Thursday 28 February 2013

Merganser, Water Rail & Skylarks

Lade - 0900hrs - Cold, grey, dry, ne 4 - The bitter easterly airflow continues and looks set to carry on for the next week; still, at least its dry underfoot. Started off on the local patch this morning where the drake Red-breasted Merganser eventually came out to play from behind the willows, flying out onto the middle of south pit for a spot of fishing. Across both waters Goldeneye numbers had risen to 15 amongst the diving duck. From the causeway we had cracking views of Water Rail sitting in the bottom of a willow.
Lade Bay - Checked the sands at three locations on an incoming tide with 7 species of shorebirds noted including a single Grey Plover. The Snow Bunting continued to perform well at the Varne boat ramp where a large digger had just been delivered in preparation for what looks like some shingle shifting, so the little ground-hugger may not be around for much longer.
Dungeness - Finished off at the fishing boats searching for the wintering Glaucous Gull but to no avail. Plenty of common gulls roosting on the shingle and a loose flock of 20 Skylarks feeding amongst the boats. Another look at the sea delivered fine views of Razorbill and Red-throated Divers.
  In summary, the London birders had a successful visit with 105 species noted and some classic winter birding with highlights including Fulmar, Bittern, Great White Egret, Tundra and White-fronted Geese, Bewick`s and Whooper Swans, sawbills, Purple Sandpiper, shorebirds, Marsh Harriers, Water Rail, Barn Owl, Raven, Bearded Tit, Snow and Corn Buntings.

Wednesday 27 February 2013

Purple Sands & Snow Bunting

Dungeness - 0900hrs - cold, grey, ne 5 - Another grim old day weather wise, but one that was full of birds for the visiting birders to enjoy. Kicked off with an hour at the fishing boats where plenty of auks, gulls, Cormorants, Great Crested Grebes, Red-throated Divers, Kittiwakes and Gannets coming and going around the point. Bonus birds included 35 Common Scoters, 2 Fulmars and a drake Goosander (very unusual here on the sea). On the beach all the common gulls plus a Kittiwake, but no sign of the Glaucous Gull.
Littlestone  - The single Snow Bunting showed well by the boat ramp and afforded good value for the photographers in the group. On the beach waders included 5 Ringed Plovers, 25 Redshanks, Turnstones, Knot and Sanderling (NB: Beware, was asked to move on by a member of the Varne boat club as the car park is private).

                                Snow Bunting, Littlestone

                               Purple Sandpipers, Hythe

Hythe -  The sea defence blocks opposite the Imperial Hotel held 3 roosting Purple Sandpipers with 3 more at the Stade Street end, plus 15 Turnstones on the beach.
RSPB - From the causeway road the usual Shovelers, Gadwall and Goldeneye. At Boulderwall 10 Tree Sparrows, Reed Bunting and several Song Thrushes. On the fields nearby hundreds of Lapwings, Curlews, Stock Doves, Wigeons, 7 Barnacle Geese, Greylags, 6 Marsh Harriers, 2 Common Buzzards, Kestrel and Great White Egret. Whilst thawing out in the visitors centre 13 redhead Smews swam into view on Burrowes, where all the usual wildfowl. At Dengemarsh more harriers, a flight view of a Bittern, 3 Bearded Tits, Dabchick, Great White Egret and a Raven on the access road. From Hanson hide 4 Smew, 12 Goldeneyes more harriers, Sparrowhawk and Green Woodpecker.

Tuesday 26 February 2013

Wonderful Walland

Lade - 0900hrs - cold, drizzle, overcast, ne 3 - Another grim old morning with the remnants of last nights rain still in the air. A few Song Thrushes and Blackbirds flushed from the storm beaches, but no sign of yesterdays merganser on south pit.
Faggs Wood - 1200hrs - Picked up four London birders from Ashford station down for a three day birdwatching break. Stopped off for lunch in the woodland car park where we mopped up on resident species including Coal Tit, Nuthatch, Treecreeper, Greater pecker and Jay.
Check the church feeders in Warehorne village where there were few birds apart from Long-tailed Tits.

                               Coal Tit & Nuthatch, Faggs Wood

Walland Marsh - The bridge at Warehorne yielded Green Sandpiper, Little Egret and Gadwall along the canal, plus Common Buzzard, Kestrel, Mistle Thrush, Fieldfares and Red-legged Partridges. Driving across the Marsh this afternoon we notched up 7 Buzzards, 5 Kestrels and hundreds of winter thrushes. At Tickners seed dump 14 Corn Buntings, 8 Yellowhammers, 6 Reed Buntings and scores of Chaffinches, Stock Doves and Blackbirds. The field opposite the Woolpack held a small flock of grey geese of which 3 were White-fronts and 5 were Tundra Bean Geese! Marsh Harriers and Buzzards at Midley, plus hundreds of Lapwings, Goldies and a hunting Barn Owl. On the feeders the usual Tree Sparrows and further down the lane 2 Bewick`s Swans opposite the drying barns with the main flock of 240 at Hawthorn Corner, which also included 2 Whooper Swans. Having drawn a blank with the partridges at Caldicote the drive back into Lydd by Belgar Farm delivered a fine Barn Owl over the lane.
A promising start to the three day birdwatching break.

Monday 25 February 2013


Lade - 0900hrs - cold, overcast, ne 2 - Didn`t feel quite as cold this morning due to lighter winds, although it picked up by late afternoon, and was very dull throughout. We had a good look around the local patch where virtually the first bird was a stunning drake Red-breasted Merganser on south pit. It spent a lot of time preening furiously and I wondered whether it was slightly oiled, although it did make a short flight across the lake just before I got off a few record shots. Mergansers are scarce on the pits hereabouts and this is only my third record at Lade. Elsewhere, 5 Goldeneyes on each pit, a Bittern skulking in a reedbed and 3 Marsh Harriers over.

                                          Red-breasted Merganser, Lade

Walland Marsh - 1400hrs - A pause on the causeway road en-route yielded 200 Shovelers on ARC and a Great White Egret on New Diggings. A recce across the Marsh this afternoon, in the company of MH, for tomorrows visiting birders was worthwhile. Several large flocks of Fieldfares and Lapwings scattered here and there and plenty of Blackbirds along the lanes. The wild swan flock was still in situ at Midley (but for how much longer?) and the grey geese were near the Woolpack. The usual passerines on the feeders and a Common Buzzard noted, but negative news on the Grey Partridges near Lydd.
ARC - A Merlin flew across the road as we approached ARC. From Hanson 5 Smew (including a drake) amongst the diving ducks and a pair of Goldeneyes close to the hide. We then noted a trio of Goosanders on the far side of the lake including a drake; apparently they were on Burrowes earlier. Goosanders have been scarce this winter and what with the Merganser at Lade it`s not very often you get a clean sweep of the sawbills in one day.

Sunday 24 February 2013


Lade - 0830hrs -  cold, dry, overcast, nne 3 - The wind had swung round further to the north but remained bitingly cold with occasional snow flurries throughout the day. Little of note on the pits apart from a flyover Great White Egret and a Sparrowhawk. Down at Littlestone a single Snow Bunting was on the beach near the ramp, while six species of waders noted on the bay.
RSPB - 1100hrs - Did a Bittern walk for RSPB and a dozen birders during which we had two brief flight views of birds from Christmas Dell and Dengemarsh hides; all things considered something of a success in the strong wind. Also noted, 4 Goldeneyes and 5 Smews on Burrowes, including a drake, Stonechat and Fieldfare on the hayfield and 4 Barnacle Geese on the fields at Dengemarsh plus around a hundred Wigeons, Lapwings and Stock Doves, Green Woodpecker, Curlew, Dabchick and Kestrel. Marsh Harriers were much in evidence around the bird reserve flushing the flocks in search of weaklings; while from Christmas Dell we watched one large female harrier tucking into a recently dispatched Coot.
From the causeway road on ARC 200 Shovelers and a Great White Egret of note.

Saturday 23 February 2013

Warming Up!

Lade - 0800hrs - cold, grey, snow flurries, ne 3 - Not quite as cold as yesterday due to a slight reduction in the wind strength, but still nippy. Slogged around south pit to no avail, but most of the ducks amongst the shelter of the willows where also a Great White Egret and a Snipe flushed from the ponds. On north pit, 4 Goldeneyes, Kestrel and Marsh Harrier plus a small calidrid over which was probably a Dunlin, but tiny recalling a stint... Singles of Reed Bunting and Chiffchaff were the only little `uns of note.
RSPB - 1400hrs - A quick look at ARC from the causeway road revealed 6 Smew and 2 Great White Egrets amongst all the usual wildfowl. From the visitors centre 6 Pintails and 2 more Smews.
Walland Marsh - A text from NB concerning a large flock of grey geese on a recently harrowed field opposite the Woolpack pub was well worth a visit. The majority were Greylags, but in their midst were 74 White-fronts and 6 Tundra Bean Geese. Also attracted to the field were a number of Wigeon, Mallard, Pintail, Gadwall, Teal, Stock Doves, Woodpigeons and corvids, plus three Marsh Harriers and a Buzzard noted nearby. At Midley around 200 distant Bewick`s Swans and all the usual sparrows, tits and finches on the feeders. However, the biggest surprise was the number of Blackbirds on the lane, with at least 50 between Lydd and Brookland.
Hardly any birders out and about today, can`t think why...

Friday 22 February 2013

King of the Beach

Lade - 0900hrs - cold, overcast, ne 5 - Another raw-bone day with occasional snow flurries and a vicious easterly airflow continuing to make life out-of-doors most unpleasant. Very quiet on the pits where most of the wildfowl were lurking in the shelter of the willows, except for a few diving ducks and 5 Goldeneyes on the open waters of north pit. On the trudge back I noticed a Marsh Harrier out on the shingle ridges dropping down on what turned out to be another Marsh Harrier that had just nailed a rabbit. Whilst the harriers were busy tussling away 5 Magpies stole in, like a pack of hyenas on a lion kill, to claim picking rights leaving the two raptors to drift off looking for second breakfast.
A brief call in at Littlestone for the Snow Buntings drew a blank, however there were quite a few dog-walkers about so they`d probably moved a way down the beach.
Dungeness  - A short spell at the fishing boats yielded the usual seabirds on the Channel, including 6 Common Scoters and 15 Wigeon west. Just as we were leaving the King-of-the-Beach turned up and bullied a couple of Herring Gulls as he took charge of a fish carcass; even the Greater-blacks give this bruiser a wide berth. He/she has become such a fixture at Dungeness through the winter months that it`ll be a great shame when it does move north in the spring, hopefully to return again next winter as a full adult.

                                         3rd winter Glaucous Gull - King of the Beach

Thursday 21 February 2013

Red-breasted Merganser

Dungeness - 0900hrs - cold, cloudy, e 5 - A biting easterly coming straight in off the sea combined with low temperatures made for a significant wind-chill factor. Wherever we went today it was a case of sheltering from the wind first; except, that is, if you`re a Border Terrier with a thick, hairy coat who seems impervious to the cold ...
From the seawatch hide all the usual auks, grebes, divers, Gannets and Kitts to-ing and fro-ing plus my first Red-breasted Merganser of the year. At the Patch about a thousand gulls comprised mainly Common and Black-headed Gulls along with several Kitts and a Little Gull.
Lade - Much `warmer` here in the lee of the caravan park. Most birds were on north pit where 6 Goldeneye, Redshank and a Great White Egret the highlights.
Littlestone - The 2 Snow Buntings remained on the foreshore hugging the ground tightly in conditions more familiar to them. On the bay 6 species of shorebirds.
Walland Marsh - A drive across the Marsh this afternoon yielded few birds apart from a large flock of Fieldfares near Fairfield, 2 Buzzards, a ringtail and the Bewick`s Swans near Midley. The bird feeders held the usual tits, finches and sparrows and the Water Rail paid a fleeting visit.

Wednesday 20 February 2013

Grey Partridge

Lade - 0800hrs - cold, sunny, ne 4 - In contrast to yesterday a nagging easterly wind returned this morning which steadily increased throughout the afternoon along with tumbling temperatures. A quiet session around the local patch with 5 Goldeneyes and a Great White Egret the highlight. I could find no sign of the Black-throated Diver despite checking all its favourite haunts. In the willow swamp calling Chiffchaff, Cetti`s Warbler and Water Rail.
Lydd - 1500hrs - Due to a drying wind the farmers were out in force this afternoon ploughing, which in turn gave access to large numbers of gulls, Starlings, Curlews, Goldies and Lapwings into the rich marsh soil. A drive along Caldicot Lane looked to be pretty hopeless as there was barely a bird in sight. However, as we paused by the chicken sheds, there in the adjacent field was a pair of Grey Partridges, my first of the year on the Marsh. Seven years ago when I first moved down here they were easy to see; at Lade, from the access road to the bird reserve, Galloways, Midley, Pigwell to name but a few sites, but not any more.
ARC - Finished off down at Screen hide from where 5 Smew, Bittern and Great White Egret noted. Large numbers of gulls were flooding onto the open water to clean up and prepare to roost having spent the day feeding on farmland. Three Marsh Harriers scuttled low over the lake, due to the blasting wind, heading towards the Oppen pits to roost.

Tuesday 19 February 2013

Bitterns & Snow Buntings

Dengemarsh - 0900hrs - warm, dry, sunny, light airs - Superb morning to be out and about in the field with not a breath of wind and bright sunshine. Together with the Joker first stop New Diggings, from the causeway road, where singles of Smew, Shelduck and Great White Egret. After swapping banter with the vols by the workshop (and another round of blade runner jokes!) we scanned the fields beyond Cook`s Pool where the 5 Tundra Bean Geese were still present amongst a number of feral geese and hundreds of Curlews, Wigeons, Lapwings, Golden Plovers and Stock Doves, plus several Marsh Harriers, Common Buzzard, Stonechat, Cetti`s Warbler, Redwing and Great White Egret.
From the ramp `pinging` Bearded Tits, `trilling` Dabchicks, `sharming` Water Rails, flight views of a Bittern and singing Reed Buntings. In the sheep fields over the back 7 Barnacle Geese along with loads more Lapwings, Curlews and Stock Doves.
Next stop the hayfields where we checked around the reedbeds for the recently reported Penduline Tits without success. More Reed Buntings, Skylark and Mipit over and a Bearded Tit. Hayfield no. 3 looked good with a mix of Lapwings, Curlews, Ringed Plovers, Redshanks and 2 Snipe.
On the main lake another flight view of  Bittern, 5 Pintails, 3 Dabchicks, Goldeneye and all the usual wildfowl.
Over the road from Hanson 5 Smews and 6 Goldenyes amongst the ducks and Bittern in the reedbed that eventually flew across the bay and back into cover. The tit flock held a number of Long-taileds, 2 Chiffchaffs and a Goldcrest.
A decent mornings birding with 3 Bitterns the highlight.
Littlestone - 1400hrs - As the light and wind conditions were good decided to try and digi-scope the Snow Buntings this afternoon with some success. The two birds were very confiding and barely moved away from a section of weedy foreshore by the boat ramp. They really are super little birds and it was a privilege to watch them as they delicately cracked open weed seeds discarding the husk and eating the nutritious kernel. At times they approached to with 5 yards, despite Barney sitting beside me watching them all the way!

                                                                Snow Buntings, Littlestone

Monday 18 February 2013


Lade - 0900hrs - cool, sunny, se 2 - Another bright but nippy morning and ideal for walking Mockmill Sewer where the highlight was 2 Snipe flushed from the flooded tussock grass in the sewer bottom. Several Song Thrushes broke cover along with a few Dunnocks, Robins, Wrens and Blackbirds. The rough grassland behind the `mirrors` attracted several hundred Lapwings, Stock Doves and Curlews, while a Redshank, 2 Marsh Harriers and a Common Buzzard drifted over. On the lake the usual wildfowl including 5 Goldeneyes and the Black-throated Diver on north pit.
Dungeness - 1400hrs - An hour at the fishing boats delivered the expected auks on the sea plus a trickle of Gannets, Red-throated Divers and Kittiwakes rounding the point.

                                         1st winter Kittiwakes, Dungeness

RSPB - Had a quick look at the fields near Boulderwall where 2 Egyptian and 5 Bean Geese amongst the feral goose flock. Also noted 50 Curlews, 2 Great White Egrets and 3 Marsh Harriers. News came through that a Firecrest was showing well over the road near Hanson hide. By the time I arrived MH had it pinned down and we enjoyed fine views of this gorgeous little sprite, one of my favourite British birds. Also in the area 20 Long-tailed Tits, 2 Goldcrests, 2 Chiffchaffs and a Cetti`s Warbler..

Sunday 17 February 2013

Harrier Count

Lade - 1000hrs - warm, dry, sunny, ne2 - A superb spring-like morning with a bright blue sky and warm sunshine. Plenty of wildfowl scattered across both lakes including 8 Wigeon and 5 Goldeneye, while the Black-throated Diver was in the channel by the swing-bridge. The warmth had encouraged 4 Marsh Harriers into the thermals where they engaged in a bit of talon grappling and general courtship display. Two perched Common Buzzards, a Sparrowhawk and Kestrel completed the raptor count. Water Rail, Cetti`s Warbler, Skylark and Green Woodpecker also noted.
Walland Marsh  1500hrs - A change in the weather delivered a chill wind and a low mist making for poor light conditions this afternoon. Checked out Caldecote Lane for the reported Partridges without success, although a flock of 300 Fieldfares and a Common Buzzard present. Further out on the Marsh a reduced numbers of 130 Bewick`s Swans were picking over the rotting remains of a large spud field alongside hundreds of Lapwings. Further down the lane more Fieldfares and Lapwings in the hedgerows and fields.
Following the weather fiasco of last Sunday the monthly harrier count was revisited today with 18 Marsh Harriers coming to roost amidst an eerie glow. Also in the area 75 White-fronts, 300 Greylags, 4 Common Buzzards, plus thousands of Golden Plovers and Lapwings. The only small birds noted were `pinging` Bearded Tits. As dark descended the Common Crane flew in to roost along with the wild swans.

Friday 15 February 2013

Bean Geese

Lade - 1030hrs - Mild, sunny, w 2 - An almost spring-like morning induced many resident passerines into song both in the garden and around the pits. Gave the local patch the full treatment today and it responded accordingly with a wide range of birds including 2 Great White Egrets, Kingfisher, Water Rail, Bittern, Reed Bunting, Cetti`s Warbler and Chiffchaff in and around the willow swamp, plus the Black-throated Diver on north pit along with 8 Goldeneyes and all the usual wildfowl. The rough grassland behind the `mirrors` yielded scores of Curlews, Stock Doves, corvids and Lapwings, a few Golden Plovers, 2 Stonechats, Green and Greater peckers, Skylark, Mipit, 3 Marsh Harriers, 2 Common Buzzards and a Merlin. On the walk back along the foreshore 8 species of shorebirds and a lone Brent noted and best of all as I stepped through the back gate at home a pair of Ravens `cronking` overhead made for species number 67 for the local patch.

                                          Barney, Lade

                                          Western Conifer Seed Bug, Plovers

                                          Great White Egret, Cooks Pool

Dengemarsh - The flooded fields near Boulderwall have been good of late with hundreds of Curlews, feral geese, Wigeons, Stock Doves and the like. This morning 5 Tundra Bean Geese (gone by late afternoon) had joined the throng and were associating with the 7 Barnacles. Also noted during two visits today were up to 4 Marsh Harriers, 2 Common Buzzards and a Peregrine; the latter briefly causing everything to take flight. Two Great Whites and a Little Egret were on show as was a Bittern creeping around the margins of Cooks Pool. All the usual tits and sparrows on the feeders, another Stonechat and some winter thrushes made for a grand total of 81 species of birds at two sites all within two miles of home.
PS: Thanks to David Walker for identifying the insect found crawling across our patio today as a Western Conifer Seed Bug (having seen a couple at the Obs in the past I really should have known what it was). Apparently, they arrived in Europe as recently as 1999, in Italy, probably in a consignment of imported timber from North America and have quickly spread across the continent (2008 saw the first major influx into southern Britain). Interesting time of year for such a beastie to be active though and DW suspected it may have arrived on yesterdays strong southerlies.

Thursday 14 February 2013

2 Glaucous Gulls & Scaup

Dungeness - 0900hrs - A day of extraordinary weather commenced with lashing rain, a force 6 ssw blow and a churning sea. By 1100hrs the wind relented, the rain stopped and the sun came out rapidly elevating temperatures by early afternoon to 12C (where 24 hours earlier it was barely 2C). To cap it all by late afternoon some hefty showers developed resulting on the most vivid rainbows over Lade Bay. However, I digress, our seawatch in poor weather resulted in the expected auks, Great Crested Grebes, Red-throated Divers, Kittiwakes and Gannets rounding the point plus, 2 Fulmars, 6 Common Scoters and a Little Gull. At The Patch the mass of gulls over the boil suddenly produced a 1st winter Glaucous Gull that eventually settled on the beach with the other gulls. A classic `biscuit` coloured individual and completely different from the 3rd winter that we saw at the fishing boats  later on. We `moved` the 1st winter down the beach in line with power station car park and left it at that. However, it could not be relocated during the afternoon.

                                        The Patch

                                                 Common Scoter, Scotney

Scotney - Following a tip off from PB we had good views of a female Scaup from the double bend that spent most of its time asleep amongst the Pochards and Tufted Ducks. Scaup are quite scarce hereabouts and this was our first of the year. Also present a 1st winter drake Common Scoter which also got the sleeping sickness and fell into line with the other diving ducks. There were very few birds on the grass except for near the farm entrance where 50 Goldies, 20 Dunlins, 6 Redshanks and 3 Ringed Plovers amongst the Lapwings and Wigeons.
Ray and Stuart ended their stay on 101 species for the three days which produced typical winter birding with the highlights being Black-throated Diver, Bittern, Bewick`s Swan, White-fronted Goose, Scaup, Smew, 9 species of shorebirds, Glaucous Gull, auks, roosting harriers, Barn Owl, Kingfisher and Snow Bunting.

Wednesday 13 February 2013

Birding in the Freezer

Dungeness - 0900hrs  - cold, dry, overcast, se 4 - Another bitter cold day, particularly on the coast. Started off at the fishing boats for a seawatch where hundreds of Cormorants, Great Crested Grebes, Guillemots and Razorbills milling around the point along with 50 Red-throated Divers, 20 Gannets, and 10 Kittiwakes, plus 6 Common Scoters and 30 Wigeon down-Channel. The Glaucous Gull eventually showed along the beach.
RSPB - A definite reduction in duck numbers around the bird reserve today. However, from Hanson close views of a Smew fishing in the reedbed. Around the Willow Trail a tit flock contained a Chiffchaff, Cetti`s Warbler, Reed Bunting and a crest which was probably a Firecrest. Also, Redwings, Fieldfares and Siskin over. On Burrowes 8 Pintail, Shelduck and another Smew while Dengemarsh had Dabchicks for the trip list. Along the access road 100 Curlews and 7 Barnacle Geese amongst the Canadas and Greylags. Plenty of Marsh Harriers around plus 2 Great White Egrets and a Stonechat.
Walland Marsh - After drawing a blank for the Tundra Geese at Scotney it was out onto the farmland tracts. A record count of 255 Bewick`s Swans for the winter was logged, plus 75 White-fronts at Midley. Several hundred Fieldfares noted at Hawthorn Corner. Finished the day at a harrier roost where up to ten Marsh Harriers and 4 Common Buzzards present. On the drive back had cracking views of a Barn Owl hunting and perched at Midley.

Tuesday 12 February 2013

Divers, Buntings & Bitterns

Lade - 0900hrs - cold, grey, ne 3 - Another bitter cold day although with lighter winds. Checked out the pits for the Black-throated Diver which was on south pit. A Bittern also noted over the willows.
Birdwatching Break - Picked up Ray and Stuart from Ashford station for a three day stay at Plovers. On the way back we stopped off at Faggs Wood for woodland birds around the car park which comprised the usual tits and finches plus Nuthatch and Jay. At Warehorne the feeders were packed out with common garden birds plus Tree Sparrows and Great pecker. Crossing Walland Marsh we noted 3 Kestrels, Common Buzzard, 230 Bewick`s Swans and more Tree Sparrows, Goldfinches, Yellowhammer and 6 Corn Buntings at the seed dump.
Littlestone - The Snow Buntings were on the foreshore by the dunes feeding amongst the flotsam and allowed a close approach, as did a sickly looking Great Crested Grebe. Nine species of beach waders logged here and at Greatstone beach including 100 Knots, 130 Turnstones, 100 Barwits and hundreds of Curlews and Oycs, plus 10 Red-throated Divers offshore.
Lade - The Black-throated Diver was still on south pit. A Bittern was flushed from a reedbed along the causeway and 5 Goldeneyes were amongst the diving duck on north pit.
ARC - Finished the afternoon at Screen hide where 5 Smew showed well along with another Bittern, 3 Marsh Harriers, 100 Golden Plovers over and best of all a Kingfisher.
A decent afternoons birding despite the bitter cold.

                                          Great Crested Grebe, Littlestone

                                          Smews, ARC

Sunday 10 February 2013

Wildfowl & Harriers

Lade  - 0900hrs - Cold, cloudy, rain, se 5 - A shocker of a morning for the monthly WeBS count with heavy showers running in on a relentless south-easterly. Needless to say the wildfowl were mostly tucked in the sheltered spots around the willow scrub where only Pochard and Teal numbers were noteworthy at 355 and 212 respectively. The Black-throated Diver, now into its second week, seemed unaffected by the developing tempest as it successfully fished on north pit. Few other land birds seen due to the weather conditions.
Walland Marsh - 1600hrs - Accompanied  Marshman on the harrier count this afternoon in dreadful weather conditions with near gale force winds and driving rain and sleet. En-route to site a single Whooper Swan noted in the Bewick`s flock at Hawthorn Corner, which for a change was close to the road. Only 8 Marsh Harriers came to roost while the adult male Hen Harrier flew over low heading purposely towards Scotney. Plenty of Greylags on the fields hereabouts plus 74 White-fronts and the wintering Common Crane flying into roost. As night fell the Bewick`s Swans also came in to roost, a magical experience as they tinkled away to one another in the darkness. On the drive back to the coast the weather worsened with thick, wet snow falling.
I did wonder how many harrier counters cried off this afternoon, and stayed at home in front of the telly to watch the rugby or football...

Saturday 9 February 2013

Bonaparte`s Gull

Pett Level - 0830hrs - Cold, dry, sunny, light airs - A day out beckoned in sunny Sussex in the company of Marshman, the ladies and Barney. First stop the Levels where the fields were full of several hundred Curlews and Lapwings. A distant goose flock eventually yielded up 30 White-fronts, 25 Brents and 2 Pink-feet. On a flat calm sea at least 50 Red-throated Divers.
Prince`s Park, Eastbourne - 1030hrs - After dropping the ladies off for a spot of retail therapy we headed for the park and waited for about half an hour until our quarry, an adult Bonaparte`s Gull flew onto the lake. Over the next hour it performed to order, coming to bread alongside the larger Black-headed Gulls; and what a stunner it was. In flight the silvery underwing was obvious and it had a more graduated tail than the Bhgs with dangling pale, flesh coloured legs. On the water it resembled a Little Gull in shape with a dove-grey mantle and neck, black ear-covert spot and small all black bill. I must confess to not being at ease wandering around urban settings with optics but it was a lifer ( bit of a tarts tick I know) and after an hour we moved on.

                                         Adult Bonaparte`s Gull, Eastbourne

Arlington Reservoir - A new site for both of us and back to proper birding. A circuit of the water produced the expected common wildfowl including 150 Wigeon, 4 Shoveler and singles of Pintail and surprisingly a drake Mandarin. Amongst the Cormorants were several sinensis types and a raft of gulls, mostly Black-headed. Also noted around the margins Kestrel, Greater pecker, Goldcrest, Long-tailed tit and Mipit.
Abbot`s Wood - Final stop an hour in a nearby woodland where Treecreepr, Nuthatch, Jay, Goldcrest and Long-tailed Tit noted amongst  the common tits and finches.

Friday 8 February 2013

Winter Birds

Lade - 0930hrs - cold, dry, sunny, nw2 - Another cracking winters day with bright sunshine and just a hint of frost. First stop the local patch where the Black-throated Diver showed well on north pit, as did a Great White Egret on south pit. All the usual wildfowl noted, including 8 Goldeneye, plus 3 Marsh Harriers, 2 Water Rails and 100 Curlews over off the bay.
Littlestone - The 2 Snow Buntings were on the foreshore in front of the lifeboat station and as it was high tide a decent crop of waders roosted along the tideline including 12 Redshanks and a scattering of Sanderlings, Dunlins, Grey Plovers and Turnstones. 

                                          Black-throated Diver, Lade

                                          Snow Buntings, Littlestone

                                          Great White Egret, Lade

Scotney - Apart from a couple of thousand Wigeon on the grass and the feral goose flock, there wasn't much else of note here; definitely seems to have been something of a clear out of wildfowl. 
Walland Marsh - Pretty quiet across the Marsh too with just the swan flock of note near Hawthorn Corner comprising 1 Black, 2 Whoopers and 225 Bewick`s. A few Fieldfares around the lanes, singles of Buzzard and Greater pecker, plus the usual sparrows and finches on the feeders.
RSPB - From Springfield Bridge had cracking views of 2 Beardies feeding on the edge of the reedbed (where 2 Penduline Tits were reported an hour later!). As you will see from the pic below the water level on the lake is so high that the hayfield is under water, which attracted 3 Ringed Plovers and 15 Curlews, plus 2 Stonechats on the fence. Elsewhere around the reserve 7 Barnacle Geese and 2 Great Whites from Boulderwall, 12 Smew on New Diggings and the usual array of Marsh Harriers.

                                                   Hayfield from Springfield Bridge


Thursday 7 February 2013

Heron Fest

Lade - 0830hrs - cold, sunny, nw 2 - Cracking winters morning with a bright blue sky and lighter winds than yesterday. Plenty of birds about too with a flock of 7 White-fronts overhead as we walked across the storm beaches. Almost the first bird noted on south pit was the Black-throated Diver feeding close to the bank at the south end, but when disturbed it flew back to its preferred channel of water on north pit near the swing bridge. Also hunting around the margins of south pit were several Grey Herons and singles of Little and Great White Egrets, the latter flying around now and again. The water was smothered in a 1,000 plus Common and Black-headed Gulls as well as all the usual diving ducks, Teal and Gadwall. Around the willow swamp a Bittern broke cover while several Water Rails and a Cetti`s Warbler called. At least 3 Marsh Harriers hunted the fields towards the airport while 150 Curlews came into roost from the bay. On the walk back 5 Shelducks flew on to south pit. Also noted, Song Thrush, Green Woodpecker, Kestrel and 3 Siskins over.
Called in at Littlestone Lifeboat station where the 2 Snow Buntings were present in the car park, until flushed by a dog-walker.

Lade `Mirrors`


Wednesday 6 February 2013

Bitterns & Smews

Littlestone - 1045hrs - cold, sunny, nnw 4 - Checked the car park area and found the 2 Snow Buntings feeding on the foreshore. A decent crop of shorebirds included 6 species most notable being 55 Knot and 12 Redshanks.
Lade - From the aerial mound a Bittern was flying over the willow swamp being pursued by a Marsh Harrier! On south pit the ducks were huddled along the willows sheltering from the biting northerly airflow. Plenty more common wildfowl in the willow pool and a pair of Great Crested Grebes displaying. On north pit another Bittern, this time inadvertently flushed from a small reedbed, a Great White Egret, a Smew and the Black-throated Diver, which earlier had been seen on south pit.
ARC/New Diggings - A total of 19 Smews on both waters (including 2 drakes), 9 Goldeneyes and all the usual diving and dabbling ducks. From Screen hide another flight view of a Bittern.
Scotney - Thought I`d best check just in case the Scaups returned, but it was pretty quiet with just the usual feral geese, Wigeons and Lapwing on the grass. A flight of 9 Smews flew over heading towards Pigwell, but when I checked the pit out all I could find was yet another Bittern!
It seemed to be that wherever I went today Bitterns and Smews were easy to see., which of course is not always the case.

Tuesday 5 February 2013

Winter Wildfowl

Lade - 0800hrs  - cold, sunny, w 4 - A chilly start to the day which got steadily colder as the wind picked up. A wander over the pits revealed all the usual ducks including 6 Goldeneyes, 2 redhead Smew and a Shelduck. Around the willows Green Woodpecker, Cetti`s Warbler and several Water Rails. The Black-throated Diver remained on north pit where it was lurking in the channel near the swing bridge to the `mirrors`. A Bittern broke cover and a Great White Egret was at the far end. Best of all though was a pair of Peregrines calling and engaging in a bit of pair bonding overhead.

                                          Black-throated Diver, Lade north

Scotney - 0930hrs - Had a scout round with MH at the wheel this morning. First stop Scotney
to check for yesterdays Scaup, but without success. All the usual wildfowl including the feral Barnacle flock. A circuit of the Galloways road produced 30 Fieldfares, Stonechat, Sparrowhawk and Peregrine.
RSPB - The fields at Boulderwall were full of Stock Doves, Lapwings, Curlews, Wigeons, gulls and feral geese. From Dengemarsh hide we had distant views of 5 Bearded Tits feeding on phragmites plus a Brent amongst the feral geese and Lapwings on the fields. Nothing much from Burrowes apart from the usual wildfowl and 2 Ravens over. Over the road from Hanson 15 Smew, including 2 drakes and 8 Goldeneyes. Around the reserve at least 5 each of Marsh Harrier and Great White Egret.
ARC - 1500hrs - A last look around from Screen hide delivered Green and Greater peckers on the walk down, a flock of 30 Goldies over, 3 Marsh Harriers and a flyover Bittern.

Smew, ARC       

Monday 4 February 2013


Dungeness - 0930hrs - mild, dry, sunny, w 3 - An almost spring-like morning with warm sunshine and a light westerly inducing a Dunnock and Blackbird to sing in the garden. From the fishing boats the sea was smothered in Guillemots and Razorbills with many more coming and going; numbers were almost impossible to assess but there must`ve been at least 2,000 auks, quite a sight. Kittiwakes were also much in evidence with one of the incoming fishing boats having at least 100 in tow, plus hundreds more out to sea and along the beach. Also noted lesser numbers of Red-throated Divers, Great Crested Grebes, Gannets, plus singles of Bonxie and Fulmar down-Channel. A Grey Seal surfaced close to shore and the 3rd winter Glaucous Gull was creating havoc amongst the other large gulls.

Lade - Unfortunately no sign of yesterdays diver on Lade north despite several birders on site giving it the once over as well; one of whom claimed a Slav Grebe earlier. Six Goldeneyes and 2 Smew noted across both waters.
Littlestone - Had a quick look for the Snow Buntings in the Varne car park without success, although they had been showing earlier.
Walland Marsh - En-route from the causeway road 12 Smew on New Diggings, 2 Great White Egrets on ARC and a Merlin at Cockles Bridge. On Walland the 2 Whoopers were showing amongst 230 Bewick`s Swan near Hawthorn Corner.
ps: 2 Scaup at were reported from Scotney this afternoon (PB & MH) and the Black-throated Diver was seen again on Lade north in the afternoon (DB); must`ve been by the `mirrors` in the morning, the only spot I didn't check.

Sunday 3 February 2013

Black-throated Diver

Lade - 0830hrs - Cold, overcast, w 4 - At least once a week I like to give the local patch a thorough going over which usually takes most of the morning once all the nooks and crannies are explored. Must confess to not holding out for much of a session as we trudged across the desert towards Mockmill Sewer into a nippy old westerly. However, once in the shelter of the scrub and with a little help from my canine friend birds started to appear. The sewer bottom was partially flooded after the recent heavy rains so it was no surprise when 3 Snipe broke cover and further on a Woodcock and Water Rail. Several Song Thrushes, Redwings and Blackbirds were noted in the scrub plus 2 Stonechats and 4 Dunnocks.
The fields towards the airport were covered in Lapwings, Curlews, Stock Doves, Woodpigeons, Starlings and Common Gulls, while several Marsh Harriers quartered the rough grassland and a Common Buzzard sat atop a straw stack on lookout. The only small birds were a couple of Linnets and singles of Skylark and Reed Bunting. The reedbed behind the `mirrors` held more Water Rails (I couldn't begin to guess at the winter population here), 2 Cetti`s Warblers, 2 Grey Herons and a Little Egret. All the usual diving duck on south pit included 2 Goldeneyes and not much else. Moving on to the willow swamp and more Water Rails, a tit flock, 2 Goldcrests, a Chiffchaff, Green Woodpecker, Kestrel, Sparrowhawk and 2 Fieldfares.
A scan of north pit from the causeway at first revealed nothing more that the usual diving ducks, 12 Wigeon and 6 Goldeneyes but as we worked our way round a diver came into view at the far end. Having only bins it took closer views before confirming it was a Black-throated Diver (note peaked forehead, level lower mandible, black and white neck and pale rear flank patch) my first of the year. Whilst watching the diver 2 Great White Egrets and a flyover Bittern were noted.
The final section of the walk took us along the beach, where as it was low tide there was little of note apart from distant Curlews, Oystercatchers and sandpipers, plus a dead Guillemot on the tideline.
All things considered a decent mornings birding.

                                         Black-throated Diver adult, Lade

1400hrs - Returned to the pits with the scope this afternoon and managed a few digi-pics in poor light of what was an adult Black-throated diver in winter plumage.
ps: Two Waxwings were reported from New Romney today (MH) with another in Dymchurch.

Saturday 2 February 2013

Marsh Tit

Walland Marsh - 0900hrs - cold, sunny, nw 3 - En-route to the woods a drive across the Marsh delivered the Bewick`s Swan flock at Hawthorn Corner and a Common Buzzard on a swan carcass at Midley, plus several Marsh Harriers, 2 Jays and a few winter thrushes. A flooded field near Fairfield attracted a couple of hundred Lapwings, Curlews and Common Gulls.

                                          Bewick`s Swans, Walland Marsh

                                          Bracket fungi, Park Wood

Park Wood, Appledore - A wander round a very muddy wood delivered all the common tits and thrushes, Treecreeper, Nuthatch, Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers. The southern side of the wood adjacent to the vineyard was sheltered from the wind and bathed in sunshine and as a result attracted most of the birds. Best of all was a calling Marsh Tit which eventually showed well along with its mate, also noted here Bullfinch, Long-tailed tit, Jay and Goldcrest. A dung heap by the vines held a group of thrushes, plus 2 Yellowhammers and a Green Woodpecker.
RSPB - 1500hrs - From the causeway road a flock of 250 Shovelers sheltering from an increasingly nippy wind on ARC. At least 12 Smews on New Diggings and 3 Great White Egrets. Along the access road Kestrel, Sparrowhawk and 3 Marsh Harriers, plus hundreds of Lapwings, Curlews, Goldies and Common Gulls in the fields towards Lydd, plus 4 Barnacle Geese, 3 Ruff and another Great White Egret. All the usual wildfowl from the visitors centre. Jack Snipe was on the sightings board but nobody seemed to know whereabouts on the reserve it was seen. Hung around for last knockings to see if the Barn Owl appeared again but without success

Friday 1 February 2013

Quartet of Swans

Lade - 0900hrs - Wet, mild, nw 3 - Trudged across the storm beaches in driving rain more to take the mutt for a walk than anything else. Just the usual diving ducks on south pit plus around 200 Teal.
Walland Marsh - 1300hrs - With the monsoon passing it proved to be a production time to be out in the field, and as the clouds dispersed the sun even broke through. At Hawthorn Corner had my best count of Bewick`s Swans of the winter at 235, plus 2 Whoopers which didn`t stay for long once the model flying club started up, and distant flight views of the Common Crane. Opposite the drying barns a lone Black Swan was feeding alongside 50 Mutes.
Further down the lane the feeders were alive with sparrows, finches and tits, plus Common Buzzard and several Marsh Harrier out on the sheep folds. On the drive back had superb views of a `grey ghost` Hen Harrier drifting over the lane.

                                          Bewick`s Swans, Walland Marsh

                                          Black Swan, Midley

There was another perfect example this afternoon, at Midley, as to why our farmland is becoming devoid of wildlife. I realise that the poor old farmers have to clear the drainage ditches out from time to time, but is it really necessary to grub out the hedgerows and old willows too. In the short period of time I`ve lived down here on the Marsh the amount of `tidying up` that has occurred is noticeable, resulting in fewer and fewer rough patches for birds to find sanctuary in.

                                          Another hedgerow gone

ARC - From Screen hide had good flight views of 3 separate Bitterns flying into the near reedbed alongside a Great White Egret. At least 4 Marsh Harriers and a Sparrowhawk flew by while a large mixed flock of Lapwings and Goldies swirled overhead looking for somewhere to roost on the swollen pit. On the water hundreds of ducks including 21 Smew, 13 Goldeneye and a duck Red Crested Pochard.
Boulderwall - At last knockings nipped over the road to scan the 7 Barnacle and 3 White-fronts on the sodden fields, just as a Barn Owl came out to hunt! A cracking end to a tidy afternoons birding.