Thursday 28 June 2018

Lime Hawk-moth

Lade -  warm, dry and sunny, NE 4 - Spent the day guiding for our guests from Germany (the World Cup was not mentioned!). The moths were poor due to the strong onshore wind overnight. However, the Plovers trap did deliver a Lime Hawk-moth which, perhaps surprisingly, was new for the site, plus a scarce White Satin moth. Thanks are due to the Kerton Road CafĂ© and DBO for sifting through their two traps;  Red Hemp Nettle was also photographed on the NNR.

                                Lime Hawk-moth, new for the Plovers trap site


                                White Satin moth

Rye Harbour NR - We spent most of the day on the circular route around the Beach Reserve which delivered superb views of nesting Sandwich, Common and Little Terns, Black-headed and Mediterranean Gulls; many had well grown young and it was good to see the adults flying in with the `right` sort of fish. At least two pairs of Little Terns had chicks and there were more pairs nesting along the foreshore, which we only stumbled upon whilst searching for, finding and photographing the large swathes of Sea Pea. All the usual breeding waders were noted, although only three Avocets were present, the rest having dispersed, plus three Curlews. Also noted a lone Brent Goose, Peregrine, Little Egret and a sleeping Spoonbill.

                                Sea Pea

                                Brent Goose, Ternery Pool

                                Sandwich Terns and Mediterranean Gull

                                Juvenile Black-headed Gull

                                Common Tern


Lade - After calling in at Boulderwall to view the Tree Sparrows we moved onto the local patch to photograph the White Mullein spikes. A Moorhen with small chicks made a near suicidal crossing between the two islands attracting the attention of the Herring Gulls, but we managed to drive them away by shouting and clapping. As we left site the Curlew flock flew back out on the sands to feed,  along with a calling Whimbrel. A Common Sandpiper was also on south lake.

                                "Phew, that was close"

Wednesday 27 June 2018

Common Sandpipers

Lade - warm, dry, sunny, NE 4 - A nagging wind off the sea once again suppressed the moth catch in the garden trap to a miserable 11 species. Once the early morning cloud burnt off it was another blue sky summers day, but with no change on the local patch from yesterday.
Burrowes - Called in the bird reserve this afternoon on the way back from the allotment where the first two Common Sandpipers of the return passage were on the islands, along with several each of Ringed Plover, Lapwing and Curlew. Several Common Tern chicks were noted on the islands, plus Hobby, Cuckoo and Marsh Harrier from the access road track.

Tuesday 26 June 2018

Black Swans

Lade - warm, dry and sunny, NE 4 - Another cracking day with blue skies throughout and a cooling easterly off the sea to temper the heat. Masses of grassland butterflies were on the wing in sheltered hollows and enclaves where the ground foliage has now been burnt to a crisp due to the strong wind and a lack of rain.

                               Black Swans and Pochards

  On south lake the Canadian pond weed is flowering prodigiously with great baulks of thick weed floating on the surface, which fooled at least two passing Lapwings to think they could safely land! However, the weed matting is attracting plenty of Coots, Pochards, Mute Swans and grebes and it was good to see a few broods of young Coots and Mallards on the water, but still no grebe chicks. A pair of Black Swans were still present on the lake behind the ponds, while around the willow swamp, Blackcap, Lesser Whitethroat and Cetti`s Warbler were in song.
  A check of the bay this afternoon on an ebb tide yielded very little apart from a few Curlews and Oystercatchers, Sandwich Terns and Black-headed Gulls. The brisk wind looks as though its here for a while attracting increasing numbers of kite surfers.

Sunday 24 June 2018

Green Sandpiper

Lade - warm, dry and sunny, W 2  - Saturday morning was notable for the first Green Sandpiper of the return passage. The migrant wader flew over south lake calling and looking for somewhere to land, but with the water levels still stubbornly high there was nowhere suitable so it drifted off towards north lake. Around the willow swamp a male Cuckoo was still calling.

                                Old railway track looking south

                                Pyramidal Orchids

  This morning the wind had dropped and in the milky sunshine plenty of grassland butterflies were on the wing along the old railway line track. Most numerous were Small Skipper and Small Heath, closely followed by Meadow Brown, Marbled White and Painted Lady, plus a few Large Skipper, Small Tortoiseshell, Peacock, Large and Small Whites. Several more Pyramidal Orchids had also come into bloom. Out on the lake the Canadian pond weed looks as though its flowering with huge rafts attracting dabbling and diving ducks (150 Pochard), grebes and Coots, plus the first juvenile Black-headed Gull of the summer.
  Raptors were particularly noticeable today. A pair of Marsh Harriers are nesting just off site and I watched the male, with what looked like a Mallard duckling dangling from its under carriage, fly off to deliver the goods to a female via a mid-air food pass. Sparrowhawk, Kestrel and Buzzard also noted.  

                                Cynaeda dentalis                               

                               Privet Hawkmoth

  Weather conditions were spot on for moths last night, being still, muggy and overcast and the garden trap yielded 30 species of macros this morning, the best catch of the year thus far. Small Dusty Wave, Barred Straw, Marbled Coronet and Privet Hawkmoth were all new for the year.
  Just before settling down to torture ourselves watching England in the World Cup we gave Barney his summer cut and blow dry as next weeks predicted heat wave sets in. In the end the football was pretty painless, while this afternoon the two Black Swans were reported from Lade south (per PB).

Friday 22 June 2018

The Gully

Dengemarsh Gully - warm, dry and sunny, NW 2 - An early start to check the gully for singing Cetti`s Warblers before they pack up singing for the summer revealed, as expected, two males. That makes a grand total of 58 singers across the Dungeness RSPB, plus another five at Lade, which is a similar figure to the previous survey three years ago. Sedge Warblers and Whitethroats both had young at the northern end of the gully along with several pairs of Linnets and Reed Buntings, while a juvenile Wheatear was seen at Penn Bars being fed by an adult. Also noted, Raven, Peregrine and a steady flow of Sandwich Terns off shore heading towards Rye carrying fish.

                                Cock Linnet, Dengemarsh Gully

Lade - All quiet here with the usual post-breeding build up Pochards on the water, but still very few Cootlets and ducklings and no grebelets so far. Something must be clobbering the juvenile waterfowl as even the Mute Swans haven't been successful this year.
 The wind swung around to the east this evening where a visit to the beach on an incoming tide delivered a few Oystercatchers and Curlews flying to roost, plus passing Common and Sandwich Terns.

Thursday 21 June 2018


Wednesday - King`s Wood, Challock - 2000hrs - 2230hrs - Yesterday evening CP and I deserted the Marsh for the trees and a spot of long overdue Nightjar hunting. We found a large clear-felled area of coppiced Sweet Chestnuts with a few standard trees overlooking a valley and settled down to wait- and-see. With the setting sun at our backs we had panoramic views of the distant canopy. A few Swifts and gulls drifted over followed by a smart Hobby and a close Buzzard, plus Nuthatch and Great Spotted Woodpecker.

                                Classic Nightjar habitat, King`s Wood, Challock

  The silence was then shattered as we were `discovered` by a dog practicing its rescue abilities. Having `found us`, with a couple of barks it then bounded off to its handlers and carried out the procedure three more times. Eventually the handlers came into the clearing and explained that the dog was being trained to locate humans by smell, for a canine charity that works with the police, mostly on search and rescue locating dementia patients; not that we`d got the dreaded disease, but we certainly must`ve ponged a bit for the dog to find us so quickly! It`s amazing what odd encounters I`ve had over the years whilst out searching for Nightjars, but that`s another story...

                                Tree Pipit, King`s Wood

  Anyhow, once that was over peace and quiet resumed and we were soon watching a pair of Tree Pipits singing and displaying close by, a real treat as they are such scarce birds nowadays. As the sun dipped a chorus of Song Thrushes wafted on the zephyr along with half-hearted laments from Chiffchaff, Robin, Bullfinch and Blackbird.
  Twilight slowly descended, out came the first bats and moths followed by distant hunger calls from Tawny Owlets and a `roding` Woodcock over the canopy. And then at 2140hrs a male Nightjar broke its slumbers and wing-clapped across the glade, flashing white wing patches in defence of its territory. It soon settled down and for the next three quarters of an hour moved between song posts giving superb flight views as well as perching along dead branches with a clear-sky silhouette showing off its `churring` technique. Two more Nightjars sang nearby which probably accounted for the intensity of `our` singing bird.
  A successful foray into the woods then, and as we returned to the car we could still hear distant  Nightjars `churring` into the blackness.

Wednesday 20 June 2018

Curlew Sandpiper

Lade - cloudy, cool, SW 3 - The past few days have witnessed dull early mornings with bits of drizzle bringing down a few Swifts and House Martins until eventually the sun burns off the cloud lifting the temperature. I`ve noticed more Common Terns feeding over the lakes of late, presumably from the bird reserve and Sandwich Terns from Rye flying to and fro from the bay with fish, calling raucously. On the Desert shingle ridges last week I located a pair of Ringed Plovers with chicks and miraculously they still had three well-grown juvs this morning. A pair of Oystercatchers also have a family on the scaffold island judging from the racket whenever a crow flies overhead. On the bay a wader count yesterday delivered: 50 Curlews, 120 Oystercatchers, 10 Dunlins, five Ringed Plovers and a Whimbrel.
  In the garden moth trap the first Elephant Hawkmoth of summer was the highlight amongst a paltry 15 species.

Dungeness - At the Patch first thing the 1st summer Common Tern and an adult Mediterranean Gull were the highlights, plus a Fulmar down, but no sign of a Royal Tern...
  After doing moths on the bird reserve a check of Burrowes revealed a Curlew Sandpiper in non-breeding plumage from Makepeace hide, plus family parties of Oystercatchers, Ringed Plovers and Egyptian Geese. The long staying 1st summer Little Gull was in front of Firth hide and a Common Tern chick was noted on one of the islands from Dennis`s hide.

                                Coot, Curlew Sandpiper and Little Gull, Burrowes

Sunday 17 June 2018

Marbled Whites

Saturday - Dungeness -  warm, dry, sunny,  SW4 - A visit to the Patch hide yielded the usual Common Terns and gulls, including an adult Mediterranean Gull over the boil and on the beach. Offshore in the brisk wind a few Gannets and Sandwich Terns drifted by, plus two flocks of Common Scoters totalling 60 birds.
  On the bird reserve, Burrowe`s resembled a wildfowl collection with feral Egyptian, Canada and Greylag Geese, plus a pair of Black Swans. A flock of 20 Curlews flew in with the long staying Whimbrel and a Blackwit. Redshank, Ringed Plover, Oystercatcher and Lapwing all noted while post breeding flocks of Pochard and Gadwall continue to increase in number. A few pairs of Common Terns are nesting on three of the islands, although many of the Herring Gulls have now got young making for easy pickings when the tern chicks do hatch.

                                Black Swans and Little Gull, Burrowes

Sunday - Lade - Once the early morning murk cleared the Swifts and House Martins quickly departed and the sun broke through bringing forth a number of grassland butterflies along the old railway line track. Meadow Brown, Large and Small Skippers, Small Heath and Painted Lady were all present, plus our first two, freshly emerged, Marbled Whites, one of my favourite butterflies. Cuckoos were still active across the site, while an arrival of Reed Warblers from earlier in the week were in good voice in reedbed territories. Otherwise all was quiet.

                               Biting Stonecrop, a common Sedum of dry shingle ridges

                                Two pristine Marbled Whites, first of the summer

                                White Mullein, an abundant biennial around the aerial compound

Friday 15 June 2018

Barney at 12

Lade - warm, dry and sunny, NE 2 - We trudged around the local patch this morning more out of a sense of duty than anything else, searching for and finding a few more Pyramidal Orchids. The old railway line track was full of highly active Common Blues, Small Heaths and Painted Ladies in the hot sunshine. My faithful companion Barney, 12 years old today, never tires of his morning stroll, although like me he is slow to get going sometimes.

                                Barney, 12 today

Thursday 14 June 2018


Dungeness - cool, cloudy, drizzle, SW5 - That`s more like it, a good old blow off the Atlantic from Storm Hector, just the job after weeks of an easterly airflow; and hopefully the wind will rid us of the awful pong that has been in the air from rotting sea weed out in the North Sea. Anyhow, with an overcoat on we joined DW in the Patch hide to grill the gulls and terns, the highlights of which were two Mediterranean Gulls over the boil and a 1st summer Common Tern on the beach, an unusual plumage type not often seen in these parts. Offshore, a few Gannets and Sandwich Terns noted, plus 10 Swifts moving west.
Lade - With a brisk wind whipping across the water there was never going to be much on offer, but it was good to see 50 Swifts and 100 House Martins over the water, both of which have been in short supply this spring.
  Well, the hype is over, the wall chart is up and the Greatest Show on Earth is underway. My tip for the World Cup; easy - Germany!

Wednesday 13 June 2018

Little Gulls

Lade - warm, dry and sunny, SW 2 - At least the east wind relented overnight and swung round to a more `normal` vector this morning, although not in time for another poor catch in the garden moth trap. On the local patch a number of feral swans and geese have already moved onto south lake in preparation for their annual moult. I watched a family of Mallards commit suicide as for some unknown reason they crossed the widest part of the lake with ducklings, all eight of them were soon predated by Herring Gulls from the coastal housing colony.

                                1st summer Little and Black-headed Gulls

                                Oystercatcher family

Dungeness - A circular walk for RSPB this morning was of interest for a wide range of plant species; seven species of butterflies, including Painted Lady and Small Tortoiseshell; Black-tailed Skimmer dragonflies and many Blue-tailed, Common Blue and Azure Damselflies. Birdwise the only migrants noted were several Lapwings, a Whimbrel, Dunlin and two Swifts. The islands on Burrowes harboured two Avocets, 12 Curlews, Redshanks, Ringed Plovers, Oystercatchers, Common Terns on three islands and plenty of post breeding eclipse Pochards and Gadwalls on the water, plus Egyptian Goose, five Teal and five Shovelers.
  A small flock of mainly Black-headed Gulls in front of Firth hide contained an obvious first summer Little Gull and another odd looking immature gull which I mulled over for a while. It was between Little and Black-headed Gull in size and I must admit that Bonaparte`s Gull crossed my mind, but the legs weren't either short or pale enough for that species. In the end I went for Little Gull at the larger end of the size range. Common and Herring Gulls both had young on the islands and nest boxes. Elsewhere across the site Hobby, Marsh Harrier, Buzzard, five Cuckoos and all the usual breeding warblers noted.

Monday 11 June 2018

Leaflet drop

Lade - warm, dry and sunny, NE 3 - There`s been little change across the local patch these past few days with migration now at a standstill. The wild flowers and butterflies along the old railway line are keeping the natural history interest ticking over. On a slightly more depressing note it was sad to see that two of the new interpretive signs have again been vandalised at Lade, the mentality of some people is beyond me.

                                Painted Lady

                                Poppies and Bugloss, Lade
                                New signage already despoiled

Rye Harbour - Had to go to Rye to drop off our revamped leaflets today so called into the Beach Reserve where we had a natter with Barry the warden about the forthcoming new visitor centre, among other things. The Sandwich and Common Tern colonies were doing well, as were the Mediterranean Gulls, although the Little Terns are yet again struggling with under ten pairs present. Plenty of Avocet chicks were noted along with a range of common waders and at least 50 Shelducks.

                                Pale Grass Eggar caterpillar, Rye Harbour

                                New Plovers leaflet

Friday 8 June 2018

Honey Buzzard

Lade  - warm, dry and sunny, NE 3 - The past couple of days have been much of a muchness on the local patch with fledgling birds tumbling out of nests to join the large flocks of foraging Starlings and House Sparrows. Cuckoos are still active around the reedbeds and the first Dabchick and Great Crested Grebe young were on the water. Moth trapping, however, has been largely disappointing due to a run of cool, clear nights with a brisk wind off the sea.
  One of the local dog walkers described what appeared to be a Bee-eater on the overhead wires on the Desert yesterday morning, which was no real surprise being as one was noted at Dungeness earlier. Infact there have been so many sightings of `Rainbow Birds` this past month that I`m beginning to suspect they may be breeding locally...

                                                  Tree Sparrows

St Mary`s-in-the-Marsh - I called in on Chris P this morning and whilst nattering in the back garden, and watching Tree Sparrows on the feeders, alarm calls from the tits and finches alerted us to a raptor drifting overhead which turned out to be a Honey Buzzard, my first of the year in England; if only I was keeping a year list...
Burrowes - The long-staying Little Gull was still in front of Firth hide this afternoon and a few common waders were on distant islands. Bitterns continue to show well over the road from the Screen hide, otherwise its been a quiet week on the bird front, but plenty to enjoy botanically.

Wednesday 6 June 2018

First Turtle Dove!

Orlestone Forest - warm, dry and sunny, NE 4 - Spent the day guiding for Cedric concentrating on bird song, which was a bit of a challenge as its about a month past the peak period. However, a circuit of Faggs Wood turned up all the usual resident species, mostly heard: Great Spotted Woodpecker, Nuthatch, Treecreeper, Coal and Long-tailed Tits, a Tawny Owl, Buzzard and the like, plus Garden Warbler and Nightingale amongst the migrants, but best of all a `purring` Turtle Dove, our first of the year which we eventually glimpsed. As memorable though was the fabulous display of Common Spotted Orchids throughout the wood, particularly around the car park area.

                                A carpet of Common Spotted Orchids

Warehorne - A stop off by the canal delivered singing Yellowhammers and more common finches and warblers, plus a host of regular grassland butterflies and damselflies.
Scotney  - Wagtails were the target species here and both Yellow  and Pied Wagtails sang and showed to order along with Corn Bunting, Reed and Sedge Warblers, Swallows and Stock Doves. The Avocet island out back held at least six adults and there may well have been some chicks lurking in the cover. Little Egret and all the usual feral geese also noted here.

                                Pied and Yellow Wagtails

ARC -  More warblers were heard, plus good views of a family party of Lesser Whitethroats, a migrant that has been noted in above average numbers this spring. From Screen hide we had protracted, but obscured views, of a hunting Bittern in front of the hide as well as a close male Marsh Harrier.

                                Lesser Whitethroat

                                Peekaboo Bittern

                                Adult male Marsh Harrier

Burrowes - We finished the day checking the islands for waders which held a scattering of Dunlins, Ringed Plovers, Redshanks, 12 Curlews and a Whimbrel. An immature Little Gull showed well in front of Firth hide and it was good to see several Common Terns on the new raft in front of Dennis`s hide.
  We ended up recording 82 species of birds throughout the day with Turtle Dove and Bittern the highlights amongst the birds, but for the sheer spectacle the orchids in the forest took some beating.

                                Little Gull from Firth hide