Monday, 20 November 2017


Lade - mild, cloudy, drizzle, sw 3 - A grim old day weather wise was considerably enlivened by a fall of Goldcrests. Despite the wind picking up through the day they seemed to be everywhere from the back garden, to the willow swamp at Lade pits, the scrub around the bird reserve car park and the Willow Trail where there was also a Firecrest amongst a large passerine flock.
  From Hanson hide a decent show of waders included 300 Lapwings, 30 Blackwits, 20 Dunlins, five Redshanks and two Snipe. Also seen around ARC, four Great White Egrets, 12 Pintails, two Goldeneyes, a Kingfisher, Water Rail and Cetti`s Warbler. From the access road Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, Marsh Harrier, Stonechat and a flyover Cattle Egret by Boulderwall.
  A brief look at the beach this afternoon in grim light revealed all the usual waders, plus a late Sandwich Tern.

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 a 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 cafĂ© 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