Wednesday 31 October 2012

Somerset Levels

Avalon Marshes - Mon-Wed - Spent some time this week on the Somerset Levels, specifically on the Avalon Marshes section just west of Glastonbury (full of old hippies smoking roll ups), a place I have not visited before. Was interesting to compare with the Romney Marsh, but the two places could not be more different with the origins of the Levels steeped in peat cutting. Whereas RM is almost entirely intensively farmed arable land, and largely bereft of birds, the Levels are a wetland paradise with birds everywhere.
                                         Female Great White Egret, Ham Wall

                                          Herald, Shapwick

                                          Westhay Moor NNR

                                          Ham Wall RSPB Reserve

                                           A few Starlings, Ham Wall

  We visited all the main sites; Westhay, Shapwick Heath, Catcott Lows and Ham Wall, with the latter the most productive. Here we found a Glossy Ibis and saw the breeding female Great White Egret, Britain's first, alongside plenty of Little Egrets, Grey Herons, Snipes and Blackwits. Bitterns were regularly seen flying between reedbeds, as were Bearded Tits, while Water Rails and Cetti`s Warblers were constantly calling from cover. Kingfishers were particularly numerous and seen at all sites. Westhay was loaded with dabbling ducks and Dabchicks, while it was here we saw Barn and Tawny Owls, Raven, Merlin and Peregrine; Buzzards and Kestrels were commonplace. Passerines included Grey Wagtails, Siskins, Goldfinches, Stonechats, Mipits, Reed Buntings and winter thrushes, plus flocks of Goldcrests and Long-tailed Tits in willow scrub. The highlight of the trip was the Starling roost at Ham Wall where countless tens of thousands of birds swirled around like gnats before falling silent in the reed beds. At least 3 Sparrowhawks were seen hunting the flocks.
We stayed at Newhouse Farm B&B at Westhay (close to the Peat Moors Vistors Centre), and very good it was too.

Saturday 27 October 2012

Chichester Harbour, Sussex

West Wittering - 0900hrs - Cold, sunny, n6 - By heck its cold! With the temperature at 3C, first thing, the shorts were quickly stowed away in favour of thermals, hats and gloves. Barney, however was in his element, he loves the cold.
Spent the day birding the eastern side of the harbour and checking out walks for Birdwatching articles. Started off at West Wittering where a flock of some 1,500 Brents were resting on the fields behind the beach estate. Also present, 200 Golden Plovers, 100 Lapwings, 100 Starlings, 50 Wigeons, 20 Stock Doves, 20 Skylarks, 20 Mipits and 10 Oystercatchers. We walked around to a small stand of pines near East Head for shelter from the biting wind, where a few passerines had the same idea, as in the lea of the trees it was quite warm and sheltered. Several Goldfinches, Robins and 2 Stonechats popped up onto a wire fence while 10 alba wagtails and 5 Mipits hopped around on the grass. In the trees several Goldcrests, Chaffinches, tits, Chiffchaff and a Jay. Feeding low over the sand dunes, 12 House Martins and 5 Swallows. We then walked along the harbour shoreline to a small rife that held about 200 roosting Redshanks, Barwits, Grey Plovers, Curlews and Dunlin. A Snipe flew off as did a Great White Egret and 5 Little Egrets. Also noted Kestrel, Sparrowhawk, Grey Heron, Reed Bunting and Green Woodpecker. On the return to the village the tree cover by the church attracted a small flock of Long-tailed Tits and Goldcrests.

                                          Brents, West Wittering

                                          Red Admiral, West Itchenor

West Itchenor - 1300hrs - Another circular walk at low tide delivered hundreds of Brents on the salt marsh, plus Wigeons, Redshanks, Curlews and Barwits. Was surprised to see and hear a Raven flying across the harbour. The woodland held a tit flock, Great pecker and a Jay, while at least 10 Skylarks were flushed from a stubble field. An elm hedgerow along a sheltered lane attracted 2 basking red admirals and a ruddy darter. In all a decent days birding considering the difficult viewing conditions.

Friday 26 October 2012

The Burgh

Scotney Pits - 0930hrs - Cool, overcast, drizzle, ne3 - With plenty of standing water on the fields beside the pits it was no surprise that there were good numbers of Wigeons, Teal, Lapwings, Common Gulls, and Starlings probing for food; also, 75 Barnacle Geese, 12 hybrids, 10 Curlews, 10 Redshanks, 5 Dunlins, 4 Mipits and 2 Skylarks. Further along the road, into Sussex, 60 Golden Plovers on the point.
The Burgh, West Sussex  - 1200hrs - Spent the afternoon at a downland site near Arundel, renowned for farmland birds and raptors. Despite being intensively farmed most fields had broad headlands planted out with game cover. There was also several large stubble fields and a small wood atop the hill. Even though the weather was awful (cold with drizzle) we still managed plenty of finches, three species of buntings, Grey Partridges, Skylarks, Mipits and winter thrushes, plus Jay, Buzzard, Merlin and Kestrel.

                                          The Burgh, West Sussex

Thursday 25 October 2012

Swallows & House Martins

Lade - 0800hrs - Mild, cloudy, ne4 - With only Black Rustics in the trap this morning and the prospect of poor moth`ing weather ahead decide to pack the trap away for the season, which has been a poor one with numbers down by at least a third.
Over the pits the blustery wind made for difficult passerine hunting, but a sheltered area by the ponds did deliver 10 Long-tailed Tits, 5 Goldcrests and 2 Chiffchaffs. Several groups of Goldfinches over totalled around 100, plus single figures of Redpolls, Siskins and Skylarks. Also of note was a passage of 35 Swallows and 15 House Martins, in three groups, heading north!
On the lakes the usual wildfowl and a couple of Marsh Harriers and a Kestrel hunting over the farmland.
Dunes Road, Greatstone - Checked the cover by the railway line but all I had was a mixed tit flock, a few thrushes, Robins and 20 Chaffinches.
ARC - Another tit flock near Hanson contained several Goldcrests and Chiffchaffs. From the hide several hundred Golden Plovers and Lapwings, plus similar numbers of common wildfowl.
Littlestone - 1600hrs - Checked the foreshore where 5 Ringed Plovers, 20 Barwits, 4 Redshanks, 10 Knots, 50 Dunlins and 30 Sanderlings amongst several hundred Oystercatchers and Curlews. No sign of any owls on the golf links, which was no great surprise what with the north-easter up to a force 6 by now.

Wednesday 24 October 2012

More Migrant Moths & Birds

Lade - 0730hrs - Mild, misty, cloudy, ne2 - A feast of moths in the two garden traps this morning with 156 macros of 16 species, the majority being Black Rustics. Highlights included a fresher Gem, Beaded Chestnut, Feathered Thorn, 8 Large Wainscots and a Clancy`s Rustic, which BS showed great interest in. Whilst doing the moths a steady procession of thrushes and finches over, plus a Grey Wagtail. By mid-morning a group of Goldcrests in the garden fir trees contained a Firecrest.

                                          Feathered Thorn


                                          Fly Agaric, Dungeness

                                          Lesser Redpoll, DBO

Dungeness - A late morning saunter around the Obs area revealed plenty of Robins, Blackbirds and Song Thrushes, plus a few Redwings and Fieldfares. Also, Skylarks, Redpoll, Siskins, Goldfinches and Mipits overhead, plus Sparrowhawk and Kestrel. In the Trapping Area a mixed flock of crests and Goldcrests; (TG had 2 Ring Ouzels earlier).
ARC -  A scan from Hanson revealed 2 Dunlins and a Snipe amongst several hundred Golden Plovers and Lapwings. A Marsh Harrier briefly flushed the waders, while a late Hobby was hunting along the far shoreline. Chatted to BB for a while before calling it a day.
On the bird reserve this morning BP had Yellow-browed Warbler and Richard`s Pipits in the Christmas Dell area.

Tuesday 23 October 2012

Migrant Moths, Birds & Van Morrison

Lade - 0730hrs - Mild, overcast, misty e1 - With Bernard Skinner staying for a couple of nights attention switched to moths with two back garden traps yielding 121 moths of 15 species. Migrants included: Silver Y, Scarce Bordered Straw, Delicate, Dark Sword-grass and Gem.
Plenty of winter thrushes, Skylarks, Chaffinches and Goldfinches over the cottage this morning.


                                          Dark Sword-grass

Dengemarsh Gully - 1030hrs - Walked the gully where large numbers of grounded thrushes present. Numbers difficult to accurately count but in 2 hours probably had 50 Blackbirds, 50 Redwings, 50 Robins, 30 Song Thrushes, 20 Fieldfares and 4 Stonechats; also, 4 Chiffchaffs, 4 Goldcrests, 2 Kestrels, 2 Reed Buntings, 1 Cetti`s Warbler and an assortment of Starlings, Great Tits, Wrens and Dunnocks. Overhead passage had begun to tail off by the time I arrived but a steady trickle of Skylarks, Mipits, Chaffinches and Goldfinches noted, plus a few Redpolls and Siskins.
Down at the dam joined MH, PB & BM who`d had loads more including Ring Ouzel, Brambling and a Jack Snipe that plunged down into cover never to be seen again; does make you wonder what else could be lurking here... Whilst nattering away several parties of Brents, scoters and Gannets noted just off shore.
Van Morrison, Canterbury - 1930hrs - A belated birthday pressie from Mrs PT was a pair of tickets to see Van The Man at the Marlowes theatre in Canterbury this evening performing his Born to Sing tour. The legendary Ulsterman was on top form selecting a wide range of songs from his extensive back catalogue covering almost half a century, from the seminal Astral Weeks album to his more contemporary jazzy stuff of today. He played many of his classic numbers, all rework in a different style, including my all time favourite Days Like This, which reminds me of my dear old mum. His band of musicians were, of course, of the highest quality and anyone going to tonight's gig is in for a real treat: the supreme singer/songwriter at the top of his game, even after 50 years, pure genius.

Monday 22 October 2012

Thrushes & Short-eared Owl

Lade -0700hrs - Mild, overcast, thick fog, sunny later, e2 - Plenty of Redwings and Skylarks over in the gloom this morning as well as one or two Goldcrests in the garden.

                                         Green-brindled Crescent from 20th October

Lydd - 0900hrs - Had to drop the car in the garage in Lydd so decided to walk back home; a convoluted 3 mile route along Dengemarsh Road, across farmland to the bird reserve, past Boulderwall and ARC and out across the Desert to Lade, which took about 3 hours.
The fog was dense for much of the time, only starting to lift around midday. Robins and Blackbirds were numerous along the way with a steady overhead passage of Skylarks continuing for much of the morning.
First port of call was Lydd Wood where the highlights were 5 Jays, 4 Blackbirds, Chiffchaff and Goldcrest. Along Dengemarsh Road plenty more Blackbirds and a few Song Thrushes, plus 10 Pied Wagtails 5 Mipits and a Mistle Thrush on the football pitch. Across the farmland several Reed Buntings and Cetti`s Warblers in the ditches, Kestrel, 20 Common Gulls and 20 Linnets. At the Corral, Ring Ouzel, 4 Fieldfares, 2 Stonechats and 20 Tree Sparrows at Boulderwall. From Screen hide loads of Lapwings, Golden Plovers and dabbling ducks on the islands, plus Great White and 2 Little Egrets. The pines produced a small flock of Long-tailed Tits and crests, while a stunning Short-eared Owl was flushed as we walked across the shingle at the back of the water tower.
Dengemarsh Gully - 1500hrs - Spent a productive 90 minutes doing the gully with the Joker in warm sunshine, where we ended up with an impressive tally of migrants including 20 Blackbirds, 20 Robins, 15 Song Thrushes, 5 Skylarks, 3 Black Redstarts, 2 Stonechats, 2 Mipits and singles of Fieldfare, Redpoll, Common Redstart and Northern Wheatear.
A quick scan from Springfield Bridge was noteworthy for 8 Little Grebes.

Sunday 21 October 2012


Dungeness  - 0900hrs - Rain, cloudy, mild, ne3 - Weatherwise a thoroughly grotty day with persistant rain and heavy showers lashing the Point all morning. We spent most of the time seawatching from the hide and the concrete road with a brief visit to The Patch. The seawatch produced a total of 200 Brents, 50 Common Scoters and 2 Bonxies down-Channel. Everything else was milling around offshore, so 50 odd Gannets, 10 auks, 3 Red-throated Divers, Sandwich Tern and a juv Kittiwake, plus 5 Porpoises and a Grey Seal. Loafing gulls by the fishing boats included Shortie the Glaucous Gull and the adult Yellow-legged Gull. At The Patch, 3 Little Gulls and a Med Gull amongst 100 assorted gulls (there was also a report of a Sabine`s along the beach this morning). Passerines of noted included 50 Goldfinches, 4 Mipits and a Skylark.

                                     Shortie, the Glaucous Gull, now in 3rd winter plumage

In summary, Sarah, Jean and Laura clocked up 100 species this weekend, despite the rain on Friday and today. The individual highlight was probably the Short-eared Owl because of the stunning views it gave, but predictably the passerines around the Peninsula on Saturday stole the show: particularly the thrushes, Ring Ouzels, Jays, Bearded Tits, finches, crests and Yellow-browed Warbler. An enjoyable weekend all round in great company.

Saturday 20 October 2012

Yellow-browed Warbler & Much, Much, More...

Lade - 0800hrs - Cloudy, sunshine later, dry, light airs - An eerily still day with loads of birds from the off. Around the cottage and overhead, Goldfinches, Redpolls, Siskins, 50 Swallows, 30 House Martins, 6 Jays, plus Blackbirds, Song Thrushes, Robins and Goldcrests in the gardens. Also 6 species of moths in the trap last night including Blair`s Shoulder-knot and Dark Sword-grass.
Dungeness - 0900hrs - Terrific session here with a steady flow of Mipits, finches and hirundines coming and going. The lighthouse garden contained plenty of Robins, Great Tits, Goldcrests, Blackbirds, Chiffchaffs, 3 Blackcaps and a Common Redstart, plus 3 Jays, Skylark and Greater pecker overhead.
At the Obs the ladies enjoyed birds in the hand from the ringing hut, particularly Chiffchaffs and a Jay. In and around the moat, 10 Goldcrests, 20 Blackbirds, 10 Song Thrushes and 2 Ring Ouzels.
On the way out we stopped to check the gull flock on the beach opposite the Sanctuary and connected with the 3rd winter Glaucous Gull and the adult Yellow-legged Gull.

                                          Jay, DBO

                                          Great White Egret, Burrowes

                                          Stonechat, Dengemarsh


                                          Stonechat, Dengemarsh

Greatstone Beach - 1300hrs - On an incoming tide hundreds of Curlews and Oystercatchers on the beach, plus 20 Barwits, 5 Knots, 50 Sanderlings and Dunlins. As always, a great spectacle when the waders flew off to their high tides roosts.
RSPB - 1400hrs - A circuit of the bird reserve delivered a decent return with highlights being 2 Great White Egrets on Burrowes, 2 Stonechats near Christmas Dell, Snipe and Bearded Tits at four different locations. The scrub near Dengemarsh hide delivered a mixed flock of Long-tailed Tits, Goldcrests, Chiffchaffs and a very late Willow Warbler, and from the ramp Marsh Harriers and 10 Stock Doves. Best of all though was the willow scrub near the Corral where a flock of Long-tailed Tits, Goldcrests and Chiffchaffs contained a stunning Firecrest and a superb Yellow-browed Warbler, located initially by call. Also noted a Brown Hare, Smooth Newt and loads of Migrant Hawkers.
On the walk back to the car park a large flock of Lapwings put on an impressive aerial display over the shingle ridges, as did a Spitfire over Lydd Airport.
Another cracking days birding around the Peninsula with a wide range of migrants on show.

Friday 19 October 2012

Short-eared Owl

Dungeness - 1400hrs - Mild, wet and overcast all day, se2 - Three birders (Sarah, Jean and Laura) in for a weekend bird tour started in horrible weather conditions with persistant rain all afternoon.
At the fishing boats we searched for the Glaucous Gull without success, but did have 2 Bonxies on a short seawatch plus a steady flow of Gannets and Sandwich Tern.
Scotney - The flooded fields beside the pits were full of common birds with the Barnacle Goose flock complete with Snow/Emperor types close to the road. Also, 10 Redshanks, 50 Lapwings and assorted wildfowl.
Galloways -  We had cracking views of a Short-eared Owl from the road down to the sea, perched on a fence post and in flight, despite the heavy rain. Also, noted Green Woodpecker, Stonechat, Kestrel and Curlew.
ARC - Finished in poor light from Hanson hide where the usual array of wildfowl, Lapwings, Little Egret, Marsh Harrier and a flock of 20 Pied Wagtails heading for the power station.

Thursday 18 October 2012

Marsh Tits and Jays

Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve - 1000hrs - Mild, cloudy, sunshine, showers, s2 - Spent the day in north Kent recceing out a couple of sites for forthcoming articles in Birdwatching magazine, both of which were new to me. First stop was the Kent Wildlife Trust`s wetland reserve near Sevenoaks, and most impressive it was too with loads of hides and viewpoints overlooking a wide variety of riparian habitats; I particularly liked the wadery islands and shallows that attracted 30 Lapwings, 5 Golden Plovers, 3 Snipes and a Green Sandpiper. From Tyler hide the expected Teals, Shovelers and Wigeons were also well represented along with loads of diving ducks in the deeper water and a smart Grey Wagtail on the margins. From Sutton hide had brief views of a Water Rail scuttling about in the reedbed, plus a Kingfisher from ... Kingfisher hide of course, where there was no shortage of strategically placed perches. The damp woodlands held a number of Treecreepers, Greater peckers and a couple of tit flocks, one which contained Marsh Tit, Chiffchaff and Goldcrest (Lesser peckers are regular here too, and I can see why, loads of dead, rotting timber). Siskins and Goldfinches could be heard overhead and a couple of Nuthatches `tuited` away near the bird feeders. I was fascinated by the bee house near the car park, which apparently is in the Guinness Book of Records as the world`s largest - and they`ve got the certificate to prove it!
In summary, a very well managed site and a credit to KWT. Oddly enough, during the three hours I was on site I didn`t meet another soul.

                                          Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve

                                          Bee House, Sevenoaks WR

                                         Trosely Country Park

Trosley Country Park - This large woodland and downland site perched on the North Downs was in complete contrast to the wetlands at Sevenoaks, and as expected at this time of year was largely bereft of birds. However, we did manage Marsh Tit again within a 5 species tit flock and a couple of Redpolls overhead. The ancient yew trees along the way were magnificent, and also a welcome shelter when the rain came hammering down, while the views across the Weald of Kent to the south were breathtaking, when the rain let up ... Barney loved this place as it provided him with plenty of new smells and a few squirrels to chase, none of which were harmed, of course.
An added bonus here was the Bluebell Cafe and I can highly recommend the sausage butties.
Jays - Bird of the day, for sheer numbers alone, had to be the Jay. While we`ve had a few down on the Marsh they seemed to be everywhere up here; in the woods, wetlands, villages and flying over the roads and motorways to and from home. There must be thousands here at the moment.

Wednesday 17 October 2012

Sooties, Sabs & Leache`s - Hat Trick!

Dungeness - 0835hrs - Mild, cloudy, showery, ssw 6 - With a decent blow coming up-Channel there was only one place to start this morning, so belatedly joined MH, PB & DW at the fishing boats for a lively couple of hours. There was a big sea running with deep troughs and low sunlight making for difficult viewing, but boy was it worthwhile. The others had already rattled up some goodies and I was beginning to think I`d missed all the fun... Firstly, there was plenty of auks fizzing through, most of them Razorbills, plus a steady flow of close Gannets and Sandwich Terns. Bonxies tallied at least 12 whilst I was on site, plus a couple of Arctic Skuas and several more skua too distant to nail down. Little Gull, Kittiwake, Curlew and 3 Common Scoters were logged before DW, peering into that big Kowa of his, called a mid-distance Sabine`s Gull, which we all manged to get onto as it rounded the point. DW was on fire as he called a cracking close Leache`s Petrel followed by 2 distant Sooty Shearwaters amongst 3 Bonxies! Two more Soots followed, plus another Leache`s courtesy of PB, with another brief Sooty just before I had to leave.
Passerine wise, at least 50 Swallows went south, plus 150 Goldfinches and 10 Siskins along the coast and 5 Skylarks inland.
It was an odd sort of a seawatch with no divers or Brents, but the quality was outstanding and there was always something to hold the attention; it was also the first time I`ve had the hat trick of Sooty Shearwater, Sabine`s Gull and Leache`s Petrel on a Dungeness seawatch. MH kept a steady flow of jokes going (most of `em we`d heard before!) and even Barney seemed to enjoy himself.
For a definitive tally of todays seabirds check out the DBO website.

                                          Big Sea, Dungeness

ARC 1500hrs - Called in at Hanson hide on the way back from Lydd where the only waders of note were a Little Stint, Snipe and 2 Dunlins, one of which was an odd looking adult in retained breeding plumage with a short, stout bill and dark neck collar. All the usual wildfowl present and a Sparrowhawk over.
Dungeness  - 1545hrs - News came through this afternoon of an immature Glaucous Gull at the point found by PB. By the time I arrived DW had relocated it over the fishing boats and I had distant flight views as it dropped behind the sea containers. There was some suggestion that it may have been last winters stalwart, more of which anon no doubt...

Tuesday 16 October 2012

Grey Plover

Dungeness - 0845hrs - Sunny, mild, sw4 - Strolled down to The Patch where a Little Gull was the only bird of note amongst the numerous Black-heads. Whilst chatting to DW, and admiring the new hide, a small group of Brents and a Curlew headed down-Channel, buffeted by the blustery wind. Offshore a trickle of Gannets and Sandwich Terns noted. On the walk back a singing Black Redstart showed briefly on the power station wall and down by the lifeboat station 10 Swallows headed out to sea.

                                          Grey Plover, ARC

ARC  - 1500hrs - Grey Plovers have been thin on the ground this autumn so it was good to see one on the islands in front of Hanson, napping amongst the Wigeons, Shovelers and Teals.The 2 Little Stints were still present and a Bar-headed Goose was within the Grey Lag flock. A Penduline Tit was reported over the road yesterday, which prompted regular checks of the bulrushes, just in case...
Nothing much from Screen hide apart from 5 Swallows over, 2 Marsh Harriers, Kestrel and Sparrowhawk. The scrub in the lee of the wind at the entrance to Tower Pits attracted a number of Robins and Chiffchaffs.

Monday 15 October 2012

Ring Ouzel & Goldeneye

Dungeness  - 0945hrs - Cool, cloudy, showery, sw3 - Having spent a couple of days on grand parent duty in London it was good to get out and about this morning and breath some clean air around the peninsula. Birdwise though it was pretty quiet will little overhead migration apart from a few flocks of Goldfinches and several Siskins and Redpolls. Also noted 2 Mistle Thrushes and a Stonechat around the Desert, plus a singing Black Redstart and a few Swallows by the power station.
A quick look at the sea produced a few terns, Gannets, Brents, Little Gull and a couple of divers.
Lade - A belated WeBS count produced all the expected wildfowl, plus a smart Ring Ouzel in the scrub by north pit. On the bay a flock of 680 Oystercatchers also attracted 20 Barwits, 10 Knots, 50 Sanderlings, 30 Dunlins, 2 Redshanks and 8 Sandwich Terns.

                                          Lade Bay Oystercatchers

                                          Kestrel, ARC

ARC  - 1500hrs - From Hanson hide this afternoon 2 Little Stints and a Snipe, plus all the usual dabblers and my first Goldeneye of the season, a redhead; so that`s that, winter`s arrived...

Friday 12 October 2012

Little Stints

Dungeness - 0845hrs - Cloudy, cool, showers, w4 - A change in wind direction failed to make much impression offshore with just the usual Gannets, Sandwich Terns and porpoises present. An hour and a bit at the fishing boats/concrete road also produced 2 Arctic Skuas, 2 Common Scoters, 5 Red-throated Divers, 4 auks and singles of Little Gull, Kittiwake and Dunlin down-Channel. Several hundred pulses of Swallows and House Martins coasted into the wind and there was a light overhead passage of Goldfinches, Siskins, Redpolls, Chaffinches and Skylarks. (PB & TG noted Black-throated Divers and Bonxies earlier).
The adult Yellow-legged Gull remained within a mixed flock of large gulls on the shingle.
ARC- A wander down to the pines in blustery, showery conditions unsurprisingly yielded little apart from more finches, larks and pipits overhead. The willows held a few Chiffchaffs and a Goldcrest, but the best passerine flock was in the scrub at the entrance to Tower Pits which was full of tits, Blackbirds, Robins and Chaffinches, a few more Chiffchaffs, a Blackcap, Reed Bunting and 23 Tree Sparrows (counted as they flew back to Boulderwall). From Screen hide all the usual dabbling ducks and a couple of hundred Swallows and House Martins over the water.
Dengemarsh -  A wander down the main track this afternoon from Boulderwall to the ramp delivered 4 Stonechats and a Whinchat by the Corral, Marsh Harrier and Raven over, plus the Great White Egret flying over Hookers.
Back over the road, a quick look from Hanson hide proved worthwhile with 2 Little Stints (definitely!!), 6 Dunlins, 222 Golden Plovers, 124 Lapwings and someone trying to string a Dunlin into a Curlew Sandpiper... Anyhow, the late afternoon sunshine on the Goldies was a real treat and at least 2 individuals showed some remnants of breeding plumage. Raptors this afternoon totalled, 4 Marsh Harriers, 3 Kestrels, 2 Sparrowhawks and a Buzzard.

                                         Waders & Wildfowl, ARC

Thursday 11 October 2012

Yellow-legged Gulls

Dungeness - 0845hrs - Mild, cloudy, showery, e3 - Another miserable overcast day began with a short seawatch from the fishing boats where a few Gannets and terns were milling around offshore, plus down-Channel, 6 Commic Terns, 50 Brents, 3 Shelducks and an Arctic Skua. Around the boats a Rock Pipit called amongst the Mipits while a trickle of Swallows pressed out across the sea heading for warmer climes. Small groups of Goldfinches and Siskins moved through, plus a couple of Skylarks. On the shingle the usual assemblage of large gulls included the adult Yellow-legged and a droopy-winged Great Black-back.

                                          Yellow-legged Gull, Dungeness

                                          Great Black-backed Gull, Dungeness

                                          Yellow-legged Gull, ARC

                                          Avocet, ARC

ARC - 1300hrs - An Avocet was the only bird of note from Hanson, unless of course you like YLGulls... Amongst 50 Lapwings were 2 Dunlins and 5 Golden Plovers, plus all the usual wildfowl including a big increase in Wigeons numbers to over 200. About 100 hirundines over the water comprised mainly Swallows. Sparrowhawk and Marsh Harrier noted and at least 10 Chiffchaffs and 3 Cetti`s Warblers in the willows.

Wednesday 10 October 2012

Chats, Crests, Beardies & Lap Bunting

Dungeness - 0845hrs - Warm, dry and sunny ne2 - After a couple of dull days it was good to see and feel the sunshine again, and the birds certainly thought so too as there was much of interest around the peninsula this morning. Near the old light we had 2 each of Whinchats, Wheatears, Stonechats and a Black Redstart, plus 50 Goldfinches, 5 Siskins and a Song Thrush over. A tit flock by West Beach scrub held a Goldcrest and Firecrest with more Linnets and Goldfinches nearby. Near the Desert 15 Blackbirds, 2 Song Thrushes, 2 Chiffchaffs, 4 Wheatears, plus 5 Redpolls, Skylark and Reed Bunting over. There seemed to be plenty of Mipits, Robins and Pied Wagtails about and a trickle of Swallows moved through. Raptors included 4 Sparrowhawks and 3 Kestrels, while at the Obs at least 5 Firecrests were trapped.

                                          Whinchat, Dungeness

                                          Goldcrest, DBO

                                          Firecrest, DBO

                                          Barney, Lade

Lade - 1115hrs - For once my next move, to the local patch, proved to be an inspired one... A brief scan from the aerial mound for raptors drew a blank, apart from a Sparrowhawk dive bombing a Magpie at one end of the wall `mirror`, while the white-breasted juv Cormorant sat at the other end watching the show! Around the willows we notched up 6 Dabchicks, 2 Cetti`s Warblers, 5 Chiffchaffs and a couple of Blackbirds. In the sun trap by the ponds insects on the wing included loads of Migrant Hawkers, Small and Large Whites, Red Admirals and a Small Heath.
I was about to call it a day when as we approached north pit a `pinging` Bearded Tit showed well in the reeds with another nearby, which constituted only my second and third Lade records. As we moved on to the causeway things got even better when Barney flushed a Lapland Bunting off the shingle path which flew over our heads towards the bay calling. This morning was his first major outing since his op, so I`m hoping for a few more flushed goodies from the daft mutt this autumn...
In summary Ray and Stuart ended up with 112 species, nothing particularly rare but a wide range of species from seabirds, wildfowl, raptors and best of all classic autumn drift migrants such as chats, flycatchers and crests. On the way back to Ashford Station 2 Buzzards and a Jay were noted on the Brenzett road.

Tuesday 9 October 2012

A Five Chat Day

Lade - 0700hrs - Cool, cloudy, ne2 - Whilst checking the moth trap 4 Redwings over the cottage calling were the first of the autumn. The gardens and storm beaches produced an influx of 20 grounded Blackbirds, 10 Robins and 10 Chiffchaffs, whilst overhead small parties of Siskins, Goldfinches, Mipits and 2 Redpoll passed down the coast.
Dungeness - 0900hrs - We kicked off with a seawatch from the hide with a calm sea and birds moving both ways which included a steady flow of Gannets and Sandwich Terns, 100 Brents, 50 Wigeons, 12 Common Scoters, 2 Med Gulls, 2 Shelducks, Red-breasted Merganser and Guillemot.
At the Patch singles of Arctic Tern and Little Gull, 10 Common Terns and a Red-throated Diver on the sea. Along the power station wall, Wheatear, Mipits and Linnets.
Down at the Obs there was a fine gathering of locals optimistically hoping for the `Big One` to be found in a mist net round; but it was not to be, with just a few common warblers and a viz mig of finches and Mipits to speak of. A Sparrowhawk perched in full view by the moat and a Raven put on a show over the pylons, as news came in of a Richard`s Pipit at Dengemarsh Gully (BM).
RSPB - 1115hrs - On to the bird reserve and Jay and Tree Sparrow at Boulderwall, Kestrel and Marsh Harriers from the access road. On Burrowes a big increase in duck numbers was noted from last week. The track to Christmas Dell and beyond to Dengemarsh produced a decent return with a flock of 12 Long-tailed Tits, 10 Chiffchaffs, 2 Goldcrests, 2 Stonechats, Whinchat and Common Redstart, plus 4 Redwings, 50 Goldfinches, 2 Siskins and Grey Wagtail over. We had brief views of 2 Bitterns and a large flock of Golden Plovers and Lapwings over.

                                          Blackcap & Sparrowhawk, DBO

                                         Brent & Lapwings, Scotney

                                          Great White Egret, Dengemarsh

                                          Spotted Flycatcher, ARC

Scotney Pits  - 1415hrs - The usual flock of 75 Barnacles and 8 oddities on the grass, plus 50 Golden Plovers, 10 Corn Buntings and a Brent.
Dengemarsh - 1500hrs - Galloways produced 3 Stonechats and Kestrel while we had good views of the Great White Egret from Springfield Bridge. Down the Gully we dipped with the Firecrests but scored well with a perched Merlin and a Lesser Whitethroat by the dam.
ARC - 1630hrs - Finished the day in some style with a juv Little Stint from Screen hide followed by 2 Common Redstarts, Spotted and Pied Flycatchers and a cracking male Black Redstart at the pines (thanks to PB & CT for the calls).
In summary, Stuart and Raymond had a great day, and its been a while since I`ve had a 5 Chat Day on a bird tour.

Monday 8 October 2012

Shorebirds & Gulls

Lade - 0700hrs - Mild, cloudy, drizzle, se2 - The moth trap yielded the first Black Rustics of the autumn amongst the usual yellow underwings. Over the storm beaches 50 Goldfinches and 5 Siskins passed south, while 100 Swallows noted over south pit.
Started a three day bird watching break today with Stuart and Raymond from London. After picking up from Ashford we called in at Orlestone Forest on the way home.
Faggs Wood - 1230hrs - A wander around the car park area in heavy drizzle delivered Great Spotted Woodpeckers, Nuthatches, Treecreeper and Jay amongst the common tits and finches.
Greatstone Beach - 1400hrs - From Romney Tavern we clocked up 8 species of shorebirds including 5 Knots, 5 Barwits, 3 Ringed Plovers, 2 Redshanks amongst hundreds of Curlews, Oystercatchers, Dunlins and Sanderlings. On the beach a party of 50 Brents flew in and 20 Wigeons were feeding in the surf.
ARC - 1500hrs - Not a single wader on the fast diminishing shingle ridges from Hanson, but all the expected wildfowl, plus 3 species hirundines, 3 Little Egrets, Marsh Harrier and Sparrowhawk. The Great White Egret was present before flying off towards Dengemarsh about 1600hrs. In the willows, Chiffchaff, Cetti`s Warbler and Great Tits.
Dungeness  - 1630hrs - An hour from the concrete road produced a steady flow of Gannets and Sandwich Terns, 3 Kittiwakes, Med Gull and party of 120 Brents west, plus the adult Yellow-legged Gull at the fishing boats.

Sunday 7 October 2012

Down Memory Lane

Saturday 6th October- Dunstable Sewage Works - Warm, dry, sunny, light airs - Mrs PT and I spent the weekend at Dunstable, Bedfordshire catching up with old friends, drinking ale and eating curry (many thanks Pat and Stuart Burton for putting up with us). On Saturday afternoon visited my old local patch with SB (thanks to Don Green for arranging access) which still has four settlement lagoons used for tertiary treatment and ideal for wetland birds. The old site is well overgrown now but still delivered 2 cracking close Green Sandpipers on the scrape where a Water Rail was calling. On the lagoons the usual eclipse wildfowl including 2 Pintails, 4 Wigeons and a Shelduck, plus Little Egret, Grey Wagtail and 20 Lapwings. The bushes held a few Chiffchaffs, Blackaps and Goldcrests. Apart from that had a good old chin wag with DG about the birding scene in Bedfordshire. As we left site a Red Kite sailed overhead.
Wilstone Resorvoir, Tring - It was then onto Tring and a circuit of one of my favourite locations anywhere. Long ago I remember cycling over from Maple Cross with my old birding mate Kevin Downer, complete with a duffel bag full of grub (banana and brown sugar sarnies, Mars bars and Tizer), plus a pair of Charles Frank bins that I`d bought for 9 shillings and 6 pence with my paper round money. As I recall we met a local birder that day called  Mr Wagstaffe who showed us a Jack Snipe and let us view it through an ancient brass `scope... blah, blah, blah.
Anyway, enough waxing lyrical. On the plus side, this afternoon we saw a few species that would not even been on the radar in the 1960s; ie Red Kite, Buzzard, Sparrowhawk and Little Egret. The water levels were still low which gave plenty of edge habitat in front of Drayton Bank hide where 50 Golden Plovers lurked amongst a couple of hundred Lapwings. Two Pintail were seen with hundreds of common dabbling ducks and a Med Gull was noted within the Black-headed Gulls.
Tring Reservoirs are noted for record size coarse fish and we did see a 12 pound pike being landed and another one floating on the surface having choked after eating another pike!

                                          Dunstable Sewage Works

                                          Pike, Wilstone Reservoir

                                          Ruddy Darter, Wilstone

Sunday, ARC - 1600hrs - Back home and a quick look at ARC delivered Chiffchaffs, Blackcaps and a Common Redstart at the pines, Garganey from Screen, and 200 Golden Plovers from Hanson. On the walk back to the car park had stunning views of a Reed Warbler feeding low down in the open.
Also reported from around the bird reserve today: Red-crested Pochard, Black-necked Grebe and Pied Flycatcher from ARC, plus Little Stint, Ruff, Great White Egret, Stonechats and Common Redstart over the road.