Tuesday, 21 August 2018

Bedstraw Hawkmoth

Lade - muggy, cloudy start, sunny later, SW 3 - A good number of moths of 26 macro species last night with the undoubted highlight a Bedstraw Hawkmoth, which was new for the site, albeit a bit battered after its long journey from the south.

                                Bedstraw Hawkmoth, new for Plovers trap site

  Birdwise very quiet on the local patch with just a few Common Whitethroats and a Wheatear in the Desert scrub and a couple of Yellow Wagtails over. Called in at ARC this afternoon where two Wood Sandpipers amongst 120 Golden Plovers and 50 Lapwings. The Wryneck was also seen again at Galloways today along with up to 15 Whinchats (SM).
Burrowes - An evening call from SM told of a juvenile Black Tern showing the hallmarks of the American race surinamensis. I was soon on site and in fading light from Makepeace hide watched the bird flying up and down behind the main islands amongst Black Terns. It was noticeably smaller with uniform dark grey upperparts, dark underwings and flanks. I couldn't stay long but hopefully it`ll still be present tomorrow and afford closer views in better light.

Monday, 20 August 2018

Juvenile Marsh Harrier

Dungeness - muggy, overcast, light airs - We walked the Trapping Area first thing where a large mixed passerine flock contained several Willow Warblers, Common and Lesser Whitethroats and a Blackcap amongst the tits and Chaffinches. A Tree Pipit flew over calling, plus a Ringed Plover.
  Had another go for the Galloways Wryneck today, without success, although it was seen earlier. Several Whinchats and Stonechats were some compensation, plus a superb close Hobby chasing a Swallow.
  An evening visit to ARC from Screen hide produced my first juvenile Marsh Harrier of the summer sat on an island. As far as I`m aware only one pair nested locally and this bird may have been from that site. Also, two Wood Sandpipers and one Common Sandpiper noted on the islands along with two Garganeys.

                                Juvenile Dabchick, Lade

                                Juvenile Marsh Harrier, ARC

Lade - There was plenty of moths in the garden trap this morning of 25 species, but short on quality apart from some smart White-points. A quick scan of south lake from the aerial mound resulted in just the usual wildfowl.

Saturday, 18 August 2018

Spotted Flycatcher

Lade -mild, cloudy, W 2 - These past couple of mornings have been quiet in the garden moth trap with just Angled Shades and Pale Grass Eggar of note, plus a Hummingbird Hawk-moth on the buddleia yesterday.
  My first proper visit to the local patch in over a week yielded very little change apart from a few more Willow and Sedge Warblers on the move in the willow swamp, plus a Greenshank yesterday and several Swifts south this morning. A Dartford Warbler was noted as well as several Stonechats, a trickle of Sand Martins, two Yellow Wagtails over and the first Spotted Flycatcher of autumn this morning.
  Also, early afternoon yesterday, the local Herring Gulls went into meltdown. Eventually I picked up a distant raptor flying towards ARC that appeared to be an Osprey, and was probably the same bird seen at the point around the same time by PB.
Dungeness - On Burrowes today up to 12 Black Terns amongst hundreds of Common Terns and a Green Sandpiper over the car park. Elsewhere, two each of Black-necked Grebe and Wood Sandpiper on ARC and two Whinchats and a Wheatear at Galloways, where a Wryneck was discovered later in the day by RW.

Thursday, 16 August 2018

Black Terns

Dungeness/Lade - mild, cloudy, SW 3 - Started off at the point where the first of the days Black Terns noted at the Patch along with 20 Common Terns and a few Sandwich Terns. Offshore a trickle of terns and Gannets west bound.
  On the bird reserve, from Hanson hide, the highlights were at least three Wood Sandpipers and a Spotted Redshank amongst 78 Golden Plovers, 200 Lapwings, two Redshanks, Little Ringed Plover and Common Sandpiper. Also on the islands a Med Gull and Garganey, plus a Black-necked Grebe and Black Tern on the lake. On Burrowes four more Black Terns and hundreds of Common Terns.
  A one hour seawatch from the fishing boats this afternoon produced a steady flow of terns, Gannets and Kittiwakes, plus four Arctic Skuas.

Wednesday, 15 August 2018

Folkestone Warren

Folkestone Warren - wet and cloudy - Just spent the past three days at a family gathering camping at Little Switzerland. The camp site overlooked Folkestone Warren with the pitches cut into hillside terraces surrounded by trees and scrub. This morning Lesser Whitethroats were everywhere, calling from cover and showing occasionally, while Common Whitethroats, Blackcaps and Willow Warblers were also noted; what else must go through here in the autumn is anybody`s guess...
  The view from the café terrace looking back along the chalk cliffs towards Samphire Hoe and across the Channel were simply stunning and a two hour watch yesterday produced three Buzzards and two Sparrowhawks west, plus the local Peregrines, Kestrels and Ravens. Other birds noted during our stay were Tawny Owl, Green and Great Spotted Woodpecker, Long-tailed Tits and Bullfinch.
  Yesterday, down on the beach I walked along to Copt Point at low tide where at least 300 Mediterranean Gulls were loafing on the weed-strewn rocks along with hundreds more Black-headed and Herring Gulls, 25 Sandwich Terns and an Arctic Skua that briefly harried the terns before heading west.  

                                Little Switzerland, view from the terrace café

                                Barney chilling in the tent

                                Mediterranean Gulls, Copt Point

                                Common Lizard by the café

Lade - Many thanks to Chris P for calling in this afternoon to show us a superb Death`s-head Hawk-moth found recently along Coast Road, Lydd-on-Sea. 

                                    Death`s-head Hawk-moth, Lydd-on-Sea

Sunday, 12 August 2018


Cropredy - Rain, sun, cold, hot, still, windy, the lot! - Just back from the annual Fairport Convention Cropredy festival in the Cherwell valley, Oxfordshire with our friends Stan, Kaz and Dan from Greatstone. A crazy three days of music, beer drinking, eating badly and even crazier weather; on Friday night the temperature dropped to 7C and by midday Saturday it was back up to 25C, and as for the rain...! Despite the mixed weather it was a lot of fun meeting up with old folkie friends from far and wide.
  Thursday`s highlights were our favourites, Oysterband, who`ve now recruited two young `uns from the now defunct Bellowhead, followed by Brian Wilson (from Beach Boys fame) and his orchestra who were superb. Friday`s set was a mixed bag with the Barnsley Nightingale, Kate Rusby, having microphone problems and a very low key, almost acoustic set, from the normally fiery Levellers. However, Cregan and Co and The Travelling Band saved the day with outstanding performances that really got the crowd going.

                                Sunny Cropredy on Saturday afternoon

  And so to Saturday. Following a cold night in the tent we were in the arena early in bright sunshine for Richard Digance, as ever a real festival pleaser with his mix of anecdotes, jokes and bawdy ballards; plus a real tear-jerker about his home town of Salisbury and the aftermath of the nerve gas incidents. Three bands later Sam Kelly and the Lost Boys had just got the place rocking when the rain came down to dampen spirits through the Afro Celt Sound System set. Anyhow, us festival goers are made of stern stuff and we toughed it out until the legendary Al Stewart hit the stage, probably our all time favourite folkie, and he was on fine form along with Dave Nachmanoff and a guest appearance by Ralph Mctell. Eventually the rain relented and Fairport finished the festival with a massive tribute to the late Sandy Denny. A superb festival in great company with loads of laughs, mostly at Stan`s expense! We`ll be back next year for sure.
  Hang on though, isn't this supposed to be a birding blog I hear you say... Well, I did see more Swallows and House Martins over the fields of the Cherwell than I`ve seen all year down here, while Buzzards were regular over the festival site in the afternoon. And on the way home this morning I counted 21 Red Kites through the Stokenchurch cutting on the Chilterns. Normal service will be resumed sometime this week.

Wednesday, 8 August 2018

Ocean breeze

Lade - warm, dry, sunny, W4 - Following yesterday evenings uncomfortably humid conditions with thunder and lightening all around, but hardly any rain, this morning dawned bright and breezy as a cooling front swept across from the Atlantic delivering welcome, and `proper British`, summer temperatures. On the local patch two juvenile Dartford Warblers were flitting around the scrub by the cattery, which was something of a surprise considering the stiff breeze whipping across the shingle. In the shelter of the willow swamp more juvenile warblers were noted, mostly Reeds and Whitethroats and a couple of Willows. The Curlew flock and a Whimbrel flew into roost on the shingle as we left site.

                                Curlews flying in to roost

                                            Garden House Sparrows

The recent hot weather has seen us take most of our meals in the back garden these past couple of months under the shade of a gazebo. Common garden birds have provided a rich source of entertainment, particularly `our` House Sparrows, of which we have a resident flock of anything up to 50. Just watching their antics around the feeders, bathing in the pond and generally squabbling as sparrows do is pure joy.
Dungeness - On the bird reserve this morning, from Hanson hide, my first Black-necked Grebe of the autumn on the water amongst hundreds of common wildfowl and gulls, plus Common and Wood Sandpipers, LRPs, Golden Plover, Dunlin and Lapwings. On the left side of the hide in the shelter of the willows a Southern Migrant Hawker was amongst numerous Migrant Hawkers and a few Brown Hawkers.
  On Burrowes hundreds of Common Terns were kept on the move by a military helicopter. When they eventually settled in front of Firth hide at least one juvenile Black Tern was present. Common Sandpipers, LRPs and Ringed Plovers also noted. At Dengemarsh two Great White Egrets and 30 Yellow Wagtails in the weedy field by Springfield Bridge.

                                Black Tern amongst Commons

                                Black Hawk

                                Tern island

Monday, 6 August 2018

Willow Warblers

Dungeness - hot, dry, sunny, NE 2 - Another sultry start to the day with 20C from the off. Very few gulls at the Patch and just a handful of Common Terns, although a single Black Redstart was perched on the power station wall near the hide. At the Obs Sedge, Reed and Willow Warblers were being processed, plus a recently fledged Black Redstart.
  A tour of the bird reserve this afternoon commenced at Burrowes with 220 Common Terns in front of Firth hide, plus several each of Common Sandpiper, Ringed and Little Ringed Plovers scattered across the islands. From Hanson hide two Great White Egrets, a Garganey and several Willow Warblers from the boardwalk. Also noted Buzzard, Marsh Harrier, Kestrel and a flyover Bittern.
From Dengemarsh several Snipe, a Wood Sandpiper, a Ruff and two more Great White Egrets.

                                Juvenile Black Redstart and Willow Warbler at DBO

                                Massed ranks of terns and gull in front of Firth hide

Lade - A paltry 15 species of macro moths in the garden trap with the only highlight being another Jersey Tiger. There was no change on the local patch lakes from yesterday.

Sunday, 5 August 2018

Sparrowhawk attack

Lade - hot, dry and sunny, E2 - With another hot day in prospect and light airs we were up and about early this morning checking the local patch for any warblers on the move. While a couple of Willow Warblers and Whitethroats were noted by the ponds the latter species could have been local birds, along with several parties of Reed, Sedge and Cetti`s Warblers, all with noisy juveniles begging for food from the adults. In Mockmill a pair of Stonechats fed a late brood while a family of Kestrels made a right old din over by the airport fields.

                                Great Crested Grebe on eggs

  South lake was again rammed with ducks, grebes, swans, Coots and Moorhens all feeding amongst great bundles of Canadian pond weed floating on the surface. My earlier fears of a grebe shortage have been well and truly put to bed as Dabchicks in particular were everywhere this morning with over 50 counted. Great Crested Grebes have now produced plenty of juvs and several were on brood number two on their floating nests.
  Whilst sat down counting wildfowl by the tunnel I noticed a Sparrowhawk winging in over the lake and clobber a Magpie. Pandemonium then ensued as the adults and siblings mobbed the raptor, but to no avail as they lost one of their family. The large female Sparrowhawk carried on plucking the corpse before flying off into the willow swamp to feed her noisy juveniles.
  Numbers in the garden moth trap were much reduced last night, but did include some quality in the form of Jersey and Garden Tigers, Gold Spot, Oak Eggar and the first Shark of the summer.

Saturday, 4 August 2018

Pied Flycatcher

Lade - warm, dry, sunny, N 3 - Following a balmy night it was no surprise to find a decent number of moths in the garden trap this morning; 34 species of macros to be exact, including Rest Harrow, Gold Spot and a tatty Small Rufous which was new for the site.
  Plenty of birds on south lake this morning with Green and Common Sandpipers around the margins and a Greenshank that flew off calling loudly towards the water tower. At least 20 Common Terns were plucking small fry from the water, a Great White Egret flew over the willow swamp and a pulse of 50 Sand Martins went south. Around the ponds a family of Cetti`s Warblers were being unusually showy and at least two Willow Warblers and a Whitethroat moved through cover.

                                Gold Spot

Dungeness - Called in at Hanson hide around noon where several each of Common Sandpiper and Little Ringed Plover, my first six Golden Plovers of the season amongst the Lapwings, a Wood Sandpiper, another Great White Egret and two Garganeys. On Burrowes six Avocets and a Black Tern from Firth hide.
  A message from DB told of a Pied Flycatcher on the estate which conveniently showed as soon as I arrived. Another was reported from Galloways this morning.

Thursday, 2 August 2018

Mid-week doldrums

Lade/Dungeness - warm, dry, sunny, light airs - The past few days have been much of muchness. After the excitement of last weekend we seem to have hit the birding doldrums; and with clear overnight skies, even the garden moth trap has failed to deliver.
  Being as this is Dungeness though a few bits and pieces can be found around the bird reserve. A Wood Sandpiper seems to have taken up residence on ARC where also several Common Sandpipers, the odd Green, a couple of Blackwits, plus Snipe, Dunlin and Little Ringed Plover coming and going and up to four Garganeys. Bitterns continue to commute between their feeding grounds at Boulderwall and Tower pits to feed young. As yet I`ve not seen any juvenile Marsh Harriers on the wing, but if they have been successful locally they should be out and about soon. Burrowes has also attracted a few common waders while Firth hide is the place to view terns in late afternoon, around 100 Commons, two Blacks and a few Sandwich Terns. The autumn Sand Martin passage is also underway.
  On Lade bay thousands of gulls are present at low tide along with hundreds of Sandwich Terns and the usual large waders. Grey Seal numbers have peaked at 12 on an incoming tide. Around the garden buddleia today up to four Hummingbird Hawk-moths and three Holly Blues, but precious little else.

                               Holly Blue and Hummingbird Hawk-moth