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.