Tuesday 30 October 2018

Dartford Warbler

Lade - cold, cloudy, NW 4 - Another nippy day with a cold wind out of the north and bits and pieces of drizzle making for miserable birding conditions. Decided to check out the scrub towards Kerton Road pit where a highly vocal Dartford Warbler was calling from the broom scrub behind Williamson Road; during half an hour it only showed briefly out in the open twice before flying into a back garden.
  Further out on the Desert a pipit kept me busy for a while creeping about in the long grass and eventually disappearing into a gorse thicket. A bright supercilium and heavy streaking suggested a Tree Pipit type (although its very late for that) but at no stage did I get a really good view of it.
St Mary`s Bay - A walk along the foreshore from the breakwater to Littlestone checking for buntings and larks drew a blank. Turnstone, Sanderling, Grey Plover and eight Sandwich Terns noted on the beach. The garden by the car park attracted Goldcrest, Robin, Blackbird and Chaffinch.
Dungeness - A couple of visits to Boulderwall and the point this afternoon to search for a Rough-legged Buzzard seen earlier drew another blank.

Monday 29 October 2018


Dungeness - cool, cloudy, NE 4 - A brisk north-easterly airflow over the past couple of days has seen good numbers of seabirds (particularly Pom Skuas and Little Auks) passing headlands along the east coast of England including north Kent. The hope was that some would come our way from the southern North Sea and be blown along the Channel and while there has been some movement, as yet, we`ve not received anything like the numbers and variety of seabirds recorded just `around the corner`.
  However, seawatching from the fishing boats has delivered a steady flow of Brent Geese, Gannets and scoters, including at least four Velvets this morning. Wigeon, Teal and Shelduck have all been on the move along with a trickle of Red-throated Divers, Sandwich Terns, auks and Red-breasted Mergansers. Kittiwakes and Med Gulls continue to be present offshore, but in nothing like the numbers of a week ago.
  Incoming migrants have been sparse with hundreds of Starlings in the ascendancy, a few larks and pipits, coasting finches and this morning, just before I arrived, a ringtail Hen Harrier, only the second such sighting of the year.  
  Checks of the bay at high tide for any wind blown seabirds have so far drawn a blank apart from a few distant Gannets and scoters. There has been no change to the birds on Lade pits.

Saturday 27 October 2018

Sun Bittern

Lade - cold, sunny, NW 3 - The much forecast cold front from the north swept over the Marsh overnight with dawn heralding the first frost of the season. I wasn't expecting a great deal from this mornings circular walk but almost immediately flushed two Ring Ouzels, several Blackbirds and a Redwing from cover by the cattery, from where a single Dartford Warbler briefly posed atop the gorse along with two Stonechats, Reed Bunting and Chaffinches. On the lakes two Great White Egrets and our first Goldeneye on north reinforced the wintry feel. Buzzard, Marsh Harrier and Sparrowhawk also noted, plus Cetti`s Warbler, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Little Egrets, Kingfisher and Chiffchaff around the ponds.

                               Sunbathing Bittern

  However, bird of the morning was undoubtedly a Bittern, a regular winter visitor at Lade and a species not to be ignored however long you`ve been birding. The far side of the willow swamp reedbed was in complete shelter from the nippy wind and in full sunshine and much to the liking of this Bittern which sunbathed for at least an hour, fully in the open!
  Two visits to the bay delivered the obligatory waders, a few Sandwich Terns and Med Gulls.

                               Curlew and Dunlin on the bay

Friday 26 October 2018

Weekly Summary

Lade - cool and cloudy - Pretty much the same fare these past two days on the local patch with up to five Great White Egrets around the margins of south lake and a small flock of Shelducks coming and going on the high tides. Two Ring Ouzels were present in Mockmill this morning while the Dartford Warblers remained in the gorse scrub beside south lake track. Small numbers of Stonechat, Linnet, Chiffchaff and Mipits are scattered across the site. With only eight moths in the garden trap last night and colder weather forecast I decided to pack away the moth trap for the season - winter is a comin...
  On the bird reserve egrets have been commonplace this week with up to 20 Great Whites easily outnumbering Littles, while the seven Cattle Egrets have remained faithful to the suckling herd in the Hayfields. The reed beds have plenty of Water Rails and Bearded Tits and a few Bitterns with Screen and Hanson hides the favoured locations for the best chance of actually seeing one.  Raptors are also present in good numbers, particularly Kestrel, Buzzard and Marsh Harrier, plus Peregrine, Merlin, Sparrowhawk and even a Barn Owl has been seen on the wing from the access road late afternoons.
  On the passerine front Ring Ouzels have favoured the scrub to the north of Hookers and the Return Trail with others noted along the railway line behind Tower Pits. Finches, tits, Chiffchaff, Goldcrest and thrushes are also best looked for in these areas.
  The islands from Hanson hide have attracted a mobile flock of some 500 Golden Plovers and Lapwings all week along with an assortment of Avocet, Ringed Plover, Grey Plover, Dunlin, Ruff, Snipe, Black-wit, Curlew, Redshank and Spotted Redshank. Up to 11 species of shorebirds are also present on the bay with the best viewing point being Littlestone at low tide.
  With north-westerly winds seawatching off Dungeness has been steady this week to say the least. However, hundreds of Med Gulls and Kittiwakes are still offshore and there is always the chance of a few passing Brents, divers, scoters, auks, terns and the odd skua. Overhead visible migration has been virtually non-existent.

                                Sunset over Lade Desert

Wednesday 24 October 2018

Dartford Warblers and Bittern

Lade - warm, dry and sunny, light airs - Another superb day of weather, and maybe the last for a while if the forecast is to be believed. The local patch struck gold with two Dartford Warblers in the scrub by south lake track and a Woodlark over the back of north lake amongst 10 Skylarks. A flock of up to five Chiffchaffs kept us busy for a while by the ponds with one individual showing no green tones at all. Also noted around the local patch: three Marsh Harriers, Buzzard, nine Shelducks, four Great White Egrets, six Stonechat, Mipits, Linnets and 50 Curlews over to roost.

                                Bittern, ARC

ARC - From Hanson hide we had brief views of a Bittern moving along the far reedbed. On the islands 200 Goldies, 200 Lapwings, Snipe, six Dunlins, four Blackwits and three Ruff which were regularly disturbed by Marsh Harriers. The two Goldeneyes were still on the lake, a Great Spotted Woodpecker by the Willow Trail and a Clouded Yellow butterfly on the track to the hide.
  In summary a pretty decent three days birding for our guest, in fine weather, during which we time racked up 105 species.

Tuesday 23 October 2018

Cattle Egrets

Dungeness - cool, cloudy start, warm and sunny later, wnw2 - A steady days birding commenced with a couple of hours seawatching from the fishing boats and then the hide. Over 200 Mediterranean Gulls were still loitering offshore along with 50 Kittiwakes and a trickle of Gannets, Common Scoters, auks and Sandwich Terns, plus 25 Brents, four Shelducks, two Wigeon and a Red-throated Diver. Harbour Porpoise and Grey Seal also noted. There was very little on the land apart from a few finches and Mipits.

                                Cattle Egrets, Hayfield 3

  Moving onto a busy bird reserve the circular walk delivered seven Cattle Egrets in Hayfield 3, and for once they were nice and close to the path amongst the suckling herd so showed well. Also noted on Dengemarsh: several Marsh Harriers, Buzzards, Great White Egrets, Ruff, Snipe and a Merlin. On ARC much as yesterday on the wader and wildfowl front with the highlight being a dramatic Sparrowhawk attack on a Lapwing, which looked as though it might be successful until a crow came to the rescue and chased the hawk away. Another Merlin was noted along with good views of Tree Sparrows on the Boulderwall feeders.

                                Tree Sparrow and Kestrel, Boulderwall

                                Little Owl sunbathing

  A Little Owl was seen by the watch towers at Lydd camp while a couple of White-fronts were hiding amongst the many feral geese at Scotney; sadly, quite a few were showing signs of gunshot injury.
  We ended the day on Walland Marsh where at least ten each of Buzzard and Marsh Harrier noted, plus 20 Skylarks and two Corn Buntings.

Monday 22 October 2018

Ferrets and waders

Dungeness - cool, dry, sunny, N3 - Cooler than of late due to a northerly airflow, although bright sunshine. A wander around the point delivered few birds with only singles of Song Thrush, Redwing, Goldcrest and Reed Bunting noted and nothing moving overhead apart from a few Goldfinches. However, all was not lost as I spent some time reminiscing with two blokes ferreting for rabbits by the Old Lighthouse; Barney was keen to get involved too! Also, on show at the Obs a couple of old Harvest Mice nests collected by Jacques during his surveys out on Walland, what fabulously intricate structures.

                                Working Ferret

                                Harvest Mouse nest

Birdwatching Break - Picked Raymond up from Ashford station who`s down for a three day bird tour. We kicked off by the canal at Kenardington where a walk along the north side of the cut  produced a decent enough range of wayside birds including tits, finches, thrushes, Grey Wagtail, Goldcrest, Stonechat and Yellowhammer, plus two Buzzards and Kestrels. Green-veined White, Speckled Wood and Red Admiral were still on the wing in sunny, sheltered corners. Many of the ash trees were suffering from `die back`.

                                Speckled Wood from Willow Trail

  Moving down to Dungeness and from Hanson hide a few Goldies, Lapwings, two Avocets, Dunlin, Snipe and Blackwit on the islands, the usual wildfowl, three Shelducks, Marsh Harrier and Water Rail, plus two Goldeneyes and a Black-necked Grebe on the water and Tree Sparrow on the Boulderwall feeders. From the Willow Trail Speckled Wood and Common Darter bathed in the suns fading rays. En-route to the bay we diverted to DBO to see the Geranium Bronze, an invasive butterfly found by PB in his garden on the Low Weald.
  We finished off the afternoon wader fest with 11 species (15 in total) on the mud and sands at Littlestone including seven Blackwits (unusual here); Sanderling, Ringed and Grey Plovers, Knot and Redshank were all in single figures. Also 12 Shelduck and 15 Sandwich Terns.

Sunday 21 October 2018

Harriers and owls

Dengemarsh - warm, dry and sunny, light airs - A superb morning to be out in the field commenced with a spectacular sunrise over the power station. As we parked by Springfield Bridge seven Cattle Egrets flew in to the mist-wreathed hayfields to feed and already several Marsh Harriers and Great White Egrets were on the wing. We walked the gully to the sea and back which harboured a goodly number of Goldfinches, Chaffinches and, most numerous of all, Robins, plus 10 Goldcrests, 10 Reed Buntings, three Cetti`s Warblers, five Chiffchaffs, Firecrest, Grey Wagtail and 10 Teal. However, there was virtually no overhead passage apart from several flocks of inbound Starlings totalling 500 birds. Also noted four Ravens, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, two Buzzards, four Stonechats, a few Mipits and Skylarks, plus 200 Med Gulls on the sea.

                                  Sunrise over Dungeness

                               "This is way too early for me..."

                                Finches in the sunshine

                                "Cronk-cronk" - surely the most evocative call of any bird

Tower Pits - Quite a few Chiffchaffs, Goldcrests, Blackcaps, tits and Robins in the bushes around the car park. The walk down to the pines and around the back yielded Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers, Blackbird, Song Thrush, 10 Redpolls, Reed Buntings and our first Jay of autumn, plus flyover Siskins, Redpolls, Goldfinches, Skylarks, Redwing and Brambling.  From Hanson hide eight Blackwits and two Great White Egrets.

                               Chiffchaff on a wire


                               Hunting Short-eared Owl

Walland Marsh - Superb end to the day out on the Marsh with CP counting harriers to roost. Fifteen Marsh Harriers eventually flew in at two different sites within the reedbed where both Short-eared and Barn Owl were seen in good light and at close range successfully hunting the adjacent grasslands. Also noted four Buzzards, Kestrel, Snipe, Reed Buntings, Bearded Tit, 50 Golden Plovers, 100 Lapwings and around 500 Greylags flying in as the sun set over Oxney, magical stuff.

                                Sunset on Walland Marsh

Saturday 20 October 2018

Close quarter Merlin

Dungeness - warm, dry and sunny, light airs - We spent most of the morning wandering around the peninsula in glorious autumn sunshine with barely a breath of wind. Along the beach a Wheatear, several Stonechats, Mipits and Linnets were feeding around the new lighthouse while off the boardwalk the sea was covered in 1,000 plus Mediterranean Gulls and score of Gannets. Overhead passage was limited to a few Skylark, Goldfinch, Redpoll and Siskin. The old lighthouse garden was bustling with Goldcrests, tits, Chiffchaffs, Robins, Dunnocks, Goldfinches, Blackbirds and a Tree Sparrow, while at the Obs the ringers were kept busy processing mainly Lesser Redpolls and Goldcrests. More of the aforementioned were present in the Moat and on the walk back to Jarman`s a Ring Ouzel and Song Thrush were flushed from a clump of scrub.

                                Lighthouse Stonechat and Wheatear

                                Goldcrests and Goldfinches, Old Lighthouse Garden

                                Lesser Redpoll, DBO

Spent a most enjoyable two hours this afternoon in Hanson hide where the islands were smothered in over 200 Golden Plovers and 150 Lapwings, plus five Ruff, Blackwit, Curlew and Snipe. Hundreds of Shoveler, Teal, Gadwall, Wigeon, Pintail and a Garganey loafed in the sunshine, while several flyover Marsh Harriers, Peregrine and a Bittern kept the ducks and waders on their toes. Also noted: Kingfisher, Great White Egret, Goldeneye and Water Rail.
  However, if that little lot wasn't enough just as we were leaving a Merlin flew in and perched atop a willow close to the hide. A most un-Merlin like encounter, being as they`re usually seen sat on a hillock or post miles out on the Desert or tearing after Skylark or Linnet overhead. It only perched for a minute or so but what a stunning view before it typically shot off over the islands flushing the waders.
  The Willow Trail sun-traps harboured loads of Migrant Hawkers, Common Darters, Speckled Woods and two Common Lizards on the boardwalk. Chiffchaff, Goldcrest and Blackcap noted in the scrub.
  Finished the afternoon off at the fishing boats where the usual Gannets and gulls were feeding offshore.

                               Female Merlin, ARC

Friday 19 October 2018

Goldcrests at last

Dungeness - warm, dry, cloudy, NE 2 - A wander along the beach from Jarman`s to the lighthouse garden delivered few grounded migrants apart from Linnets, Goldfinches, Mipits and Skylarks, plus a trickle of the aforementioned overhead along with small numbers of Siskin, Redpoll, Chaffinch and Reed Bunting. The scrub around the point harboured the first decent numbers of Goldcrests of  autumn, some of which were being processed at the Obs along with Firecrest and a Yellow-browed Warbler earlier. At the southern end of the Trapping Area Song Thrush, Blackbird and a Ring Ouzel noted.
  At Lade a few more Goldcrests in the Willow Swamp and a couple through the garden fir trees this morning. Also noted in the garden a small flock of Goldfinches on the feeders.

                                Goldcrest, DBO 

Thursday 18 October 2018

Mediterranean Gulls

Lade - mild, cloudy, NNE 3 - A cooler feel to the day due a northerly airflow. We flogged around the local patch with little reward this morning apart from two Grey Wagtails and a Rock Pipit overhead along with a few finches, Skylarks and Mipits. Two Chiffchaffs were in the bushes by the ponds and three Great White Egrets fished the margins of south lake.
  Not such a good night in the garden moth trap last night although Mallow was new for the year and a late Double-striped Pug was of note.
  A check of the sands from Littlestone revealed eight species of shorebirds including 20 Grey Plovers and 100 Sanderlings, plus 50 Mediterranean Gulls, four Brent Geese, 10 Wigeons and five Teal.

                                Mallow moth

             There`s something satisfying about picking squashes and pumpkins

Dungeness - Called in at Hanson hide on the way back from the allotment where the usual Golden Plovers and Lapwings on the islands, plus Ruff, Snipe and Dunlin. Shoveler, Pintail and Wigeon numbers had increased since yesterday while Marsh Harrier, Bittern, Great White Egret and Sparrowhawk flew across the lake.
  An hour at the fishing boats this afternoon delivered a steady trickle of Gannets, Kittiwakes, Med Gulls, Common Scoters, auks and Brents, plus a single Bonxie. Just under 2,000 Med Gulls were seen earlier today between the Patch and Penn Bars (MC), whether these are birds that have dispersed from Copt Point, Folkestone or from elsewhere is unknown.

Wednesday 17 October 2018

Ring Ouzels

Dungeness - warm, dry, cloudy, light airs - A goodish couple of hours at the Point first thing with the lighthouse garden busy with finches, tits, Robins, four Goldcrests (the most I`ve seen all autumn so far), several Blackbirds, a Song Thrush and five Chiffchaffs, plus a calling Yellow-browed Warbler that soon fell silent. A Ring Ouzel flew around the lighthouse calling before eventually disappearing over the power station where a Black Redstart was noted. Overhead a few Goldfinches, Siskins, Mipits and Skylarks.
  A circular walk of the bird reserve this morning for five guests delivered highlights of 200 Goldies and 12 Great White Egrets on Burrowes, Ring Ouzel from the Return Trail, five Marsh Harriers, Ruff, Snipe, Bearded Tit and Raven on Dengemarsh. The warm sunshine and light airs encouraged a myriad of insects onto the wing including scores of Red Admirals (some barely able to fly they were so battered), Speckled Woods, Small Copper and a Common Blue, plus plenty of Migrant Hawkers and Common Darters.

                               Worn female Common Blue

                               Buzzard, Mockmill

Lade - Another Ring Ouzel at the back of Mockmill this afternoon hurtled over towards the `mirrors`. Also noted four Great White Egrets, two Swallows, Buzzard and Marsh Harrier. The garden moth trap was once again bulging with Black Rustics, plus Plumed Fan-foot, Vestal, Delicate and Silver Y amongst the migrants and Angle Shades, 10 Large Wainscots, White-points and Blair`s Shoulder-knot.

                                Angle Shades, Large Wainscot and Vestal

Monday 15 October 2018

Yellow-browed Warblers

Lade - warm, dry and sunny, light airs - Following light overnight rain and low cloud it had all the hallmarks of a decent migrant day, only not at Lade! I couldn't even find a Chiffchaff around the ponds, but on the plus side had a record count of egrets - 13 Little and seven Great Whites, most of which were in a flock in the willow swamp.

                                Egret flock, Willow Swamp

However, whilst viz migging and bemoaning the lack of migrants news from DB told of a Yellow-browed Warbler he`d just found in his garden at Dungeness...

                                Garden sprite

Dungeness - And sure enough it showed like a good un to a small gathering of local birders. Most of the time it was feeding in a Sycamore or fir tree and on my second visit was also highly vocal. Another great find by Dave. Whilst there news came through from the Obs of another bird caught in the Trapping Area, so a short while later we were admiring another of these gorgeous, stripy sprites this time in the hand.

                               Yellow-browed Warbler, DBO

Sunday 14 October 2018

Asian Hornet

Lade - Saturday - warm, dry and windy, S 5 - I wasn't expecting much this morning due to a strong southerly wind blowing across the shingle, but almost the first bird noted was a Short-eared Owl being mobbed by two crows out on the Desert towards the water tower, which was our first of the autumn. Also present a Wheatear and Stonechat, plus five Swallows scuttling south. On south lake two Great White Egrets, a Sandwich Tern and flight views of a Bittern. Very quiet passerine wise with only a few Chiffchaffs and Goldfinches seen in the sheltered willow swamp.
  In the afternoon I tried a one hour seawatch from the beach looking across the sea just after high tide. Most birds were distant but did included 100 Gannets, 50 Kittiwakes, 20 Med Gulls and 30 Sandwich Terns.
  The weather continued unseasonably warm with 22C recorded in the garden early afternoon.

                                Sandwich Tern over south lake

                                Turnstone, Lade bay

                               Great White Egret, Lade

Sunday - warm, dry, cloudy, SSE 2 - Dungeness - With lighter winds this morning we walked the peninsula from the lifeboat station to the Obs, but there were few grounded migrants and no sign of any wheatears. Viz mig comprised a steady trickle of Swallow, Mipit, Skylark, Goldfinch, alba wagtails, Siskin (one flock of 30), Greenfinch and Chaffinch. Plenty of Kestrels were noted along with one or two Chiffchaffs, Stonechats, Blackbirds and Song Thrushes, but no sign of the Wryneck at the southern end of the Desert. From the fishing boats a flock of 50 Mediterranean Gulls was noteworthy.
  A check of the local patch at Lade revealed two Great White Egrets, Sparrowhawk, Marsh Harrier, Green Woodpecker, Goldfinches over and a few Chiffchaffs by the ponds.
  An afternoon visit to ARC yielded few waders from Hanson hide apart from Ruff and Golden Plover, plus Black-necked Grebe and Pintails on the lake. There was no sign of the Yellow-browed Warbler and Ring Ouzels on Tower Pits. Very quiet on Burrowes with just the usual egrets, ducks and Cormorants.
  At the fishing boats hundreds of Kittiwakes and Med Gulls offshore, plus Sandwich Terns, a few auks and Gannets and up to 10 Arctic Skuas. Popped into the Obs on the way home to view the Asian Hornet, a magnificent but unwelcome beast.

                                          Asian Hornet, DBO