Friday 29 April 2016

Incoming hirundines

Dungeness - cold, dry, sunny, w3 - We finished off the weeks birding for Jill, Pam and Tony at the point with a brief seawatch from the hide. Once again it was disappointing, as it has been all week, with only a few scoters, Brents and Gannets on the move, plus an Arctic Tern which eventually lodged at the Patch with a couple of hundred Common Terns. However, a steady flow of incoming hirundines and Swifts was noteworthy. On the land we eventually located a cock black Redstart on the power station complex along with a scattering of Chiff/Willows in the scrub, plus Goldfinch and Sparrowhawk around the moat.
In summary it had been a pretty decent week for the Dorset birders, despite the Arctic-like weather, with 114 species recorded. The standout birds were Black-necked and Slavonian Grebes in summer plumage, two Velevet Scoters and a Glossy Ibis at Pett Level, the Nightingales at Park Wood and species which we take fore granted here such as passage Whimbrels and Barwits, Marsh Harriers, Yellow Wagtails, Black Redstart, Lesser Whitethroats, Tree Sparrows and Corn Buntings.

                                Park Wood, Appledore

Thursday 28 April 2016

The Borderlands

The Woods - cold, sunny, nw 2 - With continuing unfavourable sea watching conditions this morning we headed inland to the Wealden woods on the borderlands of the Marsh.
Our first stop was Park Wood, which was in full pomp on this sunny morning with swathes of bluebells and primroses amongst a wide range of spring flowers carpeting the woodland floor. But it was Nightingales we`d come to see, and they did not disappoint with up six singers around the car park coppice, including several that showed well low down in scrub. Elsewhere around the woodland, as the leaf cover wasn't yet fully out we enjoyed good views Nuthatches, Treecreepers, Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs, Buzzards and Jay. Also, a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker was heard along with Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers.
Kenardington - A walk along the canal in warm sunshine delivered a range of common wayside birds, plus green-veined whites, orange tip and holly blue butterflies and two grass snakes. Crossing the Marsh a brown hare was noted and a pair of Red-legged Partridges at Lydd, our first of the year. However, almost as scarce as the partridge, and despite checking out a couple of former regular sites I could not find a Yellowhammer. While I`m sure there are still one or two pairs out on the flatlands I fear its going the way of the Corn Bunting, and many other farmland birds, into terminal decline. 

                                Red-legged Partridge, Lydd

                                Orange Tip, Kenardington

Scotney - After lunch at Plovers we headed for the farm where 10 Yellow Wagtails and up to eight Corn Buntings performed like good `uns amongst the suckling herd and on overhead wires. Several Whimbrels moved through and Egyptian Goose went onto the trip list.

                                Corn Bunting, Scotney

Dungeness - An hour at the fishing boats from 1600hrs delivered the obligatory common seabirds and a single pale phase Arctic Skua up-Channel at 1630hrs, while several harbour porpoise fed close to shore.

Wednesday 27 April 2016

Velvet Scoter and Glossy Ibis

Rye Harbour - cold, showery, w 2 - Day three of the bird tour and we decamped into Sussex, and what a cracker it turned out to be. The scrubby area by the viewpoint at Castle Water was alive with passerines including seven species of warblers and we had good views of Whitethroat, Sedge Warbler and Song Thrush. From the viewpoint looking out across the wetland Marsh Harrier, 2 Buzzards and a Cuckoo were the highlights, plus Mediterranean Gulls and Whimbrels overhead calling and a booming Bittern.
  Moving onto the Beach reserve from the John Gooder`s hide a host of waders on Flat Beach included 3 Grey Plovers, 2 Turnstones and several Dunlins in breeding plumage, a Little Ringed Plover amongst the Ringed Plovers, 3 Barwits and a steady passage of Whimbrels over. Avocets were on every available island. On Ternery Pool up to 100 Sandwich Terns were performing their nuptials, while the islands were stacked out with hundreds of Black-headed and 10 pairs of Mediterranean Gulls, 10 Common Terns, although we couldn`t find any signs of Little Tern. Around the circuit Wheatear, Skylark and Yellow Wagtails were all noted.

                                Avocet and Redshank, Rye Harbour

Pett Level - This afternoon we moved down the road to Pett, lured by news of 2 Velvet Scoters on the sea which we soon located amongst a flock of 30 Common Scoters. Astonishingly, the Glossy Ibis from last winter put in an appearance by the roadside pools! Also present a Black-necked Grebe, 6 Dabchicks, more Whimbrels, plus Fulmars on the cliffs at Fairlight.

Tuesday 26 April 2016

A late Goldeneye

Dungeness - cold, sunny, nw 3 - Completely the wrong weather conditions for sea watching and it was no surprise that half an hour in the hide delivered nothing much apart from a couple of Brents and 8 Common Scoters. However, on the mammal front up to 10 porpoises and a grey seal were a bonus. At the Patch c300 Common Terns over the boil made for an impressive sight, plus 20 Common Gulls and a 1st summer Med.
RSPB - We spent most of the day on the bird reserve starting at New Diggings where the 2 Slavonian Grebes showed well along with a host of Swifts and hirundines feeding on emerging insects low over the water, despite the low temperatures. At Boulderwall the Tree Sparrows were on the feeders and along the access road 2 Whimbrels and a Wheatear noted. On Burrowes loads more hirundines, Swifts and Common Terns, plus Black-necked Grebe, Teal, Wigeon, Shoveler and a redhead Goldeneye which had just dropped in. Around the circular route Little Egret, Lapwings, Greenshank and Whimbrels over, Ravens, Marsh Harriers, Common Whitethroat, Sedge, Reed, Cetti`s and Willow Warblers, but we failed to find the Bean Goose. More Whimbrels (25) on the way out and a cracking Lesser Whitethroat in scrub on the walk down to Hanson hide on ARC where there were 30 Common Terns.

                                Goldeneye, Burrowes

Greatstone Beach - We finished the afternoon from the Tavern scanning the beach on a falling tide where 10 Sandwich Terns bathed in the sea, alongside 200 Sanderlings, 100 Oystercatchers, 10 Curlews, 10 Dunlins and best of 12 Barwits, several of which were in summer plumage.
Boulderwall - An evening visit connected with Barn Owl around the old farmhouse, plus Sparrowhawk and Marsh Harrier, plus a spectacular lightning show over the Channel.

Monday 25 April 2016


Dungeness - cold, overcast, w 2 - 0730-0900 hrs - A session from the seawatch hide delivered very little apart from a trickle of terns and Gannets, plus 100 Common Scoters, 50 Brents and a distant Bonxie. Black Redstart and Wheatear noted on the power station wall.
  With Tony, Pam and Jill from Dorset down for a weeks birding, this afternoon we commenced back at Dungeness where Wheatears, Linnets, Pied Wagtails, Mipit and Skylark were all located opposite Jarman`s. At a private garden nearby we had good views of Willow Warblers, Chiffchaffs, Blackcap and Dunnocks. A flock of 20 Linnets were feeding on the sward by the road to the Obs, but we dipped on the Black Redstart around the power station.
  Two hours of seawatching, first from the fishing boats and later from the hide, delivered very little apart from the obligatory Gannets, Common and Sandwich Terns, plus 2 Brents, a Common Scoter and a smart Razorbill on the sea.
Boulderwall - An evening visit in the rain for Barn Owl drew a blank, although Marsh Harrrier and Kestrel were noted.

Sunday 24 April 2016

Winter returns

Lade - cold, cloudy, ne 4 - Its been a quiet weekend down here at Plovers as we prepare for a five day bird tour next week. When we have been out and about its felt like a return to winter with an icy wind out of the north all but blocking any passerine migration. However, it doesn't seem to have bothered the northbound waders with plenty of Whimbrels whistling overhead and Barwits dropping onto the sheep folds around Scotney; tough birds indeed.
  On Saturday afternoon a couple of hours seawatching from the boats with two other optimists delivered a steady passage of Gannets, Common and Sandwich Terns and at least one Arctic Tern. As is often the case at Dungeness, even when the wind is in the `wrong` direction, we scored with a Blue Fulmar, 60 Brents, 10 each of Barwit and Whimbrel, plus singles of Bonxie and Red-throated Diver, so all was not lost, and as usual on a quiet seawatch the banter was worth the visit alone!
Sunday - It was even colder today as the wind swung round to a north-westerly vector with the midday temperature a paltry 8C. Even so seven species of common warbler were heard or seen  around the willow swamp at Lade, along with 20 Swallows and 10 House Martins over north lake. Two small parties of Whimbrels and Greenshanks flew through and a stunning male Marsh Harrier checked out the main reed bed. On the Desert 30 Linnets made for a welcome spectacle.

                                Linnet, Lade

This afternoon we walked the beach where only a handful of Dunlins and Sanderlings were noted amongst the Curlews and Oystercatchers. On the pits a trickle of Swallows and House Martins heading north was the only sign of any migrants.

Friday 22 April 2016

Barwits on the Beach

Dungeness - cold, cloudy, ne 4 - 0845-1045hrs - A two hour seawatch from the hide produced a trickle of Gannets, Common and Sandwich Terns, Common Scoters and Whimbrels, 18 Barwits, Kittiwake, Fulmar, 2 auks and singles of Bonxie, Arctic Skua and Red-throated Diver. There was at least 10 porpoises feeding just off shore.
  It was quiet on the land in the brisk north-easterly but we did manage to find a cracking cock Black Redstart on the power station fence. A circuit of Long Pits delivered a Ring Ouzel, several Whimbrels over calling and six species of common passage warblers in the scrub.
Burrowes - We spent some time grilling a flock of around 100 hirundines over the lake, mostly Swallows, plus 20 Swifts, 20 Sand and 10 House Martins. There was no sign of yesterdays Black-necked Grebe, but a Common Sandpiper was our first of the year. Quiet too on ARC down to the pines apart from a mixed flock of 20 Linnets and Chaffinches and a Sparrowhawk.
Lade - We finished on the local patch in some style with 45 Barwits, on the beach from the Tavern (many in spanking breeding plumage) 40 Dunlins and 20 Sanderling, while two Sandwich Terns landed amongst the waders to bathe in the shallows. A few more Swallows were noted on north lake.
A decent couple of days birding with Lew around the peninsula ended on 105 species, including Barn Owl and Bittern seen and heard respectively at Boulderwall.

Thursday 21 April 2016

Passage Whimbrels and Greenshanks

Dungeness - 0830hrs - cool, cloudy, e 5 - With Lew down for a couple of days birding at Plovers we started in the seawatch hide. Despite the unfavourable weather conditions an hour delivered a Black-throated Diver from the off followed by a trickle of Gannets, Sandwich and Common Terns, 2 Red-throated Divers, 2 auks, a Kittiwake, a Fulmar, 12 Barwits and 7 Whimbrels, the first of many we were to see today. Down at the Patch 20 Common Terns were milling over the boil amongst a host of immature gulls.
  The land was predictably quiet in the rasping east wind, but we did manage to pin down a pair of Wheatears opposite Jarman`s, several Pied Wagtails and a scattering of Linnets.

                               Bar-tailed Godwit, Hayfields

RSPB - My pessimism for the day was quickly unfounded as the 2 Slavonian Grebes showed well on New Diggings along with a small flock of Swallows over the lake and several Whimbrels and Greenshanks over calling, but unseen. At Boulderwall Tree Sparrows were in the garden followed by a Wheatear opposite and along the access road 30 more Whimbrels dropped in. From Dennis`s hide a Black-necked Grebe in summer plum showed at the northern end of the lake, plus House Martins amongst the Swallows and the first Swifts of the spring over the car park. Around the circular trail, Common and Lesser Whitethroats, Sedge, Reed and Cetti`s Warbler performed well, the Tundra Bean Goose was still on the fields at Dengemarsh along with a Bar-headed Goose, Wigeon and Shelducks, while Marsh Harriers came and went. From the hide two flocks of Greenshanks moved through totalling 12 birds, a Bar-wit was on the hayfield and a pair of Garganey flew over. We finished on a high with our first Cuckoo of the year by Scott hide, a Yellow Wagtail by the Dipping Pool and several more Whimbrels over calling.

                                Slavonian Grebe, New Diggings

                                Swift over the car park

                                    Whimbrels, Access Road

Scotney - In the afternoon sunshine several Yellow Wagtails and Corn Buntings showed well past the farm along with a cracking male Marsh Harrier, 8 Egyptian Geese and 2 Avocets.

                               Yellow Wagtail, Scotney

ARC - We finished a successful days birding with more warblers, hirundines and Common Terns, plus a Grey Plover over the lake. However, the day was memorable for the number of Whimbrels and Greenshanks on the move, many emitting their evocative calls, as they pressed on towards their northern breeding grounds.
PS: The first 2 Pomarine Skuas of the spring were logged past the point this afternoon (DBO).

Wednesday 20 April 2016

Common Terns

Lade - cold, dry, sunny, e 6 - A blasting east wind made for a difficult morning in the field for the guests. We kicked off opposite the Tavern on an incoming tide where a flock of 25 Knot was the highlight, plus the usual Sanderlings, Curlews, Oystercatchers and Ringed Plovers.
Dungeness - 0945-1045hrs - An hour in the seawatch hide, while pedestrian, did deliver one or two new birds for the tour including a flock of 30 Brents. Also noted, 7 Whimbrel, 10 Gannets and a steady flow of feeding Common and Sandwich Terns. Some of the Common Terns settled on the sea and down at the Patch there was at least 200 milling over the boil and settled on the beach.
Lade - We finished off at the pits where the surprise sighting was a brief but close view of a Water Rail on the causeway. Whitethroat, Sedge and Cetti`s Warblers were all in good voice around the ponds while on north lake a small flock of Swallows contained 2 House Martins.
During the three days we clocked up around 100 species for Avril, Rob and Margaret with the highlights being Slavonian and Black-necked Grebes, Bean Goose, Whimbrel, Peregrine, Water Rail, Barn Owl, Black Redstart, Yellow Wagtail, Tree Sparrow and Corn Bunting.

Tuesday 19 April 2016

More Whistlers

Lade - mild, cloudy, light airs - An early morning walk out back with Barney delivered two parties of Whimbrels moving up the coastline totalling 15 birds. Goldcrest and Chiffchaff singing in the garden pine trees.
Dungeness - A superb couple of hours at the point for the guests mopping up on Wheatears, Skylark, Mipits, Pied Wagtails, Stock Doves, Linnets, Ringed Plover and 3 each of Swallow and Yellow Wagtail in off the sea. At a private garden nearby Blackcaps feeding on apples, Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff were added, although we missed a couple of Continental Coal Tits. Around the old light and the power station 3 singing Black Redstarts were located, plus Peregrine and Raven on the pylons. Around the moat more Chiff/Willows, Common Whitethroat and a Wheatear.
En-route to Scotney we stopped on the causeway road to scope the 2 Slavonian Grebes on New Diggings with Teal, Shoveler and a Greenshank over calling which was our first of the year.
Scotney - Another good session here with Yellow Wagtails and Corn Bunting bagged, plus a distant Buzzard, 8 Avocets and a flock of 25 Whimbrels that dropped onto one of the back islands, and at least 8 Egyptian Geese amongst the other feral jobs.

                                Yellow Wagtail, Scotney

RSPB - On Burrowes a pair of Black-necked Grebes was the highlight, but the circular walk was disappointing, as the wind picked up, with just the usual Marsh Harriers, common warblers and wildfowl noted, plus the Tundra Bean Goose on Dengemarsh.
Walland Marsh - An evening out looking for owls on the Marsh was a failure, but we had cracking views of one on the way home at Boulderwall. Other bits and pieces around the Marsh included Green Woodpecker, Kestrel, Stonechat and singing Yellowhammer.
All in all a pretty successful days birding.

Monday 18 April 2016


ARC/Tower Pits - 1330hrs - cool, cloudy w 5 - With Avril, Rob and Margaret down for a three day birdwatching break we commenced on the bird reserve where the stiff breeze made for difficult birding. Very few passerines noted here due to the wind but we did manage to see Swallows, Lesser Whitethroat, Cetti`s and Sedge Warblers in  the scrub down to the pines, plus 10 Common Terns on the lake and all the usual wildfowl.
  From the access road several Marsh harriers and a flock of 9 Whimbrels near the bee hives, which showed well, plus a Ring Ouzel in nearby scrub that did not.

                               Whimbrels, access road

Dungeness - A seawatch from the fishing boats this afternoon yielded very little apart from a few passing Gannets, Sandwich and Common Terns and up to 10 porpoises just offshore.

Sunday 17 April 2016

Seven warblers

Long Pits - cool, sunny, nw 3 - Following a cold and frosty night the morning soon warmed up in the shelter of the northerly airflow. En-route to the allotment in Lydd we did a figure of eight circuit of Long Pits which for the most part was birdless apart from a Ring Ouzel that rocketed out from cover half way down and seven species of warblers, all around the northern end near the road. All were in song at some stage and comprised 10 each of Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler and Blackcap, plus 5 Common Whitethroats, 4 Lesser Whitethroats, 3 Cetti`s and one Reed Warbler, which was our first of the year. Several Swallows pushed on north, 4 Med Gulls went west calling and a Raven flew over.

                                 Chaffinch and Chiffchaff, Long Pits

  At Lydd more Chiffchaffs were singing around the gardens and in Ketchley Copse by the roundabout. Three Buzzards drifted over being hassled by Herring Gulls and several Med Gulls were heard. A check of ARC from the causeway road on the way home revealed Teal, Shoveler and Gadwall at the south end, plus several Common Terns on the lake.

Saturday 16 April 2016

Lade Survey

Lade - cool, cloudy, nw 3 - With a chilly north-westerly airflow it was the perfect morning to abandon any hope of a seawatch and mooch around the local patch surveying the breeding birds. In Mockmill sewer Sedge Warblers, Common Whitethroats, Linnets and Stonechat were all in song, plus Skylark and Mipit on the Desert and fields behind the `mirrors`. On the lakes good numbers of Great Crested and Little Grebes actively displayed while a pair each of Teal and Pochard looked as though they may stay to breed. Around the willow swamp Chiffchaff and Blackcap sang, but may only be transient, unlike 5 singing Cetti`s Warbler and a Green Woodpecker excavating a nest hole in an old willow. On scaffold island the usual pair of Oystercatchers had taken up territory. In total there was evidence of 40 species of breeding birds around the site.

                                Canada Geese and Great Crested Grebes

                                Green Woodpecker nesting hole

  A trickle of Swallows and Sand Martins headed north along with 2 Whimbrels and 14 west bound Mediterranean Gulls overhead calling. Also noted, an adult male Marsh Harrier working the reed beds, our first Common Tern of the year over north lake, a Little Egret in the willow swamp and a Raven north along the coast. A flock of 55 immature Mute Swans landed briefly on north lake but were soon `ushered` off by the resident cob bird. Walking back along the beach six species of waders included 12 Ringed Plovers, plus several Med Gulls on the sands while barrel jellyfish continue to be washed up on the tideline.

                                First Common Tern

                                Barney and Barrel Jellyfish

This afternoon once the rain had cleared we checked the working gravel pit to the south where half a dozen each of Shelducks and Oystercatchers were the only birds of note. Another two Whimbrels flew over calling heading inland. Back at Plovers the Goldcrest was singing from the fir trees and Pat photographed a Sparrowhawk on the front garden wall with her I-pad.

                               Sparrowhawk (by Pat Trodd)

Friday 15 April 2016

Weekly Summary

Dungeness  - cool, cloudy, sw 3, rain later - 0715 - An hour in the seawatch hide produced a trickle of Common and Sandwich Terns, scoters, Gannets and auks on the move plus, 2 Mergansers, 2 Fulmars, 4 Brents, 4 Gadwall, 2 Bonxies and 6 Arctic Skuas. However, views were not great with most birds being half way to France. It was quiet on the land with only a couple of Chiffchaffs in the lighthouse garden, although a few more warblers were reported from the Trapping Area.
  On the RSPB reserve this week summer plum Slavonian and Black-necked Grebes have been showing well on New Diggings and Burrowes respectively, while on Dengemarsh Marsh Harriers are nest building, a Bittern is `booming` and Bearded Tits and Cetti`s Warbler have been showing well from the viewing ramp. Winter left overs on Dengemarsh also include a few Wigeon, a Great White Egret (also noted at Lade) and a Bean Goose, plus a Goldeneye on ARC. Around the circular walk (the return trail has at last been reopened) Linnets, Sedge Warblers and Whitethroats are back in force, plus a few Lesser Whites and the first Reed Warblers at Hooker`s. Look for Wheatears on the shingle just before the car park, Whimbrel in the fields along the access road and Tree Sparrows at Boulderwall. Swallows are coming in daily and Common Terns are starting be appear on the pits, while the cat-like call of Mediterranean Gulls can be regularly heard overhead.

Thursday 14 April 2016

Prospecting egret

Lade - warm, dry, sunny, light airs - Day three of the bird tour commenced at the local patch where we failed to locate the Great White Egret, although I later heard that it was seen on Dengemarsh. However, a Little Egret in non-breeding plumage in the willow swamp was acting as though prospecting for a future nesting site... Common Whitethroats had moved in since yesterday with at least 5 singing birds along the main track. Swallow and Sand Martin noted over the lake, plus Whimbrel over calling, and a marsh frog posed nicely in the ponds.

                                Little Egret and Marsh Frog, Lade

Dungeness - A brief seawatch delivered a few scoters, Gannets, Brents and terns on the move plus several porpoises in the sea. From the Patch a Little Gull, 30 Common Terns and the usual array of immature gulls. It was quiet on the land with just a few Chiffchaffs, a Goldcrest and a singing Black Redstart.
  We ended our three day bird tour for Jane and Fran on 106 species with a wide variety of both resident and incoming migrants noted. The highlight for the guests was the Barn Owl display last night and we all agreed that the flock of Yellow Wagtails at Scotney Farm was something special.

Wednesday 13 April 2016

Yellow Wagtails and Barn Owls

Lade - mild, misty start, warm later, light airs - 0700hrs - An early walk over the pits on a misty morning yielded a Great White Egret in the reed bed on south lake and the `booming` sound of a Bittern drifting across the Desert from the Tower Pits.
Dungeness - 0830hrs - Day two of the bird tour and we started with a seawatch which, unsurprisingly giving the mirror calm sea, produced just a few terns and scoters along with 10 porpoises, which rose in number to over 30 through the day. On the power station fence we had distant views of a singing male Black Redstart, while plenty more Linnets had taken up residence in the scrub across the point.
RSPB - The Slavonian Grebe pair showed well on New Diggings, as did a pair of Black-necked Grebes on Burrowes, along with a drake Garganey. Several Med Gulls flew over calling and seemed to be everywhere we went today, mostly passing overhead towards Rye. On Dengemarsh Raven, Marsh Harriers, Wigeon, Bearded Tit, Cetti`s and Sedge Warblers all showed well, plus a singing Lesser Whitethroat, our first of the year, near Scott hide, Wheatear and Whimbrel from the access road and Tree Sparrows at Boulderwall. By noon the temperature reached the upper teens bringing forth myriads of flying insects.

                                Sedge Warbler and Whimbrel, RSPB

Lade Bay - From the Tavern on an incoming tide we noted Curlews, Oycs, Dunlins and Sanderlings on the sands.
Scotney - A superb late afternoon session here with a flock of 25 Yellow Wagtails the highlight, all males, feeding around the suckling herd by the farm house, what fabulous little migrants they are. Also cracking views of 8 Corn Buntings, plus Little Ringed Plover, Avocets, Ringed Plovers, Common Terns, Egyptian Geese, Little Egrets, Marsh Harrier, Curlew and Stock Dove.

                                Corn Bunting and Yellow Wagtails, Scotney Farm

Walland Marsh - Terrific evening for Jane and Fran out on the Marsh searching for owls. We had fantastic close views of 3 Barn Owls and a Little Owl on Walland and another Barn Owl perched on a roadside post at Boulderwall on the way home. Also noted 2 Stonechats, Wheatear, Green Woodpecker, Marsh Harrier and 2 singing Corn Buntings.

                                Little Owl and Barn Owl, Walland Marsh

Tuesday 12 April 2016

Seabirds and warblers

Dungeness - mild, sunny, s 2 - 0730-0900hrs  - There was a steady passage of seabirds past the hide this morning, most of them a fair way out due to the clear visibility. During our 90 minute watch the following noted moving up-Channel: Red-throated Diver 1, Black-throated Diver 1, Manx Shearwater (west), Gannet 10, Brent Goose 80, Shelduck 3, Shoveler 9, Common Scoter 200, Merganser 4, Oystercatcher 2, Dunlin1, Whimbrel 2, Bonxie 2, Arctic Skua 3, Little Gull 10, Sandwich Tern 50, Common Tern 20, Arctic Tern 10, auk 5. More Common Terns were at the Patch, 2 Swallows came in and at least 20 Linnets coasted east.
  On the land a small fall of Willow Warblers and Chiffchaffs were active in the lighthouse garden, plus Blackcap, Black Redstart and Goldcrest nearby. Two notorious skulkers were also reported earlier; a Gropper in the moat and a singing Nightingale in the garden.

                                Chiffchaffs and Willow Warbler, Dungeness

Dungeness - With Fran and Jane down for a three day Birdwatching Break we headed back down the point this afternoon to search for migrants. Opposite Jarman`s we cleaned up with 10 Wheatears, 10 Linnets, 4 Skylarks, 2 Mipits, Swallow and Pied Wagtail. Onto the lighthouse garden and the Chiffchaffs and Willow Warbler performed well, plus 2 Blackcaps, Goldcrest and a Black Redstart. We then moved to Long Pits to look for Redstart, which we heard only, along with more Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs and Willow Warblers, plus our first Whitethroat of the spring.
A seawatch from the concrete road for an hour produced a steady passage of Common and Sandwich Terns, 50 Common Scoters, 2 Red-throated Divers, 2 Black-throated Divers and several Gannets and Little Gulls.

                                Spectrum 1 off Dungeness

                                      Linnet, ARC

ARC/Tower Pits - We finished the afternoon with more common warblers, Linnets,  4 Marsh Harriers, 2 Buzzards and a Goldeneye on the lake, plus maybe two booming Bitterns.

Monday 11 April 2016

Sea ducks

Dungeness - cool, sunny, e 3 - 0730 - 0845hrs - The portents were not good when we arrived in the seawatch hide with the regulars reporting "slow going". However, things soon picked up and it turned into a tidy little seawatch with a steady flow of Common Scoters providing the bulk numbers of sea duck along with small parties of Shelducks, Mergansers, Pintails and Shovelers, plus one or two Gadwall and Teal. Single figures of seabirds included auks, Red-throated Divers, Fulmar, Sandwich and Common Terns, Little Gulls, Kittiwakes and Gannets, plus Dunlin, Sanderling, Oystercatcher and our first 2 Whimbrel of the spring. A Marsh Harrier flew in off the sea prompting comments about "passport control" and to cap off a splendid hour an immature Iceland Gull flew west along the beach. Phew! At least 15 porpoises were counted feeding just offshore along with a lone grey seal.

                                Slavonian Grebe, New Diggings

ARC/New Diggings - 1300hrs  - A few Chiffchaffs and Willow Warblers were in the bushes down to the pines, plus 5 Shelducks and Swallows on ARC. From the causeway road the Slavonian Grebes showed well and a Common Tern sat amongst the gulls and ducks on the ARC side.

                               Brents on migration, Dungeness

Dungeness - Back to the seawatch hide for another brief session delivered a steady passage of Gannets, some of which paused to feed, two flocks of Brents and Common Scoters, 2 Arctic Skuas and up 20 Little Gulls.

Sunday 10 April 2016

Pied Flycatcher

Lade - cool, sunny, e 3 - We didn't get out til late due to a busy weekend of B&B guests coming and going. The local patch was quiet this morning following a clear, cold night with hardly any migrants present apart from a handful of Chiffchaffs and Willow Warblers by the ponds. On south lake the Great White Egret was still present but I could find no sign of yesterdays Black-necked Grebes.

                                Pied Flycatcher, Long Pits

Long Pits - Having heard that the seabird passage was good earlier, the plan this afternoon was to spend a couple of hours from the fishing boats. However, following a tweet from the Obs concerning a cock Pied Flycatcher on the northern Long Pit we diverted rather rapidly. Pied Flycatchers in the spring at Dungeness are bordering on rarity status these days and it wasn't long before, together with PB, we were watching this stunning migrant feeding in the lee of the wind on the western side of the pit opposite the laboratory. Its habits were typically flycatcher in fashion for the most part, but it also regularly dropped down from the willows into the reed bed to feed, as well as posing in the sunshine for the camera. A splendid sub-Saharan migrant.
  Also present were a Common Redstart, 2 Blackcaps and several Chiffchaffs, Cetti`s and Willow Warblers.

Saturday 9 April 2016


Lade - mild, cloudy, rain, s 3 - A wet old morning, but mild with a wind blowing in from the south that delivered the first decent numbers of hirundines over the lakes, mostly Swallows, 50 or so, plus 20 Sand Martins and our first two House Martins of the spring. The brisk wind kept pushing them off the water and high over the willow swamp where feeding conditions were better as insects emerged from the bushes. Also of note were 4 Shelducks that flew in from the west and the long-staying Great White Egret in the reed bed on the far side of south lake.

                                Black-necked Grebe and Shelducks, Lade

The rain stuck for most of the day only relenting around tea time. We had a second look at the local patch this afternoon where 2 Black-necked Grebes had dropped in on south lake. However, the hirundines had moved on, but Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff and Cetti`s were all singing by the ponds as the clouds lifted.

Friday 8 April 2016

St Omer

St Omer - After a non-birding day yesterday it was good to get back out in the field; in northern France. After an early shuttle, and with CP at the wheel, we headed inland and dropped the ladies off in the quaint old town of St Omer for a spot of retail therapy, while we headed for the woods.
Foret de Clairmarais - Spent the morning in this superb old hunting forest full of atmosphere and  abundant bird life. Singing Chiffchaffs, Willow Warblers and Blackcaps were all over the place along with common thrushes and tits, Short-toed Treecreepers, Nuthatches and Great Spotted Woodpeckers. We had particularly good views of one creeper on the wall of an old barn and a stunned pecker in the hand that eventually recovered and flew off. Several Buzzards over the canopy included one very pale individual with a black tail band and rear hind wing, while surrounding farmland held Skylarks, Lapwings and a pair of White Storks.

                                Stunned Great Spotted Woodpecker

                               Forest ride

  However, the best was yet to come as we wandered along a ride beside a mixed stand of old timber with the banks swathed in primroses, violets, barren strawberries and the like. A Middle Spotted Woodpecker called, followed by two hooting Tawny Owls and a flurry of tit activity; Long-tailed, Coal, Marsh Tit and several Crested Tits that showed brilliantly. One bird was in and out of a nest hole in an oak stump bringing out rotten wood when a Marsh Tit thought he`d get in on the act and have a go too! Amazing. We watched a Nuthatch collecting mud from a puddle for its nest hole and also noted a pair of Bullfinches, several brimstones and orange tips, plus a beautiful buck roe deer.

                                Crested Tit at nest hole

                                       Nuthatch collecting mud

Romelaere - In the afternoon we moved onto the nearby wetland reserve which has had extensive work carried out on a new boardwalk. On the approach track we passed a bare tree that held a Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Linnet, Chaffinch and a stunning male Serin in full song. A White Stork sat comfortably atop its large stick nest in the warm sunshine while the willow swamp and reed beds were alive with Sedge, Cetti`s and Willow Warblers, Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps. In the Cormorant colony several pairs had nearly fledged young, plus four nests of Little Egrets in their midst. Also noted around the site Marsh Harrier, Sparrowhawk, Great White Egret, Shovelers, Teal, Wigeon, Kingfisher and White Wagtail.

                                   Cock Serin

                               White Stork on nest

                               White Wagtail
  Another great day over the water with, as usual, one or two surprises and many thanks to Chris for driving.