Thursday 31 December 2020

Farewell 2020!

 Lade - cold and sunny, nw 2 - Well what a year it has been! It started off so promising here at Plovers with a full program of wildlife tours planned for our guests throughout the spring and summer seasons, until the virus struck and the whole lot were cancelled. Along with many others in the leisure sector it has certainly been a tough year, but nowhere near as tough as those frontline workers battling the virus in hospitals and care homes across the country, heroes every one of them. So, in retrospect we have been fortunate down here throughout this crisis, along with its various lockdowns, to still have access to the Dungeness NNR with its wealth of flora and fauna; and there certainly were some memorable moments. 

                                 Spring Wheatears,  Lade beach

  On the birding front I managed to clock up 216 species of birds across the peninsula during 2020, which is about average for me with only a few seabirds missing, mainly due to the Estate being closed in the first lockdown. Notable spring raptors included Sea-eagle sightings from the Netherlands population, decent numbers of Red Kites and Ospreys on passage, a Red-footed Falcon on Dengemarsh and several Black Kites through. The heron tribe once again featured well with Great White and Cattle Egrets and Glossy Ibis throughout, while spring `overshoots` included Black-winged Stilt, Purple Heron, Bee-eater, several Short-toed Treecreepers and a Rosy Starling at Lydd, part of a nationwide influx. As over 100 pairs of Common Terns settled down to breed on Burrowes and ARC two Whiskered and a Gull-billed Tern briefly added some glamour to proceedings.

                                  Rosy Starling, Lydd

  Willow Warbler, Spotted Flycatcher, Redstart and Whinchat were in short supply on spring passage, in contrast to Sedge Warblers and Whitethroats that seemed to be everywhere. With restricted access to parts of the bird reserve, and the hides closed throughout, wader-watching proved difficult, although plenty of Whimbrels could be seen and heard passing overhead during spring and autumn. Migrant Woodlark and Nightingale were noted at Lade and Cuckoos bred again, where there was also good numbers of grounded Yellow Wagtails and Wheatears on the desert in late summer. 

                                 Red-flanked Bluetail, Dungeness

                                  Pallas`s Warbler, DBO

  Autumn was notable for a rash of rare warblers including Pallas`s, Hume`s, Dusky and Yellow-browed at DBO, plus a sensational Red-flanked Bluetail, which was also part of an unprecedented influx across eastern Britain. Classic `drift` migrants such as Pied Flycatchers, Ring-Ouzel, Red-backed Shrike, Wryneck and Shore Lark enlivened the season as the first of the finches and thrushes arrived from the east and a late Dusky Warbler took up residence in the scrub around the ARC car park.

                                  Summer Solstice 2020

  However, the most memorable outing of the year for me was midsummer morning spent on the bird reserve with our Lucy watching the sun come up along with a cacophony of bird song and a Barn Owl hunting close by. A couple of hours later we sat overlooking the wetlands at Dengemarsh soaking up Bittern `booming`, Marsh Harriers food-passing and a singing Savi`s Warbler, a new species for me at Dungeness, pure magic. 

  The New Year beckons and although the first couple of months could be grim, hope springs eternal as the vaccines are rolled out, so stay safe and good birding to one and all for 2021.

Tuesday 29 December 2020

Gull fest

 Lade - cold, overcast, light air - A nippy, raw bone kind of a day that was not conducive to lingering long in one place. On the local patch a most unusual sight was four Marsh Harriers sat atop the 200` wall mirror this morning. On the lakes an increase in Wigeon and Teal numbers to 30 and 50 respectively and just a pair of Goldeneyes on south lake. A Stonechat in scrub along the main track was the first one for a while and a Chiffchaff called from cover.

  At Dungeness around midday all the car parks were full of visitors (despite the Tier 4 advice on keeping local) and there wasn`t a gull anywhere on the beach due to disturbance by dog-walkers. However, hundreds of gulls were to be found at the Patch and on the flat calm sea thereabouts, including at least 20 Mediterranean Gulls and a fly-through Iceland Gull; the Glaucous Gull from earlier had disappeared, but returned during the afternoon (MC). Plenty of auks, Kittiwakes, Gannets and a few Red-throated Divers passed off shore.

Sunday 27 December 2020

Iceland Gulls

 Lade - mild, sunny, sw 3 - Storm Bella tore through the peninsula overnight delivering almost an inch of rain in its wake with damaging gusts lifting roof tiles, flattening fences and even some walls hereabouts. However, by noon it was all over bar the shouting as the wind dropped and the sun broke through making a circuit of the local patch most pleasant. Goldeneye numbers had increased to five on south lake, while raptors abroad in search of food included three Marsh Harriers, two Sparrowhawks and a Buzzard. Along the strandline this afternoon thousands of cockles had been washed up on the high tide following the gale. 

                                              Cockles on the beach

  With up to three Iceland Gulls present locally I`ve spent a fair bit of time lately checking the gull flocks loafing on the sands at low tide, but without success. However, yesterday afternoon after a trip down to the Patch and a fair bit of searching I eventually located a first winter bird amongst a large gull flock on the beach. Offshore, from the seawatching hide, a steady movement of Gannets, Cormorants, auks, Kitts and Red-throated Divers rounded the point.

                                 Spot the Iceland Gull!

Thursday 24 December 2020

Conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter

 Lade - cold, cloudy, nw 5 - Following a wet and windy spell of weather off the Atlantic, overnight the wind swung round to a much cooler northerly vector, but at least it was dry. Highlights this week so far across the local patch have included two Ravens flying inland `cronking` furiously, a Dartford Warbler by the cattery scrub, three Goldeneyes and a Great White Egret on south lake and a pair of Sandwich Terns lingering on the bay at low tide amongst increasing numbers of Mediterranean Gulls (20 on Tuesday). All ten species of waders are present somewhere between Lade and Littlestone, while at high tide Great Crested Grebes and a few Red-throated Divers could be seen fishing offshore along with several Grey Seals. This evening the clouds finally lifted affording spectacular views of the conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter low in the south-western skies.

                                 Jupiter and Saturn conjunction over the desert

  A couple of visits to the fishing boats this week produced spectacular numbers of Razorbills, Guillemots, Gannets, Red-throated Divers and Kittiwakes feeding/moving offshore, plus singles of Bonxie and Fulmar; earlier in the week brief sightings of Glaucous Gull (PB) and Leache`s Petrel (OL) were noted. Elsewhere, the White-fronted Geese remain faithful to the Lydd fields, despite the farmer`s efforts to deter them, and the wild swans are still amongst the Mutes on Walland. The Black-throated Diver was on ARC yesterday, although I could find no sign of the Dusky Warbler, and a 1st winter Iceland Gull was at the Patch this morning (DBO). The bird reserve is now closed over the Christmas period until Sunday 27th. 

Sunday 20 December 2020

Harrier count

 Lade - showers and sunshine, mild, w 4 - It was a grim start to the day with leaden skies and sporadic rain that aptly reflected the national mood following yesterdays announcement by the government of a Tier 4 lockdown Christmas and New Year (and probably beyond). Still, we are fortunate down here to have access to the National Nature Reserve with its wide open spaces and coastline. Once the rain relented a check of the local patch revealed three Marsh Harriers quartering the main reedbed and flushing the Coots and diving ducks hugging the margins. I was on the lookout (or listen out) for an unprecedented 16 Ravens seen earlier by CP at St Mary`s-in-the-Marsh that were headed our way, but without success.

                                  Fieldfares bathing, Midley

  This afternoon was the final harrier count of the year on Walland Marsh where five Marsh Harriers came to roost in our allotted reedbed site, along with five Great White Egrets roosting in nearby bushes. Also in the general area 22 Bewick`s Swans, three Buzzards, Teal, Lapwings and Snipe, while the spectacle was provided by hundreds of geese and swans flying to roost at sunset, and hundreds of `chacking` Fieldfares in the lanes hereabouts. 

Friday 18 December 2020

Firth Lookout

 Lade - mild, cloudy, sw 5 - A mixed bag of wet and windy weather this week, but mild throughout. A Bittern flying over the main reedbed was the first of the winter and Goldeneyes increased to three in number. The usual Marsh Harriers worked the wildfowl flocks and a Merlin was noted on the desert chasing a Meadow Pipit yesterday. On the bay this week at least three Sandwich Terns were still present on Wednesday amongst all the usual waders.

  On the RSPB reserve the newly constructed Firth Lookout was open for business affording superb, panoramic (Covid safe) views across the lake overlooking the islands, and onwards towards the power station. This afternoon when I visited it was a bit blowy around the gills, so you will need to wrap up well, but already the close islands harboured nervy dabbling ducks and gulls, seemingly already accustomed to human shapes on the bund above. Top marks to all involved in the project. A third winter Caspian Gull and two Goldeneyes were of note from the viewpoint and a Peregrine hacked through flushing the wildfowl and gulls. The Boulderwall fields were packed out with Golden Plovers, Lapwings and Wigeons, plus four Marsh Harriers, a Great White Egret and hundreds of Starlings and corvids; the Glossy Ibis was also reported here earlier. The Dusky Warbler was calling in scrub around the ARC car park, while the Black-throated Diver, having been flushed off the lake by a Marsh Harrier flew overhead towards Tower Pits.

                                 View from the new Firth Lookout

Elsewhere this week a couple of forays out onto Walland delivered 23 Bewick`s and two Whooper Swans; 100 plus White-fronted Geese on the Lydd fields; female/immature Scaup and Long-tailed Duck on Scotney front pits and a ringtail Hen Harrier at Galloways. The sea has produced plenty of common seabirds this week on a southerly airflow such as Gannets, Kittiwakes, auks and Red-throated Divers along with goodies including Bonxie, Great Northern Diver and Goosander (MC et al). Late this afternoon a 1st winter Glaucous Gull was briefly on the beach at Dungeness (DBO).

Friday 11 December 2020

Dusky Warbler

 Lade - mild, sunshine and showers, light airs - Daily visits across the local patch this week have delivered very little change apart from an increase in numbers of Teal and Shoveler and, today, a pair of Goldeneye on north lake. 

                                  Sunset over Lade this afternoon

  The main bird news today was the discovery this morning by AP/SM of a Dusky Warbler in the scrub around ARC car park (where an eastern race Lesser Whitethroat was seen on Thursday). The bird was highly active, calling and even moving through the willow canopy at times before flying over the road into the garden at Boulderwall around midday. The Black-throated Diver was still present on the lake and could be seen from the bank near Screen hide. Also noted this week across the bird reserve: the long-staying Glossy Ibis on the fields at Dengemarsh and Boulderwall, several Water Pipits on the hayfields and a Long-tailed Duck on New Diggings (presumably the Scotney bird). The White-fronted Goose flock and two Whooper Swans were faithful to the oil-seed rape fields between Cockles Bridge and Culver Lane. More White-fronts were reported on Walland Marsh along with several Tundra Geese and 14 Bewick`s Swans. From the fishing boats at Dungeness large numbers of auks, Cormorants, Gannets and Kittiwakes continued to feed offshore along with many Red-throated Divers, Mediterranean Gulls and Sandwich Terns, while an immature Iceland Gull was noted yesterday flying towards Lade bay.

Sunday 6 December 2020


Saturday - Dungeness - cold, overcast, se 4 - We started the day with our usual circuit of the local patch at Lade where there was little of note and no sign of yesterdays reported Red-crested Pochard. However, with a brisk south-easterly wind underway the sea was always going to be a better bet, even at this time of year, and so it proved to be. On the high tide a decent number of Kittiwakes even made it into the bay, but for the full impact of what was an impressive movement of Kitts throughout the day, involving many thousands of birds, you had to be at the point (the morning seawatch estimated 8-10,000 through in two hours, plus a Little Auk).

                                  Kittiwakes on the move, Dungeness

  At the fishing boats this afternoon Kittiwakes continued to pulse down-Channel, some passing close to shore, and where a ten minute count by MC tallied 588 birds; it was also good to see a number of juveniles amongst the flocks. Also noted were plenty of auks (mainly Guillemots), Cormorants, Gannets and a lone Bonxie, but it was the Kittiwakes that stole the show providing a fabulous birding spectacle throughout the day, thanks mainly to the onshore wind and the abundance of available food in the form of sprats.

Friday 4 December 2020

Wildfowl and Weird Weather

Lade - cold, cloudy, sw 3 - Started the day on the local patch under glowering skies with an icy wind and finished at dusk in a torrential hail storm, during which time we sought shelter under the aerial mound tunnel - Barney was not impressed! Apparently, on the Wealden Hills just to the north there was a sprinkling of the first snows of winter as a warm weather front off the Atlantic collided with colder air from the east. Birdwise there was little to report apart from 75 Magpies going to roost in the willow swamp this evening.

                                  Bewick`s Swans, Midley

  A late tour of Walland Marsh today delivered 14 Bewick`s Swans within a herd of 160 Mutes at Midley, four Corn Buntings and a Yellowhammer at the drying barns (which have now been `tidied up`), 1,000 plus Fieldfares at Hawthorn Corner and four Buzzards and two Kestrels along the lanes. The front pits and grass at Scotney was full of birds; mainly feral geese, Wigeon and Lapwings as well as a few Redshanks, two Ruff and a Green Sandpiper. On the lakes a female Scaup at the Sussex end amongst the Tufteds and Pochards, a Goldeneye, two Marsh Harriers and a Peregrine; the Long-tailed Duck was also present (MC). At Lydd at least 120 White-fronted Geese in the oil-seed rape fields between Cockles Bridge and Culver Lane while a Glossy Ibis flew towards the reserve. A Black-throated Diver found earlier by MC was still on ARC.   

                                  Noon over Dungeness

Tuesday 1 December 2020

White-fronted Geese

 Lade - cold and sunny, nw 4 - The first day of winter, so`s to speak, and it felt like it with a brisk wind out of the north for much of the morning, but in bright sunshine. Things have been pretty pedestrian on the local patch these past few days although a steady trickle of inbound Redwings around dawn hinted at the changing season. An hour later a skein of 30 odd high-flying grey geese off the sea were probably White-fronted in line with an unprecedented arrival of this species across coastal Kent recently; heralds of an impending cold snap no doubt. Late morning from Cockles Bridge at least 40 White-fronted Geese were busily feeding in the fields towards Lydd along with three Bewick`s Swans amongst the Mutes, that were easier to see from Robin Hood Lane. A dusk visit out back at Lade desert delivered five Marsh and one ringtail Hen Harrier heading to roost, plus hundreds of corvids, mostly Jackdaws. 

Sunset and moonrise, Lade desert

Friday 27 November 2020

Weekly Summary

 Lade - cloudy, cool, ne 3 - As if to reflect the national mood following the announcement of the coronavirus Tier System (the Marsh being lumped into Tier 3 with the rest of Kent) this mornings weather was a poignantly miserable affair with murk and drizzle from the off, although the light did improve somewhat by midday. On the local patch little changed this week apart from an increase in Shoveler and Teal numbers on south lake, along with Mediterranean Gulls in the gull roost on north lake. Despite a regular check of sparrow flocks and the garden feeders there was no further sign of last weekends Serin along this part of the coast, but chances are its probably lurking somewhere hereabouts.

                                  Guillemot, Dungeness

  An hour at the fishing boats this afternoon delivered typical seabird fare in the form of plenty of Gannets, Kittiwakes and auks, 10 Sandwich Terns, two Red-throated Divers, 12 Common Scoters and five Brents. Also noted by the local seawatchers this week were, Black-throated and Great Northern Divers, Velvet Scoter, Eider, Bonxie and at least one Puffin (rare in this part of the Channel). Elsewhere, Water Pipit, Cattle Egret and Glossy Ibis were noted on the bird reserve; two Whooper Swans on the fields between Cockles Bridge and Lydd; a Long-tailed Duck on the back lake behind the farm at Scotney and two or three Hen Harriers across Walland Marsh.

Sunday 22 November 2020

Whooper Swans

 Lade - mild, overcast, dry - A much calmer day weather wise on the local patch with barely a breath of wind today. As a result the wildfowl were widely scattered across both waters enabling easy counting, although only Coot and Tufted Duck reached three figures. On north lake yesterday afternoon at least 10 Mediterranean Gulls were amongst a couple of thousands roosting gulls, mainly Black-headed, while six Marsh Harriers headed towards roost sites at dusk. A Serin was found today by Sam P in the bushes on the beach opposite the Romney Tavern before flying off north, a cracking find and the first I can recall in the autumn here.  

  On Friday a pair of newly arrived Whooper Swans on ARC hinted at the coming winter, and spent the weekend commuting between the lake and the rape-seed fields opposite Lydd football club. This afternoon I joined CP at a location out on the Marsh where 15 Marsh Harriers came to roost at two separate reedbed sites. Also noted, a couple of thousand Fieldfares along the lanes en-route, a swirling murmuration of Starlings, a ringtail Hen Harrier, Barn Owl, Buzzards, Kestrels, four roosting Great White Egrets and several bats hawking insects. Water Rail, Cetti`s Warblers and Bearded Tits were all actively vocalising in the reedbeds.  

Friday 20 November 2020

Bearded Tits

 Dengemarsh - cold, dry and still - We don`t get many mornings like this down on the Marsh coastline; a touch of frost, not a breath of wind and milky sunshine, perfect for a circuit of Dengemarsh. The Boulderwall fields were full of birds, mainly Lapwings, Wigeons and Starlings with attendant Marsh Harriers, Buzzards and Kestrels drifting over checking for any laggards. Three late Swallows hawked flying insects coming off the main reedbed and a distant Glossy Ibis played hide and seek in a ditch, in contrast to three obvious Great White Egrets and several Grey Herons. Across the wetlands Bearded Tits seemed to be everywhere, mainly heard but also seen by the corral and on Hookers reedbed, and surely our smartest passerine species. Also of note during the circuit: 10 Golden Plovers, 10 Curlews, two Ruffs, three Redshanks, a Snipe, Kingfisher, Green Woodpecker, a Water Pipit (hayfield 2), Cetti`s Warblers, Chiffchaff, Stonechat, Goldfinches and Reed Buntings.

                                 Cook`s Pool
                                 Barney enjoying the walk
                                  Bearded Tit, Boulderwall

  Elsewhere today, a Pallas`s Warbler was located in the Trapping Area and the Long-tailed Duck was still on the second lake west of the caravan park at Scotney. A male and ring-tail Hen Harrier continue to be seen across Walland Marsh and the first two Whooper Swans of winter were reported from ARC. Spoonbill, Cattle Egret and Black-throated Diver were also noted on the bird reserve today. 

Monday 16 November 2020


 Lade - cloudy, mild, dry, w 3 - We kicked off the week with a wander around Long Pits and out across the Desert where an out-of-control spaniel flushed two Snipes and a Jack Snipe from the marshy ground around the `wigwams`. In the bushes a couple of Chiffchaffs, two Goldcrests the usual tits, flyover Goldfinches, Redpolls, Siskin and a Brambling. 

                                  Jack Snipe - from the archives, ARC Oct 2013

  A late Swallow flew south over Littlestone just before midday. A check of the local patch revealed the first two redhead Goosanders of the season briefly on north lake (initially in the channel by the `mirrors`) before flying off towards the airport. A search of south lake drew a predictable blank as this sawbill rarely tarries for long on any of the still waters across the Dungeness peninsula. The Long-tailed Duck was still present on Scotney pits (OL).

Sunday 15 November 2020


 Walland Marsh - sunshine and showers - This afternoon I joined CP for the monthly harrier roost count on Walland Marsh where a strong and blustery wind with occasional squalls made for difficult viewing. As we approached the site almost the first bird we encountered was a superb male Hen Harrier which kept low over the fields as it struggled into the wind. Ten minutes later a ringtail flew past much closer with both birds being seen again over the roost site before departing towards Scotney at dusk, and presumably onto the Army ranges to roost. As for Marsh Harriers, none roosted in `our` usual reedbed site but at least six were seen in the area before also departing to roost elsewhere. Also noted five Great White and one Little Egret at roost, two Kestrels, 150 Greylags and calling Water Rails. As we left site the weather took a turn for the worse with several violent squalls flinging tree debris across the roads and interrupting power supplies to parts of Lydd and Littlestone. 

Friday 13 November 2020

Weekly Summary

 Lade - mild, damp, sw 4 - For most of this Lockdown week we haven`t strayed too far from the local patch where wildfowl numbers have remained low on the lakes, but with the inclusion of a Goldeneye on north lake. A Great White Egret paid a visit on Monday and up to five Little Egrets came and went through the week. Marsh Harriers are regularly noted hereabouts when on Wednesday a sub-adult male was seen to grab a Weasel from one of the Desert ridges; the unfortunate mustalid appeared to put up quite a struggle and was dropped from height several times by the harrier before it was eventually dispatched. The commotion soon attracted the attention of another, much larger, immature bird which seemed to join in the spoils. No doubt about bird of the week though, which occurred yesterday morning when a Black Kite first appeared at Dungeness (thanks to DB and DW for the text and Whatsapp tip-off respectively) before moving onto the ARC and over the water tower, where I saw it from Lade south. It then crossed the airfield and onto Romney Salts (OL) before eventually being located by CP at the back of Marley Farm, St Mary`s Bay. A late record for Black Kite, a species that is currently extending its range across Europe and Russia, although there is also the possibility that it may have been a bird of the eastern race. Tuesday evening saw a passage of thrushes over the cottage, while numbers of finches and larks around dawn tailed off as the week progressed. Two Corn Buntings were noted this morning. 

  Elsewhere this week a couple of visits to Dungeness for seawatches resulted in the expected Gannets, Common Scoters, Guillemots, Razorbills, Sandwich Terns, Mediterranean Gulls, Kittiwakes and several Bonxies, but few Red-throated Divers and Brent Geese. During the week the regular seawatchers also reported passing Red-necked Grebe, Black-throated Diver, Velvet Scoter, Scaup and several Pomarine Skuas, and with an onshore southerly forecast for Saturday there may be one or two more surprises to come. On the bird reserve both Glossy Ibis and Cattle Egret are still present with the trails, car parks and loos now open from 0900-1700hrs, but all the hides and the VC closed. This afternoon a Long-tailed Duck was located on Scotney pits. Sunrises over the bay earlier on in the week have also been pretty spectacular.

Sunday 8 November 2020


 Lade - warm, dry and sunny, light airs - A superb weekend of fine weather enabled much time to be spent out and about in the field away from the gloom of Lockdown. Across the peninsula and in the garden fir trees Goldcrests seemed to be everywhere. Having magically appeared overnight from across the sea most were tired and confiding as they searched for insectivorous food in the mild weather conditions; I watched one individual picking off spiders from around the window frame at the front of the cottage only a couple of yards away. One or two Chiffchaffs and Firecrests were also noted along with a Dartford Warbler and several Stonechats in Mockmill sewer. A ringtail Hen Harrier was also noted hunting the farmland between Romney Salts and the airfield (DS, OL). Flocks of Goldfinches continue to pass overhead along the coast with lesser numbers of Redpoll, Siskins, Skylarks and the occasional Brambling. All the usual waders were present on the bay and at high tide small parties of Brent Geese came and went.

Goldcrest, Plovers

Friday 6 November 2020

Dusky Warbler

 Lade - 5/11 - Two late Swallows over north lake didn`t stay for long before pushing southwards while the immature drake Goldeneye was still present. Around the willow swamp three Little Egrets and a couple of Chiffchaffs noted. News came through of a Dusky Warbler trapped at the Obs and released into the moat where it was still present at midday. Surprisingly it showed quite well, albeit briefly, and called a couple of time as it snapped up invertebrates in a sun trap. A Hume`s Warbler was also found in the Trapping Area.

                                 Dusky Warbler, DBO

Lade - mild, cloudy, se 3 - A circuit of the local patch this morning produced very little new apart from a Firecrest and several Goldcrests by the ponds. With a brisk easterly springing up this afternoon a check of the bay at high tide revealed a party of five Brent Geese and a lone Sandwich Tern.

Wednesday 4 November 2020

Black Redstarts

 Dungeness - cool, dry and sunny, nw 2 - At last, a largely wind-free day with sunshine which enticed plenty of birders into the field on the last day before the November Lockdown that starts tomorrow (the Dungeness Estate will remain open throughout, although visitor numbers will be monitored). At least ten Black Redstarts were scattered around the old lighthouse and along the power station wall, including several cracking adult males. Also noted a few Chaffinches, Goldfinches, Linnets, Meadow Pipits, Chiffchaff, Grey Wagtail and Brambling. The Obs staff were busy processing trapped birds where the two races of Redpolls were seen in the hand. Across the Desert and Trapping Area there were few grounded migrants apart from several Blackbirds, Robins and Stonechats, plus Kestrel and Green Woodpecker.  

                                  Common Redpoll, DBO

                                  Lesser Redpoll, DBO

  A late morning check of Lade south delivered the usual wildfowl, Coots, grebes and gulls, while the Curlew flock came in off the bay to roost at high tide comprising c200 birds. A check of the bay on the falling tide revealed plenty of Grey Plovers and Knots, plus two Brent Geese.

Tuesday 3 November 2020

Pomarine Skua

 Dungeness - cool, sunny, w 5 - Another blustery day with the wind only relenting late in the afternoon. A seawatch from outside the hide was largely uneventful due to a big sea running with large waves crashing onto the beach and spume flying around, but did deliver a cracking juvenile Pomarine Skua that cut in close to shore as it harried Black-headed Gulls before disappearing into Rye Bay. Otherwise it was a case of distant Gannets, several Arctic Skuas and Red-throated Divers and hundreds of coasting Goldfinch and Linnet flocks, plus a few Meadow Pipits, Siskins and Skylarks over. On the land a Black Redstart along the power station wall and a Peregrine on A station were the only birds of note.

                                  Black Redstart, Dungeness

  Moving onto the bird reserve and on ARC two Glossy Ibis (four were reported later on the Boulderwall/Dengemarsh fields) flew in to join a Great White Egret and a flock of common dabbling ducks. In the bushes down to the pines several Blackbirds, Robins, Chiffchaffs and a Green Woodpecker. A wind-swept Burrowes was largely devoid of birds apart from the usual ducks, a Pintail, Cormorants, a few Lapwings, a Bar-tailed Godwit and a Raven over. Around the circular trail we had  good views of Marsh Harrier, plus Bearded Tit, Kingfisher, Cetti`s Warbler, Reed Bunting, Snipe and three southbound Swallows. At Scotney two Brent Geese were on the front fields along with the usual feral geese until everything was flushed by three dogs. We finished the day at a harrier roost where two birds came into the reedbed, plus two each of Buzzard and Kestrel nearby.   


Monday 2 November 2020

Waders on the bay

Lade - wet and windy, sw 5 - The foul weather continued with rain clearing by late morning, although it remains mild. Around the garden fir trees first thing were both Chiffchaff and Goldcrest, plus plenty of Goldfinches on the feeders, and Siskins, Redpolls and Grey Wagtail over.

  The sun broke through this afternoon with the wind eventually slackening off a little making for a fine, dry end to the day. A seawatch from the fishing boats at Dungeness with Clare and Peter produced a few Gannets, gulls and Sandwich Terns over a choppy sea, plus a Grey Seal and two small flocks of coasting Goldfinches. Moving onto Lade north where the highlights were three late Swallows hurrying south, in contrast to a recently arrived drake Goldeneye on the water and an inbound Jay. The bay produced the regulation 10 species of waders including 23 Grey Plovers, 18 Knots, three Redshanks and eight Ringed Plovers, plus 12 Sandwich Terns. We finished the day on the golf course where there was no sign of any Short-eared Owls, just three Stonechats, a Sparrowhawk and lots of dog-walkers.

Wednesday 28 October 2020

Wet and windy

Lade - mild, cloudy, showery, sw 5 - The past couple of days have been much of a muchness weatherwise with successive bands of rain sweeping in off the Atlantic. A Great White Egret was around the willow swamp yesterday, while Swallows continue to filter south in ever decreasing numbers. Goldfinches appear to be everywhere, even on the garden feeders, and small numbers of Siskins and Redpolls are still on the move overhead around dawn. This morning a Firecrest was a first for the season in the garden fir trees. On Monday, at Dungeness, I finally caught up with two Crossbills, that thankfully called, as they zipped in off the sea and over the old lighthouse, in what has been a good autumn for this species.
Today the weather worsened still with torrential downpours of rain and hail throughout, plus several bouts of thunder and lightening.

Saturday 24 October 2020


 Lade - mild, cloudy, sw 5 - An overcast morning with occasional drizzle, a low scudding cloud base and the wind picking up to near gale force through the day. Needless to say it was hard work flogging around the local patch where the highlight was the first Goldeneye of autumn, a red head, that flew in from the south, landed for about five minutes before promptly flying back towards ARC. A Merlin chasing Linnets over the Desert was the only other noteworthy.

                                  Shore Lark, Littlestone golf course

 A midday trip down to Littlestone golf course (with optics this time!) delivered decent views of yesterdays Shore Lark and the Red-backed Shrike that has now been present for a fortnight. The strong buffeting winds made for difficult viewing but didn`t appear to bother the ground-hugger and the insect-snatcher respectively. On the green at Littlestone an adult Brent Goose had joined the two juveniles to crop the grass, oblivious to nearby dogs and people.

                                 Brent Geese, Littlestone Green

Friday 23 October 2020

Shore Lark

 Littlestone - wet and windy - We`ve been off the Marsh for most of the week, only returning this morning from north Kent, where the indifferent weather made for several truncated birding excursions along the Thanet coastline with Barney in tow. The biggest surprise for me was that I just hadn`t realised how abundant Rose-ringed Parakeets had become; we counted 150 plus coming to roost near where we staying at Westgate. However, this afternoon I had to go to Dymchurch. On the way back home news came through concerning a Shore Lark found by a visiting birder who`d been searching for the long-staying Red-backed Shrike at the St Mary`s Bay end of Littlestone golf course. As I was literally passing by I turned off and soon enough was admiring a stunning adult bird hugging the turf and feeding alongside Meadow Pipits, Linnets and a Pied Wagtail. The only problem was though I didnt have any optics or camera with me, so no piccies I`m afraid! Hopefully, it will stay over the weekend affording further examination as Shore Larks are quite the rarity in these parts.

Friday 16 October 2020

Pallas`s Warbler

 Lade - cool, cloudy, ne 2 - Plenty of common passage migrants about the local patch this morning with Goldfinches seemingly everywhere, including 20 or so around the garden bird feeders, plus two Swallows over the lake, Chiffchaffs, Goldcrests and Stonechats in the bushes and a trickle of Skylarks, Siskins and Redpolls over calling. Later in the day a flock of 150 Brent Geese flew over the cottage, while two juvenile Brents were busily cropping the grass playing field at Littlestone Green earlier, completely oblivious to nearby dog-walkers.

                                  Brent Geese, Littlestone Green

  A circuit of the bird reserve yielded plenty more finches, Chiffchaffs, Goldcrests and a Great Spotted Woodpecker in the car park scrub, two Glossy Ibis and Great White Egrets at Cook`s Pool, Grey Plover, Dunlin and Redshank on Burrowes and a Ring Ouzel from the access road by the bee hives. As I was leaving site news came through of a Pallas`s Warbler in the nets at the Obs, the first such eastern sprite of the autumn.

                                  Common or Mealy Redpoll
                                  Pallas`s Warbler

Thursday 15 October 2020

Red-flanked Bluetail

 Wed - cool, cloudy, n3 - A check of the local patch at Lade revealed very little apart from a few tardy Swallows on their way south, plus incoming Goldfinches, Skylarks, Meadow Pipits and a Grey Wagtail. A scattering of Chiffchaffs were in the bushes by the ponds with Goldcrests calling from the pine trees around the caravan park.

                                 Red-flanked Bluetail, Dungeness

  News from Dungeness commenced in the morning with the location of a treecreeper found by Stephen Message that was eventually confirmed as a Short-toed Treecreeper and showed on and off throughout the day in the old lighthouse garden, and was the fourth this year here following three in spring. However, that was soon eclipsed when in the afternoon Sam Perfect found the bird of the autumn so far in the gorse scrub by the Polish war memorial, a stunning Red-flanked Bluetail which was much appreciated by local and visiting birders alike. The last one was ten years ago along Dengemarsh Road. Check the DBO website and Ploddingbirder blog for photographs.

Monday 12 October 2020

Red-backed Shrike

Sunday - cool, sunny, nw 2 - A belated post for yesterday in company with CP saw us pay homage to a most confiding juvenile Red-backed Shrike at the car park end of Littlestone golf links, found by SG late on Saturday. The shrike was actively feeding on insects beside the road and from the garden wall and fence of a nearby house, oblivious to the many dog-walkers out enjoying the autumn sunshine and a couple of worried Stonechats that cautiously mobbed it! As is often the case when an influx of birders move into an area to twitch a rare bird others are sometimes found, in this case two Lapland Buntings during the afternoon.

                                  Red-backed Shrike, Littlestone

  We then moved onto Walland Marsh and Scotney where it was apparent that a large scale movement of thrushes was underway comprising many hundreds of Redwings and lesser numbers of Fieldfares and Song Thrushes, as confirmed by other sightings across the Marsh. The usual large flocks of feral geese were on the front sward along with Lapwings, Golden Plovers and Redshanks, Meadow Pipits and Linnets. Outback there was more of same, including winter thrushes, plus several Marsh Harriers, Buzzards and Kestrels, Little Egrets, Shelducks, Wigeon, five Ruff and a Dunlin.

Saturday 10 October 2020

Long-eared Owl

 Lade - fine, dry and sunny, W2 - Its not unusual down here to wake up to the chatter of Magpies in the fir trees opposite the cottage. However, their cacophony level this morning was off the scale with eight birds being joined by a couple of crows ensuring a right old racket and suggesting to me that `something was up`.  Eventually I got myself together for our daily circuit of the local patch and investigated. One Magpie, bolder than the rest, was in the vanguard lunging at a `brown blob` in the canopy which turned out to be an owl; and not any old owl but a superb Long-eared Owl that for a brief moment showed its erect ear tufts and bright orange irids before flying silently off towards the south with the mob in pursuit. This is only the second Long-eared Owl I`ve seen hereabouts, also in October and similarly located due to being mobbed by corvids in a fir tree.

  Elsewhere on the local patch: two Wheatears and six Stonechats on the desert, two Swallows and a Black-necked Grebe on south lake, while the scrub by the ponds was jumping with up 30 Chiffchaffs snapping up insects in the sun trap. A few Goldfinches, Linnets, Meadow Pipits, Siskins, Redpolls, Skylarks and a Grey Wagtail passed overhead. Also seen today locally: two Pink-footed Geese at Scotney, four Cattle Egrets and a Glossy Ibis at Boulderwall, Dartford Warbler at Dungeness and a Red-backed Shrike at Littlestone Golf Links.


Monday 5 October 2020

Ring Ouzel

 Lade - cool, cloudy, w 2 - A pretty decent couple of hours on the local patch with the highlight being our first Ring Ouzel of autumn inadvertently flushed from the scrubby hollow by the cattery, which then flew high inland calling, towards the airfield. There was a supporting cast comprising several Wheatears and at least one Whinchat on the desert along with a number of Meadow Pipits and a late Yellow Wagtail (DS reported a Short-eared Owl earlier, while another was seen by CP at Littlestone golf links this morning). The bushes around the ponds held a few Chiffchaffs, while a Black-necked Grebe was amongst the ducks, grebes and Coots on south lake, plus 100 House Martins. Overhead passage was light but did include a few Goldfinch, Linnet, Chaffinch and Siskin, plus Skylark and Grey Wagtail.

  Of note over the weekend were two Lapland Buntings south along the beach and two Little Terns on the sands amongst the Sandwich Terns being harassed by a light phase Arctic Skua. 

Friday 2 October 2020

Weekly roundup

 Lade - wet and mild, e 5 - On the local patch this week there has been a noticeable increase in finches passing overhead early morning, particularly Goldfinches and Siskins and even a few Redpolls. Grey Wagtails and Meadow Pipits have also been noted in good numbers. At low tide the bay continued to attract up to 100 Sandwich Terns and small flocks of Wigeon and Shelducks amongst the usual waders. On Thursday a White Stork dropped in behind the `mirrors`. Elsewhere this week an American Golden Plover was briefly located within the Golden Plover flock on ARC, while several Cattle Egrets and two Glossy Ibises graced the fields at Boulderwall. Flyover Lapland Buntings were reported in the week and a Yellow-browed Warbler proved elusive in the trapping area today. With wet and windy weather from the south forecast for the weekend, seawatching may prove worthwhile.

Monday 28 September 2020

Slim pickings

 Dungeness - cool, cloudy morning, nw 3, warm and sunny afternoon - A day in the field with Andrew and Andrea commenced with a seawatch from the hide where at least three Arctic Skuas were operating offshore against the Sandwich Terns, plus Common Scoter, Kittiwake and a few passing Gannets. Two Black Redstarts showed well by the Patch hide, while 10 House Martins hawked for insects in the lee of B Station. Plenty of Chiffchaffs were in the bushes around the moat, plus Stonechats, two Wheatears and a Song Thrush. At the Obs staff were busily ringing Meadow Pipits, and a male Peregrine sat atop one of the pylons. Moving onto Lade where the usual wildfowl and grebes were complemented by a small flock of roosting Bar-tailed Godwits and Knots. On the bay from the Tavern viewpoint hundreds of Oystercatchers, Curlews, Bar-tailed Godwits, Black-headed and Common Gulls on the sands, plus four Grey Plovers, 10 Shelducks, Sanderlings, Dunlins, Ringed Plover and 50 Sandwich Terns.

                                 Grey Plovers and Redshank, Burrowes

  On the bird reserve the circular walk is now open seven days a week from 10am - 5pm and the shop open until 4pm. There was very little on Burrowes with two Grey Plovers and a Redshank the highlight amongst the usual wildfowl, gulls and Cormorants. The new track from the access road to the New Diggings viewpoint yielded a Marsh Harrier and Black-necked Grebe, while on ARC a flock of 150 Golden Plovers was the highlight. Also noted around the reserve plenty more Chiffchaffs, vocalising Water Rail, Cetti`s Warbler and Kingfisher, two Great White Egrets, eight Pintails, Garganey, several Kestrels, Green Woodpecker and a Clouded Yellow butterfly.

Friday 25 September 2020

Weather change

 Lade - cool, cloudy, nw 5 - The weather has certainly taken a dramatic about turn this week and plunged headlong into autumn. On Tuesday we were still basking in summer-like temperatures in the mid-20s with bone dry conditions; in contrast to the torrential rain and a rasping north-westerly wind over the past two days halving temperatures. The trickle of passage migrants, particularly Chiffchaffs, from early in the week has all but dried up, although this morning a couple of hundred Swallows and Sand Martins struggled to find insects over a choppy south lake. The bay held a few Shelducks and Brent Geese, along with the usual waders, as well as over 100 Sandwich Terns. 

  On the bird reserve viewing continues to be frustrating due to the Covid measures in place, while the only open hide, Makepeace, is like sitting in a wind tunnel! On the ARC the Glossy Ibis is still present, along with Great White Egrets and a few passage waders, including several Curlew Sandpipers in mid-week. Dengemarsh continues to attract several Cattle Egrets around the suckling herd. As for seawatching, Cap-Griz-Nez is the place to be in a north-westerly, so check out their postings over the weekend on Trektellen and try not to turn green with envy!

Sunday 20 September 2020


Lade - warm, dry, sunny, NE 3 - Since mid-week the weather has been dominated by a strong north-easterly airflow that has made for difficult birding conditions to say the least. On the local patch a steady passage of Chiffchaffs has replaced the Willow Warblers, and likewise Blackcaps have replaced Lesser Whitethroats with both species being present in the garden, plus the first Goldcrests of autumn. Siskins have been passing overhead around daybreak, mostly unseen and located on call, along with a few Grey Wagtails and Tree Pipits. Grounded Yellow Wagtails on the Desert are declining in numbers as opposed to larger flocks of Meadow Pipits and Linnets, and the occasional Stonechat and Wheatear. On the lakes pulse of hirundines have moved through, while Black-necked Grebe, Ruff and Black-tailed Godwit have all put in brief appearances. Sparrowhawk and Kestrel numbers have increased as per usual for this time of year. On the bay a few Sandwich and Common Terns are present at low tide, but most of the waders have been displaced towards Littlestone due to scores of kite-surfers taking advantage of the north-easterly blow.

                                 Yellow Wagtail, Lade

  Elsewhere, the bird reserve is very quiet with Burrowes virtually birdless most of the time, but difficult to view, and only small numbers of waders on ARC, including the odd Little Stint, where the Glossy Ibis remains along with Great White Egrets, a couple of Black-necked Grebes and masses of eclipse ducks. An influx of Cattle Egrets last week to 27 was short lived and a juvenile Hobby was still present on Dengemarsh. This afternoon we joined the regulars at the fishing boats for a seawatch, but little was happening apart from a trickle of passing Sandwich Terns, Gannets, a Mediterranean Gull, two Brents and a small flock of ducks on the sea that were either Mallard or Gadwall. The number of visitors to Dungeness has to be seen to be believed; everyday, it seems, is like a Bank Holiday Monday!

Tuesday 15 September 2020

Heron tribe

 Dungeness - hot, dry and sunny, light airs - A superb day in the field with Sally and Stephen commenced at the point with a seawatch from the hide where the highlights were two small flocks of Common Scoters and our first three Brent Geese of autumn. On the land we had a scattering of passage migrants such as five Black Redstarts (inc a cracking singing adult male), three Wheatears and Stonechats, plus Meadow Pipits in the hand, outward bound Swallows, Yellow and Grey Wagtails, two Sparrowhawks and four Kestrels.

                                 Hummingbird Hawk-moth

                                            Wheatear and Medow Pipit

At the ARC we had protracted views of a Bittern that flew across the lake and landed close by in full view for 30 minutes or more. Also, three Great White and two Little Egrets noted along with the `resident` Glossy Ibis, plus Little Stint, Ruff, two Snipe,100 Golden Plovers, 10 Common Terns, three Pintail and a host of common wildfowl in eclipse plumage. The bushes yielded Chiffchaffs, Lesser Whitethroat and a Goldcrest. It was quieter over the road on Dengemarsh although a smart juvenile Hobby flew over Hooker`s, while we mopped up the last of the heron tribe with two Cattle Egrets at Boulderwall. Also noted several more Chiffchaffs, Cetti`s Warblers, Blackcaps, Reed Buntings and a Garden Warbler by the return trail style. Moving onto the bay where 30 Ringed Plovers, 10 Knots, Sanderlings, Dunlins, Curlews and 100 Sandwich Terns noted. We finished off with a seawatch at the fishing boats with a steady flow of Sandwich and Common Terns, a few Gannets, five Arctic Skuas and a smart juvenile Little Gull;  Grey Seal and several Porpoises also present. Despite the hot weather we eventually rattled up a respectable 103 species of birds for the day.