Monday, 26 September 2022

Brent Geese

Cool, cloudy, NW 4 - Last months heat wave seems a dim and distant memory now that the weather has dramatically changed, delivering bouts of heavy rain and a cold northerly airflow over the weekend and today; infact, this morning, temperature wise, it felt more like the end of October. However, I checked the bay on a rising tide where six species of waders and a few Sandwich Terns noted, but little else. At the point I had my first seven Brent Geese of autumn (heading east), plenty of Gannets fishing offshore along with several more Sandwich Terns, distant auks and an Arctic Skua. En-route to the Patch several each of Meadow Pipit and Linnet noted along the power station fence. Called in at the Obs to view a couple of rare migrant moths: the Littlestone Clifdon Nonpareil and the Lydd Banded Pine Carpet.

                                  Schooner crossing the bay




                                  Island construction, Burrowes

A tour of a windy bird reserve delivered all the usual suspects including two Little Stints, 10 Dunlins, two Ringed Plovers, two Black-tailed Godwits on the wader front from Hanson, plus a Hobby and a Yellow-legged Gull. The digger work to contour islands in front of the new Makepeace hide site continues on Burrowes where the highlights were an increase in Shoveler numbers and a Common Sandpiper. Dengemarsh was awash with Lesser Black-backed Gulls, as was the main island in front of Hanson, which looks set to replace Firth as the go-to place for gull afficionados.

Friday, 23 September 2022

Gulls, gulls, gulls

Mild, cloudy, light airs, drizzle - Spent the morning birding the peninsula before the rain set in this afternoon. Lade bay was covered in thousands of gulls and hundreds of Sandwich Terns mopping up shoals of sprats; also in the mix, five Arctic Skuas, two Guillemots, a Bonxie and five Grey Seals. As the tides are currently short, six species of waders were on the foreshore including several Grey Plovers, Knots and Sanderlings, plus eight Little Egrets and a flock of 15 Common Terns on the beach. On the gravel pits c200 Curlews at roost at the southern end while a flock of c300 Sandwich Terns nosily left the pits heading for the bay. There was no sign of yesterdays Night Heron whilst I was on site, although it had been reported first thing.

                                    Knots, Greatstone beach

The bird reserve was very quiet apart from a Little Stint and Ruff from Hanson hide where there was also  a noticeable increase in Pintail and Wigeon numbers from earlier in the week. The usual three species of egrets noted across the site along with several Buzzards, Kestrels, Marsh Harriers and a Peregrine. From Springfield bridge three Snipe flew over but otherwise it was a case of more gulls, mostly hundreds of Lesser Black-backs.

Thursday, 22 September 2022

Night Heron

Lade - warm, dry and sunny, light airs - Yesterday evening I received a call from Gary J, one of the local birders who regularly watches Lade, telling of a smallish heron that he`d found running around the margins of the large island in front of the bridge. I visited this morning and soon relocated what was a juvenile Night Heron flying over the willow swamp and briefly settling atop the willow scrub (affording a couple of records shots) before dropping down into the reeds and out of sight. By late morning it had settled low down in a willow across from the large pond where it showed, off and on, from the causeway; at times it was spooked by nearby Grey Herons and Little Egrets causing it to flap out into the open. This is only my second Night Heron on the local patch, but others have been reported down the years in what is classic habitat for this scarce and mainly nocturnal heron.



                                  Juvenile Night Heron, Lade 




                                 Night Heron by David Scott

South lake was alive with Great Crested Grebes, Mallards and Shovelers with many Cormorants on the islands, plus a Grey and Ringed Plover. Thanks to David Scott for sending through his pics of the Night Heron.

Tuesday, 20 September 2022

Chiffchaffs

 Warm, dry and sunny, light airs - These past couple of days the predominant migrant has been the Chiffchaff, loads of them; in the hedgerow lanes hereabouts, in our garden and across Dungeness, as it was this morning with plenty around the Long Pits, while the first Yellow-browed Warbler/s of autumn were reported in the Trapping Area (JS, OL). Kestrels too are currently plentiful as migrants come our way, as hundreds of Swallows continue to feed up and prepare for the long haul south.


                                           Chiffchaff, Long Pits




                                 Mackerel and Whitebait, Dungeness

Just after midday a scan of the sea from the boardwalk at Dungeness produced hundreds of seabirds just off shore plundering (along with beach fishermen) the broiling shoals of Mackerel that were pursuing sprats, many thousands of which were beached providing easy pickings for the gulls. In amongst the throng were a few Sandwich Terns, Gannets and Guillemots, plus two roving Arctic Skuas.

Sunday, 18 September 2022

Sooty Shearwaters

Cool and cloudy, NW 2-4 - The weekend weather was dominated by a northerly airflow making for a very quiet circuit of the bird reserve yesterday where most of the recent passage waders had moved on. However, together with my grandson we managed to rack up 65 species in three hours with the highlights being hundreds of hirundines over the lakes, Wood and Common Sandpipers, Little Stint on ARC, Great White and Cattle Egrets and cracking views of Marsh Harriers, Kestrels, Buzzards and a Hobby for the little fella. Early morning forays around the local farmland at NR produced plenty more Swallows and House Martins over turf fields, a few Meadow Pipits and Yellow Wagtails overhead and Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps in the hedgerows; we even had a Chiffchaff in the garden today.



                                 Bathing House Sparrows are always entertaining!

                                    Apprentice Birder, Springfield Bridge

Across the weekend, despite the contrary winds, a trickle of Sooty Shearwaters passed through the Channel off Dungeness, some of them being quite distant (JS), and probably best viewed from Cap-Gris-Nez!

Friday, 16 September 2022

Goldcrest

Cool, dry and sunny, NW 4 - A breezy day with a northerly airflow making for a distinctly autumnal feel to a circuit of the peninsula this morning. Typical in such weather conditions were hundreds of hirundines swarming over the still waters at Lade, ARC and Burrowes, while a flock of c50 White Storks was tracked soaring high over the shingle and away to the south just before midday. A check of the bushes delivered plenty of Chiffchaffs, several Blackcaps, a Whitethroat and a Sedge Warbler, plus 10 Stonechats, two Wheatears, a Whinchat and a Redstart at the point; whilst at the Obs the final net round of the morning produced a waif-like Goldcrest, my first of the autumn, a `common` migrant that was far from such last year. Kestrels seemed to everywhere hovering over the NNR and at least three each of Buzzard, Marsh Harrier and Sparrowhawk noted. There were few waders on offer from Hanson apart from two Wood Sandpipers.

                                  Goldcrest, DBO

                                 Stonechat, NR

The Hope Lane loop walk from home yesterday was notable for large numbers of hirundines, mostly Swallows and House Martins, feeding over the recently tilled arable lands along with grounded Meadow Pipits and corvids, plus a Yellow Wagtail and a Tree Pipit over calling. The sewer margins and paddocks attracted quite a few Reed Buntings, Stonechats and a single Reed Warbler, with Chiffchaffs and Goldfinches along the lane.

Wednesday, 14 September 2022

Guiding in the rain

Dungeness - warm, overcast, rain, N 2 - Not the best of weather for guiding around the bird reserve this morning where following this weeks dollop of rain the water levels have already noticeably risen since Monday. Highlights were: Dengemarsh hide, two Little Stints, six Ruff, five Snipe, two Redshanks, two Little Ringed Plovers, 20 Ringed Plovers, a Wood Sandpiper, three Great White Egrets, three Marsh Harriers, several Yellow Wagtails, a Sedge Warbler and a flyby Bittern; Dennis`s hide, an Avocet and 10 Dunlins; Hanson hide, Curlew and Common Sandpipers, Common Tern, Pintails, Great White and Little Egrets. At least six Cattle Egrets were in the hayfields/Boulderwall and just after midday an Osprey flew over the site and out to sea flushing just about everything. The humid air forced down hundreds of hirundines over the lakes, and at least three Swifts, while a Whinchat, Wheatear and Whitethroat were noted from the access road.. 

                                  Great White Egret, ARC

                                 Old Lady, new for the NR trap

Sunday, 11 September 2022

Feeling my age...

Warm, dry and sunny, light airs - Yesterday we travelled up to Maple Cross in Hertfordshire for a family gathering at the old homestead celebrating my dad`s 92nd birthday, and where I spent the first 16 years of my life. Back then it was still a small village in the Colne Valley on the edge of the Chiltern Hills with a pub, a post office (both long gone) and a visiting fish and chip van on a Friday; infact, the perfect place for a youngster with a love of the countryside to grow up. How things have changed. Today the hum of the adjacent M25 is omni-present, while base camp for HS2 sprawls across the valley bottom towards Denham. In the 1960`s every street in the village had House Martins, hundreds of them, nesting under eaves and arguing with legions of House Sparrows trying to evict the summer visitor and take over their mud homes. Sitting in the back garden yesterday neither were present; although on the plus side at one stage a scan of the skies overhead revealed a trio of Red Kites and a pair of Buzzards soaring into the ether, a sight that would have been inconceivable in my formative years. 

                                  Starling on sea buckthorn


                                 Mediterranean and Black-headed Gulls, The Warren

This morning (en-route to Folkestone for grand-dad duties) I spent a couple of hours birding the St Mary`s Bay front between the golf links and the derelict building site, as after all it has got form (Red-backed Shrike and Shorelark in recent years). However, nothing quite as exciting as that popped up but there was still plenty of interest from a trickle of  Swallows, Yellow Wagtails and Meadow Pipits overhead, a Wheatear on the beach and a thicket of sea buckthorn that attracted a gang of House Sparrows and Starlings, tits, several Chiffchaffs, Chaffinches, Wren, Dunnock, Robin and a Spotted Flycatcher. A few Sandwich Terns flew towards the point and a couple of grey seals followed the tide in. Next stop, once I`d picked up the Apprentice, was The Warren at Folkestone where hundreds of Mediterranean and Black-headed Gulls were on the sea riding out the high tide. The bushes leading down to the beach were alive to sound of calling warblers, mainly from Chiffchaff and Blackcap, plus a few Lesser Whitethroats, tits, finches, a Jay, two Great Spotted and a Green Woodpecker. Goodness only knows what goes undetected in this difficult-to-bird site. The hike back up the cliff nearly finished me off, while the Apprentice barely broke sweat; oh what it is to be 12 years of age! Back at Grove Road whilst recovering in the garden another Spotted Flycatcher flitted amongst the railway embankment cover and two Buzzards sailed over the town.



                                  The Warren, Folkestone

                                 Apprentice Birder checking out the gulls

Friday, 9 September 2022

Knot

 Warm, dry and cloudy, WNW 3 - Started off first thing this morning with a circuit of Lade pits where the islands on south lake were packed out with Cormorants, feral geese and ten each of Grey Heron and Little Egret. All the usual ducks and grebes on the lakes and a couple of Whinchats at the south end was about it. Kerton Road pit on the approaching high tide was full of hundreds of Oystercatchers, gulls and Canada Geese while two more Whinchats were in the triangle scrub. Moving onto ARC, where there appeared to have been something of a clear out of waders, with only a handful of Lapwings and Black-tailed Godwits present, plus two Little Ringed Plovers, singles of Ruff, Wood and Common Sandpiper and a scattering of Pintail, Wigeon and two Garganeys amongst the wildfowl; two distant Black Terns were at the southern end. There was nothing noteworthy on Burrowes apart from hundreds of Sand Martins on the move and a flock of waders in front of Firth that comprised 20 Knots, 10 Dunlins, four Curlew Sandpipers, four Redshanks, three Bar-wits and a Little Stint; infact, the best collection of waders I`ve seen here all autumn so far. Also noted in the scrub below the lookout: Willow, Cetti`s and Sedge Warblers, Blackcap and Lesser Whitethroat, plus at least ten Whinchats around the Return Trail by the access road, making it a decent morning for this handsome chat.


                                 Mixed flock of waders, Firth Lookout

From Springfield Bridge all the expected egrets and ibis were on show out on Dengemarsh along with a Wood Sandpiper, a Ruff and several Black-tailed Godwits, while yesterdays Temminck`s Stint put in an appearanace during the afternoon. A Sparrowhawk nipped over the lake and the roadside fields were full of Yellow Wagtails, Meadow Pipits and two Whinchats. Many more Whinchats and a few Redstarts were also reported today across the peninsula. 

Wednesday, 7 September 2022

Balearic Shearwaters

Warm and showery, SW 3 - Checked Lade Bay on a falling tide this morning where the number of Sandwich Terns had fallen somewhat from yesterday but was still in the low hundreds. Waders included 20 Knot, 20 Dunlins and 10 Sanderlings, while two Arctic Skuas and two Balearic Shearwaters came into the bay, though distant. Moving onto the point, from the fishing boats, where a notable movement of Balearics was underway; whilst I was there 25 went down-Channel including two flocks of five and by midday 63 had been logged by JS. Several Arctic Skuas and a lone Bonxie also noted along with plenty of Gannets, a few Guillemots, Sandwich and Common Terns, a Chiffchaff on the beach and a trickle of hirundines, mostly Swallows, outbound. 

Tuesday, 6 September 2022

Tern Fest

Warm, dry and cloudy, SW3 - The Tavern Viewpoint overlooking Lade Bay on a falling tide this morning was a wonderous sight with seabirds and waders aplenty. A tally of 1,100 Sandwich Terns, 100 Common Terns (at least two juv Arctics), 10 Little and three Black Terns settled on the sands was very much a minimum count as many more were fishing offshore. Over a thousand Oystercatchers and Curlews made up the majority of waders amongst 20 Dunlins, 10 Knot (DS) and a few Bar-tailed Godwits, Sanderlings, Ringed Plover and a Grey Plover. An Arctic Skua chased the terns along the tideline and the first six Shelducks of autumn were noted. 

                                  A few of the Sandwich Terns on the bay


                                  Curlew Sandpiper and Dunlin posing nicely for size comparison

A check of Lade pits produced 11 Grey Herons amongst hundreds of Cormorants and feral Geese on the islands on south lake plus two Common and a Green Sandpiper. Notable waterfowl counts included 230 Mallards and 82 Great Crested Grebes across both waters. Kerton Road quarry delivered another Common Sandpiper but little else apart from 200 Canada Geese. Yet again ARC, from Hanson hide, had plenty to keep the wader enthusiast happy with close views of three Curlew Sandpipers, two Ruffs, Snipe, Dunlin and Black-tailed Godwits. 128 Golden Plovers were on the main island along with 50 Lapwings while further out there were more Dunlins, Common Sandpipers and Ringed Plovers, two Wood Sandpipers and a Little Stint.

Monday, 5 September 2022

Chats

Warm, dry and humid, light airs - The calm, cloudy weather conditions coupled with one of the peak autumn migration periods encouraged plenty of birders into the field today, and to be fair for once there was plenty on offer, despite yesterday evening`s Temminck`s Stint having moved on. I started at Galloways where a scattering of Whinchats, Stonechats and a Wheatear were present along with a few Common and Lesser Whitethroats, a Willow Warbler, Meadow Pipits and south-bound hirundines. At Dengemarsh Gully 10 more Whinchats noted plus two Kestrels, a Sparrowhawk and two Hobbys, one of which had just caught a Swallow. From Springfield Bridge the reed bed and adjacent floating water-weed mat attracted a family of Bearded Tits, several Sedge and Reed Warblers, Reed Bunting, Pied and Yellow Wagtails. Three Great White Egrets, 50 Lapwings, a Garganey and two Glossy Ibis were on the lake along with a host of waders including five Curlew Sandpipers, three Wood and a Green Sandpiper, 10 Dunlins, five Black-tailed Godwits, three Ruff and five Snipe. From Hanson hide more of the same waders plus 80 Golden Plovers and increasing numbers of Pintail and Wigeon amongst the eclipse ducks on the islands.


                                 Stonechat and Whinchat, Galloways

                                  Fire damage, Dengemarsh Gully


                                  Bearded Tits, Dengemarsh

From the fishing boats early afternoon a few Gannets drifted by further out, while 30 Sandwich and 10 Common Terns fished much closer in, some being hassled by three Arctic Skuas in the area. A lone Black Tern went through and singles of Kittiwake and Guillemot were sat on the sea. 


                                  Arctic Skua off the fishing boats


          

Friday, 2 September 2022

Sandpipers

Dungeness - warm, dry and cloudy, NE 2 - Guiding today for a family from Wittersham commenced at the point where passerines were few and far between, but did include a few Yellow Wagtails over and a Grey Wagtail on the sewage pans in A station. A brief seawatch produced the usual distant Gannets and Sandwich Terns, plus 30 west-bound Common Scoters.

                                    Swallows preparing to leave

Thankfully there was much more to see on the bird reserve, particularly on the wader front with two Little Stints and a Wood Sandpiper the highlights from Hanson hide, along with three Great White Egrets, three Glossy Ibis, two Ruff, 15 Black-tailed Godwits, 10 Dunlins, five Ringed Plovers, two Snipe, a Common Sandpiper, 50 Lapwings and 80 Golden Plovers, while at least seven Cattle Egrets were in the Boulderwall fields. Dengemarsh, from the hide, yielded six juvenile Curlew Sandpipers, two Green Sandpipers, a Pectoral Sandpiper, a Greenshank, another Wood Sandpiper, a few more Black-wits and Snipe, three Great White Egrets and two Glossy Ibis. Also noted across the reserve, two Whinchats on the Return Trail, Willow and Reed Warblers, a Kingfisher, 10 Pintails and hundreds of Swallows and Sand Martins, while a Red-necked Phalarope dropped in on Burrowes this afternoon and a White-winged Black Tern from Springfield Bridge this evening (SM). We manged to rack up 80 species of birds for the guests today.

Wednesday, 31 August 2022

Dotterel

Dungeness - warm, dry and sunny, NE 5 - A stiff breeze blowing across the Marsh prevented any chance of passerines at Lade first thing, while even the wildfowl were sheltering in the willow swamp bay. From Springfield Bridge the Pectoral Sandpiper from Monday was viewable alongside two juvenile Curlew Sandpipers, several Black-tailed Godwits, Ruff, Redshank, Snipe, Green and Common Sandpipers, plus the usual array of egrets, ibis, ducks and geese, and 20 Yellow Wagtails on the roadside fields. A Dotterel reported calling over Galloways this morning by MC was still present mid-morning vocalising over the sheep fold under the pylons by Brickwall Farm. I only heard it (a high-pitched `tuwee`) but a group of birders also saw it flying around just before I arrived; despite a thorough search of the stony field it could not be relocated on the deck. 

                                   Wheatear, Galloways

The only bird of note around NR these past few days has been an Osprey that flew over the town late on Monday afternoon while we were in the Cinque Port Arms garden. It drifted off south being pursued by the local HGs and was probably the same bird found fishing over ARC the following morning.

Monday, 29 August 2022

Spotted Redshanks

Dungeness - warm, dry and sunny, NE 3 - Following a couple of days of insanity in Brighton it was good to get back to some sort of normality back home on the Marsh! I started off with an early morning seawatch from the hide at the point where the highlights were  two Arctic Skua, two Common Terns and 12 Common Scoters east, plus 20 each of Gannet and Sandwich Terns coming and going. A circuit of the bushes, moat and south Trapping Area yielded very little of note apart  from a few common warblers and chats. 



                                 Spotted Redshank, ARC

Moving onto ARC where a feast of waders awaited from Hanson and Screen hides including three Spotted Redshanks, one of which landed close to Hanson hide, 10 Redshanks, 15 Dunlins, 10 Ringed Plovers, two Wood Sandpipers, five Common Sandpipers, two juvenile Little Stints, five Snipes, 15 Dunlins, 20 Black-tailed Godwit, 50 Lapwings, 50 Golden Plovers and a Curlew. Also, another Pectoral Sandpiper was located on Dengemarsh.

Friday, 26 August 2022

Passage migrants

 Lade - Warm, dry and sunny, light airs - Another fine day in paradise that delivered a few passage migrants too. I started off at the ponds where Willow Warblers were much in evidence along with several Blackcaps, Lesser and Common Whitethroats. A stake out overlooking the reedbed below the aerial revealed a few Reed Warblers and a bright Sedge Warbler that had me going for a while, considering the time of year. The lakes held the usual egrets, common wildfowl and grebes while a couple of Wheatears zipped along the fence posts at the southern end. A check of the bay on the incoming tide produced the same waders as yesterday, although the viewing wasn`t great due to the bright sunshine.



                                  Wheatears, Dungeness

                                  Glossy Ibis, ARC

Moving onto Dungeness where more Willow Warblers and Wheatears were noted along with a light passage of Yellow Wagtails overhead. At DBO a Grasshopper Warbler and Tree Pipit were ringed earlier, plus a scattering of Common Redstarts, Spotted and Pied Flycatchers reported across the  peninsula. There were no additions to the waders at ARC this morning, apart from a pair of Avocets, although the first Little Stint of autumn was located this afternoon (MC). A Spotted Flycatcher was at the pines along with more common warblers.