Friday, 20 July 2018

Waders and egrets

Lade - humid, overcast, light rain - We had our first rainfall for about six weeks this morning, not much but just enough to keep the dust down. South lake was covered in wildfowl and grebes feeding amongst the floating rafts of flowering Canadian pond weed. Several Common Terns fished the open waters and a steady progression of noisy Sandwich Terns over flew the site heading towards the bay. Two Whimbrels went through high calling and a Common Sandpiper flitted over north lake where the autumns first Great White Egret was noted.

                                Black Swans feeding on pond weed

ARC - From Hanson hide a similar picture to yesterday with three adult Little Stints the highlight (although they did appear to fly off high at about 10.30hrs), an elusive Wood Sandpiper, Blackwit, Redshank, Common Sandpipers, Greenshank and Dunlin, one of which was a large juvenile. Also present hundreds of eclipse ducks, Coots, grebes, swans, geese and gulls on the lake, plus a Garganey several pulses of Sand Martins through and a Yellow Wagtail over.

Thursday, 19 July 2018

Little Stints

Scotney - warm, dry, overcast, E2 - Spent the day guiding for Andrew and friends from north Kent. After a moth session at the bird reserve we headed down to Scotney where farmland birds were few and far between. Eventually we located several Yellow Wagtails and a couple of Skylarks out back, plus a distant Buzzard, Kestrel and a Little Owl on one of the farm buildings. A few Swallows were noted, plus the usual range of feral geese, common ducks, Little Egrets and a Brown Hare drinking from one of the gravel pit lakes.

                                Juvenile terns, Med Gull and Lapwing

Dungeness - From Hanson hide there was a decent collection of waders on the islands. Three adult Little Stints were fresh in along with two Wood Sandpipers, 10 Dunlins, eight Little Ringed Plovers, five Ringed Plovers, four Blackwits, two Snipe, two Redshanks and singles of Greenshank and Common Sandpiper. Plenty of common dabblers and diving ducks were on the water, plus a juvenile Mediterranean Gull amongst the Black-headed Gulls and Lapwings.
  Over the road on Burrowes Wood Sandpiper and Dunlins in front of Firth hide, a mixed flock of Common Terns (including this years juvs), two Sandwich Terns, another juv Med Gull, several Ringed Plovers and Lapwings and male Marsh Harrier over the Oppen pits.
  We also managed to identify a number of plants and dragonflies for the guests throughout the day, despite the desiccated landscape.

Wednesday, 18 July 2018

Another day in paradise

Lade - warm, dry, broken cloud, sunshine, E2 - Another cracking day of weather commenced with a bumper catch of 30 plus species of macros in the garden trap, including two more Sussex Emeralds. An early visit to south lake before doing breakfasts for guests delivered a Green Sandpiper on the island along with two Mediterranean Gulls and several Sand Martins over.
  With high tide around 4pm it was perfect conditions for a scan of the bay, with the sea retreating in glorious evening light and not a breath of wind. The White Cliffs and distant South Foreland Lighthouse were most apparent, as was a steady stream of huge passing container ships in mid-Channel, etched in front of the French coastline, looking for all the world like mobile blocks of flats.

                                White Cliffs and South Foreland Lighthouse                               

                                Channel shipping

  The Curlew flock conveniently returned from roost enabling an accurate count to be made of 225 birds, plus 110 Oystercatchers, five Dunlins, Whimbrel and Ringed Plover. Black-headed Gulls comprised the bulk numbers with a conservative estimate of 5,000 birds; also 50 Sandwich Terns, 30 Common Gulls, 10 Med Gulls and a Kittiwake.
  Out to sea at least four Grey Seal followed the tide out and I twice saw them catch flatfish the size of dinner plates. Further out several Porpoises were noted, plus a flock of 13 Common Scoters, more Sandwich Terns, two Gannets and a Fulmar. What a privilege it is to have such an abundance of wildlife in such a dramatic setting just 200yds from our front gate.

                                One of many Bhgs on the sands this evening

ARC - Called in to Hanson hide around midday where Wood Sandpiper, Greenshank, Blackwit and Little Ringed Plover were the pick of the waders, plus a Garganey amongst the dabblers. Elsewhere today two Great White Egrets were seen on Dengemarsh (RW).

Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Migrant Hawkers

Lade/Dungeness - warm, dry and sunny, SW4 - With the wind swinging around to a more normal Atlantic airflow and picking up through the day, there was a much fresher feel than yesterday. The Patch first thing was fairly quiet with just a few Common Terns amongst 100 common gulls, while offshore a party of 15 Common Scoters flew east. A Peregrine put in an appearance over the power station setting off the Herring Gulls and a juvenile Black Redstart was noted atop the wall, plus a Hummingbird Hawkmoth basking on the wall.

                                Resting Migrant Hawker

  At Lade ponds several Migrant Hawker dragonflies were on the wing with more seen in the garden throughout the day; also noted at the ponds Emperor Dragonfly, Black-tailed Skimmer and Common Darter.
ARC/Burrowes - An evening visit delivered a host of wildfowl and gulls on both lakes, including several Mediterranean Gulls and a Garganey. Waders included Wood Sandpiper on Burrowes, Blackwit, Ruff and Greenshank on ARC, plus a scattering of Little Ringed and Ringed Plovers, Common Sandpiper and Dunlin on both. Also noted a Bittern flying over Tower Pits and two Marsh Harriers at Boulderwall, plus several parties of Sand Martins through.

Monday, 16 July 2018

Bonaparte`s Gull

Oare Marshes - 0900hrs - hot, dry and sunny, SW2 - Together with CP and MH we decamped to north Kent for a change of scene this morning to the rarity hot-spot that is the KWT reserve beside Faversham Creek. Despite unfavourable light and tides, plus a work party in progress, we still managed to see a decent range of wetland birds.

                               East Flood, Oare Marshes

  A pair of adult Black-winged Stilts with their two locally bred juveniles showed throughout the visit, alongside good numbers of Avocets and at least 20 Little Egrets - prompting comparisons with a recent spring visit to the Somme estuary! At least 12 adult Ruffs in various stages of nuptial dress proved interesting, plus a pair of Little Ringed Plovers, Greenshank, Whimbrel, Common Sandpiper and a host of gorgeous Black-tailed Godwits, Lapwings and Redshanks. A mix of eclipse ducks, a Dabchick with five fledglings (my first of the summer), various gulls and Grey Herons completed the wetland ensemble on the East Flood.

                                Juvenile Black-winged Stilt

  Out on the worm-rich Swale mud more waders and gulls were in view, including loads more Little Egrets, Curlews, Redshanks, Avocets, Blackwits (including a colour ringed bird - green over yellow left leg, red over red right leg and two of the Icelandic race), 10 Whimbrels and 20 Oystercatchers;  a distant sand bar over towards Shell Ness attracted at least 22 Common Seals.
  But it was the gulls that drew most attention as amongst the many Black-headed Gulls feeding on lugworms near the old submerged ferry road was the `resident` Bonaparte`s Gull, a stunning individual still in full breeding plumage. A couple of times it was flushed onto the Swale channel by Marsh Harriers, but soon returned to feed and preen on the gloopy mud.

                                Adult Bonaparte`s Gull

  Also noted during the circular walk: Shelduck, Mediterranean Gull, Kestrel, Sparrowhawk, Common Tern, Skylark, Mipit, Yellow Wagtail, Reed Warbler, Bearded Tit, Goldfinch and Reed Bunting, while on the way out a Turtle Dove was noted on overhead wires rounding off a superb birding morning `up north`.
  By the time we arrived back on the coast it was stinking hot and with a 7m high tide there was only one place to be - in Lade bay for a refreshing, first sea swim of the summer, wonderful!

Sunday, 15 July 2018

Heat wave continues

Lade/Dungeness - hot, dry and sunny, NE 2 - A weekend of hot dry weather with only a light breeze off the sea. We haven't had any `proper` rain down here for weeks now and the Desert is living up to its name, being desiccated with hardly any greenery surviving the suns rays; a Brown Hare loping across the Lade section this morning was the first I`ve seen for a while.
  On the sands Sandwich Tern numbers have begun to increase as the juveniles disperse, while a flock of eight adult Knots in various stages of breeding plumage were new in. Dunlins too have increased over the past few days with 30 counted today.
  Moth trapping in the garden has yielded three more Sussex Emeralds. 

                                Black Swans on south lake island

                                Lade Desert

On the bird reserve not much change from last week with a scattering of returning waders on both Burrowes and ARC including Greenshank, Wood and Common Sandpipers, Ruff and Little Ringed Plover.

Friday, 13 July 2018

Returning waders

Lade/Dungeness - warm, dry, sunny, NE 3 - This week has seen a trickle of returning waders across the Dungeness NNR wetlands. At Lade Whimbrel, Common Sandpiper and Greenshank have been noted with another Greenshank on ARC this morning, but Burrowes is the current wader hotspot with the sand bars in front of Firth hide luring in a Wood Sandpiper that was still present today. Oystercatcher, Lapwing, Blackwit, Avocet, Greenshank, Grey, Little Ringed and Ringed Plovers, Curlew, Dunlin, Redshank and Common Sandpiper have all been noted from the hides either side of the Visitor Centre these past few days, so if you are planning a visit this weekend Burrowes is the place to be.
  Bitterns have been showing well, flying between Boulderwall and Tower Pits, while several Garganeys are lurking amongst the Teal flocks. Mediterranean Gulls are prominent within gull flocks and the Common Terns are feeding juveniles on the green-topped islands. The Black Swan pair seem to have settled on Lade south for the duration.
  At the point more Mediterranean Gulls are loafing at the Patch along with the first juvenile Yellow-legged Gulls. The sea has been relatively quiet, although I did note an Arctic Skua earlier in the week harrying terns on Lade sands.

                                Waders from the archives

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Wood Sandpiper

Lade - warm, dry, cloudy, N2 - A cloudy, still night produced another bumper moth catch in the garden trap that included two Sussex Emeralds and five Plumed Fan-feet. On the local patch two Avocets flew over south lake calling but failed to land and eventually headed back towards the bird reserve. The pair of Black Swans performed a fly past in front of Lydd church, otherwise there was no change in the wildfowl from yesterday.

                                Black Swans over All Saints Lydd

                                Plumed Fan-foot, probably bred locally

                                Sussex Emerald - note the double pointed hind wing

Dungeness - A guided walk this morning concentrated on Burrowes where a cracking Wood Sandpiper on the mud in front of Firth hide was the first of the year and the return passage. Also from Firth hide, three Little Ringed Plovers, two Ringed Plovers, two Dunlins, a Curlew, two Avocets and a Grey Plover over calling, while a party of 20 Swifts moved through, plus 10 Sand Martins and a Yellow Wagtail. Elsewhere, five Mediterranean Gulls on the shingle amongst a large gull flock and a Marsh Harrier at Boulderwall.

                               Avocet from Firth hide

                                Wood Sandpiper, first for the autumn

  An hour at the fishing boats this afternoon was predictably quiet with just a few fishing Sandwich Terns, distant Gannets and a juvenile Yellow-legged Gull of note, plus several Porpoises off shore.

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

Mediterranean Gulls

Lade - warm and overcast, N2 - Cooler than of late with a northerly airflow suppressing the overnight moth catch, but still delivering our first Sussex Emerald of the season, albeit a tatty specimen, plus another Plumed Fan-foot and a White Satin.

                                Gulls on south lake island, including a Mediterranean Gull

  Having not been on the local patch for a week there was a noticeable drop in the water level thanks to the recent heat wave. A small island at the south end of the main lake had a collection of gulls including Mediterranean and Common Gulls; with several more Meds over the lake, presumably birds dispersing from breeding colonies at Rye or the near continent. Shovelers had moved in whilst I was away along with hundreds of Pochards, several Teal and a Garganey. Common Terns came and went and three Marsh Harriers quartered the far reedbed. The Curlew flock flew in from the bay to roost along with the summering Whimbrel.

                                Adult Dunlin from Firth hide

Dungeness - On the bird reserve islands are now showing on ARC attracting hundreds of eclipse wildfowl along with the likes of gulls, terns, grebes and Cormorants. Burrowes likewise with the sandy islands in front of Firth holding at least nine Med Gulls amongst hundreds of Black-headed Gulls and Common Terns. Also present four each of Little Ringed Plover, Redshank and Dunlin, plus Lapwing, Common Sandpiper and Oystercatcher. Plenty of terns were settled on the raft opposite Dennis`s and at least 11 near fledge juvs could be seen on the green-topped islands. The usual Marsh Harriers noted from the access road.

Monday, 9 July 2018

Plumed Fan-foot

Lade - warm, dry and sunny, E2 - The wind dropped off last night resulting in a huge moth catch of 35 species in the garden trap. Brown-tails were in three figures and there were plenty of double figure counts of Tawny Shears, Uncertain, Lackey and the like. The quality was provided by a migrant Plumed Fan-foot.

                                Fen Wainscot

                               Plumed Fan-foot

  On the bay from the Tavern viewpoint this afternoon the first Arctic Skua of `autumn` was patrolling the sands chasing terns. At least 220 Curlews were present along with 310 Oystercatchers and a handful of Ringed Plovers and Dunlins.
Dungeness - At the Patch this morning plenty of gulls included at least six Mediterranean and a Yellow-legged Gull, plus a few Sandwich Terns and Gannets offshore.

Sunday, 8 July 2018

New Forest

New Forest Folk Festival - Hot, dry and sunny - Phew, just back from a hot, sweaty week at Plaitford on the northern edge of the New Forest. This was our second year on site following on from an article I wrote for the June edition of Countryman magazine that highlighted the festival`s links with the local countryside and Foresters, along with a cracking line up of folk, roots and acoustic music. We helped out before and during the festival including natural history guiding on Plaitford Common and around the nearby village.

                               Emperor Penguin watching the sound check!

                                The following day

  All the expected woodland birds were noted including Redstart and Tree Pipit in the forest, Grey Wagtail and Spotted Flycatcher along the river and plenty of Red Kites and Buzzards over the festival site. Nightjars and Tawny Owls were heard at dusk and through the night. The trout-rich River Blackwater was also good for Beautiful Demoiselles and Golden-ringed Dragonflies.

                                Beautiful Demoiselle

                                Plaitford Common

                                Speckled Wood

Sunday, 1 July 2018

True Lover`s Knot!

Lade - warm, dry and sunny, NE 3-4 - A quiet weekend bird wise on the local patch, as is to be expected at this time of year. Pochard numbers continue to increase on south lake as the pond weed flourishes where they`ve been joined by a host of juvenile Coots and Moorhens, the first Tufted ducklings, but still no sign of any grebelets. Several Little Egrets have moved on to site to fish, Common Terns likewise and its been three days now since I last heard a Cuckoo, so I guess they may have returned to their African homelands.
  The Sparrowhawk young were vocal yesterday as the parents brought in prey. On the bay the east wind has attracted hundreds of kite surfers which has tended to force the waders up towards Littlestone where a few returning Dunlin and a Grey Plover were amongst the Curlews and Oystercatchers.
  In the old Elm regrowth at the end of Dunes Road several White-letter Hairstreaks were present along with Comma, Small Tortoiseshell and Speckled Wood. In the nearby fields Corn Bunting, Yellow Wagtail, Meadow Pipit, Skylark, Reed Bunting, Lapwing and Stonechat noted.

                                Cypress Carpet and Riband Wave around the trap site

                                Kent Black Arches, a well marked specimen


                                Short-cloaked Moth

                                        True Lover`s Knot

  The wind eased last night delivering a bumper 35 species to the garden moth trap, some of which were on the summer house wall when I covered the trap at 0430hrs, before the local Blackbird could set to work. Seven were new for the year including Miller, Short-cloaked Moth, Kent Black Arches and best of all the splendidly named True Lover`s Knot, all of which are only occasional visitors here.