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

Wednesday 9 November 2011

A Roughie, 2 Shorties and a L-t-Duck

Lade 0800hrs - dull, wet start, but in the words of Nick Drake, "Bryter Layter", and what a cracking day it turned out to be... Nothing of any real quality on the local patch but stacks of common wildfowl on both lakes, 100 Curlews, 200 Lapwings, 6 Barwits and 50 Goldies over. Two Marsh Harriers, Raven and Sparrowhawk over the airfield while an hours viz mig from the aireal mound produced a stream of at least 500 Goldfinches, plus a supporting cast of Redpolls, Siskins, Chaffinches, Skylarks and Blackbirds; infact the latter species was everywhere, there must have been 100 plus in the willows and scrub around the site.
ARC - 1200hrs - Nailed, and year ticked, the juv Long-tailed Duck from Hanson, where also juv Scaup, 12 Goldeneyes, 500 Lapwings, 200 Wigeon, 100 Teal, 50 Shovelers, 6 Little Egrets and 2 Kingfishers. From the Willow Trail, Chiffchaff, Cetti`s Warbler, Woodcock, Water Rail and a flock of Lottis.
                                           Long-tailed Duck, ARC

Nickoll`s Quarry - 1415hrs - Picked up MH and headed out for a couple of hours birding on the eastern flank of the Marsh. Not somewhere I often go, but wow! did we hit the jackpot this afternoon. Joined a group of local birders gathered by the sewage works entrance and soon got onto a distant buzzard. It eventually banked and showed a nice black and white tail band, thus confirming its credentials. The juv Rough-legged Buzzard then put on a superb display over the old quarry site where it sat on a bund, hovered a bit and generally showed off before disappearing behind a clump of trees. While this was going on 2 Whooper Swans flew over and headed down the coast and news came through of 2 Short-eared Owls at Littlestone!
Littlestone Golf Course - 1530hrs Sure enough the 2 Shorties were soon located quartering rough ground in the middle of the golf course, being harrassed by a gang of crows,
Also reported around the Marsh today were Snow Buntings at the Point, the long staying Glaucous Gull and Great White Egret at Dungeness, while the Dotteral was relocated within a Golden Plover flock at Brookland.

Tuesday 8 November 2011

Playing Catch Up...

Dungeness - am - grey, cloudy, drizzle - Well, its great to be back on the Marsh after a spell away - honest! Apart from the Pallid Harrier at Walland it doesnt sound as though I missed much over the past fortninght. However, spent the morning playing catch-up around the Peninsula.
At the boats the good old Glaucous Gull was still present alongside a Yellow-legged Gull, while offshore, 100 Brents passed west alongside a scattering of Gannets and auks. PB, CP and MH were also mooching around and updated me on the Snow Bunting situation. Eventually, I located a dozen flighty Snowflakes not far from the end of the concrete road. Plenty of Goldfinches over and at the Obs Redpolls continued to hit the mist nets in good numbers.
At ARC had no luck with the Long-tailed Duck, although it was still present according to SB.
The Roughie was also reported from the West Hythe/Nicholl`s Quarry area.