Sunday, 17 February 2019

Roosting harriers and egrets

Lade - warm, dry, sunny, sw3 - The past two days have been much of a muchness on the local patch with the same wildfowl on the lakes for the monthly WeBS count including six Goldeneyes. Marsh Harriers, Buzzard, Sparrowhawk, Little Egret and Chiffchaff noted across the weekend.
  Yesterday afternoon on the way back from St Mary`s Bay I watched a Short-eared Owl hunting a sheep field, probably the same bird that was seen by CT later on over the main road on Littlestone golf links. The two Whooper Swans were still in the rape-seed fields from Cockles Bridge and six Bewick`s Swans at Horses Bones Farm.
Walland Marsh - Joined CP out on the Marsh this afternoon for the harrier roost count at our usual site where six Marsh Harriers came in. However, the big surprise was a new egret roost that comprised 11 Great Whites and seven Little Egrets. A mixed flock of Greylags included 26 White-fronted Geese and two Egyptian Geese. Also noted four Buzzards, two Ravens, Kestrel, Merlin, Barn Owl, Stonechat, 50 Fieldfares, Skylark, Goldfinch and Reed Buntings, plus two Brown Hares, a rare sight of late.

Friday, 15 February 2019

Fishy Friday...

Dungeness - warm, dry and sunny - Had a walk around the Trapping Area and Long Pits with CP this morning in warm, winter sunshine.Very little was noted apart from a few common tits and finches, Green Woodpecker and a Goldcrest, plus Ringed Plover, Greenfinch, Mipit and a singing Skylark overhead. The sea was much better though with a short watch from the fishing boats producing hundreds of Guillemots, Great Crested Grebes and Cormorants, plus Kittiwakes, Red-throated Divers, Gannets and singles of Mediterranean Gull and Common Scoter.
  News from the bird reserve today included the drake Smew and four Cattle Egrets still present, the Whooper Swans on the Cockles Bridge fields and the Bewick`s Swans at Horses Bones Farm, Lydd.

                                Pike on the beach, Lade

Lade - Spent some time along the foreshore this afternoon between Greatstone and the Pilot in glorious weather conditions. All ten species of waders were logged as well as several Mediterranean Gulls amongst 2,000 Common Gulls. Squid eggs were everywhere, while a dead fish about a metre long appeared to be a Pike; as confirmed by two local fisherman and several replies to pics posted on Twitter (thanks for your input to all concerned). As to why a freshwater fish was washed up on the foreshore is anyone guess; perhaps it was dumped there after having been caught in the local gravel pit, or maybe it isn't a Pike? If anyone has any offers please get in touch.

                                Squid Eggs


                                1,000 Common Gulls

Thursday, 14 February 2019

Spring is in the air

Scotney - warm, dry and sunny, light airs - A cracking warm, spring-like day, ideal for a walk out back behind the farm this morning. Two flocks of 20 and 40 Corn Buntings, one around the farm, the other by the game cover dung heap, were good to see, as were two Tree Sparrows in a reed-fringed ditch, a pair of Avocets on an island and a Green Sandpiper flying along Jury`s Gut Sewer. Also noted several singing Skylarks and Reed Buntings, Great White Egret, Stonechat, Egyptian Geese, Redshank, four Buzzards, two Kestrels and a Marsh Harrier. Apart from the Barnacle Goose and Wigeon flock the front fields were relatively quiet.

                                New born lambs were everywhere this morning

                                Egyptian Geese, Scotney

  A stop off at Boulderwall on the way home yielded three Cattle Egrets in a horse paddock and a Great White Egret by Cook`s Pool along with the usual Lapwings, Wigeons, Curlews and feral geese. The drake Smew was still on site, mainly from Christmas Dell hide, though mobile at times.

Wednesday, 13 February 2019

Beach waders

Littlestone - warm, dry and sunny, ssw 2 - Not the best time of day to view the bay but we had good views of hundreds of Curlews and Oystercatchers at low tide, plus Turnstones, Redshank, Ringed Plover and an adult Mediterranean Gull. Three Teal on the tideline was an unusual sight, while further out to sea hundreds of Great Crested Grebes fished the bay.
Lade - A check of the local patch revealed all the usual wildfowl including four Goldeneyes. There was no sign of the Dartford Warbler this morning in the gorse scrub, although a Chiffchaff called in the willow swamp.
  We completed the three day Birdwatching Break for Clare and Peter with 94 species that included a decent range of wintering birds with the highlight being yesterdays superb views of Barn Owls on Shirley Moor.
  I had to go to Folkestone this afternoon, so checked out Foord Road for the recently reported Waxwings, of which there was no sign. 

Tuesday, 12 February 2019

Barn Owls

Dungeness - warm, dry, cloudy, NW 2 - Superb weather to be out and about around the peninsula guiding today. We kicked off at the point where the usual seabirds were offshore and at the Patch, so plenty of close Guillemots, Great Crested Grebes and gulls, plus a few Kittiwakes, Razorbills, Gannets and Red-throated Divers. Couldn't find the Black Redstart by the Lifeboat Station, although a Sparrowhawk nipped through by the entrance to the estate.

                                            Tree Sparrows back at Boulderwall

  Moving onto the bird reserve and it was good to see at least four Tree Sparrows on the Boulderwall feeders along with the usual tits and finches as well as a pair of Greenfinches, Great Spotted Woodpecker and Reed Bunting. Plenty of activity on the wet fields nearby included hundreds of Lapwings, Golden Plovers and Wigeons, 20 Curlews and a Great White Egret. A circuit of the hides produced a drake Smew, four Ruff, three Goldeneyes, a Pintail and our first Avocet of the year on Burrowes amongst loads of common wildfowl, large gulls, Lapwings and Cormorants. Also noted,  several Marsh Harriers, Kestrel, Dabchick, Shelduck, Cetti`s Warbler, Oystercatcher and a Bullfinch in the car park scrub (rare here).

                                Wildfowl and Avocet on Burrowes                               

  We finished the afternoon at Park Wood, Appledore where a few common woodland birds were logged. It was then onto Moor Lane and protracted views of three Barn Owls quartering the wildlife friendly farmland, one of which settled in a hedgerow. Tawny and Little Owls were also heard, plus several Yellowhammers seen along with Buzzard and Kestrel. A terrific end to the day.

                                Appledore Barn Owls

Monday, 11 February 2019

Wild swans

Lade - mild, sunny, light airs - A bright, frosty start to the day with the prospect of a more spring-like week to follow. On south lake two drake Goldeneyes were displaying frantically to a harem of ducks and a Dartford Warbler called from gorse scrub by the main track.

                               Kenardington, RMCanal

Birdwatching Break - Picked up Clare and Peter from Ashford station this morning, who`re down from London for a three day tour. We stopped off at the RMC at Kenardington where a mixed flock of around 200 winter thrushes was the highlight, comprising mostly Fieldfares. Also seen: several Buzzards, Kestrel, Jay, Song Thrush and Great White Egret.
  Moving across the Marsh we stopped at Horses Bones Farm where the 34 Bewick`s Swans were still present, though distant and looking nervously around at the sound of shotguns, while at  Caldecote Lane a flock of 50 Corn Buntings on overhead wires and several Mipits noted.
  At Pigwell a Grey Wagtail was amongst the Pied Wagtails on the sewage works but we could find no sign of last months Woodlark. The front fields at Scotney were full of birds including hundreds of Lapwings, Golden Plovers, Wigeons and Starlings, plus 20 Redshanks, two Dunlins and, from the double bends, the Barnacle Goose flock.
  From Springfield Bridge several Marsh Harriers, Buzzard, Great White Egret, 50 Linnets, Mipits and the two wintering Whooper Swans. On the way back to Plovers, in fading light, we paused along the Lydd Road to scan three of the four `resident` Cattle Egrets.

                               Whooper Swans, Dengemarsh

Sunday, 10 February 2019

Brent Geese

Lade - mild, overcast, showery - The weekend weather saw fast moving Atlantic fronts sweeping up-Channel delivering strong to gale force winds and a low scudding cloud base loaded with rain. A circuit of the local patch on Saturday morning was not a pleasant experience, despite a brief spell of sunshine, due to the buffeting wind but it did cause four Brent Geese to pause awhile on north lake, a rare sight here considering how many pass by out on the bay.

                                Brent Geese, Lade north

  Today it was less windy and largely dry. We did a sweep around the peninsula in preparation for a Birdwatching Break next week, commencing at Dungeness where the annual Dab fishing competition was just about to get underway. From the seawatch and Patch hides all the usual gulls in their hundreds, including plenty of Kittiwakes, plus Guillemots, Razorbills, Cormorants, Gannets and Red-throated Divers on the sea.

                                Ready, steady - fish!

  On the bird reserve the drake Smew was on Burrowes viewable from Makepeace hide along with four Goldeneyes and hundreds of Lapwings, Cormorants and gulls on the islands. Elsewhere: 10 Ruff, 30 Curlew and a Great White Egret at Boulderwall; a Tree Sparrow on the feeders and four Cattle Egrets from the Lydd Road opposite the stables. From Cockles Bridge, two Whooper Swans, plus a pair of Goosanders on Bretts pit from the range road and 34 Bewick`s Swans still in the distant field at Horses Bones Farm, Lydd.

                                Goosanders and Bewick`s Swans, Lydd

Friday, 8 February 2019

Storm Eric

Dungeness - mild, cloudy, SSW 7 - After spending most of yesterday trapped in the car driving to and from a funeral in Slough it felt good to get out and about this morning, even in near gale force winds. The onshore wind was so strong it was an effort climbing up the sea wall to the hides; infact at one stage Barney got blown over by a strong gust when broadside on!
  From the seawatch hide hundreds of gulls streamed past, mostly Kittiwake, Black-headed, Common and Herring Gulls, plus scores of Guillemots, Cormorants, Red-throated Divers, 15 Brents and two Fulmars. We then joined MC in the Patch hide where thousands more commoner gulls swirled over the sea and settled on the beach, but apart from a couple of colour-ringed Herrings and a Mediterranean Gull nothing much else was apparent.
  A cursory look at Lade this afternoon drew a blank as most of the wildfowl were tucked in the willow swamp sheltering from the gale.

Wednesday, 6 February 2019

Birding in the mist

Lade - mild, misty, light airs - A strange day dominated by the weather with thick fog coming and going throughout, plus drizzle and even a bright spell early afternoon before the murk rolled in again by dusk. The highlight on the local patch was a flock of 20 Redwings over and a Great White Egret in the main reedbed.
  This afternoon three Cattle Egrets were in the fields opposite the livery stables along the Lydd Road and the two Whooper Swans amongst the Mutes from Cockles Bridge. On the bird reserve the drake Smew seen earlier on Burrowes had moved elsewhere, while a Firecrest showed by Scott hide and a Tree Sparrow on the car park feeders. 

Tuesday, 5 February 2019

Finches and tits

Denge Wood - 0900-1215hrs - mild and overcast - For a change of scene CP joined us today for a jaunt over to this under-watched and relatively remote block of woodland on the North Downs, our second homage to the trees this year after the disappointment of a largely barren Hemsted Forest last month. We started at the Bonsai Bank end and worked our way through the forest to parts we`d not been to before. The old larches held plenty of common tits and finches feeding in the canopy along with a single Brambling, Treecreeper, Nuthatch, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Jay and Goldcrest; Coal Tit was easily the most numerous member of the family throughout the wood. Large flocks of Fieldfares and Redwings flew over the wood calling involving up to 500 birds, while both Buzzard and Kestrel seen and Tawny Owl heard.

                                Woodland Trust section

                                Lesser Redpoll

  It was good to see several managed clearings suitable for Duke of Burgundy butterflies (mental note to revisit site in spring). A damp thicket was where we heard and eventually saw a Marsh Tit our first for quite a few years, plus Bullfinch and Long-tailed Tit. A superb section of open clearings owned by the Woodland Trust, complete with a view point across the canopy, provided a flock of 11 Lesser Redpolls and a Siskin feeding on birch catkins. We finished off amongst conifers enjoying a flock of 30 Crossbills which the pics below don't do justice too, although they looked superb through optics.

                                               Crossbills in the gloom

  So, by today's standards a pretty decent return for a morning amongst the mud and timber, despite not finding Gos, Lesser pecker or Hawfinch (we set the bar high!) We were both impressed with the mosaic of mixed woodland on offer though, some of which should be suitable for the likes of  Nightjar, Tree Pipit and Woodlark come the spring. 
  Over the road at Godmersham we paid homage to last winters Hawfinch churchyard and scanned the River Stour where three Wood Ducks looked at home amongst the Moorhens, Coots and a Little Egret.

                                Wood Duck on the Stour

  This afternoon I called in at the bird reserve where a flighty drake Smew was on the lakes around Christmas Dell and a Kingfisher on Burrowes. At Boulderwall a Great White Egret and three distant Cattle Egrets on the fields and, at last, a Tree Sparrow on the feeders was new for the year.

Sunday, 3 February 2019

Great White Egret

Lade - cold, and sunny - The wind eased off this morning following the northerly blast of yesterday making for a far more pleasant day. The first Great White Egret of the year was on site loafing around the main reed bed, disturbing a couple of Grey Herons and a flighty Bittern. Several Marsh Harriers and Buzzards noted across the weekend, plus a few more Linnets, Mipits and Reed Buntings and a cracking Dartford Warbler in the gorse by south lake.

                               One of two porpoise corpses on the beach

  Over the peninsula the now regular dawn and dusk procession of thousands of Cormorants came and went over the bay. Yesterday a flock of 30 Brent Geese passed east and today two porpoise carcasses were washed up on the tideline.
  On the bird reserve yesterday the first belated Smew (a drake) of winter appeared on the pools around Christmas Dell (PB), while a Crane put in a surprise appearance late afternoon on the fields at Dengemarsh (MC). Today the White-fronted Goose flock from Pett Levels showed at Scotney along with a Tundra Bean Goose (JK).

                                Magpie enjoying the warm sunshine

Friday, 1 February 2019

Hedge Sparrows

Lade - mild, cloudy, damp, NE 2 - Well, what a let down, as usual the Met Office over-egged the pudding on the snow forecast for last night (we had a bit of wet snow about 0100hrs which soon turned to rain) so rather than wake up this morning to a blanket of the white stuff, instead it was dull and dreary with drizzle. A fine way to start the new month.
  It was a case of, `as you were on the lakes` with the same low numbers of wintering ducks and all the usual waders on the bay. Marsh Harrier, Buzzard, Green Woodpecker and Water Rail were seen around the willow swamp; also, a few more passerines noted on our morning round including a handful of Linnets, two Stonechats and a Reed Bunting.
  The omnipresent Hedge Sparrows (as they were known when I was a nipper) had found their voices this morning, with several delivering jaunty, jangly songs from atop fence posts and scrub in preparation for marking out forthcoming breeding territories. I always think the Dunnock is a bit like a Gadwall really; rather undistinguished but with a kaleidoscopic plumage comprising greys, browns, blacks and buffs, and largely ignored by birders. What they lack on the plumage front though is more than made up for by a complex sex life, which would put Fleetwood Mac to shame!

                                Hedge Sparrows, Lade

  Elsewhere around Dungeness these past couple of days there has been little change from the usual wintering species on the bird reserve, plus the Whooper and Bewick`s Swans in rape-seed fields at Cockle`s Bridge and Horses Bones Farm respectively, three/four Cattle Egrets in the fields between Boulderwall and Lydd, but still no sign of any Smew on the gravel pit lakes.