Tuesday 30 September 2014

Jays, Buzzards and a dose of political inconsistency

Lade - 0730hrs - warm, dry and cloudy, light airs - Another glorious autumn day to finish the driest month of September on record; although looking at the forecast from the weekend onwards we could do well to make the most of it while it lasts. The garden mv held a healthy total of 80 macro moths of 13 species including all the autumn classics. Chiffchaffs were omnipresent in the garden today and we even had a Goldcrest briefly this morning.
Over the pits a light scattering of common migrants, including three Stonechats, while the first two Jays of the season were active around the willow swamp, plus 15 Long-tailed Tits and plenty more Chiffs. The `white` Buzzard that`s been knocking around the Marsh awhile was sat on the 30 foot dish, until disturbed by a `brown` Buzzard with two more circling over the airport fields. We watched a juv Marsh Harrier attempt, unsuccessfully, to take a Coot beside the main reedbed.
There remains plenty of plants in flower and a few butterflies on the wing, one of my favourites being Sea Campion which can be found in bloom pretty much throughout the year down here on the shingle.
In New Romney late morning several more Jays were noted and at least six each of Buzzard and Kestrel on the back road out towards Ivychurch.

                                Autumn moths, Lade

                                Sandwich Tern & Black-headed Gulls, Littlestone

                                Sea Campion, Lade (also known locally as Dolly Bells)

Littlestone Beach - 1230hrs - Checked through the waders and gulls on an incoming tide, but could only muster up six species of the former. Sandwich Terns were still present in good numbers loafing on the sandbars and a couple of pulses of Swallows headed south along the beach.
Political Expediency... - I read in The Independent on line recently that Eric Pickles MP, Secretary of State for Communities & Local Government, and noted `bird-lover`, apparently, will not be voting on the decision to develop the ex-MoD site of Lodge Hill in north Kent, home to a substantial Nightingale population, due to, `a conflict of interest`.
Shame he didn't adopt the same high and mighty principles when deliberating on the expansion of Lydd Airport adjacent to the Dungeness National Nature Reserve. I wonder why...?

Monday 29 September 2014

More of the same

Lade - 0700hrs - misty, muggy, light airs - Ten species of macros in the trap this morning including the first Blair`s Shoulder-knot of the season. No real change over the pits with small numbers of Linnets, hirundines, Chiffchaffs, Mipits and Kestrels, plus a Wheatear by the camp.
ARC - Two visits this afternoon yielded the usual two Black-necked Grebes, six Ruffs, five Blackwits, 10 Dunlins, plus singles of Great White Egret, Snipe, Garganey, Kingfisher and Water Rail amongst hundreds of Lapwings, Golden Plovers and dabbling ducks. The Glossy Ibis was reported on the hayfields.

Sunday 28 September 2014


Lade - 0730hrs - mild, cloudy, e 2 - A much better night in the garden mv with 12 species of moths including a Yellow-tail and Cypress Carpet as a reminder of the summer. That theme continued over the pits with Small Tortoiseshell, Small Heath, Common Blue and a Painted Lady on the wing, plus late flowering Bugloss, Catchfly and several Chiffchaffs in song in the warm sunshine. At least 20 Chiffchaffs were present across the site, a Greater pecker and the first two Goldcrests of the autumn, while overhead a trickle of Mipits, Swallows, Reed Buntings and Skylarks moved south.
South lake was smothered in common wildfowl including four Snow Geese types amongst the feral goose collection. Walking back along the beach 15 Pied Wagtails were picking up insects amongst a scattering of Barwits, Turnstones and Dunlins.

                               Snow Geese, Lade, fresh in from their Arctic breeding grounds...

Dungeness -  Joined G.A.S (Gull Appreciation Society) this afternoon down at the boats for a master class in gull identification. With fish guts and popcorn on offer a decent size flock of mainly Great Black-backs and Herring Gulls had gathered on the beach for the aficionados to drool over, along with a few Lesser Blacks. Offshore were a number of Black-headed and Common Gulls, plus an adult and 2nd winter Yellow-legged Gull, eight Meds, four Kitts and a passing Little Gull. Small numbers of Common, Sandwich and two Arctic Terns were also feeding offshore, while three Arctic Skuas came and went. Further out a flock of 20 Common Scoter flew down-Channel.

                                2nd winter Yellow-legged Gull, Dungeness

                                Great Black-back defending fish waste in bucket                               

                                Gulls, Dungeness

Saturday 27 September 2014


Lade - 0800hrs - mild, cloudy, light airs - The perfect morning to walk Mockmill for any grounded migrants of which there was a scattering of Linnets, Reed Buntings, Mipits, Chiffchaffs, Robins, Blackbirds, Skylarks, three Stonechats, a Lesser Whitethroat and the first Song Thrushes of the autumn. A trickle of Swallows were feeding over the shingle ridges while more Mipits, Skylarks and a Grey Wagtail passed overhead. Spent a bit of time Kestrel watching. As there was no wind to assist a hover most were perched on posts, overhead wires or atop scrub. Every so often one would drop down and pick off what looked like a grasshopper or cricket, while one appeared to have caught a small passerine, probably a Mipit or Reed Bunting. On south lake four Snow Geese types had joined the feral Greylags.

                                Kestrels, Lade
Dungeness - Wandered down to the Obs for a natter with the backdrop of disco music blasting out from the railway station! A few Chiffs, Black Redstarts, Robins and Goldcrests noted in the bushes and a flock of 100 Mipits were feeding on the edge of the Desert.
ARC - From Screen hide the now expected Lapwings, Goldies, four Ruff, two Black-necked Grebes, Red-crested Pochard and common ducks.
Dungeness - An hour at the boats this afternoon, with the sea resembling a mill pond, yielded several feeding Sandwich and Common Terns and a distant Arctic Skua.

Friday 26 September 2014

Convolvulus Hawk-moth

Lade - warm, dry, cloudy, w 2 - A pre-breakie walk delivered a scattering of Chiffchaffs in the scrub and a few hirundines already on the move. A scan across the Desert through 180 degrees revealed eight hovering Kestrels.
Dungeness - 0915hrs - An hour from the seawatch hide was notable for a westward passage of 500 Black-headed Gulls, 150 Sandwich and 80 Common Terns, plus two each of Little Gull and Black Tern, a 2nd winter Med Gull, 12 Common Scoters and a steady flow of Gannets. The land was quiet with just a handful of Kestrels, Black Redstarts and Chiffchaffs.
Called in at the Kerton Road Café where a Convolvulus Hawk-moth was on show from yesterday.

                                Convolvulus Hawk-moth, KRC

We finished the morning at Lade where the usual wildfowl were present.
In summary a pretty decent weeks birding for the guests with 120 species noted. Visitors always enjoy birds such as Sooty Shearwater and Glossy Ibis, but the week was probably more memorable for the large number of Kestrels seen across the Marsh and the migrants on Tuesday afternoon along the Royal Military Canal.
On the way back from Ashford this afternoon I stopped off at Honeychild Farm where eight Turtle Doves were lurking amongst 145 Collared Doves on overhead wires and barn roofs.

Thursday 25 September 2014

Raptors, shorebirds & terns

Cockles Bridge - 0900hrs - warm, dry sunny, w 2 - We kicked off at the bridge scanning for bits and bobs. Pretty soon we`d racked up several Marsh Harriers and Buzzards, at least 15 Kestrels and singles of Peregrine and Sparrowhawk. Mipits, Linnets, Yellow Wags and a Raven moved over and the stubble field opposite held at least 20 Skylarks, plus five Reed Buntings in the hedgerow.
Springfield Bridge - More raptors of the same ilk here plus a mixed flock of 50 Yellow Wagtails, Mipits and Reed Buntings. Great White and Little Egrets were on the lake and several Bearded Tits pinged from the reedbed. On the chicken sheds more Yellow Wags, a Chiffchaff and Black Redstart.
Galloways - A scan for chats revealed at least 10 Stonechats and two Wheatears, but little else.
Scotney - Slow going here with the main interest a flock of 100 Yellow Wags and Mipits, plus all the usual wildfowl and feral geese. On the way to the bird reserve for lunch we noted a Little Owl near Lydd.

                                Knots, Greatstone Beach

Greatstone Beach  - Brilliant session here for two hours counting shorebirds as they returned to their feeding grounds on a falling tide. First back was a smart flock of five Knot, followed eventually by 50 Dunlin, 30 Sanderling, 30 Barwits, 10 Turnstone, four Ringed Plover, three Redshanks, 500 Oystercatchers and 300 Curlews. Also, on the sand bars 155 Sandwich Terns, five Common and three Arctic Terns, best of all though was a Little Tern flying along the beach. On the shingle three Wheatears and several large pulses of hirundines south, plus three Grey Seals feeding just offshore.
Dungeness - We finished the day with an hour at the fishing boats where a large party of mostly gulls and Sandwich Terns were plundering a shoal of sprats. In the mix were several Gannets, Kittiwakes, a Red-throated Diver, Guillemot, three Common and one Arctic Terns, plus an Arctic Skua harrying the terns.
Another good days birding around the peninsula with, once again, Kestrels all over the place.

Wednesday 24 September 2014

Sooty Shearwater

Lade - mild, cloudy, drizzle - A Goldcrest and Chiffchaff in the pines around the cottage and  hirundines and a Grey Wagtail overhead was a promising start to the day whilst emptying a spartan moth trap.
Dungeness - 0915hrs - We joined TG in the seawatch hide for an hour in hazy light. A steady flow of Gannets and Sandwich Terns were on the move offshore, plus a Guillemot on the sea, an adult Med Gull came and went, but bird of the watch was a distant Sooty Shearwater heading east. At the Patch amongst hundreds of common gulls were singles of Black Tern and Little Gull, Kittiwake and Sandwich Terns. The land was quiet with just a few Chiffs in the lighthouse garden, single Wheatear and Black Redstart by West Beach and the usual Mipits and Linnets over. At least 10 Kestrels were noted from the point to the bird reserve.
RSPB 1200hrs - From the access track two Stonechats, a Whimbrel and eight Kestrels. Whilst having lunch in the car park Buzzard, Sparrowhawk and five Kestrels noted, plus Skylark and Yellow Wagtail overhead. Burrowes was quiet with just three Great White Egrets, three Dunlin and two Ringed Plovers of note amongst the common wildfowl, Lapwings, Golden Plovers and ducks, plus cracking views of a male Peregrine tussling with the inevitable Kestrel.
From the viewing ramp at Dengemarsh plenty of raptors on show including 20 Kestrels, five Marsh Harriers and four Buzzards, plus Bearded Tits and Cetti`s Warbler (heard), two Great White and five Little Egrets and two Ravens.
From Screen hide Glossy Ibis and Great White Egret, two Black-necked Grebes, six Ruff, Garganey, plus all the usual wildfowl and Lapwings. By the car park, two Blackcaps and three Tree Sparrows feasting on ripe blackberries.

                               Tree Sparrow, RSPB

Dungeness - 1530hrs - An hour at the fishing boats delivered cracking views of a Red-throated Diver and Guillemot, plus a few Common and Sandwich Terns fishing offshore and several Porpoises.
Walland Marsh - A drive out to Midley this evening delivered a brief view of Barn Owl for one of the group and a Merlin for all of us. A Kingfisher called along the main sewer and several Foxes and a bat sp were noted on the drive back. 

Tuesday 23 September 2014

Turtle Doves & Grey Partridges!

Lade - 0730hrs - cold, misty, n 2, sunny later sw 3 - A stunning start to the day with a scattering of grounded migrants in the misty conditions including two each of Whinchat and Wheatear, 10 Reed Buntings, 50 Mipits, three Lesser Whitethroats and 10 Chiffchaffs.
Faggs Wood - 1230hrs - After picking up Sandra, Val, David and Jenny from Ashford station (down for a four day Birdwatching Break) we headed for the woods. As we had our lunch a few tits and common woodland birds were noted around the car park, plus Nuthatch, Goldcrest, Coal Tit and Chiffchaffs. Overhead a large feeding party of hirundines were hawking over the canopy and a Buzzard went through mewing.
Royal Military Canal - Down on the flatlands we worked the area of the canal between Warehorne and Kenardington Bridges, and what a result it turned out to be as there were birds everywhere. Literally thousands of hirundines were feeding over the fields, comprising mostly House Martins, and we noted at least 50 Chiffchaffs in the bushes, plus 10 each of Lesser Whitethroat and Blackcap. Also, 10 Song Thrushes and Blackbirds, two Spotted Flycatchers, three Yellowhammers, Bullfinch, Jay, Great Spotted Woodpecker. From the Warehorne bridge two Kingfishers, three Buzzards, two Kestrels and a Sparrowhawk, plus five Snipe over at Kenardington.
Midley - Crossing the Marsh Kestrels were everywhere we must`ve seen 20 at least. The feeding station had two Turtle Doves and the usual flock of Tree Sparrows, while near the drying barns two Grey Partridges crossed the lane, only my second sighting of the year of this decling farmland bird, plus Buzzard and more Kestrels.
ARC - We finished the afternoon on the shingle from Hanson hide where all the usual wildfowl of late were noted, plus Glossy Ibis and two Great White Egrets, five Ruff, Marsh Harrier, Kingfisher and another 10 Kestrels between the car park and Plovers.
A terrific afternoons birding with 68 species noted with hirundines the main spectacle, closely followed by the large numbers of Chiffchaffs and Kestrels of which we must`ve tallied 50 of the latter.

                               Common Frog, RMCanal

                                Turtle Doves, Midley

Monday 22 September 2014

Lade raptors

Lade - 0700hrs  - cold, sunny, n 2 - With overnight temperatures in single figures it really felt as though autumn was upon us. A surprise in the garden mv from Saturday night was a second hatch Yellow-tail, while a Dark Bush-cricket was on the cottage wall this afternoon.
A circuit of the local patch this morning delivered something of a raptor fest with the seasons first Merlin putting in a dramatic appearance over the Desert as it chased a Mipit high into the sky, but without success, while two Marsh Harriers, Kestrel, Sparrowhawk and Buzzard followed through the morning. Several groups of hirundines came and went, plus two each of Grey and Yellow Wagtails, 50 Mipits and a pair of Ravens. There was no sign of any chats or warblers apart from a single Chiffchaff in the willow swamp, where a Kingfisher showed well.

                               Dark Bush-cricket, Lade

                                Ravens, Lade

                                Yellow-tail, Lade

ARC - 1400hrs - Called it at Hanson hide where there was no change from recent days with two Great White Egrets, three Black-necked Grebes, four Ruff and two Blackwits the highlights amongst 150 Golden Plovers, Lapwings and common wildfowl. A juv Marsh Harrier flew over and a distant Buzzard went inland on the walk back to the car park where a gang of Tree Sparrows were active. 

Saturday 20 September 2014

Chilham Lake

Lade - 0700hrs - mild, misty, light airs - A murky, muggy morning but plenty of moths in the garden trap including a new micro the migrant Palpita vitrealis, a beautiful translucent beast.

                                          Canary-shouldered Thorn, Lade

                                Palpita vitrealis, Lade

Chilham Lake - 1000hrs - mild, misty, light airs - Visited Chilham Lake this morning for a magazine article, a site I`ve driven by many times before but never stopped to investigate. The lake harboured a Hooded Merganser a few years back, while Dipper have been reported along the Stour in the past, but there were no such gems today. However, we completed a very enjoyable circular walk along the northern side of the lake, returning via farmland on the margins of Denge Wood and crossing the River Stour at bridges either end of the site. The lake was heavily fished, and with restricted viewing, but we managed to see several Mandarin ducks on an island, Grey Wagtails and Kingfisher along the river, Buzzard over the wood and a range of common wayside and woodland birds including Treecreeper, Yellowhammer, Long-tailed Tit, Bullfinch, Greater pecker, Chiffchaff, Blackcap and Jay.
So, in summary a very pleasant couple of hours in peaceful Kent countryside, while the old mill building adjacent to derelict water cress beds was an added bonus; if of course you`re interested in old industrial buildings, as I am - sad, I know, but it gets me through the day...

                                Chilham Mill

                                Chilham Lake
                                River Stour, Chilham

Dungeness - An hour seawatching from the boats this afternoon delivered nothing much more than a few distant terns and Gannets, while an adult Yellow-legged Gull and a 1st winter Caspian were on the beach.
ARC - From Screen hide both Glossy Ibis and Great White Egret showed well along with 130 Golden Plovers, four Ruff and two Black-necked Grebes. A Marsh Harrier kept the wildfowl and waders on the move and a Kingfisher zipped by.

                                   Glossy Ibis & Great White Egret, ARC

Friday 19 September 2014

Foggy Days

Lade - mild, misty, n 2 - 0700hrs  - With a drop of rain just before dawn, and a rolling mist, expectation of a fall rose, but certainly at Lade there were less migrants present than yesterday. However a scattering of Wheatears, Whinchats and Stonechats kept the momentum going while the Linnet flock hit 200. Overhead a few Swallows, House Martins,Yellow Wagtails, Mipits and a Greenshank. Around the willow swamp several Chiffs, Blackcaps, Robins, two Lesser Whitethroats and three Greater peckers. Strangest sighting of all though was two Black-tailed Godwits wading precariously on a raft of thick water weed in the middle of south lake! At least 150 Curlews were roosting on the Desert.

                                Wheatear, Lade

Scotney - With the fret rolling in viewing was restricted. The Barnacle Goose flock was present on the grass along with five Curlews and a Whimbrel, but birds on the water were just spectres in the gloom.

                                Barnacle Geese, Scotney

Lydd Wood - A fair bit of activity here with a roving Great/Blue Tit flock attracting several Chiffchaffs, Blackcaps and Lesser Whitethroats, while every piece of cover seemed to hold a ticking Robin.
ARC - A stroll down to the pines was notable for more Robins, Chiffs and Lesser Whitethroats and a Great White Egret was wreathed in the mist from Screen hide.
Lade - A late afternoon wander over the pits behind south lake delivered similar fare to this morning.
A strange day of weather here on the coast with muggy conditions and the sound of the Dungeness fog-horn drifting over the shingle throughout. The rolling mist/fog/fret, call it what you will, combined to give an ethereal feel to the place, and probably ideal weather for a spot of smuggling...

                                Lade-in-the-mist, 1600hrs


Thursday 18 September 2014

Migrant drop-in

Lade - 0800hrs - mild, cloudy, ne 2 - Whilst clearing the moth trap of loads of boring old yellow underwings, Flounced Rustics and Setaceous Hebrew Characters a Grey Wagtail flying around the back gardens was a portent of things to come. Cloud cover and mist just before dawn had deposited a host of common migrants on the storm beaches between Taylor Road and the caravan park, mostly chats, pipits and wagtails. I only had a couple of hours but rattled up the following: 10 Skylark, 150 Mipit, 10 Yellow Wagtail, 2 Grey Wagtail, 5 Pied Wagtail, 10 Robin, 1 Black Redstart, 2 Whinchat, 8 Stonechat, 25 Wheatear, 10 Blackbird, 1 Mistle Thrush, 2 Lesser Whitethroat, 10 Chiffchaff, 4 Blackcap, 100 Linnet and 20 Reed Bunting. Over south lake 100 hirundines, plus all the usual wildfowl.
 I returned around midday and virtually all the passerines had moved on.

                                Stonechat, Lade

Greatstone Beach - 1030hrs - A quick scan from the Tavern car park in poor light revealed 7 species of shorebirds and 150 Sandwich Terns.

                                "That`s my 2nd bath this year, I`m calling the RSPCA..."

Wednesday 17 September 2014

A large Arachnid

Lade - humid, misty, dry, ne 3 - A muggy start to the day that got even more sticky by late morning. With misty conditions, and Mipits settled on rooftops hereabouts, thoughts turned to a good fall of migrants, but it was nothing like a fortnight ago. However, at least 50 Mipits were grounded on the storm beaches, plus similar numbers overhead, along with 100 Linnet, 15 Yellow Wagtail and singles of Skylark and Grey Wagtail. On the dry scrub 3 Wheatear, Whinchat and Stonechat. Around the willow swamp 10 Chiffchaff and a scattering of Blackcap, Reed Warbler and Lesser Whitethroat. Also noted during the circuit, 10 Long-tailed Tit, 2 Greater pecker, Marsh Harrier, Buzzard and Kestrel, plus many more Blackbirds and Robins than of late. South lake continues to attract large numbers of common waterfowl, while several pulses of hirundines dropped in to drink.

                                South Lake, Lade

ARC - 1500hrs - An hour at Screen hide (where RSPB have done a great job cutting back the reeds) delivered Glossy Ibis, Garganey, Black-necked Grebe, 4 Ruff, 2 Blackwit and Snipe amongst the usual hundreds of dabblers, Lapwings and 4 Little Egret. Also noted Kingfisher, Marsh Harrier, Sparrowhawk, Cetti`s and Reed Warblers.
Plovers - Our old cottage is a haven for wildlife with newts in the walls, lizards under cupboards and a cricket in the bedroom, and that`s just what I`m aware of; no doubt other beasties lurk in dark, dank corners elsewhere. Anyhow, about now spiders are everywhere, but yesterday evening I went to let Barney out in the garden when I noticed a whopper on the kitchen floor, which fortunately froze enabling me to take a few pics. I put the florin beside it to get some sort of size comparison - it was enormous!
Rummaging through my spider guide I came up with a tentative id of Tegenana duellica, based on the cardiac mark on the abdomen, a species commonly found in houses in the autumn, but I`m no expert and could be way off beam, and probably are. But whatever the species it was a fabulous animal and is currently at large somewhere in the cottage... 

     Tegenana duellica,(possible) Plovers kitchen

Tuesday 16 September 2014

First Redpoll

Lade - 0800hrs - misty, warm, dry, sunny, e 2 - Blood-vein and Small Dusty Wave were the best of the bunch in the garden mv last night amongst 55 macro moths. A circuit of the local patch produced the first Redpoll of the autumn overhead calling, while a steady flow of Swallows and martins hawked insects over the storm beaches. Yesterdays chats had shipped out, but Chiffchaff, Lesser throat and Blackcap were in the willow swamp, plus Great Spotted Woodpecker and a juv Marsh Harrier over the reed bed. A flock of 50 Linnets was noteworthy.
New Romney - At least 5 Common Buzzard and a Hobby drifted over the town around noon, while Chiffchaff, Lesser throat and Goldfinch also noted.

                                Blood-vein, Lade

ARC - 1400hrs - At the south end 2 each of Garganey and Blackwit amongst the Lapwing and dabblers. From Hanson 9 Ruff, 150 Golden Plover, Blackwit, 2 Black-necked Grebe, 8 Pintail, plus hundreds of common wildfowl, grebes and Lapwing. The long-staying Glossy Ibis and Red-crested Pochard were also reported.

Monday 15 September 2014

Pale-shouldered Cloud

Lade - 0900hrs - warm, dry and sunny, ne 2 - With lighter winds and cloud cover a few more moths were in the trap this morning, but it was still poor fare with only 9 species of which Feathered Ranunculus was new for the season.

                                      Feathered Ranunculus, Lade

                                L-album Wainscot, Lade

Over the pits a few more migrants on show with singles figures of Wheatear, Whinchat and Stonechat. plus a steady flow of Swallows, Mipits and Yellow Wags overhead. Coot numbers had increased to an impressive 550 on south lake, along with 9 Wigeon. Two Greater peckers were in the willow swamp, plus 5 Chiffchaff, Blackcap and Lesser Whitethroat.
Checked the beach on an incoming tide but only a few Dunlin and Sanderling were still present.
Kerton Road Café - Trapped locally, and on show in the fridge, was the rare migrant from the south, Pale-shouldered Cloud. The first British record was from Dungeness in 1996 and there have been less than 20 since, so a pretty rare, if unimpressive beast.

                                Pale-shouldered Cloud, Dungeness

Sunday 14 September 2014

Dengemarsh Wheatears

Dengemarsh Gully - 1000hrs - warm, dry, sunny, ne 4 - Mrs PT joined us for a stroll this morning commencing at Springfield Bridge where we were treated to a flyover Bittern and Great White Egret, due to a low-flying aircraft, while the field before the gully held 2 Whimbrel and 3 Wheatear. I wasn`t expecting much in the gully and so it turned out to be with only one migrant, a Chiffchaff, plus Dunnock, Robin, Blue and Great Tits and a squealing Water Rail.  However, at the end of the gully, towards Penn Bars a fall of at least 15 Wheatear was noteworthy. A few Mipits and Yellow Wagtails went over, a steady trickle of Swallows and Sand Martins headed into the wind and that was about it.

Saturday 13 September 2014

Hard going in the wind

Dungeness - 0900hrs - warm, dry, sunny, ne 5 - Headed off down the point this morning more to give Barney his first stroll since spraining his leg than expecting to see any birds in the brisk easterly. He was full of himself after being confined to barracks all week, springing around like a puppy, what great powers of recovery dogs have. Anyhow, birds, mmm..., well there were hardly any, not on the land anyway with a circuit of the bushes and scrub from the lighthouse to the Trapping Area delivering 12 Great Tit, 2 Chiffchaff, Dunnock, Robin and Blackbird, plus 2 Sparrowhawk and a Kestrel. Can we have last weekends weather back, please?
Viz mig comprised a Grey Wagtail, several Yellow Wags and Mipits plus a couple of pulses of Swallows.
A brief scan from the seawatch hide yielded 2 Arctic Skua, 5 Common Scoter, Red-throated Diver and feeding parties of Sandwich and Common Terns in awful glaring light.
ARC - Pretty much the same as yesterday, so Glossy Ibis, Black-necked Grebe, Garganey, RCP and Ruff.

Friday 12 September 2014

Common Lizard

ARC - warm, dry, sunny, ne 3 - An early afternoon visit to Hanson hide yielded nothing new with the Glossy Ibis still present and a supporting cast of 2 Ruff, 2 Black-necked Grebe, Garganey and Red-crested Pochard. There appeared to be a lot more Wigeon amongst the dabbling ducks and 2 Golden Plover within the Lapwing flock. A pulse of Sand Martins moved through and a couple of Yellow Wagtails went over calling. Around the Willow Trail, 3 Chiffchaff, Blackcap and Cetti`s Warbler, plus several Common Lizards warming up on the boardwalk.

                                Common Lizard, Willow Trail

Thursday 11 September 2014

Barred Warbler and garden Wrynecks

Greatstone - 0900hrs - mild, cloudy, ne 2 - Checked the wood out at the bottom of Dunes Road but all I could locate was a mixed passerine flock with 15 Long-tailed Tits, Blackcap and Chiffchaff. The sewage works had a large flock of hirundines feeding overhead and a Grey Wagtail went over.
Dungeness - News of a Barred Warbler at the southern end of the Trapping Area came through and by the time I arrived it had moved onto a scrub-clad bank on the edge of the Desert. We had several brief views of the bird in the open, but most of the time it was skulking amongst brambles. A Whinchat and Stonechat was also seen.
An afternoon seawatch from the fishing boats with PB yielded at least 3 close Arctic Skuas, one a cracking light phase adult and a steady trickle of Sandwich and Common Terns feeding just offshore. A Brent Goose flew by and was my first of the autumn and further out a few Gannets and a Kittiwake were noted.
Garden Wrynecks
During my time as county bird recorder (in deepest land-locked Bedfordshire) I could pretty much guarantee being contacted every autumn by someone describing the sighting of an, "odd brown, black and grey little bird hopping around on the garden path feeding on ants". I remember one concerned caller saying after said bird had collided into her patio window, "when I picked it up it contorted its neck around".
Unfortunately, the majority of garden Wryneck records were reported via the jaws of that sweet little mammal the domestic cat. Now, let`s get one thing straight dear reader I`m not about to go on a rant about how many millions of songbirds the UKs cats kill each year, as occasionally Mrs PT reads this waffle, and they`re only doing what nature intended, and she loves her Jim as much as I love my Barney, oh no, not me, never, I`ve even forgiven Jim for delivering a Firecrest and Reed Warbler on the kitchen mat one autumn, honest I have...
Anyhow, that`s enough of that, as I was saying, autumn Wryneck sightings in gardens, so yesterday I received a phone call from a gentleman in Cheriton telling a familiar tale of his family cat catching an unusual bird that turned out to be our much loved migrant. However, this story has a happy ending as the woodpecker was retrieved from the cats clutches, caged overnight and successfully released the following day none the worse for its experience.
But whenever I hear one of these garden Wryneck tales I do wonder just how many more there must be out there that go undetected...

                                Wryneck, Cheriton (by Ron Laker)

Wednesday 10 September 2014

Migration Walk

Lade - 0800hrs - cool, dry, cloudy, ne 3 - A couple of hundred hirundines over south lake this morning comprised mainly Sand Martins and a Kingfisher was present around the willow swamp.
RSPB - 1000-1300hrs - Walked the circular route with 12 visitors the theme of which was migrant birds. It felt a bit flat after the weekend but we still managed to find a few warblers in the bushes including one decent mixed flock of passerines that included Blackcap, Lesser Whitethroat, Reed and Garden Warblers, while Whitethroat and Chiffchaff were the most numerous of the tribe. A Wheatear on the shingle by the access road was the only chat on show apart from an elusive Redstart in the car park scrub and a trickle of hirundines, plus Yellow Wagtail and Mipit overhead. Migrant waders such as 5 Blackwit, 4 Whimbrel and 3 Greenshank went straight over, while 50 Lapwing and a few Golden Plover were on Burrowes and Snipe on Hayfield 1. Other odds and ends included Great White Egret and Hobby on Dengemarsh, 4 Marsh Harrier, 3 Kestrel, Raven, 2 Kingfisher, Water Rail and Cetti`s Warbler (heard). On Burrowes, Wigeon and Pintail amongst the commoner ducks.
A pleasant walk in good company with 66 species of birds logged.

                               Great White Egret, Dengemarsh

Tuesday 9 September 2014

Back to normal

Lade - 0700hrs - cool, sunny, ne 3 - A fresher feel to the atmosphere this morning for a circuit of the local patch, but without Barney it just didn`t feel right. Anyhow, migrants were noticeable by their absence with not a single martin, chat or flycatcher seen and only a handful of Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps around the willow swamp, although there did seem to be an increase in Blackbirds and Robins. Overhead a trickle of Yellow Wagtails, Mipits and a single Tree Pipit. A pale Common Buzzard sat atop the 30 foot dish `mirror` while being pestered by a couple of Magpies.

                                Common Buzzard and Magpie, Lade

Monday 8 September 2014


Lade - Yesterday, during our early morning round of the local patch Barney got trampled on by an out of control Poodle. Now if that sounds a touch embarrassing it was a large, young one about the size of a Labrador and this morning he was hobbling badly and in need of a trip to the vets. The result being that Barney is now grounded for a week until his badly sprained paw heals. Its thrown as all out of kilter down here as walking the local patch without him is just not the same. He`s been moping around all afternoon since coming home from the vets, but hopefully by this time next week normal service will be resumed.

                               "Damn Poodle"

ARC - On the way home from the allotment I called in to Hanson hide from where a Spoonbill was asleep (as usual) on the Cormorant island, which was a belated year tick; I really must dig out that list sometime...

                                Spoonbill, ARC

Lade - Mrs PT caught an unpaid guest entering through the back door of Plovers at the weekend,  a Common Lizard, which promptly disappeared somewhere in the cottage...

                                Common Lizard, now at large in Plovers

Sunday 7 September 2014

Buzzards, hirundines, a shrike and much, much more...

Lade - 0645hrs - mild, cloudy, light airs - With not a breath of wind it was the perfect morning to walk Mockmill. En-route a Tree Pipit went over calling along with a few Yellow Wagtails, a Common Sandpiper, Greenshank and a Sedge Warbler in the cattery scrub. In the sewer scrub small numbers of Common Whitethroat, Sedge and Willow Warblers, Blackcap, 4 Whinchat and a Stonechat. On the walk back along the edge of south lake thousands of House and Sand Martins were swarming over the water, dipping down to drink, and settling on the bank side willows, a truly breathtaking spectacle.
Dungeness RSPB - 0900hrs - We met up with 14 members of the Bedfordshire Bird Club in the car park for their autumn migration meeting, and while many of yesterdays warblers and flycatchers had shipped out in last nights clear spell there was still much for the group to enjoy around the reserve; the only disappointment being a shortage of waders due to high water levels. However, during the circuit we noted Greenshank and Whimbrel over calling, plus Common Sandpiper and 4 Snipe. The scrub opposite Firth yielded a clutch of Willow, Cetti`s, Sedge and Reed Warblers, Chiffchaff and Common Whitethroat, plus 4 Lesser Whitethroat near Christmas Dell. Several Marsh Harriers drifted over while on Dengemarsh two Great White Egrets, 5 Whinchat, Bearded Tits, Raven, Swift and masses of hirundines on the move were the highlights. News came through concerning the relocated Red-backed Shrike in scrub at the end of the return trail and the group all enjoyed good views of what has now become almost a true rarity down here. Several Clouded Yellow, Small Copper and Common Blue butterflies were also on the wing.
Back at a packed car park for lunch, in humid weather conditions, we were treated to an unprecedented passage of at least 20 Common Buzzard and one Honey Buzzard crossing the peninsula.

                                    Red-backed Shrike, Return Trail

ARC - After lunch we moved `over the road` where 2 Spotted Flycatcher and a Common Redstart performed to order on overhead wires near the car park. From Hanson 2 Black-necked Grebe, Red-crested Pochard, Ruff, 5 Garganey, 5 Black Tern and 2 Sparrowhawk were the highlights amongst hundreds more hirundines, common wildfowl and Lapwings, while the Glossy Ibis showed from Screen hide.

                               Bedfordshire Bird Club, Dungeness

Dungeness - Moving onto the fishing boats for an afternoon seawatch turned out to be a more productive hour than I expected with a trickle of Sandwich and Common Terns, Gannets, gulls and 5 Arctic Skua, several of which approached close to shore. We also had good views of half a dozen Harbour Porpoises and a Grey Seal munching on a large flatfish. A steady passage of Swallows was also in progress, while Wheatear and Meadow Pipit were noted.
Over the weekend we rattled up 108 species with a memorable list of drift migrants including Wryneck and Red-backed Shrike and the spectacle of thousands of migrating hirundines.
In summary a great weekends birding amongst long standing friends, as well as catching up on a bit of gossip from the old county.

Saturday 6 September 2014

Magical Dungeness day of drift migrants

Dungeness - 0700hrs - warm, dry, overcast, light airs - With two old birding mates (Rob Dazley and Pete Marshall) down from Dunstable for the weekend I was hoping for a "bit of drift migration" to show off to the old landlubbers, but what we got was way above expectations...
We had  to start with a quick look at the sea, being as Brogborough Clay Pit is the largest area of water they ever see! Predictably there was little on the move apart from a few Gannets and a couple of Arctic Skuas beating up the terns. At the Patch plenty of gulls, 50 Common and a single juv Arctic Tern.
And so to the land, which was brilliant, with drift migrants all over the place, the pride of place going to a Wryneck at the southern end of the Trapping Area. Over the course of the morning and early afternoon we racked up 50 Yellow Wagtail, 10 Spotted Flycatcher, 4 Pied Flycatcher, 5 Common Redstart, 10 Whinchat, 5 Stonechat, 15 Wheatear, 10 Pied Wagtail, 20 Common Whitethroat, 5 Lesser Whitethroat, 20 Willow Warbler, 5 Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Reed Warbler, Grey Wagtail, Tree Sparrow, Goldfinch, Linnet, Greenfinch, Reed Bunting, Robin, Dunnock, Wren, Great and Blue Tits.
Hundreds of hirundines moved through with a fabulous spectacle of several hundred House Martins settled atop Dungeness A Station. Raptors included 3 Sparrowhawks, Kestrel and Marsh Harrier. Phew!
Scotney - For a change of scene we walked the back track out onto Walland in a quest for waders on the gravel pits where we found 2 Green Sandpiper, 3 Dunlin, 50 Lapwing, Curlew and Common Sandpiper. Also here Wigeon, Pintail and Egyptian Geese amongst hundreds of common wildfowl, Little Egrets, plus two Common Buzzards, one with a pale tail and at least 100 Yellow Wagtails. On the walk back the farm track at one stage was covered in hirundines, a truly amazing spectacle.

                                Hirundines, Scotney

Galloways - A circuit of the range road produced numerous Spotted Flycatchers, Whinchats and Wheatears, Sedge Warbler, plus 2 Ravens and Kestrel.
Dengemarsh Gully - More migrants here with Garden Warbler new for the day, plus more Pied and Spotted Flycatchers, Willow Warblers, Common and Lesser Whitethroats, Whinchat and Wheatear.
ARC - Finished off at the Screen hide where the Glossy Ibis and Spotted Redshank were on show, plus 3 Garganey amongst the wildfowl and a Black Tern over the lake..
Another terrific day migrant hunting across the peninsula.
NB: Also today Nightjar and Firecrest at Long Pits and a Red-backed Shrike briefly at Boulderwall.