Wednesday 30 October 2019

Shore Lark

Lade - cool, cloudy, E 4 - Another nippy day with the wind coming in off the sea from the east. We flogged around the local patch for little reward other than two late Swallows over south lake - heading north! A check of the Kerton Road pit section of the Desert for yesterdays Stone Curlew drew a predictable blank.
Dungeness - Anyhow, things picked up somewhat around noon following a call from MC saying that yesterdays Shore Lark had returned to the puddles by the fishing boats. Shore Larks are magical little birds that you don't see very often, and certainly not down here on the south coast where their status is one of a rare autumn/winter visitor. Infact in my time on the Marsh I`ve only seen one before; the  Rye Harbour bird that wintered by the red-roofed hut amongst a flock of Skylarks about ten years ago. This was my first at Dungeness as the last one in the recording area was in 2005, although I seem to remember Steve Broyd having a flyover at ARC on the bird reserve some years ago.
  My first one ever was on a YOC trip to Staines Reservoir sometime in the late 60`s when we bumped into a bird on that famous tatty, old causeway. I thought it so exotic and in a way still do, whether encountered on the high tops of Cairngorm, the salt marshes of north Norfolk or Lincolnshire - or even by a muddy puddle on Dungeness!
  However, I digress... Ten minutes later I was on site and enjoying this cracking little ground-hugger with a yellow and black face as it was becoming surrounded by local birders in cars, also enjoying our rare visitor from across the North Sea as it fed on weed seeds. I had second dibs later in the afternoon when there were fewer birders present and concluded it to be the bird of the autumn, for me at least, in this rarity-starved year.

                                Shore Lark, Dungeness

Tuesday 29 October 2019

Stone Curlew

Dungeness - cool, cloudy, E3 - A wander around the point first thing with a brisk wind out of the east produced a scattering of migrants, particularly within the power station complex where several each of Robin, Wren, Goldcrest, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, and a Black Redstart were noted. More were seen elsewhere between the old lighthouse and the moat, plus two Chiffchaffs, Stonechat, two Firecrest, several Blackbirds, five Redwings and two Mistle Thrushes in and two late Swallows out.
  At the Patch a mix of common gulls included five Mediterranean Gulls and two Kittiwakes. In the Channel, Brent Geese were on the move in good numbers as confirmed by the seawatchers who`d logged a couple of thousand past the hide.

                                Stone Curlew, Desert (pic by Colin Turley)

  News this afternoon of a Stone Curlew found out on the Desert shingle ridges between the water tower and Mockmill had me slogging out from Lade to join a group of locals for brief flight views of what is a scarce migrant down here. There was no chance of a picture from the views I had, but Colin Turley managed a fine one from earlier. On the walk back a Wheatear flew across the shingle, probably my last of the year.
  Other local news today concerned a brief Shore Lark at the puddles by the fishing boats.

Monday 28 October 2019

Goldcrest in the kitchen!

Lade  - cold, dry and sunny, N2 - The first frost of autumn was on the garden shed this morning, although it was a fine, bright day with a few birds of interest on the local patch. Several parties of grounded Reed Buntings were scattered across the shingle scrub along with what seemed like an influx of Wrens. Two Dartford Warblers skulked amongst the shingle ridge broom and bramble between the cattery and the south end of the main track. Overhead passage was once again very light with only a few Skylarks, Chaffinches, Goldfinches and Meadow Pipits on the move.


                                Reed Bunting

                                Goldcrest perched on the telly
  Back home a neighbour delivered an exhausted Goldcrest in a small box to our front door. After a short while in the kitchen the sprite soon recovered and spent some time perched on the telly and in a pot plant between flitting around the kitchen, preening and generally looking a lot perkier. It was then released into the garden fir trees where it joined its fellow crests.

Sunday 27 October 2019

Lesser Redpolls

Lade - cold, dry, cloudy, sunny later, NW 2 - Despite the wind and rain of last night it was mild so I ran the garden moth trap; maybe for the last time this season, what with colder nights ahead in the forecast.  Five species of macros came to light with Black Rustics the most numerous and one tatty Delicate the highlight.
  Before the rugby we walked the local patch where the overhead passage of passerines was once again pitifully low with double figures of Goldfinch, Chaffinch and Meadow Pipit and single figures of Skylark, Reed Bunting, Siskin and Redpoll. Two Ring Ouzels dropped in to join a scattering of grounded Blackbirds and Robins along the main track, with another two high over towards Mockmill, while two Lesser Redpolls fed on birch seeds in the ponds, a rare sighting here on the ground. Plenty of egrets and Grey Herons were around the reedbeds and several Marsh Harriers enjoyed the dry, calm weather conditions whilst hunting over the willow swamp.

                               Ring Ouzel, Mockmill (pics by David Scott)

                               Long-tailed Duck, Burrowes (pic by David Scott)

  An early afternoon walk along the foreshore between Littlestone and St Mary`s Bay, in warm sunshine, brought forth the crowds and as a result few birds were noted - and certainly no Snow Buntings! On the golf course a small flock of grounded Skylarks hugged one of the fairways and several Stonechats perched on wire fences. Roosting Turnstones and Ringed Plovers were the only waders seen along the beach. A Black Redstart flicked off a garden fence by the old water tower, while more were present on the Dungeness Estate today.

                               Skylarks, Littlestone golf links

Friday 25 October 2019

Great Spotted Woodpeckers

Lade - mild, cloudy, showers, light airs, sw 4-5 later - Started the day with a one hour viz mig from the aerial ramp overlooking south lake in decent weather conditions with a light south-westerly. Numbers of birds overhead were, once again, pathetically low as follows: Skylark 3, Swallow 1, Meadow Pipit 21, alba wagtail 12, Grey Wagtail 1, Song Thrush 2, Blackbird 5, Chaffinch 51, Greenfinch 5, Goldfinch 72, Linnet 32 and Reed Bunting 2. However, it was slightly better on the ground with one each of Dartford Warbler and Ring Ouzel along the main track scrub and four Great Spotted Woodpeckers around the ponds. Also noted a couple each of Goldcrest and Chiffchaff, Cetti`s Warbler, two Great White Egrets and three Marsh Harriers.
  A wander down to the pines and behind Tower pits wasn't much more inspiring as the wind had picked up; plenty of Robins, a few Blackbirds, another Ring Ouzel and two more Great Spotted Woodpeckers was about it. Over the road the Red-throated Diver and Long-tailed Duck remained on Burrowes and two Cattle Egrets were in the Boulderwall fields.  

                                Rainbow over Lade

Thursday 24 October 2019


Dungeness - mild, cloudy, ssw 2 - A mild, murky day with drizzle throughout commenced for us at the point where we briefly joined the seawatchers at the fishing boats overlooking a calm sea. A few Gannets and Sandwich Terns drifted by along with several rafts of Razorbills and one or two Guillemots, plus 25 Wigeon and a Grey Plover. On the land five Swallows raced south while a wander around the foreshore and the Sanctuary delivered plenty of Wrens and Robins, 10 Stonechats, two Black Redstarts, 50 Goldfinches, two Skylarks, 20 Meadow Pipits, a Grey Wagtail over, a Merlin, 20 Goldcrests, two Firecrests, plus a Fieldfare and two Continental Coal Tits in the pines. It was also good to see a Brown Hare bounding across the shingle.
  Back at Lade 20 Swallows and a House Martin coasted along the beach towards Dungeness. There was no change to the regular birds on the pits this afternoon.
  It was similar fare on the bird reserve with the Long-tailed Duck and Red-throated Diver still present on Burrowes from Makepeace hide while island clearance work was underway in front of the visitor centre.

                                Great White Egret in front of Hanson hide

Wednesday 23 October 2019


Dungeness - mild, overcast, e3 - A brief seawatch from the hide proved fruitful with a few passing Gannets, Kittiwakes, Med Gulls and Sandwich Terns, plus four Common Scoters, two Brents, two Wigeon, Red-throated Diver and a superb pale phase Arctic Skua that did a double pass. Plenty of auks came and went, mostly Razorbills, and some settled on the sea inside the buoy. Several Swallows went out and small flocks of Goldfinches and Meadow Pipits came in.
  On the land more Goldfinches and Mipits noted, plus Robins everywhere, five Black Redstarts around the power station perimeter, a few Blackbirds, Chiffchaffs and Stonechats and a Peregrine over. A scattering of crests included a flock of five feeding on the rim of the moat and a Firecrest in the hand at the Obs.

                               Firecrest, DBO

  We finished the Birdwatching Break for Clare and Peter in some style with thousands of birds on the bay, including ten species of waders from Littlestone on the outgoing tide - 410 Knots and three Black-tailed Godwits being highlights, plus a Little Egret a species rarely seen here on salt water.
  In summary across the three days 108 species were recorded with the highlights being a Merlin, closely followed by Hen Harrier, Long-tailed Duck, Ring Ouzels, Firecrest, Brambling and loads of waders on the beach.

                                Knots on the bay

Tuesday 22 October 2019

Hen Harrier

Dungeness - mild, foggy start, sunny later - We continued on with our Birdwatching Break at the point in thick fog first thing. There were few passerines about, apart from many Robins, although we did manage two Wheatears opposite Jarman`s, several Goldcrests and a Firecrest in a private garden, two Ring Ouzel at the top of Long Pits and six Bramblings over the Trapping Area. Also noted small numbers of Chiffchaff, Goldfinch, Skylark, Mipit, Stonechat, Reed Bunting, Linnet, Siskin, Song Thrush and a Snipe.

                                Juvenile Long-tailed Duck, Burrowes

                                Adult Mediterranean Gull, ARC

  Moving onto the bird reserve where the highlights were, two Cattle Egrets by Cook`s Pool; Red-throated Diver and a juvenile Long-tailed Duck on Burrowes and a ringtail Hen Harrier over the water tower on ARC being the bird of the day and my first of the year, if only I was keeping a list...
Elsewhere across the reserve several Marsh Harriers, Great White Egret, two Buzzards, Kestrel, five Dunlins, Black-tailed Godwit, three Golden Plovers and all the usual gulls and ducks.
  Scotney was quiet with just a Ruff in amongst a Lapwing flock of any note, plus the usual feral geese.
 We finished the day at Lade where another two Wheatears and 50 Curlews were on the Desert and the first Goldeneye of autumn was on south lake. Walking Mockmill Sewer we noted seven Ring Ouzels, 10 Stonechats, Chiffchaff and Cetti`s Warbler.

                               First Goldeneye of autumn on south lake, Lade.

Monday 21 October 2019

Gulls, Merlin and Brambling

Lade - cool, cloudy, rain, nw 3 - A decent fall of Song Thrushes and Robins were scattered across the local patch this morning following heavy overnight rain. Also noted two Ring Ouzels, a Fieldfare, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Chiffchaffs, Goldcrest, four Great White Egrets and four juvenile Marsh Harriers in the air at once over the main reedbed.

                                Merlin at the fishing boats

                                Brambling in front of the power station

                               1st winter Caspian Gull by the puddles

                                Black Redstart

                                Barnacle Geese eastbound

Dungeness - With Clare and Peter down from London for a three day Birdwatching Break there was only one place to start: for the juvenile Sabine`s Gull, that was into its third day. Despite searching the foreshore between the fishing boats and The Patch this afternoon we had no joy. 
  However, we did connect with a wide range of gulls including first winter Caspian and Yellow-legged Gulls by the boats and plenty of Kittiwakes, 10 Mediterranean Gulls and six Little Gulls on the sea. Several parties of Brents and Common Scoters passed the point, plus a flock of six Barnacle Geese (unusual here), 10 Shelducks, 10 Sandwich Terns, five Red-throated Divers and a Bonxie. Best of all though was a Merlin that had chased a Meadow Pipit into the cabin of one of the fishing boats and was in the clutches of JTM awaiting processing at the Obs.
  In front of the power station a Brambling and Black Redstart showed well, while small flocks of Skylarks, Meadow Pipits, Chaffinches, Linnets and Starlings came in off the sea and two House Martins flew over the car park. Grey Seal and Porpoise were noted offshore.
  Although we dipped on the Sabine`s there was still plenty to see - and we only did the foreshore!

Sunday 20 October 2019

Ring Ouzels

Lade - cool, cloudy, n 2 - At last, a change in the weather with a high pressure system bringing more settled conditions, and hopefully more conducive for delivering a few decent migrants this coming week. Two trips over the local patch produced two and then three Ring Ouzels along the main track scrub, while DS had six in Mockmill along with a Snipe and Dartford Warbler. Overhead, a trickle of Skylarks, Reed Buntings, Goldfinches and Mipits, plus three Jays in off the bay. On the beach this afternoon on the incoming tide: 30 Sandwich Terns, 220 Curlews and 560 Oystercatchers to roost, also noted in small numbers Barwit, Knot, Dunlin, Turnstone and Ringed Plover, plus two Grey Seals following the tide in.
  This afternoon I joined CP for the first harrier count of autumn out on Walland Marsh where 15 Marsh Harriers came to roost. Also noted: Peregrine, six Buzzards, six Kestrels, two Ravens, five Great White and two Little Egrets, 60 Golden Plovers, six Snipe, 20 Skylarks, 20 Meadow Pipits, two Stonechats, two Corn Buntings, a Barn Owl and an `eared` owl.
  Elsewhere today the Sabine`s Gull was at the Patch, a Yellow-browed Warbler was trapped at the Obs and a Long-tailed Duck joined the Red-throated Diver on Burrowes.

Saturday 19 October 2019

Sabine`s Gull

Dungeness - mild, showery, sw 3 - A shocking 24 hours of wet and windy weather eventually relented by early afternoon. Between the rugby quarter finals this morning we checked the local patch where the usual array of egrets (three Great Whites), grebes and wildfowl were present on the wetlands, plus several Chiffchaffs and Goldcrests around the ponds.

                               Juvenile Sabine`s Gull, Dungeness fishing boats

  A phone call around noon from CP told of a juvenile Sabine`s Gull on the sea off the fishing boats, probably storm-blown from the recent gales, and by the time we arrived on site it was still showing well close to shore between the boats and the boardwalk. A superb pelagic gull that rarely affords such stunning views.

                               Plus, some much better pics taken by David Scott

Thursday 17 October 2019

Little Gulls

Lade - mild, showery, light airs - A decent catch of moths in the garden trap last night comprised nine species including a Delicate. On the local patch a trickle of birds overhead, mostly Goldfinches, Linnets, Meadow Pipits and Skylarks, plus Stonechat and Wheatear on the Desert. Also noted Sparrowhawk, Reed Bunting, five Chiffchaffs and 10 Swallows over south lake.

                                Wheatear, Lade

  An afternoon seawatch from the boats with the regulars was notable for a passage of at least 50 Little Gulls in a strengthening westerly wind. Also, hundreds of west bound Gannets and Sandwich Terns, several Arctic Skuas, 20 Razorbills, 22 Common Scoters, 10 Kittiwakes, 10 Mediterranean Gulls, three Mergansers, two Guillemots and two Snipe!

Wednesday 16 October 2019

Thousands of Swallows

Dungeness - mild, overcast, showery, S veering SSW 3 - 0800-0900hrs - An hour at the boats with the regular seawatchers was memorable for land birds as a massive movement of hirundines, predominantly Swallows was underway along with a few House Martins. Birds coasting and outward bound into the murk numbered 1,000 plus, while hundreds more were seen on the bird reserve and Lade today. Hundreds of Goldfinches were also noted across the peninsula.

                                Arctic Skua off the boats

  As for seabirds a steady passage of Gannets and Sandwich Terns streamed west, some close to shore, along with up to 10 Arctic Skuas, 20 Little Gulls, 10 Kittiwakes, 10 Common Scoters, 15 Razorbills, four Brents and two Mediterranean Gulls.

                               Red-throated Diver on Burrowes


                                Juvenile Grass Snake, Makepeace hide

                               Fungi on wood, car park

  A guided walk for RSPB this morning concentrated on viewing from Burrowes and ARC hides due to the rain. On Burrowes the long staying Red-throated Diver showed well, plus a distant Goldeneye, a Raven over, three Marsh Harriers, two Common Terns, two Dunlins, two Wheatears, a Black Redstart in the car park and all the usual wildfowl on the lake, while the three Cattle Egrets were on the Boulderwall fields. From Hanson hide a juvenile Little Stint was the highlight, a bird in short supply this autumn, plus a juvenile Little Gull, Garganey, Snipe, six Black-wits, two Dunlins and a Water Rail.
  A late afternoon check of Lade revealed Swallows still passing south, four Great White Egrets on the lagoon and 10 Chiffchaffs around the ponds feeding on myriads of small flying insects.

Tuesday 15 October 2019


Lade - mild, overcast, sw 2 - 0730-0900hrs - Tried a viz mig session this morning from the aerial ramp where the standout bird was a Yellowhammer, only my third site record; infact, over the years I`ve had many more Lapland Buntings overhead.
  All birds were heading south as follows: Skylark 11, Mipit 78, Swallow 83, House Martin 8, Sand Martin 5, Grey Wagtail 2, alba wagtail 21, Song Thrush 5, Chaffinch 53, Greenfinch 8, Goldfinch 254, Siskin 6, Linnet 118, Yellowhammer 1, Reed Bunting 23.
  Around the ponds 10 Chiffchaffs, two Goldcrests and three Blackcaps the best of the migrants. Also noted across the site: three Great White and 12 Little Egrets, Sparrowhawk, Marsh Harrier, Green Woodpecker, Jay, Stonechat and Cetti`s Warbler.

                               Robin, Lade ponds

Sunday 13 October 2019

Leach`s Petrel and shearwaters

Lade - mild and wet - Following two days of near continuous rain, this morning it temporarily abated allowing some semblance of normal birding weather conditions. However, it is mild and despite the wet stuff the garden moth trap has been packed full of moths; last nights catch comprised 12 species of macros including two Delicates, L-album Wainscot and Mallow.
  There was no change on the local patch with up to four Great White and 12 Little Egrets present. A few Swallows, House Martins and Chiffchaffs were the only migrants on offer today. On the bird reserve the three Cattle Egrets were still going between ARC and Boulderwall fields and the three Little Gulls were present on ARC yesterday.

                                Great White Egret, Lade

Dungeness ssw 3  - 0930-1200hrs - Joined SM, MH, JH and CT at the fishing boats for a tidy seawatch in overcast conditions with the wind veering around to just west of south. Westbound Gannets, Sandwich Terns and auks (mostly Razorbills what I could see) numbered around 100 each, plus four Brents, two Common Scoters, 10 Little Gulls, 10 Mediterranean Gulls, 10 Kittiwakes, 10 Dunlins, 15 Knots, two Little Egrets!, 10 Arctic Skuas, a Bonxie, two Manx Shearwaters, Balearic and Sooty Shearwater (1130hrs), Black-throated Diver and a Leach`s Petrel (1000hrs) that stayed in view for a full 10 minutes before it eventually rounded the point. Several pulses of Swallows went out and larger flocks of Starlings totalling 150 came in.
  An afternoon tour of the bird reserve dodging the rain showers resulted in two Cattle Egrets amongst the Boulderwall herd, Red-throated Diver and Common Tern on Burrowes and a Black-tailed Godwit and Garganey on ARC where the Eastern type Common Tern was reported earlier.

Thursday 10 October 2019

Blue Tits

Dungeness - mild, sunny, w 4 - Another quiet birding day across the peninsula with just a few Goldfinches, Linnets, Meadow Pipits, Chaffinches, alba wagtails, Skylarks and Swallows on the move. There seemed to be an influx of Blue Tits with flocks of 20 or more at several local sites today. An hour staring at the sea produced five Arctic Skuas, 10 Mediterranean Gulls and plenty of distant Sandwich Terns, Gannets and Kittiwakes.
  A late morning check of the front fields at Scotney delivered the usual mixed feral Barnacle Goose flock, plus 100 Lapwings, 10 Golden Plovers, three Curlews, Ruff, Yellow Wagtail and Wheatear.
From Hanson hide on ARC more Lapwings, Golden Plover, Black-tailed Godwit and three Little Gulls, while on Burrowes plenty more Golden Plovers, two Garganeys and a Red-throated Diver.
 This afternoon on the low tide a check of the bay from Littlestone produced seven species of waders including 15 Ringed Plovers. A Ring Ouzel was seen this morning in Mockmill, Lade (DS).

Wednesday 9 October 2019

Quiet days

Lade - mild, cloudy, w 3 - We flogged around the local patch for little return this morning under leaden skies with rain clouds out over the Channel. A few Meadow Pipits, Skylarks, 10 Reed Buntings, five Chiffchaffs and 100 hirundines over south lake was the sum total of migrant birds. Also noted Kingfisher, eight Little Egrets, Sparrowhawk, Marsh Harrier, Cetti`s Warbler and 20 Mediterranean Gulls on north lake.
  An afternoon seawatch from the fishing boats with the regulars produced up to four Arctic Skuas, a trickle of Gannets, Sandwich Terns, Kittiwakes and Swallows out. Harbour Porpoise and Grey Seal also present.
  Called in at the Kerton Road café on the way home where the scarce migrant White-speck moth was on show.


Tuesday 8 October 2019

Ring Ouzels and GW Egrets

Dungeness - 0800hrs - mild, cloudy, sw 2 - We walked the point this morning from the lifeboat station along the foreshore to the Obs and across the Trapping Area, returning via the Desert. Despite decent weather conditions there were few birds on the move apart from a steady trickle of hirundines, a few Meadow Pipits, Skylarks, Chaffinches, Goldfinches, alba wagtails and Reed Buntings. On the deck, 100 Linnets, Stonechat, Blackbird, Song Thrush, several Robins and Chiffchaffs, while at the Obs staff were busily ringing Mipits caught in the crow trap. At the southern end of the Trapping Area at least seven Ring Ouzels put on a good show clacking away and rising up from the scrub, flying around a bit calling and landing again; also a Merlin over. Yesterdays Wryneck was also seen earlier (OL).

                               Linnets feeding on bugloss seed

                               Ring Ouzel, Trapping Area

  Called in at Littlestone at low tide to check the beach from where the highlights were 150 Knots, 15 Grey Plovers, 500 Oystercatchers and 150 Curlews. Hirundines continued to trickle south, plus a late Yellow Wagtail.

                               Great White Egrets, Lade

  At Lade four Great White Egrets was a record count (for me) around the Willow Swamp along with 11 Little Egrets, five Grey Herons and a host of Cormorants and grebes; obviously `word` had gotten around about some easy fishing... Also noted, Kingfisher, two Chiffchaffs and more hirundines south.

Sunday 6 October 2019

Thrush rush

Lade - mild, cloudy, showery, nw 3 - With Mike and Wendy from Worcestershire staying at Plovers for a moth weekend, looking at the rain in the forecast I wasn't expecting great catches, but how wrong I was! 22species in the garden traps this morning included Pearly Underwing, Dark Sword-grass, Delicate, Mallow, Blair`s Shoulder-knot, L-album Wainscot and Clancy`s Rustic, the latter two being new for Mike. We called in at the Kerton Road Café and DBO where more goodies awaited including two migrant Radford`s Flame Shoulders, one trapped at the Obs, the other from Greatstone. Many thanks to Dorothy and David for retaining their catches over the weekend. 


                               Blair`s Shoulder-knot

                               Clancy`s Rustic, Plover`s trap

Dungeness - After doing the moths it was apparent that a huge movement of thrushes was underway at the point, which prompted a wander around the moat, trapping area and desert. Over the next couple of hours Song Thrushes were the order of the day; in unprecedented numbers, they were everywhere, flying in off the sea, dropping into cover and heading inland, and as always with continental birds they were nervous and furtive. This was the biggest fall of Song Thrushes that I can remember, certainly in my time here, that comprised 500 plus birds on the move, but the true figure across the peninsula certainly involved many more I`m sure.

                                Ring Ouzels, Trapping Area

  In amongst the thrush rush were at least 20 Ring Ouzels, several Redwings and the odd one or two Blackbirds. Robins were numerous and a flock of 30 Skylarks grounded on the desert. Also noted a few Meadow Pipits, Reed Buntings, Goldfinches, Chiffchaffs, Goldcrest, Blackcap  and a steady flow of hirundines overhead.