Friday 31 January 2014

Dungeness Weekly Summary

Lade - 0830hrs -  cold, dry, cloudy, s 4 - Decided on a good look around the local patch this morning. It was hard going in the strong wind and as a result few passerines were noted; infact little of anything was seen really, as even the large flocks of ducks that have been present for weeks now appeared to have shipped out. Only 100 Teal around the willow swamp was of any note, although I did have a nice view of a Bittern flushed by Barney rooting around in brush along the causeway. At the northern end of north lake 25 Wigeon and two Goldeneye were sheltering from the wind and a Sparrowhawk zipped low over the water.
We then skirted around the pit and returned along the airport side, and immediately regretted it as to say it was wet under foot was an understatement! Flood water was everywhere, but we did flush a couple of Snipe, a Water Rail and a Hare. A Marsh Harrier flapped low over the runway and small flocks of Stock Doves and Lapwings were noted, but that was about it.
ARC - 1430hrs - A wander down to the pines yielded very little in the increasing wind with most of the wildfowl sheltering on the southern end along with a Great White Egret and two Littles.

                                Well`ard, the Glaucous Gull

Weekly Summary - Anyone planning a weekend visit would probably do best delaying until Sunday which looks the better day weather wise, with the following being a suggested route:
Dungeness - Seawatching from the fishing boats first thing should deliver good numbers of seabirds either on the move or feeding just offshore: divers, auks, Gannets, Kittiwakes, Little Gulls have been present on and off all week, along with a few ducks, waders and Bonxies, plus currently a 1st winter Glaucous Gull patrolling the foreshore from the Patch to the boats and still present today. The  Hume`s Leaf Warbler remains at the south-western end of the trapping area. 
RSPB - On the bird reserve the two Black-throated Divers are still on New Diggings and a Black-necked Grebe on Burrowes. Around the site are up to ten Smew, three Great White Egrets and all the usual Marsh Harriers, Common Buzzard, Raven, Bittern, Bearded Tit (Hookers), Stonechat, Cetti`s Warbler, Chiffchaff, Tree Sparrow and Water Rail, while a male Hen Harrier has also been noted. The Glossy Ibis has been seen coming to roost between Firth and Makepiece hides earlier in the week and could well still be present; check the fields at Boulderwall for geese and waders.
Walland Marsh - At Scotney the Long-tailed Duck has been faithful to the farm end of the lake, while White-fronts and all the usual feral geese remain in the area, along with 40 odd Bewick`s Swans near Lydd.
Littlestone Golf Links - Finish the day here if the weather is good for up to three Short-eared Owls, plus a good chance of Merlin and Linnet (scarce in winter). Check the foreshore for up to ten species of waders.
Good luck and good birding!

Thursday 30 January 2014

Migrant ducks & waders

Dungeness - 0830hrs - cold, cloudy, s 2 - It was nowhere near as cold today with the wind slackening off and edging around to the south and only the odd shower. We joined DW and PB at the boats for an hours seawatching where there were not as many auks, divers and gulls on the move as recent days but a small westward passage of waders and ducks comprising Dunlin, Sanderling, Knot and Grey Plover, Teal, Wigeon, Common Scoter, Shoveler and a Pintail. Several Little Gulls moved through and Gannets were more numerous than yesterday.
1400hrs - Another session from the seawatch hide delivered the usual seabirds milling around the point, while at the Patch 6 Little Gulls and a Med were amongst the Black-headed Gulls.
On the walk back the 1st winter Glaucous Gull put on a show patrolling the beach in front of the hide, picking up dead fish and generally duffing-up any Herring Gull that dared to invade its airspace.

                                1st winter Glaucous Gull, Dungeness

Wednesday 29 January 2014

Another Glaucous Gull

Dungeness - cold, wet, se 4 - Spent the day birding the local area with Wendy and Doug, in foul weather conditions with a biting easterly wind. Seawatching from the concrete road and hide produced hundreds of auks, Kittiwakes, Gannets and Red-throated Divers moving around the point, but not as many Black-headed Gulls than of late. Also, three Brents, two Little Gulls and singles of Fulmar and  Med Gull. Just as we were about to pack up news came through from MH of a Glaucous Gull located on the foreshore near the fishing boats, and we were soon enjoying good views of a 1st winter bird as it fed amongst the other large gulls. As usual this brute of a, "come and have a go if you think you`re hard enough" gull was being given a wide berth by the Black-backs and Herring Gulls.



     1st winter Glaucous Gull, Dungeness fishing boats

RSPB - A tour of the bird reserve commenced from the causeway road with good views of three Goldeneye and Smew on New Diggings, although we couldn`t find the divers. On ARC ten Goldeneye and three Smew amongst hundreds of common wildfowl, plus two Great White Egrets and a Little Egret. From Hanson hide two Marsh Harriers and calling Water Rail and Cetti`s Warbler.
Over the road plenty of birds on the fields at Boulderwall including 150 Curlews, two Snipe amongst the feral geese, corvids, gulls, Lapwings and Wigeon; also several more Marsh Harriers, Common Buzzard, another Great White Egret and dozen Tree Sparrows on and around the garden feeders.
On Burrowes we eventually located the wintering Black-necked Grebe from Makepiece hide, plus another Smew, several Goldeneyes, three Pintail and loads of common ducks. Needless to say the islands have all but disappeared under water and many of the Cormorants were already claiming nest sites amongst the willows.
Scotney - On the grass small numbers of Wigeon, Teal, Lapwing, gulls and feral geese. At the Kent end the Long-tailed Duck was in its usual position fishing off the spit. Several Marsh Harriers also noted and two Dabchicks.
Lydd - The Bewick`s Swan flock, numbering 44, was in the usual field along with large numbers of Common Gulls.
Littlestone - Finished the day down by the golf links for the owls, which we didn`t see, probably due to the poor weather. On the foreshore plenty of Curlews, Oystercatchers and several Barwits.
Despite the biting wind a decent days birding with the Glaucous Gull the obvious highlight.

Tuesday 28 January 2014

Seabird spectacle continues

Dungeness - cold, overcast, showery, sw 4 - 0815hrs - Joined the usual suspects at the boats for a couple of hours watching a very busy sea. It was all about gulls really, with thousands of mainly Black-headed and Common Gulls, Kittiwakes, Herrings and Black-backs either lounging on the shingle, rounding the point or feeding just offshore, plus three each of Fulmar and Med Gull and singles of Little Gull and Bonxie. Adding to the variety was a supporting cast of several hundred Cormorants and Guillemots, 15 Red-throated Divers, 20 Gannets, 5 Common Scoters and best of all a reasonably close Great Northern Diver flying west (which just happened to be new for the year, not that I`m year listing...), plus a Grey Seal.
If you haven't had a chance to get down to Dunge for the recent seabird spectacle then it is worthwhile making the effort, particularly as south-easterlies are forecast over the next couple of days, which should push the seabirds even closer to shore.

                                "Oh no, not more seawatching..."

Lade - Despite the foul weather I decided Barney needed a run out this afternoon so we struggled across the shingle to check out the pits into a band of heavy showers and a scudding wind, but for little return as most of the ducks were sensibly sheltering in the willow swamp. However, the redhead Smew was still on north pit and a soggy looking Marsh Harrier flew over the main reedbed.

Monday 27 January 2014

Back on the Marsh

Lade - 0900hrs - cold, sunny, sw 3 - Following a weekend on grandparent duties up in London it was good to get out and about around the local patch this morning. All the usual wintering ducks and Coot on south pit, plus a redhead Smew on north pit, while Water Rail, Cetti`s Warbler and Chiffchaff were all vocal in the willow swamp.
Dengemarsh Gully - Picked up Barney from our friend in Lydd and took him for a stroll down the gully. As expected it was a bit desolate with just Raven, Reed Bunting and a couple of Stonechats of any note. From Springfield Bridge two Marsh Harriers over the reedbed, Great White Egret in the hayfield, Dabchick and diving ducks on the water.
A drive around the range road yielded little apart from Kestrel, Green Woodpecker and a Goldeneye on Brett`s.
Scotney - Fairly quiet here with just a few geese on the grass, plus Wigeon, Lapwing, Golden Plover, two Redshank, 10 Dunlin and the wintering Long-tailed Duck at the Scotney Farm end.
New Diggings  - The two Black-throated Divers remained on the far side of the water, plus Great White and Little Egrets. Also from the causeway road, on ARC, the usual Gadwall and Teal flock in the shallows and two Smew out on the water.
NB: The Hume`s Leaf Warbler was seen again this morning in the trapping area. 

Thursday 23 January 2014

Glaucous Gull, Dungeness

New Diggings/ARC - 0900hrs - From the causeway road (where I was asked to move on by the Police) the two Black-throated Divers and a Smew were on ND. Over the road the first two `white nuns` of the winter were alongside six redhead Smew and seen again later from Hanson hide.

                                Black-throated Diver, New Diggings

                                Smews, ARC

Scotney - 0930hrs - cold, showery, sw 3 - Had a walk through the farmyard and out onto the Marsh this morning looking for, among other things, Corn Buntings, of which we found two within a flock of ten Reed Buntings; it was good to hear from BH, who`d been surveying, that five singers were  heard earlier when the sun was shining. The expanse of gravel pit lakes surprised me and around the margins were hundreds of Lapwings, Wigeon and feral geese, plus eight Little and two Great White Egrets, 20 Shelducks, two Green Sandpipers and a flyover flock of 58 White-fronted Geese.
On the pits I could find no sign of the reported Brent Geese, but there were all the usual wildfowl, gulls and plovers, plus the wintering Long-tailed Duck at the farm end.
Dungeness - 1400hrs - The planned seawatch this afternoon was duly scuppered as DW had located an adult Glaucous Gull within a mixed flock of large gulls near the entrance to the concrete road. Unfortunately it was not visible when I arrived, being tucked away in a fold in the shingle, but eventually the flock took to the skies and we all had brief flight views of the white-winged gull as it carried on heading west over towards the power station and out of sight.
On the sea hundreds of auks and Black-headed Gulls, plus lesser numbers of Kittiwakes and Red-throated Divers.
NB: A Hummingbird Hawk-moth was found in the garden at the Kerton Road Café this afternoon, and taken into care...

Wednesday 22 January 2014

Little Gulls

Dungeness - cold, cloudy, rain, ssw 3 - 1100hrs - Following on from the sunshine of yesterday it was back to the more familiar low cloud and persistent rain throughout the day and chillier than of late.
An hour from the seawatch hide delivered all the expect Red-throated Divers, auks, Kittiwakes, Great Crested Grebes and Cormorants off shore, plus 10 Little Gulls west, Red-breasted Merganser and Fulmar.
RSPB  - From the causeway road the two Black-throated Divers were still on New Diggings. On ARC three Smew, two Great White Egrets and five Goldeneye of note.
Lade - It was a case of `as your were` here, plus the redhead Smew on north pit.

Tuesday 21 January 2014

Crested Larks

Pas-de-Calais - cold, misty start, sunny later, light airs - Together with MH, CP & PB, spent the day over the water birding the area around coastal Calais searching for passerines.
Bleriot Plage, Calais - Scanning the car park and adjacent scrub in thick mist did not look promising. However, we fanned out and spirits were quickly lifted as eight Crested Larks were located along the foreshore by the beach huts; not only were we surprised to find the larks so soon, but a flock of eight! None of us could remember seeing this number in one flock in northern France. They spent most of the time foraging above the high water mark in the sand dunes with crests erect. Every so often they would fly up, twittering away to one another, with one bird perching briefly on a wooden groyne and showing off a rusty underwing. Photography was difficult in the poor light but I did manage one record shot of a perched bird.
Also noted plenty of Song Thrushes, Blackbirds and Chaffinches in the sea buckthorn and a single Black Redstart singing from an old gun emplacement.

                                Crested Lark, Calais

Les Hemmes - To the east of Calais lies a vast area of inter-tidal foreshore, slacks, dunes and ponds where a number of wintering passerines had recently been reported. We flogged around for a couple of hours but could only locate a flock of 130 Linnets, 40 Skylarks and single figures of Stonechat, Meadow Pipit, Reed Bunting, Little Egret, and Teal.
Sadly one of the down sides of visiting this part of the French coastline is that wildfowling is common place with every pond laden with decoys and hunters either recceing or laying in wait for their quarry. One beautiful little Teal was found dead in the mud, such a pointless waste.
Around the car park plenty of common thrushes, finches, sparrows, tits and Green Woodpecker.

                                Shooting Butts, Les Hemmes

                                Dead Teal

Oye Plage - Further east, in bright sunshine, we had another go at the foreshore where this time we were more lucky locating a flock of 70 Snow Buntings, several of which were colour ringed. A couple of the males were in cracking breeding plumage, amongst the many juveniles. More Skylarks and Mipits here plus a lone, approachable Brent on the foreshore (probably winged), 20 Ringed Plover, 10 Dunlin, two Grey Plover and a Sparrowhawk.

                                Snow Buntings, Oye Plage

                                Brent Goose, Oye Plage

From the newly constructed bird reserve hide a wide range of wildfowl were on show on the freshwater lagoon. The birds are relatively safe here so it was standing room only with hundreds of Shelduck, Teal, Lapwing, Shoveler, Mallard and the like, plus Curlew, two Snipe, Dabchick and a lone White-fronted Goose. As we left site a flock of 45 White-fronts flew over high, sensibly keeping out of gunshot range. Also noted in the area four Redshank, Kestrel, Sparrowhawk, Common Buzzard and Chiffchaff.

                                Oye Plage

Another great day out across the Channel with plenty of jokes and anecdotes along the way, plus the standout species of Crested Lark and Snow Bunting. Thanks to CP for driving, MH for the gags and check out Plodding Birder blog for quality piccies.

Monday 20 January 2014

Badgers & Short-eared Owl

Lade - 0900hrs - cold, sunny, light airs - Land mammals are a bit limited in variety down here on the coast but one beast that appears to be prospering is the Badger. Sadly most sightings relate to road killed animals along the Dungeness Road between the power station and Lydd where lunatics drive at breakneck speed at nigh time along what is little more than a cart path covered in a skim of tarmac. In the early hours I sometimes hear a Badger shuffling along the road outside the cottage, as their claws click on the concrete surface, heading for the foreshore and a bit of forging.
Around Lade pits there are several sprawling setts and as they`re dug into shingle `earth` collapses are frequent. This morning beside south pit a new entrance had literally been dug out overnight in the middle of the footpath much to the amusement of Barney who spent ages checking it out.

                                Badger diggings, Lade

On the pits the same as yesterday including several Marsh Harriers `testing` out the ducks and Coots.
Littlestone - 1500hrs - A stunning end to the day with barely a zephyr to disturb a hunting Short-eared Owl as it ranged widely across the links. With hardly a golfer in sight, amid a blazing sunset we watched the owl from 1530hrs `til dusk as it worked the rough, at least twice disappearing into the long grass for prey. Also noted a brown Merlin and 20 Linnets.

Sunday 19 January 2014

WeBS & Harriers

Lade - sunny, mild, s 2 - Once the early morning showers had passed through it turned into a cracking spring-like day, ideal for counting ducks and harriers. First off the pits where numbers were slightly down on last month, but with 412 Coots the most numerous; highlights being eight Goldeneye and the winters first Smew on north pit. At least four Marsh Harriers were active, plus Sparrowhawk and a few passerines in song such as Great Tit and Song Thrush.

                                White-fronted Geese, Walland Marsh

Walland Marsh - 1400hrs - Together with Marshman a terrific session here on a stunning afternoon with light airs and clear skies. Raptors were the order of the day with 18 Marsh Harriers coming to roost in `our` reedbed, all of which were sub-adult/adult, males or females. Other BOPs were: 4 Common Buzzard, 2 Kestrel, Peregrine and a distant `grey ghost` Hen Harrier, courtesy of a PB tip off. Two Barn Owls were out and about, one of which was seen to catch a small rodent. Small birds were few and far between but single figures of Mipit, Pied Wagtail, Stonechat, Reed Bunting and `pinging` Bearded Tit noted along with calling Water Rail at dusk. Thousands of Starlings and Lapwings were in the area, plus a single Great White Egret and Common Snipe; but best of all was a flock of 65 White-fronted Geese that flew over and around the site calling, briefly landing, before disappearing over toward Scotney. As we returned to the car in fading light we could hear the Bewick`s Swan flock flying in to roost. Another memorable afternoon on the waterlands.

Saturday 18 January 2014

South-easterly Seawatch

Dungeness - 0900hrs - cool, cloudy, SE 4 - As the wind was from the fabled direction we joined the usual suspects at the fishing boats for a lively hour of seawatching during which most of the auks, in particular, were nice and close. Hundreds of Cormorant, Great Crested Grebe, Guillemot and a few Razorbill were feeding on the sea or moving between the bays, along with a steady flow of Black-headed Gull, Kittiwake, Gannet and Red-throated Diver. Also of note were four Bonxies, two Teal, 20 Brent Geese and a Med Gull on the beach. A Grey Seal provided great entertainment as it wrestled with a massive fish just offshore.

                                Mediterranean Gull, Dungeness

RSPB - 1400hrs - The two Black-throated Divers remained on New Diggings. The walk down to the pines on ARC was devoid of passerines but the pit held three Great White Egrets, eight Goldeneye, four Smew and two Goosander, plus all the usual wintering wildfowl. Two Marsh Harrier and a Green Woodpecker also noted. Little to report over the road apart from the Black-necked Grebe on Burrowes.

Friday 17 January 2014

`Weekend Scaup`

Dungeness RSPB - mild, showery, sw 4 - 1000hrs - Accompanied the Joker on a tour of the bird reserve this morning stopping at New Diggings first where two Black-throated Divers and a Great White Egret were present. On ARC, from the causeway road, the usual Gadwall/Teal flock plus a Little Egret. The fields at Boulderwall harboured 100 sleeping grey geese which appeared to be Greylags, plus another Great White Egret. From Dengemarsh hide we had flight views of a Bittern, more grey geese, Shelduck, Dabchick and a mixed flock of Lapwing and Curlew on the hayfield. From Dennis`s a Great Tit/Chiffchaff flock near the hide and a flock of 50 Tufted Ducks on the water below, including a female with a white blaze, which certain local wags refer to as a `weekend Scaup`. Elsewhere on Burrowes a Goosander from Firth, two redhead Smew, three Goldeneye, 20 Pintail a Black-necked Grebe over by Scott, plus hundreds of Teal, Shoveler, Wigeon etc. With all the islands now virtually submerged the Cormorants have taken to the willows with some smart looking sinensis types already claiming nest sites.

                                `Weekend Scaup`

                                Tufted Ducks, Burrowes

Littlestone - 1500hrs - Checked the foreshore from the Varne where the waders were nice and close due the rain keeping Joe public at bay. Eight species of shorebirds noted included 30 Knot, 20 Barwits, Redshank and larger numbers of Dunlin, Sanderling, Curlew, Oystercatcher and Turnstone. As is often the case, Grey and Ringed Plovers were the absent duo.

Thursday 16 January 2014

More of the same...

Lade - 0900hrs - mild, cloudy, sw 4 - Another breezy overcast day with the wind picking up during the afternoon. Yesterdays Goldeneyes appear to have vacated south lake but hundreds of common wildfowl and Coot remained on the water. A couple of Mipits overhead were the first of the year here.
ARC - From Hanson hide three redhead Smew amongst the large flocks of Wigeon, Gadwall, Teal and diving ducks, plus Great White Egret, two Chiffchaffs in the willows and a Marsh Harrier over. The two Black-throated Divers were still on New Diggings.
Dungeness - An hour at the fishing boats this afternoon delivered several hundred Kittiwakes and Black-headed Gulls feeding over what appeared to be a fish shoal just offshore, along with scores of auks, Great Crested Grebes, Common and Herring Gulls and a handful of Red-throated Divers and Gannets. A 1st winter Caspian Gull was also noted along the beach just before we arrived.
NB: There was negative news on the Hume`s Leaf Warbler and Bean Geese at their respective sites of the trapping area and Scotney today, although the Long-tailed Duck was present at the latter site

Wednesday 15 January 2014

Water, water everywhere...

Lade - mild, overcast, sw 2 - 0830hrs- A gloomy day throughout with occasional drizzle. On south lake first thing eight Goldeneyes constituted something of an influx, otherwise just the usual stuff.
RSPB - Accompanied MH on a spin around the bird reserve. First port of call New Diggings where the Black-throated Diver was still present. Over the road on ARC 200 Gadwall and the usual Great White Egret from the causeway road. We checked the geese on the fields at Boulderwall but could only find Greylags. On Dengemarsh more Greylags, another Great White, two Shelducks, eight Dabchicks and three Marsh Harriers, plus a Common Buzzard on the way out. On Burrowes hundreds of common wildfowl from Makepiece, plus two each of Goosander, Smew and Goldeneye.
A quick chat with NH, who was working on the access road, confirmed that the water levels on the bird reserve are almost at an all time high; infact another 1cm and the record will be broken. As I sit here tapping away at the keyboard I can hear the rain hammering on the window outside and with more to come over the coming days a new high level water mark seems assured. Still, on the plus side it remains nice and mild.

                                ARC from the causeway road

                               `Cormorant island`, ARC (or what remains of it)

Scotney - Just the usual stuff here. We couldn`t locate either of the rare geese or the Long-tailed Duck, although I`m sure the latter was lurking somewhere at the Kent end.
Galloways - A drive round the range road this afternoon drew a blank with hardly a bird noted.

Tuesday 14 January 2014

Gull grilling

Dungeness  - 0800hrs -  cold, dry, sunny, sw 2 - Never before have I given the gulls at the Patch such a grilling... There were several thousand Black-headed Gulls to check through, but all we could muster up were two Little Gulls and singles of Caspian and Med Gulls amongst the melee. A Razorbill pitched up near the boil and scores of auks were on the move further out, while a Bonxie powered west.
On the land the first three Meadow Pipits of the year were noted.
1500hrs - A session at the fishing boats, along with the usual suspects, delivered some lively banter, plus plenty of Guillemots, Cormorants and Great Crested Grebes on the sea, along with several Razorbill, a few Red-throated Divers and Common Scoters. A feeding flock of Kittiwakes offshore attracted a few Gannets and a Fulmar moved west.

                               Local birders searching for yesterdays Ross`s Gull

                                Dungeness sunset

Monday 13 January 2014

Ross`s Gull past Dungeness!

Lade - mild, sunny, sw 3 - 0900hrs - In between toshing out the guest rooms today we worked the local patch. This morning the pits received the full treatment where south lake was full of wildfowl including 350 Gadwall, 150 Teal and three Goldeneye, but I couldn`t locate the Red-crested Pochard. A female Marsh Harrier was working the far side looking for any dodgy Coots and there were several hundred Black-headed Gulls on the water. As usual few passerines were noted.

                                Goldeneye, Lade

1430hrs - Checked out the beach this afternoon where six species of shorebirds were noted, plus a Merlin hacking along the tideline chasing a Pied Wagtail. Whilst scanning the gulls out on the mud MH called to say that a Ross`s Gull had just passed west off the concrete road at Dungeness within a passage of Black-headed Gulls; which got me thinking that it probably passed me by as I was walking along the foreshore, albeit a couple of miles out in the bay. However, a great find by the gull lord, David Walker, and just rewards for all the many hours spent seawatching over the years.
Brenzett - 2000hrs - Returning from Ashford this evening we had cracking views of a Barn Owl, in bright moonlight, that angled across the Rhee Wall road about a mile south of the roundabout.

Sunday 12 January 2014

Dungeness Seawatch

Dungeness  - cold, dry, sunny, SE 4 - With the weather gods at last delivering the fabled south-easterly wind we joined TG, MH, CP & PB for a very enjoyable seawatch from the fishing boats. It was action all the way with a constant stream of gulls, auks, divers, wildfowl, Cormorants and Gannets rounding the point. Best of all though were the numbers of Kittiwakes, many of which passed just off-shore, plus an unprecedented number of Bonxies for January.
Thanks to TG for supplying the count details from 0730-1000hrs:
Red-throated Diver - 22 west, 4 east
Gannet - 21 west
Brent Goose - 17 east
Wigeon - 138 east
Common Scoter - 4 west
Shelduck - 24 west
Red-breasted Merganser - 3  west
Bonxie - 6 west
Kittiwake - 992 west (95% adults)
Mediterranean Gull - 3 west
Guillemot - ca 4,500 west
Razorbill - 226 west
Also noted, a 1st winter Caspian Gull feeding amongst the Herring and Black-backs, a coasting Peregrine and a Grey Seal offshore.
Other news today around the peninsula included the Hume`s Warbler in the trapping area, Black-throated Diver on New Diggings and at Scotney, Bean and White-fronted Geese plus Long-tailed Duck.
Lade - 1615hrs - Checked the pits at last knockings in gloomy, cold conditions where at least three Little Egrets came to roost in the willow scrub.

Saturday 11 January 2014

Bean Geese

Lade - 0900hrs - mild, nw 2, sunny - Once the early showers had cleared it turned out to be a fine, dry winters day with plenty of sunshine. A thrash around the local patch duly delivered Goldeneye and Red-crested Pochard on the pits amongst the numerous wildfowl. Best of all though was a Bittern flying in from the direction of the bird reserve. Also noted two Marsh Harriers, Sparrowhawk and Green Woodpecker.
Scotney - 1430hrs - Joined Marshman to check out the grey geese on the pits where two Bean Geese eventually showed well by the double bends. Initially asleep once active they waddled out onto the water on bright orange legs showing a short, dark head and neck with a small blob of orange on the bill exhibiting all the hallmarks of the Tundra race rossicus. Also nearby eight White-fronts and all the usual Greylags, Barnacles, Wigeon, gulls and Lapwings, plus two Green Sandpipers on the far bank.

                                Tundra Bean Geese, Scotney

Walland Marsh - Moving out onto the Marsh we ended up joining PB at a harrier roost site. Although none came in to roost up to ten Marsh Harriers were in the general area along with three Common Buzzards, Kestrel, Peregrine and plenty of Lapwing flocks. Water Rail, Cetti`s Warbler and Bearded Tit all heard in the reedbed.
NB: Also noted around the Marsh today were all the birds on yesterdays forecast - phew!

Friday 10 January 2014

White-fronts & Weekend forecast

Dungeness - 0900hrs - mild, light airs, sunny - Perfect weather conditions this morning for another go at the Hume`s Leaf Warbler in the trapping area. Together with the Joker and Marshman as soon as we arrived at the south-west corner we heard it calling; to my ears its sounds like a truncated, high pitched Spotted Redshank, `ch-wit`. After several bouts of calling we eventually had good views from the main track as it fed at head-height in a bramble patch, basically a greyish version of Yellow-browed, but with that distinctive call.

                                White-fronted Geese, Scotney

Scotney - A text from PB alerted us to a flock of nine White-fronted Geese on the grass opposite the double bend at the Sussex end of the pits, which were still in situ when we arrived, but not for long, and were the first of the winter on the deck. The pits and grass leys were full of birds including the feral Barnacle flock, hundreds of Lapwings, Golden Plovers, gulls and common wildfowl, plus the wintering Long-tailed Duck.
Lade - 1500hrs - Flogged across the shingle to the rough ground behind the `mirrors` and a stake out for owls in perfect weather conditions; a long shot, I know, but you`ve got to try, and no there weren`t any. All we could muster up was a couple of Marsh Harriers and a Kestrel on the raptor front while Water Rails and Cetti`s Warblers called from the reedbed.
Weekend Forecast - Anyone looking for a decent days` winter birding need look no further than the Romney Marsh, particularly as the weather looks set fair this weekend; and on Sunday morning there`s even that rare beast, a south-easterly wind forecast.
  Based on the past few days the following route should deliver the goods:
Dungeness - Check the gulls on the foreshore (high tide 0700hrs Saturday) first thing for up to seven Caspian Gulls amongst legions of commoners, plus Kittiwakes a chance of Little Gull and all the usual divers, auks etc on the sea. Next stop the south-west corner of the trapping area for the Hume`s Leaf Warbler, having first familiarised yourself with the call - and don't forget your wellies.
Scotney - The wintering Long-tailed Duck favours the Scotney Court Farm end. Check the geese on the grass as nine White-fronted and two Bean Geese were seen today, although did not stick. Loads of gulls, wildfowl and waders on the grass.
Camber Sands - Nip into Sussex for four Snow Buntings on the tide line seen at the bistro end of the beach today.
Lydd - En-route to the bird reserve divert along Caledcote Lane for the wintering Bewick` Swans flock.
Dungeness RSPB - All the usual wintering wildfowl here including Smew and Goosander, Black-throated Diver on New Diggings, Black-necked Grebe on Burrowes, plus Raven, Peregrine, Merlin, Marsh Harrier, Bittern and up to eight Great White Egrets around the site. Check the fields at Boulderwall for the Glossy Ibis which is best seen from Firth hide going to roost anytime between 1530-1615hrs.
Also locally there have been two Short-eared Owls at Littlestone golf links and a Red-crested Pochard on Lade south while both Slavonian Grebe and Great Northern Diver were noted briefly on Burrowes and Scotney respectively this week.
Good birding, and if you bag that lot, well done - and buy a lottery ticket!

Thursday 9 January 2014

Bewick`s Swans

Lydd- 1100hrs - mild, cloudy, w 5 - Another blustery day although the wind did ease up through the afternoon with the sun eventually breaking through. In between painting out the guests rooms a couple of forays out today paid off handsomely with good views of a Little Owl on the chicken sheds in Caldecote Lane, while in the field opposite the Bewick`s Swan flock numbered 44 and was closer to the road than last time I looked. I could hear that evocative tinkling call they make - it was as if they were talking to one another, and they probably were. Fabulous birds, and if the mild weather continues they`ll probably be the only ones we`ll get on the Marsh this winter.
On the debit side a scan of the surrounding fields revealed not one single passerine.

                                Bewick`s Swans with the `lost` church of Midley in the background

                                Little Owl, Caldecote Lane

Tower Pits - After a quick natter with CT we strolled down to the pines and around the back of the pits adjacent to the railway track. Once again passerines were in short supply with only single figures of Blue and Great Tits, Chaffinch, Song Thrush and Blackbird in the sea buckthorn scrub. Water Rail and Cetti`s warbler called from the reedbeds and two Marsh Harriers drifted over.
ARC - All the expected wildfowl on the water including two each of Smew and Goldeneye, plus three Great White Egrets. In the car park the usual gang of Tree Sparrows were going about their business and from the causeway road a Black-throated Diver was fishing over by the far bank.

Wednesday 8 January 2014

Hume`s again

Dungeness  - 1000hrs  - mild (13C), sunny, sw 2 - An almost spring-like morning with loads of midges and at least one Peacock butterfly on the wing. Another session in the trapping area eventually yielded the Hume`s Leaf Warbler feeding low down in willow scrub, in a secluded sun trap, along with a few Blue and Great Tits and a Chiffchaff. Once again it was frustratingly difficult to see as it moved through cover affording only brief glimpses. Barney, on the other hand, was less than impressed by the whole Hume`s saga as it involves a certain degree of wading around in cold water, which is not at all to his liking...

                               "About time he bought me some wellies..."

                               "Now, where`s that damn warbler..."

1400hrs  - En-route to the concrete road with MH we pulled over to check a gull flock that contained at least two Caspian Gulls, a 1st winter and 3rd winter, and there were plenty of Kittiwakes also on the shingle amongst the roosting Black-heads. An hour long seawatch produced the usual comings and goings of Red-throats, Kittiwakes, Guillemots, plus 48 Brents east bound and a coasting 1st winter Little Gull.  

                                Kittiwakes, Dungeness

Tuesday 7 January 2014

Sawbills & Glossy Ibis

Lade - 0900hrs - mild, cloudy, sw 5 - I realised this morning that as we moved down here on 6th January 2006 that today marks the start of our ninth year on the Marsh, by no means a significant milestone but I can`t believe how quickly it has passed. However, as we battled into the wind across the shingle I wasn't expecting much on the pits apart from the usual wildfowl, so was surprised to see a 2nd winter Little Gull beating its way towards the roosting Black-heads on south lake. Also present was a Great White Egret, a bird that eight years ago would`ve have resulted in something of a local twitch, but today barely raises an eyebrow - surely they must breed locally this spring...
RSPB - 1400hrs - Spent the afternoon on the bird reserve with MH where at the south end we noted a redhead Smew amongst the ducks and coots. From Hanson two more Smew close to the hide plus three Goldeneye within the wildfowl, plus Great White Egret, Marsh Harrier, 75 Curlews over and a Greater pecker in the willows.

                                          Goosander, Burrowes

                                Smew, ARC

On Burrowes wildfowl numbers seem to have taken a tumble of late. However, at Firth hide we were joined by PB where three female Goosanders showed well in fading light, along with two more Smew that flew in just before dusk. A couple of Chiffchaffs called in the scrub and corvids began drifting towards roosts at the Oppen Pits. Just as we were about to pack up, at 1605 hrs the Glossy Ibis flew past the hide heading towards the willow scrub in front of Makepiece hide, a fitting end to a fine afternoons birding.
NB: The Black-throated Diver remained on New Diggings (PBe) and a Nuthatch (rare down here) was reported on a garden bird feeder at Littlestone.

Monday 6 January 2014

Murder in the back garden

Lade - 0900hrs - mild, cloudy, sw 5 - Drama from the off this morning when a whopping great female Sparrowhawk clobbered a Collared Dove sitting on the bird bath in the garden. The impact was immense with an `explosion` of feathers bringing instant death to the quivering dove. After a quick bit of `mantling` on the lawn and a look around old bright eyes flew off elsewhere to eat her breakfast, leaving behind a few downy feathers and a blood spatter on the bird bath.
Collared Doves are regularly taken by Sparrowhawks down here as they`re plentiful and have a habit of sitting in prominent positions, cooing away, almost inviting attack. Mrs PT`s cat also regularly `brings them in`, and I guess it`s only the doves` prodigious breeding rate that sustains their population; they`re already nesting in the garden fir trees.
Scotney - 1000hrs - Spent a couple of hours scouring the pits with BH for yesterdays diver, of which we could find no sign despite walking much of the cycle path. The wintering Long-tailed Duck showed briefly in between long periods of submergence at the Scotney Court end. Plenty of gulls and wildfowl were present including hundreds of Wigeon Teal, Shoveler, Gadwall, Pochard, Mallard and Tufted Duck, plus Coot, Lapwings, feral geese, Great Crested and Little Grebes, Little and Great White Egrets, two Shelduck, 10 Pintail, three Goldeneye, Redshank, 20 Dunlin and two Egyptian Geese in a field at the Sussex end.

Sunday 5 January 2014

Third time lucky...

Lade - 0900hrs - mild, light airs, sunny - At last a break in the weather; infact it was quite eerie with no wind this morning, although it did pick up throughout the afternoon heralding, no doubt, another dollop of rain some time this evening. Anyhow, it was a treat to be out and about around the local patch and even Mrs PT joined in the fun. Along the foreshore six species of waders noted and a distant flock of 20 Common Scoters on the sea. The pits were full of wildfowl with hundreds of Gadwall and Coot making up the bulk numbers, plus three Goldeneye and a female Red-crested Pochard on south lake. Best bird though was a Bittern that flew from the causeway reedbed over towards the `mirrors`, closely followed by a Raven.  The buddleia bushes attracted a largish passerine flock containing 15 Long-tailed Tits and a Chiffchaff amongst numerous Great and Blue Tits. Also noted around the site three Marsh Harriers, Sparrowhawk, Common Buzzard, 500 Goldies/Lapwing, Green Woodpecker and a pair of Stonechats.
Littlestone - After a quick cuppa and a biscuit at home it was off to the golf links to look for the  Short-eared Owl reported by MH & CP. Almost immediately an owl showed by the green roofed barn quartering the fairways and taking no notice of the nearby golfers. There may have been a second bird as when one went onto the deck another appeared well away towards St Mary`s Bay. A Stonechat was also noted in the bushes, plus 10 Linnets (rare here in the winter) and two Mipits. On the foreshore 15 Grey Plovers, 100 Sanderlings and 50 Dunlins attempting to roost on the shingle, despite being hassled by two dogs.
Dungeness  -  My third attempt at actually seeing the Hume`s Leaf Warbler proved successful with a couple of brief views of it moving low down amongst the base of the willow scrub. It appeared to be on its own and at no time did it call. A passerine flock nearby comprised Blue and Great Tits and two Chiffchaffs.

                                Dungeness Desert

New Diggings - After a couple of attempts I eventually located the two Black-throated Divers at the southern end, but they were very difficult as, believe it or not, they kept diving - how inconsiderate! Also from the causeway road several Great White Egrets, two Goldeneye, 200 Gadwall, plus Sparrowhawk and Marsh Harrier over.
In all a great days birding around the peninsula, mainly due to the calm weather. Also reported today was the Glossy Ibis at Boulderwall and a Great Northern Diver at Scotney (PB).

Saturday 4 January 2014

Dungeness Gulls

Dungeness  - 0900hrs - mild, overcast, showery, sw 4 - Another grim old day with heavy showers rattling in on a blustery wind. There were plenty of roosting gulls on the shingle including a few Kittiwakes, an adult Yellow-legged Gull and a Little Gull. In the Trapping Area the Hume`s Leaf Warbler was still present but elusive, although at least I managed to hear a couple of bursts of the double call note.
ARC/New Diggings - 1500hrs - On New Diggings a Black-necked Grebe and two Smew were present, but I couldn`t find the 2 Black-throated Divers that were reported earlier. Over the road at least four Great White Egrets were scattered around the pit, plus two Marsh Harriers over and all the expected wildfowl. As the light went a steady flow of corvids headed to roost, along with three more Marsh Harriers.

Friday 3 January 2014

Hume`s Leaf Warbler

Dungeness - 0930hrs - Heavy showers, gale force sw, mild - During a break in the rain this morning we headed for the Trapping Area, more in hope than expectation, to give yesterdays Hume`s Leaf Warbler a go. After an hour sploshing around in the willow swamp, hearing a couple of Chiffs and not much else, DW called confirming the bird was still present nearby. Further sploshing around followed during which time I heard one brief snatch of a double note call which may have been the bird but I couldn`t be sure and the strong wind didn`t help matters.
Greatstone Golf Links - 1500hrs - Another break in the weather allowed a check of the golf links this afternoon for the recent Short-eared Owls, but it was not to be as the wind picked up gusting to near storm force, and combining with thunder and lightening caused a two hour power outage along the coastal strip. In all a pretty crap day really.

Thursday 2 January 2014

NYDay Plus 1

Dry, mild and sunny morning, showery afternoon, sw 3 - Spent today with MH, CP and PL on a deferred NYD bird count due to yesterdays monsoon. The weather behaved itself for most of the day as we made our way from the Wealden woods across the Marsh to the coast. The amount of standing water on the farmland was incredible with one or two lanes just about passable with care.
Park Wood - 0715hrs - Tawny Owls were in good voice as we pulled up in the car park and over the next 90 minutes we noted all the expected woodland birds: Nuthatch, Treecreeper, 2 woodpeckers, Long-tailed and Coal Tits, Goldcrest, Jay, Redwing, Fieldfare, Mistle Thrush, Bullfinch and Common Buzzard.

                                Mottled Umber, Park Wood

Kenardington - Either side of the canal bridge a rush of new birds were logged: Yellowhammer, Greenfinch, Dunnock, Mipit, Reed Bunting, Stonechat and the only Linnet and Chiffchaff of the day.
A flooded area towards Warehorne attracted Pintail, Teal, Gadwall, Wigeon and all the regular gulls.
It was good to see plenty of Song Thrushes and Blackbirds along the hedgerows, but there were few winter thrushes here and elsewhere across the Marsh.
Walland - A cracking male Peregrine sat in the middle of a field was about the only noteworthy bird as we headed towards Lydd, along with Kestrel and Sparrowhawk as passerines were virtually absent. At the Midley feeders Tree Sparrow and Goldfinch noted, plus Golden Plover and Marsh Harrier at Cheyne Ct, while the Bewick`s Swan flock remained in the field near Caldecote Lane.
Scotney - Plenty of common wildfowl, waders and gulls including Goldeneye, Pintail, Goosander, Shelduck, Dunlin, Redshank, plus Little and Great White Egrets, but there was no sign of the wintering Long-tailed Duck.
Dungeness - A seawatch from the concrete road delivered all the expected seabirds - Kittiwake, Gannets, Red-throated Diver, Common Scoter, Guillemot and a single Brent, plus a white-winged Great Crested Grebe.
Lade - After failing to find the RCP on south pit (moved to ARC?) we scored with nine out of ten waders on the bay, but only single figure counts for Ringed Plover, Knot and Grey Plover.
RSPB - Finished up on the bird reserve where Black-necked Grebe and 2 Goosander were on Burrowes; 2 Smew and 2 Red-crested Pochard on ARC plus all the usual diving ducks, 4 Great White Egrets and all the expected wildfowl and gulls, although in low numbers. Our final stakeout was from the ramp overlooking Hookers reedbed and Dengemarsh (which are now joined due to the high water levels) where Bearded Tit, Water Rail and Cetti`s Warbler were heard. At least 6 Marsh Harriers came and went and another Peregrine was seen. As the light faded a mass of corvids headed to roost over by Long Pits.
Another great NY bird count (101 species) in good company, that will long be remembered for the amount of floodwater on the Marsh, the paucity of passerines and the packed lunch of one member of the group which comprised of crisps and Jaffa cakes!

                                Watery Dengemarsh and Hookers

NB: A Hume`s Leaf Warbler was located at the southern end of the Trapping Area this afternoon. Welly boots are a necessity as much of the willow scrub is under water.

Wednesday 1 January 2014

2014 Predictions

Lade - 0800hrs - mild, cloudy, s 5 - With rain and gale force winds due to hit us around noon we decided to defer our NYD bird count until tomorrow. As a result the year list got off to a very steady start with 43 species noted during the circuit of the local patch, the highlights being the resident Red-crested Pochard, 4 Goldeneye, 2 Marsh Harrier and 6 species of shorebirds on a wind swept bay.

During last nights gathering at Plovers the Greatstone Joker mooted the idea of some NY forecasting. It was a long, wet afternoon today, so here goes:
                                                     2014 Predictions
February - UK twitching in turmoil as the BOU savage the British Bird List: crossbill, redpoll, gulls, warblers, geese and many others get the lumping treatment - as a result grown men across the land are reduced to tears, and the UK400 Club is renamed the UK300 Club.
March -  Rumours circulate Dungeness that a stranger was seen wandering around Hookers in summer clothing muttering, " now, where`s that Squacco Heron", even though there was still snow on the ground and before the first Garganey of the spring...
April - At Dungeness Bird Observatory seawatchers were puzzled when they sighted an incoming black bird with a red crown bounding towards them over the waves. It announced its arrival on British soil with a machine gun-like rattle on the wooden hide before disappearing into the Trapping Area never to be seen again, despite the attentions of 10,000 twitchers. To add insult to injury Britain`s potential first Black Woodpecker record was firmly rejected by BBRC on the grounds that, "a Rook with a head wound could not be ruled out".
May - Turtle Dove officially declared extinct in southern England.
June - Birders come from far and wide to see a fledged Lapwing at Dungeness.
July - England left back Ashley Coaltit, commenting on the national sides` early exit from the World Cup said, "what do you expect when we`re playing in a rain forest, every couple of minutes a lifer flew over".
August - For the third year running local birders confuse an American peep with an adult Little Stint in winter plumage - many say that the `two bird theory` is to blame...
September - Following the recent multi-million pound Ruddy Duck pogrom DEFRA announce, "job done" and call a cessation to hostilities - the following day a flock of 500 Ruddy Ducks emerged from the reed-swamp at Lade Pits quacking, "Yankee Doodle Dandy".
October - Following intense lobbying by the CLA Common Buzzard is added to the `vermin list` and a cull commences.
November - A Black Lark is found on the Midrips finally laying to rest the ghost of the `Hastings Rarities` past.
December - Nuthatch seen at Dungeness proves to be `bird of the year`.