Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps

Dungeness -mild, cloudy, light airs - The perfect morning for a few grounded migrants you might think and while there were plenty of commoners on show such as Mipits, Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps there was nothing of real quality. Hirundines were numerous and the Obs staff were kept busy ringing Swallows caught in the moat. Also noted around the point a scattering of Pied Wagtails, Robins, Linnets and Stonechats, plus singles of Goldcrest, Sedge Warbler, Wheatear and Grey Wagtail.
A cursory glance at the sea revealed a few passing Gannets and a flock of 13 Common Scoters.
Lade - Plenty of grebes here along three Common Terns, four Redshanks and more Chiffchaffs in the willows.
  We finished a most enjoyable three day Birdwatching Break for Clare and Peter with 102 species of birds and a typical range of September migrants.

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

House Martins

Dungeness - warm, dry, sunny, nw 2 - A cracking morning to be out and about in the field, and what better way to start the day than with a host of House Martins swarming around the old lighthouse and settling on overhead wires, as ever a superb sight. Infact, throughout the day thousands of hirundines passed over the peninsula and out to sea. There were plenty of Chiffchaffs in the bushes around the point, a few Mipits overhead and a showy Whinchat on the power station fence, plus a Clouded Yellow by the Patch wall.

                               Some of the many House Martins seen today

                                Starling feeding on blackberries

                                Whinchat, power station fence

                                Wheatear, Greatstone beach

Moving onto the bird reserve and on Burrowes the highlights were several Great White Egrets, three Avocets, five Shelducks (first since the moult), a Common Sandpiper, two Ravens over and close views of a Lesser Whitethroat in front of Dennis`s hide. Two late Swifts flew over ARC while from Hanson hide a flock of 25 Blackwits and 10 Knots were new, plus yesterdays Curlew Sandpiper, Little Stints and Dunlins. I had brief views of a Water Rail from Hanson hide while more Chiffchaffs, Blackcap and Cetti`s Warbler were noted in the willow scrub. At least 10 Common Buzzards drifted over amongst the usual Kestrels and Marsh Harriers, and a Stonechat and Whinchat were seen in the Kerton Road triangle.
  Early afternoon from the Tavern viewpoint delivered hundreds of Curlews, Oystercatchers, Dunlins, Knots, Barwits and Sanderlings scattered across the sands, plus 50 Sandwich Terns, two Mediterranean Gulls and a Wheatear on the foreshore. Offshore at least four Grey Seals were noted following the receding tide for fish.
  We finished off at the fishing boats where a trickle of Sandwich Terns, Gannets, two Arctic Skuas, 12 Common Scoters, four Brents (first of the autumn) a Guillemot and hundreds of outward bound hirundines rounded off a decent days birding for the guests.
 

Monday, 18 September 2017

Chiffchaffs and waders

Lade - cool, cloudy, nw 2 - Chiffchaffs seemed to be all over the place this morning with birds scattered across the site and in garden shrubbery. On south lake a Ruff, several Common Terns and the usual flypast of hundreds of Greylags. Around 300 Curlews flew to roost on the Desert along with 20 Barwits, 10 Knots and five Redshanks.
Birdwatching Break - Picked up Clare and Peter from Ashford just after midday who`re down from London for a three day break.
Kennardington - We headed for lunch beside the canal followed by a walk east towards Warehorne. The bushes were alive with flocks of Great, Blue and Long-tailed Tits, Chiffchaffs and single figures of Willow Warbler, Lesser Whitethroat and Goldcrest. Also noted, Kingfisher, Common Buzzard, Kestrel and Little Egret. Butterflies in the sun traps included Comma, Red Admiral and Speckled Wood.
Scotney - On the front fields the usual mixed Barnacle Goose flock, 60 Curlews, 10 Barwits and a Ruff. Also five flyover Avocets, 20 Wigeon, Yellow Wagtails, Linnets, Sand Martins and Swallows.
Dengemarsh - From Springfield Bridge plenty of Lapwings and Golden Plovers on the islands,  several Marsh Harriers over, a Hobby hawking dragonflies, a Great White Egret, four Ruffs, five Snipes, a Sedge Warbler, Yellow Wagtails, Meadow Pipits, Reed Buntings and Linnets.
We finished the day at ARC where three Little Stints and a Curlew Sandpiper were amongst 20 Dunlins and all the usual wildfowl and Lapwings.  

Friday, 15 September 2017

Red-necked Grebe

Friday - Dungeness - Cool, sunshine and cloud, w 2 - A wander down to the Patch delivered a juvenile Little Gull and Yellow-legged Gull over the boil. On the beach several Sandwich and Common Terns amongst a mix of Black-headed, Herring and Black-backed Gulls. Plenty of Gannets and terns offshore, although mostly distant with Arctic Skuas, and at least one Bonxie, chasing the terns. Black Redstarts have been thin on the ground this summer so it was good to see a flock of five, plus a Robin, feeding along the shingle bank by the sea defence blocks, where also a few Mipits and a Wheatear.
  On Burrowes this afternoon a juvenile Red-necked Grebe showed distantly from Dennis`s hide. Also over the lake two Black Terns and the long staying Little Stint from Firth hide.


                                Black Redstart, Dungeness

Lade - The Osprey was seen again late morning from the aerial ramp over Kerton Road pit. On north lake a Black Tern and Black-necked Grebe. There were several Chiffchaffs and Goldcrests in Plovers garden this morning.

Saturday - Lade - cool, cloudy, nw 2 - A nippy start to the day with few moths in the garden MV totalling a meagre 12 species. The island on south lake however was far more interesting with a party of Common Terns and two each of Ruff and Redshank. Yet again there were few ducks on the waters but plenty of grebes and a Black Tern over north lake. The passerine count was, as expected, pitiful with a score of Swallows and Sand Martins over the Desert and a just a few Chiffchaffs in the willow swamp. However, spectacle of the day went to the 800 or so Greylags that noisily flew over the site heading towards the bird reserve.

                                Standing room only on south island

                                Two Ruffs

                                Greylags over Lade

Dungeness - Had a run out this afternoon where the juvenile Red-necked Grebe (rare here) was still over the far side of Burrowes from the viewpoint by Dennis`s hide. There was very little else of note on Burrowes though apart from four Great White Egrets, five Pintails, three Ruff and a Ringed Plover.
At the point a brief seawatch from the boats was terminated by a heavy rain shower, but little was on the move apart from four Wigeon down Channel and a steady trickle of hirundines out. The usual Gannets, Sandwich Terns and Arctic Skuas were performing offshore.
The Osprey was seen again today across the peninsula and four Spoonbills dropped onto Dengemarsh late afternoon.

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Meadow Pipits

Lade - 0700hrs - cool, sunny, nw 3 - A chilly start to the day with little notable passage apart from a trickle of Meadow Pipits and a few Sand Martins. Some of the Mipits were grounded and feeding along the main track beside the Desert - a classic September migrant. On south lake six Redshanks and a Ringed Plover on the island and a Grey Plover over calling.

                                Mipits remain a numerous passage migrant

An afternoon visit to north lake delivered flight views of the Osprey heading towards Lydd and a Black Tern over the lake. There was a few Chiffchaffs in the willow scrub but little else of note.
News from Dungeness concerned a Grey Phalarope still present along the foreshore and a Red-necked Phalarope briefly at Scotney.

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Grey Phalarope & Leach`s Petrel

Lade - 0700hrs - cool, sunny, w 4 - Following strong overnight winds and heavy rain a check of the lake for any storm-blown seabirds drew a blank. A Black Tern amongst 20 Commons on north lake was about the best of it, plus 500 Black-headed Gulls. On south lake the small, diminishing island attracted two Ruffs, a Redshank and Ringed Plover. Around the willow swamp several Chiffchaffs noted while 20 or more Sand Martins struggled in the wind over the waters. On the walk back several Magpies were mobbing a Short-eared Owl on the Desert, our first of the autumn.
Dungeness - Checked ARC for seabirds but there was nothing much doing here apart from a lone Black Tern over the lake. From Hanson hide two Pintails, a Garganey, Ruff and Dunlin were the only birds of note amongst the usual wildfowl and Lapwings.
  A guided walk for nine visitors was hard going in the strong wind. Around the circular route five Wheatears and a few common warblers was the sum total of small migrants such was the wind effect. At Dengemarsh two Ruffs, two Great White Egrets and Marsh Harriers were the highlights. On Burrowes a Little Stint, several Dunlins and Ringed Plovers noted while we finished on a high as the Osprey flew over towards Kerton Road.


                                Grey Phalarope, Dungeness fishing boats

                               At times it was close!

Spent a couple of fruitful hours at the boats this afternoon where the highlight was a very showy Grey Phalarope that performed like a good `un just offshore and flying up and down the foreshore. My bridge camera pics don't do it justice, although there should be some crackers on the DBO and Plodding Birder blogs. It was an odd sort of a seawatch with a big sea running and for most of the time just a trickle of Sandwich Terns and distant Arctic Skuas going down Channel. Also noted three Common Scoters and a Red-throated Diver on the sea, Little Tern, Grey Plover and Little Gull through, and just as I was leaving a Leach`s Petrel that flew west and was then swept back into the bay before it could round the point!

Monday, 11 September 2017

Wryneck

Dungeness - cool, showery, w 5 - Another unsettled day with showers rattling through on a blustery wind off the Atlantic. However, yesterdays Wryneck was still present in the same patch of scrub on the southern edge of the Desert. It showed briefly, feeding low down on the turf between a sheltered arm of gorse. A brief look at the sea yielded the expected terns, Gannets and an Arctic Skua.
  After counting ducks on New Diggings a quick look at a windswept Burrowes revealed an Avocet, two Common Sandpipers, a Ringed Plover, two Great White Egrets and the long-staying Goldeneye.

Sunday, 10 September 2017

Bedfordshire Bird Club

Dungeness RSPB - warm, dry, sunny, light airs to start, windy and cool from midday - Spent the day with old birding friends from Bedfordshire. We kicked off on the bird reserve where we had a decent clutch of passage warblers, chats and the like before the wind increased. Around the car park scrub and Return Trail we noted 10 Wheatears, five Whinchats, two Stonechats, two Common Redstarts (including a stunning male) and a host of Common and Lesser Whitethroats, Blackcaps, Willow Warblers, Reed Buntings, Great Tits, Green Woodpeckers, Goldcrest and Linnets, plus Greenfinch, Yellow Wagtails and Mipits overhead.
  Plenty of Marsh Harriers and Kestrels were noted throughout the circuit, plus Hobby and Merlin at Boulderwall, Sparrowhawk, Peregrine and superb views of an Osprey catching a fish at Dengemarsh. Also from the hide two Cattle Egrets, a Spoonbill, Ruff, 10 Snipe, Great White Egret, Kingfisher and hundreds of Sand Martins. On Burrowes five more Great White Egrets, a Goldeneye, Common Sandpipers, Ringed Plovers and Dunlins.



                                Cattle Egrets and Spoonbill on Dengemarsh

                                Osprey with fish, Dengemarsh

After a spot of lunch we moved across the road to ARC where the Osprey was seen again over Kerton Road pit; also further views of Hobby and Merlin scattering the hundreds of Sand Martins over the lake, plus 25 Blackwits, 10 Dunlins, Dabchick, Black Tern, Garganey and Pintail amongst scores of wildfowl and Lapwings.

                                Pintail from Hanson hide

NNR - We finished off at the point where we tried for the Wryneck on the Desert, but due to the strong wind it was a no show. At the fishing boats the usual procession of Sandwich Terns and Gannets offshore, plus five Arctic Skuas. A call from DW alerted us to a juvenile Caspian Gull in the puddles by the parking area, so we joined the army of long-tom locals and took a few pics of what was a highly vocal individual.
  It had been an enjoyable days birding with the landlubbers from Bedfordshire and I hope they all had a safe journey home.


                                Juvenile Caspian Gull, Dungeness

Friday, 8 September 2017

Rained off

Dungeness - wet and windy all day - In showery conditions first thing we did a circuit of Long Pits where the only migrants of note in the bushes were a few Lesser and Common Whitethroats, Willow Warblers and Chiffchaffs. Out on the Desert a couple of Wheatears and several Meadow Pipits, plus a trickle of Swallows south. On the way back home, in heavy rain, I stopped at Kerton Road around 0900hrs and was surprised to see one of the Ospreys flying across the Desert towards ARC.
  The rain set in throughout the day but relented just before lights out when a visit to the local patch delivered another Osprey sighting of a bird flying towards Greatstone, presumably to a roost site somewhere down the coast...

Thursday, 7 September 2017

Raptor day

Dungeness - cool, cloudy, sw 2-4 - A calm start to the day and a wander around the point with the guests delivered a skulking Sedge Warbler, several Mipits and Wheatears and a flyover Golden Plover on the beach opposite Jarman`s. Elsewhere a scattering of Willow Warblers and Wheatears, an increase in Robin numbers, two Sparrowhawks and a Kestrel.
  From Hanson hide on the bird reserve we jammed in on a terrific raptor session with distant views of an Osprey flying along the coast and catching a fish in Kerton Road quarry. It then flew towards ARC wherebye it was mobbed by crows, Peregrine and Kestrel before dropping onto the shingle to feed. The large female Peregrine then careered across the lake chasing a Black-tailed Godwit,  flushing everything in its wake and tussling with a Marsh Harrier, after which it settled on a post on the far side of the lake. A Common Buzzard and another two Marsh Harriers were also noted, plus a Black-necked Grebe, while the Pectoral Sandpiper remained faithful to the cormorant island.
  The digger work is now complete on Burrowes and it has certainly changed the scenery with plenty of new islands scattered across the pit and an extensive sand bar in front of Firth hide where a flock of Dunlins, Ringed Plovers and a Ruff were busily feeding.
  Over the three days we rattled up 101 species for Ray and Stuart with a number of quality migrants such as Pectoral Sandpiper, Cattle Egret and Red-backed Shrike and a host of raptors.
NB: A second Osprey was seen over Kerton Road quarry this afternoon (PB).

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Red-backed Shrike

Lade - cool, cloudy start, sunny later, w 4 - A couple of Goldcrests in the garden fir trees and a Grey Wagtail over were the only migrants of note locally on what was a blustery day and much cooler than of late.
  An early afternoon check of the bay from the Tavern viewpoint, on a falling tide, was notable for hundreds of Oystercatchers and Curlews, 100 Dunlin, 30 Sanderling, 50 Barwits, 10 Redshanks, 100 Sandwich, 20 Common and five Arctic Terns. An odd distant wader flummoxed me for a while until I decided it had to be a juvenile female Ruff, an usual record on the beach. Just as we were leaving the sandpipers erupted skywards as a Merlin plunged into the flock, but without success. 


                                Wheatears, Dungeness

                                Red-backed Shrike, Long Pits

Dungeness - A seawatch from the hide delivered a steady flow of down-channel Sandwich Terns and Gannets, several Arctic Skuas, a small flock of Common Scoters and a few outward bound Swallows and a House Martin. The Patch was also quiet with only a juvenile Yellow-legged Gull of note. A wander around the point produced a few Meadow Pipits, Willow Warblers, Common Whitethroats and Wheatears.
  Onto Dengemarsh and four Ruff amongst the Golden Plovers and Lapwings, plus two Great White Egrets and a pair of Peregrines over. It was then back to the point and the Long Pits where a juvenile Red-backed Shrike showed briefly in scrub on the Desert; we returned later in the day and gained much better views. Also Blackcap, Lesser and Common Whitethroats, Wheatear and Stonechats on the Desert.
  A late afternoon seawatch from the fishing boats was quiet with several Arctic Skuas chasing the terns, 20 Harbour Porpoises and a Grey Seal offshore and a Swift out.

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Egrets and sandpipers

Lade - cloudy and humid, w 2 - Another disappointing batch of moths in the garden MV this morning apart from two, now not so scarce, Scare Bordered Straws. However, as always it was good to first hear, then glimpse, our first Firecrest of the autumn in the garden fir trees.
Dungeness - We kicked off a Birdwatching Break for two of our regulars from London today. After picking up Ray and Stuart from Ashford we headed back to the coast to Galloways where three each of Whinchat and Stonechat were noted by the bend in the road leading down to the sea. Near Springfield Bridge a mixed flock of c300 Lapwings and Golden Plovers in a recently ploughed field contained two Ruffs, until flushed by a Sparrowhawk. On Dengemarsh five Great White Egrets and all the usual wildfowl.
  We then moved around to Burrowes where two Black Terns dropped in. Despite the ongoing digger work a decent collection of waders across the pit included 15 Dunlin, three Ruff, two Common Sandpipers, Little Ringed and Ringed Plovers, Little Stint and Knot. Also noted, a Swift, hundreds of Sand Martins and Swallows, Sedge and Willow Warbler, Marsh Harrier and Kestrel.
  On Boulderwall fields two juvenile Cattle Egrets showed briefly amongst the cows before disappearing into ditches. Walking down to Hanson hide PB alerted us to an Osprey flying over towards Dengemarsh. From the hide a cracking close Great White Egret in the reedbed, a distant Pectoral Sandpiper on the cormorant island, two Garganeys, a Green Sandpiper and Kingfisher amongst a host of wildfowl and Lapwings rounded off a decent days birding.

Sunday, 3 September 2017

Osprey

Lade - cool, dry cloudy, s 2 - Several visits to the local patch eventually delivered 15 Wheatears, five Whinchats and two Stonechats on the Desert, plus a southbound trickle of Yellow Wagtails, Swallows, Mipits and singles of Tree Pipit and Grey Wagtail. Around the lakeside margins Greenshank, Common and Green Sandpipers and a flock of 10 Common Terns over the water. Also noted a Great White Egret, several Buzzards, Kestrels and Marsh Harriers.
  Around lunchtime an Osprey put in an appearance over the bird reserve and along the coastal strip at Lydd-on-Sea where it was seen fishing over the Kerton Road pit. It eventually departed high over the bay towards the east, although presumably the same bird was seen later in the afternoon at Dengemarsh.

                                Garganey, ARC

Dungeness - From Hanson hide this morning the Pectoral Sandpiper showed well along with three Garganeys and a large collection of Lapwings and wildfowl that were briefly flushed by a Peregrine. Two Spoonbills remained on Burrowes and at least three Cattle Egrets looked to be settled on the Boulderwall fields.

Walter Becker - This afternoon (along with many other fans of Steely Dan no doubt) I was saddened to hear of the passing of Walter Becker at the age of 67, whilst listening to the excellent Radio 2 Sounds of the 70`s show hosted by Johnnie Walker. Walter was, along with Donald Fagen, the co-founder of one of the great bands of the 1970`s  - and boy was that decade packed full `em. I first came across Steely Dan in 1974 when Pretzel Logic was released, immediately becoming hooked on their unique sound, a dazzling blend of jazz, rock and R&B.
  Walter Becker and Donald Fagen had a tempestuous relationship at the best of times and for much of the middle part of their career performed mostly as a studio band and rarely toured. But in the pantheon of rock musician and songwriter Walter Becker is right up there with the greats of popular music; and of course his legacy will continue as long as humankind appreciates the great art form that is music.

Saturday, 2 September 2017

Crests and newts

Lade - cool, dry, sunny, nw 3 - 0700hrs - A distinctly autumnal feel to the weather this morning following low overnight temperatures and a northerly airflow. Signs of autumn were much in evidence around the cottage with our first Smooth Newt of the season on the kitchen floor searching for a snug venue in which to hibernate, while several Goldcrests were calling from the garden fir trees.

                                Smooth Newt, Plovers kitchen floor

  A tour of the local patch had a typical early autumn migrant flavour with a trickle of Yellow Wagtails, Swallows and Mipits overhead, two Whinchats and five Wheatears on the Desert, a scattering of Common and Lesser Whitethroats, Willow Warblers and Chiffchaffs, plus a Spotted Flycatcher and Great Spotted Woodpecker by the ponds. On north lake two each of Common and Green Sandpipers and a Great White Egret.
  I managed to miss a late morning Osprey at Lade today, and whilst checking out the site this afternoon another (or the same) bird flew over Kerton Road pits (thanks for the call PB) constituting a double dip. The chat flock was still on the Desert this evening.


                                Wheatear and Whinchat, Lade Desert

Dungeness - Called in at Hanson hide around midday where the wader highlights were two Redshanks, four Avocets and a Dunlin, but I failed to locate the Pectoral Sandpiper reported earlier. At least three Garganeys were present amongst the dabbling ducks and a Goldcrest called from the willow scrub. Over the road at least two Cattle Egrets were in the fields at Boulderwall amongst the cows.
  An hour at the fishing boats this afternoon with PB delivered a host of fishing Common, Sandwich and at least two Black Terns, plus at least five attendant Arctic Skuas and a few Gannets. A small party of Swallows left our shores and six Dunlins coasted west. On a flat calm sea up to 30 Harbour Porpoises and two Grey Seals were noted feeding on the abundant Mackerel shoals offshore.

Friday, 1 September 2017

Essex

Essex - We`ve been off the Marsh this week recceing out sites for future birding articles in Essex. We based ourselves at Fan Farm camp site on Mersea Island where there was plenty of migrants in the coastal scrub and passing overhead; mostly hirundines, warblers, chats, wagtails and the like with Spotted Flycatchers, Redstart and Turtle Dove being the pick of the bunch. The muddy reaches, creeks and channels of the Blackwater estuary delivered a decent crop of waders including hundreds of Redshanks and a steady trickle of Whimbrels. Sandwich, Common and Little Terns were all noted, while at night time Tawny Owls were active around the camp site.

                                Coastal scrub, East Mersea

                                Oyster beds, West Mersea

                                The Naze

                                The Naze visitor centre

                                Fingringhoe visitor centre

                                Abberton Reservoir

We also visited the Essex Wildlife Trust reserves at Fingringhoe, The Naze and Abberton Reservoir. All three sites were good for birds with impressive visitor centres, and in the case of the latter two, shiny new and expensive looking buildings with busy cafes full of punters. However, whilst chatting to a couple of local birders at Abberton they were less than impressed by the new adventure playground complete with zip wire - I kid you not!
Anyhow, there was still plenty to see once clear of the centre area, including two Red-necked Phalaropes from the church end, Little Stints and Curlew Sandpipers, although I couldn't find the reported Pectoral Sandpiper, which was not too surprising considering the size of the place. Large numbers of wildfowl and gulls were  already on the water, whilst I counted 30 Little Egrets and 250 Great Crested Grebes. Good luck to the person/s who have to do the monthly WeBS count!