Lade - warm, dry and cloudy, w 2-4 - Spent the morning on the local patch surveying the breeding birds. Despite the cold, windy May most of the warblers appear to have done well with fledged Reed and Sedge Warblers and Common Whitethroats the most noticeable. There was very little Cuckoo activity this spring and I doubt that they bred; talking to several of the local dog-walkers the last they were heard was three weeks ago. On the plus side both species of grebes had juveniles on the water (or on their backs) in amongst the flowering water weed, while Coot and Mallard young were everywhere alongside hundreds of post-breeding Pochards and Tufted Ducks, Mute Swans and a brood of Egyptian Geese. My first Great White Egret of summer joined five Little Egrets around south lake. At least 20 Black-tailed Skimmers were warming up on the shingle causeway between the two lakes where several Emperors were on patrol. The butterfly transect was a big improvement on my last visit with 23 Marbled Whites and two Essex Skippers the highlights.
The wind picked up through the morning and by the time we got to Dungeness it was pleasantly cool. There was nothing happening at the Patch but a large mixed flock of gulls on the beach just down from the hide attracted at least 20 Mediterranean and 50 Black-headed Gulls. A Black Redstart showed briefly along the power station wall while a family of Meadow Pipits were far more obliging. All was quiet on the bird reserve with a steady trickle of Sand Martins and two Swifts over Burrowes, plus three Common Terns, two Little Ringed Plovers and all the usual wildfowl and gulls. Turning out of the access road I watched a large Mink cross the Lydd road and disappear into Boulderwall fields.
Early in the week we had to go up country which gave me the opportunity to visit one of my old haunts at Tring Reservoirs. When I was a nipper my mate and I used to cycle over from Maple Cross for a birdwatching day (there was no such thing as `birding` back in the 1960`s!) sustained by Mars bars, Smith`s crisps and banana and brown sugar sandwiches, all washed down with Tizer - how we never developed type 1 diabetes is a mystery to me! Anyhow, a circuit of Wilstone brought back many memories of yesteryear, which now has a shiny new hide overlooking Drayton Bank. Today, Red Kites are pretty much omnipresent soaring over the adjacent Chiltern Hills, while Little Egrets fish the reservoir margins, a scenario that would have been unthinkable back in the days when the Observer`s Book of Birds and Charles Frank binoculars were de rigueur!