Tuesday, 22 January 2019

Purple Sandpipers

Hythe - warm, dry and sunny - Had to go to the cash-n-carry at Folkestone this morning so on the way home, as it was high tide, checked out the sea defence blocks along the sea front at Sandgate and Hythe. The first two sets of granite blocks were barren but at Stade Street two Purple Sandpipers were present enjoying the warm sunshine and ignoring the waves crashing over the rocks below. There was no sign of any Turnstones though.

                               Purple Sandpipers, Hythe seafront

Walland Marsh - A check on the local wild swans for the WWT survey revealed 38 Bewick`s out the back of Lydd by Horse`s Bones Farm and two Whoopers amongst the Mutes at Cockles Bridge, where also Marsh Harrier, Buzzard and Stonechat.

Sunday, 20 January 2019

From Scilly to Dungeness

Lade - cold, sunny, NE 2 - There was no change to the wildfowl on the local patch this weekend with six Goldeneyes the highlight on south lake for the WeBS count. Marsh Harrier and Buzzard continue to be omnipresent and yesterday I checked the reed bed at dusk just in case any harriers went to roost, but none did.
Today a mid-morning visit to the ponds in bright sunshine attracted a decent crop of passerines to feed on emerging insects roused by the warmth; chiefly a flock of Long-tailed, Great and Blue Tits with a supporting cast of two Cetti`s Warblers, a Firecrest and surprisingly a Dartford Warbler in a bramble thicket by the main track. Wren, Dunnock, Robin, Blackbird, Chaffinch, Greenfinch and Great Spotted Woodpecker also noted around the ponds.
  Back at Plovers we got in training for next weekends RSPB Big Garden Bird Watch where the House Sparrow count around the feeders hit 32. That was about the only highpoint though as few other species were noted: Herring Gull, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Wren, Robin, Blackbird, Starling and Chaffinch being about it.
  Last autumn I planted out some bulbs that our Kate had brought back from her trip to the Isles of Scilly. The first bloom emerged today; a splash of yellow narcissi in a shingle garden on the Dungeness cuspate, all the way from Churchtown Farm, St Martins`s on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean, my favourite island of all the British Isles and a reminder of our first holiday there with the kids in 1982.
  It was in May and we stayed in an old farm cottage by the church just before the island had mains electricity; so, once the diesel generator packed up at about 6pm it was onto Tilley lamps for light. The kids loved having their bedtime story read to the backdrop of the hissing lamp light. One evening we walked up to the Daymark, a high point at the north-east corner of the island, and had Storm Petrels fluttering around our heads as they returned to nest sites amongst the boulder scree. The next day we found a Hoopoe probing the turf in front of the tiny school house. Happy days indeed.

                                      Scent from the Isles of Scilly

Walland Marsh - More counting this afternoon in the company of CP at our usual harrier roost site out on the Marsh. En-route we paused at Cockles Bridge to view the two Whooper Swans seen earlier, but without success. At Horse`s Bones farm 34 distant Bewick`s Swans could still be seen from the lane. At the harrier roost site 10 Marsh Harriers were in the general area, but only two came in to roost. Also noted: four Buzzards, Peregrine, Kestrel, three Ravens, 10 Snipe, six Great White Egrets and on the drive home two Barn Owls at Midley.

Friday, 18 January 2019


Dungeness - cold, sunny, NW 2 - Joined DW at the fishing boats this morning for a short seawatch where plenty of Razorbills were offshore amongst the Guillemots and rounding the point. Also our first Fulmar of the year, plus a Bonxie a steady flow of Red-throated Divers, Gannets and Kittiwakes and a Common Seal. A Black Redstart was perched on the lifeboat station roof as we drove onto the estate.
  At Lade a Buzzard perched on the 30` foot, two Marsh Harriers outback and six Goldeneyes on the water was about it.

                               HMS Mersey, River-class Patrol Boat, off Dungeness

Thursday, 17 January 2019


Lade - cold and wet, NW 2 - Bit of a shocker this morning with low temperatures and sleety showers out of the north, so it was a surprise when up popped a Dartford Warbler in the gorse scrub by the badger sett, where also a Stonechat. A Bittern flying over the main reedbed was our first sighting of the year, while there was no change to the wildfowl on south lake.
Lydd - Had to go to the garage this morning so called in at Pigwell just as a heavy shower cleared through leaving bright blue skies. From the cycle path a small herd of cattle huddled together in the weedy field had a mixed flock of passerines nearby comprising mostly Chaffinches along with a few Goldfinches, Linnets and Mipits. A Kestrel then flew over flushing the 100 strong flock which included the distinctive bat-winged, short-tailed profile of a Woodlark. Eventually they settled back down when the lark showed briefly on the deck. Also noted three Marsh Harriers, two Buzzards, Song Thrush, Little Egret and Stonechat.
Littlestone - A scan of the foreshore this afternoon revealed the usual waders, plus three Black-tailed Godwits and a colour-ringed Curlew (left leg red, right leg yellow). 

Wednesday, 16 January 2019


Dungeness - mild, overcast, W5 - A guided walk for 12 birders this morning concentrated on the circular walk around the pits taking in the hides. The blustery wind kept any passerines hunkered down and even most of the ducks took shelter behind banks and willow scrub; however we did manage to find a Firecrest in the willows on the approach to Scott hide. On Burrowes it was a struggle to a find a single Goldeneye and Shelduck amongst a host of common wildfowl, while the islands were smothered in hundreds of Lapwings, Cormorants and large gulls. On Dengemarsh another Goldeneye, a Great White Egret, 100 Wigeon, 100 Linnets, several Marsh Harriers and two Kestrels.
  So, no problem with quantity then, but where`s the variety in the form of sawbills, a scarce grebe and maybe a diver or even a white-winged gull? Perhaps the much forecast cold snap at the end of the week will shake things up a bit.

An hour at the fishing boats this afternoon delivered close views of hundreds of passing Cormorants, Gannets, Kittiwakes and auks, including several Razorbills, plus a few Red-throated Divers and a distant Bonxie.
  A late check of Lade produced six Goldeneyes on south lake, and as the wind and rain increased we headed for home and a cuppa in front of the fire.

Monday, 14 January 2019


Dungeness - mild, sunny, light airs - Another unseasonably warm winter`s morning found us rummaging around Tower Pits in search of birds, of which were few and far between. Several thrushes, a tit flock, a few common ducks and a Marsh Harrier was about it, and still no Tree Sparrows at Boulderwall. On Burrowes a single redhead Goosander was the highlight, in a winter that so far has been poor for sawbills with few Goldeneye and Goosander and an unprecedented absence of Smew. En-route to the allotment four Cattle Egrets had moved into a sheep field opposite the livery stables on the Lydd road. From Cockles Bridge a Buzzard and Stonechat.
  I blame the shortage of birds on Brexit; might as well, its getting the blame for everything else!

Sunday, 13 January 2019


Rye Harbour - overcast, mild, W 3 - Yesterday Pat joined us for a circuit of the Beach Reserve on a dry and grey, yet mild morning. All the usual waders were noted including a flock of 200 Golden Plovers and a party of 20 Grey Plovers that flew in from the bay, plus plenty of Redshanks, Lapwings and a few Dunlin, Curlew and Ringed Plover. Hundreds of Wigeon, Shoveler were scattered across the lagoons, while Long Pits was very quiet with only a few common diving ducks and a Kingfisher of note.  Unsurprisingly for a Saturday the place was packed with people and it took a while to locate the three Twite which had been seen around the John Gooder`s hide, but by the time we arrive had moved out onto Flat Beach in the corner towards the sea. We had poor views, but they were my first for the region since moving down here almost thirteen years ago.
  On a positive note we can highly recommend the William the Conqueror pub for lunch, and its dog-friendly too which pleased Barney.

Sandgate - The weather was more of the same today and if anything even milder with temperatures reaching 12C by noon. After walking the local patch, where nothing had changed, we headed down to Folkestone to check out the Lower Leas Country Park for a magazine article. Scanning the sea at various places between Mill and Battery Points produced hundreds of Cormorants, Gannets and auks, mostly distant, plus a single Shag; I couldn't find any sign of the Great Northern Diver offshore, or Purple Sandpipers on the Hythe sea defence rocks, probably due to disturbance by clambering self obsessed people taking selfies on their phones.
  Back on the Marsh a tour of the lanes via Newchurch was a dismal affair. On the bird reserve Burrowes was packed out with thousands of Cormorants and large gulls, Lapwings and common wildfowl, plus a drake Pintail. Dengemarsh had a Great White Egret and Marsh Harrier of interest, plus 10 Curlews on the Boulderwall fields, although yet again I couldn't find any Tree Sparrows around the feeders.
  We finished the day at Dungeness with a sea watch from the fishing boats that delivered the expected Gannets, auks, divers and Kittiwakes.

Friday, 11 January 2019


Lade - mild, cloudy, NW 2 - Milder weather today with bits and pieces of drizzle. Back on the local patch this morning nothing had changed with the same low numbers of wildfowl, although a Grey Wagtail was of note on the margin of south lake. A smart juvenile Marsh Harrier flew over scattering the Coots while a Buzzard watched on from the wall mirror.
  As it was low tide we had a drive down to Littlestone to check on the shorebirds feeding on the mud opposite the caisson. All ten species were located including 30 Knot, while hundreds of grebes bobbed about on the bay.
  A walk out onto Romney Salts from the end of Dunes Road was a bleak affair with few farmland birds apart from a flock of 50 Linnets, two Skylarks, two Kestrels and a distant Buzzard.

Thursday, 10 January 2019

Cross-Channel Birding

                                Dunkirk harbour

                                Common Seals

Dunkirk/Calais - cold, cloudy, NW 3 - For a change of scene I joined CP and MH for a day out in northern France in overcast weather conditions with occasional drizzle. We drove to the industrial coastal complex of Dunkirk where we checked out the various canals and waterways around the port. Two smart Slavonian Grebes amongst a small flock of Great Crested and Little Grebes on Bassin Maritime was a good start. Further east, from the lookout at Avant-Port Quest 12 Red-breasted Mergansers showed well in the harbour mouth along with two Brown Seals hauled out on the sands. Also noted, Redshank, Turnstone, Oystercatcher, Kingfisher, Little Egret and small numbers of Mipits, Greenfinches and Reed Buntings in the sand dunes, plus three possible Snow Buntings that flew off high to the east. There was plenty of action on the sea with hundreds of Gannets, auks, divers, Kittiwakes, scoters, Brents and three Eiders. Stonechat, Skylark, Blackbird, Kestrel and Goldfinch noted elsewhere around the complex.

                                Slavonian Grebes


We then moved down the coast to Grand Fort Philippe where we soon located seven Shore Larks on the saltings, characteristically hugging the sands and feeding on weed-seeds. Super little birds and a species we don't see very often back home. They showed like good `uns right in front of the car park, including flying around calling, in company with 50 Chaffinches and 10 Linnets.

                                Shore Larks

Onto Oye-Plage and good numbers of common wildfowl were on the nature reserve pools, sensibly avoiding the hunters who lay in wait with their decoys and guns on the inland side of the coast road; this is only down side to coming here during the shooting season, gunners are everywhere. We finished off on the beach searching for Snow Buntings which we failed to find. However, a Cattle Egret was unusual to see on the salt marsh in company with three Little Egrets. Hundreds of distant gulls and shorebirds were on the foreshore of this vast beach stretching westwards to Calais.
   Another great day birding in northern France in fine company. As always many thanks to Chris for driving and Mark for a steady flow of jokes and anecdotes.

                                Shooting Butts and lures

                                Cattle Egret


Wednesday, 9 January 2019

Sunbathing birds

Lade - cold, dry and sunny, NW 3 - A fresh wind out of the north made it seem colder than it actually was, but in the shelter of the willow swamp many birds were enjoying the warm sunshine including Grey Heron, Woodpigeon, Magpie, Blackbird, a female Sparrowhawk, plus a Moorhen that had climbed into the bushes to receive the full rays. Some of the ducks had also retreated into sunny corners of reedbeds out of the wind, while two Green Woodpeckers preferred to warm up on the concrete bowl of the 30` listening mirror.

                                Spot the Green Woodpeckers!

                                Sparrowhawk sunbathing

                                Shoveler and Wigeon

  On the beach all the usual waders and gulls were noted on the incoming tide. There was still a police presence on site this morning searching for a Greatstone man who went missing yesterday evening.

Common Gull on the beach

Monday, 7 January 2019


Dungeness - mild, cloudy, W2 - A circuit of the point first thing produced the usual mass of auks, Gannets, Great Crested Grebes, Kittiwakes and Gannets offshore, plus a flock of 50 eastbound Wigeon. A tit flock in the Trapping Area contained a Chiffchaff and two cracking Firecrests, our first of the year, not that I`m keeping much of a year list... Also noted Stonechat, Green Woodpecker, and a Peregrine over towards the power station.

  Back at the car, by the boardwalk, I noticed the Border Force cutter patrolling close to shore, apparently searching for migrants and then a police wagon stopped and asked me whether I`d seen anything, which I hadn't. An hour later whilst crossing the causeway road to Lydd I noticed the authorities had intercepted and detained some poor bedraggled souls, presumably who`d landed at Dungeness earlier.
  There was no change to the wildfowl on Lade pits this afternoon.

Sunday, 6 January 2019

Bay waders

Lade - cold, cloudy, NW2 - Spent some time over the weekend checking the foreshore for waders and any passerines feeding along the tideline between the Jolly at Greatstone and the Pilot at Dungeness. Pied Wagtail, House Sparrow, Meadow Pipit, Wren, Reed Bunting and Starling is all I could muster, plus around 50 Turnstones. There was much human and dog disturbance at the Greatstone beach end.
  All ten species of waders were present including the following high tide counts: Oystercatcher 320, Sanderling 210, Dunlin 180, Knot 80 and Grey Plover 25.

                               Lade bay looking towards Dungeness


                                Knot and Grey Plover

                                Oystercatcher and Sanderling


                               Roosting Oystercatcher, Sanderling and Dunlin

As for the old gravel pit lakes, there was no change to the wildfowl with eight Goldeneyes still present the highlight. An afternoon check of south lake just before lights out revealed skein after skein of Cormorants coming in from the east and heading towards the bird reserve, at least 1,300 in total.

Friday, 4 January 2019

Black Redstart

Dungeness - cold, dry and sunny - A brief seawatch this morning from the hide produced the expected large numbers of auks, Gannets, Cormorants and Red-throated Divers offshore, plus four Common Scoter. At the entrance to the estate the years first Black Redstart was feeding around the shacks towards The Pilot along with several Pied Wagtails and a pair of Stonechats.
  Called in at Boulderwall where the fields were full of birds, mostly Lapwing, Coot and Wigeon, plus a few Curlew, Stock Dove and Woodpigeons. Three Cattle Egrets showed intermittently in the distant paddocks, but I could find no sign of any Tree Sparrows on the feeders.
  Next stop Pigwell and another fruitless search for the Woodlark; infact it was pretty quiet all round with only a few Blackbirds, Robins and Goldfinches noted and some sunbathing Rabbits.

                                Sunbathing Rabbit

Thursday, 3 January 2019

Trio of warblers

Lade - cold, dry and sunny, N 2 - A cracking day to be out and about around the local patch with bright sunshine and a light ground frost early on. We tramped across the shingle with all the verve of early New Year; it can`t last! Kingfisher, Dartford and Cetti`s Warblers and Chiffchaff were all present, plus a passing Marsh Harrier and eight Goldeneyes on south lake. Teal numbers had dropped off from last week along with Wigeon and Pochard.
Walland Marsh - Had a run out to the Woolpack reed bed this afternoon for roosting harriers in perfect weather conditions, cold and still. While six Marsh Harriers came in and had a look, none roosted and they all eventually drifted off south, although at least 20 Corn and 30 Reed Buntings did roost in the bed. Also noted: two Great White Egrets, two Buzzards, two Kestrels, Linnet, Goldfinch, Bearded Tit, Song Thrush, Cetti`s Warbler, Little Owl and Water Rail.

Tuesday, 1 January 2019

New Years Day Tally

Bird Count Day - mild and sunny morning, cloudy afternoon, NW3 - Our traditional NYD bird count kicked off in fine style with three calling Little Owls at St Mary`s-in-the-Marsh under a clear still sky with Venus and the Moon shining brightly. Along with Chris and Phil we headed for the Low Weald and a Barn Owl on Shirley Moor before settling down for a dawn chorus in nearby Park Wood. Tawny Owl, Goldcrest, Long-tailed and Coal Tits, Nuthatch, Treecreeper and Jay all went onto the list amongst a host of regular woodland birds.
  At the canal zone of Kenardington and Warehorne we jammed in on two Green Sandpipers and a flock of four Goosanders in flight, plus Great White Egret and Little Egrets, Bullfinch, Meadow Pipit, Skylark, Yellowhammer, Reed Bunting and the first of many Buzzards seen today. Crossing the Marsh Mistle Thrush, Redwing and Fieldfare, Sparrowhawk, Marsh Harrier, Golden Plover and 30 Bewick`s Swans at Horse`s Bones Farm all went onto the day list.
  At Pigwell while we dipped on the Woodlark we scored well with Grey Wagtail on the sewage works and a cracking male Dartford Warbler in gorse by the cycle track and a Stonechat. At Scotney the pace really picked up with Spotted Redshank, a wintering Common Sandpiper, Ruff, Redshanks, Goldeneye and Barnacle Geese on the front fields, plus two Whooper Swans, Corn Buntings and a pair of Pintails out back the highlights. We also watched a hovering Buzzard get hammered by first a Kestrel, then a Sparrowhawk and finally a male Peregrine! At Lydd camp a Little Owl enjoyed the warm winter sunshine.

                                Whooper Swans, Scotney

                                Little Owl, Lydd camp

  It was then onto a busy Dungeness and a seawatch from the fishing boats where at least two Bonxies were active offshore. Hundreds of Guillemots were on the sea along with scores of Kittiwakes and Gannets, Red-throated Divers, a Razorbill and a single sub-adult drake Eider, west, while at least two Caspian Gulls were on the beach.
  At Littlestone we duly bagged all ten species of waders on the bay, but with low counts of Ringed and Grey Plovers, Barwit and Knot. We finished the day mopping up on the bird reserve including  Pink-footed Goose and three Cattle Egrets at Boulderwall; Water Rail, Cetti`s Warbler and Bearded Tit from the ramp and the final species of the day, a Yellow-legged Gull on Burrowes making a respectable 112 species of birds during our 57 mile low-key birding tour.
  Many thanks to Chris for driving, Phil for listing and for a great day in the field in fine company.