Thursday 30 April 2020

Weather change

Lade - Lockdown Day 38 - cool, cloudy, sw 5 - These past couple of days has seen the departure of settled weather associated with a high pressure system off the continent for Atlantic, rain-bearing fronts rattling in off the ocean. Another dollop of rain went through last night followed by sunshine this morning and showers again this afternoon on a brisk, cool wind. Unsurprisingly there was another poor show of just 10 moths in the garden trap of four common species.
  Typically, a few more Swifts and hirundines were forced down over the lakes, none of which tarried for long before heading inland. Across the site Cetti`s, Reed and Sedge Warblers, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Common and Lesser Whitethroats are all holding territory, along with Cuckoo, Green Woodpecker, Stonechat, Linnet, Skylark and Meadow Pipit. On the bay today 50 Bar-tailed Godwits, 180 Sanderlings, 20 Ringed Plovers and five Whimbrels amongst the usual Curlews and Oystercatchers.
  Well, that`s April done and dusted, and what a disappointment it has been with poor numbers of spring migrants all round apart from Common Whitethroats and Blackcaps, but judging from reports gleaned from Bird Observatory blogs it seems to be a pretty similar picture elsewhere.
  To finish on a brighter note, the Black-necked Grebe below is a reminder of what one looks like, as they have been absent so far this spring from the local patch.

                                Black-necked Grebe, Lade, April 2019

Tuesday 28 April 2020

Swifts and hirundines

Lade - Lockdown Day 36 - cool, wet, ne 3 - A complete contrast to yesterdays sunshine as a band of low cloud delivered a welcome dollop of rain to a bone hard peninsula this morning (14.5mm recorded at Littlestone by OL). As last night was still and cloudy, and the rain didn't get going until dawn, there was a big improvement in the garden moth trap (which wouldn't be difficult!) with both Eyed Hawk- moth and Toadflax Brocade new for the year amongst 10 moths.
  Our daily exercise walk was delayed until the rain cleared this afternoon, by which time the wind had picked up along with a drop in temperature. However, the rain did deliver 20 Swifts, 50 House Martins and 30 Swallows over south lake.

                                Toadflax Brocade and Eyed Hawk-moth

Monday 27 April 2020

Holly Blue

Lade - Lockdown Day 35 - warm, dry and sunny, sw 2 - A thick bank of fog covered the peninsula just after dawn with not a breath of wind, although it quickly burned off as the sun rose in the sky. The booming of the Dungeness fog horn and a distant Bittern on the bird reserve could both be heard from the desert where a displaying Lapwing was of note. Yesterdays Wheatears had moved on while  elsewhere across the site there was little bird activity; in contrast to a cacophony of sound from Marsh Frogs around the willow swamp. Hopefully, tomorrows forecasted weather change to rain moving up from the continent may ground a few overnight migrants, or hirundines over the lakes.
  By mid-afternoon the warm sunshine had encouraged a number of Holly Blues onto the wing  around the garden. However, photographing them is never easy, although one did sit still long enough to get a typical closed up shot at rest (see below).

                                Holly Blue

Sunday 26 April 2020

Booming Bittern!

Lade - Lockdown Day 34 - warm, dry, sunny, ne 2 - We were up and about early on for our regular exercise walk around the local patch on what was a stunning morning weather wise with blue skies, a few high wispy clouds and light airs off the sea. As a result, once across the shingle and onto the old railway line track, whilst watching several Wheatears, the distant `booming` of a Bittern (105) wafted across the desert from the direction of the water tower and onto the lockdown list. I`ve heard `booming` in past years when they`ve nested on Tower Pits, and always in the stillness of early morning or evening. Otherwise it was the usual fare around the lakes, but with the addition of a singing Willow Warbler in the willow swamp and 12 Shoveler briefly on south lake.

                               Marsh Frog

                                Whitethroat by the ponds

                                3rd brood of Greylags, south lake

                                Greenland Wheatears on the desert

  Completing our walk at the top of Taylor Road, by the electricity kiosk, we were confronted with a pile of rubbish that had been fly-tipped during the night. With the council tips closed fly-tipping has become a problem everywhere, but this is the first time I`ve noticed it in a residential area hereabouts; more rubbish had also been dumped during the hours of darkness in the car park along coast road.

  However, there is an impressive footnote to this tale as myself and at least one other local resident promptly reported the misdemeanour on the Folkestone and Hythe District Council website, and low  and behold by midday today (Sunday) a lorry turned up and cleared it away! Ten out of ten to F&HDC. 
  If I had my way, punishment for fly-tippers caught red-handed, would be mandatory impounding and crushing of their vehicles; I`d allow the occupants to be removed first, as that might impair the recycling process!   

Saturday 25 April 2020

House Sparrows and Starlings

Lade - Lockdown Day 33 - cold, dry and sunny, ne 4 - We must live in one of the coldest places in the country down here on the east facing coast, where yet another nippy old night delivered a poor return in the garden trap with just five moths coming to light. 
  Cloud cover until late morning promised a few birds during our morning walk out back and despite a brisk wind off the sea there were a few pulses of Swallows and House Martins moving over south lake, plus at least two Sand Martins, but none remained for long. Several Whimbrels went over calling as did a lone Greenshank and ten Mediterranean Gulls, while a single drake Shelduck was new by the willow swamp. The usual warblers were loath to sing due to the cold and a female Wheatear and two Stonechats were noted on the desert.
  There was much activity from gangs of House Sparrows and Starlings on the shingle ridges as they foraged amongst the herb-rich turf for leatherjackets. Both species breed in good numbers along the coastal housing strip, so there was a constant two-way traffic of birds coming and going to nest sites with grubs. The local Jackdaws and Magpies were also getting in on the action.
  On the bay sands 125 Sanderlings, 30 Ringed Plovers, 23 Bar-tailed Godwits and eight Turnstone were present.

Friday 24 April 2020

Lade seawatching

Lade - Lockdown Day 32 - cool, dry and sunny, ne 3 - After 31 consecutive morning circuits of the local patch our routine was inadvertently interrupted today as I waited in for a telephone consultancy with a doctor over a long running shoulder injury. It was my fault entirely as I should`ve sorted it out weeks ago. But I`m pleased to report that despite the NHS being under unprecedented pressure the new system worked well with a prompt diagnosis over the phone, the e-mailing of a prescription to our local pharmacy and physiotherapy advice via video call to follow - result!
  However, this afternoon I thought I`d try a 30 minute seawatch off the Lade boardwalk, which is about 200yds from our cottage and deep within east facing Lade bay, so not an inviting prospect.
There are certain conditions to consider when attempting a viable spring seawatch from Lade: ideally, total cloud cover in the morning combined with a high tide and a brisk south-easterly wind is best, although all three of these factors are rarely aligned. The hope then is that eastbound migrating seabirds crossing the bay between Dungeness and Folkestone get pushed briefly into range, although even then views are at best distant. Late summer and autumn seawatches are far more profitable as birds haven't got the urgency of spring and loiter awhile, particularly terns and skuas.
  Anyhow, conditions were not good this afternoon as the sky was cloudless and the wind too far round to the north-east; infact everything was wrong! But these are desperate times when missing a seawatching fix at locked down Dungeness only two miles away. The sum total was predictable: two Cormorants, two Sandwich Terns, two Mediterranean Gulls and a distant Gannet - roll on spring 2021!

Thursday 23 April 2020

First goslings of spring

Lade - Lockdown Day 31 - warm, dry and sunny, ne 2 - Even warmer still today with temperatures topping out at a pleasant 16C in the garden this afternoon. Whilst Pat set about Barney with the clippers I noticed quite a few St Mark`s flies on the wing over the pond, plus several whites, Peacocks, Red Admirals and Holly Blues around the garden sun-traps. A couple of Whimbrels went over calling during the day, along with various Mediterranean Gulls, all unseen, while a Light Feathered Rustic was new for the year amongst a meagre catch in the garden moth trap.

                                Light Feathered Rustic

                               Barney, before, during and after!

  Our morning tour of the local patch was largely uneventful apart from a fall of four Northern Wheatears on the desert and the first Greylag goslings of spring on the water.
  The lockdown list, after one month, stands at 104 species, but considering we`ve not missed a day there are some glaring omissions with no records of common resident species such as Peregrine, Goldcrest, Great Spotted Woodpecker and Mistle Thrush. I`ve usually seen a Ring Ouzel by now, but that absence is probably down to disturbance from the increasing numbers of dogs being walked on the desert since the lockdown; which prompts the question, where do they normally go? And no Black-necked Grebes, where they`ve nested in past years; while I thought one of the several Dungeness Red-rumped Swallows would`ve have come our way.
  Regarding summer migrants, so far it has been woeful with low numbers all round and plenty of absentees; for example, only three singing Willow Warblers and paltry numbers of hirundines through. The weather hasn't helped to be fair with clear blue skies throughout and, for the most part, a rasping east wind off the bay. Hopefully, the best is yet to come and by the review lockdown date of the 7th May things will have improved somewhat (ever the optimist!).
  As for rare birds the two stand outs have been: White-tailed Eagle, albeit it at distance, and two Woodlarks in flight. A lone singing Nightingale was noteworthy, as were several Red Kites.

                               Greylags and goslings

                                One of four Wheatears on the desert

Wednesday 22 April 2020

First Swift

Lade - Lockdown Day 30 - warm, dry and sunny, ne 3 - A much better day weather wise with a slackening of the dreaded north-easterly wind; although the nights remain cold and clear, as testified by only two moths coming to light last night, both Shuttle-shaped Darts.
  At long last a Swift (104) moving fast over north lake went onto the lockdown list, and not before time as plenty have been recorded over Ashford these past few days, plus one pulse of 12 Swallows. More Reed and Sedge Warblers have taken up territories around the wetlands and at least two Cuckoos were noted.
  More wavering flocks of Whimbrels and Bar-tailed Godwits have been on the move today, passing across the peninsula and up the coast, some dropping down onto the bay to pause awhile amongst the Curlews and Oystercatchers. One flock of 15 Bar-wits comprised mostly individuals in brick-red summer plumage, fabulous stuff, but too far out to photograph, so I pulled out a pic from the archives, below.

Three Bar-tailed Godwits, Boulderwall fields, May 2016

Tuesday 21 April 2020

Lockdown list padders

Lade - Lockdown Day 29 - cold, dry and sunny, ne 5 - Yet another day of blasting north-easterlies off the bay with clear blue, vapour-trail free skies, resulting in a poor return for the morning exercise walk. However, two common laggards did go onto the list in the shape of a Little Egret (102) flying over south lake and a distant flock of ten Lapwings (103) over the airfield. A single Whimbrel flew north and two Wheatears were on the desert. Around the willow swamp more Reed and Sedge Warblers in, plus Lesser Whitethroat, Cuckoo and Marsh Harrier.

Monday 20 April 2020

Whimbrels and Wheatears

Lade - Lockdown Day 28 - cold, dry, sunny, ne 5 - Another bright sunny day but with a blasting wind off the sea making for a perishing cold daily outing around the local patch this morning. The last fortnight in April is the `business end` of spring migration and often loaded with possibilities in a normal year, whatever that may be! Unfortunately, with clear skies and an Arctic airflow for the foreseeable future the portents are not good for grounded migrants, which also makes the moth trap redundant; oh for some low cloud and bit of rain off the Atlantic!
  However, despite the weather Whimbrels were on the move early on today with at least 15 heading up the coast uttering their wonderfully evocative calls into the biting wind. On the desert at least six Wheatears hugged the broom, darting here and there to fuel up on insects for the next leg on their northern journey. In the shelter of the ponds Cetti`s, Reed and Sedge Warblers, Common and Lesser Whitethroats were all in song.

One of six grounded Wheatears on the desert

Sunday 19 April 2020

Sylvia warblers

Lade - Lockdown Day 27 - cool, sunny, dry, ne 3 - Another crystal clear day with bright sunshine and blue skies throughout, although temperatures were supressed somewhat by a chill wind off the sea. The garden moth trap, unsurprisingly, held just a single Tawny Shears.

  Our daily exercise walk produced nothing new for the list, but there was a noticeable increase in sylvia warblers across the local patch; mostly Common Whitethroats (11) and Blackcaps (5), plus a Lesser Whitethroat singing off against a Common in the same bush by the ponds. On the desert a single Northern Wheatear, two single figure flocks of Mediterranean Gulls overhead, three drake Pochards around the willow swamp, plus Marsh Harrier, Sparrowhawk, Stonechats and several Swallows through.  

Saturday 18 April 2020

Waders and Cuckoo

Lade - Lockdown Day 26 - mild, dry, overcast, e2 - A welcome drop of rainfall overnight (10mm recorded at Littlestone by Owen L) had the desired effect on the morning circuit of the local patch with something of a species rush for the lockdown list. It was an odd day weather wise with mist first thing firing the Dungeness fog horn into life, followed by sunshine around noon and a cooler, cloudier evening.
 However, before we`d even left the cottage I could hear the distinctive seven note whistle of the first Whimbrels (97) of spring passing along the coast. Throughout the morning at least 30 birds were seen or heard, including a flock of 12 that flew over Plovers whilst we were breakfasting in the garden just before midday! Two Redshanks (98) were new flying over the desert, where at least four Wheatears were grounded, two showing characteristics of the Greenland race, plus a few Skylarks, Stonechats, Meadow Pipits and Linnets. A Lesser Whitethroat (99) sang from Mockmill sewer along with Sedge Warblers and Common Whitethroats, while a singing Cuckoo (100) on the margins of south lake brought up the century of bird species on day 26. Pulses of Swallows and House Martins moved briskly through over the lakes and the first Greenshank (101) of spring announced its presence in flight over north lake. Singing Willow and Reed Warblers, Chiffchaff and Blackcap around the ponds, a hunting male Marsh Harrier and Mediterranean Gulls overhead rounded off a satisfying couple of hours birding.

                                Greenland Wheatear

Friday 17 April 2020

Looking back

Lade - Lockdown Day 25 - cold and cloudy, ne 4 - A nippy outing around the local patch this morning, due to a cold wind off the sea, was largely uneventful apart from a flock of 50 Swallows and House Martins over the willow swamp and another 20 at the top end of north lake. Two small groups of Mediterranean Gulls flew over and a drake Pochard had joined the Tufted Ducks on south lake along with a second pair of Teal. Five species of warbler sang around the site, but it was a half hearted affair due to the brisk wind.
  The garden moth trap contained just two macros: Shuttle-shaped Dart and Double-striped Pug.

                                Sedge Warbler and Tree Sparrow, Dengemarsh 2019

Looking back -
In a `normal` year in mid-April I would be out and about across the Dungeness peninsula searching for incoming migrants and showing our guests the birding delights on offer, but not so in this `lost spring of 2020`. A quick peek back a couple of years through the archives on this day revealed the following:
17th April 2019 - Dengemarsh - I spent the morning on the RSPB reserve with guests on Dengemarsh, my favourite area of the bird reserve with its wide open spaces. It`s where the shingle meets the farmland, along with a variety of managed habitats such as hayfields, lakes, reed beds, scrub and wet meadows, guaranteed to deliver a good range of "waders, warblers and waptors", as legendary Norfolk birder R A Richardson used to say in his faltering Norfolk burr when asked what were his favourite birds. In places Dengemarsh reminds me of a smaller version of the coastal wetlands at Cley and Salthouse where I spent many happy days in my formative birding years during the late 1960`s early 1970`s with partners in crime Kevin Downer and Graham (aka Mutley) Clarke.
  However, I digress! Back to Dengemarsh, a year ago today, where the wetlands were alive with warblers; at least 50 singing Sedge, 10 Willow Warblers, plus a cacophony of Chiffchaff, Common and Lesser Whitethroats, Blackcap, Reed and Cetti`s Warblers, some that had probably dropped in overnight. Marsh Harriers and Buzzards seemed to be everywhere and two Cattle Egrets tracked the stock on the wet meadows where a small flock of migrant Whimbrels had grounded. Around Hooker`s reed bed Cuckoo, Bearded Tits and Tree Sparrows were noted, a Bittern `boomed`, while the ditches on Boulderwall fields held Great White and Little Egrets, Yellow Wagtails and Reed Buntings, as a steady passage of hirundines pressed inland. Redshanks and Lapwings displayed over the hayfields where a trio of Garganey, Greenshanks and Little Ringed Plover paused awhile. We logged over 60 species that morning, but the highlight for me was stunning views of a first Hobby of the year from the access road by the bee hives.

                                Whimbrel, Boulderwall fields, 2019

17th April 2018 - Dungeness - 0600-0900hrs - Weather - cloudy, wind ssw 3 - The weather gods had forecast a southerly airflow overnight, although by the time I staggered into the seawatch hide, half asleep to join a clutch of local seawatchers already in pole position, it had swung just west of centre, but still favourable for a decent passage. It took a few minutes for the eyes to adjust to the gloom but already birds were on the move up-Channel with a steady passage of Gannets, Red-throated Divers, Brent Geese, Common Scoters, terns, auks and gulls. And then the first skua hove into view; a stunning adult, pale phase Arctic, and over the coming three hours followed by ten more, plus 25 Bonxies, many well inside the cardinal buoy.
  In amongst the flocks of common sea duck were one or two gems in the form of a pair of Garganey, two Velvet Scoters, six Eiders and several Red-breasted Mergansers. The gulls were duly grilled delivering plenty of Mediterranean and a dozen Little Gulls, plus Sandwich, Common and Little Terns. Waders were on the move too with wavering flocks of Bar-tailed Godwits amid the seven-note flight calls of Whimbrels, plus Dunlin, Grey Plover, Knot and Avocet.
  Perhaps most surprising of all that morning was the appearance of ten Manx Shearwaters going down-Channel, scarce seabirds this early at Dungeness. And just before I left the hide a splendid Black-throated Diver in full nuptial plumage graced us with its brief presence as it powered east, en-route to distant tundra breeding grounds.

Thursday 16 April 2020

Mediterranean Gulls

Lade - Lockdown Day 24 - warm, dry and sunny, e2 - Mediterranean Gulls are a regular feature of the spring birding scene down here, mostly in the form of high-flying birds `yowing` loudly as they pass over the peninsula. Their distinctive flight calls could be heard throughout the day and I did managed to latch onto three flocks of 8, 21 and 55 all heading out across the bay towards Folkestone.
  Our circuit of the local patch failed to deliver anything new on the bird front, but it was good to have a natter with Dave S (at a safe distance of course) who I`d not seen since lockdown. The same warblers as yesterday were present, while a stunning male Marsh Harrier worked the back reed bed. On the beach the first floret of Sea Kale was noted.

                                Hen Linnet

                                Flowering Sea Kale

                    Senetti, the first time I`ve managed to get one through the winter and into flower!

Wednesday 15 April 2020


Lade - Lockdown Day 23 - warm, dry and sunny, e2 - Another fine, but cold start to the day that soon warmed up as the morning progressed bringing forth a number of Small Whites, Peacocks and Small Tortoiseshells onto the wing. There was a lot more Whitethroat activity across the site, including one singing over the road from the cottage in scrub by the fort, while a few more Sedge and Reed Warblers had moved in around the lakes, plus Blackcap, Cetti`s Warbler and Chiffchaff. A single Swallow went through and a Marsh Harrier quartered the main reedbed.

                               Whitethroats singing from scrub and power lines

                                Colour-ringed Sanderling

  However, bird of the day, and new for the list was a Nightingale (95) that delivered two bursts of song from deep within cover in the willow swamp. Its something of a scarce passage migrant down here on the coast and reminded me that this could potentially be a spring without a visit to the Low Weald to search for this supreme songster in the bluebell woods.
  On the beach a small flock of Sanderlings scurrying along the tideline included a bird with yellow leg rings from a Dutch ringing project. The east wind delivered another new bird for the Lockdown List in the form of several distant Gannets (96) crossing the bay along with 20 Sandwich Terns. Yet another Red Kite was noted flying along the coast at around 1130hrs from the cottage.

Tuesday 14 April 2020


Lade - Lockdown Day 22 - cold and cloudy, ne 2 - As we move into our fourth week of lockdown the long trousers and fleece were back out for our daily tour of the local patch in wintry temperatures, although it warmed up a little this afternoon as the sun broke through the cloud cover. It remains very dry here with no useful rain for some weeks now and the wind has already `browned off` some of the plants; a drop of rain might not only help the flora but it might ground a few migrants too.
  Talking of which there were very few present this morning and only Blackcaps putting on a show with at least five across the site along with several Chiffchaffs around the ponds. Judging from the amount of vocalising it would seem that a pair of Green Woodpeckers are breeding in the willow swamp.

                                First patch of Broom in flower

Monday 13 April 2020


Lade - Lockdown Day 21 - cool and cloudy, ne 5 - In contrast to yesterdays heat wave, today a cooling wind off the sea made for an uncomfortable circuit of the local patch. However, the first mass arrival of hirundines over the lakes and moving through bucked things up somewhat with up to 100 Swallows, 20 House Martins (93) and two Sand Martins (94), the latter two species new for the list, and House Martin new for the year, as I had an early Sand Martin in March before lockdown. Also of note a Yellow Wagtail over calling and the now established Reed Warblers and Whitethroats around the ponds.
  When I put the moth trap on yesterday evening there was hardly a breath of wind, but the wind soon picked up and as a result only one species of macro was caught - a Chinese Character, making a good impression of a bird dropping!

                                Chinese Character

                           It`s going to be a bumper year for Brown-tailed Moths!

Sunday 12 April 2020

Lockdown routine

Lade - Lockdown Day 20 - warm, dry and sunny, light airs - Like millions of other work redundant folk across these islands, here at Plovers we`ve slipped into something of a `lockdown routine`, although we do try to vary it a bit to avoid the tedium. Generally I`m up just after sunrise and out in the garden checking for any overnight migrants in the bushes and sorting through the moth trap; not much to report on both fronts of late I`m afraid. I then spend an hour or so on the laptop writing up stuff for Birdwatching and the local paper etc, after which we head out on our `permitted exercise walk` around Lade with Barney in tow, sometimes cutting back along the beach depending upon the state of the tide.
  Afterwards, an extended breakfast brings up midday, followed by a spot of `sky-watching` from the patio and then the inevitable chores around the cottage and garden. I`m doing jobs that have been put off for years, and taking ages over each one, as let`s face it, time is something that most of us have in spades at the moment; I made a five minute job of fixing a bolt on a gate the other day last for an hour, and when I told a mate of mine (who shall remain nameless!) he said, "you could get a job at the power station"!! I`ve also taken to reading in the summer house during the afternoon (currently The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins; highly recommended) and periodically wandering around the garden looking for insects. By late afternoon we usual tune into the Government briefing on telly and then don't watch anymore news as its just too depressing. This afternoon though we listened to the full two hours of Sounds of the 70`s on Radio 2 and what a cracking show it was for music lovers of a certain age group (anyone over 60!) If you missed it, catch up on BBC Sounds, so many great memories; and the track by The Jam, English Rose, was one I`d not heard for ages, superb lyrics.
  After an evening meal I usually update the blog, check e-mails, listen to music and mooch about until the moth trap goes on at dusk. A bit of telly usually finishes off a typical day, but I`m not a great lover of the `idiots lantern`, although I`ve very much enjoyed the live streaming from the National Theatre of One man two guvnors and Jane Eyre, both still available on Youtube with more to come.
  Once a week I venture out for food, as I`m also shopping for several elderly folk hereabouts, and on Friday for their fish n chips. The tension in supermarkets is palpable as people attempt to social distance from one another and I`ve already seen a couple of altercations; full marks to all the staff working in food stores in these strange times. It would appear that while the majority of the population are keeping to the governmental advice it would seem that exemptions seem to apply to a tiny minority, such as builders and fishermen (ignoring social distancing), kite-surfers, bait-diggers and land yachters (driving to site).
   Its odd how suddenly overwhelming this lockdown can be, with me it tends to hit in waves, normally in the morning until I crack on with something that takes my mind off it. We`ve been talking to family and friends on the phone and social media more that usual, which helps, and when on our daily walks people seem to be more chatty (at a distance) which is great. We are lucky down here living by the seaside, and I`m certainly not complaining. The people I feel for are all those staff  working in care homes and front line NHS hospitals, heroes one and all.

                                Blackthorn blossom

                               Gorse in full flower

                               Territorial Cetti`s Warblers

                               Whitethroat by the ponds

                                UK Border Force drone

                                   Pallet festooned with tiny Goose Barnacles

  Anyhow, today was WeBS count and the following were logged across both lakes: Coot 56, Great Crested Grebe 24, Dabchick 12, Tufted Duck 48, Mallard 8, Teal 2, Mute Swan 3 and Gadwall 2.
Cetti`s Warblers were in fine voice this morning and two males on the causeway put on an amazing show as they `sang off` against one another only a few inches apart. This went one for a full five minutes atop a willow bush affording fantastic views.
  Also, 25 Mediterranean Gulls over calling, a Green Woodpecker in the willow swamp, five singing Whitethroats, three Reed Warblers and two coasting Common Buzzards over the garden this afternoon. Butterfly highlight was the first Holly Blue of spring, also in the garden.
  The drone was up again this morning flying in over the bay and eventually landing at Lydd airfield. I managed to get a few pics (see above) and noticed a registration number on the wing: G-TEKV, apparently being used by the UK Border Force to detect incoming human migrants. What with all the news centred on Covid 19, the same old crap is still going on elsewhere.

Saturday 11 April 2020

Eyes in the sky

Lade - Lockdown Day 19 - Warm, dry and sunny, light airs - Yet another fine day with a light zephyr coming off the bay. Scanning across the desert was a surreal experience as a large drone flew over the peninsula checking on goodness knows what before landing at Lydd airport.
  Our circuit of the local patch was largely uneventful, although a pair of Shelducks on south lake, for all of five minutes, was new for the Lockdown List at 93. No new passerines were noted, but there was still the same warbler activity around the ponds as yesterday.
  Red Kites maybe commonplace up country now as a result of the various re-introduction programmes, yet down here they`re still something of a big deal, so it was good to see one soaring up the coast sending the local Herring Gulls into a lather. Several Common Buzzards and Marsh Harriers thermalled over the airfield. 
  A Muslin Moth was one of only two moths in the garden trap this morning.

                               Muslin Moth

                               Lesser-spotted Dogfish

Friday 10 April 2020

The Great Stink

Lade - Lockdown Day 18 -Warm, dry and sunny, e2 - At certain times of the year down here on the coast (usual when the weather warms up on a south-easterly airflow off the continent) we are subjected to a foul smell in the air. Apparently, this latest pong that's been swirling around for a couple of days now emanates from a release of gas at a chemical plant in Rouen, 130 miles away in northern France. Past such incidents have been put down to a number of different causes such as rotting sea weed in the Channel, Littlestone sewage works, muck spreading on farmland, North Sea oil operations, methane gas released from intensive pig and cattle units in the Netherlands, and gas escapes from other chemical plants across northern France and the Low Countries.

                                Mallard nest site
   This mornings wander around the local patch was largely uneventful, apart from an increase in Common Whitethroats and Linnets on the shingle scrub, while  Blackcap, Reed and Sedge Warblers continue to sing around the willow swamp. It seems as though the last of the Goldeneyes have departed from south lake along with most of the Pochards and Shovelers. Common Buzzard, Marsh Harrier and Sparrowhawk were noted soaring over the airfield. On the beach there was a mixed flock of 35 Ringed Plover, Knot, Dunlin, Sanderling and Turnstone.

Thursday 9 April 2020

Sub-Saharan warblers

Lade - Lockdown Day 13 - warm, dry and sunny, e2 - Another fine day of weather saw the overnight arrival of two classic sub-Saharan migrants to the local patch. Firstly a Common Whitethroat (91) singing from gorse scrub by Kerton pit (the same bush as my first one last year!) followed by a Sedge Warbler (92) by north lake and both new for the list; more birds were reported singing from Mockmill this morning (DS). From the aerial ramp a Swallow went through, while Reed and Cetti`s Warblers sang by the ponds, plus Chiffchaff and Blackcap from the willow swamp, combining to make six species of warblers.
  On the beach up to 20 Ringed Plovers, 120 Sanderlings and 12 Turnstones amongst the usual Curlews and Oystercatchers.

                                First Common Whitethroat of spring

                                Oystercatchers and Ringed Plover on the beach