Lade - 0700hrs - cool, cloudy, N 2 - And so we move into April, easily my favourite birding month of the year on the Dungeness NNR, when every day seems to bring something new from the south and expectation levels peak towards the end of the month. In contrast to the autumn migration when LBJs skulk silently from dense cover, spring is all about migrants in their breeding finery with some even singing en-route from bare vegetation and easy to locate.
Although the weather was chilly first thing (a light northerly airflow) at least it was dry which made a big difference, and this morning was a prime example of what April has to offer hereabouts. A Black Redstart sat on our neighbours roof was a good start, followed by a Firecrest calling from fir trees in front of the cottage.
Across the shingle, towards the Desert, saw another Black Redstart perched on a post along the old railway track, plus a spanking male Wheatear, our first of the year here. A couple of Skylarks ascended skywards in song over the Desert as a few Meadow Pipits and Pied Wagtails flew through. Further along the track towards the lakes, Linnet, Reed Bunting, Great Tit, Greenfinch, Wren, Dunnock and Chaffinch all sang from atop the gorse scrub. In and around the Willow Swamp several Chiffchaffs noted and a brief burst of song by the swing bridge confirmed our first Willow Warbler of the season. Green Woodpecker, Cetti`s Warbler, Long-tailed Tit and Water Rail also noted here.
As for wildfowl and grebes, an unprecedented six Black-necked Grebes were eventually located across all waters, along with 18 Great Crested and 12 Little Grebes, making Lade pits surely one of the best sites locally for this family. Six Goldeneyes remained from yesterday and the two Long-tailed Ducks made it into April; other wildfowl included 50 Shoveler, 20 Gadwall, four Teal and a pair of Shelduck.
Park Wood, Appledore - A late morning walk in the woods delivered all the expected woodland species including Treecreeper, Nuthatch, Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers, Long-tailed and Coal Tits, Jay, Buzzard, Sparrowhawk, several Chiffchaffs and a single singing Willow Warbler. With the sun breaking cover it actual felt like spring, particularly as the woodland floor was covered with blooms of primrose, anemone, violet and celandine.
Dungeness - This afternoon we went to the Point in search of a Glaucous Gull reported earlier, but the sun had brought forth hundreds of tourists onto the beach, so there wasn't a gull in sight. However, at the old lighthouse garden I spent a most pleasant hour nattering to Paul, Jill and Colin, in between putting the world to rights (an impossible job!), and watching a couple of Firecrests and Chiffchaffs feeding on the lawn.
Last port of call was the bay where the following were counted on the ebb tide from Lade boardwalk and the Varne: 680 Oystercatcher, 440 Curlew, 55 Bar-tailed Godwit, 12 Grey Plover, several hundred Dunlin and Sanderling (too much disturbance for an accurate count), 25 Sandwich Terns and a Shelduck.