Friday 31 July 2020

Willow Warblers

Lade - Hot, dry and sunny, e 2 - The mini heat wave continues with the garden thermometer hitting 31 C this afternoon, which encouraged myriads of tiny flying insects into the sheltered areas behind the fir trees that last night attracted two small pipistrelle type bats. However, the moth trap catch was again disappointing with only 15 species recorded, but did include two each of Jersey Tiger and Plumed Fan-foot.
  On the local patch Willow Warblers were much in evidence around the ponds with several birds performing a half-hearted lyrical lament as they fattened up on insects on their way south. Plenty of Whitethroats and Reed Warblers were also present along with a large mixed flock of tits and finches, mainly Long-tailed Tits and Chaffinches. South lake was covered in common wildfowl, including three juvenile Shelducks, while the close island at the south end attracted over 200 Black-headed Gulls, several Oystercatchers and a Black-tailed Godwit this morning.

                    Great Mullein
                    Oystercatchers and Black-tailed Godwit

                    South lake island

  At Dungeness a couple of sessions seawatching in calm conditions yielded very little apart from a few passing Sandwich and Common Terns, Gannets and Kittiwakes, plus several Porpoises and Grey Seals, the latter which have also been seen in the bay at high tide. The point continues to attract large volumes of tourists with the car parks rammed and cars stuck in shingle, despite signage warning drivers of the hazards of shingle. Sadly, the human misery also continues with a number of migrants inbound in small craft being rounded up by the Border Force at Dungeness and along the east Kent coastline these past couple of days.

                    No parking!

                    SAR helicopter over container ship

  On the bird reserve the Black-winged Stilt is still present, plus small numbers of waders such as LRP, Dunlin, Blackwit and Common Sandpiper on ARC, plus Black Tern and Great White Egret. The circular trail from the main car park is accessible this weekend from 1000hrs - 1700hrs. 

Wednesday 29 July 2020

Wader Island

Lade - warm, dry and sunny, sw 2 - A much better day with lighter winds and less cloud than yesterday that encouraged a lot more insects onto the wing, including a few Migrant Hawkers in the garden, and singles of Marbled White, Painted Lady (only my second of the summer) and even a few Small Tortoiseshells which have been scarce here.

                                Small Tortoiseshell in the garden

                                Wader island, south lake

  Every summer on south lake, as the water table drops, a small island gradually emerges about 50 yards out from the main track at the south end. Sometimes in a really dry summer more low islands pop up on the far side of the lake, but are too distant to be of much use for observing small waders. So far this past fortnight the close island has produced a steady trickle of waders, and this morning was easily the most productive yet with two Black-tailed Godwits and singles of Bar-tailed Godwit, Redshank, Ringed Plover, Common Sandpiper and Oystercatcher. Curlew, Lapwing, Dunlin and Green Sandpiper have also paused a while over the past month and hopefully as the autumn progresses the wader list will increase.
  On the high tide this evening it was good to see up to 20 Sandwich Terns fishing in the bay and several distant Gannets heading down-Channel.

Monday 27 July 2020

Weekend rambles

Lade/Dungeness/RM Canal - Sunshine and showers, south-westly airflow - With the family in for the weekend we managed a couple of walks along the Royal Military Canal, firstly from Kennardington to Warehorne on Saturday and today the section around West Hythe taking in Port Lympne zoo. Notable bird sightings included a Hobby catching a Swallow at Kennardington and a Buzzard `attending` to a Woodpigeon on the downs above West Hythe, while Willow Warblers, Common Whitethroats and Yellowhammers were seen and heard along the way. When the sun did break through plenty of common wayside butterflies noted, plus Migrant Hawkers along the canal margins and in the garden at Plovers.

                                RMC Warehorne

                                Buzzard with Woodpigeon

                                Migrant Hawker, on my socks!

  Back on the coast there was no change on the bird reserve with the Black-winged Stilt still present on ARC along with the usual host of wildfowl, Green and Common Sandpipers, Black Tern, Little Gull, Sand Martins and Common Terns, with more of the same yesterday around the circular trail.  
  This afternoon an hour at the fishing boats produced a trickle of Gannets, Common and Sandwich Terns, Kittiwakes, a Mediterranean Gull and a Manx Shearwater past the point (2 Balearics and a Sooty seen earlier), plus 100 Swifts.

Friday 24 July 2020

RSPB Nature Trail

Dungeness RSPB - warm, dry and sunny, sw 3 - After our circuit of the local patch and breakfast it was down to the bird reserve for a circuit of the recently opened two mile trail that has been closed since late March. Along with the main car park and toilets it is now open from 10am -5pm, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday only (entrance via a gazebo with a member of staff present) but the hides remain closed. The ARC car park remains open daily from 9am - 5pm, while all the public bridleways and footpaths across Dengemarsh remain accessible at any time.

                               Gazebo entrance to the main trail

                                Common Terns with juvs

  Burrowes can be viewed from either side of Dennis`s and Makepeace hides where waders noted included, Lapwings, Oystercatchers, Green and Common Sandpipers, two Golden Plovers and a Dunlin, plus a Garganey amongst hundreds of ducks, grebes and Coots. The Common Tern colony that was ousted by Herring Gulls from the rafts a month or more ago have decamped to two of the shingle islands where I counted at least 23 fledglings, but I`m sure there were more hunkered down and hopefully others still about to hatch. Unfortunately, also present were over 30 juvenile Herring Gulls scattered across the rest of the pit and one brood of Lesser Blacks, so it will be a miracle if any of the terns survive. Around the circular route plenty of Sedge, Reed and Cetti`s Warblers, Whitethroats, a few Willow Warblers, two Great White and five Little Egrets, Hobby, three Marsh Harriers and two Ravens.
  Over on ARC the Black-winged Stilt was still present in front of Hanson hide, having been there now since mid-summers day, plus Black Tern, Black-tailed Godwit, Garganey and all the usual wildfowl and hundreds of Sand Martins.
  On the bay this evening another whopping great flock of 350 plus Dunlins.  

                                Adult Dunlins on the bay

Thursday 23 July 2020

Surprise, surprise!

Lade - warm, dry and sunny, sw 2 - One of the great things about the natural world is its capacity to surprise, even at a local level. Take my little ol local patch for example, yesterday when returning from our morning walk we turned the corner of Hull Road just as all the local Starlings and House Sparrows went into a lather. Like us they were probably expecting a Sparrowhawk to appear, hunting the coastal bird feeders for breakfast, but were perfectly safe as they had been duped by, surprisingly, a juvenile Cuckoo that flew steadily south setting the Herring Gulls off as they too mistook it for a raptor. In the evening a whopping great flock of adult sandpipers on the bay comprised 280 Dunlins and 30 Sanderlings.

                                Scarce Chocolate-tip                             

                               Pale Prominent

  Today, more surprises. Firstly a new moth in the garden trap, one I have been expecting to be fair for some time, and a bit of a Dungeness speciality, a Scarce Chocolate- tip, plus also of note yet another (18th) raggedy Sussex Emerald, a Pale Prominent and the first Flounced Rustic of summer. And so to our morning circuit of the lakes and yet another surprise on south, a duck Shoveler proudly showing off her seven ducklings (by no means an annual breeder here) - how on earth did I miss that one!
  On the beach this evening, after yesterdays wader fest, things were much quieter with just 10 Dunlins and two Sandwich Terns of note amongst hundreds of Black-headed Gulls.

                                Brood of Shovelers

Tuesday 21 July 2020

Garden Willow Warbler

Lade - warm, dry and sunny, light airs - The past couple of days have been of a similar ilk with much cooler nights delivering fewer moths to light in the garden trap, although another Sussex Emerald increased the summer tally to 17 insects. Typically, Box-tree Moths are now commonplace!
  On the local patch a trickle of fresh looking juvenile Willow Warblers mingled with the more numerous Reed Warblers and Whitethroats around the ponds, and we even had one in the garden this morning. On the lakes, south island attracted six Dunlins and two Common Sandpipers amongst 50 Black-headed Gulls, where also noted over by the main reedbed, four Little Egrets, Marsh Harrier and Sparrowhawk. It was also a fascinating morning for cloud formations with one cluster over the airport grimly resembling an atomic bomb explosion, before morphing into a half mushroom!

                                Weird cloud formation

  A couple of visits to Dungeness to check the sea yesterday and the Moat for a Wood Warbler today both drew a blank, and if any birders are considering coming to Dungeness in the near future, make it early as the Estate is usually rammed with tourists from midday onwards.

Sunday 19 July 2020


Lade - mild, cloudy, light rain at times, light airs - A humid, sticky weekend of weather delivered another good haul of moths in the garden trap last night including our 15th and 16th Sussex Emeralds of summer, more than doubling the best ever tally here. Also of note: Poplar Hawk, Dusky Sallow, Marbled Green, a window pane Jersey Tiger and another Box-tree Moth.
  Yet again my moth learning curve continues! Having hastily potted up what I thought was a Mullein Moth I latter reconsidered the id, as they normally fly earlier in the season, and came up with Star-wort (more likely) or perhaps Striped Lychnis (wrong size). After consulting the Kerton Road Café (thanks DB) for a second opinion it was confirmed as Star-wort, new for the trap site.

                                Star-wort - new for Plovers trap site

                                Poplar Hawkmoth
                                Sussex Emeralds - 15th and 16th of summer

                               Jersey Tiger on cottage window 

  On the local patch, first thing before the rain, a trickle of Sand Martins and two Yellow Wagtails through, several Willow Warblers by the ponds and two Common Sandpipers on the island at the south end. Pochard and Tufted Duck numbers were on the rise, yet there is still no sign of any Great Crested Grebe juvs, as opposed to Coot and Mallard young that are everywhere. A couple of small parties of Sandwich and Common Terns flew over calling, and just in front of the rain band as we were leaving a moulting adult Black Tern dropped in, although it was not present later on. The juv Oystercatcher chick on the scaffold island looks about set to fly, whilst against all the odds a pair also fledged a chick on the beach between Lade and the Tavern (DS).

                                South lake island

  This afternoon, on a falling tide with rain in the air, the following were counted from the boardwalk: Black-headed Gull c1,000, Mediterranean Gull 10, Sandwich Tern 10, Curlew 210, Oystercatcher 220, Dunlin 110, Ringed Plover 10, Bar-tailed Godwit 5.
  Elsewhere today, around the bird reserve, Black-winged Stilt, Black Tern, Little Gull, Black-tailed Godwit, Common Sandpiper and Little Ringed Plover were all reported.

Friday 17 July 2020


West Wood, Rhodes Minnis - warm, dry and cloudy - A humid morning for a walk in the woods on the North Downs where the main avian interest was at least 30 Crossbills in three parties `jipping` wildly over the canopy. I was not surprised to see such numbers considering how many have been reported coming in off the North Sea along the east coast of England of late, and would suspect that there were many more scattered across this large block of mainly coniferous woodland. Also noted, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Coal Tit, Treecreeper, Goldcrest and Buzzard.
  Some of the broader rides were covered in woodland flowers that in turn attracted a limited range of butterflies, nothing much of note although it was good to see plenty of Ringlets.

                                West Wood


Meanwhile, back on the Marsh the Black-winged Stilt was still present on ARC along with a Black Tern, Common Sandpiper and Garganey. On the bay this evening the Curlew count reached 210.

Thursday 16 July 2020

Box-tree Moth

Lade - overcast, dry, nw 2 - Another muggy night perfect for moths coming to light, which they did in good numbers. However, the last one out of the trap was a very distinctive looking, largish mainly black and white moth who`s identity initially had me stumped as it wasn't in the Lewington guide. After a consultation with the Kerton Road Café I felt somewhat foolish as it was obviously a species I should`ve known; a Box-tree Moth, a so-called `pest species` (although in my opinion the only pest species on this planet is Homo sapiens) accidently imported from south-east Asia on Box plants, upon which it feeds. Apparently, the first British record was as recently as 2007 in Kent, while there are less than 10 Dungeness area records, so pretty scarce, at least for now!

                               Box-tree Moth - 1st for the garden trap

                                Curlews going to roost

  Our morning perambulation around the local patch was full of interest with scores of warblers, tits and finches again feeding by the ponds. Couldn`t make out anything unusual among the warblers which comprised mostly Common Whitethroats and Reed Warblers and one or two Blackcaps, Sedge, Willow and Cetti`s Warblers. On south lake a Common Sandpiper was still present.
  Best of all though was the spectacle of the brown wader flock coming off the bay for the high tide roost on the Desert. As they swept overhead and flew over the shingle ridges looking for a safe landing site it enabled a reasonably accurate count of 185 Curlews, 12 Bar-tailed Godwits and a lone calling Whimbrel, our first of the return passage.
  On the bay this evening on the incoming tide, 29 summer plumage Dunlins, 120 Oystercatchers and two Ringed Plovers, while a brilliant cock Linnet posed nicely atop a frond of Sea Kale.

                                Cock Linnet on Sea Kale frond, Lade beach

Wednesday 15 July 2020

Birthday Boy!

Lade - mild, cloudy, nw 2 - Another overcast day with a fresh northerly airflow early on. It was Barney`s 14th birthday and he looked much more bouncy this morning following a haircut from Pat yesterday; Border Terriers have a thick undercoat and suffer terribly in the heat of summer. So we were up and about early around the local patch where increasing evidence of the approaching autumn season was apparent with the first Common Sandpiper of autumn flitting over south lake and eventually landing on the new island at the southern end.
                               Common Sandpiper, south lake

                                Hedge Brown on gorse

                               Yesterday after his haircut

                                Barney at 14

An hour at the fishing boats this afternoon was typically pedestrian for the time of year with a few fishing Common Terns close in and Kittiwakes further out, plus two auks, thee coasting Swifts and singles of Harbour Porpoise and Grey Seal.

Tuesday 14 July 2020

Yellow Wagtails and Garganey

Lade - mild, overcast, early morning drizzle, light airs - Perfect overnight weather conditions for moth`ing resulted in 28 species in the garden trap, including the first Garden Tiger and Scalloped Oak of summer. Three Yellow Wagtails over the Desert calling and heading south was the first evidence of autumn migration, plus a trickle of Sand Martins and Swifts going in the same direction. A large mixed passerine flock in the scrub around the ponds contained mostly Long-tailed and Great Tits, Chaffinches and a few Whitethroats.

                                Scalloped Oak and Garden Tiger

                                Three Herring Gull juvs on a neighbouring roof

  An afternoon visit to ARC in the north-west corner delivered our first Garganey of autumn, plus two Common Sandpipers, Little Ringed Plover,Yellow Wagtail and a fledged Common Tern having moved off the raft and onto an island where it was being fed by the adults. There was the usual large numbers of wildfowl, Coots, grebes and gulls scattered across the lake, while a male Marsh Harrier in heavy wing moult, flew over the reedbed. There was no sign of the Black-winged Stilt, but it was reported this morning.

Sunday 12 July 2020

Day of the Insect

Lade - warm, dry and sunny, ne 2 - A classic summers day with blue skies and fluffy, white clouds and insects everywhere in the warm and welcome sunshine. The overnight catch in the garden moth trap held 22 species with the numbers provided by Brown-tailed Moths and Dark Arches, and the quality from a trio of well-worn Sussex Emeralds, plus the first two Plumed Fan-foots of the season. Also in the garden today on the buddleia our first Painted Lady and Humming-bird Hawk Moths. Continuing the invertebrate theme I had brief views of a blue-bandied hawker dragonfly along the main track by south lake this morning which was probably a Vagrant/Lesser Emperor?

                                Trio of Sussex Emeralds

                               Plumed Fan-foot

A run out to Scotney was largely disappointing with few birds present apart from plenty more Herring Gulls with chicks on the main island and a Common Sandpiper on the far bank. I notice that there is now even less parking (two cars at a push) available at the farm entrance since new fencing has been erected.

                               Scotney farm entrance

  Moving onto the bird reserve and the walk out on the public footpath to view Burrowes was memorable for the myriad of flying insects on the section between the two lakes. Hundreds of grassland butterflies were on the wing along with thousands of damselflies and dragonflies and countless smaller invertebrates. This amount of protein did not go unnoticed by a collection of Cetti`s, Reed and Sedge Warblers, Common Whitethroats, Linnets and Reed Buntings, all of whom had beaks full of grub for hungry youngsters.

                                Insect alley

                                Tern islands, Burrowes

  The only passage waders present were two Common Sandpipers, Ringed and Little Ringed Plovers and Lapwings, although views of the south end of the lake are restricted. Both tern rafts have been claimed by Herring Gulls with juvs, but three of the shingle islands out from the VC held about 60 pairs of Common Terns, some with young, while it was good to see them fending off any HGs that came too close to `their` island.

                                Thou shall not pass!

  Over on the ARC I couldn`t find the stilt, although it may have been in front of Hanson hide which remains closed, as is the Screen hide pictured above. Two Greenshanks, three Redshanks and a Green Sandpiper were noted from the north-west corner, plus pulses of Sand Martins on the move, numerous wildfowl, egrets, gulls and an unknown number of Common Terns on the raft. This afternoon from Springfield bridge we had a Cattle Egret amongst the stock, flight views of a Bittern, Marsh Harrier, Yellow Wagtail and Corn Bunting to round off a fine day in the field across the Peninsula.

Friday 10 July 2020

Weekly roundup

Lade - mild, cloudy, nw 3 - The past few days have been dominated by gloomy weather with low cloud, light drizzle and gusty winds at times, although it did improve throughout today. So, far from ideal conditions for fledgling birds then, although juvenile Whitethroats and Reed Warblers have been noted around the more sheltered ponds on the local patch. On the water Coot, Mallard, Mute Swan and Dabchick have all produced young, but I`ve yet to see any juv Great Crested Grebes despite there being around 25 pairs of adults present across both waters. Little Egret and Marsh Harrier are regular visitors hunting the wetlands and the Oystercatcher pair are still feeding a juv on the scaffold island. Large flocks of Jackdaws, House Sparrows and Starlings are ranging across the shingle ridges searching for emerging insects, while small parties of Swifts and Sand Martins are also pausing to feed awhile before heading south on their return migrations.
  Elsewhere, the Black-winged Stilt remains faithful to the north-west corner of ARC and a Cattle Egret paid a visit to Dengemarsh yesterday (MC). Other waders just about viewable this week on ARC have included Greenshank, Black-tailed Godwit, Dunlin, Redshank and Common Sandpiper. Common Terns are feeding well grown chicks on the raft, although a brood of hungry Herring Gulls nearby doesn't bode well. Black-headed Gulls and Cormorants have also bred around ARC this year. Quite why the Screen hide is barricaded and boarded up is a mystery to me as social distancing could easily be employed with the flaps left permanently up, particularly as most of the back of the hide is open to the elements; infact there`s a far greater risk of death or injury from pulling out of the ARC car park onto the speed track that is the Dungeness Road than catching Covid-19 in the Screen hide.
  Afternoon seawatching has been pretty quiet this week with just a trickle of Common and Sandwich Terns, Mediterranean Gulls and Gannets through, plus the occasional Arctic Skua, Manx Shearwater and Bonxie, and Yellow-legged Gulls at the Patch. One or two Grey Seals (four in the bay on the outgoing tide this afternoon) and Harbour Porpoises have been noted offshore and a flock of 20 Common Scoters have been moving between the two bays.

                                Common Tern