Friday, 27 March 2020

Black Redstart

Lade - cool, dry and sunny, ne 3 - Lockdown Day 4 - The wind slackened off overnight making for much better conditions for our circuit of the local patch this morning where the only migrant was a Black Redstart on the fence line by Kerton Rd pit. Meadow Pipit and Skylark were in song on the desert and a male Stonechat displayed to a potential mate. Approaching the willow swamp I noticed that most of the wildfowl had retreated to the far side of south lake over by the wall `mirror`, a sure sign that fishermen were present. Two fellas were seen with all their night tackle walking back towards  Leonard Rd, while two more were still camped in the willows just off the causeway track, one of whom is a serial offender and best not approached. I guess there will be a fair bit more of this kind of flouting of the rules in the current climate, although fishing is, of course banned here whenever.

                                All night fishing camp

Lockdown List
I`ve decided to keep a list on the local patch for the duration of the lockdown which will include birds seen or heard during our walking circuit of lake, beach, bay and desert, plus the Plovers garden.
This mornings Black Redstart was the 70th species.

    

Thursday, 26 March 2020

Unintended consequences

Lade - cold, dry and sunny, ne 5 - Lockdown Day 3 -  We set off on our exercise walk around the local patch by mid-morning into a nippy old wind coming in off the sea, but at least it was dry with plenty of sunshine. Was good to have an over-the-fence chat with a self-isolating Brian D who was tinkering around in his back garden. He was in good spirits and had already fired up his moth trap for the season and despite it being cold last night had attracted an impressive five species to light, including an Early Grey. We only encountered half a dozen local dog-walkers along the way, all keeping a respectable distance from one another, and most of whom looked as though they were keen to get home out of the rasping wind.
  Typically, in such weather conditions passerines were in short supply with only Stonechat and Linnet worthy of mention. A scan of north lake delivered at least 30 Mediterranean Gulls on the water amongst a couple of hundred Black-headed and Common Gulls, although there were probably more amongst a large flock of a thousand plus gulls that rose up and down in the distance towards Romney Salts where ploughing operations were underway.


                                Starling on Plovers roof

Unintended Consequences
Most of us have had to radically change our modus operandi during these strange times and it got me thinking that already, even after only Day 3, a routine seems to be developing. This time of year, with the sea watching season upon us, I would normally be spending some time down the point, followed by a brief look at the local patch, and then onto somewhere else (that is if we didn't have guests in) and maybe a look at the sea again in the afternoon.
  Now there is absolutely no rush to get going in the morning as we`re only allowed out once. The highlight of the day is our (Pat, Barney and I) walk around the local patch which takes us about an hour and half; I don't think I`ve ever looked at in such detail before with every nook and cranny being scrutinised, and there is the added bonus of having Pat along with her keen long-sight to callout distant birds.
  Something else I did today that I can`t remember ever doing was to read the i newspaper - from back to front in one hit, which took about the same time as to walk the patch. Normally I`d just scan the sports pages ( remember that simple pleasure, the footie reports, to check how QPR had done the night before, that sort of thing) and carry on with my day. Actually, for 65p its a cracking read and real value for money, while afterwards you can use it for all sorts of useful things, like lighting the fire, lining the cat litter tray (if you have a cat, of course) and most important of all, rip it into squares for toilet paper, just like me old mum used to do with the Daily Mirror, but without the hazard of black print transfer, if you catch my drift!
  Anyhow, I`m rambling on a bit now, and it`ll soon be time to go to the front door and clap like mad in appreciation of our magnificent NHS, and when we come back in I can sit down and enjoy my ration of six squares of Cadbury chocolate, another unintended consequence of the lockdown.
 

Wednesday, 25 March 2020

Sky-dancing

Lade - cool, sunny, se 2 - Lockdown Day 2 - I walked the garden first thing with the dog, which took all of ten minutes, just to ensure a crippling rarity hadn't dropped in overnight in the bushes, and then retreated indoors with a cuppa to check the bird feeders through the window for half an hour. It was the usual spadgers, doves and pigeons, plus Robin, Dunnock and Wren around the pond, but not a sniff of a Bluethroat!
  At 0800hrs we set off on our permitted daily exercise walk out across the shingle, south towards Kerton Road pit, returning home alongside the lakes and ponds where a pair of Stonechats and a Fieldfare over were the only additions to yesterdays foray. However, as the sun rose and the thermals bounced off the stones, a pause by the aerial ramp scanning towards the airfield delivered the wonderful sight of a male Marsh Harrier `sky-dancing` with a female, while a second bird looked on. Also up and soaring, three Buzzards and two Kestrels, plus Curlews coming off the beach to roost and a `mewing` Mediterranean Gull high overhead.
  Back home, after delivering groceries to local elderly folk in self-isolation, I settled down in the back garden for a spot of sky-watching. During a two hour session around noon several more Curlews, Mediterranean Gulls and Oystercatchers flew overhead, while a female Sparrowhawk flew through the garden scattering the sparrows but misfiring.
  With a light south-easterly airflow off the continent, all morning I`d been expecting a Red Kite and sure enough following a tip off from DB one passed along the coast and over the cottage receiving a good old south coast welcome by the local avian bullies, aka - Herring Gulls. Other kites were also reported today from Littlestone and St Mary-in-the-Marsh.  



                                Barney enjoying the spring sunshine

                                Plovers sky-watching position

                               The only jet in two hours!

I-pod selection
I can`t image why, but since the coronavirus lockdown virtual visitors to this blog have almost doubled (to at least 10!), in contrast to our paying guests booked on spring Birdwatching Breaks which have had to be either cancelled/deferred until goodness knows when. So, with more time on my hands than is safe and in a desperate attempt to make the blog slightly more interesting, and keep me sane, I`ve decided to waffle on a bit more than usual. Those of you who know me will be saying, "well that shouldn't be too difficult!". Anyhow, it may not always be bird related but I`ll attempt to keep the vibe high and not mention the C word.
  OK, here we go, first offering: Music, in my humble opinion is the greatest human art form. Whilst updating this blog the I-pod has been pumping out a selection of random tunes Pat and I put together a while ago, mostly of bands we`ve seen down the years or music we just love or has some meaning or relevance. I made a note as they came out, so pick the bones out of this lot and see what you think:
- Jennifer Warnes - Empty Bottle - American vocalist with a haunting voice.
- Elvis - In the Ghetto - I`m not a great fan of the King, Pat is, but this one is my favourite.
- Carole King -  Smackwater Jack - off the classic 1971 album Tapestry.
- Oysterband - Milford Haven - a roller coaster tour of Britain from the Kent folk rockers.
Dr John  - Down in New Orleans - memories of 9/11 when we were in that fascinating city.
- Steve Forbert  - The Oil Song - classic protest song from an old folkie from the deep south.
- Billy Bragg - Man in the Iron Mark - a moving song from the angry man of English folk.
- Paul McCartney - Blackbird - one of the best ballads ever written, pure genius.
- Glenn Campbell - MacArther Park - written by the legendary Jimmy Webb, three songs in one!
- Van Morrison - Days like this - reminds of my dear old mum, how I miss her.
- Nick Drake - Northern Sky - a fine track from the tortured balladeer from the 70`s.
 -The Clash - Rock the Casbah - West London`s finest, I used to see Mick Jones at Loftus Road.
 - Bowie - Life on Mars? - "From Ibeza to the Norfolk Broads", masterful lyrics from David.
Buffy Sainte-marie - Universal Soldier - classic anti-war song.
- Michelle Shocked - Anchorage - saw her at the Jazz CafĂ© once, she was on stage for over 3 hours! 
- Rod Stewart - Mandolin Wind - Rod at his best, and he even played the banjo back then.
- Moody Blues - Forever Autumn - Got all their old albums, saw Justin Haywood at Canterbury a few year back, his voice was still like a clarion bell.
  That's it for now, look some of `em up, they`re guaranteed to put a smile on your face in these troubled times, many are from the 1970`s though, but then that was the best decade ever for music!

Tuesday, 24 March 2020

Clear skies over Romney Marsh

Lade - cool, dry and sunny, se2 - A stunning morning for the first of what will become our daily "exercise walkouts" from Plovers on Day 1 of the three week coronavirus lockdown. We`re fortunate living beside the NNR that within a couple of minutes we`re on the shingle ridges and able to walk the local patch where its easy to avoid the few people present. 
  Bird wise it was fairly quiet with five Goldeneyes still on south lake, singing Chiffchaffs by the ponds and a hunting Sparrowhawk across north lake. Small numbers of wintering ducks remain for the time being, amid ever increasing pairs of breeding Great Crested and Little Grebes, while a Peacock butterfly was on the wing along the main track. The only unusual sighting, or rather hearing, was a single Siskin that zinged overhead and out to sea.

                               Regrowth Valerian

  A couple of other observations of note this morning. Firstly, the resilience of Valerian, that last year RSPB spent a lot of time and effort spraying what is an invasive species, although it does seem to attract plenty of insects to its pollen-rich blooms. However, it has returned with a vengeance, as nearly all of the sprayed dead clumps have now burst into greenery.
  The second striking observation can be found in the skies above the Romney Marsh. In normal times I could count upwards of 20 vapour trails as planes homed in on a tracker unit situated out near Old Romney. This morning there were none, our carbon footprint since this pandemic must have reduced significantly.  

                                Clear skies over Romney Marsh

Monday, 23 March 2020

Early spring migrants

Dungeness - cold, dry and sunny, se2 - There was only four cars in the RSPB car park mid-morning and during a self-isolating circuit of the bird reserve I only encountered two other people. However, despite the surreal atmosphere there were a few spring migrants on offer, the highlights being: a Firecrest and several Chiffchaffs by Firth hide; single Black-necked Grebes on Burrowes and Dengemarsh; a Jack Snipe by the corral; a Water Pipit on Hayfield 1 and a flyover Yellow Wagtail, my first of the spring. Elsewhere en-route several Marsh Harriers, Common Buzzard, Kestrel, Sparrowhawk, Great White Egret, Lapwings, Redshanks, four Dunlins, Raven and plenty of Cetti`s Warblers and Reed Buntings in song. 
  At Lade a check of the beach revealed my first Sandwich Tern of spring, while on south lake five Goldeneyes were present. Another Firecrest was in the Plovers garden this afternoon.



                                Lapwing on the Hayfield

Saturday, 21 March 2020

Black-necked Grebe

Dungeness RSPB  - cold, dry and sunny, e 5 -  A biting east wind spoiled what would have been a fine spring day. We walked from Boulderwall to Dengemarsh where there were one or two surprises along the way, including a fine drake Pintail on Tanners pool, a Black-necked Grebe on the lake at Dengemarsh that soon disappeared from view heading towards Hookers reedbed and at least two Water Pipits showing briefly on Hayfield 2. Also noted 55 Curlews and 50 Wigeons around Cook`s pool, two Marsh Harriers, a Great White and three Little Egrets on Gun Club pool, plus displaying Lapwings and Redshanks, calling Bearded Tits, two Chiffchaffs and plenty of singing Cetti`s Warblers and Reed Buntings throughout. It was also good to see a few families out walking the trails.
  Working in the garden this afternoon I had cracking views of two Firecrests in the garden fir trees. 


                                Black-necked Grebe, one from the archives

Friday, 20 March 2020

Twitching madness

Lade - cold, drizzle, overcast, ne 4 - Had a run around the peninsula this morning kicking off on the local patch where a rasping wind coming off the bay prevented any credible wader watching. The usual suspects were present on the incoming tide, plus plenty of Common and a few Mediterranean Gulls and three Shelducks. On south lake it felt like mid-winter with five Goldeneyes and a few diving ducks out in the middle, while everything else had retreated to the shelter of the willow swamp. There was little bird song due to the weather conditions.
  The Dungeness RSPB reserve visitor centre and hides are now closed until further notice in line with governmental advice, as are the two beach hides at Dungeness managed by DBO, but the nature trails across the bird reserve and NNR remain open and accessible for now. I checked along the access road and up to Dengemarsh where it was eerily bereft of both birds and birders, although to be fair the wind didn't help.
  At the point there was a few more visitors scattered about and the Glaucous Gull was patrolling the foreshore, although very little appeared to be moving on the sea with just a couple of small flocks of Common Scoters heading up-Channel. Around the old lighthouse one or two Black Redstarts, Wheatears and White Wagtails were present, along with a cluster of birders peering into the garden looking for the Short-toed Treecreeper that had been reported earlier.
  I wandered over, keeping a respectable distance, and realised that none of the group were locals. After a few enquiries it was apparent that most were twitchers having travelled in from elsewhere. Now, I haven't got an axe to grind against the twitching fraternity (I`ve done my share in past years) but one of them had travelled to Dungeness from Doncaster by train and bus, via London! When I gasped and said (rhetorically), "are you mad?", he just shrugged and made some lame remark about the "rarity value" of a STC.
  In these unprecedented times, an example of totally irresponsible behaviour.

Thursday, 19 March 2020

Short-toed Treecreeper

Dungeness - mild, cloudy, ne 2 - Wow! Talk about a day of two halves. This morning we ventured into Folkestone to the cash and carry at Booker, which broadly speaking is for businesses such as B&B`s like ourselves, hotels, restaurants and the like; but not in these crazy times, obviously domestic punters had got hold of access cards and the car park was packed with a long queue to get in. We turned away and went to Sainsbury at Hythe where the shelves were largely bare and a shoplifter was being wrestled to the ground at the entrance by staff, having just nicked a load of booze! Even Waitrose was a barren wasteland, but at least people were being pleasant to one another in adversity; one wouldn't expect anything else from the posh peoples shop!
  Anyhow, that's enough of that nonsense. Thankfully, whilst in hell, some good news came through on the phone to buck me up with the relocation (or perhaps a different bird) of a Short-toed Treecreeper at Dungeness. This afternoon, along with a small clutch of locals I had good, but brief, views of the creeper in a bare Sycamore tree in the old lighthouse garden where it appeared to be doing a circuit around the bushes and regularly called. The usual blog sites should have some good pics of said bird.

Wednesday, 18 March 2020

Red-necked Grebe

Dungeness RSPB - mild, cloudy, sw 3 - My monthly guided walk for five RSPB guests went ahead this morning as usual, but in these strangest of times. We assembled out in the car park for the briefing and completed the circular walk without entering the hides, which was a bit weird in itself.
  However, the highlight of the walk was undoubtedly a summer plum Red-necked Grebe on the lake between Dengemarsh hide and the viewing ramp, presumably the bird from ARC. On the Hayfields behind Christmas Dell 17 Water Pipits were seen in flight with several showing distantly through the scope on the deck.
  Also present around the circuit: 12 Cetti`s Warblers, two Chiffchaffs, several Marsh Harriers, two Buzzards, 20 Shelducks, two Goldeneyes, two Redshanks, two Curlews, displaying Lapwings, plenty of Common Gulls and a flock of 20 Reed Buntings. A total of 58 species of birds were recorded.

                               Common Gull, Burrowes

                               Red-necked Grebe, Dengemarsh

  With words such as coronavirus, Covid-19 and self-isolation having entered the lexicon there was a surreal air to the conversation throughout the walk, although to be fair most of the group just wanted to concentrate on the escapism of being amongst nature. We had the place pretty much to ourselves and during the three hours encountered just four other birders, many having stayed away.
  Around noon there was a cameo moment that summed up why I find the natural world so uplifting. It had been overcast for much of the morning and as we approached Christmas Dell from Dengemarsh shards of warm sunshine cut through the cloud encouraging an impromptu chorus of Marsh Frogs into song from a ditch by the hayfield. A Marsh Harrier flew across the flood flushing the Water Pipit flock into view, as a couple of pairs of Lapwing and Redshank furiously mobbed the raptor. A minute or two later the sun went in, the frogs fell silent and the aerial drama over the hayfield passed. Wonderful stuff indeed.


Tuesday, 17 March 2020

Missed creeper

Lade - dry and sunny, sw 4 - Another fine spring day with plenty of blue skies and bright sunshine. A tour of the local patch failed to find any Wheatears, although a few more Chiffchaffs were in song around the willow swamp along with the usual Cetti`s Warblers and Great Tits. Several Med Gulls flew over calling, a Marsh Harrier flew through and two Goldeneyes remained on south lake.
  I managed to miss a Short-toed Treecreeper this morning after misplacing my phone for a couple of hours, and by the time I got down to Dungeness it had done the off from a private garden towards the trapping area; another brilliant find by DB. On the grass sward by the old lighthouse two Wheatears and a White Wagtail were of note. 

Monday, 16 March 2020

First Wheatears

Dungeness - dry and sunny, N1  - At last a fine, spring morning in bright sunshine with light airs, perfect for a wander along the foreshore searching for that classic harbinger of spring a Wheatear; and sure enough between the lifeboat station and the concrete road at least four males and a female were present having been grounded overnight. One male allowed a close approach as he soaked up the sun on an old concrete block until being chased away by a Magpie - welcome to England!  A Black Redstart was also noted along with singing Skylarks and Meadow Pipits, Stock Doves and Pied Wagtails, plus two Siskins overhead. The scrub inland attracted a couple of Stonechats and several Chiffchaffs, while two Buzzards and a Kestrel thermalled over the desert.




                                Dungeness Wheatears
          
  This afternoon a sortie down the beach delivered another flurry of Wheatears with four birds, all males, around the toilet block shingle, boardwalk and on the derelict fishing winches. Another distant bird was perched on the old boat further down the beach towards the Kerton Road, making the Wheatear tally for the day 10.
  Out on the bay on the high tide six Shovelers were sat on the sea, while DS had an unusual sighting on the beach at Greatstone this evening, a cock Pheasant!





                                Lade Wheatears

  An uplifting day of Wheatears then, in these strange and uncertain times riddled with a cocktail of fear, fake news and mass hysteria. 

Sunday, 15 March 2020

Brent Geese

Saturday - Dungeness - showers, cloudy, s 4 - A spell in the seawatch hide with OL and SP this morning produced a steady, and typical for the time of year, up-Channel passage of Brent Geese (the final tally today was just over 2,000) along with an assortment of ducks such as Common Scoter, Shelduck, Pintail, Wigeon and Merganser, plus Fulmar and Red-throated Diver. This is my 15th spring seawatching season since moving down here from inland Bedfordshire and the spectacle of  large skeins of Brents heading north-east never fails to impress. The weather conditions were near perfect this morning, apart from the odd shower, with an onshore wind pushing some of the flocks so close you could hear their babbling contact calls, superb stuff.

                               Migrating Brent Geese off Dungeness

Sunday - Lade - drizzle, cloudy, sw 5 - A circuit of the local patch in blustery weather conditions was largely uneventful with just a lone Goldeneye on south lake of any note and a couple of Chiffchaffs singing around the pond. On the causeway, out of the wind and when the sun broke through, it was quite pleasant, encouraging a few bumble bees on the wing and Barney to soak up a few rays while I scanned north lake.


  This afternoon I joined CP for the final harrier count of the season out on Walland Marsh where 12 Marsh Harriers came to roost from our watch point overlooking reed beds, including a stunning adult male. Also noted in the general area, three Common Buzzards, two Ravens, five roosting Great White Egrets, singing Cetti`s Warblers, Skylark, Reed Buntings and Water Rails, plus two sightings of a Barn Owl.  

Friday, 13 March 2020

Water Pipits

Dengemarsh - dry, sunny, sw 4 - At last a dry day, perfect for a morning stroll around Dengemarsh, even if the wind had an edge to it. Bird wise it was typical early spring fare with Reed Buntings, Cetti`s Warblers, Great Tits and Dunnocks all in good voice, plus a couple of singing Chiffchaffs. The Boulderwall fields attracted plenty of variety from flocks of Wigeon and feral geese, to Great White and Little Egrets, Curlews, Buzzard, Kestrel and Marsh Harriers. Hooker`s reedbed provided `pinging` Bearded Tits and `sharming` Water Rails, while the back fields had `tumbling` Lapwings and around 30 Shelducks. At Hayfields 1/2 we joined DS and spent some time watching at least 11 flighty Water Pipits feeding in the flooded meadows; where Dave had far more success than me with the camera, and one of the pipits had a pinkish flush on the breast. By Hayfield 3 a flock of Lapwings contained eight Ruff and a Raven flew over calling. Despite a thorough search of all the usual haunts I could find no sign of any Tree Sparrows.
  On ARC the Red-necked Grebe was playing hard ball ranging across the lake from Screen hide to the causeway road. The immature Glaucous Gull was still present on the foreshore opposite the lifeboat station at Dungeness.

                                Reed Bunting on grit tray, Hookers reedbed

                                Water Pipit, Hayfield 2 (by David Scott)

                               Immature Glaucous Gull (by David Scott)   

Wednesday, 11 March 2020

No change

Lade - mild, cloudy, sw 4 - The past couple of days have been dominated by a keen wind from the south that delivered showery rain and mild temperatures across the region. Birdwise there has been little change with a scattering of Chiffchaffs, Stonechats and Firecrests around the peninsula and singing Skylarks and Meadow Pipits on the desert. On the beach Ringed Plovers are on the move with 32 counted yesterday.
  Elsewhere, the immature Glaucous Gull can be seen anywhere between Lade bay and Dungeness, but mostly off the fishing boats. On the bird reserve the Red-necked Grebe and Water Pipits are still present on ARC and Hayfields respectively, while the five Long-tailed Ducks have remained faithful to the western lake outback at Scotney.
ps: In the garden at 2300hrs a steady eastward passage of Redwings could be heard migrating over the cottage, heading no doubt for the boreal forests across the North Sea.

Monday, 9 March 2020

Sand Martin

Dungeness - mild, cloudy, w 3 - A wander down to the fishing boats delivered the immature Glaucous Gull sat briefly on the beach before flying off to join hundreds of other large gulls feeding along the strandline. Passerines just inland included a smart male Black Redstart by the lifeboat station, several Stonechats, singing Skylarks and Meadow Pipits, plus two Grey Wagtails over the old lighthouse.
  At Lade ponds two singing Chiffchaffs were in song, while a Sand Martin over north lake was the first of the spring. Also noted around the site, Great White Egret, Goldeneye and Green Woodpecker.

Sunday, 8 March 2020

White Wagtails

Denngemarsh - mild, cloudy, sw 4 - First off we walked the gully into a stiffish breeze with large waves crashing over the sea wall by the lookout tower. A solitary Firecrest and five Chiffchaffs were of note in gorse by the wind turbine, plus two Greenfinches, three singing Cetti`s Warblers, two Reed Buntings and several each of Skylark, Linnet and Meadow Pipit over. A large Stoat was terrorising Rabbits on the warren by Hayfield 3 where 200 Golden Plovers, four Redshanks and 12 Shelducks present. From Springfield Bridge, Great White Egret, Marsh Harrier and 20 Wigeons.

                               Dengemarsh sewer, brimful
  
                               Goldies over Hayfield 3

                                Med Gull amongst the Black-heads

  The wet stubble fields around the dung heap held plenty of birds, including at least two White Wagtails amongst 15 Pieds, 10 Meadow Pipits, 10 Skylarks, 10 Stock Doves and two Corn Buntings, while Black-headed and Common Gull flocks attracted three Med Gulls. Two more White Wagtails were seen from Cockles Bridge.
  The front fields at Scotney were relatively quiet apart for the usual feral geese, Wigeon and a couple of Curlews, but five Long-tailed Ducks were reportedly still on the western most pit outback.
  This afternoon, after doing the Lade WeBS count, a visit to ARC from the Hanson hide drew a blank for the Red-necked Grebe and Red-breasted Merganser seen earlier (RW) and likewise the Glaucous Gull at Dungeness. 


                                Scotney wildfowl

Friday, 6 March 2020

Singing Chiffchaffs

Lade - warm, dry and sunny, nw 2 - After the deluge of yesterday when 28mm of rainfall fell at Littlestone (OL), this morning dawned far more spring-like and mercifully dry. We checked the desert just in case an early Wheatear had dropped in, but instead found five Stonechats and a couple of Skylarks and Meadow Pipits in song. Around the willow swamp at least two Chiffchaffs were also in song, plus five Goldeneyes on the water and a Great White Egret in the main reedbed.
  Down at Dungeness, between the fishing boats and lifeboat station, a few more larks and pipits were singing over the foreshore, while the 2nd year Glaucous Gull put in a brief appearance on the sea. Offshore five Red-throated Divers moved up-Channel.
  The bird reserve was also quiet with no sign of the Red-necked Grebe on ARC, although it could easily be lurking in a reedbed somewhere. Boulderwall fields held the usual wildfowl, egrets, corvids and Marsh Harriers, plus two Shelducks and several Curlews. From the visitor centre a flock of 10 Ruffs did a fly past, eventually settling on what remains of an island in front of Makepeace hide, and several Water Pipits were reported from the hayfields.

Wednesday, 4 March 2020

Goosander

Lade - cloudy, dry morning, wet afternoon, se3 - A day of two halves weather wise with not much change on the local patch apart from an small influx of six Stonechats on the desert scrub. Several pairs of Great Crested and Little Grebes displayed on the lakes alongside a pair of Goldeneye, whilst two Egyptian Geese flew over.
  This afternoon in miserable weather conditions we tried again for the Red-necked Grebe on ARC without success. However, at the Screen hide RW had just located a drake Goosander out on the lake which didn't stay for long before flying off south.
  Elsewhere, Water Pipits continue to be reported from the hayfields and the Glaucous Gull was noted along the beach at Dungeness in front of the lifeboat station.

Monday, 2 March 2020

Glaucous Gull

Dungeness - cloudy, mild, sw 2 - Once the early morning rain band cleared through it turned into a day that resembled more like spring, particularly as the wind had relented. At the seawatch hide we  met DBO`s seasonal assistant warden for the first time who`d just located an immature Glaucous Gull slumped down on the foreshore and lined up in the scope; well done Sam, an impressive start!




  On the land we found the Woodlark at the south-western corner of the Trapping Area, just before it hurtled towards the Long Pits, where much of the area towards the desert remains under water. Around the old lighthouse and in the garden several Chiffchaffs were new in along with a cracking Firecrest and a Black Redstart by the old experimental station. Elsewhere, Meadow Pipit, Skylark, Dunnock, Robin and Wren were all in song. 

Sunday, 1 March 2020

Iceland Gull

Lade - cloudy, showery, sw 4 - It was yet another wild weekend of weather as named Storm Jorge raced in off the Atlantic delivering an uppercut of strong winds and heavy rain showers along the Channel coast, although by this afternoon the wind and rain had relented somewhat. It will come as no surprise to anyone that the February rainfall totals were the highest on record, where at Littlestone OL recorded 108mm, that's double the rain in February 2019.
  Such weather conditions make for difficult birding and as a result there was not much change on the local patch with both Great White Egret and Goldeneyes still on site; although I got chatting to a visiting birder who`d seen a Bittern around the willow swamp on Saturday. Around noon today the sunshine encouraged Kestrel, Marsh Harrier and Buzzard into the air behind the `mirrors` with four of the latter mobbing what may have been the locally escaped Harris Hawk.
  Down at Dungeness the 1st winter Iceland Gull continues to frustrate as it feeds along the foreshore with thousands of other gulls including several Mediterranean and Caspian Gulls and Kittiwakes. Yesterday afternoon I spent some time at the fishing boats where it showed reasonably well in flight, and while I failed miserably to capture any images David Scott did much better as depicted below.


                                1st winter Iceland Gull, Dungeness (by David Scott)

  Elsewhere this weekend the Red-necked Grebe was still present on ARC working its way along the reedbeds between the Screen and Hanson hides, while six Whooper Swans were reported from Appledore (DB).


                                Roosting Oystercatchers, Lade beach

Friday, 28 February 2020

Whooper Swans

Lade - wet and windy, S5 - The morning started dry enough but the rain soon swept up from the south and set in for the day. A surprise find was a flock of five Whooper Swans on north lake, alongside three Mutes, although they didn`t stay put for long and soon flew off towards Lydd, calling wildly. They were only my second record at Lade in just over 14 years and were most likely the birds seen at Scotney in mid-week. A Great White Egret hunkered down in the main reedbed on south lake was the first for some time, while most of the ducks and grebes were sheltering from the strengthening wind around the willow swamp where several Water Rails were heard.
  Moving onto a windswept bird reserve where we eventually located the Red-necked Grebe hugging the reedbed in front of Screen hide on ARC and still eluding the camera. Burrowes was quiet with just the usual waterfowl taking shelter from the tempest, while there was negative news on the wintering Smew. At Dungeness an immature Iceland Gull was seen between the seawatch hide and the fishing boats this morning amongst thousands of gulls.

Wednesday, 26 February 2020

Red-necked Grebe

Lade - cold, sunny, nw 3 - A nippy morning with a scudding wind out of the north-west, but at least it was dry. A circuit of the local patch delivered five Goldeneyes on the lakes and a Marsh Harrier over. A Redpoll perched briefly atop a birch tree by the ponds, before flying off inland calling, was something of a surprise and a scarce bird here. Yesterdays work party had done a fine job of clearing the last of the willow scrub from the ponds.

                               Greenfinch, Lade ponds

  This afternoon, whilst at the point checking the gulls, news filtered through regarding a Red-necked Grebe found on ARC earlier in the day. We were soon on site along with a small group of locals enjoying obscured views of the grebe within a flock of diving ducks, on the edge of a reedbed seen from the track to Hanson hide looking towards the tower. AP et al also told of a flock of 17 Water Pipits that they`d not long seen on the hayfields and, sure enough, the pipits were still present as dusk approached on hayfield 2, although flighty. 
  At Scotney four Long-tailed Ducks were still on the western pit outback, plus five Whooper Swans on the roadside pit to the east of the farm track (AP.)



Saturday, 22 February 2020

Longshore Drift

Lade - mild, cloudy, drizzle, wsw 5 - The seemingly endless wet and windy weather systems originating from the mid-Atlantic continue to sweep up-Channel battering the coastline, though fortunately its not cold.
  We always try and have at least one or two days a week (normally at the weekend) without using the car, which is not a problem for me living as I do within easy walking distance of bird-rich habitats across the peninsula. Anyhow, this morning we did a long, loop walk up to Kerton Road, down on the beach, back north to Greatstone beach, up Seaview Road and back home via Lade pits.

                                Gull fest continues



                               Waders on the beach

  The gull fest continues with thousands of birds still feeding by the Pilot, including several Mediterranean Gulls and at least two Yellow-legged Gulls (OL reported Caspian Gull this morning). Walking down the beach on an incoming tide at least 20 Ringed Plovers were noted, a sure sign that spring isn't far away, plus a mixed flock of Bar-tailed Godwits, Knots and Dunlins, 20 Sanderlings and 350 Oystercatchers, but gull numbers were low. The open, wind-blown lakes were virtually devoid of wildfowl as they sheltered from the gale, although there was plenty of passerine activity around the ponds from tits, finches, Cetti`s Warbler, Chiffchaff and Goldcrest.

                                Shingle creep on Greatstone beach

                               New shingle bar, Romney Tavern

                               Spring tide damage to dune system


Longshore Drift -  Just a quick observation and comment on the shingle movement along the local foreshore. The geological phenomenon known as longshore drift, whereby flints are dragged out of the chalk seabed in Sussex and rolled eastwards, up-Channel, by tides and wave action to form the Dungeness cuspate has been ongoing for some 5-6,000 years. But you don`t have to be as old as Methuselah to witness this dynamic process; just wander along the beach opposite the lifeboat station to the area known as the `dustbin` after a spring tide and you`ll see the latest shingle deposits thrown up by the sea. As for where the scouring action on the ever-shifting shingle bank is currently occurring, you need look no further than the mechanical diggers working frantically away in front of the power stations and Jury`s Gap.
  And so to the famous sandy beach at Greatstone, which is becoming, well, not so sandy as this winter a 200yd finger ridge of shingle has been extended by the storms from the Romney Tavern along the front of the sand dunes, with more pebbles scattered over a much wide area further down towards Littlestone. Mother Nature it seems is always evolving and where this section of the coastline is concerned, pretty much unstoppable.

Thursday, 20 February 2020

Counting gulls

Lade - cold, cloudy, sw 5 - Another nippy old morning with a scudding wind out of the west; not ideal for counting gulls, but nothing ventured nothing gained, so`s to speak. With short tides I counted on the ebb from opposite Lade boardwalk, around the bay to Littlestone using a combination of counting blocks of 100 and multiplying, and photographing distant sections that I then magnified on the laptop and added to the tally. The result: 13,000 gulls, give or take 500 each way. However, there were, perhaps, a thousand more birds along the foreshore from the boardwalk towards the Pilot, and no doubt many more were lurking out of sight around the Dungeness cuspate, so the true figure could easily be in excess of 20,000 gulls.
 


                                Some of the thousands of bay gulls

                               And more towards Dungeness

                                Assistant gull counter!

  As for the species balance I would say that 75% were Black-headed and Common Gulls with 20% Herring Gulls, and the remainder a mix of the two Black-backs and Mediterranean Gulls. A lone Brent Goose was also noted and a small flock of Sanderlings. The predominant shellfish on the strandline was Cockle, while a few Lesser-spotted Dogfish and Barrel Jellyfish were also washed up.



                               What`s not to like about Sanderlings!


                                Lesser-spotted Dogfish

                                Barrel Jellyfish