Thursday 29 June 2017

Silent Cuckoos

Lade - muggy, misty, drizzle - 0600hrs - The garden MV was stuffed full of 32 species of macro moths this morning. Seven were new for the year including July Highflyer, Knot Grass and Dusky Sallow, while Buff-tip hit double figures for the first time.

                                   Dusky Sallow

                                July Highflyer

                                Eyed Hawk-moth

  Once the B&B guests had departed we gave the local patch a good grilling in dreary, but windless, weather conditions. Mockmill was alive with Sedge Warblers and Common Whitethroats feeding young, plus a pair of Stonechats with their second brood. Linnets seem to be down in number this year in contrast to Reed Buntings that appear to be abundant.
  South lake was alive with activity; mostly Coots and grebes with juveniles, plus post-breeding flocks of Pochard, Mallard, Gadwall and Mute Swan making up the bulk numbers. Common Terns have been a feature this week with up to 20 noisily fishing nosily over the waters, some of which are birds that have probably dispersed from Dengemarsh.

                               Common Terns, Lade

  On the scrub-clad shingle ridges Starlings and House Sparrows were everywhere in great flocks plundering the masses of invertebrates, so it was no surprise when a Sparrowhawk came in low and took one unsuspecting sparrow with great aplomb. Even the local Kestrels got in on the act.
  Its been several days now since I`ve heard a Cuckoo and I suspect the males at least have departed for southern climes having already done their job, although one or two females may still be present, finishing off egg-laying in Reed Warbler or Dunnock nests. Cuckoos arrived early this year, yet been on site for barely two months, how quickly the breeding season passes. Hopefully, their parasitic offspring will survive to follow the adults `down south` and to return again next spring.
  An afternoon tour of the bird reserve turned up little of note apart from a party of 50 Swifts heading south over ARC.

Wednesday 28 June 2017

Yellow-legged Gulls

Dungeness - 0900hrs - muggy, wet, light airs - The post breeding dispersal of juvenile Yellow-legged Gulls started slightly earlier than normal yesterday at the Patch. Today, there was at least nine birds around the boil and on the beach, plus a scattering of Kittiwakes, Med Gulls, Common and Sandwich Terns amongst the massed ranks of Black-headed, Herring and Black-backed Gulls.

                                Juvenile Yellow-legged Gull

  On the power station structure three well-grown juvenile Peregrines could be seen beside an  attendant adult.
  On Burrowes plenty of eclipse ducks, Lapwings, Little Ringed and Ringed Plovers, several migrant  Sand Martins, Common Terns, a few Swifts and two Cuckoos. More of the same on ARC, plus two Garganeys from Screen hide.

                                Pyramidal Orchids, Lade

  An hour at the fishing boats this afternoon delivered a steady flow of Sandwich Terns carrying fish westwards, presumably to the ternary at Rye Harbour. A few Gannets passed by further out plus singles of Kittiwake, Curlew and Fulmar, while it was good to hear both Skylark and Mipit in song on the beach.
  A check of Lade revealed more eclipse wildfowl, grebes and fishing Common Terns, plus a patch of Pyramidal Orchids along the old railway track. As we were leaving a Spotted Redshank flew in from the bay, circled over south lake calling, before disappearing towards the bird reserve.

Monday 26 June 2017

Peach Blossom

Lade - warm, dry, sunny, e 2 - For some unknown reason Peach Blossom has not before graced the Plovers MV, until last night that is when one settled on the summer house door by the trap. One of our smartest moths, although this one was not a particularly fresh specimen. Also of note the brightly coloured micro-moth Agapeta hamana.
  By the ponds at least 25 spikes of the localised biennial White Mullein was something of a record count. Plenty of Brown Hawkers were warming up here and on the dry scrub.

                                Peach Blossom, new for the Plovers trap site

                                Agapeta hamana,  a common Tortrix moth

                                Brown Hawker, a common dragonfly across Lade

                               White Mullein, a good year for this spectacular plant

                                          Red Hemp Nettle, Dungeness

Dungeness - 0715hrs - Down at the Patch a melee of mostly Herring and Black-headed Gulls over the boil, plus several Common Terns was about it. A few Gannets and Sandwich Terns drifted by offshore, plus two Common Scoters, several coasting Swallows and an inbound Grey Heron.
1500hrs - An hour from the boats this afternoon in glorious sunshine delivered similar fare to this morning, Gannets and Sandwich Terns, plus a Grey Seal.
1900hrs - Called in at the Screen hide on ARC this evening on the way back from the allotment where we had flight views of a Bittern.

Saturday 24 June 2017

Marsh breeding waders

Lade - cool, cloudy, w 4 drizzle - It was a return to more `normal` summer weather down here these past two days with a brisk westerly airflow suppressing moth numbers in the garden MV. Today was overcast throughout with a fine drizzle for much of the time, perfect then for a haircut. Me first, followed by Barney, with Pat delivering buzz-cuts all round.

                                Buzz-cut Barney

                                Oystercatcher with chick nearby

  Breeding waders down here on the Marsh have a tough time of it due mainly to a combination of human interference, predation and a lack of suitable habitat, so it was pleasing to note a few successes this past week.
  The more robust Oystercatcher is probably the most successful of the tribe nesting across the peninsula, mainly around the bird reserve, the ranges and local gravel pits where it nests on islands and open shingle. As this species directly feeds its chicks (rather than letting them get on with it like most waders) it can take advantage of man-made structures on which to nest, such as flat roofs or, as at our local caravan park, atop a static mobile home! This fairly recent behaviour has obvious  benefits, such as eliminating ground predators. This afternoon I also noted two pairs with well grown young on more traditional habitat at ARC pit.
  Much of the foreshore from Littlestone to Dungeness should support a few pairs of Ringed Plovers, but its far too disturbed nowadays and I couldn't find any nests this year between the Lade and Pilot section. Hopefully, a pair or two should be able to nest on the ranges, or the more undisturbed parts of the beach around the power station.
  On a brighter note, due to the drought providing islands on the bird reserve lakes, several pairs of Little Ringed Plovers have taken up residence this spring and juveniles were seen at one location today. They also nest at one or two other private gravel pits locally alongside Avocets, although few young reach the fledging stage due to predation from the likes of Fox, Badger and Mink. Redshanks are few in number too with no more than a handful of pairs locally and mostly on the ranges where there is less disturbance.
  But the breeding wader that has suffered most in recent times is the Lapwing, which now no longer  nests on the Romney Marsh farmland because of changing farming practises and land drainage. Today it is restricted to the wet fields around Dengemarsh with up to 20 pairs on the managed hayfields and adjacent marginal land on the bird reserve; although even here the fields aren't so wet due to water pumping restrictions, while fledgling success is low (corvids etc).
  A pretty gloomy picture then, and I cannot see too much change in the near future. It seems inconceivable to me that the shingle ridges hereabouts, surrounding Plovers cottage, a century ago would have played host to both Kentish Plover and Stone Curlew as well.
  Just imagine what that must`ve been like, and goodness only knows what it will be like in a hundred years hence...

Thursday 22 June 2017

First Sussex Emerald

Lade - 0600hrs - misty start, sunny, dry, SW 5 later - A thick fog enveloped the garden early on  whilst clearing the moth trap where the first Sussex Emerald of the summer was recorded. Also new for the year, Dagger sp, Barred Yellow, Miller and Heart and Club.
  There was nothing much of note over the lakes, apart from the summering flock of 35 Curlews coming off the bay to roost out the high tide on the Desert.

                                Sussex Emerald

                                Common Emerald

                               Dagger sp.

Dungeness - 1500hrs - An hour at the fishing boats with MH and PB this afternoon, with a blustery westerly wind whipping up the sea, delivered a steady trickle of Sandwich Terns and Gannets, a couple of parties of Swifts and two cracking close Little Terns. Offshore a Grey Seal was on patrol.

Wednesday 21 June 2017

Solstice Surprises

Lade - hot, dry, sunny, ne 4 - 0600hr - A stinker of a summer solstice weather wise, even with a cooling wind off the sea. First off though the garden MV turned up trumps with a new moth for the trap site - V Moth, a scarce and localised species, fond of currant and gooseberry bushes, with only a handful of records locally. There was also a decent clutch of hawk-moths, White Spots and Swallow-tailed Moths amongst 25 species of macros.

                               V Moth - new for the Plovers trap

                               One of five Swallow-tailed Moths

  The island on south lake continues to be of interest with an adult Mediterranean Gull within a mixed flock of Black-headed and Common Gulls plus, briefly, a pair of Sandwich Terns. Also over the lake at least 10 fishing Common Terns.

                               Adult Mediterranean Gull on south lake island

                                Male Linnet

                               Common Tern and Herring Gull chicks - on the same raft...

Dungeness - 1030hrs - A guided walk for ten guests around the circular route delivered a decent variety of breeding birds, butterflies and plants in searing heat as midday approached. From Dengemarsh hide the Common Terns nesting on the same raft as a Herring Gull, both of which had chicks, proved entertaining although I fear the eventually outcome will be in the gulls favour.
  However, bird of the day went to a stunningly close adult male Honey Buzzard that flew low over the hayfields, attracting the attentions of mobbing Oystercatcher, Lapwing and Redshank, before eventually disappearing towards the ranges.

Tuesday 20 June 2017

First Green Sandpiper

Lade - 0600hrs - hot, dry and sunny, NE 3 -  Plenty more moths in the garden MV these past two nights, but nothing new for the year. As the heat wave continues down here on the coast we`ve been treated to a cooling sea breeze, tempering things somewhat.

                                    Six-spot Burnets by the ponds

                                Lade south, a new island plus Avocet

                               Barney cooling off on a damp towel

  On the local patch it was all action on the breeding bird front with plenty of young Coots, ducks and grebes on the water, while Reed and Sedge Warblers were busily cramming insects into hungry fledglings around the reedbeds. The Cuckoos were still calling and I noted the rufous female again this morning.
  As the water level steadily drops revealing an exposed island at the south end of the main lake an Avocet found it very much to its liking amongst the gulls and Coots.
Dungeness - On a sultry Burrowes this morning Pochard numbers had rocketed since my last visit, while Little Ringed Plovers look to be nesting on the shingle islands.

                                Post breeding Pochards on Burrowes

                                Mute Swan with `Polish` cygnet, ARC

  At Lydd allotment this evening, after picking the produce (last Strawberries, first Peas and  Courgettes) and watering, I checked an adjacent House Martin colony on the housing estate where it was good to see several little heads poking their heads out of mud nests under the eaves with the adults flying in with food.
  A walk down to the Screen hide on ARC on the way home delivered our first returning Green Sandpiper of the season in amongst the Lapwings and Little Ringed Plovers. Cuckoo, Hobby and Marsh Harrier also noted, plus plenty of wildfowl on the lake including a Mute Swan with a rare all white `Polish` cygnet.

Sunday 18 June 2017

Moths galore!

Lade - hot, dry, sunny, light airs - Needless to say the past two nights have been pretty good for moths with a combined total of 45 species in the garden MV. Several were new for the year including Yellow Shell and Rosy Footman, the latter species I don't often trap.

                                Yellow Shell and Rosy Footman

                               "Phew, that`s better!"

As the sun rose by mid-morning the shingle ridges were quivering in a fierce heat haze, with the afternoon temperature soaring into the mid 20s Centigrade. Around the shaded ponds plenty of common dragon and damselflies were on the wing along with more Marbled Whites, common grassland butterflies and day-flying moths elsewhere.
  A check of ARC revealed just the usual Cuckoo, Marsh Harrier, Lesser Whitethroat, eclipse  wildfowl, Lapwings and breeding Little Ringed Plovers. Summer is upon us...

Friday 16 June 2017

White-fronted Goose

Dungeness - 0730hrs - cool, sunny, nw 3 - After emptying a disappointing moth trap at Plovers we headed down the point to check the Patch, more for a change of scene than anything else. Approaching the corner of the power station I noticed the incongruous sight of a single grey goose standing amongst the grass on the foreshore. On closer inspection it morphed into a White-fronted Goose, an immature bird that looked clapped out as it didn`t budge when we walked past it along the concrete road. Bit of a mystery where it had come from, but there was one knocking around the reserve a month or two back, so maybe from there, who knows...

                                Immature White-fronted Goose, DBO

  At the Patch two Med Gulls were amongst a couple of hundred mostly Herring and Black-headed Gulls on the beach and over the boil, but there was no sign of any terns. Black Redstart and Mipit were noted along the power station wall, and as we back tracked the goose had wandered off towards the old lookout tower grazing on the herbage.
  Called in at the Obs where the Red Data Book moth Small Ranunculus was in the fridge. This small noctuid was considered extinct for 50 years before making a come back in Kent and elsewhere across southern Britain.
Lade - An evening visit over the bay on a falling tide to check for waders found 110 Oystercatchers, 35 Curlews, eight Ringed Plovers, two Grey Plovers and a Barwit, plus 12 Sandwich Terns and two Med Gulls.

Thursday 15 June 2017

Red-necked Footman

Lade - hot, dry, sunny, windy sw 4 - We finished our three day moth fest for the guests from Germany on a high with a Red-necked Footman, new for the trap site. Privet Hawk-moth and Least Carpet were also new for the year. Whilst clearing the trap at 0600hrs a Blackcap sang from a neighbouring garden, an unusual record down here in early summer, perhaps a returning migrant?
  A thorough search out back this morning revealed little new on the bird front, although the first Marbled Whites of the summer were on the wing, plus Small Skipper, Meadow Brown and Small Heath.

                                Red-necked Footman - new for the Plovers trap

                                Least Carpet

                                Privet Hawk-moth

                                Barney at 11
Dungeness - 1500hrs - Today was Barney`s birthday. He`s eleven years old and the weather was not to his liking, being far too hot this morning. However, as a special `treat` we went seawatching this afternoon where the cool wind was far more preferable. An hour with MH and PB delivered a trickle of Sandwich Terns and Gannets, several Kittiwakes and Fulmars, two Swifts and three Med Gulls.
  From Screen hide on ARC four Little Ringed Plovers were the highlight, plus plenty of eclipse ducks, Lapwings, two Marsh Harriers and a Hobby.
  An evening visit on Walland delivered a meagre return on farmland birds but did include two Turtle Doves, two Corn Buntings, Marsh Harrier, Common Buzzard, a few Tree Sparrows and Yellow Wagtails, two Yellowhammers and a Little Owl.

Tuesday 13 June 2017

Moths and plants

Dungeness - Warm, dry and sunny - We spent the day concentrating on moths and plants for Patrick and Ooter from Germany. A combined total of 38 species of macros were recorded from three trap sites at Plovers, Lydd-on-Sea and Dungeness with the highlights for the guests being, many White Spots, three species of hawk-moth, Dark Tussock, Lackey, Shaded Pug and Mullein Wave. And many thanks to Dorothy and David for holding back their moths and pointing us in the right direction for Red-hemp Nettle and Stinking Hawksbeard.
  At Dungeness a wide range of shingle plants were located including a patch of Sea Pea on the beach, plus Wheatear, Mipit and Skylark. A glance out to sea revealed the incongruous sight of several Porpoises just offshore and the regular beach Fox in the same field of view!

                                Lydd-on-Sea flower meadow and pond

                                Sea Pea, Dungeness

The afternoon was spent on the bird reserve where many more plants were noted, plus our first Marbled White of the summer. Bird wise several Hobbies put on a fine show over Dengemarsh, along with the usual Common Terns, Marsh Harriers, Lapwings and Redshanks, while Raven, Ringed Plover, Common Buzzard and Egyptian Goose were seen on or around Burrowes. A singing Reed Warbler showed particularly well from Firth hide.
  The Squacco Heron spent its third day around Dengemarsh, although elusive at times.

                                Unusual nest site for an Oystercatcher

                                Singing Reed Warbler

                                Black-headed Gull and Common Tern from Firth hide

Monday 12 June 2017

Squacco Heron

Dungeness - 1330hrs - warm and windy - An afternoon visit to the bird reserve eventually delivered flight views of yesterdays Squacco Heron, at the back of Dengemarsh reedbed from Springfield Bridge. A stunning bird, which in flight resembled a Barn Owl, and yet another rare visitor from southern Europe.
  At least 10 Hobbies were noted across the site along with plenty of Swifts and hirundunes hawking insects over the water. A pair of Lapwings by Christmas Dell had somehow managed to raise two well grown young.
  At Lade more Swifts and a couple of Hobbies, while Marsh Harriers were noted at two local sites exchanging food between adults suggesting young nearby.

Sunday 11 June 2017

Sand Lizards

Hampshire - A family visit to Dorset over the weekend caused us to pause en-route in the New Forest with an afternoon session at Avon Heath near Ringwood. Several Dartford Warblers and Tree Pipits were present in classic heathland habitat along with Stonechats, Common Buzzards and a range of typical woodland birds. Best of all though were good views of Sand Lizards basking in the warm sunshine.

                               Avon Heath, New Forest

                                Sand Lizards

Dorset - We were based at Maiden Newton to the west of Dorchester in a river valley set amid typical rolling Dorset downland near the confluence of the Rivers Hook and Frome. Grey Wagtail, Kingfisher and Little Egret were common along the rivers with hundreds of Swifts, House Martins and Swallows overhead. Also noted over the weekend, Raven, Common Buzzard, Tawny Owl, Bullfinch and Roe Deer.

                                River Hook

                                            Abbotsbury Botanical Gardens

                                The Fleets looking towards Portland

On Saturday a visit to the botanical gardens at Abbotsbury was first class value for a wide variety of plants and trees along with stunning views along the Jurassic coastline to the west and the Fleets to the east. The gardens were full of breeding birds with young, including Spotted Flycatcher. On the drive back over the hills to Maiden Newton a Short-eared Owl flew over the road by Hardy`s monument.