Sunday 31 July 2016

Sunshine Heron

Lade - warm, dry, sunny, light airs - The pick of the moths from last night was a Least Yellow Underwing, a species I rarely see down here, plus the first of many, no doubt, Flounced Rustics. A Willow Warbler in the garden was also a first of the season.

                                Least Yellow Underwing and Magpie moths

Dengemarsh - A circuit of the Marsh produced a few migrants with a trickle of Sand Martins, Yellow Wagtails and a Greenshank overhead. A Corn Bunting flew across a wheat field while there were plenty of Reed Warblers and Reed Buntings in the ditches, where a very confiding juvenile Grey Heron was enjoying the sunshine with wings spread akimbo. From the viewpoint a family party of Bearded Tits showed well in the reedbed, several Willow Warblers called from the sallows, adult Common Terns fished for juveniles on the raft in front of the hide and a distant Great White Egret preened opposite. The hayfields were bone-dry and birdless, but there was a smart show of Marsh-mallow by hayfield 2. Oddly enough not a single raptor was encountered during the two hour jaunt.

                                Sunbathing Grey Heron

                                Great White Egret


Saturday 30 July 2016

Passage Whimbrels

Lade - 0700hrs  - warm, cloudy, showery, sw 2 - A Green Sandpiper on north lake was new this morning, while a flock of five and then a single Whimbrel went over calling. The first passage Willow Warbler of the season sang a half-hearted lament from the willow swamp as several Migrant Hawker dragonflies warmed up around the ponds. Small flocks of Sandwich Terns noisily passed across the lakes, en-route to the beach, where 60 Dunlins and 45 Sanderlings fed amongst the regular Curlews, Oystercatchers and Ringed Plovers, plus four Shelducks.
  Throughout the day several more Seven-note Whistlers passed down the coast.

                                Migrant Hawker warming up by the ponds

RSPB - A check of the water level on ARC from Hanson hide revealed a couple of small exposed islands and several more suitable for standing Lapwings, Coots and gulls. The Cormorant island was difficult to view due to the reed growth in front of the hide, while two Blackwits were seen earlier from Screen hide (NB). Things were much better on Burrowes where the shingle islands attracted three each of Common Sandpiper and Dunlin, plus singles of Redshank, Little Ringed Plover and Turnstone. Hundreds of eclipse wildfowl, gulls, grebes, Common Terns, Coots and Sand Martins were present, plus a lone Barnacle Goose and two Garganey feeding in front of Firth hide. A large flock of Lapwings on the shingle from the access road contained two Golden Plovers.

                                ARC island

                                Garganeys in front of Firth hide

Dungeness - 1530 - 1645hrs - A nothing sort of a seawatch from the fishing boats for the first half hour with a handful of Gannets and Sandwich Terns feeding offshore with four Porpoises. It then livened up somewhat with 30 Common Terns, 20 Gannets, 10 Sandwich Terns, 10 Kittiwakes, Guillemot, Fulmar and a juv Yellow-legged Gull westbound.

Thursday 28 July 2016

Night of the Tigers

Lade - warm, dry, sunny, light airs - A Jersey Tiger on the summer house wall by the trap was this mornings moth highlight, along with four Garden Tigers in the egg boxes. Also of note a Toadflax Brocade and a Small Wainscot.

                                Jersey and Garden Tigers

                                Small Wainscot

                                Toadflax Brocade

There was plenty of early morning insect action on the Desert in the warm sunshine and light airs with masses of invertebrates around a clump of brambles, including browns, skippers, Common Blues, Small Coppers and Peacocks, blue damselflies, Migrant and Common Hawkers, bees and bugs. Was also good to see a number of juvenile Common Whitethroats and Stonechats atop the gorse, warily keeping an eye open for Hobby and Kestrel hunting over the shingle ridges.

                                Grassland butterflies

ARC - Dungeness - 1500hrs - A wander down to Screen hide produced a surprise in the shape of a juvenile Cuckoo flying out from Tower pits and over the lake towards the railway line. About 200 Sand Martins battled into a brisk and increasing sou`westerly wind, while Common Terns came and went. Seven Little Egrets were already at the roost site on the far corner of the pit and a Marsh Harrier drifted over. All the usual eclipse wildfowl hugged the margins to avoid the wind.

Tuesday 26 July 2016

A few more waders

Lade - warm, dry and sunny, sw 2 - Pebble Prominent was the best of the bunch in the garden moth trap this morning, plus five of the pyrale, Cynaeda dentalis, a south coast speciality. Over the pits two Common Sandpipers, 50 Lapwings over and a Whimbrel. On the beach all the usual Curlews and Oystercatchers, 10 Dunlin, 10 Ringed Plover, five Sanderling and two Barwits.
Tower Pits - The walk down to the pines produced plenty of Sedge and Reed Warblers around the pit margins, Common Whitethroats on the dry scrub and several Willow Warblers around the car park. At the pines a Cetti`s Warbler, Long-tailed Tits, Chaffinches and two each of Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers. On ARC hundreds of eclipse ducks, Common Terns, feral geese and Sand Martins.

                                Juvenile Great Spotted Woodpecker


Dungeness - 1400hrs - From the boardwalk at least 10 Porpoises were offshore, plus the Dutch research vessel Vigilant.

                                Blackwit on Burrowes

Burrowes - An afternoon visit turned up a few waders on the ever increasing islands: Lapwings, Oystercatchers, two Ringed Plovers, two Common Sandpipers, Dunlin, Sanderling, Redshank, Greenshank and Black-tailed Godwit. Duck numbers had dramatically increased since my last visit a week ago.

Sunday 24 July 2016

Lade Open Day

Lade - warm, dry, sunny, sw 2 - A weekend of proper summer sunshine brought forth the crowds to the local beach, but as high tide was in the afternoon it enabled me to get in my first sea swim of the season along with several Grey Seals further out that were fishing for flatties as the tide receded.

                                Tufted Ducklings

  Birdwise it was predictably quiet with early morning sorties delivering the usual Sand Martins and Yellow Wagtails overhead and a few more broods of Tufted Ducklings on the water. A Hobby was slumped on the Desert powers lines yesterday, while three Marsh Harriers and a Sparrowhawk enjoyed the thermals over the airfield this morning.

                              Gatekeeper and Red Admiral were numerous this weekend

  Good numbers of butterflies and dragons were on the wing around the willow swamp and in the back garden, including plenty of Red Admirals and Gatekeepers, plus several Black-tailed Skimmers, Brown Hawkers and Emperors. The moth trap delivered a meagre 23 species this morning with only Blood-vein, 10 Marbled Greens and 12 Lackeys of any note.

                                Female Emperor Dragonfly

                                Male Black-tailed Skimmer

                                 Marbled Green

                               Meadow Brown, a common grassland butterfly                  

  On Saturday the RSPB held the Lade Pits Open Day affording access to the `Sound Mirrors` via a swing bridge. These structures regularly attract hundreds of visitors from far and wide on open days, and although I see them on a near daily basis it made a change to be able to access the island and look back across the site from a different angle. On a botanical note there were plenty of clumps of Ragged Robin and Hemp Agrimony in flower in the marshy ground in front of the 30` mirror.

                                Lade Open Day

  The only other local news this weekend was a Bee-eater briefly over the bird reserve on Saturday and the first post-breeding Great White Egret of the summer back on Dengemarsh.

Brown Hawker

Friday 22 July 2016

Double Kidney

Lade - warm, dry, sunny, e 2 - 0700hrs -Marbled Green was the only new for the year amongst 34 species of macros in the garden trap, although a late White Spot was of note. We then walked up the beach, noting 12 Ringed Plovers en-route, to the Kerton Road Café where the two traps were heaving with moths. It took a while but 45 species of macros were eventually recorded with one tricky pug awaiting the moth lord's deliberation. 20 Sussex Emeralds were logged, making it 193 so far this summer at the café trap site. Other goodies included Early Thorn, White Satin, July Highflyer, Kent Black Arches and Double Kidney.

                                Double Kidney - a scarce moth down here

                                Sussex Emeralds - female top, male bottom

                                July Highflyer - a common summer moth in small numbers

  The walk back across the Desert, via the gravel pits, was largely uneventful with just a solitary Common Sandpiper on the lake and several Yellow Wagtails over south.

Thursday 21 July 2016

Silent Rye

Rye Harbour - 0800hrs - warm, dry and sunny - Had to go to Wittersham first thing this morning so opted for a spot of birding at nearby Rye and a circuit of the beach reserve, in fine weather with light airs. My previous visit was early last month when the seabirds were still in full breeding mode. Today, however, Ternery Pool and Flat Beach were largely silent as the terns and gulls had already dispersed; how quickly the seasons pass. I could only find a handful of Common and Sandwich Terns on site with one and two juveniles respectively and no sign of any Little Terns. Chatting to the Wildlife Trust staff it appears that only a few Common and Sandwich Terns reared chicks to flying stage, despite there being plenty of fish and sand eels available. Predation would seem the likely cause of failure, probably from gulls (including Meds) or maybe a Fox or Badger breaching the security fence. All 16 pairs of Little Terns failed to raise young despite hatching eggs; how on earth does this fragile tern ever replenish its numbers? Its a good job terns are long-lived. As for the gulls, Black-headed appeared to have done well, but Mediterranean Gulls not so.
  Waders too had a mixed breeding season with Lapwings failing altogether and only a few Avocets, Redshanks and Ringed Plovers rearing young to flying stage, although Oystercatchers fared slightly better. On the plus side Skylarks seemed to be doing ok and I saw several broods of Shelducks on Flat Beach. At least five pairs of Wheatears nested and juveniles were seen to fledge.

                                 Adult Common Tern

                                Juvenile Sandwich Tern

                                Moulting adult Sandwich Tern

                                Whimbrel on passage

                               A deserted Ternery Pool

  As for passage waders I noted two Whimbrels, five Dunlins, three Common Sandpipers and a Greenshank. Early days yet, but with such superb habitat the coming months could be interesting. Also noted: two Dabchicks, 12 Little Egrets, 50 Curlews on the foreshore, 10 Yellow Wagtails, a Marsh Harrier over and several Willow Warblers in the bushes beside Narrow Pit.
  On the way home a drive across Walland Marsh revealed several Buzzards, Marsh Harriers, Yellow Wagtails, Tree Sparrows and Corn Buntings at the usual spots around Midley. Walked along a lane with elm regrowth where I`ve previously seen White-letter Hairstreak but could find no sign of any.

Wednesday 20 July 2016

An Emerald day

Lade - humid, dry, cloudy, sw 4 - Overnight the wind swung around to a south-westerly vector and continued to increase throughout the day, bringing a rapid end to the `heat wave`. However, 32 species of macros were noted in the garden trap including two more Sussex Emeralds (my best ever tally at nine), Common Emerald and Grass Emerald.
  At the Kerton Road Café the two moth traps produced 17 more Sussex Emeralds (almost all females) and a locally scarce Small Emerald, which was new for me. Continuing on the emerald theme we also had a very small specimen of Common Emerald, less than half the normal size.

                                Small Emerald, a scarce resident in these parts

Dungeness - At the Patch singles of Mediterranean and Yellow-legged Gulls were amongst hundreds of moulting Black-headed and Herring Gulls, 10 Common and three Lesser-black Backed Gulls.
Scotney - Nothing much of note on the roadside pits apart from the usual plastic wildfowl, loads of Herring Gulls with juvs on the island and a Common Sandpiper over the main lake.
Dungeness - 1500-1600hrs - Hazy, sw 4 -  An afternoon seawatch from the fishing boats, in the company of MH and PB, proved to be very slow with just a trickle of Black-headed Gulls and Sandwich Terns, two Gannets and three Common Terns west, plus several pulses of Sand Martins comprising 50 birds. However, Harbour Porpoises were good value with at least six just off shore and showing well.

Tuesday 19 July 2016

In search of passage Waders

Lade -0600 - 0900hrs - hot and sunny, e 1 - A stunning morning with a cobalt sky and light airs coming off the bay, and definitely a day to be out early before the heat haze takes hold. It doesn't take long without rain for the desert grasslands hereabouts to become brown and desiccated, but stoop down amongst the ground litter and a wealth of invertebrate life awaits the naturalist. Insect larvae and plant seeds, day flying moths, damselflies and butterflies, scores of species in every square yard, it was all present. I could`ve spent ages along the old railway track, but my quest was for passage waders in the Kerton Road quarry before the drag lines got going.

                             0600hrs - Lade Desert looking south to Dungeness

  First up two Common Sandpipers flitted over the island lake on bowed wings uttering their shrill calls, followed by a trio of Redshanks on an overgrown island that only last year held a Black-headed Gull colony. On the main island a small flock of Lapwings and Oystercatchers loitered alongside another Common Sandpiper, plus a juvenile Little Ringed Plover, my first of the return passage here.
  It was already hot in the gravel bowl as the quarrymen clocked on and Barney was suffering, even with his clipped coat, so we headed for some welcome respite from the sea breeze along the beach. In the shimmering air across the bay Curlews and Oystercatchers competed with bait-diggers for black lug as a squadron of Sandwich Terns noisily headed towards Dungeness. From Kerton Road to Lade boardwalk we managed a few more shorebirds: 15 Ringed Plovers, eight Dunlins, a Whimbrel (unusual on the bay) and the cherry-on-the-cake, four spanking Sanderlings still in breeding plumage and probably fresh in from their tundra breeding grounds in the high Arctic. What a marvellous sight to end our walk on.

                                Barney in summer plumage

The temperature topped out at around 25C in the garden this afternoon, needless to say the hottest day of the year so far. Another check of the beach this evening, while pleasant in the cooling breeze, was hopeless for birding as people were everywhere enjoying the sunshine - and some of them looked as though they may regret it later on, judging from the colour of their skin...

Monday 18 July 2016

More Moths...

Lade  - hot, dry, sunny, nw 2 - It was very much a tale of two moth traps today, although numbers were not as great as I thought they`d be, probably due to the clear overnight skies. Another Sussex Emerald was in the garden trap along with Scalloped Oak and Dusky Sallow, both new for the year, while Tawny Shears was again the most numerous macro moth at 35 individuals.

                                Male Drinker, what a splendid beast

                                             First Dusky Sallow of the summer

                          Second generation Ruby Tigers have started to come to light

                            Shoulder-striped Wainscot, common at both trap sites

                       Tawny Shears, a numerous and highly variable moth of the shingle

St Mary`s-in-the-Marsh - We then moved off the shingle to a trap site out on the Marsh where 33 species were recorded - and not a single Tawny Shears! There was nine additional species of macros here including Fan-foot, Least Carpet, Red Twin-spot Carpet and Drinker, making a tidy total of 42 species across both sites.
  The afternoon temperature peaked at a 23C in the Plovers garden, tempered by a pleasant sea breeze as the wind moved round to an easterly vector.

Sunday 17 July 2016

In Praise of Moths

Lade - warm, dry, cloudy, w 2 - It actually began to feel like summer this weekend as a pulse of humid air smothered this corner of England making for perfect moth trapping conditions. In the garden trap two more Sussex Emeralds were recorded amongst 38 species, with Tawny Shears the most numerous.
  When I started running a moth trap down here ten years ago I never imagined how hooked I would become on these fascinating creatures; just look at the four stellar examples below that fluttered into the trap recently to see what I mean. From the subtle pinkish hues of Blood-vein to the chocolate box of the Tiger and the velvet cloaked Eggar, their beauty to the human eye is beyond compare. How evolution has come up with such wonder and variety is incomprehensible, but it has, and I can fully understand the increasing interest in this fascinating Order of insects.
  On Friday evening I sat in the garden and watched a couple of small bats, presumably Pips, fluttering over the fir trees and taking insects rising off the canopy, the first I`ve seen this summer.


                                Garden Tiger

                               Oak Eggar

                                Sussex Emerald

  On Saturday morning the old railway track was alive with grassland butterflies, Small Skippers and Small Coppers being particularly abundant, along with a variety of grasshoppers and crickets. On south lake the first brood of Tufted ducklings was out on the water and all of a sudden second broods of Cootlets and Mallard duckling were obvious, along with numerous Great Crested and Little Grebe chicks.

                               First Tufted ducklings of the summer

                               Common Darter and Frog, Plovers garden

  Around the garden pond a Common Frog showed well, more Marbled Whites fluttered over from the shingle grasslands and a Common Darter basked atop the bird table.Throughout the weekend a trickle of overflying Yellow Wagtails headed south, along with the obligatory parties of Sand Martins over the lakes, plus a Common Sandpiper today.