Wednesday 30 September 2015

Much of a muchness

Lade - cool, sunny, dry, e 5 -Another day with the wind blasting in off the sea and short of migrants around the local patch; although there could be birds present, just tucked away in cover. A couple of Redpolls around the willow swamp were the only new arrivals.
Dungeness - A run down to the point this afternoon delivered further good views of the Yellow-browed Warbler in the lighthouse garden, plus 2 Firecrests. The Grey Phalarope was absent from the Patch, where it had been seen earlier, and on the walk back a Merlin flew along the beach.

Tuesday 29 September 2015

Just another `normal` day at Dungeness

Lade - cool, dry, sunny, e 5 - The day commenced with Goldcrests filtering through the garden fir trees and a few Swallows overhead. After breakfast we checked the pits where migrants were hard to come by in the strong wind with just a Wheatear and several Stonechats on the desert, a few Mipits, a Reed Bunting and 2 Skylarks. Around the willow swamp there was a noticeable reduction in numbers of Robins, tits and Chiffchaffs.

                                Reed Bunting, Lade

Dungeness  - With news breaking of yesterdays Grey Phalarope appearing at the Patch this morning we were soon watching the bird flying past the seawatch hide towards the fishing boats, although it eventually made its way make to the power station outfall where it spent most of the afternoon.
We then joined SB and DB at the lighthouse garden watching a flock of up to 7 Continental Coal Tits feeding in the lee of the wind on the western side of the garden. These are cracking little migrants put on a super show feeding low down amongst the tree mallows and bugloss; even posing for a few dodgy pics with the bridge camera. As the tits were on the deck a warbler flew down with them which turned out to be a Yellow-browed! No great surprise really, considering how many there are in the country at the moment, but always a marvellous little sprite to see. Both species soon moved off into the gorse at West Beach but returned to the lighthouse garden later in the afternoon giving further superb views; we called in again and had another brief view of the warbler and a Firecrest,  while listening to some bloke yarning on about the Welsh rugby win over England at the weekend...

                               Continental Coal Tits, Dungeness

Scotney - The front pits and grass was full of birds this afternoon including all the usual feral geese, ducks, and plovers, plus 10 Curlews, 3 Blackwits, 2 Ruff, 2 Dunlin and a Black-necked Grebe.

                                Feral geese, Scotney

I`m not a great year lister, but what with the phalarope, tit and warbler being new for the year I did have a quick tally up this evening and came up with a round 200 species seen so far this year across the Romney Marsh, which is a bit down on past years, but there`s still plenty to come in October no doubt, and we have missed a few sitters.

Sunday 27 September 2015

Staying Local

Lade - 1045hrs - Warm, dry and sunny, e 4 - After the guests had departed we had a good look around the local patch, but in the brisk wind coming straight off the sea it was slim pickings. A few Mipits and hirundines drifted over, plus 2 Skylarks, while 5 Stonechats were scattered about the desert scrub. In the shelter of the ponds and the buddleia thicket beside north lake things looked up a touch with 10 Chiffchaffs, 5 Blackcaps, 5 Goldcrests, Kingfisher and Firecrest. A large tit flock attracted a hunting Kestrel which managed to drop onto one unsuspecting juvenile Great Tit.
The huge numbers of Coots, dabbling ducks and grebes remain on south lake and a couple of Marsh Harriers were testing the waterfowl out for any weaklings.

                                Kestrel, Lade ponds

As it was high tide a few shorebirds drifted over: 25 Curlews, 3 Ringed Plovers, 2 Dunlins and a Redshank. Cutting back along the beach we had superb views of a Clouded Yellow basking in the lee of the sand dunes.

                                Clouded Yellow, Greatstone beach

Saturday 26 September 2015

A Passage of Grey Wagtails

Lade - cool, clear, n 2 - A pre-breakie walk out back with Barney was notable for a steady overhead movement of Grey Wagtails, strictly an autumn passage migrant down here. During the course of the morning at least a dozen went over; its a good job Grey Wags have a distinctive call otherwise they`d go largely unnoticed. Plenty of Chiffchaffs were present around the ponds with Goldcrests coming and going in the garden firs along with migrant Blue Tits. Also, a lone Snipe flushed from cover on the storm ridges.
I`m determined to find a Yellow-browed Warbler on the local patch this autumn and with birds steadily moving down the east coast (closest at Sandwich Bay) our chances are improving. With the wind now due east an afternoon visit, yielded a small flock of Chiffchaffs feeding in the sheltered fir trees by the aerial mound and several Painted Ladies basking in the warm sunshine.

                               Painted Lady, Lade

Dengemarsh - A midday visit produced very little apart from another Snipe, a flock of 50 Mipits in Hayfield 3, 2 Ravens over and 20 Swallows over the lake.
Ketchley Copse - (aka Lydd Wood). After putting in a shift at the allotment a walk around the small copse by the roundabout delivered 10 Chiffchaffs, 3 Blackcaps, 2 Goldcrests and at least 10 Blue Tits.
Dungeness - A handful each of Sandwich Terns and Arctic Skuas, plus 2 Common Terns, a distant auk and a few Gannets was about all we could muster after an hour at the fishing boats this afternoon.

Friday 25 September 2015

Migrating geese

Lade - clear, calm, sunny, - Having been blasted and doused with weather systems off the Atlantic these past weeks it looks as though we`re in for a more settled, and dry, period of high pressure with  an easterly airflow. The water levels down here are very high for late September with some of the net rides in the Trapping Area already flooded and the cormorant island on ARC almost submerged as though its mid-winter. With anticyclones off the continent at this time of year thoughts begin to turn to eastern sprites such as Yellow-browed and Pallas`s Warblers, although after what occurred on Tuesday perhaps we should set the bar a little higher, we shall see...
Anyhow, back to reality, once again the garden fir trees received Goldcrests and Chiffchaffs this morning with the occasional Siskins and Goldfinch overhead whilst checking the moth trap, which yet again yielded little.
A quick circuit of the local patch before doing breakfasts revealed few migrants apart from singles of Wheatear and a trickle of Swallows south. The main lake however was packed with waterfowl, including an influx of 50 Shovelers attracted to the rafts of floating water weed. Marsh Harrier and Buzzard were already on the wing behind the `mirrors`.
Littlestone -  Late morning two high-flying flocks of yapping geese passed south with the second group of 19 confirmed as White-fronts.
Scotney - All the usual feral geese, Lapwings and gulls here, plus 5 Dunlins, 6 Curlews and a Black-necked Grebe on the lake nearest Lydd.

                                Sea Campion, Lade

RSPB -  This afternoon from Dennis`s hide two Spoonbills soared over Burrowes and a Great White Egret was on the fields at Boulderwall. Over the road a walk down to the pines delivered a few Chiffchaffs, Long-tailed, Blue and Great Tits and a Spotted Flycatcher, while a Grass Snake showed well in front of Screen hide.

Wednesday 23 September 2015

A Quieter Day

Lade  - cool, dry and sunny, nw 3 - In between cooking breakfast for guests we had a nice little garden cameo with migrants attracted to the fir trees basking in the early morning sun. The star of the show was a Firecrest, plus several Chiffchaffs, Blackcaps and Goldcrests.

                                  Black Redstart, Dungeness                                   

                                Chiffchaff, Plovers

Dungeness - 1000hrs -  A wander around the bushes at the point revealed very little apart from a few Chiffchaffs, Robins, Goldfinches, a couple of Goldcrests and a Black Redstart, while the Wryneck was seen earlier at the southern end of the Trapping Area. A Raven over the power station got the full treatment from a pair of Peregrines. There were a number of visiting, long-faced birders searching for yesterdays flycatcher, but to no avail.
An hour at the boats this afternoon with PB and TG delivered the usual half dozen Arctic Skuas offshore, plus a trickle of Gannets and terns.

Tuesday 22 September 2015

Acadian Flycatcher - Dungeness

Dungeness - 0930hrs - cool, sunshine/showers, cloudy, nw 2 - We`d just finished doing breakfast for our guest, and was about to head out over the local patch, when I received an excited phone call from Plodding Birder to the effect that he`d just found an American Flycatcher - at the fishing boats!!!
This prompted a rapid change of plan, and a speedy drive to the point, to join a small group of locals already watching/photographing said bird around the fishing boats and bulldozers. As with most tired, grounded migrants it was not shy, flying around the shingle snapping up insects and settling close by amongst the flotsam and jetsom of the fishing industry. Over the next couple of hours the sun broke through affording good photographic opportunities which should assist in making a specific identification of what is a notoriously tricky group of flycatchers.
Now, I`m no expert on this genus of American flycatchers, having only seen an Alder Flycatcher before, in the spring at Jamaica Bay, USA, but looking at the pics we have to consider Alder/Willow or Yellow-bellied/Acadian Flycatchers. I haven't had a chance to have a good look online, but with reference to the Sibley guide (not always reliable) Alder/Willow both appear greyish on the upperparts and our bird appeared almost bright green at times with a yellowish wash to the underparts, which would suggest Yellow-bellied/Acadian. It also had a bright and complete eye-ring, a stoutish bill and long primary projections, which would lean towards the latter.
At one stage it pooed on a bulldozer, which was promptly collected for later analysis; presumably DNA can be extracted for a positive id.

                                Empidonax flycatcher, Dungeness                              

                                `Classic` empidonax flycatcher habitat, Dungeness

We called back down the point this afternoon by which time the bird had moved inland to a private garden where an attendant army of twitchers had virtually encircled the place. Despite the drizzle it did show again, sallying forth to snap up insects, but the views were nothing like this morning. After a natter with a few old faces and another chat with the finder, Martin Casemore, (aka Plodding birder) we called it a day and headed for home. A great find Martin, whatever the final outcome on the id, and well deserved.
The phone didn`t stop ringing this evening, what with birders enquiring about the flycatcher, but in conversation with Stuart Winter of the Express newspaper, he was convinced that American birders who`d seen the pictures online confirmed it was a first autumn Acadian Flycatcher.

                                Flycatcher twitch, Dungeness

Monday 21 September 2015

Viz Mig Lade

Lade - 0645hrs - mild, overcast, sw 2 - From the aerial mound a pretty decent one hour viz mig with hundreds of hirundines streaming south down the coast comprising mainly Swallows. A trickle of passerines overhead tallied: 3 Skylarks, 210 Meadow Pipits, one Grey Wagtail, 15 Yellow Wagtails, 8 Pied Wagtails, 4 Blackbirds, 2 Song Thrushes, 10 Chaffinches, 14 Goldfinches, 25 Siskins, 40 Linnets, 2 Redpolls, 5 Reed Buntings and, best of all, a Yellowhammer, only my second record in almost 10 years watching this site. After the first hour it ground to a halt as though a tap had been turned off, which led me to wonder just what had passed over our cottage during the night...

                                Brent Geese, Dungeness

                               Down the hatch

Dungeness  - 1400-1530hrs - A seawatch in company with PB from the boats this afternoon was entertaining for up to 10 Arctic Skuas harrying a steady flow of Sandwich Terns. A trickle of Gannets passed further out, plus 2 Common Scoters, a Common Tern, a Kittiwake and my first autumn flock of Brent Geese at around 70 birds migrating down-Channel. A few pulses of Swallows headed out to sea and at least half a dozen Harbour Porpoises were noted just offshore.  

Sunday 20 September 2015

Start `em young

Lade - We`ve been on grandparent duty this weekend looking after a 5 year old Albert. I`ve already tested him on his bird identification with the Usborne cards, 50 Birds to Spot (49 out of 50) and this morning he got to grips with the finer points of Gadwall and Dabchick, in the field, on Lade lakes.
Actually, there was plenty to see and hear out back with Mipits, Goldfinches and Siskins trickling overhead and the autumns first Skylarks and Song Thrushes. In the garden Chiffchaffs and a Goldcrest called from the fir trees and pulses of Swallows headed south (yesterday 2 Buzzards went over around noon while we were cutting Barney`s coat).
Last night was quite chilly and as a result first thing everywhere you looked birds were basking in the sun warming up: Starlings, House Sparrows, Jackdaws, Woodpigeons and the like.

                                " Dabchicks, daddams"

                                Short-coated, Barney

                                      Sunbathing Woodpigeon, Lade

I`ve found that `little and often` is the best adage with kids, and on this sunny weekend there`s been plenty of interest around the garden. Moths are a given and he can `do` Setaceous Hebrew Character and Large Yellow Underwing from the trap, while a Hummingbird Hawk-moth on the lavender was a gift. This mornings warm sunshine lured in Red Admiral, Comma and Small Tortoiseshells to the last of the flowering Buddleias. Robins are everywhere at the moment and I`ve shown him how to copy the `tic, tic` call with a couple of pebbles and tried out a bit of `pishing`, without much success, but its early days...

Friday 18 September 2015

Viz mig Swallows

Lade - mild, overcast, rain, w 2 - Another shocking day of weather with rain on and off throughout, some of it heavy. During one of the breaks a wander over the pits revealed the usual wildfowl on south lake, plus a Swift amongst the hirundines over the willow swamp. A few parties of Siskins and Mipits passed overhead, plus a single Grey Wagtail.
Dungeness - 1400hrs - An hour from the fishing boats during another respite in the rain was notable for a constant flood of hirundines, mainly Swallows, making the Channel crossing. Birds were skimming the shingle between us only a few feet away, being driven on by some internal body clock that says, "it`s time to go". It doesn't matter how many times I watch this spectacle it never fails to impress; the wonders of migration and all that, sounds corny, but there you go, I`m easily pleased.
As for seabirds, well, apart from a high Bonxie heading west and a Black Tern it was mostly all about a steady flow of 100 Sandwich Terns, plus 20 Common Terns and an Arctic Skua in the bay cadging a free meal.

Thursday 17 September 2015

Passage migrants

Lade - cool, dry, sunny, nw 3 - At last a dry day, and one full of passage migrants from the off with small parties of Siskins, Goldfinches and Mipits over the cottage, plus 2 Grey Wagtails. More than 100 Mipits were grounded on the shingle ridges by south lake along with 10 Yellow Wagtails and 2 Wheatears, while over the water hundreds of hirundines hawked insects. By the ponds a large passerine flock comprised mostly Great, Blue and Long-tailed Tits, plus 10 Chiffchaffs, 3 Blackcaps, 2 Whitethroats and a Goldcrest (but not a sniff of a Yellow-browed...). Sparrowhawk, Kestrel and Buzzard all noted around the site.
Dungeness - We then worked the bushes along the edge of the Desert at the point which was full of common migrants as follows: 100 Mipits, 2 Tree Pipits, 10 Pied, 15 Yellow and 3 Grey Wagtails, 25 Wheatears, 4 Whinchats, 10 Whitethroats, 15 Chiffchaffs, 20 Chaffinches, 5 Reed Buntings, 5 Blackbirds, 2 Willow Warblers, 20 Robins and a Black Redstart, plus hundreds of hirundines over and singles of Hobby, Swift and Greater pecker. Brilliant stuff, and shades of the `old days`. 

                                "Now, where`s that Wryneck gone?"

                           Great Spotted Woodpecker, Whinchat and Wheatear, Dungeness

Greatstone Beach - Finished off early afternoon checking the waders on a rising tide in warm sunshine where the highlight was a flock of 21 Knots amongst hundreds of Curlew, Oystercatcher, Dunlin and Sanderling, plus a massive 220 Sandwich Terns and more Yellow Wagtails and hirundines heading south along the beach.
Over the three days, of variable weather conditions, we located 121 species of birds for Ray and Stuart with the undoubted highlights being yesterdays seawatch and this mornings passage migrants.

Wednesday 16 September 2015

Dodging the rain

Dungeness - 0900hrs - mild, rain, overcast, e 4 - A dozen Siskins over the cottage was a good start to the days birding. However, the promise of a south-easterly from early on, forecast by the Met Office yesterday, failed to materialise, yet again. We kicked off in the seawatching hide with TG for a steady hour of Sandwich Terns, Gannets, several Common Terns, 4 Common Scoters, a Black Tern, 4 Arctic and one Pomarine Skua up-Channel, plus a Grey Seal and several Porpoises. Around the point in the drizzle, there were small flocks of Mipits and Goldfinches, a Tree Pipit over, a Black Redstart on the power station fence and several Chiffchaffs in the scrub.
RSPB - Moving onto the bird reserve and a circuit delivered Black Tern, 2 Pintails, Grey Plover, Common Sandpiper and Ruff on Burrowes, a Redstart by Dennis`s hide and plenty of Common Whitethroats, Sedge Warblers and Chiffchaffs around the trail, two Great White Egrets, several Marsh Harriers, Raven and a Sparrowhawk. Hundreds of hirundines fed on the masses of flying insects in the humid air.
Scotney - Heavy rain here, but all the usual feral geese, 20 Yellow Wagtails, 10 Curlews and a Whimbrel.  

                                Yellow Wagtail, Scotney

Dungeness - Back to the point and another seawatch from the fishing boats with PB and TG, in good light and closer birds, comprised hundreds of Gannets and Sandwich Terns moving down-Channel, plus 5 Arctic Skuas, a Brent Goose, Manx, Kittiwake, Razorbill, Guillemot, 2 Black Terns, 10 Common Terns and best of all a flock of 4 cracking Balearic Shearwaters. Throughout the watch a constant stream of hirundines coasted westwards. Around the point several large mixed flocks of gulls on the shingle contained 20 Sandwich Terns and an adult Yellow-legged Gull.
All in all, a decent day, despite the rain. 

                               Gulls and terns, Dungeness

We finished the day with brief flight views of the Wryneck at the southern end of the Trapping Area, along with Whitethroat, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff and Wheatear.

Tuesday 15 September 2015

A bathing Sparrowhawk

Kenardington - warm, sunny, sw 3 - Picked up Raymond and Stuart at midday from Ashford, who are down for a three day Birdwatching Break. We commenced along the Royal Military Canal searching for migrants feeding in the bushes on the more sheltered north bank where Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff and Blackcap were just about seen in the strong wind. Also, three species of hirundines, two woodpeckers, common tits and finches, Kestrel and a Raven being mobbed by crows. Driving across the Marsh we noted a `flock` of 3 Turtle Doves near Hamstreet, Common Buzzard, Reed Buntings, Yellow and Pied Wagtails, but best of all a Sparrowhawk bathing in a puddle that stayed put for five minutes, affording cracking views and even a few dodgy pics through the car windscreen.

                               Sparrowhawk bathing, Kenardington

ARC - Onto the bird reserve and first stop the fields at Boulderwall that yielded distant views of the Cattle Egret, 2 Marsh Harriers, 20 Yellow Wagtails and 4 Tree Sparrows. From Hanson hide 3 Black Terns and a Black-necked Grebe, plus all the usual ducks. On the cormorant island a decent flock of waders comprised 8 Dunlins, Turnstone, Knot and a Little Stint. Long-tailed Tit, Water Rail and Chiffchaffs also heard from the hide, a Sparrowhawk over and 2 Red-crested Pochards in the inlet down by the pines. On the walk down 5 Spitfires and a Hurricane flew low overhead.
Walland Marsh - A drive out on the Marsh this evening delivered more Yellow Wagtails, Common Buzzard, Marsh Harrier, Kingfisher and a brief views of a distant Barn Owl.

Sunday 13 September 2015

Weather woes

                                Sunrise, Lade Bay

Dungeness - 0615-0815hrs - mild, cloudy, light airs - With the promise of a south-easterly we rose early to be greeted by a spectacular sunrise over the bay, but light airs - yet again the Met Office had got it wrong. However, an hour in the seawatch hide with TG and SO delivered the expected early morning movement of Sandwich Terns, gulls and distant Gannets, plus 4 Arctic Skuas, a Bonxie and 2 westbound Balearic Shearwaters that fluttered by reasonably close over a mirror-like sea.
A Grey Wagtail and a few Mipits were on the power station sewage pans with a Black Redstart and Pied Wagtails along the fence. Small flocks of Swallows and martins gathered on wires and above the old light in preparation for a Channel crossing, while the bushes around the point held 20 Chiffchaffs, 2 Willow Warblers, Blackcap and a number of Robins.

                               Hirundines over the old light, Dungeness

Lade - After breakfast it was time for the monthly WeBS count on the lakes where Coot and Gadwall top scored at 560 and 352 respectively, plus 28 Moorhens and 23 Dabchicks also attracted to the huge rafts of floating water weed, some thick enough to support a Grey Heron.
Migrant wise streams of hirundines pushed south, no doubt hoping to cross the Channel before the rain set in. Warblers were thinly distributed with just Chiffchaff and Blackcap noted, while a few Mipits and Yellow Wagtails passed overhead. In the calm before the rain 5 Kestrels, 2 Marsh Harriers, Buzzard and Sparrowhawk all noted. By the time we arrived home, just before noon, the rain band hit making it time for second breakfast.  

                                Cattle Egret, Boulderwall

ARC - By mid-afternoon the rain cleared and we went for a wander down to Screen hide and the pines where a large flock of passerines comprised mainly Chiffchaffs, Great, Blue and Long-tailed Tits, several Blackcaps and a Lesser Whitethroat. Robins were everywhere, plus 10 Blackbirds, 5 Tree Sparrows, 3 Song Thrushes and 2 Reed Buntings. From Screen 3 Marsh Harriers drifted over disturbing the Golden Plover/Lapwing flock and 5 Ruff. On the water, Black-necked Grebe and Red-crested Pochard.
Nipped over the road before going home where the Cattle Egret was present in the Boulderwall fields following the suckling herd around.

Saturday 12 September 2015

Skuas, Sooties and a boatswain bird...

Lade - 0700hrs - mild, cloudy, sw 3 - An early walk out back before the rain band crossed the peninsula revealed a steady passage of Swallows and Sand Martins streaming south with hundreds more over south lake. A flock of 12 Wigeon were new in amongst a big increase in Coot and Gadwall to around 1,000 combined, plus 23 Dabchicks feeding amongst the floating water weed.
In the shelter of the brisk south-westerly at the ponds a few Willow and Reed Warblers, Chiffchaffs and a Blackcap, while a Redstart was a surprise find in the scrub by the main track. Several Mipits, Linnets and Yellow Wagtails passed overhead while scanning from the aerial mound.
The garden moth trap was stuffed with Setaceous Hebrew Characters, Large Yellow Underwings and the like, plus a migrant Vestal and, new for the year, Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing.

                                             Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing

Dungeness - 1000-1130hrs - Joined TG, SO et al in the seawatch hide for a lively session with plenty of Gannets and Sandwich Terns on the move, plus a few Common Terns, a Fulmar, at least 10 Arctic Skuas coming and going and a Bonxie beating up a Great Black-backed Gull. The cream of the crop though was 3 Sooty Shearwaters, one of which cut in quite close, shearing dramatically over a choppy sea at high speed, ably demonstrating why they`re referred to as the `greyhound of the ocean`.

                   Red-tailed Tropicbird, collected from the Mozambique Channel, 1977
Last week Steve Gale posted an article on his blog ( )  about a past obsession with dead birds, and it seems that one or two other birders went through a similar morbid phase of collecting corpses in their youth, myself included, which reminded me of a treasured memory many years ago.
During the 1970`s I spent most of my time at sea and encountered a number of birds that came to nocturnal grief by colliding with the ships superstructure. My best pal back home, Kevin Downer, was a trained taxidermist and he showed me how to skin and cure a dead beast; and as I had plenty of corpses to practise on became reasonably accomplished with scalpel and borax. Wilson`s Petrel, Blue-footed Booby, Pintado Petrel and Black Noddy all went under the knife as cabinet skins and given to Kevin to perfect his art once I returned home. What happened to those trophies I don't know, lost in the mists of time and all that, but there was one bird that I remember being transfixed by and has survived to this day.
In 1977 I shipped out on the SS Linga, a Shell tanker, and one of the largest ships afloat at the time; it was so long that we used a bicycle to get from one end to the other! Anyhow, I digress. Whilst on passage to the Persian Gulf (in the Mozambique Channel near the Comoros Islands) I picked up a large, white seabird off the deck one morning that had hit the funnel during the night, but was in immaculate condition.
It was a boatswain bird, as sailors referred to them, and the previous day I`d been watching small flocks of these gorgeous seabirds, with an incongruous flight action, feeding around the ship near their breeding islands. The combination of red bill and tail made for an easy identification: it was an adult Red-tailed Tropicbird. So, out came the blade and powder and the skin was soon flat-packed for the journey home in a suitcase.
However, I didn't want this specimen to remain as a cabinet skin so asked Kevin to mount and case it for show, which he duly did. Sadly, over the years, and several house moves, it has taken a bit of a battering, but still sits in our study as a reminder of one memorable day in the Indian Ocean long, long ago.
What chance one of these beauties on a Dungeness seawatch I wonder...

Friday 11 September 2015

Quiet end to the week

Lade, ARC, Scotney, Greatstone - warm, dry, sunny,  e 4 - It was a case of slim pickings this morning as we worked our way around four sites in search of migrants. On the local patch 2 Whinchats and a Lesser Whitethroat was about the best we could conjure up, while ARC, from the causeway road, was covered in Sand Martins and Swallows, plus a Black-necked Grebe. The roadside fields at Scotney held 20 Yellow Wagtails, 20 Golden Plovers, 4 Ruff and a Common Sandpiper amongst the feral geese, Curlews and Lapwings. We even tried the small wood at the bottom of Dunes Road where there was several Willow Warblers, Goldcrests, Chiffchaffs and a Spotted Flycatcher, plus 2 Whinchats and a Stonechat in the paddock. The arable fields out back yielded a few more Yellow Wagtails, 2 Wheatears, 3 Skylarks, 10 Mipits and 2 Kestrels. 
Elsewhere today there was no reported sightings of the Cattle Egret or White-winged Tern on the bird reserve and few waders due to the high water levels. However, up to 3 Great White Egrets are still present and no doubt with the predicted weather change over the weekend, and an influx of birders,  something should be found.
At Dungeness the sea could be a good bet tomorrow on a southerly wind as skuas (including a Pom) and terns have been regularly seen all week, plus the odd Sooty Shearwater, along with a few ducks, auks and Gannets. On the land a sprinkling of common migrants, including Redstart and Firecrest were noted today.

Thursday 10 September 2015

White-winged Tern - a patch tick

Lade - warm, dry, sunny, e 4 - 0600hrs - A cracking morning with bright sunshine and a warm easterly airflow had us out and about early before doing breakfasts for guests. A scattering of Whitethroats, Wheatears, 2 Whinchats and a Stonechat was the best of the migrants on the shingle ridges, plus the now regular trickle of Mipits and Yellow Wagtails overhead.
But the main event was on south lake where a juv White-winged Tern was feeding over the water, presumably the bird that has been present on the ARC/The Patch over the past week or more. Normally, a site first would be cause for some celebration, and a high five with Barney, but we`ve been spoiled for white-wingers this year at Dungeness, still nice to see though.
ARC - A mid-afternoon call into Screen hide and the White-winger had moved back to its favoured site out on the lake amongst the hundreds of Sand Martins and Swallows. Also here 2 Pintail, 2 Ruff and 10 Wigeon amongst the common wildfowl.
Now that the Reed Warblers have fledged the Thursday volunteers and staff were clearing the reeds in front of Hanson hide to improve the viewing experience.

Wednesday 9 September 2015

"Nothing much was happening"

Dungeness - 0800hrs - warm, dry, sunny, e 3 - A change of scene this morning started with a brief seawatch from the hide where a few Common and Sandwich Terns were moving/feeding offshore, also 3 Common Scoters, Black Tern and Arctic Skua. Nothing much at the Patch apart from the usual gulls and a few terns.
We then checked the bushes across the point and along the edge of the Desert, where a steady passage of Swallows and Sand Martins was underway, but all was quiet apart from a few Willow Warblers, Chiffchaffs, Wheatears, Robins, Great Tits and singles of Whinchat and Lesser Whitethroat.
Dungeness again - Around mid-afternoon we pitched up with the seawatching stalwarts at the fishing boats. While Barney went in search of a piece of driftwood to chew on (seawatching is not his cup of tea) I proffered the age old birders` opening gambit, "much happening?" To which the reply was firmly in the negative from the sunbathing seawatchers. "Didn`t think as much, light`s crap too", said I. After putting the world to rights (now, there`s a challenge...) a couple of non-birders (ie, normal folk) turned up and asked what we were up too, so I set about trying to explain to them our weird obsession on an afternoon when the general consensus was, "nothing much was happening".
Or was it... "You've just missed a Grey Seal which popped up close to the beach", said I, "but never mind there are at least 10 Porpoises feeding just offshore", while a Common Seal was spotted further out as we watched the cetaceans showing off. We then pointed out a number of passing Common and Sandwich Terns, Common Scoters, Gannets, Turnstones, 2 Shelducks, 2 Guillemots on the water and 3 marauding Arctic Skuas, while several pulses of Swallows and Sand Martins struck out towards France.
The couple looked bemused. " I thought you said, nothing much was happening!"  
That's Dungeness for you, it always takes visitors to remind me just how lucky we are down here and how much we take for granted.

Tuesday 8 September 2015

White-winged Tern again

Lade - cool, sunny, n 3 - Nothing much of note out back apart from an increase in Mipit numbers with at least 100 grounded on the shingle ridges along with 20 Yellow Wagtails. A large female Peregrine was cruising over the Desert and beyond the `mirrors` scattering all in her wake.

                                   White-winged Tern, ARC

ARC  - From the causeway road the juvenile White-winged Tern had returned and also paused a while on one of the remaining islands in front of Hanson hide, alongside 50 Goldies, Lapwings and a Ruff. Two Black Terns were further out, plus a summer plum Black-necked Grebe on the water and a Merlin being chased by a crow over the far bank.

                               Common Darter and Speckled Wood, Willow Trail

The Willow Trail was alive with common dragonflies and butterflies warming up in the sun traps and Common Lizards on the boardwalk. Several tits, Robins, Wrens, Willow Warblers, Blackcaps and a Spotted Flycatcher were in the scrub, plus a stunning Firecrest. 

                                Stonechat and Wheatear, Return Trail

Burrowes - Pretty quiet here with just a Great White Egret of noted. The Red-backed Shrike was absent from its usual spot by the return trail where Stonechat and Wheatear noted. Another Great White Egret was in the fields at Boulderwall.

Monday 7 September 2015

A steady trickle of migrants

Lade - Cool, dry and sunny, n 2 - The past couple of days on the local patch have been pretty similar with a trickle of drift migrants either hanging around or moving through in bright sunshine on a light northerly airflow - with the curse of the school holidays now over, we can no doubt look forward to a period of more settled weather. With B&B guests coming and going a late morning walk out yesterday delivered a decent return on butterflies with plenty of Common Blues and Small Heaths still on the wing, plus Painted Ladies, Red Admirals and even a Clouded Yellow. 

                               Clay balls, Lade Bay

                               This fuchsia hedge was alive with bees

On the warbler front a few more Chiffchaffs have been noted around the site today along with plenty of Willow Warblers and lesser numbers of Sedge and Reed Warblers, Whitethroats and Blackcaps. The ponds have been the best spot for mixed flocks of warblers, tits, Spotted Flycatchers and this morning our first Goldcrest of the autumn.

                                Meadow Pipits, Lade Desert

                               Sedge Warbler and Spotted Flycatcher, Lade ponds

Out on the shingle ridges several Whinchats and Wheatears were joined by parties of Yellow Wagtails (DB reported `hundreds` dropping onto the Kerton Road triangle this morning) and Mipits with more passing overhead, plus singles of Tree Pipit and Grey Wagtail, 10 Goldfinches and 3 Siskins. Hirundines keep on coming with a big increase in Swallow numbers today.
A late morning check of the beach resulted in all the usual shorebirds, plus 6 Teal and 2 Shelducks.
As for moths, well, the chilly nights have knocked numbers for six, but Vestals are still coming to light and this mornings highlight was L-album Wainscot.

                                  L-album Wainscot, Plovers

ARC - A look at the wader islands (or what`s left of them) this afternoon revealed 100 Lapwings and Golden Plovers, 3 Knots and a Dunlin, plus all the usual wildfowl and hirundines on and over the lake.
The Red-backed Shrike was into its sixth day by the access road on the bird reserve and the Cattle Egret was reported again on Dengemarsh.