Saturday, 31 December 2011

New Years Eve

Lade Pits - 0900hrs - mild, bright, sw2 - Had a thorough search of both pits this morning with tomorrow in mind. All the usual wildfowl including an influx of Wigeon and Teal, plus 5 Goldeneyes. In the willows 2 Chiffchaffs, Cetti`s Warbler, Green Woodpecker and a Kingfisher, which have been few and far between this year.
Happy New Year to one and all and good luck to anybody doing a NYD Bird Count tomorrow.

Friday, 30 December 2011

Rye Bay

Galloways - 0900hrs - cold, grey, w3 - Checked the bay from the bottom of Galloways road where a large flock of scoters (c200) were well offshore, plus the usual comings and goings of grebes, divers, auks, Kitts and Gannets crossing the bay.The rough ground inland was quiet, but did manage a pair of proper partridges and a pair of Stonechats. The chicken sheds along Dengemarsh Road were once again bereft of Little Owls but the Black Redstart was still present (mental note for NYD).
ARC - Plenty of birds here including Long-tailed Duck, Gwegret, Bittern, 2 Blackwits, 3 Smews and 2 Kingfishers.
Dungeness - The 2nd winter Glaucous Gull was by the boats, with the usual melee of auks, Kitts, grebes, divers and Gannets offshore.  

Thursday, 29 December 2011


Lade - cold, showery, breezy, sw4 - A couple of forays out to check the pits and the bay yielded little of note apart from a Peregrine barrelling after a Woodpigeon (without success) behind the `mirrors` and a couple of Med Gulls on the sands amongst the legions od waders and gulls. Most of the wildfowl on the pits were hunkered down around the willows trying to avoid the scudding wind.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011


Fishing Boats  - 0930hrs -  mild, overcast, sw4 - The Glaucous, Yellow-legged and Caspian Gulls were on the shingle gull roosts. Offshore, stacks of auks, grebes, Kitts and Gannets, plus several Razorbills and Red-throated Divers milling around the Point and a single Bonxie west.
On the bird reserve the usual protagonists included GWEgret, 3 Smew and the Long-tailed Duck at the southern end of ARC, while the Penduline Tit was reported from Hanson.

Tuesday, 27 December 2011


ARC - 1000hrs - mild, overcast, light airs - During 2011 the ARC pit has consistently been one of the best birding spots on the Marsh. I couldn't say how many species have been recorded on site this year but I reckon the wader tally alone is 31 species. Once again this morning proved the point with a cracking two hours full of birds - and I didnt even make it to Hanson hide! A thorough check from the causeway road eventually located that tricky Long-tailed Duck, which as usual spent more time under the water than on top, plus a Bittern sat on the edge of a reedbed. A White-front mingled within the Greylags and a `redhead` Smew came and returned to New Diggings over the road. Large numbers of Wigeons, Teals, Shovelers, Pochards, Gadwalls, Mallards, Tufteds, 20 Goldeneyes, 20 Great Crested Grebes, 6 Shelducks and 4 Pintails were on the mill-pond lake.
From Screen hide hundreds of Lapwings, Wigeons and Teals on the islands, plus 2 more Bitterns flying around, a Great White Egret, 6 Little Egrets, 4 Grey Herons, 3 Marsh Harriers, 2 Blackwits, calling Water Rails and Cetti`s Warbler and singles of Dunlin, Sparrowhawk and Reed Bunting. Around the car park, 10 Tree Sparrows, 15 Lottis and a Goldcrest. A quality session.
Lade - 1600hrs - Finished up at the aerial mound for a roost count. Disappointing really with 35 Magpies being the only count of note. A cracking sunset  was some compensation.

                                          White-front, ARC

Lade South Pit

Monday, 26 December 2011


Dungeness Boats - 1100hrs - mild, cloudy, sw3 - Hundreds of roosting gulls on the shingle including an adult Yellow-legged Gull and a 1st winter Med Gull, while the Glaucous Gull was playing `peeka-boo` on a winch. Close to shore plenty of seabird activity around a shoal of fish with scores of Cormorants, Gannets, auks (including 3 Razorbills), divers and grebes plundering what looked like sprats. Further out a steady flow of Kittiwakes plus two flocks of 50 odd Wigeon west.


Sunday, 25 December 2011

Lade & Littlestone

Lade - 1000hrs - mild, bright, breezy, sw3 - Enormous numbers of gulls pouring onto south pit on a rising tide; at least 2,000 Black-headed and 1,000 Common Gulls, plus hundreds of Herring, Lesser and Great-black Backs. Several Marsh Harriers hunting over the airfield and a Sparrowhawk reduced the local Starling population as it impressively snatched one from a flock over the beach.
Littlestone - 1300hrs - A single Short-eared Owl hunting over the golf course in a strengthening wind. Along the shore several small groups of Turnstones and 3 Grey Plovers.

Saturday, 24 December 2011


Dengemarsh - 1400hrs - mild, sunny, sw2 - Spent a pleasant couple of hours walking the Dengemarsh circuit from Boulderwall to Springfield Bridge, returning via the chicken sheds and across the farmland. Highlights included the leucistic Grey Heron and 200 Goldies at the corral, Bearded Tits and Cetti`s Warbler from the ramp, GWEgret and Merlin from Dengemarsh hide, a Black Redstart on the chicken sheds and a pair of Stonechats plus a single White-front on the farmland. Also en-route, 4 different Marsh Harriers, 100 Wigeons, 6 Shelducks, 4 Dabchicks and singles of Sparrowhawk, Kestrel and Reed Bunting. Bumped into MB on the access road and had a natter about his trip to Antarctica.

Dengemarsh - showing the newly installed anti-predator fencing around the hay field and the flood by Springfield Bridge.

Friday, 23 December 2011

Odds and Ends

Lade - mild, overcast, drizzle, sw2 - A grim old morning with low cloud and rain for most of the day.
Hamstreet - 1200hrs - The Great White Egret was fishing in the RMCanal by the garden centre when we drove by.
RSPB - At the southern end of ARC this afternoon a large mixed flock of gulls on the mud contained a sub-adult Caspian Gull (probable 3rd winter) and the Long-tailed Duck was on the water.
Elsewhere, the Rough-legged Buzzard was again reported from West Hythe.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Winter Solstice

Dungeness - 0830hrs - mild, sunny, sw2 - A stunning start to the shortest day of the year with sunshine throughout and a mild south-westerly airflow. A short seawatch from the hide, with BB, resulted in the expected comings and goings offshore of auks, divers, Gannets and Kittiwakes. Only other noteworthy event was a Merlin flying around the old light chasing a Mipit, and the Glaucous Gull was at the boats.
ARC - 1200hrs - Nothing much from Hanson, apart from the Gwegret and distant Wigeons. Plenty of invertebrate activity in the warm sunshine with several bumble bees and loads of small flying insects on the wing.
Littlestone - 1500hrs - Finished off the day with cracking views of two Short-eared Owls hunting the rough grassland behind the Romney Bay Hotel, a Merlin and 5 Corn Buntings going to roost
Elsewhere, the Rough-legged Buzzard was reported at West Hythe.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011


Rye Harbour - 1030hrs - grey, misty, mild, light airs, drizzle - Dropped in at Rye this morning. Amazing how a slight change in the habitat (salt marsh and river estuary) on this side of the Marsh makes it a lot easier to see birds such as Redshanks, Ringed Plovers and Shelducks, plus Rock Pipits and Skylarks along the river. Besides all the usual shorebirds on Flat Beach a pair of Partridges (Grey, of course) was most welcome, as over Dunge way they`ve been very thin on the ground of late.
Typically, a bit like buses as the saying goes, had a covey of 4 in a field opposite Jury`s Gap on the way home.
Scotney - Stacks of Golden Plovers, Lapwings, Starlings, Wigeons and feral geese on the sodden fields, plus several Redshanks, Curlews and a Ruff.
ARC - 1500hrs - From Hanson 22, newly arrived Bewick`s Swans (2 juvs) on the water, with 55 Mutes. Also, singles of GWEgret, Smew, Kingfisher, 12 Goldeneyes and all the usual dabblers. Around the car park, 15 Tree Sparrows in the bushes in the bramble patch, plus 8 Long-tailed Tits and a Goldcrest.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Hamstreet GWE

Dungeness - 0800hrs - cold, sunny, nw3 - Plenty of gulls around the boats which for some reason were very flighty. Managed brief views of a 1st winter Caspian and an adult Yellow-legged, plus a red colour ringed Herring Gull. The ever present Glaucous was patrolling the foreshore. Thousands of dead starfish washed up in the recent storms attracted a flock of 20 Turnstones.
Walland Marsh - Took the back road from Lydd to Old Romney where 12 Bewick`s Swans (in three groups) noted, plus 100 Curlews, 50 Common Gulls and a Little Owl.
Hamstreet - The Great White Egret was showing well around noon, on the RMCanal, beside the garden centre, where it posed in the sunshine for the camera.
                                           Dungeness - Gulls Galore
                                           Dungeness - starfish

                                          Hamstreet, Great White Egret

Monday, 19 December 2011


ARC - 1200hrs - cold, grey, drizzle, still - A grim old start to the week with the rain set in for the afternoon. However, plenty to see from Hanson with stacks of common wildfowl on the water including several Pintail and a dozen Goldeneyes. To add interest, singles of Bewick`s Swan, Smew and Great White Egret came and went, and a couple of Marsh Harriers settled on the islands. A passerine flock around the Willow Trail comprised a decent range of tits, including 15 Long-taileds, 5 Goldcrests and one each of Firecrest and Chiffchaff. Had good views of a Cetti`s Warbler on the walk back to the car park, plus two Green Woodpeckers and a Sparrowhawk.
On the point the Glaucous and Caspian Gulls were again noted near the fishing boats.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Wildfowl and Harrier Counts

Lade - 1000hrs- cold, sunny, nw3 - A cracking winters day for the monthly WeBS. Numbers down on last month apart from a large count of 487 Coots, most of them on north pit. Greater pecker, Chiffchaff and Cetti`s Warbler also noted.
Walland Marsh - 1445hrs - Had a drive around Walland with CP looking for a flock of 12 Bewick`s Swans without success, but did see a few Song Thrushes, Fieldfares, Green Woodpeckers and over 100 Curlews. Managed to dodge a heavy shower which resulted in a stunning rainbow. At the roost site raptors included 3 Buzzards, 2 ringtails, 2 Kestrels and a Merlin, plus 12 Marsh Harriers to roost. Also noted at least 20 Snipes, 200 Lapwings, 4 Pintails, a Golden Plover, 2 Stonechats and 4 Bewick`s Swans `bugling` overhead en-route to the safety of open water for the night. To finish on, a distant Barn Owl was the first one seen here for a while.

                                          Shovelers, Lade & Rainbow, Walland Marsh

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Shelducks and Crows

Lade - cold, frosty, sunny, nw3 - slithered across the shingle this morning as the first ground frost of the winter turned the stones into a skating rink. Two Shelducks dropped in on south pit and 3 Marsh Harriers were working the rough ground by the airport. On the beach in the afternoon counted 44 Carrion Crows picking over flotsam on the tide line amongst Turnstones and Oystercatchers.
                                           Shelduck, Lade Pits
                                           Lade Bay, late afternoon

Elsewhere around the Marsh the Rough-legged Buzzard was reported from West Hythe, 3 Short-eared Owls at Littlestone golf course, 2nd winter Glaucous Gull at Dungeness while on the bird reserve the Long-tailed Duck and Great White Egrets remained at their usual haunts.

Friday, 16 December 2011

Wet, wet, wet

Lade - 0900hrs - rain, low cloud, cold,  nw3 - Not quite sure why I bothered, but Barney was up for it so off we went across the shingle against a bone-chilling north westerly and lashing rain. Yesterdays Brents had predictably gone and most of the wildfowl were huddled around the willow islands. What on earth a Chiffchaff was doing atop a willow on such a day I`ll never know, while a Greater pecker was noteworthy. Amazing how quickly the water level has risen with most of the islands and broad margins now flooded.
ARC 1230hrs - That`s better, rains stopped and sun shining, still cold though, 4 C tops all day. A quick look from the causeway road revealed the ever diving Long-tailed Duck, 3 Smews and 2 Great White Egrets, while over the road the Blackwits and Black-necked Grebe were reported.
Littlestone Golf Course - 1530hrs - Had brief views of 2 Short-eared Owls hunting the St Mary`s Bay end of the golf course and the 3 Snow Buntings were seen along the seawall nearer to the Romney Bay Hotel.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Brents and Kitts

Lade - am - cool, sunny, w3 - Two visits to the local patch this morning yielded all the usual wildfowl, plus a flock of 15 nervous looking Brents on south pit. Don`t often get them dropping in and when they do they rarely stay for long. Also two Chiffchaffs in the buddleia scrub and a Marsh Harrier over the farmland.

                                           Brents, Lade south

Dungeness Boats - 1445hrs - Spent the final hour of usable daylight doing a half-hearted seawatch from the concrete road with MH. Bird of the watch was a steady flow of Kittiwakes around the point. Kitts are undeniable gorgeous creatures (for a gull!) and eminently watchable. Little else though, apart from a few Gannets and a distant diver. A pleasant enough winters afternoon weather wise but according to the forecast we could be in for a rough night with heavy rain and gale force winds heading our way. Mmm, lets just wait and see...

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Where`s it Gone!

Dungeness - 0900hrs - chilly, cloudy, showery, w3 - Called in at the Obs and had a natter with DW about the `big trip` and the news that the Patch hide had succumbed to the weather. Strolled down to the Patch where all I could find was a flat-pack hide, plus a 2nd winter Med Gull amongst the melee of gulls over the boil and on the beach.

Changing Landscape - "Last time I was here there was a wooden structure", said Barney, "now where`m I going to cock my leg?"

ARC - 1500hrs - Two `redhead` Smews and the Long-tailed Duck at the south end was all I could muster up, plus 3 Bewick`s Swans in the field at the back of Tower Pits.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Penduline Tit

Dungeness Boats - 0900hrs - Sunny, cool, w4 - Phew, after last nights `blow` was good to see a roof full of tiles on the cottage this morning. Nothing much happening on the sea at the Point apart from a few Kittiwakes and auks, plus the wintering Glaucous Gull (must give that bird a name...). Had a long chin-wag with Plodding Birder about his recent trip `down south` - if you havent already checked out his blogsite then do so immediately as there are some stunning images to drool over.
ARC - Midday - Jammed in a bit here with brief views of the Penduline Tit in front of Hanson. Unusually it wasn't up atop a bulrush ripping it apart, but low down skulking like a Cetti`s Warbler. Also noted a Bittern and  2 Blackwits from the hide, plus from the causeway road a supporting cast of Long-tailed Duck, 3 Smews and a Great White Egret.
The fields opposite Cockles Bridge held a small flock of swans including 3 Bewick`s, while elsewhere the Snow Buntings were reported from St Mary`s Bay and another Great White Egret was at Hamstreet.

                                          2 Blackwits, ARC

Monday, 12 December 2011

Ten Wader Challenge

Lade Bay - dry, sunny, start, cloudy, showery afternoon, sw3 - Spent some time checking the shorebirds across the bay today and playing the Ten Wader Challenge - I`m easily pleased....During the winter 10 species of shorebirds are present, in variable numbers, all feeding in their allotted niches on the mud, sand and shingle. As usual Redshank, Ringed and Grey Plovers proved the trickiest but eventually found several of each down at Littlestone, along with Turnstones picking through the flotsam on the tideline. Oystercatchers numbered over 700 and Curlews 550 with at least 200 each of Dunlins and Sanderlings, scurrying along in front of the waves. Small numbers of Barwits and Knots also noted on the sands dodging the bait diggers.
As for gulls, there were thousands of `em, and far too many to count, plus 3 Brents and 10 Wigeons..
Local news included the wintering Rough-legged Buzzard at Nickoll`s Quarry, West Hythe, while at the bird reserve the Penduline Tit put in an appearance this afternoon (per MH).

Sunday, 11 December 2011


Lade - 0900hrs - A grey old winters day with a chilly westerly scudding across the shingle. Most of the ducks were on north pit with only a couple of Goldeneyes and a Pintail to break the monotony amongst the legions of Coots, Tufteds, Gadwalls and Pochards.Two Marsh Harriers and a Merlin hunting over the farmland.
Tower and ARC Pits - 1400hrs - Did a circuit around the pits and back via the hides. A mixed flock of 20 Long-tailed Tits, Chiffchaff and Cetti`s Warbler, 5 Green Wodpeckers and 2 Marsh Harriers at Tower Pits. Cracking views of a pair of Peregrines `kek-kek-keking` around the water tower, probably thinking what a great nesting site that would be if only the local water company hadn`t put metal grills over the ledges to keep the pigeons at bay - why, we could have done that for free... blah, blah, blah.
On ARC distant views of the Long-tailed Duck, 12 Goldeneyes, 6 Shelducks, 4 Pintails and an adult Yellow-legged Gull. Also, brief view of a Firecrest on the Willow Trail.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Gull Fest

Dungeness - 1000hrs - cold, sunny, w2 - First heavy ground frost of the winter, enough to ice over the garden pond. The beach fisherman were out in force at the Point this morning, probably as a result of a 17 pound cod landed recently. Offshore about 100 Great Crested Grebes with a scattering of Guillemots, Red-throated Divers and Kittiwakes. On the beach two large groups of loafing gulls produced 2nd winter Med and Glaucous Gulls, an adult Yellow-legged Gull and a 1st winter Caspian, plus another one in a separate flock by the Pilot.
Littlestone Golf Course - 1500hrs - On such a stunning afternoon couldn`t resist another look at the Short-eared Owls before the weather changes tomorrow. Three owls were on show, one of which came close to the sea wall. Didn`t see the Snow Buntings but they were reported earlier in the day.
Elsewhere around Dungeness, a couple of Siberian Chiffchaffs were present in the Trapping Area, plus Long-tailed Duck, Slavonian Grebe and Great White Egret on the bird reserve

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Hythe Birding

Hythe - 0920hrs - mildish, gale force south-westerly with heavy showers - Despite the appalling weather headed for Hythe with MH to have a second go at the Waitrose Diver. En-route had good views of 3 Purple Sandpipers on the sea defences at the Imperial, plus 4 Turnstones and a Rock Pipit. The diver proved a little more tricky but eventually we located it on the canal beside the golf course with a Cormorant. At one stage it flew off towards Waitrose but decided the wind was a bit too much so it plonked back down on the canal. Shortly after it caught what looked like a sizable roach or rudd. A few Redwings noted plus a 2nd winter Med Gull and Kittiwake on the sea.
Called in at Nickoll`s Quarry on the way back but there was no sign of the Rough-legged Buzzard - not surprising really considering the strong wind and rain. More Redwings and Goldfinches here, plus a singing Song Thrush.
On the bird reserve the Penduline Tit was again seen from Hanson hide this morning.

Purple Sandpipers, Turnstone and Great Northern Diver, Hythe

Wednesday, 7 December 2011


Lade - 0830hrs - bright, chilly, w4 - With a scudding wind whipping across south pit most of the wildfowl had decamped to the shelter of north pit where 3 Goldeneyes amongst the massed ranks. Both Cetti`s Warbler and Chiffchaff calling in the willows. Buzzard and Marsh Harrier over the `mirrors`.
Called in again at sunset and counted 36 Magpies going to roost in the willows plus 100 odd Starlings and 20ish Woodpigeons.
On the way home from Folkestone this afternoon had a quick look from the Stade St. bridge in Hythe for the Great Northern Diver on the canal. Had no luck, but later heard that it had, "moved to Waitrose" - but can it afford to! (per MH). Also, the 3 Snow Buntings and a Short-eared Owl still at Littlestone.
Back at Dungeness the Penduline Tit showed from Hanson this morning (TG) and a Great White Egret remained on Dengemarsh.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

3 Plus 3

Lade - 0800hrs - bright, chilly start, cloudy later, nw3 - Of note was a single Fieldfare `chacking` away with the resident Starling flock outside the cottage. After flying around a bit looking for his kin he soon gave up and flew off high to the west still calling loudly. Pretty quiet on the pits with lower duck numbers than of late, although singles of Pintail and Goldeneye noted.
ARC - 1200hrs - Ditto here really with very little of note from Hanson hide apart from half a dozen Goldeneyes and Shelducks.
Littlestone Golf Course -  1445hrs - Picked up MH and finished the day in style with an hour at the St Mary`s Bay end of the golf course where 3 Short-eared Owls put on a grand show, one bird coming quite close. On the foreshore we found 3 Snow Buntings feeding on weed seeds close to the footpath, oblivious to the dog mayhem going on around them. As always with these little ground-huggers, quality birds. Couldn`t resist digiscoping them, even though the light was fading fast.
Elsewhere, the Hume`s Leaf Warbler was reported from the Trapping Area at DBO and one of the Great White Egrets was seen along the canal at Appledore.

                                           Trio of Snow Buntings, St Mary`s Bay 

Monday, 5 December 2011

Hume`s Leaf Warbler, again...

Trapping Area, DBO - 0900hrs - bright, chilly start, clouding over later, W 2-4 - Spent the morning flogging around the willow scrub to the south of Long Pits where eventually saw the Hume`s twice in three hours; albeit briefly. Appeared as a duller, faded version of Yellow-browed with a darker bill and fainter wing bars. I didn`t hear it call but others did. It was within a flock of 20 plus tits, (including Long-tailed) crests, (including at least one Firecrest) and Chiffchaffs, and was not at all easy to see.
Also noted a few Song Thrushes, Redwings, Redpolls, Siskins, Goldfinches and a Sparrowhawk.

ps: Went to see The Big Year in Ashford with Pat this afternoon. The film is supposed to be a birdwatching comedy, starring Steve Martin, Owen Wilson and Jack Black, all of whom are very funny actors but the film is so poorly scripted that there were few laughs. The storyline is based on the three of them competing in a `Big Year` bird race wherby the challenge is to see as many species as possible in a calendar year across the North American continent. To be fair there were one or two humorous birding moments and, worryingly, I could relate to some of the scenarios from my twitching days... Technically there were one or two howlers but it was amusing to see the Yanks getting twitchy over European rarities such as Greater pecker and Pink-footed Goose! Probably the best fun I had was putting the names of some of the British birders I`ve know over the years to the film characters; even Pat played the game and she`s an innocent bystander!
Anyway, to sum up, I don't suppose it`ll be on at the cinema for long, (not judging by the audience of six other sado`s in the audience) so best wait `till it comes out on dvd in the New Year and at least try out the name game!
Perhaps, you could even let me know how you got on ...

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Hume`s Leaf Warbler

Dungeness - 1100hrs - mild, overcast, w2 - An hour at the boats produced 50 odd Great Crested Grebes, and 10 each of  Red-throated Divers and Guillemots on the sea, plus a dribble of Gannets, Kittiwakes and 5 Wigeon west. The Glaucous Gull was loafing on the beach amongst the Herring Gulls for a while before patrolling the foreshore.
Around 1230hrs news broke of a new bird for Dungeness when Will at the Obs found a Hume`s Leaf Warbler in the sallows at the southern end of  Long Pits. Thankfully, it was heard to call (also confirmed by SB) and it remained in the same area, off and on, for most of the afternoon in company with Firecrests (SM). Unfortunately, I arrived too late and the bird was not seen after 1550hrs, having probably gone to roost.

                                          2nd Winter Glaucous Gull, Dungeness

Highlights on the bird reserve today included, 3 Bewick`s Swans, 2 Great White Egrets, 3 Smews and a Glossy Ibis. The Short-eared Owls were again reported from Littlestone Golf Course with another Great White Egret at Hamstreet.

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Penduline Tit

Lade - 0900hrs - mild, dry, sunny, sw2 - Following more rain over night it quickly cleared leaving a cracking day to be out and about. Checked both pits with the Teal count now over 300 birds. Also, 2 each of Goldeneye and Pintail, plus Sparrowhawk, Chiffchaff and Cetti`s Warbler in the willows.
ARC - 1030hrs - The Long-tailed Duck and Great White Egret could be seen at the southern end from the road. From Hanson, 2 Bitterns, 6 Goldeneyes, 7 Little Egrets, 2 Marsh Harriers and a Kingfisher. Chiffchaff and Cetti`s Warbler from the Willow Trail and another Bittern in front of Screen.
Boulderwall - 1200hrs - Had brief views of the Penduline Tit tearing into a bulrush in a reedy patch just past Boulderwall. It didn`t stay for long, and shot off like a rocket towards ARC. I assume it was the long-stayer that puts in an occasional appearance in front of Hanson. Also, 2 Stonechats here and 2 more at Cockles Bridge.
Pigwell Pits - 1400hrs - The washout pit near Lydd had 2 `redhead` Smew and 5 Avocets, plus 50 Wigeon, 20 Shoveler and 10 Shelducks. Another Stonechat by the sewage works and a Grey Wagtail.
Galloways - 1430hrs - Pretty desolate here with just 2 each of Stonechat and Marsh Harrier of note.
ARC - 1500hrs - Finished the day with a harrier count in the company of CP. Five Marsh Harriers to roost with another 5 that headed towards the reserve. Also, Buzzard and 2 Sparrowhawks. Back at the car park a Woodcock flew over to complete a decent days birding.

                                          Bittern, ARC

Friday, 2 December 2011

Here Comes the Sun

Lade - 0800hrs - bright, sunny and still - After the heavy rain of yesterday the raptors were out and about enjoying ideal hunting conditions. Three Marsh Harriers, 2 Sparrowhawks and singles of Kestrel and Buzzard on the wing plus, I presume, yesterdays Short-eared Owl quartering the Desert.
Checked out north pit, which was loaded with Teal and Gadwall and not much else.
RSPB - 1400hrs - Had a run out with MH this afternoon in fine winter weather. From the causeway road, Great White Egret and Long-tailed Duck noted on ARC. From Dengemarsh hide the second Great White Egret showed briefly. Also here 3 Snipe, 5 Bearded Tits, 5 Marsh Harriers, 4 Dabchicks and a Dunlin. Hundreds of Goldies, Lapwings, Greylags, Woodpigeons and Stock Doves on the back fields. Plenty of activity around the hay fields with the contractors fitting the predator fencing. Finished off over the road from Hanson where the Glossy Ibis put in a late show. Also, 3 Bewick`s Swans in front of the hide, plus 3 Smews, 6 Goldeneyes, 2 Pintails, 3 Marsh Harriers and singles of Sparrowhawk, Chiffchaff and Green Woodpecker. We both commented on how the recent rain has dramatically raised the water levels on both pits.
Three Short-eared Owls were reported from the St Mary`s Bay end of  Littlestone golf course.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Rain, rain and more rain

Lade - 0900hrs - dry, mild start followed by torrential rain mid-morning, then a bright interlude before an afternoon of steady rain. There`s nothing like a report in the media of impending drought orders in the South-east to bring on a deluge...
Had a Short-eared Owl hunting over the Desert, before the rain started, that may have been the same one reported by DB at the Point. Stacks of wildfowl, gulls and Lapwings on south pit and a Buzzard perched on the wall `mirror`.
ARC - 1500hrs - Despite the gloom and rain had good views of a Bittern from Screen hide. The Great White Egret put in an appearance and 3 Smews were feeding on the edge of the reedbed. By the time we got back to the car park (1545hrs) it was virtually dark, winter has truly arrived.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

The Patch

Dungeness - 0800hrs - mild, showery sw2 - Thought I`d check out the Patch as not been down there for what seems like ages. At least the boil was up and bubbling again with hundreds of attendant gulls milling around. All I could locate of note were 5 Kittiwakes and a Little Gull, plus a possible 1st winter Caspian that flew off towards Pen Bars before I could properly nail the id.
Offshore, the usual coming and goings of auks, divers and Gannets, while at the boats the Glaucous Gull was on patrol.
Romney Salts - 1530hrs Had a wander across the farmland searching for the recently reported "orangey ringtail" without success. Did see, however, at least 6 Marsh Harriers and a ringtail Hen Harrier heading towards roost sites (in the words of the late RAT you could tell it was a Hen, "coz it had a rump like a f***ing Bullfinch"!!!).
On the bird reserve the elusive Penduline Tit was reported, plus the more reliable Great White Egret.

Monday, 28 November 2011

Bits and Pieces

Lade - 0800hrs - chilly start but got milder as the southerly airflow picked up - Had a thorough check around both pits but could only rustle up 3 Goldeneyes amongst the legions of common wildfowl. Water Rails and Chiffchaffs vocal in the willow scrub and watched a Sparrowhawk take a Starling for breakie with great aplomb.
ARC - 1200hrs A trio of tired looking Bewick`s Swans in front of Hanson was the highlight here, plus singles of Great White Egret on the cormorant island and Long-tailed Duck further out. Also, 3 Smews, 5 Goldeneyes, 2 Pintails, 6 Shelducks, 7 Little Egrets, 3 Marsh Harriers and a bathing Sparrowhawk.
Cetti`s Warbler, Chiffchaff, Goldcrest and Water Rail heard.
Lade Bay - 1545hrs Thousands of gulls on the beach at Greatstone included 50 Kittiwakes and 2 Med Gulls. Two small groups of Knots and Barwits totalling 20 each.

                                          Bewick`s Swans and Great White Egret, ARC

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Sunset over Denge Beach

Lade - 1530hrs - mild, still, sunny - A stroll over the back just before sunset revealed hundreds of Woodpigeons and Stock Doves going to roost, a flushed Woodcock and a hunting Short-eared Owl. Large flocks of Lapwings, geese and ducks were coming and going. Ten Marsh Harriers counted over the shingle with 7 going to roost. Hare and fox seen. A spectacular sunset too. Oh, its good to be back after a weekend away.

Friday, 25 November 2011

Afternoon Seawatch

Dungeness - 1415hrs - dry, bright and sunny, sw3 - Did an afternoon seawatch from the concrete road with MH. Plenty of Kittiwakes, Red-throated Divers and Gannets feeding just offshore, plus a single Little Gull west, while the Glaucous gull was on its usual station patrolling the fishing boats.
Reports from the bird reserve today included Glossy Ibis and Great White Egret on Dengemarsh, and Long-tailed Duck and Black-necked Grebe on ARC.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

RSPB Reserve

ARC - 1200hrs - mild, dry, sunny, sw2 - Nipped into Hanson where a Great White Egret and 2 Kingfishers were the highlight. At the south end 3 Smew showed well while the Long-tailed Duck was a little more difficult. A Penduline Tit had been reported earlier in front of the hide.
On Dengemarsh the Glossy Ibis and Little Stint remained alongside the Great White Egret.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

A Day of Dips

Dungeness RSPB - 1015hrs - mild, sunny, light airs - Spent the morning with MH on the bird reserve; having first paid a brief visit to the Point where there was nothing much apart from a few auks on the sea. Dengemarsh was quiet due to reserve staff working on the lake, although the Glossy Ibis was noted flying around later on. An hour scanning the scrub between Scott and Christmas Dell for the reported Pallas`s Warbler drew a predictable blank, while we also dipped the Pink-foot over the road. However, on ARC we did note a Great White Egret, single Smew and around 20 Pintails.
ARC 1500hrs - A return to Hanson delivered distant views of the Long-tailed Duck (that seemed to spend more time under water than on the surface), a redhead Goosander and at least 4 Water Rails in front of the hide. On the walk back to the car park, after what had been a dippy sort of a day, I could scarcely believe my luck when first a ringtail Hen Harrier flew over my head followed by a stunning Short-eared Owl that crossed the road by Boulderwall.
Elsewhere, the Rough-legged Buzzard was reported from Nickoll`s Quarry and a Great White Egret from Hamstreet.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

No Show Pallas`s

RSPB - 1100hrs - misty, mild, overcast - Spent an hour or so searching for yesterdays Pallas`s Warbler to no avail, although had good views of a Firecrest. Also in the Christmas Dell scrub, Cetti`s Warbler and 5 Chiffchaffs. The Glossy Ibis was still on Dengemarsh, along with a Great White Egret and a Little Stint, plus 3 Little Gulls on New Diggings.
The Rough-legged Buzzard was again reported from West Hythe.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Herons Galore

Lade - 0800hrs - mild, dry, sunny, e1 - When Michael Fish forecast on BBC South-east that, "the weather across Kent will be dull and dreary all day", I just knew we were in for a fine, sunny day...
Not much happening over the pits apart from a few Skylarks and Mipits drifting over; the finch passage seems to have finally ground to a halt.
Greatstone - 1230hrs - Two dead Harbour Porpoises in the car park were about to be removed by a representative from the Natural History Museum for examination. They were washed up on the beach yesterday, probably as a result of drowning in fishing nets. Sadly this is not an uncommon occurrence along the Marsh coastline.
RSPB - 1345hrs - A scoot around the bird reserve this afternoon resulted in a heron fest. First off the two Great White Egrets were cosying up together on Burrowes (could this be a sign of things to come...) alongside 3 Little Egrets and 2 Grey Herons. The leaucistic Grey Heron showed in the hayfields and the Glossy Ibis flew over the corral. From Hanson had stunning views of a Bittern flying past the hide and probably a 3rd Great White Egret on the islands. Phew!
Also, 2 Goosanders on ARC, 3 Smews on New Diggings and an influx of Pintails with birds on all pits. Couldnt find the Long-tailed Duck on ARC or the Pec Sand on Dengemarsh, while the Pallas`s Warbler  also eluded me, although it was seen in the Christmas Dell/New Ex scrub area late on.
At St Mary`s-in-the-Marsh, CP reported a flock of `kyu-yu-yuing` White-fronts overhead in the gloaming. Could this be the arrival of the wintering hoards...

                                 Harbour Porpoises, Greatstone and Pintail, Burrowes

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Weird Weather

Lade - 0800hrs - The morning started with a thick cloak of fog over the Peninsula and a light ground frost. By 8am a warm, southerly airflow cleared the murk and the sun broke through rapidly elevating the temperature into the `teens`. Associated with the warmth was a fresh, summery type smell, amazing.
Being as it was WeBS count day checked through all the ducks without much of note. A brown Merlin sunbathing on the wall `mirror` ramp attracted the attention of several Magpies, while 3 foxes were also enjoying the sunshine. Marsh Harrier, Sparrowhawk and Kestrel hunting over the back, plus 3 Water Rails and 2 Chiffchaffs around the willows.
Walland Marsh - 1530hrs Accompanied CP to count one of the harrier roosts on a fabulous afternoon with light airs and a blood red sunset. As the temperature dropped a rolling mist spookily enveloped us - simply stunning. Oh, yes, the birds! Highlights were 15 Marsh Harriers to roost, while a Short-eared Owl put in a late appearance. Once again there was no sign of any Barn Owls on what was a perfect evening for them to be out and about.
It was a busy day on the bird reserve with Glossy Ibis and Pallas`s Warbler near Christmas Dell, plus 2 Great White Egrets, Long-tailed Duck and Dartford Warbler elsewhere around the site. Another GWEgret was reported from Hamstreet and the Roughie remained faithful to Nickoll`s Quarry, West Hythe.

                                          Walland Marsh

Friday, 18 November 2011


Dungeness - 0800hrs - mild, sunny, S2 - Walked the Point with very little return apart from decent numbers of Goldfinches, Greenfinches, Chaffinches and a Blackcap in the Moat.
Dunes Road, Greatstone - 1400hrs - Searched the area at the bottom of Dunes Road for a reported Hoopoe (via DB). Did the rough ground where the one was seen 3 years ago and the paddocks by the sewage works without success, but, of course it could very easily still be lurking somewhere thereabouts.
Flushed 12 Skylarks and also noted singles of Stonechat and Great Spotted Woodpecker.

Thursday, 17 November 2011


Lade - mild, cloudy, se2 - A fine start to the day with a Firecrest in the garden pine trees. On the pits a huge increase in common wildfowl numbers for some reason, particularly Gadwall. Kingfisher and Common Buzzard noted plus a party of 20 Redpolls over.
RSPB - 1015hrs - Had a run out with MH this morning. Nothing much of note from Dengemarsh hide apart from 4 Snipe amongst the Lapwings and Goldies, plus the usual wildfowl and Marsh Harriers.
From Hanson 3 redhead Smew, 6 Shelducks and 3 Water Rails in front of the hide.
Littlestone - 1600hrs - Distant views of a Short-eared Owl over by the seawall.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Short-eared Owls of Sheppey

Shellness, Sheppey - 0800hrs - cool, misty start, brighter by late morning, E1 - Ventured off the Marsh today with CP (plus Barney) to recce for magazine articles, and what a classic winters day birding it turned out to be. Sheppey, of course, is well known for having a large concentration of wintering raptors and we duly mopped up with the highlights being Hen Harriers and Short-eared Owls.
A scan from Muswell Manor Farm produced stunning views of 2 ringtails close overhead, along with half a dozen Marsh Harriers, 5 Kestrels, plus singles of Common Buzzard and Merlin. A flock of 200 Brents,  were over by the coast road and loads of Lapwings, Golden Plovers and Starlings swirled overhead. A decent return of Skylarks and a scattering of Mipits, Reed Buntings, Linnets and Goldfinches.
We walked along the seawall to the Swale reserve hide, from where we had cracking views of at least 5 Short-eared Owls, 2 of which sat in a field staring at as with those piercing lemon eyes. Further ringtails, Marsh Harriers, Kestrels and a Peregrine also noted. Bumped into the reserve warden who updated us on the latest sightings (thanks Derek) and matters concerning the Islands wildlife and how the shortage of rain has effected the marshes.
Harty Marshes 1200hrs - Drove the road to the Raptor Viewpoint where highlights included 8 White-fronts on Capel Fleet amongst masses of Lapwings, Goldies, Wigeon, Teal and Greylags, 50 odd Corn Buntings, Greenfinches, Mipits, Reed Buntings, plus more ringtail and Short-eared Owl sightings, Sparrowhawk, Merlin and Kestrels.
Oare Marshes - 1400hrs - With the high tide approaching the east flood was full of waders with up to 500 roosting Blackwits, 200 Dunlins, 100 Redshanks, plus an assortment of Ruffs, Ringed Plovers, Snipe, Avocets, Curlews, Turnstone, Golden Plover and a Little Stint. Also, 7 Little Egrets, 10 Pintails, 6 Shelducks and hundreds of Shovelers, Teal and Wigeon.
We ended the day in style with yet another Short-eared Owl quartering the flood.
It doest matter how long you`ve been birding, Seo`s are a bit like Bitterns in the sense that you just can not ignore them, and today was one of the best we could remember for top views of this gorgeous diurnal owl.

                                           Brents and Short-eared Owl, Shellness, Sheppey

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Desert Wheatear

Lade - 0800hrs - Murky, misty, dull, cold, e2 - Another grim start to the day. However, there was a flurry of raptor activity behind south pit where 2 Marsh Harriers were tangling with a Common Buzzard, to be joined by a Kestrel and Sparrowhawk. Every available island was packed with gulls, Curlews and Lapwings.
Dungeness - 1015hrs - There`s nothing like rarity to banish the November gloom, especially if it`s a rare wheatear. A 1st autumn Desert Wheatear was found in the Moat earlier on and by the time I arrived it had moved to the edge of the Desert (where else!) near the Light Railway Cafe. A cracking little bird that performed like a good `un. Should be plenty of frame-fillers on the DBO website and Plodding Birders blog.
Couldnt resist a second look just before lights out, by which time it ended up near the cottages adjacent to the seawatch hide.

                                          Desert Wheatear, DBO

Monday, 14 November 2011

Grey and Grim

ARC - 1200hrs - grey, overcast, misty, light airs - Bumped into PK in the car park who`d drawn a blank at Nickoll`s Quarry for the Roughie earlier, although it was reported in the afternoon. No sign of the Long-tailed Duck but the second Great White Egret was here and getting bullied by the herons. Also, redhead Smew, 12 Goldeneye and 4 Dunlin. Had brief views of a Firecrest on the Willow Trail.
Lade - 1500hrs First Goldeneye of the winter on south pit, plus a Common Buzzard on the wall `mirror` and several hundred Lapwings and Curlews on the islands. Barney found a Grass Snake sluggishly slithering around on the main track which I moved into the cover of a bramble patch.

                                          Grass Snake, Lade

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Snow Bunting

Dungeness Boats - 0845hrs - Dry, bright and sunny, at last, with a light easterly breeze. We eventually, located a Snow Bunting, or rather it found us, at the end of the concrete road. As always with these confiding little ground-huggers, top value, and even I could manage some respectable digi-pics. Well, sort of...
At least 200 Goldfinches passed down the coast and the Glaucous Gull was on patrol along the foreshore.

                                           Snow Bunting, DBO

Tower Pits - 1030hrs More good birds here with a cracking male Bearded Tit, Kingfisher, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Goldcrests and Chiffchaffs. More `crest`s at the pines, plus brief views of Short-eared Owl and Peregrine out over the Desert. The Tree Sparrows obliged at Boulderwall, in the sunshine, and there were more Goldfinches and Blackbirds along the access trail.
  A superb weekends birding with 110 species noted. Highlights as follows: Rough-legged Buzzard and Purple Sandpipers at Hythe; Black-necked Grebe, Long-tailed Duck, Smew, Little Gulls, Short-eared Owl, Great White Egrets on the bird reserve; Hen Harrier at Walland; Glaucous Gull, Eider and Snow Bunting at Dungeness.
  Also on the bird reserve today, at Dengemarsh, another Rough-legged Buzzard.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

A 100 Species Day

Dungeness - 0900hrs - mild, dull and gloomy all day, S 1-3 - Kicked off at the Point with a stroll around the Old Light where blokes in bosun chairs were working on the building. From there to the Obs and around the Moat,  2 Chiffchaffs, 5 Mipts, 10 Blackbirds, 100 Goldfinches, 10 Redwings, 5 Fieldfares, 10 Siskins, 10 Greenfinches, 10 Robins, 5 Goldcrests, 2 Song Thrushes and a Brambling. Redpolls continued to hit the mist net in some numbers in the Trapping Area.

 2 Common (Mealy) Redpolls, DBO and Spider Man on the Old Light

An hour at the boats delivered good views of Glaucous and Yellow-legged Gulls on the shingle although we drew a blank on the Snow Buntings, which were seen earlier. Offshore: 30 Gannets, 10 Guillemots, 10 Red-throated Divers, 20 Great Crested Grebes, and west: 20 Kittiwakes, 60 Common Scoters, 3 (very late) Common Terns, 15 Red-breasted Mergansers, 60 Wigeon, 4 Eiders and a single Brent.
RSPB - 1200hrs First stop New Diggings where 8 Little Gulls were noteworthy. From Hanson on ARC singles of Long-tailed Duck, Black-necked Grebe and Smew (redhead), 2 Bitterns, 15 Goldeneyes, 8 Pintail 6 Little Egrets, 3 Shelducks, 4 Marsh Harriers, 3 Chiffchaffs, Water Rail, Cetti`s Warbler and a host of Wigeon, Teal, Gadwall, Shoveler, Lapwings and Golden Plovers.
Over the road 2 Great White Egrets flew over the fields at Boulderwall (the first time I`ve ever seen 2 together in Britain) from the access road, but later seperated, with one settling on ARC and the other returning to Dengemarsh. On Burrowes hundreds of common wildfowl and Lapwings, plus 3 Dunlin, 2 Grey Plovers and Peregrine over. Black Redstart, Reed Bunting, Goldcrest, Chiffchaff and Tree Sparrow around the car park. From Dengemarsh hide, 3 Dunlin, 2 Stonechats, Sparrowhawk, Merlin and Great White Egret.
Walland Marsh - 1530hrs - En-route to the Woolpack we had a large flock of Fieldfares and Redwings at Midley. At the roost site we joined NB and BM where 14 Marsh Harriers came to roost. More harriers were seen heading elsewhere, plus a stunning `grey ghost` Hen Harrier and 2 Buzzards. Several Bearded Tits active in the reedbed, but yet again it was negative news on Barn Owls.
A cracking day in the field with 100 species producing a wide variety of birds.
Elsewhere around the Marsh, the Rough-legged Buzzard remained at Nickoll`s Quarry; a (3rd?) Great White Egret was at Hamstreet; at Dungeness, 3 Bewick`s Swans on ARC, 2 Whoopers and 3 Swallows over the bird reserve; 2 Bewick`s Swans over the Woolpack; and Short-eared Owls were reported from Boulderwall and Littlestone Golf Course.

Friday, 11 November 2011

Hythe Birds

Dungeness - 0800hrs - Dank, misty, murky, se2 - A stroll around the Moat and scrub to the Old Light produced a handful of Song Thrushes, Blackbirds and Robins. The Redpoll rush continued in the Trapping Area.

                                          Goldcrest, DBO

Bird Tour Weekend
Scotney Pits - 1230hrs - Called in on the way back from Rye where thousands of swirling Golden Plovers and Lapwings refused to settle for any length of time. The flock of 80 odd Barnacle Geese along with 8 Emperor types showed well by the farm entrance.
Nickoll`s Quarry - 1400hrs We had stunning views of the juv Rough-legged Buzzard over the old quarry site. At one stage when perched on a pile of rocks it was mobbed by singles of Kestrel, Sparrowhawk and Jay, plus 5 Magpies! Also here, Grey Wagtail, Green Woodpecker and Chiffchaff.
Hythe Seafront - 1500hrs Drew a blank at the bottom of Stade Street but scored with 2 Purple Sandpipers on the sea defence blocks opposite the Imperial, alongside 10 Turnstones.
Littlestone Golf Course - 1545hrs No sign of the Seo`s over the golf course; although, the light was dreadful and they could easily have been at the St Mary`s Bay end. However, we did have a flock of 50 Corn Buntings going to roost in a patch of scrub.
In all, a satisfactory start to the weekend.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Short-eared Owls

Lade - 0800hrs - mild, cloudy, S2 - Not so much overhead passage this morning but still a steady flow of finches, Skylarks and a few more Mipits. Barney flushed 2 Woodcocks from broom cover on the storm beaches.
Littlestone Golf Course - 1500hrs - Had cracking views of 2 Short-eared Owls on the golf course from 4pm onwards in fading light. I watched from the seawall just past the Romney Bay Hotel where one owl was in view for 10 minutes, at times approaching within 50 yards. Strangely enough the corvids and gulls let them hunt in peace. What a real treat they were to watching on this mild afternoon with a setting sun and a full moon rising over the bay. 
Also, quite a few House Sparrows, Song Thrushes, Blackbirds and Mipits going to roost in a thicket by the golf club barns.

                         Short-eared Owl and Sunset over New Romney