Saturday 28 February 2015

Down memory lane

Dungeness - cold, cloudy, drizzle, sw 4 - 0845hrs - With the wind in a favourable direction we headed for the fishing boats this morning, and although we were late to the party, still managed to see a few more seabirds than of late. During a one hour watch from the fishing boats a steady westward passage of Black-headed and Common Gulls provided the bulk numbers along with the ubiquitous Cormorants and Great Crested Grebes on the water. Further out a trickle of Gannets and auks came and went while at least 50 Red-throated Divers and 100 Brents passed east. Single figures of Fulmar, Common Scoter and Merganser were also noted. However, larger numbers of the aforementioned moved through before we arrived, plus a coasting 1st winter Glaucous Gull that also headed up-Channel (per PB).
Lade - Checked out the beach from the Tavern as best we could in the buffeting wind, just in case the Glauc had diverted into the bay, but it was not to be. On the pits most of the wildfowl were sheltering from the wind in and around the willow swamp which did include at least one redhead Smew.   

Birding garb and kit from yesteryear

With the weather deteriorating this afternoon I decided to set about a few unfinished tasks around the cottage, but as per usual got distracted. Rummaging through some old bird logs I came across a crumpled black and white photograph of myself and some birding cronies taken in our teenage years around 1969/70 on the East Bank at Cley. Boy oh boy were we a good looking bunch of babe magnets with our long and foppish hair and skinny frames!
At first glance it didn't appear much had changed in clothing and kit down the years, but drilling down, of course much had. Neutral coloured garb was still the order of the day but our coats were a mixture of ex army flak jackets, modish parkas (complete with faux fur around the hooded rim), or old naval duffle coats that trebled in weight when wet. I don't think Gore-tex had been invented back then, and if it had it would`ve been way too expensive for me, as all my clobber came from an army and navy surplus stall on Watford market where ten bob was the maximum price of any item.
The head gear seemed to be of the standard bobble hat, but with the bobble intact. Footwear was an assortment of bumper boots or Doc Martins and I remember my old mate Mutley Clarke being very attached to a pair of heavily stained desert boots. Jeans (Levis or Wranglers) were, naturally, flared and I was a big fan of the tank-top sweater.
The doyen of the Cley birding scene back then was Richard Richardson (RAR) who used to turn up on his Norton (sometimes with his Norfolk terrier sitting atop the petrol tank!) wearing leather jacket and jeans topped off with a black beret. He`d then saunter up the East Bank, sit down by the sluice overlooking Arnold`s marsh, light up a Capstan full strength and hold court to us young `uns who used to hang on his every word.
Which brings me on to birding kit. My bins were a crappy old pair of 10x50 Charles Frank Nipole which I bought for £9 19s 11d with my paper round money, but I thought they were brilliant. Mutley had a pair of Audubon Swifts, Kevin Downer an old pair of Barr and Strouds, while RAR sported a pair of Ross bins. Hardly anyone had a camera back then and telescopes were of the naval brass draw tube type which you propped across a leg when laying down on a seawatch, or on a mates shoulder when standing up.
It goes without saying that there were no electronic gadgets or mobiles back then, but we all carried notebooks for jotting down sightings and sketching `that rarity`. The other item of kit I favoured was a duffle bag, ideal for stowing food, fags and drink.
So, there we go, simpler times they were maybe, and if there are any teenager birders out there reading this nonsense, make the most of it, cos those halcyon days don't last for long.

Friday 27 February 2015

Sunny Scotney

Scotney - 0830hrs - cold, sunny, nw 3 - What a difference a day makes with a welcome return of the big yellow ball of fire in the sky. We parked by the farm entrance and walked the cycle path up to the copse on the rise, where the fields held less birds than yesterday with just a few Curlews, Oystercatchers and Shelducks on the grass, plus the usual dabblers elsewhere. At least one Black-necked Grebe was at the Sussex end.
A walk through the farm and out back revealed that most of the ducks were on the new pits including the 1st winter drake Scaup, plus a tidy flock of 52 Pintails and eight Dabchicks. A single sleeping Avocet and a flying Snipe and Green Sandpiper were the pick of the waders, along with several Lapwings and Redshanks, plus four Little Egrets. Passerines were prominent too with singing Corn Buntings and Skylarks, Mipits, Reed Buntings and Tree Sparrows, plus Buzzard, Kestrel and several distant Marsh Harriers. Met CP and DG on the farmland who`d had a pair of Grey Partridges earlier.
Back at the roadside lake and several Ringed Plovers and a Little Stint had returned to feed on the grassy spit by the farm entrance.

                                New pits, Scotney Court Farm

                                Cheyne Court Wind Farm

Littlestone - Making the most of the fine weather we headed for the beach at Littlestone to check the waders on an in coming tide. En-route a tweet told of a dead albatross/large gull on the beach hereabouts but we could find no such corpse between the Varne to the water tower section. However, there were plenty of regular shorebirds: Sanderlings, Dunlins, Grey Plovers, Redshanks, Curlews and the like. By the sewage outfall I was chuffed to see that the lonesome Oystercatcher with the upturned beak that`s been present all winter on the bay was faring well and still acting like a Turnstone, foraging along the tideline.

                               Oystercatcher with deformed beak, Littlestone

Thursday 26 February 2015

Scotney waders

Lade -  mild, wet, sw 3 - This past fortnight has all been a bit strange what with having to cope with a death in the family and all. We closed the business as a mark of respect and to take stock. Yesterday was the funeral, and truth be told we shall both be glad to see the back of February down here at Plovers and look forward to cheerier times next month.
However, life goes on as they say and the weather today reflected our general mood, with low cloud, mist and drizzle/heavy rain throughout, as we circuited the local patch. The lakes held a couple of Goldeneyes and there was a decent selection of Sanderlings, Dunlins and Ringed Plovers along the foreshore, plus two beached barrel jellyfish.

                                Starlings chattering away in the gloom

Scotney - Had to nip into Lydd this afternoon so we checked out the pits as with the coast road being closed until the weekend there was virtually no traffic belting by. In the heavy rain it was possible to pull up anywhere along the road and scan the grass and water without fear of a gravel lorry careering past. And there was plenty to see with hundreds of Teal and Wigeon grazing and dabbling on the fields along with an array of waders: Redshanks, Oystercatchers, Lapwings, Curlews, Dunlins, Ringed Plovers and a Little Stint. A couple of Little Egrets came and went and a mixed flock of Starlings and Pied Wagtails worked the poached area around the straw bales.
The difference it makes here with hardly any traffic on the road is incredible and with a better weather forecast in the offing for tomorrow, we shall return for a proper look around. Scotney has been the most productive site locally for waders this year with Little Stint, Avocet, Green Sandpiper and Spotted Redshank already noted and no doubt plenty more surprises to come.

                                Spot the Little Stint!

We drove the range road on the way home in pouring rain which yielded nought, while the wintering Cattle Egrets were in their favoured field at Brickwall Farm at the bottom of Dengemarsh Road.
At Cockles Bridge there were two Little Egrets feeding amongst the sheep and from the causeway road Smew and Great White Egret were noted on ARC and a Black-necked Grebe on New Diggings. Apparently the drake RCP was still on the dipping pond on the bird reserve, but I couldn't be asked to negotiate the badly pot-holed access road for a plastic duck.

Monday 23 February 2015

Ringed Plovers

Lade - cold, dry, sunny, sw 4 - Having not visited the local patch for almost a week we spent a bit of time this morning giving it a going over, including the beach. On the lakes it was a case of, `as you were`, minus the Goldeneyes and Smew, so nothing of note apart from a pair of Oystercatchers that appear to have claimed the nesting territory on the scaffold island. Cutting back along the foreshore a decent crop of waders were being pushed close to shore on the incoming tide, all the usual stuff plus a count of 32 Ringed Plovers, which were most probably migrants as rarely are there any more than 10 knocking about during the winter on the bay.

Scotney - This afternoon, in blustery conditions, we spent some time checking out the waders on the grass from the lay-by where at least 26 Ringed Plovers were present, confirming that these also were  probably passage birds along with the ones on the bay earlier. Its always worthwhile giving plover flocks a grilling for an early LRP or even a KP; well, I can dream... However, its the old story that the longer you look the more you see, particularly here with all the dips and folds in the pasture and over the course of an hour the colour ringed Little Stint eventually put in a brief appearance before disappearing over the brow towards the lake. Other waders included single figures of Dunlin, Redshank, Curlew, Oystercatcher and a Knot, while the lonesome Barnacle Goose was still in the field by the farm entrance.

                                There`s a couple of Peregrines up there somewhere!

Cockles Bridge - Scanning the skies back towards Boulderwall was indeed a sight to behold with thousands of Golden Plovers and Lapwings billowing into the clouds as a result of two Peregrines. The wind had really picked up by late afternoon but the falcons were perfectly at home riding the air currents and diving amongst the plovers. A terrific spectacle and as the raptors drifted away over towards the airport the waders flopped back down again covering the grazing fields with birds.

Sunday 22 February 2015

Away days

Dorset - Just back from a few days away in west Dorset visiting relatives. En-route on Friday we called in at Avon Heath in the New Forest to stretch our legs where we jammed a Dartford Warbler in classic heathland type habitat along with Stonechat, Yellowhammer and Linnet. Infact, due to the rain easing off there were plenty of common woodland birds out and about feeding; Nuthatch, Coal and Long-tailed Tits, Treecreeper, Great Spotted and Green Woodpeckers and the like.
Pushing on further west into Dorset and Buzzards seemed to be everywhere, I know they`re common place on the Marsh these days but down here there are numerous, far outstripping Kestrel in numbers now.

                                Frome Valley, Dorset

  We spent two day based at Chilfrome, a cutesy little village set amongst rolling downland at the confluence of the rivers Hook and Frome, to the west of Dorchester. The contrast to the flatlands of Dungeness and Romney Marsh could not be more different, and it felt good to explore unfamiliar territory and bump into wildlife such as Grey Wagtails and brown trout along the watercourse, and roe deer and Marsh Tits in the copses, stuff I rarely see back east. Little Egrets were common along the river valleys and we had one large flock of 200 Redwings, while Bullfinches, Yellowhammers. Linnets and Long-tailed Tits were two a penny in and around the stubble fields and thick hedgerows. Corvids, including Ravens, were also numerous, being as this is sheep country, and on Saturday morning I counted eight Buzzards `kettling` over a hillside. During the night several Tawny Owls were active around the village. An interesting few days and Barney had a great time bossing around two Labradors!

Wednesday 18 February 2015

Black-necked Grebes

Dungeness - warm, dry, sunny - Called in at the Obs this morning after which a circuit of the moat revealed little more than a few Blackbirds, Dunnocks and a Chiffchaff. The sea too was quiet with no apparent movement, just the usual gulls, grebes and Cormorants.

                                Black-necked Grebes, New Diggings

RSPB - Nothing new around the bird reserve with two Black-necked Grebes and three Smew on New Diggings, and two Smew, five Goldeneye and Shelduck on ARC. The usual Tree Sparrows around Boulderwall, plus Curlews, Marsh Harriers, Buzzards and Great White Egrets in the fields.
Lade - On north lake a Black-necked Grebe was new while the two Smew remained on south lake.

Tuesday 17 February 2015

Great Grey Shrike

Westbere Marshes - warm, dry, sunny, n 2 - Spent the day in the Stour valley with Marshman checking out sites for forthcoming articles. We started at Westbere, in glorious spring-like sunshine, although it was pretty quiet with the woodland and marsh almost birdless; just where have all the Siskins and Redpolls gone? And I`ll bet 30 years ago it was good for Lesser spot and Willow Tit too. Still, no use harping on about the `good `ol days`, while on the plus side we did see four soaring Buzzards, two Marsh Harriers and heard Cetti`s Warbler, Water Rail and Grey Wagtail. The marsh beyond the river looked good for a crake in May and the lake held a few common wildfowl and gulls and that was about it really.

                                Westbere Marsh and River Stour

Grove Ferry - It wasn't much better here either, apart from a couple of hundred each of Teal and Lapwings from the viewing ramp and a few common wildfowl from the first hide, plus pinging Bearded Tits and distant soaring Buzzards, Marsh Harrier and Sparrowhawk. However, we were spared the slog out to marsh hide, through the mud, when a returning birder reported seeing, "bugger all" out there.
Never again shall I bemoan a slow days birding at Dungeness...

                                Grove Ferry

Chilham - In the vain hope of salvaging something from the day we called in at Chilham on the way home, and low and behold the Great Grey Shrike was still in the same hedgerow as the back end of last year! This time it was soaking up the late afternoon sunshine and showed well from Branch Road before disappearing over towards the brook.  
A day of few birds, but at least the sun shone and it gave us plenty of time to natter about the birds of Sri Lanka.

                                Great Grey Shrike, Chilham

Monday 16 February 2015

Waiting for the spring...

Lade  - The last couple of days birding have been about as inspiring as the weather - dull and benign. Its always the same this time of year, trudging around dreaming of a Dartford Warbler skulking in the gorse, or a Red Kite drifting overhead, neither of which has materialised, not yet anyway.
And then I hear that certain Hillies to the north have had the temerity to flash up their moth traps, and further more have actual caught some of the little blighters; down here on the treeless flatlands its rarely worth bothering much before mid March, and only then if it warms up a bit, so not long now...
Still, mustn`t grumble though as there are plenty of wintering egrets, sawbills, geese and wild swans hereabouts, and a few Avocets were on the move through the bird reserve today. So, all things considered, positive stuff; and then I heard through the grapevine that a certain rarity hunter from the North Downs is at large on the shingle, all bright eyed and bushy tailed, keen as mustard and full of optimism, in the field all day, that`s what I like to hear, the first `rare` of the year surely awaits over the coming days...

Saturday 14 February 2015

More of the same...

Lade - mild, rain clearing, cloudy, se 2 - We worked the local patch more out of a sense of duty that any expectancy of anything new. The two Smew remained on south lake along with three drake Goldeneyes and four redheads, but generally wildfowl numbers continued to decline as is usual this time of year. On the shingle ridges out towards Mockmill at least 200 Curlews were at roost.
Dungeness  - Scanning from the seawatch hide I thought there was a twitch in progress, but it turned out to be a group visit by members of the Sussex Ornithological Society! There was very little happening on the sea with single figures of Gannet, Red-throated Diver and Kittiwake in an hour, plus one flock of 25 Brents and five Pintails east. At the Patch at least two Med Gulls amongst the melee over the boil and two Black Redstarts in the power station complex.
Kerton Road - After coffee and a veterinary consultation at the cafĂ© we checked the now silent gravel pit where Shelducks and Oystercatchers were sussing out potential nest sites. Several Skylarks fed around the workings and a Stonechat was on the scrub.  

Thursday 12 February 2015

Smews, swans and raptors

Dungeness - 0900hrs - cold, dank, light airs - Met up with Lew from Orpington at the point this morning for a days birding around the Marsh. A quick look at the mill-pond like sea confirmed that apart from hundreds of Great Crested Grebes and Cormorants nothing much was happening seabird wise. A Black Redstart on the power station wall was the only bird of note.

                                 Kestrel, access road

RSPB - From the causeway road two redhead Smew, Great White Egret and Goldeneyes on New Diggings was a good start, while the fields at Boulderwall were packed out with several thousand Lapwings, Golden Plovers, Wigeon, feral geese, Woodpigeons, Starlings and Stock Doves, plus two Great White Egrets, Marsh Harriers, Kestrel, Buzzard and Tree Sparrows on the feeders.
On Burrowes eight more Smew including a cracking `white nun` that performed a treat in front of Scott hide alongside hundreds of common wildfowl out on the lake

                                Smews, Burrowes

The two Cattle Egrets were in the field next to Brickwall Farm at the bottom of Dengemarsh Road.

                                The Dengemarsh Two

Scotney - Hundreds of feral geese, Wigeon and common diving ducks here, plus three Black-necked Grebes, but despite extensive searching we failed to find the wintering Scaup. Also of note, three Dunlin, two Redshanks, a Ringed Plover and yet another Great White Egret.
Walland Marsh An afternoon circuit of the Marsh delivered the Bewick`s and Whooper Swans in their usual field at Horse Bones Farm, Tree Sparrows and finches at Midley, Corn Buntings, Yellowhammers and Reed Buntings at Brenzett, plus winter thrushes, Buzzards, Sparrowhawks and Marsh Harriers elsewhere.

                                Bewick`s Swans, Walland Marsh

                                Whooper Swan, Walland Marsh

ARC - Finished up in Hanson hide with further good views of Smews fishing in the reed bed, a Kingfisher and a passerine flock containing Long-tailed Tits, Chiffchaffs and a Goldcrest.

In summary a pretty decent days birding in great company with 79 species racked up without really trying.

Monday 9 February 2015

High tide waders

Littlestone - mild, sunny, light airs - Spent most of the day visiting a care home at Littlestone. However, an hour on the beach around midday, in warm sunshine, delivered a welcome break, along with some smart waders around the Varne slipway.

                                Dunlin and Sanderling

                                Grey Plover and Sanderling


                                Redshanks and Turnstones

Sunday 8 February 2015

WeBS & harriers

Lade - cold, sunny, n 2 - Its ducks and harriers day again. On Lade a pair of Shelducks were new, while Smew and five Goldeneyes remained on south lake. Coot numbers had dropped to 500 and Teal increased to 280. Along the foreshore millions of shellfish had been washed up following the recent gale force north-easterlies, mostly cockles, but plenty of whelks, razors and the like.

                                Shellfish, Greatstone Beach

                                Sunset, Walland Marsh

Walland Marsh -  This afternoon the wintering flock of wild swans were in their usual field by Horse Bones Farm. At a private site eight Marsh Harriers came into the reedbed roost (one of our lowest counts) where Bearded Tits, Cetti`s Warbler, a Bittern and a hunting Barn Owl were also noted. Elsewhere, 50 Linnets, 10 Song Thrushes, two Little Egrets, 500 Golden Plovers, four Buzzards, Kestrel, a calling Little Owl and as we left site the distant sound of Bewick`s Swans flying to roost. Another decent session on the marsh with light airs and a cracking sunset.

Saturday 7 February 2015

No change

Cold, dry and overcast - Had a run out this morning commencing at the local patch where there was no change from the past week with only a single Smew of note. On the beach over 800 Oystercatchers, 200 Sanderlings and 55 Barwits the highlights.

                                Spring lambs, Scotney

Next stop Scotney, and a walk out the back through the farmyard yielded 10 Corn Buntings and a few Tree Sparrows, plus five Little and one Great White Egret on the pits. A flock of 20 White-fronts flew in from Cheyne Ct and several Marsh Harriers drifted over. Couldn`t find the Black-necked Grebes at the Kent end but the Scaup was reported from the double bends. Checked out the fields at Lydd airport where there was nothing much more than a small mixed flock of Lapwings and Curlews, three Stonechats and a spanking adult male Marsh Harrier.
On Walland the wild swans were back on the wheat field near Horse Bones farm, while the two Cattle Egrets had returned to their `usual` field opposite Wraxalls in Dengemarsh Road, Lydd.
Called in at Screen hide on ARC on the way home where a Great White Egret and five Goldeneyes were on show.

Friday 6 February 2015

Blasting north-easterly

Lade  - cold, dry, sunny, ne 7 - The wind swung round to the north-east yesterday evening, picking up during the night to gale force and rattling the windows around the old cottage. It is the most savage of wind directions down here and made for the coldest day of the winter so far, despite the bright sunshine. As a result the open water on the lakes were largely devoid of wildfowl as they took shelter in the willow swamp.
ARC - It was a similar picture here, although surprisingly a couple of Bearded Tits showed low down in the reedbed in front of Screen hide. Also noted hugging the margins, two Goosanders and a Smew, plus Marsh Harrier and Great White Egret overhead.
Walland Marsh - From the comfort of the car the wild swans showed well close to the lane near Horse Bones Farm, grazing the winter wheat and drinking from a small flash in the field. I counted 86 Bewick`s and one Whooper Swan.

                                Bewick`s Swans, Walland Marsh

                                Whooper front, Bewick`s behind, Walland Marsh

                                Whooper Swan, Walland Marsh

Scotney - Plenty of wildfowl here plus two Tundra and 20 White-fronted Geese amongst the feral Greylags and Barnacles. The 1st winter Scaup was sheltering within a Wigeon flock by the double bends, while the three Black-necked Grebes were at the Scotney farm end.
Burrows - All the usual wildfowl on the lake including Smew, Pintail and a Black-necked Grebe, The fields at Boulderwall attracted 50 Curlews and a Great White Egret.
Apparently, the blasting north-easterly is due to relent overnight, hopefully...

Thursday 5 February 2015

Elmley Nature Reserve

Elmley, Sheppey - cold, sunny, showers, ne 4 - Spent the day on the island, or more specifically at Elmley, researching for a Countryman article. The weather for the most part was bright sunshine and blue skies, but with a biting wind coming off the North Sea making for runny eyes and nose.
I haven't been here for a while, and certainly not since the former RSPB section has been absorbed back into the farm. So, what`s changed. Well, apart from the signage, not a great deal, the good work that the Society has carried out since the 70`s is being continued today, plus there have been some  improvements to footpaths and the addition of a screen shelter overlooking the Swale.
For me this place has always been about the spectacle and today did not disappoint with the wet meadows packed out with waders and wildfowl, many roosting while the adjacent mudflats were covered at high tide. The numbers present were truly staggering with thousands of Lapwings, Golden Plovers, Curlews and Redshanks making up the bulk, plus hundreds of roosting Dunlins, Sanderlings, Grey Plovers and Barwits. I counted one flock of 400 Blackwits and another of 50 Ruff and 30 Avocets, in all 15 species of waders, including a Little Stint from Wellmarsh hide. As for wildfowl there was masses of Mallard, Wigeon, Teal, Shoveler and Shelduck, plus Brents and a flock of 50 White-fronts; I certainly would not want to do the WeBS count here!
The long walk out to the hides delivered Rock and Meadow Pipits, Stonechats, Skylarks and Goldfinches, Reed Buntings and a flock of 20 Corn Buntings in game cover along the access road. As for raptors I reckon I saw at least 20 Marsh Harriers, two ringtail Hen Harriers, Peregrine, Buzzard and Kestrel.

                                Lapwings, Elmley

In the afternoon I met Gareth the farm manager and amongst the topics of conversation was the dramatic improvements to Lapwing fledgling numbers since the entire 3,200 acres at Elmley has come under the new management teams` jurisdiction. The results are mainly due to rigorous (and legal) predator control, combined with effective ditch fencing to deter foxes (see pic below). Breeding Redshanks too have benefited, along with increasing numbers of Avocets.
So, the future looks bright for the Lapwing at Elmley and I look forward to visiting again in the spring when the fledglings are out and about.

                                Anti-predator fencing

                                Bruce Pearson mural, Wellmarsh hide

Wednesday 4 February 2015


Lade - cold, sunny, n 3 - An icy start to the day, following last nights rain and sub-zero temperatures, made for treachery underfoot as we slithered across the shingle towards south lake, where Smew had risen to two in number. Buzzard, Marsh Harriers, Sparrowhawk, Green Woodpecker and Chiffchaff also noted. Cutting back along the foreshore we checked the tideline up to Greatstone and back down to Lade looking for Snow Bunting and the like, but without any luck. Whilst counting waders (125 Barwits and 82 Knots the highlights) opposite Romney Tavern I was surprised to see a Bonxie come barrelling in off the bay and scattering a flock of Black-headed Gulls before heading off towards Dungeness; probably the individual that`s been knocking around all winter. The foreshore was covered in thousands of dead cockles washed up on the high tide and at least three Barrel Jellyfish.
  Back towards Lade an Oystercatcher probing around on the shingle caught the eye as it should`ve been out on the sands with its chums pulling lugworms and not acting like a Turnstone. On closer inspection it appeared to be a runt 1st winter bird (greyish legs and brown-fringed back feathers) with a deformed bill. It allowed a close approach down to ten yards, but seemed to be finding food alright amongst the tideline flotsam. Over the years I`ve seen all manner of odd shaped Oystercatcher beaks down here and I guess this individual, with an upturned one, has just had to adapt its feeding technique accordingly to survive.

                                Oystercatcher, Lade
Littlestone - We continued our tideline quest for passerines by walking from Littlestone to St Mary`s Bay and back where five Stonechats, two Ringed Plover and a Turnstone was the sum total. On the golf links there was no sign of any owls, just single figures of Mipit and Skylark.

Tuesday 3 February 2015

Purple Sandpipers

Dungeness - 0830hrs - cold, cloudy, n 2 - A bitter cold day with temperatures just about getting above freezing with occasional wintry showers. We checked out the Patch first thing which had plenty of gulls over the boil and on the beach, but nothing of any note. The new sea defences were still being installed in front of B station while at A station the main structure was being dismantled.
Out to sea a few Gannets passed down-Channel.

                                New sea defences, Dungeness

Lade  - A redhead Smew was on south lake along with four Goldeneyes and all the usual wildfowl, while a Buzzard perched on the wall `mirror` was constantly pestered by Magpies.
Hythe - On the way back from Folkestone this afternoon I called in at Stade Street sea front where three Purple Sandpipers showed well in watery sunshine on the concrete blocks picking over a patch of bright green sea weed. There was precious little else though due to diggers shifting shingle along the beach.

                                Purple Sandpipers, Hythe sea front

Willop Basin, Dymchurch - From the sea wall the fields and paddocks held nothing much more than a few gulls, corvids, swans, Lapwings and Fieldfares. On the sea a small flock of Great Crested Grebes and singles of Common Scoter and Shoveler was about all I could muster. 

Sunday 1 February 2015

Flotsom & Jetsom

Lade - cold, dry, sunny and calm on Saturday, cloudy and windy Sunday, nw 5 - As it was the weekend I continued with the recent theme of staying local and using shank`s pony; its a double whammy really, good for the environment and better for my wasteline, plus Barney loves it. We must`ve walked miles over the two mornings criss-crossing the local patch, doing the gravel pits, the lakes, Mockmill, up to Lade north and the foreshore from Greatstone to Kerton Road. I`m lucky having such a varied local patch, and had the place to myself, always a bonus.
Anyhow, due to the light airs on Saturday we gave the lakes a thorough going over where Teal reached a heady 250, but Coot were down to a mere 620, while on north lake two redhead Smew, five Goldeneye and a Pintail were the highlights. Cetti`s Warbler, Chiffchaff and Long-tailed Tit all noted around the willow swamp. At the back of Lade north towards Belgar a weedy field yielded 20 Corn and 10 Reed Buntings, plus a pair of Red-legged Partridges which have become scarce now the local shoot has ceased to be. Buzzard, Marsh Harrier, Kestrel all present along with up to 1,000 Woodpigeons and hundreds of corvids, Lapwings and Golden Plovers.

                               Part of a large flock of Woodpigeons

The bay was noteworthy for a count of 920 Oystercatchers and at least 12 Barrel Jellyfish washed up on the beach. Despite spending ages checking the gulls on the sands the best I could conjure up were two Med Gulls and a Kittiwake.

                                Barrel Jellyfish

                                920 Oystercatchers!

Working around the garden during the afternoon delivered Goldcrests in the fir trees and two Sparrowhawks overhead that set the Herring Gulls off.
Our bathroom is a great spot for wildlife and over the past week I`ve been fascinated by the antics of a Daddy Long-legs that has remained active throughout, spinning webs and performing incredible feats of acrobatics as it traverses the ceiling. Only once have I seen it take a small flying insect, a gnat, but it must be finding plenty to sustain itself through the winter months as it looks in good nick.


Pholcus phalangioides