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.


  1. Great to see the Apprentice out and about, we see so few young birdwatchers these days in the countryside.

  2. Changing times I`m afraid Derek, trying to compete with the online stuff is tough, but I`ll keep working on him!