Friday 31 July 2015

Wood Sandpipers

Lade - cool, cloudy, se 2 - Another wretched night in the Plovers moth trap with only 35 macros of 18 species, but did include Ruby Tiger and Brown-line Bright Eye new for the year - not to be confused with Bright-line Brown Eye of course, which I try not too, but still cannot get my head round those two similar names.., plus a very drowsy Migrant Hawker.

                                     Brown-line Bright Eye

                                Migrant Hawker

                                Ruby Tiger

Scotney - Spent most of the morning wandering around out back amongst the smoking linseed (I thought that practise had been banned...) and corn fields scanning harriers of which there was at least five individual Marsh, plus several Buzzards and Kestrels. All the expected farmland passerines noted and it was good to see a number of juvenile Yellow Wagtails in the sheep folds.
On the gravel pits, front and back, a combined tally of ten Dunlins, eight Curlews, five Common Sandpipers and Avocets, two each of Little Ringed Plover and Whimbrel, a Green Sandpiper along the main sewer and a Wood Sandpiper that flew over calling before settling at the Sussex end. The two Spoonbills were still present and at least five fledged Black-headed Gulls sat on an island being attended to by adults. Amongst the hundreds of feral geese and swans were three Egyptian Geese and four Snow Geese types, while a Little Owl was slumped asleep in the roof of a barn.

        Barney enjoying farmland birding, he reckons it beats seawatching any day...

                                Egyptian Goose, Scotney

                                Linseed burn-off, Cheyne Court

                                Sunbathing Starlings, Scotney

ARC - At the allotment House Martins were picking up mud from puddles to repair nests on the eaves of the adjacent housing estate, where there appeared to be young in at least three nests that I could see.
From Hanson hide a smart Wood Sandpiper and a Ruff were busily feeding on the closest island, alongside 150 Lapwings, six Blackwits and four Little Ringed Plovers.

                                Wood Sandpiper, ARC

Thursday 30 July 2015

Southbound Swifts

Lade - 0700hrs - cool, sunny, nw 3 - A chilly night resulted in little activity around the Plovers trap with only 25 macro moths of 15 species, although it did included two each of Garden Tiger and Snout.
Over the pits the only noteworthy event was a passage of several hundred Swifts south, mostly high up in the clear blue sky.
Romney Marsh - Had a mooch around the farmland tracts where the oil-seed rape and barley harvest was in full swing. Apart from a few gulls, Lapwings and a couple of Buzzards there was little of note, while a field near Newchurch was already under the plough, no wonder its a bird less wasteland out there.

                                Newchurch, Romney Marsh

Burrowes and ARC - Pretty quiet with only a handful of waders including six Blackwits on ARC and a couple of Dunlins on Burrowes, while yesterdays Great White Egret remained on Dengemarsh.
Scotney -  With news of a female Montagu`s Harrier reported on the farmland out back we went in search, but drew a blank. All the usual Yellow Wagtails and Corn Buntings noted on the fields, plus two Spoonbills, five Avocets and two Common Sandpipers on the pits and two Little Owls on a barn.
Dungeness - 1500-1630hrs - We joined PB at the fishing boats for the slowest seawatch ever: six Gannets and a few terns, a Grey Seal and a Porpoise in 90 minutes. However, its never a dull moment down here and we were fascinated by the clarity of light over the sea which enabled us to pick out landmarks across to Boulogne, such as the wind turbines on the harbour wall, Napoleon on his tower and the Basilica on the hill above the town. We could even make out the traffic flowing (unlike the M20...) on the autoroute and easily see the chalk cliffs of Cap Gris-nez.
Also of note were at least 100 Swifts heading across the Channel, so high they looked like gnats.

Wednesday 29 July 2015

Garden insects

Lade - cool, sunny, nw 3 - A nippy old night resulted in a disappointing 12 moths in the Plovers trap, five of which were Dusky Sallows. However, the bright sunshine soon attracted a decent range of insects into the sheltered part of the garden to bask and feed including a pristine Marbled White amongst eight species of butterflies, plus a Six-spot Burnet and plenty of bees on the lavender.

                                Marbled White


                                Red Admiral

                                Six-spot Burnet

                                Meadow Brown

I also noticed our favourite, worn out and tail-less Blackbird enjoying the warm rays in the safety of the Leylandii whilst keeping a close eye on Ginger Jim, Mrs PT`s cat. Also nearby was our first Willow Warbler of the return passage.


Over the pits another Willow Warbler was noted along with two Marsh Harriers and a trickle of southbound Sand Martins.

Tuesday 28 July 2015

Lade Ponds and Red Knots

Lade - cool, cloudy, sw 5 - Following on from the deluge on Sunday the shocking `summer` weather continues with two days of near gale force winds rasping across the peninsula, during which time the moth trap has remained idle. This morning the wind relented a little (although it picked up again during the afternoon) such that you could at least cross the storm ridges without too much of a buffeting. As we ventured over towards the lakes a trickle of Sand Martins were already flying south towards Dungeness, while on the Desert the roosting Curlew flock had hunkered down out of the wind behind a large willow.
Along south lake huge baulks of Canadian pond weed were heaped up on the bank once again attracting two Common Sandpipers and the obligatory Starlings and House Sparrows. More Sand Martins were skimming the lake and a juv Marsh Harrier was making heavy going of it behind the `mirrors`. It was hopeless trying to check the wildfowl, so we headed for the sanctuary of the ponds.

                                             Raspberries and Cream

                                Large White

                                Ribbed Melilot

                                Small White

Lade ponds is my favourite part of the site as it is sheltered from the prevailing winds, being sandwiched between the caravan park and willow swamp; and at this time of year it is a riot of colour and activity. Even though the ponds are beginning to dry out plant growth remains luxuriant with vibrant patches of yellow Ribbed Melilot contrasting with reds of Valerian and tall Hemp Agrimony. Common dragons and damsels were everywhere along with butterflies such as whites, browns, skippers, Painted Lady and at least one Common Blue. We spent a happy hour here just mooching around enjoying the rich diversity of plants and animals on offer before heading back out into the wind tunnel and home for breakfast.

                                Common Blue - its been a poor summer for this butterfly

Burrowes - With the sun arcing over the yard arm it was time for a wader fix; both Burrowes and ARC are best viewed in the afternoon (the later the better) with the light behind you. Hadn`t been down for a week and even more wader-friendly islands had emerged attracting a scattering of distant 10 Dunlins, Ringed and Little Ringed Plovers, Greenshank, two Knots and four Redshanks. However, fortunately the two adult Red Knots flew over and landed on the mud in front of Firth hide affording superb views of these stunning waders in breeding plumage which were just beginning to show signs of wear. Its not often you get such great views of Knots so I made the most of it for a full 10 minutes before they were flushed by a Sparrowhawk. 

                                Red Knots, Burrowes

ARC - Not quite so profitable here with just a juvenile Dunlin and two Little Ringed Plovers amongst 120 Lapwings, plus legions of common wildfowl and hundreds of Sand Martins over the lake.
NB: The first Great White Egret of the season was reported from Dengemarsh this morning, so that's winter on the way then!

Sunday 26 July 2015

Sand Martins

Lade - cool, cloudy, sw 3, rain by mid-morning - A Chinese Character was new for the year in the garden trap, plus the first of many Flounced Rustics no doubt. Moth numbers were low, but did include 15 Silver Ys, probably as a result of the southerly, overnight winds.

                                Chinese Character

                               Silver Y

We flogged the local patch this morning, in cool conditions (sporting me cosy new DBO fleece), ideal weather for Barney who was bouncing around all over the place. First off we walked Mockmill that was full of Sedge Warbler families, some of which I reckon had second brooded, along with a sprinkling of Whitethroats, Linnets, Dunnocks, Blackbirds and two each of Cetti`s Warbler and Stonechat.
Crossing the Desert small groups of Sand Martins filtered south into the increasing head wind making for a Channel crossing, while over south lake there was at least 300 more hawking insects, the largest assemblage of the autumn so far. As migrant numbers have decreased over recent years Sand Martins are one of the last remaining mass, viz mig spectacles at Dungeness with many hundreds of thousands passing down the peninsula until mid September. In spring they`re almost a rarity but over the coming weeks are omnipresent as migrants look for the shortest sea crossing.

                                Curlews leaving their roost

                                                  Sand Martins

                                Tufted Duck brood

The rotting water weed along the margins continues to attract insects which in turn brings in Starlings, House Sparrows and Pied Wagtails, plus today three Commons and a Green Sandpiper. As we counted the wildfowl (including three new broods of Tufted Ducks on the water) the entire Lade Curlew flock of 220 birds flew from their roost site on the shingle towards the bay along with a calling Whimbrel.
Dungeness - With the wind veering southerly and reports of one or two shearwaters passing the point earlier we headed down to the fishing boats to join a small throng of regulars. Over the coming 90 minutes a steady movement of over 100 Gannets and a trickle of Common and Sandwich Terns passed by, plus singles of Fulmar and Little Tern and a flock of 15 Swifts. The weather window soon broke and as the rain returned, reducing visibility, we called it a day. 

                                Gannet, Dungeness

Saturday 25 July 2015

Arctic Skua

ARC - sunny, dry, nw 3 - After yesterdays deluge the sunshine and wind soon dried the shingle out and by midday you wouldn`t have known near 2" rain had fell a short time ago. A wide selection of waders on offer from Screen and Hanson hides included 100 Lapwings, five Dunlins, four LRPs, three Ringed Plovers, Blackwit, Greenshank, Knot, Oystercatcher, Redshank, Common and Green Sandpipers. Also present the long staying immature Little Gull and several Common Terns, while a Hobby swept through sending the Sand Martins skywards.
  DB alerted us to an orchid he`d found by the track down to Hanson hide, which we deliberated over at length, but on later reflection was probably a Southern Marsh Orchid past its prime.

                               Southern Marsh Orchid, ARC

Dungeness - 1600hrs - From the fishing boats this afternoon in the company of SO we had a decent enough hour seawatching with a steady flow of west bound Gannets, Common and Sandwich Terns, plus several Kittiwakes, a Fulmar and 20 Sand Martins. Thirty Common Scoters passed east, along with five Dunlin and a Sanderling, and just as we were about to pack up a cracking adult light phase Arctic Skua, cruised offshore. Several Harbour Porpoises were also noted.

Thursday 23 July 2015

Jersey Tiger

Lade -0600hrs -warm, cloudy, still - A near perfect night for moth trapping with 51 species of macros in the garden trap including a cracking Jersey Tiger, NFY.

                                             Jersey Tiger, Lade

Whilst emptying the trap a flock of four Whimbrels passed over the cottage southwards, calling.

Scarce Chocolate-tip

Lade - warm, dry, sunny, sw 2 - Following several poor moth catches (due to strong winds) last night it relented to deliver a smart Scarce Chocolate-tip, new for the trap site and a Red Data Book moth. I`ve been expecting this beast for a while now as it`s visited most of the surrounding traps hereabouts on the Dungeness peninsula where it is resident. Dot Moth was also NFY among 35 species of macros.
We`ve planted out many shrubs and plants in the garden over the past ten years to attract insects and this afternoon Hummingbird Hawk-moth and Painted Lady fed on buddleia and lavender respectively. Plants never cease to amaze me and spring up where you least expect them. A case in point is a tobacco plant that emerged underneath the fir trees, having attained five feet in height and looking pretty spectacular with white blooms and a wonderful night time scent for attracting moths.

                                Tobacco plant, Plovers

                                Scarce Chocolate-tip, Plovers - new for the site

ARC - Called in around noon where a red Knot was the wader highlight alongside the usual Lapwings and plovers, plus a Blackwit and Common Sandpiper. The long-staying immature Little Gull was on an island with a number of Common and Black-headed Gulls and two Common Terns.

                               Red Knot, ARC

Lade - A beautiful evening for a stroll along the beach on an ebb tide which was notable for several hundred Common Gulls amongst around 1,000 Black-headed Gulls feeding on shrimps flapping around in the gloopy mud. The only waders on offer were a few Ringed Plovers and Oystercatchers.

                                Common Gull, Lade beach

Tuesday 21 July 2015

More waders

ARC - warm, dry, sunny, sw 3 - Spent some time in Hanson hide this afternoon where the highlight was a smart adult Little Stint in breeding plumage alongside 100 Lapwings, 10 Dunlins, five each of Ringed and Little Ringed Plovers, two Common Sandpipers and a Blackwit. Out on the water hundreds of Coots, ducks and swans, plus a 1st summer Little Gull and plenty of Sand Martins on the move.
Burrowes - More plovers and sandpipers here, plus Redshank and Greenshank but no sign of the Wood Sandpiper seen this morning. A Peregrine showed well scattering the gulls before settling on an island to drink and bathe.

Monday 20 July 2015

A Dungeness wader day

Lade - low cloud, mist and mizzle, sw 3 - Perfect weather conditions for grounding a few passage waders with Common and Green Sandpipers around the lake margins, plus two Whimbrels, 50 Dunlins, 15 Redshanks, 12 Barwits (first of the autumn) and 10 Sanderlings on the bay alongside the usual Curlews, Oystercatchers, Ringed Plovers and 20 Sandwich Terns.

                               Dunlin, Greenshank and Lapwing, Burrowes

RSPB - This afternoon on the bird reserve, in murky conditions, six Blackwits from the south end of ARC, a Little Stint, five Dunlins, two Greenshanks, Green Sandpiper, Little Ringed and Ringed Plovers and 100 Lapwings from Screen/Hanson hides, plus a 1st summer Little Gull and a Peregrine.
Over the road on Burrowes more Common Sandpipers, Dunlins, Ringed and Little Ringed Plovers, Greenshank, an adult Redshank with two juvs and a spanking Turnstone that dropped in as we sat in Makepeace hide.
Both these huge gravel pits are perfect at the moment for waders with an array of low, recently emerged islands, with Firth hide the premier spot for close views, photography and hopefully where that rare `peep` will drop in soonest.
Also coming and going on Burrowes today singles of Little Stint, Spotted Redshank and Wood Sandpiper. Needless to say the passage migrants were nearly all adults.

Sunday 19 July 2015

A busy weekend

Lade - cool, sunny, sw 5 - A busy weekend with guests coming and going as the B&B season moves into overdrive, so limited opportunities to get out into the field in between entertaining our nearly five year old grandson... However, the garden moth trap was the best of the year so far with over 200 moths of 41 species including another Sussex Emerald (worn female), plus NFY Dusky Sallow and Blackneck.


                                Dusky Sallow

The lakes were besieged today with hundreds of visitors from far and wide attending the listening `mirrors` open day as camera toting enthusiasts made the most of the fine weather and access onto the island. OL and team were doing a splendid job of shepherding and informing the punters of the site history.

                                30 ft `Mirror`

                                200` Wall `Mirror`

                                Lade Sound `Mirrors`

All the usual breeding birds noted, plus a flock of 60 Curlews going to roost on the Desert. In the shelter of the strong wind plenty of common grassland butterflies and dragonflies were on the wing, including several second brood Small Coppers and Common Blues.
ARC - Saturday - Yesterday afternoon I managed to slip away for an hour and admire Dungeness`s third White-winged Black Tern of the year performing in front of Hanson hide like a good `un, Unfortunately, from a bridge-camera point of view, it was on the wing constantly and not easy to photograph, but there should be plenty of good pics on the blogs judging from the number of long-tom twitchers on site. Also noted a 1st summer Little Gull, but the waders from Friday appeared to have departed. 

Friday 17 July 2015

A hat trick of Sussex Emeralds

Lade - cloudy, muggy, occasional drizzle, sw 5 - Thanks to the wind swinging round to a westerly vector overnight three very worn Sussex Emeralds appeared in the garden moth trap this morning, two females and a male, which is my best ever catch in a single night.

                                Sussex Emerald, male

A couple of visits to the lakes and gravel pits delivered Common and Green Sandpipers and a Greenshank, plus OL preparing for a very busy Sound Mirror open day on Sunday.
ARC - On the way back from the allotment this afternoon a decent clutch of waders were on show from the Screen hide and the south end including 15 Redshanks, three Greenshanks, Common and Green Sandpipers, four LRP`s and a Ruff, plus a 1st summer Little Gull. Several Marsh Harriers floated and over and a Peregrine flushed the Lapwings skywards.
Lade - More waders on the bay as the tide receded with 45 Redshanks and 50 Dunlins the highlights.

Thursday 16 July 2015

Crepuscular curios

Lade - 0700hrs - muggy, drizzle, overcast, E 2 - A pretty decent catch in the garden trap with the first Oak Eggar of the season, plus Green Pug, Buff-tip and Marbled Coronet of note.
1030hrs - Checked the beach from the Tavern and was gobsmacked to see a huge increase in Curlew numbers, up to a minimum of 360; some were already on the wing heading to roost on the Desert. Also counted 105 Oystercatchers, five Ringed Plovers and two each of Blackwit and Whimbrel. A Grey Seal was once again following the incoming tide hunting flatfish.

                               Grey Heron, Romney Marsh

                                Oak Eggar

This afternoon whilst crossing the Marsh we paused to watch a juvenile Grey Heron picking up titbits disturbed from a flock of grazing sheep; can`t say I`ve ever noticed this kind of behaviour before...

                                Indian Balsam, Kings Wood

                                Kings Wood, Challock

Kings Wood, Challock - In the company of CP we left the wind-swept flat lands this evening for the contrasting scenery of an ancient forest in search of crepuscular curios. Walking down to a large area of clear-felled sweet chestnut there was hardly a sound to be heard apart from the ubiquitous clatter of Woodpigeons and a few Chaffinches and Wrens. The margins of the chestnut clearing were covered in great swathes of the invasive, but spectacular, Indian Balsam in full flower.
Weighing up our options around the clearing we jammed two Tree Pipits as a lone Song Thrush began an evening lament. Otherwise all was quiet until nightfall when several Tawny Owls vocalised and then, at 2135hrs, the distinctive, eerie song of a distant `churring` Nightjar broke the silence across the glade. After a brief pause, and to our surprise, the Nightjar magically then appeared about 50 yards away, perched long-ways and in silhouette, on a dead branch affording superb views as it sang. After several minutes it was off again showing white wing flashes, swooping low across the chestnut stumps, presumably hawking insects, followed by another bout of singing from a distant song post (many thanks to NB for supplying the local gen).
By 2200hrs the show was over and we left site promising ourselves to revisit these strange, wooded lands more often...

                                Tree Pipit, Kings Wood