Monday 31 October 2016

Dartford Warblers

Dungeness - 0800hrs - warm, dry, sunny,  se 2 - A circuit of the point from Jarman`s to the Obs and back was virtually birdless. I cannot remember such a disappointing October as this one, thankfully the unseasonably warm weather made for a pleasant walk if nothing else.
  Following a tweet from DW this afternoon a return to Dunge delivered two Dartford Warblers in gorse scrub behind the Shingle House along with several Stonechats and a Ring Ouzel.
Littlestone - A late afternoon scan of the golf links from the sea wall for the reported Short-eared Owls drew a blank.

Sunday 30 October 2016

Brents and Beardies

Saturday - Lade - 0800hrs - overcast, mild, drizzle, light airs - Surely perfect weather conditions for an overnight drop-in of migrants? But no, yet again the bushes were largely barren as we worked Mockmill and the scrub across the shingle ridges, although it was so still that on south lake you could hear the Shovelers filter feeding. Scanning from the aerial mound both Marsh Harrier and Buzzard were slumped atop distant bushes in the murk and a couple of small charms of Goldfinches tinkled overhead. And then, as if by magic, five `tac-taccing` Ring Ouzels dropped into the willow scrub, followed by 10 Blackbirds!
  Around 1130hrs I received a phone call from Alan and Anita on the front to the effect that a large flock of Brent Geese had dropped in on the bay at high tide. Sure enough they were still present when I strolled down the boardwalk from the car park, until a pair of paddle boarders flushed them towards Dungeness where the geese joined another passing flock to make at least 500 birds.
Dungeness - 1400-1600hrs  - A seawatch from the fishing boats with the north Kent gull aficionados and their bait failed to attract any unusual specimens, apart from a known colour ringed Herring Gull. Offshore, several more flocks totalling 200 Brents passed west along with a few Med Gulls, a raft of 30 Kittiwakes, two Guillemots and a Red-throated Diver on the sea.

                                Brents, Lade Bay

Sunday - Lade -mild, cloudy, light airs - At the risk of sounding like a stuck record it was another flat day on the local patch apart from one nugget, thanks to Barney, who flushed a pair of beautiful Bearded Tits from a patch of reeds beside south lake. They `pinged` twice, flew over my head and disappeared into another reed bed across the lake which, surprisingly, was only the second time I have noted them here. Elsewhere, a few Blackbirds were still about, plus a Ring Ouzel along the track and the usual Kingfishers, wildfowl and grebes. As the Curlews (480) flew overhead to roost they brought with them 12 Barwits and five Grey Plovers.

Friday 28 October 2016

Autumn sunshine

Dungeness - mild, sunny, sw 2 - We spent most of the day birding the peninsula and enjoying the autumn sunshine; which was a good job as birds were few and far between with a Black Redstart, an overhead Redpoll and a few Skylarks being about the best of the passerines around the old lighthouse. At the Patch the usual melee of gulls included at least 10 Mediterranean Gulls (with 20 more past the fishing boats this afternoon, plus 100 Kittiwakes in a 30 minute seawatch) and a Rock Pipit on the sea defence blocks in front of B station.

                                Kittiwakes off Dungeness

  On New Diggings a mixed flock of 25 egrets (nine Great Whites) five Grey Herons, 10 Great Crested Grebes and a redhead Goosander (our first of the autumn) provided a fine spectacle as they followed a large gathering of fishing Cormorants around the lakeside margins picking off small morsels. On ARC 200 Golden Plovers and Lapwings, a Ruff, several Marsh Harriers, another two Great White Egrets and a Peregrine over was about the best on offer.
  Moving onto Scotney and apart from the usual feral geese, a few Lapwings and common ducks all was quiet on the front lake and lawn. Outback several Corn Buntings, Linnets, Goldfinches, more plastic geese, four Shelducks, a Green Sandpiper and two soaring Buzzards.

                                 Barney sporting his smart new buzz-cut

  A scan of Dengemarsh from Springfield bridge delivered good views of a Kingfisher, a late  Swallow, more Buzzards and Marsh Harriers, common wildfowl, egrets and two Ravens overhead. After calling in at the allotment a check of Lydd wood revealed a mixed tit flock, but little else.
  Finishing off on the bay a scattering of shorebirds and gulls included at least 20 Mediterranean Gulls.

Thursday 27 October 2016

Pallas`s Warbler

Lade - 0800hrs - Foggy, mild, light airs - With Redwings passing over the cottage around dawn expectation levels rose as we trudged across the shingle towards Mockmill Sewer. A few Skylarks and Mipits filtered overhead and when all of a sudden the sun broke through, burning off the murk, up popped a few passerines to bask in the early morning warmth. The tangle of bramble, blackthorn and nettles contained a goodly number of commoners such as Chaffinches, Robins, Wrens, Dunnocks, Song Thrushes and Blackbirds, plus 10 Stonechats, 10 Reed Buntings, a Chiffchaff, two Cetti`s Warblers, a Green Woodpecker and goodness knows what else. Around 500 Curlews flew to roost on the storm ridges, while Marsh Harrier, Kestrel and a Short-eared Owl hunted the back fields behind the `mirrors`.
  On south lake there was a significant increase in Shovelers and Pochards to over 100 each, plus a Great White Egret, a Kingfisher, two Swallows south and plenty of vocalising Water Rails in the reed beds.

                                Stonechat and Lade south

Dungeness - 1300hrs - At long last a quality bird for the locals to enjoy in the shape of a trapped Pallas`s Warbler. By the time I got my act together (thanks for the call Gill) the bird was still in the moat showing intermittently amongst the sallows in the Heligoland trap. In the bright sunshine the rump appeared particularly conspicuous as it flitted between bushes and the netting within a mini flock of Goldcrests and at least one each of Firecrest and Chiffchaff.
  Perhaps now the rarity gate has been partly opened we can enjoy a late autumn run of rare Siberian migrants. Time will tell...

Wednesday 26 October 2016


Lade - mild, overcast, light airs - The past couple of days have seen few new arrivals on the local patch and elsewhere across the peninsula. There has been a slight increase in crests in the garden, a few Swallows overhead and a Great White Egret on south lake to keep the interest ticking along.
Dungeness - 0800hrs - Once again a circuit of the point this morning yielded precious few migrants with a light overhead passage of Goldfinches, Linnets, Mipits, alba wagtails and Skylarks. In the bushes a few Song Thrushes, Robins, Blackbirds, Chaffinches and Goldcrests, plus two Black Redstarts by the Britannia, a Firecrest in the lighthouse garden, a Great Spotted Woodpecker by Lloyds, a Chiffchaff in the moat and two Swallows along the beach by the fishing boats. Offshore just the usual passing Gannets and Brents.
BBC Autumnwatch - I`m sure you`re all aware that its back on our screens, for one week only, with the usual trio of Packham, Strachan and Hughes-Games, plus entourage having pitched up at RSPB Arne in Dorset on the edge of the spectacular Poole Harbour, probably the finest natural harbour in  these islands.
  Having watched the first two episodes there were one or two items of interest, in between the usual infantile comments from our illustrious hosts. The piece on Edible Dormice was a bit of a shocker as I hadn't realised how abundant they have become (probably one million of them!) in my old neck-of-the-woods. Together with that other non-native species, the Grey Squirrel, no wonder breeding bird numbers have plummeted in Chilterns` woodlands (and by the way BBC, Edible Dormice have nothing to do with the "demise of Pied Flycatchers", as they do not and never have bred in the Chilterns, at least not since the Glis has been present).
  Talking of duff gen poor old Martin Hughes-Games got in a right old pickle with his wader names as he floundered around in the Poole Harbour mud looking for roosting "Eurasian Spoonbills". Still, we`ve not got to put up with him for much longer as I hear tell his days are numbered at Spring/Autumn/Winterwatch and this is his last outing, for reasons which are best left untold...
  Anyhow, the Golden Eagle piece was also of interest (the cynic in me thinks that at least now they`ve got a tracker on the poor thing they`ll be able to pin-point where it gets killed - sorry!), along with leprosy in Red Squirrels, Arne reptiles, nasty Asian hornets murdering our native bees and even nastier human hunters shooting `our` Bewick`s Swans on migration.
  With two more episodes to go no doubt there`ll be a few more nuggets to enjoy of what, as a concept, is a very good natural history show, just a shame about some of the presentation.

Monday 24 October 2016

Pheasant and a Swallow

Dungeness - 0730-0930hrs - mild, cloudy, e 3 - A circuit of the point delivered a few grounded migrants such as Goldcrests, Blackbirds, Chiffchaffs and Robins in the bushes, plus Redwings, Fieldfares, Song Thrush, Ring Ouzel, Mistle Thrush and a Woodcock in or around the moat and a Firecrest in the Obs garden. During conversation with DB he commented on the first Dungeness record of Grey Squirrel, noted in his garden this morning.

                                A late Swallow

                                Pheasant, a rare sighting in these parts

RSPB - At Boulderwall a Swallow flew around the barn and settled on the roof, while it was good to see that the Tree Sparrows had returned in force after their sojourn out on the Marsh. On Burrowes a Blackwit remained in front of Firth hide, plus all the usual wildfowl, egrets and a count of 520 Cormorants around the lake. Bird of the day though was a cock Pheasant strutting around the car park, the first I`ve seen here in ages. Very quiet over the road on ARC with only a handful of ducks and egrets on the shingle islands from Hanson hide, although a mixed passerine flock from the willow trail attracted a few Goldcrests and a Firecrest.
  On the weather front, yet again the rain forecast for today failed to materialise. I cannot recall seeing the peninsula so parched for late October, there isn't a drop of moisture on the shingle ridges with the plants desiccated to a crisp.

Sunday 23 October 2016


Lade - cold, sunny, e 5 - 0900hrs - The past couple of mornings have witnessed virtually no overhead visible migration on the local patch, apart from four Swallows today, along with the delights of a rasping easterly blow. However, in the shelter of the wind around the willow swamp a few grounded Chiffchaffs and Goldcrests were found, while beside north lake the scrub held a large mixed flock of tits, crests and Chiffs that contained a Treecreeper, which was new to the site for me. Unfortunately, despite waiting for half an hour there was no further sign or (importantly) sound of the creeper, as in these parts it could just as easily have been a Short-toed version. Also noted, two Kingfishers, three Marsh Harriers, Water Rail, Green Woodpecker, Cetti`s Warbler and the usual ducks and grebes.

                                Hedge Accentor, Lade

Friday 21 October 2016

The Russian`s are coming

Dungeness - 0730hrs - cool, cloudy, n 2 -There was a decent overhead movement of passerines this morning dominated by thousands of Starlings (how very apt, considering events in the Channel today) streaming in from the east in variable sized flocks; we must`ve had c5,000, but the finally tally should be more than double that (see DBO website). Hundreds of common finches, Skylarks and Mipits were also on the move, plus smaller numbers of Siskin, Redpoll and Brambling. As for thrushes all six species were recorded including a single Mistle Thrush overhead and a grounded Ring Ouzel in the moat where also a few Chiffchaffs, Stonechats, Goldcrests and Robins, plus a House Martin and two Swallows over the power station. Raptors through the morning included five Kestrels, three Sparrrowhawks, two Buzzards and a Short-eared Owl over the Desert. Quality was provided by an all too brief appearance of a Great Grey Shrike near the Obs that flew off high to the south.

                                Mopping up last nights road kill

Around noon the main point of interest was provided by the Russian flotilla of warships that moved through the English Channel en-route to the eastern Mediterranean. News soon got round on social media as hundreds of ship-watchers descended on the Estate to witness the spectacle. The aircraft carrier was spewing out smoke as it steamed past the Ness and you could easily discern the planes and choppers on the flight deck.

                                Russian warships off Dungeness

Thursday 20 October 2016

Incoming Starlings

Dungeness - 0900hrs - cool, cloudy, n 3 - Ordinarily with a northerly airflow I wouldn't attempt a seawatch, but with guests to guide even a duff watch down here can produce riches for land-locked birders, and so it proved. An hour from the hide produced the spectacle of several hundred Starlings coming in off the sea, plus a drake Eider and a Bonxie westbound. The usual array of Gannets, Brents, Common Scoters, auks, gulls, Sandwich Terns, Porpoises and a Grey Seal also kept the interest ticking along. As for grounded migrants it was largely quiet (yet again), apart from a Black Redstart on the power station wall, 10 Blackbirds in the lighthouse garden, a Wheatear opposite Jarman`s and a scattering of Robins. Overhead a few Goldfinches, Chaffinches, Mipits, Skylarks, more Starlings, the odd Reed Bunting, Siskin and Redpoll was about all we could muster.
Scotney - The roadside fields were loaded with 200 Goldies, 100 Lapwings, five Curlews, a Ruff, 120 Barnacle Geese and five hybrid Snow/Emperor types. On the lake around 500 Wigeon, plus a Raven and Sparrowhawk over.
Tower/ARC - We finished the morning checking the bushes down to the pines where a few Chiffchaffs, Cetti`s Warblers, tits, Reed Buntings, another Sparrowhawk and a Great Spotted Woodpecker was the best on offer. Several Marsh Harriers were active from the Screen hide and a couple of hundred Starlings flew in off the sea.
  A steady three day bird tour delivered 101 species for Ray and Stuart and we all agreed that the large Fieldfare flock on the canal was the most memorable event, closely followed by the fishing Cormorants and egrets on Burrowes.

Wednesday 19 October 2016

Cormorants and egrets

Dungeness - cool, cloudy, nw 2 - 0900hrs - A brief seawatch from the hide delivered good views of an Arctic Skua clobbering Sandwich Terns, distant Gannets, two Brents, a Mediterranean Gull and a Grey Seal. Several more Med Gulls were at the Patch amongst the melee of gulls. The land was quiet apart from a mixed flock of tits, Chiffchaffs, a Great Spotted Woodpecker and a calling Yellow-browed Warbler in the Trapping Area.
Lade - A check for the Osprey on the lakes drew a blank, but Kingfisher, Grey Wagtail, roosting Curlews and plenty of wildfowl and grebes all noted. The bay revealed a few Sanderlings, a Barwit and Oystercatchers also sitting out the high tide.

                                Feeding frenzy, Burrowes

                                Black-tailed Godwit

RSPB - We spent the rest of the day on the bird reserve where the main spectacle on Burrowes was a flock of 10 Great White and 13 Little Egrets in company with 100 fishing Cormorants, plus an assortment of gulls and Grey Herons. The mud in front of Firth hide attracted a Blackwit, three Dunlins, two Golden Plovers and singles of Snipe and Grey Plover, amongst a host of Lapwings, gulls and dabbling ducks. From Makepeace, Goldeneye, Rock Pipit, Peregrine and an exhausted House Martin which kept landing on the hide flaps were the highlights.

                                Exhausted House Martin

                                Bittern, Dengemarsh

Dengemarsh was notable for several Marsh Harriers, more Snipe, a Ruff and good views of a Bittern, plus Bearded Tits and Cetti`s Warbler heard from the viewing ramp. We finished the day from Hanson hide where more wildfowl, Lapwings, Dunlins and Marsh Harriers were logged.

Tuesday 18 October 2016

Boreal wanderers

Kenardington - 1300hrs - cool, cloudy, w 3 - After picking up two of our regular visitors (Ray and Stuart) from Ashford we headed for the peace and tranquillity of the canal. The wayside habitat hereabouts often yields one or two species that are difficult to locate on the arable wastelands, such as Yellowhammer and Song Thrush, and so it proved to be. However, the main event was the spectacle of a 500 strong flock of Fieldfares plundering a hawthorn bush laden with berries complete with much chacking, terrific stuff. Also noted along the canal side banks a few Redwings, Blackbirds, Stonechats, Pied Wagtails, Mipits, Linnets, Chaffinches and Goldfinches, plus Kestrel and Buzzard soaring over the grasslands.

                  Kenardington, one of the most scenic parts of the Marsh                               

                                Fieldfares, Royal Military Canal

Around the Marsh - Crossing the flatlands we called in at the Midley feeders where the Tree Sparrows showed well. From the range road at Lydd we nailed two Little Owls by the watch towers, a Green Woodpecker and more Mipits, while further along by the guard hut at Galloways four Corn Buntings sat atop a clump of elders. From Springfield bridge a few ducks and grebes were on the water and a trickle of Skylarks overhead. After a natter with PB we headed down to the point for brief views of a male Ring Ouzel and a Sparrowhawk at the southern end of the Trapping Area to complete a tidy afternoons birding.

Monday 17 October 2016

Owl and an Osprey

Dungeness - 0800hrs - mild, showery, sw 3 - We slogged across the shingle from the lifeboat station to the Obs and back via the Desert, where a flushed Short-eared Owl was the only bird of note. Overhead passage was negligible with just a few finches and Mipits on the move. Grounded migrants were absent.
Lade - 1000hrs - The Osprey, which has been hereabouts for at least a week, was sat on the wall mirror with a flock of Magpies. The Osprey was also noted at several other sites across the peninsula today, including the bay where it was seen to take a flatfish.

Sunday 16 October 2016

`Strictly` comes to Dungeness

Saturday - Lade - mild, cloudy, sw 2 - 0730hrs  - With the wind swinging round to a southerly vector the temperature picked up enabling the shorts to be worn a little longer. A 30 minute viz mig delivered a trickle of Goldfinches, Mipits, Skylarks, Swallows, Redpolls and Siskins. By the time we strolled down to the aerial mound the Osprey was already on site, perched atop the wall mirror alongside half a dozen Magpies. DE and staff from RSPB were also present enjoying this magnificent raptor and judging from the Twitter feed quite a few other visiting birders also connected throughout the day.

                               Osprey and Magpies, Lade

  A late afternoon check revealed the Osprey still present, while two Short-eared Owls quartered  Mockmill following a short, sharp shower.
West Hythe  - 1100hrs - For a change of scene Mrs PT joined us for a walk along the RM Canal from the car park to Aldergate bridge and back. The canal was largely devoid of birds with only a handful of Moorhens and Mallards throughout, but by the dam two Grey Wagtails, a Green Sandpiper and a Kingfisher enlivened things up. Chiffchaffs and Goldcrests could be heard in the bank-side scrub along with Long-tailed Tits, Robins, a Treecreeper, Green Woodpecker and a pair of Bullfinches. On the farmland, Kestrel, Buzzard, a few Swallows and a Yellowhammer. Always a bonus on this walk is the chance to admire a fabulous stand of Grey Poplars on the north bank, plus the chance of a few African mammals along the way, of which we had superb views.

                               A few more species for the mammal year list

Sunday - Dungeness - showery, mild, se 4 - 0700 - 0830hrs - With the wind swinging around to the fabled south-easterly vector I tried a seawatch from the hide first thing, but it was a poor show by Dungeness standards with 300 Gannets, 20 Sandwich Terns, 20 Kittiwakes, 10 auks and scoters, five Med Gulls, a Bonxie and a Common Tern about the best we could muster.
  However, the usual suspects were in the hide, and as always on a quiet watch `the craic was good` with the conversation this morning ranging from Siberian Accentors, and how unfair it is of that beastly Spurn to hog all the good migrants, to - Strictly Come Dancing!! Surprisingly there were one or two real Strictly aficionados present (no names no pack drill) and they soon got onto the finer points of a Rumba and Foxtrot from last nights show; it sounded a bit like a couple of hoary old birders trying to split a Semi-p from a Little Stint, you know the kind of thing, all flicks, kicks and palmations... Anyhow, I`m no particular fan of the prancing show but as Mrs PT is addicted, osmosis must have taken place as I found myself chipping in now and then. The conversation then moved onto more tedious subjects such as Brexit, Donald Trump, the plummeting pound, the weather and if we are ever going to get a decent crop of autumn rarities down here...
Lade - 1000hrs - The monthly WeBS count didn't take long as there were few wildfowl present with a top count of 85 Shovelers the best muster. A few Swallows, Skylarks and a late Sand Martin, plus a Rock Pipit moved overhead, while a flock of five Ring Ouzels showed briefly on the scrub by north lake. There was no sign of the Osprey whilst I was on site this morning.

                                Wayfaring berries, Lade ponds

Walland Marsh - 1600hrs - Winter must be on the way as its that time of year again to join CP for the monthly harrier count out on the Marsh where, sadly, many of the grassy headlands around the site had gone under the plough this autumn. Unsure whether this is anything to do with the impending Brexit, but that`s a lot of good Barn Owl hunting habitat lost. On the plus side 20 Marsh Harriers came to roost, while three Buzzards, three Kestrels, a Sparrowhawk, a Bittern, Snipe and several Reed Buntings also noted.

Friday 14 October 2016

First Brambling

Lade - 0730hrs - mild, cloudy, e 2 - Virtually the first overhead migrant heard this morning en-route to the pits was a Brambling, my first of the year, and most welcome it was too, if only I was keeping a Marsh year list... Anyhow, a few Siskins followed, plus a couple of Redpolls, two Song Thrushes, a Skylark and up to 100 Goldfinches in a 30 minute viz mig, pretty poor fare really. Grounded migrants were even fewer with just a scattering of Robins, Mipits, Linnets and Blackbirds.
  However, scanning from the aerial mound two Grey Wagtails fed along the margins of south lake while Marsh Harrier, Buzzard, Kestrel and Sparrowhawk were all up and about hunting behind the wall mirror. A party of Swallows dipped in hurrying south and a pair of Shelducks dropped onto the lake.

                                Osprey bathing, Lade

  At 0820hrs things really bucked up as our `resident` Osprey flapped leisurely in from Greatstone way alongside an entourage of gulls, Jackdaws and Starlings, presumably from its roost site, wherever that may be? This also coincided with the Curlew flock coming off the bay to sit out the high tide making for a sudden sky full of birds as the ducks deserted the water and joined in the melee. The fish hawk then promptly plunged into the lake for its morning ablutions! After it was thoroughly soaked through it then rose up from the water, shook itself vigorously and flew over north lake setting all the gulls off again. Twenty minutes later it returned to snatch a hefty carp from just below the surface while hardly wetting its undercarriage, after which it flew off to feed. Not bad for a beginner.

                                Desolation Gully and Barney

Dengemarsh Gully - 1430 - This afternoon we walked the gully from top to bottom and back again with very little in return apart from a handful of Robins, Wrens and Blackbirds and three Buzzards. I`m thinking of renaming this place Desolation Gully as it hardly ever delivers for me, although in the past there have been one or two decent birds. Anyhow, this is one of Barney`s favourite walks and at least he enjoyed it.

                                NOT a Swainson`s Thrush, KRC

  On the way home we called in at the Kerton Road Café for a cuppa and a Boneo, and to check on a dead thrush that had crashed into the café window, just in case it was a Swainson`s or a Grey-cheeked. Well, you never know...

Thursday 13 October 2016

Tree Sparrows

Dungeness - 0900hrs - cool, sunny, e5 - A 90 minute seawatch from the hide delivered a steady flow of common gulls, Cormorants and Gannets, plus our first Red-throated Diver of the autumn, eight Brents, five Kittiwakes, 20 eastbound Mediterranean Gulls, several auks, 15 Common Scoters, a Wigeon, three Dunlins, 10 Swallows out, a Grey Seal and five Porpoises. The land was very quiet, due in part to the brisk wind.
Walland Marsh  - We headed inland to Midley in search of Tree Sparrows for the guests and noted 20 or more around the feeders along with a number of finches. There was little else on the arable lands apart from a few flocks of Lapwings, Starlings and gulls.
  In summary, a profitable three day bird tour for Roy, Penny and Peter with 103 species noted, plus plenty of anecdotes and laughter along the way.
Lade - An hour over the pits this afternoon failed to relocate the Osprey.

Wednesday 12 October 2016

Osprey and Jack Snipe

Dungeness - 0900hrs - mild, overcast, light airs, rain - Despite near perfect over night weather conditions for grounded migrants there were few to be found, apart from a smart Ring Ouzel in the moat and a scattering of Goldfinches, Song Thrushes, Chiffchaffs, Robins, Great Tits and a Goldcrest, plus Siskin, Redpoll and Skylark overhead and Sparrowhawk, Raven and Kestrel.

                                Dark skies over Dungeness

Lade - On a falling tide the bay yielded seven species of shorebirds and a lone Shelduck. On south lake the Osprey was located perched on a concrete fence post feasting on a fish with a couple of crows and Magpies for `company`, which we watched for an hour from the aerial ramp, where a Grey Wagtail and a flock of 20 Blue Tits, Cetti`s Warbler and three Mediterranean Gulls were noteworthy. The Osprey could also be seen from the end of Taylor Road by the cattery at noon.

                                Distant Osprey with fish

Burrowes/ARC - From the access road at least three White-fronts present in the fields amongst the Greylags and Lapwings and several hunting Marsh Harriers; there was no sign of the Cattle Egret or Glossy Ibises. On Burrowes the usual wildfowl and brief views of the ringtail Hen Harrier over Dengemarsh. Over the road from Hanson all the usual wildfowl, egrets and plovers, plus a Ruff, three Snipe and intermittent views of a spring-heeled Jack Snipe on an open shingle island, a rare sight down here, and well found by Roy.

                                Crouching Jack Snipe!

Dungeness - With a brisk, cold east wind picking up a seawatch from the fishing boats delivered the spectacle of a flock of some 50 Gannets and a host of gulls fishing just offshore along with several Sandwich Terns, Mediterranean Gulls and Kittiwakes. Also noted passing east two Little Gulls, 20 auks and two Brent Geese, plus five outward bound Swallows and two Grey Seals.
  And that folks, is one cracking day`s birding, Dungeness at its best with the undoubted highlights being protracted views of an Osprey, only my second Jack Snipe on the deck at Dunge and a short, spectacular seawatch concerning close range, plunge-diving Gannets. 

Tuesday 11 October 2016

Wild geese

Lade 0730hrs - cool, cloudy, n 2 - Wildfowl took centre stage this morning with two flocks of 50 and 80 Brents moving south along the coastline, plus a massive skein of c500 high-flying grey geese probably White-front/Pink-footed but too far off to be sure. On south lake 60 Shovelers were new in, but there was no sign of yesterdays Osprey by the time I left site at 0930hrs.
  A 30 minute viz mig from the aerial ramp produced a trickle of Linnets, Goldfinches, Skylarks, Pied Wagtails and Mipits south, plus single figures of Grey Wagtail, Siskin and Redpoll. Two each of Sparrowhawk, Buzzard, Marsh Harrier and Kestrel also noted from the ramp. In the willow swamp Water Rails seemed particularly vocal suggesting that there may have been an overnight arrival.
Scotney - 1330hrs - We started a three day bird tour this afternoon, for Penny, Peter and Roy, at the farm where all the expected feral Barnacle, Greylag, Canada and Egyptian Geese were on the fields and lakes along with 500 each of Golden Plover and Lapwing, two Wheatears, a Black Redstart and 10 Pied Wagtails. Outback 50 Linnets, several Mipits, four Corn Buntings and several Yellow Wagtails over unseen. A male Peregrine scattered the flocks before perching on a pylon affording good scope views. Also noted a Green Sandpiper, Stock Doves, Buzzard and Kestrel plus all the usual gulls, egrets and common wildfowl and grebes.
Dengemarsh - A circuit of the range road delivered a few Stonechats, a Great Spotted Woodpecker and little else. From Springfield bridge the usual range of wildfowl, several Marsh Harriers, a Kingfisher and a Garganey made for a fine end to the day.

Monday 10 October 2016

Another Osprey

Lade - 0700hrs - cold, sunny, nw 2 - With over 200 pairs of Ospreys now breeding in Britain, and a healthy Scandinavian population, I guess we shouldn't be too surprised that this magnificent raptor is being seen more regularly on its southerly migration down here. That's not to say that I`m taking them for granted, as back in the day when I started birding they were something of a rarity, and I can still remember my first one: September 1968 at Cley with Mutley Clarke and Kevin Downer, happy days indeed...

Osprey, having just finished a breakfast of finest Lade carp

  However, I digress. This morning on the local patch my fourth Osprey of the autumn performed like a good `un, flying over south lake and dropping down in classic fish hawk style to pluck what looked like a carp from just beneath the surface. The Osprey then flew to the 200` wall mirror, settled on the corner and devoured its breakfast despite the attention of a couple of crows and a Magpie. Judging from the pale tipped back and wing feathers our bird appeared to be a juvenile. When I left site at 1000hrs it was still sat on the mirror digesting its prey and having a preen.
  A few grounded passerines included Wheatears, Reed Buntings and Mipits, plus a trickle of Goldfinches and Skylarks overhead. Marsh Harriers, Buzzard, Kestrel and Sparrowhawk were also noted around the site, and to round off a fine morning of raptors a Short-eared Owl came from behind the mirrors and quartered the Desert towards Tower Pits.

                               200` wall mirror, Lade - Osprey on left hand corner!

1700hrs - Another check of the pits this afternoon revealed the Osprey still present, this time flying over north lake and sending the local Herring Gulls into a frenzy.  

Sunday 9 October 2016

Yellow-browed Warbler at last!

Saturday - Lade - 0700hrs  - mild, cloudy, n2 - With the east wind finally relenting it allowed a number of grounded migrants to show themselves comprising 50 each of Mipits, Linnets and Reed Buntings, 10 Wheatears, 10 Song Thrushes, six Stonechats and two Ring Ouzels. Overhead a trickle of Goldfinches, Chaffinches, Skylarks and two Redpolls, plus a steady flow of hirundines with c500 each of House Martins and Swallows on the power lines.

                                Large Wainscot and Wheatear

  The garden moth trap was quiet again although it did attract a Large Wainscot. This afternoon the family helped me harvest pumpkins and squashes and tidy up the allotment for the winter; it`s amazing what you can get done with five pairs of hands!


Sunday - 0700hrs  - cool, cloudy, n2  - A wander around the point delivered a decent range of common migrants where grounded birds included plenty of Linnets, Starlings, Robins and Dunnocks, along with smaller numbers of Mipits, Pied Wagtails, Goldfinches, Stonechats, Song Thrushes, Blackbirds, Redwings, two Ring Ouzels, two Black Redstart, Chiffchaffs, Goldcrests, Great Tits and Reed Buntings. Overhead a steady trickle of hirundines was noted, plus 10 Tree Sparrows, several Skylarks, Siskins and Redpolls, my first two Fieldfares of the season, a Grey Plover and a late Yellow Wagtail. The passerines had to be alert though as five Kestrels and two Sparrowhawks were on the hunt.
  However, the icing on the cake this morning, thanks to a call from DW, was a stunning stripy sprite in the hand at the Obs; it was my first Yellow-browed Warbler of an autumn that has seen good numbers around the coastline and several hereabouts that have been difficult to connect with.

                               Yellow-browed Warbler, DBO

Walland Marsh - After dropping our Kate at Appledore station I crossed the farmland wastes where there was little on offer apart from a couple of Goldfinch/Linnet flocks, the Midley sparrows and finches and a couple of Buzzards. A quick call in at Hanson hide yielded the usual plovers, wildfowl and egrets on the islands.

Friday 7 October 2016

Ring Ouzel and a large falcon

Dungeness - 0900hrs  - cool, cloudy, e 3 - At last the wind relented allowing for a few migrants to be seen around the point in the form of several each of Wheatear, Stonechat, Black Redstart, Song Thrush, Pied Wagtail and Goldcrest, plus a Ring Ouzel by Lloyds cottage. Plenty of Robins, Starlings, Mipits, Linnets, Raven and Kestrel also noted. A 30 minute seawatch from the hide delivered a few distant Gannets and Sandwich Terns, two Arctic Skuas, three Common Scoters, a Med Gull and a Grey Seal.
Lade  - From the boardwalk looking across the sands Curlew, Oystercatcher, Grey Plover, Dunlin and Sanderling all present but distant. On the pits the usual wildfowl, plus brief views of a large, pale streaky falcon flying across the Desert towards the airport, which presumably was the Saker Falcon seen earlier at Dungeness and St Mary-in-the-Marsh earlier in the week.
  The three day bird tour for Greg and Lucy delivered 101 species with the highlights being the Bean and White-fronted Geese, Glossy Ibis, Cattle Egret, Goldeneye, Osprey, a range of waders, chats, and Ring Ouzel.

Thursday 6 October 2016

A goose day

Dungeness RSPB - cool, cloudy, e4 - Another nippy day with a brisk wind out of the east sending the temperature tumbling. After meeting Keith and Joyce from Thanet we continued on with the bird tour starting at Burrowes where two flocks of 50 Brents flying over the site calling was a fine start. Around the pit two Avocets, 10 Dunlins, two Ringed Plovers, 12 Grey Plovers, Knot, Turnstone and Common Sandpiper were all logged, plus the usual wildfowl including a Barnacle Goose, Goldeneye and 10 Pintails. Hobby, Marsh Harrier, Kestrel, Great White Egrets, Goldcrest, Swallows, Chiffchaffs also noted hereabouts.
  Moving round to Dengemarsh a large flock of feral Greylags contained seven White-fronts and a Tundra Bean Goose located by CP. More Marsh Harriers, egrets and wildfowl noted, plus 10 Snipe, a Kingfisher (heard) and a flock of c200 Linnets over the sunflower field. Wheatear, Stonechat, Mipit and Raven were all seen from the access road. From Hanson hide more Dunlins, Grey Plovers, a Barwit, seven Great White Egrets and several large pulses of Swallows and Sand Martins through.
Dungeness - We finished the day with a one hour seawatch from the fishing boats adding Gannet, Sandwich Tern, Guillemot and Mediterranean Gull to the tour list, plus further good views of Brents here and along the beach at Lade on the way home. So, in summary a bit of a goose day.

Wednesday 5 October 2016

Osprey and ouzels

Dungeness - 0800hrs - cool, sunny, e 6 - A blasting east wind made for difficult birding around the point this morning where passerines were understandably keeping a low profile. However, a circuit with the locals produced a scattering of Chiffchaffs, Goldcrests, Song Thrushes, Robins, Dunnocks, Mipits, Linnets, Great Tits, Stonechats and a couple of Blackcaps between the lighthouse garden and the moat. Several Ring Ouzels were also seen this morning.
Lade - 1030hrs  - Despite the strong wind I decided to walk Mockmill where two Ring Ouzels and 10 Song Thrushes hurtled from cover towards the rough ground behind the `mirrors`. Six Stonechats were more obliging and a Sparrowhawk nipped through while a few Swallows and Mipits drifted over.

                               Golden and Grey Plovers, ARC

ARC - 1300hrs - We commenced a three day bird tour for our guests from Bexhill in grand style with cracking views of an Osprey from the car park. Initially picked up over Tower Pits it made slow progress over ARC flushing everything before heading out across the shingle towards Burrowes where the roosting gulls gave flight. From Hanson hide a decent selection of waders was on offer amongst the Dunlins, Lapwings and Goldies including Grey Plover, Knot, Blackwit, Ruff, Little Stint, Snipe and a Common Sandpiper. We also had brief views of a Bittern working its way along the edge of the far reedbed where seven Great White Egrets were also feeding, plus 10 Grey Herons and Little Egrets. Also noted two Marsh Harriers, a pair of Pintail, Sand Martins, Swallows, and a mixed flock of Long-tailed Tits and Chiffchaffs from the Willow Trail.
  Over the road on Boulderwall fields we eventually located a Glossy Ibis and the Cattle Egret, thanks to a flush job by a Marsh Harrier. Plenty of feral geese, Lapwings, Stock Doves, a Hobby, Golden Plovers and the like here, plus a couple of Yellow Wagtails overhead.
Dungeness - Another crack at the lighthouse garden drew a blank for the Yellow-browed, but we did see a Black Redstart on the power station fence and two Stonechats despite the wind. We finished the day in grand style on the return to Plovers as a flock of 200 Brent Geese flew along the beach at Lade calling wildly as they passed over the kite-surfers, a fine spectacle.

Tuesday 4 October 2016

The east wind doth blow

Dungeness RSPB - 1030hrs -  mild, cloudy, e 6 - A blustery old day for a guided walk around the bird reserve during which few grounded passerines were seen due to the strong wind. However, there was plenty of interest on Burrowes with Little Stint, Knot, Common Sandpiper, Bar-tailed Godwit, five Dunlins, Golden Plovers and Lapwings on the islands amongst a host of ducks including up to 10 Pintail. Elsewhere, mainly at Dengemarsh, Great White and Little Egrets, 10 Snipe, two Marsh Harriers, two Sparrowhawks, five Kestrels, a Bittern, two Stonechats, Dabchicks, Chiffchaffs and Blackcap all added to the variety of birds on offer along with a trickle of overhead Swallows, Mipits, alba wagtails, Reed Buntings and Linnets. The sunflower field at Dengemarsh continues to a attract a massive flock of some 300 Linnets.
  Over the road on ARC plenty more Golden Plovers and Lapwings were crammed onto the islands along with several Blackwits, Ruff, Dunlin, Knot and Redshank. In total 12 Great White Egrets were present on the reserve today, plus Glossy Ibis and Cattle Egret in Boulderwall fields and the hayfields respectively.
  At Dungeness this morning the seawatchers recorded all four species of skuas and a steady passage of Brents, while a Yellow-browed Warbler was located amongst a tit flock in the Trapping Area (OL). This afternoon (whilst I was in Folkestone!) two more stripy jobs were found in the old lighthouse garden (T&BH).

Monday 3 October 2016

First Redwings

Dungeness - 0800hrs - cool, sunny, ne 2 - October is my favourite month of the year, not only can it be brilliant for birds, particularly eastern vagrants, but the weather is often perfect, for me at least, being not too hot or cold. Overnight the wind shifted a touch to the north-east, as detected in the dead of night when we could hear the roar of the sea out in the bay.
  A zig-zag amble along the beach delivered a trickle of overhead Mipits, Goldfinches, Skylarks, Reed Buntings, two Siskins, a Grey Wagtail and our first 10 Redwings of the autumn. At least 20 Chiffchaffs were grounded in the scrub around the point along with a scattering of Robins, Dunnocks and at least 10 Stonechats. Regular scanning of the sea on the walk from the lifeboat station to the lighthouse revealed 100 Brents on the move in three parties, but I suspect many more went down-Channel today.

                                Two of the many Stonechats present this morning

Lade - An afternoon visit to the ponds was notable for a Great Spotted Woodpecker, a late Willow Warbler and 10 Chiffchaffs; surely there has to be a Yellow-browed lurking somewhere out there on the peninsula...

Sunday 2 October 2016

Start `em young

Saturday - Dungeness - 0800hrs - Fine, dry, sunny, showers later, w 2 - The perfect weather for a couple of hours at the point with my six year old grandson, and of course, Barney. Normally me and the dog amble around in silence, as he`s not a yapper; unlike Albert who never stops talking!  Anyhow, he soon nailed the Starling and House Sparrow flock, Magpie, crow and Pied Wagtail as we moved onto Chiffchaffs which this morning seemed to be everywhere following last nights rain. We must have easily seen 25 in the bushes between the lighthouse and the Obs, including some really close birds on the tree mallows by the garden fence, while I had a brief view of a Common Redstart. Working our way down the power station fence we had further good views of perched Linnets, Mipits and a splendid male Black Redstart; but I think Albert was more interested in the two blokes working atop one of the pylons! Singles of Grey Wagtail, Tree Pipit and Skylark went over unseen and two Kestrels hovered over the Desert.

                               Albert getting to grips with the finer points of bird ringing

  Moving onto the moat and more Chiffchaffs were flicking through the scrub, two of which were in the Heligoland trap fluttering towards the catching box. Luckily, along came DW and with a little help from PB the two waifs were soon in the box and bagged. Now, this is where little kids become really enthralled as back at the ringing hut Albert was able to see the Chiffs up close and being processed, while probing the warden with a few questions concerning the intricacies of bird migration; honestly, I don't know where he gets it from! It certainly made an impression on his young mind, and thanks again to David for showing him the ropes.
  We then walked back to the beach via the crow trap and a showy Wheatear on the power station wall. The Patch was quiet with only a few gulls milling over the boil, plus the regulation Gannets and Sandwich Terns offshore; although a Merlin chasing Linnets by the seawatch hide (unsuccessfully) was an action packed event.

     Autumnal Rustic, Black Rustic and Lunar Underwing, three common autumn moths

Back home we checked the garden moth trap, but yet again it was poor fare with only six common species and no migrants.
  In the afternoon en-route to the RSPB visitor centre two Glossy Ibises and a Cattle Egret were on show in the Boulderwall fields along with several Little and Great White Egrets, two Ruffs amongst the Lapwings, Marsh Harriers and a Buzzard.

                                Wheatear and Clouded Yellow, Lade

Sunday - Lade - 1100hrs - warm, sunny, nw 3 - A chillier feel to the weather than of late for a circuit of the local patch. While there wasn`t the numbers of yesterday, Chiffchaffs were noted throughout the walk and in the garden again along with two Blackcaps and a Goldcrest. A few hirundines, Goldfinches and Mipits trickled overhead, several Wheatears and Stonechats were perched atop bushes and posts, while our first Song Thrush (scarce here) of the autumn was flushed from cover.
The Curlew flock provided a fine spectacle coming off the bay to roost on the storm ridges and a single Clouded Yellow posed nicely on a hawksbit by north lake. Walking back along the beach at least four Grey Seals could be seen bobbing up and down as they fished for flatties on the high tide.