Friday 30 November 2018

Weekly summary

Lade/Dungeness - warm, dry and sunny - Superb day to be out and about in the field with light winds and no rain. At 0700hrs whilst still dark a steady stream of Redwings could be heard passing over the cottage and heading inland. We started off on the local patch where a Dartford Warbler showed briefly along the main track. Great White Egret, Marsh Harrier, Kingfisher, Cetti`s Warbler and Chiffchaff also noted around the willow swamp while Goldeneye were up to six in number across both lakes along with four Shelducks.
   More Goldeneyes, Marsh Harriers and Great White Egrets were seen around the bird reserve, plus a single Cattle Egret on the Boulderwall fields amongst the stock. The walk down to the pines and out the back of Tower pits delivered more Redwings along with several Song Thrushes and Blackbirds, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Sparrowhawk, Long-tailed Tit, Goldcrest and Chiffchaff.
  Elsewhere this week a few White-fronted and Pink-footed Geese have attached themselves to a grey goose flock along with a single Tundra Bean Goose. The flock has been on the fields between Cockles Bridge and Lydd but the farmer tends to moves them on, where bye they decamp to Scotney along with hundreds of feral geese. A handful of Bewick`s Swans are also in the general area, often associating with Mute Swans on the rape-seed fields. Caspian and Yellow-legged Gulls have been located at the point, and roosting on Burrowes, while the sea has the usual wintering birds including the occasional passing Velvet Scoter, Eider and Merganser. Egret numbers have thinned out with just a single Cattle and several Great Whites present.
  The settled weather saw plenty of birders out around the peninsula today enjoying the sunshine, although the forecast is for more rain over the weekend.

Thursday 29 November 2018

Storm Diana

Dungeness - mild, cloudy, SW 6 - A wander down to the fishing boats this morning in windy conditions with the rain clearing delivered a steady westward movement of Gannets, Cormorants, auks, Kittiwakes and Red-throated Divers, plus one flock of six Common Scoters. A 1st winter Caspian Gull flew from the puddles by the fishing boats towards the lighthouse.
  On the bird reserve a Cattle Egret was on the Boulderwall fields, a Great White Egret on a windswept Burrowes and five White-fronts flew over within a grey goose flock towards Cockles Bridge from the access road. There was no change on Lade pits, while the beach was almost impossible to check due to the near gale force wind.

Wednesday 28 November 2018

Winter closes in

Lade - wet and windy - Yesterday it was fog, today a warm, rain-bearing wind from the south in Mordor-like light. This really is a grim time of year, made worse by the run in to the dreaded Christmas feeding frenzy of rampant consumerism and excesses which the besieged planet can more than do without. "Black Friday or Buy now and have the lot before Christmas," the adverts scream - everywhere you look, read or listen in the media its the same message, have more, load up that credit card and get into debt with crap you don't really need, its inescapable. 
  Day and night vast container ships akin to floating blocks of flats pass Dungeness heading for the ports of Felixstowe and Rotterdam to unload cargoes of those `essentials` for the festive season; plastic Santa's, fairy lights and the like at goodness knows what cost to the environment in China and south-east Asia. I can see why some folk bugger off abroad for a month or two to get away from it all, its just so depressing. Still, there`s always the Brexit vote to look forward to next month...
  Anyhow, that's enough ranting for now. Meanwhile on the local patch there is a sense of the natural world settling into winter mode with the arrival of Goldeneyes on the lakes and waders on the bay. Dartford Warblers also appear to have established winter territories in the gorse scrub while Bittern, Bearded Tit and Water Rail are also present in the reedbeds and willow swamp.
  An hour at the fishing boats this morning in the company of MC provided a steady flow of typical winter seabirds offshore in the form of Gannet, Kittiwake, Great Crested Grebe, Red-throated Diver, Guillemot and at least one Razorbill. Before I arrived Eider and Velvet Scoter were also noted. 

Monday 26 November 2018

Grey geese

Lade - grey and overcast - Another gloomy day throughout, although a brief glimpse of a Dartford Warbler by south lake track brightened up a circuit of the local patch where six Goldeneyes, Great White Egret and a Marsh Harrier noted.

                                Bewick`s Swans on the move

St Mary`s Bay - A walk along the foreshore at high tide searching for buntings drew a blank.
Cockles Bridge - An early afternoon call from Martin tipped us off to a large flock of Greylags grazing a distant rape-seed field along with a decent variety of interlopers including five White-fronts and two Pink-footed Geese. Tundra Bean Goose was also present but just out of view. Whilst there four Bewick`s Swans flew in to join the Mutes.
  A second visit later in the afternoon to check for the Bean Goose drew a blank as the grey goose flock had been flushed off the fields by the farmer.

Sunday 25 November 2018

Dunlins on the beach

Saturday - A day trip to Boulogne with the family yesterday while not a birding trip did deliver a few bits and pieces on the drive down the coast road from Calais. Several Buzzards, a covey of six Grey Partridges, hundreds of Lapwings and a field full of mostly Mediterranean Gulls were noted along the way. Around Boulogne harbour there were plenty more gulls including Yellow-legged and at least one Caspian Gull, several Little Egrets and a Black Redstart. At the Calais Channel tunnel terminal on the way home hundreds of Jackdaws roosted on the overhead gantries

                               Dunlins and Barney on the beach

Lade - grey and overcast, E2 - Another grim day with low light and the threat of rain. A circuit of the local patch coincided with an incoming tide where 200 Dunlin were counted on the bay sands along with 200 Curlews, 100 Sanderling and 350 Oystercatchers, plus lesser numbers of Grey and Ringed Plovers and five Shelducks.
  On the lakes two drake Goldeneyes were amongst five redheads, otherwise there was no change in the wildfowl from last week.

Friday 23 November 2018

Winter`s coming...

Dungeness - mild and overcast - A drab sort of day with light airs that got steadily brighter into the afternoon. A walk along the foreshore at the point first thing was almost birdless apart from a few Mipits and Goldfinches overhead. Offshore the usual Gannets, Kittiwakes and auks.

                                Bewick`s Swans, ARC

  There was much more to see on the bird reserve where the two Bewick`s Swans showed well from Hanson hide having just flown in from Cockles Bridge. The islands were packed out with several hundred Lapwing, Shoveler, Teal, Shelduck, Pintail, plus 10 Black-tailed Godwit and two Dunlin. A Bittern broke cover from the far reedbed along with several Bearded Tits and two Marsh Harriers and a Sparrowhawk kept the ducks on the move. Also noted Great White Egret, Goldeneye, Water Rail, Chiffchaff, Kestrel, Long-tailed Tit and Reed Bunting. The bushes down towards the pines attracted several each of Blackbird, Redwing, Fieldfare and Goldcrest.

  The islands on Burrowes were covered in hundreds of black-backed gulls, Cormorants and Lapwings. In amongst the throng were at least two adult Yellow-legged Gulls, a handful of Golden Plovers, two Great White Egrets around the margins and five Goldeneyes on the water. All we needed was a Smew to make it really feel like winter had arrived.
  There was no change at Lade with a Dartford Warbler still present in the gorse scrub beside the main track on south lake.

Thursday 22 November 2018

Bewick`s Swans

Lade - cold and grey - Winter seems to have crept in over the past few days with Goldeneyes on both lakes, Water Rails wailing from the willow swamp and a flyover Bittern in front of the wall `mirror`. A skulking Dartford Warbler showed briefly in the footpath gorse and a couple of Goldcrests and a Chiffchaff had attached themselves to a tit flock by the ponds.
Dungeness - Eventually tracked down the two Bewick`s Swans amongst a flock of Mutes in the oil-seed rape field near Cockles Bridge; up to five have been roosting this week on ARC. From Hanson hide five Goldeneyes, six Pintails, four Shelducks and 250 Shovelers amongst the usual suspects. A cracking adult female Marsh Harrier flew over flushing everything, while a Water Rail fed in front of the hide. Also noted Great and Little Egrets, Snipe and Goldcrest.

Tuesday 20 November 2018


Dungeness - cold and cloudy, E 4 - A grim morning with low cloud, bits and pieces of drizzle and a scudding wind out of the east. A seawatch from the hide around noon delivered a typical wintry scene offshore with up to 100 fishing Gannets, auks fizzing to and fro, several Red-throated Divers, 10 Common Scoters and two eastbound Eiders, always nice to see here. By the Cardinal buoy a mixed flock of gulls on the sea comprised 150 Kittiwakes and six Mediterranean Gulls. We wandered down to the Patch more out of a sense of duty than anything else, what with the outlet pipe turned off for the duration, where a few gulls and Cormorants loafed on the beach and a solitary Peregrine was tucked up out of the wind on B station.

Lade - The windswept pits were fairly desolate with just a single redhead Goldeneye on south lake amongst the usual wildfowl. Elsewhere, the Cattle Egrets remained on the Boulderwall fields, a Goosander dropped onto Burrowes and the first five Bewick`s Swans of the season roosted on ARC last night - winter`s coming...

Sunday 18 November 2018


Lade - cold, dry and sunny, NE4 - Another fine, sunny day but with an increasing wind off the bay. Yesterdays Goldeneyes had moved on from south lake while a Dartford Warbler showed briefly from the track along with three posing Stonechats.
Walland Marsh - Joined CP out on the Marsh for the monthly harrier count this afternoon at our usual spot where up to eight Marsh Harriers came to the roost site, had a look, thought better of it and cleared off elsewhere. Most odd, but something seemed not to their liking. Also seen in the area, Buzzard, Kestrel, Barn Owl, five Ravens, Stonechat, Cetti`s Warbler, Water Rail, Skylark, Mipit, Corn Bunting, 10 Snipe and a Jack Snipe. On adjacent fields plenty of Lapwings and Golden Plovers, plus four Great White Egrets.

Saturday 17 November 2018

Purple Sandpiper

Lade - mild, dry and sunny, E 3 - The day dawned bright and sunny with a fresh easterly airflow encouraging most of yesterdays thrushes and Goldcrests to move inland. A party of five Goldeneyes were new in on south lake and included the first drake of the season. Two Great White Egrets loitered in the shelter of the willow swamp and a Sparrowhawk nipped over, otherwise it was just the usual birds about the site.

                                Purple Sandpiper

Hythe - Spent several hours around midday walking the sea front in glorious sunshine and back along the RMC. A check of the sea defence blocks resulted in just a single Purple Sandpiper at the Stade Street site and ten Turnstones throughout, however there was no chance of a pic as the light was awful and the blocks were full of clambering kids, so the pic above is from the archives. An hour spent gazing out to sea yielded 30 Gannets fishing in the bay, plus two passing Brents, a Bonxie and a Med Gull.
  The canal walk was largely quiet with just a few thrushes, Goldcrests and a Grey Wagtail of note. 

Friday 16 November 2018

Pallid Swift

Lade - misty and murky - A grim start to the day with low cloud and a fine drizzle coming and going to the background bleating of the Dungeness foghorn. A few thrushes had dropped in overnight with 20 Blackbirds, 10 Fieldfares and five Song Thrushes scattered across the site, plus several Goldcrests by the ponds, 20 Mipits on the Desert and a Great Spotted Woodpecker on a power line pole.
  As the afternoon progressed the gloom got worse (despite a contrary weather forecast) and the temperature dropped as the wind picked up from an easterly vector. More Goldcrests moved through the garden fir trees and as dusk approached five Redwings dropped in to roost.

                                Pallid Swift over New Romney

New Romney - News came through this morning that yesterdays Pallid Swift had kindly stayed on and was performing over the town centre; chances are that it may have roosted on the church and been delayed by the poor weather conditions. Anyhow, by the time I arrived on site it was flying over the Sussex Road area where it was much appreciated by a gaggle of local birders and a few bemused passing members of the public. Most of the time the swift was quite high but did descend to show off a bright white throat patch and afford some dodgy pics with the bridge camera, although there was no chance of discerning any plumage detail in the poor light and drizzle. The flight mode was ponderous while the wing tips appeared blunt but both identification pointers are subjective on a lone bird. Luckily it was seen and photographed well yesterday and identified as a Pallid Swift, with the splayed primary tips on the right wing confirming it to be the same individual that was in Norfolk on Wednesday! Incredible, and a great find by Chris Philpott.

Thursday 15 November 2018

Scotney Wildfowl Refuge

Scotney - mild and murky - Spent the morning checking for grounded passerines on the front fields around the farm and outback. Mipits and Goldfinches were most numerous along with lesser numbers of Pied Wagtail, Skylark, Stonechat, Starling, Chaffinch, Linnet, Reed and Corn Buntings, but not a sniff of a Twite. A Green Sandpiper flew down the main sewer by the conveyor belt, while Marsh Harrier, Buzzard, Kestrel and Merlin noted outback.

                                One of two Whooper Swans outback

                         Only a few years ago Egyptian Geese were unknown here

  The wetlands were full of geese; over 2,000 mainly Greylag, Canada and Barnacle Geese along with 110 Egyptian, two White-fronts, a Bar-headed and a number of hybrid Snow/Emperor type, plus 150 Mute Swans and two each of Black and Whooper Swans, also of unknown origin (but probably as wild as the Barnacles); the swan flock was feeding in a rape-seed field beyond the dung heap.
  Plenty of Wigeon, Golden Plover, Lapwing, Cormorant and gulls were on the front fields, plus ten Redshanks and two Ruff.

                                "I`m getting too old for this"

Lade - A late afternoon meeting with RSPB on the local patch produced two Dartford Warblers, Great White Egret, Marsh Harrier and hundreds of Jackdaws over to roost. Also this afternoon CP found a swift flying over the Cockreed Lane/St Mary`s Lane area of New Romney.

Wednesday 14 November 2018

Dartford Warblers

Lade - warm, dry and sunny, S 3 - These past couple of mornings trudging around the local patch has been a joy in the unseasonably mild weather, but we`re making the most of it as next week looks set to go downhill with an icy blast from the east forecast. However, a couple of skulking Dartford Warblers have been faithful to the gorse scrub by the Badgers sett beside south lake along with three showy Stonechats as markers.

  The overhead passage of finches has been reduced to a trickle (not that its exactly been a flood this autumn) and were outnumbered this morning by Skylarks and a late Grey Wagtail. Yesterday a Green Sandpiper flew in from the bay calling wildly although I couldn't find it today in its favoured spot in the willow swamp where the islands are fast disappearing due to the recent rains. On the water today flocks of 50 Wigeon and seven Egyptian Geese were new in, while Buzzard, Marsh Harrier and Sparrowhawk noted behind the `mirrors`.
  Goldcrests were much in evidence around the ponds along with several Chiffchaffs, the resident Cetti`s Warblers and where one or two Common Darters are still on the wing.
Dungeness - En-route to the visitors centre seven Cattle Egrets showed well amongst the cows at Boulderwall. A circular walk for 18 guests took place in glorious sunshine with plenty of insects on the wing including bees, wasps, Common Darters and two Red Admirals. We had superb views of up to six Marsh Harriers, two Buzzards and four Great White Egrets around the circuit, plus six Pintails amongst the ducks, hundreds of Lapwings over, Cetti`s Warblers, Goldcrest, Reed Bunting and Tree Sparrow on the car park feeders. 

                                Cattle Egrets and Teal

Monday 12 November 2018


Dungeness - mild, cloudy, S3 - An early morning wander around the point in blustery conditions had a distinctly end of season feel to it. A few Goldfinches and Chaffinches drifted over along with a lone Skylark and a couple of Mipits, while in the lighthouse garden several Goldcrest called from cover and a flushed Blackbird fled inland. Lade was similarly quiet with no change from the weekend,
                                Kittiwakes off the fishing boats

  An hour at the fishing boats this afternoon produced a decent enough return with over 200 Kittiwakes up-Channel and on the water, 50 auks, 20 Gannets, 30 Sandwich Terns and three Mediterranean Gulls. A 1st winter Yellow-legged Gull was the only gull of note around the puddles.

Sunday 11 November 2018

Weekend reflections

Lade - mild, wet and windy - The weekend was dominated by strong, gusty winds from the south accompanied by heavy rain showers, particularly yesterday morning when an inch fell in a couple of hours. Walking the local patch wasn't much fun and apart from a few Mipits and Goldfinches out back, plus Goldcrests in the garden passerines were few and far between.
  However, we had a little more fortune on the wetlands with Goldeneye, Shelduck and Pintail (scare here) the pick of the ducks on the WeBS Count, three Great White Egrets and a Bittern in the reedbeds and several Water Rails calling from the willow swamp. Kingfisher, Cetti`s Warbler, Marsh Harrier and Sparrowhawk also noted.
  Today, after an early soaking, we headed down to Folkestone with the family for Armistice Day and joined thousands of people at Sunny Sands which was one of 32 British beaches selected for the Pages of the Sea project devised by Danny Boyle, and very moving it was too. It was then onto the Leas war memorial for the Remembrance Day commemoration.
  Every year at this time I reflect on three people in particular: my granddad who survived the entire First World War and lost both his brothers, my father-in-law who was captured at Crete in the Second World War and an old shipmate of mine who died in the Falklands War.
  What a lucky generation ours is never to have experienced such horrors.

Friday 9 November 2018


The Midrips - mild, cloudy, S 4 - An early morning visit to check the lagoons on the ranges drew a near blank on the wader front with just three Turnstones the only birds present, plus a few Curlew, Oystercatcher, Redshank and Knot along the foreshore. There was no sign of last weekends Lesser Yellowlegs, but that's not to say it isn't still tucked away somewhere in this large series of brackish lagoons. Whilst checking out a couple of Goldcrest in the coastguard cottage tamarisks five Fieldfares flew in off the sea, our first of the autumn.
  Fortunately the tide was still out enabling access to the ranges along the beach, although we only just made it back in time before the sea cut off our retreat to the wooden stairs through the sea defence blocks; clambering over the rocks by the guardhouse is a risky business when burdened with optics and a small terrier!

                                Sea defences, Jury`s Gap

Scotney - Another session searching for the Twite in blustery weather conditions also failed although there was a fair sized mixed flock of Starlings and Goldfinches around the farm buildings along with a few Chaffinch, Linnet, Stonechat and Mipit; the Twite could easily still be lurking somewhere hereabouts. On the front fields hundreds of feral geese, Golden Plovers and Lapwings.
Dungeness - From Hanson hide eight Blackwits, Dunlin and Goldeneye the highlights, plus the usual wildfowl and egrets, a Peregrine, Goldcrest and Chiffchaff. On the fields at Boulderwall at least five Cattle Egrets amongst the cow herd and several hunting Marsh Harriers and Buzzards. A windswept Burrowes was predictably quiet with just the usual egrets, wildfowl and Cormorants on show.

Thursday 8 November 2018

Weird Weather

Lade - warm, dry and sunny, S2 - The weather has certainly been a bit odd of late with gale force winds and rain for much of yesterday culminating in an evening deluge of hail and rain followed by a stupendous bolt of lightening that must`ve struck quite close to the cottage as the ground shook setting off several car alarms out in the road!
  However, this morning was much more benign and remained mild. From the back garden at dawn a few passerines passed overhead, mostly Chaffinch, Mipit and Goldfinch along with a few Skylark, Greenfinch, Siskin and Redpoll. Outback more grounded finches, larks and pipits and one Song Thrush. On south lake two Shelduck amongst 100 Shoveler, plus two Great White Egrets and Marsh Harrier by the main reedbed and two Brent Geese overhead. Several Goldcrests and a Chiffchaff called from the willow swamp. The interpretive sign along the main track has again been vandalised for the umpteenth time by an unknown moron; I feel like setting up a camera trap to nail him/her (probably an irate dog-walker).
  A check of the beach delivered two late Sandwich Terns, seven species of shorebirds, 10 Shelducks and two Brent Geese.

                                Sandwich Terns

Tuesday 6 November 2018

Short-eared Owl

Dungeness - mild, cloudy, SE 3 - A wander around the point first thing in shorts weather produced very little in the bushes apart from a Firecrest in the lighthouse garden, a scattering of Goldcrests and a couple of Chiffchaffs. Overhead a light passage of Goldfinches, Chaffinches and one or two Siskins and Redpolls. Considering a favourable wind direction a seawatch resulted in only a handful of Kittiwakes and Gannets, plus a Bonxie down-Channel, while the sea was empty down towards the Patch where the outlet pipe is offline until sometime next year.
Scotney - Spent a couple of hours late morning checking through the passerines around the farm buildings. Skylark, Corn Bunting, Tree and House Sparrow, Linnet, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Mipit, Stonechat, Starling and Pied Wagtail all noted in variable numbers but there was no sign of the Twite seen earlier. Also noted several Kestrels, a Merlin and hundreds of feral geese, Golden Plovers and Lapwings on the front fields.
Lade - A late scan from the Desert end of south lake was notable for a distant Short-eared Owl hunting Mockmill. There was no change in the wildfowl and grebe numbers from last week.

Monday 5 November 2018

Skegness Weekender

Skegness, Lincs - Pat and I are just back from a long weekend `up north` with our old friends Pat and Stuart from Dunstable at a 1970`s music festival at Skegness. A real blast from the past with old Glam Rocker favourites such as Mud, Sweet and Slade still going strong in their various guises complete with a few original band members; the last time I saw all three was in 1973/4 when they still had hair and were all very much alive! Cockney Rebel and The Blockheads could still knock out a tune, although sadly Steve Harley looked like a man not long for this world.
  I`m not normally a fan of tribute acts but Clearwater Creedence Revival did put on a decent show. However, as is often the case at festivals, there is nearly always a surprise act which knocks you out and that accolade went to Phil Bates & The Berlin String Orchestra who performed the music of ELO. They were simply superb and are currently on tour around the UK, so if you`re a lover of the great Jeff Lynne`s tunes I would highly recommend catching up with them some time.

  Crossing the Fenland en-route to and from Skegness I had forgotten what a desolate place the flatlands are with vast open fields of brassicas, spuds and corn and hardly a bird to be seen anywhere apart from a few Buzzards and Kestrels perched on roadside posts.
  However, things were much better along the coast where on two mornings we walked along the foreshore noting hundreds of sea duck moving south, mainly Eiders and Common Scoters along with a few Velvet Scoters and Red-breasted Mergansers, plus several parties of Brents. The beach slacks at low tide attracted a good number of waders, particularly Redshank, Curlew and Dunlin.
  Around the Butlin`s complex Goldcrests were numerous and some of the Blackbirds, Robins and Song Thrushes were probably migrants. On Sunday night a steady overhead passage of Redwings could be heard coming in off the North Sea.

                                Skegness foreshore and The Lincs Wind Farm