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.