Wednesday 29 September 2021


Lade Bay - cool, dry and sunny, NW 4 - Spent some time today checking out the waders across the bay. This morning at Littlestone, around the groynes, there were 35 Turnstones and 12 Redshanks along with a selection of Dunlins, Sanderlings, 15 Knots, two Grey and four Ringed Plovers on the mud further out, plus a Wheatear on the shingle beach, a trickle of southbound House Martins and Swallows and a Raven `cronking` loudly overhead. 

                                   Bar-tailed Godwit and Brent Goose, Lade Bay

This afternoon on the neap tide I checked out the Lade to Greatstone section where the light was superb, which makes such a difference to viewing and counting. Oystercatchers topped 1,000 (at least four with blue and red colour rings), Curlews 300 and Bar-tailed Godwits 30, one of which came close enough for a few piccies. Whilst chatting to Owen L a pair of Black-tailed Godwits joined the throng making 11 species of waders in all. Wildfowl noted included ten Brents on the sea and one on the sands, 20 Wigeon, five Teal and a Pintail. 140 Sandwich Terns resting on a sand bar briefly attracted the attention of a marauding Arctic Skua before it returned back out to sea along with a few passing Common Scoters, Cormorants and Gannets.

Monday 27 September 2021

Sad Times

Barney passed away yesterday after living a full and varied life for a little over 15 years. He was a much loved dog and not only by family and friends, but also the many clients who`ve stayed with us at Plovers down the years and seen him mature from a puppy to adulthood. He was a great favourite with local birders too and the very best companion to me when out birding; particularly when he flushed a Stone Curlew from the shingle a few years ago! He was also a well travelled dog having joined us on trips to the Highlands of Scotland, the Lake District, the Somerset Levels, the New Forest, Yorkshire, Suffolk, Dorset and Devon amongst others, but his heart and soul was firmly on the Romney Marsh, and in particular the shingle lands of Lade and Dungeness. Pat and I shall miss him dearly.  

Friday 24 September 2021

Dungeness Raptors and Hide Update

 Dungeness - warm, dry and sunny SW 4 - Following a back-to-normal circuit of the local patch after yesterdays excitement it was onto the bird reserve for the rest of the morning, where birds of prey seemed to be everywhere. At least 10 Common Buzzards passed overhead, while a minimum of six Sparrowhawks were noted across the site (probably migrants), plus a supporting cast of five Marsh Harriers, four Kestrels and a Hobby. The fields across Boulderwall held 10 Cattle, two Little and three Great White Egrets, a Glossy Ibis that flew across towards ARC, 10 Yellow Wagtails, 20 Meadow Pipits and two Wheatears. The usual flock of 150 Golden Plovers and 200 Lapwings were on the islands at Burrowes along with four Snipe, three Ruffs and a Dunlin, plus a Black-necked Grebe from Scott Lookout. Shelduck and Redshank were noted on the recently flooded Hayfield 1and a few House Martins and Swallows flew through in front of the newly opened Dengemarsh hide. At Hookers reedbed further views of the aforementioned raptors were gained, while it was good to see the grit tray back in situ for the Bearded Tits. Another Wheatear popped up in the return trail field, plus Stonechat, Lesser Whitethroat and several Chiffchaffs.

                                 Kestrel, Dengemarsh

Chatting to RSPB staff over the past week concerning the status of the hides I can confirm the following update:  Dennis`s - open as normal; Firth - to be replaced with a shelter/screen construction by hide specialists Gilleards; Firth and Scott Lookouts - to remain the same; Makepeace - to be replaced by a new hide, probably in 2023; Christmas Dell - open as normal; Dengemarsh - reopened 24th September; Hanson - will reopen after repair work is carried out once the Willow Trail boardwalk is complete, probably sometime this winter; Screen - open as normal.   

Thursday 23 September 2021

Late Cuckoo

Lade - warm, dry and sunny, W 3 - Heading out across the shingle ridges first thing into a buffeting  westerly I wasn`t expecting much, but could not have been more wrong! A steady trickle of House Martins and Swallows south, along with a few grounded Meadow Pipits, two Wheatears and a Whinchat on the Desert scrub was a decent start. Whilst scanning the long reed bed on south lake and checking out a Great White Egret, a Bittern flew past and disappeared into the reeds below the wall `mirror`, my first since last winter. Slumped atop the wall on drooping wings was a juvenile Cuckoo, easily my latest ever autumn record here, and soon disturbed by a passing Jackdaw. Also noted across the site, Marsh Harrier, Buzzard, Green Woodpecker and several Chiffchaffs and a Blackcap by the ponds.

                                 Wheatear, Lade

Tuesday 21 September 2021

Black Tern

 Lade - warm, dry and sunny, NE 2 - At least 50 Meadow Pipits and ten Yellow Wagtails were grounded on the shingle ridges outback first thing with plenty of Chiffchaff activity around the willow swamp and through the back garden. In the Plovers moth trap L-album Wainscot was new for the season.

                                          Angle Shades
                                  L-album Wainscot

Following news of a White-winged Black Tern yesterday evening on Burrowes a check this morning revealed a lone juvenile Black Tern patrolling up and down the lake, but no sign of its rarer relative. However, a Little Stint, five Dunlins, three Ruffs and two Ringed Plovers were on the islands amongst hundreds of Golden Plovers and Lapwings while a Honey Buzzard went through. At Boulderwall eight Cattle Egrets, a Glossy Ibis, a Great White Egret and a Hobby were present. An evening visit to ARC produced six Pintails, 12 Dabchicks and a Garganey amongst the wildfowl, plus hundreds of feral geese, Jackdaws and three species of egrets to roost.  

Monday 20 September 2021

Brent Geese

 Lade - warm, overcast, N 3 - Following a hectic weekend up in Dunstable this morning made for a pleasant return to normality in the peace and quiet of the local patch. Sitting in the garden just after daybreak it was good to see three Chiffchaffs and a Blackcap in the fir trees, no doubt having been grounded by the overnight showers of light rain, along with plenty of Sandwich Terns calling raucously from the bay. More Chiffchaffs and a couple of Reed Warblers were noted around the ponds along with a trickle of Swallows over the lakes heading south. This evening a Little Egret on the beach was an unusual record.

                                 Little Egret, Lade bay

An hour from the seawatch hide mid-morning produced our first 12 Brent Geese of the autumn down Channel, plus three Wigeon, 20 Kittiwakes, 30 Gannets and several Arctic Skuas harrying the Sandwich Terns. A few parties of Swallows and Meadow Pipits came in and a Grey Wagtail was on the sewage plant in A station. 

Thursday 16 September 2021

Arctic Skuas

 Lade - warm, dry and sunny, W2 - Trudging around the local patch these past few days has produced very slim pickings indeed with a paucity of migrants at what should be the peak migration period. A handful of Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps in the willow swamp, a trickle of Yellow Wagtails, Meadow Pipits and Wheatears on the shingle ridges and a few pulses of Swallows has been about the best we could muster; even most of the wildfowl seem to have dispersed from the lakes. It hasn`t been much better at Dungeness either, at least on the land, with two visits around the Trapping Area and Desert yielding similar fare to Lade, plus a few Lesser Whitethroats, two Whinchats and a couple of Grey Wagtails over. Mercifully the sea has been a little better with anything between 10 and 30 Arctic Skuas most days harrying the Sandwich Terns, alongside a trickle of Gannets, Kittiwakes and Common Scoters rounding the point. 

                                 Peacock and Small Copper, Lade

The garden moth trap has also been poor of late, although butterflies seem to be having a last hurrah in the warm sunshine with plenty of Red Admirals and Small Coppers on the wing and several Clouded Yellows on the track down to the pines at ARC. 

Monday 13 September 2021

Common Sandpipers

Dungeness - dry, sunny, mild, E 4 - Spent the day guiding for two guests from Bedfordshire commencing at the point where the highlights were a trickle of Gannets and Sandwich Terns in the Channel, an Arctic Skua, two Common Scoters and several Grey Seals and Porpoises. The land was very quiet but did deliver cracking views of a juvenile Merlin chasing Linnets by B Station, a Peregrine on A station and a Kestrel dismembering prey on the old lighthouse. Moving on to the bird reserve at Boulderwall where we mopped up with good views of the Glossy Ibis, two Cattle Egrets, a Great White Egret, two juvenile Marsh Harriers and a Hobby around Cook`s Pool, while on Burrowes, three Ruffs, a Snipe, a Black-tailed Godwit and a Garganey were the highlights. Next stop Lade bay on the incoming tide and the usual waders including 20 Knots, 10 Bar-tailed Godwits and three Shelducks, plus 10 Yellow Wagtails on the foreshore. Scotney front fields and lakes produced a notable flock of 10 Common Sandpipers along with more common waders, feral geese, 20 Yellow Wagtails and 20 Linnets. At Galloways Wheatear, Stonechat and Whinchat were all logged. We finished the day at ARC by the Screen hide with the usual wildfowl, eight Little and two Great White Egrets and a mixed passerine flock that contained Chiffchaffs, Long-tailed Tits and a Willow Warbler. Despite a nagging wind throughout the day we still gathered 86 species of birds for our guests. 

                                 Merlin (Dengemarsh Sep, 2009)

Sunday 12 September 2021

White Stork(s)!

Lade - warm, dry and sunny, NW 2 - The local patch proved to be much of a muchness over the weekend with benign weather conditions producing a trickle of hirundines through, a few Chiffchaffs in the willow swamp and a handful of grounded Wheatears, Yellow Wagtails and Meadow Pipits. There was no change to wildfowl and grebe numbers from a week ago.

                                  Wheatear, Lade

                                  White Stork, Dungeness RSPB

This morning a check of the front fields and lakes at Scotney delivered more hirundines, including several pulses of House Martins, 50 Yellow Wagtails, two Avocets, a Green Sandpiper, Curlew, Turnstone and Dunlin, plus all the usual feral wildfowl, Lapwings, gulls and Cormorants; Marsh Harrier, Common Buzzard and two Kestrels, Great White and Little Egrets also noted. Galloways Road held a scattering of Wheatears and Stonechats, two Whinchats, Whitethroat, Skylark, Meadow Pipit, Yellow Wagtail, Common Buzzard and Kestrel. Moving onto the bird reserve and at Boulderwall a probable Honey Buzzard went through, although I was driving at the time so didn`t get the best of views (MC saw the same bird from Lydd). Rounding the corner by the bee hives the roosting gulls went up over the shingle with a White Stork in their midst affording John Y and myself cracking views as it soared overhead (the pic above doesn`t do it justice). It had been reported down the coast earlier at Sandgate; a tatty adult bird in heavy wing moult that did not appear to be sporting any leg irons or plastic tags, so probably wild and maybe not a Knepp bird... We watched it for about 20 minutes or so until it soared up into the cloud base and drifted away to the east out of sight. From Dennis`s hide the usual array of wildfowl on Burrowes, plus a small mixed flock of Lapwings and Golden Plovers, three Black-tailed Godwits, Ruff and Common Sandpiper. A late afternoon visit to ARC and the `resident` Glossy Ibis was in situ on its favoured island, along with a Great White and Little Egret, plus two Cattle Egrets over the lake and two Black-necked Grebes on the water by Hanson hide.

White Stork flock - I`d just got in and settled down with a cuppa, around 1700hrs, when the local Whatsapp group went into melt down - David Scott had just reported, and posted a pic, of a flock of c40 White Storks kettling over Greatstone/Littlestone! Hang on, I thought, have we been transported to Gibraltar, surely not? But over the following hour said kettle of storks did the decent thing and soared over the peninsula affording good views over Lade and from the garden; (complementing the Black Stork from way back!). Most other local birders also got to grips with the spectacle at various ranges before they disappeared over towards West Hythe. The pic below by DS shows 39 birds while MC counted 46 from his pics taken from Lydd; even if it does turn out to be the Knepp flock it was still mightily impressive and a spectacle that will live long in the memory.

Chris Philpott also managed to get a couple of decent shots of the flock over the Romney Marsh, and many thanks to him for sending them through.

                                  White Storks over Romney Marsh (by Chris Philpott)

                                  White Storks over Greatstone/Littlestone (by David Scott)

Thursday 9 September 2021

Bulrush Wainscot

 Dungeness - humid, misty, sunny later, SW 2 - Last night`s weather conditions were near perfect for moth trapping with light airs, low cloud and a high humidity, so it was no surprise then that the garden trap was busy with moths this morning, including Latticed Heath and Light Emerald, both scarce here, and a Bulrush Wainscot, new for the Plovers site. 

                                             Bulrush Wainscot, new for the trap site

                                  Latticed Heath

                                 Light Emerald

                                 Clouded Yellow, ARC

We spent the final session of our four day bird tour around the peninsula noting another Spotted Flycatcher and a few common passage warblers at the top end of Long Pits; a Great Spotted Woodpecker, three Wheatears and a Glossy Ibis at ARC; four Black-tailed Godwits, 55 Golden Plover, a Common Sandpiper and Common Tern, plus a trio of roosting Spoonbills on Burrowes. Once the sun broke through the butterflies came alive and we saw at least six Clouded Yellows on the track down to the pines. During the course of the week 110 species of birds were accumulated for Clare and Peter, the highlights being the wader tally at an impressive 20 species, including Little Stint, Curlew Sandpiper and Spotted Redshank.  

Wednesday 8 September 2021


Dungeness - hot, dry and sunny, E 3 - We started the day down at the Patch where a lone juvenile Yellow-legged Gull was amongst a small, mixed flock of gulls and a few Sandwich Terns over the boil and along the beach. Elsewhere around the point: Lesser and Common Whitethroats, several Wheatears, Linnets and Stonechats, two Grey Wagtails, Meadow Pipit, Whinchat, Sparrowhawk and Peregrine. On the bird reserve from Dennis`s hide, Little Stint, Knot, Ruff and Dunlin were amongst large numbers of Lapwings and Golden Plovers on Burrowes. 

                                  Wheatear, Dungeness

                                  Dabchick, Rye Harbour

                                  Spoonbills, Burrowes

                                    Yellow Wagtail, Boulderwall

                                 Ruff, Burrowes

We then moved on to Rye Harbour to coincide with the high tide and a circuit of the Beach Reserve where the highlights were c600 Sandwich Terns, 45 Curlews, 20 Redshanks, two Grey Plovers, three Whimbrels, Common Sandpiper, Turnstone, several Wheatears and a Skylark. Whilst there news came through of three Spoonbills that had dropped onto Burrowes, so it was back to Dungeness where the trio of spoonies were, typically, still asleep on an island in front of Firth lookout. We finished the day at Boulderwall fields with three Cattle Egrets and a Yellow Wagtail amongst the stock.

Tuesday 7 September 2021

Day of the Wheatear

 Midrips - hot, dry and sunny, E2 - We blagged our way in to the ranges this morning where extensive work is underway to reinforce the sea wall. Wheatears and Yellow Wagtails were everywhere with a minimum of a 100 of each scattered across the wetlands, shingle ridges and foreshore; many of the former being of the Greenland race. The Midrips held a fine selection of waders including 85 Dunlins, 12 Ringed Plovers, three Black-tailed Godwits, four Little Stints, a Knot, an Avocet and a Curlew Sandpiper, while further along at the Wickes and South Brooks, two Curlews, Turnstone, Redshank, Common Sandpiper, Oystercatcher and Spotted Redshank were added to the wader list of 12 species. Also noted: 100 Sandwich Terns, four Common Terns, five Kestrels, four Shelducks, 10 Shovelers, four Teal, Skylark, Meadow Pipit, Black Redstart, Rock Pipit and a Bonxie chasing the terns at sea. We also had another Clouded Yellow and a cracking view of a Weasel along the path.

                                  The Midrips

                                 Sea defence work underway

                                  Sandwich and Common Terns 

                                  Spot the Wheatears!

                                  Curlew Sandpiper and Dunlins, the Midrips

A check of Scotney from the S bend produced a host of common wildfowl, four Ruffs and a Turnstone. At Galloways 20 more Wheatears were noted along with five Stonechats and a Whinchat. From Springfield bridge a Hobby put on a fine show over the reedbed, while a Spotted Flycatcher was seen at the top end of the Long Pits. On the ebb tide we checked the bay for waders where hundreds of Sanderling, Dunlins, Oystercatchers and Curlews were mixed in with a couple of thousands gulls, including 100 Mediterranean Gulls and 50 Sandwich Terns, plus eight Knots. We finished the day at the fishing boats where the highlights were several Porpoises and a juvenile Arctic Skua chasing the terns. Bird of the day, however, was the Wheatear simply by virtue of numbers, as everywhere we went we saw them and our day total was at least 150 birds. 

                                  Avocet  (by David Scott)

                                  Juvenile Curlew Sandpiper (by David Scott)

                                  Curlew Sandpiper and Dunlin in flight (by David Scott)

                                  Whinchat  (by David Scott)

David Scott managed to take some cracking pictures recently from the Midrips and many thanks to him for sending them through.

Monday 6 September 2021

Plovers and warblers

 Dungeness RSPB - humid, light airs - We commenced a bird tour for Clare and Peter this afternoon on the bird reserve in steamy weather conditions where countless flying ants were being snapped up by thousands of soaring gulls, hirundines and Starlings. Even the passerines were getting in on the act with Chaffinches acting like flycatchers and a wide range of warblers, including cracking views of Reed and Sedge Warblers from the ramp and a Pied Flycatcher behind the old Firth hide. Burrowes was busy with waders, mostly hundreds of Lapwings and Golden Plovers, six Ruffs, Little Stint, Snipe and a Ringed Plover, plus all the usual dabbling ducks, including two each of Pintail and Wigeon. More warblers, tits and Chaffinches were noted around the circular route, plus Sparrowhawk, Marsh Harrier, Green Woodpecker and Raven. On the ARC the Glossy Ibis was in its usual spot just past the Screen hide along with three Garganeys, Great White and Little Egrets, plus two Black-necked Grebes further out on the lake and a Shelduck on the tern raft. Also noted this afternoon a Clouded Yellow by the return trail and a Fox cub in the ARC car park. The police and Border Force were kept busy today rounding up incoming refugees from across the Channel. 

                                  Garganey, ARC

Friday 3 September 2021

Honey Buzzard

Lade - warm, dry and sunny, NE 4 - I`ve been suffering from a touch of man-flu this week which has  restricted my time in the field somewhat; the Mordor-like weather conditions hasn`t helped either,  reflecting the birding mood - dull and uninspiring, at least on the local patch. Mothing has also been pretty much a waste of time due to the brisk wind off the sea and when I did run the trap only a handful of moths came to light. That said forays out around the nearby Trapping Area, Desert and Kerton triangle did produce a few Wheatears, Whinchats, Stonechats this week, and one very elusive Wryneck; although not so for some birders, including DS who also managed to get a smart shot of it in `the pear tree`. 

                                  Wryneck, Dungeness (by David Scott)

                                 Sanderling, Lade bay

                                  Wheatears, Dungeness

Today the sun finally broke through the murk and I felt well enough for a tour of the bird reserve where the islands on Burrowes held about 100 roosting Lapwings, four Golden Plovers, three Ruffs and two Redshanks. There were hundreds of eclipse ducks to check through, with a big increase in Teal and Shoveler numbers since last weekend, plus five Wigeons, two Pintails and a Garganey. Sitting in Dennis`s hide just before midday musing on what perfect weather conditions, time of day and date it was for a Honey Buzzard, I could hardly believe my eyes when one came soaring in over the gantry, passing across the back of the lake (setting off the HGs) and disappearing away south over the switch station! Elsewhere around the reserve a Cattle Egret and Glossy Ibis were noted on ARC, three Great Whites and two juv Marsh Harriers on Dengemarsh and a trickle of Yellow Wagtails and Sand Martins overhead.