Saturday, 19 August 2017

Eider duck

Lade - warm, dry and sunny, w 4 - Another breezy day across the peninsula with a shower or two in the afternoon. The Common Tern flock was still on south lake this morning, while the egret/heron count was 14 Little, two Great White and 12 Grey. Had superb views of an adult Hobby that careered across the lake in hot pursuit of a Pied Wagtail that narrowly avoided death by diving into cover. Marsh Harrier and Sparrowhawk also noted hunting around the site.

                                Curlews disturb by Marsh Harrier

ARC - Called in to Hanson hide on the way back from the allotment around midday where the only migrant of note was a Garganey amongst the dabbling duck flock. All in all very quiet.

                                Eider duck on the foreshore, Dungeness

Dungeness - A one hour seawatch from the boats this afternoon with the regulars delivered a steady flow of Sandwich and Common Terns, Kittiwakes and Gannets, plus several Fulmars and Arctic Skuas and a party each of Sand Martins and Swifts outward bound. An Eider duck on the foreshore was particularly noteworthy and an unusual record for the time of year, as was a Leach`s Petrel that was noted just before we arrived.

Friday, 18 August 2017

Arctic Skuas v Sandwich Terns

Lade - 0700hrs - cool and cloudy, w 5 - A brisk wind made for largely passerine free birding on the local patch this morning. However, there was plenty of `big bird` activity with a flock of 30 Common Terns begging to be grilled on south lake, until they suddenly rose skywards like helicopters as a juvenile Peregrine tore in. But the falcon only had eyes for the much slower Curlews that had just left their roost on the Desert, although once again it failed as the `safety in numbers` factor kicked in.
All the usual egrets and herons were around the margins including two Great White Egrets.
  After dropping the car off at the garage in Lydd I walked back to ARC and checked the shingle ridges from Hanson hide where only a few Ringed and Little Ringed Plovers, Dunlins and Redshanks were present. At least two Garganey were amongst the eclipse ducks and plenty of Sand Martins hawked insects over the lake. Trudging back home across the Desert several Yellow Wagtails and two Wheatears noted.
  This evening we checked out the bay on a rising tide where a flock of 150 fishing Sandwich Terns inevitably attracted the attention of three Arctic Skuas that came in low over the water. The terns were finding fish with every plunge dive, while the skuas were most successful with their surprise attacks, particular on the juvenile birds - at one stage a skua chased a tern along the beach and over the toilet block! As always a highly entertaining spectacle.

Thursday, 17 August 2017

A fall of Curlew Sandpipers

Dungeness - mild, cloudy, rain, sw 4 - 1000hrs - With rain around dawn the omens were good for some grounded migrants this morning, although I didn`t expect such a large fall of waders to be on the cards. Curlew Sandpipers were most prominent with at least 50 on ARC and Burrowes, all adults in various plumages from russet to pale grey and many shades in between. This is without doubt the largest number of Curlew Sandpipers in my time here, but by early afternoon most had departed as the weather improved.


                                Curlew Sandpipers and Dunlins

                                Wood Sandpiper

                                Mixed wader flock from Firth hide

   The flock of waders in front of Firth also included 35 Dunlins, 30 Ringed Plovers, three Blackwits, three Common Sandpipers, two Little Ringed Plovers, plus singles of Green and Wood Sandpipers, Little Stint, Turnstone, Redshank and Ruff. Also on Burrowes hundreds of Sand Martins, a Yellow-legged Gull, a Yellow-billed Teal and on our second visit in early afternoon, two Black Terns. As we were checking the waders a juvenile Sparrowhawk nipped in low and flushed the flock whilst attempting to grab a Dunlin. It then tried for a Pied Wagtail and missed, before moving onto  Sand Martins and failed again. This bird has a lot to learn in the hunting stakes.


  Juvenile Yellow-legged Gull - note white neck collar, stout all black bill, inner primary panel and black and white tail


                                Juvenile Sparrowhawk

  On ARC around noon eight Curlew Sandpipers, five Dunlins, seven Avocets and two Garganeys amongst the wildfowl and Coots.
  Together with CP we checked out the front fields at Scotney where 20 Curlews and two Whimbrels were present along with 150 feral Barnacles and hydrid Snow Geese.
  Finished off with an hour at the fishing boats this afternoon with PB and TG where a steady passage of Common and Sandwich Tern was underway, plus three Little Terns and a few Gannets and Kittiwakes

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Yellow Wagtails

Lade - 0700hrs - warm, dry and sunny - Light airs to start the day with the wind picking up from the west through the morning.  A steady overhead passage of around 50 Yellow Wagtails was the main birding feature throughout the day.
Dungeness - 1000hrs - A guided walk for eight guests around the circular trail on the bird reserve delivered the expected overhead passage of Sand Martins, common scrub and reed warblers (including several Lesser Whitethroats) Whinchat and Wheatear. On Dengemarsh four Great White Egrets, 70 Golden Plovers, two Snipe, four Green Sandpipers, Greenshank, Ruff and Redshank were the highlights. Despite ongoing digger work on Burrowes, 10 Ringed Plovers, two Little Ringed Plovers, five Dunlins and a Turnstone noted in front of Firth, plus Common and Green Sandpipers, and Common Terns feeding young from Dennis`s hide.
  A late afternoon visit to ARC  yielded a Garganey and Little Ringed Plover from Screen hide amongst the usual wildfowl. 

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Lade waders

Lade - 0730hrs - mild, cloudy, light airs - With thunder and lightening out in the Channel during the early hours, followed by some hefty showers it was no surprise that a sprinkling of passage waders had been grounded around the margins of south lake and the muddy patch amid the willow swamp, Wood Sandpiper is an infrequent visitor here, infact I can only recall three others in almost 12 years, so one this morning was good news. Several Common and Green Sandpipers, Redshank and Greenshank were also present.
  Other birds of note included two Great White Egrets, a Black-necked Grebe, Kingfisher, juvenile Green Woodpeckers and several Willow Warblers.
  A late morning visit around the pond in hot sunshine resulted in a flush of common butterflies, mostly Common Blues, plus several Migrant Hawkers, Broad-bodied Chasers and Hummingbird Hawk-moths.

Monday, 14 August 2017

Juvenile Cuckoo

Dungeness - 0730hrs - warm, dry and sunny - A walk around the peninsula in warm sunshine, light airs and not a soul about was pleasant enough if lacking in birds. A couple each of Wheatear, Yellow Wagtail and Mipit was about all we could muster opposite Jarman`s. In the lighthouse garden a Willow Warbler, a Whitethroat in the moat and a few Sand Martins out. The Patch was quiet and a few terns and Gannets drifted passed offshore.
  On the way off the estate a juv Cuckoo flew over the road opposite the Fish Hut and landed on overhead wires. Within in a minute it dropped down into the scrub and flew back up with what looked like a large caterpillar. This is the first Cuckoo I`ve seen since the adults left a month or so ago.

                                Juvenile Cuckoo with prey, Dungeness

                                Latticed Heath, an irregular visitor to the garden MV

Lade - The garden MV was loaded with common moths this morning with a Latticed Heath being the best of the bunch. Nothing much on the local patch today apart from a few Willow Warblers.
With high tide around 4pm a sea swim in the bay was most welcome this afternoon, complete with Sandwich Terns plunge diving nearby.

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Scarce Bordered Straw

Saturday - 0730hrs - mild and cloudy, n 2 - We were joined by CP for a circuit of the local patch this morning where most of the passerine activity was in the scrub around the ponds. Approximately 50 birds were milling about feeding and flitting through the bushes, the majority Willow Warblers, but also plenty of Sedge and Reed Warblers, a few Common and Lesser Whitethroats, a Chiffchaff and a family of Cetti`s Warblers. A roving tit flock was also present including 20 Long-tailed Tits.
  Two Marsh Harriers, Sparrowhawk and Kestrel were noted around the willow swamp where also Kingfisher, Common Sandpiper, Great Spotted and Green Woodpeckers, Little Egrets, Grey Heron and the usual grebes with young. A Great White Egret was on south lake while a trickle of Swifts, Sand Martins and a Yellow Wagtail passed overhead. An afternoon visit to the beach produced 300 Sandwich Terns, 300 Oystercatchers and 180 Curlews.
  Just after 11pm Pat and I sauntered down the beach to watch the celestial light show that occurs every summer about his time - and we were not disappointed. Over the course of an hour shooting stars from the Perseid Meteor Shower were visible every five minutes or so careering across the ether. The wind was light and the moon-over-the-water dappled with striated clouds, while distant ships passed by in the night, all to the backdrop of the raucous calls of Sandwich Terns, fabulous stuff.

                                Scarce Bordered Straw, new for the Plovers trap site

                                Juvenile Robin in the garden this afternoon

Sunday - Warm dry and sunny, n 2 - 0700hrs - An immigrant Scarce Bordered Straw was a new moth for the garden last night, which was no great surprise as other traps hereabouts have been recording them of late. Silver Y and Dark Swordgrass completed the migrant trio. A southward circuit of the Patch around Kerton Road pit in glorious warm sunshine delivered a few passage Yellow Wagtails and Mipits, plus two Wheatears and a family party of Stonechats by the quarry entrance. The homeward leg of the walk along the beach was notable for six Ringed Plovers, a Wheatear and several Med Gulls on the sands.
  Working in the garden today, Whimbrel, Hobby and Yellow Wagtail flew overhead, while `our` Robin fledglings picked off invertebrates from the newly cleared borders. Several visits from a Sparrowhawk through the day to the bird feeders resulted in a Collared Dove and Starling down, while a Woodpigeon narrowly avoided death as I disturbed the silent assassin just as it was about to deliver the Coup-de-gras.

Friday, 11 August 2017

Willow Warblers

Lade - 0700hrs - mild, cloudy, light airs - Good weather conditions for a drop in of warblers produced mainly Willows with at least 50 across the patch and in the garden. The biggest concentration was at the ponds with about 20 flitting through the willow scrub. A scattering of Whitethroats, Sedge Warblers and a Garden Warbler also noted. A Great White Egret landed briefly in the middle of south lake and a Kingfisher zipped around the willow swamp. Marsh Harrier, Sparrowhawk and Green Woodpecker also present.

                               Great White Egret, south lake

                                Willow Warblers are always a challenge to photograph


                               Sunbathing Foxes under the 30` mirror

                               Great Crested Grebes are having a good year

Dungeness - 1000hrs - A circuit of the bird reserve yielded a few waders, mostly on Dengemarsh where four Ruffs, two Green and one Common Sandpipers, Redshanks, Dunlin and Lapwing. On Burrowes the southern cluster of islands in front of Makepeace are now complete, while 15 Golden Plovers, Dunlin and Little Stint were roosting on the new islands to the right of the hide. Also noted across the site two Great White Egrets, three Marsh Harriers, Peregrine, Hobby, Kestrel and despite the increasing wind there were more Willow Warblers in scrub around the trail. A couple of thousand Black-headed Gulls were on Dengemarsh and feeding behind the plough towards Lydd.

                               Southern cluster of islands from Makepeace hide

                                Digger pontoon

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Pale Grass Eggar

Lade - cool, cloudy, ne 4 - A much cooler start to the day with a brisk wind out of the north. Consequently moth numbers were suppressed in the garden MV, but did include a few Silver Ys, a Toadflax Brocade and, first of the summer, a Pale Grass Eggar. This Red Data Book moth, a yellowish-brown form of Grass Eggar is largely restricted to the Dungeness area and parts of East Sussex.

                                Pale Grass Eggar

                               Tagged information signs, Lade

  We flogged around the local patch but there were fewer migrants about than yesterday and with no further sign of the Night Heron. Common Sandpiper, two Marsh Harriers and a Kingfisher were of note. Depressingly, the two information posts at the southern end of the pits, explaining the history of Lade `mirrors`, have been tagged by some little darling.
Dungeness - A midday visit to ARC, under leaden skies with heavy thunder and lightening showers in the Channel, yielded a clutch of waders including Ringed and Little Ringed Plovers, Redshanks and Dunlins amongst the massed ranks of Black-headed Gulls, Lapwings, Cormorants, feral geese, ducks and swans. About 50 Sand Martins skimmed the lake and a Hobby went over sending them skywards.
  An afternoon visit to a private garden on the estate for a Melodious Warbler drew a blank, while several Wheatears, Mipits and Skylarks hugged the beach scrub opposite in the increasing wind. My heart missed a couple of beats when I realised that Barney wasn`t nearby, until I spotted him over by the fishing containers chasing a Fox! Anyhow, no harm done to either beast and Barney soon scuttled back over the shingle panting like a good `un.

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Night Heron

Lade - 0700hrs - mild, cloudy, light airs - A cracking session on the local patch with the highlight being brief flight views of an immature Night Heron that flew around the scaffold island on south lake before dropping back into the willow swamp. That was at 07.30hrs, when I did manage to get an awful record shot, but despite scanning from the aerial ramp over the following hour it did not reappear. I`ve always thought from day one, almost 12 years ago, that `my new` patch should produce a Night Heron, and now it has. It`s perhaps relevant that 15 Little Egrets, 10 Grey Herons and a Great White Egret were also present across the wetland this morning suggesting that the lakes are teeming with fish.

                                Dreadful record shot of Night Heron, Lade

                               Little Egrets by 30` mirror

  Also of note, singles of Greenshank, Common and Green Sandpipers, plus all the usual grebes, Coots and ducks with young. Grounded warblers were in good numbers too with 20 each of Sedge, Reed and Willow Warblers and Common Whitethroat, and one each of Garden Warbler and Spotted Flycatcher near the ponds. Singles of Yellow Wagtail, Skylark and Mipit noted overhead.
  A scan from the aerial ramp at 10.00hrs drew a blank on the heron, probably due to ongoing work on the wireless aerial with a bloke atop a cherry-picker. However, all was not wasted as my visit did deliver confirmation of a breeding bird.
  Sparrowhawks are notoriously secretive when nesting and through the breeding season are only occasionally noted here, but the distinctive hunger call of a juvenile deep within the willow swamp was soon answered when an adult male flew across the lake with what looked like a dead Starling.  The much larger female hawk received the prey from the male and plunged into the willows to feed the noisy youngster/s.
  With the suns rays now bouncing off the shingle three Marsh Harriers and two Common Buzzards were soon soaring high above the airfield.
  An evening visit with Pat and PB also drew a blank for the Night Heron. The Sparrowhawks were still active around the willow swamp, a flock of 15 Common Terns came and went on south lake and a Great Spotted Woodpecker was noted by the ponds.
 

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Quieter times

Lade  - warm, cloudy, light airs - 0700hrs - Perfect weather conditions you might think for a few grounded migrants, overcast with a hint of rain and no wind, but we struggled to even find a Whitethroat. The reed beds, however, were alive with acro warblers, and being as its August all were checked for that enigma (and my personal bogey bird) an Aquatic Warbler - well I can dream...
  Around the margins were up to 20 Little Egrets and Grey Herons, two Common Sandpipers, plus a single Great White Egret in the main reed bed and a hunting Marsh Harrier. On the beach the now expected parties of Sandwich and Common Terns present and five Whimbrels over with the Curlews to roost.

                                Completed islands near the Cormorant colony

                               Digger in action on the southern cluster of islands

  Back home around midday, sitting in the garden with a brew in warm sunshine (when it was supposed to be raining) two Willow Warblers worked their way through the fir trees, a smart Lesser Whitethroat popped up and a Hobby sped overhead causing the Starlings and House Sparrows to take cover.
Dungeness - It was predictably quiet around the bird reserve where good progress is being made on the Re-Tern project on Burrowes. The islands to the right side of Makepeace are now complete and the digger was working on the main cluster to the left of the hide. Despite the disruption seven Dunlins, two Blackwits, a Ringed Plover and several Common Sandpipers were scattered across the lake, while the Common Terns were still bringing in fish for juveniles, which is getting late in the season.
  An hour at the boats this afternoon with PB delivered a steady trickle of Sandwich and Common Terns fishing close to shore, plus a few Kittiwakes, Gannets and Common Scoters further out. A single dark phase Arctic Skua robbed a couple of terns as it moved down-Channel, while at least ten Porpoises and a Grey Seal were noted.
  An evening visit to Dengemarsh revealed two Green Sandpipers and a flock of 15 Yellow Wagtails along the sewer margin.

Saturday, 5 August 2017

Grounded migrants

Lade - warm, cloudy, nw 2 - 0700hrs - Whilst emptying the garden moth trap a couple of Willow Warblers calling from cover was a good indication of an overnight grounding of migrants, and so it proved to be. As we wandered across the storm beaches, with hardly any wind, a sprinkling of Common Whitethroats started to appear followed by two Lesser Whitethroats and a few more Willow Warblers in Mockmill, plus three Stonechats and a Wheatear. Another Wheatear was noted in a field behind the `mirrors` where the two locally fledged Marsh Harriers were on the hunt. 
  Around the lakeside margins the reed beds and willow swamp were alive with Blue and Great Tits, Sedge and Reed Warblers. A dozen Little Egrets were counted while a Great White Egret flapped lazily towards the bird reserve. As the tide came in hundreds of Curlews, Oystercatchers and Sandwich Terns moved off the bay to roost or fish.

                                Newly formed islands, north Burrowes

Dungeness - 1100hrs - Called in at Burrowes where there was little of note due to ongoing digger work on the islands. A couple of Common Sandpipers and a Ruff were the only waders present and a Peregrine flew through. Two Great White Egrets were reported from Dengemarsh, but there was no further news on yesterdays Pectoral Sandpiper. A White Stork was also reported from the bird reserve this afternoon.

Thursday, 3 August 2017

Feast of waders

Oare Marshes - warm and windy, sw 6 - 0830hrs - Had to go to north Kent today to recce a couple of sites for articles. But first off, together with CP, we indulged ourselves at what must be one of the finest wader viewing sites anywhere in the country. As it was high tide the East Flood was jam packed with birds, mainly Black-tailed Godwits (c700) in every conceivable plumage phases, plus around 300 Redshanks and 200 Avocets. There was also a good supporting cast of Dunlins, again in a wide variety of plumages and sizes, from short-billed arctic/schinzii to long-billed alpine types; several of the smaller ones were being mistaken for Little Stints and a larger one for Curlew Sandpiper. However, there was an adult Little Stint, but best of all, a dusky Spotted Redshank. Also present 50 Lapwings, 20 Golden Plovers, six Ruff, two Little Ringed Plovers, two Snipe, Turnstone and  Whimbrel.
  Away from the waders at least 20 Mediterranean Gulls were amongst the Black-headed and Common Gulls on islands, where we eventually located the `resident` adult Bonaparte`s Gull slumped asleep amongst the gulls. A steady passage of Sand Martins and Swifts moved overhead in the strong wind while also noted Goldfinch, Mipit, Skylark, Pied Wagtail, Dabchick, a Garganey, Shoveler, Teal, five Common terns, several Little Egrets, Kestrel, plus Bearded Tit and Cetti`s Warbler heard.

                                Some of the hundreds of Black-tailed Godwits

                                Avocets

                                Adult Bonaparte`s Gull, East Flood

Conyer Creek - In the afternoon we moved west along the coast for a circuit of the old brick works site by the creek. By now many of the waders had dispersed and were on the Swale mud with plenty of Redshanks and Blackwits around the margins of Fowley Island. On a calmer day no doubt more passerines would have been discovered in the scrub around the peninsula, but not today with a howling gale in progress.
   Our final port of call was the old lagoons north of Murston bordering the Swale and a new spot for both of us. Small numbers of Common Terns were still feeding juveniles, plus more Redshanks and Blackwits were noted on the far bank along with a total of 25 Greenshanks.
  In summary an enjoyable days birding, despite the wind, and we both agreed to visit Oare Marshes more often.

                                Conyer Creek

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Terntastic!

Dungeness - mild, overcast, ssw 4 - 0800-1000hrs - A two hour seawatch from the boats with MH and CP was notable for a steady down-Channel passage of Gannet squadrons totalling around 200 birds, along with a steady trickle of Common Scoters, Sandwich and Common Terns. Also noted singles of Fulmar, Med Gull and Manx Shearwater.
  The spectacle of the watch was a shoal of mackerel and sprats close to shore being rounded up by porpoises and a grey seal. At times the surface was broiling with fish, some which leapt clear of the water to avoid the sea mammals, only to be consumed by gulls and terns from above. Several pulses of Sand Martins and Swifts struck out for Franceland as the wind picked up and before the rain set in around noon.
ARC - Plenty of Lapwings and wildfowl on the islands, plus several each of Common Sandpiper, Dunlin and Little Ringed Plover and hundreds of Sand Martins over the water. From Screen hide it was good to see two locally fledged Marsh Harriers in action over the reedbeds.
Lade - A check of the bay from the Tavern viewpoint on an ebbing tide revealed a cornucopia of terns, gulls and waders. The terns were mainly loafing on sand bars, dodging a few hardy holidaymakers, and bringing in sprats which were offered up to their mates. Common Terns were much in evidence at 310, comprising mostly adult birds, followed by 185 garrulous Sandwich Terns. The quality was provided in the form of 12 Arctic, four Little and two Black Terns.

                               Some of the many terns on the bay

  Waders were well strung out across the bay as the tide receded with minimum counts of: 330 Oystercatcher, 210 Curlew, 40 Sanderling, 30 Dunlin, six Barwit, five Turnstone and two Knot. At least six Mediterranean were amongst up to a thousand mainly Black-headed and Herring Gulls.
  A brief look at north lake before the rain set in revealed a moulting Black-necked Grebe.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Bits and pieces

Lade - warm, dry and sunny, sw 2 - A very pleasant day with warm sunshine throughout. The best of last nights low moth count in the garden MV included Jersey Tiger and Brown-line Bright Eye. A circuit of the local patch produced Green and Common Sandpiper around the margins, 12 Little Egrets in the willows and a juvenile Marsh Harrier bathing in the willow swamp shallows.
Dungeness - On the bird reserve this afternoon machinery was being off loaded for the Re-Tern Project. On Burrowes Common Terns were still feeding young on one of the islands, while Common and Wood Sandpiper, Dunlin, Blackwit and LRP were all present around the lake, plus Willow Warbler and Lesser Whitethroat in the bankside scrub. Elsewhere, a Spoonbill was on Dengemarsh and a Garganey on ARC.
Walland Marsh - I checked the bay late afternoon where at least 220 Sandwich Terns were on the beach, several of which sported yellow colour rings, plus two Arctic Terns and 15 Common Terns.
A run out on the Marsh this evening with CP in perfect weather conditions resulted in at least three Turtle Doves around Midley. Elsewhere, there were plenty of Reed Buntings in the ditches and field beans along with lesser numbers of Yellowhammers, Corn Buntings, Tree Sparrows and Yellow Wagtails. Several Buzzards were noted, plus Marsh Harrier, Kestrel and Little Owl. By far the most numerous migrant was Sand Martin with hundreds feeding over the crops along with scores of Swifts and a large flock of Starlings.