Friday 31 December 2021

A Brief Look Back

It has been another strange old stop-start sort of a birding year across the Dungeness peninsula what with all the Covid restrictions, and I can`t see things being much different in 2022. Looking back the stand out event last winter was the exceptionally high numbers of White-fronted Geese on the fields around Lydd, in contrast to a rapidly declining population of Bewick`s Swans and the complete absence of Smew during either winter period. A Dusky Warbler lingered in the sallows around the ARC car park and a few Dartford Warblers wintered. One or two Glossy Ibises were present throughout the year along with fluctuating numbers of Cattle and Great White Egrets that reached double figures at times for both species. 

                                  Cattle Egret, Dengemarsh

                                 Garden Warbler, Plovers garden

The much anticipated spring migration on the land was again disappointing although at least a few classics such as Redstart, Pied and Spotted Flycatchers, Wood and Grasshopper Warblers could be found in the bushes from Greatstone to Dungeness, and there was another influx of Rose-coloured Starlings. Wandering Sea Eagles from the Isle of Wight reintroduction scheme came our way, as did several Black Kites and a trickle of Red Kites. Seawatching was good in parts with several days of large tern movements and an average skua passage; the highlight for many though was a showy Sooty Shearwater that lingered off the fishing boats. On Dengemarsh an unprecedented arrival of three Collared Pratincoles attracted twitchers from far and wide. 

                                 Little Stint, Lade bay

On the RSPB reserve it was a miserable breeding season for Common Tern, Lapwing and Redshank due to a combination of gull predation and wet weather. For the birdwatcher high water levels and closed hides also mean`t that the late summer wader passage was largely a non-event. Autumn too was dreadful by Dungeness standards with few common migrants (where were the Goldcrests and winter thrushes?) and hardly any rarities compounded by a lack of east winds. The highlight was probably the spectacle of several flocks of White Storks passing over the peninsula originating from the Knepp estate reintroduction programme in West Sussex.

                                 Hayfield Hobby

However, this is only a snap-shot from memory, not an exhaustive interrogation of 2021 and despite all the apparent doom and gloom there was still plenty to see during the year. My personal highlights were the large scale spring movement of terns off Dungeness, a back garden Garden Warbler, a Red-rumped Swallow and Little Stints at Lade and an autumn Honey Buzzard over Dengemarsh; this weeks Red-crested Pochard was my 205th species for the Dungeness year. I`d like to wish everyone a happy and peaceful bird-filled 2022. 

Thursday 30 December 2021

The Apprentice Birder

Mild, overcast, breezy - Wednesday afternoon I tacked on Lade north to my Romney Salts circular walk and by the time I got there across the stubble fields had worked up a right old sweat in the warm Azorean airflow that delivered 14C temperatures across the southern counties. Over the years I`ve only seen a couple of Red-crested Pochards at Lade, both on south lake and very obvious; unlike the drake that arrived on Tuesday that was hunkered down this afternoon amongst a Mallard flock along the western bank sheltering from the stiff breeze. Of more interest was a Goldcrest attached to a tit flock in the causeway scrub, plus a Cetti`s Warbler and Chiffchaff. As sunset approached I watched from the aerial mound as thousands of black crows, Woodpigeons and Starlings went to roost over towards the bird reserve.

                                  The Apprentice Birder in the field

Today I was ably assisted in the field by my Apprentice Birder; aka 11 year old grandson Albert. I say `birder` but he`s more of a `lister`, as he does love to record stuff, so the target to beat was 72 species (apparently!) recorded during our last outing in the autumn. Anyhow, there was no danger of that being attained, mainly due to the combination of a general lack of passerines and poor weather - low cloud, a steady drizzle and a muggy mid-Atlantic airstream. We were out for four hours around midday with much of the time spent birding from the mobile hide as the Apprentice efficiently logged all the species sightings and numbers in an old-school notebook supplied by yours truly. Along the Lydd Road from Hammond`s Corner a flock of 10 Corn Buntings on overhead wires was an unexpected bonus while we had good views of a Kestrel from the airport road. As is often the case Scotney pits and front fields duly delivered the bulk of the avian bio-mass today with thousands of Golden Plovers and Lapwings along with hundreds of feral geese, gulls, diving ducks, Cormorants, Wigeons and Starlings, all providing a fine spectacle for the Apprentice; in amongst the throng were five Ruffs, two Redshanks, a Curlew and a flyover Glossy Ibis. Various stopping off points along Dengemarsh Road yielded thousands more gulls, Starlings and Lapwings on the flooded fields, plus 12 Ruffs, two Great White Egrets, Marsh Harriers and a Stonechat, while the wet paddock along Lydd Road held six Cattle and two Little Egrets. Onto the bird reserve at Burrowes where the highlights were a Snipe, four Goldeneyes, 300 Shovelers and two more Great White Egrets, plus a treat for the Apprentice from the shop (an origami kit that should keep him occupied for a couple hours when we get home!). We finished the session from the seawatch hide at Dungeness with a raft of common seabirds including a Bonxie and two very close Kittiwakes making a final tally of 62 species, which wasn`t too bad considering the weather conditions, but more importantly we both had fun away from any electronic devices; no mean feat for a kid in this internet age.

Tuesday 28 December 2021


New Romney - mild, cloudy, W5 - We`ve entered that twilight zone between the two holiday periods, a sort of limbo in the calendar when you wake up wondering what day of the week it is, and whether or not you should be putting the bins out today or tomorrow. With family comings and goings I`ve managed to escape for walks around the Marsh and down to the coast at Greatstone; for the time being I`ve given up on the farmland north of the village, preferring the delights of the stinking dung heap on Romney Salts and adjacent stubble fields that have at least delivered a few Corn Buntings, Skylarks, Meadow Pipits and common raptors. Gull flocks have been checked on the industrial estate (that`s how desperate it is!) where a couple of Mediterranean Gulls loitered in amongst the riff-raff. Yesterday, with a brisk south-easterly forecast I joined MC in the sea watch hide for an hour first thing just before the rain set in. As expected there were hundreds of seabirds fizzing between the two bays, mostly gulls, Gannets, Cormorants, auks and Red-throated Divers, plus two Sanderlings, five Oystercatchers, Brent Goose and Common Scoter. I then moved onto Lade where it was similar fare to last weekend`s WeBS count, while the wet fields along Lydd Road held six Cattle and four Little Egrets. This morning en-route to Folkestone I paused at the Hythe sea defense blocks to look for Purple Sandpipers but all I could find were Turnstones clinging on for dear life in the rough sea conditions.

Friday 24 December 2021


Greatstone - warm, dry and sunny, light airs - A circular midday walk in unseasonably mild weather conditions along the beach from Littlestone to Greatstone and around Lade north to Romney Salts proved to be good on exercise but low on birds. On the incoming tide 610 Oystercatchers were counted along with 210 Great Black-backed Gulls but very little else apart from three Ringed Plovers, a species that has been in short supply this winter. On Lade north a single Mediterranean Gull was amongst the roosting Black-headed and Common Gulls while Chiffchaff and Cetti`s Warbler called from cover by the causeway. On Romney Salts, from the school viewpoint, 280 Curlews part roosted/fed on a stubble field along with a few Skylarks and Meadow Pipits, plus a host of corvids, gulls and Woodpigeons. Two Buzzards and a Kestrel also noted. 

                                 Curlews on Romney Salts

Tuesday 21 December 2021

Grey Geese

 Dengemarsh - cold, dry and sunny, light airs - Dengemarsh Road was the place to be today with a visit to the field with the dung heap by Manor Farm attracting a large flock of several hundred Greylag Geese that harboured at least 30 White-fronted, five Tundra Bean Geese and a single Pink-footed Goose. Not long after I arrived on site the flock was disturbed by a low-flying plane and moved onto the lake on the bird reserve where they were best viewed from Dengemarsh hide.

                                  Sunset over the ranges

A late afternoon visit along Dengemarsh Road for this winter`s Starling murmuration with the family was a resounding success. Thousands of birds performed an aerial ballet over the wetlands at dusk before eventually settling down to roost in Hooker`s reedbed. Four Marsh Harriers were also present, plus a Sparrowhawk which caught a Starling for supper, while a distant Short-eared Owl quartered the rough ground over the Army ranges. Several each of Little and Great White Egrets also departed as dusk approached for their roost site over the road on ARC.

Sunday 19 December 2021

Grey Ghost

Walland Marsh - cold, overcast, NE 3 - A murky afternoon out on the Marsh in the company of CP for the monthly harrier count turned into a decent session for a change. En-route we connected with 18 Bewick`s Swans and at least three Whoopers, Great White and Little Egrets, Common Buzzard and Merlin, five Golden Plovers and three Snipe, but yet again hardly any passerines were noted apart from a few Meadow Pipits and small flocks of Starlings heading to roost. However, despite the poor light the harriers put on a fine show with 17 Marsh Harriers coming to roost, plus a beautiful adult male Hen Harrier that flew around for a while being hassled by a couple of Marsh Harriers before eventually dropping down into the reedbed for the night, a magnificent sight and the first time we`ve had one here for a while. As the light faded a Barn Owl hunted over the field in front of us against a backdrop of the wild swans calling as they too headed to roost on a nearby water. 

Friday 17 December 2021

Egrets and Ibises

Dungeness - mild, overcast, NE 2 - A miserable day of weather (reflecting the national mood) with poor light throughout and occasional drizzle. I started off at Lade where a combined wildfowl count barely reached 150 birds, plus 500 high tide roosting Black-headed and Common Gulls on north lake. Around the willow swamp Chiffchaff, Cetti`s Warbler and Water Rails were in good voice and a Sparrowhawk nipped through chasing a Collared Dove.

                                 Glossy Ibis, Burrowes

On the bird reserve two Cattle Egrets and a Glossy Ibis were on the Boulderwall fields by Cook`s Pool with another Ibis on Burrowes feeding below Firth hide on an island amongst a host of Gadwalls. Thousands of Cormorants loafed on the islands along with 200 Lapwings plus a group of nine Ruffs and a Dunlin at the Makepeace end, while two Goldeneyes and Pintails were the only ducks of note. A walk out to the viewpoint overlooking New Diggings revealed a Great White Egret displaying in flight to another one and two Little Egrets on the causeway bank. Diving ducks tallied 462 Tufted Ducks and 285 Pochards. 

Wednesday 15 December 2021

Bewick`s Swans

Tues/Wed - mild, dull, light airs - I`ve spent a fair bit of time these past two days criss-crossing the Marsh farmland in search of Bewick`s Swans for the International Survey. The Romney Marsh section was pretty much devoid of birds with only a couple of small herds of Mute Swans and not a winter thrush anywhere. Crossing the Rhee Wall at Old Romney the highlight was a flock of 80 Fieldfares, plus a few Blackbirds, Kestrels and Buzzards along the lanes around Midley, while another Mute flock from Hook`s Wall also included 25 Egyptian Geese. The long walk outback at Scotney resulted in distant views of 18 Bewick`s Swans (six of which were juvs) feeding with Mutes in an oil-seed rape field; although I could find no sign of any Whoopers that were reported here earlier in the week. Other birds of note were a flock of 21 Corn Buntings, two Marsh Harriers and a Great White Egret. Once again the front fields and lakes at Scotney were teeming with similar numbers of wetland species as noted last Sunday.

                                 Bewick`s Swans, Walland Marsh, 2015

Sunday 12 December 2021

White-fronted Geese

 Saturday - New Romney - mild, light airs - Fine weather for a four mile flog around the local lanes and tracks from home out towards St Mary-in-the Marsh. As expected small birds were at a premium with just a scattering of Goldfinches, Chaffinches, Skylarks, singles of Cetti`s Warbler, Greenfinch and Song Thrush and 20 Blackbirds noted. Raptors, however, were much in evidence with at least two each of Kestrel and Sparrowhawk, plus four Buzzards. Most numerous were corvids, Woodpigeons and Magpies in the sheep fields and Common Gulls on winter wheat (what on earth do they find to eat?).

                                  Kestrel and Buzzard, St Mary-in-the-Marsh

                                 White-fronted Goose, Scotney

Sunday - Scotney - mild, overcast with drizzle, W3 - In contrast to yesterdays slim pickings the wetlands around the gravel pit lakes at Scotney were  alive with birds, particularly the front sward that attracted c1,500 Golden Plovers, c1,000 Lapwings, c1,000 Greylags along with hundreds of Starlings, Wigeons, Shovelers, Egyptian and Barnacle Geese. Amongst the throng were six White-fronts (probably laggards from last winter that stayed over, one of which had a dodgy wing), 10 Redshanks, two Curlews and 20 Linnets. The lakes held the usual common diving ducks, gulls and grebes, plus Marsh Harrier, Kestrel, Buzzard, Great White and Little Egrets and two Green Sandpipers outback.

Friday 10 December 2021

Gulls and Swans

Weekly Summary - It has been a variable week of weather which has see-sawed between cold and frosty mornings and wet and windy conditions, courtesy of named Storm Barra that swept up from the south-west mid-week. The lanes around New Romney have been largely quiet and still bereft of winter thrushes, although I did hear a few Redwings passing over the village on Tuesday evening. I paid several visits to Lade this week checking the bay, foreshore and pits for any storm-blown waifs but without success. Four Black-tailed Godwits continue to winter on the sands along with hundreds of gulls and the usual ten species of waders including a few Ringed Plovers at last along the Littlestone stretch. The lakes attracted low numbers of wildfowl while Chiffchaff and Cetti`s Warbler were noted by the ponds. At Dungeness the sea produced the usual Gannets, auks, Kittiwakes and the occasional Red-throated Diver feeding offshore or fizzing around the point.

                                  Sanderlings, Littlestone

On the bird reserve both Glossy Ibises (per MC) are still present around Dengemarsh (one flew over Cook`s Pool today) and the usual array of Caspian and Yellow-legged Gulls have kept the ID gurus entertained on Burrowes, where a few Shelduck, Pintail and Goldeneye can be found lurking amongst the commoner ducks. Great White Egrets and Marsh Harriers are a given and a flooded paddock field along the Lydd Road this morning attracted 100 Common and Black-headed Gulls, four Cattle and three Little Egrets. Out on Walland Marsh up to 18 Bewick`s and six Whooper Swans are present on the more remote sections of farmland during daylight hours and roosting on nearby wetlands in the evening. 

Wednesday 1 December 2021


Wessex  -Just back from a few days away visiting family at various points to the west; at Littlehampton in a roaring gale where I saw very little, and a snowy Winchester where I finally caught up with small flocks of Redwings and Fieldfares. However, inbetween I did manage to squeeze in a full day at Pagham Harbour where I spent most of the time exploring the relatively new and adjacent Medmerry RSPB reserve. Its a two mile hike from the main car park and visitor centre through low-lying farmland and fields with plenty of rough ground and hedgerows along the route; although as is the way these days passerines were in short supply with only a handful of Skylarks, Meadow Pipits, Stonechats, Goldfinches. Corn Buntings and Yellowhammers noted (and not a single winter thrush), plus several Kestrels and Common Buzzards, while a group of four and a two of Roe Deer was nice to see. A field of winter wheat by Ham Farm attracted 100 each of Brent Geese and Lapwing.

                                       Roe Deer

                                 Meadow Pipit

                                  Brent Geese, Medmerry

                                 Medmerry RSPB Reserve

The main body of the reserve is south of a series of stout clay banks with viewpoints that overlook a huge tidal bay and salt marsh with lagoons and islands formed by what is the largest flood risk management scheme of its kind in the country; the sea wall was breached as a release valve to prevent the threat of flooding to nearby housing at Selsey and Bracklesham, and in turn creating a myriad of wetland habitats for wildlife. Large numbers of waders such as Redshank, Ringed and Grey Plovers, Curlew and Oystercatcher were present, plus at least 1,000 Brent Geese swirling overhead from nearby Pagham Harbour, along with plenty of gulls, Shelducks, Wigeons, Teal, several Little Egrets and a distant Spoonbill.

                                 Selsey Bill

I finished the day with a brief seawatch from Selsey Bill where a few auks and Common Scoters passed by offshore and several tame Turnstones fed along the sea wall. 

Friday 26 November 2021

Bay Waders

 Lade Bay - At various times this week I`ve walked the strandline from St Mary`s Bay to Dungeness hoping for the likes of an elusive Snow or Lapland Bunting foraging amongst the many corvids, Feral Pigeons, Turnstones, Pied Wagtails and Starlings, plus a few Little Egrets, Meadow Pipits and Skylarks along the way. High tide wildlife on the bay included several Grey Seals, plenty of Great Crested Grebes, Cormorants, Black-headed and Common Gulls and two tardy Sandwich Terns, while further out distant Gannets and auks passed by.

                                 Sanderlings and Dunlin, Littlestone

                                 Carrion Crow, St Mary`s Bay

                                 Redshanks, Sanderlings, Dunlin and Knot, Littlestone

                                 Redshanks, Littlestone

But as always the stars of the show were the waders, 10 species in all (but still no Ringed Plover) including six Black-tailed Godwits, something of a scarcity here on the salt, and a count of 1,250 Oystercatchers, currently by far the most numerous of their tribe on the bay. Something of a magical moment occurred at high tide on Wednesday as I was hunkered down on the shingle checking through a pack of Turnstones working their way across the sea defense blocks at Littlestone outfall. A flurry of wings delivered a small mixed flock of Redshanks, Dunlins, Sanderlings and a Knot no more than ten yards away that quickly settled down to roost. After taking a few piccies I crawled back over the beach so`s not to disturb them from their slumbers, such was the privilege of being cheek-by-jowl with these stunning little shorebirds. 

Wednesday 24 November 2021

Romney Salts

New Romney - overcast, mild, light airs - Spent this afternoon slogging around the hinterland to the south (between the village and the coastal strip at Greatstone) in an area known as Romney Salts. For the most part here the landscape is arable in nature comprising the usual mix of corn and rape-seed fields, drainage sewers, stunted bushes and grass farm tracks, plus a large dung heap which is a magnet for finches, sparrows and buntings; particularly the fast declining Tree Sparrow and Corn Bunting. For the moment, at least, the majority of the cropped fields are unploughed and stubbled with plenty of spilled grain and in places full of weed-seeds making them very attractive to farmland birds. Steadily quartering the `best looking` weedy stubble fields I eventually counted c2,000 Starlings, 300 black crows, 160 Skylarks, 30 Corn Buntings, 15 Tree Sparrows, 10 Meadow Pipits, 11 Common Snipes, two Golden Plovers, a Redshank and a Pheasant, while a drilled field held 175 Curlews. Loitering around the margins were 20 Magpies, 10 Blackbirds, two song Thrushes, three Common Buzzards and a Stonechat. The Salts look spot on for Ortolan Bunting and Short-eared Owl this winter, providing the rough stuff remains, and I fully intend to return to check when the weather conditions are suitable, as they were today. Walking back along Church Lane the building site adjacent to the council tip held 35 Meadow Pipits, 10 Goldfinches and 10 Pied Wagtails, while a Siskin flew over calling. Yet again, winter thrushes were noticeable by a complete absence. 

                                  Corn Bunting and Buzzard, Romney Salts

                                 Stonechat, Romney Salts

Sunday 21 November 2021


 New Romney - Saturday - mild, overcast, drizzle, light airs - A walk around the lanes and tracks north of the village first thing delivered a pair of Ravens over (new for the one mile list), 30 Blackbirds, 20 Yellowhammers, 100 Common Gulls, three Buzzards and a Great Spotted Woodpecker; there continues to be an absence of winter thrushes and Goldcrests. At Dungeness a Red-breasted Flycatcher was ringed at the Obs and a Puffin was noted moving offshore (SP).

                            Kestrel sheltering from the wind on the old lighthouse

Dungeness - Sunday - cold, dry and sunny, N 4 - A completely different feel to the weather today with the wind picking up from the north making it decidely nippy. First stop Lade to count the wildfowl where numbers remained low and nothing much had changed since Friday. A circuit of the point, taking in the Moat, drew a predictable blank for yesterdays RBflicker and was virtually birdless apart from a Stonechat and a Sparrowhawk, plus a Kestrel hunkered down on the old lighthouse. A cursory look at the sea produced plenty of Gannets fishing offshore and a few passing auks. On the bird reserve four Black-tailed Godwits and 10 Dunlins were amongst the Lapwings and dabbling ducks on Burrowes while several Cattle and Great Egrets were on the Boulderwall fields. Walked put to the new lookout point across New Diggings where 320 Tufted Ducks and 295 Pochards were counted

Walland Marsh - Joined CP for the monthly harrier count out on the Marsh where 16 Marsh Harriers came to roost; at one stage there was 14 milling around over the reedbed in one flock searching for a suitable drop-in point. Also noted in the area: four Buzzards, 50 Golden Plovers, a Snipe, a large Starling flock, calling Water Rail and Cetti`s Warbler. However, it was depressing to see that the rough ground around Midley drying barns, so loved by finches and buntings, has all been cleared and tidied, while the nearby lane with elm regrowth and hedgerows either side, favoured by winter thrushes, has been grubbed up and the old willows cut to ribbons. Its little wonder that any farmland birds can survive in such a hostile environment.  

Friday 19 November 2021

Water Rails

Lade - mild, cloudy, light airs - Checked the bay this morning at high tide from Littlestone and the Romney Tavern on a flat calm sea where at least 300 Common Gulls were amongst 1,000 plus black-backs, Herring and Black-headed Gulls. A few Sanderlings, Dunlins, Oystercatchers, Redshanks and Turnstone noted, plus two Sandwich Terns, six Great Crested Grebes and six Grey Seals. At least 15 Pied Wagtails were feeding along the strandline, a species that seems to be particularly numerous of late. On the lakes several Water Rails vocalised around the willow swamp; where I actually managed to glimpse one, and a couple of Chiffchaffs called from cover. Otherwise the only excitement were two military type helicopters that swept overhead before landing on the airfield.

                                  Helicopters over Lade

On the birds reserve the expected Cattle Egrets and Glossy Ibises were on the Boulderwall fields, while on Burrowes the long-staying Black-necked Grebe was still present, plus 10 Dunlins, two Snipes and the usual wildfowl and gulls.

Thursday 18 November 2021

Corn Buntings

Dengemarsh - mild, dry, sunny, W3 - First off we walked the gully with mixed results. A scattering of Cetti`s Warblers, Goldfinches, Stonechats, Blackbirds and Meadow Pipits was about the best we could muster in this leanest of autumns`. The sheep folds opposite the track down to Springfield Bridge did hold a smart Corn Bunting flock of around 20 birds, plus 20 Pied Wagtails and a few Skylarks and Meadow Pipits, while the dung heap further along the lane attracted more Pied Wags, Mipits and a Grey Wagtail. Also noted across Dengemarsh this morning several Buzzards, Marsh Harriers and Kestrels and flocks of Lapwings and Starlings.

                                  Grey Heron, Dengemarsh Gully

                                 Goldfinches, Dengemarsh Road

We finished the four day bird tour for Clare and Peter on a respectable 103 species, and while rarities were at a premium the spectacle of Starlings, Golden Plovers and Gannets performing in large numbers was ample compensation and will live long in the memory. 

Wednesday 17 November 2021


 Rye Harbour - warm, dry and sunny, light airs - En-route to Rye this morning we paused at Scotney and Camber where a typical range of wildfowl and waders was noted at the former site and a redhead Goosander at the latter. Most of the day though was spent on the Beach Reserve at Rye in glorious sunshine where we were treated to a double avian spectacle: firstly, over a thousand Golden Plovers and Lapwings and hundreds of ducks swirling overhead and calling furiously whilst being tormented by an imperious female Peregrine, stooping and chasing unsuccessfully; and secondly a flock of around 50 Gannets plunge-diving for sprats in the shallows off Camber Sands. Also of note: 20 Skylarks, two Great White Egrets, two Sandwich Terns, 25 Dabchicks, four Stonechats, a Brent Goose, a Spoonbill, plus all the usual Redshanks, Curlews and a calling Spotted Redshank. Was also good to catch up with some of the Rye regulars. Afterwards we called in at Pett Level where two Ruffs and six Redshanks were within a Lapwing and Starling flock by the pools and two Red-throated Divers on the sea.

                                  Goosander, Camber
                                 Redshank, Rye Harbour

We finished the day at Appledore for Barn Owl, Buzzard, Kestrel, Red-legged Partridge, Yellowhammers, Redwings and Fieldfares.

Tuesday 16 November 2021


 Dungeness - mild, cloudy, light airs - The fine birding weather continued today at the point where we kicked off with good views of Gannets, Guillemots and Razorbills on a flat calm sea along with several Porpoises. On the land four Black Redstarts, a few Meadow Pipits, Pied Wagtails, Linnets and Goldfinches were located around the power station complex, plus a Peregrine perched on a pylon and a calling Siberian Chiffchaff in the Trapping Area along with tits and Common Chiffchaffs.

                                     Goldfinch, DBO

Moving on to Lade Bay where on a falling tide we mopped up from the Tavern viewpoint with hundreds of Curlews, Oystercatchers and gulls, 20 Grey Plovers, 10 Bar-wits, 10 Dunlins, 10 Knots, five Sanderlings and 30 Sandwich Terns. From Littlestone more waders included 110 Turnstones, six Black-wits, four Redshanks, 20 Sandwich Terns, three Little Egrets and more Pied Wagtails. There was no sign of any Ringed Plovers.

                                 Little Egrets, Littlestone

Next stop Dunes Road, Greatstone where the wood was alive with at least 20 Blackbirds, a Song and Mistle Thrush, Common Treecreeper, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Long-tailed Tits and at last a Goldcrest, my first of the autumn. Outback around the dung heap were 10 Pied Wagtails, 12 Tree Sparrows, three Buzzards and two each of Stonechat and Corn Bunting.

                                  Tree Sparrows, Greatstone

                                   Glossy Ibis, Cook`s Pool

Back on the bird reserve we had cracking close views of the Glossy Ibis pair by Cook`s Pool and finished off on ARC with a drake Goldeneye on the lake and 14 Cattle, nine Great White and six Little Egrets coming to roost. Job done! 

Monday 15 November 2021

Starling Murmuration

Dungeness - mild, cloudy, light airs - Spent the afternoon on the RSPB reserve guiding for Clare and Peter in gloomy, but mild autumn weather conditions. On Burrowes the highlights were a flock of 30 Brent Geese over-flying the lake, a Black-necked Grebe, 100 Golden Plovers, five Pintails, a Snipe, four Marsh Harriers and a Great White Egret. Around the trail a mixed flock of 20 Long-tailed, Great and Blue Tits and five Chiffchaffs proved noteworthy, plus several more Marsh Harriers, a Raven over calling, a flyover Bittern at Dengemarsh, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, Cetti`s Warblers, nine Cattle Egrets over Boulderwall fields and three Little Egrets on New Diggings. We finished off the afternoon from the Firth Lookout watching thousands of Starlings swirling over the Oppen pits at sunset prior to roosting in willow scrub. As always a memorable spectacle.

                                  Starling murmurations over Burrowes

Friday 12 November 2021

Slim Pickings

 Dungeness - mild, cloudy, SSW 4 - Started off this morning on the beach at Lade with ten Sandwich Terns on the sands along with hundreds of gulls, Curlews and Oystercatchers. A long since dead Grey Seal corpse washed up on the strandline attracted a couple of Carrion Crows, but no Ivory Gull!

                                  Seal corpse, Lade beach

At the point a brief seawatch from the hide produced the expected Gannets, Kittiwakes and auks, plus a couple of Red-throated Divers and Sandwich Terns. The land was devoid of birds with still no sign of any Goldcrests. It wasn`t much more inspiring on the bird reserve either where the stiff breeze rendered the Firth/Makepeace end of Burrowes virtually unwatchable, although a Black-necked Grebe and four Snipe were noted. Elsewhere it was a case of the usual egrets, plus a Water Pipit on the hayfields (OL). 

Tuesday 9 November 2021

Ian Wallace

DIM Wallace - With the passing of Ian Wallace last week a generation of birders lost a titan of the British birding scene who was rarely out of the news in the second half of the 20th Century. His involvement as chairman of the British Birds Rarities Committee often saw him clash with popular opinion, but he loved the cut and thrust of a heated debate and certainly never minced his words. His numerous papers and letters in that august journal were eagerly received before the internet age, all of which were wonderfully crafted, opinionated and often controversial. He was also a brilliant artist as testified by his involvement in the epic BWP volumes, and a legendary speaker - I engaged him once to talk at a Bedfordshire Bird Conference back in the 90`s and he brought the house down with tales of rarity finding - and massively overrun his slot, but that`s another story! Charismatic, and never dull, I would often see him in the field from Norfolk to Scilly and latterly at the Rutland Bird Fair sporting his trademark tam-o-shanta (actually, a "Kilmarnock Bonnet" as he once corrected me!) and tartan garb.

For me though his greatest legacy will be two books: Birdwatching in the Seventies and Discover Birds, both of which have survived the many purges of my book shelves down the years! I can open the pages anywhere in the first book and be transported back to my formative and favourite decade when David Bowie and Queens Park Rangers were in their pomp, Willow Tits and Tree Sparrows were two a penny, but you had to go to Minsmere to see a Marsh Harrier! Discover Birds is a treasure trove of anecdotes and artwork from around Britain and simply a joy to behold; I must`ve re-read it a dozen times or more and if you`ve ever lost your birding mo-jo, then this is the book to rekindle the fire! A heartfelt thank you then to the legendary bird man behind the initials - DIMW.

Scotney - A morning visit in fine drizzle delivered thousands of feral geese, Cormorants, common ducks and gulls to the lakes and fields beside the cycle track. A Golden Plover flock held a small, greyish individual that looked `interesting` but proved elusive to pin down due to the flighty nature of the flock and poor light. Also noted on the sward: Redshank, Dunlin and Curlew, four Brent Geese, plus a Black-necked Grebe at the Sussex end, three Ravens over and several distant Marsh Harriers and Buzzards. From Cockles Bridge an adult Whooper Swan (found earlier by MC) was still present on the fields towards the airfield alongside 30 Mutes.