Sunday 31 January 2016

Tideline corpses

Lade - mild, overcast, drizzle, sw 2 - We trudged around the local patch in murky weather conditions accompanied by a fine mizzle throughout, where there was little change in the wildfowl numbers on the lakes. Along the beach section the corpse count comprised 18 Barrel Jellyfish, 20 Dogfish and 2 Harbour Porpoises, both of which were entangled in fishing net.
  Commercial fishing is a woefully destructive industry which indiscriminately kills masses of fish, birds and marine mammals around our shores and across the planet as so called by-catch. Unfortunately, we are not exempt from the carnage along the Channel coast and these sad, but often unnecessary, sights continue to be all too frequent occurrences.

                               Harbour Porpoise, Lade beach

  On a brighter note we carried out our RSPB Garden Birdwatch count this morning. A meagre, but not unexpected, total of 12 species were recorded during the hour with 23 House Sparrows on and around the feeders, plus a Goldcrest in the fir trees the highlights.

                                Starling, Lade

Friday 29 January 2016

Stormy waters

Lade - mild, windy, sw 6 - In contrast to the sunshine and light airs of yesterday, this morning  reverted to yet another battering from gale-force winds off the Atlantic, although here in the south-east we only received a mild uppercut from Gertrude when compared to conditions further north.
Having said all that hauling my six foot frame across the shingle into the tempest, gusting at 30 knots, wasn't a great deal of fun, but there was no such problem for a low profile terrier...

                                "Wind, what wind?"

  I find it fascinating watching birds` behaviour in extreme weather, so we hunkered down in the shelter of a gorse thicket and scanned across south lake. The majority of Coots continued to feed out in mid-water, despite the wind strength, attracted to the thick rafts of pond weed which is their food supply. Heads down, their lobed feet must have been paddling furiously to keep station as they bobbed up and down on the choppy surface. However, most of the lighter Teal had sought shelter in the lee of the southern bank along with roosting Pochards and Tufted Ducks. Gulls on the other hand seemed totally unphased and carried on their business as normal, while a Great White Egret tucked into the reeds looked set for the duration.
  The atmosphere altered somewhat as a Peregrine flew in from the north flushing many of the dabblers off the lake. A small bird, presumably a male, hacked across the sky completely in its  element, seemingly riding the air currents for fun, and swooping low over the desert disturbing Woodpigeons and Jackdaws in its wake before disappearing towards the water tower. In contrast a couple of Marsh Harriers received a right old buffeting as they came over the wall `mirror` and quickly dropped into the reedbed to survey the scene - Coot was definitely off-menu today!

                                Wildfowl, Lade

Dungeness - On a windswept foreshore this afternoon the wintering Caspian Gull was roosting by the puddles near the concrete road. We walked out past the lifeboat station to the area known locally as the `dustbin` where a new island and bay have formed by wave action from the long-shore drift process. Most impressive it was too and worth a look. A mass of gulls down the beach contained the regular 1st winter Glaucous Gull.

                                1st winter Caspian Gull, Dungeness

                               A new piece of England

Thursday 28 January 2016

Tree Sparrows

Lade - cold, dry, frosty, light airs - A stunning morning with bright blue skies, hardly any wind and sparkling light, ideal for digging out a few passerines of which Goldcrest, Long-tailed Tits, Cetti`s Warbler, Chiffchaff and Reed Bunting noted around the willow swamp, plus Meadow Pipit and Stonechat on the shingle ridges. At least 4 Marsh Harriers and 2 Kestrels were active behind the `mirrors`, while there was no change in the massed ranks of wildfowl on the lakes.

                               Gorse and Grey Heron, Dengemarsh

Dengemarsh - Moving onto the bird reserve where 2 Black-necked Grebes noted on New Diggings from the causeway, we parked up in ARC and walked the circular route through the hayfields via Springfield bridge and back past Hookers. All the usual Marsh Harriers and egrets noted throughout the walk, plus; 2,000 Lapwings, 10 Skylarks and 2 Corn Buntings on a field of winter wheat; Bearded Tits, Bittern, Cetti`s Warbler, Reed Bunting and Stonechat at Hooker`s; 2 Redshanks on hayfield 3 and a Raven over. Called in at the visitors centre where 4 Smew and a Slavonian Grebe were the highlight on Burrowes amongst plenty of wildfowl.
  Also reported today around the reserve, 2 Shags on Burrowes from Makepeace hide, a Dartford Warbler in the scrub by Christmas Dell and an adult male Hen Harrier over the entrance track.
Tree Sparrows - Whilst pausing at Boulderwall for a natter I learned that several more Tree Sparrows had been colour ringed this morning, bringing the total to over 100 birds since the scheme began a few years ago. Dungeness and the Marsh are important areas for this declining farmland bird and if you do see any colour ringed Tree Sparrows please report the details to the RSPB at Dungeness.

                               Tree Sparrow, RSPB feeders

Dungeness - An afternoon visit along the foreshore by the boats delivered a few passing Kittiwakes, a flock of Wigeon and 2 Common Scoters, while the 1st winter Glaucous Gull and a 2nd winter Caspian Gull were amongst the roosting gulls by the lighthouse.

                                1st winter Glaucous Gull, Dungeness

Wednesday 27 January 2016

More Weather

Lade - mild, wet and windy, sw 6 - The past couple of days have been more about the weather than birds as strong winds and heavy rain sweep in off the Atlantic making for difficult birding locally.
On the way back from Folkestone yesterday, together with CP, we checked out Brockhill Country Park for a recently reported Marsh Tit (how desperate is that...) which we failed to find. However, Grey Wagtail, Long-tailed Tits, Goldcrest, Jay and Common Buzzard were noted along with hundreds of Jackdaws around the park.
  At the Willop Basin, Dymchurch a scan for 2 Velvet Scoters on the bay drew a blank, although we did see Guillemot, Razorbill, Kittiwakes and several Great Crested Grebes. The flooded fields opposite harboured a few gulls and 5 Curlews.
  The weirdest sight on the local patch was an `island` of reeds that had become detached from the bank, drifting across north lake.

For those of you not familiar with the superb Ploddingbirder blog, and in need of a birding pick-me-up in these gloomy January days, check out the latest ruby-throated pictorial post from Holland, you will not be disappointed - and I`m not talking gulls either!:

Monday 25 January 2016

Spectacular Sunrise

Lade - 0730hrs - A blazing sunrise over the bay heralded a welcome change in the weather from the murk of the weekend, although this could be the calm before Storm Jonas arrives in mid-week.

                                Sunrise, Lade bay

Dengemarsh - mild, dry, sunny, s 2 - We walked down to Hooker`s in our umpteenth attempt to find the wintering Penduline Tits, but gave up after three hours without a sniff. However, the weather was pleasantly spring-like and just about every other reedbed bird was seen or heard: 4 Marsh Harriers, 5 Bearded Tits, 2 Bitterns, 2 Stonechats, Dabchick, Kingfisher, Water Rail, Cetti`s Warbler and Reed Bunting. At Boulderwall the Tree Sparrows were particularly vocal, while on the fields the usual Lapwings, Wigeon, feral geese and egrets noted.

                                Stonechat, Corral

Park Wood - We joined around 40 locals in the car park for the Save Our Woods protest. There was no additional information other then reported on the blog yesterday, although the Woodland Trust was mentioned as a prospective buyer. It seems to be a case of write or e-mail and see what happens.
A wander around the wood delivered several Treecreepers, Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers, Nuthatch and Jay amongst the common woodland passerines.

                                Park Wood, Appledore

Sunday 24 January 2016

Sanderlings, DBO Report & Park Wood

Lade - mild, grey, misty, dripping wet - A couple of grim old days of weather with low cloud and fog soaking the landscape typical of a maritime island. Birdwise there was little change on the local patch, or across the peninsula for that matter, judging from the lack of tweets over the weekend.
However, a full circuit this morning did turn up the first 2 Stonechats of the year, a redhead Smew on north lake, an increase in Teal numbers to 550 and a Woodcock inadvertently flushed from the sand dunes at Greatstone. On the walk back the tide was racing in so we settled down opposite the Tavern to watch one of my favourite waders edge closer and closer until the sea lapped our feet. 
  Sanderlings are full of energy, like small clockwork toys scurrying along the tideline picking up marine morsels, and then in an instant roosting in tight flocks. Being of high Arctic origin and rarely encountering humans (lucky old them) Sanderlings often appear fearless and confiding; even with a small brown dog eyeing their every move (he never moved a muscle even when they were 5 yards away). I could watch them all day, and listen to their liquid contact call; infact an hour soon past and it was only that my rear end was getting damp (onset piles and all...) that we moved on.

                               Sanderlings, and a Dunlin, Greatstone Beach

                                Woodcock flusher
Dungeness Bird Observatory 2014 Report
I`m aware the info is all on line at the click of a mouse, but being old school I still prefer a summary of the year in the printed format, as produced in fine style by DBO. As always there`s lots to saviour here for Dungeness aficionados in this latest report which not only covers birds, but also the full gambit of fauna from mammals to moths and even a new hoverfly for Kent in between. A centre piece selection of photographs comprises some stunning images through the year, none more so than the extraordinary pic of a Swallow x House Martin hybrid. There is also an obituary to the late Mary Waller by Jim Flegg.
  However, the bulk of the report concerns birds with the systematic list summarising sightings, numbers and trends in the traditional manner, some of which are depressingly familiar such as the paucity of many of our summer migrants; there was only one record of an autumn Turtle Dove, can you believe. On the plus side though, egrets, herons and the like are well represented.
  But fear not there was still plenty to celebrate in 2014, including three memorable birding events. In April an unprecedented arrival of Black-winged Stilts on the bird reserve was followed by an incredible tally of 105 Pomarine Skuas on May Day, which being a Bank Holiday was enjoyed by many observers; a flock of 12 gorgeous `spooners`, ponderously passing up-Channel, and within the cardinal buoy, are permanently etched on my memory bank. Having already said how poor the return passage was in general for land birds, one migrant that did buck the downward trend was Ring Ouzel when hundreds were grounded across the trapping area and around the moat, by the weather gods, in mid-October.
  For gull-lovers there is much to glean from this report including masses of data on ringed birds and their origins; while most of us will weep at the all too brief appearances of Ross`s and Audouin`s Gulls...
  So, plenty to read and ruminate over, and if you haven't got a copy, the 2014 Dungeness Bird Observatory Report is available from the Obs (£9.25, inc p&p) or in the Visitor Centre at the RSPB reserve. 

Park Wood, Appledore - This semi-natural deciduous woodland, a remnant of the old Orlestone Forest that once straddled the Low Weald is currently owned and managed by Kent County Council with open access to the general public. Past conservation work has included rotational coppicing, to the benefit of Nightingales, Garden Warbler and a host of woodland flowers and their associated insects. It is a particularly good wood for a wide range of resident birds as diverse as Tawny Owl and Treecreeper.
  However, KCC are considering selling Park Wood which may have implications for access. Currently it is an important amenity & leisure open space serving Appledore, Woodchurch and the surrounding area, as well as visitors to the villages.
Time is short to lodge any objection. Written objections must be made BEFORE 1st February to
Councillor Mike Hill, Kent County Council, County Hall, Maidstone, Kent, ME14 1XX,
Or M. Hill, Millican, Woodchurch Road, Tenterden, Kent TN30 7AD
Or email: There is also a petition in Appledore Stores, please sign it.
Local Press have been informed and they are visiting the woods at noon on Monday 25th January for a photo shoot of anyone who is protesting. If at all possible please attend. A crowd will have more impact. Most of us will have enjoyed these marvellous woods at sometime, whether birding, dog walking or just admiring the bluebells and anemones. Please don’t let this important local resource be lost.
Thanks to Bernard Boothroyd for flagging this up.

                                Park Wood, Appledore in full spring pomp

Friday 22 January 2016

Weather change

Dungeness - cold, grey, s 4 - With rain on the way we joined DW and MH at the fishing boats for an hour where the brisk southerly and high tide had pushed plenty of gulls close to shore feeding in the surf. All the common species noted, plus Kittiwakes, an adult Med Gull and the 1st winter Glaucous Gull. Auks were streaming west, mainly Razorbills, with over 1,000 logged during the first hour along with Kittiwakes and Gannets, 500 plus Cormorants and a couple of Fulmars.

                               Kittiwake, Dungeness

Lade - We checked the lakes before the rain set in, but there was no change to the numbers and variety of wildfowl and gulls on offer from yesterday.

Thursday 21 January 2016

Dartford Warbler

Dungeness - cold, sunny, s3 - Another stunning morning of weather if, like me, you prefer the cold and sunshine, to the impending cloud and rain forecast for tomorrow. We joined the seawatchers at the boats where a steady flow of Razorbills was underway with over 700 logged and more to come no doubt. The usual Gannets and Kittiwakes filtered by, plus 2 Teal and a Shelduck west and a Grey Seal bobbed up and down just offshore. The 1st winter Glaucous Gull put in appearance along the beach which was much appreciated by the photographers, as you can never have enough pics of this bird...and even I managed a couple of iffy efforts with the bridge camera (not designed for flight shots).
Yesterdays Dartford Warbler was soon relocated in broom scrub in the Kerton Rd triangle, though skulking, along with Stonechat, Wren, Dunnock and 2 Linnets over.

                               1st winter Glaucous Gull, Dungeness

Lade  - Once again the combination of light reflecting off the ice (which if anything was even more extensive than yesterday) proved a spectacular sight, and sound, as the ice creaked and groaned with a zephyr and rising temperatures. Teal and Coot were packed into tight groups to ward off harrier attacks, some on the ice, others feeding, while a high tide roost of around 2,000 gulls, also on the ice, included 250 Great Black-backs.

                                Wildfowl and ice, Lade

Wednesday 20 January 2016

Avocet on ice

Lade - cold, frosty, sunny, light airs - These past couple of mornings have delivered sparkling light over a frosty landscape, with a -2C air frost last night (rare down here by the sea) finally delivering the coup-de-grace to window-box geraniums, and icing over the garden pond for the first time in three years.

                                South lake, Lade

We spent the morning on the local patch where two thirds of both lakes were iced over, a most unusual sight. The Slavonian Grebe was absent for the second day running, presumed moved to  Long Pits/New Diggings. An Avocet roosting on the ice amongst a flock of gulls on north lake was the highlight, plus a Great White Egret on the back fields, where a few Snipe, Skylarks, Mipits and Reed Buntings present. With yesterdays pair of Whooper Swans that briefly dropped onto the flood at Boulderwall (CP) in mind we checked the fields at Lade north, but all was quiet. Several Marsh Harriers and a Common Buzzard also noted around the site, plus 255 Curlews at roost, 6 Redshanks, 2 Kingfishers, Cetti`s Warbler, Water Rail, Long-tailed Tits, Chiffchaff, Goldcrest and at least 4 Foxes warming up on the shingle ridges.

                                Avocet on ice

                                Snipe flusher

                                Great White Egret, Lade

Late this afternoon we returned to Mockmill for a roost watch where a distant Barn Owl quartered the fields behind the `mirrors`. A few Marsh Harriers drifted over towards the bird reserve, plus 2 Great White and 5 Little Egrets, but only a few corvids and Woodpigeons. Finished the day with flight views of a Bittern moving between reedbeds.
As the temperature plummeted we headed for home and the fire. Another brilliant winters day in the field, with just me and the dog, and all within walking distance of the cottage.

Monday 18 January 2016


Dungeness - cold, sunny, dry, se 5 - A bitterly cold morning with a rasping south-easterly coming in off the sea making for difficult viewing from fishing boats. We joined CP and BM where the main event was 950 Razorbills offshore and moving west in two hours, plus 120 Red-throated Divers and a steady trickle of Guillemots, Gannets, Kittiwakes, 2 Fulmars, plus 10 Brents east and a Grey Seal.
Just as we were about to pack up the 1st winter Glaucous Gull flew by and settled down on the beach with the Black-backs by the new lighthouse.
The relief lifeboat, RNLB Corinne Whiteley, cut a dash as she came across the bay from Dover way, rounding the point at high speed and pushing flocks of auks and divers off the sea as she went by.

                                1st winter Caspian Gull, Dungeness

                                1st winter Glaucous Gull, Dungeness

                               RNLB Corinne Whiteley, Dungeness

Lade - Pretty much the same as yesterday here with the Slavonian Grebe on south lake amongst the Coots.

Sunday 17 January 2016

WeBS and harriers

Lade - cold, cloudy, light airs - A day of counting birds commenced on the local patch where a touch under 2,500 waterfowl were logged, the majority Coots. Due to the calm weather conditions birds were spread across the still waters and around the willow swamp where Slavonian Grebe, Smew and 5 Goldeneye also noted. The usual Marsh Harriers were patrolling south lake.
Walland Marsh - Joined CP for a run out onto the Marsh this afternoon for the monthly harrier count which was a strangely quiet affair with only one bird coming to roost and another six in the area. Also noted 4 Buzzards, 2 Kestrels and a Barn Owl, plus around 1,000 Lapwings and Golden Plovers.

Saturday 16 January 2016

Sunshine Birding

Dengemarsh - cold, dry, sunny, nw 2 - A `proper` winters day with frosty fields, icy puddles and a runny nose. We parked up at ARC and spent the morning roaming the tracks around Boulderwall and Hooker`s where the fields were full of plovers, Wigeon, gulls and feral geese, plus several each of Little and Great White Egrets, Grey Heron, Snipe, Marsh Harrier, a Buzzard and Peregrine.
The back lake at Hooker`s delivered a Slavonian Grebe, 5 Bearded Tits, Cetti`s Warblers and Goldcrest, while from the ramp 2 Bitterns showed well in flight, including the pale individual, along with 5 Snipe, 2 Bearded Tits and 2 Great White Egrets. A stake out and scan for the Pendulines drew yet another blank, despite perfect weather conditions, but there was plenty of locals coming and going to natter with, and make a fuss of Barney who hates standing around, unless there`s grub on offer...

                                 Little Egret struggling with a large fish

Dungeness - This afternoon we had a wander along the foreshore in glorious sunshine which had certainly brought forth crowds of birdwatchers, fishermen, photographers and general tourists onto the Estate; they would`ve cleaned up with a toll booth in place today...
However, there was no sign of the Glaucous Gull, and very little happening on a flat calm sea, but the Caspian Gull showed well enough from the road by the fish hut.

                               1st winter Caspian Gull, Dungeness

Friday 15 January 2016

Dungeness - Weekly Summary

Lade - cold, clear, sunny, nw 4 - A sparkling morning was tempered somewhat by a bracing north-westerly airflow delivering a strong smell of something unsavoury to the coastal strip. On south lake the Slavonian Grebe was unusually showy amongst the massed ranks of Coots out in the middle, while the roosting ducks were crowded in the shelter of the willow swamp making the most of the sunshine. Two Great White Egrets were at the far end of north lake.

                               Car transporter at anchor in the bay all week

ARC - 1500hrs - A passerine flock in and around the sea buckthorns was of interest due to the variety of species on offer, just common tits, finches, thrushes and the like, plus Goldcrest, Chiffchaff and Great Spotted Woodpecker. Down at the pines a redhead Smew remains within a Coot flock on ARC.
This morning I decided that and it was high time my Swarovski optics (20 year old bins and 10 year old scope) that are used daily were sent off to Austria for some TLC, so I dropped them off at Hythe Camera Shop and dug out my 40 year old Optolyths. I used them this afternoon and, oh dear, what a difference; its a bit like driving an old Cortina when you`ve been used to a modern car. Still, the agent reckons the optics will come back looking like new, within two months...
Weekly Summary - Anyone considering a trip down to the coast this weekend should be assured a classic winters day birding around the Marsh with Saturday looking the best day weather wise, being cold, sunny and dry with light airs.
With high tide being around 3pm a good starting point would be the RSPB reserve where large numbers of winter wildfowl are on the lakes, particularly Burrowes, including a few Smew, Goldeneye and Pintail. The Long-eared Owl continues to roost in the willows behind the discovery pond, and showing well. At Dengemarsh, Hooker`s reedbed is the current hotspot for Bitterns, Kingfisher and a pair of highly elusive Penduline Tits, plus one or two Dartford Warblers in the dry scrub anywhere from the viewing ramp to the Corral; please note that the Return Trail is off limits due to flooding. Check the fields and pools at Boulderwall for raptors, (including Hen Harrier seen today) egrets, plovers and wildfowl and the bird feeders for Tree Sparrows. Firecrest, Chiffchaff, Cetti`s Warbler and Bearded Tits have been seen around the site and across the road on the ARC.
Elsewhere, Lade south has a Slavonian Grebe; Scotney pits, Black-necked Grebe and Bean Goose; fields near Cheyne Ct wind farm by the A259, c30 Bewick`s Swans; Hythe sea front, Purple Sandpipers on the sea defence blocks; and at Pett Level, Glossy Ibis and White-fronted Geese.
The afternoon at Dungeness, on the high tide, should yield a few seabirds offshore such as auks, divers, Kittiwakes and Gannets, while the weeks star turn, a 1st winter Glaucous Gull was today patrolling the foreshore between the lighthouse and the fishing boats. And if gulls are your bag, there`s the `resident` Caspian to enjoy and the chance of a few more if Mick and Richard are down with their gull bait.
Good birding wherever you go.

Thursday 14 January 2016

Glaucous Gull

Dengemarsh - cold, dry, sunny, w 3 - Glorious sunshine followed a night of heavy rain. Walking down the track at Boulderwall 3 Smew, including a drake, flew in and landed on one of the pools. Hundreds of Wigeon, Lapwings and Golden Plovers flushed by a Peregrine were kept on their toes by a succession of Marsh Harriers. A thick bramble patch by the Corral held a Dartford Warbler warming up in the sun, while the sheltered part of Hookers delivered Cetti s Warbler, Goldcrest, Chiffchaff, Reed Bunting, but not a sniff of a Penduline Tit. A Bittern flew over the reedbed and a Raven `cronked` towards the power station.
On the walk back news came through of a Glaucous Gull, seen by AP, flying over Boulderwall towards Burrowes, which was duly checked without success. The Long-eared Owl was showing well by the pond and duck numbers, particularly Shoveler, appeared to have increased on the lake.
On the way back to Plovers a Black Redstart perched on a roof at the corner of Kerton Road was our first for the year, not that I`m actually keeping a year list of course...
Dungeness - Just as we were preparing to check out the beach at Dunge this afternoon news came through from PB that the Glaucous Gull had been relocated on the foreshore by the fishing boats where, slumped on the shingle, it afforded good photographic opportunities, before moving onto the sea. It was an extremely pale individual considered to be a worn 1st winter, so in its 2nd calendar year; a proper, smart gull, whatever its birthday, and late in the day a 2nd winter bird was discovered at Dungeness (DBO); talk about waiting for buses and then two come along...

                                Glaucous Gull, Dungeness

Wednesday 13 January 2016

On the Border

Pett Level - mild, dry, sunny, w2 - No, I don't mean the Al Stewart song! Together with CP we spent the day birding the border lands, of - East Sussex, and very good it was too with the flooded fields and pools full of waders, wildfowl and a wintering Glossy Ibis. At least 500 each of Curlew and Lapwing were the star turn with many close to the road and looking magnificent in the bright sunshine, particularly the peewits with their showy iridescence. Roosting Redshanks and Dunlins, Oystercatchers and a Green Sandpiper completed the suite of waders on the fields.
Further out a couple of hundred Greylags contained 19 White-fronts and 9 Brents. Raptors included several Marsh Harriers and a Peregrine over the levels and 5 Buzzards thermaling above the sandstone hills in the warm sunshine. A scan down to Cliff End revealed Fulmars wheeling to and fro beside their nesting ledges and several Red-throated Divers on the sea, while along the foreshore  Turnstones, Grey and Ringed Plovers were added to the wader tally.
A walk down to Carter`s flood revealed a sorry old sight of a dilapidated hide and the lagoon overgrown with reeds and scrub.

                               Glossy Ibis, Lapwing and roosting waders, Pett Level

Castle Water -This afternoon we walked to site along the back track from Winchelsea Beach where 6 Egyptian Geese, Little Egret, Kestrel, Sparrowhawk and Long-tailed Tits noted along the way. From the hide the expected collection of common wildfowl, Cormorants and several Marsh Harriers.

                                Camber Castle

                               Castle Water

Scotney - From the double bends there was no sign of the Bean Goose amongst the Greylags, although the Black-necked Grebe was still present on the water with the diving ducks.
We finished the day in fine style back on Romney Marsh with a Short-eared Owl quartering a field in golden, late afternoon light.