Wednesday 25 January 2023


Romney Salts - cold, overcast, light airs - Another grim January day set in a Mordor-like twilight - just the weather then for a tramp across the Salts in search of farmland birds to lift the spirits! My circular route from home took me down Church Lane to the spinney, then south along the old railway track (passing the dung heap) to Northlade, west to Belgar Farm, north to Kemps Hill and eventually back to New Romney, which took me just under four hours covering roughly four miles allowing for diversions along the way. For those of you unfamiliar with the terrain, the Salts is primarily high grade arable land (reclaimed from salt marsh) bisected by reed-fringed drainage sewers. Patches of rank grass and scrub occur along the old railway track and around a dirt bike circuit, while a few stunted willows have escaped the attention of the digger bucket. Dengemarsh Sewer starts here and is dredged every winter as it forms the main drainage channel for this section of the Marsh. Crops grown comprise a mix of oil-seed rape, wheat and barley with several large fields still in stubble and a market garden area of spuds, sprouts, onions and leeks.

                                  Linnets, Belgar Farm

                                 Grubbed out willows, Romney Salts

Unsurprisingly small birds were few and far between as everywhere you looked the few remaining patches of cover were being grubbed out, and all the crops were sown right down to field the margins without headland sanctuaries. However, the highlight was a flock of 200 Linnets and 100 Chaffinches in a weedy field by the race track; the only other little uns noted were two Yellowhammers and a Chaffinch along the railway track, ten House Sparrows around the farm and up to 50 Skylarks in stubble fields. Plenty of corvids, Magpies, Woodpigeons, 100 Stock Doves and four Buzzards were present, mostly amongst the market garden crops. Only last winter when I did the same walk, Tree Sparrows and Corn Buntings were noted along with many more Skylarks, Meadow Pipits and Snipes; although last year it was much milder with hardly any freezing weather, so maybe some of the passerines have moved further west and south to escape the worst of the weather and may return to breed in the spring, hopefully...    

Monday 23 January 2023


Cold, overcast, drizzle, NE 2 - Following a week of near unbroken winter sunshine this morning dawned gloomy from the off and didn`t get much above half-light all day. However, a circular birding route today yielded many more birds than last Friday, mainly due to the ground being unfrozen. Starting at Lade where five Goldeneyes were the pit highlights, plus five Black-tailed Godwits and 20 Knots on the bay. At Dungeness hundreds of Red-throated Divers, Gannets, Kittiwakes and auks streamed to and fro around the point, while the Patch held a couple of hundred gulls including five Meds and ten Kittiwakes. On the bird reserve the lakes were packed out with common wildfowl with at least 12 Goldeneyes on ARC and Burrowes and a flyover Bittern at the former site. The fields at Boulderwall were also full of Lapwings, Golden Plovers, Curlews, feral geese, Starlings and corvids along with several Great White and Little Egrets, Grey Herons and two Glossy Ibis over. Sifting through the ducks, try as I might, I could find no sign of a Smew - am I going to go through the winter for the first time since moving down here 17 years ago without seeing one...

                                    Goldeneye, lade

Elsewhere across the Marsh these past few days, including the back of Scotney, there has been very little to report apart from the wild swans on Walland Marsh and a Short-eared Owl on the Army Ranges (per MC).

Thursday 19 January 2023


Dungeness - cold, dry and sunny - Superb weather for a guided walk around the circular route for a U3A group from Sussex. All the usual wildfowl noted, including six Goldeneyes on Burrowes and two more on Dengemarsh, six Shelducks also on Burrowes and a Pintail on New Ex. Several Great White Egrets, Marsh Harriers and Buzzards were seen during the morning, while a Bittern in Hookers reedbed posed briefly before flying off towards the back pits. Also noted: four Chiffchaffs, three Goldcrests, two Stonechats, Cetti`s Warblers, a Green Woodpecker and five Greenfinches on the car park feeders.

                                  Bittern and Fox, Dengemarsh

From the Lydd Road a covey of six Red-legged Partridge were hunkered down in a field opposite Cockles Bridge, while four Cattle and two Little Egrets were in the sheep paddock. 

Monday 16 January 2023


Wet, cloudy, cold, NW 5 - I get the impression from reading other birding blogs that I`m not the only one struggling to post more regularly, particularly at this time of year when there is very little change to the birding scene, exacerbated by the recent dreadful wet and windy weather. Its`s certainly not for the want of trying as most days I`m out and about somewhere across Dungeness and the Marsh, but there just ain`t the birds out there. Take this morning for example. I started at Lade just after 0900hrs when the rain was still lashing down, but knowing the site like I do checked out the wetlands from sheltered spots without even locating a Goldeneye. Moving onto Dungeness where the Patch attracted a hundred or so gulls including 10 each of Mediterranean Gull and Kittiwake, while offshore the usual auks, Gannets and the occasional diver fizzed by; the highlight of the morning was a male Peregrine sheltering from the tempest on the superstructure of  A Station. A running theme throughout the region this winter has been the dearth of small passerines and today was no exception as apart from a small gang of House Sparrows at Lade the only other LBJs noted were two Chaffinches and a Meadow Pipit at the point; large wintering flocks of finches are now a distant memory. On the plus side Dengemarsh held a gaggle of feral geese and a few swans, along with a couple of hundred Lapwings and Golden Plovers and 20 Curlews on the Boulderwall fields, with a similar scene on the airport fields. As the rain eased off several hungry Marsh Harriers and Kestrels took flight, along with two Great White Egrets at Cockles Bridge. 

                                 Chaffinch, Peregrine, Kittiwake, Dungeness

However, there may be some respite this week with the weather settling down to a more colder, northerly airflow that just might deliver something new. Other than that, at least the days are steadily drawing out, which means that spring is just around the corner...

Wednesday 11 January 2023

Whooper Swans

Dry, sunny, mild W 3 - A guided walk for eight guests around the circular walk delivered all the usual wildfowl on Burrowes including three Goldeneyes, plus a Great White Egret and a couple of Marsh Harriers. Away from Burrowes there was very little to be seen apart from seven Shelducks at the back of Dengemarsh, another Great White Egret and several Grey Herons. There was, however, a few passerines around the bird feeders, mostly tits, Greenfinches and a Reed Bunting. Over the road the two wintering Whooper Swans were loafing in front of the hide but soon drifted off across the lake.

                                 Whooper Swans, ARC

Sunday 8 January 2023

Grey Wagtail

 Sunshine and showers, SW 5 - It`s not often that a Grey Wagtail is the headline bird of the weekend. Our back garden is a small, enclosed affair with a variety of shrubs and a Silver Birch tree festooned with bird feeders that attracts the usual array of common tits, sparrows and the like. It is not the sort of location to attract a Grey Wagtail, but yesterday morning when I came back from town I surprised a male bird sat on the bird bath that soon flew off calling loudly. 

Today`s incoming tide on the bay was at the perfect height to count Oystercatchers from the Tavern viewpoint: 1,050 birds, but little else. On Lade pits 500 Teals, 100 Shovelers and four Goldeneyes were the highlights on south lake, plus Water Rail and Chiffchaff by the ponds. A two hour seawatch (1100 -1300hrs) in the company of DW was notable for a westward stream of hundreds of Black-headed and Common Gulls, Kittiwakes and auks along with 30 Gannets, 20 Mediterranean Gulls, 45 Wigeon, 12 Shelducks, five Pintails, 10 Red-throated Divers and a Fulmar. Plenty of large gulls were feeding along the shoreline including at least three Caspian Gulls.

                                  Caspian Gull, Dungeness

Due to the foul weather (heavy showers and a blustery wind) I wasn`t looking forward to this afternoons harrier count with CP on Walland Marsh. However, despite getting a soaking we counted 25 Marsh Harriers and a fabulous male Hen Harrier to roost, but little else apart from several Buzzards, a Great White Egret, a Snipe, calling Water Rails and Cetti`s Warblers, plus Golden Plovers over in the gloom as we trudged back to the car. 

Friday 6 January 2023

Sandwich Terns

 Scotney - mild, dry and sunny, SW2 - Good weather conditions for a walk out back where the highlights were a Black Redstart and a Tree Sparrow around the farmyard and a Green Sandpiper calling over the back lake. Other birds of noted included several Buzzards, Marsh Harriers, Skylarks and Stonechats, a Snipe, a Raven and a Great White Egret. The roadside sward and lakes were full of wildfowl and waders, mostly feral geese, 14 Brents, Wigeons, Lapwings and Golden Plovers along with a few Curlews, Ruffs and a Little Stint.

On Lade Bay from the Tavern viewpoint eight species of waders were present, plus hundreds of Common Gulls and two Sandwich Terns. Lade pits was quiet where the only ducks of note were three Goldeneyes on south lake.

Tuesday 3 January 2023

NYD Bird Count

Bank Holiday Monday - wet morning, dry and sunny afternoon, mild, WNW 2 - Due to unfavourable weather conditions on Sunday we put off our NYD Bird Count by a day. Together with Chris P and Phil L we kicked off with a dawn chorus at a very soggy Park Wood, Appledore where the highlights were a Raven over calling, and all the expected woodland birds including Tawny Owl, Nuthatch, Treecreeper, Coal Tit and Goldcrest that were not seen elsewhere during the day. Dropping down onto Shirley Moor and along the RM Canal the likes of  winter thrushes, Yellowhammer, Linnet, Mipit and Reed Bunting were noted but in pitifully low numbers, which was a running theme for small farmland birds (Tree Sparrow and Corn Bunting, for the first time were absent) throughout the day. At Midley we paused for a flocks of 53 Bewick`s and three Whooper Swans and the spectacle of thousands of plovers, corvids and Starlings over Cheyne Court. As usual on a still day with flood water everywhere Scotney pits did not disappoint; the front swards and lake were covered in ducks and geese including 12 White-fronts, two Pintails and three Ruff along with the usual distant egrets and harriers. Cockles Bridge produced stunning views of a perched adult male Merlin and a juvenile Peregrine while two Cattle Egrets were in the paddock opposite the stables. The bird reserve was packed out with birders where it was good to meet many familiar faces, along with some who we only seem to see once a year! Birds of note here were two Goldeneyes on the lake and five Greenfinches (yes folks, almost a rarity now) on the feeders. Next stop a seawatch off the boats, which turned into more of a social occasion as nothing much was happening on the sea apart from a large flock of Kittiwakes, auks and Gannets feeding well offshore, plus a few passing Red-throated Divers..

Being as it was low tide at Lade bay the waders were all way out on the sands but with patience we eventually logged eight species including a few Knots, Barwits, Grey and Ringed Plovers. We finished the day at the Screen hide on ARC where Bearded Tits and Water Rails vocalised from the reedbed, a female Merlin flew over, two Whooper Swans drifted across the lake, Glossy Ibis and Cattle Egrets flew to roost and a spectacular Starling murmuration swirled over the gantry end along with hundreds of noisy Jackdaws. On the walk back to the car park at dusk we were surprised by four Woodcocks dropping into the Tower Pits. We finished the day on 104 species, which is about average for recent years; many thanks to Chris for driving and Phil for listing.

                                 Sunset over Dungeness