Lade - cool, dry and sunny, SW2 - Superb session on the local patch this morning commenced with an odd looking duck roosting on one of the two main islands on south lake. Eventually it awoke, shook itself down and slipped onto the water where it morphed into a smart drake Long-tailed Duck moulting out of breeding plumage, but still retaining a tail-pin and a pinkish-yellow band on the bill. It appeared to be exhausted at first, although did take a couple of short flights over the water towards the wall `mirror` where it spent some time diving and hopefully feeding on the abundant fish population in these pits. Whilst watching the duck two Bearded Tits (rare here) `pinged` from a small reedbed on the eastern shore and flew along to the next reedbed. From the main track a Ring Ouzel flushed from cover was the first of autumn as it called and rocketed over towards the airfield. Also noted, a Wheatear on the Desert, two Greenshanks on the far islands, a Great White Egret and at least 20 Chiffchaffs in the willows by the ponds. Thanks to David Scott for sending through his pics of the Long-tailed Duck.
Thursday, 29 September 2022
Warm, dry and sunny, W2 - A superb morning of weather for a check of Scotney pits where there was plenty to see on the front lakes and sward, the majority of which comprised feral geese, gulls and Cormorants. In between the massed ranks however was a host of waders, mostly Lapwings and Golden Plovers, but also a scattering of Redshanks, Curlews, Dunlins, and Ringed Plovers, plus 20 Ruffs, 10 Green Sandpipers, three Snipe, a Common Sandpiper and a Little Stint. Plenty of common diving and dabbling ducks included Pintail, Shoveler, Wigeon and Shelduck, plus a Black-necked Grebe on the western lake and three roosting Spoonbills on the far side of the eastern lake. All three species of hirundines swooped over the waters while Kestrel, Sparrowhawk and Peregrine were all noted. Pied Wagtails and Linnets made up the most numerous passerines on the sward along with a few Meadow Pipits, Skylarks and five Yellow Wagtails. On the bird reserve from Hanson hide another Little Stint was the only noteworthy wader.
This week I`ve also been pounding the local farmland tracts around NR. The most productive fields have been those recently harrowed or drilled (but only for a day or two) where large flocks of corvids, Starlings, Woodpigeons and Stock Doves have been the main attraction and one group of 100 Lapwings on the Salts. Closer scrutiny has revealed a few Meadow Pipits and Skylarks, a flock of 100 Linnets and 10 Pied Wagtails around the Church Lane dung heap, several Yellowhammers at Hope Lane and a trickle of hirundines hawking insects over the turf fields. Chiffchaff numbers have started to decline from the heights of last week, although we`re still getting them through the back garden and in the bird bath; a Greenfinch on the bird feeders was the first this autumn.
Monday, 26 September 2022
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.
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
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.
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
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.
Tuesday, 20 September 2022
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.
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
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.
Friday, 16 September 2022
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.
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
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..
Sunday, 11 September 2022
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.
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.
Friday, 9 September 2022
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.
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
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
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 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
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.
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.