Sunday 27 February 2022


New Romney - warm, dry and sunny, SE3 - These past two mornings I`ve been walking the lanes and farmland hereabouts for rumours of spring. Yesterday the walk to Lydd across the Salts via Belgar Farm produced up to 100 Skylarks feeding in stubble and around the market garden fields as well as several birds in song overhead, along with Reed Buntings claiming territories beside Dengemarsh Sewer. The first `jangling` Corn Buntings of the season were also present with at least three singers atop fence posts, plus small flocks of Stock Doves, Fieldfares, Linnets and Chaffinches, one or two Meadow Pipits, two Green Woodpeckers, a Kestrel and Sparrowhawk. On the way home from a Sea Power gig in Folkestone last night a Barn Owl flew across the road by Littlestone Golf Course. 

                                 Corn Bunting, Romney Salts

Today an early morning walk down Hope Lane to the New Cut was notable for singing Song Thrushes, Yellowhammers and `mewing` Buzzard. This afternoon I joined CP out on Walland Marsh for the monthly harrier count that had been delayed from last Sunday due to the poor weather. It was a glorious sunset with clear skies and light airs at our viewpoint from where 10 Marsh Harriers came to roost in a nearby reedbed. There was little else of note in the general area apart from a single Whooper Swan amongst a group of Mutes, four roosting Great White Egrets, two Buzzards, a Sparrowhawk and as dusk descended vocalising Water Rail, Cetti`s Warbler, Snipe, Lapwing, Golden Plover and a distant Barn Owl.

Friday 25 February 2022

Bearded Tits

Dungeness - cold, dry and sunny, nw 3 - This past week has not been conducive to birding due to the strong winds and bands of rain and hail sweeping across the flatlands. However, today was different with bright sunshine and lighter winds making time spent in the field far more productive. I had to drop the car off at the garage in Lydd (again!) this morning, so set off on a long roundabout walk across Dengemarsh around the bird reserve and back across Romney Salts to New Romney. It took me just over four hours and a tally up revealed a total of 63 species of birds noted. The arable fields across Dengemarsh delivered several singing Skylarks over stubble fields and Reed Buntings in the reed-fringed ditches; a mixed flock of feral geese by Manor Farm harboured a single laggard White-front within their ranks. Three pairs of Bearded Tits showed briefly in the reedbeds at the back of Hookers, while the fields across from the hide had over 100 Wigeons and lesser numbers of Teal, Lapwings and Shelducks around the margins. The hayfields looked superb for wetland birds but only attracted a handful each of Teal and Curlew, plus a Little Egret and a Raven and Sparrowhawk over. Thousands of gulls were on the lakes at Dengemarsh and Burrowes; a minimum estimate came out at: 3,000 Black-headed, 500 Common, 500 Herring and 100 black-backs.

                                  Dengemarsh Sewer

                                 New seat on the Hookers viewpoint

                                  Hayfields 1 & 2

                                  Some of the many gulls on Burrowes

                                  Storm damage in Dunes Road spinney 

                                  Kestrel, Romney Salts

Across the Salts more Skylarks were in song, plus a flock of 20 Corn Buntings,10 Yellowhammers, five Tree Sparrows, 10 Snipes, two Buzzards and a Kestrel. There was little of note around the dung heap apart from Magpies and Pied Wagtails. Interestingly, I didn`t encounter a single Marsh Harrier or Great White Egret along the way. Brown Hares were also absent, but unsurprisingly so; a decade ago this route would`ve delivered multiple Hare sightings, probably with small gatherings `boxing` on the Boulderwall fields. Sadly, the Brown Hare is now a scarcity across the Marsh, as a result of a combination of illegal coursing, legalised shooting, high levels of leveret predation by Foxes and intensive farming. 

Saturday 19 February 2022

Post Eunice

Dungeness - cold, sunny, WSW 3-4 - 0700hrs - An hour in the seawatch hide first thing produced decent numbers of Red-throated Divers, Kittiwakes, auks, Cormorants and gulls, but few Gannets rounding the point, plus three Bonxies down and two Common Scoters up-Channel. Many more gulls were on the sea, including a 1st winter Caspian Gull, along with a hundred or more Great Crested Grebes. At the Patch more gulls over the boil and distant views of the wintering Iceland Gull down the beach towards Penn Bars. 

                                 Storm damage to `A` Station

                                  The Patch hide teetering on the edge

                                  Mirror Open Day Dates

                                  Lade Sound Mirrors

A check of Lade revealed just the usual wildfowl and nothing of note as a result of yesterdays named Storm Eunice, apart from a few old willows blown over by the ponds. By midday the wind and rain had returned...


Wednesday 16 February 2022

Pale Brindled Beauty

Dungeness RSPB - mild, sunny, SW6 - A dry morning with a blustery wind that increased as the day wore on made for a quiet circuit of the bird reserve. Most unusual was the lack of Cormorants on Burrowes (I guess they were still feeding offshore...) where seven Goldeneyes was about it amongst the usual wildfowl, most of whom were sheltering around the margins. At the entrance to the Visitor Centre the mild, damp weather conditions had encouraged several Smooth Newts to break cover from their hibernation and head for the breeding ponds. On ARC the redhead Smew showed from the causeway, while the four regular Cattle Egrets flew over the road as I passed Cockles Bridge. A drive out across the back lanes of Walland Marsh failed to produce much at all, and certainly no wild swans, while the `custodians of the countryside` seemed to everywhere clearing out drainage channels and ripping out any remaining bits of hedgerow and stunted willows that had survived the tractor flails, little wonder its a largely birdless wasteland out there...

                                  Smooth Newt on the move

                                  Pale Brindled Beauty, New Romney

On a brighter note we had our first moth of the year this morning at Thurne, which wasn`t a great surprise considering how mild it was last night. I say "we", it was actually Pat who spotted it in the garden whilst I was out; and I haven`t even unpacked and fired up the trap yet since we moved last October! 

Monday 14 February 2022

Birds and Brassicas

Romney Salts - warm, dry and sunny, W3 - After a bumpy, wet night dawn broke delivering welcome  sunshine, lighter winds and the herald song of a Mistle Thrush wafting over from the town park as I sat in the garden having a cuppa. I had to go to Lydd this morning to drop off the car at the garage so decided to walk back home across the Salts due to the pleasant spring-like weather. It`s about a three mile walk, mostly across muddy public footpaths and takes in various ponds, sewers and arable farmland along with stunted clumps of bushes and tree-lined margins bordering the golf course. A large acreage around Belgar Farm is put down to market garden crops (quite unusual for Romney Marsh) so rows and rows of cabbages, leeks, sprouts, carrots, parsnips and the like. 

                                  Field of Leeks

                                  Woodpigeons on Brussels  

                                 Old Looker`s Hut

                                  Dengemarsh Sewer at Belgar Farm

Passerines were few and far between with most feeding in the weedy brassica fields, including 100 Linnets, 50 Chaffinches, 20 Tree Sparrows and most surprising of all 10 Fieldfares, a species that has been almost absent hereabouts this winter. A few singing Skylarks hovered on high to greet the sun, while single figures of Reed Bunting and Yellowhammer were noted beside the Dengemarsh Sewer, plus Dabchick and 20 Shovelers on the water. Bulky birds comprised the usual corvids, gulls, Stock Doves and at least 100 Woodpigeons hammering the sprouts. Also noted during the walk: Buzzard, Sparrowhawk, Grey Wagtail, Song Thrush and four Green Woodpeckers. 

                                  Mature Ash 

Sunday 13 February 2022

Iceland Gull

Dungeness - cold, overcast, S 6 - A blustery old morning at Lade for around 200 visitors to the first Mirror Open Day of the year, but at least it was dry. Birdwise, very little to report apart from several Goldeneyes on south lake. The RSPB reserve was also quiet due to the increasing wind with most wildfowl seeking out the sheltered margins; two Glossy Ibises were reported on Cook`s Pool (CT) early afternoon.

                                 Blustery Lade

                                  Iceland Gull, the Patch

At the point the sea state was such that it made for difficult viewing in the fierce onshore wind, however a few Gannets, auks, Great Crested Grebes and Red-throated Divers were feeding offshore or fizzing by. Down at the Patch the 2nd winter Iceland Gull was hunkered down within a mixed gull flock and as the rain duly arrived on cue the England rugby match on telly seemed a far better proposition than getting a soaking! 

Friday 11 February 2022

Dartford Warbler

Dungeness - warm, dry and sunny - A superb morning for a tour of the peninsula starting at the point where a trickle of Gannets, auks and Red-throated Divers were feeding offshore. On the land, a Kestrel on the old lighthouse, Black Redstart and Meadow Pipit around the sewage plant and a Dartford Warbler and Stonechat near Jarmans (thanks to DB for the call). A circuit of the bird reserve produced all the usual suspects, apart from the wintering Smew on ARC, although it was reported. The four Cattle Egrets showed well at Cockles Bridge as did 14 Bewick`s and five Whooper Swans at Midley, but there was no sign of the Dennes Lane flock, so maybe they`ve returned north.

                                  Cattle Egrets, Cockles Bridge

Wednesday 9 February 2022

White-fronted Geese

Mild, sunny, W3 - A couple of spring-like days has encouraged plenty of bird song hereabouts with both Mistle and Song Thrushes singing around dawn from the nearby park along with calling Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers, all of which have not quite made it into the garden yet. However, yesterday a Little Egret did fly over, which was no real surprise considering they seem to be omnipresent in the sewers surrounding New Romney. More interesting though was a highly vocal Tawny Owl also emanating from the park last night. 

                                   Black-tailed Godwits, Littlestone

                                 Skein of White-fronts over Lade

A visit to Lade yesterday produced the usual wildfowl including several Goldeneyes, plus trilling Dabchicks, a Marsh Harrier, singing Cetti`s Warblers and a mixed flock of 20 Chaffinches, Great and Blue Tits by the ponds. Just as I was about to leave I heard the distinctive cackling calls of a skein of White-fronted Geese coming in off the bay at great height and obviously on the move. Initially I estimated there to be c120 birds but when I counted my record shots realised it was somewhat less at around 80, although still a magnificent sight and sound. The bay yielded the usual waders where the wintering Black-tailed Godwits were tracked down to their favoured feeding ground on the thick, gloopy mud out from Littlestone Green.  

                                  Purple Sandpiper, Hythe seafront

I had to go to Hythe this morning so checked out the sea defense blocks in front of the fish restaurant at Stade Street where a lone Purple Sandpiper was velcroed onto the rocks along with a dozen Turnstones.  

Sunday 6 February 2022

Pied Wagtails

New Romney - cool, cloudy, w 6 - After weeks of calm, dry weather this weekend was in marked contrast as a blustery and showery cold front moved south making for difficult birding conditions across the Marsh. This morning`s walk down Church Lane to the spinney proved to be the most productive and where a scattering of 105 Pied Wagtails on sheltered fields by the sewage works kept me busy for a good while. A singing Skylark and flowering Kingcups were also welcome harbingers of spring along the route.

                                  Sparrows taking a morning bath

                                  Green Woodpecker - almost in our garden!

                                  A trio of Pied Wagtails by the sewage works

                                  Black Prince en-route to Dungeness

                                 Kingcup in flower 

Friday 4 February 2022

Weekly Summary

Dungeness - cold, cloudy, showery, NW 3 - Circuits around the peninsula these past two days have resulted in few changes to the winter birding scene. The usual suite of wintering seabirds continue to be present offshore, while passerine activity on the sewage plant at Dungeness has attracted Grey Wagtail, Black Redstart and Chiffchaff, plus Peregrine on the power station structure. On the RSPB reserve the redhead Smew remains on ARC lake, although it is not always obvious when fishing the reedbed margins. Amongst thousands of wildfowl and Cormorants on Burrowes are several each of Goldeneye and Pintail, while an elusive Water Pipit is on the Dengemarsh wetlands where also several Great White Egrets and a pair of Glossy Ibis are present. The paddocks at Cockles Bridge along the Lydd Road are the latest preferred haunt of four Cattle Egrets, with the winter swans still in situ on Walland Marsh at Dennes Lane and Midley, although not for much longer I suspect. Waders are much in evidence at Scotney and Lade Bay, including a small flock of Black-tailed Godwit at the latter site.

                       Common Gull testing out a nesting box on Burrowes   

Tuesday 1 February 2022

Brent Goose

Warm, dry and sunny, NW 2 - Scotney front fields this morning held the usual array of wildfowl and waders including 1,000 Lapwings, 500 Wigeons, 100 Greylags, 80 Barnacle Geese, 50 Teals, 30 Shovelers and 500 Starlings, plus three Ringed Plovers, five Redshanks and several each of Curlew and Oystercatcher. A walk outback revealed 200 Pochard and Tufted Duck on the lake by the farm, 10 Corn Buntings, two Marsh Harriers, Common Buzzard, two Great White Egrets and singing Skylarks amongst hundreds of corvids, gulls and Stock Doves. At Pigwell a Grey Wagtail was on the sewage plant along with a few Pied Wagtails and Meadow Pipits.

                                  Bewick`s Swans, Midley

                                  Brent Goose, Cook`s Pool

As we`ve moved into February I thought it would be pertinent to pay homage to the wild swans before they departed back north. Out on Walland two small flocks comprised a distant 35 Bewick`s at Dennes Lane, plus 12 Bewick`s and five Whooper Swans at Midley that were much closer to the lane. Once again few passerines were noted en-route. On the way home four Cattle Egrets were still in the paddocks along the Lydd Road, while a pause at Cook`s Pool revealed a lone Brent Goose and a distant Peregrine hunkered down in the Boulderwall fields soaking up the sunshine.