Wednesday 29 February 2012

A Very Odd Day

Lade - 0700hrs - low cloud and rolling sea mist, clearing mid-morning to sunshine - Well, well, well. what an odd day. That`s the great thing about birding, you just never know what its going to throw up.
It started at 7am as I was standing out back supping on my first brew of the day watching Barney chasing the cat around the garden. The Dungeness fog horn was blaring away as a thick sea mist rolled over the cottage, and then I heard a distinctive `kerrick-kerrick` sound coming out of the gloom; surely, it couldn't be... perhaps an early Starling, even though it was barely light - and then a Sandwich Tern skimmed over the roof and headed inland! Incredible, first surprise of the day.
RSPB - 0930hrs - Down at the bird reserve the fog was coming and going, but by the time the guided walk started we were in bright sunshine with blue skies. The standard circuit in reverse delivered some quality sightings: from the ramp overlooking Hookers everyone had superb flight views of Bittern and several Marsh Harriers, plus a close Cetti`s Warbler, `pinging` Beardies, a Raven feeding on a swan carcass, Dabchicks and 2 Chiffchaffs. From Christmas Dell, 3 Snipes showed well just in front of the hide and the pair of Ravens `cronked` overhead. On Burrowes we eventually caught up with the Long-tailed Duck, plus 50 Golden Plovers and all the usual wildfowl. On New Diggings, 8 Smews and the Great White Egret.

                                          Snipes, Christmas Dell

Dengemarsh - 1400hrs - Walked down from Springfield Bridge and eventually located the Water Pipit at the far side of hayfield no. 3; had poor `scope views of  a bird in winter plumage. Further Raven and Marsh Harrier sightings here.
ARC - 1500hrs - Finished off in style with reed obscured views of the Penduline Tit from a packed Hanson hide, that had been showing on and off throughout the day. Along the willow trail several Chiffchaffs and Long-tailed Tits.
As I say, a very strange day indeed that started with a Sandwich Tern in thick fog and ended with a Penduline Tit in bright sunshine. What a weird place Dungeness can be...
PS: The 2 Snow Buntings were reported from the Point (PB) this morning, while 2 Short-eared Owls were back on Littlestone Golf Course yesterday (SB).

Tuesday 28 February 2012

2 Snow Buntings & "That Gull`s Back"

Lade - 0730hrs - grey, miserable, mildish, light airs - Decided on a tour of the Peninsula this morning starting at the local patch where a fine drake Smew on south pit was the first of the winter here; on north pit the lone Brent was still present.
Dungeness - Picked up the Joker and onto the Point where 2 Snow Buntings had been reported by OL. We soon located them along the tideline near the boats where they posed for pictures before heading off high to the north (and, no we didnt flush `em!). Joined DW for a half hour seawatch during which time the 2nd winter Glaucous Gull put in an appearance, following an absence of several weeks. Offshore, hundreds of Great Crested Grebes, a few auks and Gannets, single Fulmar and two groups of 7 and 11 Brents east.

                                          Snow Buntings, Dungeness

RSPB - Eight Smews and the GWEgret on New Diggings from the causeway road with another redhead from Hanson plus all the usual wintering wildfowl including 12 Goldeneyes and 3 Pintails, Little Egret, 50 Curlews, 2 Lottis and 2 Chiffchaffs. Water Rails, Cetti`s Warblers, Reed Buntings and Great Tits were in good voice and a couple of Marsh Harriers and a Sparrowhawk drifted over. From Boulderwall the obligatory Tree Sparrows, whilst out on the fields a scattering of Curlews, Wigeons and 50 Stock Doves.
Whilst chatting to NH from the ramp overlooking Hookers, a Bittern flew across the reedbed and tussled with a harrier before dropping into cover. A large flock of Lapwings and 50 Goldies on the back fields, several more harriers close by and another view of a Bittern from the hide. Long-tailed Duck on Burrowes and Stonechat at the Corral completed a decent mornings birding.
Lade Bay - On a receding tide this afternoon easily bagged all 10 species of shorebirds between the  Lade car park and the Tavern. Of particular note was the number of Knots present; at least 250, which is well up on the norm.

Monday 27 February 2012

Early Moth

Lade - miserable and grey all day, drizzle first thing, W2 - The only different bird of note on the pits was a lone Brent on north pit, otherwise all the usual diving ducks plus a couple of Marsh Harriers hunting over the airport fields.
Highlight of the day however was an Early Moth trapped locally by BD. Early Moth is common enough across much of the country but not down here, as this was only the 3rd or 4th record; and it even attracted the attentions of the Romney Marsh Moth Lord.
Early Moths are probably under recorded as few moth`ers trap this time of year - which reminds me, now where did I stow that moth trap...

Early Moth, Lydd-on-Sea - The males fly throughout January- March, while female are flightless

Sunday 26 February 2012

Raptors in the Sunshine

Lade - 1000hrs - warm, dry and sunny, light airs - A bit of warm sunshine is all that`s required to entice raptors up and into the waiting thermals. Four Marsh Harriers, 2 Buzzards and a Sparrowhawk were soaring high over the airport when I arrived at the aerial mound on south pit.
Dungeness  - 1100hrs  Had a look at the Patch, more out of a sense of duty than anything else, where amongst the melee of mostly immature gulls were 2 adult Meds. A Peregrine scattered the pigeons over the power station and a couple of Kestrels posed on poles by the Light Railway Cafe.

                                          Kestrel, Dungeness

RSPB - 1200hrs - Skirted around the margins of the bird reserve as packed out with weekend birders. From the causeway road a flock of 21 Smews still on New Diggings, with 2 more over the road on ARC plus 8 Goldeneyes. At least 25 Tree Sparrows in the bushes at Boulderwall and another 2 Marsh Harriers circling over the fields. From Springfield Bridge, (where I was joined by the Biking Birders) 4 more Marsh Harriers on the wing, 2 Ravens, `pinging` Beardies and the Great White Egret.

Saturday 25 February 2012

Afternoon Birding

Lade - 1300hrs - warm, sunny, light airs - A late start due to a comedy gig (Stuart Lee) in Canterbury last night and a sore foot (its a long story...). However, a very pleasant afternoon but swarming with people watching the filming on the beach. Still, a decent show of Knots and Barwits from the Tavern and a flock of 20 Brents on the bay.
RSPB - 1345hrs - A count of 23 Smews on New Diggings included 2 drakes, while the Great White Egret showed briefly. Two more redheads on ARC, plus 50 Curlews, 20 Goldies, 200 Lapwings and a Blackwit. Several Marsh Harriers here and over the road from Boulderwall, plus a Bittern and 2 Stonechats near the Corral. The visitors centre and car park was busy with birders; as were the feeders, attracting a variety of common finches, tits, buntings and sparrows. Plenty on offer around Burrowes as well, with singles of Avocet and Long-tailed Duck, 50 Goldies, 8 Pintails, 8 Goldeneyes, hundreds of common wildfowl and scores of immature gulls to practise ones identification skills on ...

                                           Avocet, Burrowes                                           

                                           Long-tailed Duck, Burrowes

Friday 24 February 2012


Lade - 0730hrs - misty, nippy start, brighter by mid-day, w2 - After the heatwave of yesterday (17C in London) it was back to more normal temperatures this morning; even requiring hat-and-gloves first off. Chiffchaff and Goldcrest in the garden kick-started the day well, followed by 2 Woodcocks inadvertently flushed from the storm beaches on the way over to the pits. Was surprised to see them as been a week or so since the last but they probably got lost in the mist last night. One flew well away towards the Trapping Area, while the other one dived down into someones back garden along the coast road! When all`s said and done with this odd winter (mild start with an influx of Short-eared Owls - not many wild swans and geese - where have all the Barn Owls gone - a cold finish with loads of Smews, Goosanders, Woodcocks and a Sea-eagle!) Woodcock will be one bird I`ll remember it for, and smart birds they are too, such a shame that over 100,000 are shot in Britain each winter, surely they deserve a better reception in this day and age...
However, I digress, had to get over the pits sharpish because there was a film crew about to take over the place for the next couple of days; something to do with 2 women, set in the 60`s, at the time of the Cuban missile crisis... Anyhow, all the usual wildfowl present including a pair of courting Shelducks and 8 Goldeneyes. Two harriers were soaring above the airport while Great Tits, Chaffinches and Cetti`s Warblers were all in fine voice.

                                          Goldeneyes, ARC

ARC - By now the sun was shining and several Reed Buntings were singing, along with more of the same as at Lade. A noisy gang of 30 odd Tree/House Sparrows was quarrelling in the big bush by the car park, while a Cettis`s Warbler showed well from Hanson, plus Long-tailed Tits and Chiffchaff. Out on the water 3 Pintails, 2 Smews, 4 Shelducks, 6 Golden Plovers, 15 Curlews, a Blackwit and several hundred Lapwings amongst the regular ducks. Several Cormorants were back on the main island and a Little Egret was in front of Screen. At least 3 Marsh Harriers noted including the `yellow-fronted old lady`. Had a natter with PB and on the walk back to the car a Bittern flew over from Boulderwall.
Greatstone Beach - A quick look from the tavern this afternoon noted 6 of the regular beach wader species including 50 Knots.

Wednesday 22 February 2012

Mockmill Sewer

Mockmill Sewer - 0930hrs - cloudy, chilly, sw3 - A local patch is a marvellous thing and allows you to discover and have an intimate knowledge of a birding area close to home that reaches the parts that other birding sites can never hope to achieve. Mockmill Sewer is one such location; a slither of wetness that runs between two storm beach ridges from the airport fields behind the 200 foot `mirror` out onto the dry stony, Desert at Lade.
I don`t visit the sewer as often as I should as its a fair old slog out across the shingle to get to, but once there its one of those places that you think must turn up something good one day, and if it does, for sure I`ll find it, because in six years I`ve never seen another birder out there!
Today was fairly duff with just a few singing Dunnocks and Wrens, a couple of Song Thrushes and flushed Snipe. My first winter down here 3 Short-eared Owls regularly hunted the sewer and I`ve had some pretty impressive falls of warblers and thrushes during the autumn. Scarcities have included Gropper, Dartford Warbler and Rouzel, but I feel sure that one day it will yield an Aquatic Warbler in the sedges or maybe a Roller on a fencepost, well I can dream...

 Mockmill Sewer - a boggy tangle of sedge, reed, bulrush and tussock grass between two gorse, bramble and blackthorn ridges

Barney loves Mockmill Sewer as it allows him to indulge in one of his favourite pastimes - chasing rabbits. But fear not dear reader, carnage rarely prevails as he is the most pathetic of hunting terriers.

RSPB - Called in at the visitor centre this afternoon, more for a natter than anything else. The Long-tailed Duck was still on Burrowes and a Black-necked Grebe on Christmas Dell. Over the road the usual Bitterns, Smews and Great White Egret present. Also year ticked three-wheel birder in Dennis`s hide trying to snap the long-tailed.

Tuesday 21 February 2012


Dungeness - 0800hrs - cloudy, sunshine, nippy, sw3 - A wander along from the boardwalk, aimlessly looking for Snow Buntings, resulted in flushing about 400 Cormorants off the beach. Joined Plodding Birder for an hours seawatch from the concrete road where we noted over 100 Red-throated Divers milling around the Point, 300 Gannets east and hundreds of auks, gulls, grebes and more Cormorants. DW arrived and promptly pointed out a 2nd winter Med Gull just offshore.
ARC - 1330hrs - Plenty of action here with Bitterns flying all over the place and one that walked in front of Hanson, whilst I watched from Screen! A Kingfisher showed well, diving from reed stems in front of the hide for tiddlers. All the usual wildfowl including 3 Smews, 6 Goldeneyes and a Pintail, plus 200 Lapwings, 3 Marsh Harriers, Dabchick, Blackwit and Green Woodpecker. Over the road the Great White Egret was hunting the far bank, while at least 17 Smews (including 3 drakes) lurked amongst a Tufted Duck flock on the open water.

                                           Kingfisher, ARC - always a welcome sight

Monday 20 February 2012

Penduline Tit

Lade - 0900hrs -chilly, sunny, w1 - At last, nailed a Bittern on the local patch, the first of the winter, sunning itself on the edge of the reedbed just south of the wall` mirror`. Unfortunately I only had bins with me, so distant, but in view for 20 minutes warming up in the sun. A pair of Ravens flew over `cronking` loudly as they headed inland, one with what looked like a shellfish in its beak. Several Marsh Harriers hunting over the airport and a pair of Shelducks on south pit.

                                          Lade  - wall `mirror` 
ARC - 1215hrs Plenty of wildfowl from Hanson including 8 Goldeneyes, 3 Smews and a Pintail, single Blackwit, 3 Marsh Harriers, Water Rail and a Sparrowhawk. Whilst watching a small flock of passerines in the willows, including several Long-tailed tits and Chiffchaffs, was surprised to get brief views of a  Penduline Tit working its way through the top of the bushes. Only had the briefest of views of what appeared to be an adult, but didnt get a look at the legs to see if it was ringed, like the one at the back end of last year. I think this is the first sighting in 2012.

Sunday 19 February 2012

Bunting Hunting

Park Wood - 1030hrs - cold, dry and sunny, n2 - Had a woodland wander with CP and the ladies on a cracking winter`s morning. All the usual timber birds including Long-tailed and Coal Tits, Treecreepers, Nuthatches, Green and Greater peckers, Jay, Bullfinch and a couple of Buzzards over the canopy. Sadly, en-route from the coast, 4 dead roadside badgers.
                                          Park Wood, Appledore

                                           Bewick`s Swans going to roost, Walland Marsh

                                          Lights Out, Walland Marsh

Walland Marsh - 1645hrs - Went bunting hunting this afternoon with CP in search of the 200 plus flock of Corn Buntings noted last week, but all we could find was a measly 30 odd. Anyhow, 19 Marsh Harriers came to roost, plus an odd looking ringtail, small and dull with a narrow white rump a bit like a Monty`s; strange looking thing and would like to have seen it in better light. Also noted singles of Bittern and Snipe, a few Reed Buntings and, in dribs and drabs, 66 Bewick`s Swans to roost on the open water with much yelping and `oop-ooping` in the setting sun.
NB: Other local news included further sightings of the Sea-eagle over Saltwood this morning heading east along the hills towards Dover, and a single Glossy Ibis over Dengemarsh this afternoon flying towards Scotney (SB).

Saturday 18 February 2012

Finch Flock

New Diggings - 0945hrs - mild, cloud and sunshine, sw4/5 - A blustery start to the day. Plenty of wildfowl from the causeway road including 19 Smews (3 drakes), 6 Goldenyes and a drake Goosander, plus single Great White and Little Egrets. Over the road on ARC, 200 Wigeons, Shovelers and Gadwalls.
Lydd Airport - 1015hrs - A large flock (well, large by todays standards) of 150 Chaffinches near the farm deserved a scan through for a Brambling, but all I could find was 4 Goldfinches and a Greenfinch. In the pine trees Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers, while on the farmland hundreds of Woodpigeons, Stock Doves, Starlings, corvids and Common Gulls, plus a covey of 6 Red-legs.
Walland Marsh - 1100hrs Spent a couple of hours driving across the Marsh scanning for the eagle but to no avail. 35 Bewick`s were back in the field at Midley and Tree Sparrows were noted at two regular sites, but as usual there were few small farmland birds to be found. Three Marsh Harriers, Buzzard and Kestrel noted.
Scotney - 1330hrs A good selection of geese at the Sussex end with 9 Brents on the water and 9 close White-fronts amongst the plastic Barneys, Grey Lags and goodness-knows-what, Emperor/Snow/Bar-headed hybrid types (given up trying to work out their parentage so propose to create a new species: how about the Scotney Goose Anser scotneus ). At the Kent end, 500 Wigeons, Lapwings, Goldies and Starlings, 10 Dunlins and singles of Redshank and Ringed Plover.
Boulderwall - 1430hrs With the wind picking up and drizzle in the air scanned the fields but all I could find was 15 Curlews, 3 Marsh Harriers and a Blackwit over. The Long-tailed duck remained on Burrowes and there was a report of 5 Snow Buntings at the Point earlier. Had a quick look from the boats in fading light without success.

                                          Bewick`s Swans - Midley

                                           White-fronts - Scotney
                                          Barnacle Geese - Scotney
                                           4 Scotney Geese - Scotney!

Friday 17 February 2012

After the Lord Mayor`s Show...

Lade - 0930hrs - mild, 11C, cloudy w2 - After the excitement of yesterday it was back to more normal fare today. Was surprised to see several deep snow drifts still intact at the back end of south pit and 100 Wigeons and Teals sat on ice by the reedbed; much of the middle section of the pits was still iced over too.
Dungeness - 1500hrs An hour seawatch from the concrete road with MH, in poor light and with the foghorn blasting away, revealed a steady flow of gulls, Cormorants, Gannets, Kitts, Red-throated Divers and auks around the Point, or feeding just offshore. There was no sign of the Glaucous Gull.

Thursday 16 February 2012

Walland Marsh - Sea-eagle!!!

Walland Marsh - 0930hrs - mild, cloudy, nw2 - A phone call from an excited Marshman this morning necessitated a rapid change of plan for the day ahead... He`d had a phone call from a local farmer telling of a "vulture" at large on Walland; only to discover a Sea-eagle feeding on a fox carcass in a turf field by the Cheyne Court windfarm - now that`s what I call a memorable start in any day! By the time I arrived the eagle was a distant blob perched up in a small clump of trees south of the Rye road.
A brisk walk out from the Woolpack delivered much better views and as a small group of us watched from a safe distance the mighty bird shuffled its feathers, had a crap, turned into the wind and flew back towards the Rye road and over the heads of the waiting locals. We had breathtaking views of this flying monster with the double-barn-door wings, diamond shaped tail and massive pale bill; an immature bird, liberally sprinkled white on the back and breast.
We watched as it landed briefly in a field to the north of the Guldeford Levels before heading towards Oxney in Sussex (attracting the attentions of a pair of Peregrines en-route), where it eventually landed in a tree on the `Isle`. A dash around to the Rye-Appledore road delivered further views as it thermalled off the hillside with a pair of Buzzards looking like Starlings in comparison and was last seen high over Walland Marsh at about 12.30hrs
Having not seen a Sea-eagle for ages I`d forgotten just how massive they are. A superb bird and a first for the Romney Marsh apparently. Credit must go to CP for following up the lead, locating it and getting the news out quickish - well done that man. Let`s hope it sticks around so a few more birders can enjoy this magnificent raptor, which does look very much at home down here on the flatlands.
Other raptors seen on Walland this morning included a ringtail Hen Harrier, 4 Buzzards, 3 Marsh Harriers, 2 Peregrines, 2 Kestrels and a Sparrowhawk. At Midley the Bewick` s Swan flock totalled 60 and 11 Corn Buntings were by the drying barns.

                      White-tailed Eagle, imm - Walland Marsh - poor record shots

                               Great White Egret, ARC - skating on ice!

ARC - 1500hrs Called in at Hanson this afternoon where the amusing sight of the GWE skating on  ice! Also, 10 Smews, including a drake, 8 Goldeneyes, singles of Blackwit, Kingfisher, Bittern, Little Egret and hundreds of Wigeons, Teals, Gadwalls and Shovelers.

Wednesday 15 February 2012

Bewick`s Swans & Satellite

Lade - 0900hrs - mildish, part sunny, nw4 - Surprisingly south pit still had a fair bit of ice and remained frozen around the willow islands. About 200 Teals and Wigeons on the ice was of note along with 4 Goldeneyes on  open water plus the usual diving ducks.
Dungeness - 1000hrs - From the boats a right old feeding frenzy just offshore involving hundreds of gulls, auks, Great Crested Grebes and Cormorants, plus a few Red-throated Divers, Gannets and Kittiwakes. A party of 11 Brents passed east and a seal popped it`s head up briefly.
ARC - 1100hrs - From Hanson a party of 33 Bewick`s Swans on the water, calling and head-bobbing and looking pretty as a picture in the winter sunshine as only they can. Wild swans are undeniably gorgeous creatures, handsome and evocative, that turn up on the Marsh for a few months in the winter from northern lands; funny how the boring old Mute Swan is given the cold shoulder by most birders ...
Still plenty of Wigeons, Shovelers, Gadwalls on the water/ice, plus a scattering of Teals, Shelducks, Goldeneyes, Pintail and a party of 13 Grey Plovers briefly. Marsh Harriers, Sparrowhawk and Kestrel also noted. Over the road on New Diggings 6 each of Ruddy Ducks, Smews and Goosanders.
On the way to and from Ashford drove via Botolph`s Bridge and surrounding lanes checking for yesterdays reported Sea-eagle... well, you never know...

                                           Lade North - last of the ice

                                           Bewick`s Swans - ARC

Satellite - Kerton Road Cafe - one mild night and a moth comes to light, incredible!

A cracking birdwatching break with 95 species noted and some real quality winter birds for the visitors to saviour, including superb views of Bewick`s Swans, White-fronts, Great White Egret, Glossy Ibis, Long-tailed Duck, Smews, Goosanders, Bittern, auks, Marsh Harriers, Black Redstart, Ravens and Tree Sparrows. Birds conspicuous by their absence since the freeze-up were Little Egret, Golden Plover and Kingfisher. That said it always takes visiting birdwatchers to remind me how lucky we are down here with a wide range of species on offer in a small area, and not to take it for granted.

Tuesday 14 February 2012

Glossy Ibis & Wigeons

Littlestone - 0900hrs - cold, grey, nw3, brighter later and milder - A cracking winter`s day birding around the Marsh with plenty of good birds and one or two surprises. We kicked of at low tide for shorebirds at Littlestone and nailed 9 out of 10 of the regulars with only Knot proving elusive; decent numbers of both Barwits and Grey Plovers with around 50 of each. A flyover Skylark was noteworthy here, as was a raft of 300 Common Scoters and 500 Great Crested Grebes offshore.
RSPB - 1015hrs - Superb session on the bird reserve with good numbers of sawbills and dabbling ducks; best count I could come up with was 25 Smews and 17 Goosanders across all waters and literally thousands of Wigeons on ARC and Burrowes. From Hanson jammed a 5 minute Glossy Ibis that flew in and landed briefly on one of the islands before leaving high to the east. Also, the wintering Long-tailed Duck and Bittern from Dennis`s hide; Great White Egret, 2 Ravens, Snipe, Christmas Dell;  Blackwit, 4 Marsh Harriers and 8 Dabchicks, Dengemarsh; 6 Ruddy Ducks, New Diggings; Pintails, Long-tailed Tits, Cettis`s Warblers, Sparrowhawk and Chiffchaffs, ARC; Tree Sparrows and Stonechat, Boulderwall; Reed Buntings, car park feeders.
Lydd Wood - 1500hrs Single Woodcock.
Galloways - 1530hrs Black Redstart on the chicken sheds.
Scotney - 1600hrs - Thousands of wildfowl here, mainly Wigeons and feral geese, including 15 Pintails, 30 White-fronts, 12 Brents and an assortment of Barnacles and hybrid Snow/Emperor types.
We finished with 8 Marsh Harriers flying into the ranges to roost.
In summary: surprise of the day was undoubtedly the Ibis but bird of the day, simply due to the sheer numbers, had to be Wigeon.

                                           Glossy Ibis - ARC

                                           White-fronts - Scotney

                                           Wigeons - ARC

Monday 13 February 2012


Faggs Wood - 1300hrs - Grey, misty, drizzle, 3C -  First Birdwatching Break of the year with Stuart and Raymond down from London for three days. After pick up from Ashford Station called in at Faggs Wood where we had a good range of woodland birds around the car park, including Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers, Nuthatches, Mistle and Song Thrushes, Redwings and a Goldcrest.
Warehorne 1330hrs - The feeders by the church were packed with Greenfinches, Chaffinches, Blue and Great Tits and several Tree Sparrows. From the bridge had stunning views of a perched male Sparrowhawk, plus several Fieldfares and Lapwings.
Dungeness - 1430hrs - An hour from the fishing boats produced a trickle of auks (one Razorbill), Red-throated Divers, Gannets, Kittiwakes and Cormorants.
New Diggings - 1545hrs - What with ARC still frozen over, a bit of a sawbill fest here with 13 Goosanders and 11 Smews, plus Pochards, Tufteds and 5 Goldeneyes, Great White Egret and 3 Marsh Harriers. On ARC from the road 200 Gadwalls and Shovelers. At Cockle Bridge, single Stonechat.
Walland Marsh - 1600hrs - Finished the afternoon checking out the fields on Walland where 63ish Bewick`s Swans at Midley, Tree Sparrows on the usual feeders and single Buzzard, 5 Marsh Harriers and a Teal nearby. Several more Mistle and Song Thrushes noted along the verges.
Not a bad start, considering the horrible conditions.

Sunday 12 February 2012


Lade 1500hrs - cold, grey, icy - Returned from WSussex where most of the pits en-route were frozen over, including Scotney and ARC. No surprises then that Lade was likewise, so the monthly wildfowl count didn't take long, as there weren't any. 355 Curlews on the shingle ridges was of note and a Woodcock was flushed from cover by the main track.

Saturday 11 February 2012

Pagham Harbour

Pagham Harbour - 0800hrs - bitter cold, -7C, clear and sunny, ne2 - I must be the world`s worst twitcher... I had a bad feeling about this when I turned up on North Shore with about a hundred other mugs, when after an hour a Kestrel came up out of the reedbed with an LBJ which it proceeded to eat atop the tyre bush, the Paddyfield Warbler`s favoured haunt... It probably was only a Reed Bunting, but that was enough for me; back to proper birding and get the blood flowing again, as boy was it nippy (birders who`d travelled from the Midlands had recorded -12 C on the way down!).
In the reedbed plenty of Reed Buntings, several Mipits, Wrens, Bearded Tits,2 Water Rails, Cetti`s Warblers and a couple of Stonechats. A circuit westwards provided 3 Rock Pipits besides the bank, flocks of winter thrushes, Blackbirds, Song Thrushes, Goldfinches, Greenfinches, 2 Snipe, 2 Woodcocks, Wigeons, Teals, Buzzard, a cracking male Marsh Harrier and the spectacle of the morning hundreds of Brents on the move. On the harbour at low tide loads of common shorebirds, particularly Grey Plovers, Wigeons and Teals.

                                          Paddy twitch, North Shore
                                           Chichester Gravel Pits
                                          Where`s the water gone...

Chichester Gravel Pits - 1200hrs - My first visit here and most of the lakes were frozen over apart from Ivy Lake which had a couple of thousand tightly packed common wildfowl, grebes and Coots, 12 ****** Ducks and 2 Goldeneyes. Also noted, Grey Wagtail, Chiffchaff, Bullfinch, Long-tailed Tit and by the car park, Nuthatch, Treecreeper and a Firecrest.
Church Norton - 1430hrs - A super spot at high tide with all 10 species of common shorebirds on show, 50 Shelducks, 30 Teals, 200 Cormorants, 10 Med Gulls, 4 Pintails,  5 Herons, 2 Little Egrets, 7 Dabchicks, 1 Merg, 3 Goldeneyes, Sparrowhawk, Siskin, Kingfisher, Greater pecker; and offshore, 7 Red-breasted Mergansers and 2 Slav Grebes.
A top days birding with 95 species noted.

Friday 10 February 2012

Go West

Bracklesham Bay, West Sussex - cold and sunny - A change of scene 100 miles west for a spot of research; and not a flake of snow to be seen anywhere. A mooch along the beach before lights out was notable for a huge flock of around a thousand Brents on the move. On the sea several Red-throated Divers, Guillemots and a flyover Grey Plover.

                                           Brents over Bracklesham Bay  

Thursday 9 February 2012

Bittern & Chiffchaffs

Lade - 0900hrs - cold, sunny, ne2 - Seemed a bit warmer this morning as the wind had backed off. The Desert looked a treat with the sunshine bouncing off the snowdrifts, where several Blackbirds and a SongThrush were rooting around in the broom. Three Goldeneyes on Lade south amongst the regular ducks was about it.
ARC - 1330hrs - Had a run out with CP and MH this afternoon. First stop the causeway road where a couple of Smews on New Ex and hundreds of Wigeons, Shovelers and Gadwalls on the ARC side. Further down towards Boulderwall we had cracking flight views of a Bittern flying over the road and into the reedbed at ARC, that duly performed again from Hanson later on by flying across the lake. From the hide hundreds of Wigeons, Shovelers, diving ducks, 3 Smews, 2 Shelducks and a Dunlin. Also, incredible views of 3 Chiffchaffs flitting through the reeds and hopping onto the ice, plus singles of Cetti`s Warbler and Water Rail. Walked the Willow Trail for Woodcock without success but did note a few Blackbirds, Wrens and Robins, Redwing and Great Tit.
On the way out bumped into and had a natter with Martin Garner (former Bedfordshire birder) who was in the county to give a talk this evening for KOS in Maidstone.

                                          Lade Desert                                         

                                           Smew and Wigeons

Dungeness - 1510hrs Finished off with a 45 minute seawatch from the concrete road where the highlights were 2 adult Little Gulls, 20 Red-throated Divers, plus a few auks, Kitts, Gannets and a Shelduck.

Wednesday 8 February 2012

Hard Times

Lade - 0800hrs -bitter cold, grey with a scudding north-easterly 3- The only bird of note was yet another Woodcock flushed from scrub on one the storm-beaches by Barney.
Galloways - 1330hrs - A circuit around the range road produced plenty of small gull activity at the sheep troughs, mostly Common Gulls, plus a few Stock Doves and Magpies. Good views of a Bittern and 2 Smew on Brett`s Pit, plus a couple of sickly Common Gulls. On the chicken sheds a male Black Redstart seemed to be finding food in sheltered corners, but once again there was no sign of any Little Owls.
Dengemarsh - From Springfield Bridge, Raven overhead `cronking`, single male Marsh Harrier, a Woodcock and 5 Curlews on the field edge and hundreds of Wigeons on the open water.
New Diggings At least 7 Smew on the far side from the causeway road.


                                          Dengemarsh Sewer

Tuesday 7 February 2012

Med Gulls

Folkestone - 1000hrs - v cold, sunny, se4, -1C - Had to go to the cash & carry in Folkestone so thought it only right and proper to check out the Med Gulls at Copt Point. Smart birds (for a gull) are Meds and I can remember back in the 80`s calling in here to twitch one when they were still a scarce bird. Anyhow, saw about 50 in the area today around the old pub, the coastguard lookout and down by the harbour. Several posed on roof-tops for piccies but should`ve taken some bread to bring `em down.
On the fields behind the lookout were 4 Goldies, 2 Lapwings and a Dunlin feeding on a snow-free patch of grass.
On the harbour breakwater and wall, amongst the gulls, were 20 Turnstones, 6 Dunlins, 2 Redshanks and a Purple Sandpiper.
                                           Lade Bay - sunrise

                                           Golden Plovers - Folkestone
                                          Lapwing & Goldie - Folkestone

                                           Adult Mediterranean Gulls - Folkestone

ARC - 1400hrs - From the causeway road 7 Goosanders on the edge of the ice along with hundreds of Wigeons, Gadwalls and Shovelers, plus 3 Dunlins and a Snipe on the frozen mud. Over the road on New Diggings 3 redhead Smews. From Hanson, 1,000 + Wigeons, Shovelers and Gadwalls plus several Shelducks, Pintails and brief view of a Bittern. Opposite Screen a small flock of Long-tailed tits and a Chiffchaff. Out on the ice yet another moribund Common Gull and several other looking decidedly unwell; wonder why this gull in particular seems to be suffering...

Monday 6 February 2012

Slow Thaw

Lade - 0900hrs - cold, grey, 2C, a slow thaw - Wildfowl wise much the same as yesterday, although an increase in Teal numbers to over 200. Some of the Common Gulls on the ice didn`t look in great shape and further down by the ponds found a moribund individual under a bush;  two foxes sitting on the edge of the ice looked ready to mop up. Flushed a Woodcock from cover by the ponds and a flock of 15 Lottis was a nice surprise.
Dungeness - 1430hrs - An hour from the seawatch hide produced very little apart from a few grebes, auks and Kitts, plus a couple of hundred Black-headed Gulls over the Patch. The most exciting thing was watching two blokes in bosun's chairs atop the new lighthouse.

                                          Lade - south pit

                                          Dungeness Lighthouses