Wednesday, 26 June 2019

First Whimbrel of `autumn`

Lade - cool, cloudy, ne 5 - A muggy night delivered a decent showing of moths in the garden trap this morning including a spectacular Privet Hawk-moth and an irregularly occurring Small Blood-vein amongst 32 species of macros.

                                Privet Hawk-moth and Small Blood-vein

  As the day wore on the wind picked up off the sea and the humidity dropped away making a circuit of the local patch a quiet affair. However, a few Swifts paused to feed in the drizzle over south lake and a Cuckoo continued to belt it out from the willow swamp. Walking back along the beach the first Whimbrel of autumn flew south towards Dungeness, uttering its distinctive seven-note whistle. 

Tuesday, 25 June 2019

Farmland birds

Orlestone Forest - humid, cloudy, light airs - Day two of guiding for our guests commenced in the woods. It was always going to be a challenge this late in the season what with suppressed bird song, but we did eventually get brief snatches of song from both Nightingale and Turtle Dove along with Willow and Garden Warblers, Chiffchaff and Blackcap. Family parties of Nuthatch and Treecreeper were more obliging, while Coal Tit, Bullfinch, Buzzard and Great Spotted Woodpecker also noted. There were plenty of flowers on show around the woodland margins including Common Spotted Orchids and a single Bee Orchid and, in dappled shade, up to 20 White Admiral butterflies.

                                Common Spotted Orchid

  Moving down onto the Marsh between Kennardington and Warehorne a few wayside birds were noted such as Yellowhammer, Linnet, Lesser Whitethroat and Kestrel. At Scotney we had good views of our target birds of Tree Sparrow, Yellow Wagtail, Corn Bunting and Little Owl, plus Little Ringed Plover on the pits outback where there was no Avocet or Common Tern activity on the islands but plenty of juvenile Herring Gulls. The feral Barnacle Goose flock had returned to the front fields amongst hundreds of their kindred Greylags and Canada Geese.

                                Yellowhammer, Kennardington

                                Little Owl, Scotney

  We finished the day at ARC where the two long-staying 1st summer Little Gulls, Black-tailed Godwit, Cuckoo and Garganey were the highlights among masses of common wildfowl. Once again Painted Lady butterflies were common place wherever we went today.

Monday, 24 June 2019


Lade - humid, light airs, occasional drizzle - Spent the day guiding across the peninsula for our guests Mark and Maria. First off we checked the garden moth trap where 32 species of macros included Swallowtail, Poplar Hawk-moth and Marbled Coronet new for the season. Next stop Littlestone where the long-staying Serin showed like a good `un in the fir trees opposite the entrance to the golf course. Also noted a Coal Tit and a number of House Martins from the colony along the seafront. On the bay a few Curlews and Oystercatchers were all we could muster on the wader front.


                                Marbled Coronet

                                Serin, Littlestone

  Moving down to Dungeness where we mopped up on 10 each of Wheatear and Black Redstart with a supporting cast of Linnet, Mipit, Skylark, Stonechat and Whitethroat. The male Peregrine also showed well on the power station, unlike a Raven flying over the back of B station. A late afternoon visit back at the point for two Bee-eaters drew a blank, so we opted for half an hour at the fishing boats which was also quiet apart from a few terns, two Mediterranean Gulls and several Porpoises. Two Brown Hares were noted in the Kerton Road triangle.
  A circuit of the bird reserve delivered all the usual stuff, including cracking flight views of a Bittern at Hooker`s, plus Marsh Harriers, Bearded Tits, two Hobbies, Cuckoo, Lesser Whitethroat and a Great White Egret. On Burrowes plenty of Common Tern action, two Black-tailed Godwits, 50 Lapwings, four Ringed Plovers, Shoveler, Teal and Wigeon amongst the ducks. Painted Lady butterflies were everywhere today.

Sunday, 23 June 2019

Summer butterflies

Lade - warm, dry and sunny, e3 - A fine weekend of weather encouraged a few butterflies onto the wing, particularly on Saturday, with our first Marbled White of summer on the local patch along the old railway line track. Red Admiral, Painted Lady, Common Blue, Small Heath, Small and Large Skippers, Meadow and Hedge Browns and Small Copper were also noted in the grassland section, plus Holly Blue and Speckled Wood around the ponds.

                                Hedge Brown, Marbled White and Painted Lady

  Birdwise two male Cuckoos were still calling around the willow swamp where a female was also active. A male Marsh Harrier was seen grappling with a large Grass Snake that it eventually killed and flew off towards a local nest site.
  Called in at ARC yesterday where from Hanson hide a 1st summer Little Gull and a Garganey were the highlights amongst hundreds of common wildfowl, Lapwings, Coots and gulls. Also, Wigeon, Cuckoo, Hobby and at least six Common Tern chicks on the new raft. The Serin was still present on Saturday at Littlestone.
  Today, a circuit of the local patch produced a Great White Egret and the first wave of migrant Sand Martins of the return passage over south lake, along with a few House Martins. The Cuckoos were very easy to see this morning flying over the willow swamp calling. An afternoon seawatch from the boardwalk at high tide with a brisk onshore wind delivered a few distant Gannets and Sandwich Terns, plus scores of kite-surfers.

Thursday, 20 June 2019

Warblers, stilts and a `new` site

Pas-de-Calais - mild, cloudy/sunny, nw 3/4 - A day out in France with Chris, Martin and Tony saw us on an early shuttle from Folkestone with Guines Marshes our first port of call. Despite being a little late in the breeding season we eventually managed a singing Icterine Warbler near the site entrance and at least two Marsh Warblers in song further around the boardwalk with more probables seen alongside Reed and Sedge Warblers all of which had young to feed so were fairly quiet, while Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Whitethroat and Cetti`s Warbler were still in fine voice. Also noted around the circuit: several Turtle Doves, Marsh Harriers and Buzzards, Kestrel, Sparrowhawk, Cuckoo, Jay, Garden Warbler, Long-tailed Tit and Kingfisher, but best of all a Short-toed Treecreeper that posed nicely on a lichen clad willow trunk as it enjoyed the morning sunshine, all puffed out to get the maximum rays; it showed typically dusky flanks with pale wing tips and even gradations along the wing-bar edge.
  With the sun out plenty of Red Admirals were on the bramble flowers along with a few Painted Ladies, Speckled Woods and Meadow Browns. We then moved up to the forest to scan for raptors where a few Buzzards and Marsh Harriers were noted.

                                Short-toed Treecreeper

                                Close up of the wing-bar and wing tips

  A short drive to the coast brought us to Oye-Plage and the hide overlooking the wet meadows and lagoon. The Black-headed Gull colony was in full swing and busy with juveniles, some already on the wing, where also nesting Avocet and Lapwing. A loose flock of 32 Spoonbills harboured a few Little and a Cattle Egret, plus Common Terns, Gadwall, Wigeon and Shelduck, two Turtle Doves, House Martins and Swallows. At the eastern end of the reserve at least 500 Sandwich Terns were split into two colonies, both with plenty of well-grown chicks. Also, another Spoonbill, several Mediterranean Gulls, Shelducks with a creche of ducklings, Shoveler, Egyptian Goose, Stonechat and Meadow Pipit.

                                White Wagtail

                                Fort Philippe

  We then moved further along the coast to Fort Phillipe where a Common Rosefinch had been reported recently. As it was mid-afternoon we drew a blank on the finch, but `discovered` a wetland area nearby, complete with screen blinds overlooking a reed-fringed lake and an extensive series of shallow lagoons, islands and broad grassy borders full of wild flowers - and plenty of birds! The highlights were two pairs of Black-necked Grebes and six Black-winged Stilts with young, plus Great Crested Grebe, four Avocets, Lapwings, Grey Heron, Great White Egret, six Little Egrets, Buzzard, Willow Warbler, Sand and House Martins and hundreds of dabbling ducks, Jackdaws and gulls. How we`d missed this site in the past is a mystery, but we`ll certainly be back during migration as the habitat is suitable for luring down passage waders.
  Another superb day out in northern France in fine company with plenty of laughs along the way and many thanks to Chris for driving.

                                Black-winged Stilts

Wednesday, 19 June 2019


Dungeness RSPB - humid, sunny, nw 2 - Following a hectic night of crash, bang and flash from thunder and lightening rolling in from the continent, this morning the weather thankfully settled down a bit; although it looked grim inland with heavy rain clouds skirting the Low Weald. A guided walk for RSPB centred on Burrowes where there was plenty of interest on and around the old gravel pit.
  Several pairs of Oystercatchers kept us entertained as they went about their business and it was good to see two well-grown juveniles on an island in front of Makepeace hide. Other waders included six Redshanks, five Curlews, four Ringed Plovers and 100 Lapwings coming and going. There was much Common Tern activity as the adults delivered fish to one week old chicks on the raft, while a solitary Sandwich Tern paid a brief visit in front of Firth hide. Hundreds of Pochard, Tufted Duck and Gadwall comprised the bulk of the duck numbers along with a few Teal, Wigeon, Shoveler and Shelduck. Also noted, Hobby, Little Egret, Marsh Harrier, Raven and Cuckoo.
  There was plenty of other natural history interest on show for the guests from a wide variety of plants, through pond life to insects such as damselflies and bees that emerged into the bright sunshine.

Tuesday, 18 June 2019

Black-tailed Godwits

Dungeness - warm, dry, sunny, light airs - A humid, still morning and everywhere you looked around the point there were fledgling birds: Wheatear, Stonechat, Black Redstart, Meadow Pipit, Linnet, Pied Wagtail, Whitethroat and Skylark were all noted either feeding juvs or flying to and fro between nest sites. The amount of invertebrate prey available must be astonishing on this unspoiled headland, if only there were more places like it elsewhere.

                                Juvenile Black Redstart

  Herring and Lesser Black-backed Gulls had chicks on the flat roofs of Dungeness B, two Ravens flew over calling, while the male Peregrine was tucking into breakfast on its favoured pylon opposite the Obs. A Marbled White butterfly on the wing in the moat was our first of the summer.
  At home the garden moth trap hit 30 species of macros for the first time this year with Light Arches the highlight, a species I rarely record.
  An evening visit to the bird reserve in blustery, cool conditions produced a few Lapwings, Cuckoo, Sand Martins and a Marsh Harrier from Screen hide on ARC, while from Firth hide on Burrowes a group of seven Black-tailed Godwits was the best of the waders, one of which was in breeding plumage. All the usual ducks and terns here too.

                               Black-tailed Godwits from Firth hide

Monday, 17 June 2019

Elephants in the trap

Lade - warm, dry and sunny, light airs - Perfect conditions for moths last night and it was no surprise that 23 species of macros were lurking in the trap this morning, including the two Elephants, Grass Emerald and Brimstone. It was all very predictable bird wise on the local patch, although good to see the two Oystercatcher chicks growing well on the scaffold island and several Cuckoos still present.

                                Elephant and Small Elephant Hawk-moths

                                                Dark Mullein

 The Dark Mullein spikes were up in great profusion in the usual spot by north lake, while the vandalised site signs have been repaired by RSPB, but for how long they`ll stay intact remains to be seen.

   Along the beach yesterday countless thousands of Cockles were washed up on the beach over a 100 yards section, along with several large Barrel Jellyfish the size of dinner plates.

Saturday, 15 June 2019

Black Redstarts

Lade - warm, dry and sunny, sw 2 - At last, summer appears to have resumed after a fair bit of rain this past week or so. The welcome sunshine following a couple of dry days has encouraged a verdant flush of plant growth across the shingle ridges. The Viper`s Bugloss looks particularly spectacular at the moment with some fine stands on the local patch attracting plenty of bees and other invertebrates, while the first Pyramidal Orchids are in flower along the old railway track.

                                Viper`s Bugloss and Pyramidal Orchid

  Juvenile birds are currently everywhere: Starling, House Sparrow and Jackdaw by the shed load, plus the first Common Whitethroats, Linnets and Meadow Pipits fledglings out of the nest. Cuckoos are still active around the Willow Swamp and one or two Hobbies continue to be seen hunting over the Desert.
  The garden moth trap has been fairly ordinary of late apart from a rush of the migrant micro-moth, Plutella xylostella last night. 

                                Black Redstart family on the power station wall

  It was a similar picture at Dungeness, although with the addition of two broods of Black Redstarts keeping the adults busy around the power station boundary. Still unsure what`s occurring with the Peregrine pair, but it seems as though they`re just going through the motions breeding wise without any outcome.
  A late afternoon look over the pits in cloudy, cool conditions revealed at least 100 Swifts over south lake. The Littlestone Serin was again reported this morning.

Thursday, 13 June 2019

Flaming June!

Lade - cool, cloudy, showery, sw 4 - The past couple of days have been much of a muchness with cool winds and showers keeping temperatures down. As a result moth numbers have been predictably low in the garden trap with the only new for the year this morning a Cypress Carpet. However, when I went out to switch on the trap last night it was pleasing to see a couple of small bats hawking insects in the lee of the fir trees.

                                Cypress Carpet

  A stiff breeze also kept bird numbers down, although its always good to see a few Swifts close at hand. This morning a Hobby rushed over the water totally ignoring the agile Swifts and struck out at a fair old lick across the Desert, nailing a juvenile Starling for breakfast! Currently there are hundreds of Starlings and House Sparrows feeding on insects emerging from the shingle ridges, ideal prey for opportunistic raptors such as Kestrel and Sparrowhawk, both of which I`ve seen in action this week. Five Sandwich Terns over south lake was also noteworthy today.
  The bay has been quiet all week with only a few non-breeding waders present such as Curlew and Barwit. At hide tide yesterday at least four Grey Seals followed the flood in to hunt flat fish.
  Locally there has been little change to the birding scene as you would expect for mid-June. On the bird reserve several Great White Egrets and Hobbies are present around Dengemarsh, plus three  Little Gulls and a Garganey on ARC/Burrowes, while the Serin continues to perform at Littlestone.

Tuesday, 11 June 2019


Lade  - cool, dry and sunny, s 2 - Despite a cool night with clear spells it was surprisingly busy in the garden moth trap this morning with 15 species including Small Elephant Hawk-moth, Bird`s Wing, Silver Y, White Point and Bordered Sallow. The local patch was quiet apart from a few Swifts and House Martins high over the Willow Swamp.

                                Bird`s Wing

                                  White Point

                                  Bordered Sallow
                                A second Bee Orchid, Lade

  Stopped off at Littlestone late morning to pay homage to the male Serin that continues his lonely lament for a mate atop a clump of fir trees opposite the entrance to the golf club.

                                Serin, Littlestone

  An evening visit to the bird reserve in fine weather, firstly from the Screen hide delivered our first Green Sandpiper of the return passage, plus three 1st summer Little Gulls. Also Cuckoo, Lesser Whitethroat, Hobby, Marsh harrier and a flyover Bittern. No new passage waders on Burrowes, and a Mediterranean Gull bathing in front of Firth hide. 

                                Mediterranean Gull from Firth hide

Sunday, 9 June 2019

Odds and ends

Lade - warm, dry, cloudy, light airs - After the gale force winds of yesterday it was good to get out and about in the field today without getting battered. We walked the local patch where Long-tailed Tit and Green Woodpecker were confirmed breeders in the willow swamp, while a female Cuckoo flopped about in the main reedbed presumably looking for suitable Reed Warbler nests. On the water at least 10 broods of Coots were counted along with the first Dabchick juveniles. By mid-morning a mixed kettle of raptors rose into the sky over the airfield comprising four each of Buzzard and Marsh Harrier, two Kestrels and a Sparrowhawk.

                                Southern Marsh Orchid, Lade

  Behind the `mirrors` we walked north towards Belgar Farm and Romney Salts where a few pairs of Yellow Wagtail, Corn Bunting and Tree Sparrow were noted, plus Skylark, Mipit, Stonechat and a trickle of Lapwings heading towards the bird reserve. A few more clumps of Southern Marsh and Common Spotted Orchids were also in flower.
  As the sun broke through insect activity around the ponds included Four-spotted Chaser and Hairy Hawker dragonflies, plus Red Admiral and Speckled Wood butterflies. Three Apache military helicopters flew over from the airfield shattering the tranquillity, followed by two more a while later.

                                Apaches over Lade

                                Speckled Wood

                                Red Admirals on Valerian

  Moving onto the bird reserve where Burrowes was quiet apart from good numbers of Pochard, Gadwall, two Wigeon, four Teal, two Ringed Plovers and the usual Common Tern activity; it was interesting to see how they have colonised the raft with the brush cover still in place, I`ve not seen that before now. There was nothing much of note on ARC, just eclipse ducks, Common Terns and a calling Cuckoo. 

                         Yellow-horned Poppy - the seawatch highlight!

  We finished the afternoon at the fishing boats in a light drizzle with a brief seawatch that delivered a few fishing Gannets and terns.