Monday, 15 October 2018

Yellow-browed Warblers

Lade - warm, dry and sunny, light airs - Following light overnight rain and low cloud it had all the hallmarks of a decent migrant day, only not at Lade! I couldn't even find a Chiffchaff around the ponds, but on the plus side had a record count of egrets - 13 Little and seven Great Whites, most of which were in a flock in the willow swamp.

                                Egret flock, Willow Swamp

However, whilst viz migging and bemoaning the lack of migrants news from DB told of a Yellow-browed Warbler he`d just found in his garden at Dungeness...

                                Garden sprite

Dungeness - And sure enough it showed like a good un to a small gathering of local birders. Most of the time it was feeding in a Sycamore or fir tree and on my second visit was also highly vocal. Another great find by Dave. Whilst there news came through from the Obs of another bird caught in the Trapping Area, so a short while later we were admiring another of these gorgeous, stripy sprites this time in the hand.

                               Yellow-browed Warbler, DBO

Sunday, 14 October 2018

Asian Hornet

Lade - Saturday - warm, dry and windy, S 5 - I wasn't expecting much this morning due to a strong southerly wind blowing across the shingle, but almost the first bird noted was a Short-eared Owl being mobbed by two crows out on the Desert towards the water tower, which was our first of the autumn. Also present a Wheatear and Stonechat, plus five Swallows scuttling south. On south lake two Great White Egrets, a Sandwich Tern and flight views of a Bittern. Very quiet passerine wise with only a few Chiffchaffs and Goldfinches seen in the sheltered willow swamp.
  In the afternoon I tried a one hour seawatch from the beach looking across the sea just after high tide. Most birds were distant but did included 100 Gannets, 50 Kittiwakes, 20 Med Gulls and 30 Sandwich Terns.
  The weather continued unseasonably warm with 22C recorded in the garden early afternoon.

                                Sandwich Tern over south lake

                                Turnstone, Lade bay

                               Great White Egret, Lade

Sunday - warm, dry, cloudy, SSE 2 - Dungeness - With lighter winds this morning we walked the peninsula from the lifeboat station to the Obs, but there were few grounded migrants and no sign of any wheatears. Viz mig comprised a steady trickle of Swallow, Mipit, Skylark, Goldfinch, alba wagtails, Siskin (one flock of 30), Greenfinch and Chaffinch. Plenty of Kestrels were noted along with one or two Chiffchaffs, Stonechats, Blackbirds and Song Thrushes, but no sign of the Wryneck at the southern end of the Desert. From the fishing boats a flock of 50 Mediterranean Gulls was noteworthy.
  A check of the local patch at Lade revealed two Great White Egrets, Sparrowhawk, Marsh Harrier, Green Woodpecker, Goldfinches over and a few Chiffchaffs by the ponds.
  An afternoon visit to ARC yielded few waders from Hanson hide apart from Ruff and Golden Plover, plus Black-necked Grebe and Pintails on the lake. There was no sign of the Yellow-browed Warbler and Ring Ouzels on Tower Pits. Very quiet on Burrowes with just the usual egrets, ducks and Cormorants.
  At the fishing boats hundreds of Kittiwakes and Med Gulls offshore, plus Sandwich Terns, a few auks and Gannets and up to 10 Arctic Skuas. Popped into the Obs on the way home to view the Asian Hornet, a magnificent but unwelcome beast.

                                          Asian Hornet, DBO

Friday, 12 October 2018

Weekly Summary

Dungeness/Lade - With the past two days delivering strong southerly winds (and one more to come over the weekend) seawatching off the point has delivered surprisingly limited success. Gannets have been in the vanguard along with a trickle of Sandwich Terns, Kittiwakes and at times Mediterranean Gulls. A handful of Arctic Skuas lingered offshore while a few Bonxies and Sooty Shearwaters have passed through the Channel. Brents, auks, Mergansers and scoters have all been noted, and perhaps this weekend will deliver that bit of quality in the form of a Leache`s Petrel, Sabine`s Gull or maybe a large shearwater.
  If the heron tribe are your bag then the bird reserve is the place to be with double figures of Great White Egrets all over the place. Cattle Egrets are still present on Dengemarsh, a Spoonbill has been coming and going and a Bittern has shown well in front of Hanson hide. Also this week on ARC waders such as Ruff, Golden Plover, Snipe, Dunlin and Blackwit have been noted plus Garganey, Water Rail, Marsh Harrier, and Peregrine. On Lade bay wader numbers and variety have steadily increased, although there remains a shortage of calidrids.
  Its been a frustrating week for rarities with a couple of very elusive Yellow-browed Warblers in the Trapping Area and a Wryneck in the high gorse. Chiffchaffs have been the most numerous warbler and a few Wheatears, Black Redstarts and a Whinchat have been noted across the point. Viz mig has been generally poor with a few finches, larks, thrushes and buntings through, while today I had 12 Swallows and two Sand Martins at the fishing boats and a Yellow Wagtail over Lade.
  The temperatures remain above the seasonal average with 22C and dry forecast tomorrow with rain  and cooler conditions on Sunday.

Thursday, 11 October 2018


Dungeness - warm, dry and sunny, S 4-5 - Another balmy day of weather with the temperature topping out at 21C this afternoon. We started off with a seawatch from the hide where a steady procession of Gannets and Sandwich Terns was underway, plus two Arctic Skuas, several Mediterranean Gulls, two flocks of Common Scoters and a Kittiwake. Another hour from the fishing boats this afternoon delivered similar fare, plus two Red-breasted Mergansers.
  On the land around the point the two Black Redstarts were still around the war memorial along with a Stonechat and several Mipits. Also noted across the Desert and Trapping Area: ten Kestrels, five Skylarks, three Song Thrushes, 10 Goldfinches, Blackbird, Chiffchaff, Greenfinch and a Brambling. 
  We called in at Hanson hide around midday where a Water Rail showed briefly in the reedbed. On the far bank a family of four Peregrines were enjoying a wash and brush up. Waders on the islands included: 20 Golden Plovers, 10 Dunlins, five Ruffs and a Black-tailed Godwit amongst the usual range of ducks. Crossing the causeway road two Swallows headed south.
  And so ended a most enjoyable three days with our guests Sarah and Jim during which time we logged 87 species in pleasant autumnal weather. The highlights being: Cattle and Great White Egrets, a wide range of wildfowl, waders and raptors, plus a good selection of moths.

Wednesday, 10 October 2018

Chats and Shorebirds

Lade - warm, dry sunny, SE 2-4 - Another balmy day across Dungeness in hazy light conditions with the wind picking up as the day progressed. On the local patch we had good views of Kestrel and Green Woodpecker by the ponds, but precious little else apart from vocalising Cetti`s Warblers and Chiffchaffs. On the lake the usual wildfowl, plus Little Egret and Marsh Harrier.

                                Kestrel by the ponds

Dungeness - At the point four Wheatears opposite Jarman`s and two Black Redstarts by the war memorial, otherwise it was hard going with little else of note and no sign of the Wryneck seen earlier. After checking the moths at the Obs (Delicate and Barred Sallow the highlights) Hummingbird Hawk-moth, Small Copper and Painted Lady showed well in the moat.

                                           Wheatears on the beach

                                  Black Redstart

                               Hummer in the Moat

  Moving onto Burrowes where the main spectacle was 200 Golden Plovers overhead, plus 400 Cormorants, 12 Great White and nine Little Egrets tracking a large shoal of fish around the margins opposite Makepeace hide. At Boulderwall we eventually found a single Tree Sparrow on the feeders amongst the tits, finches and House Sparrows.
Littlestone - Finished the day on a high with nine out of the ten bay waders noted and only Sanderling absent. Due to the afternoon light and height of tide good views were had of Dunlin, Turnstone, Ringed Plover, Curlew, Knot and Oystercatcher. Also present: 15 Shelducks, 100 Common Gulls, 20 Sandwich Terns and a Common Tern.

Tuesday, 9 October 2018

Clancy`s Rustic

Lade - warm, dry and sunny, SW2 - An early viz mig from the back garden delivered a trickle of Skylarks, Mipits, Reed Buntings, Chaffinches and alba wagtails overhead, south along the coast. However, the main event was in the garden moth trap which was stuffed full of over 150 moths of 12 species. Quite why it was so profitable is a mystery but I`m not complaining! Black Rustics were the most numerous at 75 while the quality was provided by two Clancy`s Rustics and a Blair`s Shoulder-knot.

                                  Blair`s Shoulder-knot and Clancy`s Rustic

Dungeness - A wander around the bushes at the point was largely uneventful with just a few Siskins over and a couple of Chiffchaffs in the moat, plus Stonechats and a Black Redstart. A flock of 20 hirundines by the lifeboat station contained mostly House Martins and several Swallows.

                               Blue skies over Dungeness

Birdwatching Break - We started a three day bird tour for Sarah and Jim from south London this afternoon in warm sunshine. First stop Scotney pits from the roadside pull-ins which yielded the usual feral geese, ducks, gulls, Cormorants, Lapwings, Curlew, Buzzards, Marsh Harrier and Kestrel. From the range road at Galloways, Stonechats and Kestrel. Moving onto Dengemarsh from Springfield Bridge two Cattle Egrets sat on an island along with a Great White Egret and Ruff, while we watched a Great Crested Grebe take its time tackling a large fish. Also noted from the bridge: Marsh Harrier, Raven, Linnets and Reed Bunting.

                                Down the hatch - eventually!

                                Garganey preening

  Finished the afternoon at Hanson hide where a Garganey showed well amongst the usual range of ducks on the islands, plus five Ruffs, Ringed Plover, 30 Golden Plovers, Great White Egret and a Sparrowhawk. Plenty of Migrant Hawkers, Common Darters and Speckled Woods also on the wing this afternoon.

Monday, 8 October 2018

Great White Egrets

Lade - cool, cloudy, light airs - A chilly start to the day which eventually warmed up by noon. Despite clear skies last night a flock of 20 Chiffchaffs and at least two Blackcaps by the ponds kept me entertained, along with the usual tits, Cetti`s Warblers, finches, Robins and several Blackbirds.
Egrets are commonplace around the wetlands hereabouts, although four Great White Egrets flying in off the sea was unusual, particularly as three of them decided to alight on the 200` wall `mirror` beside the Cormorants! Another flock of nine was also seen flying over Dungeness about the same time (PB). Also noted several Sparrowhawks, Kestrels, Stonechats, a lone House Martin and flight views of a Bittern, plus a trickle of Skylarks, Mipits and Siskins overhead.

                                Three Great White Egrets - on a large wall!

Dungeness - A scan from Hanson hide this morning revealed 200 Golden Plovers and Lapwings, 10 Dunlins, Snipe, Blackwit and Grey Plover on the islands, plus several Chiffchaffs around the car park, two Great White Egrets and a Merlin over. Plenty of Migrant Hawkers, Common Darters and Speckled Woods on the wing around the Willow Trail.

                                Grey Plover, ARC

                                Stonechat, Dungeness

  This afternoon a check of the bushes around the point delivered several Chiffchaffs in the old lighthouse garden and the moat, a Black Redstart and four Stonechats by West Beach and at least four Sparrowhawks. There was no sign of this mornings Wryneck. With an influx of migrants in east Kent it surely can`t be long until something decent comes our way...

Saturday, 6 October 2018

Dartford Warbler

Lade - warm, dry and cloudy, light airs - A superb mornings birding on the local patch with a wide range of migrant and wetland species noted. Two flocks of passerines kept me busy for ages; the first one at the ponds where at least 30 Chiffchaffs and five Blackcaps mingled with loads of tits, finches, Robins and Dunnocks (surely there must be a Yellow-browed here at the very least this coming week, what with the predicted easterly airflow) and our first Goldcrest of autumn calling from the swamp, along with several Cetti`s Warblers, Bearded Tits and Water Rails.

                                 Dabbling Shovelers

  Onto the lakes where 200 Shovelers were the pick of the ducks, plus two Great White and five Little Egrets around the margins, and Marsh Harrier, Sparrowhawk and Buzzard by the `mirrors`. The Desert yielded a cracking Merlin chasing Mipits, 100 Linnets, 100 Starlings, six Stonechats, a Wheatear and several Kestrels, plus Skylarks, Chaffinches, Goldfinches, Pied Wagtails and two Siskins overhead.
  On the way home for breakfast we stumbled upon another passerine flock in bramble scrub behind the cattery that contained mostly House Sparrows, Mipits, Reed Buntings, Chiffchaffs, two Stonechats, a few Blackbirds and Robins and a Dartford Warbler.

                               Probably the worst pic ever of a Dartford Warbler!

  After breakie we headed down the beach on a falling tide where thousands of Common and Black-headed Gulls covered the sands along with all the usual Curlews and Oycs, 100 Sanderling, 50 Dunlin, 10 Barwits, and single figures of Ringed Plover and Turnstone, plus 20 Shelducks, 200 Sandwich Terns, 10 Mediterranean Gulls and two Arctic Skuas along the shoreline.
  As I said, a superb morning of 72 species, and all within a one mile walk of Plovers! 

Friday, 5 October 2018


Lade - warm, dry and sunny - A viz mig from the aerial ramp delivered the first real trickle of autumn Skylarks coasting westwards, plus a few Pied Wagtails, Mipits, Reed Buntings and Chaffinches. The bushes around the ponds were much quieter this morning with just a handful of Chiffchaffs and a couple of Blackcaps present. Also noted around the site: Kingfisher, Marsh Harrier, Sparrowhawk, Great White Egret, Green Woodpecker and the Curlew flock coming off the sands to roost out the high tide on the Desert.
  There was a good catch of moths in the garden trap this morning comprising twenty macros, including Delicate and Plumed Fan-foot amongst the typical autumn species.

                        Migrant Hawkers and Red Admirals were commonplace today

Dungeness - A guided walk for a U3A group from north Kent took place in warm sunshine with plenty of Migrant Hawkers, Red Admirals and one or two Small Coppers, Small Heaths and even a Common Blue still on the wing. All three species of egrets were seen including 12 Great Whites scattered across the site and six Cattle Egrets in Hayfield 2 tracking the cows. Also noted: 200 Golden Plovers on Burrowes, Yellow Wagtail in the hayfield, several Chiffchaffs, a striking juvenile Marsh Harrier and five Buzzards over the ranges, Wheatear, Ruff and Snipe on Dengemarsh, Bearded Tits and Water Rail from the viewing ramp, a Stonechat from the return trail and hovering Kestrels just about everywhere you looked.

Thursday, 4 October 2018

Chiffchaffs in the mist

Lade - Foggy start, warm, dry and sunny later - Started a historical/wildlife guiding morning on the local patch where the thick mist soon burned off to reveal a large mixed flock of passerines feeding around the ponds including 30 Chiffchaffs, 10 Blackcaps, Great, Blue and Long-tailed Tits, Chaffinches, Greenfinches, Reed Buntings and Robins. Whilst standing by the swing-bridge near the `mirrors` a flock of 15 Bearded Tits spiralled up from the main reed bed and dropped back down again in a small clump of reeds on the margin of north lake. Several parties of hirundines moved over heading south.

                                Lade `mirrors`

                                Six of ten Great White Egrets on Burrowes

Dungeness - There was no real change around the point with plenty of hirundines moving through, Chiffchaffs and Kestrels everywhere, Great White and Cattle Egrets on the reserve, plus Ruff, Marsh Harriers and Stonechats from the access track.

Wednesday, 3 October 2018

First Brents of autumn

Dungeness - mild, cloudy, light airs - Spent a very enjoyable day guiding for Jane and friends from Rye in favourable weather conditions. We spent the morning on the bird reserve where the highlights included eight Cattle Egrets on Hayfield 2, 10 Great White Egrets, Ruff, Snipe, Golden and Grey Plovers, Kingfisher, three late Yellow Wagtails, Stonechat, two Buzzards and a cracking adult male Marsh Harrier. Several large pulses of hirundines went through, one from Christmas Dell hide involving over a thousand, mainly House Martins, while Kestrels, Cetti`s Warblers, Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps were commonplace. Plenty of Migrant Hawkers and Red Admirals were also on the wing.

                                Great White and Cattle Egrets

Littlestone - We had superb views of seven species of bay waders at low tide opposite the caisson including 50 Curlews, 20 Turnstones, 50 Sanderlings, 10 Ringed Plovers and 30 Dunlins, plus all the regular gulls and 50 Sandwich Terns.

Dungeness - Wasn't expecting much from a one hour seawatch from the hide this afternoon but we struck lucky with our first 11 Brents of autumn down-Channel, a flock of 170 Kittiwakes on the sea by the buoy, an Arctic Skua, Mediterranean Gull, Red-throated Diver, 20 Gannets, 20 Sandwich Terns and two Common Terns. It was quiet on the land although we did manage to see a male Peregrine perched on a pylon to round off a decent birding day for the guests during which we rattled up a respectable 84 species.

Tuesday, 2 October 2018

As you were

Dungeness - mild, cloudy, drizzle, brighter later, NW 3 - A dull grim start to the day which improved temperature wise into the afternoon peaking at 20C. There was little of note on the ground around the point first thing with just a scattering of Stonechats and Chiffchaffs, plus the usual Kestrels and a Raven over. From the seawatch hide plenty of Gannets feeding offshore, plus a trickle of terns, auks, Kittiwake and an Arctic Skua.
Lade - On the sands this afternoon on a rising tide from the Tarvern viewpoint: c500 Oystercatchers, c250 Curlews, 100 Sandwich and 10 Common Terns, 10 Shelducks, 20 Sanderlings, 10 Dunlins, five Barwits and a Mediterranean Gull. On the lakes 19 Shelducks, plus the usual wildfowl and several Chiffchaffs in the bushes by the ponds. 

Sunday, 30 September 2018

Inbound Herons

Lade - cool, sunny, NW 2 - A day of two halves weather wise with clear blue skies to start and a cloudier afternoon in a nippy north-westerly airflow. Moth numbers in the garden trap were much depleted due to a cold night with just five typical autumn species trapped. On the local patch Chiffchaffs were the most numerous migrant with up to 30 across the site and the majority around the ponds where also Great Spotted Woodpecker and Cetti`s Warbler. A Kingfisher zipped across south lake where two Great Whites and a Little Egret fished. The oddest sighting though was of six Grey Herons that flew in high from the east, as if they`d just crossed the Channel, and eventually landing behind the wall `mirror`.
  At Dungeness around noon from the boardwalk 20 Gannets fishing offshore, a steady trickle of Sandwich Terns west and two Arctic Skuas on the take. At least six Harbour Porpoises noted and a pair of Ravens over cronking.
  This afternoon an hour off the Lade boardwalk at high tide delivered up to six Grey Seals close in and two distant Harbour Porpoises further out along with Gannets, Sandwich Terns and two Arctic Skuas. A single Red-throated Diver crossed the bay while several small flocks of Dunlins and Sanderlings moved along the shore when disturbed by walkers.

Saturday, 29 September 2018

Buffy and Bittern

Lade - warm, dry and sunny,  E 2 - Another cracking autumnal day with warm sunshine throughout. The Spotted Flycatcher remained around the ponds along with a few Chiffchaffs but little else. On the Desert three Stonechats, two Wheatears, a Merlin, four Kestrels and 20 Mipits.

                                Buff-breasted Sandpiper - honest!

Scotney - Had a run out with CP where we eventually located the Buff-breasted Sandpiper all alone on a grass ley beside a flooded gravel pit out back (access through the farm and along the public footpath past the dung heap). We watched it for about an hour from 300 yds range through scopes while it happily fed amongst the weedy turf picking up insects hither and thither. Also noted 200 Lapwings, 200 Golden Plovers, 10 Dunlins, 10 Curlews, three Ruffs, Ringed Plover and Little Stint, plus the usual feral geese and ducks on the front lakes.

                                Bittern - the master of camouflage


ARC - Called in at Hanson hide on the way home where a Bittern showed well in the near reedbed. Although they are regularly noted across Dungeness wetlands it is a bird I never tire of watching, particularly when it`s as close as this one - the day I ignore a Bittern is the day I`ll hang up my bins and take up stamp collecting!
  On the islands, 100 Lapwings, 40 Golden Plovers, 10 Dunlins, five Barwits, two Ruffs and two Snipe, plus a pair of Egyptian Geese with four small goslings, 20 Shelducks, two Garganeys and two Great White Egrets.

Friday, 28 September 2018

Spotted Flycatcher

Lade - mild, cloudy, NNE 4 - Much breezier than of late with a cooler feel to the day due to a northerly airflow sweeping in off the sea. There were fewer migrants about this morning apart from a handful of Swallows, two Wheatears, and a flock of 20 grounded Mipits on the Desert. It was similarly quiet around the ponds apart from several Chiffchaffs and a Spotted Flycatcher, plus Cetti`s Warbler, Great Spotted Woodpecker and Goldfinch.
 The moth trap was much improved with 10 species of typical autumn species present.

                                Spotted Flycatcher, Lade ponds

                               Autumnal and Black Rustics and L-album Wainscot
  An afternoon seawatch from the hide produced plenty of Gannets offshore, plus several Arctic Skuas and a Bonxie.
  Elsewhere today Cattle Egrets remained in the Boulderwall fields/ARC while the Buff-breasted Sandpiper was relocated at the back of Scotney pits (PB).

Thursday, 27 September 2018

Bearded Tits

Dengemarsh Gully - warm, dry and sunny, 20C - I don't know what it is about the gully that keeps luring me back as I rarely find anything of note here, but it does have form and even during my time on the Marsh has delivered, but not today. However, the weather was kind and once the mist had evaporated a scattering of migrants popped up to take in the early morning sunshine, mostly Chiffchaffs, Reed Buntings, Robins, several Stonechats and singles of Whitethroat, Whinchat and Redstart. Overhead a trickle of Swallows, Mipits, Reed Buntings, Skylarks, Chaffinches and alba wagtails headed west. At the far end of the gully a handful of grounded Wheatears hopped about on the shingle and a brown Merlin paused awhile having failed to catch breakfast of Linnet. Also noted, four Kestrels, Buzzard, Raven, Cetti`s Warbler and a lone Grey Plover over. A scan of the sea produced plenty of gulls and Cormorants, plus a few Sandwich and Common Terns.

                                Dengemarsh Gully

   On the walk back a party of three or four Bearded Tits lifted out of the gully reeds `pinging` loudly and dropping back into cover a hundred yards further along. By the time we returned to the metalled road they`d moved three times and eventually headed back over towards the bird reserve. Also noted two Clouded Yellows, Small Copper, Small Heath and Red Admirals on the wing.

                                Barney `helping out` at the allotment this morning

  From Springfield Bridge a large flock of House Martins were feeding over the reedbed while Marsh Harrier, Great White Egret, Ruff and Snipe all noted amongst the usual wildfowl.
  A one hour seawatch from the fishing boats this afternoon with the locals produced very little of note apart from two Arctic Skuas and single figures of Sandwich Tern, Guillemot and Gannet. Several parties of Sand Martins struck out for France and at least half a dozen Harbour Porpoises and a Grey Seal were feeding just offshore.