Monday 30 April 2018

Glaucous Gull heralds a return to winter

Dungeness - cold, low cloud, rain, N 5 - A shocker of day to start a Birdwatching Break for Clare and Peter down from London. The rain continued throughout the afternoon with a biting wind out of the north and the temperature barely getting above 5C, so it was most apt when DB texted through news of an immature Glaucous Gull he`d just found on the beach opposite. When we arrived on site the polar beast was slumped on a shingle ridge asleep, adjacent to the Fish Shack. Eventually it took flight towards the fishing boats where the waves crashed over the foreshore with Gannets overhead.

                                Glaucous and Great Black-backed Gull, Dungeness

  A brief look from the seawatch hide produced plenty of Gannets, Sandwich and Common Terns and two Fulmars. At the Patch around 200 Common and one Little Tern, while a Wheatear showed well on the sea defence blocks, as did the beach Fox in front of the hide.

                                Bedraggled Wheatear

                                Beach Fox

Moving onto the bird reserve where we concentrated on Burrowes from the shelter of the hides. Singles of Little Tern and Little Gull both showed well from Dennis`s hide. On the islands a range of passage waders included six Barwits, two Greenshanks, two Turnstones, several Ringed Plovers, Dunlin and Redshank, plus Egyptian Goose, Teal, Pochard, Gadwall and Shoveler on the wildfowl front. A large flock of hirundines over the lake, mostly Swallows, were struggling to feed on emerging insects in the cool conditions. Very little noted from Dengemarsh hide.
  To be fair it was one those days when it felt good to get back indoors with a mug of hot tea.

Sunday 29 April 2018


Lade  - cool, cloudy, NE2  - Spent quite a bit of time over the weekend monitoring the breeding birds hereabouts concentrating on the rough ground to the west and north of the lakes up to the airport runway and towards Belgar farm. Pleased to discover plenty of singing Skylarks, Linnets and Whitethroats, several pairs of Meadow Pipits, a pair of Red-legged Partridge and Stonechat, plus a couple of Tree Sparrows and five singing Corn Buntings. Towards the lake margins Reed Bunting, Sedge and Cetti`s Warbler and Lesser Whitethroat all holding territory, although there was negative news on the Mockmill Grasshopper Warbler. Several migrant Wheatears also present, plus Yellow Wagtail and small parties of Whimbrel overhead. Raptors included Marsh Harrier, Buzzard and Kestrel.
  On the lakes double figures of nesting Little and Great Crested Grebes, at least five pairs of Gadwall and a pair each of Pochard and Oystercatcher. Around the Willow Swamp, Water Rail, Green Woodpecker, Cuckoo, Long-tailed Tit, Reed Warbler, Chiffchaff and Blackcap are all present and likely to breed. Migrant flocks of Swifts and hirundines (mainly Swallows on Saturday) continued to come and go while a Common Sandpiper was on north lake yesterday morning.
  A midday visit today delivered a site first for me when six Spoonbills flew over (thanks to Pete and Pam for the warning Tweet from Burrowes). The Spoonies circled over the lakes looking for somewhere to pitch down, and then flew off low across the caravan park, northwards up the coast together with an entourage of `welcoming` Herring Gulls.
  A large arrival of some 200 House Martins and 100 Swallows took some time to sift through in a biting northerly wind, along with 20 Swifts. A single, forlorn female Long-tailed Duck was still on south lake; with its partner seemingly gone it appeared to have latched onto a drake Tufted Duck for company. As we left site at 1400hrs the first of what is forecast to be 24 hours of heavy rain hit the peninsula.
  New interpretive boards have been erected by RSPB this week, plus signage regarding the policy on dog control during the breeding season.

                                Tufted and Long-tailed Ducks together, interesting...

                                Female Long-tailed Duck, Lade south                               

                                Spoonbills disappearing over the caravan park

                               " Now it`s hirundines and Swifts!"

Dungeness -  A trip down the point this morning in a cool northerly airflow revealed news of a slow passage of birds from the regular seawatchers (at least by Dungeness standards), although two Pomarine Skuas and several Arctic Skuas had gone through earlier. The usual Gannets and Sandwich Terns fished offshore and several parties of Bar-tailed Godwits and Whimbrels passed up-Channel. At the Patch 100 Common Terns over the boil and along the scum line, while two each of Arctic and Little Terns and a Mediterranean Gull also noted. 
  On the land a Black Redstart sang from the power station complex and at least five Wheatears were on the beach opposite Jarman`s. Nearby it was sad to see that a Badger had come to grief on the road, presumably overnight, particularly as the speed limit is supposed to be 20 mph... Not surprised though as I had a woman on the school run recently overtake me doing around 50 mph; how long before a person gets knocked down along the Estate road?

                                You`d think this is one road where Badgers were safe...

                                "Yippee, it`s seawatching season!"

Friday 27 April 2018

Pied Flycatcher

Dungeness - cool, cloudy, occasional showers, SE 2- 0545 - 0815hrs - With a hide full of expectant locals it was yet another disappointing seawatch, despite the runes suggesting otherwise. However,  six Arctic Skuas, four Bonxies and two Manx Shearwaters, all distant, were the highlights plus a steady trickle of Gannets, auks, Common and Sandwich Terns, Common Scoters, plus a few Fulmars, Kittiwakes and Red-throated Divers.
  The land was again quiet although a female Pied Flycatcher at the Long Pits prompted something of a local twitch, such as been their scarcity value in recent springs.

                                Sunrise over the Channel

                                Pied Flycatcher, Long Pits

Lade - An afternoon visit during a rain shower delivered 100 hirundines and 20 Swifts, none with any pale rumps or bellies though. As soon as the shower stopped they moved off high to the north.
A Cuckoo was belting it out in the Willow Swamp and five Whimbrels flew over calling, otherwise just the usual birds.

                                New signage, Lade

Thursday 26 April 2018

Cattle Egret

Dengemarsh - 0800hrs - cool, sunny, W5 - Another very breezy morning made for difficult birding conditions. A circuit of Dengemarsh delivered the Cattle Egret and two Brent Geese opposite the hide, plenty of Shelducks and a few Lapwing on the hayfields, two Greenland type Wheatears near the gully, plus Raven and Peregrine overhead. Also noted a few Whimbrels, Yellow Wagtails and Swallows over, Marsh Harrier, Buzzard and Kestrel, plenty of singing Cetti`s, Sedge and Reed Warblers and a Cuckoo.

                                A dozen Shelducks, Hayfield 3

                                One of six smart Wheatears at the fishing boats

Dungeness - An hour at the fishing boats this afternoon with a big sea running on a brisk westerly typically produced few seabirds. Two down-Channel Manx Shearwaters and a Bonxie up was the pick of a poor crop, plus a few Gannets and Sandwich Terns. Just offshore on the sea, however, were 60 Great Crested Grebes, 20 Guillemots and at least 10 Harbour Porpoises. On the foreshore and along the concrete road a party of six Wheatears were making light of the strong wind as they snapped up small insects.
  Nothing new at Lade in blustery weather conditions and only a handful of waders on the sands on an ebb tide. Several parties of Whimbrels flew along the coast this afternoon uttering their distinctive seven note whistle call.

Wednesday 25 April 2018

Warblers and hirundines

Lade - cool, sunny, showery, SW 5 - A breezy morning for a circuit of the local patch where at least two Cuckoos were active around the Willow Swamp. Reed Warbler and Common Whitethroat numbers had increased across the site overnight while Sedge Warbler was still the most numerous of the tribe; Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Cetti`s Warbler and Lesser Whitethroat also noted, plus Marsh Harrier, Hobby and Green Woodpecker. Twenty Swifts and 50 odd Swallows hawked insects over south lake along with one or two Sand and House Martins.

Dungeness - Continuing on with the Cetti`s Warbler survey I concentrated on the Hooker`s area, prime habitat which brought the running total of singing males to over 40; it would appear they had no problems getting through the cold snap in February/March. A stony field at the back of the reedbed attracted five Whimbrels, a Wheatear, Yellow Wagtail and a lone Brent Goose, while Cuckoo, Reed Warblers, Lesser Whitethroat and Sedge Warblers were all in song. A pair each of Pochard and Shoveler suggested breeding on the lakes, a Bittern broke cover flying over the reedbed following a couple of `booms` and the Cattle Egret put in a brief appearance amongst the cows.
  On Burrowes similar waders to yesterday: Barwit, Greenshank, Common Sandpiper and Ringed Plover, plus several more Whimbrels noted from the access road.

Tuesday 24 April 2018


Lade - 0630hrs - cool, cloudy, W4 - A much cooler day with low cloud cover and a scudding wind which delivered the first decent count of hirundines of spring; 100 mostly Swallows, plus a few martins and two Swifts over, along with Yellow Wagtail, Whimbrel and Greenshank. In the shelter of the Willow Swamp a Nightingale gave a couple of short bursts of song, while the two Long-tailed Ducks were back on show on south lake. A lone Wheatear was on the Desert. An evening visit was far less productive as the wind had increased, plus a fine drizzle.
Dungeness - After breakfast I dropped into the bird reserve with our two American guests. At Boulderwall several Tree Sparrows were on the feeders, while six grounded Whimbrels noted along the access road, plus Marsh Harrier, Wheatear, Cuckoo, Linnets, Sedge Warblers, Common and Lesser Whitethroats. On Burrowes, Sandwich and Common Terns, Bar-tailed Godwit, Greenshank, Common Sandpiper and Ringed Plover. The Cattle Egret was still on Dengemarsh, plus Cuckoo and Hobby.

Monday 23 April 2018

Passage waders

Dungeness - 0600-0800hrs - cool, sunny, WSW 3 - An early seawatch from the hide was very disappointing with three distant Bonxies being the only birds of note. A dribble of Gannets, Kittiwakes, auks, Sandwich Terns, Common Scoters, four Red-throated Divers and three Fulmars was about it, while two Black Redstarts were on the power station complex, one in song.
Lade  - A Greenshank over calling was our first of spring as was a Common Sandpiper on north lake. A couple of Swallows and a Yellow Wagtail flew over, but as the wind picked up grounded passerines became difficult to detect amongst the scrub. An evening visit produced our first ten Swifts of the year along with a mixed flock of all three hirundines hawking insects over the willow swamp in a brisk and chilly south-westerly airflow.

Sunday 22 April 2018

Pomarine Skuas

Dungeness - warm, dry, sunny, SW2 - 0830-1000hrs - A seawatch in the company of MH and CP this morning produced my first two Pomarine Skuas of spring, albeit distant views, in contrast to several Arctic Skuas (both light and dark phase) that came much closer in their pursuit of Sandwich Terns. Plenty of flocks of Common Scoter, Gannets, Whimbrels, a few Red-throated Divers, seven Little Gulls, a Little Tern, and a mixed flock of Brents and Whimbrels kept the interest going. Once again at least 20 Harbour Porpoises were noted just offshore.
  On the land a Wryneck seen earlier at Long Pits failed to reappear until the afternoon although plenty of warblers were in song, particularly Lesser Whitethroats and a Garden Warbler. Our first two Small Copper butterflies were also noted.
Lade  - Nothing new here from yesterday apart from more Whimbrels over calling and a Mediterranean Gull.

Pom Predictor
So its that time of year again when local birders turn their thoughts towards the spring passage of Pomarine Skuas. A question I am often asked by visitors is, "what is the best time to visit Dungeness to see `em"? There is, of course, no definitive answer to that question as this enigmatic seabird is prone to the vagaries of migration with all its twists and turns.
  Some years only small numbers are recorded passing Channel headlands, probably due to weather systems out in the Atlantic sending them up the western seaboard of the British Isles. However, while a specific date may be impossible to predict recent history has shown that the last week in April and first week in May to be the most reliable period. Occasionally it can be earlier or later by a few days, but almost always straddling the two months and sometimes trickling on until the end of May.
  Generally speaking early morning is best with a wind from a southerly vector and cloud cover, but often if there is a passage pulsing through Poms can turn up throughout the day in ones and twos and even in small flocks. They rarely interrupt their travels to chase terns for fish, just power steadily up-Channel at varying distances from shore, but sometimes inside the Dungeness cardinal buoy. Watchpoints such as Portland, Selsey Bill and Splash Point often get birds before us at Dunge, so it`s worthwhile checking social media for a heads up on what`s happening down-Channel, and the Dungeness Bird Observatory and local Twitter feeds.
  About the size of a Herring Gull, Pomarine Skuas at first glance appear all dark brown, but on closer inspection sport a pale belly, white wing flashes and a broad yellowish neck collar giving a capped appearance. Variable length, spoon-shaped central tail feather complete a distinctive ensemble affording a unique `heavy, rear end` jizz which separates them from the other two regular species (Great and Arctic) noted off Dungeness.
  Having spent the winter months at sea off the west coast of Africa Pomarine Skuas undertake a long migration northwards to breed on the Arctic tundra where they switch from a seafood diet to one of mainly lemmings and fledgling birds. Along with other members of the skua tribe they are fearsome in defence of their nest and young and will dive bomb and strike intruders, including humans.
  Last year the first Poms appeared on 23rd April, all 23 of them, with a peak of 129 on 30th and the final three on 14th May. In 2016 the first two were on 21st April with a peak of 121 on 6th May and the last one on 22nd May (stats from the Dungeness Bird Observatory website).
  And today the first spring Poms of 2018 passed Dungeness, opening another chapter on the fortunes of this enigmatic, migrant seabird.

Saturday 21 April 2018


Park Wood, Appledore - warm, dry and sunny - Had to go to Ashford early this morning so on the way home called in at Park Wood for a couple of hours. With the canopy far from closed the ground flora was in fine fettle with the intoxicating smell of bluebells reminding me of my childhood spent in the Chiltern`s beech woods pre Red Kites. Along the southern fringes of this fine old woodland with its ancient purlieu, in contrast to a very modern vineyard, butterflies on the wing included orange tip, green-veined white, speckled wood and a gorgeous brimstone. Scanning across the canopy, over a hazy Low Weald, revealed a couple of Buzzards, a Sparrowhawk and our first Hobby of spring.

  Across Park Wood at least three Nightingales sang intermittently with one briefly showing as it moved through dense cover. Garden Warbler was new for the year, but apart from the ubiquitous Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps the only other summer migrant was a lone Willow Warbler. However, Nuthatches were in good voice along with Treecreepers, the two woodpeckers, Jay, Goldcrest and common tits, finches and thrushes.

Lade - A late afternoon check of the local patch revealed the two Long-tailed Ducks still on south lake, plus a Ring Ouzel on the Desert along with a Wheatear and five Whimbrels that dropped in and out briefly.

Friday 20 April 2018

An influx of Red Kites

Dungeness - warm, dry, sunny, light airs - An early morning wander around the point delivered a small fall of Willow Warblers and Lesser Whitethroats, several Chiffchaffs, Blackcaps and a Common Whitethroat. Two Wheatears were in the Desert and a Black Redstart sang from the power station corner near the Obs. There also seemed to be an increase in Chaffinches in the bushes and a single Brambling flew over calling.
  The sea resembled a mill pond where plenty of Harbour Porpoise were in view. The seawatchers reported it slow going, although a small passage of Little Gulls and Bonxies moved through later (PB).

                                Willow Warbler at DBO
  Plenty more grounded Willow Warblers and Lesser Whitethroats were noted around Dengemarsh whilst surveying for Cetti`s Warblers. Marsh Harrier, Cuckoo, Common Buzzard, Swallows, Stonechat, Wheatear and Yellow Wagtail were also seen, plus flight views of a Cattle Egret heading towards Galloways.
Lydd - I called in at the allotments late morning and whilst walking to my plot noticed a large flock of birds `kettling` skywards. To my astonishment they were Red Kites, 16 to be precise! As I rushed back to the car to grab my bins another bird flew over about 100 feet up being terrorised by two Herring Gulls making it 17. Scanning the flock again also revealed three Common Buzzards and a Sparrowhawk. As I tweeted the news out other local birders began to pick up the flock as it moved across the Peninsula, while a phone call from BD told of half a dozen over Lade. Two House Martins were also new for the year around the adjacent housing estate where there is a small colony.
  Back home sitting in the garden having lunch and the HGs alerted me to yet another Red Kite drifting northwards along the coastline. Judging from others seen at Littlestone, New Romney and Scotney there could easily have been up to 30 Red Kites over today. Other reports of Red Kites along the south coast came in from Beachy Head to Kingsdown.
  As for the origins of these birds, well that`s anyone`s guess. Most likely they originated from the burgeoning Chilterns/Thames Valley population which have also colonised the North Downs, but alternatively birds seen coming in off the sea could be `proper` migrants drifting over from France en-route to northern Europe to breed.

Thursday 19 April 2018


Lade - warm, dry, sunny, light airs - A superb morning to be out and about around the peninsula surveying breeding birds. By midday the temperature reached a ridiculous 21C! Warblers were the order of the day with 10 species noted, although not in any great numbers. At the back of Lade north two singing Corn Buntings and a calling Red-legged Partridge were of note, while a single Wheatear was on the Desert. No change on the lakes with the Long-tailed Ducks still on station. At the ponds our first two Grass Snakes of the season and plenty of active Marsh Frogs.

                          Sedge Warblers were the most obvious of the tribe this morning

                               Grounded Whimbrels from the Access Road

Boulderwall - After breakfast I continued on the Cetti`s Warbler survey (minus Barney who was suffering from the heat) checking out the Gun Club and Tanner`s Pools area where another five singers were added to the tally. A Yellow Wagtail flushed from amongst the sheep was about the only passerine of note. Buzzard, Marsh Harrier, Teal, Wigeon, Little Egret, Green Woodpecker and a flock of nine Whimbrel grounded by the Access Road were noteworthy. Several more Grass Snakes and a Weasel also seen, but I managed to miss three Hawfinches which briefly landed along the track by Dengemarsh before flying off eastwards.

Wednesday 18 April 2018

First Whitethroat

Lade - warm, dry and sunny, light airs - The warmest day of the year so far with the temperature hitting 19C by early afternoon. After a third attempt at running the garden moth trap a single Common Quaker became the first of the season. Out back a Whitethroat in Mockmill was our first of the spring. Plenty of Sedge and Cetti`sWarblers, Chiffchaffs, Mipits, Skylarks and Linnets around the site and the Long-tailed Ducks were still on south lake. Passage migrants continue to be thinly represented with hardly any Swallows through so far and not a single House Martin.
Dungeness - 1500hrs - An hour at the fishing boats with PB, MH and SG this afternoon was pretty slow going on the seabird front with a close Little Tern being the highlight. Sandwich Terns were much in evidence while further out a Bonxie and a few Gannets moved up-Channel. There continues to be good numbers of Porpoises feeding offshore.
  Elsewhere today a Serin paid a brief visit to the point and a Hobby was seen over Dengemarsh.

Tuesday 17 April 2018

Skuas and ducks

Dungeness - cool, dry, clear, SSW 3 - 0625 - 0825hrs - An entertaining seawatch from the hide this morning resulted in some quality seabirds in the shape of 25 Bonxies, 10 Manx Shearwaters, two Velvet Scoters, six Eiders, a pair of Garganey and a Black-throated Diver, most of which passed within or just outside the cardinal buoy as they migrated up-Channel, except for the Manxies going west. There was also a decent supporting cast of Gannets, Common Scoters, Sandwich and Common Terns, Fulmars, auks, Red-throated Divers, plus 10 Arctic Skuas, two Little Gulls, 20 Whimbrels, two Teal and a Mediterranean Gull. No doubt many more were noted during the morning. For a fuller picture refer to the DBO Website.
Lade - After breakfast we headed out over the local patch where the highlight was a `reeling` Grasshopper Warbler in Mockmill along with 10 Sedge and two Cetti`s Warbler, a pair of Stonechats, our first Cuckoo and plenty of Linnets. At the risk of sounding like a stuck record the two Long-tailed Ducks remained on south lake. Several parties of Whimbrels were seen and heard passing overhead throughout the day.

                               Shelducks, Lade sands

  An evening visit over the bay to scope the sands was notable for that curious phenomenon of light and tide which occurs every so often where bye the coast of France appears to be much closer and more obvious than usual, as were the ships in the Channel. Birdwise, just the usual Sandwich Terns, waders and gulls including a pair of Shelducks and five Ringed Plovers. 

Monday 16 April 2018

Harbour Porpoises

Dungeness - 0730hrs - mild, sunny, SW 2 - A hazy start to the day from the seawatch hide where it was much slower than yesterday, but still with a trickle of common seabirds such as Sandwich Tern, Gannet, Common Scoter, Red-throated Diver, Fulmar, Eider, Brents, Arctic and Great Skuas. At the Patch just a couple of Common Terns and 50 immature gulls. Harbour Porpoises have been very much in evidence this past week and this morning at least 20 were performing just offshore.
  On the land a Black Redstart on the power station wall, several Swallows inbound, a handful of Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps in the lighthouse garden.

                                Blackcap, lighthouse garden

                                Dunnock, Lade

Lade - A late morning circuit of the local patch found seven Cetti`s Warblers in song, plus the Long-tailed Ducks and four Goldeneyes still on south lake. Several groups of Swallows moved quickly through and the first Reed Warblers were singing from the main reedbed. Other migrants noted included Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Lesser Whitethroat and Sedge Warbler. Several Marsh Harriers and
Buzzards were soon thermalling over the Desert in warm sunshine.

Sunday 15 April 2018

Common Scoters on the move

Lade - The weekend weather has been dominated by fog rolling in off a cold sea which pretty much put paid to any birding yesterday morning. Walking around the local patch was a weird experience as there were migrants present with a scattering of Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs singing from back gardens and a Tree Pipit over calling, a passage migrant I now don't expect to see/hear every spring. Also heard overhead Yellow Wagtail, Brambling, Siskin and several Mediterranean Gulls.
  An afternoon visit yielded our first Lesser Whitethroat of spring in scrub behind the `mirrors`, while the Long-tailed Ducks were still present today.
Dungeness -Thick fog all Saturday morning didn't clear until midday, but an afternoon visit with the family off the boardwalk produced a good number of Porpoises off shore, of which one or two were breaching, plus a few passing Gannets, terns and an Arctic Skua.
 Sunday morning heralded much better visibility with a light south-westerly airflow clearing the mist. An early seawatch was notable for a large movement of Common Scoters which numbered up to 1,000 by the time I left site. Gannets, Kittiwakes, Fulmars, auks, Common and Sandwich Terns were also steadily trickling past the hide, plus our first three Little Terns, along with 10 Little Gulls, 12 Shelducks, three Eiders, a Shoveler, two Black-throated Divers, five Red-throated Divers, 100 Brents, three Arctic Skuas and a Bonxie. Two Swallows went out and a Peregrine made a sortie over the sea from the power station.
  On the land, Wheatear and Black Redstart on the power station wall and a brown Merlin on the beach by the new lighthouse.

Friday 13 April 2018

An Osprey and an owl!

Dungeness - misty, mild, cloudy, light airs - Went down for an early morning seawatch but the fog persisted, so all that was seen were a few Common and Sandwich Terns, a Red-throated diver and a flock of 10 Whimbrels which were our first of the year. A brief scout around the land revealed a Song Thrush and Chiffchaff in the lighthouse garden and a Fieldfare and Brambling over in the murk.

                                Fen habitat, ideal for Cetti`s Warbler

                               Tree Sparrows near New Diggings

New Diggings/Oppen Pits - Continuing on with the Cetti`s Warbler survey for RSPB we went off-piste this morning tramping across the shingle plotting more singing males of which there was at least eight. This isn't an area I often visit and being under watched it was no surprise that it turned up some good birds, including a number of firsts for the year; not that I`m much of a year lister... Singing Nightingale, Reed Warbler and Common Whitethroat were such, plus a Short-eared Owl quartering the Desert behind the Oppen pits, presumably the bird that had been seen earlier at the Point. Biggest surprise of all though was a `black and white blob` sat on a distant shingle ridge that morphed into a grounded Osprey that quickly soared up over Long Pits and out in the murk, making it my first spring bird for some time. Also noted in the general area, four Snipe, Tree Sparrow, Sedge Warbler, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Swallow, Marsh Harrier, Sparrowhawk and four `boxing` Brown Hares.
  After a breather in the VC the walk back down the track to Boulderwall delivered half a dozen flyover Mediterranean Gulls, a Great White Egret on one of the small Christmas Dell pools and a Cuckoo by the bee hives.

Wednesday 11 April 2018


Lade - cool, misty, NE 2, sunny later - It was quite nippy first thing with the mist rolling in off the sea, but warmed up around midday as the sun took charge. Incredibly the two Long-tailed Ducks were still on south lake along with three Goldeneye, 20 Shoveler and 10 Teal. Summer visitors were represented by singing Sedge and Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff and Blackcap.

Dungeness - Had brief views of a very elusive treecreeper in the lighthouse garden found by MH this morning, but being as its Dungeness and the time of year further investigation this afternoon revealed it to be almost certainly of the Short-toed variety based on call and some excellent photographs. For further details later on refer to the DBO website and
  Having not seen a Great White Egret for a while one was at the south end of ARC and another on Cook`s Pool, plus a Wheatear by the bee hives from the access road. A guided walk around the circular route delivered a decent return on summer migrants for the guests including Sedge and Willow Warblers, Chiffchaff, Swallows, Yellow Wagtail and our first Cuckoo of spring near Hooker`s. Marsh Harrier, Buzzard, Raven and Slavonian Grebe were seen at Dengemarsh, an Avocet on Burrowes, plus plenty of Linnets and Reed Buntings, a Dabchick, two Goldeneyes, three Snipe, Egyptian Goose, Redshank, Lapwing, Shelduck, Green Woodpecker and Cetti`s Warbler.
  Also of note today was the relocation of what was presumably the Brookland Hoopoe at Burmarsh and two Hawfinches in Littlestone (OL).

Tuesday 10 April 2018

St Omer

What has become our annual spring visit to St Omer took place in beautiful warm spring sunshine and light airs. En-route to and from the coast Black Redstart, Swallow, Grey Partridge and several Hares noted. After dropping off the ladies in town we headed for the woods.
Clairmarais Forest-Virtually the first bird we saw on arrival was a cracking Middle Spotted Woodpecker flying around our heads, shuffling up a mature oak tree and calling loudly. A superb start and through the morning two others were heard across the forest. The bare canopy was alive with the song of Blackcap, Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler, tits and finches. We also noted plenty of Jays, Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers, Short-toed Treecreepers, Nuthatches, plus several Bullfinches and my first Tree Pipit and Cuckoo of the year. Common woodland butterflies were on the wing with Brimstone the most numerous. A scan across an adjoining valley delivered soaring Marsh Harriers, Buzzards and Sparrowhawk.

                                The closest we came to a Black Woodpecker!

                                Little Egret and Cormorant colony

Romelaere - The afternoon was spent on the wetland with a circuit of the boardwalk. Sedge and Cetti`s Warbler were in good voice along with the former trio seen in the woods. From the hide there was much activity around the Little Egret and Cormorant colony and we were surprised at how advanced the latter were with well grown chicks in several nests. A huge Black-headed Gull colony contained at least six Mediterranean Gulls and a White Stork flew across the valley. Also noted, two Black-necked Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, White Wagtail, Wigeon, Shoveler and Shelduck, two Musk Rats and our first Grass Snake of the year swimming across a lake.
  Back in town we had brief vies of Serin and Grey Wagtail. A great day out, as always, in the Pas-de-Calais and many thanks to Chris for driving.

Monday 9 April 2018

Ring Ouzel

Dungeness - cold, misty, ne 2 - With the Dungeness foghorn booming away in the murk we went for a wander around the Trapping Area and Long Pits first thing. Bird of the morning was our first Ring Ouzel of spring that flew from the Desert floor, clacked a couple of times and disappeared into the willows. A few Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps were in song, while Great Spotted Woodpecker, 10 Redwings, Fieldfare and Brambling also of note. A Hawfinch was found at the top end of Long Pits (OL) but had gone to ground by the time we arrived.
Lade - No real change from the weekend here with the long-staying Long-tailed Ducks, three Goldeneyes, Teal, Pochard and Shoveler still on site.

Sunday 8 April 2018

Weekend Summary

Lade - mild, overcast, showers, light airs - A wet start to both days with drizzle didn't bode well but there was plenty to see on the local patch. An influx of singing warblers on both mornings included one or two Willow Warblers and Blackcaps, a scattering of Chiffchaffs and Sedge Warblers along with the resident Cetti`s Warblers. There was a noticeable increase in Linnet numbers across the dry scrub where Wheatear, Stonechat and Meadow Pipit present.
  On the lakes several Swallows through in the afternoon, plus Goldeneye and Long-tailed Ducks still present. Around the willow swamp at least two Firecrests noted and one in the Plovers back garden.

Dengemarsh - An afternoon circuit of the marsh in warm sunshine was pleasant enough but delivered few migrants of any note, apart from a couple of singing Sedge Warblers, Chiffchaffs and a fly through Swallow. I paid particular attention to the flooded fields for pipits, of which there was no sign. However, around ten Lapwings and six Redshanks were displaying over the wetlands, plus a scattering of Teal, Oystercatcher, Shelduck and Little Egret. Also noted, two Marsh Harriers, a Sparrowhawk, Raven, Egyptian Goose, Corn Bunting, Stonechat and a booming Bittern.
  Elsewhere today the Midley Hoopoe was seen at various points around Brookland village, while down at Rye Harbour a pair of Black-winged Stilts dropped in this afternoon.

Friday 6 April 2018

Herons and a Hoopoe!

Dungeness - 0640-0840hrs - cold, sunny, SE 3 - Joined a packed seawatch hide first thing for a decent passage of mainly wildfowl. Common Scoters streamed by throughout the watch along with small flocks of Shoveler, Teal, Shelduck, two Gadwall, a Merganser and one flock of Brent Geese. Auks (one flock of nine Razorbill), Red-throated Diver, Gannet, Kittiwake, Fulmar, Little Gull and Sandwich Tern trickled through in variable numbers along with several pulses of Common Terns and Black-headed Gulls. A brown Merlin came in and a black Crow went out to complete an entertaining start to the day.
Lade - After breakfast a check of the local patch revealed the two Long-tailed Ducks behaving erratically, chasing one another around and flying out over the wall mirror and back onto the water, Perhaps they were getting ready to go...
  A late afternoon wander across the Desert delivered Wheatear, Stonechat, Meadow Pipit and Skylark, plus a Yellow Wagtail hurrying north.

                                Prime Hoopoe habitat!

Midley - I wasn't expecting yesterdays Hoopoe to have stayed around the drying barns, but on the drive out was flagged down by an unknown birder (thanks whoever you were!) who`d just relocated said exotic on a farm track opposite the model flying club. Over the next hour we were treated to superb views of this classic overshooting migrant from the south as it probed away at the soggy turf pulling out invertebrates like a good `un. Even though it was a couple of hundreds yards down the track, through the scope and with the sun on our backs, it put on a fine performance, even raising its crest a couple of times!
  I`ve been lucky enough to have seen plenty of Hoopoes down the years, at home and mostly abroad, but it is such an iconic bird that you never forget your first one - and mine was on Cup Final day 1972! It was just before I joined the Navy and my best mate Kevin Downer called round (we didn't have a phone at home `til 75) to say he`d had a call from our pal Graham Clarke (aka Mutley) telling of a Hoopoe at Hilfield Park Reservoir, Watford.
  So, off we went, on the 321 Greenline from Maple Cross arriving at the Dome roundabout an hour later. A quick yomp down the A41 brought us to the Colne Valley Water Company reservoir boundary, complete with a ten foot high fence topped with three strands of barbed wire, and Mutley contemplating the climb...
  Anyhow, I wedged my old brass draw-tube Barr and Stroud through the chain link fence and spotted Tim Lawrence (a renowned London birder of the time) laying prone on the ground inside the site watching the Hoopoe probing the turf 20 yards away. So, over we went, or rather Kevin and I did, as Mutley got impaled on the barbed wire and proceeded to howl like a monkey! We thought this was hilarious (we were only 16 years old, don't forget) and were both doubled up with laughter as Mutley eventually extracted himself from the wire leaving half of his parka flapping atop the fence.
  We then joined Tim and enjoyed cracking close views of the exotic. None of us had cameras, but we all scribbled and sketch away in our note books, as was the order of the day back then. We left the site via a hole in the fence that Tim had found, much to Mutley`s disgust!
  And we made it back home for the match - Leeds 1 Arsenal 0 - Sniffer Clarke getting the winner and Mick Jones dislocating his shoulder near the end. Happy days indeed.
The Grange, Lydd - Paid my second visit of the season to count the heronry in the grounds of the Grange. After chatting to the owners a tour of the site confirmed my suspicions that the number of nests was much lower this year, although by how many I cannot exactly tell until next months Heron Watch from the church tower. This will enable me to look down into the dense crowns of the holm oaks which support the majority of nests.

Thursday 5 April 2018

Cetti`s Warbler

ARC/Tower Pits - mild, sunny, NW 2 - Spent the morning surveying singing Cetti`s Warblers on the bird reserve in bright spring sunshine. Despite its obvious, explosive song this bird is not as easy to survey accurately as it might appear. The males defend large territories, which can attract several females, and they nip around pretty rapid between bursts of song. However, the cold snap of last month doesn't seem to have reduced their numbers noticeably as there were plenty of males in song around the two pits, particularly on Tower pits.

                               Cetti`s Warbler (by David Featherbe)

  Chiffchaff, Sedge and Willow Warblers were also in song and a Yellow Wagtail over the Desert was my first of the spring. As the morning warmed up a small `kettle` of Marsh Harriers and Buzzards soared over by the airport along with a cracking Red Kite. Also noted during the survey, Little Egret, two Shelduck, 12 Teal, four Goldeneye, Kestrel, Snipe, Green Woodpecker, Long-tailed Tit and Stonechat.
Lade  - On the local patch this afternoon the two Long-tailed Ducks put in an appearance, while the first Swallows of spring were over the willow swamp.
  Other news this afternoon concerned the discovery of a Hoopoe at the Midley drying barns by T&B H.

Wednesday 4 April 2018


Dungeness - mild, sunny, SE 5 - A brisk wind off the sea made for difficult birding on the land. However, a walk along the beach opposite Jarman`s delivered two hunkered Wheatears, singing Meadow Pipit and Skylark and increase in twittering Linnets. Two Bramblings flew over calling, a bird that has shown a return to form this spring with others noted across the peninsula of late and on bird feeders here and on the bird reserve.
  On the sea a steady passage of wildfowl and Brents was underway, plus Common Terns at the Patch and good numbers of Common Gull and Black-headed Gulls through. The beach fox showed well in front of the Patch hide.

                                Brents and beach Fox

Lade  - The strong wind made viewing difficult on the lakes. I could find no sign of the Long-tailed Ducks, although they could easily be lurking somewhere hereabouts, while several Goldeneye, Teal and 50 Shoveler were still present.
Ray Wilkins - Sad news broke this afternoon with the death of Ray `Butch` Wilkins. He played for QPR in the early 90`s and was a great favourite with the fans despite spending most of his playing career with the `blue lot` down the road. He had another go with the Hoops as player manager mid decade and in his first season delivered a top ten finish for the club; although things went pear- shaped the following season after flogging Sir Les Ferdinand.
  I had the good fortune to meet Butch a couple of times and found him an easy going fella and passionate about the beautiful game. 

Tuesday 3 April 2018

Dungeness - mild, cloudy, SE2 - Down at the Patch the only noteworthy event was a movement of around 200 Common and Black-headed Gulls eastwards along the shoreline. Two Mediterranean Gulls flew through, as did the local pair of Ravens.
  From a packed seawatch hide a steady up-Channel passage of Brent Geese and Common Scoter was underway, plus several dark phase Arctic Skuas, Red-throated Divers and distant Gannets.
Lade  - At least four Black-necked Grebes still present, plus two Long-tailed Duck and singing Chiffchaff, Cetti`s Warbler and Blackcap in the willow swamp. In the Plovers back garden this after Chiffchaff and Firecrest.
ARC - This afternoon two more Black-necked Grebes on the lake along with two each of Shelduck and Goldeneye, plus Chiffchaff from the willow trail. Around midday an Osprey flew over Dengemarsh (PB).

Monday 2 April 2018

Brent Geese

Dungeness - mild, cloudy, SE3 - Started off at the Patch this morning where gull numbers on the beach were low, but did include a couple of Kittiwakes and Lesser Black-backed Gulls. Nearby, the local Peregrine sent the Herring Gulls on the power station complex into a frenzy.
  The main interest though was on the sea and during an hour from the Patch hide hundreds of Common Scoters and Brent Geese moved up-Channel with several of the goose flocks almost flying along the beach due to the prevailing south-easterly. Two Red-breasted Mergansers also noted.

                                Coasting Brent Geese

                               Kittiwake and Lesser Black-backed Gull

Lade  - This afternoon there was no change to the variety of wildfowl on the lakes from yesterday, and for a change the two Long-tailed Ducks spent more time on the surface than submerged. I could only find three Black-necked Grebes and despite the rain a couple of Chiffchaffs were in song in the Willow Swamp.

Sunday 1 April 2018

Grebe Haven

Lade - 0700hrs - cool, cloudy, N 2 - And so we move into April, easily my favourite birding month of the year on the Dungeness NNR, when every day seems to bring something new from the south and expectation levels peak towards the end of the month. In contrast to the autumn migration when LBJs skulk silently from dense cover, spring is all about migrants in their breeding finery with some even singing en-route from bare vegetation and easy to locate. 
  Although the weather was chilly first thing (a light northerly airflow) at least it was dry which made a big difference, and this morning was a prime example of what April has to offer hereabouts. A Black Redstart sat on our neighbours roof was a good start, followed by a Firecrest calling from fir trees in front of the cottage.

                                First spring Wheatear at Lade

  Across the shingle, towards the Desert, saw another Black Redstart perched on a post along the old railway track, plus a spanking male Wheatear, our first of the year here. A couple of Skylarks ascended skywards in song over the Desert as a few Meadow Pipits and Pied Wagtails flew through. Further along the track towards the lakes, Linnet, Reed Bunting, Great Tit, Greenfinch, Wren, Dunnock and Chaffinch all sang from atop the gorse scrub. In and around the Willow Swamp several Chiffchaffs noted and a brief burst of song by the swing bridge confirmed our first Willow Warbler of the season. Green Woodpecker, Cetti`s Warbler, Long-tailed Tit and Water Rail also noted here.
  As for wildfowl and grebes, an unprecedented six Black-necked Grebes were eventually located across all waters, along with 18 Great Crested and 12 Little Grebes, making Lade pits surely one of the best sites locally for this family. Six Goldeneyes remained from yesterday and the two Long-tailed Ducks made it into April; other wildfowl included 50 Shoveler, 20 Gadwall, four Teal and a pair of Shelduck.

                                Three of the migrant Black-necked Grebes

Park Wood, Appledore - A late morning walk in the woods delivered all the expected woodland species including Treecreeper, Nuthatch, Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers, Long-tailed and Coal Tits, Jay, Buzzard, Sparrowhawk, several Chiffchaffs and a single singing Willow Warbler. With the sun breaking cover it actual felt like spring, particularly as the woodland floor was covered with blooms of primrose, anemone, violet and celandine.

                               Early spring woodland flowers

Dungeness - This afternoon we went to the Point in search of a Glaucous Gull reported earlier, but the sun had brought forth hundreds of tourists onto the beach, so there wasn't a gull in sight. However, at the old lighthouse garden I spent a most pleasant hour nattering to Paul, Jill and Colin, in between putting the world to rights (an impossible job!), and watching a couple of Firecrests and Chiffchaffs feeding on the lawn.
  Last port of call was the bay where the following were counted on the ebb tide from Lade boardwalk and the Varne: 680 Oystercatcher, 440 Curlew, 55 Bar-tailed Godwit, 12 Grey Plover, several hundred Dunlin and Sanderling (too much disturbance for an accurate count), 25 Sandwich Terns and a Shelduck.

                                Firecrest on the lighthouse lawn