Sunday, 16 January 2022

Grey Ghost

New Romney - mild, sunny, light airs - A walk out north of the town this morning along Hope Lane in warm sunshine produced a few birds for a change, most notably six Yellowhammers, four Moorhens, two singing Song Thrushes, two Common Buzzards, a Little Egret and a Green Woodpecker. Fifteen Pheasants and several rabbits attracted the attention of a fine dog fox.

                                 Little Egret, New Romney

Walland Marsh - An afternoon outing with CP for the monthly harrier roost count commenced with a tour of the lanes with a flock of 35 Bewick`s Swans in flooded fields at Dennes Lane and another five at Midley along with five Whooper Swans amongst 30 Mutes. At the drying barns a few passerines included eight Yellowhammers and three Tree Sparrows, but once again hardly any small birds noted. As dusk approached it was busy around the roost site with four each of Common Buzzard and Kestrel, plus 25 Marsh Harriers eventually dropping into the reedbed along with a fine adult male Hen Harrier. Water Rails, Snipe and Cetti`s Warbler also present and six roosting Great White Egrets.  


                                  Sunset over Walland Marsh

Saturday, 15 January 2022

A Breath of Fresh Air

Romney Salts - mild, cloudy, w 2 - After a day in London yesterday (Book of Morman - highly recommended!) a decent walk out from home was in order this morning to clear the airways. We set off down Church Lane in very pleasant winter weather conditions where the first of five different Common Buzzards was noted perched in a dead elm overlooking the ditch by the doctors surgery. There`s nearly always a few Moorhens puttering about in the muddy, litter-strewn margins, but not this morning, and its a fair bet that old buteo had either nabbed one or was still on the lookout for an easy meal. Further down the lane by the council dump the fenced off and flooded industrial development attracted a flock of around 100 gulls, mostly Common, Herring and Black-headed, plus a lone Mediterranean Gull and two Meadow Pipits feeding on a weedy hillock. On the Salts the fetid dung heap lured 15 Pied Wagtails to flying insects emerging from the gloop, while the adjacent rough ground held the regulation trio of Tree Sparrows, several Chaffinches, a pair of Stonechats and a few Blackbirds. Nearby stubble fields harboured a scattering of Skylarks, Meadow Pipits, Reed Buntings, corvids and two Snipes. At least 15 Corn Buntings sat atop a bare elder down the main track to Lade north.

                                  Meadow Pipit, Lade north

We then went through the wood to Dunes Road, where a single Fieldfare was about the only passerine noted, apart from a gang of 50 or more House Sparrows. Greatstone beach was mercifully quiet, and on a falling tide 285 Curlews and 155 Oystercatchers were counted alongside a few Turnstones, Bar-tailed Godwits, Grey Plovers and Redshanks. On the walk home a pair of soaring Buzzards over Romney Salts set the Jackdaws and Rooks into a lather. A tidy five mile walk then that produced of variety of birds and few people, just the job. The only thing missing was a canine companion...but not for much longer I hope!

Reported elsewhere across the Marsh today were 10 Ruffs, two Glossy Ibises and seven Cattle Egrets across Dengemarsh, a redhead Smew amongst the diving ducks on ARC, Bewick`s and Whooper Swans on Walland Marsh (RW, JY et al).   

Wednesday, 12 January 2022

Lapwings

Dungeness - warm, dry and sunny, N2 - Superb weather for a guided walk around the main trail on the bird reserve for eight guests. We spent some time checking the car park feeders and a gang of sparrows churuping away in the sallows enjoying the warm sunshine, just incase there were any Tree Sparrows in their midst, of which there were none. All the usual Cormorants, gulls and wildfowl were present on Burrowes including five Goldeneyes, a pair of Pintails and a Shelduck, plus a Chiffchaff in the bushes. Around the circuit we noted five each of Great White Egrets and Marsh Harriers, several Cetti`s Warblers in good voice, a perched Buzzard and two Snipe overhead from the Return Trail. The spectacle of the walk was provided by several thousand Lapwings, Greylags and Starlings swarming over the back fields at Dengemarsh. At least two Cattle Egrets were in the wet paddock along the Lydd Road early afternoon.

                                 Lapwing, Hayfields

Sunday, 9 January 2022

Goldeneyes

 Dungeness - warm, dry and sunny, W2 - After the deluge of yesterday it was good to get out and about around the peninsula on what was a fine winter`s day, and warm too after the overnight frost had dispersed. The sunshine certainly encouraged plenty of birders into the field, and it was good to catch up with some old friends I`ve not seen for a while and have a natter. I started at Lade with five Goldeneyes (my first of the winter there) on south lake along with the usual array of Teal, Shoveler, Gadwall and diving ducks, plus Marsh Harrier, Little Egret, Cetti`s Warbler, Chiffchaff and Green Woodpecker. Moving onto Dungeness where hundreds of Gannets were feeding offshore along with the customary auks, Red-throated Divers, Kittiwakes and rafts of Cormorants. At the Patch I just missed the Iceland Gull amongst the gull melee over the boil and along the foreshore, but did connect with two Black Redstarts, Grey Wagtail, Meadow Pipit and Chaffinch in the power station complex. 

                                 Goldeneye, Lade

There was little of note on a busy bird reserve apart from 10 Goldeneyes across ARC and Burrowes, two Pintails on Burrowes, several Marsh Harriers, two Great White Egrets and thousands of Cormorants on both waters. At least five more vocal Chiffchaffs were present and a `pinging` Bearded Tit from the Screen hide, although I could find no sign of the redhead Smew from yesterday. Elsewhere: 23 Bewick`s Swans at the back of Lydd, four Cattle Egrets along the Lydd Road near Cockles Bridge and 180 Curlews on Romney Salts. I finished the day at the fishing boats with a one hour seawatch where more of the aforementioned seabirds from earlier were noted, plus three Wigeon up-Channel and a Grey Seal offshore. All in all, a most enjoyable day`s birding.

Friday, 7 January 2022

Winter Gulls

Dungeness - cold, dry, sunny, w 5 - It was a nippy walk along to the Patch where I joined MC and DW in the hide scanning through hundreds of gulls on the sea and along the foreshore. The 2nd winter Iceland Gull was hunkered down on the beach towards Penn Bars amongst a flock of gulls and Cormorants and only offered up a rear view, while a couple of Caspian Gulls were far more obliging in front of the hide. A Black Redstart was briefly noted in the A station complex.

                                  1st winter Caspian Gull, Dungeness

On the bird reserve viewing was difficult due to the lack of shelter from the strong wind. Hundreds of Cormorants dominated the few remaining islands on Burrowes where four Goldeneyes were the only ducks of note. Elsewhere, the usual Great White and Cattle Egrets, Marsh Harriers and a Glossy Ibis present. 

Wednesday, 5 January 2022

Winter wildfowl

Cold, dry and sunny, wnw 3 - In contrast to the warmth of NYD a northerly airflow moved in yesterday making it feel much more like winter with a frost last night and welcome sunshine today. This afternoon  a drive across Walland Marsh yielded few passerines but several large flocks of Common and Black-headed Gulls, corvids and Woodpigeons. Just as I was about to give up a herd of 21 Bewick`s and two Whooper Swans in a wet field at the junction of Dennes and Caldecote Lanes saved the day. The usual six Cattle Egrets were in the paddock along Lydd Road while one of the `resident` Glossy Ibises flew over Cook`s Pool. Burrowes was largely uninspiring until dusk when a large flock of grey geese noisily flew in from Dengemarsh containing at least 20 White-fronts amongst a multitude of Greylags, and quite the spectacle it was too in the dying embers of the day.

                                 Winter swans, Walland Marsh

                                 Grey geese over Burrowes

Otherwise this week I`ve been mostly trudging the farmland wastes around New Romney seeing not-very-much birdlife. Three Tree Sparrows, a few Skylarks and a Mediterranean Gull was the best I could muster around the Church Lane dung heap on Monday, plus Green Woodpecker, eight Moorhens and a Grey Wagtail by the surgery field and ditch. Long-tailed Tits on the garden feeders and a pair of Raven over `cronking` loudly were noteworthy this morning.

Saturday, 1 January 2022

New Years Day

Weather - Dry, mild, sunny morning, cloudy afternoon, SW 3 - Joined up with Chris P and Phil L for our traditional NYD jaunt around the Marsh in fine, spring-like weather conditions; infact it was so warm today that not only were no hats and coats required but we also saw two small bats active in the woods amidst a myriad of flying insects. However, a Barn Owl on the Marsh was a good start en-route to Park Wood where a host of woodland regulars were noted including Tawny Owls, Buzzard, Sparrowhawk, Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers, Jay, Treecreeper, Coal Tit, Nuthatch and Goldcrest, set amongst a stunning blood-red sunrise. Nearby farmland and the RM Canal delivered the likes of Redwing, Fieldfare, Kingfisher, Stonechat, Yellowhammer, Reed Bunting and Bullfinch, but only small numbers of each and very little elsewhere across the farmland wastes.

                                  Sunrise over Park Wood


                                  Kittiwake and Guillemot, Dungeness

Back on the coast at Scotney and birds flew onto the list: thousands of Golden Plovers, Lapwings and Wigeons, plus 18 Ruffs, Redshank, Green Sandpiper, Little Owl and eight Corn Buntings to name but a few. Onto Lade bay from the Tavern viewpoint and despite hoards of people and dogs on the beach we rattled up the expected waders including Knot, Grey Plover, Sanderling, Black and Bar-tailed Godwits and Mediterranean Gull. News from Lade south told of (thanks Dave S) a flock of 10 Goosanders which we just got before they flew off north. A seawatch from a busy Dungeness duly delivered a feeding flock of mostly Gannets, auks, gulls, Cormorants and Red-throated Divers just offshore from the fishing boats, plus Brent Goose, Kittiwakes and our 100th species for the day, a Bonxie down-Channel. We finished off on the bird reserve with Goldeneye, Cattle Egrets, Pintails and a Peregrine, but no sign of the Smew seen earlier. However, it was a thoroughly enjoyable day`s birding in superb weather and fine company, and many thanks to Chris for driving the 76 miles across the Marsh. The final tally was a respectable 104 species of birds.