Friday 28 February 2014

Dungeness Summary

                               Black Redstart & Pied Wagtail, Dungeness

Dungeness - 0900hrs - cool, sunshine/showers, se 2 - The day started with heavy rain, but once the front went over, the wind dropped affording good birding conditions. We searched along the foreshore by the boats for the Glaucous Gull but no joy, although Barney had the time of his life hunting rats amongst the old sea containers and fishing detritus. There was very little action on the sea apart from gulls, a few auks and a party of 25 Brents eastbound. Further around the point DG pointed out a couple of dead Razorbills on the tideline, while at the Patch there were few gulls but did include five Little Gulls. On the walk back the first Black Redstart of the year was noted on the power station wall along with a Pied Wagtail, and Spiderman was in action on the housing of A station.

                                Spiderman, Dungeness A Station

                               Dead Razorbill, Dungeness

Lade - Nothing new here although the Slavonian Grebe was being its usual difficult-to-see self on north pit.
Lydd - It was a case of negative news on the Bewick`s Swans at Caldecote Lane, and the Long-tailed Duck at Scotney pits. Just past Cockles Bridge the Glossy Ibis showed well in the muddy paddock looking longingly at an Emu and a pair of caged ducks...

                                "Come on over, you get free food on this side..."

                                Mud, mud, glorious mud...

                                Glossy Ibis, Lydd (and, I`ve just noticed a Chaffinch!)

Dengemarsh - The walk down from Boulderwall produced all the usual Marsh Harriers, a Great White Egret, Tree Sparrows on the feeders and hundreds of Lapwings, Wigeon and gulls on the fields, while a large swirling mass of Starlings provided quite a spectacle. From the ramp we had good views of several Bearded Tits, but no sign of the Penduline Tits, although apparently they had been seen earlier. Also noted Common Buzzard, Shelducks and 50 feral geese.
On the drive home the two Black-throated Divers remained on New Diggings.

Thursday 27 February 2014

Jack Snipe

Tower Pits - 1330hrs - warm, dry and sunny, sw 3 - Once the rain band went through it turned into a pleasant enough, spring like afternoon. We had a wander around the back of Tower pits where Barney flushed a Jack Snipe and six Common Snipe from the boggy area by the sea buckthorns. A pair of Marsh Harriers were displaying overhead, along with Great Crested Grebes and Oystercatchers on the pits. Spent some time looking for the Siberian Chiffchaff near the pines but to no avail, although several nominate race birds noted, plus singing Reed Bunting, Cetti`s Warbler and Great Tit.
On ARC at least six each of Smew and Goldeneye, while the two Black-throated Divers were still on New Diggings. Over the road the Penduline Tits were reported from Hookers.
Dungeness - Along the foreshore by the fishing boats the 1st winter Glaucous Gull was duffing up a Herring Gull for food and the usual scattering of auks, and gulls were on the sea, otherwise it was pretty quiet.

Wednesday 26 February 2014

Wader heaven - Rye Harbour

Lade - 0800hrs - mild, sunny, sw 3 - Duck numbers continue to decline as spring approaches with a pair of Goldeneye and the Slavonian Grebe on north lake. Several Marsh Harriers were enjoying the sunshine and we had good views of a Water Rail by the causeway.
Rye Harbour - Had a run out with MH this morning for a very enjoyable wader watching session at Rye. Looking out from the John Gooder`s hide was a wondrous sight with waders everywhere. The numbers were made up of several hundred Dunlin along with 50 Sanderling, 50 Grey Plover, 30 Avocet, 30 Redshank and lesser numbers of Oystercatcher, Ringed Plover, Turnstone, two each of Golden Plover and Ruff, plus a Spotted Redshank. Wildfowl included 50 Shelduck and eight Pintail amongst the commoner species, along with three Little Egrets and singing Skylarks.

                                Avocets, Rye Harbour

The hides overlooking Ternery Pool yielded up to 1,000 Golden Plover, 500 Lapwing, six Curlew, four Snipe, six Dabchick and eight Mediterranean Gulls before the whole lot was flushed by a Sparrowhawk. From Denny hide we had the Med Gulls again and another host of waders including a Ruff. A cracking mornings` birding in superb weather conditions during which we rattled up 14 species of waders with ease at this premier wetland site.
Myself and MH would like to thank Barry Yates for arranging vehicular access to the hides, it was very much appreciated.

                                Golden Plovers aloft, Rye Harbour

                                Mediterranean and Black-headed Gulls, Rye Harbour

                               Roosting waders, Rye Harbour

Scotney - On the way back from Rye a Merlin flew across the ranges near Jury`s Gap, but from the double bends there was very little to be seen across the gravel pit lake and on the grass.
Following a tip off from SB we eventually located the Glossy Ibis probing about in a muddy horse paddock field by the road looking longingly at its caged pals inside...
Scanning the fields at Boulderwall a pair of Peregrines were spooking the Lapwings and Wigeon and from Cockles Bridge we watched a Common Buzzard hunting worms on the paddocks.

                                Glossy Ibis,  "Can you let me back in?"

                                Glossy Ibis, Lydd

Dengemarsh - 1400hrs - We parked up at Boulderwall and walked down to the ramp overlooking Hookers where the two Penduline Tits were tearing apart bulrush heads in the reed bed. They gave pretty good scope views before melting back into the willow scrub. Also noted three Bearded Tits, Cetti`s Warbler, three Marsh Harriers and a Common Buzzard. In the fields behind, the usual feral geese, Shelducks, Wigeon and gulls.
On the way out the two Black-throated Divers were still on New Diggings and a Great White Egret on ARC.
At Dungeness this morning the Hume`s Leaf Warbler was reported from the trapping area and the 1st winter Glaucous Gull from the fishing boats.
In summary another tidy days birding locally with highlight being the waders at Rye.

Tuesday 25 February 2014

Brent Geese

Dungeness - 0800hrs - mild, showery, sw 5 - A 90 minute seawatch from the hide produced 142 Brents and 25 Common Scoters up-Channel, plus single figures of Red-throated Diver, auks and Kittiwakes feeding off shore and a pair of Red-breasted Mergansers west. A steady flow of gulls headed towards the Patch where there were at least 25 Little Gulls and two Meds.
On the way out we checked from the fishing boats where the 1st winter Glaucous Gull was still present.

                                Brent Geese, Dungeness

                                Tufted Duck, Burrowes

Scotney - 1015hrs - Had a run out with MH this morning. We arrived at the pit during a heavy shower, but could find no sign of the Long-tailed Duck, although a pair of Egyptian Geese were in the field by the farm.
RSPB - The fields between Boulderwall and Cockles Bridge were checked for the ibis, but all we could see were feral geese, Curlews, Wigeon, Grey Herons, Lapwings and gulls. At Dengemarsh a lone Brent was briefly amongst the Greylags and six Shelducks, while on Burrowes three Goldeneye and Smew were amongst diminishing numbers of ducks and a Kingfisher was heard from Dennis`s hide. ARC held the usual wildfowl including eight Goldeneye and a Smew, plus stunning views of a Peregrine; Great White Egret, Chiffchaff and Marsh Harrier also noted here.
Lade - The Slavonian Grebe was still present on north lake along with a pair of Goldeneye, 50 Wigeon and all the usual common ducks.

Sunday 23 February 2014

Slavonian Grebe

Lade - 0900hrs -  mild, sunny, sw 5 - The wind returned overnight making for another blustery day across the peninsula, but at least it was largely dry, and very mild. Most of the wildfowl were hugging the margins in the lee of the wind and a couple of Marsh Harriers were working the fields by the airport. On north lake the Slavonian Grebe was still present but difficult as it kept close to the opposite bank and at times melted into the small clumps of reeds.
Dungeness - 1400hrs - The high tide gull roost contained a 2nd winter Caspian Gull amongst several hundred large gulls, while the 1st winter Glaucous Gull continued to patrol the foreshore. A couple of Little Gulls moved west and there was at least 20 more at the Patch.
RSPB - On the bird reserve the Glossy Ibis was noted on the horse paddocks between Boulderwall and Cockles Bridge and the Penduline Tits were present at Hookers (per SB).

Saturday 22 February 2014

Loadsa Gulls

Lade - 0800hrs - mild, dry and sunny, sw 3 - Following more heavy overnight rain the day dawned bright and sunny with temperatures reaching 13C by early afternoon. The first Med Gulls of the season were heard this morning calling over the cottage.
Dungeness - A check from the fishing boats revealed a few grebes, auks and divers offshore, plus the 1st winter Glaucous Gull patrolling the beach. At the Patch hundreds of gulls over the boil, mostly Common and Black-headed Gulls, but also up to 30 Little Gulls.
The Trinity House vessel MV Galatea was close to shore renewing the cardinal buoy, damaged in the recent storms.

                                MV Galatea, Dungeness

ARC - 1400hrs - The two Black-throated Divers were still on New Diggings along with a flyover Great White Egret. We joined PB and SB at the pines to look for the Siberian Chiffchaff but it was a no show. At least five Chiffchaffs, Long-tailed Tits, Green Woodpecker and a Sparrowhawk noted along the way.
Long-tailed Duck on Burrowes today was probably the Scotney bird, the Penduline Tits were seen again at Hookers and the Slavonian Grebe was reported from Lade (per SB).

David Roche
Had a phone call from David Roche yesterday to the effect that he`s landed an assistant wardens post on the Farne Islands with the National Trust. David (aka `Baby Dave`) will be well known to many Dungeness regulars, as he spent a couple of summers down here recently learning his trade at the Bird Observatory. Whilst at Dungeness he quickly gained a reputation for being an ace rarity finder and I can`t image what he`ll turn up on the east coast hot spot of the Farnes. Well done to him, and I`ve got a feeling the Farnes will be mentioned on Birdguides once or twice this spring and autumn.

Friday 21 February 2014

RNLI, Dungeness

Lade - 1000hrs - mild, sunny, sw 3 - A bright and breezy morning over the pits with little of note apart from seven Goldeneyes across both lakes. I could find no sign of the Slavonian Grebe.
Dungeness - We`ve had a couple of RNLI coxswains staying with us this week in preparation for the arrival of the new lifeboat at Dungeness today and its been great fun nattering away to them over breakfast. The arrival of a new boat is a big deal down here and as a result hundreds of locals and visitors from afar, media camera crews and the like turned out to see the new Shannon class boat, The Morrell, arrive at Dungeness on the high tide. It was all quite exciting and even Mrs PT and Barney joined the throng.

                                "Birds this morning, boats this afternoon, what next..."

                                Pride & Spirit, Dungeness

The old Mersey class boat, Pride and Spirit, was launched at 1230hrs and together with the Littlestone boat went out into Rye Bay to meet the new vessel. At 1300hrs all three lifeboats came steaming round the point with The Morrell in the lead; and what a spectacle it made for in the bright sunshine and blue skies.

                                The Morrell, Dungeness

The crew then put the new lifeboat through its paces showing off the incredible pace (max 25 knots) and manoeuvrability made possible by water jet propulsion, that has replaced the old fashioned screw propeller. Much to the delight of the crowd the crew continued to blatantly show off (and why not) their new toy for a while longer before dramatically beaching the boat up the shingle bank at high speed towards the waiting launching/receiving tractor.

                                Pride & Spirit, Dungeness

                                The Morrell, Dungeness

                                The Morrell, Dungeness

Breathtaking stuff, and full marks to the RNLI, one of our most cherished charitable organisations, for putting on such a superb display of seamanship. Makes you proud to be British.
However, after calling in at the Kerton Road CafĂ© for a welcome cup of Reed Warbler tea and crumpets I was musing on the afternoons events on the way back to Plovers, and how fantastic it is to think that most of the RNLI crew are volunteers, and the phenomenal generosity of the public who continue to support and fund this worthy institution.
And then I heard on the radio that a footballer is being paid £300,000 per WEEK for kicking a bag of wind around a pitch!
It certainly is a funny old world...

Thursday 20 February 2014


Lade - cloudy, drizzle, sw 4 - It was a case of return to form with the weather today with a band of heavy rain and brisk winds not clearing until mid-afternoon. The highlight on south lake was a pair of Peregrines terrorising the ducks. As they dived low over the lake the Teal sprang up and flew around with the falcons twisting and turning attempting to catch a meal, but all to no avail. All this activity  attracted the attention of an opportunistic Marsh Harrier that flew over the ducks several times looking for any weaklings. The Slavonian Grebe remained on north lake. The only other bird of note was a lone Song Thrush flushed from cover on the shingle ridges.

                                Goldeneye & Great Crested Grebe, ARC

RSPB - 1400hrs - A run out with MH this afternoon noted all the expected stuff on Burrowes including two Smew, four Pintail and a Little Gull. In front of Dennis`s hide a mixed flock of passerines comprised Blue, Great and Long-tailed Tits, Chaffinch and Chiffchaff. Over the road from Hanson hide a further five Smew were amongst the wildfowl and a Kingfisher showed briefly. More tits and Chiffchaff noted here. There was no further reports of the Pendulines today.

Wednesday 19 February 2014

800 Great Crested Grebes

RSPB - 1000hrs - mild, dry, sunny, sw 2 - Following two days entertaining our 3 year old grandson it was a good to get out and about on what was a cracking spring-like day with Reed Buntings, Cetti`s Warblers and Great Tits all in good voice around the reedbeds and willow swamp. From the causeway road the two Black-throated Divers remained on New Diggings along with two Great White Egrets. Hanson hide was packed with half term birders hoping for a glimpse of the Penduline Tits which hadn`t been seen all morning. Smew, Goldeneye and all the usual ducks were on the lake, plus Chiffchaff in the willows and a couple of Marsh Harriers over.
Dungeness  - A quick scan of the gull flock by the boats revealed little, although they were kept on the move by dog walkers and their uncontrollable mutts; Barney looked on in disgust.
Lade 1400hrs - Wildfowl numbers were similar to the weekend and the Slavonian Grebe was still on the far side of north pit where it spent as much time submerged as on the surface.
With the tide ebbing we headed for Greatstone beach and a scan from the Tavern. On the sands Dunlin and Sanderling numbered 200 each, plus 500 Oystercatchers, 50 Barwits, 20 Grey Plover, 10 Knot and two Redshanks. Amongst the thousand plus gulls were five Littles and two Meds.
Out on the bay the sea was covered in Great Crested Grebes of which I counted a minimum of 800, plus 20 Red-throated Divers and 10 Guillemots.
ps: Some good news broke today for the Romney Marsh as Dungeness `B` Station got the thumbs up for a ten year extension to power generation until 2028. Hopefully, this could pave the way for a third nuclear power station at Dungeness in future.

Sunday 16 February 2014

WeBS & Harriers

Lade - 0900hrs - mild, sunny, sw 2 - It`s that time of the month again to get out the abacus and count wildfowl and harriers. First off the local patch and what a treat it was to be out and about with blue skies, sunshine and light airs replacing the wind and rain of the past week.
Although duck numbers in general are already starting to decline a count of 220 Teal was noteworthy; many of the drakes were displaying to the ducks as were the male Goldeneyes to a small harem of redheads. A Slavonian Grebe on the far side of north lake was the first of the winter. Also noted Marsh Harrier, Common Buzzard, Green Woodpecker and a Bittern that flew over the main reedbed. For the first time since I`ve lived here the water level has now risen flooding the causeway so that the two lake are joined.

Walland Marsh - 1600hrs - Accompanied Marshman on the monthly harrier count on a stunning afternoon with barely a breath of wind. A large mixed flock of Golden Plovers and Lapwings were on the flooded fields while two Common Buzzards looked on trying to work out whether or not a meal was in the offing. There were few small birds again with only a handful of Reed Buntings and Blackbirds noted. Following a call from PB we were alerted to a flock of four Little Gulls on a flood, eventually they flew over us and headed west just before dusk, a rare sighting indeed here.
At the roost site 21 Marsh Harriers came in over a 35 minute period that included four adult males and the distinctive white-fronted adult female. Also noted Kestrel, Sparrowhawk, Barn Owl, four Pintails, six Shelducks and a pair of Mistle Thrush, while Bearded Tits and Water Rails called from the reedbed.

Saturday 15 February 2014

Penduline Tits & Glaucous Gull

Dungeness - 1000hrs - mild, sunshine/showers, gale force sw - Another shocking night with the wind threatening to lift the roof from the cottage during the early hours. A damage assessment in daylight showed nothing missing, but the strong winds continued to cause problems throughout the day.
At the boats hundreds of gulls were slumped down on the shingle ridges at high tide and it took a while to locate yesterdays 1st winter Glaucous Gull hunkered in one of the falls. Eventually, the lot were spooked by a Peregrine and drifted off towards the power station.

                                Gull flock, Dungeness

ARC/New Diggings - A quick scan from the causeway road revealed the two Black-throated Divers in the far corner, close to the bank, sheltering from the gale on New Diggings, while a Great White and two Little Egrets were feeding in the new pools at the eastern end of ARC.
Following a call from SB this afternoon concerning a pair of Penduline Tits showing in front of Hanson I joined DW and PB who`d been watching them 15 minutes before I arrived. An hour later and there was still no sign so I wandered along the flooded boardwalk and joined another birder where we relocated the pair of tits moving through the willow scrub. At least one of the Pendulines was sporting an ankle bracelet. Also from the hide two Smew and six Little Gulls.

                                Smew, ARC

Friday 14 February 2014

Hythe pond heron

Hythe - 0750hrs - mild, cloudy, wind and rain increasing, sw 5 - Had to go to Hythe this morning so called in to have a look at the putative Chinese Pond Heron on the way. When I arrived there was around 20 birders/twitchers already on site including a good few local faces, but also an advanced guard of the national twitching army, with the Field Marshal in the vanguard holding court. During the hour I was on site views of the heron were crap as it was mainly perched in a tree, at distance and partially obscured by buildings and branches, making my tuppence worth as to its identity worthless. Not that it would`ve mattered anyway if it had been sat out in the open, as my knowledge of Ardeola pond herons is limited to specimens seen in captivity, such as at the Snowdon aviary and Pensthorpe Park, you know, the kind of place you take the kiddies when they`re young to impress `em with your birding knowledge...

                                Ardeola heron, Hythe

Anyhow, after chewing the fat with some of the Marsh regulars, and being familiar with the lay-of-the-land, I had a feeling how things were going to pan out here - you know the sort of thing, the bird plays hide and seek in back gardens as it goes about the business of fishing for Coy Carp, and the twitching SAS just have get closer, even if it means `scoping between houses and into living rooms and blocking the public footpath with tripods so the school kids and dog-walkers have to walk in the road. Was good to see the Field Marshal setting a fine example on how to twitch - `scope up on the edge of someone`s driveway, beside a busy main road, shouting back towards his shock troops the finer points of pond heron id over the din of the school run traffic.

                                Responsible twitching, London Road, Hythe

Back in the safety of the housing estate I got chatting to a couple of local residents, one of whom said he`d been feeding the heron meal worms in his garden for the past month, "is that normal" he asked, "yep", said I, "zoos use `em all the time to feed a wide range of birds, I once had an injured Red-necked Grebe swimming around in my bathtub for a week one winter, it loved meal worms, although didn`t think much when I released it back on Tring Reservoirs and it had to go back to fish!"
The other fella said, "I`m surprised at the amount of attention its caused, there`s been a lot of people here all week". To which I replied, "if you think this is busy, wait until the weekend...".
However, just a final thought, what is it with Hythe and herons: Green Heron, Night Heron, pond heron..., surely there`s not a heron aviary nearby?
Lade - The rest of the day was a wash out with heavy rain and gales force winds lashing the peninsula and even Barney wasn`t keen to brave the elements. 

Thursday 13 February 2014


Dungeness  - 0900hrs - cold, showery, sw 2 - An hour from the seawatch hide produced hundreds of gulls moving west along the shore, plus a trickle of Kittiwakes and auks further out; also five Little Gulls, 24 Red-throated Divers, 2 Gannets and a Common Scoter.
By the time we got to the trapping area the wind and rain had ceased and there was much small bird activity, mostly tits, Robins, Dunnocks and Wrens, plus two Chiffchaffs. At the south-west corner the Hume`s Warbler was heard and briefly seen moving through cover.
Needless to say the water level has risen dramatically across the whole area since a week ago.

                                Black-throated Diver, New Diggings

                                DBO `Desert`
                                DBO moat

ARC - On the approach to Hanson hide we were surprised to see a Bittern standing in the middle of the path before making a short flight into the reedbed, while from the hide two further flight views were had. On the water all the usual ducks including two Smew, plus Chiffchaff, Water Rail and Long-tailed Tits in the scrub. Three Marsh Harriers were on the wing and on the drive back across the causeway road the two Black-throated Divers were noted at the Boulderwall end.
A difficult three days birding due to the weather, but for the guests they were delighted with the divers, Black-necked Grebe, Bewick`s Swans, Long-tailed Duck, Smew, Red-crested Pochard, Bittern, Glossy Ibis and Great White Egrets, birds we tend to take forgranted, and then of course there`s all the gulls, seabirds, shorebirds, raptors and even Tree Sparrow.

Wednesday 12 February 2014

Rough weather & a dip

Dungeness - 0900hrs  - mild, cloudy start, heavy rain and gale force 8 sw later - We kicked off with a seawatch at the boats with PB & DW where a steady flow of Guillemots and gulls were rounding the point, including plenty of Kittiwakes, four Little and one Med Gull. Several hundred more Black-heads and Kitts were loafing on the shingle, plus another couple of hundred larger gulls on the foreshore towards the lifeboat station. There was little else during the hour apart from singles of Common Scoter, Shelduck and Red-throated Diver.
Scotney - From the double bends a Black-necked Grebe amongst the Wigeon was a surprise with more ducks on the grass, plus Lapwings and a Curlew. With the wind whipping up the surface we pulled in by the farm entrance, more in hope than expectation, to scan for the Long-tailed Duck which surprisingly was the only bird on the water by the now flooded peninsula.

                                Bewick`s Swans, Lydd

                               Black-necked Grebe, Scotney

Lydd - A count of 55 Bewick`s Swan were in their usual field opposite the chicken sheds in Caldecote Lane and on the way out I very nearly put the car in a flooded ditch.
Hythe - The day then went rapidly downhill as the lure of the Hythe heron drew us off the Marsh for what turned out to be a wasted three hours staring into a wooded valley on the edge of a housing estate. When will I ever learn that twitching is just not my bag, and it is such a waste of time if you have to hang about; worse still if its in a built up area and you end up feeling like some sort of peeping Tom. Anyhow, by mid-afternoon and with the rain lashing down we pulled stumps and headed back to paradise.
Littlestone - Waders on the foreshore included Oystercatcher, Curlew, 20 Barwit, 50 Knot, Dunlin and Sanderling. By 1600hrs the tempest reached its zenith with an incredible hail storm, plus thunder and lightening, so we called it a day and retired to Plovers and the log fire. It was one of those days when I was glad to get home in one piece.

Tuesday 11 February 2014

Glossy Ibis to roost

Dungeness RSPB - 1330hrs - Rain clearing, cold sunny, sw 3 - Picked up Ray and Stuart from Ashford who are down for a three day Birdwatching Break. The conditions on the road were difficult to say the least with a buffeting wind and lashing rain, but once the front moved through the wind dropped, the sun broke through and out came the birds.
The two Black-throated Divers were in the far corner of New Diggings while we had good views of a Peregrine over the causeway road. From Hanson hide a Bittern flew across the lake and at least four different Marsh Harriers came and went. On the water hundreds of common wildfowl, plus eight Goldeneye, three Smew, Goosander and Red-crested Pochard. Great White and Little Egrets were also noted along with Green Woodpecker, Cetti`s Warbler, Chiffchaff, Kestrel and a pair of Oystercatchers displaying over Tower Pits.
Over the road at Boulderwall Tree and House Sparrows on the feeders, plus Chaffinch and Reed Bunting in nearby bushes. Out on the fields the usual Lapwings, feral geese and another Great White Egret.
On Burrowes five Goldeneye, three more Smew, Goosander, several Marsh Harriers and loads of corvids coming to roost at the Oppen pits. From Firth hide two Chiffchaffs, and at 1653hrs the Glossy Ibis flew in to roost from the direction of Lydd-on-Sea; maybe its feeding somewhere along the coast, perhaps the horse paddocks at Greatstone where it was noted in December.

                                Glossy Ibis, coming to roost, Burrowes

Monday 10 February 2014

Dungeness gulls

Dungeness  - 0845hrs - mild, sunny, sw 2 - At last the wind had dropped, giving a brief respite before the next gale moves through tomorrow. An hour from the boats with DW and PB delivered a trickle of westbound Kittiwakes along with several Med and Little Gulls; there was no sign of the recent Glaucous Gull however. A few Red-throated Divers and Guillemots moved offshore along with all the usual Cormorants and gulls, plus two Fulmars.
RSPB - Around the bird reserve today a single Black-throated Diver on New Diggings, three Smew and ten Goldeneye on ARC and a Black-necked Grebe on Burrowes. All the usual Marsh Harriers enjoying the calm conditions, two Great White Egrets on Dengemarsh and 50 plus Curlews in the fields at Boulderwall.

Sunday 9 February 2014

Velvet Shank?

Lade - 0900hrs - mild, sunny, sw 6 - Another rough old night with heavy rain and gale force winds  dislodging another couple of tiles off the roof. The strong, blustery wind continued through the day making it difficult to cross the shingle towards the pits. Most of the ducks were on the more sheltered north lake where eight Goldeneyes and four Pintails were the highlights.
Beside north lake, in a sunny spot, we came across a clump of orange toadstools growing out of an old rotten stump. Now, my knowledge of fungi is limited to a few species that are edible, most notably horse mushrooms which are plentiful hereabouts in late summer/autumn. However, after a quick internet search the best I could come up with was Velvet Shank, Flammulina velutipes, a common winter fungi that grows out of timber, but I could be persuaded otherwise...

                                Probable Velvet Shank, Flammulina velutipes

Returning along the beach 15 Ringed Plovers picking over seaweed and other rubbish strewn across the beach were the only waders of note close to shore.
Pett Level - On the way back from Hastings this afternoon we dropped in at Pett Level where the wet meadows were packed out with birds. Thousands of Lapwings made up the numbers along with gulls, Starlings, feral geese, Curlews, Wigeon, Teal, Shoveler, 100 Dunlin, 100 Golden Plover, 10 Snipe, 5 Brents, Little Egret and 13 White-fronts. A Peregrine put in appearance, flushing the lot, before perching on a hummock out on the levels.

Saturday 8 February 2014

The Dowels

Lade - 0900hrs - mild, sunny, w 6 - The much forecast rain failed to materialise, apart from the odd light shower, with the main weather feature being the gusty, gale force westerly wind battering the peninsula. On the local patch much the same wildfowl as during the week, most of them sheltering on north lake or in the willow swamp. A Marsh Harrier quartering the back reedbed needed all its flying skills to stay aloft and not be blown inland.
The Dowels  - With blue skies in the offing, and for a change of scene, we headed inland to check out the flooded fields between Snargate and the canal. At 13`6" below the high water mark the Dowels is the lowest point on the Romney Marshes and one of the last section to be inned; even today with modern drainage techniques it continues to flood and as a result remains largely permanent sheep pasture. The sheets of water either side of the railway line are certainly more extensive than I`ve seen and chatting to a local shepherd he confirmed as such. Birdwise there was little of note apart from several hundred Common Gulls, Black-headed Gulls, corvids and Starlings, plus three Little Egrets and two Grey Herons. The walk along from Kenardington bridge yielded few passerines due to the strong wind although we did log several Yellowhammers and Linnets. Barney flushed a Mink from the canal side which duly swam across the cut and scuttled up the far bank like grease lightening.

                                Flooded pasture, The Dowels

Walland Marsh - Back over the Rhee Wall we worked our way across Walland, via a flooded Fairfield and Midley, seeing very little apart from Tree Sparrows, Goldfinches and Greenfinches on the bird feeders. Near Lydd the Bewick`s Swan flock numbered 50 birds.

                                Bewick`s Swans, Walland Marsh

ARC - Called in at Hanson hide where I had cracking flight views of Kingfisher and Bittern. A large mixed flock of ducks were sheltering close to the willows until flushed by a Marsh Harrier, while three Smew and eight Goldeneyes were noted further out on the lake.

                               Fairfield Church, Walland Marsh

Friday 7 February 2014

Dungeness RSPB

RSPB - 1030hrs - mild, sunny, sw 3 - Once the early morning murk had cleared it turned out to be a pleasant day with plenty of warm sunshine. Parked up at Boulderwall, where up to 15 Tree Sparrows were on the feeders, and walked to Dengemarsh checking the wet meadows along the way where c2,000 Lapwing, 100 Golden Plover, 50 Curlew and hundreds of gulls, feral geese, Starlings, Wigeon, Teal, Shoveler, two Great White Egrets, Peregrine, Common Buzzard and several Marsh Harriers including the distinctive `yellow` adult female. The spinney by Hookers held a few passerines: Great and Blue Tits, Dunnock, Wren, Cetti`s Warbler, Tree Sparrow and Reed Bunting, nothing special, but just nice to a see a few small birds. Also on the open fields two Brown Hares `boxing`.
A flooded field opposite the Corral attracted a Green Sandpiper, while Bearded Tits, Water Rail and Cetti`s Warbler were all in good voice from the ramp. More feral geese, Lapwings and three Shelducks in the back field.
On Burrowes three Smew and singles of Goosander and Black-necked Grebe amongst the common wildfowl, gulls and Cormorants.
From the causeway road two Black-throated Diver on New Diggings and another Smew on ARC.


Dungeness - 1415hrs  - A seawatch from the fishing boats with MH this afternoon yielded all the expected auks, grebes, gulls and Cormorants feeding offshore, plus a couple of divers, but there was nothing on the move. Along the foreshore were scores of dogfish washed up in the afternoon sunshine. These unfortunate sea creatures are probably a result of so called by-catch from the fishing industry, although some may have been washed up by the recent storms. Known as `rats of the sea` by fisherman many are caught around the British coastline and being inedible are simply chucked over the side dead or dying. Just seems such as waste to me.

                                Lesser-spotted Dogfish, Dungeness

Thursday 6 February 2014

More weather

Dungeness  - 1000hrs  - cold, overcast, sw 5 - Another shocking day with low cloud and, by midday, heavy rain being driven on by a blustery south-westerly veering easterly. From the boats up to 200 Great Crested Grebes on sea, plus a scattering of Guillemots, gulls and Cormorants. Rounding the point were small numbers of Red-throated Divers, Gannets and Kittiwakes while the 1st winter Glaucous Gull was still present along the foreshore.
The afternoon was a write off, better tomorrow, hopefully...

Wednesday 5 February 2014

Another day, another gale

Lade - 1000hrs- mild, sunny, sw 5 - With the wind picking up through the morning south lake was largely devoid of wildfowl as it began to resemble the sea. Most of the ducks had shifted onto north lake and were sheltering behind the causeway including eight Goldeneye and a pair of Pintail.

                                Stormy Lade

RSPB -We continued onto the bird reserve where the usual fare was on offer. From the causeway road three Smew and a Goosander amongst the usual ducks, plus the two Black-throated Divers viewable from Dennis`s hide. The fields at Boulderwall continue to attract hundreds of Lapwing, Curlew, Wigeon, corvids, gulls, Stock Doves and feral geese, plus Great White Egret and a hunting Peregrine. Several Marsh Harriers were grounded around the site due to the gale force winds, apart from a spanking adult male bird that crossed low over the access road heading towards Dengemarsh. Called in at the VC for a natter and a look at Burrowes which looked even more like the sea, and as the rain arrived we called it a day.

                                Grounded Marsh Harrier