Thursday 31 August 2023

Sandwich Terns

Dungeness - cool, cloudy, showers, SE 3 - Spent the day guiding for Clare and Peter from London. We started at the point in dry weather connecting with a perched Sparrowhawk on the old experimental station fence line and a Peregrine on the power station. Grounded migrants were few and far between apart from Common Whitethroats, two Lesser Whitethroats and several Stonechats. Moving onto Lade where the bay delivered a couple of hundred Sandwich Terns from the Tavern viewpoint, plus 100 Mediterranean, 50 Black-headed and 20 Common Gulls, several Sanderlings, a Grey Plover and pulses of south bound Swallows. Next stop Lade pits and all three species of hirundines and a Swift were on the move over the willow swamp and where we had superb views of a flock of warblers by the ponds; particularly Lesser and Common Whitethroats, Willow Warblers and Chiffchaff. As it was high tide a check of the Kerton Road pit delivered a roosting flock of 500 Oystercatchers and 150 Sandwich Terns, providing a fine spectacle along with three Black-tailed and two Bar-tailed Godwits and a variety of gulls and geese.

                                  Sandwich Terns, Kerton Road.

                                  Roosting Oystercatchers

                                  Black-tailed Godwits, Kerton Road

                                 Great White Egret, ARC

Throughout the afternoon the rain showers came so we sought sanctuary on the bird reserve. Burrowes was quiet due to ongoing grass-clearing on the islands while three Cattle Egrets showed well amongst the cows at Boulderwall fields by Cooks Pool. The ARC from Hanson hide is still the best spot on the RSPB and where we noted a Raven over and plenty of common wildfowl and waders including a Spotted Redshank, a Little Ringed Plover and two each of Golden Plover and Common Sandpiper amongst hundreds of Lapwings, 15 Ringed Plovers and 12 Dunlins; surely Little Stints and Curlew Sandpipers can`t be far away... We finished the day with an obligatory seawatch from the hide in driving rain where 50 or so close Sandwich Terns drifted by along with an attendant Arctic Skua,  plus several Gannets further out. 71 species were logged through the day, the highlights being good views of the terns and waders at Kerton Road, plus the Lade warbler flock. 

Monday 28 August 2023

Drift Migrants

 Lade - warm, dry and cloudy, NW 2 - End of August is nearly always a good time of year for migrants drifting south along the coast and this morning was no exception with plenty of common warblers such as Whitethroats and Blackcaps filtering through the dry scrub. Around the ponds a Spotted Flycatcher was noted along with two cracking Lesser Whitethroats and a few Willow and Reed Warblers and more Blackcaps, while on the Desert two Whinchats, several Wheatears and a Stonechat were present. On south lake the second Black-necked Grebe of autumn, this one still in its nuptial plumage, kept well out in the middle amongst numerous Great Crested and Little Grebes, diving ducks and Coots. The small island at the south end attracted an adult Black-tailed Godwit, which is unusual here due to a shortage of such habitat, unlike a Common Sandpiper that happily foraged along the main track margin. Also noted this morning a Sparrowhawk, two Mediterranean Gulls on north, three Little Egrets and a trickle of calling Yellow Wagtails over unseen. Elsewhere, this Bank Holiday weekend has produced a sprinkling of warblers, chats, starts, flycatchers, a Wryneck and a party of Crossbills across Dungeness; several Black Terns on Burrowes and a Blue-headed Wagtail at Boulderwall; and an Osprey at Camber/Jury`s Gap. 

                                 Whinchat, Desert

                                  Black-tailed Godwit, south lake

                                 Black-necked Grebe (in silhouette!) south lake

                                 Goldfinch, NR

Late yesterday afternoon I checked the bay from the Tavern viewpoint where eight species of waders included 50 Knot, 20 Sanderling and 10 Ringed Plovers. About 100 Sandwich and 30 Common Terns briefly attracted a roving Arctic Skua. Early morning walks this weekend across the farmland north of New Romney continued to produce plenty of feeding Swallows and Yellow Wagtails, parties of Goldfinches, a few warblers in the hedgerows, a Kingfisher on the New Cut and a flock of around 100 Mediterranean Gulls on the Hope Lane turf field. 

Friday 25 August 2023


Lade - warm, dry and sunny, NW 3 - It was something of a relief to feel a fresh breeze out of the north this morning clearing away the humidity and thunderstorms of yesterday. A circuit of the local patch confirmed a clear-out of wildfowl since Monday`s visit with Pochard and Coot numbers down to around a more normal 300 and 200 respectively. Many of the grebe chicks had noticeable increased in size, testimony to the abundance of fish on offer, while two Common Sandpipers flitted around the margins of south lake. On the migrant front a few Swallows and Sand Martins pulsed through and several Common Whitethroats, Willow and Reed Warblers were present in cover by the ponds. Scanning from the bridge I picked up what at first I thought to be a large raptor drifting in from the south, but as it approached it morphed into a Bittern which then flew over the site for a full five minutes before dropping into the main reedbed.

                                  Common Sandpiper, south lake

                                  Ted drying out after a swim

It was busy around the garden moth trap last night with another 30 species haul of macros this morning including several new for the season with Green Carpet the highlight. 

Wednesday 23 August 2023

Wood Sandpipers

 RSPB - hot, dry and sunny, light airs - A guided walk for six RSPB guests around the circular trail this morning delivered all the usual suspects including several Marsh Harriers and Great White Egrets, a Common Sandpiper, two pulses of Sand Martins through and a trickle of Yellow Wagtails overhead. We had good views of Lesser and Common Whitethroats, Willow and Reed Warblers by Hookers in the still, humid weather conditions, but the highlight was a flock of five Wood Sandpipers on hayfield 1 that showed well for 20 minutes before flying off to the south.

                                  Wood Sandpipers, hayfield 1

Tuesday 22 August 2023


Dungeness - warm, dry and sunny, SW 3 -Spent the day guiding for Steve from Maidstone. We kicked off at the point with good views of the Peregrine family around the power station where one of the juveniles was tucking into what looked like a Feral Pigeon. The bushes were almost devoid of birds apart from a few Stonechats, several Willow Warblers, a Common Whitethroat and two Wheatears at the back of the Moat. A Kestrel was noted while a trickle of Yellow Wagtails passed high overhead calling and mostly unseen, here and elsewhere across the peninsula throughout the day. Moving onto the bird reserve where three Cattle Egrets followed the suckling herd on Boulderwall fields alongside several Little Egrets and Grey Herons on Cooks Pool and scores of Sand Martins and Swallows hawking insects over the fields. Burrowes was largely quiet but did produce a perched Kingfisher, several Common Sandpipers, a Turnstone and a Whimbrel over amongst the usual gulls and common wildfowl. Two Marsh Harriers, Common Buzzard, Hobby and Great White Egret were noted at Dengemarsh. However, as expected the ARC from Hanson hide was the most productive part of the reserve where we had cracking close views of two Garganeys and a Glossy Ibis, plus further away two Black-tailed Godwits, five Common Sandpipers, six Golden Plovers, two Dunlin, five Ringed Plovers, four Little Ringed Plovers, a Wigeon and a Common Tern along with hundreds of Teal, Shoveler, Gadwall and Lapwings.

                                 Glossy Ibis, ARC

                                  Garganeys, ARC

Then it was back to the point for an afternoon seawatch from the fishing boats at high tide (1530-1600). Considering how poor the watches have been recently we did well jamming in on two ridiculously close Little Terns, three distant Black Terns and three mid-range Arctic Skuas chasing Sandwich Terns. We also noted  a steady stream of Gannets, 10 Common Terns, two Guillemots on the sea, five Harbour Porpoises and two Grey Seals - not too shabby for half an hour! The day tally ended with 82 species and a decent range of seabirds, herons, raptors, ducks and waders for Steve to saviour. 

Friday 18 August 2023


Lade - humid, cloudy, E 2 - A misty, murky sort of a morning with the power station barely visible in the haze to the south. However, there was a record (for me) count of 820 Pochards across both waters, the majority being on south lake, along with 510 Coots, 150 Tufted Ducks, 175 Great Crested and 42 Little Grebes, including many juveniles. I`m pretty sure that this summer`s flowering Canadian pond weed has been the main driver for the exceptionally high numbers of waterfowl over the past couple of months. There was also plenty of activity around the ponds where a Spotted Flycatcher highlighted amongst parties of Great, Blue and Long-tailed Tits and several each of Common Whitethroat, Willow, Reed and Sedge Warblers. On the Desert at least ten Wheatears were noted, plus several Skylarks and two Whinchats. Back on south lake as the rain approached `hundreds` of Sand Martins swarmed over the water as my first Kingfisher of autumn zipped along a margin.

                                  Pochards everywhere

                                  Great Crested Grebe with `Zebra`

                                  Wheatear, Desert

                                 Ted - eating something disgusting!

Wednesday 16 August 2023

Garden Moths

Warm, dry and sunny, light airs - Another cracking day of weather as summer appears to have returned. The garden moth trap was superb last night with five new for the year and over 200 moths logged of 33 species including Plumed Fan-foot, Jersey Tiger, Tree-lichen Beauty, Light Emerald and Gypsy Moth the highlights. Walking the local farmland with Ted these past two mornings has seen a noticeable drop off in passage Willow Warbler numbers, but the reed-fringed sewers continue to hold a good few Reed Warblers. The Reed Buntings seem to have moved on, while the horse paddocks have attracted small groups of Yellow Wagtails amongst the regular Pied Wagtails, plus flocks of Linnets, Goldfinches and House Sparrows with a few Yellowhammers and Greenfinches along Hope Lane.

                                  Light Emerald


                                  Gypsy Moth

                                 Jersey Tiger

                                  Elephant Hawk-moth
                                  Common Buzzard

                                  Reed Warbler

I had a couple of hours on the bird reserve around midday today where a flock of 13 Black-tailed Godwits showed well in front of Firth washout. Singles of Garganey and Wigeon were on the water with the usual dabblers and a Greenshank flew over calling. Several Yellow Wagtails were beside Cook`s Pool while the asbestos workshop roof attracted a steady flow of sunbathing Swallows and Sand Martins.

                                 Black-tailed Godwits

                                 Hirundines on the workshop roof

ARC was superb with a wide array of waders and herons on view from Hanson hide. Amongst the numerous Lapwings were six each of Dunlin and Golden Plover, ten Ringed and five Little Ringed Plovers, two Common and a Wood Sandpiper and a Black-tailed Godwit. Five Cattle Egrets were joined by singles of Great White and Little Egrets, a Glossy Ibis and to complete the suite, two Grey Herons. Also present four Mediterranean Gulls, Marsh Harrier over and several Willow Warblers in the bushes.

                                 Cattle Egrets

                                 Common and Mediterranean Gulls

Monday 14 August 2023


Dengemarsh - warm, dry and cloudy, SW4 - Following a week away it was good to get out and about early on to walk the gully with Ted. In spring the Whinchat is something of a scarcity in these parts, unlike on its return passage when small numbers turn up along the coastal scrub throughout August and September with the ranges, and particularly Galloways, being the favoured area. This morning two birds were noted at the top of the gully near the bird reserve along with up to ten Wheatears scattered along the watercourse down to the sea. Also present, several Common Whitethroats and Willow Warblers, a Blackcap and a Lesser Whitethroat, a Kestrel and a Common Buzzard. A walk around to the hayfields (mostly dry) produced a few Yellow Wagtails, Reed Warblers and a family party of Bearded Tits by the pump, while more Yellow Wagtails were on Dengemarsh Road by the farm. 

                                  Bearded Tit


As already mentioned we`ve been away for a week, in deepest Oxfordshire at the Cropredy music festival, and it was interesting to ponder on a few avian differences to the Marsh. For example, Red Kites were regularly seen in the air over the camp site, while House Martins were abundant with plenty nesting in the village and feeding overhead; one morning I counted around 200 hawking for insects along a railway embankment. On Wednesday morning, following heavy overnight rain Willow Warblers were numerous, calling from cover and even flitting openly amongst the tents and caravans. More were seen and heard along the Oxford canal later in the morning with several actually hunting insects atop the barges! A few Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs and Common Whitethroats were also present along the cut, plus Kingfisher and Grey Wagtail. Returning to camp late one night a Hedgehog was seen on the camping field, and one of the locals said that it was not unusual to see half a dozen snuffling around searching for food. And as for my musical highlights, an eclectic mix of Nile Rodgers & Chic, Fisherman`s Friends, 10cc, Green Diesel, Toyah, Beans on Toast and, of course, Fairport Convention closing the festival on Saturday evening.

Monday 7 August 2023

Passage warblers

 Lade - warm, dry and sunny, NW 2 - After a wet and windy weekend it felt good to feel the return of the sun this morning, which brought forth a decent flush of butterflies from grassland species such as Marbled Whites and Common Blues (most past their best) to Hedge Browns, Red Admirals and Peacocks aplenty in the shelter of the ponds and where a lone buddleia was smothered in insects. Willow Warblers are on the move in good numbers this month and have appeared not only here in the scrub, where about 20 were present around the ponds, but also lesser numbers in our garden and across farmland hedgerows. Also noted in the sallows and reedbeds this morning several each of Reed and Sedge Warblers and Common Whitethroats along with Blue and Great Tits. A Sparrowhawk soared over the willow swamp, a couple of Common Terns came and went and a Common Sandpiper flitted over south lake. There was no sign of last weeks Black-necked Grebe but still plenty of Great Crested and Little Grebes with chicks, Coots and diving ducks.

                                  Butterfly bush, Lade ponds


                                 Marbled White and Common Blue

Elsewhere over the weekend a flurry of terns on Saturday in the rain produced several Black and Arctic Terns off the fishing boats and on Burrowes (SM), while another singing Quail was reported from Caldecote Lane near Lydd yesterday (GP).

Friday 4 August 2023

Lade Quail

Lade - mild, cloudy, NW2 - A terrific morning birding the local patch with the undoubted highlight being a Quail singing intermittently from grasslands between south lake and the airport, and close enough to be included as a new bird for my site list. This one is the third locally following on from another heard near Belgar Farm yesterday evening (PB) and the St Mary-in-the-Marsh bird which is also still vocalising (CP). How many more, I wonder, are singing away undetected out on the Marsh farmland... Also noted flying over the shingle ridges out back was a fresh juvenile Marsh Harrier, my first of the summer. The wetlands were once again packed out with water fowl including over 100 Great Crested Grebes, 300 Pochards and 400 Coots making up the bulk, plus a scattering of Dabchick, Gadwall, Tufted (four broods of ducklings on south lake) Mallard and a single Black-necked Grebe, the first of autumn. A steady stream of Black-headed and Mediterranean Gulls and Common Terns came and went, while Common Sandpiper, Curlew, Common Buzzard, Green Woodpecker were also noted. A trio of Yellow Wagtails along the main track fence-line and several Willow Warblers by the ponds confirmed that migration was also underway for the passerines.

                                    Quail field, Lade

                                  Tree-lichen Beauty

Last night the humid, still and overcast weather conditions were perfect for moths and hundreds flocked to the garden light trap. It took over an hour to sift through several hundred moths of 36 species of macros (Shuttle-shaped Dart and Large Yellow Underwing each reached three figures) the highlight being two Tree-lichen Beautys.

                                 Little Ringed Plovers, Firth washout

                                 Wheatears, St Mary`s Bay

Yesterday at St Mary`s Bay a flock of five Wheatears along the sea wall was of note, plus two Grey Plovers on the beach. A visit to Hanson hide in the afternoon produced a variety of passage waders including several Common Sandpipers and Dunlins, a Ruff, a Greenshank and a Wood Sandpiper, while on Burrowes five juvenile Little Ringed Plovers showed well in front of Firth washout.

Wednesday 2 August 2023


New Romney - cool, cloudy, SW 5 - A bright and breezy morning following heavy overnight rain with the wind picking up to near gale force by noon. We walked the farmland out towards Old Romney where I`ve been keeping an eye on a Kestrel`s nest in an old poplar tree; at least three young have now fledged and were making a furious din as the female delivered what looked like a juvenile Starling to the quarrelsome trio. A brood of Green Woodpeckers had also fledged with an adult bouncing about on an adjacent turf field searching for food.

                                 Reed Bunting

                                  Ted, having just had an encounter with a Mink...

On Monday evening Chris P discovered a singing Quail in a pea field between New Romney and St Mary-in-the-Marsh, and yesterday morning we strolled over to site just after dawn to be greeted by the bird still singing away, albeit intermittently. Quails have a mysterious and highly unpredictable migratory pattern and in some years a second wave of birds, having bred earlier further south, re-migrate and turn up here to have a second brood in late summer. It may of course be just a wandering individual or even a juvenile prospecting for next year; we shall never know, of course, which in some odd way only adds to the mystique of this enigmatic gamebird. Also noted early yesterday several Willow Warblers by the old farm, a flyover Great White Egret, Corn Buntings and Yellow Wagtails in the pea field and a huge flock of Mediterranean Gulls flying towards the turf field along Hope Lane.