Monday, 25 January 2021

Bay waders

Lade - cold, icy, sunny, w2 - A light overnight dusting of snow combined with sub-zero temperatures made for hazardous walking first thing due to ice fusing the pebbles tightly together. The lakes were much of a muchness so I decided to try and count the bay waders on the outgoing tide. Numbers were disappointingly low apart from 324 Curlews and 820 Oystercatchers, plus 12 Grey Plovers, 15 Sanderlings, 25 Turnstones, 14 Barwits, six Redshanks and four Ringed Plovers. I could not find a single Dunlin or Knot, most unusual. 

                                  Barney on the snowfields!

                                  Grey Plovers among the gulls

Sunday, 24 January 2021

Sunrise over the bay

 Lade - cold and frosty, followed by wind and rain, S 4 - Following a clear and frosty night without a puff of wind this morning`s sunrise over the bay was a pretty spectacular affair. However, I very nearly missed it by being ensconced in our west-facing back room tapping away on the keyboard from 6am, until Pat tipped me off to the unfolding spectacle out east around 7.20. I quickly togged up, grabbed the camera and hurried over to the beach where it appeared that the eastern horizon was on fire. As is the way with a rising sun it was all over in 20 minutes but what a fantastic sight it was while it lasted, and as the morning progressed the wind picked up from the south delivering a band of thick cloud and sleety rain that set in until early afternoon.                                        

                                  Sunrise over Lade Bay

Birdwise a circuit of the local patch proved that nothing much had changed to the wildfowl numbers on the lakes, but a steady procession of distant auks was noted crossing the bay. 

Friday, 22 January 2021

White-fronted Geese

 Lade - cold, dry and sunny, light airs - For most of this week the weather has been wet and windy and while we`ve been out around the local patch daily there has been little to report. However, a cold front moved in overnight delivering more settled conditions with a widespread frost and bright sunshine much more conducive to being in the field. A circuit of the patch was notable for a Kingfisher zipping around the willow swamp, five Goldeneyes on the lakes, calling Water Rails, three Marsh Harriers working the back reedbed and two Ravens over calling. Yet again there were few waders on the bay apart from the usual hundreds of Oystercatchers and Curlews.

                                  Spring was in the air for this pair of Woodpigeons today!


I had to go into town today and on the way home jammed in on a large goose flock in a field close to the Dungeness road opposite the riding stables near Cockles Bridge. Fortunately there was a lay-bye nearby and by using the car as a hide afforded good views of the flock that comprised 210 White-fronted Geese, 150 Greylags and two Egyptian Geese, plus three Little Egrets in an adjacent field.

                                 White-fronted Geese near Cockles Bridge

Elsewhere this week local wintering birds included an Iceland Gull at the Patch; Black-throated Diver on ARC/New Diggings; Glossy Ibis, Boulderwall fields; and a Long-tailed Duck at Scotney. 

Sunday, 17 January 2021

Dartford Warbler and Scaup

 Lade - dry and sunny, NW 2 - What a difference a day makes! Yesterday`s weather was a shocker, being cold and overcast with heavy rain and sleet showers throughout, in contrast to the warm sunshine of this morning and blue skies. Our daily perambulation around the local patch took us south along the beach to Kerton Road and back along the working gravel pit to Lade where the highlight was a Dartford Warbler and Stonechat in the triangle broom, but only a handful of Pochard, Shoveler and a Great Crested Grebe on the lake. En-route we bumped into one of the regular dog-walkers who spoke of an encounter he`d had with a Short-eared Owl flushed by his dog on the desert, "one day last week". 

                                  Oiled Red-throated Diver, Lade south

  Whilst out news came through from OL concerning a pair of probable Scaup (bins views only of sleeping birds) on north lake which were soon confirmed as three (two ducks and a drake) by JY and DS, and were most likely the Scotney birds. By the time I`d called in home and picked up my scope I arrived on site to find said Scaups in flight having been flushed by walkers on the airport side of the lake; DS, however, who was quicker off the mark than I managed some decent images (see below).  A Red-throated Diver on south lake was only my fourth in 15 years and like all the others before was oiled and preening furiously. At least six Goldeneyes were noted across both waters.

                                  3 Scaups, Lade north (by David Scott)

                                  Drake Scaup with Tufted Duck for comparison (by David Scott)

  Elsewhere this weekend we noted the long-staying Black-throated Diver on ARC yesterday, while our  monthly harrier roost count due to take place this afternoon on Walland Marsh was cancelled due to the current travel restrictions.

Friday, 15 January 2021

Flotsam and Jetsam

 Lade - cold, cloudy NE 2 - Following a miserable wet Thursday (27mm recorded at Littlestone by OL) today was at least dry with lighter winds, if still grey and overcast. However, this allowed a full circuit of the local patch and a thorough search of all the nooks and crannies for anything remotely new blown onto the lakes. Wildfowl were again few in number with three Goldeneyes on south and another two on north lake the only ducks of note (and still no Smew so far this winter), plus a large flock of around 1,000 roosting gulls that comprised mainly Common Gulls. A Goldcrest and Chiffchaff flitted through cover by the ponds and at least three Marsh Harriers worked the main reed bed by the wall `mirror`.

                                 Common Gull

                                  Beached bladder wrack and plastic

                                  Shingle extension along Greatstone beach
                                  Crows foraging through dead cockles

  Many more Common Gulls were loafing on the beach along with distant Black-backs, Curlews and Oystercatchers. Scores of crows picked through the thousands of washed up cockles along the strandline, along with four Ringed Plovers amongst a large patch of moored seaweed peppered with plastic refuse, and an usual sight on this sandy foreshore. Looking along the sand dunes from the Tavern viewpoint I was amazed by the extension of a finger of shingle which now covers about 200 yards in front of the dunes. Three years ago you could walk down onto the bay over sand without touching a pebble; such is the relentless march of the longshore drift process. 

Sunday, 10 January 2021

Winter bites

 Lade - cold and frosty, nw 2 - The coldest night of the winter so far as sub-zero temperatures delivered a spectacular hoar frost to the shingle vegetation hereabouts, fusing the pebbles together and making for slippery walking conditions on our daily circuit of the local patch. Visibility came and went  during the morning until a thick bank of freezing fog eventually rolled in from the hinterland obscuring the sun for the remainder of the day. 

                                  Jack Frost touched everything this morning

  Wildfowl continue to be low in number, along with the two species of grebes and Coot, while a maximum of five Goldeneyes were present across both waters. Buzzard, Sparrowhawk, Marsh Harrier, Grey Heron, Water Rail, Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers, Long-tailed Tit, Chiffchaff, Cetti`s Warbler and Reed Bunting were all noted across the weekend. Yesterday I went even further taking in the farmland north of Lade and out across the fields towards Romney Salts recording Golden Plover (50), Lapwing (100), Common Gull (120), Stock Dove (20), Curlew (40), Linnet (50), single figures of Pheasant, Skylark, Stonechat, Redwing, Song Thrush and Corn Bunting, plus several Buzzards and Kestrels. 

                                 Border Terriers are perfectly at home in the cold!

  On Friday morning, just before the Dungeness Estate was shut to visitors, a walk around Long Pits and the Trapping Area produced a Jack Snipe by the wigwams, Firecrest, Great Spotted Woodpecker and Long-tailed Tits in the bushes, plus a Buzzard on the Desert being mobbed by three crows. At least 800 Cormorants flew over heading to roost on Burrowes. As already stated, please note that the Estate is now closed to visitors until further notice for obvious reasons.

Wednesday, 6 January 2021

Lockdown 3

 Lade - cold, cloudy, wet, ne 2 - Well, here we go again as we enter lockdown number three which will more than likely be with us til mid-February at the earliest; this lockdown appears to be more akin to the first one implemented last March than the slacker one just gone. Either way it doesn`t make a great deal of difference to me as I stay mainly local anyways. 

                                Oystercatchers flying to roost this afternoon

  Walking out from the cottage this week in the cold and wet has not been a particularly pleasant experience and on more than one occasion we`ve had a right good old soaking. However, this afternoon there was a brief glimmer of brightness whilst we were on the beach, but for the most part it has been overcast with Mordor-like light conditions. The Lade wetlands have been quiet with no real change from my last post and apart from Oystercatcher (960) and Curlew (320) wader numbers on the bay have been few and far between.                                                                                                                                         There has been little change to the birds on the Dungeness RSPB reserve where from today onwards, until further notice, the car parks, trails and toilets will be open daily for local visitors from 10am - 4pm, while all hides and the visitor centre remain closed. As far as I`m aware access to the Estate is currently still open, although the situation is being reviewed. 

                                 Barney on the beach