Friday 31 October 2014

Pomarine Skuas and Grey Phalarope

Lade - warm, dry and sunny, s 3 - Another cracking `summers` day to finish off the month and by early afternoon the temperature had reached 20C. There were five species of moths in the garden trap, including Large Wainscot and Cypress Carpet, and once again a Goldcrest was calling from the firs. We slogged out to Mockmill in shorts and T-shirt, but there was little of note apart from a few Mipits, Blackbirds and Robins, plus at least 50 grounded Skylarks in the airport field. The warm sunshine this past week had brought forth an impressive two metre tall Great Lettuce, which I was so surprised to see that I had to get a second opinion as to its identity. Mrs Moth confirmed the id saying that the milky sap from the plants stem contains Luctucin, a sleep inducing sedative that if taken in excess could result in death. Mmm, interesting stuff on this Halloween evening. 

                                Cypress Carpet, Lade

                                            Great Lettuce, Mockmill Sewer

                                Meadow Pipits, Lade

Dungeness - 1430-1600hrs - I nearly didn`t make it to the fishing boats this afternoon, but was mightily pleased that I did as on arrival was told of a Grey Phalarope that had just drifted east on the sea. I wandered down the beach to be joined by AP and PM and after a scanning the sea for 20 minutes or so AP picked up the phalarope, if a little distant, but a good call none the less. We wandered back to the boats to join DW, TG, PB and MH and over the next hour had seven Pomarine Skuas, pass west, several very close and all showing well in the superb light and disturbing the gulls en-route. There was much banter regarding the number of Mediterranean Gulls in the general vicinity - were they moving, or just drifting back on the tide only to reappear again? Who knows for sure, but we reckoned a figure of 200 was a conservative estimate, and personally the largest number of Med Gulls I`ve ever seen at Dungeness. Also noted, a pair of Eiders, 20 Little Gulls, 20 Gannets, 10 auks, 50 Kittiwakes and singles of Red-throated Diver, Merganser and Common Tern. Once again, a cracking little seawatch to end the day and completely different to yesterdays Brent fest.     

Thursday 30 October 2014

The Levellers and some Brents...

Lade - 0800hrs - mild, sunny, sw 2- Whilst clearing the moth trap this morning (one Silver Y and 4 Black Rustics) I was relieved to be able to hear a Goldcrest in the garden firs, having been to a Levellers concert in Folkestone last night. Walking back along the Leas after the gig it felt like having a swarm of bees buzzing around in my head, but by this morning the sound was mercifully down to a low drone; Mark Chadwick and the band certainly gave it the full decibel level at the Leas Cliff Hall. My moshing days are well past and even standing around for three hours attempting some mild bobbing (ridiculous, I know...) is getting a bit much now I`m knocking on the Number 60 door. I thought I must be getting past it, but a quick scan around revealed much older and more decrepit humanoids than myself (Mrs PT was, obviously, exempt from my snap survey). As always at a Levellers gig there was a wide range of followers, mostly though grungy anarchic types covered in tattoos and piercings (and that`s just the women!), but a good few sensible under 40`s, and in these sanitised times it was naughtily pleasing to smell dubious substances wafting amongst the fug of heaving bodies.
Hang on though, ain`t this supposed to be a birding blog... right, back to business...
Anyhow, with me ears still ringing we worked the local patch in glorious late autumn sunshine and a warm zephyr blowing up from the south. An increase in Wigeon, Pochard and Shovler was noteworthy and a Goldeneye dived near continually on north lake. A few Chiffchaffs called from the willow swamp along with Water Rails and Cetti`s Warblers, while a Merlin chasing a Skylark provided the spectacle of the visit; the scrub behind north lake held small numbers of Blackbirds, Song Thrushes and Reed Buntings.

                                Red Admiral, Lade ponds

Dungeness - A quick look at the Patch revealed a late Common Tern amongst the gulls. The land yielded two Ring Ouzels in the cafĂ© scrub, Blackcap and Chiffchaff in the lighthouse garden and a Black Redstart by West Beach. There were plenty of Red Admirals still on the wing and at least one Small Copper, while the sunshine had brought forth gorse blooms as though it was April. There was little overhead movement apart from a few Skylarks and Goldfinches. Driving off the estate a flock of 80 Brents passed west opposite Jarman`s and a taster of things to come...

                                Gorse, Dungeness

Scotney - All the usual stuff here, so hundreds of Golden Plovers, Lapwings, Wigeon, feral geese and the like. Five Kestrels and a Marsh Harrier also noted.
Dungeness - 1445-1615hrs - A seawatch from the fishing boats in the company of DW, BC, MH and TG, in superb afternoon light, was memorable for a passage of around 1,700 Brent Geese, and there were many more throughout the day (see DBO website for the final tally). In my humble opinion the autumn Brent movement is one of the great birding spectacles at Dungeness; I mean, come on, what is there not to go all dewy-eyed about as these fabulous little geese come out of the North Sea and head down-Channel in braying, straggly flocks, whether near, far, high or low, but always, in the words of my four year old grandson - "awesome". There was a pretty decent supporting cast too: 130 Little Gulls, 30 Med Gulls, 100 Kittiwakes, 10 Scoters, 10 Dunlins, three Curlews, a Whimbrel, three Gannets, two auks, two Shelducks, eight Mergansers, three Sandwich Terns, two Common Terns and an Arctic Tern that landed on the beach in front of us preening. A thoroughly enjoyable and entertaining seawatch, Dungeness at its very best, and I make no apologies for posting more crappy pics of those superb geese.
PS - Lade - 1900hrs - A large flock of braying Brents went over the cottage this evening into the moonlight, a fantastic end to a memorable day.

                               Arctic Tern, juv, Dungeness

                                Brent Geese, Dungeness

                                In the words of The Levellers - What a Beautiful Day.

Wednesday 29 October 2014


Lade - 0830hrs - low cloud, drizzle, mist, ludicrously mild - In my haste to empty the garden moth trap the other morning it would appear that (after a suggestion from Mrs Moth to re-visit its identity) the late, mankey Mouse Moth may well had been a Porter`s Rustic, after consulting Manley, but as I didn`t take a pic I shall never know. That`ll teach me to be hasty in future, but looking at how mild its going to be this coming week I`ve decided to carry on trapping into November.
We trudged out across the shingle this morning in a thick mist and fine drizzle which gave an ethereal feel to the local patch, although Barney wasn't thinking that as he hates the wet. The lakes were swathed in a dense fog, so there could`ve been any number of rare ducks out there... Ok, dream on, I know, but there were a few Pochards about, which have been noticeable by their absence of late. With not a breath of wind we checked the willow swamp for a late crippler, but there was just the usual scattering of Robins, Chiffs, crests and tits, plus vocal Marsh Frogs, Water Rails and Cetti`s Warblers. A Kingfisher called as it crossed north lake unseen and a Great Spotted Woodpecker called from the firs by the camp. On the walk back across the shingle ridges three Stonechats and a single Ring Ouzel were the only birds of note.
The rain persisted throughout the day, heavy at times, and by 4pm it was almost dark.

Monday 27 October 2014

Jays and Red Admirals

Lade - 0700hrs - warm, dry and sunny, s 2 - The garden mv held five moths this morning with a late Mouse Moth being the only noteworthy record. I`ve persisted through the month because of the mild weather and other trap sites nearby attracting some good species, but that`s it now, for me the season is over...
We worked the local patch in spring-like sunshine where a Swallow over south lake was also enjoying the clement conditions, along with ten Red Admirals by the ponds. Around the willow swamp at least ten Chiffchaffs and three Jays, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Long-tailed Tits, plus calling Cetti`s Warblers and Water Rails. South lake remains a Coot and Gadwall hot-spot and the Red-crested Pochard was still present.
As for viz mig, well there really wasn't any apart from several each of Mipit, Skylark and Goldfinch overhead. So far the lack of migrants has mirrored last autumn, and I still haven't noted Siskin or Brambling, and had only one Redpoll.

Sunday 26 October 2014

I want to be alone...

Chilfrome - mild, cloudy, sw 2 - Daybreak - After yesterdays shenanigans down on The Fleets I was in need of some solitude, so it was up before daybreak, a quick brew and then out with Barney and his new mate Indy, a 12 year old Labrador. As we turned down the lane in the pre-dawn gloom Tawny Owls called from the churchyard yews, Redwings `seeiped` overhead and a clatter of Woodpigeons broke cover. The narrow lanes hereabouts are bordered by thick hedgerows of hazel, dogwood and hawthorn, set atop steep banks to keep the sheep in, and as we wandered through the hamlet there was not a peep of human activity. In the valley bottom all was peace and quiet apart from a languid Robin song and the skitter of dogs claws on tarmac.
We cut through a kissing gate, across a stream and the Lab was straight in, gambolling about and having great fun, as Barney looked on with contempt - Borders do not like water, or at least this one doesn`t. Scanning across the enormous sloping field I caught sight of a trio of roe deer grazing in the bottom corner and a badger grubbing about close to a boundary bank on the hill side. With the light improving slowly we powered up hill in one go, panting heavily by the time we reached the summit, dogs included. As I settled down to enjoy the view across the valley ragged flocks of corvids were noisily leaving roost sites and heading west, while a trickle of Skylarks passed overhead, heard but unseen, unlike the first `mewing` Buzzards of the day.
On the opposite hillside ancient lynchets stood out like ripples in the scarp slope, beside dappled patches of bare chalk, an old long barrow and a lone wayfaring tree. The steep slopes were peppered with black and white sheep, while lower down beef cattle were corralled on lusher pastures, where we later found mushrooms for breakfast.
I sat amongst the roots of an old beech tree atop that ridge for over half an hour, day dreaming, being at one with nature and enjoying the solace, until Indy the Labrador slobbered all over me! That was our cue to plunge downhill and pick up the green lane and return to civilisation. We arrived back at base refreshed without seeing another human over the past three hours, which set me up nicely for the long drive home...

                                Somewhere in west Dorset

Saturday 25 October 2014

Richard`s Pipit and a welcome to Dorset!

Friday - 0800hrs - Lade - A flock of 300 Brents cut across the Peninsula braying loudly. Over the pits the only migrant of note were two Swallows briefly over south lake.
Chichester Gravel Pits, Sussex - 1300hrs - En-route to Dorset for a weekend away with family we had a wander around the local gravel pits where all the expected wildfowl were noted on a series of fishing lakes. A couple of large passerine flocks held good numbers of tits, Chiffchaffs, Goldcrests and at least two Treecreepers, while Water Rails and Cetti`s Warblers called from the reedbeds. Also noted two Kingfishers, Grey Wagtail, Jay, Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers.
Chilfrome, Dorset - Tawny Owls were vocal throughout the night as juvenile birds were on the move searching for a territory.

Saturday - Chickeral, Dorset - warm, dry and sunny - 1000hrs - We did a circular walk in Moonfleet country this morning with Mrs PT`s side of the family, from East Fleet church where a large passerine flock in the churchyard included many Long-tailed Tits, Goldcrests and Chiffchaffs. On The Fleet hundreds of Brents and Wigeons covered the water, plus four Red-breasted Mergansers, two Scaup, six Pintails and two Common Scoters. Along the margins were a scattering of Redshanks, Curlews and Dunlins. The arable fields beside The Fleet were alive with grounded migrants, mostly Skylarks, Mipits, Linnets and Reed Buntings, but also a few Yammers and alba wagtails. Whilst scanning through I heard an unfamiliar `schreep` call and locked onto a large pipit which landed on a bare patch of earth. Although it has been a few years since I`ve heard this call there was no mistaking the large thrush-like pipit before me - a Richard`s Pipit! I watched it for a couple of minutes before it was disturbed by a Jackdaw and headed west out of sight.
There then ensued an extraordinary encounter with a woman on horse back from Sea Barn Farm who began to berate our group for not having the dogs on leads, adjacent to a field that was used for horse hacking, even though there were none to be seen. Bearing in mind we were on a designated public footpath, and all three dogs (Barney included) were under close control (having been trained to ignore stock) her attitude was unbelievable. When my brother-in-law (old hippy social worker type) attempted to calm her down she went into a rant with much effin and blindin and un lady-like language - if that`d been a bloke he`d have been dragged off the nag and given a jolly good thrashing! Bloody stuck up horsey types, they really piss me off, and it ruined a fine walk - what a great welcome to Dorset!

                                Brents, The Fleets

                                East Fleet

                                The old church, Fleet

Hardy Monument - Away from the old horsey bag on the coast we stopped off on the way back to Chilfrome at the Hardy (Nelson`s captain on the Victory, not the wordy one) Monument high up on the downs. The panorama was breathtaking with views across The Fleets, the Isle of Portland and even the distant western end of the Isle of Wight. A wander round delivered plenty of Ravens and Buzzards and Roe Deer grazing in the fields below.
An afternoon walk along the river Frome delivered more Buzzards, Ravens, Kingfisher, Bullfinch and Water Rail.

                                "Bloody horsey types"

                                Hardy Monument, west Dorset

Thursday 23 October 2014

Short-eared Owl

Lade - mild, cloudy, sw 2 - 0800hrs - With light winds and a low cloud base we tramped out across the shingle to Mockmill to give it a go for grounded migrants. A light fall of thrushes was the only noteworthy event including ten each of Blackbird and Song Thrush, plus four Ring Ouzels. Also in the scrub two Chiffchaffs, three Stonechats, two Reed Buntings and a scattering of Dunnocks, Robins and Great Tits, so fairly low key stuff. Sparrowhawk, Kestrel and Marsh Harrier also noted, plus several patches of late flowering Ragged Robin. Skirting back along south lake a Red-crested Pochard (probably the ARC bird) had joined the hundreds of Coots and Gadwalls, while overhead there was a trickle of Mipits and Goldfinches. Around midday OL reported a swimming Avocet on south lake. 
As we returned to the main track a final scan across the Desert revealed two crows mobbing a Short-eared Owl flying low towards the water tower.

                                Ragged Robin, Mockmill Sewer

Dungeness - 1445hrs - Joined OL at the fishing boats on a dull, drizzly afternoon for a one hour  seawatch. Several flocks of Brents passed west close to shore totalling 250, along with a trickle of Kittiwakes, 25 Common Scoters and a couple of auks. Best of all though was a dark juvenile Pomarine Skua which, after it had finished duffing up a Great Black-back, came in nice and close showing a double white crescent on the underwing and contrasting two-tone bill; a real cracker that had no trouble bossing the big gulls.

                                Brents, Dungeness

Wednesday 22 October 2014

An 80 species day

Dungeness - 0915hrs - mild, sunny, nw 3 - Commenced a days birding for Janet and Trevor in the seawatch hide, but with just about the worst wind direction possible we soon abandoned the watch with only distant Gannets and Kittiwakes of any note. The land was quiet with only a few Goldfinches, Linnets, Mipits and alba wagtails over, plus a Black Redstart by the old lighthouse.
New Diggings - Two Little and one Great White Egret noted from the causeway road.
Scotney - A decent session here with plenty of birds on the grass opposite the lay-by including two Redshanks, 10 Dunlin and a Greenshank, amongst the usual feral geese and plovers, plus common wildfowl and a Marsh Harrier over.
RSPB - A tour of the bird reserve delivered Cattle Egret and Ring Ouzel at Boulderwall, 10 Dunlin and two Black-necked Grebes on Burrowes, plus another Great White Egret, three Marsh Harriers and a Buzzard on Dengemarsh. Elsewhere, Tree Sparrows, five Kestrels, Sparrowhawk and Chiffchaff. From Hanson hide a Goldeneye hinted at the coming winter while a host of common wildfowl bobbed about where once there were islands.
Dungeness - Finished off with an hours seawatch from the concrete road which was far more profitable than earlier with a steady steam of close Gannets, Kittiwakes and Sandwich Terns, plus three Bonxies, an Arctic Skua, two Med Gulls, 10 Common Scoter, Shelduck and a Red-throated Diver. On the shingle amongst the roosting Black-backs and Herring Gulls was a confiding adult Yellow-legged Gull in winter plumage.
In all a pretty decent days birding, in great company, with 80 species noted across the Peninsula.

                               Yellow-legged Gull, Dungeness

Tuesday 21 October 2014

White-winged BlackTern

Dungeness - 0815-1015hrs - mild, showery, w 6 - A two hour watch from the fishing boats in near gale force winds delivered nothing of any quality, but there was still enough happening to keep the interest going. A steady movement of Gannets way out in the Channel formed the bulk numbers along with a few Kittiwakes, and Black-headed Gulls closer to shore. At least 125 Sandwich and one Common Tern were logged, plus two Med Gulls, nine Brents and a distant shearwater sp. Five Bonxies flew west, two along the beach, and an Arctic Skua chased a tern further out.
A first winter Caspian Gull was amongst the gulls on the foreshore, while singles of Swallow and Rock Pipit coasted west into the tempest.

                                "Not more seawatching..."

                                There`s a 1st winter Caspian Gull in there somewhere!

Scotney - 1030hrs - Checked out the Goldies on the grass but could find nothing of note lurking within, although most were hunkered down sheltering from the strong wind. All the usual feral geese were present.
Castle Water - 1130hrs - Couldn`t resist a trip `abroad` into darkest Sussex for the marsh tern at Rye. From the hide we had superb views of two Little Stints, Dunlin, Knot, Redshank, Snipe and a range of close dabbling ducks including Pintail. A Water Rail rushed between the reeds and a Marsh Harrier battled with the wind. Just as we were thinking of giving-up-the-ghost in flew 10 Lapwings, along with a marsh tern showing neat black under-wing coverts, a white rump and mottled black and white body plumage; a stunning adult White-winged Black Tern moulting into winter plumage. Conveniently, they all dropped onto one of the islands and hunkered down out of the wind affording cracking scope views of the tern and a couple of records shots with the bridge camera.

                              White-winged Black Tern, Castle Water, Rye Harbour

Lade - A late afternoon check of the lakes, just in case any pelagics had been blown in, drew a blank. However, two Redwings came in off the sea and a Swallow was hawking insects over the ponds

Sunday 19 October 2014

Large Wainscot

Lade - warm, dry and sunny, sw 5 - Didn't do a great deal today due to guests coming and going. The moth trap was pathetic again, considering what goodies other local traps have been catching and how mild it was overnight, but at least a Large Wainscot was noteworthy amongst 10 common species.
No change over the pits and with an increasing south-westerly grounded migrants were hard to come by.

                                        Large Wainscot, Lade

Saturday 18 October 2014

Seawatch Snipe!

Dungeness - 0800hrs- 1000hrs - Warm, dry and sunny, s 3 - We joined the seawatchers at the fishing boats for a two hour session during which the main seabird feature was the steady westward flow of hundreds of Gannets, Kittiwakes and auks (including Razorbills), although many seemed to be milling around feeding just offshore. Also noted less than 20 each of Brents and Common Scoters, 20 Sandwich and one Common Tern, five Teal, four Med Gulls, Arctic and Great Skuas, Red-throated Diver, Red-breasted Merganser and most surprising of all a Snipe - now, that was a first
Passerine wise several pulses of Swallows left our shores, plus a few House Martins, along with a steady trickle of coasting Skylarks, Mipits, alba wagtails and a Rock Pipit. But most numerous were Goldfinches with a near continuous stream of coasting flocks totalling well over 500, along with a few Linnets and Greenfinches.
On the beach an adult Yellow-legged Gull amongst the roosting gulls and a Wheatear by the concrete road.
Lade - On south lake at least 25 Dabchicks amongst the legions of Gadwall and Coot, plus ten Swallows south. Around the willow swamp three Chiffchaffs and two Ring Ouzels in the scrub towards the airport, plus many more Goldfinches overhead.
With the temperature climbing to 21C it was no surprise that plenty of Migrant Hawkers and Ruddy Darters were active; also noted two Clouded Yellows and a large Grass Snake by the ponds.

                                Barnacle Geese, Scotney

                                Hybrid Snow/Emperor/? Geese, Scotney

Scotney - This afternoon we spent a couple of hours in the company of 500 Golden Plovers, grilling them from every vantage point along the cycle path, but could find nothing untoward within their ranks. The usual feral goose flock was feeding around the cow byre as well as a few Mipits and Skylarks. On the lake the usual wildfowl including nine Pintail. Three Marsh Harriers drifted over and two Ring Ouzels were flushed from the stand of trees.

                               Golden Plovers, Scotney

Boulderwall - On the way home called in to see that the Cattle Egret was still present still with the cows in fields near the entrance and a Great White Egret flew over towards Dengemarsh.

Friday 17 October 2014

Ring Ouzels and Lapland Bunting

Lade - warm, dry and sunny, sw 2 - 0730hrs - After emptying the moth trap of a paltry seven common species we headed out across the shingle to work Mockmill Sewer (in shorts and tee shirt weather) and what a cracking two hour session it turned out to be. Overhead there was a steady trickle of Skylarks, Mipits, Linnets, Reed Buntings and Goldfinches for the first hour and the icing on the cake a Lapland Bunting that called (terreck) twice and carried on south.
However, the bushes were jumping with migrants, the majority being Robins, Dunnocks and Great Tits, but also a number of thrushes including 14 Ring Ouzels, ten Blackbirds, eight Song Thrushes, six Stonechats, Redwing and Wheatear. At least 10 Chiffchaffs flicked through the scrub while singles of Reed and Sedge Warblers were most surprising considering the late date. The most numerous migrant was Reed Bunting with at least 50 in the bushes and many more coming and going.
Things quietened down as we moved behind the `mirrors` with only Chiffchaffs and 20 Long-tailed Tits of note. The farmland towards the airport had hunting Kestrels and Marsh Harriers while a steady southward movement of Jackdaws was also noteworthy with at least 200 birds counted.
Walking back along the margins of south lake a mixed flock of 20 Swallows and House Martins hurried south and Barney paid his way this morning by flushing a Water Rail and four Snipe.

             Mockmill Sewer- "now, where`s that Corncrake he keeps muttering about..."

                               Ring Ouzels, Lade

                                Stonechats, Lade

                                Wheatear, Lade

Littlestone - Several garden Chiffchaffs here plus numerous Red Admirals and a flock of 20 Brent Geese overhead calling.

                               Red Admirals, Littlestone

Thursday 16 October 2014

Butterflies and Peregrines

Dengemarsh  0900hrs - warm, dry and sunny, sw 2 - We spent the morning at Dengemarsh in balmy spring-like weather with a warm airflow coming all the way from the Azores, apparently. Walked the gully where a pair of Peregrines showed well, calling to each other, atop pylons and a Kingfisher flashed up and down the sewer. Overhead a steady passage of Mipits, Goldfinches and Skylarks, plus 20 coasting Swallows, while in the scrub a scattering of Robins, Dunnocks, Great Tits, 10 Reed Buntings, four Song Thrushes, three Chiffchaffs and a Ring Ouzel.
More Swallows drifted over as we grilled a large mixed flock of some 200 Mipits, Reed Buntings and Linnets in the arable field by Springfield Bridge. Checked the hayfields and flood noting only Bearded Tits along the way. Two Great White Egrets flew over Hookers and the obligatory Marsh Harriers, Kestrels and a Sparrowhawk were in action.
Most noteworthy through the morning was the number of Red Admiral butterflies on the move with a steady southward stream heading towards the sea, plus several Clouded Yellows and a Common Blue at the bottom of the gully.
We rattled up 106 species during the week with the highlights for the guests being a trio of egrets, Woodlark, Yellow-browed Warbler and the Ring Ouzels.

                                Meadow Pipits, Dengemarsh Flood

                                Peregrine, Dengemarsh Gully

Wednesday 15 October 2014

Woodlark & Continental Coal Tit

Dungeness - 0900hrs - mild, calm, cloudy - The sea resembled a mill pond for our one hour seawatch from the hide where the only real spectacle was a 200 strong flock of Brents moving languidly down-channel low over the sea. A few Kittiwakes, Gannets, Med Gulls, Common Scoters, two Little Gulls, singles of Arctic and Great Skuas added to the interest, while a large mixed flock of gulls and Gannets were feeding on a shoal well offshore. At the Patch a 3rd winter Yellow-legged Gull was the only noteworthy amongst the commoners.
On the land the lighthouse garden held several Robins, Chiffchaffs, Goldfinches, a Blackcap with plenty more Goldfinches, Mipits, Pied Wagtails and Linnets overhead. Moving round to the edge of the Desert a large flock of Mipits cried out for attention and whilst grilling through the wood sage and rank grass, hoping for a `big pipit,` up popped a cracking Woodlark, a scarce passage migrant down here that usually fizzes over calling and rarely grounds. Not so with this little beauty though, as it stuck around for at least an hour affording good views, on the deck and flying around calling, much to the delight of a clutch of local birders.

                        Barney got fed up with seawatching, and somehow found a ball...

                                Goldfinches, Lighthouse Garden

Whilst watching the Woodlark we had brief views of a Continental Coal Tit within a Great Tit flock sporting its distinctive blue-grey upperparts. Also noted around the peninsula several hundred House Martins and Swallows, ten Kestrels, two Black Redstarts, five Stonechats, Song Thrush, Skylark, Reed Bunting and Fieldfare over and a Ring Ouzel in the moat.
Lade - 1200hrs  - A scan of the sands from the boardwalk revealed the expected Curlews, Oystercatchers, Barwits, Dunlins, Sanderling, two Knots and 20 Swallows south.
RSPB - 1300hrs - Pretty quiet here although the Cattle Egret was still amongst the cows and we had a stunning Merlin and a flighty Ring Ouzel near the Corral. On Burrowes a Ruff and four Dunlins were the highlights, while over the road on ARC,  50 Goldies, four Ruff, two Blackwits and two Snipe added to the wader tally, plus 50 Brents over `cutting the corner`. Also noted here and there, Great White and Little Egrets, Swallows, Cetti`s Warblers, Tree Sparrows, Kingfisher, Green Woodpecker, Water Rails (calling), ten Kestrels and Marsh Harriers.
Dungeness - 1515hrs - We finished off at the fishing boats with a 90 minutes seawatch, in the company of PB, where a steady passage of Gannets and Kittiwakes was under way, plus around 10 each of Sandwich Terns, Med and Little Gulls, 200 Brents, 40 Common Scoters, three Arctic Skuas and two auks.
In summary, another cracking days birding around the Dungeness Peninsula.

                                Brents, Dungeness

                                        Gannet, Dungeness

Tuesday 14 October 2014

A fall of Ring Ouzels & a Yellow-browed Warbler

Lade - 0800hrs - mild, drizzle, w 3 - A slow start to a dreary old day weather wise with a trickle of overhead migrants comprising Mipits, Skylarks, Goldfinches and three Swallows. Still hundreds of Coots and wildfowl on south lake, plus Kestrel, Sparrowhawk and Marsh Harrier hunting behind the `mirrors`.
Birdwatching Break - Picked up two of our regular visitors (Ray and Stuart) from Ashford station who were down for a three day stay at Plovers; to be greeted by three Grey Wagtails flying around the taxi rank!
Faggs Wood - A brief stop for lunch in the car park yielded a decent range of woodland birds including Nuthatch, Treecreeper, Long-tailed and Coal Tits, Goldcrest and Jay. We crossed the Marsh via Warehorne Bridge noting 10 Kestrels and three Buzzards along the way, plus the usual Tree Sparrows and finches on the feeders at Midley.
Dungeness - With news breaking of a large fall of Ring Ouzels we headed straight for the point where we eventually saw up to 20 individuals on the edge of the Desert, Trapping Area and in the moat, where we had the best views. Several of the adult males showed really well around the moat before flying off clacking loudly. Throughout the afternoon large flocks of ouzels came and went across the DBO recording area with a total count somewhere in excess of 500!
Whilst working the moat we were fortunate enough to see a Yellow-browed Warbler that had been trapped earlier, following a call from PB (once I`d realised the volume on my phone was turned off... many thanks and apologies to those who tried to contact me earlier and got no response).
Also seen around the point: plenty of Robins, ten Blackbirds, three Song Thrushes, five Kestrels, 10 Mipits, five Stonechats, three Wheatears, two Swallows, five Pied Wagtails, Blackcap, Chiffchaff and Black Redstart.

                                               Ring Ouzels, Dungeness

                                            Yellow-browed Warbler, Dungeness

Boulderwall - Crossing the causeway road a Great White and two Little Egrets were on New Diggings while the Cattle Egret showed a treat close to the access road in the field by the old farmhouse, as usual feeding amongst the hooves of the suckling herd.
Scotney - In fading light we tried for the reported Bonxie but without success. All the expected wildfowl were on site but there was no sign of any Golden Plovers.
A cracking afternoons birding at Dungeness for the guests with Ring Ouzels, Yellow-browed Warbler and Cattle Egret the undoubted highlights.

Monday 13 October 2014

First Goldeneye

Lade - 0800hrs - mild, rain, cloudy, sw 5 - After spending the weekend in the Chilterns (Red Kites and that kind of thing...) it was a case of playing catch up with the WeBS count on the local patch this morning in wet and windy conditions. A redhead Goldeneye was the first of the autumn, while a count of 711 Coots was a personal site record.
I then counted the wildfowl on New Diggings and the ponds at Boulderwall for RSPB, but there were few birds present.
Scotney- Spent a couple of hours over two visits around midday checking out the plovers on the grass at Scotney from the lay-bye searching for yesterdays American version amongst a couple of hundred nervy Golden Plovers. While there were several adult Golden Plovers moulting out of breeding plumage there was one distinctive looking individual that showed only briefly before crouching in a fold in the ground and eventually being flushed by a Peregrine. Unlike the other Goldens this bird had extensive black blotching on the underparts running under the vent, a bold white supercilium and a grey caste to a spangled back.
As I say, views were brief and I didn`t note the underwing colour and could not rule out Pacific, or a runt Golden, so all in all pretty hopeless really. Still the likelihood is that it`ll stick around and maybe with better weather tomorrow offer up another chance as for most of the time the birds were hunkered down trying to shelter from the strong wind and squally showers.
Also on the grass six Ruff, ten Dunlin, two Curlews and the usual feral flock of Barnacle Geese.

                                Brents on the move, Dungeness

                              Is it a city in the sea? No, just a very large container ship

Dungeness - After going through the high tide, roosting gulls on the beach this afternoon checking for yesterdays Audouin`s (where the best I could muster was an adult Yellow-legged Gull) we joined PB at the fishing boats for an hour. A steady passage of Sandwich and Common Terns was underway down-Channel along with three large parties of Brents comprising in total around 100, plus 25 Common Scoters, three Teal, five Arctic Skuas, two Bonxies, five Med Gulls, two Dunlin, Sanderling, Curlew, Guillemot and Kittiwake.
Good numbers of skuas had been recorded earlier along with a Sooty Shearwater and at least five Leache`s Petrels (PB).
Called in at the Lade boardwalk on the way home where three Bonxies were harrying the gulls on the beach.

Friday 10 October 2014

Viz mig

Lade - 0700hrs - mild, showery, sw 3 - An early start this morning and after checking the lakes, where just the usual wildfowl, decided on a one hour viz mig from the aerial ramp, after all it is October, and pretty decent it was too with the following heading south into a light wind: 23 Skylarks, 15 Swallows, two House Martins, 125 Mipits, 12 alba wagtails, four Blackbirds, 40 Starlings, 45 Chaffinches, 16 Greenfinches, 72 Goldfinches, 105 Linnets, six Reed Buntings and singles of Rock Pipit and Yellow Wagtail. Also noted three Marsh Harriers, two Buzzards and five Kestrels behind the `mirrors`.

Thursday 9 October 2014

A flight of Curlews

Lade - 1000hrs - mild, cloudy, sw 6 - Another blustery day, but at least it was dry and with plenty of sunshine, while South lake had taken on the appearance of a small sea complete with white-topped waves. However, in the shelter of the ponds insect activity attracted several Chiffchaffs, and a Kestrel that attempted, unsuccessfully, to catch Migrant Hawker dragonflies. Five Swallows zipped over the ponds hurrying southwards.
Just for once I was in the right place at the right time when the Curlew flock drifted over from the bay, en-route to their roost site on the Desert. For five or six minutes they flew overhead, strangely silent, enabling an accurate count of 326 birds.

                               Curlews, Lade

ARC - An afternoon visit  to the Screen hide revealed very little apart from a distant Great White Egret and a Marsh Harrier sheltering from the wind. Over the road the Cattle Egret was still present amongst the cows at Boulderwall.

Wednesday 8 October 2014

A trio of Shearwaters

Dungeness - 0900-1200hrs - mild, cloudy, s 6/7 - Commenced a days guiding for two guests from Hertfordshire in the seawatch hide, in near gale force conditions, with a big sea running and plenty of spray in the air. Gannets were streaming past affording good close views along with Black-headed and Common Gulls, Med Gulls, Kittiwakes, Sandwich Terns, plus a distant few auks and scoters. We also had cracking views of at least 12 Arctic and two Great Skuas throughout the watch, several of which came in close chasing the terns and gulls, and watched in admiration as six plucky Swallows headed out for France into the teeth of the tempest.
However, it was the shearwaters that stole the show even though the majority were passing way offshore from our position. A single Balearic Shearwater passed inside the buoy showing well, plus at least five Manx further out along with several others too distant to differentiate. At least 10 Sooty Shearwaters moved down-Channel with many more distant shearwaters going unidentified in the poor weather; but when we called in at the fishing boats around noon and chatted to the sea-watchers it would seem that most were probably of the latter as over 100 were recorded throughout the day. Whilst there an albino Herring Gull flew through.
A circuit of the moat produced a handful of Chiffchaffs and Robins sheltering from the wind and a Yellow Wagtail called overhead.

                                Stormy Dungeness

RSPB - On New Diggings a Great White Egret showed from the road, while the Cattle Egret remained faithful to the suckling herd in the fields at Boulderwall. The usual Marsh Harriers, Kestrels and a Merlin were noted around the reserve, plus all the expected wildfowl on Burrowes, a Black-necked Grebe, six Dunlin, Raven, two Little and one Great White Egrets, Tree Sparrows, Chiffchaffs and Long-tailed Tits around the car park.
On ARC the expected wildfowl, eight Ruff, four Dunlins, Water Rail and Chiffchaffs in the willows.
We called in at the boats this afternoon but things had died down so decided to pull stumps.
Highlights of the day were the shearwaters and skuas off Dungeness, whilst 73 species were noted across the peninsula, so not too bad considering the wind, spray and some hefty showers.