Wednesday 19 June 2024

Blue is the Colour

Warm, dry and sunny, NE 3 - A superb summers day with the warmth tempered by a fresh airflow coming off the North Sea. The wet spring and early June combined with the recent sunshine has resulted in a kaleidoscope of botanical colours across the shingle ridges. As the yellows and reds of broom and foxglove respectively fade, the blues of scabious and bugloss dominate the colour palate; particularly Viper`s Bugloss, an important source of nectar for bees and a wide variety of other invertebrates including moth caterpillars. At Lade yesterday great swathes of the flower were alive with insects, and again today on a walk out to the Oppen Pits behind Burrowes, where also countless damselflies were on the wing in the sun trap between the two lakes along with numerous grassland butterflies such as Common Blue, Small Heath, Small Skipper and Meadow Brown. Birdwise this can be a quiet time of year as the solstice approaches and migration takes a pause, although the breeding passerines will be onto their second clutches by now. The deep water of New Diggings was devoid of birds in contrast to Burrowes which held hundreds of moulting diving ducks, gulls, Cormorants and grebes, while it was good to see several Sand Martins exploring the wall by the visitor centre. 


                                 Viper`s Bugloss

                                  Ted cooling off

 
                                  Common Blue Damselfly

                                 Common Blue

Monday 17 June 2024

Nightjar

New Romney - warm, dry and sunny, SW3 - At long last a decent summers day for our farmland Ted walk out back to the north of town. This spring there has been a noticeable decrease in Reed Warblers breeding in the reed-fringed drainage ditches and sewers hereabouts with only three singers noted this morning compared to five times that number last year across the same circular walk. Reed Buntings and Common Whitethroats are also down in numbers, while butterfly sightings comprised just two Red Admirals and four Holly Blues during the two hour walk, a pathetic return. On the plus side there was at least 12 Swallows around the horse paddocks and two singing Yellowhammers along Hope Lane, plus several House Martins collecting mud from a pond and a Yellow Wagtail over calling. Last nights garden moth trap included both elephant hawk-moths and a Peppered Moth from only eight species of macros.

                                 Holly Blue, Hope Lane

                                 Ted on the turf in summer plumage

This evening I had a run out to Challock with Chris P searching for Nightjars where we heard only one individual `churring` close to the car park. However, a pair of Tree Pipits were noted elsewhere in the woodland, plus Jay, Common Buzzard, Goldcrest, Great Spotted Woodpecker and several bats. 

                                 Kings Wood, Challock

                                 Tree Pipit

                                 Wood Ant`s Nest



                                 Pyramidal Orchids

Over the weekend the weather was dominated by strong to near gale force winds, particularly on Saturday, rendering any hope of birding or mothing a waste of time. Yesterday, at Pirate Springs, the Pyramidal Orchids along the sheltered sea-wall bank were in full flower with hundreds, if not thousands, of blooms scattered over a 200 metre stretch, but I couldn`t find any Bee Orchids where last year there was half a dozen or more.

Friday 14 June 2024

Manx Shearwaters

Cool, cloudy, SW5 - I under estimated the wind strength this morning for our walk out across the Army range causeway near the end of Galloways. However, breeding passerines seen included variable numbers of Skylark, Meadow Pipit, Stonechat, Linnet, Reed Bunting, Cetti`s Warbler, Common Whitethroat and a Corn Bunting, plus a Sparrowhawk and a light movement of Swifts along the coast. A scan from the block house produced a few Shelducks and Avocets, a pair of Ringed Plovers with young on the shingle and a distant Marsh Harrier, while on the walk back we flushed a Short-eared Owl from cover that promptly went to ground again. Moving onto Dungeness where the early morning seawatchers had reported a westward passage of over 100 Manx Shearwaters from the hide, and where an hour (1000-1100hrs) produced 12 more, mostly distant apart from five that clipped the buoy. The Patch was operating and had attracted about 200 Black-headed Gulls to feed over the boil.

                                  Galloways

Elsewhere this week a guided walk around the bird reserve circular trail for two guests produced the usual suspects including 10 Hobbies, four Avocets and singles of Great White and Cattle Egrets. Several Common Terns looked as though they might try to nest on Burrowes where at least 200 post breeding Pochards and Tufted Ducks were present, and a Norfolk Hawker dragonfly was noted along the track to Scott lookout. Around New Romney a few House Martins were actively nest-building on the Pearmain estate and a Cuckoo was seen on two occasions along Hope Lane. Despite the cool evenings we`ve had plenty of bat activity over the garden, Hedgehogs foraging in the borders and a Delicate and an Archers Dart in the moth trap on Tuesday night, the highlight of continuing low numbers; whilst on that theme, butterflies also appear to be in short supply just about everywhere.

                                  Hobby by the bee-hives

                                 Pochards and Tufted Ducks, Burrowes

                                 Common Tern, Burrowes

Tuesday 11 June 2024

Rye Harbour NR

Rye Harbour NR - cool, sunny, NW 3 - The northerly airflow from the Arctic region continues to flood cool air across the country, which is fine by me as I`m not a lover of the hot stuff; making a heady 14 Centigrade perfect for a circuit of the Beach Reserve. We started at the Nook Road end where it was good to see a few House Martins nesting in the housing estate at Oyster Creek. Further along the track a Cuckoo was in good voice, along with Common and Lesser Whitethroats, a Blackcap, a Cetti`s Warbler, several Linnets and a Greenfinch. From the back-to-back hides there was much to see and plenty of seabird activity, mainly from the breeding Black-headed Gulls and Common Terns feeding their young and squabbling amongst one another. Further out on Flat Beach several Little Terns were coming and going, while a mixed flock of 15 Sandwich Terns and Mediterranean Gulls were the only ones we saw all morning. Avocets and Oystercatchers were seen with young, plus Redshank and Ringed Plover also suggesting they had chicks nearby. Also noted across the Beach Reserve: two little Egrets, two Kestrels, four Shelducks, 10 Tufted Ducks, 30 Cormorants, 10 Skylarks and a Meadow Pipit, but no sign of any Wheatears. Fair play to the staff here as all four hides remain intact with superb, up-to-date display boards within; it was also a pleasure to sit down in comfort and enjoy the action, and they`re dog-friendly. So, a cracking morning`s birding rounded off by a brew from the cafe and a sausage roll for Ted, which he wolfed down in one!


                                 Common Terns


                                 Juvenile Black-headed Gulls


                                 Avocet and Oystercatcher with chicks

                                  Redshank

                                  Mallard with ducklings


                                 Juvenile Skylark

    Ted, Rye Harbour NR

Sunday 9 June 2024

Green Sandpiper

Warm, dry and sunny, light airs - With light winds and warm sunshine it was a superb morning for a circuit of Scotney where all the usual farmland birds were noted, although Corn Buntings were particularly thin on the ground. The wetlands held plenty of Shelducks and Avocets, some with well-grown juveniles, while small numbers of Teals, Pochards, Gadwalls and Mallards were already going into eclipse. My first Green Sandpiper of the return passage on the sand pit `officially` heralded the start of autumn! The front lakes were very quiet with only a handful of feral geese and immature gulls noted. 

                                   Garganey, Hayfield 2

Yesterday we spent most of the morning on the bird reserve where the Dengemarsh hayfields attracted four Avocets, six Teals, 20 Little Egrets, two Redshanks, a Shoveler and a drake Garganey. At least three Bitterns `boomed`, including one on ARC and it was good to see and hear several Cuckoos across the site. Otherwise it was just the usual warblers, raptors and several Common Terns.

Friday 7 June 2024

Lapwings

Warm, dry and sunny, W2 - A cracking morning for a circular walk around Dengemarsh where the highlight was a pair of Oystercatchers with three sturdy looking juveniles and three female Lapwings, one also with three chicks, in a stony field at the back of the bird reserve. Hayfield 2 held six Avocets, five Cattle Egrets, four Shelducks, a pair of Teal and a drake Garganey. At least 15 Little Egrets were noted around the wetlands, plus `booming` Bittern, several Marsh Harriers and Common Buzzards, two Hobbies, Common Tern, Bearded Tits and the usual suite of warblers. In the sheltered spots scores of Black-tailed Skimmers were on the wing.

                                   Black-tailed Skimmer, Dengemarsh

Kerton Road quarry also produced Lapwing and Oystercatcher with chicks along with two Redshanks, a Curlew, a host of feral geese with goslings, four Great Crested Grebes and 30 Tufted Ducks.

Wednesday 5 June 2024

Orchids

Lade - warm, dry and sunny, SW2 - June is orchid month here at Lade where we have four species: Common Spotted and Southern Marsh Orchids on the damp ground around the willow swamp plus Pyramidal and Bee Orchid on the dry shingle ridges, where this morning I managed to locate 11 spikes of gorgeous Bee Orchids, which was slightly up on last year. Last months rain and now the summer sunshine has resulted in a riot of botanical colour and scent across the site, but yet again grassland butterflies were few in number along my transect; hopefully this will improve as the month progresses. 


                                  Pyramidal Orchids, Littlestone

                                 Bee Orchid, Lade

Yesterday our Ted walk took us back to Pirate Springs in front of the golf links at Littlestone where the orchids had shot up since our last visit. I started counting Pyramidal Orchids and got to 250 before I gave up - there must`ve been hundreds more spread along the bank by the sea wall. Also of note was a singing Corn Bunting on the fairways, while on the sea a trickle of Sandwich Terns headed towards Dungeness. The garden moth trap improved slightly on Monday night with 12 species of macros including several Green Pugs and an Eyed Hawk-moth, the first of the season.  

                                 Eyed Hawk-moth

                                 Ted at Lade