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. 

Thursday 10 September 2020

Clouded Yellows

 Lade - warm, dry and sunny - On the local patch this morning the highlight was a stunning Clouded Yellow butterfly that eventually settled on the shingle by the main track; typically, several others were noted on the bird reserve later. Around the ponds a small mixed flock of Willow Warblers, Chiffchaffs, Lesser and Common Whitethroats kept us busy, while a smart juvenile Ruff settled briefly on the island on south lake.

                     Clouded Yellow and Ruff, Lade


  With the circular trail open on the bird reserve, and Makepeace hide accessible, a check of Burrowes drew a blank for waders, although a work party was in progress clearing vegetation from the one of the islands. However, there were plenty of common warblers to sift through in the bushes around the car park and elsewhere with Blackcap, Cetti`s, Sedge and Reed Warblers added to the Lade list earlier. Otherwise it was very quiet around the main body of the reserve. We ended the bird tour on 104 species for our guests, including a good selection of waders, warblers and chats. 

Wednesday 9 September 2020

Rye and Pett

 Rye Harbour - hot, dry and sunny - For a change of scene we spent the morning on the beach reserve at Rye Harbour in sweltering weather conditions. The main track down to sea was closed due to ongoing groundwork for the new visitor centre, although all the hides were open with the usual precautions in operations. Waders noted included 50 Curlews, 20 Dunlins, 10 Redshanks, two Whimbrels, two Little Ringed Plovers and a Common Sandpiper, plus more Curlews on the beach along with Oystercatchers and 50 Sandwich Terns. Also noted two Wheatears, 20 Dabchicks and a steady flow of Sand and House Martins south.

                      Pett pools

  In the afternoon we had a run down to Pett pools where the highlight was a large flock of Sandwich Terns that provided a fine spectacle coming and going off the sea with fish for the juveniles. Also present by the pool, 50 Curlews, Redshank, Bar-tailed Godwit, Little Egret and 20 Dabchicks on the water, while a Fulmar was noted at Cliff End. On the way home we called in at ARC where the Glossy Ibis was still present, plus 50 Knots, 30 Golden Plovers, Bar-wit, Dunlin and two Ruffs.


Tuesday 8 September 2020

Chats and Starts

 Dungeness - warm, dry and sunny, w 3 - We started the day at the point checking the bushes for grounded migrants. Half a dozen Blackcaps, Willow Warbler, Lesser and Common Whitethroats and several Stonechats and Wheatears were noted in and around the moat, while a mixed flock near the war memorial comprised six Black Redstarts, eight Stonechats, four more Wheatears, Common Redstart and Common Whitethroat. Also noted three Kestrels, Siskin and Grey Wagtail over calling and various flocks of Linnets and Starlings.

                                 Black Redstart and Whinchat

  A brief look at the front fields at Scotney delivered several Yellow Wagtails and all the usual feral geese. Moving onto Dengemarsh, and despite the wind picking up, two Whinchats and Meadow Pipits noted along the hayfield fenceline, plus up to 50 Yellow Wagtails on hayfield 2 amongst the cattle. Also several each of Great White and Little Egrets, three Marsh Harriers, Buzzard and Kingfisher, while at Boulderwall at least three Cattle Egrets were seen amongst the stock. We finished the day at the point with a seawatch from the concrete road where 100 Sandwich Terns, 10 Gannets and two Mediterranean Gulls were on the move.

Monday 7 September 2020

Wildfowl and waders

 Lade/Dungeness - warm, dry and cloudy, sw 3 - A pleasant afternoon`s birding in the company of Clare and Peter started and finished by scanning the bay from the Tavern viewpoint either side of high tide. The Curlews had already gone to roost, but we had close views of 300 Oystercatchers, 50 Knots, 100 Dunlins, 50 Sanderlings, Bar-tailed Godwit, Ringed Plover and Turnstone, plus seven Shelducks, 150 Sandwich Terns, Little Egret and Mediterranean Gull.

                     Juvenile Swallow, Screen hide 

  The majority of the afternoon was spent at the ARC where the bushes held small mixed flocks of tits and warblers, including Blackcap, Willow Warbler and Lesser Whitethroat. Hundreds of Sand Martins and Swallows swarmed over the lake along with 20 Common Terns and a few Sandwich Terns, while hundreds more common diving and dabbling ducks included a few Pintail and Wigeon. Two Black-necked Grebes hugged the far reedbed over by Hanson hide and the Glossy Ibis showed well with both Great White and Little Egrets. Waders included 50 Golden Plovers, five Little Ringed Plovers, Black-tailed and Bar-tailed Godwits, two Snipe, Common Sandpiper, Dunlin and a smart Little Stint. On the Desert behind the water tower two each of Whinchat and Wheatear were noted, plus Green Woodpecker, Sparrowhawk and two late Swifts heading south.

Sunday 6 September 2020

Passage migrants

Lade - warm, dry and sunny, light airs - Fine weather across the weekend delivered a decent range of common passage migrants through the local patch including Willow Warblers and Lesser Whitethroats, Swallows and Sand Martins, Wheatears and Whinchats, Yellow Wagtails and Meadow Pipits, along with a few Grey Wagtails and Tree Pipits, plus the first Black-necked Grebe of autumn on south lake amongst hundreds of diving ducks, grebes and Coots. The margins attracted several Little Egrets and a couple of Redshanks and a Common Sandpiper, while a Kingfisher `whistling` around the willow swamp was also the first of the season. Bird of the day though was distant views of a Short-eared Owl quartering the shingle ridges before disappearing behind the `mirrors` towards the airfield.

                     Wheatear, Lade Desert

                      Little Egrets, Lade bay (by David Scott)

  The bay continues to attract plenty of passage waders and Sandwich Terns. Little Egrets are not a bird normally associated with salt water, although in the past I have noted them feeding along the gryones at Littlestone. However, three off Greatstone beach on Friday was unusual, as seen and photographed by DS.

Thursday 3 September 2020

Knots on the bay

 Lade - warm, dry, cloudy, sw 4 - The past few days on the local patch has seen some impressive movements of hirundines over the lakes, mostly Swallows, plus a couple of tardy Swifts. Little Egrets and Grey Herons are taking advantage of the numerous shallows in which to fish, while Tufted Duck numbers have risen to over 300. The bushes continue to attract smart Willow Warblers, Common and Lesser Whitethroats and there was even one of the latter in the garden fir trees yesterday. Overhead, and grounded on the Desert, Yellow Wagtails and Meadow Pipits are on the move during the morning, along with the occasional Grey Wagtail and Tree Pipit, so fairly standard early autumn fare.

                     Basking Foxes yesterday by the lakes

                     Knots and Bar-tailed Godwit on the bay

  On the beach this afternoon on a falling tide 320 Knots feeding close to shore provided a cracking spectacle along with a few Bar-tailed Godwits, Ringed Plovers and Turnstones. Further out a flock of 55 raucous Sandwich Terns loafed on the sands.