - 0630hrs - cool, cloudy, w 3 - An early sortie on the local patch revealed the first decent fall of hirundines of the spring thus far, comprising mainly 100 Swallows, plus 20 and 10 each of Sand and House Martins respectively. A single Ring Ouzel clacked from the scrub beside the lake where there was a noticeable increase in singing Whitethroats. A Cuckoo called from the swamp, two Common Sandpipers flew across the lake and a pair of Marsh Harriers soared over Airport Pits.
Birdwatching Break - Faggs Wood - 1245hrs - After picking up Clare and Peter from Ashford we headed to the woods where despite the time of day there was a decent crop of songsters performing. Our target was Nightingale with at least four in song and one seen, plus more birds singing from across the lane in Longrope Wood. Also noted two Garden Warblers, five each of Willow Warbler, Blackcap and Chiffchaff, Cuckoo plus a range of resident species including Jay, Goldcrest, Long-tailed and Coal Tits, Nuthatch, Treecreeper and Great Spotted Woodpecker.
  Down on the Marsh we paused at Warehorne Bridge where Lesser Whitethroat, another Garden Warbler and a range of common wayside birds were seen.

                                Yellow Wagtails

                                Corn Bunting

                                Whimbrels and Barwits


Scotney - Terrific stuff here with a mixed flock of 80 Whimbrels, 10 Barwits, a Ruff and three Ringed Plovers on the front sward, plus four Med Gulls over and four Wigeon on the causeway.
Out back a flock of up to 20 Yellow Wagtails feeding around the cattle proved the main attraction, plus six Corn Buntings, Skylarks, Linnets, Pied Wagtails, Tree Sparrow, a Greenland Wheatear, Marsh Harrier, Kestrel, Stock Doves, 12 Avocets and a Little Ringed Plover.
Dungeness  - We finished the afternoon at the Patch where a 2nd calendar year Iceland Gull was on the beach amongst the Herring and Black-headed Gulls. A 30 minute seawatch delivered little apart from two passing Gannets, and a few distant Sandwich and Commic Terns.
  A run out this evening logged a hunting Short-eared Owl, a screeching Barn Owl, several Marsh Harriers, Corn Buntings, Yellow Wagtails and a foraging Badger.

Sunday, 23 April 2017

An early pulse of Pomarine Skuas

Dungeness - 0645 - 0815hrs - mild, overcast, se 1 - We joined CP and MH for a seawatch from the Britannia boardwalk where a steady trickle of up-Channel Common Scoters was underway totalling around 100 in small loose flocks. Also noted lesser numbers of Gannets, Kittiwakes, auks, Fulmars, two Red-throated Divers, two Med Gulls, a pair of Mergansers, 20 Commic and 10 Sandwich Terns, two Garganeys, six Little Terns (new for the year), 10 Bonxies and a superb pale phase Arctic Skua that cut in close to harry a tern, pick up a fish and pause briefly on the sea.

                                Egyptian Goose

                                Bee hives

                                Sedge Warbler

Dengemarsh - 1100hrs - Pat joined us for a circuit of the marsh where the highlights were a cacophony of Sedge, Reed and Cetti`s Warblers, Common and Lesser Whitethroats, Reed Buntings and a Cuckoo. Also several Bearded Tits and a Marsh Harrier food pass from the ramp, plus Swallows hurrying inland, four Med Gulls and a Greenshank over calling. The Hayfields looked a sorry old sight now pumping has ceased, being bone dry and attracting mostly feral geese, although there were several pairs of Lapwings and Redshank on No 3. The back track to Dengemarsh Road is not an advisable route for anyone allergic to oil-seed rape pollen, but a clutch of hives by the dung heap was busy with worker bees going about their business. The only birdlife in this arable factory was a single singing Reed Bunting and a flyover Yellow Wagtail.
Dungeness - 1615-1715hrs - Around midday the wind swung round to a brisk SSW and news came through from `down- the-road` at Splash Point, Sussex concerning a pulse of Pomarine Skuas moving up-Channel. By the time I arrived on site at the seawatch hide 15 Poms had already been logged, with four more at 1630hrs that showed reasonably well considering the bright sunshine. Such a number this early in the `Pom season` is quite unprecedented, although with the wind due to swing back to a cool northerly our expectancy levels may be quashed somewhat. Also noted during the hour a trickle of Kittiwakes, Gannets, Fulmars and Common Scoters, plus 100 Commic Terns, three Bonxies, three Little Gulls and a Black Tern. 
  Thanks are due to Matt Eade and PB for the regular Pom tweets.

Saturday, 22 April 2017

10 species of warblers and a Lesser Yellowlegs!

Lade - 0600hrs  - cool, overcast, drizzle, n 2 - Superb range of warblers on the local patch this morning commencing with garden-singing Willow Warblers and Blackcaps whilst clearing the moth trap (30 macros of five species, mainly Tawny Shears). We stomped across the shingle to Mockmill Sewer which was jumping with singing Linnets, Reed Buntings, Sedge and Reed Warblers, Common Whitethroats, two Cetti`s and a `reeling` Grasshopper Warbler, only my second Lade record. In the scrub behind south lake a Lesser Whitethroat and Garden Warbler were seen and heard along with two Cuckoos and a distant Short-eared Owl quartering the rough ground by the airfield. A Grey Plover and several Med Gulls flew over calling, a summer plum Black-necked Grebe swam on the water and two Common Sandpipers flitted over the lake, our first of the year, if only I was keeping such a list... A singing Chiffchaff in the willow swamp was the 10th species of warbler for the morning.

                                Brimstone moth

Dungeness - 1330hrs - News came through of a Lesser Yellowlegs on Burrowes this afternoon. Unfortunately during the hour or so I was on site it stuck to the distant islands giving only limited views, although through the scope you could clearly make out its needle-like bill and yellow legs. As always a very `busy` species, darting here and there and taking short flights across the island, and a first for me at Dungeness.

                                Distant Lesser Yellowlegs

  Also on Burrowes: six Dunlin, two Greenshank, Grey Plover and Sanderling, plus the long-staying drake Ring-necked Duck, a pair of Pintail and four Whimbrels over.
Fishing boats - A 90 minute seawatch from boats this afternoon delivered a steady up-Channel passage of Common Scoters and Commic Terns, a party of two Knot and five Barwits, a few Sandwich Terns, Gannets, and Kittiwakes, plus a Bonxie.
  A text from DB told of a clutch of chats behind Jarman`s and sure enough we were soon watching two Whinchats, seven Wheatears, a Stonechat and two Whimbrels on the Desert. The lighthouse garden was also lively with Willow Warblers, Blackcap and a Redstart.  

Friday, 21 April 2017

A fall of warblers

Lade - 0600hrs - mild and cloudy - At last an overcast night with light airs, perfect for running the garden MV trap, and as anticipated there were some moths on the egg trays this mornings - 15 Tawny Shears and a Common Quaker to be precise, not great, but its early days still.

                                       Tawny Shears

  A light overhead passage of coasting Goldfinches was noteworthy early on as we tramped across the shingle before doing breakfast for guests. Several Willow Warblers sang from back garden trees and a couple of Whitethroats announced their arrival from gorse scrub, but joy upon joy the main event was our first Cuckoo calling from the willow swamp followed by a flight across the lake as if to say "Hello, I`m back"! And a very welcome sound and sight it was indeed, and long may it continue.

                                New roof being sweated onto the Seawatch hide

                                Early Purple Orchids

Dungeness - 1000hrs - Our second decent fall of passerines this spring occurred overnight, comprising mainly Willow Warblers. I must`ve seen 50 wandering around the point, but there were probably hundreds scattered across the Trapping Area and scrub around the Old Light and down to the Sanctuary; some of the private gardens along the front were alive with Willow Warblers. The birds on the gorse seemed to be feasting on small, black flies in the yellow flowers. Also in the mix, three Redstarts, a `reeling` Grasshopper Warbler, Garden Warbler, Lesser and Common Whitethroats, several Blackcaps and 10 Wheatears.

                               Willow Warblers and Wheatear, Dungeness

  In the dappled sunshine several Small Coppers and a single Grizzled Skipper were noted and the Early Purple Orchid show near the Obs was impressive. The seawatch hide was being fitted with a new lid today by CP and team, just in time for the Pom passage, we hope...

                                Small Copper

Also reported across the NNR today: a scattering of Greenshanks, Whinchats, Common Sandpipers, Nightingales, a Spotted Redshank and a singing Wood Warbler at Long Pits.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Where have all the migrants gone?

Lade - cold, sunny, n 2 - These past mornings I`ve scoured the local patch for spring migrants and all that could be found were a handful of Willow Warblers, Chiffchaffs, Blackcaps and Wheatears, plus a Black-necked Grebe yesterday. True, the nights have been clear and dry (infact there was a light frost this morning) which has encouraged nocturnal migrants to press on northwards, but looking around at other local and regional blogs and websites its a similar picture - the numbers of birds just simply aren't there anymore. Looking back at my birding logs (remember them, old fashioned pen and paper jobs) from 40 years ago only hammers home the decline in the likes of migrant pipits, wagtails, starts, chats, flycatchers and most of the warbler tribe.
  Spring falls of warblers in the hundreds at Dungeness, once a regular feature, can nowadays be counted on the fingers of one hand; this year so far there`s been just a single day, concerning mainly Willow Warblers. In the 1960`s and 70`s falls of up to 40-50 Redstarts were often recorded at Dungeness, in comparison to todays single figure reports, for the entire spring period.
  I could go on, but its just too depressing. The worst of it is, in the main, we know the reasons why, as usual us meddling humans. Fair play to Chris Packham for highlighting the ongoing slaughter in the Mediterranean, but equally as sinister is hunting in the migrants` winter quarters and an increasingly hostile landscape here on their breeding grounds.
Dungeness - Anyhow, onwards and upwards, being as its Dungeness there`s always something to lift the spirits and give one hope. As I paused along the causeway road to admire a cracking summer plum Slavonian Grebe on New Diggings a Cuckoo called and flew over, our first of the spring. On ARC a Garganey hunkered down on the island, a Cuckoo showed again and a Lesser Whitethroat sang from Tower Pits near a booming Bittern!
Scotney - After toiling at the allotment news from PB of waders on the grass around midday had me scuttling down the road to check out my favourite birds. Sure enough a tally of 52 Whimbrels, six Barwits, two Ringed Plovers and a Ruff bucked me up no end, plus four Brents sat on the grass and  a Greenshank overhead calling.


Fishing Boats - 1615hrs - A cursory half an hour seawatch, in hazy sunshine, delivered just a few Gannets, Sandwich and Common Terns, two Med Gulls and a line of 12 Common Scoters, plus five Porpoises and the `killer Grey Seal` that yesterday was seen chomping on a Porpoise calf.

Monday, 17 April 2017


Dungeness -0630hrs - cool, cloudy, nw 3 - For a change of scene we headed down to the point first thing where four Wheatears were on the beach opposite Jarman`s. After a quick chat with the seawatchers it was no surprise that nothing much was being seen offshore due to the wind direction. At the Patch a 1st year Iceland Gull sat on the beach preening amongst a small flock of Black-headed Gulls, while at least six Common Terns hawked over the boil. The land was virtually birdless, although a Pied Flycatcher was reported in West Beach scrub later.

                                Iceland Gull, the Patch

  From the causeway road the usual Slavonian and Black-necked Grebes hugged the sheltered bank on New Diggings, while three Garganeys and a Yellow Wagtail dropped onto the south end of ARC. Around the car park scrub and Tower Pits, Willow, Sedge, Reed and Cetti`s Warblers, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Lesser and Common Whitethroats all sang, plus a `booming` Bittern. Nothing much at the pines, but a drake Red-breasted Merganser was something of a surprise find at the north end of ARC. Also noted, Marsh Harrier, two Kestrels, Long-tailed Tit, Green Woodpecker, Lapwings, several Tree Sparrows, 10 Swallows, Teal, Shelducks and Little Egret. On the main body of the reserve the Ring-necked Duck and Long-eared Owl were at their usual locations, plus four Whimbrels from the access road.
  A scan from Springfield Bridge this afternoon revealed a Greenshank and Great White Egret, plus several Yellow Wagtails overhead, a `booming` Bittern, a White-fronted Goose and two Marsh Harriers. Called in at Cook`s Pool to look for two Water Pipits that had been reported earlier, but there was no sign, although two unidentified `pipits` did a brief flyover.

                                Garganeys, ARC

Sunday, 16 April 2017


Lade - cool, cloudy, nw 2 - 0630hrs - By heck it was cold first thing trudging across the shingle to Mockmill where a few more Sedge Warblers had dropped in overnight. Yesterdays Wheatears had moved on, but this mornings surprise was a Nightingale singing intermittently from scrub behind the 200` wall `mirror`, not a species I get here every year. A scattering of Willow Warblers and Chiffchaffs sang from the swamp, but still no Whitethroats yet in the dry scrub.

                                Bluebells and Stitchwort, Park Wood

Appledore - Welcome sunshine and warmth greeted us on the hills for a family wander around Park Wood, although access was difficult due a push bike race terminating in the car park entrance. The main purpose of the visit was to view the Bluebell vista in the Oak wood, which did not disappoint, in the dappled shade amongst carpets of Primrose, Stitchwort and Wood Anemone. All the usual woodland species were seen or heard including two Nightingales, Great Spotted and Green Woodpeckers, Coal and Long-tailed Tits, Bullfinch, Nuthatch, Treecreeper and Buzzard. We also bumped into Dave E who informed us of a third singing Nightingale.
  On the way home we paused at Kenardington where Yellowhammer and our first Lesser Whitethroat were heard, before repairing to the Bell at Ivychurch to sample their fine selection of ales.

Saturday, 15 April 2017

Reed Warblers

Lade - cool, cloudy, nw 3 - These past couple of mornings we`ve stuck to the local patch as I can`t see much point in going to a crowded Dungeness over a Bank Holiday weekend, particularly as a north-westerly airflow renders any seawatching pretty pointless.
  Yesterday, as quarrying activities were suspended for Good Friday, we poked around in Kerton Road pit where there was evidence of breeding Ringed Plover, Shelduck, Redshank, Oystercatcher, Skylark and Mipit. A Greenshank over calling was our first of the year, while out on the Desert a couple of grounded Wheatears and a pair of Stonechats were noted.
  This morning, under a glowering dark sky that threatened rain, but failed to delivered yet again, we continued our breeding bird survey. Reedbeds that were silent yesterday, today harboured a host of chattering Reed Warblers as the vanguard took up temporary residence following an overnight drop-in. The wonders of bird migration also delivered at least eight Wheatears perched atop scrub on the Desert, an almost unprecedented number for spring.

                               Wheatears, Lade Desert

  Around the site 15 singing Sedge and five Cetti`s Warblers were belting out their territorial songs amongst a scattering of Linnets, Dunnocks, Chaffinches, Wrens, Blackbirds and Reed Buntings. A pair of Oystercatchers had settled to breed on scaffold island, while good numbers of Great Crested and Little Grebes were already on eggs. Several pairs of Teal and Shoveler lingered, but it remains to be seen if they stay to breed. Having seen my earliest ever Whitethroat a fortnight ago, there has been no sign of any since; still, early days and all that. Finally, there was evidence of 41 species of birds breeding hereabouts, although that figure should rise slightly as the last few migrants drift in by the month`s end.
  Passage migrants noted this morning included several Willow Warblers and Chiffchaffs, Swallows, Sand Martins and oddest of all a Snipe flushed from Mockmill by Barney. The beach on a falling tide delivered several hundred each of Curlew and Oystercatcher, 50 Knot, 20 Dunlins, 20 Sanderling and 12 Barwits.
  Working in the garden this afternoon several Med Gulls and a single Yellow Wagtail flew over calling.

Thursday, 13 April 2017

St Omer

Foret de Rihoult Clairmarais - cool, sunny, w 2 - After dropping off the ladies in town CP and I spent the morning in the forest which was alive with bird song. Mainly Willow Warblers, Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs, plus Nuthatches, Great Spotted Woodpeckers, tits, Bullfinches and a host of resident woodland birds. Several Buzzards soared over the canopy while we had superb views of a Short-toed Treecreeper. The highlight though was a `reeling` Grasshopper Warbler and a `drumming`  Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, both briefly seen in flight. The woodland flora was a treat, as were five sightings of Roe Deer.

                                Roe Deer

                                Lesser pecker terrain

Romelaere - During the afternoon we moved onto the nearby wetland reserve where more of the same warblers were noted, plus Whitethroat, Sedge and Cetti`s Warblers and White Wagtail. A single White Stork sat atop a huge stick nest, but we could find no sign of any Bluethroats in an area that formerly held a small population. Our first Cuckoo of the year put on a fine show, several Swallows flew through and a Sparrowhawk flapped over.
  From the hide, overlooking a large Cormorant and Black-headed Gull colony, six nests of Little Egrets and several Mediterranean Gulls were present, plus the extraordinary sight (considering the time of year) of a flock of over 100 Jackdaws in the trees. Marsh Harrier, Buzzard, Shoveler, Wigeon, Teal, Egyptian Goose, a Red-crested Pochard, Grey Heron, Common Tern and Great Crested Grebe all noted, plus quality in the form of four Little Gulls and a stunning Black Tern.
  Also seen, plenty of Orange Tips, Brimstones, Green-veined Whites, Small Whites and a Musk Rat.
Another superb outing to France and many thanks to Chris for driving.

                                 Romelaere boardwalk

                                Mob of Jackdaws

                                White Stork on nest

                                White Wagtail

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

`Scarce grebes`

Dungeness - 0900hrs - cool, cloudy, w 4 - A brisk westerly airflow with cloud cover certainly supressed temperatures down to something like `normal`. Although conditions weren't ripe for a seawatch we stuck it out for half an hour in the hide, during which time 40 Common Scoters trickled up-Channel and 20 Gannets fished to and fro. At least six Porpoises were noted offshore, while the land was Dodo-like.

                                Slavonian Grebe, New Diggings

RSPB - From the gate entrance overlooking New Diggings we had distant views of two Black-necked Grebes, but a much closer encounter with a pair of summer plum Slavonian Grebes. At ARC there was plenty of warbler activity including our first Reed Warblers of the spring and singing Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Sedge and Cetti`s Warblers. From Hanson hide we watched several Great, Blue and Long-tailed Tits rip apart a clump of Bulrush spikes and then descend the stems to extract an unknown worm-like invertebrate. A couple of Marsh Harriers showed well and a mixed three species flock of hirundines came and went. From the Willow Trail boardwalk two Speckled Wood butterflies struggled to warm up in the intermittent sunshine.

                                Marsh Harrier and Speckled Wood, ARC

  We completed the three day Birdwatching Break for Ann and George on 95 species with the highlight being Mondays`s fall of migrants. Quality sightings included: Black-necked and Slavonian Grebes, Little Ringed Plover, Long-eared Owl, Yellow Wagtail, Redstart, Ring-Ouzel and Pied Flycatcher, plus the birds we take for granted such as Marsh Harrier, Tree Sparrow and Corn Bunting.

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Wagtails, Plovers, Whimbrels, Ouzels and Owls

Dungeness - cool, sunny, light airs - We kicked off at the point where there was scarcely a breath of wind, although it picked up through the day from the west. On the beach opposite Jarman`s five Wheatears, Mipits, Skylarks, Linnets, Pied Wagtails, Stock Doves and a male Stonechat were all duly noted. At the Patch four Common Terns hawked over the boil amongst the gulls, but there had been a clear out overnight of passerines with just a couple of Willow Warblers and a Chiffchaff present in the bushes around the old lighthouse.

                                Wheatear, Dungeness

Scotney - En-route we paused at New Diggings where the adult Slavonian Grebe was still present. At Scotney a Little Ringed Plover on the front pit was new for the year, while 15 Yellow Wagtails showed well around the cattle by the farm. Corn Bunting, Skylark, Reed Bunting, Common Buzzard also noted, plus 20 Avocets on the back pit. 

                                Yellow Wagtails, Scotney

Burrowes - The Long-eared Owl posed like a good `un for the guests in its usual spot behind the Dipping Pool. On Burrowes a few Dunlin, Ringed Plovers, four Pintail and a White Wagtail on the islands from Makepeace hide. More Swallows came over and our first two Whimbrels of the season probed the turf beside the Access road.

                                Whimbrel, Access Road

                                Long-eared Owl, Dipping Pool

Lade Bay - From the Tavern viewpoint several hundred Oystercatchers and Curlews were on the sands, plus four Bar-tailed Godwits. Whilst there news came through of two male Ring Ouzels back at the point, and we were soon watching them feeding on the turf and perched atop scrub, as ever smart birds.

                                Ring Ouzels, Dungeness

Dengemarsh - An evening visit to listen for a booming Bittern drew a blank, although we did have 50 Sand Martins and several Marsh Harriers coming to roost in the reedbed. On the way back a stop at Boulderwall delivered brief views of a Barn Owl emerging from its roost site, to top off a fine day full of quality birds.

Monday, 10 April 2017

A fall of migrants

Lade - Cool, dry, sunny, nw 3 - A complete contrast in the temperature from yesterday as a cool northerly airflow swept across the country overnight. However, it turned into the best day of the spring so far for migrants - so, that`s the north-westerly being-no-good- for-birds theory kicked firmly into touch! From the off a scattering of Willow Warblers and Blackcaps were active on the local patch around the willow swamp, plus two Wheatears and Stonechats on the Desert. More Willow Warblers were calling from back gardens hereabout and several pulses of Swallows moved north over the cottage during the morning.
Dengemarsh - This afternoon, with George and Ann down from Essex for a three day Birdwatching Break, we headed to the bird reserve where after a bit of effort we had good views of a male Pied Flycatcher in the willow scrub by Scott hide, a rare bird here now in the spring. A few more Willow Warblers and Blackcaps were present, plus plenty of singing Sedge and Cetti`s Warblers and a Common Whitethroat. Swallows continued to pulse over in small groups heading inland. Around Dengemarsh good views of Marsh Harriers were enjoyed along with six Snipes and four Dabchicks from Christmas Dell hide, the Ring-necked Duck on Cook`s Pool and Tree Sparrows at Boulderwall. Also noted Green Woodpecker, Pintail, Wigeon, Little Egret and Raven.

                                Pied Flycatcher

                                View from Christmas Dell hide

Dungeness - We finished the afternoon on the Ness where at least 15 Willow Warblers were in and around the lighthouse garden. Whilst watching a stream of Swallows coming in off the sea, and a pair of Wheatears in the old Experimental Station site, up popped a stunning male Redstart on the fenceline, another classic, but declining spring migrant, and a fine end to any birding day.

                               Redstart, old Experimental Station site, Dungeness