Friday, 19 January 2018

Weekly summary

Lade -cold, dry and sunny, light airs - A stunning morning with bright sunshine throughout and plenty to see on the local patch. A single Long-tailed Duck remained on south lake among a range of wildfowl including nine Goldeneye, 150 Shoveler and 20 Wigeon, plus two redhead Goosander that touched down for ten minutes before heading back towards the bird reserve. The Slavonian Grebe, however, was not seen but could still be lurking in the reeds somewhere across the site. Marsh Harrier, Buzzard, Kingfisher, Green Woodpecker were all noted, while the wintering Dartford Warbler briefly popped up atop the gorse scrub by the tunnel. Walking back along the beach numerous dogfish, sea mice and cockles were washed up from the recent stormy weather and six species of shorebirds were noted on the sands.

                               Common Gull, Lade sands

  Elsewhere today, the wintering Smew and Black-throated Diver were reported from the bird reserve and two Bean Geese were seen at Scotney among the Greylags. On Walland Marsh 42  Bewick`s Swans were counted earlier in the week near Cheyne Court, but not viewable from roads, with 30 odd flying in to roost on ARC pit at dusk most evenings. White-fronted Geese have also been mobile between the Dengemarsh and Scotney area and a Glaucous Gull has been coming and going on Burrowes. The wintering Long-eared Owl/s have not obliged this week.

Thursday, 18 January 2018

Blackbird singing at dawn

Lade - cold, sunny, w 5 - A bumpy old night as gale force winds rattled up the Channel, but nowhere near as strong and wet as forecast. At this low point of the winter it is always good to be reminded of warmer times ahead and those glimmers of coming spring. Foxglove and mullein rosettes are sprouting on the shingle ridges, while one day last week a bumble bee broke cover in a sheltered spot by the ponds. Yesterday a `tumbling` pair of Ravens at Dengemarsh suggested that their breeding cycle was well underway and this morning in the half-light of dawn I was pleasantly surprised to hear a Blackbird singing from the garden fir trees. Even though it only sang a half-hearted lament for ten minutes or so it was real treat; spring is just around the corner.
Dungeness RSPB - A guided walk for a U3A group from Lewes this morning, around the circular trail, produced all the expected wintering species including a Black-throated Diver on Dengemarsh and a pair of Smew on Christmas Dell pool. The group also had particularly good views of several Marsh Harriers, Goldeneyes and Great White Egrets, plus Buzzard, two Egyptian Geese, Green Woodpecker and Fieldfare. A Dartford Warbler was also noted in gorse scrub at Dengemarsh, while a flock of 20 Curlews showed well on the Boulderwall fields. Once again the roosting Long-eared Owl proved elusive behind the Dipping Pool.

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Waders and raptors

Dungeness - cold, sunny, nw 5 - Spent the day in the field guiding for Lizzie from Sheffield. We started off at the point where the 1st winter Glaucous Gull put in a brief appearance at the Patch amongst a mass of gulls over the boil. A male Peregrine and Kestrel both showed well perched on the power station superstructure sheltering from the rasping north-westerly wind. Unsurprisingly, due to the wind direction, there were few seabirds on offer from the fishing boats, but persistence paid off and we eventually had decent views of a handful of Guillemots, Razorbills, Red-throated Divers and Gannets. Several Kittiwakes fed closer to shore amongst the gulls, while the regular Caspian Gull was at the puddles.
  We then moved on to Lade for the Long-tailed Duck and Slavonian Grebe, where also Goldeneye, Sparrowhawk and Marsh Harrier noted. On the bay, from the Varne boat club, a host of waders comprising nine species were duly logged, including a flock of 30 Black-tailed Godwits.
  At Dengemarsh hundreds of Golden Plovers showed well on the fields, plus Black-throated Diver, Raven and Linnets from Springfield Bridge. Also noted the Boulderwall Tree Sparrows, Smew and Glaucous Gull on Burrowes and at least three Marsh Harriers to roost in the Oppen Pits.
  A decent days birding for our guest during which we recorded a typical range of wintering birds with waders and raptors the highlights.

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Bewick`s Swans

Lade - mild, dry, sunny, w 3 - After yesterdays washout it was good to get out and about in the sunshine. We had a quick look at the local pits where the Long-tailed Duck and Slavonian Grebe were both on south lake and the Dartford Warbler was chattering occasionally in the gorse scrub.

                                Bewick`s Swans (from the archives)

Walland Marsh - We then spent the rest of the day searching for Bewick`s Swans at some of their favoured haunts across the flatlands for todays national co-ordinated survey. This winter so far numbers have been low and all I could find was 42 (a flock of 36 and another of six) well away from the road in fields at the back of the wind farm. Also noted around the Marsh, 25 White-fronts, thousands of Golden Plovers and Lapwings, hundreds of Fieldfares, several Buzzards and Marsh Harriers, 100 Linnets and 50 Skylarks in game cover, 10 Tree Sparrows and five Corn Buntings.

Sunday, 14 January 2018


Lade - mild, dry, sunny, light airs - A weekend of benign weather with the overcast skies of yesterday giving way to glorious sunshine today and light winds throughout. With a poor weather forecast for the coming week I decided to tackle the shorebirds this weekend, spending ages counting and recounting the waders on flood and ebb tides between Lade car park and the Varne slipway to come up with a more or less comprehensive count, or at least best endeavours: Oystercatcher 855, Curlew 483, Ringed Plover 12, Grey Plover 28, Knot 36, Sanderling 258, Dunlin 506, Barwit 42, Turnstone 20 and Redshank eight. There was also many thousands of gulls present, including a few roosting Kittiwakes and Mediterranean Gulls, plus several Shelducks and two Brent Geese.

                                Gannet corpse, Greatstone beach

  The gravel pit lakes continue to hold two Long-tailed Ducks and a Slavonian Grebe, up to 14 Goldeneyes, an increase in Shovelers to 160 and a couple of Shelducks. A Dartford Warbler continued to be elusive in the gorse scrub by south lake while Cetti`s Warbler, Marsh Harrier, Green Woodpecker, Long-tailed Tit, Chiffchaff, Goldcrest, Water Rail and Kingfisher were all noted across the site.
Dungeness - Yesterday morning a brief look at the sea yielded thousands of Guillemots, Razorbills, Great Crested Grebes and Cormorants plundering the fish shoals along with plenty of Gannets, Kittiwakes, Red-throated Divers and at least one Bonxie.
  On the bird reserve a pair of Smew were on Burrowes while the Black-throated Diver was still on Dengemarsh lake.

Friday, 12 January 2018

Two Long-tailed Ducks

Lade - mild, cloudy, light airs - I`ve suspected for a while that there may have been two Long-tailed Ducks on site at the same time, and this morning it proved to be with both birds together on south lake. Cannot remember seeing two before on a gravel pit lake, so a pretty unusual record. The Slavonian Grebe was on north lake while the Dartford Warbler was chattering away in the gorse scrub just south of the tunnel.

                                Two Long-tailed Ducks, south lake

                                Slavonian Grebe, north lake

Dungeness - Nipped into the bird reserve to see the wintering Long-eared Owl which for once was showing well at roost behind the Dipping Pool and drawing quite a crowd of birders. Elsewhere, a pair of Smew were at Christmas Dell and the Black-throated Diver on Dengemarsh.  

                                Long-eared Owl, Dipping Pool roost

Thursday, 11 January 2018

Gravel pit delights

Wednesday - Lade - mild, dry and sunny - 0800hrs - At last, a decent day of weather with plenty of welcome sunshine and light airs. A stroll around the local patch delivered good views of the Dartford Warbler in the gorse south of the aerial, although I understand that by midday it was even more obliging, posing on a wire fence and atop the scrub. The Long-tailed Duck was more tricky to see, diving constantly on south lake, while the Slavonian Grebe was in the reedbed by the wall `mirror`.
Dungeness - From the causeway road a redhead Smew and a Black-necked Grebe on ARC and a pair of Goosanders on New Diggings continued what was to become a memorable day for wildfowl and grebes. On the Boulderwall fields a Brent Goose, 10 Curlews, Great White Egret, Buzzard and Stonechat, plus several Tree Sparrows on the feeders.
  A guided walk for seven guests around the circular trail was notable for a pair of Smew on Christmas Dell pool, four Ruff on Burrowes and a Black-throated Diver in front of Dengemarsh hide, presumably the recent ARC bird. Also noted several Marsh Harriers, a Sparrowhawk, Great White Egrets, Goldeneyes and thousands of Lapwings and Golden Plovers in the sky above the reserve.
Scotney - With news from PB concerning a rash of goodies at Scotney this afternoon the view from the double bends was completely different from my last visit a few days ago. Two Red-necked Grebes were asleep on the lake amongst 20 Pintail and hundreds of common diving duck and Wigeon, while on the roadside field two Tundra Bean Geese and 30 White-fronts stood amongst a mixed flock of Greylag and Barnacle Geese.
  A brilliant days birding comprising 13 species of ducks, seven of geese, five grebes and a diver across the gravel pits at Lade, Dungeness and Scotney.
(A belated post due to our Broadband being down yesterday)

                                Black-throated Diver and Smew, Dungeness RSPB

Thursday - cold, grey, drizzle - Orlestone Forest - After yesterdays glorious weather today it was back to the gloom of Mordor, complete with a steady drizzle but thankfully without the orcs. Not exactly the best conditions to check the woods, but nothing ventured nothing gained and all that... However, during the course of the morning in Faggs and Longrope Woods the expect woodland birds noted, including two woodpeckers, Nuthatch, Treecreeper, Goldcrest, Coal and Long-tailed Tits, Jay and Tawny Owl. There was no sign of the king-of-the-finches or Lesser pecker.
  On the way home a scan from Warehorne bridge overlooking the canal delivered Green Sandpiper and Kingfisher, and back at the coast I joined CT in the Hanson where a Firecrest showed well in front of the hide.

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

A pair of Smew

Dungeness - 0830hrs - cold and grey, se 2 - Another grim old day on the Marsh with low light levels throughout, but at least the blasting east wind had relented. We joined the regular seawatchers at the fishing boats for half an hour where hundreds of Guillemots, Razorbills, Gannets, Cormorants and Great Crested Grebes fished just offshore. A few Kittiwakes and Red-throated Divers flew by, plus singles of Red-breasted Merganser, Fulmar, Caspian Gull and Bonxie.

                                Guillemots off Dungeness

                                Pair of Smew from Christmas Dell hide

  At the bird reserve ongoing conservation work on Burrowes and ARC kept the wildfowl on the move which meant that the pools in front of the usually quiet Christmas Dell hide became the focus of attention. Smew have been in short supply this winter so it was good to see a pair amongst the diving ducks, plus Marsh Harrier and Great White Egret over and in the reedbeds respectively.
Lade - At least 3,000 Cormorants were counted flying over the peninsula from the north-east heading towards the bird reserve. I couldn't find the Long-tailed Duck, but it could easily have been lurking somewhere on site, while the Slavonian Grebe was in the back channel on north lake. With only light airs the Dartford Warbler made its presence known, calling and briefly perching atop the gorse. Also around the site Cetti`s Warbler, Chiffchaff, Stonechat, Marsh Harrier, Sparrowhawk and Shelduck.

Monday, 8 January 2018


Dungeness - cold and dull, e 4 - While not as windy as yesterday, down at Dunge it was still cold and necessary to take on the appearance of a polar explorer to stay warm, or maybe its just me feeling my age... Barney, however, is made of sterner stuff and loves the cold, dry weather, gambolling around like a puppy. At the Patch at least two Mediterranean Gulls amongst a blizzard of gulls over the boil with hundreds more on the beach. The immature Iceland Gull that`s been knocking around for a while put in a brief appearance as it flew west towards Penn Bars. Offshore hundreds of Gannets, Great Crested Grebes, Guillemots, Kittiwakes and Cormorants, plus a few Red-throated Divers, while a pair of Foxes scavenging along the tideline gave Barney cause for concern. Repair work to the shingle bank in order to save the Patch hide from tumbling onto the foreshore continues apace.

                                1st winter Caspian Gull from last week

                               Foxes keeping an eye on Barney

 At the fishing boats this afternoon we had an enjoyable one hour seawatch in company with MH amd RW. A steady stream of Gannets, Guillemots, Kittiwakes and Red-throated Divers moved up-Channel or fished offshore, plus several flocks of Brent Geese, four Common Scoters, a 2nd winter Med Gull and, best of all, four Bonxies, two of which cut in close to shore, while many more were logged earlier in the day. The 1st winter Caspian Gull was amongst the throng on the beach. 
Lade - The Dartford Warbler showed briefly in gorse scrub beside south lake while both the Slavonian Grebe and Long-tailed Duck were still on station.
  Tweet of the day went to a phenomenal count of 5,700 Cormorants on Burrowes this afternoon (DBO) which must be something of a record?

Sunday, 7 January 2018

The north-east wind doth blow

Lade - cold, sunny, ne 4-6 - A dry, sunny day at last, but with a raw bone wind increasing to gale force out of the north-east making for uncomfortable birding on the coastal flatlands. Despite the weather there was a healthy gathering of visiting birders checking out the wintering Long-tailed Duck and Slavonian Grebe, including a KOS group. Both birds were mobile going between the two lakes, no doubt seeking out calmer waters, with the duck particularly so flying regularly over the willow swamp and across the lakes. Up to 12 Goldeneyes were still present, mainly on south lake, but due to the wind strength few others birds were noted, especially passerines.  
  Elsewhere across the peninsula today the 1st winter Iceland and Glaucous Gulls were noted at the Patch and Burrowes respectively, plus a drake Smew also on Burrowes and a redhead on ARC along with the Black-throated Diver.
  We fully intended to venture out this afternoon, but once the fire was lit, and with the wind howling in off the bay, a mug of tea and a good read seemed a much more enjoyable option, and Barney didn't seem to mind either.

Saturday, 6 January 2018

100 species day

Romney Marsh/Low Weald - calm and cloudy, hail and rain, sunny and windy - Spent  yesterday with CP and PL doing a belated and leisurely NYDay bird race in mixed weather conditions. We kicked off at dawn in Park Wood with calling Tawny Owls and overflying Sparrowhawk and Buzzard leaving roosts, plus a wide range of common woodland birds including two woodpeckers, four tits, Nuthatch, Treecreeper and Jay.
  Moving down to the canal the likes of Bullfinch,Yellowhammer, winter thrushes, Reed Bunting, Great White and Little Egrets, Mipit and Kingfisher were all located, despite a spectacular hail storm which gave us all a good soaking. Across the Marsh, Tree Sparrow, Golden Plover, Marsh Harrier and Bewick`s Swan were all noted at their usual locations. Scotney in the rain was disappointing apart from a variety of ducks and Barnacle Geese.
  Next stop Lade and the bay where eight waders were seen out on the sands on an incoming tide. On the pits both Long-tailed Duck and Slavonian Grebe went onto the day list alongside Shelduck, Dabchick, Goldeneye, Water Rail, Cetti`s Warbler, Chiffchaff and Goldcrest, although we drew a blank on yesterdays Smew.
  At Dungeness fishing boats plenty of Guillemots and Kittiwakes on the sea with Gannets further out, a trickle of passing Red-throated Divers, four Razorbills and a 1st winter Little Gull, while the regular 1st winter Caspian Gull was on the beach.
  Around the bird reserve the Black-throated Diver was eventually tracked down at the north end of ARC where also Snipe, Blackwit and Pintail, plus Linnets on Dengemarsh and finally on Burrowes a roosting 1st winter Glaucous Gull, which after a late tally up proved to be the 100th and final species for the day as we failed to find a Canada Goose in fading light on the Boulderwall fields!
  However, a most satisfying day in the field and many thanks to Chris for driving.

Thursday, 4 January 2018

`White Nun`

Lade - mild, rain clearing to sunshine, sw 6 - Another good old dollop of overnight rain left all the roads and tracks hereabouts well and truly flooded; and there I was moaning about the drought a month ago! However, by late morning the rain cleared away to allow a very tasty couple of hours birding on the local patch.
  The first Smew of the winter was the main prize, and joy upon joy it was a lone drake freshly arrived and moving all over the site, as is their want. Initially seen by visiting birders earlier on south lake, I eventually tracked it down sheltering from the tempest in a back channel reedbed near the swing bridge. The beauty of a `white nun` within the wildfowl tribe is unsurpassed, a truly stunning beast and a fine example of Mother Nature pulling out all the stops. "Its only a white and black duck", I hear you say, but the white bits shine like a beacon on a dull day, and as for those vermiculations on the flanks, well...

                                Drake Smew, first of the winter

  Despite the howling gale the Long-tailed Duck seemed undaunted as it fished the far side of south lake alongside a dozen Goldeneyes, while the Slavonian Grebe sought the calmer waters of north lake. Also noted this morning around the willow swamp, Marsh Harrier, Kingfisher, Water Rail, Sparrowhawk, Cetti`s Warbler, Goldcrest and a noticeable increase in Chaffinches.
  On the bird reserve today the Black-throated Diver was reported on ARC, along with a pair of Goosanders, while the Glaucous Gull was seen again on Burrowes.

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Black-throated Diver

Lade - sunny, mild, windy sw 6 - The past couple of days could not have been more different with cloud and rain yesterday followed by gale force westerlies and bright sunshine today. On the local pits the Long-tailed Duck and Slavonian Grebe have been attracting a steady flow of year-listing birders to site, while the Dartford Warbler continues to show, off and on, despite the weather conditions.

                               Dartford Warbler rear view

Dungeness - An immature Iceland Gull at the fishing boats this morning (PB) had departed by the time we`d got our act together this afternoon. However, there was plenty of activity on the sea from hundreds of Guillemots, Great Crested Grebes, Kittiwakes and Cormorants, while the regular 1st winter Caspian Gull was on the beach.

                               Two Goosanders, ARC

  On the bird reserve a Black-throated Diver reported earlier on ARC was still on the far side of the lake from Hanson hide. Two redhead Goosanders flew in and settled on an island amongst the dabblers and Lapwings; Marsh Harrier and Kingfisher also noted here. Elsewhere, the Long-eared Owl was partially visible at roost behind the Dipping Pool. Finished off in Makepeace hide with a clutch of other optimists just in case the Iceland Gull came to roost, which it didn`t, but the 1st winter Glaucous Gull did, so all was not lost. As the sun set three Marsh Harriers dropped into the Oppen pits as several hundred raucous Jackdaws provided a fair old spectacle as they too went to roost.

Monday, 1 January 2018

Long-tailed Ducks

Lade - wet and windy, sw 4 - With the abandonment of our traditional NYD jaunt around the Marsh I enjoyed a more leisurely start to 2018, albeit in showery and increasingly cool weather conditions, but with a steady trickle of birds for the New Year list, not that I really keep such lists...
  Anyhow, first off the local patch where the Long-tailed Duck and Slavonian Grebe were both on south lake, although I strongly suspect that there are two ducks as OL was watching one on north lake while the other was diving on south. Also noted along the main track a Dartford Warbler on call only. Cetti`s Warbler, Goldeneyes, Marsh Harrier, Green Woodpecker, Long-tailed Tits and Stonechat also present.
Dungeness - At the point in heavy rain and from the concrete road, a steady procession of Gannets, Guillemots and Kittiwakes moved just offshore along with the usual gulls and a 1st winter Caspian in the puddles by the fishing boats. On the bird reserve several Tree Sparrows and Reed Bunting on the Boulderwall feeders while the wet fields were loaded out with Lapwings, Golden Plovers, Wigeons, gulls and Starlings, plus Little and Great White Egrets, Grey Heron and Kestrel.
  On Burrowes the usual wildfowl and Cormorants but few gulls, although a Glaucous had been seen earlier. Over the road from Hanson hide two Great White Egrets, several Pintails and two Bewick`s Swans amongst a range of dabbling ducks and gulls on the fast disappearing islands. A drive out onto Walland Marsh delivered at least 15 distant Bewick`s Swans hunkered in a sodden corn field to the south of Horse`s Bones farm, plus 20 Fieldfares and two Buzzards en-route.
  An early afternoon scan of the bay from the Tavern viewpoint on a falling tide produced nine species of shorebirds, four Shelducks, a lone Brent, hundreds of gulls and a 1st winter Glaucous Gull that flew south towards Dungeness, presumable the same bird that ended up on Burrowes later.
Despite indifferent weather not a bad days birding with 81 species noted.