Wednesday 30 May 2018

Great Reed Warbler

Lade - muggy, misty, E2 - A thick sea fret rolled in as we checked out the local patch first thing, needless to say very little was noted. The garden moth trap was however far more worthwhile with 19 macro species and several NFY including Cream-spot Tiger, plus the tortrix, Green Oak.

                                Green Oak

                                Cream-spot Tiger

Dungeness - There may have been a shortage of so called common migrants such as Swifts and Swallows this spring but, being as this is Dungeness, the rarities keep rolling in and today`s delight was a very obliging Great Reed Warbler. The majority of the ones I`ve seen (or mostly heard) in the past have been tucked in a reedbed chugging away and out of sight. Not so this individual as it performed in front of Hanson hide on the ARC, first in sallows on a small island and then much closer in the reeds to the left of the hide from where it could be seen singing like a good `un. Terrific stuff.
  The Rosy Starling was still present today where it had joined a flock of Starlings feeding around the entrance to the Estate.

                                Great Reed Warbler, ARC reedbed, Dungeness

Tuesday 29 May 2018

Barn Owl

Dungeness - muggy, overcast, NE 3 - An oppressive feel to the weather today due to the wind petering out by mid-morning. At the Patch 100 Common Terns and the same number of immature gulls on the beach. A Wheatear by the Experimental Station site looked fresh in and the Peregrine was perched on a pylon by the power station. At the Trapping Area the Rosy Pastor had stayed over from yesterday and spent some time perched atop a sallow before resuming feeding on caterpillars and the like lower down in cover. Common and Lesser Whitethroats also in song here.

                                Distant shot of the Rosy Starling

Lade - A couple of visits to check for any downed hirundines or Swifts over the lakes in the occasional light showers drew a blank; what on earth has happened to the Swallow migration this year, I`ve not known it as poor as this before.
  Our evening visit was a little more rewarding with distant scope views from the bridge of a Barn Owl hunting the rough ground behind the `mirrors`, and the first I`ve seen in ages. Marsh Harrier and Buzzard also noted, plus a male Sparrowhawk returning with prey to a nest site. A Fox provided an entertaining interlude as it was mobbed by a pair of Magpies concerned about their squawking nestlings in a nearby nest. Several times they made a combined attack on the bemused Fox with one bird actually tweaking its brush! Eventually Reynard could take no more and slunk through a gap in the fence into the caravan park.
  We left site just before lights out to the sound of thunder rumbling over the distant `uplands` of Kent and not a breath of wind to disturb the limp Union Flags of the Brexit voters next door.

                                Reynard and Magpies

Monday 28 May 2018

Rose-coloured Starling

Lade - hot, dry and sunny, E 2 - Last night produced a decent numbers of moths of 21 species in the garden trap but nothing of any real quality. The local patch was predictably quiet again with a late Greenshank over calling being the only evidence of any migration.
Dungeness - However, a call from PB told of an adult Rose-coloured Starling that was initially seen by West Beach cottage and then relocated at the southern end of the Trapping Area. I was pushed for time but had obscured views of the bird as it fed in a sallow about 30 yds away. As always with adult Rosy Starlings, a very smart rarity indeed. Check out the DBO website for pics.

Sunday 27 May 2018

Mostly Moths

Lade - warm, dry, hazy sunshine, E2 - It was a quiet weekend bird wise around the peninsula punctuated by murky weather conditions whenever a sea fret rolled in setting off the Dungeness foghorn, while on Saturday a spectacular lightening show lit up the night sky.

                               Lade Desert is full of colour at the moment

I continued on with this seasons breeding bird survey across the local patch, but spent more time searching for insects and looking at plants, particularly around the ponds where a number of dragonflies were on the wing, including Hairy Hawker and Four-spotted Chaser.

                                Four-spotted Chaser, Lade ponds

Meanwhile the garden moth trap showed a marked improvement in line with the warmer nights with eight NFY and a small non-descript noctuid that turned out to be not only new for the trap site but also an infrequent visiting migrant, a Concolorous. I almost overlooked it, thinking it might be a Small Wainscot, but that flies much later in the summer. So thanks to Dorothy B and Sean C for confirming the identification.

                                Concolorous, new for the trap site

                                Eyed Hawkmoth

                                Sharp-angle Peacock, new for the year

Dungeness - A circuit of the point this morning produced a Stonechat feeding recently fledged juveniles, a singing Black Redstart on the power station and a pair of Wheatears by the lifeboat station, plus all the usual singing Mipits, Whitethroats and Skylarks.
  A couple of visits to Burrowes over the weekend turned up the expected Arctic waders on the islands such as Turnstone, Sanderling, Dunlin, Knot and Grey Plover, plus four Little Gulls, a Garganey, a pair of Wigeon and Hobby. Over the road on ARC the Bitterns continue to show well from Screen hide.

Friday 25 May 2018

Spotted Flycatchers

Lade - muggy, misty, light airs - At the local patch all the expected grebes and wildfowl noted on the lakes, plus Grey Plover over calling in the murk and several new Chiffchaffs around the willow swamp, presumably late migrants.
Long Pits - A circuit of the lakes produced at least three Spotted Flycatchers along with Lesser and Common Whitethroats, Reed, Sedge and Cetti`s warbler and Blackcap. Another flycatcher was present in the lighthouse garden.
Burrowes - Much quieter than yesterday with just one Little Gull, a stunning adult Grey Plover and several Turnstones of note, plus a few Common Sandpipers and Ringed Plovers.
  We finished the three day bird tour for Raymond on 114 species with the undoubted highlights being the flock of 17 Black Terns on Burrowes and the Bee-eater at Littlestone.

Thursday 24 May 2018

Black Terns

Dungeness - muggy, overcast, showers, light airs - We started off with an hour at the seawatch/Patch hides where a stilted flow of migrant Common Terns was underway up-Channel, plus a flock of 13 Black Terns, a Little Tern, 20 Sandwich Terns, seven Redshanks, a Grey Plover, two Fulmars, 20 Gannets, 10 Kittiwakes and 10 Common Scoters. On the land Black Redstart, Stonechat, Wheatear, Skylark, Mipit, Linnet, Whitethroat, Kestrel and Peregrine all noted.

                                Sea Kale in full bloom

                                Juvenile Stonechat

Scotney - On the front field the only bird of note was a cracking adult Bar-tailed Godwit in full breeding plumage. Out back all the usual Yellow Wagtails, Corn Buntings, a Little Owl, several Sedge Warblers, Marsh Harrier and two Sand Martins. Waders included two Sanderlings, several Ringed Plovers, six Avocets and two Common Sandpipers. On the way back a flock of 80 Common Terns fizzed through purposely heading inland.

                                Little Owl, Scotney

Burrowes - There was a constantly changing bird scene here this afternoon during our two visits, in perfect weather conditions for migrant terns and waders. Ten each of Turnstones, Sanderlings, Dunlins, Ringed Plovers and Redshanks were scattered across the islands, plus four Grey Plovers through, a spanking Curlew Sandpiper in nuptial plumage, Curlew, Common Sandpiper, a Little Ringed Plover and two small, dark Ringed Plovers with hardly any orange on the bare parts of the race tundrae. Also around Burrowes, two Hobbies, Egyptian Geese with goslings and four Little Gulls that mercilessly mobbed a Crow pecking over the carcass of a Black-headed Gull.

                                Black Terns

                                Crow tucking into a dead Black-headed Gull

  However, the star turn was a flock of seven Black Terns, that were joined later by ten more, flying up and down the lake in front of Dennis`s hide and occasionally landing on an island. All 17 moved in a tight flock keeping in touch with a squeaky contact call, pure magic. Apparently there was a large movement of Black Terns across the country today.
  Late local news today concerned a Long-tailed Skua at Dungeness that was tracked up-Channel at Hythe and Folkestone, and a Broad-billed Sandpiper at Rye Harbour.

Wednesday 23 May 2018

Bee-eater at last!

Lade - cool and sunny, N 4 - Despite a brisk overnight airflow from the north and clear skies the garden moth trap attracted a healthy 12 species of which Poplar Hawk-moth, Knot Grass, Bright Line Brown Eye and Willow Beauty were NFY; Toadflax Brocade also put in an appearance.

                                Poplar Hawk-moth

 On the local patch the cool wind had driven down 50 Swifts and 100 House Martins over the far side of south lake. The male Sparrowhwak brought what looked like a juvenile Starling to the nest site. Spent some time scanning the skies as Honey Buzzard and Red Kite were noted crossing the peninsula earlier, but all I could find were a couple of Common Buzzards and Marsh Harriers over the airport fields.
Orlestone Forest - Picked Raymond up from Ashford station this morning for a three day Birdwatching Break at Plovers. Our first stop was the trees where several Nightingales were in song, plus Garden and Willow Warblers, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Long-tailed and Coal Tits, Buzzard and Jay.
 Moving down onto the Marsh at Warehorne a pair of Yellowhammers showed from the bridge and a couple of Tree Sparrws at Midley, otherwise it was poor fare with hardly a bird to be seen in the agricultural wasteland of Walland Marsh.

                                Mediterranean and Little Gulls

Burrowes - All the usual Common Terns here, plus a couple of Sandwich Terns, three close immature Little Gulls from Firth hide and a Mediterranean Gull. Also, several Turnstones, Ringed Plovers and a Greenshank, plus two Hobbies from Makepeace. We returned again in the evening adding Whimbrel, 14 Curlews and 10 Dunlins.
  A check of the beach from the Romeny Tavern delivered the usual Curlews and Oystercatchers, plus 20 Sanderlings and five Dunlins.
  Whilst at Screen hide looking for the Bitterns just before lights out OL phoned to say he`d found a Bee-eater at the end of Queens Road in Littlestone! We were soon on site and watching the head and beak of a Bee-eater through the scope, at roost atop a wind-blown poplar tree; not the best of views, but many thanks to Owen and PB for locating it amongst the foliage.

Tuesday 22 May 2018

Bitterns and Black Terns

Tower Pits - 0800hrs - warm, cloudy, N 2 - A wander around the back of the pits by the railway line produced several good flight views of a Bittern, plus a male `booming` away like the clappers from a thin reedbed where I could just about make out its contorted shape as it let rip. A Bittern was also seen from Screen hide. At least two Cuckoos were also on the go along with a host of Reed, Sedge and Cetti`s Warblers, Common and Lesser Whitethroats and a Blackcap. Two Marsh Harriers drifted over and a Hobby showed.

Lade - All quiet here apart from a few incoming migrants including 20 House Martins over the water, a few Swallows and a Yellow Wagtail winging inland. I`ve had several phones calls recently from local people enquiring as to what`s happened to "their" Swallow and House Martins during this latest of springs; we can only hope they eventually arrive in time to breed, if a little late...

  On a more positive note, juvenile Starlings and House Sparrows have been tumbling out of nest sites along the coastal housing strip these past few days and our garden has been full of them. They provide hours of entertainment as they beg for food from their parents and explore the garden with all its hidden dangers, such as the pond and windows.
Dungeness - An evening visit to the point to search for a Bee-eater seen earlier by DB drew a blank. However, on Burrowes three smart Black Terns were flying over the lake and landing on the islands in front of Dennis`s hide along with 20 Common and a Little Tern. Also noted Turnstone, Common Sandpiper, Curlew and Cuckoo.

                               Little, Common and Black Terns

French Hippos!

Baie de Somme - warm, muggy, light airs - Monday morning kicked off with an early start, in the company of CP and MH, for a birding trip down to the Somme estuary at the wetlands and woodlands of Picardy.
  The fresh marsh, water meadows and farmland of Sailly Bray was our first port of call where the highlights were: four Bluethroats, four Black-winged Stilts and a White Stork, plus 10 species of singing warblers, including Marsh and Grasshopper Warblers. A flock of 20 Mediterranean Gulls on a sugar beet field also held two Wheatears, nesting Lapwings and Grey Partridge and, oddly enough, a pair of Little Ringed Plovers. Also noted in the general area, Great White Egret Shoveler, Teal, Marsh Harrier, Kestrel, Buzzard, Grey Partridge, Greenshank, Common Sandpiper, Turtle Dove, loads of nesting Lapwings, Cuckoo, Blue-headed and White Wagtails, Mipit, Skylark and Stonechat. Singing Serins, Black Redstart, House Martins, Linnets, Swifts, more Turtle Doves, Marsh Warblers, Stonechats, Corn Buntings and Grey Partridges noted around the surrounding  farmsteads and countryside, and a Nightingale sang from small patch of scrub in the middle of roundabout on the outskirts of a village! The water meadows at Sailly Bray were a delight and would have satisfied a botanist for weeks, where Brown Hare and Roe Deer also noted. We could`ve spent all day just at this one site and during the three hours didn't see another person. A fantastic place and good to see plenty of birds such as Turtle Dove, Lapwing and Grey Partridge so easily, species that are in terminal decline here.

                                Sailly Bray marshes

                               Stonechats were commonplace

  We then moved on to a couple of wetland sites on the coast where more surprises awaited. At one a Savi`s Warbler sang and showed briefly from a reedbed stacked out with acrocephalus warblers, plus Bearded Tit, two White Storks, Cuckoo, Turtle Dove, Nightingale, Blue-headed Wagtail and Kestrel. At another, a tiny marsh hosted 18 nesting Black-winged Stilts, plus six Avocets, three Spoonbills, Common Sandpiper, Redshank, Snipe, Greenshank, a male Whinchat and loads of Grey Herons, Little and Great White Egrets and White Storks; while back at the car, by a busy main road, Mark had located a singing Icterine Warbler in a hedgerow - phew! 

                                Breeding Black-winged Stilts

  Our final stop was in the magnificent Crecy Forest, a 12 sq mile block of mixed woodland made famous by the battle of 1346 AD and the effectiveness of the English longbow. However, by now it was mid afternoon, the storm clouds were gathering overhead and bird song was much suppressed; possible the worst time of day to visit a wood, but undeterred we checked a couple of plantations searching out our target bird and 14th warbler species of the day. At the second stop, in amongst the babble of Garden Warblers and Blackcaps we eventually heard and located a Melodious Warbler our second hippolais of the day, singing from atop a Silver Birch, which even afforded scope views.
  The rain eventually came ending another superb days birding in northern France, in great company, with many thanks to Chris for driving.   

                Avocets, Spoonbills and White Stork around the Somme wetlands

Sunday 20 May 2018

Kentish Plover - at Dungeness, in Kent!

Saturday - Lade - cool, dry, sunny, NE 2 - A terrific weekend of local birds, and how often does Cup Final day deliver the goods! It commenced with our first Whinchat of spring in Mockmill on Saturday. Also in the gully plenty more Sedge Warblers and Whitethroats, plus, at last, several singing Linnets, while the Stonechat juvs were out of the nest being fed by the adults. Unfortunately my bridge camera has been playing up, with the screen blanking out, making any pics at the moment a bit hit and mostly miss.
Dungeness - Friday`s Hoopoe showed again in the Dengemarsh Road area on and off through the day feeding mainly along the roadside verges and in the fields either side where we had brief views. At ARC we enjoyed better success with a Bittern flying over the car park and hunting frogs in front of Screen hide, plus a drake Garganey out on the lake. After the Cup Final a return to ARC in the evening where a Bee-eater had been found (many thanks to Gill for the call) drew a blank.
Rye Harbour - The Cup Final day bird fest continued with discovery of a cracking Terek Sandpiper on a pool on the Beach Reserve at Rye, (only the second during my time) which prompted a steady flow of twitchers to site throughout the afternoon. Also present amongst the breeding terns and waders was a Curlew Sandpiper in partial breeding plumage.
  For a superb suite of pics of the weekends rarities check out:

Sunday - Lade - cloudy, dry, light airs - The cool overnight conditions made for a poor catch in the garden moth trap with only five common species recorded. On south lake a flock of 100 hirundines, mainly House Martins, fed low over the water on emerging insects and a Hobby zipped across the Desert.
Dungeness - On the walk back from the pits news came through from the bird reserve of an adult male Kentish Plover on Burrowes, discovered by Liz and Paul H. Unfortunately it decided to settle on one of the distant islands, although it gave good scope views from Dennis`s hide for the many local and visiting birders. I managed to get the bridge camera working again for a few dodgy record shots, but no doubt there will be plenty of good pics on line from the usual suspects with long tom lens.
  Kentish Plover is a species that has haunted me ever since moving down here in 2006, and this is the first Dungeness record during that time. I`ve lost count of the number of times I`ve checked the bay for this ghost from the past that formerly bred within a stones throw of Plovers. Was also good to bump into Adrian L and Andy T, a couple of old faces from the Bedfordshire birding scene of former years. 
  Also on Burrowes, Common Sandpiper, Sanderling and Little Gull. The Hoopoe was again seen at the end of Dengemarsh Road today, as was the Bee-eater this morning around the water tower, which prompted an influx of twitchers hoping to see the Mediterranean duo as well as the KP.

                                Kentish Plover, Dungeness RSPB

Friday 18 May 2018


Lade - 0700hrs - cool, cloudy, E2 - The wind relented this morning affording a more accurate check of the breeding birds on the local patch. More singing Common Whitethroats were recorded, particularly in Mockmill where the Stonechat pair were feeding young, although Linnets were hard to come by. On south lake a Common Sandpiper almost got caught by a male Sparrowhawk and a few Mediterranean Gulls drifted over high calling.
St Mary`s Bay - A late morning walk along the promenade by the golf links produced singing Skylarks and Meadow Pipits, plus a passage Wheatear. On the foreshore a few Ringed Plovers and Dunlins while out in the bay up to 50 Common Scoters came and went in small groups.
Dengemarsh - A Hoopoe found by PB at Galloways earlier relocated to the verge at Dengemarsh Road this afternoon. When I arrived it had just been disturbed, but showed briefly in flight on the Army ranges opposite Springfield Bridge a little later. This may well have been last months bird that was initially seen at Midley before doing a tour of the Marsh between Brookland and Burmarsh.
The only other news today concerned a Garganey on Hayfield 3.

Wednesday 16 May 2018

White Spot

Lade - cool, cloudy, NNE 5 - A cool breezy day delivered a small flock of Swifts and Swallows over the Willow Swamp, plus five prospecting Common Terns over south lake. All the usual warblers and Cuckoos still in place, but yet again very few Linnets on site.
  The garden moth trap was surprisingly good with the first White Spots of the spring and something of a Dungeness speciality, plus Light Brocade and Blood-vein also NFY.

                                White Spot, Plovers

Dungeness - A guided walk for RSPB around the circular trail centred mainly on plants as the strong wind kept many passerines in cover; although Lesser and Common Whitethroats, Sedge, Reed and Cetti`a Warblers were either seen or heard. On Burrowes, 12 Curlews, five Turnstones, three Barwits, five Ringed Plovers, two Redshanks and two Dunlins were the pick of the waders, where Wigeon, Shoveler, Egyptian Goose and plenty of Common Terns also noted. At Dengemarsh, Marsh Harrier, Great White Egret, Hobby, Pochard, Swifts, Cuckoo and `booming` Bittern.
Littlestone - A scan of the beach this evening revealed several hundred each of Oystercatchers and Curlews, 20 Barwits, 15 Grey Plovers, 10 Ringed Plovers and 10 Dunlins.

                       Grizzled Skipper and Small Copper from yesterday, Trapping Area

Monday 14 May 2018


Lade - cool, sunny, N 4 - A nippy morning with a brisk wind out of the north keeping the temperature down. Swifts have been in short supply this spring so it was good to see a small flock feeding on emerging insects over south lake along with a few Swallows. Out on the herb-rich storm ridges scores of Starlings and House Sparrows were plundering invertebrates from the turf and flying back to housing nest sites along the coastal strip.

                                Broom is now replacing the yellow of gorse

                                Reed Bunting singing from dry scrub

Dungeness - An afternoon visit in blustery conditions was notable for the large number of Common Terns on the islands, but unfortunately a Herring Gull has already settled on the shiny new `tern` raft. Most of yesterdays waders had moved on although a flock of nine Whimbrel dropped in alongside the terns and two Curlews. Other waders present included several each of Dunlin and Ringed Plover.

                                Whitethroat perched in front of the Visitor Centre

                                Common Terns and Whimbrels, Burrowes