Friday, 16 November 2018

Pallid Swift

Lade - misty and murky - A grim start to the day with low cloud and a fine drizzle coming and going to the background bleating of the Dungeness foghorn. A few thrushes had dropped in overnight with 20 Blackbirds, 10 Fieldfares and five Song Thrushes scattered across the site, plus several Goldcrests by the ponds, 20 Mipits on the Desert and a Great Spotted Woodpecker on a power line pole.
  As the afternoon progressed the gloom got worse (despite a contrary weather forecast) and the temperature dropped as the wind picked up from an easterly vector. More Goldcrests moved through the garden fir trees and as dusk approached five Redwings dropped in to roost.

                                Pallid Swift over New Romney

New Romney - News came through this morning that yesterdays Pallid Swift had kindly stayed on and was performing over the town centre; chances are that it may have roosted on the church and been delayed by the poor weather conditions. Anyhow, by the time I arrived on site it was flying over the Sussex Road area where it was much appreciated by a gaggle of local birders and a few bemused passing members of the public. Most of the time the swift was quite high but did descend to show off a bright white throat patch and afford some dodgy pics with the bridge camera, although there was no chance of discerning any plumage detail in the poor light and drizzle. The flight mode was ponderous while the wing tips appeared blunt but both identification pointers are subjective on a lone bird. Luckily it was seen and photographed well yesterday and identified as a Pallid Swift, with the splayed primary tips on the right wing confirming it to be the same individual that was in Norfolk on Wednesday! Incredible, and a great find by Chris Philpott.

Thursday, 15 November 2018

Scotney Wildfowl Refuge

Scotney - mild and murky - Spent the morning checking for grounded passerines on the front fields around the farm and outback. Mipits and Goldfinches were most numerous along with lesser numbers of Pied Wagtail, Skylark, Stonechat, Starling, Chaffinch, Linnet, Reed and Corn Buntings, but not a sniff of a Twite. A Green Sandpiper flew down the main sewer by the conveyor belt, while Marsh Harrier, Buzzard, Kestrel and Merlin noted outback.


                                One of two Whooper Swans outback

                         Only a few years ago Egyptian Geese were unknown here

  The wetlands were full of geese; over 2,000 mainly Greylag, Canada and Barnacle Geese along with 110 Egyptian, two White-fronts, a Bar-headed and a number of hybrid Snow/Emperor type, plus 150 Mute Swans and two each of Black and Whooper Swans, also of unknown origin (but probably as wild as the Barnacles); the swan flock was feeding in a rape-seed field beyond the dung heap.
  Plenty of Wigeon, Golden Plover, Lapwing, Cormorant and gulls were on the front fields, plus ten Redshanks and two Ruff.

                                "I`m getting too old for this"

Lade - A late afternoon meeting with RSPB on the local patch produced two Dartford Warblers, Great White Egret, Marsh Harrier and hundreds of Jackdaws over to roost. Also this afternoon CP found a swift flying over the Cockreed Lane/St Mary`s Lane area of New Romney.

Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Dartford Warblers

Lade - warm, dry and sunny, S 3 - These past couple of mornings trudging around the local patch has been a joy in the unseasonably mild weather, but we`re making the most of it as next week looks set to go downhill with an icy blast from the east forecast. However, a couple of skulking Dartford Warblers have been faithful to the gorse scrub by the Badgers sett beside south lake along with three showy Stonechats as markers.



  The overhead passage of finches has been reduced to a trickle (not that its exactly been a flood this autumn) and were outnumbered this morning by Skylarks and a late Grey Wagtail. Yesterday a Green Sandpiper flew in from the bay calling wildly although I couldn't find it today in its favoured spot in the willow swamp where the islands are fast disappearing due to the recent rains. On the water today flocks of 50 Wigeon and seven Egyptian Geese were new in, while Buzzard, Marsh Harrier and Sparrowhawk noted behind the `mirrors`.
  Goldcrests were much in evidence around the ponds along with several Chiffchaffs, the resident Cetti`s Warblers and where one or two Common Darters are still on the wing.
Dungeness - En-route to the visitors centre seven Cattle Egrets showed well amongst the cows at Boulderwall. A circular walk for 18 guests took place in glorious sunshine with plenty of insects on the wing including bees, wasps, Common Darters and two Red Admirals. We had superb views of up to six Marsh Harriers, two Buzzards and four Great White Egrets around the circuit, plus six Pintails amongst the ducks, hundreds of Lapwings over, Cetti`s Warblers, Goldcrest, Reed Bunting and Tree Sparrow on the car park feeders. 


                                Cattle Egrets and Teal

Monday, 12 November 2018

Kittiwakes

Dungeness - mild, cloudy, S3 - An early morning wander around the point in blustery conditions had a distinctly end of season feel to it. A few Goldfinches and Chaffinches drifted over along with a lone Skylark and a couple of Mipits, while in the lighthouse garden several Goldcrest called from cover and a flushed Blackbird fled inland. Lade was similarly quiet with no change from the weekend,
 
                                Kittiwakes off the fishing boats

  An hour at the fishing boats this afternoon produced a decent enough return with over 200 Kittiwakes up-Channel and on the water, 50 auks, 20 Gannets, 30 Sandwich Terns and three Mediterranean Gulls. A 1st winter Yellow-legged Gull was the only gull of note around the puddles.

Sunday, 11 November 2018

Weekend reflections

Lade - mild, wet and windy - The weekend was dominated by strong, gusty winds from the south accompanied by heavy rain showers, particularly yesterday morning when an inch fell in a couple of hours. Walking the local patch wasn't much fun and apart from a few Mipits and Goldfinches out back, plus Goldcrests in the garden passerines were few and far between.
  However, we had a little more fortune on the wetlands with Goldeneye, Shelduck and Pintail (scare here) the pick of the ducks on the WeBS Count, three Great White Egrets and a Bittern in the reedbeds and several Water Rails calling from the willow swamp. Kingfisher, Cetti`s Warbler, Marsh Harrier and Sparrowhawk also noted.
  Today, after an early soaking, we headed down to Folkestone with the family for Armistice Day and joined thousands of people at Sunny Sands which was one of 32 British beaches selected for the Pages of the Sea project devised by Danny Boyle, and very moving it was too. It was then onto the Leas war memorial for the Remembrance Day commemoration.
  Every year at this time I reflect on three people in particular: my granddad who survived the entire First World War and lost both his brothers, my father-in-law who was captured at Crete in the Second World War and an old shipmate of mine who died in the Falklands War.
  What a lucky generation ours is never to have experienced such horrors.

Friday, 9 November 2018

Fieldfares

The Midrips - mild, cloudy, S 4 - An early morning visit to check the lagoons on the ranges drew a near blank on the wader front with just three Turnstones the only birds present, plus a few Curlew, Oystercatcher, Redshank and Knot along the foreshore. There was no sign of last weekends Lesser Yellowlegs, but that's not to say it isn't still tucked away somewhere in this large series of brackish lagoons. Whilst checking out a couple of Goldcrest in the coastguard cottage tamarisks five Fieldfares flew in off the sea, our first of the autumn.
  Fortunately the tide was still out enabling access to the ranges along the beach, although we only just made it back in time before the sea cut off our retreat to the wooden stairs through the sea defence blocks; clambering over the rocks by the guardhouse is a risky business when burdened with optics and a small terrier!

                                Sea defences, Jury`s Gap

Scotney - Another session searching for the Twite in blustery weather conditions also failed although there was a fair sized mixed flock of Starlings and Goldfinches around the farm buildings along with a few Chaffinch, Linnet, Stonechat and Mipit; the Twite could easily still be lurking somewhere hereabouts. On the front fields hundreds of feral geese, Golden Plovers and Lapwings.
Dungeness - From Hanson hide eight Blackwits, Dunlin and Goldeneye the highlights, plus the usual wildfowl and egrets, a Peregrine, Goldcrest and Chiffchaff. On the fields at Boulderwall at least five Cattle Egrets amongst the cow herd and several hunting Marsh Harriers and Buzzards. A windswept Burrowes was predictably quiet with just the usual egrets, wildfowl and Cormorants on show.

Thursday, 8 November 2018

Weird Weather

Lade - warm, dry and sunny, S2 - The weather has certainly been a bit odd of late with gale force winds and rain for much of yesterday culminating in an evening deluge of hail and rain followed by a stupendous bolt of lightening that must`ve struck quite close to the cottage as the ground shook setting off several car alarms out in the road!
  However, this morning was much more benign and remained mild. From the back garden at dawn a few passerines passed overhead, mostly Chaffinch, Mipit and Goldfinch along with a few Skylark, Greenfinch, Siskin and Redpoll. Outback more grounded finches, larks and pipits and one Song Thrush. On south lake two Shelduck amongst 100 Shoveler, plus two Great White Egrets and Marsh Harrier by the main reedbed and two Brent Geese overhead. Several Goldcrests and a Chiffchaff called from the willow swamp. The interpretive sign along the main track has again been vandalised for the umpteenth time by an unknown moron; I feel like setting up a camera trap to nail him/her (probably an irate dog-walker).
  A check of the beach delivered two late Sandwich Terns, seven species of shorebirds, 10 Shelducks and two Brent Geese.

                                Sandwich Terns

Tuesday, 6 November 2018

Short-eared Owl

Dungeness - mild, cloudy, SE 3 - A wander around the point first thing in shorts weather produced very little in the bushes apart from a Firecrest in the lighthouse garden, a scattering of Goldcrests and a couple of Chiffchaffs. Overhead a light passage of Goldfinches, Chaffinches and one or two Siskins and Redpolls. Considering a favourable wind direction a seawatch resulted in only a handful of Kittiwakes and Gannets, plus a Bonxie down-Channel, while the sea was empty down towards the Patch where the outlet pipe is offline until sometime next year.
Scotney - Spent a couple of hours late morning checking through the passerines around the farm buildings. Skylark, Corn Bunting, Tree and House Sparrow, Linnet, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Mipit, Stonechat, Starling and Pied Wagtail all noted in variable numbers but there was no sign of the Twite seen earlier. Also noted several Kestrels, a Merlin and hundreds of feral geese, Golden Plovers and Lapwings on the front fields.
Lade - A late scan from the Desert end of south lake was notable for a distant Short-eared Owl hunting Mockmill. There was no change in the wildfowl and grebe numbers from last week.

Monday, 5 November 2018

Skegness Weekender

Skegness, Lincs - Pat and I are just back from a long weekend `up north` with our old friends Pat and Stuart from Dunstable at a 1970`s music festival at Skegness. A real blast from the past with old Glam Rocker favourites such as Mud, Sweet and Slade still going strong in their various guises complete with a few original band members; the last time I saw all three was in 1973/4 when they still had hair and were all very much alive! Cockney Rebel and The Blockheads could still knock out a tune, although sadly Steve Harley looked like a man not long for this world.
  I`m not normally a fan of tribute acts but Clearwater Creedence Revival did put on a decent show. However, as is often the case at festivals, there is nearly always a surprise act which knocks you out and that accolade went to Phil Bates & The Berlin String Orchestra who performed the music of ELO. They were simply superb and are currently on tour around the UK, so if you`re a lover of the great Jeff Lynne`s tunes I would highly recommend catching up with them some time.


 
  Crossing the Fenland en-route to and from Skegness I had forgotten what a desolate place the flatlands are with vast open fields of brassicas, spuds and corn and hardly a bird to be seen anywhere apart from a few Buzzards and Kestrels perched on roadside posts.
  However, things were much better along the coast where on two mornings we walked along the foreshore noting hundreds of sea duck moving south, mainly Eiders and Common Scoters along with a few Velvet Scoters and Red-breasted Mergansers, plus several parties of Brents. The beach slacks at low tide attracted a good number of waders, particularly Redshank, Curlew and Dunlin.
  Around the Butlin`s complex Goldcrests were numerous and some of the Blackbirds, Robins and Song Thrushes were probably migrants. On Sunday night a steady overhead passage of Redwings could be heard coming in off the North Sea.



                                Skegness foreshore and The Lincs Wind Farm