Tuesday, 18 September 2018

Cattle Egrets

Dungeness - warm and windy, SW 5 - A blustery morning made for difficult birding conditions around the point. A seawatch produced a steady westbound trickle of Gannets, Sandwich and Common Terns, plus a couple of Common Scoters, Guillemot and at least 10 Arctic Skuas.
Another session from the fishing boats this afternoon delivered even less, apart from several large flocks of Swallows striking out for France.

                                         Cattle Egrets at Boulderwall

  On the bird reserve this afternoon the dearth of waders continues with not a single bird noted. On ARC at least six Garganeys in front of Hanson hide, plus three Black Terns over the lake. Three Cattle Egrets showed well close to the access road at Boulderwall amongst the suckling herd and a Hobby flew over the track.

Monday, 17 September 2018

Oleander Hawk-moth

Dungeness - warm, dry and sunny, S 2 - Another beautiful day with a warm breeze wafting up from southern parts. Hundreds of Swallows and Sand Martins were on the move along the beach and perched on overhead wires preparing to cross the Channel, while a handful of Wheatears were noted opposite Jarman`s. Mipits were everywhere and the long-staying Wryneck was still present in scrub along the southern edge of the Trapping Area bordering the Desert.
  It has been a good year locally for hawk-moths; even my garden trap has lured in Lime Hawk-moth and the migrant Bedstraw Hawk-moth, both new for the site, plus the regular Privet, Eyed, Poplar, Elephant, Small Elephant and Hummingbird on the buddleia. There has also been Convolvulus, Death`s head, Pine and Striped Hawk-moths recorded across the Dungeness recording area. So, not many more to come then...

                                Oleander Hawk-moth

  Until, that is, Martin Casemore emptied his garden trap this morning and discovered a pristine Oleander Hawk-moth settled on an egg tray! There are less than 10 records annually of this long-distance migrant from southern Europe or Africa, and no doubt the southerly airflow did the trick as other migrant moths were around the traps last night. The beast was temporarily stationed in the Obs fridge, where I paid homage. It was a first for me, a wondrous example of evolutionary camouflage and Mother Nature at her spectacular best.

Sunday, 16 September 2018

Bay Watch

Lade - warm, dry and sunny, SW3 - A busy weekend with guests coming and going meant only limited time in the field, all of which was spent on the local patch. Few passerines were present in the fine autumn weather yesterday with just a sprinkling of Willow and Reed Warblers, Whitethroats and Chiffchaffs around the ponds, a few Wheatears and Stonechats on the Desert and the first Skylark for a while. Today, due to the increasing wind off the Atlantic, there was little to be seen apart from a trickle of Swallows and Sand Martins, the usual wildfowl and grebes, plus numerous Kestrels and several Sparrowhawks.
  However, wader numbers had perked up on the sands with 80 Dunlins and 20 Sanderlings, mostly juveniles, opposite the Lade boardwalk on a falling tide late yesterday afternoon. During the evening 12 Knots, 10 Turnstones and 25 Ringed Plover also noted, plus 200 Sandwich Terns which in turn attracted the attention of three Arctic Skuas, one a cracking light phase adult, that flew in off the bay and immediately successfully harried a tern for fish. Further out more skuas could be seen, including a Bonxie, terns aplenty, Gannets, a passing Fulmar and a flock of seven scoters.

                                Knots from yesterday

  This afternoon I tried a different tack and pitched up two hours before high tide and remained for a further one hour seawatch once the tide was in, and very productive it was too. Out came the abacus for the Sandwich Terns, all 420 of `em heading towards Dunge, and 340 Oystercatchers flying to roost on Kerton Road pits. Several small parties of Dunlin and Sanderling flew along the tide line looking for safe roost sites. Once the fly past had dried up a bay watch comprised mainly of distant Gannets and Sandwich Terns, plus five Arctic Skuas, my first Red-throated Diver of autumn and a Manx Shearwater that flew in and fluttered around a feeding Grey Seal for a couple of minutes before heading back west. A trickle of Sand Martins and Swallows also flew south along the beach.
  All things considered a pretty good weekend of birds, and all within an easy walk of Plovers.

                                Dunlin and Sanderling along the tideline

                                Oystercatchers flying to roost

Friday, 14 September 2018

Spoonbills and Shelducks!

Dungeness - warm, dry and sunny, light airs - A couple of hours at the point this morning was notable for a distant flock of seven large, white birds flying in a line over towards ARC. I suspected they may have been Spoonbills, which indeed they were, as confirmed by the scope-wielding regulars scanning from the Moat. Everywhere I looked there appeared to be Sparrowhawks and Kestrels, plus singles of Peregrine and Merlin, while the early morning seawatchers confirmed that most of the first two species had just arrived off the sea. Plenty of Linnets and Mipit flocks were scattered around the old lighthouse along with a couple of grounded Tree Pipits, Wheatears and Stonechats, where earlier both Ortolan Bunting and Pied Flycatcher noted.
Littlestone - A low tide check of the sands from the old lifeboat station delivered a handful of Dunlins and Ringed Plovers amongst hundreds of Curlews and Oystercatchers. From the Varne boat club, however, a count of 67 Shelducks was a noteworthy record.

Thursday, 13 September 2018


ARC/Tower Pits - warm, dry and sunny,  N 2 - A much better day weather wise with quite a few passerines in the bushes around the car park and down to the pines first thing. Sylvia warblers were in the ascendancy with Blackcaps and Whitethroats the most abundant along with several Lesser Whitethroats and a Garden Warbler, plus Willow and Cetti`s Warblers and Chiffchaffs. At the pines a Redstart showed briefly, only my second of the autumn, and a small gathering of Blackbirds and Reed Buntings fed on sea buckthorn near Screen hide. Several Sparrowhawks, Kestrels, Great Spotted and Green Woodpeckers also noted, plus Yellow Wagtails and Mipits over.
  From Hanson hide the four Cattle Egrets were still present, plus two each of Snipe and Blackwit, 20 Golden Plovers and 50 Lapwings, Water Rail, Great White and Little Egrets, Garganey, Wigeon and Pintail. A Merlin flushed the waders briefly and loads of Sand Martins and Swallows hawked insects over the lake.
  A check of Lade pits around noon revealed little of note apart from a few more Sparrowhawks on the migration and a Clouded Yellow butterfly enjoying the warm sunshine.

Wednesday, 12 September 2018

Where are all the passage waders?

Dungeness - mild, cloudy, drizzle, N2 - A different day altogether with rain on and off through the day and the wind swinging around to a more cooler, northerly vector. We headed down to the southern end of the Trapping Area and soon located the long-staying Wryneck feeding in the lee of an Elderberry bush, which showed reasonably well for about 30 minutes before disappearing back into cover. Also noted several large flocks of Mipits, Linnets and Starlings, plus a few Common Whitethroats, Stonechats, Wheatears, Dunnocks, a Skylark, Yellow Wagtail and Whimbrel over.
  Moving onto Burrowes where six Dunlin and a Common Sandpiper rounded off a wretched  Birdwatching Break for waders. I cannot remember it being this poor, despite plenty of good habitat on the local pits; and even on the bay numbers are down. There have been hardly any juvenile calidrids through at all this month and I can only assume that as many adults moved through in July they failed to breed due to poor weather in the Arctic region; there were a couple of reports of thick snow still on the tundra in early June. Hopefully my pessimism will be allayed and a few late stints and sandpipers will turn up, but somehow I doubt it. 
  However, despite the indifferent weather we managed to rack up 97 species for our guests Clare and Peter to enjoy, the highlights being: Pectoral Sandpiper, Cattle and Great White Egrets, Wryneck, Black Tern, Garganey, Goldeneye, Yellow Wagtail and Whinchat. The number of Kestrels across the peninsula this week was also pretty impressive.

                                The Boulderwall Four

  This afternoon I called in at Hanson hide where the four Cattle Egrets flew in from Boulderwall for a wash and brush up on the islands. Yet again waders were few with just a couple of Snipe, a Ruff and Common Sandpiper amongst 50 Lapwings, plus three Great White Egrets, two Garganeys and a similar tern flock to yesterday out over the lake comprising 11 Black and three Arctic Terns amongst many Commons. Also noted a Hobby and Black-necked Grebe.

Tuesday, 11 September 2018

Cattle Egrets

Dungeness - mild, cloudy, SW 5 - A warm, brisk wind blowing off the Atlantic made for difficult birding conditions today and as a result very few passerine were seen. We kicked off at the point with a sea watch from the hide where a steady trickle of Gannets and Sandwich Terns moved offshore, plus singles of Arctic Skua, Common Scoter, Kittiwake and Fulmar. On the land we dipped on the Wryneck (seen earlier) but did manage to find several Common Whitethroats, a couple of Stonechats, Whinchat and Wheatear, while the male Peregrine was perched on its usual pylon.
  Moving onto the bird reserve and a large flock of terns from the causeway road on ARC comprised 50 Commons, 12 Blacks and three Arctics. At Boulderwall the four Cattle Egret showed briefly as they tracked the suckling herd around the fields, but never approaching close enough for a pic.
  The circular route produced very little apart from two Dunlins, four Ringed Plovers, Little and Great White Egrets on Burrowes; two Snipe and five Pintails on Dengemarsh (no sign of the Pec) and 14 Shelducks flying over the Return Trail. In the car park a Great Diving Beetle was noted. From Hanson hide, four Great White Egrets, the tern flock and hundreds of Sand Martins over the lake. The Shoveler with bill band marked ULWUL, dabbling in front of the hide originated from Portugal and was seen here last year (PB).

                                Great Diving Beetle

                               Sandwich Tern

                                Portuguese Shoveler

  We finished off the day scanning the bay on a falling tide from the Romney Tavern viewpoint where the sands were covered in approximately 1,000 Black-headed Gulls, 500 Common Gulls, 500 Sandwich Terns, 300 Oystercatchers and 200 Curlews. In amongst the throng lurked several each of Ringed Plover, Dunlin, Turnstone and Sanderling, plus Barwit, Mediterranean Gull and the flock of 14 Shelducks seen earlier on the reserve. 

Monday, 10 September 2018

Pectoral Sandpiper

Kenardington - mild, sunny, SW 4-5 - After picking up Clare and Peter from Ashford station we headed down to the Royal Military Canal for a stroll along the footpath towards Warehorne. A few common tits, corvids, finches and warblers were noted in the bushes, plus Swallows, Kingfisher, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Bullfinch, Buzzard and the first of many Kestrels seen this afternoon.

                                Royal Military Canal, Kenardington

Dengemarsh - From Springfield Bridge we walked around the bone dry hayfields where small flocks of Mipits, Yellow Wagtails, Linnets and two Whinchats noted, plus plenty of Kestrels, Marsh Harriers, Sparrowhawks and a Buzzard. On the lake the expected wildfowl and grebes, two Blackwits, two Snipe, seven Pintails, Great White Egret, a few Lapwings and hundreds of feral Greylags. The Pectoral Sandpiper was still present but only showed briefly at distance before being flushed out of sight by a harrier.

                                Whinchats and Garganeys

  Over the road on ARC from Hanson hide the islands were devoid of waders apart from a few Lapwings. However, on the water there was plenty of interest with three cracking close Garganeys, a Wigeon, a Shoveler with a bill band and a female Goldeneye, while at least 12 Black Terns hawked insects over the water along with several Common Terns and hundreds of Sand Martins. Also noted Great White Egret, Marsh Harrier, Cetti` Warbler and a couple of Sparrowhawks.

Sunday, 9 September 2018


Lade - mild, cloudy, light airs - It happens every so often down here in autumn, an influx of Kestrels. A scan across the Desert south of the lakes yesterday revealed nine hovering birds in one sweep and five more on the rough ground behind the `mirrors` towards the airport; many others were reported across Dungeness this weekend. Years ago I remember seeing large numbers of Kestrels migrating out of Scandinavia across Falsterbo heath in Sweden as northern populations escaped the oncoming winter. What with a perceived shortage of voles on the continent this autumn perhaps this Kestrel influx is linked in with the increasing numbers of eared owls appearing on the east coast recently.

  A trickle of Sand and House Martins, Swallows and a late Swift made their way south this weekend, plus Grey and Yellow Wagtails, Meadow and two Tree Pipits. The scrub still held a few Stonechats, Whinchats, Wheatears, Common Whitethroats and Chiffchaffs amid loads of Linnets, Starlings and House Sparrows feeding on thousands of small flying insects, blackberries and weed seeds. Around the ponds I could only find Sedge, Reed and Cetti`s Warblers and a single Spotted Flycatcher.
  On the bay a few more Sanderlings had moved in amongst plenty of Dunlins and a scattering of Knot, Barwit and Grey Plover, while Curlew and Oystercatchers numbered over 500. There were fewer Sandwich Terns than of late and on a recent high tide DS reported Black Tern and Balearic Shearwater in the bay.
  Elsewhere this weekend, the four Cattle Egrets were still on the fields at Boulderwall, a Pectoral Sandpiper was seen intermittently at Dengemarsh and the Wryneck tally at the point doubled in number.

Friday, 7 September 2018


Lade - cool, cloudy, NW 3 - Plenty of Sand and House Martins over the lakes first thing this morning including quite a few heading into the north-westerly over the desert, where also two Wheatears. Around the ponds the first Reed Buntings of autumn, a Spotted Flycatcher, several Chiffchaffs and Common Whitethroats and a cracking Lesser Whitethroat.
Dungeness - Along the beach a few Wheatears and Mipits on the land and a steady flow of Sandwich Terns hugging the shoreline, plus two Stonechats and a Whinchat near Jarman`s and a scattering of Common Whitethroats in the scrub. We then wandered up to the southern end of the trapping area to look for yesterdays Wryneck which soon popped up and sat in the lee of a bramble patch sunning itself and looking perfectly happy, until some clown with a massive lens (who must`ve got good shots from range) and zero field craft approached too close and flushed it. This seems to be a recurring theme down here amongst certain visiting `photographers`, most of whom are easily identified by a combination of a long lens camera and an absence of binoculars...

                                Basking Wryneck

  After a session at the allotment we called in at ARC where yesterdays work party had done a superb job of clearing the reeds and sallows in front of Hanson hide. An old Reed Warblers nest was left in situ and there was several birds creeping amongst the close margin showing well (where earlier a Bittern had also been seen). Waders on the islands were few and far between with just Lapwings, two Blackwits, a Snipe and a Golden Plover present. Amongst the dabblers two Pintail, Wigeon and Garganey noted with another two of the latter from Screen hide. Two Black Terns hawked over the lake and a Great White Egret was at the southern end. The bushes up to the pines held a few common warblers, most of which were heard as the brisk wind forced birds into cover.

Thursday, 6 September 2018

Honey Buzzard

Dungeness - mild, dry, cloudy, NW 2 - First thing at the point it was very quiet in the bushes with just a few Whitethroats and Wheatears, plus Yellow Wagtails and Mipits overhead. A male Peregrine was sat on its usual perch atop a pylon.

                                Avocets and Greenshank from Firth hide

  At Boulderwall this afternoon four Cattle Egrets were flying around the fields, eventually heading over towards ARC. A guided walk around the circular trail for ten guests delivered the expected range of birds including several each of Marsh Harrier, Common Buzzard, Kestrel and one very smart Honey Buzzard that flew over Hooker`s westward with an attendant crow. Also noted four Avocets, two Dunlins and a Greenshank from Firth hide, Blackwits and Snipe from Dengemarsh hide, plus Wheatears, Cetti`s Warbler, Chiffchaff, Whitethroat, a few hirundines over and a Great White Egret. 

Wednesday, 5 September 2018

Gannets and terns

Dungeness - mild, cloudy, N 3 - At the Patch and close inshore this morning hundreds of Sandwich Terns and scores of Gannets were feeding on shoals of sprats and Mackerel which at times were leaping clear of the water. Even over and around the boil the feeding frenzy continued where also six Black Terns, a Mediterranean Gull and Little Tern amongst the throng of gulls and Common Terns. On the land a couple of Wheatears and a Sparrowhawk was about it, although a Pied Flycatcher was present later in a private garden (DB).

                                Gannets were close to shore this morning

  A midday visit to Lade pits yielded a couple of hundred Sand and House Martins over south lake, Sedge and Reed Warblers in the willows and another Sparrowhawk through. On the bird reserve three Cattle Egrets remained on Boulderwall fields or ARC.

Tuesday, 4 September 2018

St Omer

St Omer, Pas-de-Calais - mild, overcast, occasional drizzle, N 2 - Spent the day with CP in France birding the area to the east of St Omer. After dropping the ladies off in town we headed to the forest where it was predictably much quieter than in spring. A wide range of woodland birds were noted including two woodpeckers, plenty of Nuthatches, Jays, Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps and a Short-toed Treecreeper. We concentrated on a flooded valley with old and decaying timber and muddy margins where Teal, Green Sandpiper, Kingfisher, Great White Egret and a juvenile Peregrine were the highlights.

                                Juvenile Peregrine

                                Flooded forest valley, Clairmarais

  The afternoon was spent at the Romeleare reserve where we noted a few more warblers amongst the tit flocks, plus Water Rails, Marsh Harriers, Kestrel and a Swift within a host of hirundines feeding over the main lake. A steady days birding and many thanks to Chris for driving.

                                 Romeleare reserve entrance

                                Grey Heron

                                New signage showing what can be seen at Romeleare

Monday, 3 September 2018


Dungeness - warm, dry and sunny, NE 2 - Once the early morning mist had cleared it turned into another fine day of weather, but poor for grounded migrants due to clear skies last night. However, a wander around the point from the lifeboat station to the Obs delivered 20 Wheatears, 10 Mipits, Whinchat, a Redstart by the old experimental station, two Black Redstarts and several each of Whitethroat and Blackcap. A Peregrine was perched on its favoured pylon while a few Swallows, Yellow Wagtails and a Grey Wagtail moved overhead. At the Obs a Marsh Mallow Moth from the Plodland trap site was on show, while the highlight in the Ploverland trap was a Rosy Rustic.

                                One of the many Wheatears on the beach

                                Pylon Peregrine

                                  Rosy Rustic, Plovers

  Called in at Hanson hide around midday where the islands were devoid of birds due to the linesman working on nearby overhead cables. Over the road at least three Cattle Egrets were glued to the stock in Boulderwall fields.

Sunday, 2 September 2018

Back to normal

Lade - warm, dry and sunny, light easterly - Following a couple of goodish days for drift migrants at the end of last month, September has slipped in quietly with more `normal` numbers of migrants across the peninsula, as is often the case with clear nights and sunny days. That's not to say there aren't birds out there, but just fewer of them. I stuck firmly to the local patch, all within walking distance, as no doubt the bird reserve would've been rammed with visiting birders.
  Over the weekend Yellow Wagtails continued to filter overhead along with a few more Mipits and, today, singles of both Tree Pipit and Grey Wagtail. While Sand Martins remained the prominent hirundine on the move, yesterday saw a noticeable increase in Swallows heading south. The ponds was still the best area for passerines, particularly warblers, with all the common species noted including brief views of a Grasshopper Warbler yesterday, plus a Spotted Flycatcher in the cattery fir tree this morning.
  Waders around the lakeside margins have been few with just a Common Sandpiper and Dunlin on the island. Common Terns and Little Egrets continued to come and go and Pochard numbers remained at around the 200 mark. Two Black-necked Grebes were still on site and a juvenile Marsh Harrier drifted over today scattering the many grebes and Coots.

                                Chats on the Desert today

  However, todays hot spot has been on the Desert where I spent several hours checking out a flock of chats scattered over a wide area near south lake. The final totals as birds dropped in throughout the day was 12 Stonechats, eight Wheatears and six Whinchats along with 100 Linnets and 200 Starlings also feeding on the storm ridges. At least five Sparrowhawks came and went, plus two Kestrels, six Buzzards and two Marsh Harriers.

                               Sunbathing Starlings

  The moth trap has been disappointing with low numbers and only a Dark Sword-grass on the migrant front, although several Hummingbird Hawkmoths have been feeding on the garden buddleia today.