Sunday 30 June 2019

Moths and butterflies

Lade - warm, cloudy, sw 2 - A mixed weekend of weather with a hot, sunny Saturday tempered somewhat by an easterly breeze off the bay and despite all the warnings about covering up from the sun`s rays there was still plenty of grockles stripped semi-naked on the beach the colour of poached lobsters. The temperature and humidity peaked in the evening as the wind relented, while the garden moth trap was abuzz with insects as small bats flickered over the fir trees.

                                Beautiful China-mark

  I was expecting a bumper catch this morning, but I awoke at 5am to cover the trap only to find the local House Sparrows had already been busy... However, 36 species of macros were logged including Common Carpet and Lesser Common Rustic, plus the smart pyrale, Beautiful China-mark.

                                Marbled White along the old railway track

  Across the weekend several visits to the local patch delivered good numbers of grassland butterflies on the wing; a wander along a 400yd section of the old railway track logged 48 Marbled Whites and 21 Painted Ladies, while skippers and browns were in the hundreds.
  The wind had swung around overnight bringing with it fresh Atlantic air to clear the southern plume from Africa. With the water level falling rapidly on south lake the usual summer island has begun to appear at the southern end attracting a few gulls and Coots. I didn`t hear the Cuckoos, so maybe they`ve already done the off having hopefully raided the numerous Reed Warbler nests.
  This afternoon was spent with family in Folkestone attending the Armed Forces Day festival on the Leas where the highlight was the ever popular RAF Red Arrows displaying over the Channel.
  Elsewhere this weekend the Serin was still at Littlestone and two Black Terns were noted on Burrowes yesterday.

                                Red Arrows over Folkestone

Friday 28 June 2019

Rye Harbour NR

Rye Harbour NR - cool, sunny, NE 5 - A guiding day for Mark and Maria at Rye on another windy morning that suppressed the temperatures down here on the coast. As reported the tern situation was grim with just one pair of Little Tern on the beach and not a single Sandwich Tern anywhere, the colony having failed due to a shortage of fish and predation from Med Gulls, although around 20 pairs of Common Terns were nesting and some had juveniles. Fledged Black-headed Gulls were everywhere and at least two Med Gulls were still on site.
  As for waders we didn't see any young Avocets or Redshanks, but did see a few broods of Oystercatchers and Ringed Plovers; also noted, a smart red Knot, three Grey Plovers, three Curlews and 10 Lapwings. Elsewhere around the Beach Reserve: Little Egret, Shelduck, Grey Heron, Wheatear, Skylark, Linnet, Whitethroat, Swift, Meadow Pipit, Little and Great Crested Grebes.
  At Castle Water, three Marsh Harriers were busy hunting over the main reed bed.


                                Med Gull

                                Juvenile, Black-headed Gull

ARC/Burrowes - Back at Dungeness we checked out ARC where the eclipse Garganey was still present, while on Burrowes yesterdays Curlew Sandpiper and Ruff showed well in bright sunshine alongside three Blackwits and a host of wildfowl and Common Terns.
  During the three days guiding across the region we rattled up a respectable 110 species of birds for our guests.

                               Ruff and Curlew Sandpiper

Thursday 27 June 2019

Passage waders

Burrowes - cool, sunny, ne 5 - An evening visit with the guests to the bird reserve in a blasting north-easterly from Firth hide delivered three adult passage waders in full breeding plumage. Best of the trio was a brick-red Curlew Sandpiper, plus a black Ruff and a Black-tailed Godwit. From the access road two Hobbies were grounded on the shingle ridges.
  Elsewhere today the strong wind made for difficult birding conditions, although the Serin was still present at Littlestone.

                                Adult Curlew Sandpiper and Ruff, Burrowes

Wednesday 26 June 2019

First Whimbrel of `autumn`

Lade - cool, cloudy, ne 5 - A muggy night delivered a decent showing of moths in the garden trap this morning including a spectacular Privet Hawk-moth and an irregularly occurring Small Blood-vein amongst 32 species of macros.

                                Privet Hawk-moth and Small Blood-vein

  As the day wore on the wind picked up off the sea and the humidity dropped away making a circuit of the local patch a quiet affair. However, a few Swifts paused to feed in the drizzle over south lake and a Cuckoo continued to belt it out from the willow swamp. Walking back along the beach the first Whimbrel of autumn flew south towards Dungeness, uttering its distinctive seven-note whistle. 

Tuesday 25 June 2019

Farmland birds

Orlestone Forest - humid, cloudy, light airs - Day two of guiding for our guests commenced in the woods. It was always going to be a challenge this late in the season what with suppressed bird song, but we did eventually get brief snatches of song from both Nightingale and Turtle Dove along with Willow and Garden Warblers, Chiffchaff and Blackcap. Family parties of Nuthatch and Treecreeper were more obliging, while Coal Tit, Bullfinch, Buzzard and Great Spotted Woodpecker also noted. There were plenty of flowers on show around the woodland margins including Common Spotted Orchids and a single Bee Orchid and, in dappled shade, up to 20 White Admiral butterflies.

                                Common Spotted Orchid

  Moving down onto the Marsh between Kennardington and Warehorne a few wayside birds were noted such as Yellowhammer, Linnet, Lesser Whitethroat and Kestrel. At Scotney we had good views of our target birds of Tree Sparrow, Yellow Wagtail, Corn Bunting and Little Owl, plus Little Ringed Plover on the pits outback where there was no Avocet or Common Tern activity on the islands but plenty of juvenile Herring Gulls. The feral Barnacle Goose flock had returned to the front fields amongst hundreds of their kindred Greylags and Canada Geese.

                                Yellowhammer, Kennardington

                                Little Owl, Scotney

  We finished the day at ARC where the two long-staying 1st summer Little Gulls, Black-tailed Godwit, Cuckoo and Garganey were the highlights among masses of common wildfowl. Once again Painted Lady butterflies were common place wherever we went today.

Monday 24 June 2019


Lade - humid, light airs, occasional drizzle - Spent the day guiding across the peninsula for our guests Mark and Maria. First off we checked the garden moth trap where 32 species of macros included Swallowtail, Poplar Hawk-moth and Marbled Coronet new for the season. Next stop Littlestone where the long-staying Serin showed like a good `un in the fir trees opposite the entrance to the golf course. Also noted a Coal Tit and a number of House Martins from the colony along the seafront. On the bay a few Curlews and Oystercatchers were all we could muster on the wader front.


                                Marbled Coronet

                                Serin, Littlestone

  Moving down to Dungeness where we mopped up on 10 each of Wheatear and Black Redstart with a supporting cast of Linnet, Mipit, Skylark, Stonechat and Whitethroat. The male Peregrine also showed well on the power station, unlike a Raven flying over the back of B station. A late afternoon visit back at the point for two Bee-eaters drew a blank, so we opted for half an hour at the fishing boats which was also quiet apart from a few terns, two Mediterranean Gulls and several Porpoises. Two Brown Hares were noted in the Kerton Road triangle.
  A circuit of the bird reserve delivered all the usual stuff, including cracking flight views of a Bittern at Hooker`s, plus Marsh Harriers, Bearded Tits, two Hobbies, Cuckoo, Lesser Whitethroat and a Great White Egret. On Burrowes plenty of Common Tern action, two Black-tailed Godwits, 50 Lapwings, four Ringed Plovers, Shoveler, Teal and Wigeon amongst the ducks. Painted Lady butterflies were everywhere today.

Sunday 23 June 2019

Summer butterflies

Lade - warm, dry and sunny, e3 - A fine weekend of weather encouraged a few butterflies onto the wing, particularly on Saturday, with our first Marbled White of summer on the local patch along the old railway line track. Red Admiral, Painted Lady, Common Blue, Small Heath, Small and Large Skippers, Meadow and Hedge Browns and Small Copper were also noted in the grassland section, plus Holly Blue and Speckled Wood around the ponds.

                                Hedge Brown, Marbled White and Painted Lady

  Birdwise two male Cuckoos were still calling around the willow swamp where a female was also active. A male Marsh Harrier was seen grappling with a large Grass Snake that it eventually killed and flew off towards a local nest site.
  Called in at ARC yesterday where from Hanson hide a 1st summer Little Gull and a Garganey were the highlights amongst hundreds of common wildfowl, Lapwings, Coots and gulls. Also, Wigeon, Cuckoo, Hobby and at least six Common Tern chicks on the new raft. The Serin was still present on Saturday at Littlestone.
  Today, a circuit of the local patch produced a Great White Egret and the first wave of migrant Sand Martins of the return passage over south lake, along with a few House Martins. The Cuckoos were very easy to see this morning flying over the willow swamp calling. An afternoon seawatch from the boardwalk at high tide with a brisk onshore wind delivered a few distant Gannets and Sandwich Terns, plus scores of kite-surfers.

Thursday 20 June 2019

Warblers, stilts and a `new` site

Pas-de-Calais - mild, cloudy/sunny, nw 3/4 - A day out in France with Chris, Martin and Tony saw us on an early shuttle from Folkestone with Guines Marshes our first port of call. Despite being a little late in the breeding season we eventually managed a singing Icterine Warbler near the site entrance and at least two Marsh Warblers in song further around the boardwalk with more probables seen alongside Reed and Sedge Warblers all of which had young to feed so were fairly quiet, while Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Whitethroat and Cetti`s Warbler were still in fine voice. Also noted around the circuit: several Turtle Doves, Marsh Harriers and Buzzards, Kestrel, Sparrowhawk, Cuckoo, Jay, Garden Warbler, Long-tailed Tit and Kingfisher, but best of all a Short-toed Treecreeper that posed nicely on a lichen clad willow trunk as it enjoyed the morning sunshine, all puffed out to get the maximum rays; it showed typically dusky flanks with pale wing tips and even gradations along the wing-bar edge.
  With the sun out plenty of Red Admirals were on the bramble flowers along with a few Painted Ladies, Speckled Woods and Meadow Browns. We then moved up to the forest to scan for raptors where a few Buzzards and Marsh Harriers were noted.

                                Short-toed Treecreeper

                                Close up of the wing-bar and wing tips

  A short drive to the coast brought us to Oye-Plage and the hide overlooking the wet meadows and lagoon. The Black-headed Gull colony was in full swing and busy with juveniles, some already on the wing, where also nesting Avocet and Lapwing. A loose flock of 32 Spoonbills harboured a few Little and a Cattle Egret, plus Common Terns, Gadwall, Wigeon and Shelduck, two Turtle Doves, House Martins and Swallows. At the eastern end of the reserve at least 500 Sandwich Terns were split into two colonies, both with plenty of well-grown chicks. Also, another Spoonbill, several Mediterranean Gulls, Shelducks with a creche of ducklings, Shoveler, Egyptian Goose, Stonechat and Meadow Pipit.

                                White Wagtail

                                Fort Philippe

  We then moved further along the coast to Fort Phillipe where a Common Rosefinch had been reported recently. As it was mid-afternoon we drew a blank on the finch, but `discovered` a wetland area nearby, complete with screen blinds overlooking a reed-fringed lake and an extensive series of shallow lagoons, islands and broad grassy borders full of wild flowers - and plenty of birds! The highlights were two pairs of Black-necked Grebes and six Black-winged Stilts with young, plus Great Crested Grebe, four Avocets, Lapwings, Grey Heron, Great White Egret, six Little Egrets, Buzzard, Willow Warbler, Sand and House Martins and hundreds of dabbling ducks, Jackdaws and gulls. How we`d missed this site in the past is a mystery, but we`ll certainly be back during migration as the habitat is suitable for luring down passage waders.
  Another superb day out in northern France in fine company with plenty of laughs along the way and many thanks to Chris for driving.

                                Black-winged Stilts

Wednesday 19 June 2019


Dungeness RSPB - humid, sunny, nw 2 - Following a hectic night of crash, bang and flash from thunder and lightening rolling in from the continent, this morning the weather thankfully settled down a bit; although it looked grim inland with heavy rain clouds skirting the Low Weald. A guided walk for RSPB centred on Burrowes where there was plenty of interest on and around the old gravel pit.
  Several pairs of Oystercatchers kept us entertained as they went about their business and it was good to see two well-grown juveniles on an island in front of Makepeace hide. Other waders included six Redshanks, five Curlews, four Ringed Plovers and 100 Lapwings coming and going. There was much Common Tern activity as the adults delivered fish to one week old chicks on the raft, while a solitary Sandwich Tern paid a brief visit in front of Firth hide. Hundreds of Pochard, Tufted Duck and Gadwall comprised the bulk of the duck numbers along with a few Teal, Wigeon, Shoveler and Shelduck. Also noted, Hobby, Little Egret, Marsh Harrier, Raven and Cuckoo.
  There was plenty of other natural history interest on show for the guests from a wide variety of plants, through pond life to insects such as damselflies and bees that emerged into the bright sunshine.

Tuesday 18 June 2019

Black-tailed Godwits

Dungeness - warm, dry, sunny, light airs - A humid, still morning and everywhere you looked around the point there were fledgling birds: Wheatear, Stonechat, Black Redstart, Meadow Pipit, Linnet, Pied Wagtail, Whitethroat and Skylark were all noted either feeding juvs or flying to and fro between nest sites. The amount of invertebrate prey available must be astonishing on this unspoiled headland, if only there were more places like it elsewhere.

                                Juvenile Black Redstart

  Herring and Lesser Black-backed Gulls had chicks on the flat roofs of Dungeness B, two Ravens flew over calling, while the male Peregrine was tucking into breakfast on its favoured pylon opposite the Obs. A Marbled White butterfly on the wing in the moat was our first of the summer.
  At home the garden moth trap hit 30 species of macros for the first time this year with Light Arches the highlight, a species I rarely record.
  An evening visit to the bird reserve in blustery, cool conditions produced a few Lapwings, Cuckoo, Sand Martins and a Marsh Harrier from Screen hide on ARC, while from Firth hide on Burrowes a group of seven Black-tailed Godwits was the best of the waders, one of which was in breeding plumage. All the usual ducks and terns here too.

                               Black-tailed Godwits from Firth hide

Monday 17 June 2019

Elephants in the trap

Lade - warm, dry and sunny, light airs - Perfect conditions for moths last night and it was no surprise that 23 species of macros were lurking in the trap this morning, including the two Elephants, Grass Emerald and Brimstone. It was all very predictable bird wise on the local patch, although good to see the two Oystercatcher chicks growing well on the scaffold island and several Cuckoos still present.

                                Elephant and Small Elephant Hawk-moths

                                                Dark Mullein

 The Dark Mullein spikes were up in great profusion in the usual spot by north lake, while the vandalised site signs have been repaired by RSPB, but for how long they`ll stay intact remains to be seen.

   Along the beach yesterday countless thousands of Cockles were washed up on the beach over a 100 yards section, along with several large Barrel Jellyfish the size of dinner plates.

Saturday 15 June 2019

Black Redstarts

Lade - warm, dry and sunny, sw 2 - At last, summer appears to have resumed after a fair bit of rain this past week or so. The welcome sunshine following a couple of dry days has encouraged a verdant flush of plant growth across the shingle ridges. The Viper`s Bugloss looks particularly spectacular at the moment with some fine stands on the local patch attracting plenty of bees and other invertebrates, while the first Pyramidal Orchids are in flower along the old railway track.

                                Viper`s Bugloss and Pyramidal Orchid

  Juvenile birds are currently everywhere: Starling, House Sparrow and Jackdaw by the shed load, plus the first Common Whitethroats, Linnets and Meadow Pipits fledglings out of the nest. Cuckoos are still active around the Willow Swamp and one or two Hobbies continue to be seen hunting over the Desert.
  The garden moth trap has been fairly ordinary of late apart from a rush of the migrant micro-moth, Plutella xylostella last night. 

                                Black Redstart family on the power station wall

  It was a similar picture at Dungeness, although with the addition of two broods of Black Redstarts keeping the adults busy around the power station boundary. Still unsure what`s occurring with the Peregrine pair, but it seems as though they`re just going through the motions breeding wise without any outcome.
  A late afternoon look over the pits in cloudy, cool conditions revealed at least 100 Swifts over south lake. The Littlestone Serin was again reported this morning.