Friday 30 June 2023

Marbled Whites

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.

                                  Black-tailed Skimmer

                                 Marbled White
                                  Meadow Pipit, Dungeness

                                  Old light at Dungeness getting some TLC

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.

                                 Drayton Bank, Wilstone Reservoir

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! 

Sunday 25 June 2023

Bits and pieces

 Hot, dry and sunny, SW3 - We`ve spent the weekend out and about locally with Ted in tow. An early morning trip down to Littlestone along the foreshore delivered scores of beached jellyfish, a couple of passing Sandwich Terns and two Ringed Plovers. The verge by the sea wall in front of the golf links still had hundreds of Pyramidal Orchids in flower, most of which were well past their best, while it was good to see several Marbled Whites on the wing. Visits to Dungeness and Lade yielded very little apart from more Marbled Whites, plus the usual breeding birds and a Little Stint from Hanson hide where the habitat is in prime condition for the return wader passage, more of which anon no doubt.... Lade north was full of Pochard (260), grebes and Coots feeding amongst the pond weed.

                                  Pyramidal Orchids, Littlestone

                                 Sea Holly, Littlestone

                                  Jellyfish, Aurelia aurita

                                  Ted on the beach

The garden moth trap has been delivering a fair selection of moths of late with Treble Brown Spot new for the site last night.

                                  Peppered Moth


                                  Treble Brown Spot

Thursday 22 June 2023

Sedge Warblers

Hot, dry and overcast, light airs - We appear to have moved into summer mode of late with the wind relenting and temperatures up into the 20`s during the afternoons, and staying muggy through the night, which is great news for moth activity. Tramping around the local farmland this past week there has been a noticeable increase in Sedge Warblers with at least three more singers joining the two established pairs, both of which are now feeding young; I also heard a few more Sedges elsewhere around the bird reserve and at Lade recently. The welcome rainfall of last weekend has resulted in a surge of plant growth, including fields of linseed and peas that are now in full flower. Butterfly numbers have also picked up with a number of Small Tortoiseshells, Red Admirals and even a few Painted Ladies on the wing along the sewer margins.

                                  Sedge Warbler, New Romney

                                 Elephant Hawk-moth

                                  Obscure Wainscot

                                 L-album Wainscot

Visits to the bird reserve this week have yielded a male Red-footed Falcon yesterday from the access road feeding on flying insects over the shingle, much to the annoyance of passing Lapwings and a pair of Ringed Plovers! The falcon turned up on Tuesday where it showed mostly on the hayfields before moving to the shingle on Wednesday and eventually onto the Dungeness estate behind Jarman`s cottage this afternoon. The lakes are packed out with eclipse ducks; mainly Mallard, Gadwall, Pochard and Tufted Duck along with a few Teal, Shoveler and a Garganey on ARC this morning. The shingle islands are attracting breeding Little Ringed and Ringed Plovers, plus hundreds of post-breeding Lapwings. Also noted recently a Green Sandpiper on the Denegmarsh flood yesterday; three Spoonbills on Burrowes and a lone Common Tern on ARC today.    

Friday 16 June 2023

Canadian Pond Weed

Lade - Hot, dry and sunny, NE 2 - On my last visit to the local patch I noticed that the Canadian Pond Weed (Eloden canadensis) was beginning to flower on the surface of the lakes. It is an invasive species that last flowered here five years ago, and when it did back then the results were spectacular with a huge influx of water birds attracted to feed on the floating matting, that presumably supported a great deal of freshwater invertebrates and fish trapped in the weed. Already, there was a noticeable increase in Great Crested and Little Grebes, Coots, Mallards, Tufted Ducks and post-breeding Pochards taking advantage of this rich food source. A Hobby hawking insects behind north lake and a Common Sandpiper over the water were the only other noteworthy birds beside the expected breeders. A butterfly transect along the main footpath from the bridge to Kerton Road quarry, in near perfect weather conditions, produced a very low count: Common Blue 4, Small Heath 2, Small Copper 2, Small Skipper 1, Small Tortoiseshell 1, Red Admiral 1. A couple of Pyramidal Orchids were also noted along the route in the parched, crisp-brown ground vegetation. The garden moth trap continues to lure in a few goodies with Delicate and Miller yesterday morning.

                                  Spawning Carp, Lade pits

                                 Lade Desert - butterfly transect

                                  Pyramidal Orchid


King Wood - Yesterday evening along with Ted and Chris P we headed over to Challock for a stroll around the forest in fine, still weather conditions. It had been four years since our last visit and much had changed with most of the southern section of the wood maturing fast and not particularly suitable for our quarry - Nightjars. However, we did hear a `churring` bird towards the northern part of the forest, while back at the car park two birds performed close to the road over a sweet chestnut plantation just after 2130hrs. Also noted during our walk through the trees were several calling Tawny Owls, two Common Buzzards, singing Treecreeper and Firecrest, a Redpoll over and several bats flying along the rides.

Wednesday 14 June 2023

Black-winged Stilts

 Hot, dry and sunny, NE 2 - A guided walk for eight RSPB guests around the circular walk this morning was memorable for a pair of Black-winged Stilts that flew in from the south, low over our heads calling, before heading inland and eventually settling on Burrowes where they could be seen from Firth lookout. The hayfields had mostly dried out in the recent heat wave (no rain for over a month) with only two each of Shelduck, Oystercatcher, Lapwing and Redshank present on a large puddle at the Dengemarsh end, plus a pair of Yellow Wagtails. Two Cattle Egrets were following the cows behind Hookers where Marsh Harrier, Buzzard (being mobbed by a Raven) and Bearded Tits were noted. Along the route we had good views of Common Whitethroat, Sedge Warbler, Reed Bunting and Linnet, while Reed and Cetti`s Warblers and Lesser Whitethroat were less obliging. Also noted: Dabchick on the dipping pond; two Common Terns and three Little Egrets on Dengemarsh; four Avocets, Ringed Plover, Oystercatcher, another Common Tern and a flyover, calling Spotted Redshank on Burrowes, where Common, Herring and Lesser Black-backed Gulls all had young in the nest along with a nesting Black-headed Gull. Post breeding dispersal was apparent on Burrowes with hundreds of moulting Pochards and Tufted Ducks. Only a handful of grassland butterflies were noted along the way, plus plenty of damselflies around the wetlands and a few Four-spotted Chasers and Emperor dragonflies. 

                                 Common Gull with chicks, Burrowes

                                 Beautiful Hook-tip

The garden moth trap continues to be of interest with Beautiful Hook-tip and Mullein Wave of note, and `hundreds of Green Oak Tortix still coming to light..

Sunday 11 June 2023

Garden Moths

Friday - warm, dry and sunny, NE 3 - Spent most of the morning surveying the local patch and Kerton Road quarry for breeding birds. There were no real surprises at Lade where Dabchick, Mallard, Coot, Greylag and Mute Swan all had juveniles on the water, although I could find no sign of any Cuckoo activity for the second time in a week, so perhaps they`ve moved on... Things were much more interesting at the quarry where the barge and floating excavator have long since departed leaving most of the site to the birds. The four main islands are now well vegetated and unsuitable for nesting gulls or terns, however many pairs of Greylag and Canada Geese have moved in to exploit the cover and the proof of their success was plain to see with goslings everywhere. At least 10 pairs of Oystercatchers, four pairs of Redshanks and a pair of Ringed Plover have also nested successfully, while four Lapwings were presumably post-breeding birds from elsewhere.

                                  Honeysuckle and Ox-eye Daisy, Lade ponds

                                  Privet Hawk-moth

                                 Riband Wave                                                                  

                                  Red-necked Footman - new for the site

Saturday/Sunday - hot dry and sunny, light airs - A welcome change in the weather to humid nights and hotter days, plus a slackening of the month long blasting north-easterly, heralded some long-awaited moths in the garden trap. The highlights of 21 species were a Red-necked Footman (new for the trap site) and 45 Green Oak Tortrix. This morning we walked the margins of Long Pits where several each of Emperor, Black-tailed Skimmer and Four-spotted Chaser were on the wing amongst many more damselflies, but only a few of Small Heath, Common Blue and Small Copper in the adjacent grasslands. Birdwise, a Marsh Harrier was noted along with a calling Sandwich Tern high over the area. A check of the hayfields revealed just the usual breeding waders and ducks, plus Corn Bunting and Yellow Wagtail by Springfield Bridge. The sward on the southern side of hayfield 2 was a delight to see and full of Grass Vetchling.

                                 Grass Vetchling sward beside hayfield 2

Thursday 8 June 2023

Turtle Doves

 Warm, dry and sunny, NE 4 - Spent the morning guiding for Sandra and Nichol from Surrey. They specifically wanted to see/hear Turtle Doves (a species that has declined by 90% in the past half century) which we achieved at the Kenardington crossing on The Dowels where at least three birds were `purring` along with flight views and two perched briefly on a dead branch. Also noted in the general area: Marsh Harrier, Buzzard, Green Woodpecker, Cuckoo, Cetti`s Warbler, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Linnet and Yellowhammer, while Swamp Lane between Lydd and Old Romney yielded several Yellow Wagtails and Corn Buntings. Back at the coast on the bird reserve and from Hanson hide a variety of wildfowl included several Teal and Pochard and a pair of Shovelers, plus two Ringed Plovers, a Lapwing and a Sparrowhawk over, but not a single tern. The highlight on Hayfield 2 was a Little Ringed Plover in company with six Ringed Plovers, 12 Redshanks, two Lapwings and an Oystercatcher. Across Dengemarsh, Little and Great White Egrets, Lesser Whitethroat, Sedge Warbler, Bearded Tit, Swift, House Martin, Kestrel, Hobby, Cuckoo and Marsh Harrier were all logged to combine a total of 72 species for the morning, not including the `exotic` on a gate along Dennes Lane, Lydd!

                                    Peafowl, Lydd

Wednesday 7 June 2023

Bee Orchids

Lade - warm, dry and sunny, NE 4 - There doesn`t seem to be an end in sight to the stiff north-easterly that`s been blowing cool air across the south-east for weeks now. As a result very few butterflies have been seen on the wing so far this spring/early summer; this morning one of the regular transects I walk along the old railway line track produced just two Small Whites, two Common Blues and a Red Admiral, despite there being plenty of wild flowers in bloom and sheltered spots for butterflies to warm up. I spent a fair bit of time searching for Bee Orchids, locating a cluster of three and two single plants, mostly past their best now, during which time hardly any invertebrates were noted.

                                 Bee Orchid, Lade

Birdwise it was a case of a couple of Sedge Warblers and a Lesser Whitethroat singing amongst several Common Whitethroats, Blackcap, Cetti`s Warbler and a Chiffchaff, plus the more numerous Reed Warblers chugging away in the reedbeds. Greenfinch, Great Tit, Green Woodpecker, Linnet and Reed Bunting were all on breeding territories, while Mallard, Coot and Greylag Goose had young on the water, with Tufted Duck, Great Crested and Little Grebes to hopefully follow soon. 

Monday 5 June 2023


Warm, dry and sunny - Had to take Ted to the vets in Tenterden this morning, so crossed the Marsh to check on the Turtle Doves at the railway crossing where at least three birds were in song with another two perched on wires. Also present: Yellowhammer, Whitethroat, Chiffchaff and Blackcap. On the way back we called in at the bird reserve and walked down to the hayfields where at least 12 Redshanks were joined by an Avocet and a late Greenshank. A Great White Egret flew across the back of Hookers where a Marsh Harrier food pass was witnessed; otherwise it was a case of the usual suspects, plus a few Swifts moving through. Also had good views of a Weasel by the corral. More Swifts were over Lade pits and a Cuckoo was calling by the wall `mirror`. The only other recent local news concerned a Black Tern (Saturday) and a Little Stint (Sunday) on Burrowes, plus a Long-tailed Duck past the point this morning (MC).

                                   Buff Ermine and Silver Y

Over the weekend walks across the farmland around NR produced little of note. As the winds were light yesterday evening I ran the garden moth trap which attracted a paltry six species of macros this morning, probably due to the wind picking up again during the early hours. 

Friday 2 June 2023

Swifts and hirundines

Lade - cool, cloudy, NE 4 - The cool, northerly airflow shows no sign of relenting, however, it did deliver `hundreds` of House Martins, Swallows and Swifts over south lake, by far the most I`ve seen this spring, but I couldn`t find anything unusual in their midst, apart from a couple of Sand Martins. A Greylag Goose had goslings on the water along with a Coot and Mallard, while several Cuckoos were active around the willow swamp and reedbed. Moving onto a windswept Dungeness and a walk down to The Patch produced a few Black-headed Gulls over the boil and a trickle of passing Gannets further out. A flock comprising a couple of hundred of mixed gulls and Cormorants on the beach would normally harbour some terns, but not in this tern-depleted summer.

                                   Greylag with goslings, Lade

More Swifts and House Martins were swirling over ARC as we drove across the causeway road. It was a case of more of the same over Boulderwall fields where a Great White Egret, my first for a while, was sat at the far end of Cooks Pool. Plenty more feral geese goslings were on the wetlands, where Shelduck, Marsh Harrier, Kestrel, Grey Heron, Lapwing and Oystercatcher were also noted.