Monday 31 December 2018

Last Rites

Lade - mild, cloudy and still - A circuit of the local patch delivered good views of Goldeneye action  close to the bank on south lake. On the mill-pond like surface the drakes rattled away and chucked back their heads as they displayed to the nonchalant redheads. Otherwise it was a similar avian picture to the past week.
  Needless to say there were no late additions to the Plovers year list (not that I`m a keen lister) which ended on 218 species for the Romney Marsh area, so about average.

                                Displaying Goldeneyes, Lade

  On a more sobering note there was much activity hereabouts this morning when a group of migrants landed on the beach in a rubber dingy. The Border Force helicopter clattered overhead for ages as eight people were rounded up by the police and detained. When something like this happens on your doorstep it puts our cosseted lifestyle in some sort of perspective.
  A happy and peaceful New Year to one and all.

Sunday 30 December 2018

That was the year that was

Memories of 2018

It`s a traditional staple of bloggers to cast a look back over the past year. Rather than give a calendar account of events (you can get that by trawling through this year posts) I`ve selected and categorised a few treasured memories from 2018, in no particular order of importance, so here goes.
Rarity of the year - OK, lets get this category out of the way early on. There were quite a few candidates, particularly in spring with Kentish Plover on the bird reserve and a Terek Sandpiper at Rye the best of the waders. An unusually showy Great Reed Warbler in front of Hanson hide made the list, as did a flashy trio of Hoopoe, Bee-eater and Rosy Starling at Midley, Littlestone and Dungeness respectively. There were some real skulkers and `half birds` to consider such as Short-toed Treecreeper, Pallid Swift and Hume`s Warbler (and much respect to the finders) but for me it had to be those two Bluethroats that graced Dengemarsh Gully back in early spring. I know they`re not even `proper` rarities but they`re smart as peaches and they hung around for a few days, and above all showed like good `uns.

                                Bluethroat, Dengemarsh Gully

Local patch -  A tricky category with plenty of choice seeing as I visit Lade pits on a near daily basis. The two wintering Long-tailed Ducks that remained into May, and attempted breeding by Black-necked Grebes featured highly on the candidates list; as did all five species of common grebes that appeared during the year with Dabchicks having a particularly good breeding season. Migrant Spotted Flycatchers and Whinchats put on a decent autumn show, along with nesting Cuckoos and Lesser Whitethroats, but it was Dartford Warbler that will remain firmly etched in the memory bank as they were omnipresent and even nested successfully.

                                Dartford Warbler, Lade

Absentees of the year - Sadly its the predictable tale of woe concerning declining summer migrants such as Swift, Cuckoo, Swallow, Yellow Wagtail, Pied Flycatcher and Turtle Dove, plus another poor autumn for overhead passage of larks, pipits, finches and the like. As far as I can recall there were no records of Dotterel, Temminck`s Stint, Melodious or Icterine Warblers this year and only one or two of Wood Warbler, Ortolan, Red-backed Shrike and Wryneck. I managed to go through the year without encountering a Grey Partridge, while Tree Sparrows are clinging on by a tenuous thread across the Marsh.

                                Yellow Wagtail at its Scotney stronghold

Wader of the year - Right, lets buck ourselves up after the morose offerings of the previous category. Waders are my favourites; proper birders birds, there`s no skulking in bushes with these beauties or worrying about whether they`ve just escaped from an aviary or wildfowl collection, or splitting hairs over specification issues. I`ve already mentioned two rarities, Kentish and Terek, and the Scotney Buff-breasted was a real treat, but its not all about them. Wood Sandpipers had a good autumn and I just love the evocative flight call of the many flocks of Seven-note Whistlers that passed over the peninsula on passage; and what about those plumy adult Curlew Sandpipers that turned up in mid-summer beating a rapid retreat from the Arctic? All possibles, but for me spring Bar-tailed Godwits take some beating, particularly when they pause a while and plonk down in the Boulderwall fields only a few yards away. What truly gorgeous birds.

                                Summer plumage Bar-tailed Godwits

Conservation success of the year - A no brainer this one, it has to be the Dungeness RSPB Re-tern Project which bore instant fruits with the successful nesting of a number of Common Terns on the newly created islands and tern rafts on Burrowes. During the summer seven different types of sea swallows graced the old gravel pit including plenty of migrant Black, scarce Roseate and Arctic, prospecting Sandwich and Little and as a bonus a rare American Black Tern. Well done to all concerned.

                                Terns on Burrowes

It`s not a bird - During the course of our ramblings there was so much other natural history stuff to enjoy hereabouts. Having always been fascinated by all aspects of our flora and fauna this past year threw up many memorable encounters. New species of moths in the garden trap included a spectacular Bedstraw Hawkmoth and Orache in contrast to a diminutive Concolorous, while an Asian Hornet at Dungeness was new to me. Record breaking numbers of Porpoises off the point and up to 20 Grey Seals in the bay this summer were memorable and it was an excellent year for some of our grassland butterflies such as Grizzled Skipper and Marbled White. Small bats flitting around our garden fir trees on a summers evening were a treat and there was a decent show of Bee Orchids on the local patch.
  However, it was a tiny plant that stopped me in my tracks whilst out surveying for Cetti`s Warblers this spring that won the non-bird accolade. Rounding a clump of sallows I encountered a small clearing in the shingle carpeted with Wild Strawberries. Immediately the wow factor kicked in as it reminded me of a bygone, carefree era as a kid when I used to pick these tiny fruits growing on a chalky bank in a Chiltern`s beech wood near our village. A truly magical moment.

                                Wild Strawberries

Best birding day - Of which there were plenty around the Marsh this year, but I`m going to opt for one of our day trips to France in late May with Chris and Mark when we clocked up 120 species across the Somme area. The list of birds was incredible and included a mammoth 14 species of warblers including crippling views of Grasshopper, Marsh and Melodious Warblers, plus Bluethroats, Black-winged Stilts, Serins and White Storks along with a host of other wetland birds. Turtle Dove, Grey Partridge and Nightingale, birds that are on their last legs here were commonplace. A fantastic day in great company.

                                Black-winged Stilt approaching its nest site

                                White Stork hunting frogs

                                Gropper in full song

 Natural event of 2018 - Not easy this one. It`s a toss up between the Super Moon in February, the `Beast from the East` or the summer heat wave, I can`t decide so just enjoy the pics.




Companion of the year - No competition, he`s always up for a trip out and never argues with my identifications, but dislikes seawatching, its  - Barney!!

                                Loves winter

                                Loathes summer

                                Finds seawatching boring

And finally a big thank you to all readers of this blog and the kind words I`ve received when we`ve met out in the field. The ramblings will continue in 2019!

Friday 28 December 2018

Ringtail and Woodlark

Scotney - mild, cloudy and still - I decided on a change of scene this morning, and with some success. Around the farm a small flock of finches and sparrows contained several each of Tree Sparrow and Corn Bunting, while the resident Little Owl was in its usual spot on the straw bales.
A ringtail Hen Harrier flew over the coast road heading towards the Midrips on the ranges was a welcome first for the year. Whilst scanning the front fields from the cycle track I was joined by CT. The flooded sheep folds were full of wildfowl and waders including a Spotted Redshank, three Ruffs, 10 Redshank and four Ringed Plovers amongst hundreds of Goldies, Lapwings, Curlews and Starlings.

                                Spotted Redshank, Scotney

  Moving back down the road towards Lydd we stopped at the entrance to the sewage works at Pigwell, where walking back along the cycle track we eventually had good flight and scope views on the deck of a smart Woodlark in a stony, weed-strewn field. Also present were three Red-legged Partridges, Stonechat, Goldfinches and Chaffinches, hundreds of corvids and a Little Egret, plus 50 Pied Wagtails and a Grey Wagtail over by the sewage works.
  On the way home a drive out the back of Lydd to Horse`s Bones farm delivered a distant flock of 48 Bewick`s Swans and two more Corn Bunings on an overhead wire.   

Thursday 27 December 2018

The Doldrums

Lade - mild, dry, cloudy, light airs - The past few days birding the local patch has been a bit like the weather, much the same. Still, I`m not complaining as it has been calm, dry and relatively mild for what is, after all, mid-winter and this morning there was a spectacular sunrise over the bay to greet the day.
  On the lakes wildfowl have increased with Teal, Pochard and Tufted Duck all over 200 each in number and Wigeon up to 80. Goldeneye are also on the up with 10 today, but there`s still no sign of any Smew or Slavonian Grebe, both of which are expected sometime over the coming weeks. Elsewhere around the site this week: Bittern, Marsh Harrier, Peregrine, Water Rail, Caspian Gull (adult), Snipe, Green Woodpecker, Kingfisher, Skylark, Stonechat, Cetti`s and Dartford Warbler, Chiffchaff, Long-tailed Tit and Goldcrest.

                                Sunrise over Lade bay

  On the bird reserve the three Cattle Egrets are still present between the Boulderwall fields and Cockles Bridge, up to 30 Bewick`s Swans are on Walland Marsh between Lydd and Midley at Horse`s Bones farm, a Woodlark has remained faithful to a stubble field at Pigwell, Lydd and the two Whooper Swans are still in fields outback of Scotney. Otherwise its the usual wintering seabirds offshore at Dungeness, waders in the bay and wildfowl and egrets around the bird reserve.

Monday 24 December 2018

Siberian Chiffchaff

Dungeness - mild, dry and sunny, light airs - As a high pressure weather system moved in from the south-west it was a superb day to be out and about in the field; settled weather, at last, and it looks set to continue for a week or more. From the fishing boats a seawatch produced the expected Gannets, Red-throated Divers, Great Crested Grebes, auks and Kittiwakes, plus two Med Gulls, 10 Common Scoters and two Eiders.

                                Southern end of Trapping Area in winter sunshine

                                Sea fret rolling in

  Next stop the Trapping Area and as soon as we arrived at the southern tip the distinctive call of a Siberian Chiffchaff could be heard amongst a mixed flock of tits, Goldcrests and at least two nominate race Chiffchaffs; the tristis call sounded to me like a thin, high-pitched Reed Bunting. Thankfully it called constantly which aided location, although I only had obscured views of what appeared to be a brownish Chiffchaff. Also noted two Snipe, Stonechat, Kestrel, Redwing and Green Woodpecker.
Lade - Pat joined us for a circuit of the local patch this afternoon in glorious warm sunshine. A Dartford Warbler called from scrub by the badger sett while a drake Goldeneye displayed to a harem of redheads on south lake.
  It was then home to watch one of the best films of all time, It`s a Wonderful Life, my only concession to Christmas! 

Sunday 23 December 2018

An influx of Teal

Lade - mild, wet and cloudy, W 3 - A grim morning with low cloud and steady rain out of the west, in contrast to the bright sunshine of yesterday. Chugging around the local patch in the Saturday sun delivered good views of all three warblers: Dartford, Cetti`s and Chiffchaff in their respective habitats - gorse, reed and willow. A surprising small fall of winter thrushes around the ponds included three Fieldfares and two Redwings.
  A Saturday afternoon visit to the Bird Observatory was preceded by a search for a Siberian Chiffchaff in the Trapping Area without success, although it was seen again today (DBO).

                                Teal around the willow swamp

  We eventually got into the field around noon, when the rain relented and the wind backed off, for our usual circular walk. There was a noticeable increase in Teal with a count of 210 on south lake and around the willow swamp; cracking little ducks with their distinctive `prritt` calls reverberating across the water. The tide was ebbing as we hit the bay with several large flocks of nervy Dunlin and Sanderling on the tideline contrasting with the more laid back and approachable Turnstones and Ringed Plovers closer to the shingle beach. A lone, skulking LBJ set the pulse racing in the sand dunes until it showed itself as a stripy Reed Bunting. 
  During our two hour ramble I met one of the regular dog-walkers, a visitor from London off to photograph the `mirrors` and another two dog-walkers on the beach; infact, a typical Sunday outing. It was a balmy afternoon perfect for a stroll across one of the quieter reaches of the Dungeness NNR and yet for most of the walk it was deserted, and its the same throughout the year, even on a summers day. Why more local folk aren't out and about enjoying this wonderful place is a recurring mystery to me.

                                Turnstones on the beach

Thursday 20 December 2018

Great Grey Shrike

Lade - mild, dry and sunny, W2 - Following heavy overnight rain, which left plenty of standing water hereabouts (a rare sight on the shingle), the weather front soon cleared through bringing bright sunshine and blue skies in its wake. A party of five Goldeneyes dropped onto south lake included two spanking drakes, otherwise there was no change from the usual birds.

                                Record shot of Great Grey Shrike

Shirley Moor - Had a run out to Moor Lane this afternoon as the wintering Great Grey Shrike had been reported again this morning. CT and GH were also on site and it wasn't long before Gill picked up the shrike atop a distant hedgerow from the green-fenced bridge. Colin soon had it in the scope and we watched it for about ten minutes in fading light before it disappeared from view.
  A few years ago I surveyed Shirley Farm and it remains a model for what a wildlife friendly holding can be with stubble fields, unploughed field margins and thick, tall hedgerows. As a result winter thrushes were everywhere along with finches and buntings, including the fast-declining Yellowhammer, and best of all two Barn Owls, one of which was seen to catch a vole. If only there were a few more farms like this around...

Wednesday 19 December 2018

Seabirds and wildfowl

Lade - mild, showery, w 3 - The weather pattern seems to have settled into one of Atlantic fronts sweeping in from the west bringing a mixture of sunshine, cloud and showers, and it looks set to continue as such into next week at least; still, at least it`s mild. Nothing much has altered on the local pits with plenty of wildfowl on south lake, including up to five Goldeneyes, while Dartford Warbler, Chiffchaff and Goldcrest are all still present. A check of the bay revealed all ten regular species of waders at low tide from Littlestone opposite the old caisson.

                                Guillemots from the fishing boats

  A couple of visits to the fishing boats for a seawatch yesterday delivered good numbers of Gannets, Red-throated Divers and auks offshore, plus Mediterranean Gull and a distant Pomarine Skua. On the bird reserve the three Cattle Egrets have been going between Boulderwall fields and the horse paddocks, while a couple of Great Whites are still on site. Small parties of Bewick`s Swans can be found on the fields between Cockles Bridge and Lydd as well from the lane out towards Midley.

Monday 17 December 2018

Pink-footed Geese

Lade  - warm, dry and sunny - Another stunning morning for a circuit of the local patch where the highlight was a flock of 51 Pink-footed Geese that came in off the bay calling, overflew the lakes and headed inland. There have been a few Pink-feet in east Kent recently so this wasn't too much of a surprise. A Dartford Warbler showed well in the usual spot and there was no change to the wildfowl on both lakes. The walk back along the beach was largely uneventful apart from a small flock of eight Ringed Plovers.
  A late afternoon walk up Mockmill delivered several Stonechats (seen) and Cetti`s Warblers (heard) while a Snipe flushed from cover. A distant Barn Owl quartered the fields towards the airport and as dusk approached five Marsh Harriers headed towards the bird reserve to roost along with a steady stream of Jackdaws.

Sunday 16 December 2018

Harrier count

Lade - warm, dry and sunny  - After yesterdays shocker of a day with heavy rain and a cutting easterly wind, this morning could not have been more different with warm sunshine and light airs that even enticed a Small Tortoiseshell butterfly onto the wing by the ponds. Long-tailed Tits, Goldcrest, Chiffchaff, Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers, Water Rail and Cetti`s Warbler all noted around the willow swamp.
 There was no sign of the Red-necked Grebe for the second day running on north lake; infact, most of the Great Crested Grebes had deserted the pits having probably moved onto the bay taking the Red-necked with them. Pochard numbers were up though with 210 counted but only three Goldeneyes.
  On the bay at low tide hundreds of Curlew, Oystercatcher, Dunlin and Sanderling.
Walland Marsh - Joined CP out on the Marsh this afternoon for the monthly roost count where 11 Marsh Harriers came in to roost, including two cracking adult males, with another half dozen in the general area. We also noted a record count of seven Great Whites and six Little Egrets flying off to roost nearby as the sun went down. Other birds of note included: five Buzzards, a Merlin, hundreds of corvids, Starlings, Lapwings and Golden Plovers, five Snipe, Water Rail, Skylark, Mipit, Cetti`s Warbler, 50 Linnets, three Corn Buntings and six Ravens, plus a large flock of winter thrushes, mainly Fieldfares, at Midley on the way out.

Friday 14 December 2018

Cattle Egrets

Lade - cold, cloudy, E 2 - Although the wind had relented somewhat from yesterday it was still a nippy old morning with the temperature hovering around 4C. Despite spending an hour scouring north lake for the Red-necked Grebe it could not be found (presumably tucked up in a reedbed) but showed well enough out on the open water during the afternoon visit. There was no sign again of the Hume`s Warbler.
  A brief seawatch from the point delivered the usual auks, Gannets, Red-throated Divers and Kittiwakes offshore, plus at least 20 Woodpigeons in the old lighthouse garden.

                                Cattle Egrets, Boulderwall

  On the bird reserve three Cattle Egrets in the Boulderwall fields by Cook`s Pool along with a single Great White Egret, plus Lapwings, Golden Plovers, Wigeon, Marsh Harrier and Buzzard further out.  At Cockles Bridge the flock of 10 Bewick`s Swans were still present in the fields towards Lydd.

Wednesday 12 December 2018

Ravens and Red-throats

Dungeness - dry and sunny, SE 2 - Another superb winters day with bright sunshine throughout. We started off along the foreshore which was predictably devoid of birds, before moving on to The Patch where a mini-boil had attracted a few gulls including an adult Mediterranean Gull on the beach. A pair of Ravens displayed over A Station, `cronking` loudly and tumbling in flight before eventually settling on the superstructure. Offshore a steady trickle of Red-throated Divers, Gannets and auks rounded the point.

                                Raven, Med Gull and Red-throated Diver

  A guided walk for RSPB this morning concentrated on Burrowes where two Red-throated Divers were the highlights; unusual here, despite being common on the sea. All the usual wildfowl noted including four Goldeneyes, hundreds of Cormorants, plus an adult and 1st winter Caspian Gull on the islands. At Boulderwall hundreds of Greylags, Lapwings, Golden Plovers and Wigeon on the fields, plus two Cattle Egrets, a flyover Great White, Buzzard and Marsh Harrier. From Hanson hide, Black-tailed Godwit, 100 Wigeon and the expected gulls and diving ducks. From Cockles Bridge ten Bewick`s Swans in the rape-seed field.
  An afternoon visit to Lade failed to locate the Hume`s Warbler, but the Red-necked Grebe remained on north lake. A check of the bay from the Tavern viewpoint in fading light revealed hundreds of Common and Black-headed Gulls, Curlews, Oystercatchers, Dunlins and Sanderlings.

Tuesday 11 December 2018

Bewick`s Swans

Lade - mild, sunny, light airs - Another superb morning to be out and about in the field with the temperature rising into double figures by midday. Two Dartford Warblers showed briefly by the main track, along with a variety of passerines including three Stonechats, two Reed Buntings, Cetti`s Warbler and Song Thrush. Two redhead Goosanders dropped in on south lake for about ten minutes before flying off towards ARC, while the Red-necked Grebe remained on north lake. At the ponds the usual tit, Chiffchaff and Goldcrest flock was present but I could find no sign of the Hume`s Warbler.
  From Cockles Bridge ten Bewick`s Swans were in the fields amongst the Mutes, plus two Marsh Harriers, Stonechat and Skylark. A drive out on Walland delivered three more Bewick`s in a field near Brookland, a Great White Egret and several large parties of Fieldfares.

Monday 10 December 2018

Back on the beat

Lade - cool, still and cloudy - Having had a weekend of wedding celebrations with our Kate, who married Tim on Saturday at Littlehampton, it felt good to be out and about around the local patch with Barney today in fine winter weather.
  This morning we did our usual circuit of the wetlands where the Red-necked Grebe was still on north lake while the Hume`s Warbler remained as elusive as ever around the ponds where it called three times confirming its presence. Also in the willow swamp area: Chiffchaff, Cetti`s Warbler, Goldcrest, Long-tailed Tit, Redwing, Kingfisher and Green Woodpecker, a Marsh Harrier over and a Dartford Warbler along the track. There was an increase in Teal and Wigeon numbers on south lake, although only two Goldeneye were noted.

                                Red-necked Grebe, north lake

  Late afternoon behind the `mirrors` scanning the rough grassland delivered a fine Barn Owl, six Marsh Harriers heading to roost, two Buzzards, four Stonechats and around 200 Jackdaws also heading to roost sites in the Trapping Area.

Thursday 6 December 2018

Hume`s Warbler

Dungeness - mild and overcast, W3 - We joined half a dozen other optimists at the fishing boats this morning with yesterdays auk fest in mind; however, as is often the case two consecutive seawatching days are rarely the same. It did produce hundreds of Red-throated Divers, Gannets, Cormorants, Kittiwakes and auks (mostly Guillemots and only a few Razorbills) rounding the point or fishing offshore, plus singles of Mediterranean Gull, Common Scoter, Merganser and Bonxie.
Lade   - There was a steady trickle of twitchers to site to see the Hume`s Warbler which was still present, but elusive, around the ponds and only occasionally calling. The Red-necked Grebe remained on north lake while six Goldeneyes and two Caspian Gulls (an adult and a 1st winter) were among the gull roost on south lake.

Tuesday 4 December 2018

Winter thrushes

Lade - misty start then warm and sunny - A stunning morning with a light ground frost, mist over the lakes and no wind. Late last night I popped out into the back garden for a listen and sure enough a steady passage of Redwings could be heard coming in off the sea and heading inland. They rarely pause awhile here so it was good to see a few in the bushes early on around the ponds, mostly Blackbirds plus a few Redwings and a Song Thrush. Chiffchaff, Kingfisher, Great Spotted Woodpecker, tits and finches were also noted as we searched for the Hume`s while the Red-necked Grebe was seen on north lake.

                                Smoke on the water

  However, as the morning warmed up it was no surprise when a call came through from Stephen Message who`d relocated the Hume`s Warbler in the willow swamp by the causeway. I returned to site around midday when the bird was showing intermittently around the ponds, and occasionally calling, to a steady trickle of local birders. It continued in this vein all afternoon.

Monday 3 December 2018

Red-necked Grebe

Lade - mild, wet and windy - Another day of poor birding weather, although it remained mild. Spent a couple of hours searching for yesterdays Hume`s Leaf Warbler with CP around the ponds and willow swamp without success, while Chiffchaff, Long-tailed Tits, Cetti`s Warbler, Water Rail, Green Woodpecker and Peregrine all noted in the area. The Red-necked Grebe was still present on north lake but took some finding as it retired into reedbeds on the far side of the water. A Great White Egret was noted and 30 Curlews flew overhead. On the walk back home five White-fronted Geese flew over calling heading towards the bird reserve.

                                Red-necked Grebe from yesterday, by Dave Scott

Sunday 2 December 2018

Hume`s Leaf Warbler

Lade - mild, windy, overcast with occasional sunny spells, W 4 - Well, well, well, what a memorable day on the local patch. As we trudged over the shingle ridges into a brisk, yet warm, westerly I wasn't expecting much change from the past few days. However, as the sun broke through up popped a Dartford Warbler in gorse scrub along the main track beside south lake, but I could find nothing new on the water apart from a couple of Shelducks and Greylags. At the ponds and along the causeway a tit flock attracted a stunning Firecrest, several Goldcrests and a Chiffchaff, where Water Rail, Cetti`s Warbler, Green Woodpecker and Marsh Harrier also noted.
  North lake is normally quiet but this morning hosted a Red-necked Grebe amongst a Pochard flock, a site first for me, which is somewhat surprising considering there have been one or two on local waters and on the sea during my time here. Judging from its nervousness around the ducks and grebes I reckoned it had just arrived and at least once fluttered across the lake towards the swing bridge end. After tweeting the news out the first local birder to arrive was Dave Scott who`d just seen a couple of redhead sawbills fly over the coast road heading towards south lake. After a bit of searching we soon relocated two Goosanders on the far side of the lake. A decent session then, that was about to get even better...

                                Red-necked Grebe, Lade north

  We had just arrived home for a cuppa and a Boneo when Dave called telling that a group of visiting birders had just found a yellow-browed type warbler by the ponds that sounded like a Pied Wagtail when it called! It could only be one bird - a Hume`s Leaf Warbler! And indeed it was. We were soon back on site and joined a group of locals to search for the bird which was relocated low down in cover in the ponds. It briefly attached itself to a tit flock when its diagnostic double note "chew-weet" call was heard several times; it showed particularly well in a sea buckthorn bush exhibiting the cold plumage tones of a Hume`s, always subjective in such light, but thankfully with that distinctive call, which to my ears sounded similar to a Spotted Redshank.
  I`m unsure who found the bird, but well done whoever you are, a superb find and needless to say a new site record. Apparently it disappeared down towards north lake beside the scrub-clad bank next to the caravan park and wasn't seen after mid-afternoon. I shall check first thing tomorrow morning though.

Friday 30 November 2018

Weekly summary

Lade/Dungeness - warm, dry and sunny - Superb day to be out and about in the field with light winds and no rain. At 0700hrs whilst still dark a steady stream of Redwings could be heard passing over the cottage and heading inland. We started off on the local patch where a Dartford Warbler showed briefly along the main track. Great White Egret, Marsh Harrier, Kingfisher, Cetti`s Warbler and Chiffchaff also noted around the willow swamp while Goldeneye were up to six in number across both lakes along with four Shelducks.
   More Goldeneyes, Marsh Harriers and Great White Egrets were seen around the bird reserve, plus a single Cattle Egret on the Boulderwall fields amongst the stock. The walk down to the pines and out the back of Tower pits delivered more Redwings along with several Song Thrushes and Blackbirds, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Sparrowhawk, Long-tailed Tit, Goldcrest and Chiffchaff.
  Elsewhere this week a few White-fronted and Pink-footed Geese have attached themselves to a grey goose flock along with a single Tundra Bean Goose. The flock has been on the fields between Cockles Bridge and Lydd but the farmer tends to moves them on, where bye they decamp to Scotney along with hundreds of feral geese. A handful of Bewick`s Swans are also in the general area, often associating with Mute Swans on the rape-seed fields. Caspian and Yellow-legged Gulls have been located at the point, and roosting on Burrowes, while the sea has the usual wintering birds including the occasional passing Velvet Scoter, Eider and Merganser. Egret numbers have thinned out with just a single Cattle and several Great Whites present.
  The settled weather saw plenty of birders out around the peninsula today enjoying the sunshine, although the forecast is for more rain over the weekend.

Thursday 29 November 2018

Storm Diana

Dungeness - mild, cloudy, SW 6 - A wander down to the fishing boats this morning in windy conditions with the rain clearing delivered a steady westward movement of Gannets, Cormorants, auks, Kittiwakes and Red-throated Divers, plus one flock of six Common Scoters. A 1st winter Caspian Gull flew from the puddles by the fishing boats towards the lighthouse.
  On the bird reserve a Cattle Egret was on the Boulderwall fields, a Great White Egret on a windswept Burrowes and five White-fronts flew over within a grey goose flock towards Cockles Bridge from the access road. There was no change on Lade pits, while the beach was almost impossible to check due to the near gale force wind.

Wednesday 28 November 2018

Winter closes in

Lade - wet and windy - Yesterday it was fog, today a warm, rain-bearing wind from the south in Mordor-like light. This really is a grim time of year, made worse by the run in to the dreaded Christmas feeding frenzy of rampant consumerism and excesses which the besieged planet can more than do without. "Black Friday or Buy now and have the lot before Christmas," the adverts scream - everywhere you look, read or listen in the media its the same message, have more, load up that credit card and get into debt with crap you don't really need, its inescapable. 
  Day and night vast container ships akin to floating blocks of flats pass Dungeness heading for the ports of Felixstowe and Rotterdam to unload cargoes of those `essentials` for the festive season; plastic Santa's, fairy lights and the like at goodness knows what cost to the environment in China and south-east Asia. I can see why some folk bugger off abroad for a month or two to get away from it all, its just so depressing. Still, there`s always the Brexit vote to look forward to next month...
  Anyhow, that's enough ranting for now. Meanwhile on the local patch there is a sense of the natural world settling into winter mode with the arrival of Goldeneyes on the lakes and waders on the bay. Dartford Warblers also appear to have established winter territories in the gorse scrub while Bittern, Bearded Tit and Water Rail are also present in the reedbeds and willow swamp.
  An hour at the fishing boats this morning in the company of MC provided a steady flow of typical winter seabirds offshore in the form of Gannet, Kittiwake, Great Crested Grebe, Red-throated Diver, Guillemot and at least one Razorbill. Before I arrived Eider and Velvet Scoter were also noted. 

Monday 26 November 2018

Grey geese

Lade - grey and overcast - Another gloomy day throughout, although a brief glimpse of a Dartford Warbler by south lake track brightened up a circuit of the local patch where six Goldeneyes, Great White Egret and a Marsh Harrier noted.

                                Bewick`s Swans on the move

St Mary`s Bay - A walk along the foreshore at high tide searching for buntings drew a blank.
Cockles Bridge - An early afternoon call from Martin tipped us off to a large flock of Greylags grazing a distant rape-seed field along with a decent variety of interlopers including five White-fronts and two Pink-footed Geese. Tundra Bean Goose was also present but just out of view. Whilst there four Bewick`s Swans flew in to join the Mutes.
  A second visit later in the afternoon to check for the Bean Goose drew a blank as the grey goose flock had been flushed off the fields by the farmer.

Sunday 25 November 2018

Dunlins on the beach

Saturday - A day trip to Boulogne with the family yesterday while not a birding trip did deliver a few bits and pieces on the drive down the coast road from Calais. Several Buzzards, a covey of six Grey Partridges, hundreds of Lapwings and a field full of mostly Mediterranean Gulls were noted along the way. Around Boulogne harbour there were plenty more gulls including Yellow-legged and at least one Caspian Gull, several Little Egrets and a Black Redstart. At the Calais Channel tunnel terminal on the way home hundreds of Jackdaws roosted on the overhead gantries

                               Dunlins and Barney on the beach

Lade - grey and overcast, E2 - Another grim day with low light and the threat of rain. A circuit of the local patch coincided with an incoming tide where 200 Dunlin were counted on the bay sands along with 200 Curlews, 100 Sanderling and 350 Oystercatchers, plus lesser numbers of Grey and Ringed Plovers and five Shelducks.
  On the lakes two drake Goldeneyes were amongst five redheads, otherwise there was no change in the wildfowl from last week.

Friday 23 November 2018

Winter`s coming...

Dungeness - mild and overcast - A drab sort of day with light airs that got steadily brighter into the afternoon. A walk along the foreshore at the point first thing was almost birdless apart from a few Mipits and Goldfinches overhead. Offshore the usual Gannets, Kittiwakes and auks.

                                Bewick`s Swans, ARC

  There was much more to see on the bird reserve where the two Bewick`s Swans showed well from Hanson hide having just flown in from Cockles Bridge. The islands were packed out with several hundred Lapwing, Shoveler, Teal, Shelduck, Pintail, plus 10 Black-tailed Godwit and two Dunlin. A Bittern broke cover from the far reedbed along with several Bearded Tits and two Marsh Harriers and a Sparrowhawk kept the ducks on the move. Also noted Great White Egret, Goldeneye, Water Rail, Chiffchaff, Kestrel, Long-tailed Tit and Reed Bunting. The bushes down towards the pines attracted several each of Blackbird, Redwing, Fieldfare and Goldcrest.

  The islands on Burrowes were covered in hundreds of black-backed gulls, Cormorants and Lapwings. In amongst the throng were at least two adult Yellow-legged Gulls, a handful of Golden Plovers, two Great White Egrets around the margins and five Goldeneyes on the water. All we needed was a Smew to make it really feel like winter had arrived.
  There was no change at Lade with a Dartford Warbler still present in the gorse scrub beside the main track on south lake.