Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Ringed Plovers

Dungeness - cold, sunny, N 5 - Another bitter cold day throughout, although the sun broke through during the afternoon making it feel a little more spring-like. A wander around the Kerton Road triangle and down to the pits delivered a Sparrowhawk that flushed a Dartford Warbler from cover, plus Stonechat, Meadow Pipit and Skylark.
  By the lifeboat station at least two Wheatears popped up briefly on old winches before hunkering down out of the wind amongst the broom, while a Black Redstart was foraging in the garden of one of the cottages opposite. Down at the Patch the regular Glaucous Gull was present amongst the gulls on the beach and a Little Gull over the boil.
Scotney - To and from Rye a pit stop along the road produced a flock of 21 Ringed Plovers on the flooded field and the usual Barnacle Geese by the double bend. At East Guldeford two Ruff were within a large mixed flock of Golden Plovers and Lapwings.

Monday, 19 March 2018

Bluethroat gully

Lade - cold, cloudy, snow flurries, NE 6 - Another nippy day with a rasping easterly wind off the sea forcing the ducks on south lake to seek shelter behind islands and around the willow swamp. The Goldeneyes were still present, as was a single Black-necked Grebe. I couldn't find the Long-tailed Ducks, but they were probably lurking in the far reed bed somewhere.

Dengemarsh Gully


                                Immature male White-spotted Bluethroat

Dengemarsh Gully - A visit to the gully late morning delivered further views of the Bluethroats. The adult male was more retiring feeding along the sewer margin and pulling worms before hopping back into cover. In contrast the immature bird was more obliging performing out in the open at the end of the gully by the concrete blocks, where at one stage a male Wheatear flew in and flushed it.
  Plenty of Firecrests, and at least one Goldcrest, were active in the gorse scrub.

Sunday, 18 March 2018

Bluethroats and Harriers!

Spent a snowy weekend in Dunstable during which time we checked out Willen Lake in Milton Keynes for a forthcoming article. Much has changed since my last visit about fifteen years ago and it now has established patches of woodland and trees bordering north lake. There is also a viewing hide in place overlooking the island. All the usual winter wildfowl were present including Goldeneye and Goosander. Red Kites and Common Buzzards were noted just about everywhere we went this weekend, particularly along the downs at Dunstable.
Lade - Arrived home early afternoon to a cold easterly wind and snow flurries just in time to do the monthly WeBS count where two Long-tailed Ducks and Black-necked Grebe were the highlights.
Dengemarsh Gully - En-route to Walland, together with CP, we called in at the gully where a male White-spotted Bluethroat had been located earlier in the day. With a biting east wind blowing across the gully the bird was sensibly feeding deep within the sewer along the muddy margins and showed quite well despite the gloomy weather conditions. Whilst watching it from the sluice, pottering about feeding amongst sprouting rushes, we were surprised to see another male Bluethroat fly out from the bank and attack it, after which it then disappeared into the gorse near a couple of Firecrests! Bluethroats are rare enough here in the spring and in my time there have only been two previous records, so to see two together is quite unusual.

                               White-spotted Bluethroat, Dengemarsh Gully

Walland Marsh - We then moved onto the Marsh to carry out the final harrier count of the winter at our usual spot. Eventually, 19 Marsh Harriers came to roost at three different locations in the reed bed, all of which were females; two males did fly over the site but roosted elsewhere. Also noted hereabouts, three Buzzards, several Snipes and Reed Buntings, 20 Fieldfares, a Sparrowhawk and 25 Corn Buntings to roost.

Thursday, 15 March 2018

Eiders and Black-necked Grebe

Dungeness - mild, cloudy, SE 2 - 0915-1015hrs - An hour long seawatch from the hide proved most productive with a trickle of Red-throated Divers, Common Scoters, Sandwich Terns and Gannets up-Channel, plus a flock of 75 Brents, 12 Shelducks and 18 Eiders (15 + 3) many of which were drakes in full breeding plumage. There was plenty of action on the land too with up to 10 Firecrests around the point, mainly in the old lighthouse garden, along with several Chiffchaffs, Blackbirds, Robins, and two Black Redstarts and a Reed Bunting near the old experimental building. A male Peregrine was perched atop a pylon by A station.
  This afternoon the first Wheatear of spring was on the beach opposite Jarman`s (JTM).

                                Up-Channel Brents

Firecrests continue to show well

Lade - A Black-necked Grebe on south lake was new in alongside the two wintering Long-tailed Ducks, four Goldeneyes and two Dartford Warblers in the scrub. By the caravan park a Black Redstart was the first of the spring on the local patch. Also noted, Marsh Harrier, Chiffchaff, Green Woodpecker, Reed Bunting and Stonechat.

                                Black-necked Grebe, Lade

  On the outgoing tide from the Tavern viewpoint a decent variety of beach waders on show included 150 Knots and 20 Grey Plovers, while a flock of 100 Sandwich Terns sat noisily on the sands as individuals delivered sprats to their mates in a show of pair bonding.

       Sandwich Terns, Lade sands

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Brents and `boxing` hares

Dungeness - mild, sunny, SE 4 - A brisk south-easterly made for a bracing walk along the beach opposite Jarman`s where the only difference to yesterday was a Black Redstart at the fishing boats.
0845-0930hrs - A seawatch from the hide produced an up-Channel passage of 300 Brent, 30 Red-throated Diver, 50 Common Scoter, 10 auks, 20 Gannet, 7 Shoveler, 4 Pintail, 4 Curlew, Shelduck and Fulmar. Several Med Gulls also noted coming and going, while Firecrests continued to show in the old lighthouse garden.

                                Brents on the move, Dungeness

A guided walk around the RSPB circular trail delivered the expected wildfowl and gulls plus Marsh Harrier, Great White Egret, Green Woodpecker, Reed Bunting, Linnet, Peregrine, Raven, Snipe, Ringed Plover, Chiffchaff and cracking views of a Firecrest in the willows by New Excavations. Best of all though was watching a pair of `boxing` Brown Hares by Burrowes.
More Black Redstarts and Firecrests were reported from across the Dungeness peninsula today.

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Showy Firecrests

Lade - mild, cloudy, light airs - A spring-like feel to proceedings today heralded a superb mornings birding commencing on the local patch with a fall of Chiffchaffs with at least 10 around the willow swamp including two in song. Reed Bunting, Cetti`s Warbler, Greenfinch, Chaffinch, Blackbird, Dunnock and Great Tit were also in fine voice. On south lake the Long-tailed Ducks and Goldeneyes were still present.
  Moving onto the bay from the Tavern viewpoint where eight species of beach waders noted including 120 Knot, 40 Bar-tailed Godwit and 20 Grey Plover. Sandwich Tern numbers had increased to 150 alongside 50 Common Gulls roosting on the sands.

                                Firecrests in the old lighthouse garden

Dungeness - Moving onto the Estate where we walked the beach in search of an early Wheatear without success. Meadow Pipit, Pied Wagtail, Stock Dove, Skylark and Stonechat were ample compensation though. In the old lighthouse garden up to five Firecrests performed to order, constantly calling, flitting through the shrubs and coming down to forage in the open on the lawn.
Superb views of the stripy sprite that surely must feature in every birders top ten list of favourite British birds.

                                Common Gull from Firth hide
  A brief look at the sea delivered a trickle of passing Gannets, Red-throated Divers, auks and Common Scoters, plus a flyby from one of the wintering Glaucous Gulls.
  Moving onto the bird reserve where there was plenty on offer on the pools and fields at Boulderwall, including three Smew, Great White Egret, Marsh Harrier, Curlew, Wigeon, Lapwing, Snipe and Golden Plover. On Burrowes the usual wildfowl, Cormorants and gulls, plus five Chiffchaffs in the willows outside Firth hide.
  A brief stop in the Kerton Road triangle yielded two Stonechats and a Dartford Warbler.

Monday, 12 March 2018

Firecrest arrival

Dungeness - mild, wet and overcast, SE 3 - Firecrests are a typical March migrant and today there appeared to have been a drop in across the peninsula. Despite the foul weather this morning, overnight it was clear and the south-easterly airflow obviously done the trick. At least three were noted in and around the old lighthouse bushes with another two in a private garden on the Estate. We had one in the garden at Plovers and another at Lade pits, while others were seen on the bird reserve.
  A seawatch from the concrete road delivered a steady up-Channel passage of Brent Geese, Red-throated Divers and Common Scoters, two Sandwich Terns, 20 Wigeon and five Teal. Plenty of auks and Great Crested Grebes were on the sea and a juvenile Glaucous Gull flew west. Earlier, the first Arctic Skua of spring moved east and an Iceland Gull was at the Patch (OL).