Tuesday 31 October 2023

Felis domesticus

Romney Salts - warm, sunshine and showers, SW3 -  My first Goldcrest of autumn heard and seen in the back garden just after dawn, along with a light overhead passage of finches was a fine start to the day. Once the rain cleared we headed down Church Lane for our Ted walk out on the arable lands, but first a check of the spinney revealed several more Goldcrests, a Chiffchaff, a Jay and about ten each of Song Thrush and Blackbird, presumably migrant birds having dropped in last night. The farmland walk out to the back of the airfield revealed more hedgerow Blackbirds and Song Thrushes, several Yellowhammers and Reed Buntings, plus small flocks of Goldfinches and Linnets. A saturated stubble field held at least 50 each of Skylark and Meadow Pipit with more trickling overhead along with a party of ten Redpolls; while Ted flushed a pair of Grey Partridges amongst a host of Red-legs and Pheasants. It was no surprise, given the recent volume of rainfall, that since my last visit a week ago the water levels in the drainage sewers across the Salts had noticeably risen. With more heavy rain forecast we could be in for some serious flooding locally over the coming week. 

                                  Romney Salts

                                  Yellowhammer, Romney Salts

However, the morning was most memorable for an encounter with a distant feline. Scanning down a broken hedgerow I noticed a large, grey-brown cat creeping furtively along an adjacent track and moving steadily away from me. I estimated it to be about 300 yards distant and through the binoculars, in the bright sunshine the contrasting dark body prompted an example of `size illusion - it looked for all the world like a `big cat`, and I could easily see how it could have been mistaken for such. Anyway, I took a few pics which confirmed that it was just that - a large domestic cat - and certainly one of the largest of the many such animals I`ve encountered in the field down the years, but all the same, food for thought...

    Domestic cat, Romney Salts

Monday 30 October 2023

Sabine`s Gull

Lade/Dungeness - mild, cloudy, showery, SW3 - We started our morning Ted walk from the bridge at Lade where a viz mig produced a light south-bound, overhead passage of mostly Meadow Pipits, Skylarks, Goldfinches and Chaffinches, plus a few Reed Buntings, Redpolls and Siskins during half an hour (0815-0845hrs). There was no change to the small numbers of wildfowl on the waters, while the drake Goldeneye from last Friday was still present on north lake. Moving onto the point where a wander around the land delivered more overhead migrants of the type logged at Lade, plus four Swallows and a Brambling. Grounded migrants were minimal with Robins the most numerous, but did include two nervy Ring Ouzels in the gorse at the southern end of the Trapping Area. After calling in at the Obs for a natter we wandered down to the Patch, more in hope than expectation, with a shingle lorry thundering up and down and a heavy shower forcing sanctuary in the hide. However, as I opened a flap, sat down and scanned along the foreshore I couldn`t believe my luck; a juvenile Sabine`s Gull flew slowly by close to shore picking up food from the breakers and pausing awhile on the sea, before drifting off west towards Penn Bars. And it seems as though we may well dip in with a few more pelagic seabirds later in the week as a deep area of low pressure is forecast to sweep in from the Atlantic and the Western Approaches bringing damaging winds and heavy rain along the Channel coastline, courtesy of named Storm Ciaran.                                         

    Sabine`s Gull, The Patch, Dungeness

                                 Goldeneye, Lade north

                                  Ted, Desert

                                  Ted, cooling off in Long Pits

Elsewhere, this past weekend we`ve been trudging the local farmland without seeing very much apart from large flocks of gulls on the arable lands, mostly Black-headed, Common and Mediterranean Gulls, plus small numbers of Skylarks, Meadow Pipits and Reed Buntings. In the hedgerows along the lane singles of Chiffchaff and Cetti`s Warbler have been heard together with a few Robins, but still no sign of any winter thrushes to plunder the abundant hawthorn berries.

                                 Ditching work along the New Sewer

                                 Robin, Hope Lane

Thursday 26 October 2023

Bearded Tits

Dengemarsh - warm, dry and sunny, SW3 - Once the early morning rain had cleared it turned into a fine autumn day, ideal for a long Ted walk around Dengemarsh taking in the reserve and the arable lands across Manor Farm. Whenever I hear the metallic pinging call of a Bearded Tit it always transports me back to my Navy days sitting in a Sonar Control Room listening to the ASDIC ping of a transponder seeking out a submarine - funny how the mind works at times! However, I digress, back to Bearded Tits, surely one of our most handsome birds, yet frustrating too being denizens of reedbeds where they`re more often heard than seen, but not so much at this time of year when they tend to group together, prior to dispersal and seeking out new territories. This morning I saw three different parties during our circular walk, two by the pump and one at Hookers near the grit tray; and let us not forget with less than a thousand pairs nationally, still something of a rarity. Also from the ramp I had a brief sighting of my first Ring Ouzel of autumn in the gorse scrub opposite along with several Robins and Goldcrests. Elsewhere, across the wetlands: two Bitterns (flight views), three Great White Egrets, four Marsh Harriers, a Kingfisher, six Cetti`s Warblers and two Water Rails calling, 30 Teal and 10 Lapwings (hayfields) and Reed Buntings everywhere. While the farmland tracts were quieter, Ted managed to flush two migrant Song Thrushes from a turnip field, where small numbers of Pied Wagtail, Skylark, Meadow Pipit, Goldfinch and two each of Kestrel and Corn Bunting were logged, plus a pair of Ravens `cronking` loudly over the pylons at the end of the walk.

    Bearded Tit, Dengemarsh

Tuesday 24 October 2023


Romney Salts - warm, dry and sunny, SW 2 - Cracking late autumn weather, and ideal for a walkout from home across the Salts with Ted, one of his favourites. Considering the lateness of the season the main event avian wise was a notable passage of hirundines with 10 Swallows and four House Martins pausing to feed on flying insects over the dung heap, plus 30 more Swallows across an adjacent rape-seed field. Otherwise it was fairly uneventful with the scrub around the dung heap and arable lands either side of the green lane to Lade north attracting at least 30 Reed Buntings, 20 Goldfinches, 10 Robins and 10 Chaffinches, along with a scattering of Meadow Pipits, Pied Wagtails and Skylarks, five Stonechats, four Yellowhammers, two Corn Buntings, two Kestrels and a Common Buzzard; while Ted flushed a dozen Red-legged Partridges and two Common Snipe from the corner of a stubble field. The warm sunshine encouraged a few Red Admirals and Migrant Hawkers onto the wing in various sun traps, and a Hummingbird Hawk-moth was on the garden salvia this afternoon.  

                                 Common Hawthorn, Romney Salts

                                 Grey Poplar, Church Lane Spinney

                                  Reed Bunting, Lade north

                                 Ted on the Salts

                                  Hummingbird Hawk-moth

Elsewhere since my last post our Ted walks have taken us to Dungeness foreshore for two very poor seawatches; two visits to Lade where there was little of note apart from a flyover Lapland Bunting last Friday and hardly any wildfowl; and St Mary`s Bay where a trickle of common passage migrants passed overhead and a male Kestrel flew in off the sea and settled atop a bush. Although most of our Kestrels are resident, here in the south-east corner of England we sometimes receive autumnal migrants from the near continent and this may have been one such bird as it appeared to be very weary and reluctant to fly, despite people walking nearby.

                                  Kestrel, St Mary`s Bay

                                  Ted, Lade

                                  Ted, Dungeness

Thursday 19 October 2023


Lade - mild, sunny, S 3 - Once the rain had cleared it turned into a beautiful afternoon of weather, ideal for a circuit of the local patch with Ted where the highlight was several Goldcrests in the willow scrub by the ponds. This part of the site is a notable sun trap with plenty of butterflies and dragonflies still on the wing and the crests would have had no problem fuelling up on small insects and spiders after their nocturnal wanderings. Two Great White Egrets were on the far side of south lake while a couple of Swallows skimmed over the water, dipping down for a quick drink, before hurrying south and a Channel crossing.

                                  Migrant Hawker, Lade ponds

                                  Red Admiral, Lade ponds

                                  Beached Razorbill, Dungeness

Several more outward bound Swallows were also noted when we moved onto Dungeness for a walk along the foreshore between the lifeboat station and the fishing boats, and where a sickly looking Razorbill cut a sorry sight slumped on the shingle beach. Apparently, there have been others beached along the south coast of late, whether or not they`re victims of avian flu or `wrecked` from the latest named autumn storm is unknown. An hour seawatching from the boats with the locals produced very little apart from a flock of 20 odd Gannets and two Red-throated Divers feeding offshore, plus 10 Sandwich Terns, one Common Tern, five Little Gulls and four Common Gulls west. Indeed, the highlight of the `seawatch` was the German three-masted training schooner, Thor Heyerdahl, passing down-Channel under sail, a magnificent sight.  

    Thor Heyerdahl (TS G342)

Wednesday 18 October 2023


Dungeness RSPB - cool, cloudy, E4 - Birding can be a funny old game, take this morning for example. The weather app predicted a brisk wind rattling in from the east with scudding clouds and the ever present threat of rain; far from ideal conditions then for a guided walk for 12 people around the circular trail of the bird reserve. However, nothing ventured, nothing gained and after a brief intro we headed for Dennis`s hill to scan the top end of Burrowes where the highlights were 50 Golden Plovers, 100 Lapwings and six Dunlins on the islands, plus all the usual wildfowl including a pair of Shelducks. Small charms of Goldfinches tinkled overhead along with a trickle of Skylarks, Chaffinches, Meadow Pipits, Linnets and Reed Buntings that continued throughout the morning. Moving onto the return trail and Robins were everywhere ticking away from cover; there had obviously been an overnight fall alongside an increase in Wrens. Several Chiffchaffs and Cetti`s Warblers were noted, a Swallow pushed on south and we had great views of several Marsh Harriers, Kestrel and Common Buzzard. From the ramp overlooking Hookers both Bearded Tit and Kingfisher showed briefly, while a flock of 12 Great White Egrets flew over Boulderwall fields towards the ARC. Another two `resident` Great Whites were seen from Dengemarsh hide, a Cattle Egret on the hayfields and two distant Ravens along the pylons. Just before Scott lookout around 100 Meadow Pipits broke cover, a Grey Plover flew over calling and a mixed flock of tits in the sallows held a few Long-tailed Tits and my first Goldcrests of autumn. The Makepeace end of Burrowes delivered good views of a redhead Goldeneye, flocks of Shovelers and Teals and loads more Lapwings. We finished at Firth washout, just as the rain started, and where 25 close Dunlins scurried around on the sands, in contrast to two distant Spoonbills asleep on an island.   

    Robin from the Return Trail

                                  Great White Egret from Dengemarsh

                                  Goldeneye from Makepeace

                                 Dunlins from Firth

So, an above average October outing then with a particularly wide variety of species noted including egrets, raptors, waders, wildfowl and passerines. I`m not much of a lister. but couldn`t resist a quick tally up - 65 species, not too shabby for only three hours in the field!

Monday 16 October 2023

Short-toed Treecreeper

Lade - cool, cloudy, dry, E 3 - After a weekend seeing very little during our Ted walks around New Romney (apart from my first two Bramblings of autumn and a steady passage of Chaffinches on Saturday) this morning it was off to the local patch to count wildfowl. Migrant wise it was very quiet with just a few Goldfinches, Siskins, Meadow Pipits and Skylarks trickling overhead, plus a couple of grounded Chiffchaffs and a Wheatear to break the monotony. And then news came through on the local Whatsapp group that Owen L had heard and briefly seen a treecreeper of the Short-toed variety (based on its distinctive Coal Tit-like call) at the top end of the Trapping Area. As we were just over the road, so`s to speak, we sauntered across in perfect time as the bird settled into a strategically erected mist net. It was then processed at the Obs confirming its identity by a combination of bare part biometrics and plumage details, including the brownish flanks, pale lower mandible and even pattern of the zig-zag markings on the wing bar edge, as depicted below. Thanks are in order to David Walker for explaining such and to the finder Owen Leyshon.   

                               Short-toed Treecreeper, Dungeness Bird Observatory

As we walked back through the Trapping Area the warmth from the sun delivered a flush of butterflies onto the wing, mostly Small Coppers and Red Admirals; and for one eagle-eyed observer a Long-tailed Blue (JTM). 

                                 Small Copper, Trapping Area

    Ted having a drink in Long Pits

Friday 13 October 2023

Sooty Shearwaters

Lade - warm, overcast, showery, SW5 - A blustery, yet very mild (21C) morning for our Ted walk around the local patch. As we approached south lake the bay Curlew flock was en-route to their roost on the desert where I counted 320 birds, which was very much a minimum count as some were already on the shingle, along with singles of Whimbrel, Grey Plover and Black-tailed Godwit. Most of the ducks on the lake were at the south end hugging the shoreline, sheltering from the strong wind; the highlights being 350 Shovelers and 120 Gadwalls. A Swallow nipped over the water, a Wheatear clung onto a wire fence and several Chiffchaffs called from the willow swamp. 


                                 Curlews coming to roost, Lade desert

                                 Shovelers, Lade south

                                 Great White Egrets, Lade

    Big sea off Dungeness

    Ted, seawatching hide

We then moved onto Dungeness where a big sea was running up-Channel out of the Western Approaches, ideal weather conditions then for seabirds on the move with good numbers of large shearwaters being reported further west. Ted had only been in the seawatch hide twice before, and when there was only one other person present, so I was keen to see how he would react with four locals in and loads of noise from the waves crashing on the beach. Well, I`m pleased to report that all went well and he soon settled down for snooze on a foam mat under the ledge. As for the seabirds, the one hour I was present (1030-1130hrs) delivered hundreds of Gannets, auks and Kittiwakes, mostly well offshore, plus several each of Arctic Skua, Little Gull, Sandwich Tern, Common Scoter, two Sooty Shearwaters and singles of Red-throated Diver and Mediterranean Gull. Much more was noted before we arrived and I`m sure Martin C will post the numbers on Trektellen later.

Tuesday 10 October 2023

Red Admirals

Romney Salts - warm, dry and sunny, SW 3 - For this morning`s Ted walk we went south out of town across the arable lands towards Belgar Farm, across to Lade north before returning home via the dung heap track and along Church Lane. One of the determining factors of the hike was that it covered the area where yesterdays Black Stork was last seen, of which there was no sign. However, we did have a five minute view of the juvenile Pallid Harrier quartering the field margins near the golf course before it disappeared towards Lydd. That said there was little else to see apart from a scattering of Skylarks, Meadow Pipits and Linnets and even fewer Reed Buntings and Yellowhammers. Game cover near the speedway track attracted 20 Goldfinches and 50 Linnets while a Yellow Wagtail flew over heading south, which will probably be my last of the year. Kestrel, Common Buzzard and Marsh Harrier were also noted along the way. 

                                 Ted enjoying the wide open spaces

This summer has been one of the best I can remember for Red Admirals; they have simply been everywhere, often in large numbers, and today was no different. I counted around 50 butterflies feeding on ivy flowers in the lee of a sheltered hedgerow along Church Lane around midday and many others fluttering over the fields, along with a dozen or so Migrant Hawker dragonflies. The Red Admiral is a partial migrant and we often see them returning south over the waves when seawatching at Dungeness, a seemingly incongruous undertaking for such a fragile creature.

                                  Red Admirals on ivy blooms

Monday 9 October 2023

White-tailed Eagle

 West Sussex - warm, dry and sunny, SW 3 - We spent the weekend based at our Kate`s in Rustington during which time I did three early morning viz migs of an hour each on the beach at West Kingston. The overhead passage comprised a steady trickle of Meadow Pipits and Pied Wagtails heading west along with a few Skylarks, Goldfinches, Chaffinches, Grey Wagtails and, this morning, Redwings, about 100 in total and my first of the autumn. Along the foreshore Turnstones and Oystercatchers were common place, plus a flock of 20 Ringed Plovers and two Sanderlings yesterday.

                                  White-tailed Eagle

                                 Fallow Deer
                                  Tussock grasses

                                  The Brooks viewed from Rackham Woods

                                 Water Vole channel

                                 River Arun from Greatham Bridge

    Old barn, Amberley Wild Brooks

Amberley Wild Brooks - On Sunday I spent the day on the Brooks, a superb wetland area in the Arun flood plain nestled beneath the South Downs, that I last visited in the winter when the Wey South Path between Amberley and Greatham Bridge was flooded and virtually impassable, but not so yesterday. Raptors were much in evidence with six species noted including a superb White-tailed Eagle from the Isle of Wight reintroduction scheme that had two Red Kites in close attendance as the eagle flew between its favoured oak tree perches out in the Brooks. Another two kites were noted elsewhere along with several Common Buzzards and Kestrels and singles of Sparrowhawk and Marsh Harrier. The carr woodland held a flock of 30 Siskins, 20 Goldfinches, several Jays, Treecreepers, Chiffchaffs, Blackcaps and Cetti`s Warblers. The open fields were alive with grounded Meadow Pipits, Skylarks, Linnets and Reed Buntings, while the drainage ditches held Little Egrets, Grey Herons, at least one Great White Egret and a Water Vole sighting, a critter I haven`t seen for ages. At the other extreme of the mammal spectrum, Fallow Deer were everywhere, I must`ve seen well over hundred animals. Also had distant views of 30 odd White Storks soaring high overhead from the nearby Knepp Estate. In the afternoon I walked the woodlands at Rackham where a range of arboreal birds included Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Jay, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Nuthatch, Treecreeper, Goldcrest, Long-tailed Tit and a smart Firecrest. From the various viewpoints I had further views of the eagle out on the Brooks. A cracking days birding, and I only met one other birder all day!