Thursday, 30 March 2023

Hirundines

Cloudy, mild, SW 4 - Looking at the weather forecast for Friday (gale force westerly and lashing rain) I thought it best to get out and about this morning. At Lade I had my first hirundines of spring comprising eight Sand Martins and two Swallows high over the willow swamp. Several Chiffchaffs and Cetti`s Warblers were in fine voice while a female Marsh Harrier circled over the main reedbed. Most of the wildfowl were taking shelter from the blustery wind over the far side of south lake where at least 120 Shovelers were present along with a pair of Goldeneye. With the wind picking up Dungeness yielded very little apart from a Peregrine atop A station and a singing Black Redstart lower down, plus a Firecrest and Chiffchaff in a private garden.

                                      Black Redstart, Dungeness

Around New Romney these past couple of days there has been a noticeable increase in Mediterranean and Black-headed Gull activity overhead, as is typical at this time of year. Several singing Chiffchaffs have been heard in town gardens hereabouts, as well as Mistle Thrush, Goldfinches and Green Woodpecker in the park. One clear night earlier in the week whilst attempting to see the recent alignment of planets a steady trickle of Redwings could be heard passing overhead.

Monday, 27 March 2023

Common Scoters

Warm, dry and sunny, N2 - In contrast to the past week of wet and windy weather conditions, today offered some respite once the overnight frost had dissolved. By late morning the warm sunshine issued forth a host of flying insects, including bumble bees and a Peacock butterfly in the garden. An afternoon visit to ARC and Tower Pits, while pleasant enough yielded very little apart from several singing Chiffchaffs in the sallows, reed-bed `sharming` Water Rails, displaying Great Crested Grebes on the lake and soaring Marsh Harriers and Common Buzzards in the blue skies over the shingle towards the airport. The Boulderwall fields held a few Curlews amongst the usual wildfowl, Cormorants, gulls and Lapwings. Elsewhere around the peninsula today Willow and Sedge Warblers were reported on the reserve, plus the first Yellow Wagtail of spring, with Black Redstart, Wheatear, Willow Warbler and Firecrest at the point.

                                    Chiffchaff, ARC

More Chiffchaffs were in song at Lade ponds along with further views of soaring raptors from the bridge. South lake was packed out with wildfowl, mostly Coots, Great Crested Grebes, Shovelers, Teal and Gadwall while the icing on the cake went to a pair of Common Scoters; my only other record here was also of a pair in spring about ten years ago.

Wednesday, 22 March 2023

Wheatear

Rain, low cloud and mist SW 5 - A shocking day of weather for guiding with Clare and Peter; the only saving grace being that it was mild. We started with a seawatch from the hide that yielded a big sea running in from the Atlantic but precious little in the way of seabirds apart from two parties of Brent Geese, a Common Scoter, a Merganser and several Gannets. On the land a couple of displaying Meadow Pipits and a calling Firecrest was about it by West Beach, plus a Skylark and a male Wheatear opposite Jarman`s. Around the bird reserve it was a case of eyes-to-the-skies checking for an Alpine Swift reported earlier over ARC, but to no avail. A few Goldeneyes were noted on Burrowes and ARC, a singing Chiffchaff from the boardwalk, several Curlews on the Boulderwall fields but little else in the appalling weather conditions. During the afternoon we had a run down to Camber for the long-staying drake Scaup which is now in full breeding plumage. We finished the day back at Littlestone checking for shorebirds in the murk... 


                                 Wheatear, Dungeness

                                  Pochard, ARC

Monday, 20 March 2023

Harriers

Sunday - Walland Marsh - cloudy, mild, W3 - Together with CP the final harrier count of winter was carried out in fine, spring-like weather conditions with 13 birds coming to roost, a decent result considering the adults are starting to disperse to their breeding sites about now. Bird of the afternoon however was a superb Short-eared Owl which we watched for over half an hour quartering the reedbed and ditches. Also noted in the general area singles of Barn Owl, Peregrine, Common Buzzard, Kestrel, Snipe and a distant flock of Golden Plovers. Small birds were few and far between as usual with several singing Reed Buntings, a Skylark and a couple of Cetti`s Warblers calling from the reed bed, where Toads and Water Rails were also in good voice.


I had cracking views of a Red Kite over the garden in NR in the morning being bullied by Herring Gulls, which was later seen by Chris from St-Mary-in-the-Marsh, who also noted six Common Buzzards and a Marsh Harrier soaring over the town.  

Wednesday, 15 March 2023

Reed Buntings

Dungeness - cold, sunny, light airs - A superb morning for my monthly guided walk around the RSPB circular route for eight guests. Reed Buntings had returned from their winter sojourns and were in fine voice singing from atop willows and reedbed scrub alongside Cetti`s Warblers, a sure sign that spring is well underway. Other evidence of the changing seasons came in the form of a `booming` Bittern, which made a brief flight across Hookers reedbed; sky-dancing Marsh Harriers of which we noted at least six different birds; and Lapwings displaying over Dengemarsh and the hayfields. Duck numbers have started to decline on the lakes, although at least five Goldeneyes remained on Burrowes. Other notables during the morning included Peregrine, Raven, five Ruff, a Brown Hare and a white Stoat around the car park.

                                   Reed Bunting, Dengemarsh

On the way home I called in at the estate where a single Wheatear (reported earlier by OL) was still present on the beach opposite Jarman`s along with several Meadow Pipits, Pied Wagtails, Skylarks and a Stock Dove. A quick look at the sands from the Tavern yielded the usual wintering bay waders.  

Sunday, 12 March 2023

Singing Chiffchaff

Romney Salts - mild, sunny, SW 3 - Spent the morning birding the Salts where I heard my first two Chiffchaffs of spring singing from the spinney, along with a Blackcap - spring is at last on the way. Also noted in the trees: Kestrel, Mistle and Song Thrushes, Green Woodpecker and Stock Dove. The arable lands towards Lade north and on to Belgar Farm yielded few birds in the blustery wind with a pair of Corn Buntings by the dung heap the undoubted highlight, plus a flock of 50 Linnets, 10 Goldfinches, 10 Skylarks and two Buzzards. The Dengemarsh sewer attracted two Grey Herons, several Corn Buntings, two Moorhens and a pair of Stonechats. 

                                   Corn Bunting 

Since my last post there has been little change on the bird reserve, while the wild swans have finally departed from Walland Marsh. The only other news concerned a 1st winter Iceland Gull this morning heading west past Dungeness (OL).

Monday, 6 March 2023

Red Kite

 Cold, cloudy, W 4 - Had a run out to Dungeness this afternoon where nothing much had changed since my last visit. The mixed flock of Cattle and Little Egrets were still camped in the paddock at Cockles Bridge, along with the ubiquitous Buzzard sat on a fence post keeping a close watch. Across a windswept bird reserve all the usual wildfowl and Marsh Harriers were noted. A cursory look at the sea from the fishing boats produced a few Guillemots and Great Crested Grebes close in, plus two Harbour Porpoises and a Grey Seal, while a trickle of Gannets and Red-throated Divers passed well offshore. Bird of the afternoon whilst checking the waders at the Tavern viewpoint went to a cracking brown Merlin that barrelled in over the bay chasing a Starling.

                                    Stock dove, Dungeness

Over the weekend the only noteworthy was a Red Kite, my first of the season, high over NR trying to evade the Herring Gulls.