Saturday, 17 February 2018

Sunshine birding

Lade - warm, dry, sunny, light airs - A splendid morning to be out and about birding in pleasant sunshine and no coat required for the first time this year. The two Long-tailed Ducks were active on south lake and the Shoveler count reached 250, where at least four pairs of Great Crested Grebe had teamed up. Goldeneyes though were down to just three birds. The Dartford Warblers proved frustratingly difficult to see despite the fine weather with just fleeting glimpses but lots of vocalising.
By mid-morning three Marsh Harriers and a Buzzard took to the thermals behind the wall `mirror` where a film shoot was underway.

                               Long-tailed Duck, Lade south

                                Crows nest, Kerton Road

Dungeness - By midday the point was busy with visitors and fisherman in the sunshine. A Grey Seal showed well offshore opposite the seawatch hide, while at the Patch the 1st winter Glaucous Gull went between the beach and the power station complex, where both Raven and Kestrel noted.
  A wander around the Kerton Road triangle and down beside the quarry produced several Dartford Warblers, Stonechats and a small flock of Skylarks and Meadow Pipits.

Friday, 16 February 2018


Godmersham - 0930hrs - cold, dry, sunny - A cracking winters day for a trip off the Marsh with CP and MH to view the churchyard Hawfinches. However, despite the clear blue skies and bright sunshine we could only muster brief views of two birds in trees outside the church, in contrast to last week when up to 20 were noted hereabouts. There were plenty of other species on offer though, many in full song such as Mistle and Song Thrushes, plus Marsh, Coal and Long-tailed Tits, Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Nuthatch, Treecreeper, Goldcrest, Jay and Buzzard.

                                Spring lambs, Godmersham

                                Red Kite over the downs

North Downs - We then moved onto a downland viewpoint to scan for soaring raptors. With the morning wearing on and warm sunshine forcing draughts of air off the bare farmland into the ether conditions were ripe for a decent count, but even we were surprised at the numbers of birds of prey on the wing. During the course of an hour we totalled up to 25 Common Buzzards airborne at any one sweep of the optics, including a `kettle` of 13 and one near pure white individual perched atop a tree. Best of all though was up to four Red Kites, one of which soared virtually overhead, plus four Sparrowhawks and three Kestrels. While all this was going on, Skylarks were constantly in view and singing over the arableland, while Yellowhammer, Linnet, Meadow Pipit and Red-legged Partridge were also noted.
  More often than not on this blog I`m moaning about the loss of this bird or that, but at least the raptors are faring well. I couldn't have imagined seeing such numbers even 20 years ago.

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Winter regulars

Lade - cold, cloudy, S 3 - Not too bad a start to the day weather wise, although the wind picked up again during the morning meaning passerines were at a premium. The wintering Long-tailed Ducks continue to remain faithful to south lake and a Great White Egret was again present in the main reedbed.

                                Winter ducks on Burrowes

Dungeness - A guided walk for RSPB this morning around the circular walk made for difficult birding conditions in the strong wind. However, three Smew and a Slavonian Grebe were located on the lakes in front of Christmas Dell hide, while a Goldeneye showed well from Makepeace hide. At Dengemarsh a Great White Egret and male Merlin were the highlights. Also noted hundreds of Golden Plovers, Lapwings, Stock Doves, Starlings and Linnets on the fields behind Dengemarsh and on Boulderwall. Elsewhere, the Black-throated Diver was back on ARC and the Glaucous Gull was at the Patch.

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Southerly gale

Dungeness - cold, cloudy, wintry showers, S 6 - What a difference a day makes. Yesterday morning Dartford Warblers were singing atop gorse scrub at Lade in light airs against a blue sky backdrop. Not so today though with a vicious southerly blow making walking out in the open difficult, and by late morning building up to gale force with a rash of sleety showers.
  While it was still dry we opted for an hour at the fishing boats gazing out across a choppy Channel with plenty of gulls, Cormorants and auks fizzing by. As is often the case with a big sea running here seawatching is not at its best, and so it proved this morning with only a few Red-throated Divers, Kittiwakes, Gannets, Fulmars and a Merganser to keep the interest going.
  The bird reserve wasn't much better with most of the wildfowl hunkered down at the south end of Burrowes sheltering from the blow, although a drake Smew didn't seem to be phased by the conditions as it fished in open water in front of the visitors centre. There was no sign of yesterdays plastic Pochard on the Dipping Pool, although it could have been hunkered down just about anywhere across the reserve. On the way out the Boulderwall fields attracted a large mixed flock of Golden Plovers and Lapwings.

Sunday, 11 February 2018

Ringed Plovers

Lade - cold, sunny, nw 4 - These past couple of days have been spent without using the car, so on shanks pony, criss-crossing the local patch and along the beach down to Littlestone, up to the Pilot and around Kerton Road pit. We must`ve done a good few miles of shingle stomping and to be fair there were one or two bits and pieces of interest.
  On the lake nothing much has changed with the two wintering Long-tailed Ducks still present among around 800 wildfowl including 200 Shovelers, eight Goldeneyes and a brief flirtation by two Goosanders yesterday. This morning a Great White Egret in the main reed bed was new for the year and at the top end of north lake a Green Sandpiper fed along the shingle margin. The Kerton Road waters held only small numbers of ducks, plus hundreds of gulls and Oystercatchers at high tide.
  Yesterday morning we took in Mockmill where a new Dartford Warbler was located way out on the Desert in a gorse thicket, the perfect site for a breeding pair to settle down in... The regular birds were also noted in the Kerton Road triangle and beside the south lake track at Lade, along with singing Dunnock, Chaffinch and our first Linnet of the year. Around the willow swamp Cetti`s Warblers were in good voice along with Great Tits, where Reed Bunting, Goldcrest and Chiffchaff also noted.
  On the bay nine species of waders were seen with a flock of 15 Ringed Plovers suggesting some sort of movement of what is a scarce shorebird here. Numbers of most other species appeared to be similar to last months count with only Redshank absent.
  A profitable enough weekend then with 62 species logged, and all within two miles of Plovers cottage; now that can`t be bad.

                                Ringed Plover, from the archives

Friday, 9 February 2018

Weekly Summary

Lade - cold, cloudy, nw 4 - A miserable morning with rain throughout, but brighter later. On the local patch this afternoon the two Long-tailed Ducks were still present on south lake while at least one Dartford Warbler called from gorse scrub beside the track.
  Its pretty much a case of as-you-were bird wise this week across the Dungeness foreland. Black-throated Diver, Slavonian Grebe and three Smew are still on the bird reserve but mobile; the diver goes between Burrowes, ARC and New Diggings, while the grebe and Smews favour Christmas Dell.
Best bet for Bittern and Great White Egret are from Hanson hide on ARC and Dengemarsh hide.
  Elsewhere, the two Tundra Bean Geese are still attached to the Greylag flock at Scotney while the 1st winter Glaucous Gull tends to spend the morning at the Patch and the afternoon on Burrowes. On a calm day Dartford Warblers can be encountered just about anywhere there is gorse scrub from Lade to the Kerton Road triangle, onto the Dungeness estate and Dengemarsh.
  As far as I`m aware there have been no reports of the Bewick`s Swans this week on Walland Marsh or coming to roost on the bird reserve at dusk. 

Thursday, 8 February 2018

Mopping up

Dungeness - cold, sunny, light airs - A stunning morning with bright sunshine, perfect for mopping up a few species for the guests that we missed earlier in the week. At the Patch the 1st winter Glaucous Gull eventually showed up close to the hide despite the shingle lorries passing close by. Offshore a few Gannets, auks and divers through.

                                Glaucous Gull, Patch

  A brief stop at the Kerton Road yielded a pair of Stonechats with a Dartford Warbler in tow. Moving onto Scotney and our luck was in with the two Tundra Bean Geese tucked in on the edge of the Greylag flock on the far side of the lake from the double bends. At Lydd Army camp we noted a Little Owl enjoying the sunshine, before finishing at Hanson hide where a pair of Chiffchaffs put on a great show in front of the hide snapping up insects rising off the reedbed. On the water hundreds of ducks, Lapwings, Cormorants and a Great White Egret.

                                Chiffchaff, ARC

                                Little Owl, Lydd

  And so ended a superb week of winter birding for our guests from Dorset during which time we rattled up a respectable 97 species. The highlights being the Hawfinches at Godmersham; Smew, Slavonian Grebe, Black-throated Diver, Tree Sparrow and Merlin on the bird reserve; Long-tailed Duck, Lade;Tundra Geese, Scotney; and for the sheer spectacle of it, 17 Marsh Harriers coming to roost at a reedbed site on Walland.

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

King of the finches

Godmersham - cold, grey, drizzle, n 2 - En-route to north Kent we stopped off with the group at Godmersham church for Hawfinches. These are the first we`ve seen since last autumns invasion/irruption and we were not disappointed with up to 20 noted during our two hour visit. Sadly the light conditions were appalling, which severely limited photographic opportunities.
  Also noted in the general area Redwing, Mistle Thrush, Greenfinch, Nuthatch, Coal and Long-tailed Tits, Goldcrest and Great spotted Woodpecker.

                                Godmersham church and Hawfinch

                                Pintail and Stock Dove, Oare Marshes

Oare Marshes - The afternoon was spent on the coast checking out waders and wildfowl on The Swale and adjacent freshwater marshes. Hundreds of Avocet, Blackwit, Dunlin and Redshank noted, plus Brent Geese, Wigeon, Teal, Shelduck and Pintail. Scanning across to Sheppey resulted in a constant movement of hunting raptors, mostly Marsh Harriers but also Buzzard, Sparrowhawk and Kestrel. On the reserve, Kingfisher, Bearded Tit, Cetti`s Warbler, Meadow Pipit, Greenfinch and Stonechat. Despite extensive searching we could find no sign of the wintering dowitcher.

Tuesday, 6 February 2018


Dungeness - cold, dry and sunny, n 4 - Another nippy old day across the peninsula, particularly during the afternoon when the cloud cover came over. We kicked off at the Patch where the Glaucous Gull was a no show. Offshore a trickle of Red-throated Divers, Gannets, Common Scoters and auks moved between the bays. On the coast road just before the fish shop a Black Redstart popped up onto a garden wall.
  At Lade pits the two Long-tailed Ducks eventually showed on south lake, plus seven Goldeneyes across both waters and several hundred Shoveler and Teal. On the bay from the Varne boat ramp five species of waders noted.
  Moving onto the bird reserve we had superb views of a male Merlin perched on a post at Dengemarsh, plus a pair of Smew and a Great White Egret. From Christmas Dell hide the Slavonian Grebe showed well. On Burrowes the Glaucous Gull allude us yet again but we did note Pintail, Raven and Avocet, new for the trip list. Much has been said locally about the extraordinary numbers of Cormorants at Dungeness during the afternoon, and today was no different with at least 4,000 present.

    2,000 Cormorants

Monday, 5 February 2018

Snowy Lade

Lade - cold, wintry showers, ne 4 - A bitter cold start to the week with a rasping north-easterly blowing in sleety showers off the bay, some of which briefly settled; Barney couldn't quite make it out! A Long-tailed Duck showed well on south lake amongst the flurries.

Dungeness - A four day Birdwatching Break for three guests from Dorset kicked of with Black-throated Diver and Slavonian Grebe on New Diggings. Moving on to Hanson hide, where a Robin kept popping in through the flap to feed, a Great White Egret and 20 Dunlin were noted among the usual wildfowl and the Tree Sparrows were noted in the Boulderwall garden. Following a tip off from PB concerning the Bean and White-fronted Geese at Scotney we nipped round to the double bends where the geese had just been flushed by the shepherd feeding the sheep, although the Barnacle flock was still present.
Walland Marsh - Criss-crossing the flatlands checking for wild swans drew a blank, infact very little of note was seen apart from six Buzzards and a Kestrel. However, we finished the day in fine style with 17 Marsh Harriers coming to roost at a reed bed site, including four adult males and a large white-headed female. Fabulous stuff.

Sunday, 4 February 2018

Beastly easterly

Lade - cold, showery, ne 4 - Over the course of the weekend the wind swung steadily round to the north-east and picked up through today along with a series of sleety showers bringing `proper` winter weather to our shores. It didn't seem to deter the windsurfers though and by midday the Lade toilet block car park was full of serious, hard core surfers taking advantage of the `beast from the east`. Young folk don't seem to feel the cold; I remember it well...
  However, bird wise on the local patch it was pretty much a case of `as you were` with the two Long-tailed Ducks and associated wildfowl on south lake, plus a brief appearance of a Dartford Warbler in the calm of yesterday.
  Elsewhere this weekend Dungeness was best avoided due to the annual Dab fishing competition which normally means wall-to-wall fisherman along the shoreline. News from the bird reserve concerned a similar suite of birds to last week.

                                Super moon over Plovers last week


Friday, 2 February 2018

Weekly summary

Lade - cold, dry, sunny, nw 4 - A nippy day to end the week with a cold wind blowing across the flatlands. No change on the local patch with the wintering Long-tailed Duck remaining on south lake among good numbers ducks and grebes.
Dungeness  - At the Patch the 1st winter Glaucous Gull was roosting on the beach among a pack of 500 gulls, while a Peregrine sat asleep high up on B station. The usual auks, Kittiwakes, Gannets and Red-throated Divers rounded the point in small numbers.
  On the RSPB reserve both Slavonian Grebe and Black-throated Diver were on ARC to start with before the diver moved back to Burrowes. Also mobile on Burrowes and Christmas Dell were three Smew, including a drake. The Bewick`s Swan flock have also been mobile this week, being seen just about anywhere on Walland Marsh from Caldecote Lane to Brookland. The Greylag flock on the double bends at Scotney is the best bet for the two Tundra Geese, while the Glaucous Gull has been regularly seen coming to roost on Burrowes from Makepeace hide. Dartford Warblers have also been seen at Lade and around the old lighthouse at Dungeness this week on the few fine, still days.