Sunday 29 November 2015

Sparrow challenge

Saturday - Its been a weekend of two contrasting days with Saturday spent up in London and Sunday back home. While Pat went to see Lucy in her final performance of Showstoppers in the West End I met our Kate at Shepherds Bush for my birthday present - QPR v Leeds at Loftus Road. Mum and dad were Londoners and while I grew up in the small Hertfordshire village of Maple Cross, Shepherds Bush still retains a lure through the footie club.
I even managed to get in a bit of birding and set about trying to find a House Sparrow around the `village green`, as Shepherds Bush was once known. Unsurprisingly my quest floundered with not a single cheep of a cheeky, London sparra to be heard anywhere. On the other hand parakeets screeched overhead and Lesser Black-backed Gulls were commonplace, several Goldfinches called from plane trees and a Grey Wagtail flew over calling.
At the ground it was good to meet up with some old, long suffering faces from when I was a season ticket holder, and when Gerry Francis and Phil Parkes were interviewed on the pitch at half time, talking about a reunion of the great side of 75/76, I realised how far the R`s had plummeted from those heady days.
However, back to the present and while the first half was a poor spectacle it improved in the second with the introduction of Charlie Austin, the goal scorer and a 1-0 win. As always at Loftus Road the atmosphere in that tight little ground was cracking, thanks in part to a large and  raucous Leeds support.

Sunday - Lade - mild, overcast, sw 5 - What a difference a day makes, from the madness of London - I know which one I prefer! We did our usual circuit of the local patch in a buffeting wind which by the afternoon had built up to gale force as Storm Clodagh swept up-Channel. All the usual wildfowl and waders were noted on the lakes and beach respectively where a female Marsh Harrier was testing out the Coots on south lake. Hardly any passerines were noted due to the wind.
News from the bird reserve confirmed the Long-eared Owl still present roosting behind the discovery pond.

                                Sanderlings, Lade sands

Friday 27 November 2015

In praise of gulls - surely not...

Dungeness - mild, cloudy, drizzle, sw 3-5 - A grey old day with an increasingly rain-laden wind sweeping up-Channel - We wandered down to the Patch where several hundred common gulls were wheeling over the boil and sat on the sea, chiefly Black-headed and Herring Gulls. In amongst the throng were a couple of 1st winter Little Gulls fluttering along the scum line. Offshore 2 Red-breasted Mergansers and Red-throated Divers passed west with several Gannets further out. On the way off the estate I stopped to chat with DW who`d just located a 1st winter Caspian Gull on the beach roost amongst the larger gulls and actually made the effort to `scope it...

                                 Long-eared Owl, RSPB reserve

RSPB - The Long-eared Owl spent its third day roosting in sallows by the discovery pond and if anything was showing slighter better than on Wednesday. On Burrowes lake staff and volunteers have done a superb job of clearing the islands in front of the visitor centre of vegetation. Most of the wildfowl (including 4 each of Smew and Goldeneye) and gulls were at the Scott hide end sheltering from the wind, plus 2 Shelducks in front of Firth. From Makepeace hide an adult Caspian Gull showed well on one of the closer islands. Over the road on ARC plenty more wildfowl, including 4 Goldeneyes and 4 Shelducks, where there was also a report of a drake Smew earlier.
However, I`m becoming increasingly worried that I may be going gull ga-ga and moving over to the `Dark Side`, as I seem to be studying gulls more closely of late. It must be some sort of osmosis effect, absorbed from the Dungeness gull lords; I even found a Caspo on Lade last week, and Meds on the sands at low tide. There I go again, I`m even using the gully terminology - Caspo, Meds and all that.
If this carries on I may need counselling by the end of the winter...

                               Adult Caspian Gull, Burrowes

Thursday 26 November 2015

Roost watch

Lade - cool, dry, sunny, light airs - At last a dry day with plenty of sunshine and no wind, perfect for birding. This morning we checked the lakes where the Goldeneye was still present amongst c2,500 wildfowl. Cetti`s Warblers and Water Rails were particularly vocal around the willow swamp where a Firecrest was noted at the back of a tit flock. Several Marsh Harriers hunted the fields behind the `mirrors` along with Buzzard, Kestrel and Sparrowhawk.

                                Short-eared Owl, Lade

This evening we tramped across the shingle for a stake out at the north end of Mockmill in glorious setting sunlight. After chatting to BD (who`d seen the Long-eared Owl on the bird reserve this afternoon) we soon settled down in our usual spot to scan the flatlands. A Short-eared Owl quartered the rough grassland, occasionally pausing to perch and listen for prey from fence posts; and for once unaccompanied by corvids. What splendid birds they are, I don't reckon I`ll ever tire of watching them. It soon drifted out of sight and as the sun dipped beyond the horizon along came the Marsh Harriers, 7 in total heading towards the bird reserve to roost. Over a 1,000 corvids raced overhead, mostly Jackdaws, along with a flock of 300 Starlings, a straggle of Woodpigeons and 2 Little Egrets. A terrific end to a stunning winters day.

                                Sunset over Mockmill

Wednesday 25 November 2015

Long-eared Owl

Dungeness - cold, overcast, drizzle, nw 2 - Following yesterdays washout this morning wasn't much better with occasional showers and poor light. An offshore wind made a seawatch pretty pointless, so we walked the tideline from the lifeboat station to the lighthouse where all the usual gulls and Turnstones were noted. On the sea were at least 50 Great Crested Grebes and a trickle of Kittiwakes.
A single Med Gull was amongst the gulls on the beach, although later on an adult Caspian Gull was present. The anglers along the foreshore were pulling in plenty of whiting, plus a few cod, and being as its Dungeness there`s always something of interest in the Channel, and this morning it was a stunning wooden sailing ship.

                               Pirates of the English Channel

RSPB - News came through this afternoon of a Long-eared Owl roosting in sallows by the discovery pond on the bird reserve. These highly nocturnal owls have become something of a rarity in recent years so it was a real treat to be able to enjoy this individual at a safe distance as it occasionally looked around showing off those penetrating orange eyes. Long gone are the days when double figure roosts of Long-eared Owls were regularly encountered during the winter period.
Also present on Burrowes, 4 Goosanders and a Smew, while a Bittern showed well from Screen hide at dusk.

                                Long-eared Owl, Dungeness RSPB

Monday 23 November 2015

Winter approaches

Lade - cold, sunny, nw 2 - The past couple of days have been pretty similar on the weather front with overnight frosts, morning sunshine and afternoon cloud - proper winter weather at last. Yesterday the first Goldeneye of the winter dropped on to south lake, followed by a Smew this morning, plus a Short-eared Owl quartering the fields by north lake. Three Stonechats had returned to the desert scrub with a particularly showy Cetti`s Warbler by the ponds.

                                Great Black-backed Gull, Dungeness

Dungeness - 1430 - 1545hrs - We joined PB for a seawatch from the fishing boats where a steady flow of Kittiwakes and auks went to and fro, plus 10 Red-throated Divers, 12 Common Scoters, Gannet, Med Gull and Curlew eastbound, and 3 Gadwall, 2 Dunlins and a Knot heading west. Up to 30 Great Crested Grebes and several Guillemots were on the water and a Peregrine came in off the bay.
The adult Great Black-back with the dodgy wings was in the gull roost on the beach.

Saturday 21 November 2015

Dartford Warbler

Lade - cold, wintry showers, nw 5 - The much predicted icy blast from the north hit with a vengeance today delivering sleety showers and a rasping wind during the morning. As the day progressed the showers eased and the sun broke through, although the wind speed picked up to near gale force making it feel even colder. Needless to say walking across the shingle wastes to check the lakes was not at all pleasurable, and not that productive either with the massed ranks of wildfowl, grebes and Coots still present and seemingly oblivious to the bitter wind.
How weak us humans are by comparison. Barney too is not in the slightest phased by the cold and on the way back this morning he flushed a Dartford Warbler from the broom scrub between south lake and Leonard Road, only my second Lade record, although not too surprising considering their mini influx of late. As a special treat I fried him up a couple of bangers for second breakfast.
With reports of Little Auks appearing down the east coast today we checked the bay and north lake this afternoon just in case, but it was not to be, so we retired early to the comfort of a log fire and a book.

                                Its a dogs life...

Friday 20 November 2015

Dusky Warbler

Dungeness - mild, overcast, w 2 - An hour at the fishing boats this morning revealed a trickle of Gannets and auks westward, plus 9 Brents, 5 Red-throated Divers and a Red-breasted Merganser; several of the closer auks proved to be Razorbills. A steady flow of coasting gulls included several Mediterranean Gulls.
Dengemarsh - With lighter winds we headed to the bird reserve where the Dusky Warbler was still present in bramble and sallows by the lake on the bend in the track south of the ramp. It was actively calling but frustratingly difficult to see with just a couple of glimpses offered up as it moved between clumps of scrub. Also noted from the bridle track were Firecrest, Goldcrest, 2 Stonechats, 20 Long-tailed Tits, Redwing and Song Thrush.
After weeks of unseasonably mild weather conditions the temperature fell away to single figures this afternoon as a cold front advanced from the north-west, which is set to deliver an icy blast from the Arctic tomorrow.

Thursday 19 November 2015

Folkestone Book Fair

Dengemarsh - 0800hrs - mild, overcast, sw 2 - We did a circuit of Dengemarsh first thing, commencing at Boulderwall, before the rain set in by late morning. The highlight was brief views of the `resident` Dartford Warbler in bramble scrub where the return trail meets the bridle path. There was no sign of the Dusky Warbler by the double bends, although it could easily still be lurking amongst the scrub somewhere. A few Song Thrushes, Blackbirds, Stonechats and Goldcrests were also present along the way.
Elsewhere around the route the usual wildfowl, Cetti`s Warblers, Marsh Harriers and Great White Egrets noted, plus 2 Common Buzzards, 2 Great Spotted Woodpeckers, 10 Skylarks and a Kingfisher.
Folkestone Book Fair, 20-29th November -  Tomorrow sees the start of the annual book fest centred on the Quarterhouse in Folkestone`s Creative Quarter, with a variety of speakers to suit all tastes. We`re attending the talk on Sunday afternoon by Tony Juniper, a life-long campaigning environmentalist, entitled What has Nature ever done for us`, based on his recent book. The name Tony Juniper may be familiar to birders with a penchant for parrots, as it was he who co-wrote Parrots: A guide to the parrots of the world, when working as an ornithologist for Birdlife International.
For further details of this worthy event check out the website at:

Tuesday 17 November 2015

Storm Barney

Lade - Mild wet and windy sw 3-6 - These past couple of days have been dominated by fast-moving weather fronts streaming in off the Atlantic. The strong `uns are now named by the Met Office with  today`s blow entitled, `Barney`: I`ve told my beloved mutt, but he was less than impressed...
There hasn't been much change to the bird life on the wind-swept gravel pits around the peninsula with the 2 Black-necked Grebes still hugging the margins of New Diggings, Goosander and Smew on Burrowes and Great White Egrets just about everywhere you look around the bird reseerve. A Firecrest showed well yesterday morning by Dennis`s hide and during the afternoon there was a report of a Dusky Warbler near Hookers reed bed which proved suitably elusive, and again this morning when it was seen and heard skulking in scrub. Another skulker, a Dartford Warbler continues to remain faithful to the gorse and bramble cover along the return trail. 
Dungeness - A late morning visit along the beach and fishing boats revealed little movement offshore apart from Cormorants, Kittiwakes and Black-headed Gulls, plus 10 Common Scoters west. Great Crested Grebe numbers are starting to increase and 45 Turnstones were present on the tideline.
By early afternoon the rain commenced and the wind rapidly increased as Storm Barney swept up Channel rendering any attempt at birding pointless.

Sunday 15 November 2015

Counting Coots

Lade - mild, cloudy, occasional sun, windy, drizzle, w 6 - 1000hrs - Strong winds blasting across south lake made for difficult viewing for the monthly WeBS Count which was carried out by a combination of old fashioned counting and photographing flocks for checking later, such is the huge numbers of waterfowl present. I carried out a rough count on Friday, in slightly calmer conditions, which tallied with todays count.
Coots numbered a staggering 1,480, a new site record (or at least since I`ve been counting these past 10 years), plus 550 Gadwalls (also a record), so pretty much a 3:1 ratio, and 22 Dabchicks along with good numbers of Wigeon and Shoveler, but fewer Tufted Duck and Pochard. The reason for this glut of dabblers is almost certainly due to an abundance of food in the form of masses of Canadian water weed, which also supports invertebrates such as small water snails and insect larvae.
On the more sheltered north lake around 1,000 gulls comprised mainly Black-headed and Herring, but in the throng were 5 Meds and a 1st winter Caspian. More bird bio-mass on the fields to the north included 500 Lapwings, 100 Golden Plovers, 200 Woodpigeons, 100 Stock Doves, 100 corvids, 20 Magpies and 50 Fieldfares.

                               Canadian water weed

                               Coot and Gadwall, go together like rhubarb and custard                                

                                Coots feeding on water weed

Walland Marsh - Joined CP for the monthly harrier count this afternoon, where thankfully after this mornings effort the abacus was redundant and the wind had relented somewhat. In poor light and drizzle 16 Marsh Harriers came to roost in reedbed, nearly all female or immature birds. Also noted in the general area 2 Buzzards, 2 Kestrels, 12 Skylarks, 10 Fieldfares, 2 Cetti`s Warblers and calling Water Rails. 

Friday 13 November 2015

Storm Abigail

Dungeness - mild, showery, w 4-6 - The morning was dominated by the weather as we received a meteorological slap (at least compared with northern Britain) from Storm Abigail in the form of gusty winds and hefty showers through the morning, although it brightened up this afternoon.
A circuit of the point delivered very little in the way of birds with just a handful of Robins, Goldcrests, Blackbirds, Goldfinches, Kestrel and a Stonechat in the trapping area/desert. Likewise nothing much was happening on the sea and we couldn't even find a Caspo amongst the roosting gulls on the beach; still, Barney wasn't complaining as we covered the shingle at a steady pace without stopping to gawp at the waves for too long.
We also bid our farewells to SG who`ll be migrating back north to Surrey this weekend; all the best Steve and hope to see you next spring.
Lade -  A pre-WeBS count check of the local patch was difficult due to the strong wind whipping across south lake, but I reckon this coming Sunday will see a record Coot count, so watch this space...
ARC - From Screen hide this afternoon 2 Marsh Harriers over, Bittern, Great White Egret and Goldeneye, plus Great Spotted Woodpecker and Chiffchaff at the pines.

Thursday 12 November 2015

Dartford Warbler

RSPB - mild, showery, sw 3 - We spent the morning on the bird reserve having seconds on the Dartford Warbler, which we all heard and saw fairly well as it performed low down in bramble scrub along the return trail. A few finches and thrushes drifted over, but there was nothing like the variety and numbers of yesterday. Around the circular walk were up to 6 Marsh Harriers, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Goldcrest, Kingfisher, 5 Cetti`s Warbler, Water Rail, good views of a Raven, 2 Sparrowhawks and all the usual wildfowl on Burrowes.
We finished the four day birdwatching break for David, Val and Sandra with a species tally of 105, but as is often the case it was more about the spectacle of large numbers of birds flocking together as winter looms that will live long in the memory. The thousands of Golden Plovers down at Rye took some beating, as did the hundreds of Fieldfares on Monday by the Royal Military Canal, the wildfowl on Burrowes and waders on Lade bay; and lets face it watching egrets and harriers come to roost is pretty special too. The quality was provided by Dartford Warbler, Short-eared Owl and up to five Firecrests.
Other highlights during the week included a large number of plants still in flower, a myriad of different fungi (which I`m still trying to id!) and good views of Hare and Mink.

                                Orange fungi on wood

Wednesday 11 November 2015

Firecrests and Dartford Warbler

RSPB - mild, cloudy, sw 3 - First stop this morning was New Diggings where the 2 Black-necked Grebes showed well close to the causeway road, plus a Great White Egret at the western end.
There must`ve been a fall of Firecrests overnight as several were heard and seen in the scrub by the bird feeders, plus the usual tits, finches, Tree Sparrows and Reed Buntings.
Walking down to the return trail we all had cracking views of a Short-eared Owl that flew out over the shingle and around the car park before landing back down by the pond. The return trail is often deadly quiet, but not this morning as a trickle of Redpolls, Siskins and Goldfinches passed overhead, while in the brambles by the bridle path we had brief views of both Dartford Warbler and Ring Ouzel. Plenty of Blackbirds, Blue Tits, 4 Stonechats, Raven over, 2 Redwings, Green Woodpecker, Marsh Harrier and Kestrel completed a marvellous suite of bird variety in a small area. We also saw an old Hare and back at the car park enjoyed further good views of up to 5 Firecrests.

                                2 Black-necked Grebes, New Diggings

                                Firecrest, one of several seen today

                                Foxglove, one of many plants still in flower

                                Brown Hare, return trail

                                Stonechat, return trail

                                Golden Plovers, Rye Harbour

                               Mink, Castle Water

Rye Harbour - En-route the usual wildfowl and waders were noted on the grass at Scotney. At Rye we checked out Flat Beach from the John Gooder`s hide where the main spectacle was provided by c2,500 Golden Plovers and 1,000 Lapwings. In amongst the throng were a number of Shelduck, Redshank, Curlew, Little Grebe Turnstone, Wigeon, Teal, Shoveler, Skylark and Meadow Pipit.
The afternoon was spent at Castle Water where loads more common wildfowl were noted, plus Stonechats, 2 Marsh Harriers, 12 Snipe, Chiffchaffs, Cetti`s Warblers, Kingfisher and a Mink swimming across the water in front of the hide being followed by a flock of Coots!
An excellent day in the field for the guests with the Firecrests and Shortie the highlights due to the superb views.

Tuesday 10 November 2015

Wildfowl, waders and wind

Dungeness - mild, overcast, sw 5 - We kicked off at the point first thing for a seawatch from the fishing boats that yielded the expected fare of distant Gannets, auks and Kittiwakes feeding offshore, plus 3 Common Scoter, Red-throated Diver and Brent Goose. There was plenty of gulls to sift through on the shingle including a 1st winter Yellow-legged and Caspian Gull, the latter coming to bread on the concrete road.
RSPB - Moving on to the bird reserve where the highlights on Burrowes were 3 Smews, 2 Goosanders and 3 Goldeneyes amongst hundreds of common wildfowl, most of them sheltering at the western end and viewable from Scott hide. Five Snipe, 3 Great White Egrets, Kingfisher and 2 Stonechats also noted, plus Reed Bunting and Great Spotted Woodpecker on the feeders.
Lade Bay - We checked the bay at three locations from the Tavern to Littlestone and nailed nine out of ten of the usual waders, with only Grey Plover eluding us. As always Ringed Plover and Knot were tricky but we tracked them down opposite the old lifeboat station.
Walland Marsh - Back out on the flatlands we finished the day at a reed bed site where 6 Marsh Harriers came in roost with another ten in the general area.

Monday 9 November 2015

Old friends

Walland Marsh - mild, cloudy, sw 5 -  Picked up Val, Sandra and David from Ashford at midday who are down for a weeks birding; the two ladies being our longest clients and old friends, since we started ten years ago.
Whilst having lunch at Faggs Wood we noted Jay, Goldcrest, Long-tailed and Coal Tits around the car park. Along the canal at Kenardington we cleaned up on the thrushes with 500 Fieldfares, 100 Redwings and a scattering of Mistle, Song Thrushes and Blackbirds. Yellowhammer was also noted here along with common finches and tits, Kestrel and Common Buzzard nearby. The blustery wind made for difficult birding with few passerines seen as we crossed the Marsh. A Great White Egret in a field near Midley was of note and the usual Tree Sparrows showed well on the feeders. At the drying barns more Fieldfares and a few Chaffinches, plus a Grey Wagtail on the barn.

                                Great White Egret, Midley

                                Tree Sparrows, Midley

ARC - We finished the afternoon initially at Hanson hide where 2 Goldeneyes and 10 Pintails were the highlights amongst the common wildfowl, plus Kingfisher, Great White Egret, Sparrowhawk and 5 Marsh Harriers. Finally we moved to the gateway at the eastern end to count the egrets coming to roost, of which there were 14 Little and 5 Great White, although we may have missed one or two that sneaked in from the north in the near gale force wind. Hundreds of corvids headed to roost at the Oppen pits.


Sunday 8 November 2015

A late Swallow

Lade - warm, dry, cloudy, s 3 - We always try and have at least one day a week without using a vehicle and its normally a Sunday, such as today. Pat joined us for a circuit of the local patch in unseasonably mild weather where there was plenty to see and not just from the large numbers of waterfowl on north and south lakes. Kingfisher, Sparrowhawk, Goldcrest and Chiffchaff were all noted around the willow swamp and as we cut down Seaview Road to the beach a late Swallow flew south along the line of the railway track, my latest here by two days.
The burgeoning flowering plant list for November now includes Sticky Groundsel, White and Ribbed Melliot, Evening Primrose and Herb-Robert, and I`m sure with due diligence plenty more could be discovered.
Despite the beach being busy with walkers and land yachts there was plenty of birds on the sand with seven species of waders and over a thousand gulls, including 200 Great Black-backs, plus singles of Caspian Gull (1st winter) and Mediterranean Gull (2nd winter).
Back home working in the garden, Brambling, Redpoll and Goldfinches were noted overhead throughout the day with Goldcrests in the fir trees and a Red Admiral butterfly on the Senetti, which is still in full flower.

                                A party of Great Black-backed Gulls

                                2nd winter Mediterranean Gull

Mockmill - We tramped out across the shingle in near perfect conditions for a roost watch at the top end of Mockmill. Along the way a Bittern flew from a patch of reeds by south lake towards the main reedbed and was our first of the winter at Lade. As the light dimmed hundreds of corvids and pigeons streamed overhead, while a swirling mass of Starlings put on a wonderful display before pitching down in scrub and reed behind the wall `mirror`. Although no owls were noted at least 8 Marsh Harriers headed to roost into a brief, but spectacular sunset. 

                                Sunset over Mockmill Sewer

                               Barney, rabbit watching

Saturday 7 November 2015

Beach gulls

Lade - mild, wet and windy, sw 5 - A tour of the local patch in blustery conditions resulted in little of note with just the usual 2,000 odd ducks, grebes, Coots, feral geese and swans present. Passerines were hard to come by with 20 Goldfinches and 10 Mipits about the sum total on the migrant front.
The beach was packed out with common waders and gulls with 200 Great Black-backs of note, plus 3 Med Gulls and a Kittiwake.

                               Adult Yellow-legged Gull, Dungeness

Dungeness - A couple of visits today around the fishing boats yielded a 1st winter Caspian Gull and 2 Yellow-legged gulls, an adult and a 2nd winter bird. However, what with more than one or two gull aficionados on site it was no surprise that several more of each species were noted. Also seen several large flocks of Goldfinches, a Sparrowhawk and 2 Ravens.
A brief look at the sea resulted in distant views of Gannets and Kittiwakes, plus 5 Brents close to shore.

                                Pink-barred Sallow, Lydd-on-Sea

Thursday 5 November 2015

British Sea Power on Autumnwatch

Lade  - cloudy, mild, sw 4 - I don't know why but it had an end of season feel to proceedings today, probably due to the prospect of a change in the weather and a run of depressions sweeping in from the Atlantic with associated strong winds and rain. The only migrants around the place were several back garden Goldcrests and Goldfinches passing overhead.
This afternoon at last knockings we settled down at the top of Mockmill where a steady stream of corvids were heading towards the Oppen pits roost. There must`ve been well over a thousand with Jackdaws in the ascendancy, plus hundreds of Woodpigeons, Stock Doves and Starlings. Six Marsh Harriers made light of the strengthening breeze flushing 2 Snipe and a few Mipits along the way. There was no sign of the recent Short-eared Owl, but just before lights out a Barn Owl put in an appearance from Lade north way.
Autumnwatch - I see the popular BBC Autumnwatch show has been on our screens this week with the usual trio now based on the Solway Firth at the Wildfowl and Wetland reserve at Caerlaverock, so lots of stuff on rutting deer, Badgers and Barnacle Geese etc.
I`ve only dipped in and out but there doesn't seem to have been the usual level of tomfoolery from the hosts, and there have been one two interesting items. I particularly enjoyed the night diving from Sark and the piece on Sexton Beetles, much of which was new to me, along with Chris Packham`s superb explanation of the structure of a deer`s eye ,which enables them to see at night time.
However, the highlight for me was on the Unsprung episode which featured one of my favourite indie bands, British Sea Power. Keyboard player Martin Noble is a keen birder and together with two other band members they did a cracking acoustic version of the song Blackout off The Decline of British Sea Power album. If you missed it, check it out on the i-player.

Wednesday 4 November 2015

Winter wildfowl

Dungeness RSPB - 1000hrs - mild, cloudy, drizzle, se 2 - A guided walk this morning around the reserve in ridiculously warm weather delivered a wide range of birds with plenty of winter wildfowl on Burrowes always hinting at colder times to come. Shoveler numbers continue to build along with Wigeon, Gadwall, Teal, Tufted Duck, Pintail and Pochard, plus those denizens of the winter, 2 Smew, a Goosander and 3 Goldeneyes. Lapwings too were much in evidence with at least 500 on site, mostly roosting on the shingle at the north end of Burrowes along with a few Golden Plovers and several Snipe on the islands. Great White and Little Egrets, Grey Herons, Kingfisher, Cetti`s Warbler and Water Rail were all seen or heard around the margins, while Peregrine and Raven put in an appearance overhead.

                                Two early Smews on Burrowes

As for migrants we noted a few Goldcrests and Stonechats in the gorse scrub, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, several Chiffchaffs, tits and Robins, plus a trickle of Goldfinches, Siskins, Redpolls and Mipits overhead. At Dengemarsh more common wildfowl on the lake and a brief flight view of a Bittern was the highlight, along with the expected Marsh Harriers over the reedbed.

Tuesday 3 November 2015

Beach birds

Dungeness - 0830hrs - mild, cloudy, se 2 - With a Brambling over the cottage first thing and Goldcrests in the garden we headed out to the point with high hopes, but it was generally quiet with just a few common finches on the move, plus a Crossbill. Along the edge of the trapping area a number of tits, Goldcrests and Chiffchaffs called from willow scrub and a Sparrowhawk nipped over chasing Goldfinches.
RSPB - From the causeway road a Black-necked Grebe and Great White Egret noted on New Diggings and a Goldeneye amongst the common wildfowl on ARC. We spent some time searching for yesterdays Dartford Warbler in the gorse opposite the ramp, but without success, although 5 Stonechats and a Green Woodpecker were present, plus a Fieldfare along the return trail.

                                Great White Egret, New Diggings

Scotney - All the usual feral geese and wildfowl, Golden Plovers, Lapwings, a Ruff and 2 Redshanks and that was about it.
Greatstone Beach - We spent a pleasant hour wader watching on a rising tide with hundreds of Oystercatchers and Curlews, 50 each of Dunlin and Sanderling and 10 each of Barwit and Turnstone, while amongst the gulls a Mediterranean and Kittiwake.
Dungeness - Finished of with an hour at the fishing boats where very little was happening apart from 4 Common Scoters and 12 Teal through and 20 each of Kittiwake and Gannet feeding offshore.
 A decent couple of days birding for Lew during which time we tallied 92 species.
NB: News came through this afternoon that the energy company EDF have purchased the Dungeness Estate. This means that they now own the majority of the peninsula (including the power station of course) and by general consensus is regarded as good for all concerned. Visitors to Dungeness should be aware that the Light Railway CafĂ© is closed for redevelopment and should open sometime next spring, complete with public conveniences.

Monday 2 November 2015

Sawbills and a Brambling

Dungeness - 0815 - Foggy start, clearing to warm, dry and sunny, misty late afternoon. I met Lew from north Kent, who`s down for a couple of days birding, first thing at the point in thick fog. However, it didn`t last for long and by the time we walked down to the Sanctuary it had cleared, although there was no sign of the Dusky Warbler, but we did see a late Swallow flying around and settling on overhead wires. There was little else of note around the bushes apart from a Blackcap and a few Goldfinches, plus 2 Kestrels, a Sparrowhawk and superb views of a Raven overhead.

                                Raven, Dungeness

RSPB -   Moving onto the bird reserve we met Elizabeth and family for a circular walk during which time we clocked up 83 species of birds, mostly for 8 year old James` benefit! The highlights included a Black Redstart on the VC roof, our first 2 Smews of the season, along with 3 Goldeneyes, a Goosander and 20 Pintails on Burrowes, 8 Great White Egrets around the site, 20 Golden Plovers, Stonechat, 4 Marsh Harriers, Goldcrests, 10 Cetti`s Warblers, 5 Siskins, 2 Chiffchaffs, `pinging` Bearded Tits and 4 Snipe from the viewing ramp. At the Boulderwall feeders a stunning male Brambling was my bird of the day. From Hanson hide all the expected wildfowl, plus 2 more Great White Egrets, a Kingfisher and a Bittern in flight.
Walland Marsh  - We finished the day in some style with 10 Marsh Harriers coming to roost and 2 Barn Owls hunting around the reedbed site. Also noted Kestrel, Common Buzzard, Water Rail, Cetti`s Warbler and Bearded Tits.

Sunday 1 November 2015

Flowering plants

Lade - 1000hrs - Once the B&B guests had departed we headed out for a tour of the local patch in sweltering weather conditions, attired in shorts and T shirt. Most of the early morning fog had cleared to leave hazy light and a faint zephyr so we tramped out across the shingle to Mockmill, which was fairly quiet bird wise with just a scattering of Robins, Goldcrests and Blackbirds, plus 2 each of Stonechat and Cetti`s Warbler, a brief flight view of a Short-eared Owl and a couple of Kestrels.
However, what struck me most was the number of plants still in flower hereabouts. The whites of catchfly, bramble and dolly belles, yellows of honeysuckle and ragwort, blues of scabious and bugloss, alongside the reds of ragged robin and valerian. Flowering plants all having a last hurrah of `summer` on the opening day of November.

                                Bramble runners
                                Ragged Robin


                               Robin, the most abundant passerine this morning

It was no surprise that a variety of insects were on the wings, mainly bees and wasps, hawker dragonflies, a silver y, plus red admiral, small tortoiseshell and painted lady butterflies to name but a few.
A quick scan of south lake revealed no change to the thousand plus assemblage of waterfowl.
This afternoon the plan was to check out the beach on a falling tide, but we were thwarted by the weather as a great bank of swirling fog rolled in off the sea putting paid to any further activity, and so with the distant drone of the Dungeness fog horn in our ears we called it a day.