Monday 30 December 2013

Another day, another gale

Lade - mild, overcast, rain, sw 8  - In contrast to yesterdays sunshine and stillness, today saw a return to gale force winds and rain lashing the peninsula. Still, so far it hasn`t been as damaging as last Monday when along with many other properties locally we lost roof tiles and had the garden fence flattened. However, we did venture out this morning to check on the wildfowl, but viewing south pit was difficult as you could barely stand upright such was the buffeting from the elements. Cutting back along the beach wasn`t that much easier either, although the waders didn`t appear to be too bothered. Five Goldeneye on south pit were the only birds of note.
Reflections... - Reflecting upon the past year it is easy to despair of the activities of our fellow man where the fortunes of wildlife are concerned (and, yes in 99% of cases it is men - damn that Y chromosome and testosterone overload). Whether it be the slaughter of Elephants in Africa for the ivory trade, the stripping out of rain forests to grow palm oil, or the Japanese whalers `scientifically` hunting in Antarctic waters, the rape of planet Earth continues apace, mostly to satisfy first world countries with trinkets and luxuries they can do without.
  And you don't have to look too far for examples of wildlife abuse closer to home: hunts still kill foxes with impunity, badgers have been culled for the inadequacies of the farming community, ruddy ducks eliminated for having the temerity to prosper and expand their range after being introduced here by man in the first place, while young Gannets have been used in an `eating competition` in Scotland.
  I could carry on, but I wont, it`s just too depressing. And sadly there is little we can do as individuals, unless you have the time and energy, for example, to become a Greenpeace activist. However, joining an organisation that can influence and help change the world for the better, whether it be at home or abroad, is something we can all do. So why not resolve to take out another good cause membership in 2014.
Have a happy and peaceful New Year.

Sunday 29 December 2013

New Years Day recce

Lade - 0700hrs - frosty, light airs, sunny later - In the cold still conditions before dawn there was a steady stream of Redwings coming in off the bay, calling, as they passed over the cottage heading inland.
Park Wood - 0815hrs - Spent the morning with Marshman and the Joker on a reconnaissance mission in preparation for NYD. En-route to the hills the Rhee Wall near Old Romney was like  a skating rink and the Dowels below Appledore was unsurprisingly widely flooded.
However, the wood was bathed in sunshine and in the stillness we didn`t have to go far from the car park to hear and find a passerine flock that contained Blue, Great, Coal and Long-tailed Tits, Treecreeper, Goldcrest and Nuthatch. Also noted Jay, Green and Greater peckers, Stock Dove, Redwing, Song and Mistle Thrushes and a fly over Yellowhammer.
Kenardington - Checked either side of the bridge along the canal where once again large areas of sheep pasture were under water. On the Dowels, 50 Wigeon, 6 Little Egret, 4 Grey Heron, Redwing and Fieldfare, whilst over the lane towards Warehorne, 20 Blackbirds, Song Thrush, Redwing, Bullfinch, Yellowhammer, Reed Bunting, Mipit and Stonechat. A large flood attracted Common, Black-headed and Lesser Blacked Gulls, 20 Teal, 5 Grey Herons and 2 Little Egrets.

                                RMCanal near Kenardington

Walland Marsh  - We then criss-crossed the Marsh towards Lydd noting more winter thrushes, Green Woodpecker, Kestrel, Buzzard and Yellowhammer along the way. At Midley a Peregrine sat on a fence post while at the feeders the usual selection of Tree Sparrows and Goldfinches were amongst the common garden birds. From Caldecote Lane a mixed flock of around 100 Bewick`s and Mute Swans were present in a distant field, plus 20 Mipits by the chicken sheds.
RSPB - Finished up on the bird reserve where between Boulderwall and Burrowes at least 5 Great White Egrets noted. From Dennis`s hide 3 Smew, Goosander, Black-necked Grebe, Marsh Harrier and Raven, plus all the usual wildfowl and gulls on the water.

Saturday 28 December 2013

Plovers: 2013 Review of the birding year

                                Plovers, January, 2013

The weather during 2013 commenced with a cold and protracted first winter period (including snowfall across the Romney Marsh) followed by a cool, wet spring that did no favours to many of our breeding birds. Summer was short and hot with a mild, wet and windy autumn and second winter period to follow, dominated by low pressure systems sweeping in from the Atlantic.
  The winter scene around the Marsh was notable for large numbers of wildfowl on the gravel pits with plenty of Smew and Goldeneye on the bird reserve but few Goosander. Scarce grebes, Bitterns and Great White Egrets were obvious and a couple of Penduline Tits were noted in February. At Dungeness a Glaucous Gull present for its third winter proved popular, with another first winter bird briefly at the Patch, while offshore over a thousand Great Crested Grebes wintered amongst the auks, scoters, Gannets and Kittiwakes along with the odd Bonxie, Caspian and Yellow-legged Gull.
  On Walland Marsh large flocks of Golden Plovers and Lapwings, winter thrushes, raptors, White-fronted Geese and Bewick`s Swans proved the main attraction, but few farmland passerines were noted apart from at a seed dump near Brenzett that attracted three species of buntings. Tree Sparrows depended on hand-outs at their traditional sites while Grey Partridge have all but disappeared from the Marsh avifauna. Inevitably with such a foot-fall of birders one or two goodies were discovered in the shape of Hen Harrier, Tundra Goose, Common Crane, Scaup and several flocks of Waxwings, including up to 30 at Johnson`s Corner.
  On the local patch at Lade, Black-throated Diver, Red-breasted Merganser and Jack Snipe were the highlights while several Snow Buntings showed well on the beach at Littlestone. At Hythe sea front Purple Sandpipers remained faithful to the sea defence blocks.

                                Bittern, Dengemarsh

                                Black-throated Diver, Lade

                               Purple Sandpiper, Hythe

  With lengthening daylight hours attention was centred on the up-Channel spring passage off Dungeness. Brent Geese provided the spectacle along with a record one day passage of over 3,000 Red-throated Divers and plenty of ducks, terns, gulls and waders to keep the seawatchers busy, although Barwits were in short supply. The much anticipated skua passage was somewhat disappointing as many of the Poms passed well offshore. On the land the first Wheatears pitched up on 20th March followed by a light passage of Firecrests, Black Redstarts, Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs.
  In late March a dash down to Rye Harbour paid off handsomely with two Kentish Plovers. Elsewhere around the Dungeness Peninsula, Avocets, Red Kites and Black-necked Grebes moved through along with a trio of rare ducks: Long-tailed at Scotney, Ring-necked at Lade and a Green-winged Teal on ARC. Two Penduline Tits continued to frustrate birders on the reserve and as Smew were replaced by Garganey spring had at long last sprung.
  And so to the true summer migrants of which there were few and far between. At Dungeness a trickle of Common Redstart, Whinchat, Ring Ouzel and Pied Flycatcher were located amongst the more numerous Willow Warblers and Common Whitethroats, while Spotted Flycatcher and Cuckoo were in short supply and Turtle Dove largely absent. On the rarity front several Serins were found, a single Bee-eater performed well by the Light Railway CafĂ© and a stunning male Red-spotted Bluethroat led twitchers a merry dance across the shingle foreshore by the fishing boats. Elsewhere, at least six Red-rumped Swallows passed through the bird reserve, plus a Cattle Egret, Spoonbill, Little Stint and Pectoral Sandpiper, while a male Montagu`s Harrier `coasted` off Dungeness. At Lade a showy one day Alpine Swift delighted many locals and visitors alike as it hurtled over the adjacent caravan park hawking insects.

                                Alpine Swift, Lade

                                Bluethroat, Dungeness

  As already mentioned it was a stop-start breeding season for many birds due to cool, wet conditions. At Rye Harbour the Sandwich Tern and Mediterranean Gull colonies failed entirely, although Common Terns fared better there and at Dungeness, while Little Terns produced only a handful of young at Rye. On the plus side a colony of Black-headed Gulls at a working gravel pit site on the peninsula was largely successful and also contained two pairs of Mediterranean Gulls. Breeding waders did poorly (despite strenuous efforts by RSPB staff to help Lapwings on the bird reserve) largely due to predation and human disturbance with only Oystercatcher producing fledged young at Dungeness. On the plus side reed-bed warblers, Bearded Tit, Marsh Harrier, Water Rail and a pair of Bittern all prospered. Several pairs of Black Redstarts nested on the power station complex, along with Raven and Peregrine, while ever decreasing numbers of Wheatears just about clung on as a breeding species on the hinterland shingle. At Lydd Little Egrets once again nested in the heronry.

                                Black-tailed Godwits, Burrowes

                                Greenshank, Burrowes

                                Ruff and Pectoral Sandpiper, ARC

  Autumn passage commenced with post breeding waders on the wetlands which also included Spotted Redshank and Ruff in breeding plumage. Wader aficionados enjoyed a rich seam with attractive habitat in front of Hanson and Firth hides pulling in flocks of common waders, plus Black-tailed Godwits, Little Stints, Curlew and Pectoral Sandpipers, and for the second year running a trans-Atlantic Semi-palmated Sandpiper was identified; while Scotney delivered a Dotterel amongst the Golden Plovers. At Dungeness, Roseate Tern and Balearic Shearwater were noted while one of the craziest records of the year went to a flock of 11 Goosanders over Dengemarsh on 3rd August!
  While it was generally a wretched autumn for passerines, with little viz mig, there were two stand-out days. The first was on 23rd September which involved a huge passage of southward bound hirundines, mostly Swallows, along with many common warblers including Lesser Whitethroats, pipits, wagtails and chats, while with winds from the east in mid October `hundreds` of Ring Ouzels dropped in along the coastal scrub. An Ortolan showed all too briefly in Dengemarsh Gully, a Wryneck proved elusive at Galloways and several Yellow-browed Warblers were noted.
  Dungeness is notable for the numbers of Sand Martins that move through the Peninsula and this year was no different with many thousands passing south well into the autumn. Yellow Wagtails however were lower in numbers with Turtle Dove and Goldcrest largely absent. Black Kite, Glossy Ibis and Jack Snipe showed well on the bird reserve and a large mixed flock of egrets, herons, Cormorants and grebes feeding on fish shoals provided an amazing spectacle.

                                Couses`s Arctic Redpoll, DBO

                                Fish-feeding frenzy, Burrowes                         

                                Glossy Ibis, ARC

  At Dungeness Bird Observatory an afternoon in November will live long in the memory as three `species` of redpoll were studied in the hand, including a fine Coues`s Arctic Redpoll which was new for many a Dungeness list.  As we moved into the second winter period Black Kite, Glossy Ibis and Great White Egrets lingered around the bird reserve and a Long-tailed Duck settled in at Scotney. Bewick`s Swans arrived in early November on Walland Marsh and two Short-eared Owls hunted the rough at Littlestone golf links. The year petered out with the expected sawbills on the gravel pits and wintering seabirds off Dungeness.
  The Plovers tally for the year was 211 species, which was slightly down on recent years but still delivered some memorable days birding across the Romney Marsh.
  Let`s hope for another bird-rich year in 2014 and the very best of birding wherever you may be.


Monday 23 December 2013

Review of Waders 2013

Lade - mild, cloudy, rain, S 8-10 - The day started off windy but by mid-afternoon had developed into storm force winds and heavy rain lashing the peninsula. Birding was futile; infact it was down right dangerous on the beach this afternoon, so we settled down in front of the fire and listened to the wind howling around the cottage, hoping the roof stays on.
So, here comes another retrospective... and this will be the last post for a while... unless that Snowy Owl at Sangatte gets blown across the Channel...
2013 Wader Highlights
During the course of the year we clocked up 32 species of waders, or shorebirds to use the modern parlance, across the Marsh. Why, you may ask, am I reviewing waders in particular? Well, its pure self indulgence as I love `em and am fortunate enough to encounter up to ten species regularly on my doorstep on Lade Bay. At night time the sound of Curlews and Oystercatchers flying to high tide roosts on the storm beaches behind the cottage is one I never tire of.
  However, I digress. Yes, 2013 has been a pretty fair year for waders mainly due to the short, hot summer sunshine reducing water levels around the bird reserve providing suitable feeding conditions, particularly from Hanson and Firth hides on ARC and Burrowes respectively.
  Both winter periods saw large numbers of Dunlin, Sanderling, Curlew and Oystercatcher on the bay, along with lesser numbers of Knot, Grey Plover, Barwit and Turnstone, while Ringed Plover and Redshank are always the scarcest with less than 20 of each. Thousands of Golden Plovers and Lapwings frequented the wet fields at Scotney, Walland Marsh, Dengemarsh and Lade, although Snipe remained few and far between. At Hythe seafront a handful of Purple Sandpipers continued to prove faithful to the sea defence blocks.

                                Purple Sandpipers, Hythe

  The first proper migrants in March were small numbers of Little Ringed Plovers and Avocets on the fresh water pits, plus two rare Kentish Plovers down at Rye Harbour. Whimbrel, Barwit and Greenshank moved through Dungeness in April and May with the majority noted on seawatches or calling overhead, as well as a few on hinterland fields. One or two stunning summer plum Little Stint, Curlew Sandpiper and Grey Plover were noted on the Midrips and elsewhere, while the three fresh water sandpipers were in low numbers on spring passage. Probably wader of the spring went to a superb Pectoral Sandpiper that performed like a good un on the hayfields in May.

                                Whimbrel, ARC south

  As for breeding waders I failed to find any Ringed Plover nesting along the beach at Lade, such is the human disturbance there nowadays, although LRP, Redshank and Oystercatcher did succeed on a working gravel pit nearby. I don't think any Lapwing fledged young on the bird reserve and I doubt if any did elsewhere around the Marsh due to the high levels of predation from the likes of corvids, foxes, badgers and raptors.
  And so to the eagerly anticipated return wader passage, which normally kicks off in mid-summer with the first post breeding flocks of Lapwings on the fields at Boulderwall, and Green Sandpipers on the pits. LRPs soon followed along with Wood and Common Sandpipers, Greenshanks, Whimbrels and singles of adult Ruff and Spotted Redshank in breeding plumage. As the summer progressed three Pec Sands were logged through and the first Blackwits arrived. Small numbers of Little Stints and Curlew Sandpipers found ARC to their liking and a Semi-palmated Sandpiper was the rarity of the year at Dungeness; and yet again proved to be a learning curve for most of us. At Scotney a Dotteral was found amongst the returning Golden Plovers, while at Dungeness two Purple Sandpipers delighted the seawatchers.
  I managed to miss Terek Sandpiper and Temminck`s Stint at Rye in the spring and as far as I`m aware there were no records this year of Stone Curlew, Buff-breasted Sandpiper or any phalaropes.
But wader of the year in my book has to be that crippling Jack Snipe that delighted so many of us from Hanson hide in October, perfectly positioned in the reedbed and bouncing as though on springs. Pure magic.

                                Jack Snipe, ARC

Sunday 22 December 2013

Black-throated Diver

Lade - cloudy, mild, rain, sw 3 - The foul weather continued throughout the morning with heavy rain and a blustery wind, although it did ease off through the afternoon. Checking the wildfowl was not easy as most were trying to shelter from the wind around the margins and in the willow swamp. Still large numbers on south lake though, while on north lake 3 Goldeneye were the highlight.
Burrowes - 1500hrs - Accompanied Marshman this afternoon to check out a Black-throated Diver on the bird reserve, which showed from Dennis`s hide though distant. Also present, 3 redhead Smew, 5 Goldeneye, a redhead Goosander, 3 Marsh Harriers and a Great White Egret.
ARC - From Screen hide 5 Goosanders, including a drake, on the water amongst hundreds of common diving ducks, plus 3 Little and a Great White Egret in front of the hide; at dusk 4 Great Whites dropped into roost on the far side of the pit. Also, noted 6 Long-tailed Tits, Sparrowhawk and heard only Raven, Water Rail and Cetti`s Warbler.

                                Black-throated Diver, Burrowes

                                   Great White Egret, ARC

Saturday 21 December 2013

Winter Solstice

Lade - mild, wet, windy, sw 6 - Happy solstice to one and all (pagans included) and here`s to the ever extending daylight hours to come.
Today has been a shocker down here on the coast with near gale force winds and driving rain throughout making for a complete non-birding day.
However, on the plus side it has meant that this afternoon I could spend some time in retrospect  reviewing the past birding year for a post some time next week. It also reminded me that despite not being one of the best years for rarities at Dungeness we really shouldn`t complain as there have been many memorable days of sub-rarities and scarcities along the way, plus one or two good falls to saviour; more of which anon.
Anyhow, I couldn't resist giving some of these little gems an airing:
Comedy Moment of 2013 - I was spoiled for choice here, as let`s face it there have been a few, what with the Greatstone Joker and the Bard of Burrowes at large...
It could easily have been on a spring trip for woodpeckers in Crecy forest when two old blokes struggling with digital technology played just about every bird call on the Western Palearctic list before finally arriving at Middle Spot - you had to be there! Or maybe the fella at the fishing boats one afternoon putting me right on the finer points of seabird identification - apparently those black ducks that I stupidly thought were scoters, were, after all, Coots...
But no, my comedy moment of the year has to go to the `Storm Petrel` called on an autumn seawatch that most of us regulars went along with, bar one, when it eventually morphed into a Purple Sandpiper! Pure seawatching magic - you could not make it up.
Serious Ornithological Moment of 2013 - In contrast to the above frivolities this award goes to the on going saga of redpoll identification and one November afternoon at the Obs when a hat trick of species were examined in the hand. I think I got it... until the next time... has anyone considered they might all be just, well, races of one species...

                                Coues`s Arctic Redpoll - DBO, 7-11-13

Barney`s Flush of 2013 - It`s a three way split here, all this autumn/winter. Two strong candidates were the Short-eared Owl and Jack Snipe at Lade but pride of place goes to a Ring Ouzel flushed from Penn Bars whilst I was watching a Black Kite.
Dips of 2013 - Looking back through the missed list I`m still wondering how I could have gone through the year without seeing Sooty Shearwater, Honey Buzzard and Osprey...
That`s it for now, but beware there could be more such irreverent posts over the coming days if the weather remains manky.

Friday 20 December 2013

Short-eared Owl

RSPB - 1030hrs - mild, sunny, sw 2 - Nothing new on the bird reserve as far I could make out. The Black-necked Grebe remained on Burrowes amongst the many ducks, Coot and gulls and there were several Chiffchaffs calling in front of Firth. The fields at Boulderwall remained full of birds and a Great White Egret was on Cook`s Pool with another at the south end of ARC.
Littlestone Golf Links - 1500hrs - News filtered through via OL, from the golfers, that a Short-eared Owl had been seen hunting the fairways these past ten days, and sure enough in near perfect weather conditions one was on the wing this afternoon. It was working the rough ground between the road and the green-roofed barn and twice plummeted onto some unsuspecting little critter in the grass. This winter, so far, has not been notable for this cracking day-flying owl, which is one of `those birds` that no matter how long you`ve been birding is always a pleasure to see; a bit like Bittern, Hobby, Bearded Tit or Firecrest.

Thursday 19 December 2013

Jack Snipe

Lade - 0900hrs - mild, sunny, sw 2 - After a lively night of strong winds and heavy rain this morning broke calm and bright. The trudge across the shingle to south pit was considerably enlivened by Barney flushing a Jack Snipe from a storm beach ridge; as is their want it silently flew a short distance before diving back into cover not to be seen again. This is our second record of the year at Lade. All the usual wintering ducks on south pit and two Marsh Harriers on the hunt.

                                Barney, flushed with success

RSPB  - 1200hrs - From Hanson a Great White Egret, 5 Goldeneye and hundreds of common diving duck and Wigeon, while from Willow Trail 2 Chiffchaffs and a small flock of Long-tailed Tits. Large numbers of Lapwings kept swirling overhead with loads more on the fields at Boulderwall along with feral geese, Starlings, Stock Doves, Curlew and Wigeon, plus a Common Buzzard and several Marsh Harriers.
The usual suspects were loafing around the VC hoping for an Ivory Gull to fly by... but unfortunately, no joy. All we could muster was another Great White, 3 Smew and a Black-necked Grebe. On the way home 2 Great Whites were at the south end of ARC along with a couple of hundred Teal and Gadwall.
The wintering Glossy Ibis was reported from ARC this morning.

Wednesday 18 December 2013

More of the same

Lade - 0900hrs - mild, sunny, sw 4 - At long last after days of leaden skies it was good to see the sunshine today. Over the pits it was a case of as you were, although with a strengthening wind many of the ducks were hugging the far shore on south lake.
News from the bird reserve today concerned the usual Great White Egrets plus a report of the wintering Glossy Ibis on the fields at Boulderwall (per MH).

Tuesday 17 December 2013

First Great White Egret

Lade - 0900hrs - mild, cloudy, drizzle, ne 3 - The wildfowl-fest continues on south pit, much to the delight of one female Marsh Harrier that was feeding on a Coot on the edge of the far reedbed. Several other harriers were on the wing behind the `mirrors`, while both Kestrel and Sparrowhawk were noted. Once again there was a couple of thousand gulls on the water, mostly Black-headed.
Burrowes - Called in at the bird reserve this morning with our three year old grandson. From Firth hide he successfully identified (with a little help) his first Great White Egret and promptly rattled through the common wildfowl, Cormorant and Coot; Goldeneye and a redhead Smew also noted. Canada and Greylag Geese were correctly identified in the Boulderwall fields.
Dungeness - An hour at the concrete road with MH this afternoon was noteworthy for up to 40, mostly high flying, Red-throated Divers moving west, along with many more auks and Kittiwakes. Several close Razorbills were identified, plus a couple of distant Gannets and 2 Brents. En-route a flock of Herring Gulls on the shingle contained an adult Caspian Gull.

Monday 16 December 2013

Rye Harbour

Dungeness - 0900hrs -  mild, cloudy, sw 4 - Checked the Patch where all the usual gulls were milling over the boil and on the beach. Joined PB and DW briefly from the fishing boats where a steady stream of Red-throated Divers, Kittiwakes and auks were streaming westwards past the point; a Great Northern Diver was noted earlier.
Rye Harbour - Access along the main track was restricted to the visitor centre as a section of the road past the sluice was washed away during the recent tidal surge. Work is set to continue for some time yet to repair the damage. All the expected waders were on Flat Beach and 2 Long-tailed Ducks were reported from Ternery Pool.

Sunday 15 December 2013

Caspian Gull, WeBS & Harriers

Lade - 0800hrs - mild, cloudy, sw 3 - The mild weather continues and there was even a moth flying around the garden at 0600hrs this morning, shame the trap has been packed away for the winter...
Anyhow, the monthly wildfowl count was probably one of the best ever for numbers with Coot and Gadwall topping 600 and 300 respectively, while Shoveler, Pochard, TD, Teal and Wigeon all broke the 100 barrier. Most were on south lake which for some reason or other must be food-rich with the Coots dragging up masses of weed from the depths for the Gadwall to plunder. Three Goldeneye and a Red-crested Pochard were also present.
Being`s it was high tide hundreds of gulls were on south lake, where joy upon joy, through the `scope I managed to locate an adult Caspian Gull amongst the Herring and Lesser-Black backs. This was a first for me here, although if I`d paid a little more attention to roosting gulls in the past I would probably have found one ages ago.
Scotney - A quick call in on the way back from Rye revealed all the usual Wigeon, plovers, feral geese and gulls on the grass, plus 20 Dunlin, 10 Redshank and the Long-tailed Duck on the bank at the farm end.
Harrier Count - Joined Marshman for the monthly harrier count where 16 Marsh Harriers came to roost. The light was appalling and with a brisk wind little else was noted apart from several thousand Lapwing, 100 Golden Plover, 20 Snipe, Greylags, Wigeon and Teal. Just as we were about to leave 3 Great White Egrets appeared on the edge of the reedbed, presumably to roost in the reeds.

Saturday 14 December 2013

December Doldrums

Lade - 0800hrs - mild, sunny, sw 2 - What with being off the Marsh yesterday it was good to get out and about around the local patch this morning with the mutt. Plenty of ducks and Coot remained on the lakes for tomorrow`s WeBS count, including 3 Goldeneye and a Red-crested Pochard. Two Marsh Harriers were on the wing harrying the Coot, while a Peregrine cruised through behind the `mirrors` scattering hundreds of Starling, Stock Dove, Golden Plover and Lapwing.
RSPB - 1400hrs - A scout around the bird reserve revealed more of the same sort of stuff: Smew and Great White Egret on ARC, 3 Goosander and an earlier Caspian Gull on Burrowes and the Glossy Ibis was reported on the Boulderwall Fields, where several Marsh Harriers were on the hunt.
It was a case of the December doldrums, but shouldn`t grumble really, as I always say, "that would`ve been a day to remember in Bedfordshire!"

Thursday 12 December 2013

2014 Calendar

Lade - 0900hrs - mild, sunny, sw 2 - Very pleasant wander around the local patch this morning seeing all the expected wildfowl and raptors in, dare I say, spring-like weather.
2014 Calendar - Our Plovers 2014 calendar is now available and features pictures of wildlife and scenes from across the Romney Marsh, priced at a very reasonable £11. For further details or to place an order please contact us on e-mail or call 01797 366935.

Wednesday 11 December 2013

What Crossbills!

Hempsted Forest - 0900-1300hrs - Accompanied the Joker and Marshman to the pines this morning on what was our third visit for another crack at the crossbills. Never before in recent memory have I spent four hours seeing so little; still, at least the weather was glorious once the mist had lifted. Todays stake out was the woodland equivalent of a winter seawatch at Dunge in a raging north-westerly, although we did eventually note four distant Crossbills and a single hurtling overhead calling wildly. Anyhow, the Bard of Burrowes turned up and we thought, that`s it then, bring on the crossbills, particularly as he quipped that the Two-barred should appear between 1230-1300hrs! It didn`t of course, but never mind the time passed quickly enough as the jokes, gossip and general mickey-taking ensued; apparently Birding World is packing up after the current issue, a sign of the digital age I guess...

Tuesday 10 December 2013

Local patching

Lade - 0800hrs - mild, sunny, s 2 - Another cracking morning with a southerly airflow all the way from the Azores keeping us nice and snug and clear of those nasty northerlies. With light airs I decided on a passerine hunt in the reed swamp which duly delivered Long-tailed, Great and Blue Tits, Chiffchaff and Cetti`s Warbler, plus a Greater pecker. However, Goldcrest continue to be noticeable by their absence. On the pits the usual hundreds of ducks, grebes and Coot including 2 Goldeneye.
A late afternoon stroll along the beach from the Varne delivered all the usual waders including two colour ringed Sanderling, but the light was beginning to fade so I couldn`t get the details. OL recorded one at the weekend confirming that it was ringed in Holland last year.

Monday 9 December 2013

Goosander & Water Rail

Dungeness - 0915hrs - mild, sunny, sw 2 - Joined DW at the Patch to check the gulls of which there were hundreds but nothing of particular note apart from a couple of Kittiwakes on the beach. In the power station compound Pied Wagtail and Black Redstart. The sea appeared to be quiet.
New/Old Romney - 1200hrs - Drove the back lane between the Romneys in spring-like weather with the temperature nudging 13C. Plenty of Common Gulls on the turf fields while the ditches and old willows at Wheelsgate Farm were getting a jolly good, `tidy-up-we-can`t-have-any-pesky-wildlife-friendly-habitat-here`, kind of treatment. It`s hardly surprising that many farmland birds are on last knockings. Anyhow, enough of that, mustn`t digress into a rant, on the plus side the Bewick`s Swan flock was giving the rape-seed greenery a good grazing north of Caldecote Lane, where 3 Corn Buntings perched briefly on a power line.

                                Water Rail, ARC

ARC - 1300hrs - Good session from Hanson where 5 distant Goosander was the largest flock of the winter so far comprising 2 stunning drakes. All the usual wildfowl on offer including 5 Goldeneye, plus 2 Great White and 3 Little Egrets. A Water Rail came out of hiding in front of the hide and posed briefly for piccies. From the Willow Trail 2 Chiffs and a Cetti`s Warbler.
Checked Lade Bay this afternoon just before lights out but all we could muster was a flock of 50 Wigeon flying in and settling on the sea. All the usual waders were high tide roosting along the shingle foreshore.

Sunday 8 December 2013


Lade - mild, sunny, w 2 - Whilst scanning south lake looking at the same old ducks a Bittern flew across the water from the willow swamp and landed in the main reedbed where it was quickly set upon by a passing Marsh Harrier. The tussle didn`t last for long and the Bittern quickly shrank away amongst the reeds.
RSPB - From Burrowes 2 Smew showed from Dennis`s hide and a Great White Egret flew over. Still large numbers of wildfowl on the lake, while an adult Caspian Gull was seen earlier (SB).
News from elsewhere included 37 Bewick`s Swans north of Caldecote Lane, Long-tailed Duck at Scotney and Snow Buntings at Camber Sands.

Saturday 7 December 2013

Bird Biomass

Lade - mild, cloudy, w 2 - Another mild winters day on the south coast, and long may they continue.
On south lake the long staying duck Red-crested Pochard was among the diving ducks which included a pair of Goldeneye. Water Rail and Cetti`s warbler were giving it what for in the willow swamp while Marsh Harrier, Sparrowhawk and Kestrel all put in an appearance behind the `mirrors`.
One of the local dog walkers reported a Bittern earlier flushed from a reedbed along the causeway.
Dengemarsh - Parked up at Boulderwall where up to 20 Tree Sparrows around the feeders along with Great Tit, Reed Bunting and Chaffinch. We walked up to Hookers checking the fields for yesterdays small curlew that showed briefly near the Corral, but no joy. The fields across towards Cockles Bridge and the paddocks were full of birds; and with a Peregrine on the hunt every so often thousands of Lapwing, Golden Plover, Wigeon, Starling, Stock Dove, corvids and gulls took to the wing. Several Marsh Harriers, Kestrel and Merlin were also present, plus 100 feral geese, 20 Shoveler, 10 Curlew, 2 Stonechat, 2 Snipe, 2 Grey Heron, Green Woodpecker and a Great White Egret. The Hookers reedbed had several Bearded Tits and Cetti`s Warbler calling.
Called in at the vc where the Bard of Burrowes was holding court. Several Smew were reported on the pit and 3 Avocet flew through which I managed to miss. 

Friday 6 December 2013

Winter wildfowl

Lade - 0800hrs - cold, sunny, sw 2 - A mostly bright sunny day with light airs. On south lake pretty much a repeat of two days ago with hundreds of wildfowl and Coot scattered across the water and a couple of Marsh Harriers patrolling the far reedbed.
Had a look at the beach after last nights tidal surge and the sea was about a metre short of flooding over the road; makes you realise how lucky we were considering what other folk are going through further up the coast.

                                Black-necked Grebe, ARC

                                Great White Egret, Burrowes

RSPB - Had a run out MH this morning. First stop ARC where at least 400 Gadwall at the south end. From Hanson 5 Goldeneye, 2 Dabchicks and a Black-necked Grebe, while a Greater pecker called from the Willow Trail. Plenty of Lapwing, Wigeon, Starling, feral geese, 2 Stonechat, 2 Snipe and a Great White Egret on the fields near Boulderwall. From Dengemarsh hide 8 Dabchick, 2 Shelduck, plus a Sparrowhawk and several Marsh Harriers over. Burrowes delivered 5 Smew and another Great White Egret along with all the usual wildfowl, gulls and a close Chiffchaff in front of Dennis`s hide.
Lade Bay - Checked the foreshore this afternoon where the sea had just finished battering away at the sand dunes at Greatstone. Hundreds of Sanderling were already back on the foreshore about to be joined by the rest of the shorebirds. From the Varne at least 30 Turnstone picking over the tidal flotsam and a couple of hundred gulls on the sea.

Thursday 5 December 2013

Black-headed Gulls

Lade - 0900hrs - mild, cloudy, wsw increasing to 5/6 - The day commenced with a light frost but the wind soon picked up from the west peaking in early afternoon at a Force 6. Most of the wildfowl on the pits were sheltering behind the island and amongst the willow scrub. Needless to say hardly any small birds were seen.
Dungeness - 1445hrs - With a big sea running we decided on an hour at the seawatch hide. Things were slow and MH quickly got bored, so started counting Black-headed Gulls, of which 619 passed west, close to the breaking surf; interestingly all were adults apart from four 1st winter birds. Also, 20 each of Common Gull and Kittiwake. Offshore 5 Common Scoters, 2 Gannets and a distant Bonxie. 
A dark band of rain-laden cloud moving down from the north, crossed the peninsula and clashed with the sun to deliver a stunning sunset. Could be an interesting night with a spring tide and a storm surge about to coincide and hit the coast around midnight...

                                Sunset over Hythe Bay

ps: The Glossy Ibis was reported on the bird reserve today.

Wednesday 4 December 2013


RSPB Tower Pits - 0800hrs - mild, cloudy, light airs - With benign weather continuing, and even a glimpse of some blue sky, decided to have a good rummage around for some passerines this morning. The car park scrub at ARC was full of activity with a flock of 20 Tree and House Sparrows, Long-tailed, Blue and Great Tits, Robin, Wren, Dunnock, 10 Blackbird, Song Thrush and Greenfinch. The walk down to the pines delivered more of the same plus 2 Chiffchaff, calling Water Rail and Cetti`s Warbler. At the pines more Blackbirds, 4 Chaffinch and 2 Goldfinch. We then walked around the back of Tower pits where Barney flushed 3 Snipe and a Reed Bunting. A large patch of Sea Buckthorn was alive with more Blackbirds, a few Song Thrushes, Linnets and a Chiffchaff. Two Marsh Harriers drifted over and a Sparrowhawk flew along the railway line. At least 5 different Great Spotted Woodpeckers noted plus 3 Greens.

                                Sea Buckthorn, Tower Pits

ARC - Around the margins a Great White Egret and 2 Grey Herons, while on the lake hundreds of wildfowl including 5 Goldeneye. Two more Chiffchaffs from the Willow Trail and the flock of tits from the car park. From Hanson a close Dabchick.

                                Dabchick, ARC

                                Grey Heron, Burrowes

Burrowes - Masses of wildfowl on the lake including 2 redhead Smew, Great White Egret and a Black-necked Grebe. A Shoveler count recorded a staggering 430, which must be bordering on numbers of national importance, and that`s just on Burrowes, what with another 100 over the road and 50 on Lade, plus others at Scotney and elsewhere there must be well over 600 locally.

Tuesday 3 December 2013

Grey Plovers

Lade - mild, overcast, light airs - 0900hrs - After the brightness of yesterday it was back to gloomy, leaden skies with light so poor that, in cricketing terms, there wouldn't be a cat in hells chance of batting. Nothing much doing on the pits with the usual wildfowl and Coot spread out across the mill-pond like water.
A couple of distant Marsh Harriers were working the fields behind the `mirrors` and a flock of 100 plus Starling flew in off the bay.
Littlestone - St Mary`s Bay - 1200hrs - Walked the foreshore looking for the likes of Snow Bunting but without success. Grey Plovers are always welcome and a roosting flock sat tight on the shingle as we walked past. By the concrete blocks at the St Mary`s Bay outfall 3 fat Brown Rats were foraging along the tideline, but soon retreated into cover when Barney got wind of them.

                                Grey Plovers, St Mary`s Bay

Dungeness  - 1415hrs - Together with MH we barely managed an hour at the concrete road, staring at a flat sea which delivered a couple of divers, auks and Kitts, plus the expected raft of grebes.
And now a moan. What is it with some beach fishermen? At the moment its wall to wall anglers due to the chance of Cod and Bass on offer. Most fishermen, of course, are perfectly civilised and once gone you wouldn't know they`d been there, while others leave their crap (literally in some cases) all over the foreshore for someone else to clear up. Still, I suppose all the while the Dungeness Angling Association fail to provide any proper leadership or control then the situation will never improve and it will be up to others, mostly volunteers (who do a fantastic job by the way) to clear up after the selfish few.

Monday 2 December 2013

Pastures new

Dungeness - 0900hrs - mild, cloudy, ne 3 - Thought I`d try a seawatch from the boats this morning, what with a change in the wind direction; although its always a bad sign when PB and TG are driving off the estate, even if they did see Velvet Scoter and Sooty Shearwater in the first hour! Anyhow, my hour was nowhere near as exciting, although there were plenty of seabirds moving around the point: Gannet, Red-throated Diver, auks and Kittiwake mostly.

                                Kittiwake, Dungeness

Capel-le-Ferne - Had to go to the cash-n-carry in Folkestone today so spent the afternoon checking out the cliff-top walk from the Warren to Capel-le-Ferne for a future article, in what was very pleasant winter weather. Now, this is the kind of birding walk that Barney loves snuffling about in the scrub and even meeting a lady Border Terrier along the way. However, bird wise it was pretty quiet, as expected at this time of year, but the views were terrific, and I`ll bet viz migging is good in October. All we could muster up this afternoon was Peregrine, Raven, a few Redwings and a flock of Long-tailed Tits, plus at least 20 Med Gulls at Copt Point.


NB: Meanwhile back at Dunge there was no further sign of the 1st winter Glaucous Gull today, although 3 Smew were on Burrowes (MH).

Sunday 1 December 2013

First Goosanders

Lade - 0900hrs - cold, cloudy, light airs  - A cold, still morning with a strange light due to a large black, bank of cloud shrouding the peninsula. Whilst watching a pair of Stonechat by south lake a Great White Egret flew out of the main reed bed and headed towards the bird reserve. All the usual wildfowl on the water including 2 Goldeneye on north lake and the reappearance of a duck Red-crested Pochard. Several Marsh Harriers were on the wing over the farmland along with Kestrel, Sparrowhawk and a large flock of Lapwing, Golden Plover and Stock Dove.
We then cut back along the foreshore where a flock of 30 Goldfinch were feeding on weed seeds amongst the sand dunes. Further along the high tide had pushed the waders close to shore, some of which had already pitched up on the shingle to roost. As always the small sandpipers were feeding right up until the last minute with over 300 Sanderling the most numerous. At least 50 Knot and Barwit were amongst the Oystercatchers.

                                Dunlin & Turnstone, Lade Bay

                               Sanderling and Dunlin, Lade Bay

ARC -1430hrs - With the promise of a stunning sunset we headed down to the Screen hide for a look around before lights out where the highlight was a pair of Goosander, my first of the winter. All the usual wildfowl on the lake plus a Great White Egret, 5 Little Egret, 4 Marsh Harrier, Kestrel, Green Woodpecker, Chiffchaff, Cetti`s Warbler and Curlew over.
ps: A 1st winter Glaucous Gull was on Burrowes this morning (SB).