Monday 30 July 2018

Clouded Yellow

Dungeness - warm and sunny, SW 3 after early showers - A brief visit to the fishing boats first thing delivered very little after the excitement of yesterday -  a touch of after the Lord Mayor`s show...
  From Hanson hide, wader wise, just Little Ringed Plovers, Ruff, Wood and Common Sandpipers, plus Garganey and Great White Egret from Screen hide. Plenty of Swifts and hirundines over the lake in the drizzle.
  An afternoon visit to Burrowes yielded a juvenile Black Tern amongst 100 Common Terns and Black-headed Gulls in front of Firth hide, including a colour ringed adult bird, T988. A Clouded Yellow butterfly on the track was our first of the summer.

                                Black-headed Gull T988

                                Clouded Yellow

Sunday 29 July 2018

Dungeness Shearwaters

Dungeness - cool, wet, cloudy, S 6 - 0900hrs - With a brisk southerly wind whipping up a heavy sea and reports of shearwaters and petrels off the western seaboard filtering through, there was only one place to be this morning. After checking the Patch, where a single Yellow-legged Gull and several Mediterranean Gulls were the highlight, we joined MC and TG in the seawatching hide for a couple of hours.
  A steady flow of mostly westbound Gannets provided the bulk numbers with over 1,000 during the morning, along with a trickle of Sandwich and Common Terns, a few Fulmars, Kittiwakes, Med Gulls, Common Scoters, a Shoveler and a few Swifts out. However, the highlight was three species of shearwater with 15 Manx, six Balearics and a single Sooty Shearwater, with several more of the first two earlier on and throughout the day. I also had brief views of a Thresher Shark, which had been seen by several other observers over the weekend.
  Whilst at the DBO barbeque, a Great Shearwater flew west (AL) an extremely rare sighting in this part of the Channel. This caused a minor evacuation of local birders to the fishing boats just in case it returned but it was not to be, although another Sooty Shearwater was seen.
  The weather front certainly did the trick. On any other day multiple Manx, Balearic and Sooty Shearwaters would have been memorable at Dungeness, but with the unprecedented addition of the `big one`, it will long be remembered as the day of four species of shearwaters.

                                Curlew Sandpiper from Hanson hide

                                Knots from Firth hide

                                Common and Black Terns

ARC/Burrowes - Sandwiched in between the seawatching there was some pretty good fare on the bird reserve too. From Hanson hide an adult Curlew Sandpiper showed well on the closest island along with two Ruff, four LRPs, three Ringed Plovers, six Dunlins, Wood Sandpiper and Snipe, plus plenty of terns, gulls and dabbling ducks. Over the road from Firth hide three adult Knot and two juvenile Black Terns were the highlights amongst 50 Common Terns, Dunlins and Common Sandpipers.
Despite missing the `big two` it was still a superb days birding across Dungeness.

Saturday 28 July 2018


Lade - warm, sunny, SW 6 - Following on from the stifling heat of Friday it felt good to wake up this morning to the smell of a salty, old fresh wind blowing off the Atlantic Ocean, as a cold front moved up-Channel. The temperature plummeted by ten degrees making a circuit of the local patch far more agreeable for both dog and human.
  I timed our walk to coincide with the Curlews flying in off the bay to roost on the storm ridges near south lake, a couple of hours before high tide. They take about 30 minutes from the early birds to the late stragglers and this morning there was 233, most of whom came in on a low trajectory due to the strong wind, with some pausing for a fresh water bathe and drink, so I had to be alert to count `em all in, along with a Whimbrel and six Barwits. As similar numbers have been here all summer I assume that most are non-breeding birds; all showed signs of wing moult on their inner flight feathers.

                                Curlews pausing en-route to roost

   Waders are my favourite bird family by a long chalk and they don't come much more impressive than the Curlew, the largest of the tribe. Apparently, they`re in trouble across the British Isles and have now been Red Listed; numbers are declining as their traditional breeding grounds become over-grazed, intensively farmed for silage or turned into pine forests. Until 2012 they were still on the wild game bird hit list in Britain, but are still hunted on the near continent, which is totally unacceptable.
Dungeness - An hour at the fishing boats this afternoon in windy conditions produced very little apart from a trickle of terns and Gannets, 20 Mediterranean Gulls and 50 outward bound Swifts. A Grey Seal was noted just offshore.
  The only other news today concerned a passage of 30 Curlew Sandpipers through ARC this morning and a Balearic Shearwater off the point around noon.

Friday 27 July 2018


Lade - hot and humid - The hottest day of the summer so far with the thermometer peaking at 31C in the garden. Still very few butterflies on the Buddleia though, just a few whites and the occasional Comma, Meadow Brown, Gatekeeper and Red Admiral, plus several Hummingbird Hawk-moths. No change on the local patch with both Green and Common Sandpipers around the margins.
 A midday sea swim off the board walk was most enjoyable, along with screeching Sandwich Terns and two Grey Seals further out, magic. By late afternoon the storm clouds gathered and in high humidity by early evening the rain poured down amongst the thunder and lightening to bring the heat wave to a spectacular end.

                                South lake, March, brash ice and -10C

                                South lake, today, weed strewn and 30C

ARC - From Hanson hide this morning several Common Sandpipers were joined by singles of Wood and Green Sandpiper. A Great White Egret settled amongst the Cormorant colony and a small party of Blackwits and Curlew flew around before heading over the road.

Thursday 26 July 2018

First Willow Warbler

Lade - hot and humid - Ideal weather condition for moths and while last night produced our first two eggars of the season, and a Small Emerald, there was precious little else of note and numbers were curiously low. Once again the local Blackbird had mopped up anything on the outside of the trap. A Grey Wagtail flew over as I emptied the trap, while the first Willow Warbler of autumn came down to drink at the garden pond this morning.

                               Oak and Pale Grass Eggars

  The past few mornings have been spent rummaging around the local patch checking on the breeding birds, and for the most part its been a pretty successful one. A count of 43 Dabchicks on south lake, including many juvs was the highlight and, at long last, two Great Crested Grebes were noted with `stripy-zebras` on their backs. Coot, Moorhen, Gadwall, Tufted Duck and Mallard have all produced plenty of fledglings too.
  The Sparrowhawk pair were again successful with at least two juvs on the wing and it was good to see two well grown Oystercatcher chicks on the scaffold island with their ever attentive parents. Earlier in the season two pairs of Black-necked Grebes attempted to breed but failed, while a pair of Dartford Warblers double brooded raising at least five juveniles. A pair of Ringed Plovers somehow managed to raise young on the Desert, although none were successful along the beach due to increasing human disturbance.
  Of the summer warblers only Lesser Whitethroats did well with five singers locally; Whitethroat, Sedge and Reed Warblers were all down and Chiffchaff didn't breed. Several adult Cuckoos were present, although I`ve yet to see a fledged juvenile. Resident Cetti`s Warbler (seven singers), Green Woodpecker and Water Rail all bred across the site, as did Skylark, Mipit, Stonechat, Linnet, Yellow Wagtail and Corn Bunting.

                                Islands are starting to emerge on south lake

  Migrants have started to drift through this week, chiefly Sand Martins along with a few Yellow Wagtails overhead, Common Sandpipers and at least one Green Sandpiper on the lakeside margins.
Sandwich Terns have been the main feature on the bay and earlier in the week a Black Tern (DS) dropped in; probably the same one as on Burrowes this morning, where also all three species of sandpipers were logged.
  Called in at Hanson hide this afternoon in sweltering 30C temperatures where hundreds of wildfowl and gulls were present on the ARC lake. Waders included several LRPs and Common Sandpipers, two Blackwits and a Wood Sandpiper, plus Great White Egret, two Garganeys, Med Gulls and a female Marsh Harrier bathing over the far side.
  There was plenty of Sandwich Tern, Med Gull and Curlew action moving between the bay and roost sites this evening involving several hundred birds, most of which seemed to fly over our cottage.

Drusillas Park - On Wednesday we took our nearly eight year old grandson and his mate to Drusillas for his birthday treat - "a day of fun in the sun!". Drusillas Park in Sussex is part zoo, part adventure playground; you know the kind of thing, ideal for hundreds of wailing kids and sulky parents in 35C heat!
  Anyhow, while the young Troddling was running riot in the Get Wet! (exclamation marks are everywhere at Drusillas!) I sauntered back through the zoo for a gander. Now, at this juncture I must admit to not being a great lover of zoos, never have been, although to be fair this place did appear to be spic and span and well maintained. I know that many zoos claim conservation credentials and educate the nippers, but I think that most are just an excuse for disrespectful paying guests to visit what is after all an animal prison. For example, the Red Pandas and primates did have spacious cages, but they just looked bored and listless; staring into the eyes of a Columbus Monkey said it all for me... A pair of Servals and Giant Anteaters did not have nearly enough space and really shouldn't have been there at all.
  As is often the case it was the captive birds that got a raw deal. The Spectacled and Snowy Owl cages were very small and nowhere near big enough for them to fly properly. An enclosure with various species of ibises was pitiful; long-billed waders with highly sensitive bill tips for probing mud being incarcerated in a concrete based cage no bigger than half a penalty area. Shocking. Having been privileged to see these birds in their native environments I couldn't help but feel depressed.
 So, I`m yet to be convinced of the value of zoos, surely its much better to concentrate efforts in their native lands, along with somehow trying to educate the burgeoning human population both here and abroad to respect them. Call Mr Misery, but that's the way I feel about zoos, and I reckon one day they will be frowned upon, just like circus animals are today.
  However, the day ended in a degree of drama with the evacuation of Drusillas Park due to a corn field fire opposite!!!!!!!!!

Monday 23 July 2018

Jersey Tiger

Lade - warm, dry and sunny - Another muggy night although the cloud cover disappeared resulting in a drop in moth numbers; however, a Jersey Tiger was new for the year, as usual on the outside of the trap. Also last night several small bats were hawking insects around the garden fir trees, newts were active in the pond and three fox cubs were playing in the road outside.

                                Jersey Tiger

Dungeness - Very quiet at the point this morning, apart from a Black Redstart on the power station fence, a Peregrine over and several Mediterranean Gulls at the Patch.
  An afternoon visit to Hanson hide yielded two Blackwits, Wood and Common Sandpipers, 10 Ringed Plovers, Dunlin, Garganey and a flyover Bittern on ARC. On Burrowes from Firth hide, 120 Common Terns, 10 Ringed Plovers, Common Sandpiper and Dunlin.

                                Common Sandpiper from Firth hide

                                Cloud bank over the power stations

Sunday 22 July 2018

Orache Moth and Red Arrows

Lade - warm, dry and sunny - Another weekend of superb summer weather, ideal for sea swimming and moths. Although I`ve been running a moth trap down here for just a over a decade I still get a frisson of excitement when it is checked through the busy summer and autumn months. Yesterday morning I was late up at 0600hrs and our garden Blackbird had already demolished the Brown-tail moths around the summer house site. I don't mind it having some easy pickings as him and his mate are on their third brood, having lost most of the early fledglings to Jackdaws and Magpies.
  As I worked through the catch adding the likes of new-for-the-year Peppered Moth and Pale-grass Eggar into the notebook I noticed an unfamiliar, medium size noctuid in the final egg tray - an Orache Moth, a rare immigrant from the near continent and new for the site, a vision of green and black with distinctive markings on the forewing. Moth catching, it seems, continues to surprise even on this wind-swept coastline.

                                Orache Moth - new for the Plovers trap site

  Over the weekend a few new waders were recorded on the local patch including seven Snipe yesterday, Green Sandpiper and Grey Plover over, plus pulses of Sand Martins and a trickle of Yellow Wagtails today. Second brood Stonechats were abroad this morning along with numerous Common Blues and Migrant Hawkers in the hot sunshine. A count of 320 Coots was made on south lake and, at last, the first brood of Dabchicks was logged.

                                Common Blues were abundant today

                                First grebelets

                                         Stonechat on dead Foxglove

  Evening visits to the bay on a flood tide produced a record count of seven Grey Seals hunting flatfish, plus the usual hundreds of Curlews, Oystercatchers, Sandwich Terns, five Barwits, six Dunlins and a Whimbrel.

                                Lancaster, Spitfire and Hurricane over Folkestone

  A trip to Hawkinge Battle of Britain museum with guests yesterday and onto The Warren to watch the flypast also delivered a Red Kite over Capel-le-Ferne.
  On a similar note we finished the weekend this afternoon watching the Red Arrows display team over Folkestone from the end of Lade boardwalk. It was a terrific show, easily viewable through the bins in the distance, and at the end of the 30 minutes they flew across the bay and over our heads before heading off inland. In complete contrast the Dutch barque Alamy came into the bay under full sail. The things you see down here...

                                RAF Red Arrows display team

                                Dutch barque Alamy

Friday 20 July 2018

Waders and egrets

Lade - humid, overcast, light rain - We had our first rainfall for about six weeks this morning, not much but just enough to keep the dust down. South lake was covered in wildfowl and grebes feeding amongst the floating rafts of flowering Canadian pond weed. Several Common Terns fished the open waters and a steady progression of noisy Sandwich Terns over flew the site heading towards the bay. Two Whimbrels went through high calling and a Common Sandpiper flitted over north lake where the autumns first Great White Egret was noted.

                                Black Swans feeding on pond weed

ARC - From Hanson hide a similar picture to yesterday with three adult Little Stints the highlight (although they did appear to fly off high at about 10.30hrs), an elusive Wood Sandpiper, Blackwit, Redshank, Common Sandpipers, Greenshank and Dunlin, one of which was a large juvenile. Also present hundreds of eclipse ducks, Coots, grebes, swans, geese and gulls on the lake, plus a Garganey several pulses of Sand Martins through and a Yellow Wagtail over.

Thursday 19 July 2018

Little Stints

Scotney - warm, dry, overcast, E2 - Spent the day guiding for Andrew and friends from north Kent. After a moth session at the bird reserve we headed down to Scotney where farmland birds were few and far between. Eventually we located several Yellow Wagtails and a couple of Skylarks out back, plus a distant Buzzard, Kestrel and a Little Owl on one of the farm buildings. A few Swallows were noted, plus the usual range of feral geese, common ducks, Little Egrets and a Brown Hare drinking from one of the gravel pit lakes.

                                Juvenile terns, Med Gull and Lapwing

Dungeness - From Hanson hide there was a decent collection of waders on the islands. Three adult Little Stints were fresh in along with two Wood Sandpipers, 10 Dunlins, eight Little Ringed Plovers, five Ringed Plovers, four Blackwits, two Snipe, two Redshanks and singles of Greenshank and Common Sandpiper. Plenty of common dabblers and diving ducks were on the water, plus a juvenile Mediterranean Gull amongst the Black-headed Gulls and Lapwings.
  Over the road on Burrowes Wood Sandpiper and Dunlins in front of Firth hide, a mixed flock of Common Terns (including this years juvs), two Sandwich Terns, another juv Med Gull, several Ringed Plovers and Lapwings and male Marsh Harrier over the Oppen pits.
  We also managed to identify a number of plants and dragonflies for the guests throughout the day, despite the desiccated landscape.

Wednesday 18 July 2018

Another day in paradise

Lade - warm, dry, broken cloud, sunshine, E2 - Another cracking day of weather commenced with a bumper catch of 30 plus species of macros in the garden trap, including two more Sussex Emeralds. An early visit to south lake before doing breakfasts for guests delivered a Green Sandpiper on the island along with two Mediterranean Gulls and several Sand Martins over.
  With high tide around 4pm it was perfect conditions for a scan of the bay, with the sea retreating in glorious evening light and not a breath of wind. The White Cliffs and distant South Foreland Lighthouse were most apparent, as was a steady stream of huge passing container ships in mid-Channel, etched in front of the French coastline, looking for all the world like mobile blocks of flats.

                                White Cliffs and South Foreland Lighthouse                               

                                Channel shipping

  The Curlew flock conveniently returned from roost enabling an accurate count to be made of 225 birds, plus 110 Oystercatchers, five Dunlins, Whimbrel and Ringed Plover. Black-headed Gulls comprised the bulk numbers with a conservative estimate of 5,000 birds; also 50 Sandwich Terns, 30 Common Gulls, 10 Med Gulls and a Kittiwake.
  Out to sea at least four Grey Seal followed the tide out and I twice saw them catch flatfish the size of dinner plates. Further out several Porpoises were noted, plus a flock of 13 Common Scoters, more Sandwich Terns, two Gannets and a Fulmar. What a privilege it is to have such an abundance of wildlife in such a dramatic setting just 200yds from our front gate.

                                One of many Bhgs on the sands this evening

ARC - Called in to Hanson hide around midday where Wood Sandpiper, Greenshank, Blackwit and Little Ringed Plover were the pick of the waders, plus a Garganey amongst the dabblers. Elsewhere today two Great White Egrets were seen on Dengemarsh (RW).

Tuesday 17 July 2018

Migrant Hawkers

Lade/Dungeness - warm, dry and sunny, SW4 - With the wind swinging around to a more normal Atlantic airflow and picking up through the day, there was a much fresher feel than yesterday. The Patch first thing was fairly quiet with just a few Common Terns amongst 100 common gulls, while offshore a party of 15 Common Scoters flew east. A Peregrine put in an appearance over the power station setting off the Herring Gulls and a juvenile Black Redstart was noted atop the wall, plus a Hummingbird Hawkmoth basking on the wall.

                                Resting Migrant Hawker

  At Lade ponds several Migrant Hawker dragonflies were on the wing with more seen in the garden throughout the day; also noted at the ponds Emperor Dragonfly, Black-tailed Skimmer and Common Darter.
ARC/Burrowes - An evening visit delivered a host of wildfowl and gulls on both lakes, including several Mediterranean Gulls and a Garganey. Waders included Wood Sandpiper on Burrowes, Blackwit, Ruff and Greenshank on ARC, plus a scattering of Little Ringed and Ringed Plovers, Common Sandpiper and Dunlin on both. Also noted a Bittern flying over Tower Pits and two Marsh Harriers at Boulderwall, plus several parties of Sand Martins through.

Monday 16 July 2018

Bonaparte`s Gull

Oare Marshes - 0900hrs - hot, dry and sunny, SW2 - Together with CP and MH we decamped to north Kent for a change of scene this morning to the rarity hot-spot that is the KWT reserve beside Faversham Creek. Despite unfavourable light and tides, plus a work party in progress, we still managed to see a decent range of wetland birds.

                               East Flood, Oare Marshes

  A pair of adult Black-winged Stilts with their two locally bred juveniles showed throughout the visit, alongside good numbers of Avocets and at least 20 Little Egrets - prompting comparisons with a recent spring visit to the Somme estuary! At least 12 adult Ruffs in various stages of nuptial dress proved interesting, plus a pair of Little Ringed Plovers, Greenshank, Whimbrel, Common Sandpiper and a host of gorgeous Black-tailed Godwits, Lapwings and Redshanks. A mix of eclipse ducks, a Dabchick with five fledglings (my first of the summer), various gulls and Grey Herons completed the wetland ensemble on the East Flood.

                                Juvenile Black-winged Stilt

  Out on the worm-rich Swale mud more waders and gulls were in view, including loads more Little Egrets, Curlews, Redshanks, Avocets, Blackwits (including a colour ringed bird - green over yellow left leg, red over red right leg and two of the Icelandic race), 10 Whimbrels and 20 Oystercatchers;  a distant sand bar over towards Shell Ness attracted at least 22 Common Seals.
  But it was the gulls that drew most attention as amongst the many Black-headed Gulls feeding on lugworms near the old submerged ferry road was the `resident` Bonaparte`s Gull, a stunning individual still in full breeding plumage. A couple of times it was flushed onto the Swale channel by Marsh Harriers, but soon returned to feed and preen on the gloopy mud.

                                Adult Bonaparte`s Gull

  Also noted during the circular walk: Shelduck, Mediterranean Gull, Kestrel, Sparrowhawk, Common Tern, Skylark, Mipit, Yellow Wagtail, Reed Warbler, Bearded Tit, Goldfinch and Reed Bunting, while on the way out a Turtle Dove was noted on overhead wires rounding off a superb birding morning `up north`.
  By the time we arrived back on the coast it was stinking hot and with a 7m high tide there was only one place to be - in Lade bay for a refreshing, first sea swim of the summer, wonderful!

Sunday 15 July 2018

Heat wave continues

Lade/Dungeness - hot, dry and sunny, NE 2 - A weekend of hot dry weather with only a light breeze off the sea. We haven't had any `proper` rain down here for weeks now and the Desert is living up to its name, being desiccated with hardly any greenery surviving the suns rays; a Brown Hare loping across the Lade section this morning was the first I`ve seen for a while.
  On the sands Sandwich Tern numbers have begun to increase as the juveniles disperse, while a flock of eight adult Knots in various stages of breeding plumage were new in. Dunlins too have increased over the past few days with 30 counted today.
  Moth trapping in the garden has yielded three more Sussex Emeralds. 

                                Black Swans on south lake island

                                Lade Desert

On the bird reserve not much change from last week with a scattering of returning waders on both Burrowes and ARC including Greenshank, Wood and Common Sandpipers, Ruff and Little Ringed Plover.

Friday 13 July 2018

Returning waders

Lade/Dungeness - warm, dry, sunny, NE 3 - This week has seen a trickle of returning waders across the Dungeness NNR wetlands. At Lade Whimbrel, Common Sandpiper and Greenshank have been noted with another Greenshank on ARC this morning, but Burrowes is the current wader hotspot with the sand bars in front of Firth hide luring in a Wood Sandpiper that was still present today. Oystercatcher, Lapwing, Blackwit, Avocet, Greenshank, Grey, Little Ringed and Ringed Plovers, Curlew, Dunlin, Redshank and Common Sandpiper have all been noted from the hides either side of the Visitor Centre these past few days, so if you are planning a visit this weekend Burrowes is the place to be.
  Bitterns have been showing well, flying between Boulderwall and Tower Pits, while several Garganeys are lurking amongst the Teal flocks. Mediterranean Gulls are prominent within gull flocks and the Common Terns are feeding juveniles on the green-topped islands. The Black Swan pair seem to have settled on Lade south for the duration.
  At the point more Mediterranean Gulls are loafing at the Patch along with the first juvenile Yellow-legged Gulls. The sea has been relatively quiet, although I did note an Arctic Skua earlier in the week harrying terns on Lade sands.

                                Waders from the archives