Wednesday 31 May 2023

Terns and Waders

 Rye Harbour NR - warm, dry and sunny, NE 5 - Thought it was about time I had my fix of breeding terns and waders, so Pat and I (along with Ted) headed down to the magnificent Rye Harbour Nature Reserve for a circular walk around the Beach Reserve. The back-to-back hides provided superb views of all the Common Tern and Black-headed Gull action, with the latter already having well-grown juveniles on the islands amongst several pairs of Mediterranean Gulls; only a couple of Sandwich Terns were seen as they were nesting (c50prs) on the furthest island best viewed from Crittall hide. To complete the tern ensemble we met Colin and Linda near Gooder`s hide who had a Little Tern in the scope on Flat Beach where about 12 pairs are nesting. 





                                 Black-headed Gull colony

                                 Common Tern colony

Breeding waders around the circuit included: Avocet, Oystercatcher, Ringed Plover and Redshank, as well as a passage Curlew, Turnstone, Common Sandpiper, Dunlin and a spanking Grey Plover in full breeding plumage. Also noted: Dabchick, Tufted Duck, Little Egret, Skylark, Meadow Pipit, Wheatear, Pied Wagtail, Common Whitethroat, Sedge Warbler and Linnet. A superb morning`s birding, and we even bumped into the former long-standing warden, Dr Barry Yates, for a natter along the way.

Monday 29 May 2023

Black-tailed Godwits

 Lade - cool, dry and sunny, NE 5  - A circuit of the local patch with Gary produced very little in the strong wind blasting off the bay; perfect conditions for kite-surfing, not so much for birding! Our search for orchids resulted in a handful of Southern Marsh spikes in and around the ponds, but we could find no sign of any Bee Orchids along the main track. Birdwise it was quiet until a pulse of 100 plus Swifts barrelled in over south lake, while hundreds more were seen passing over Dengemarsh later on in the morning along with 50 House Martins.

                                 Southern Marsh Orchid, Lade

                                  Prostrate Broom in full flower, Dengemarsh

    Black-tailed Godwits, Hayfield 2

A windswept Burrowes pit viewed from the shelter of the Visitor Centre produced very little apart from a pair of Ringed Plovers, a Dunlin and a Common Sandpiper on the islands, the usual nesting gulls but not a single tern. I walked Dengemarsh with Ted and jammed in on a flock of 40 Black-tailed Godwits that flew in and landed on hayfield 2 alongside the breeding Lapwings and Redshanks, Shelducks, Gadwalls and a Shoveler. Also noted during the circuit: two Hobbies, two Cuckoos, a `booming` Bittern, Marsh Harrier, Buzzard, Skylark, Yellow Wagtail and Corn Bunting. The warbler tribe were heard but unseen seen due to the strong wind.

Sunday 28 May 2023

House Martins

New Romney - warm, dry and sunny, NE 2-4 - The past week has seen the arrival of a few House Martins around the town with birds returning to breed on a nearby new housing estate and collecting mud for their nests almost immediately along Hope Lane, alongside Swallows. For the first time this spring several Swifts could be heard high over the town today, while last Friday at least 50 were over Lade willow swamp in cloudy weather conditions. The only other notable bird locally was a Common Sandpiper yesterday flying along one of the drainage channels near the New Cut, where another pair of Sedge Warblers have set up territory and also where I had brief views of a Mink last week.The garden moth trap was in `action` for the first time on Wednesday night and lured in just two moths, which was no surprise considering the strong, cool north-easterly airflow, and I cannot see much change until the wind drops and we get some overnight cloud cover. I`ve spent most of the weekend working in the garden converting a couple of wooden pallets into plant holders, while keeping an eye out for any butterflies present; a couple of Holly Blues was about it. On a more positive note our garden Blue Tits fledged young from a nest box yesterday and the front lawn is looking good due to `No Mow May`.

                                  May blossom. Paternosterford bridge

                                 Common Swift, first moth of the year

                                 Front lawn - No Mow May

                                  Garden plant pallet in position

                                 Swallows collecting mud and straw for nests

Elsewhere, visits to Dungeness have yielded little of note apart from two Little Terns at The Patch on Friday, plus eight singing Skylarks, two Whitethroats and a Meadow Pipit on Littlestone golf links this morning. 

                                 Ted enjoying the sunshine

Tuesday 23 May 2023

Romney Salts

 Romney Salts - warm, dry and sunny, N4 - I decided to walk the Salts this morning with Ted and count every farmland bird I saw or heard along the four mile route. It came as no surprise that the eventual list was poor in both numbers of birds and diversity. However, to put things into perspective we didnt set off until late (9am, finishing at 11.30) and there was a fair old breeze, so both the time of day and weather should be factored into the paltry tally. The flat lands here are dominated by fields of intensively farmed cereals (mostly winter wheat and a bit of spring barley without any headlands) along with one field of oil-seed rape and one of potatoes by the Dengemarsh Sewer. Other associated farmland habitats include: two dung heaps, strips of rough grassland and scrub along an old railway line and a speedway track, patches of reed-fringed drainage ditches and an overgrown garden. I`ll spare you the gory details from the 30 species and 118 birds recorded, but the highlights were; 12 Linnets, eight Skylarks, three Corn Buntings, two Yellowhammers, two Reed Buntings, one singing Reed Warbler, two Yellow Wagtails overhead and a Kestrel. There was no sign of any Tree Sparrows in what was one of their traditional haunts; the grubbing out of virtually all tree and scrub cover along the ditches in recent winters by landowners and the Environment Agency has most likely `assisted` their decline/extinction locally. On a brighter note a Common Sandpiper was an unexpected find `bobbing` along the margins of one of the drainage channels on the new industrial site beside Church Lane. 

Red Kites - Yesterday afternoon whilst driving through Ivychurch an adult Red Kite in heavy wing moult flew over the lane heading inland; Chris P also reported a couple around the same time from St Mary-in-the-Marsh, while two more were seen over Dungeness today with many more having been reported across the south-east recently. A bird that only a decade ago was something of a rarity down here now appears to be almost commonplace.  

Sunday 21 May 2023

Honey Buzzard

 Warm, dry and sunny, NE 4-5 - Not a great deal has changed to the local birding scene since my last post, apart from a very elusive Purple Heron that has been seen intermittently around Dengemarsh on Thursday and Saturday; I`ve given it several goes over the weekend without success, although its probably still lurking somewhere in the wetlands, while the brisk wind doesn`t help matters. Having said that, despite the wind, I did manage some good views of Bearded Tits from the viewing ramp and a Cattle Egret on the hayfields on Friday, plus two Cuckoos at Lade. A couple of visits to St Mary`s Bay with Ted revealed a few Curlews and Barwits with the Oystercatchers at low tide and several singing Skylarks over the golf links. 

                                  Yellowhammer, NR

                                 Sea Pink, St Mary`s Bay

Otherwise its been a case of tramping the local farmland around New Romney with Ted noting the usual breeding birds. A couple more Sedge Warblers have moved in along Hope Lane, with most of the Lesser Whitethroats having moved on, while the Belgar Farm area delivered a couple each of Yellow Wagtail and Corn Bunting on territory. The town park Mistle Thrushes are now on their second clutch with the male singing throughout the early mornings along with Goldfinch, Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers activity. Blue Tits are busily feeding youngsters in one of our garden nest boxes while Blackbird and House Sparrow have both fledged young hereabouts. I still haven`t seen any House Martins or Swifts around the town, although there`s still time for a late arrival, hopefully. Yesterday afternoon whilst working in the garden the HGs regularly went into meltdown mobbing Common Buzzards and once a Sparrowhawk, and then about 3pm they alerted me to a Honey Buzzard that drifted off eastwards towards St Mary`s Bay, my first record over the town, along with Red Kite and Marsh Harrier this spring and an Osprey last summer. I`m ashamed to admit that due to the inclement weather the garden moth trap has not been in operation; maybe later this coming week, if the wind eases off and the temperature rises. Butterfly numbers continue to be pitifully low everywhere this spring. 


Wednesday 17 May 2023

Black-winged Stilts

Dungeness RSPB - warm, dry and sunny, light airs - A fine morning of weather for the monthly guided walk around the circular trail for 10 visitors. The undoubted highlight being a party of four Black-winged Stilts (two pairs) that had dropped onto the hayfields earlier this morning and proved to be most confiding, feeding vigorously and flying around calling in the shallows near Christmas Dell hide. It was no great surprise considering the high numbers that have been reported from the coastal lagoons in the Pas-de-Calais recently; hopefully they`ll stay for a while and maybe even breed. The viewing ramp over Hookers reedbed also came up trumps for the guests with good views of Cuckoo, four Marsh Harriers and two Hobbies, plus fleeting views of Bearded Tits. Other notables around the reserve included a Peregrine and a Sparrowhawk over Burrowes, and a Ringed Plover from Makepeace lookout; along with the usual array of warblers, Redshanks and Lapwings in the hayfields, a Dabchick on the dipping pond, 10 Pochards, two Little Egrets and a Buzzard.  

                                  Black-winged Stilts, Hayfields

Tuesday 16 May 2023


 Warm, dry and sunny, SW 3 - Guiding today around the Dungeness peninsula for Ian and Penny commenced at the point where all the expected land birds were noted including Wheatears, Stonechats, Mipits, Skylarks, two Buzzards and a Peregrine, plus several Common and a Sandwich Tern at the Patch. Probably the oddest record was a Sedge Warbler singing in the lighthouse garden along with a Blackcap.

                                   Yellow Wagtail, Dengemarsh

After a brief look at the bay from the Tavern viewpoint (150 Oystercatchers and 10 Bar-tailed Godwits) we moved onto the bird reserve where a meagre few waders were noted: three Turnstones, a Dunlin, a Ringed Plover and a Little Ringed Plover on Burrowes; five Black-tailed Godwits, six Redshanks and 15 Lapwings on the hayfields. From the ramp we had cracking views of a pair of Cuckoos, two Hobbies and several Marsh Harriers, otherwise it was just the usual warblers around the trail. We finished the afternoon with a stunning male Yellow Wagtail at Dengemarsh, our 75th species of the day. 

Monday 15 May 2023

Common Sandpipers

Dengemarsh - warm, dry and sunny, NW 4 - We did a circular walk this morning around Dengemarsh taking in the farmland tracts adjacent to Manor Farm and the western side of the bird reserve. A blustery north wind made for difficult viewing with most of the common warblers singing from deep cover; however, two Corn Buntings, several Yellow Wagtails and Skylarks were seen on the arable lands. On the wetlands Greylag Geese families were everywhere along with a few pairs of Egyptian and Canada Geese, also with goslings. A Bittern `boomed` at Hookers reedbed while several Swifts and two Hobbies hawked flying insects on high. Otherwise it was the regulation waders and wildfowl on the hayfields, plus Marsh Harriers, Little Egrets and the like along the way.

                                 Corn Bunting and Greylags, Dengemarsh

Last Friday, which was cool and wet, we paid a visit to Lade where once again I failed to see or hear a Cuckoo, but did connect with three Common Sandpipers, my first of the spring, with another on Burrowes. Over the weekend we walked the farmland around NR where nothing much has changed apart from a few more Reed Warbler territories taking up.

Spring Roundup - Its my 18th year living down here on the Marsh (in the words of Sandy Denny - `Where does the time go`) and without doubt this spring has been the poorest for migration for both numbers and variety (still haven`t seen - LRP, Wood Sand, Black Tern, Little Gull, Tree Pipit, Ring Ouzel, Redstart or Spotted Flycatcher). We`ve almost come to expect a lack of summer passerines on the land, and it has been woeful, but normally the sea saves the season. Not so this year though with wildfowl, divers, waders, auks, Gannets, gulls, skuas all low in numbers and in particular, a shocking shortage/absence of terns. Whether it`s to do with the effects of bird flu, the weather or an accelerated erosion of numbers due to climate change I know not; true, it`s only mid-May and there is still time for some migrants to arrive, we shall see... On the rarity front we`ve had an early influx of Alpine Swifts and Serins, a Night Heron, several Black-winged Stilts and a Short-toed Treecreeper to keep the twitchers happy; but I`d like think that there is still time for the likes of an over-shooting Bee-eater, Black Kite or Purple Heron to come or perhaps a tasty wader, if the water levels on the bird reserve ever recede. 

Thursday 11 May 2023

Turtle Doves and Nightingales

 Warm, dry and sunny, W2 - Day two guiding for Mark and Maria commenced on the Marsh searching for farmland birds with a singing Corn Bunting along Caldecote Lane, Lydd a good start. The Dowels near Kenardington duly delivered the surprise of the morning in the form of a Red Kite being mobbed by corvids near the railway crossing. The target bird here was Turtle Dove with plenty of `purring` and good views of up to five birds perched and in flight along the lane, alongside several other local birders who also had the same idea (Dave, Colin and Linda). A singing Nightingale went unseen in thick scrub in contrast to some showy Yellowhammers, while Cuckoo, Sparrowhawk, Common Buzzards, Bullfinch, Blackcap, Common and Lesser Whitethroats and Cetti`s Warbler were all noted. Moving onto Orlestone Forest where the highlights were five more Nightingales, two Garden and Willow Warblers and another Turtle Dove. On the way back to the coast we checked out several former sites for Tree Sparrows without any luck.

                                  Yellowhammer and Turtle Dove, The Dowels

                                 Yellow Wagtail, Swallows and Corn Bunting, Scotney

The afternoon was spent at Scotney where we walked out to the ruined cottage searching for Tree Sparrows but without success; having checked a number of their former haunts across the Marsh this spring, and drawn a blank at every one, they seem to have fallen off a cliff edge. However, we did see up to 20 Yellow Wagtails, including a Channel type male, two Corn Buntings, 10 Skylarks, two Ravens and a Peregrine. The front fields and lakes were very quiet. We finished the two day bird tour on 94 species. 

Tuesday 9 May 2023

Quiet Times

Warm, dry, cloudy, W2 - Spent the day guiding for Mark and Maria commencing at the point where nothing much was happening on the sea during a half hour watch, apart from a dozen Gannets and three Common Scoter through. On the land we eventually located a smart male Black Redstart on the power station along with a Peregrine perched atop a pylon; Wheatear, Stonechat, Whitethroat, Meadow Pipit, Linnet and Skylark were also duly logged. Moving onto Lade bay for the incoming tide produced 150 Oystercatchers, five Ringed Plovers, six Curlews, two Bar-tailed Godwits, a Whimbrel and a Sandwich Tern.

                                   Common Gull, Burrowes

It was just as quiet around the bird reserve where the highlights were five Hobbies on the wing over Hookers reedbed and three slumped on the shingle by the bend in the access road; a few Common Terns on Burrowes (where, depressingly, all the tern rafts and islands have already been occupied by nesting Herring Gulls); a `booming` Bittern, a Cuckoo and several Marsh Harriers at Dengemarsh, plus all the common warblers around the circular trail along with a few Swifts and hirundines over and the usual breeding waders on the hayfields, including a pair of Avocets.

Monday 8 May 2023

Breeding Bird Survey

Lade - warm, dry and cloudy, W2 - A misty start to the morning soon cleared as the wind picked up, suitable weather conditions then for a thorough survey of the pits for breeding birds. The highlight was a singing Nightingale in the willow swamp, but on the deficit I could find no evidence of Cuckoo, although I did hear one last week. However, seven species of warblers held territory with a couple more of Sedge Warbler and Lesser Whitethroat than last year. On the lakes Little and Great Crested Grebes were well represented in contrast to low duck numbers, along with Linnet and Skylark on the desert. A total of 45 species were recorded breeding including Green Woodpecker, Sparrowhawk, Stonechat and Water Rail.

                                    Whitethroat, Lade

We walked Dengemarsh gully with little success apart from two Wheatears and the usual warblers, Stonechats and Linnets. The hayfields held the expected breeding wildfowl and waders while several Common Terns were over Dengemarsh lake, plus a Bar-headed Goose in the field by the farm and a Yellow Wagtail by the dung heap from the road. 

Friday 5 May 2023

Pomarine Skuas

 Dungeness - warm, dry and sunny, SW3 - 0845-1045hrs - Seawatching this morning returned to being quieter following yesterdays pulse of Pomarine Skuas. However, several more did move through before I arrived and I manage to see a single Pom pass the buoy at a reasonable distance at 1030hrs. Otherwise it was very poor fare with just a few terns, two Med Gulls, eight Shelducks, a Red-throated Diver and several inbound Swallows. A Short-toed Treecreeper discovered in a private garden on the Estate proved to be typically elusive.

                                   Ted settling in for a seawatch

Yesterday an early morning circuit of the farmland to the north of NR produced a smart male Whinchat by the old farm and a Yellow Wagtail over. In the evening a funnel of 30 Swifts over Folkestone town centre was noteworthy. This afternoon whilst working in the sun-drenched garden it was pleasing to see a few butterflies at long last: Orange Tip, Red Admiral, Speckled Wood and Holly Blue. 

Wednesday 3 May 2023


 Dungeness - cool, sunny, E5 - Guiding today for Clare and Peter from London commenced with an obligatory one hour seawatch from the hide where there was, yet again, very little happening by Dungeness standards for early May. That said we did manage a superb close Black-throated Diver, 30 distant Bar-tailed Godwits, 50 Common Scoters, five Sandwich and four Common Terns, eight Whimbrels, eight Shelducks, a Fulmar, 12 Dunlins and two Sanderlings. On the land we rounded up the usual Common and Lesser Whitethroats, Stonechats, Linnets, Meadow Pipits, seven Wheatears, a Peregrine and a Kestrel.

                                 Early Purple Orchid, Dungeness

                                 Glossy Ibis, hayfields

The rest of the day was spent on the bird reserve where the highlight was at least seven Hobbies hawking flying insects over Dengemarsh that were our first of the year. A pulse of 20 Swifts moved over the Boulderwall fields and all three species of hirundines were noted over the ARC where a pair of Avocets appear to have taken up residence. The hayfields held the expected Shelducks, Shovelers, Lapwings and Redshanks, plus the Glossy Ibis pair, while around the main trail the usual warblers, Reed Buntings, Linnets and a Bittern where in good voice. A Brown Hare and a Hairy Hawker dragonfly were also noted from the return trail. A total of 76 species were logged through the day, despite the buffeting easterly which pick up during the afternoon.

Monday 1 May 2023

Lydd Heronry

All Saints, Lydd - warm, dry and cloudy N2 - The weather was kind this morning for the Mayday opening of the church tower to observe the heronry at close quarters - or spy on what the neighbours have been building in their back gardens in Lydd! The views into four heron nests situated in Holm Oaks on the corner of Dennes Lane were, as usual, unparalleled; likewise the views from the White Cliffs around to Hastings Country Park and across the Marsh landscape to the Low Weald and back to Dungeness. Having made two visits on the ground this spring I estimate there to be at least 28 active Grey Heron nests and at least six Little Egrets. Thanks are due to Pat and Les Carter for organising this annual event.

                                 Grey Heron adult

                                  Grey Heron `branchers`


                                  Scotney pits

                                 Lydd pits and Cheyne Court wind farm