Lade - warm, dry and sunny, N 2 - A cracking morning spent on the local patch with a cooling northerly airflow tempering the strong mid-summer sun when it did break through the cloud cover. It was one of those days to gladden the heart with an abundance of flora and fauna everywhere you looked. Here on the Dungeness NNR we are spoiled for choice as testified by the prodigious flush of plants that have recently flowered across the shingle ridges due to a combination of the recent rain and hot sunshine. A riot of colours and scents from the likes of broom, honeysuckle, stonecrop, scabious, bugloss, poppy, campion, bedstraw, mullein and trefoil support a variety of insects, including Common Blue, Small Heath, Red Admiral and Painted Lady butterflies, plus day-flying Cinnabar and Silver Y moths, all seen this morning. Stonechat, Whitethroat, Linnet, Dunnock, Starling and Sparrow were commonplace along with a few Skylarks, Meadow Pipits, Cuckoo and Kestrel, plus 26 Curlews leaving their high tide roost on the Desert. Around the willow swamp more juvenile Moorhens and Coots were on the water, while Reed Warblers busily gathered invertebrates for their nestlings. Several huge carp lunged out of the water disturbing a multitude of laughing Marsh Frogs and the post-breeding assemblage of Pochards had risen to 42, all drakes. The ponds are simply alive with damsel flies where also Black-tailed Skimmer, Four-spotted Chaser and a splendid Emperor dragonfly all noted.
Last weekend we saw our first Green Sandpiper of the return passage on the bird reserve and when MC reported a notable eight birds on the hayfields this morning it was no surprise that two more were also present here at Lade on the margins of the willow swamp facing south lake. Green Sandpipers have a disjointed distribution down here and although a few winter across the Marsh the majority spend the colder months south of the Sahara. On their spring migrations they move north on a broad front but seem to miss us as they angle further east to their breeding grounds across Scandinavia and northern Russia; I remember seeing one sat in an old Redwing nest in Finland many years ago and thinking it was a bit unusual, until I realised it was on a clutch of eggs - a wader nesting up a tree, most odd! Anyhow, although both parents tend the young the females are the first to depart, and that is when we encounter the first returning migrants, adult females, from mid-June onwards when they take a more leisurely and westerly route back to their winter quarters.