Cold, overcast and dry, NE 4 - The chilly weather continued for another days guiding. We crossed the Marsh via Kennardington where Hobby, Kestrel, Lesser Whitethroat, Yellowhammer, Bullfinch, Buzzards, Sparrowhawk and Long-tailed Tit were noted, by no sign yet of any Cuckoo or Turtle Dove. In Faggs Wood at least four Nightingales were in song along with singles of Garden and Willow Warblers, plus the usual Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs, a singing Goldcrest, calling Nuthatch and Great Spotted Woodpecker. Back on the coast at Scotney the front fields attracted a decent mixed flock of around 60 grounded Bar-tailed Godwits, Whimbrels and Curlews, plus a pair of Avocets. Outback the stiff breeze meant a paucity of passerines with just two Tree Sparrows, three Yellow Wagtails and a Skylark of any note. A few more Avocets were on the back island along with a Little Egret and a passing Marsh Harrier. En-route to Dungeness two Hobbies struggled to hawk for insects over Hookers. We ended the day with a seawatch where a trickle of Gannets and Commic Terns, Barwits, Whimbrels, a Grey Plover and a Bonxie headed up-Channel. A tidy couple of days then for the guests with 107 species recorded, the undoubted highlight being yesterdays Black Kite.
Tuesday, 26 April 2022
Dungeness - cold, dry and sunny, NE4 - Spent the day guiding for Jill, Liz and John from Dorset. We kicked off on the bay from the Tavern viewpoint where at high tide 200 Bar-tailed Godwits provided a fabulous spectacle, plus 20 Oystercatchers, five Sanderlings and a Grey Plover. We then joined the seawatchers at the point for an hour where more Barwits and Whimbrels trickled through along with a few Red-throated Divers, Brents, Common and Sandwich Terns, Gannets, Common Scoters, two Curlews and two Arctic Skuas. On the land we picked up Black Redstart, Wheatear, Stonechat, Meadow Pipit and Skylark in their usual locations, plus Kestrel, Whitethroat and Linnet. Following a tip off from OL we had distant views of a Ring Ouzel at the top end of the desert along with a probable second bird and another Wheatear.
Crossing the causeway bird we had brief views of a perched Black Kite on the ARC side of the road which by the time I`d turned around at Boulderwall then flew over the fields towards Dengemarsh and beyond to the Ranges; apparently it was seen earlier from Springfield Bridge coming in off the sea. At Cooks Pool, Wigeon, Shelducks, Teal, Lapwings, Whimbrels and Bar-tailed Godwits were all noted plus four Garganey on Tanners pool. Highlights around the reserve included six Black-tailed Godwits, Dunlin and a Ringed Plover with young on Burrowes; Marsh Harriers, booming Bittern, Great White Egret, Raven and Hobby, Dengemarsh; Redshanks, Teal, Shelducks, Shovelers and Little Egret on the Hayfields; and two more Great White, six Little Egrets and three species of hirundines on ARC from Hanson hide. A pretty decent days birding then during which time we racked up 87 species.
Sunday, 24 April 2022
Dungeness - 0530 - 0730hrs - cold, cloudy, fair viz, NNE 4 - A seawatch from the hide first thing yielded mixed results due to the northerly wind that meant that most migrants passed well offshore. The usual early morning movement of Gannets and Sandwich Terns were noted along with a few Common and several Arctic Terns, although more eluded me that were further out. Bar-tailed Godwits numbered a couple of hundred along with several parties of Whimbrels and Oystercatchers, six Red-throated Divers, a distant Manx Shearwater (thanks to Jacob for that one!), seven Little Gulls, two Shelducks, 25 Teal, 10 Common Scoter, four Arctic Skuas, a Kittiwake and a Bonxie. Incoming migrants included several Yellow Wagtails, a Swallow, two Grey Herons (most unusual), two Crows, and just as I was about to leave, and a first for me on a seawatch, a high calling Wood Sandpiper.
Moving onto the northern end of Long Pits and in the shelter of the wind several orange tips basked in the sunshine. There was plenty of common warbler activity but little else. ARC was quiet apart from plenty of singing Sedge Warblers on the walk down to Hanson hide, while over the road on Boulderwall fields there was much more to see including 14 grounded Bar-tailed Godwits, the males resplendent in their nuptial plumage, three Great White Egrets, displaying Lapwings, Wigeon and a Marsh Harrier. A check of Lade produced a lone Swallow over south lake as news came through of a Black Kite found by Colin Turley over Dengemarsh heading north. I eventually picked it up, albeit at some range being mobbed by corvids over the Airport pits, just before it headed back south over the water tower and out of view.
New Romney - Yesterday afternoon I walked down Church Lane to the spinney to check for any migrant activity, but could only find the obligatory few Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs and Whitethroats. However, the industrial land next to the tip has been cleared for development resulting in a large drainage channel with gentle slopes down to the water, ideal for attracting birds to drink and bathe in this period of drought. Meadow Pipits, Linnets, Pied and Yellow Wagtails were all noted at the waters edge, plus my first two House Martins of spring dipping down to take a draught on their travels.
Friday, 22 April 2022
Dungeness - 0615 - 0830hrs - cold, cloudy, hazy viz, NE 4 - An early morning seawatch from the hide with the locals delivered a steady up-Channel passage of waders, wildfowl and terns typical for the time of year. In the vanguard were over 300 Bar-tailed Godwits in loose flocks along with 50 odd Whimbrels and lesser numbers of Grey Plovers, Curlews, Oystercatchers, Turnstones and a Ringed Plover. A steady trickle of Gannets, Common and Sandwich Terns was enlivened by several small groups of Arctic Terns and 11 Little Gulls; more Commic Terns further out were those too distant for me to identify. Also in the mix: three Red-throated Divers, three Fulmars, two Kittiwakes, six Brent Geese, 20 auks, several small flocks of Common Scoter, Teal and Shoveler, a Bonxie and three close Arctic Skuas. Incoming passerines included several Linnets and Goldfinches, two Crows, a Siskin and a Swallow.
Wednesday, 20 April 2022
Dungeness - warm, dry and sunny, NE 4 - As we approach the business end of April and passage migration peaks, each day delivers something new, despite the brisk and unhelpful north-easterly airflow. Yesterday, at the north end of Long Pits, a smart male Pied Flycatcher, found by MC, eventually gave close but brief views before retreating into the willow scrub. Lesser Whitethroats were in good voice both there and at Lade today where more Common Whitethroats had moved in and several Swallows drifted over south lake. The hayfields provided a Whimbrel and a Glossy Ibis amongst the breeding Redshanks and Lapwings, plus displaying Marsh Harriers over Hookers, a `booming` Bittern and calling Bearded Tits. A Hobby over Cockles Bridge was my first for the year.
Monday, 18 April 2022
Sunday - Park Wood, Appledore - An early morning outing to the woods for Nightingales drew a blank in the council owned section of the complex, although there was a bird singing from the eastern arm of Great Heron Wood. The only other migrants present were several Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs, plus a lone Willow Warbler along with all the expected resident tits, finches, woodpeckers and the like. With the woodland canopy not yet closed the ground flora was in fine nick including some spectacular Bluebell vistas. A pause at the Warehorne crossing on the way home also delivered a singing Nightingale, Yellowhammer and Cetti`s Warbler, while Buzzards seemed to be soaring above every patch of trees.
Monday - Dungeness - 0545- 0815 hrs -cold and cloudy, light airs - A seawatch from the hide first thing was notable for over 200 Brents and three Velvet Scoters up-Channel, plus a trickle of Common Scoters, Sandwich Terns and Gannets, two Red-throated Divers, two Fulmars, a Shoveler, a Curlew, a Whimbrel, three Oystercatchers, 10 Common Terns, five Kittiwakes, four Arctic Skuas and a Bonxie.
Saturday, 16 April 2022
Dungeness - 0600 - 0815hrs - cool, dry, sunny, hazy viz, E3. An early morning seawatch from the hide with the regulars was memorable for a steady eastward passage of Gannets, mostly close to shore, comprising around 900 birds. I mean what is there not to like about our largest and most spectacular seabird; at one stage there was a flock of 60 fishing on a large shoal of sprats alongside the Cormorants and Porpoises. While the Gannets stole the show a pair of Goldeneye provided the rarity fix (unusual on a seawatch), plus my first dozen or so Arctic Terns of the year. Also noted a steady stream of Common Scoters, Common and Sandwich Terns, a few Kittiwake, Teal, Wigeon, Shoveler, Whimbrel, Fulmar, Red-throated Diver and a Grey Plover.
Thursday, 14 April 2022
New Romney - warm, dry and sunny, light airs - The day started with a heavy mist cloaking the Marsh countryside as I set off for a circular walk along Hope Lane just after daybreak. Thankfully it quickly cleared setting forth a host of wayside finches and thrushes into song, including several each of Linnet, Greenfinch, Yellowhammer and Song Thrush. The cereal fields and ditches held the usual singing Skylarks and Reed Buntings respectively, while a lone Reed Warbler sang from a clump of reeds along the New Cut. By the old farmhouse five each of Chiffchaff and Blackcap were heard along with a `new` Cetti`s Warbler. Also noted, two Buzzards, a Green Woodpecker and four Mediterranean Gulls overhead.
A late morning check of Lade produced Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Whitethroat, Willow, Cetti`s and Reed Warblers in song around the ponds, a soaring Sparrowhawk over the willow swamp and several Wigeon, Teal and Shoveler on south lake. There was much helicopter and drone activity over Lydd Airport where Boris Johnson was due to make a speech about the `migrant crisis`; from the Lade boardwalk whilst scanning the bay for seabirds I noticed an incoming RIB packed to the gunnels with refugees with the paddles out as the engine had given up. Mercifully they all made it safely to shore.
Next stop was the top end of Long Pits to check for any passage migrants, although it was fairly quiet apart from a few singing Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs and singles of Willow and Reed Warbler. This afternoon I set up the moth trap in the garden for the first time since we moved; very excited to see what the new site delivers compared to the coast.
Wednesday, 13 April 2022
Dungeness RSPB - warm, dry and cloudy, SW2 - Perfect weather conditions this morning for a guided walk around the two mile circuit where the highlight was seven species of warblers of which Reed Warbler and Whitethroat at Dengemarsh were new for the year for me. Sedge and Cetti`s Warblers were everywhere with at least 30 of each in song, plus several Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps, and a Willow Warbler in the car park scrub. Hayfields 1 and 2 were in good nick offering up superb views for the guests of the five Glossy Ibis that conveniently flew in, plus a pair of Garganey, 50 Teal, five Shovelers,10 Lapwings, four Oystercatchers, four Redshanks, two Shelducks and a Little Egret. Elsewhere around the circuit Marsh Harriers showed well, two Bitterns `boomed`, a Yellow Wagtail flew over calling (NFY), four Mediterranean Gulls, Sparrowhawk, Great White Egret, Bearded Tits and a White-fronted Goose also noted; 64 species were logged during the three hour walk.
Tuesday, 12 April 2022
Dungeness - 0600 - 0815hrs - cloudy, mild, SE 2 - Joined the regulars in and around the seawatch hide first thing for what turned out to be a very profitable session indeed with a steady up-Channel stream of seabirds throughout. Bulk numbers were made up of Gannets, Sandwich and Common Terns in the low hundreds and just under a thousand Common Scoters. A Black-throated Diver went through with about 50 Red-throated Divers. A flock of nine Velvet Scoters, four Little Gulls, five Little Terns, 15 Arctic Skuas and three Whimbrels providing more quality, and a couple of year ticks; not that I`m that way inclined, of course... Also noted several Fulmars and Kittiwakes, 30 Brents, a few distant auks, three Mergansers, three Oystercatchers and a Mediterranean Gull. For full details of todays Dungeness seawatch check out the trektellen website later on.
An early afternoon wander around the spinney and dung heap at the bottom of Church Lane for summer migrants produced several each of singing Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps and, at long last my first three Swallows of spring over the sewage works. Resident breeders noted included Buzzard, Jay, Green Woodpecker, Song Thrush, Yellowhammer and Linnet. Elsewhere today a Black Tern joined the four Little Gulls at Scotney bend (JY) and six Crossbills flew over the Trapping Area earlier.
Sunday, 10 April 2022
Cool, sunny, light airs - Started the day checking out the Lydd heronry where at least 17 occupied Grey Heron and four Little Egret nests were located, and where a single Cattle Egret was also present. Moving on to Scotney and the four Little Gulls were still on the main lake along with hundreds of Black-headed Gulls and at least 20 Mediterranean Gulls. Singles of Brent Goose and Black Swan were on the front sward and east lake respectively. Waders noted included 12 Avocets outback and a cracking summer plum Turnstone. Still no sign of any Yellow Wagtails though, infact hardly any passerines apart from a few Skylarks and Linnets, plus Marsh Harrier, Sparrowhawk and a distant soaring Common Buzzard. Next stop Dengemarsh where a flock of 30 Corn Buntings and 50 Linnets were on the fields by Springfield Bridge, while a Bittern boomed from the reedbed along with plenty of Marsh Harrier activity; I saw a male snatch a Reed Bunting from atop a willow and deliver it to a female! On the hayfields three Ringed Plovers, six Redshanks, 50 Teal, 10 Shelduck and 10 Lapwings, plus Great White Egret and Garganey on the lake and a White-fronted Goose on the back fields. A check of Cooks Poole and ARC revealed little else of note. A brief seawatch from the hide with MC this afternoon delivered a trickle of Gannets, Red-throated Divers, Sandwich Terns and two Velvet Scoters up-Channel.
Friday, 8 April 2022
Dungeness - cold, grey, light airs - Following a couple of days of strong westerlies at least the weather appears to have settled down for the forthcoming weekend. A Wednesday morning seawatch in the company of JS delivered my first Arctic Skua of spring along with three Velvet Scoters amongst several hundred Common Scoters. This morning I checked out Lade where a lone singing Willow Warbler was the only passerine of note. It was quiet at the point too with just the usual Black Redstarts and Wheatears in their respective locations, while MC reported a few more Arctic Skuas through earlier. On the bird reserve, where the VC has been closed all week, it was a case of the usual suspects, including a flock of five Glossy Ibis on ARC. At Scotney the Little Gull count reached four birds around midday (JY).
Tuesday, 5 April 2022
Dungeness - warm, dry and sunny, W 3 - Had a day out today with my 11 year old grandson (aka the Apprentice Birder) and very able list man. We commenced at Littlestone beach for a selection of common shorebirds and Sandwich Terns before moving onto Dungeness where we mopped up on Wheatear, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Meadow Pipit, Skylark, Linnet and Peregrine. Most of the day was spent on the bird reserve with the highlights being a pair of Garganey and Glossy Ibis at Cooks Pool; two Little Ringed Plovers, six Ringed Plovers, Black-tailed Godwit, Goldeneye and Pintail on Burrowes; four more Garganeys, Great White Egret and a singing Sedge Warbler at Dengemarsh; singing Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs, 10 Little Egrets, two Glossy Ibis and a Red Kite at ARC; and two Cattle Egrets at Cockles Bridge. All the usual regular wetland birds, including Marsh Harriers, showed well for the Apprentice. I must admit to not being overly impressed with the new wooden structure at Firth lookout; surely a standard hide would`ve been just as cost effective, and definitely more windproof. However, the cleared area around the recently reopened Hanson hide is most impressive with superb potential for observing close egrets and the like, and hopefully as the water level drops good wader watching.
We finished the afternoon at Scotney with a distant Little Gull amongst a large flock of Black-headed Gulls (thanks for the tip-off Martin) feeding over the lake from the double bend. A thoroughly enjoyable session in the field during which time we rattled up a respectable 75 species, but also managed to miss several Swallows reported across the peninsular today.
Sunday, 3 April 2022
New Romney - cold, dry and sunny, NE 3 - Well, well what a weird week it has been with Covid-19 finally catching up with us and forcing us into self isolation; at least for the first six days until the all- clear was sounded. I shouldn`t really complain though as it was only a couple of days of flu-like symptoms that laid me really low, and it wasn`t like the Russians were shelling us out of our home, at least not yet anyway...