Friday 31 August 2018

Drift migrants

Lade - warm, dry and sunny, E 2 - A superb couple of sessions on the local patch today with two Black-necked Grebes on south lake, Kingfisher on north lake and a Spotted Flycatcher by the ponds this morning. Sedge, Reed, Willow and Cetti`s Warblers also noted around the willow swamp, plus a lone Chiffchaff, a Great Spotted Woodpecker and a Hobby over. Sand Martins and Yellow Wagtails drifted over throughout the day.
  An afternoon visit to check the Desert delivered several Whitethroats, six Stonechats and two Whinchats, while seven Buzzards and four Marsh Harriers thermalled over towards the water tower.

                                Spotted Flycatcher, Lade ponds

Dungeness - Two visits to ARC were most productive with the usual Golden Plovers and Lapwings from Hanson hide, plus six Blackwits, two each of Dunlin and Snipe and a Green Sandpiper. The bushes around the car park and down to the pines were alive with warblers on our later visit with Blackcaps, Common Whitethroats and Reed Warblers the most populous along with two Spotted and one Pied Flycatcher. Several more Buzzards drifted over, a Hobby went through and a Great White Egret flew in from over the road. Boulderwall was devoid of egrets, although eight Cattle Egrets were reported there earlier. A half hour at the fishing boats produced very little apart from one Black Tern in amongst a steady procession of Sandwich Terns.
  Other news today concerned a Terek Sandpiper seen flying over Dengemarsh this morning. There were no reports on the American Black Tern today.

Thursday 30 August 2018

Cattle Egrets

Dungeness - cool start, warm and sunny later, light airs - A circuit of the point first thing delivered a few migrants in the shape of two Wheatears, Blackcap and Whinchat around the lighthouse area, plus a Tree Pipit, several Yellow Wagtails and 100 Sand Martins over, 50 Linnets, 200 Starlings and a Raven. At the Obs Cetti`s Warbler and Spotted Flycatcher were good to see in the hand.

                                Cetti`s Warbler

                                Adult Spotted Flycatcher

  News came through late morning concerning a flock of Cattle Egrets amongst the cows at Boulderwall - all 11 of `em! During two visits this afternoon I could muster eight birds, although they were following a distant herd of cattle so the others could easily have been tucked away in ditches or behind reeds. This is certainly the largest flock I`ve seen in this country and by all accounts is a Dungeness, if not a Kent record.
 Whilst scanning the fields three Marsh Harriers, two Buzzards, Kestrel and Hobby noted, plus a trickle of Yellow Wagtails and martins overhead.

Wednesday 29 August 2018

Little Terns and an Osprey

Dungeness - wet and overcast - A shocker of a morning with low cloud, mist and rain throughout, but perfect for birds! From Hanson hide two Curlew Sandpipers and three Greenshanks from earlier had departed, which still left 80 Golden Plovers, four Snipe, two Blackwits and 100 Lapwings. A couple of Black Terns hawked insects over the lake and a Garganey was still present amongst the dabblers. Hundreds of Sand Martins swirled over the lake with some dropping into the willows to roost.

                                Greenshank in the rain

                             Part of the Little Tern flock briefly in front of Firth hide

  Since last years digger work the habitat in front of Firth hide has been suitable for waders and terns for much of the summer months. This morning, in the pouring rain, there was a steady coming and going of both families with the highlight being a flock of nine Little Terns that landed for about 20 minutes before heading off west. The American Black Tern, seen here earlier had departed for its favoured part of the lake behind the islands opposite Makepeace hide along with several Black Terns.
  On the wader front small flocks of Ringed Plovers, Dunlins and four Greenshanks were noted along with three Little Ringed Plovers, Snipe, Common Sandpiper and two Whimbrel further out. A juvenile Mediterranean Gull was also briefly present.
Lade - The rain finally relented this afternoon allowing a circuit of the local patch where the main event was an Osprey that flew over south lake heading for the bird reserve.

Tuesday 28 August 2018


Dungeness - warm, dry, overcast, light airs - A muggy day throughout with very little wind. We walked the Trapping Area first thing where a decent collection of Common Whitethroats, Blackcaps and Willow Warblers were grounded along the north-east side, plus one of two Chiffchaffs and Lesser Whitethroats. Overhead three Whimbrels and a Grey Plover, plus several Yellow Wagtails and a couple of hundred Sand Martins south.
Lade  - A few more scrub and leaf warblers by the ponds, plus a Common Sandpiper on south lake margin. An afternoon check of the bay on a falling tide revealed at least 300 Curlews, 150 Dunlins and a few Barwits, Knots and a Ringed Plover.
  The American Black Tern was still present on the bird reserve, on Burrowes.

Sunday 26 August 2018

Roseate Tern

Lade - cool, cloudy, W 3 - Fairly similar to yesterday bird-wise on the local patch with hundreds of Sand Martins, a trickle of Yellow Wagtails south and Willow Warblers in the scrub. In addition four Wheatears were new on the Desert and a party of six Swifts moved through.
Dungeness - At the fishing boats this morning a steady passage of Gannets, Common and Sandwich Terns was enlivened by a Little and six Black Terns, a Fulmar and two Arctic Skuas. Harbour Porpoise and Grey Seal also present. A scattering of Wheatears were noted around the lifeboat station.
  News from the bird reserve told of an adult Roseate Tern on Burrowes, which by the time I arrived had settled on one of the rafts amongst the terns. Through the VC window I had obscured views as it preened and briefly raised its wings. The American Black Tern was still present amongst a flock of Black Terns while at the point this morning a juvenile Red-backed Shrike was caught and ringed (DBO). The afternoon was a washout as gale force winds and a band of rain swept up from the south.

Saturday 25 August 2018

Warbler and waders

Lade - cool, sunny, NW 3 - A much fresher feel to the weather first thing with a cool Arctic airflow flooding across the Marsh, lovely stuff. I wasn't  expecting much on the local patch, considering how clear it had been overnight, but from the off at least 30 Willow Warblers were noted across the shingle scrub and around the willow swamp, although there were probably many more that went unseen. Lesser numbers of Sedge, Reed and Cetti`s Warblers, Common and Lesser Whitethroats also noted. The cool conditions had also driven down about 500 Sand and House Martins over south lake, while Turnstone (unusual here), Common Sandpiper and Greenshank were present around the margins. Also noted several Stonechats, 10 each of Mipit and Yellow Wagtail grounded on the shingle and the first Kingfisher of autumn across north lake.
  On the bay this afternoon hundreds of Sandwich and Common Terns, the usual Curlews and Oystercatchers, Dunlins, Knots, Barwits and five Sanderlings, plus three Arctic Skuas hunting along the tideline.

                                Willow Warblers taking in the early morning sunshine

Dungeness - On Burrowes a loose flock of a dozen Black Terns, amongst hundreds of Common Terns, still held the American Black Tern, which briefly perched on one of the tern rafts. Waders included six Dunlins, two Little Ringed Plovers, 12 Blackwits, two Curlews and a cracking adult Grey Plover, plus Marsh Harrier, Buzzard, Hobby and two Great White Egrets. From Hanson hide two smart juvenile Curlew Sandpipers flew in beside several Dunlins, two Snipe, a Wood Sandpiper, Redshank and 100 Golden Plovers. Amongst the myriad of eclipse ducks were four Garganeys and six Wigeon as well as brief views of a Bittern, Great White Egret and a juvenile Marsh Harrier. More Willow Warblers were heard from the boardwalk.
  At Galloways we had brief views of the Wryneck just past the bend along with 10 Whinchats, Common Whitethroats, Stonechats and Yellow Wagtails.

Thursday 23 August 2018

Arctic Skuas

Lade - muggy, sunny, W4 - A bright and breezy day with the odd bit of drizzle but nothing like what was forecast. A check of the beach from the Tavern viewpoint at 1230hrs on a falling tide produced 300 Sandwich, 200 Common and two Black Terns on the sands. Five Arctic Skuas, three of which were pale phase adults, harried the terns fishing along the shoreline, while out in the bay several Gannets and a Fulmar noted. Several hundred Curlews and Oystercatchers flew in to feed, plus 20 Dunlins, 15 Barwits and five Knot.
Dungeness - An hour at the fishing boats this afternoon delivered a steady passage of terns, including a Little Tern, two Kittiwakes, a few Gannets and five Arctic Skuas.
  Elsewhere today the Wryneck was reported from Galloways, Curlew and Wood Sandpipers from Hanson hide and the American Black Tern still on Burrowes from Makepeace hide.

Wednesday 22 August 2018

Kent Bird Report 2016

Dungeness - warm, dry, cloudy, SW 2 - Two visits to Burrowes today failed to improve on closer views of yesterdays American Black Tern as it patrolled behind the main islands opposite  Makepeace hide, along with up to 25 Black Terns. Other birds of note included a Knot and Little Ringed Plover from Firth hide and two Wood Sandpipers from Hanson hide.
Kent Bird Report 2016 - Thud! - that was the sound the latest KOS Bird Report made yesterday morning as it hit the door mat - all 214 pages of it! A stunning front cover painting of a Grey Wagtail, by Stephen Message, lures you into this top-notch Bird Report, as befits one of Britain`s most birded counties. The Report follows a long established format with the bulk of the text dedicated to a Systematic List for the year; along with 51 superb colour plates, my favourites being the Starling murmeration over Iwade and the Dotterels at St Margeret`s.
  I particularly enjoyed the articles on Turtle Doves and the recent history of breeding Black-winged Stilts at Cliffe Pools, while Aspects of the Year reminded me how much else I missed out on across the county by tending to rarely venture from the confines of Romney Marsh.

  Having been involved in county bird report writing in a former life in Bedfordshire I realise how much time and effort goes into such productions, so congratulations are in order to the Kent team of volunteers for such a marvellous ornithological record of 2016. 

Tuesday 21 August 2018

Bedstraw Hawkmoth

Lade - muggy, cloudy start, sunny later, SW 3 - A good number of moths of 26 macro species last night with the undoubted highlight a Bedstraw Hawkmoth, which was new for the site, albeit a bit battered after its long journey from the south.

                                Bedstraw Hawkmoth, new for Plovers trap site

  Birdwise very quiet on the local patch with just a few Common Whitethroats and a Wheatear in the Desert scrub and a couple of Yellow Wagtails over. Called in at ARC this afternoon where two Wood Sandpipers amongst 120 Golden Plovers and 50 Lapwings. The Wryneck was also seen again at Galloways today along with up to 15 Whinchats (SM).
Burrowes - An evening call from SM told of a juvenile Black Tern showing the hallmarks of the American race surinamensis. I was soon on site and in fading light from Makepeace hide watched the bird flying up and down behind the main islands amongst Black Terns. It was noticeably smaller with uniform dark grey upperparts, dark underwings and flanks. I couldn't stay long but hopefully it`ll still be present tomorrow and afford closer views in better light.

Monday 20 August 2018

Juvenile Marsh Harrier

Dungeness - muggy, overcast, light airs - We walked the Trapping Area first thing where a large mixed passerine flock contained several Willow Warblers, Common and Lesser Whitethroats and a Blackcap amongst the tits and Chaffinches. A Tree Pipit flew over calling, plus a Ringed Plover.
  Had another go for the Galloways Wryneck today, without success, although it was seen earlier. Several Whinchats and Stonechats were some compensation, plus a superb close Hobby chasing a Swallow.
  An evening visit to ARC from Screen hide produced my first juvenile Marsh Harrier of the summer sat on an island. As far as I`m aware only one pair nested locally and this bird may have been from that site. Also, two Wood Sandpipers and one Common Sandpiper noted on the islands along with two Garganeys.

                                Juvenile Dabchick, Lade

                                Juvenile Marsh Harrier, ARC

Lade - There was plenty of moths in the garden trap this morning of 25 species, but short on quality apart from some smart White-points. A quick scan of south lake from the aerial mound resulted in just the usual wildfowl.

Saturday 18 August 2018

Spotted Flycatcher

Lade -mild, cloudy, W 2 - These past couple of mornings have been quiet in the garden moth trap with just Angled Shades and Pale Grass Eggar of note, plus a Hummingbird Hawk-moth on the buddleia yesterday.
  My first proper visit to the local patch in over a week yielded very little change apart from a few more Willow and Sedge Warblers on the move in the willow swamp, plus a Greenshank yesterday and several Swifts south this morning. A Dartford Warbler was noted as well as several Stonechats, a trickle of Sand Martins, two Yellow Wagtails over and the first Spotted Flycatcher of autumn this morning.
  Also, early afternoon yesterday, the local Herring Gulls went into meltdown. Eventually I picked up a distant raptor flying towards ARC that appeared to be an Osprey, and was probably the same bird seen at the point around the same time by PB.
Dungeness - On Burrowes today up to 12 Black Terns amongst hundreds of Common Terns and a Green Sandpiper over the car park. Elsewhere, two each of Black-necked Grebe and Wood Sandpiper on ARC and two Whinchats and a Wheatear at Galloways, where a Wryneck was discovered later in the day by RW.

Thursday 16 August 2018

Black Terns

Dungeness/Lade - mild, cloudy, SW 3 - Started off at the point where the first of the days Black Terns noted at the Patch along with 20 Common Terns and a few Sandwich Terns. Offshore a trickle of terns and Gannets west bound.
  On the bird reserve, from Hanson hide, the highlights were at least three Wood Sandpipers and a Spotted Redshank amongst 78 Golden Plovers, 200 Lapwings, two Redshanks, Little Ringed Plover and Common Sandpiper. Also on the islands a Med Gull and Garganey, plus a Black-necked Grebe and Black Tern on the lake. On Burrowes four more Black Terns and hundreds of Common Terns.
  A one hour seawatch from the fishing boats this afternoon produced a steady flow of terns, Gannets and Kittiwakes, plus four Arctic Skuas.

Wednesday 15 August 2018

Folkestone Warren

Folkestone Warren - wet and cloudy - Just spent the past three days at a family gathering camping at Little Switzerland. The camp site overlooked Folkestone Warren with the pitches cut into hillside terraces surrounded by trees and scrub. This morning Lesser Whitethroats were everywhere, calling from cover and showing occasionally, while Common Whitethroats, Blackcaps and Willow Warblers were also noted; what else must go through here in the autumn is anybody`s guess...
  The view from the café terrace looking back along the chalk cliffs towards Samphire Hoe and across the Channel were simply stunning and a two hour watch yesterday produced three Buzzards and two Sparrowhawks west, plus the local Peregrines, Kestrels and Ravens. Other birds noted during our stay were Tawny Owl, Green and Great Spotted Woodpecker, Long-tailed Tits and Bullfinch.
  Yesterday, down on the beach I walked along to Copt Point at low tide where at least 300 Mediterranean Gulls were loafing on the weed-strewn rocks along with hundreds more Black-headed and Herring Gulls, 25 Sandwich Terns and an Arctic Skua that briefly harried the terns before heading west.  

                                Little Switzerland, view from the terrace café

                                Barney chilling in the tent

                                Mediterranean Gulls, Copt Point

                                Common Lizard by the café

Lade - Many thanks to Chris P for calling in this afternoon to show us a superb Death`s-head Hawk-moth found recently along Coast Road, Lydd-on-Sea. 

                                    Death`s-head Hawk-moth, Lydd-on-Sea

Sunday 12 August 2018


Cropredy - Rain, sun, cold, hot, still, windy, the lot! - Just back from the annual Fairport Convention Cropredy festival in the Cherwell valley, Oxfordshire with our friends Stan, Kaz and Dan from Greatstone. A crazy three days of music, beer drinking, eating badly and even crazier weather; on Friday night the temperature dropped to 7C and by midday Saturday it was back up to 25C, and as for the rain...! Despite the mixed weather it was a lot of fun meeting up with old folkie friends from far and wide.
  Thursday`s highlights were our favourites, Oysterband, who`ve now recruited two young `uns from the now defunct Bellowhead, followed by Brian Wilson (from Beach Boys fame) and his orchestra who were superb. Friday`s set was a mixed bag with the Barnsley Nightingale, Kate Rusby, having microphone problems and a very low key, almost acoustic set, from the normally fiery Levellers. However, Cregan and Co and The Travelling Band saved the day with outstanding performances that really got the crowd going.

                                Sunny Cropredy on Saturday afternoon

  And so to Saturday. Following a cold night in the tent we were in the arena early in bright sunshine for Richard Digance, as ever a real festival pleaser with his mix of anecdotes, jokes and bawdy ballards; plus a real tear-jerker about his home town of Salisbury and the aftermath of the nerve gas incidents. Three bands later Sam Kelly and the Lost Boys had just got the place rocking when the rain came down to dampen spirits through the Afro Celt Sound System set. Anyhow, us festival goers are made of stern stuff and we toughed it out until the legendary Al Stewart hit the stage, probably our all time favourite folkie, and he was on fine form along with Dave Nachmanoff and a guest appearance by Ralph Mctell. Eventually the rain relented and Fairport finished the festival with a massive tribute to the late Sandy Denny. A superb festival in great company with loads of laughs, mostly at Stan`s expense! We`ll be back next year for sure.
  Hang on though, isn't this supposed to be a birding blog I hear you say... Well, I did see more Swallows and House Martins over the fields of the Cherwell than I`ve seen all year down here, while Buzzards were regular over the festival site in the afternoon. And on the way home this morning I counted 21 Red Kites through the Stokenchurch cutting on the Chilterns. Normal service will be resumed sometime this week.

Wednesday 8 August 2018

Ocean breeze

Lade - warm, dry, sunny, W4 - Following yesterday evenings uncomfortably humid conditions with thunder and lightening all around, but hardly any rain, this morning dawned bright and breezy as a cooling front swept across from the Atlantic delivering welcome, and `proper British`, summer temperatures. On the local patch two juvenile Dartford Warblers were flitting around the scrub by the cattery, which was something of a surprise considering the stiff breeze whipping across the shingle. In the shelter of the willow swamp more juvenile warblers were noted, mostly Reeds and Whitethroats and a couple of Willows. The Curlew flock and a Whimbrel flew into roost on the shingle as we left site.

                                Curlews flying in to roost

                                            Garden House Sparrows

The recent hot weather has seen us take most of our meals in the back garden these past couple of months under the shade of a gazebo. Common garden birds have provided a rich source of entertainment, particularly `our` House Sparrows, of which we have a resident flock of anything up to 50. Just watching their antics around the feeders, bathing in the pond and generally squabbling as sparrows do is pure joy.
Dungeness - On the bird reserve this morning, from Hanson hide, my first Black-necked Grebe of the autumn on the water amongst hundreds of common wildfowl and gulls, plus Common and Wood Sandpipers, LRPs, Golden Plover, Dunlin and Lapwings. On the left side of the hide in the shelter of the willows a Southern Migrant Hawker was amongst numerous Migrant Hawkers and a few Brown Hawkers.
  On Burrowes hundreds of Common Terns were kept on the move by a military helicopter. When they eventually settled in front of Firth hide at least one juvenile Black Tern was present. Common Sandpipers, LRPs and Ringed Plovers also noted. At Dengemarsh two Great White Egrets and 30 Yellow Wagtails in the weedy field by Springfield Bridge.

                                Black Tern amongst Commons

                                Black Hawk

                                Tern island

Monday 6 August 2018

Willow Warblers

Dungeness - hot, dry, sunny, NE 2 - Another sultry start to the day with 20C from the off. Very few gulls at the Patch and just a handful of Common Terns, although a single Black Redstart was perched on the power station wall near the hide. At the Obs Sedge, Reed and Willow Warblers were being processed, plus a recently fledged Black Redstart.
  A tour of the bird reserve this afternoon commenced at Burrowes with 220 Common Terns in front of Firth hide, plus several each of Common Sandpiper, Ringed and Little Ringed Plovers scattered across the islands. From Hanson hide two Great White Egrets, a Garganey and several Willow Warblers from the boardwalk. Also noted Buzzard, Marsh Harrier, Kestrel and a flyover Bittern.
From Dengemarsh several Snipe, a Wood Sandpiper, a Ruff and two more Great White Egrets.

                                Juvenile Black Redstart and Willow Warbler at DBO

                                Massed ranks of terns and gull in front of Firth hide

Lade - A paltry 15 species of macro moths in the garden trap with the only highlight being another Jersey Tiger. There was no change on the local patch lakes from yesterday.

Sunday 5 August 2018

Sparrowhawk attack

Lade - hot, dry and sunny, E2 - With another hot day in prospect and light airs we were up and about early this morning checking the local patch for any warblers on the move. While a couple of Willow Warblers and Whitethroats were noted by the ponds the latter species could have been local birds, along with several parties of Reed, Sedge and Cetti`s Warblers, all with noisy juveniles begging for food from the adults. In Mockmill a pair of Stonechats fed a late brood while a family of Kestrels made a right old din over by the airport fields.

                                Great Crested Grebe on eggs

  South lake was again rammed with ducks, grebes, swans, Coots and Moorhens all feeding amongst great bundles of Canadian pond weed floating on the surface. My earlier fears of a grebe shortage have been well and truly put to bed as Dabchicks in particular were everywhere this morning with over 50 counted. Great Crested Grebes have now produced plenty of juvs and several were on brood number two on their floating nests.
  Whilst sat down counting wildfowl by the tunnel I noticed a Sparrowhawk winging in over the lake and clobber a Magpie. Pandemonium then ensued as the adults and siblings mobbed the raptor, but to no avail as they lost one of their family. The large female Sparrowhawk carried on plucking the corpse before flying off into the willow swamp to feed her noisy juveniles.
  Numbers in the garden moth trap were much reduced last night, but did include some quality in the form of Jersey and Garden Tigers, Gold Spot, Oak Eggar and the first Shark of the summer.

Saturday 4 August 2018

Pied Flycatcher

Lade - warm, dry, sunny, N 3 - Following a balmy night it was no surprise to find a decent number of moths in the garden trap this morning; 34 species of macros to be exact, including Rest Harrow, Gold Spot and a tatty Small Rufous which was new for the site.
  Plenty of birds on south lake this morning with Green and Common Sandpipers around the margins and a Greenshank that flew off calling loudly towards the water tower. At least 20 Common Terns were plucking small fry from the water, a Great White Egret flew over the willow swamp and a pulse of 50 Sand Martins went south. Around the ponds a family of Cetti`s Warblers were being unusually showy and at least two Willow Warblers and a Whitethroat moved through cover.

                                Gold Spot

Dungeness - Called in at Hanson hide around noon where several each of Common Sandpiper and Little Ringed Plover, my first six Golden Plovers of the season amongst the Lapwings, a Wood Sandpiper, another Great White Egret and two Garganeys. On Burrowes six Avocets and a Black Tern from Firth hide.
  A message from DB told of a Pied Flycatcher on the estate which conveniently showed as soon as I arrived. Another was reported from Galloways this morning.

Thursday 2 August 2018

Mid-week doldrums

Lade/Dungeness - warm, dry, sunny, light airs - The past few days have been much of muchness. After the excitement of last weekend we seem to have hit the birding doldrums; and with clear overnight skies, even the garden moth trap has failed to deliver.
  Being as this is Dungeness though a few bits and pieces can be found around the bird reserve. A Wood Sandpiper seems to have taken up residence on ARC where also several Common Sandpipers, the odd Green, a couple of Blackwits, plus Snipe, Dunlin and Little Ringed Plover coming and going and up to four Garganeys. Bitterns continue to commute between their feeding grounds at Boulderwall and Tower pits to feed young. As yet I`ve not seen any juvenile Marsh Harriers on the wing, but if they have been successful locally they should be out and about soon. Burrowes has also attracted a few common waders while Firth hide is the place to view terns in late afternoon, around 100 Commons, two Blacks and a few Sandwich Terns. The autumn Sand Martin passage is also underway.
  On Lade bay thousands of gulls are present at low tide along with hundreds of Sandwich Terns and the usual large waders. Grey Seal numbers have peaked at 12 on an incoming tide. Around the garden buddleia today up to four Hummingbird Hawk-moths and three Holly Blues, but precious little else.

                               Holly Blue and Hummingbird Hawk-moth