Friday 29 November 2019


Lade - warm, dry and sunny - At last a decent day of weather with warm sunshine and light airs throughout as high pressure moved in. There was no real change over the pits with just the usual ducks on the lakes and several Chiffchaffs attached to tit/finch flocks around the ponds. We checked Mockmill late this afternoon for owls, but drew a blank, although several Marsh Harriers flew through to roost over by the bird reserve, and as dusk approached hundreds of Woodpigeons and corvids also came to roost.

                               680 Oystercatchers!

  Spent some time these past two days on the beach counting waders where 11 species have been logged across the bay. Yesterday I managed to time it such that the tide had gathered the Oystercatchers into two tight flocks affording a reasonable accurate combined count of 760 birds.
The light was also spectacular yesterday afternoon looking south to Dungeness.

Wednesday 27 November 2019

The rain continues...

Dungeness - mild, cloudy, showery, sw 4 - Another day of dire, wet and windy weather with a big sea running before a high spring tide this morning, between the two hides; as fast as the machines were shoring up the bund the crashing wave action swept away great swathes of shingle, particularly in front of the Patch hide.
  Don't often see such large ships close to shore, but the Hopper dredger Spauwer clipped the point around mid-morning.

                                Fighting a losing battle

                               RAS Spauwer off Dungeness

  Birdwise it was quiet with just a few Kittiwakes offshore and further out a trickle of Gannets. We then moved to the fishing boats and joined MC for a while where more of the same were noted, plus several Red-throated Divers and Guillemots. Also, a brown Merlin flashed over the sea, having scattered a flock of roosting gulls, while a manky, Magpie foraged along the tideline looking for all the world as though it had just emerged from a bucket of oil! Its eyes were a right old mess, but it appeared to be feeding okay and could just about fly; although not, I suspect, well enough to evade a hungry Peregrine.

                                One sorry looking Magpie

  En-route to Lydd and the three Cattle Egrets were in the horse field by the bungalow. A check of Lade pits this afternoon revealed no change to the regular wildfowl.

Sunday 24 November 2019

Pheasant in the garden!

Lade - mild, cloudy, damp, ssw 2 - Another dreary day of weekend weather across the local patch with not much change from earlier in the week. As it was high tide I spent a fair amount of time (more out of desperation!) scanning through a large gull flock on north lake comprising around 2,000 birds, mostly Black-headed and Herring Gulls with a lesser mix of Common and Black-backs. Amongst the throng were at least 10 Mediterranean and one adult Caspian Gull. Duck, Coot and grebe numbers were lower than usual on both waters.
  Passerines included several Stonechats and Blackbirds, Chiffchaff and Cetti`s Warbler, 10 Mipits, plus Grey Wagtail and Redwing overhead. On the beach a flock of 12 Grey Plovers was noteworthy.
  The biggest surprise came when we returned home to find a cock Pheasant underneath the bird table that shot off out of the garden like a rocket as we hove into view, leaving a scattering of feathers as it crashed through the fir trees! Needless to say it was a garden tick, if only I kept such a list...
Folkestone Book Festival - Today was the final day of the festival of which we`ve attended three events at the Quarterhouse in Folkestone. However, Saturday`s sell-out talk by Richard Dawkins was held in the Saga Pavilion where one of the great thinkers of our time was promoting his new book: Outgrowing God - A Beginners Guide. Looking a bit frail after his recent stroke it was good see and hear that his mind was as sharp as ever as he answered a range of question from the audience.

Friday 22 November 2019

Nothing much to report

Lade - mild, wet and windy, s2 - The past few days have been pretty much of a muchness, apart from a weather change today with rain returning and the temperature rising. We flogged around the local patch for little reward apart from Goldeneye amongst the wildfowl and a couple of Chiffchaffs and Goldcrests around the ponds. The bay at low tide from Littlestone continues to be productive with hundreds of Knot still present and at least nine Black-tailed Godwits, which are on the scarce side here.
  Elsewhere, trips to the point have delivered small numbers of seabirds despite the onshore winds and variable numbers of gulls at the Patch. On the bird reserve a few Caspian Gulls have come and gone on Burrowes, while the long-staying three, Cattle Egrets and several Great Whites remain around Dengemarsh/Boulderwall. Marsh Harriers seem to be everywhere along with one or two Buzzards. Passerines remain in short supply, as testified by a walk around Tower Pits and the pines yesterday, although a small group of Bearded Tits showed well in the reedbed in front of Screen hide.

Tuesday 19 November 2019

First frost of winter

Lade - cold, dry and sunny, light airs - A stunning winter morning with the first proper frost of the season covering the shingle and plants with a white rime, and welding the stones together affording an easy transit over the pebbles. Barney, however, wasn't so sure as he slithered his way across to the main track! The view south to Dungeness had an ethereal feel with the power stations and lighthouses looming out of  the mist.

                                Mullein rosette
                                Looking south towards Dungeness

  Along the main track there was a good selection of birds for a change including Dartford Warbler and Stonechats, Reed Buntings and Greenfinch. Around the ponds Bullfinch and Great Spotted Woodpecker were bonus birds (the finch being particularly scarce here) plus Chiffchaff and Cetti`s Warbler. On the lakes most of the Great Crested Grebes have now dispersed, presumably onto the sea for the winter; a lone Goldeneye was the only wildfowl of note. Marsh Harrier, Buzzard, Kestrel, Long-tailed Tits, Mipits, Blackbirds and Robins also noted.

                                Great Spotted Woodpecker

                               Guelder Rose by the ponds

Sunday 17 November 2019

Harriers and Stone Curlew

Lade - mild, cloudy, wet, light airs, am, brighter later - Spent the first part of the morning on the local patch counting waterfowl for the monthly WeBS survey on south lake, until a phone call from PB told of a Pallas`s Warbler in the moat at Dungeness found by Ray O` Reilly whilst leading a KOS group. We were soon on site, but despite a couple of hours searching it could not be relocated, just several Goldcrests, a Firecrest, Song Thrush, Robins, Wrens, Chaffinches, Dunnocks and Blue Tits.
  Whilst there news came through of a Stone Curlew on the beach at Greatstone found by David Scott whilst scanning roosting waders on the high tide - from his front window! The bird eventually moved down the beach towards the Pilot and landed just past the green fishing boat opposite Williamson Road, a stone`s throw from Plovers - in a desperate attempt to get it on the cottage list I tried to see it from the upstairs bedroom window, but failed! However, the bird had settled on a quiet section of the beach affording a clutch of local and visiting birders to observe it on the deck through scopes. A very late record and an odd place for one to turn up too, alongside roosting Oystercatchers.

                               Stone Curlew on Greatstone beach (by David Scott)

                               Record shot down the beach!

   This afternoon on the way out to Walland with CP we stopped for seconds on the curlew before heading out on the marsh, where a scan of the bay revealed a Red-breasted Merganser, five Sandwich Terns and a number of Kittiwakes on a flat calm sea.
  From our usual watch point on Walland a total of 18 Marsh Harriers dropped in to roost in perfect weather conditions. Also noted in the area, five Buzzards, four Kestrels, two Ravens, five Fieldfares, several Water Rails and Cetti`s Warblers, 10 Mipits, Corn Bunting and five Great White Egrets to roost over by the reservoir. As dusk fell several large Starling murmerations fizzed inland, while hundreds of feral swans and geese flew to roost.

Friday 15 November 2019


Lade - cold, cloudy, rain, ne 3-4 - A grim morning to be out and about across the peninsula that got steadily wetter as the afternoon progressed. The local patch had a few more Teal and Wigeon on south lake, but otherwise it was similar fare to earlier in the week. On the high tide and with the onshore wind picking up a few Gannets and Red-throated Divers were forced into the bay, although still fairly distant. A late Sandwich Tern was also of note.
  Around the bird reserve Burrowes held all the usual wildfowl, gulls and Cormorants, while at least five different Marsh Harriers were active over the Boulderwall fields. A walk down to the pines yielded good numbers of 20 plus Blackbirds foraging on sea buckthorn berries, plus a mixed flock of tits, Chaffinches and a couple of Chiffchaffs. Two Goldeneyes were on the ARC lake, but with all the islands now underwater for the winter it was a pretty bleak picture.

Wednesday 13 November 2019

Burrowes Biomass

Lade - mild, dry and sunny, light airs - A fine winters day to be out and about around the peninsula. We kicked off on the local patch where several Chiffchaffs and Goldcrests were by the ponds and two Mediterranean Gulls amongst a large flock of gulls on north lake. All the usual grebes and wildfowl across both waters, plus Marsh Harrier, Kestrel and a mixed flock of Curlews and Lapwings over the airport fields.

                                Mediterranean Gull, Lade north

  Moving onto the bird reserve where Burrowes was stacked out with enormous numbers of common wildfowl, chiefly Shoveler, Wigeon and Teal, hundreds of gulls and Lapwings and at least 3,000 Cormorants. Also in the mix 10 Pintails, five Golden Plovers, two Redshanks and a Red-throated Diver, plus several Marsh Harriers, Raven and Peregrine over. More Chiffchaffs were in the bushes and a Brambling on the car park feeders. On Boulderwall fields, two Cattle and one Great White Egret, plus a single Goldeneye on ARC.

                               Great White Egret, Boulderwall

  An afternoon visit to Scotney yielded the usual feral geese, 100 Wigeon, 100 Lapwings, 500 Starlings, five Ruffs and two Redshanks. The Little Owl was in its favoured bush by the watch tower from the range road, while two Brent Geese had joined the Mute Swan flock in the stubble field by the dung heap along Dengemarsh Road. A ringtail Hen Harrier was also reported today between Cockles and Springfield bridges.

Sunday 10 November 2019

Sandwich Terns

Lade - mild, dry and cloudy, ne 2 - The forecast yesterday was for a brisk south-easterly, so I joined a clutch of locals in a damp seawatch hide first thing - only to realise the wind was from the north-east! However, there was a notable up-Channel passage of Sandwich Terns for the time of year of 80 + over an hour and a half (TG); thing is, of course, they should`ve been going the other way!
Also, hundreds of Gannets and Kittiwakes offshore, plus 10 Red-throated Divers, 10 Common Scoters, a Black-throated Diver and a Bonxie.
  Around the local patch at Lade nothing much had changed: a Dartford Warbler was still present along the main track; Goldeneye and seven Wigeon on south lake; two Chiffchaffs by the ponds; a Peregrine over the wall `mirror` and 50 Curlews flying to roost.
  Likewise on the bird reserve, with the water levels rapidly rising and flooding the wader habitat it was over to wildfowl, and there were few of them with just a scattering of Goldeneyes and the long-staying Red-throated Diver on Burrowes of note, plus the usual egrets and  harriers.
 It would appear that the season has suddenly morphed into early winter...

Thursday 7 November 2019

The gully

Dengemarsh Gully - cold, sunny, w 3 - I decided upon a change of scene first thing this morning with a walk down the gully, out across Penn Bars towards the switch station, back along the foreshore and up the gully with the sun behind me. I never seem to have much luck here, but the site has got form: Bluetail, Bluethroat, Pallas`s and Melodious Warblers to name but a few goodies, and that`s just in my time down here. However, not today as it was pretty much a bird free zone with just single figures of Blackbird, Song Thrush, Robin and Wren noted.
  Still, Barney loves this walk, scampering around the scrub like a puppy and even flushing a couple of rabbits; not bad for a 13 year old mutt, who at the moment is asleep at my feet snoring merrily away and probably dreaming about his exploits!

                               Dengemarsh gully

                                Myrtle Cottage memorial stone, Penn Bars

                                One happy Border Terrier

  However, the weedy field by Springfield Bridge did attract a few Skylarks, Mipits, Goldfinches, Chaffinches and a Kestrel, while the flood held a host of feral geese. Also, Great White Egret, Marsh Harrier and Raven noted over Dengemarsh.
  Scotney on the other hand was packed out with birds on the flooded, front fields: mostly 1,000 plus feral geese, 50 Wigeons, 300 Golden Plovers and 200 Lapwings, plus four Ruffs, 20 Dunlins, Redshank, Curlew, 20 Linnets and 15 Mipits. On the lake the Black-necked Grebe was at the Sussex end, while a Great White Egret and Marsh Harrier over flew the road.

Tuesday 5 November 2019

Late Swallows

Dungeness - mild, cloudy, light airs - Following torrential overnight rain flood water was everywhere on the drive down to the point first thing. However, in the still, dry conditions there were a few birds to be seen, mainly Starlings, Dunnocks, Robins and Wrens. Four late Swallows flitting around the old light were the pick of the bunch and they didn't seem to have any trouble finding flying insects. Also, near the Patch, two Black Redstarts, 10 Goldfinches and a Chiffchaff on the power station wall; a Firecrest in the lighthouse garden; several Stonechats in the scrub and single figures of Siskin and Redpoll over. A search along the beach opposite Jarman`s for a late Wheatear yielded little apart from a few Skylarks and Mipits, while the Shore Lark remained faithful to the puddles by the fishing boats.
  The bay at Littlestone at low tide held six Black-tailed Godwits amongst the regular six species of waders, plus 23 Sandwich Terns on the sands. An afternoon check of the local patch in warm sunshine revealed nothing much of note apart from a couple of Goldcrests by the ponds and two Marsh Harriers quartering the far reedbed on south lake.

Sunday 3 November 2019

Bearded Tits

Lade - mild, cloudy, light airs - Any attempt to go birding past mid-morning yesterday was rendered largely pointless by a fast-moving weather front that moved up-Channel delivering gale force winds and heavy rain well into the evening. I spent most of the afternoon worrying about whether our new roof was going to hold up to the tempest (which I`m pleased to say it did) but when I did venture into the garden to lash down a fence panel noticed a bedraggled Goldcrest hiding behind a flower pot!
  However, the wind eased this morning affording a circuit of the local patch in calmer conditions, and there were one or two bits and pieces of interest to be fair. A dribble of overhead passage included the usual suspects of Goldfinch, Chaffinch, Linnet, Mipit and Skylark, plus two Redpolls and a Brambling. On the ground a scattering of Reed Buntings, Blackbirds, Robins, Wrens and Dunnocks with two Chiffchaffs and a Blackcap by the ponds and a Dartford Warbler by the badger sett. Surprise of the morning went to two Bearded Tits that `exploded` from a reedbed alongside north lake and were only my third record here. On south lake, two Goldeneyes and a Great White Egret, Marsh Harrier and Kestrel out back, plus squealing Water Rails from what seemed like every patch of reeds.

                               Great White Egret and Dartford Warbler, Lade

  Elsewhere today the Shore Lark was again reported near the fishing boat puddles, a Short-eared Owl was in the Kerton Road triangle, while Pomarine Skua and Velvet Scoter were logged past the point by the seawatchers.

Friday 1 November 2019

Rough-legged Buzzard

Dungeness - mild, cloudy, drizzle, S3 - A wander along the foreshore this morning from the lifeboat station to the lighthouse delivered very little of note apart from a Black Redstart by the sea containers, several inbound Skylarks and Goldfinches, a Merlin and a handful of Goldcrests and a Firecrest in scrub by the Sanctuary, while the lone Shore Lark remained faithful to the puddles by the fishing boats. Half an hour with the seawatchers produced plenty of Gannets, auks (mostly Razorbills), several Sandwich Terns, Wigeon, Common Scoter, Mediterranean Gull and a Red-breasted Merganser.

                               Shore Lark on its third day

  Around the bird reserve this afternoon a few more Goldeneyes had moved in with three on ARC, two on Burrowes and one on Lade. Great White and Cattle Egrets were noted at Dengemarsh and the Red-throated Diver remained on Burrowes. Whilst in the visitors centre MH and DC were watching a raptor over the far side of the lake which we eventually identified as a Rough-legged Buzzard amongst several Marsh Harriers and Common Buzzards, before it eventually went down by the Oppen pits. I moved to the Long Pits to try and relocated it looking back but had no luck.