Lade - warm, dry, sunny, light airs - Another humid night that delivered good numbers of common moths in the garden trap, plus the first Box-tree Moth of summer, another battered Sussex Emerald and, new for the trap site, a male Gypsy Moth. On the bay this morning on the incoming tide a notable count of 260 Curlews and 40 Dunlins, followed by the monthly WeBS count on the lakes where Pochard topped out at 210 birds and Great Crested Grebe 28. This evening 15 Mediterranean Gulls and six Sandwich Terns on the sands amongst the usual gulls and waders.
Saturday, 24 July 2021
Lade - warm, overcast, light airs - A Friday morning tour of the bird reserve in blustery weather conditions served up very little on the passage wader front apart from a Greenshank on the hayfields and a Common Sandpiper on a gull-infested Burrowes. Around Dengemarsh the juvenile Marsh Harriers were still faring well where also three Great White Egrets noted. From Springfield bridge juv Yellow Wagtails and Corn Buntings were being fed by adults in the set aside field while Raven and Buzzard passed overhead. Several pulses of Sand Martins pushed on south.
The recent mini heat wave came to a spectacular crescendo around daybreak today with an almighty thunder and lightening show lighting up the bay and shaking the cottage at times; no surprise then that Dave B recorded 40mm in his rain gauge at Dungeness this morning. However, down here on the shingle by midday you wouldn`t have known it had rained so efficient is the drainage. Most of the bird action today was on the bay with 30 Dunlins, 10 Sanderlings and the first five Red Knots of autumn counted on the incoming tide, plus the usual Curlews, Oystercatchers and Sandwich Terns. This afternoon on a falling tide I could find no sign of the salt water sandpipers; presumably they had moved on to avoid the holidaymakers who were out in force in the hot sunshine, many of them doing their level best to stretch NHS resources even further with self inflicted third degree sunburn. Amongst the horror show of humanity a couple of Sandwich Terns allowed a close approach for a few piccies with the old Box Brownie.
Herring Gulls - En-route to see family in Folkestone yesterday afternoon (along the coastal route with Pat driving) I made a half-hearted attempt at counting nesting Herring Gulls atop various buildings along the way. This time of year as they are just about to fledge the brown, short-tailed youngsters are obvious and during the 30 minute journey I tallied 18 such families. Bearing in mind how low down I was in a moving car I must`ve missed many more; an un-scientific survey then I know, but the HG is a very common urban breeding bird along this section of the coast and elsewhere around southern England I suspect.
It may come as something of a surprise then to some of you that the HG is Red Listed (the highest priority) on the RSPB website as a `Bird of Conservation Concern` alongside other seabirds such as Roseate Tern, Kittiwake and Arctic Skua, all three of whom certainly warrant such a status - in contrast to Leache`s Petrel which is only Amber Listed! The listing process is carried out by a governmental organisation known as the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (re: www.jncc.gov.uk), which is where RSPB and other such organisations draw their information in which to plan future conservation work. Anyhow, in a moment of madness I drilled down into the aforementioned website paying particular attention to their survey methodology. It would seem that the main reason why the HG is afforded such a lofty status is due to a bias of surveying natural colonies (where they have declined) with little or no allowance afforded to surveying the urban population (where they have increased in number); "Dover, Folkestone and Cheriton" were actually named in the text as not having been included in the survey. So, Larus argentatus is here to stay, having shifted from cliff-top to roof-top, as well as gravel pit islands across Dungeness. As a result I can see no future for terns at Dungeness RSPB, if the gulls cannot be deterred from island nest sites. The only hope is pull the tern rafts in at the end of the breeding season, cover them over through the winter months and bring them out again in late May. By then the gulls will already be well into their breeding cycle on the islands, giving arriving Common Terns half a chance at establishing a colony large enough to deter any roving gulls. Rant over!
Wednesday, 21 July 2021
Lade - hot, dry and sunny, E2 - The heat wave continues, and with it very little of note on the bird front over the lakes, but quite a few new moths for the year in the garden trap, including two that I don`t get very often: Small Emerald and Bordered Beauty; also last night 10 Least Carpets and two Sussex Emeralds among 32 species of macro.
On the bay a few more Dunlins are starting to trickle through with 30 yesterday, plus 20 Sandwich Terns and, amongst the numerous Black-headed Gulls, five Mediterranean and an adult Little Gull in moult, a fairly typical post-breeding dispersal record for this time of year. On a sadder note, hundreds more boat people have pitched up on the beach these past few days between here and Dungeness; makes you realise just how fortunate most of us are living in a first world country.
Sunday, 18 July 2021
Lade - warm, dry and sunny, light airs - The sea breeze of yesterday suddenly dropped overnight allowing a decent enough catch of moths in the garden trap comprising 24 species of macros but nothing unusual. Whilst emptying the trap a flyover Grey Plover called from the bay. Sitting in the garden at 0600hrs delivered a juvenile Willow Warbler and Common Whitethroat (having probably dropped in overnight) busily snapping up insects around the pond; I often wonder what I must miss passing through our garden early on... Despite the dire warnings about water pollution I had my first very enjoyable sea swim of summer this afternoon on what was the hottest day of the year so far at 26 C - and lived to tell the tale!
After breakfast I checked out Scotney pits in the increasing heat haze. The front pits held all the waders: four Common Sandpipers, Greenshank, Redshank and Green Sandpiper around the margins, plus 20 Lapwings, 10 Curlews, five Oystercatchers and two Whimbrels on the sheep folds amongst scores of gulls and feral geese. Outback thousands of Starlings and Black-headed Gulls hawked flying insects over the fields, where the rape-seed and barley harvest had already begun in the searing heat. Kestrel, Common Buzzard, Yellow Wagtails, Skylarks, Little Egrets and Corn Bunting all noted, plus a pulse of 50 Sand Martins south. I called in at Springfield Bridge on the way home and spent an hour watching the Marsh Harrier family over Dengemarsh. The adult male (the one with a pale rump) was easily the most efficient hunter bringing a prey item in roughly every ten minutes (probably marsh frogs), while I only saw the adult female make one delivery. As the three juveniles are well advanced the adults are eagerly greeted by grasping talons as soon as they approach the throng. More Yellow Wagtails and Corn Buntings were present in the set aside field and a party of 30 Sand Martins hurried out to sea.
The End of the Line Restaurant, Dungeness
Saturday morning we went for a stroll around the peninsula with friends and afterwards decided to breakfast in the End of the Line Restaurant at Dungeness. Oh dear, what a big mistake. A surly member of staff informed us that a cooked breakfast was unavailable despite being widely advertised on the menu. "How about some toast then, or maybe a bacon bap?", we optimistically suggested. Nope, none of them either; infact nothing that had to be cooked or anything vegetarian/vegan, apart from a small pot of over-priced strawberries. Anyhow, we opted for something that vaguely resembled a breakfast; so, said fruit, four hot drinks (dispensed in cardboard, disposable cups), a couple of dry, pre-packed sandwiches and an inedible sausage roll, all for the princely sum of £24, of which Barney had the sausages, and the birds the bread. As someone who works locally in the hospitality business I was ashamed and embarrassed for visitors from afar having to put up with this kind of rubbish service at what is, after all, a tourist hot-spot, and I have e-mailed RH&D Railway accordingly. I also checked Tripadvisor just to see whether or not our experience was a one-off; sadly it was not, there were many shocking reviews and I shall be adding this one to them. My advice to any visiting birders seeking a full English is to drive to the Oasis cafe at Old Romney where you are assured a warm welcome and a fine value-for-money breakfast.
Friday, 16 July 2021
Lade - warm, dry and sunny, NE 4 - Once the early cloud lifted it turned into a fine summers day with temperatures pegged back to a comfortable late teens centigrade courtesy of a fresh breeze off the bay. A tour of the local patch was notable for our first returning Willow Warbler by the ponds, six Little Egrets across both waters and confirmed breeding of Green Woodpecker with an adult feeding at least two juveniles on the causeway track. Peak wildfowl counts included 205 Pochards and 42 Great Crested Grebes.
A circuit of the bird reserve delivered very little of note apart from the confirmation of a successfully fledged brood of three Marsh Harriers from a nest site at Dengemarsh. At one stage all three youngsters were perched on fence posts when the adult male flew in and food passed to the female overhead; cue mayhem, with the juveniles flying around the adults until one of them managed to grab and consume the prey item. Two Great White Egrets and two juvenile Bearded Tits were also seen from the viewing ramp at Hookers. One other item worthy of mention from the ramp is the extraordinary song of a Sedge Warbler that has been singing regularly from the willow thicket to the left as you walk up the slope. When compared to nearby `normal` Sedges this particular individual has a louder more varied song with the grating `chrirrr` note greatly extended; I guess it must be the Alpha male of Sedge Warblers!
Thursday, 15 July 2021
Lade - warm, dry and sunny, N 2 - At last the return of summer with a high pressure system moving in from the Azores delivering settled weather and welcome sunshine after a dreary first half of July. So far on the local patch butterfly transects along the old railway line track have been disappointing but I`ve got high hopes of a decent count over the weekend; already this morning a few Marbled Whites were on the wing. One benefit of the recent high rainfall though has mean`t that the wild flowers and grasses on the shingle ridges are in terrific condition with great swathes of floral colour everywhere. Two Whimbrels were heard today, one over Lade with the Curlews and another over St Mary`s Bay. Like most locals I spent a fair bit of time regularly scanning the skies this morning as a Black Stork reported flying over Dover and Folkestone may have been heading our way.
On the bay gull numbers continue to be attracted to the gloopy mud at slack water and yesterday 10 Sandwich Terns dropped in; quite an event as they`ve been few in number this year, while at high tide fishing Grey Seals are still present. I was considering having my first sea swim of summer over the coming days, but after learning of the outrageous performance of Southern Water dumping tons of untreated sewerage into the rivers and sea along the Kent coastline I may well reconsider...
On a brighter note my trusty birding companion Barney is 15 years old today! You may not see him out and about as often as in the past but he always accompanies us on our daily two mile tour of Lade pits.
Tuesday, 13 July 2021
Lade - warm, dry and sunny, NE 2 - A humid night with rain at times did not deter a respectable 30 species of macro moths coming to light in the garden trap. Highlights were: two male Sussex Emeralds, two Swallow-tailed Moths, 10 Buff-tips, a Privet Hawk-moth and the localised micro-moths, Cynaeda dentalis and Ethmia bipunctella. Five Silver Ys were also present in the trap, but outback on the shingle ridges this morning `hundreds` more fluttered around in the long grass amongst a host of Marbled Whites, Meadow Browns and skippers.
On south lake two Little Egrets were a sure sign of the changing seasons, as was a flock of 18 Ringed Plovers and five Dunlins on the bay this afternoon at slack water, plus hundreds of Black-headed Gulls. A Hobby made a couple of passes over the cottage, while an Emperor dragonfly paid a visit to the garden pond.
Another check of the beach this evening delivered a few more juvenile Black-headed Gulls amongst the adults, plus eight adult/sub adult Mediterranean Gulls (just beginning to moult) close to shore that also seemed to be feeding on small marines crustaceans. Smart birds, as usual, and one individual (depicted above) sporting an exceptionally large bill.