Sunday 31 March 2019


Lade - A weekend of two differing parts weather wise with warm sunshine and light airs on Saturday, followed by a much fresher feel today with a stiff north-easterly off the sea attracting crowds of kite-surfers onto the bay. On the local patch yesterdays migrants comprised two Wheatears and several Chiffchaffs, plus Black-necked Grebe, four Stonechats, 10 Linnets, 10 Mipits, Skylark, Marsh Harrier and Med Gulls over.

                                Wheatear and Linnet from yesterday

                                Displaying Oystercatchers

 Whilst cutting Barney`s coat this morning a first garden Firecrest of spring showed well in the firs trees and around the pond, as always a real treat even though they are regularly seen on passage here. An afternoon check of the lake resulted in another Firecrest and a Swallow through heading north. I must`ve spent a good hour watching two pairs of Oystercatchers as they went about their nuptials on the shingle, but mostly on the roof of a house in Derville Road. Definitely my favourite wader.
Dungeness - A morning seawatch from the point delivered a trickle of Brent Geese and Common Scoters up-Channel, a few Gannets, Sandwich Terns, four Teal, two Mergansers and a duck Eider that flew towards the Patch. On the land Stonechat, Mipit and Linnet noted, while the Peregrines were active around the power station complex.

Friday 29 March 2019

Water Pipits

Dengemarsh - warm, dry and sunny, light airs - Once the sea fret dispersed (it didn't fully clear all day) it was a pleasant spring morning which encouraged several Marsh Harriers and Buzzards to thermal into the ether. We walked the gully which was fairly quiet apart from a couple of Wheatears at the bottom and a sprinkling of Linnets, Mipits, Reed Buntings and Chiffchaffs along the way. A Raven flew over calling and a flock of 50 Brents went up-Channel.

                                Water Pipit country

  From Springfield Bridge a Bittern could be heard booming, while an immature Marsh Harrier glided over flushing the few wildfowl on the lake. The flood and hayfield 3 were devoid of birds apart from a few Greylags and there wasn't a sniff of a Lapwing, displaying or otherwise. At first glance hayfield 1 looked similarly barren until several Water Pipits popped up briefly and wandered along a flooded margin. Eventually after an hours searching at least eight were located.
  Elsewhere, on the field next to Lydd allotments the four Cattle Egrets were still present, as was a pair of Whooper Swans in the field by Cockles Bridge.

                                Barney enjoying the spring sunshine

Thursday 28 March 2019

Garganeys and Water Pipits

Dungeness - mild, overcast, light airs - A memorable day on the bird reserve for two species of classic early spring migrants: Garganey and Water Pipit. Four drake Garganey on ARC, viewable from Hanson hide all day, were joined by two pairs on Burrowes during the afternoon, making at least eight birds across the site. On the hayfields up to eight Water Pipits were reported, although typically these were more difficult to watch as they crept about in the long grass and flew around calling; at least two being pink-breasted individuals. Also noted around the reserve today 10 Ruff, two Ravens, a `booming` Bittern, 10 Sand Martins, four Goldeneyes and our first singing Willow Warbler at the back of Tower pits. 

                               Some of today`s Garganeys

                                Good to see the art of fieldcraft is alive and well...

A late afternoon check of the local patch to see whether any more Garganey had dropped in drew a blank. However, three Goldeneyes and a Black-necked Grebe were on south lake and two Med Gulls flew over calling.

Wednesday 27 March 2019

Heron attack!

Dungeness - warm, dry and cloudy, light airs - Spent the first part of the morning on the peninsula searching for migrants on the Desert of which there were very few apart from several Chiffchaffs. There was, however, plenty of breeding activity from Reed Buntings, Stonechats, Meadow Pipits and Skylarks.
  We then checked out ARC/Tower Pits where both Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers noted at the pines along with a few tits and finches, plus a Golden Plover overhead calling forlornly, a `booming` Bittern, two Goldeneyes on the lake, a Sparrowhawk through and several soaring Buzzards and Marsh Harriers. At least 10 Tree Sparrows were active around the car park scrub.
  So, a pretty decent Birdwatching Break for Clare and Peter during which time we rattled up a respectable 93 species including a good combination of migrants and breeding birds.

                                Willow Trail

Lade - A late afternoon stroll over the pits in gloomy light delivered Black-necked Grebe and Goldeneye on south lake. A Grey Heron gliding along the coastal strip searching for ponds incurred the wrath of the local bully boys and was soon chased out of town by a gang of six Herring Gulls. The thugs soon had the heron pinned down on the shingle and could`ve caused serious damage until we intervened, after which the distraught heron eventually got airborne and dropped down into a reedbed for a breather before flying off inland apparently none the worse for its mugging.

                                One battered Grey Heron

Tuesday 26 March 2019


Dungeness - warm, dry and sunny, light airs - A much better day for birding due to lighter winds. We worked our way around the peninsula where the highlights were several Black Redstarts (including a stunning male), Stonechats, Wheatears, Chiffchaffs, Linnets, Meadow Pipits and a Dartford Warbler, plus a Peregrine on a pylon by A station.

                                      Black Redstart and Wheatear, Dungeness

  En-route to the bird reserve we paused for a Black-necked Grebe on New Diggings and Tree Sparrows at Boulderwall. The circular walk produced 10 distant Buzzards soaring over the water tower; 10 Ruff, three Avocets and two Goldeneyes on Burrowes; Bearded Tit, Bittern and Water Rail vocalising from the viewing ramp, plus the usual wildfowl, Marsh Harriers, Cetti`s Warblers, Great White and Little Egrets.
  We completed the afternoon at the fishing boats with a 90 minute seawatch recording 15 Red-throated Divers, 20 Sandwich Terns, Common Scoter, Gannets and a flock of 18 Brent Geese, while at least six Porpoises fished close to shore amongst the Cormorants.

                                Brent Geese on the move

Monday 25 March 2019

Black-necked Grebe

Lade - cold, dry, sunny, nnw 4 - A cracking start to the day with bright sunshine and a nippy northerly airflow. Following a crystal clear night it was no surprise that there were few migrants about apart from a lone Swallow over and several singing Chiffchaffs around the willow swamp. However, the first two Black-necked Grebes of spring put in a welcome appearance on south lake, alongside two Goldeneyes and the few remaining Teal, Pochard and Shoveler, plus good numbers of Little and Great Crested Grebes. Oystercatcher, Marsh Harrier, Sparrowhawk, Cetti`s Warbler, Reed Bunting and Stonechat all noted around the site.

                                Two male Wheatears, Dengemarsh gully

Dengemarsh - Having picked up Clare and Peter from Ashford for a three day Birdwatching Break at Plovers we headed back down to coast where we spent a couple of hours birding the gully. Despite  the brisk wind we managed to locate two male Wheatears, a female Black Redstart, Goldcrest, 10 Linnets, Meadow Pipits and at least 10 Chiffchaffs, plus superb views of a pair of Ravens, a Peregrine alighting on a pylon and a Weasel. The hayfields were less profitable with just a handful of Lapwings. From Springfield Bridge the usual wildfowl and a distant Marsh Harrier.
  From the Lydd Road by the allotment the three Cattle Egrets were in the sheep fold close to the gateway affording cracking close views.

                                 Cattle Egrets, Lydd Road

Greatstone beach - From the Tavern viewpoint we scanned the sands for yesterdays KP without success. However, there was plenty to see in bright afternoon sunshine on a falling tide including 320 Curlews, 15 Ringed Plovers, 50 Sanderlings, 10 Dunlins, 30 Mediterranean Gulls and 80 Sandwich Terns.

                                Sarny Terns and Med Gulls, Greatstone beach

Sunday 24 March 2019

Kentish Plover

Lade  - warm, dry and sunny, light airs - A mix of weather over the weekend commenced with mild, overcast conditions on Friday night that resulted in a heavy passage of winter thrushes, mainly Redwings, over the cottage plus a few Blackbirds and Song Thrushes.
  There was little change to the birding scene across the peninsula although last night being cold and clear meant that there were fewer Wheatears, Chiffchaffs and Black Redstarts present, while a Rough-legged Buzzard was reported on Walland Marsh yesterday evening (CP).

                                Littlestone golf links

Littlestone - This morning we did a circular walk along the foreshore and back along the golf links. On the bay five Redshank, six Grey Plover and 80 Sandwich Terns were the best of the bunch. The land was busy with dog-walkers and golfers, but there were plenty of Skylarks and Meadow Pipits in song over the rough grass margins. One particular grassy patch by a golfers shelter seemed to attract a good few of the aforementioned plus 20 Linnets, several Pied Wagtails, a Wheatear and a Rock Pipit of the Scandinavian race, plus another probable that flushed off when a group of golfers approached.

  This afternoon, along with a sprightly crowd of local birders, we called in at DBO to celebrate David Walker`s anniversary tenure as observatory warden. Congratulations David on 30 years of sterling service.
Greatstone Beach - Late news this afternoon concerned a female Kentish Plover on the beach found by Owen L at one of this plover`s former traditional haunts. This is the first bay record in my time and very well received it was too by a steady trickle of locals.

                                Adult female Kentish Plover, Greatstone beach.

Friday 22 March 2019

Black Redstarts

Dungeness - mild, overcast, light airs - Another decent morning for early spring migrants with a scattering of Black Redstarts, Wheatears, Chiffchaffs and Goldcrests across the point plus Firecrest and Blackcap in the old lighthouse garden. Pairs of Stonechats and Meadow Pipits were in breeding mode singing and nest building, while a pair of Peregrines sat atop the pylons by the power station imperiously surveying their kingdom. The sea was quiet once again with just a trickle of Brents and Common Scoters through.

                                Migrant Black Redstarts and Wheatear

                               Breeding Meadow Pipit and Stonechat

Lade - The Environment Agency were on site today checking on the fish quality from an inflatable. As a result all the wildfowl were on north lake including three Goldeneyes and 20 Teal. There was no change to the birds around the RSPB reserve today, while the Cattle Egrets and Whooper Swans are still being seen along the Lydd Road.
  I ran the garden moth trap for the third time this spring and at last got a result; well, three moths to be precise! Twin-spotted Quaker, Common Quaker and Hebrew Character.
  It also felt good to have my old four legged friend back up and running this morning following an enforced lay off due to a damaged paw.

                                Barney back in the game

                                Twin-spotted Quaker - first moth of spring

Thursday 21 March 2019

A fall of Wheatears

Dungeness - muggy, overcast, light airs - En-route to the bird reserve a check of New Diggings and ARC resulted in very little of note apart from several Goldeneyes on both waters. On Boulderwall fields the usual Wigeon, Teal, Curlew, feral geese, Great White and Little Egrets.
  A guided walk for a U3A group from Lewes delivered similar fare to yesterday with plenty of Shovelers, Shelduck, Teal, large gulls, Cormorants and Lapwings on Burrowes, plus four Goldeneyes, 10 Ruff, four Avocets, Ringed Plover, Redshank, Dunlin and a lost-looking Brent Goose. The summer plum Black-necked Grebe was still on Christmas Dell pool, while Marsh Harrier, Goldeneye and 50 Wigeon noted at Dengemarsh. Passerines around the site included five Chiffchaffs, 10 Cetti`s Warblers, 20 Reed Buntings and singles of Firecrest and Dartford Warbler.
A couple of Tree Sparrows were on the car park feeders and a Wheatear flew across the access road on the drive out.

                                Ruff on Burrowes

  At Dungeness, two Chiffchaffs and a Firecrest in the lighthouse garden, while a loose flock of six Wheatears performed on the foreshore by the lifeboat station.

                                Three of the six at Dungeness

  Back at Lade a check of the desert revealed another eight Wheatears, plus two more on the beach making ten, a spring record here for me. Also noted five Chiffchaffs in back gardens, another Firecrest in broom scrub and 20 Sandwich Terns on the bay.
  Many more Wheatears, Firecrests and Chiffchaffs were noted across the peninsula, so all in all a pretty good early spring birding day I`d say.

                                Three of the ten at Lade

Wednesday 20 March 2019

Great Tits

Dungeness - mild, cloudy, wsw 2 - Joined OL and RW in the seawatch hide first thing for a short watch with nothing much happening apart from one flock of 50 Brent Geese, plus a trickle of Red-throated Divers and Kittiwakes up-Channel, although the first Common Tern of spring had been reported earlier.

    Brents on the move up-Channel

  A wander around the bushes delivered a noticeable increase in Great Tits and by the time I arrived at the Obs DW confirmed that at least some may have been of continental origin as a party of high flying birds were seen to drop into the moat. In the field the British race Parus major newtoni is indistinguishable from the continental race P. m. major, but a bird in the hand confirmed the latter by  biometrics (a short, slender bill), greyish upperparts and a thick layer of body fat.
  Meadow Pipit, Skylark and Linnet were all in song across the peninsula with a Wheatear on the foreshore near the lifeboat station. Also noted several Goldfinches, two Redwings, two Chiffchaffs and a Peregrine over the power station.

                                Continental Great Tit, DBO

  A guided walk for six birders around the circular route this morning was less than inspiring with 10 Ruff and four Avocets on Burrowes, Snipe and Black-necked Grebe on Christmas Dell the highlights.
Also noted plenty of Reed Buntings and Great Tits, several singing Chiffchaffs and Cetti`s Warblers, two Marsh Harriers, Curlew, Egyptian Goose and Little Egret.

                                Cook`s Pool, Boulderwall

Monday 18 March 2019


Dungeness - mild, cloudy, w 2 - Joined MC in the seawatch hide briefly where a steady flow of Gannets and Red-throated Divers were coming and going, plus a few Sandwich Terns up-Channel. On the land, when the sun broke through, some welcome spring bird song was music to the ears; mostly of Dunnock, Chaffinch, Wren and Great Tit, but also one or two of Meadow Pipit and Linnet. Two Chiffchaffs and a Firecrest skulked in the lighthouse garden and at least four Stonechats were active in surrounding scrub, two of which were soon trapped by JTM, the male being a rubicola type. Several more Firecrests filtered through the bushes in the moat and a Wheatear was on the shingle outback.

                               Stonechat, DBO

                                Foxes sunbathing, Lade wall `mirror`

  At Lade around noon three Chiffchaffs sang around the ponds along with a Cetti`s Warbler, while a Great Spotted Woodpecker tapped away on a dead branch. A trickle of `mewing` Mediterranean Gulls passed overhead again and more Chiffchaffs could be heard in back gardens hereabouts. Several more Stonechats were noted on the Desert and on the Kerton Road triangle.
  This afternoon on the sands, 50 Sandwich Terns present along with the usual Black-headed and Common Gulls, Curlews, Oystercatchers and ten Ringed Plovers.

Sunday 17 March 2019

First Little Ringed Plover

Lade - warm, dry and sunny, w3 - After a torrid week of stormy weather with strong to gale force winds throughout, today heralded a more spring-like feel with sunshine and an absence of a blasting wind more conducive to migrant hunting. However, it felt odd to tramp around the local patch without Barney this morning who`s been laid up with a strained leg.
  First off I checked out the Kerton Road quarry where six Shelducks, two Redshanks and four Mediterranean Gulls were on the northern island. Singing Skylark, Mipit and Reed Bunting added to the spring atmosphere while a Wheatear flew across the main lake, the first for the local patch. A flat area with puddles of water attracted four Ringed Plovers and a single Little Ringed Plover (new for the year) before being flushed by a passing Kestrel.
  The walk back towards the lakes yielded two more Wheatears on the Desert, one of which kindly posed for a piccie or two, and a pair of Med Gulls mewing overhead. On south lake still six Goldeneyes and 30 Teal, plus singing Chiffchaffs, Cetti`s Warblers and Reed Buntings around the willow swamp. Marsh Harrier, Buzzard, Oystercatcher, Green Woodpecker and Stonechat also noted.

                                One of three Wheatears on the local patch this morning

                                    `White arse`

Walland Marsh - This afternoon I joined CP for the final harrier count of winter at our usual watchpoint out on the Marsh. The wind had picked up a bit and a few hail showers rattled through under glowering skies, but eventually 10 Marsh Harriers came to roost, while the egret roost count was 12 Great White and five Little. Also in the general area four Buzzards, two Ravens, Bearded Tit, Cetti`s Warbler, Reed Buntings and a Barn Owl, plus plenty of vocalising from a number of Water Rails as dusk fell.