Tuesday 29 November 2016

Great Northern Divers

Lade - cold, sunny, e 3 - A cracking morning for a circuit of the local patch where we were joined by CP who`d come by to help lift and shift some furniture at Plovers (many thanks again Chris). All the usual wildfowl were noted on the lakes, plus three Goldeneyes that dropped in, while a Marsh Harrier terrorised the Coot flock. Back along the beach the recent strong onshore winds and high tides had taken their toll on the sand dunes at Greatstone. As the tide raced in across the sands we teased out nine of the regular ten wader species including close views of Knot, Grey Plover and Sanderling.

                                Greatstone sand dunes


Dungeness - 1330 - 1530hrs - After a torrid lifting and shifting session (which involved removing a few doors and much grunting and groaning) and a spot of lunch, we headed for a seawatch at the fishing boats where we were joined by PB and MH. The highlight of the watch was a Slavonian Grebe on the sea amongst the Great Crested Grebes and three westbound Great Northern Divers. Also noted a steady flow of Kittiwakes, Guillemots, Gannets, a few Red-throated Divers and several parties of Brents and Common Scoters.

                               UK Border Control

Sunday 27 November 2016

Black-throated Diver

Lade - mild, cloudy, n 2 - After a fraught few days driving to West Sussex and moving our Kate into a new flat, and yesterday`s frustration at dipping the Forster`s Tern by an hour, it was good to get out and about birding today. Despite the local Folkestone and Hythe birders scouring the coastline the tern was not relocated.
  However, this morning we worked the local patch where a Dartford Warbler in Mockmill Sewer was the highlight along with several Stonechats, Mipits and Reed Buntings. South lake attracted a couple of hundred roosting gulls with at least one adult Caspian Gull amongst the Herring and Black-back flock. A Marsh Harrier quartered the far reedbeds, while two Goldeneyes were on north lake.
Dungeness - A wander along the foreshore by the fishing boats (optimistically hoping for a passing tern...) revealed nothing more than a trickle of Kittiwakes, Gannets, auks, two Mediterranean Gulls and a Red-throated Diver.

                               Ring-necked Duck, Boulderwall

  On the bird reserve the Ring-necked Duck showed well at Boulderwall, as did a Bearded Tit. The Cattle Egret was a little more elusive further out amongst the stock, along with hundreds of Wigeon, Lapwings, feral geese and the like, plus a number of Grey Herons, Great White and Little Egrets. On Burrowes, where the islands are fast disappearing under water, there was plenty of wildfowl including Pintail, Goldeneye and Goosander and hundreds of Cormorants. From Firth hide an adult Yellow-legged and a 1st winter Caspian Gull.
Scotney - Yesterday`s Black-throated Diver remained on Brett`s pit to the west of the caravan park where it showed like a good `un.

                               Black-throated Diver, Scotney

Thursday 24 November 2016


Lade - The past couple of days has seen a subtle change in the weather from wet and windy to drier, but still windy conditions, as a high pressure system settles over the country delivering a north-easterly airflow. Yesterday it started off calm and a Short-eared Owl quartering the Desert towards the water tower was a delight to watch. We walked Mockmill Sewer where a few autumn Blackbirds and Song Thrushes lingered in the scrub and a Woodcock was flushed by Barney, one of only a handful I`ve seen this past couple of months.
  Around the pit margins Water Rails and Cetti`s Warblers were chattering away and two Marsh Harriers chivvied a flock of Coots for weaklings over by the `mirrors`. By the ponds a flock of Long-tailed Tits harboured a Chiffchaff and a couple of Goldcrests while a second Woodcock rocketed skywards from the willow swamp. Amongst a couple of hundred wildfowl on the lakes lurked a single Goldeneye and a pair of Pintails, the latter a scarce bird hereabouts.
  On the walk home the two Woodcocks got me thinking as to how scarce they`ve become over recent years. The latest Kent Bird Atlas shows a significant breeding range contraction across the county for no definitive reason. Many thousands are still routinely shot here in Britain during the winter months, particularly in the Western Isles and Cornwall, while millions more come to grief from Continental gunners. How anyone would want to shoot such a beautiful bird for so called `sport` is beyond me, but they do, and no doubt will continue to do so until, like the once common Eskimo Curlew, there are none left.

                                Raptor `Hill`

  Today was a different tale altogether on the local patch as the strong wind meant most birds were either hunkered down or sheltering in the willow swamp. Out on the Desert a mound of shingle (that passes for a `hill` in these parts!) delivered a smart Peregrine which eventually flew majestically over south lake to make a half hearted feint at a Woodpigeon. Over the years I`ve seen a number of raptors utilising this lookout point, particularly Hobbies in the summer and Merlins in winter.
RSPB - There was no real change on the bird reserve with the drake Ring-necked Duck and Cattle Egret still at Boulderwall, a roosting Long-eared Owl behind the Dipping Pond, Goosander on Burrowes and four Bewick`s Swans viewable from Cockles Bridge. Elsewhere, the Snow Bunting flock was reported from St Mary`s Bay.

Monday 21 November 2016

Gulls and a Pom

Lade - 1000hrs - mild, wet and windy, se 4 - A grim morning with low scudding clouds and plenty of rain. After spending an hour trying to get a quote on yesterdays storm damage to the Plovers roof (we`re 31st on the builders list!) we headed out around the local patch where the only noteworthy sighting was a Great White Egret in the reedbed on south lake. Considering how many are present on the bird reserve across the Desert it`s surprising they don't drift over here more often.
Dungeness - 1445hrs - An hour at the fishing boats produced a mixed flock of around 200 Kittiwakes and Mediterranean Gulls feeding offshore. A few Gannets and auks zipped by and a juvenile Pomarine Skua rounded the point into Rye bay after beating up a Kittiwake.

Sunday 20 November 2016

Red Kites

Speen - We spent the weekend in the Chilterns visiting old friends where we managed to get out and about on two contrasting mornings weather wise: Saturday being cold and frosty, Sunday wet and windy. It was good to connect with species I don't often encounter back home on the Marsh, so the likes of Tawny Owl, Jay, Coal Tit, Woodcock and, of course, Red Kites. Also of note were good numbers of Redwings and Fieldfares, a few Skylarks, Mipits and Grey Wagtails and thousands of Woodpigeons leaving woodland roost sites.
  Twenty five years ago I visited the reintroduction site near Christmas Common in the Chilterns for an article in Birdwatching magazine, where over a five year period 93 kites were released into the surrounding countryside. The majority of birds originated from the Spanish population, with a handful from Sweden and Wales, and the first successful breeding was recorded in 1992 when four pairs raised nine young. The rest, as they say, is history, and today there is a thriving population of Red Kites in the Chilterns, such that wherever we went over the weekend these iconic birds were in view, even soaring over Prince`s Risborough town centre. 

                                Chilterns beech wood

                                Red Kite


Thursday 17 November 2016

First Goldeneye

Lade - wet, windy, mild, w 4 - A pretty good session around the local patch this morning, despite some hefty showers, with the first Goldeneye of the winter on south lake amongst increasing numbers of Shovelers and Pochards. Sparrowhawk and Marsh Harrier were both hunting around the willow swamp where Cetti`s Warbler, Chiffchaff and Water Rail noted. Back along the beach on a rising tide seven species of waders were pushed in nice and close, including 50 Knots, 20 Barwits and 15 Grey Plovers. We sat it out watching the tidal flood until the Curlews and Oystercatchers departed to roost and three Grey Seals came in off the bay hunting flatfish.

                                Lade Bay waders

Wednesday 16 November 2016

Long-eared Owl and Purple Sandpipers

Dungeness - mild, sunny, w 2 -Another warm day with temperatures rising to 15 C by early afternoon. At the Patch little of note apart from the usual mass of gulls, mainly Black-headed and Great Black-backs, and a couple of small flocks of Common Scoters moving into Rye Bay. Predictably, yesterdays Dotterel had done the off from the beach opposite Jarman`s.

                                Cattle Egret and Ring-necked Duck, Boulderwall

                                Long-eared Owl, Dipping Pool
RSPB - The fine weather and a rash of good birds had brought birders out in force and the car park was packed. Both the Cattle Egret and Ring-necked Duck showed well at Boulderwall where two White-fronts were in a distant Greylag flock in the fields. At the dipping pool a roosting Long-eared Owl draw an appreciative crowd while a 1st winter and an adult Caspian Gull were in front of Firth hide along with the full suite of their commoner congeners. Also on Burrowes amongst numerous wildfowl, grebes and Cormorants, a Goosander, five Goldeneyes, several Great White Egrets and three Blackwits.

                               Purple Sandpipers and Turnstones, Hythe seafront

Hythe - En-route to Folkestone this afternoon we called in at the Stade Street sea defence blocks where at least two Purple Sandpipers were present alongside 10 Turnstones.

Tuesday 15 November 2016

Dungeness Dotterel

Dungeness - 0830hrs - mild, overcast, w 2 -We walked the beach this morning in shorts weather with flying insects rising off the broom scrub. A skulking pipit eventually showed well enough to confirm its identity as a Mipit, while a couple of Skylarks and Goldfinches passed overhead. A 30 minute seawatch from the boats between 0930-1000hrs proved productive with a steady westbound stream of 200 Kittiwakes, 150 Mediterranean Gulls, 50 Gannets, five Red-throated Divers, 20 auks and a stunning Great Northern Diver.

                               Broom in flower

                                Skulking Mipit

  A late afternoon find by OL on the beach near the fishing boats meant a return to the point in order to see a Dotterel that had dropped onto a shingle ridge looking tired and a bit out of place. An odd  record this one as not only is it late, but it was on its own and not within a flock of Golden Plovers or Lapwings. Needless to say it was new for 2016 (214) as I don't think there has been one so far locally this year.

                                Dotterel on the beach, Dungeness

  Elsewhere today the Ring-necked Duck and Cattle Egret remained at Boulderwall while a roosting Long-eared Owl was located in the willows behind the dipping pond. In the Kerton Road triangle the eastern Stonechat was present along with a Short-eared Owl.

Sunday 13 November 2016

Ginger Jim

Lade - mild, sunny, nw 2 - After yesterdays gloomy skies it was good to feel the sunshine around the local patch today. The monthly WeBS count didn't yield too many surprises although a flock of 60 filter-feeding Shovelers on south lake was noteworthy. Typically, following a wet day and night, raptors were out in force this morning with at least four Marsh Harriers, three Kestrels and a Sparrowhawk working the Desert and farmland towards the airfield. On the bay a flock of 25 Brents dropped in amongst the waders.
  Elsewhere around the Marsh this weekend the Ring-necked Duck and Cattle Egret were reported from the bird reserve along with all the usual Great Whites, Goldeneyes, a Goosander and the like, plus a Dartford Warbler by Firth hide. Several more of the latter were present in the Kerton Road triangle scrub along with the grey eastern type Stonechat. At Dungeness gulls were the order of the day with a variety of Herring Gull races (oops, I mean`t Caspian and Yellow-legged Gulls!) and a brief  Iceland Gull offshore yesterday. Further afield, the Facebook Snow Buntings were on St Mary`s Bay promenade and the Whooper Swan remained with the Mutes near Botolphs Bridge.

  Regular visitors to Plovers will be saddened to learn that Jim the cat passed away yesterday. It was all a bit sudden and upsetting and the place doesn't seem quite the same without him; that`s the down side with pets, they become so entwined in the family way of life that when they go they leave a vacuum. Barney has been mooching about all day looking for his pal whom he grew up with. Jim was a typical aloof ginger Tom who spent most of his time out of doors sunbathing or plaguing the life out of the local Collared Doves, but we loved him dearly.

Friday 11 November 2016

Whooper Swan

Lade - sunny, mild, nw 2 - With bright sunshine from the off it was the perfect weather for a good old rummage around the local patch. Firstly, Mockmill where a few Reed Buntings and Blackbirds were flushed from cover along with only our third Woodcock of the autumn. Three Stonechats perched atop dead thistles until a Sparrowhawk nipped through, while distant Marsh Harriers and Kestrels hunted the fields by the airport. Small flocks of Starlings continued to come in off the sea, along with a heightened sense of expectation in what appears to be a `Waxwing winter`. Overhead one or two Skylarks, Mipits, Goldfinches, a Redpoll and two Redwings. A late Common Hawker was still active in a sun trap by the ponds which also attracted Cetti`s Warbler and Chiffchaff to a flush of flying insects. On an ebb tide the bay provided nine out of the usual ten species of waders with only Redshank absent, plus huge quantities of beached cockles and razor shells along the tideline.

                                One tired mutt

Botolphs Bridge - En-route to Folkestone this lunchtime we made a pit stop to see a Whooper Swan within a flock of Mutes feeding in a rape-seed field just north of the railway line. This was our first of the year bringing the Marsh list up to 213 species; the month of November just keeps on delivering quality birds.

                                 Mediterranean Gulls, Copt Point

                                The Warren

The Warren -  Before grand parent duties this weekend we had a wander along the Warren where at least 250 Med Gulls were assembled on the rocks at Copt Point. Further along a pair of Ravens flew over hassling a Peregrine, while on the beach Turnstones, Oystercatchers, Ringed Plovers and two Rock Pipits were noted. A tit flock in the bushes contained several Goldcrests and a Great Spotted Woodpecker and Jay broke cover. It always looks good for a rarity along here, one day perhaps...

Thursday 10 November 2016

Snow Buntings

Lade - cloudy, mild, light airs - The local patch was like a birding graveyard this morning with just the usual wildfowl on the water and a few Blackbirds in the scrub.
St Mary`s Bay - However, our fourth attempt at trying to locate the Facebook Five along the coast was far more successful thanks to the presence of several local birders who`d already located the five Snow Buntings (212), which according to social media had been here for a week or more. The flock was feeding on weed seeds amongst a thin strip of rough grass between the walkway and the beach in typical ground-hugging bunting fashion, but when they flew onto the shingle their camouflage was such that they seemed to disappear! Eventually, a few more birders arrived and we all enjoyed superb close views of these little Arctic crackers as they fed only a few yards away.
  Also noted hereabouts several Mipits, Skylarks, Pied Wagtails and a Rock Pipit, plus a few Sanderlings and gulls along the tideline.

                               Snow Buntings, St Mary`s Bay

Boulderwall -Another visit to the pool for the drake Ring-necked Duck was much more satisfactory as this time it was awake and swimming around showing off its stripy bill. The Cattle Egret was also still present, as was the grey Stonechat in the Kerton Road triangle scrub. 

                                Drake Ring-necked Duck, Boulderwall
Tower Pits - A late afternoon wander down to the pines and out back delivered a tidy flock of 20 odd Long-tailed Tits with two each of Goldcrest and Chiffchaff in the mix, plus a few Blackbirds, Great Tits, Cetti`s Warblers and a Great Spotted Woodpecker. On ARC two Great White Egrets and all the usual ducks and Lapwings.

                                Long-tailed Tit, Tower Pits

Wednesday 9 November 2016

Ring-necked Duck

Dungeness RSPB - heavy rain followed by showers, cold, e 3 - Not a particularly inspiring morning with rain throughout and an increasing wind from the north-west. However, yesterdays drake Ring-necked Duck (211) was still on the Boulderwall pool, asleep within a Tufted Duck flock, while the Cattle Egret was far more obliging, being close to the track and feeding amongst the suckling herd.
  A circular walk for a visitor from north Kent delivered a good range of raptors as they came out to hunt in a rain break, with up to 10 Marsh Harriers, Peregrine, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel and Buzzard all noted. On Burrowes three Blackwits, Dunlin, 20 Pintails, 500 Shovelers, seven Goldeneyes, a Goosander, Great White and Little Egrets, while at Dengemarsh 200 Golden Plovers, Linnets, Goldfinches, two Stonechats, two Ravens, Snipe and Kingfisher were the highlights. Along the return trail at least 10 Blackbirds were flushed from cover and we finished off back at the car park with a Great Spotted Woodpecker on the feeders.
  On the way home the pale, eastern Stonechat was still present in scrub in the corner of the quarry and the two Bewick`s Swans from yesterday were in fields along Dengemarsh Road.

                               Ring-necked Duck and Cattle Egret, Boulderwall

                               Kingfisher, Dengemarsh

St Mary`s Bay - 1400hrs - Following a tip off from a local dog-walker we walked the foreshore from Littlestone to the St Mary`s Bay outfall and back searching for a small flock of Snow Buntings, but drew a blank. However, a short while later a flock of five Snow Buntings was seen by BB near the car park, although they were flighty.

Tuesday 8 November 2016

10 ducks and a Stonechat

Dungeness - 0815-0945hrs - cold, cloudy, n 3 - We joined PB and MH at the fishing boats for a very enjoyable seawatch during which time several hundred ducks of 10 species moved down-Channel. Wigeon and Teal comprised the bulk with lesser numbers of Shelduck, Pintail, Gadwall, Mallard and Common Scoter, plus the icing-on-the cake, four Goldeneyes, three Red-breasted Mergansers and, just as we were leaving, two Long-tailed Ducks (thanks for the shout out fellas!). Also noted, a steady procession of Brents and Gannets, two Red-throated Divers, 10 Guillemots, five Razorbills, 10 Kittiwakes, 10 Dunlins, 15 Golden Plovers, a Bonxie and two Med Gulls. A succession of Starling flocks also came in totalling over 1,000 birds.

                               Daybreak, Dungeness

Kerton Road Triangle - News came through around midday of a juvenile/1st winter `Siberian` type Stonechat found by OL in the triangle scrub, alongside several Common Stonechats and Dartford Warblers. In the bright sunshine the said bird appeared very pale, cold grey-brown overall when compared to the adjacent Commons with a conspicuous whitish supercilium (although it didn`t look quite so obvious as the light faded). The breast was plain, lacking any orange wash, but with a few streaks on the flanks and the back was heavily streaked with a broad white wing-bar. The rump appeared mostly plain buff with a few streaks lower down, while the all black tail had a thin white outer edge. In flight, although difficult to detect, the underwing seemed to be darkish, but not black.

                               Stonechat, Kerton Road Triangle

  Having gone through the literature back home and checked pics on the internet `our` bird didn't  seem to fit the typical Siberian type as it appeared to show some features of an eastern race, but not all (the closest image I could find is the pic on page 402 of the new Britain`s Birds ID guide). I suppose it could be of another race entirely with which we`re not familiar, or an aberrant bird, I just don't know, but it was certainly a strikingly pale Stonechat of the like I`ve not seen before. 
  However, my bridge camera pics don't do the bird justice and there will be some good shots from PB, DW, et al with the long lenses, which should hopefully shed a bit more light on its identity, along with a bit more digging online.

Sunday 6 November 2016

Winter has arrived

Lade - There was definitely an end of season feel to proceedings this weekend as the dreaded north-westerly wind delivered a chilly blast of air across the peninsula. It really felt as though winter had arrived. Starlings were checked for Waxwings, Dunnocks for rare accentors and the foreshore flotsam for Snow Buntings lurking amongst the Pied Wagtails, Mipits and Turnstones, but all to no avail; things were that desperate I even started interrogating Stonechats and Herring Gulls for those dreaded racial splits...
  However, the weather was the main talking point of the weekend as following weeks of near drought conditions the heavens opened on Friday afternoon/evening delivering a veritable deluge; infact, according to the Kerton Road CafĂ© Weather Station an impressive 45mm of wet stuff was recorded in the rain gauge.
  Another oddity of an odd weekend went to a trio of `golfers` hacking golf balls into south lake from the aerial mound scattering the Coots and ducks. After a polite word informing them that the lakes are now a part of the RSPB nature reserve and not a driving range (followed by a more strident one after receiving a volley of abuse) they eventually moved on...

                               A selection of Lade Bay waders

  Sunday kicked off with a frost and glorious sunshine, but by afternoon the cloud returned and the cold north-westerly steadily increased. Mrs PT joined us for a circuit of the local patch where the highlight belonged to a clutch of close waders on the sands and an inquisitive Marsh Harrier that gave Barney the once over!
  Elsewhere locally the Cattle Egret remained on the fields at Boulderwall, Great Egret White Egrets hit a record 17 in number at the roost and a couple of Jack Snipes showed intermittently from Firth hide, along with a variety of Caspian Gulls.

Thursday 3 November 2016

Little Auk and much, much more

Dungeness - 0900hrs - mild, sunny, w 2 - Spent the day with Patrick and Ute from Germany showing them the birding delights of Dungeness (along with a dollop of history) and what a cracker it turned out to be. We started at the seawatch hide where a melee of Gannets, Kittiwakes, Mediterranean and other common gulls were feeding just offshore. Twenty Common Scoters, 20 Brents, 10 auks and a Bonxie were also noted and we had good views of a Grey Wagtail on the power station complex.
  At the Patch surprise of the day went to a delightful Little Auk (210th species for the Marsh year list) swimming along the near scum line in front of the boil with the Black-headed Gulls. It`s not a bird we see all that often down here and at any moment I feared a Black-back gull would swoop down and grab it, but mercifully it survived long enough for some of the locals to connect with (throughout the day several others were noted offshore, along with Sooty Shearwaters and Little Gulls - see DBO Website for details).
  On the land a few Linnets, Stonechats, Skylarks, Goldfinches, Blackbirds, Robins, Dunnocks and Wrens, plus a Chiffchaff and a Hummingbird Hawk-moth in the moat.

                               Little Auk, The Patch

                                Pied Wagtail, power station

                                Hummingbird Hawk-moth, Moat

RSPB - We then moved onto the bird reserve for Tree Sparrows at Boulderwall and the usual range of wildfowl on Burrowes including Pintails, two Goldeneyes and a Goosander, eight Great White and 10 Little Egrets, three Blackwits and eight Dunlins. From Dengemarsh several Marsh Harriers, a Merlin, four Snipe and protracted views of a Bittern creeping along the reedbed margin. Also noted Green Sandpiper, Raven, two woodpeckers, Stonechats, Reed Buntings, a Fieldfare and, thanks to a call from PB, a Cattle Egret on the Boulderwall fields rounding off a decent session on the reserve.

                                Bittern, Dengemarsh

                               Juv, Black-tailed Godwits, Burrowes

                                Goosander, Burrowes

Lade - A visit to the local patch delivered a host of Curlews, Oystercatchers, Sanderlings, Dunlins, Knots, Barwits and Grey Plovers on the bay, plus 12 Brent Geese under a glowering sky. We finished the day at Littlestone golf links where there was no sign of last weeks Short-eared Owls.
  However, it had been a superb day in the field for the guests with 85 species logged, but more importantly some real quality birds within the list.
                                Dark clouds over Lade Bay