Sunday, 16 December 2018

Harrier count

Lade - warm, dry and sunny  - After yesterdays shocker of a day with heavy rain and a cutting easterly wind, this morning could not have been more different with warm sunshine and light airs that even enticed a Small Tortoiseshell butterfly onto the wing by the ponds. Long-tailed Tits, Goldcrest, Chiffchaff, Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers, Water Rail and Cetti`s Warbler all noted around the willow swamp.
 There was no sign of the Red-necked Grebe for the second day running on north lake; infact, most of the Great Crested Grebes had deserted the pits having probably moved onto the bay taking the Red-necked with them. Pochard numbers were up though with 210 counted but only three Goldeneyes.
  On the bay at low tide hundreds of Curlew, Oystercatcher, Dunlin and Sanderling.
Walland Marsh - Joined CP out on the Marsh this afternoon for the monthly roost count where 11 Marsh Harriers came in to roost, including two cracking adult males, with another half dozen in the general area. We also noted a record count of seven Great Whites and six Little Egrets flying off to roost nearby as the sun went down. Other birds of note included: five Buzzards, a Merlin, hundreds of corvids, Starlings, Lapwings and Golden Plovers, five Snipe, Water Rail, Skylark, Mipit, Cetti`s Warbler, 50 Linnets, three Corn Buntings and six Ravens, plus a large flock of winter thrushes, mainly Fieldfares, at Midley on the way out.

Friday, 14 December 2018

Cattle Egrets

Lade - cold, cloudy, E 2 - Although the wind had relented somewhat from yesterday it was still a nippy old morning with the temperature hovering around 4C. Despite spending an hour scouring north lake for the Red-necked Grebe it could not be found (presumably tucked up in a reedbed) but showed well enough out on the open water during the afternoon visit. There was no sign again of the Hume`s Warbler.
  A brief seawatch from the point delivered the usual auks, Gannets, Red-throated Divers and Kittiwakes offshore, plus at least 20 Woodpigeons in the old lighthouse garden.


                                Cattle Egrets, Boulderwall

  On the bird reserve three Cattle Egrets in the Boulderwall fields by Cook`s Pool along with a single Great White Egret, plus Lapwings, Golden Plovers, Wigeon, Marsh Harrier and Buzzard further out.  At Cockles Bridge the flock of 10 Bewick`s Swans were still present in the fields towards Lydd.

Wednesday, 12 December 2018

Ravens and Red-throats

Dungeness - dry and sunny, SE 2 - Another superb winters day with bright sunshine throughout. We started off along the foreshore which was predictably devoid of birds, before moving on to The Patch where a mini-boil had attracted a few gulls including an adult Mediterranean Gull on the beach. A pair of Ravens displayed over A Station, `cronking` loudly and tumbling in flight before eventually settling on the superstructure. Offshore a steady trickle of Red-throated Divers, Gannets and auks rounded the point.



                                Raven, Med Gull and Red-throated Diver

  A guided walk for RSPB this morning concentrated on Burrowes where two Red-throated Divers were the highlights; unusual here, despite being common on the sea. All the usual wildfowl noted including four Goldeneyes, hundreds of Cormorants, plus an adult and 1st winter Caspian Gull on the islands. At Boulderwall hundreds of Greylags, Lapwings, Golden Plovers and Wigeon on the fields, plus two Cattle Egrets, a flyover Great White, Buzzard and Marsh Harrier. From Hanson hide, Black-tailed Godwit, 100 Wigeon and the expected gulls and diving ducks. From Cockles Bridge ten Bewick`s Swans in the rape-seed field.
  An afternoon visit to Lade failed to locate the Hume`s Warbler, but the Red-necked Grebe remained on north lake. A check of the bay from the Tavern viewpoint in fading light revealed hundreds of Common and Black-headed Gulls, Curlews, Oystercatchers, Dunlins and Sanderlings.

Tuesday, 11 December 2018

Bewick`s Swans

Lade - mild, sunny, light airs - Another superb morning to be out and about in the field with the temperature rising into double figures by midday. Two Dartford Warblers showed briefly by the main track, along with a variety of passerines including three Stonechats, two Reed Buntings, Cetti`s Warbler and Song Thrush. Two redhead Goosanders dropped in on south lake for about ten minutes before flying off towards ARC, while the Red-necked Grebe remained on north lake. At the ponds the usual tit, Chiffchaff and Goldcrest flock was present but I could find no sign of the Hume`s Warbler.
  From Cockles Bridge ten Bewick`s Swans were in the fields amongst the Mutes, plus two Marsh Harriers, Stonechat and Skylark. A drive out on Walland delivered three more Bewick`s in a field near Brookland, a Great White Egret and several large parties of Fieldfares.

Monday, 10 December 2018

Back on the beat

Lade - cool, still and cloudy - Having had a weekend of wedding celebrations with our Kate, who married Tim on Saturday at Littlehampton, it felt good to be out and about around the local patch with Barney today in fine winter weather.
  This morning we did our usual circuit of the wetlands where the Red-necked Grebe was still on north lake while the Hume`s Warbler remained as elusive as ever around the ponds where it called three times confirming its presence. Also in the willow swamp area: Chiffchaff, Cetti`s Warbler, Goldcrest, Long-tailed Tit, Redwing, Kingfisher and Green Woodpecker, a Marsh Harrier over and a Dartford Warbler along the track. There was an increase in Teal and Wigeon numbers on south lake, although only two Goldeneye were noted.

                                Red-necked Grebe, north lake

  Late afternoon behind the `mirrors` scanning the rough grassland delivered a fine Barn Owl, six Marsh Harriers heading to roost, two Buzzards, four Stonechats and around 200 Jackdaws also heading to roost sites in the Trapping Area.

Thursday, 6 December 2018

Hume`s Warbler

Dungeness - mild and overcast, W3 - We joined half a dozen other optimists at the fishing boats this morning with yesterdays auk fest in mind; however, as is often the case two consecutive seawatching days are rarely the same. It did produce hundreds of Red-throated Divers, Gannets, Cormorants, Kittiwakes and auks (mostly Guillemots and only a few Razorbills) rounding the point or fishing offshore, plus singles of Mediterranean Gull, Common Scoter, Merganser and Bonxie.
Lade   - There was a steady trickle of twitchers to site to see the Hume`s Warbler which was still present, but elusive, around the ponds and only occasionally calling. The Red-necked Grebe remained on north lake while six Goldeneyes and two Caspian Gulls (an adult and a 1st winter) were among the gull roost on south lake.

Tuesday, 4 December 2018

Winter thrushes

Lade - misty start then warm and sunny - A stunning morning with a light ground frost, mist over the lakes and no wind. Late last night I popped out into the back garden for a listen and sure enough a steady passage of Redwings could be heard coming in off the sea and heading inland. They rarely pause awhile here so it was good to see a few in the bushes early on around the ponds, mostly Blackbirds plus a few Redwings and a Song Thrush. Chiffchaff, Kingfisher, Great Spotted Woodpecker, tits and finches were also noted as we searched for the Hume`s while the Red-necked Grebe was seen on north lake.

                                Smoke on the water

  However, as the morning warmed up it was no surprise when a call came through from Stephen Message who`d relocated the Hume`s Warbler in the willow swamp by the causeway. I returned to site around midday when the bird was showing intermittently around the ponds, and occasionally calling, to a steady trickle of local birders. It continued in this vein all afternoon.

Monday, 3 December 2018

Red-necked Grebe

Lade - mild, wet and windy - Another day of poor birding weather, although it remained mild. Spent a couple of hours searching for yesterdays Hume`s Leaf Warbler with CP around the ponds and willow swamp without success, while Chiffchaff, Long-tailed Tits, Cetti`s Warbler, Water Rail, Green Woodpecker and Peregrine all noted in the area. The Red-necked Grebe was still present on north lake but took some finding as it retired into reedbeds on the far side of the water. A Great White Egret was noted and 30 Curlews flew overhead. On the walk back home five White-fronted Geese flew over calling heading towards the bird reserve.


                                Red-necked Grebe from yesterday, by Dave Scott

Sunday, 2 December 2018

Hume`s Leaf Warbler

Lade - mild, windy, overcast with occasional sunny spells, W 4 - Well, well, well, what a memorable day on the local patch. As we trudged over the shingle ridges into a brisk, yet warm, westerly I wasn't expecting much change from the past few days. However, as the sun broke through up popped a Dartford Warbler in gorse scrub along the main track beside south lake, but I could find nothing new on the water apart from a couple of Shelducks and Greylags. At the ponds and along the causeway a tit flock attracted a stunning Firecrest, several Goldcrests and a Chiffchaff, where Water Rail, Cetti`s Warbler, Green Woodpecker and Marsh Harrier also noted.
  North lake is normally quiet but this morning hosted a Red-necked Grebe amongst a Pochard flock, a site first for me, which is somewhat surprising considering there have been one or two on local waters and on the sea during my time here. Judging from its nervousness around the ducks and grebes I reckoned it had just arrived and at least once fluttered across the lake towards the swing bridge end. After tweeting the news out the first local birder to arrive was Dave Scott who`d just seen a couple of redhead sawbills fly over the coast road heading towards south lake. After a bit of searching we soon relocated two Goosanders on the far side of the lake. A decent session then, that was about to get even better...





                                Red-necked Grebe, Lade north

  We had just arrived home for a cuppa and a Boneo when Dave called telling that a group of visiting birders had just found a yellow-browed type warbler by the ponds that sounded like a Pied Wagtail when it called! It could only be one bird - a Hume`s Leaf Warbler! And indeed it was. We were soon back on site and joined a group of locals to search for the bird which was relocated low down in cover in the ponds. It briefly attached itself to a tit flock when its diagnostic double note "chew-weet" call was heard several times; it showed particularly well in a sea buckthorn bush exhibiting the cold plumage tones of a Hume`s, always subjective in such light, but thankfully with that distinctive call, which to my ears sounded similar to a Spotted Redshank.
  I`m unsure who found the bird, but well done whoever you are, a superb find and needless to say a new site record. Apparently it disappeared down towards north lake beside the scrub-clad bank next to the caravan park and wasn't seen after mid-afternoon. I shall check first thing tomorrow morning though.

Friday, 30 November 2018

Weekly summary

Lade/Dungeness - warm, dry and sunny - Superb day to be out and about in the field with light winds and no rain. At 0700hrs whilst still dark a steady stream of Redwings could be heard passing over the cottage and heading inland. We started off on the local patch where a Dartford Warbler showed briefly along the main track. Great White Egret, Marsh Harrier, Kingfisher, Cetti`s Warbler and Chiffchaff also noted around the willow swamp while Goldeneye were up to six in number across both lakes along with four Shelducks.
   More Goldeneyes, Marsh Harriers and Great White Egrets were seen around the bird reserve, plus a single Cattle Egret on the Boulderwall fields amongst the stock. The walk down to the pines and out the back of Tower pits delivered more Redwings along with several Song Thrushes and Blackbirds, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Sparrowhawk, Long-tailed Tit, Goldcrest and Chiffchaff.
  Elsewhere this week a few White-fronted and Pink-footed Geese have attached themselves to a grey goose flock along with a single Tundra Bean Goose. The flock has been on the fields between Cockles Bridge and Lydd but the farmer tends to moves them on, where bye they decamp to Scotney along with hundreds of feral geese. A handful of Bewick`s Swans are also in the general area, often associating with Mute Swans on the rape-seed fields. Caspian and Yellow-legged Gulls have been located at the point, and roosting on Burrowes, while the sea has the usual wintering birds including the occasional passing Velvet Scoter, Eider and Merganser. Egret numbers have thinned out with just a single Cattle and several Great Whites present.
  The settled weather saw plenty of birders out around the peninsula today enjoying the sunshine, although the forecast is for more rain over the weekend.

Thursday, 29 November 2018

Storm Diana

Dungeness - mild, cloudy, SW 6 - A wander down to the fishing boats this morning in windy conditions with the rain clearing delivered a steady westward movement of Gannets, Cormorants, auks, Kittiwakes and Red-throated Divers, plus one flock of six Common Scoters. A 1st winter Caspian Gull flew from the puddles by the fishing boats towards the lighthouse.
  On the bird reserve a Cattle Egret was on the Boulderwall fields, a Great White Egret on a windswept Burrowes and five White-fronts flew over within a grey goose flock towards Cockles Bridge from the access road. There was no change on Lade pits, while the beach was almost impossible to check due to the near gale force wind.

Wednesday, 28 November 2018

Winter closes in

Lade - wet and windy - Yesterday it was fog, today a warm, rain-bearing wind from the south in Mordor-like light. This really is a grim time of year, made worse by the run in to the dreaded Christmas feeding frenzy of rampant consumerism and excesses which the besieged planet can more than do without. "Black Friday or Buy now and have the lot before Christmas," the adverts scream - everywhere you look, read or listen in the media its the same message, have more, load up that credit card and get into debt with crap you don't really need, its inescapable. 
  Day and night vast container ships akin to floating blocks of flats pass Dungeness heading for the ports of Felixstowe and Rotterdam to unload cargoes of those `essentials` for the festive season; plastic Santa's, fairy lights and the like at goodness knows what cost to the environment in China and south-east Asia. I can see why some folk bugger off abroad for a month or two to get away from it all, its just so depressing. Still, there`s always the Brexit vote to look forward to next month...
  Anyhow, that's enough ranting for now. Meanwhile on the local patch there is a sense of the natural world settling into winter mode with the arrival of Goldeneyes on the lakes and waders on the bay. Dartford Warblers also appear to have established winter territories in the gorse scrub while Bittern, Bearded Tit and Water Rail are also present in the reedbeds and willow swamp.
  An hour at the fishing boats this morning in the company of MC provided a steady flow of typical winter seabirds offshore in the form of Gannet, Kittiwake, Great Crested Grebe, Red-throated Diver, Guillemot and at least one Razorbill. Before I arrived Eider and Velvet Scoter were also noted. 

Monday, 26 November 2018

Grey geese

Lade - grey and overcast - Another gloomy day throughout, although a brief glimpse of a Dartford Warbler by south lake track brightened up a circuit of the local patch where six Goldeneyes, Great White Egret and a Marsh Harrier noted.


                                Bewick`s Swans on the move

St Mary`s Bay - A walk along the foreshore at high tide searching for buntings drew a blank.
Cockles Bridge - An early afternoon call from Martin tipped us off to a large flock of Greylags grazing a distant rape-seed field along with a decent variety of interlopers including five White-fronts and two Pink-footed Geese. Tundra Bean Goose was also present but just out of view. Whilst there four Bewick`s Swans flew in to join the Mutes.
  A second visit later in the afternoon to check for the Bean Goose drew a blank as the grey goose flock had been flushed off the fields by the farmer.

Sunday, 25 November 2018

Dunlins on the beach

Saturday - A day trip to Boulogne with the family yesterday while not a birding trip did deliver a few bits and pieces on the drive down the coast road from Calais. Several Buzzards, a covey of six Grey Partridges, hundreds of Lapwings and a field full of mostly Mediterranean Gulls were noted along the way. Around Boulogne harbour there were plenty more gulls including Yellow-legged and at least one Caspian Gull, several Little Egrets and a Black Redstart. At the Calais Channel tunnel terminal on the way home hundreds of Jackdaws roosted on the overhead gantries


                               Dunlins and Barney on the beach

Lade - grey and overcast, E2 - Another grim day with low light and the threat of rain. A circuit of the local patch coincided with an incoming tide where 200 Dunlin were counted on the bay sands along with 200 Curlews, 100 Sanderling and 350 Oystercatchers, plus lesser numbers of Grey and Ringed Plovers and five Shelducks.
  On the lakes two drake Goldeneyes were amongst five redheads, otherwise there was no change in the wildfowl from last week.

Friday, 23 November 2018

Winter`s coming...

Dungeness - mild and overcast - A drab sort of day with light airs that got steadily brighter into the afternoon. A walk along the foreshore at the point first thing was almost birdless apart from a few Mipits and Goldfinches overhead. Offshore the usual Gannets, Kittiwakes and auks.



                                Bewick`s Swans, ARC

  There was much more to see on the bird reserve where the two Bewick`s Swans showed well from Hanson hide having just flown in from Cockles Bridge. The islands were packed out with several hundred Lapwing, Shoveler, Teal, Shelduck, Pintail, plus 10 Black-tailed Godwit and two Dunlin. A Bittern broke cover from the far reedbed along with several Bearded Tits and two Marsh Harriers and a Sparrowhawk kept the ducks on the move. Also noted Great White Egret, Goldeneye, Water Rail, Chiffchaff, Kestrel, Long-tailed Tit and Reed Bunting. The bushes down towards the pines attracted several each of Blackbird, Redwing, Fieldfare and Goldcrest.

                                Kestrel
 
  The islands on Burrowes were covered in hundreds of black-backed gulls, Cormorants and Lapwings. In amongst the throng were at least two adult Yellow-legged Gulls, a handful of Golden Plovers, two Great White Egrets around the margins and five Goldeneyes on the water. All we needed was a Smew to make it really feel like winter had arrived.
  There was no change at Lade with a Dartford Warbler still present in the gorse scrub beside the main track on south lake.
 

Thursday, 22 November 2018

Bewick`s Swans

Lade - cold and grey - Winter seems to have crept in over the past few days with Goldeneyes on both lakes, Water Rails wailing from the willow swamp and a flyover Bittern in front of the wall `mirror`. A skulking Dartford Warbler showed briefly in the footpath gorse and a couple of Goldcrests and a Chiffchaff had attached themselves to a tit flock by the ponds.
Dungeness - Eventually tracked down the two Bewick`s Swans amongst a flock of Mutes in the oil-seed rape field near Cockles Bridge; up to five have been roosting this week on ARC. From Hanson hide five Goldeneyes, six Pintails, four Shelducks and 250 Shovelers amongst the usual suspects. A cracking adult female Marsh Harrier flew over flushing everything, while a Water Rail fed in front of the hide. Also noted Great and Little Egrets, Snipe and Goldcrest.

Tuesday, 20 November 2018

Eiders

Dungeness - cold and cloudy, E 4 - A grim morning with low cloud, bits and pieces of drizzle and a scudding wind out of the east. A seawatch from the hide around noon delivered a typical wintry scene offshore with up to 100 fishing Gannets, auks fizzing to and fro, several Red-throated Divers, 10 Common Scoters and two eastbound Eiders, always nice to see here. By the Cardinal buoy a mixed flock of gulls on the sea comprised 150 Kittiwakes and six Mediterranean Gulls. We wandered down to the Patch more out of a sense of duty than anything else, what with the outlet pipe turned off for the duration, where a few gulls and Cormorants loafed on the beach and a solitary Peregrine was tucked up out of the wind on B station.



Lade - The windswept pits were fairly desolate with just a single redhead Goldeneye on south lake amongst the usual wildfowl. Elsewhere, the Cattle Egrets remained on the Boulderwall fields, a Goosander dropped onto Burrowes and the first five Bewick`s Swans of the season roosted on ARC last night - winter`s coming...

Sunday, 18 November 2018

Harriers

Lade - cold, dry and sunny, NE4 - Another fine, sunny day but with an increasing wind off the bay. Yesterdays Goldeneyes had moved on from south lake while a Dartford Warbler showed briefly from the track along with three posing Stonechats.
Walland Marsh - Joined CP out on the Marsh for the monthly harrier count this afternoon at our usual spot where up to eight Marsh Harriers came to the roost site, had a look, thought better of it and cleared off elsewhere. Most odd, but something seemed not to their liking. Also seen in the area, Buzzard, Kestrel, Barn Owl, five Ravens, Stonechat, Cetti`s Warbler, Water Rail, Skylark, Mipit, Corn Bunting, 10 Snipe and a Jack Snipe. On adjacent fields plenty of Lapwings and Golden Plovers, plus four Great White Egrets.

Saturday, 17 November 2018

Purple Sandpiper

Lade - mild, dry and sunny, E 3 - The day dawned bright and sunny with a fresh easterly airflow encouraging most of yesterdays thrushes and Goldcrests to move inland. A party of five Goldeneyes were new in on south lake and included the first drake of the season. Two Great White Egrets loitered in the shelter of the willow swamp and a Sparrowhawk nipped over, otherwise it was just the usual birds about the site.

                                Purple Sandpiper

Hythe - Spent several hours around midday walking the sea front in glorious sunshine and back along the RMC. A check of the sea defence blocks resulted in just a single Purple Sandpiper at the Stade Street site and ten Turnstones throughout, however there was no chance of a pic as the light was awful and the blocks were full of clambering kids, so the pic above is from the archives. An hour spent gazing out to sea yielded 30 Gannets fishing in the bay, plus two passing Brents, a Bonxie and a Med Gull.
  The canal walk was largely quiet with just a few thrushes, Goldcrests and a Grey Wagtail of note. 

Friday, 16 November 2018

Pallid Swift

Lade - misty and murky - A grim start to the day with low cloud and a fine drizzle coming and going to the background bleating of the Dungeness foghorn. A few thrushes had dropped in overnight with 20 Blackbirds, 10 Fieldfares and five Song Thrushes scattered across the site, plus several Goldcrests by the ponds, 20 Mipits on the Desert and a Great Spotted Woodpecker on a power line pole.
  As the afternoon progressed the gloom got worse (despite a contrary weather forecast) and the temperature dropped as the wind picked up from an easterly vector. More Goldcrests moved through the garden fir trees and as dusk approached five Redwings dropped in to roost.

                                Pallid Swift over New Romney

New Romney - News came through this morning that yesterdays Pallid Swift had kindly stayed on and was performing over the town centre; chances are that it may have roosted on the church and been delayed by the poor weather conditions. Anyhow, by the time I arrived on site it was flying over the Sussex Road area where it was much appreciated by a gaggle of local birders and a few bemused passing members of the public. Most of the time the swift was quite high but did descend to show off a bright white throat patch and afford some dodgy pics with the bridge camera, although there was no chance of discerning any plumage detail in the poor light and drizzle. The flight mode was ponderous while the wing tips appeared blunt but both identification pointers are subjective on a lone bird. Luckily it was seen and photographed well yesterday and identified as a Pallid Swift, with the splayed primary tips on the right wing confirming it to be the same individual that was in Norfolk on Wednesday! Incredible, and a great find by Chris Philpott.

Thursday, 15 November 2018

Scotney Wildfowl Refuge

Scotney - mild and murky - Spent the morning checking for grounded passerines on the front fields around the farm and outback. Mipits and Goldfinches were most numerous along with lesser numbers of Pied Wagtail, Skylark, Stonechat, Starling, Chaffinch, Linnet, Reed and Corn Buntings, but not a sniff of a Twite. A Green Sandpiper flew down the main sewer by the conveyor belt, while Marsh Harrier, Buzzard, Kestrel and Merlin noted outback.


                                One of two Whooper Swans outback

                         Only a few years ago Egyptian Geese were unknown here

  The wetlands were full of geese; over 2,000 mainly Greylag, Canada and Barnacle Geese along with 110 Egyptian, two White-fronts, a Bar-headed and a number of hybrid Snow/Emperor type, plus 150 Mute Swans and two each of Black and Whooper Swans, also of unknown origin (but probably as wild as the Barnacles); the swan flock was feeding in a rape-seed field beyond the dung heap.
  Plenty of Wigeon, Golden Plover, Lapwing, Cormorant and gulls were on the front fields, plus ten Redshanks and two Ruff.

                                "I`m getting too old for this"

Lade - A late afternoon meeting with RSPB on the local patch produced two Dartford Warblers, Great White Egret, Marsh Harrier and hundreds of Jackdaws over to roost. Also this afternoon CP found a swift flying over the Cockreed Lane/St Mary`s Lane area of New Romney.

Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Dartford Warblers

Lade - warm, dry and sunny, S 3 - These past couple of mornings trudging around the local patch has been a joy in the unseasonably mild weather, but we`re making the most of it as next week looks set to go downhill with an icy blast from the east forecast. However, a couple of skulking Dartford Warblers have been faithful to the gorse scrub by the Badgers sett beside south lake along with three showy Stonechats as markers.



  The overhead passage of finches has been reduced to a trickle (not that its exactly been a flood this autumn) and were outnumbered this morning by Skylarks and a late Grey Wagtail. Yesterday a Green Sandpiper flew in from the bay calling wildly although I couldn't find it today in its favoured spot in the willow swamp where the islands are fast disappearing due to the recent rains. On the water today flocks of 50 Wigeon and seven Egyptian Geese were new in, while Buzzard, Marsh Harrier and Sparrowhawk noted behind the `mirrors`.
  Goldcrests were much in evidence around the ponds along with several Chiffchaffs, the resident Cetti`s Warblers and where one or two Common Darters are still on the wing.
Dungeness - En-route to the visitors centre seven Cattle Egrets showed well amongst the cows at Boulderwall. A circular walk for 18 guests took place in glorious sunshine with plenty of insects on the wing including bees, wasps, Common Darters and two Red Admirals. We had superb views of up to six Marsh Harriers, two Buzzards and four Great White Egrets around the circuit, plus six Pintails amongst the ducks, hundreds of Lapwings over, Cetti`s Warblers, Goldcrest, Reed Bunting and Tree Sparrow on the car park feeders. 


                                Cattle Egrets and Teal

Monday, 12 November 2018

Kittiwakes

Dungeness - mild, cloudy, S3 - An early morning wander around the point in blustery conditions had a distinctly end of season feel to it. A few Goldfinches and Chaffinches drifted over along with a lone Skylark and a couple of Mipits, while in the lighthouse garden several Goldcrest called from cover and a flushed Blackbird fled inland. Lade was similarly quiet with no change from the weekend,
 
                                Kittiwakes off the fishing boats

  An hour at the fishing boats this afternoon produced a decent enough return with over 200 Kittiwakes up-Channel and on the water, 50 auks, 20 Gannets, 30 Sandwich Terns and three Mediterranean Gulls. A 1st winter Yellow-legged Gull was the only gull of note around the puddles.

Sunday, 11 November 2018

Weekend reflections

Lade - mild, wet and windy - The weekend was dominated by strong, gusty winds from the south accompanied by heavy rain showers, particularly yesterday morning when an inch fell in a couple of hours. Walking the local patch wasn't much fun and apart from a few Mipits and Goldfinches out back, plus Goldcrests in the garden passerines were few and far between.
  However, we had a little more fortune on the wetlands with Goldeneye, Shelduck and Pintail (scare here) the pick of the ducks on the WeBS Count, three Great White Egrets and a Bittern in the reedbeds and several Water Rails calling from the willow swamp. Kingfisher, Cetti`s Warbler, Marsh Harrier and Sparrowhawk also noted.
  Today, after an early soaking, we headed down to Folkestone with the family for Armistice Day and joined thousands of people at Sunny Sands which was one of 32 British beaches selected for the Pages of the Sea project devised by Danny Boyle, and very moving it was too. It was then onto the Leas war memorial for the Remembrance Day commemoration.
  Every year at this time I reflect on three people in particular: my granddad who survived the entire First World War and lost both his brothers, my father-in-law who was captured at Crete in the Second World War and an old shipmate of mine who died in the Falklands War.
  What a lucky generation ours is never to have experienced such horrors.

Friday, 9 November 2018

Fieldfares

The Midrips - mild, cloudy, S 4 - An early morning visit to check the lagoons on the ranges drew a near blank on the wader front with just three Turnstones the only birds present, plus a few Curlew, Oystercatcher, Redshank and Knot along the foreshore. There was no sign of last weekends Lesser Yellowlegs, but that's not to say it isn't still tucked away somewhere in this large series of brackish lagoons. Whilst checking out a couple of Goldcrest in the coastguard cottage tamarisks five Fieldfares flew in off the sea, our first of the autumn.
  Fortunately the tide was still out enabling access to the ranges along the beach, although we only just made it back in time before the sea cut off our retreat to the wooden stairs through the sea defence blocks; clambering over the rocks by the guardhouse is a risky business when burdened with optics and a small terrier!

                                Sea defences, Jury`s Gap

Scotney - Another session searching for the Twite in blustery weather conditions also failed although there was a fair sized mixed flock of Starlings and Goldfinches around the farm buildings along with a few Chaffinch, Linnet, Stonechat and Mipit; the Twite could easily still be lurking somewhere hereabouts. On the front fields hundreds of feral geese, Golden Plovers and Lapwings.
Dungeness - From Hanson hide eight Blackwits, Dunlin and Goldeneye the highlights, plus the usual wildfowl and egrets, a Peregrine, Goldcrest and Chiffchaff. On the fields at Boulderwall at least five Cattle Egrets amongst the cow herd and several hunting Marsh Harriers and Buzzards. A windswept Burrowes was predictably quiet with just the usual egrets, wildfowl and Cormorants on show.

Thursday, 8 November 2018

Weird Weather

Lade - warm, dry and sunny, S2 - The weather has certainly been a bit odd of late with gale force winds and rain for much of yesterday culminating in an evening deluge of hail and rain followed by a stupendous bolt of lightening that must`ve struck quite close to the cottage as the ground shook setting off several car alarms out in the road!
  However, this morning was much more benign and remained mild. From the back garden at dawn a few passerines passed overhead, mostly Chaffinch, Mipit and Goldfinch along with a few Skylark, Greenfinch, Siskin and Redpoll. Outback more grounded finches, larks and pipits and one Song Thrush. On south lake two Shelduck amongst 100 Shoveler, plus two Great White Egrets and Marsh Harrier by the main reedbed and two Brent Geese overhead. Several Goldcrests and a Chiffchaff called from the willow swamp. The interpretive sign along the main track has again been vandalised for the umpteenth time by an unknown moron; I feel like setting up a camera trap to nail him/her (probably an irate dog-walker).
  A check of the beach delivered two late Sandwich Terns, seven species of shorebirds, 10 Shelducks and two Brent Geese.

                                Sandwich Terns

Tuesday, 6 November 2018

Short-eared Owl

Dungeness - mild, cloudy, SE 3 - A wander around the point first thing in shorts weather produced very little in the bushes apart from a Firecrest in the lighthouse garden, a scattering of Goldcrests and a couple of Chiffchaffs. Overhead a light passage of Goldfinches, Chaffinches and one or two Siskins and Redpolls. Considering a favourable wind direction a seawatch resulted in only a handful of Kittiwakes and Gannets, plus a Bonxie down-Channel, while the sea was empty down towards the Patch where the outlet pipe is offline until sometime next year.
Scotney - Spent a couple of hours late morning checking through the passerines around the farm buildings. Skylark, Corn Bunting, Tree and House Sparrow, Linnet, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Mipit, Stonechat, Starling and Pied Wagtail all noted in variable numbers but there was no sign of the Twite seen earlier. Also noted several Kestrels, a Merlin and hundreds of feral geese, Golden Plovers and Lapwings on the front fields.
Lade - A late scan from the Desert end of south lake was notable for a distant Short-eared Owl hunting Mockmill. There was no change in the wildfowl and grebe numbers from last week.

Monday, 5 November 2018

Skegness Weekender

Skegness, Lincs - Pat and I are just back from a long weekend `up north` with our old friends Pat and Stuart from Dunstable at a 1970`s music festival at Skegness. A real blast from the past with old Glam Rocker favourites such as Mud, Sweet and Slade still going strong in their various guises complete with a few original band members; the last time I saw all three was in 1973/4 when they still had hair and were all very much alive! Cockney Rebel and The Blockheads could still knock out a tune, although sadly Steve Harley looked like a man not long for this world.
  I`m not normally a fan of tribute acts but Clearwater Creedence Revival did put on a decent show. However, as is often the case at festivals, there is nearly always a surprise act which knocks you out and that accolade went to Phil Bates & The Berlin String Orchestra who performed the music of ELO. They were simply superb and are currently on tour around the UK, so if you`re a lover of the great Jeff Lynne`s tunes I would highly recommend catching up with them some time.


 
  Crossing the Fenland en-route to and from Skegness I had forgotten what a desolate place the flatlands are with vast open fields of brassicas, spuds and corn and hardly a bird to be seen anywhere apart from a few Buzzards and Kestrels perched on roadside posts.
  However, things were much better along the coast where on two mornings we walked along the foreshore noting hundreds of sea duck moving south, mainly Eiders and Common Scoters along with a few Velvet Scoters and Red-breasted Mergansers, plus several parties of Brents. The beach slacks at low tide attracted a good number of waders, particularly Redshank, Curlew and Dunlin.
  Around the Butlin`s complex Goldcrests were numerous and some of the Blackbirds, Robins and Song Thrushes were probably migrants. On Sunday night a steady overhead passage of Redwings could be heard coming in off the North Sea.



                                Skegness foreshore and The Lincs Wind Farm

Tuesday, 30 October 2018

Dartford Warbler

Lade - cold, cloudy, NW 4 - Another nippy day with a cold wind out of the north and bits and pieces of drizzle making for miserable birding conditions. Decided to check out the scrub towards Kerton Road pit where a highly vocal Dartford Warbler was calling from the broom scrub behind Williamson Road; during half an hour it only showed briefly out in the open twice before flying into a back garden.
  Further out on the Desert a pipit kept me busy for a while creeping about in the long grass and eventually disappearing into a gorse thicket. A bright supercilium and heavy streaking suggested a Tree Pipit type (although its very late for that) but at no stage did I get a really good view of it.
St Mary`s Bay - A walk along the foreshore from the breakwater to Littlestone checking for buntings and larks drew a blank. Turnstone, Sanderling, Grey Plover and eight Sandwich Terns noted on the beach. The garden by the car park attracted Goldcrest, Robin, Blackbird and Chaffinch.
Dungeness - A couple of visits to Boulderwall and the point this afternoon to search for a Rough-legged Buzzard seen earlier drew another blank.

Monday, 29 October 2018

Seabirds

Dungeness - cool, cloudy, NE 4 - A brisk north-easterly airflow over the past couple of days has seen good numbers of seabirds (particularly Pom Skuas and Little Auks) passing headlands along the east coast of England including north Kent. The hope was that some would come our way from the southern North Sea and be blown along the Channel and while there has been some movement, as yet, we`ve not received anything like the numbers and variety of seabirds recorded just `around the corner`.
  However, seawatching from the fishing boats has delivered a steady flow of Brent Geese, Gannets and scoters, including at least four Velvets this morning. Wigeon, Teal and Shelduck have all been on the move along with a trickle of Red-throated Divers, Sandwich Terns, auks and Red-breasted Mergansers. Kittiwakes and Med Gulls continue to be present offshore, but in nothing like the numbers of a week ago.
  Incoming migrants have been sparse with hundreds of Starlings in the ascendancy, a few larks and pipits, coasting finches and this morning, just before I arrived, a ringtail Hen Harrier, only the second such sighting of the year.  
  Checks of the bay at high tide for any wind blown seabirds have so far drawn a blank apart from a few distant Gannets and scoters. There has been no change to the birds on Lade pits.

Saturday, 27 October 2018

Sun Bittern

Lade - cold, sunny, NW 3 - The much forecast cold front from the north swept over the Marsh overnight with dawn heralding the first frost of the season. I wasn't expecting a great deal from this mornings circular walk but almost immediately flushed two Ring Ouzels, several Blackbirds and a Redwing from cover by the cattery, from where a single Dartford Warbler briefly posed atop the gorse along with two Stonechats, Reed Bunting and Chaffinches. On the lakes two Great White Egrets and our first Goldeneye on north reinforced the wintry feel. Buzzard, Marsh Harrier and Sparrowhawk also noted, plus Cetti`s Warbler, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Little Egrets, Kingfisher and Chiffchaff around the ponds.


                               Sunbathing Bittern

  However, bird of the morning was undoubtedly a Bittern, a regular winter visitor at Lade and a species not to be ignored however long you`ve been birding. The far side of the willow swamp reedbed was in complete shelter from the nippy wind and in full sunshine and much to the liking of this Bittern which sunbathed for at least an hour, fully in the open!
  Two visits to the bay delivered the obligatory waders, a few Sandwich Terns and Med Gulls.


                               Curlew and Dunlin on the bay

Friday, 26 October 2018

Weekly Summary

Lade - cool and cloudy - Pretty much the same fare these past two days on the local patch with up to five Great White Egrets around the margins of south lake and a small flock of Shelducks coming and going on the high tides. Two Ring Ouzels were present in Mockmill this morning while the Dartford Warblers remained in the gorse scrub beside south lake track. Small numbers of Stonechat, Linnet, Chiffchaff and Mipits are scattered across the site. With only eight moths in the garden trap last night and colder weather forecast I decided to pack away the moth trap for the season - winter is a comin...
  On the bird reserve egrets have been commonplace this week with up to 20 Great Whites easily outnumbering Littles, while the seven Cattle Egrets have remained faithful to the suckling herd in the Hayfields. The reed beds have plenty of Water Rails and Bearded Tits and a few Bitterns with Screen and Hanson hides the favoured locations for the best chance of actually seeing one.  Raptors are also present in good numbers, particularly Kestrel, Buzzard and Marsh Harrier, plus Peregrine, Merlin, Sparrowhawk and even a Barn Owl has been seen on the wing from the access road late afternoons.
  On the passerine front Ring Ouzels have favoured the scrub to the north of Hookers and the Return Trail with others noted along the railway line behind Tower Pits. Finches, tits, Chiffchaff, Goldcrest and thrushes are also best looked for in these areas.
  The islands from Hanson hide have attracted a mobile flock of some 500 Golden Plovers and Lapwings all week along with an assortment of Avocet, Ringed Plover, Grey Plover, Dunlin, Ruff, Snipe, Black-wit, Curlew, Redshank and Spotted Redshank. Up to 11 species of shorebirds are also present on the bay with the best viewing point being Littlestone at low tide.
  With north-westerly winds seawatching off Dungeness has been steady this week to say the least. However, hundreds of Med Gulls and Kittiwakes are still offshore and there is always the chance of a few passing Brents, divers, scoters, auks, terns and the odd skua. Overhead visible migration has been virtually non-existent.

                                Sunset over Lade Desert

Wednesday, 24 October 2018

Dartford Warblers and Bittern

Lade - warm, dry and sunny, light airs - Another superb day of weather, and maybe the last for a while if the forecast is to be believed. The local patch struck gold with two Dartford Warblers in the scrub by south lake track and a Woodlark over the back of north lake amongst 10 Skylarks. A flock of up to five Chiffchaffs kept us busy for a while by the ponds with one individual showing no green tones at all. Also noted around the local patch: three Marsh Harriers, Buzzard, nine Shelducks, four Great White Egrets, six Stonechat, Mipits, Linnets and 50 Curlews over to roost.

                                Bittern, ARC

ARC - From Hanson hide we had brief views of a Bittern moving along the far reedbed. On the islands 200 Goldies, 200 Lapwings, Snipe, six Dunlins, four Blackwits and three Ruff which were regularly disturbed by Marsh Harriers. The two Goldeneyes were still on the lake, a Great Spotted Woodpecker by the Willow Trail and a Clouded Yellow butterfly on the track to the hide.
  In summary a pretty decent three days birding for our guest, in fine weather, during which we time racked up 105 species.

Tuesday, 23 October 2018

Cattle Egrets

Dungeness - cool, cloudy start, warm and sunny later, wnw2 - A steady days birding commenced with a couple of hours seawatching from the fishing boats and then the hide. Over 200 Mediterranean Gulls were still loitering offshore along with 50 Kittiwakes and a trickle of Gannets, Common Scoters, auks and Sandwich Terns, plus 25 Brents, four Shelducks, two Wigeon and a Red-throated Diver. Harbour Porpoise and Grey Seal also noted. There was very little on the land apart from a few finches and Mipits.



                                Cattle Egrets, Hayfield 3

  Moving onto a busy bird reserve the circular walk delivered seven Cattle Egrets in Hayfield 3, and for once they were nice and close to the path amongst the suckling herd so showed well. Also noted on Dengemarsh: several Marsh Harriers, Buzzards, Great White Egrets, Ruff, Snipe and a Merlin. On ARC much as yesterday on the wader and wildfowl front with the highlight being a dramatic Sparrowhawk attack on a Lapwing, which looked as though it might be successful until a crow came to the rescue and chased the hawk away. Another Merlin was noted along with good views of Tree Sparrows on the Boulderwall feeders.


                                Tree Sparrow and Kestrel, Boulderwall


                                Little Owl sunbathing

  A Little Owl was seen by the watch towers at Lydd camp while a couple of White-fronts were hiding amongst the many feral geese at Scotney; sadly, quite a few were showing signs of gunshot injury.
  We ended the day on Walland Marsh where at least ten each of Buzzard and Marsh Harrier noted, plus 20 Skylarks and two Corn Buntings.