Monday 30 September 2019

Autumn moths

Lade - mild, cloudy, sw 2 - At last a calm night that produced a decent crop of autumn moths in the garden trap comprising 11 species, including Beaded Chestnut, Scarce Bordered Straw, Feathered Ranunculus, Lunar Underwing, Black Rustic and Common Marbled Carpet. Also had last weeks Lesser Treble-bar confirmed by SC, another first for the trap site.

                                Feathered Brindle

                                Scarce Bordered Straw
                                Black Rustic

                                Common Marbled Carpet

                                 Beaded Chestnut

  Called in at Hanson hide early afternoon where a Common Tern showing characteristics of the eastern race Sterna hirundo longipennis was still present from the weekend. It was sat on the tern raft clearly showing tail feathers projecting beyond the wing-tips, while the plumage was a shade darker than nominate Common with a similar upper wing pattern and a black adult like cap. The bill and legs appeared to be all black at distance. It eventually flew off towards New Diggings. There are some excellent flight shots of the tern on:

                                Adult Common Tern showing characteristics of the eastern race

  A brief look at the sea this afternoon from the boats produced the usual fare of distant Gannets, Sandwich Terns, Kittiwakes and several Arctic Skuas. A Merlin flew out over the sea and a couple of pulses of Swallows went south.
  Finished the day at Lade checking for migrants around the ponds where only Chiffchaffs noted, plus hirundines overhead.

Sunday 29 September 2019

Sparrowhawk again!

Lade - mild, wet and windy, sw 6 - I always try and have at least one day a week without using the car and today seemed perfect as an active weather front moved up-Channel bringing near gale force winds and heavy rain showers throughout, although it sort of broke up as the afternoon progressed.
  A couple of hours over the local patch this morning proved challenging, dodging the rain and searching for birds in sheltered spots around the ponds. A mixed passerine flock contained a few Robins and Blackbirds and at least one Song Thrush feeding on berries, while Blue, Great and Long-tailed Tits, Chiffchaffs and Goldcrests comprised the majority of arboreal birds.

                                Sheltering from the tempest

  Due to the strong winds many of the Cormorants, ducks and grebes had retreated into the sheltered central lagoon within the Willow Swamp, along with half a dozen Little Egrets and Grey Herons. Scores of Sand and House Martins swarmed over north lake as a straggle of Curlews flew to roost on the approaching high tide on the bay.
  There was little to be found on the wind-blown Desert apart from a few Meadow Pipits and Linnets. Scanning over towards the airport the skyline was broken by a huge set of marques in preparation for next weekends dance festival.

                                Connected Festival tents, Lydd airport

  Back home several more Chiffchaffs and Robins moved through the garden cover, and during one heavy shower a juvenile Sparrowhawk flew in and briefly perched atop the bird table before flopping  into the fir trees for further protection from the rain.
  Afternoon forays over the beach proved fruitless due to the wind and rain.

                               Soggy Sparrowhawk

Saturday 28 September 2019

First Song Thrush

Lade - mild, sunshine and showers, sw 4 - A largely dry day once the early morning showers had cleared, but always with a nagging wind. A Song Thrush dropped into the garden fir trees just after dawn (something of a scarcity in these parts) to join several Chiffchaffs and Goldcrests. Outback more Chiffchaffs in the bushes, Meadow Pipits and Linnets on the Desert and hundreds of hirundines over the lakes.
  Called in at Hanson hide mid-morning where a juvenile Peregrine was upsetting the wildfowl and waders before eventually landing on the back of an island. Three Little Gulls performed over the lake amongst hundreds more hirundines, while a few Lapwings, two Greenshanks, two Black-tailed Godwits, Dunlin and the usual ducks were on the islands, plus Sparrowhawk, Great White Egret and Water Rail. The car park scrub attracted a large mixed passerine flock, mostly tits and Chiffchaffs, plus a few Goldcrests, Blackcaps and a Lesser Whitethroat.
  After watching QPR getting outplayed by WBA I needed cheering up! Like a true optimist I then spent 90 minutes at the fishing boats, with CP, watching distant Gannets, Sandwich Terns and Arctic Skuas, plus a Red-throated Diver, nine Common Scoters and a few auks.

Friday 27 September 2019


Lade - mild, cloudy, sw 4 - Another blustery day with the occasional shower early and late on, but still mild. We flogged around the local patch concentrating on any grounded migrants on the Desert where 50 Meadow Pipits, five alba wagtails and 100 Linnets was about the sum total. Hundreds of hirundines were feeding over south lake, mostly House Martins, amongst 500 Canada and 200 Greylags that had just dropped in. There seemed to be more Shovelers present this morning amongst the numerous grebes, Coots, gulls and diving ducks. Several Chiffchaffs and a Lesser Whitethroat were the only warblers noted.
  An hour at the fishing boats this afternoon with the regulars resulted in 10 Arctic Skuas, two Balearic Shearwaters and our first two Red-throated Divers of autumn along with the usual Gannets and Sandwich Terns. More shearwaters and skuas went through earlier, plus a Grey Phalarope (DW).
 There was no change to the usual waders, egrets, gulls and terns on the bird reserve today with Hanson hide being the most profitable spot.

Thursday 26 September 2019

Arctic Skuas

Dungeness - mild, overcast, drizzle, sw 4 - 0800-1000hrs - From the fishing boats this morning a westbound passage of 21 Arctic Skuas and a Balearic Shearwater the highlights, plus hundreds of Sandwich Terns and Gannets, two Common Terns, six auks and a Common Scoter. Hundreds of hirundines went out, despite the poor weather, along with a late Swift. Passerines around the boats included three Wheatears, 20 Meadow Pipits, Skylark and Linnets.
  From the Hanson hide late morning: two Cattle and one Great White Egret, Black Tern, two Little Gulls, two Greenshanks, Ringed Plover, Snipe, Common Sandpiper, 20 Pintail, Garganey, Sparrowhawk, Hobby and hundreds of hirundines over the lake.

Wednesday 25 September 2019


Dungeness - mild, wet and windy, sw 5 - A blustery day with showers rattling through during the morning before drying up into the afternoon. An hour looking at the sea from the Patch and the seawatch hides delivered plenty of distant Gannets and Sandwich Terns, several auks and Arctic Skuas.
  From Hanson hide two Cattle Egrets, Little Gull, Black Tern, several Dunlins, Greenshank and Garganey, plus hundreds of hirundines over the water. Chiffchaffs called from the willows and a flock of Long-tailed Tits moved through.

                               Cattle Egret and Little Gull, ARC

  This afternoon I checked the local patch where a few Chiffchaffs and Goldcrests noted around the ponds. Most of the wildfowl were sheltering from the strong wind on the far side of south lake.
  A bay watch from Littlestone at low tide produced a decent count of eight species of waders and three Shelducks, the highlight being 750 Oystercatchers.

Tuesday 24 September 2019

Balearic Shearwaters

Dungeness - mild, wet morning, sunny afternoon, s-sw 5-3 - A wet hour in the seawatch hide first thing with OL and JTM, in dreadful light with rain lashing in through the flaps on a strong southerly, produced hundreds of Gannets and Sandwich Terns close to shore, plus three Arctic Skuas, a distant shearwater and, incredibly, several outward bound Swallows.
  Moving onto the bird reserve where from Hanson hide the highlights were, 20 Dunlins, Greenshank, Snipe, Ringed Plover, Garganey, two Cattle Egrets and a Great White Egret. On Burrowes all I could muster were a few more Dunlins, Turnstone, Common Sandpiper, a Black-necked Grebe and the usual ducks and gulls.
  An hour from the fishing boats this afternoon in glorious sunshine with MC delivered similar fare to this morning with Gannets and Sandwich Terns, three Arctic Skuas, plus nine Common Scoters, single Guillemot and Razorbill, and reasonably close and protracted views of two westbound Balearic Shearwaters.  

Monday 23 September 2019

Migrant Moths

Lade - mild, cloudy, sw 3 - Perfect overnight weather conditions for moths on Equinox eve delivered 12 species to the garden trap including a couple of potential migrants in the form of Delicate and Scarce Bordered Straw, plus the first Lunar Underwings and Autumnal Rustics of the season.

                                Delicate and Scarce Bordered Straw

  On the local patch a steady passage of Sand Martins and Swallows south, along with several small parties of grounded Yellow Wagtails and Meadow Pipits amongst 100 Linnets and five Stonechats. A lone Sandwich Tern sat on south lake island.
  An evening scan of the bay on an incoming tide produced all the usual waders and terns, plus three Arctic Skuas over the sea.

Sunday 22 September 2019

River Arun

Saturday - Littlehampton - warm, dry and sunny, se3 - An eventful weekend spent at our Kate and Tim`s place, mainly to attend an Oysterband gig at Bognor in the evening. However, Tim had won a river boat trip in their local pub charity auction, so the afternoon was spent cruising up the River Arun from Littlehampton to the town bridge at Arundel, a distance of around five mile each way, with Billy the Harbour Master at the helm. It was interesting to see the wildlife from the water rather than the river bank as we meandered our way up and back between the largely canalised water course for most of the route, with the occasional reed beds here and there where the bank had collapsed.

                               Billy`s boat

                                River Arun views

                               Harbour Seal

                                Spot the Peregrine!

  As the tide flooded in many of the hundreds of gulls roosted on the river banks; mostly Herring and Black-headed Gulls with a sprinkling of Black-backs and Mediterranean Gulls. At least 10 Common Sandpipers were noted flitting over the water and feeding along the muddy margins, plus four 10 Turnstones, four Redshanks, 10 Little Egrets, two Grey Wagtails and two Kingfishers along the way. 
  We had good views of a Harbour Seal about two miles upstream, while a male Peregrine perched atop the old gas holder on the outskirts of Littlehampton. Billy was a mine of information throughout the afternoon and on the return trip we sailed through the tidal race where the Arun runs into the sea. A great craic in a flat-bottomed boat!

Friday 20 September 2019

Shearwater quest

Lade - warm, dry, sunny, E 5 - In contrast to yesterday when birds were everywhere in the light airs, this morning the wind picked up from the east making for difficult birding with few passerines noted, although Chiffchaffs could be heard calling from the bushes around the ponds. Most of the waterfowl hugged the willow swamp, along with several Little Egrets.

                                Juvenile Marsh Harrier, ARC

  Moving onto Dungeness and an hour staring out to sea from the Patch hide produced plenty of Gannets, Sandwich and Common Terns, four Common Scoters, a Teal, an Arctic Skua and a party of seven Brent Geese into Hythe Bay. Two Sooty Shearwaters were seen earlier heading into Lade Bay (MC) .
  From Hanson hide on the bird reserve all the usual ducks and waders were present including a Garganey, four Ruffs, three Greenshanks and two Black-tailed Godwits, plus all three species of egrets, Marsh Harrier and Buzzard. The Pectoral Sandpiper was reported earlier in the day along with an adult Little Gull.
  An hour from Lade beach scanning the bay at high tide this afternoon in the vain hope that a shearwater may be blown in on the strong easterly drew a blank. However, Sandwich Terns crossing the bay attracted two Arctic Skuas while Gannets fished further out. Also noted three Brent Geese and six Wigeon.

Thursday 19 September 2019

Sky full of birds

Lade - warm, dry and cloudy, light airs - It was one of those mornings on the local patch that wherever you looked there were birds, lots of `em, everywhere. Thousands of hirundines, mostly Sand Martins and Swallows, swarmed over the reedbeds, dipping down to drink in the lake and settling on the power lines over the Desert. Every so often they would funnel skywards and disappear south only to be replaced by more coming in from the north. Meadow Pipits and Linnets were numerous over the shingle ridges feeding on emerging micro-moths and bugloss seeds respectively, while Stonechats and Dunnocks flicked atop the broom.
  Scanning from the aerial mound the sky inland was full of birds: feral geese and ducks coming and going, Lapwings, Golden Plovers, gulls, Woodpigeons, Stock Doves, corvids and more hirundines, plus several Buzzards, Marsh Harriers and Kestrels. Around the willow swamp 12 Little Egrets, 20 Chiffchaffs, several Lesser Whitethroats, Robins and Blackbirds. The lakes were crammed again with ducks, grebes, geese, swans, Coots and gulls.

                                Stonechat, Sand Martins and Swallows, Lade

  A check of the bay from Littlestone on an incoming tide around noon produced superb views of hundreds of waders as the sea pushed them close to shore. I only counted the birds on the gloopy mud in front of the wooden shelter: Knot 185, Dunlin 145, Bar-tailed Godwit 23, Curlew 28, Oystercatcher 23, Ringed Plover 12, Redshank and Turnstone. Many more were feeding towards Greatstone and beyond. 

                                Knot and Bar-tailed Godwits, Littlestone

                               Lade Bay looking south towards Dungeness from Littlestone

Wednesday 18 September 2019

Wader days

Lade - warm, dry, sunny, ne 2 - A cool start to the day that soon warmed up by mid-morning. On south lake a Greenshank and Ringed Plover paused awhile on the island with Redshank and Common Sandpiper around the margins. Chiffchaff were well represented across the site with at least 20 birds, plus Reed Warbler and Lesser Whitethroat by the ponds. On the lake a flight of 20 Wigeon were new in amongst the usual wildfowl and grebes.
  In the Plovers garden the first Goldcrest of autumn called from the fir trees.

                               Greenshank, south lake island

Dungeness - A guided walk for RSPB members concentrated on waders. From the hides around Burrowes, 50 Lapwings, two Common Sandpipers, two Knots and a Golden Plover noted, plus the usual wildfowl, Marsh Harrier, hirundines, egrets and two distant Ravens over the switch station. More Chiffchaffs were noted in the bushes and three Wheatears performed well on the Desert from the access road.
  The ARC has been the pick of the sites around the bird reserve for some time now, and today was no different. I only had brief views of the Pectoral Sandpiper in the afternoon from Hanson hide where the guests were treated to good views of 120 Golden Plovers, 100 Lapwings, four Ruffs, two Greenshanks, four Black-tailed Godwits, five Dunlins and a Snipe, but once again no Little Stints in what has been a poor autumn for them across the region. Also noted around the reserve, Little Grebe, Water Rail, Cetti`s Warbler, five Buzzards, Cattle, Little and Great White Egret, Garganey, Pintail and Sandwich Tern.
  We finished the day down at the fishing boats where plenty of Sandwich and Common Terns, Kittiwakes, Mediterranean Gulls and a couple of Arctic Skuas were plundering the sprats. Large shoals of Whitebait attracted Mackerel close to shore and at the time there were so many the sea appeared to be `boiling` as they leapt clear of the water. Jacques was reeling in plenty of the latter (thanks Jacques they were very tasty!) plus a small Bass which was returned to the sea.

                               Sea Bass

Tuesday 17 September 2019

Pectoral Sandpiper

Lade  - warm, dry and sunny, ne 2 - Despite flogging the local patch to death on a daily basis its been pretty much the same fare throughout since before the weekend with a scattering of  Robins, Chiffchaffs, Blackcaps, Whitethroats and a Lesser Whitethroat around the ponds; hirundines overhead; Yellow Wagtails, Stonechats and Meadow Pipits grounded on the Desert and several Sparrowhawks and Marsh Harriers across the site. A party of 14 Bar-tailed Godwits briefly dropped
in on south lake island yesterday and at least 400 Sandwich Terns were on the bay this evening along with hundreds of Dunlins and Knots.

                                          Bar-tailed Godwits, Lade south island
  At the point earlier a circuit of the land produced similar passage migrants to Lade, plus two Willow Warblers in the Moat and a Wheatear on the Desert. The obligatory Peregrine was on its usual pylon perch and a Bonxie was chasing the Sandwich Terns out from the hide.
  Visited Hanson hide at midday for distant views of a newly arrived Pectoral Sandpiper (some quality at last!) where also five Ruffs, 110 Golden Plovers, 80 Lapwings, Ringed Plover, Common Sandpiper, Black-tailed and Bar-tailed Godwits, Cattle Egret and Garganey.
  Dave Scott had much more joy than I did with photographing the Pec this afternoon on ARC, as testified by the pic below.

                                Pectoral Sandpiper, ARC (by Dave Scott)

Friday 13 September 2019

Quiet day

Lade - warm, dry, sunny, ne 3 - Nothing much to report on the local patch this morning apart from a trickle of Yellow Wagtails and Sand Martins overhead, a Reed Warbler beside south lake, Stonechats and a Wheatear in the Desert and a few Chiffchaffs and Whitethroats in the bushes around the ponds. Around midday several Chiffchaffs were noted in the garden while Sandwich Terns noisily passed over the cottage throughout the day. A Blood-vein was the best of a mediocre catch in the garden moth trap.
  An hour at the fishing boats this afternoon with MC and TG delivered a few fishing Sandwich Terns and Gannets, plus singles of Manx Shearwater, Great and Arctic Skuas. There was little change to the birds around the reserve from the past few days (MC).

Thursday 12 September 2019

Late summer migrants

Dungeness - warm, dry, sunshine/cloud - sw 2-4 - Spent the day guiding for guests from The Netherlands in humid weather conditions. We started on the bird reserve where thousands of Sand Martins and hundreds of Swallows streaming south and feeding over the lakes formed the bulk of passage migrants throughout the day. A late Swift went over Dengemarsh and likewise a Little Ringed Plover dropped onto ARC. Several Wheatears, Whitethroats, Lesser Whitethroat, Blackcap and Willow Warbler were noted across the reserve, plus Raven, Buzzard and several each of Sparrowhawk, Kestrel and Marsh Harrier. Two Black Terns were on Burrowes along with two Common Sandpipers, Redshank and four Black-tailed Godwits, while a mixed flock of several hundred Golden Plovers and Lapwings flew over the access road. Birds from Hanson hide included, Cattle, Great White and Little Egrets, two Garganey, two Ruff, Greenshank, 10 Dunlins, two Common Sandpipers, three Snipes and four Black-tailed Godwits.

                               Kestrel in the moat

  Moving onto Dungeness a circuit of the moat produced several Whitethroats, Black Redstarts and Stonechats, while a brief visit to the fishing boats delivered two Grey Seals, two Porpoises, Gannets, Sandwich Terns and a distant Arctic Skua.
  We finished the afternoon scanning the bay from Littlestone and Romney Tavern where thousands of gulls, terns and waders were present. While Sandwich Terns were nowhere near as numerous as early in the week over 500 were counted along with 50 Common Terns and several Mediterranean Gulls amongst the Black-headed and Common Gulls, plus a single Arctic Skua. Waders included 200 Dunlins, 50 Sanderlings, 30 Ringed Plovers, 20 Barwits, a Blackwit, 20 Turnstones and hundreds of Knots, Curlews and Oystercatchers.
  A decent days birding for our guests then, that resulted in a tally of 92 species. 

Wednesday 11 September 2019

Bloxworth Snout

Lade - warm, dry and cloudy, sw 4 - A pretty decent overnight catch in the garden moth trap included a Bloxworth Snout, new for the trap site, plus either a Lesser Treble-bar/Treble-bar  awaiting confirmation.

                               L-album Wainscot

                               Bloxworth Snout, new for the Plovers trap site

  On the local patch 80 Curlews were counted going to roost off the bay, but we missed the majority already out on the shingle. Around the ponds a scattering of Chiffchaffs and at least one Lesser Whitethroat. Around 1,000 Black-headed Gulls roosting on north lake contained at least 10 Mediterranean Gulls.
  A 30 minute seawatch from the hide produced a steady trickle of Sandwich Terns and Gannets west, plus 10 Common Terns, Black Tern, Arctic Tern, Kittiwake and a Fulmar.

                                Avocet, Little Gull and Cattle Egret, ARC

  Moving onto the ARC where a Wryneck was seen along the track to Hanson hide (probably last weeks bird from over the road?), three Avocets were new in along with four Snipe, two Greenshanks,19 Dunlins, four Black-tailed Godwits, two Knots, Ringed Plover, Garganey, Cattle Egret and Little Gull. There was no sign of any Ruffs for the first time in weeks.
  We completed the Birdwatching Break for Clare and Peter on 105 species with a good range of waders, seabirds and passage passerines the highlights.

Tuesday 10 September 2019

2,000 Sandwich Terns!

Dungeness - warm, dry sunny morning, cloudy afternoon, light airs - We concentrated on the land first thing this morning where around the lighthouse, the moat and southern end of the trapping area a decent range of migrants included: a few Swallows and Sand Martins, 20 Meadow Pipits, six Black Redstarts, a Whinchat, 10 Stonechats, two Wheatears, two Lesser Whitethroats and 10 each of Whitethroat, Blackcap and Chiffchaff. Also noted, a pylon Peregrine, Sparrowhawk, Green Woodpecker and our first nine Brent Geese of autumn over the sea. The warm sunshine encouraged Common Blue, Small Copper, Small Heath, Small White, Small Tortoiseshell, Red Admiral, Painted Lady and Peacock butterflies onto the wing, while Convolvulus Hawk-moth and a Willow Emerald dragonfly were admired from the Obs fridge.

                                Black Redstart

                                Small Tortoiseshell

                                       Convulvulous Hawk-moth


  Following a tip off from MC we moved onto Hanson hide where two, peachy juv Curlew Sandpipers were the pick of a host of waders, and the first of autumn. The guests enjoyed good views of a mixed flock of eight Black-tailed and Bar-tailed Godwits, two Greenshanks, six Ruffs, two Snipes, 10 Golden Plovers, 50 Lapwings, four Dunlins, Curlew and a Common Sandpiper. Also present, two Marsh Harriers, two Black Terns, an adult Little Gull, Water Rail, Great White and Little Egrets, Garganey and Little Grebe. On the walk back to the car we had protracted flight views of a Bittern moving between Tower Pits and Boulderwall.
  Over the road a juvenile Knot showed well in front of Firth hide along with two Common Sandpipers, five Dunlins and four Pintails. A few more flocks of Sand Martins and Swallows dropped
in as the cloud covered over and a Willow Warbler sang from scrub by Dennis`s hide. More common warblers and a brief burst of pinging Bearded Tits were noted from the ramp, plus Buzzard and Marsh Harrier.

                                Two juvenile Curlew Sandpipers

                                Lapwing and Common Sandpiper

  We finished the day in some style checking the bay for waders, terns and gulls from Littlestone, being as it was low tide. Thousands of birds were spread across the mud and sand where a mammoth tally of 2,000 Sandwich Terns was very much a minimum count; most were on the deck, with hundreds over the sea where the fishing was easy and attracting at least four Arctic Skuas. Other significant counts included, 200 Common Terns, 200 Knots, 200 Dunlins, 30 Ringed Plovers, 20 Barwits, 15 Turnstones, 10 Blackwits, `hundreds` of Oystercatchers and Curlews, plus two Shelducks, three Sanderling and a Mediterranean Gull.
  All in all a pretty decent days birding with a wide range of species topped off with a staggering count of terns.

Monday 9 September 2019

Waders and egrets

Dungeness - warm, dry and cloudy, sw 2 - We commenced a Birdwatching Break for Clare and Peter this afternoon at Scotney where the usual range of wildfowl, gulls and feral geese noted, plus c50 Yellow Wagtails, 10 Curlews, a Mistle Thrush and Sparrowhawk.

                                Juvenile Ruff

                                Juvenile Moorhen

                                Cattle Egret

   Moving onto ARC where a host of waders and egrets were present in front of Hanson hide, occasionally being spooked by up to four different Marsh Harriers and a Sparrowhawk. Waders included 186 Golden Plovers, 150 Lapwings, 10 Dunlins, four Ruffs (including a smart juv), four Ringed Plovers, four Black-tailed Godwits, two Redshanks, Greenshank, Common Sandpiper and Little Ringed Plover. Also, Cattle and Great White Egrets, five Little Egrets, plenty of Gadwall, Shoveler, Teal, Wigeon and a Garganey, plus hundreds of Sand Martins, 10 Common Terns and two Black Terns over the lake. 
  We finished the afternoon at the fishing boats where nothing much was happening apart from some close Sandwich Terns and Gannets, two Common Scoters up and a distant Arctic Skua. On the land several Wheatears, a Skylark and a flock of Linnets and Starlings.