Sunday 26 November 2023


Dry, cloudy, cold, light airs - Today`s Ted walk took us along the rough grass in front of the golf links and back along the sea wall to St Mary`s Bay where, as it was high tide, a count of 135 Turnstones and 56 Sanderlings was noteworthy, plus several Stonechats, Skylarks and Meadow Pipits on the grasslands. The bay was flat calm with only a few close Great Crested Grebes present and distant passing Gannets and Red-throated Divers.

                                 Turnstones and Sanderlings, Littlestone

On Friday, in windy weather conditions, we had a decent count of 650 Teal and 180 Shoveler at Lade pits. Elsewhere over the weekend we`ve been trudging across the local New Romney farmland with Ted where there has been a noticeable increase in Redwings, Song Thrushes and Blackbirds along Hope Lane and on the Salts. Two Kingfishers and a Barn Owl sighting were the undoubted highlights, while Cetti`s Warbler, Grey Wagtail, Goldcrest and Chiffchaff were all located on call. Yesterday morning was cold and frosty, but once the sun reached its zenith one or two Red Admirals were on the wing in the garden. En-route to Hythe on Saturday evening a Barn Owl flew over the coast road at Dymchurch. 

                                 Red Admiral, New Romney

Wednesday 22 November 2023

Divers, grebes and egrets

Mild, dry and cloudy, N2 - A decent day of weather for a guided tour for Pauline and Richard from Folkestone commenced at the point with an obligatory seawatch from the hide where four tardy Swallows were feeding along the shoreline. The flat, calm sea with clear views across to Beachy Head delivered plenty of typical winter seabirds such as Gannets, Kittiwakes, Med Gulls, Common Scoters, Brent Geese and Red-throated Divers, while there was a melee of a couple of hundred gulls over the Patch. On the land we enjoyed good views of three Chiffchaffs in the lighthouse garden, a pair of Stonechats and a few overhead Meadow Pipits, Goldfinches and Chaffinches. Our next port of call was along the Lydd Road where, on the way in I noticed the four Glossy Ibises in the Rhea paddock, but had shifted an hour later; however, we did see eight Cattle Egrets, two Great Whites, three Grey Herons and, at Cockles Bridge, a Common Buzzard and a brown Merlin sat on a bund in a turnip field. Moving on to Scotney where the front sward produced the usual host of geese including 15 Barnacle and 10 Brents, plus a Black-necked Grebe and a Pintail at the Sussex end amongst hundreds of common ducks. On Walland Marsh we logged 19 Bewick`s Swans on a turf field opposite the model flying club, a Little Owl at Midley and several Yellowhammers and hundreds of Fieldfares, Lapwings and Starlings from the drying barns.

                                 Barnacle Geese, Scotney

                                 Brent Geese, Scotney

    Great Northern Diver, Burrowes

    Black-throated Diver, Burrowes

Back at the bird reserve we enjoyed cracking views of both Great Northern and Black-throated Divers, a Goldeneye and a drake Pintail on Burrowes, along with distant views of a Slavonian Grebe, plus all the usual wildfowl and Marsh Harriers. We ended the day at Littlestone where the Shorties failed to show, although we did see six species of waders on the foreshore. In summary a superb day`s birding for the guests with 90 species logged, the highlights being three species of divers, four species of grebes and three of egrets.

Sunday 19 November 2023


Lade - mild, cloudy, WSW 5 - The buffeting wind along with two hunting Marsh Harriers and a Common Buzzard made for difficult conditions for the monthly WeBS count as the duck flock`s swirled over the wetlands. Of note were decent counts of Teal and Wigeon in contrast to just a handful of Coot and not a single grebe as follows: Teal 325, Shoveler 210, Wigeon 110, Pochard 156, Tufted Duck 120, Gadwall 22, Mallard 15, Coot 11, Goldeneye 2. The causeway between the two lakes was flooded preventing access to the swing-bridge, while most of the wildfowl were on north lake.

                                 Pochards and Tufted Duck, Lade north

                                 Black-throated Diver, Burrowes

                                 Black Redstart, RSPB car park

Moving onto the bird reserve where there was a good turnout of birders due to the unprecedented presence of two Great Northern Divers and a single Black-throated Diver on Burrowes, plus a supporting cast of a Slavonian Grebe and the `resident` adult Little Gull. The two knuckle-headed divers were at the top of the lake and continually diving whilst I was there, while the Black-throat was far more obliging close to Dennis`s viewpoint. Whilst chatting to Stephen M in the car park a female Black Redstart posed briefly on one of the picnic tables.

This afternoon I joined Chris P for the monthly harrier count out on Walland Marsh, which did not bode well considering how windy it was. However, a total of 23 Marsh Harriers eventually settled down to roost in the reedbed along with two gorgeous male Hen Harriers, one a sub-adult, the other a full male, the former putting on a superb show. Also noted during our stakeout: two Common Buzzards, a Merlin, a Peregrine, a Raven, several Skylarks, Great White and Little Egrets and calling Water Rail and Cetti`s Warblers. As the light faded hundreds of Greylag Geese flew overhead to roost alongside seven Whooper Swans (a family party of five and a pair of adults, probably the two from ARC), but the spectacle of the watch was provided by thousands of Starlings swirling over the flatlands, hither and thither to their respective roost sites and a fantastic ending to a brilliant birding day on the Marsh.

Friday 17 November 2023

Short-eared Owls

Cool, dry and sunny, light airs - It`s been a mixed week of weather to say the least for our daily Ted walks around New Romney. A few more winter thrushes have been noted, mostly Fieldfares, and the flooded turf fields continue to attract hundreds of Black-headed, Common and Med Gulls along with a few Little Egrets, Grey Herons, Reed Buntings and Stonechats along the sewer margins. Yesterday afternoon, in a break in the rain, we walked Romney Salts looking for owls at the back of the airport, of which there was no sign, but Ted did flush a Lapland Bunting from the main track which conveniently called as it flew off; how many others were out in the stubble fields is anyone`s guess. While small numbers of Skylarks, Meadow Pipits, Blackbirds and Song Thrushes were noted along the way, the main bird bio-mass spectacle comprised flocks of over 1,000 Feral Pigeons, 500 Woodpigeons, 100 Stock Doves, 100 corvids and 500 gulls.  


                                 Ted and flooded Dungeness Desert

Visits to the bird reserve this week have yielded egrets everywhere with round 30 Cattle Egrets scattered amongst the sheep folds along the Lydd Road and opposite the golf club, and plenty of Little and Great White Egrets and the four Glossy Ibises, mostly in the heavily flooded Boulderwall fields. A guided walk on Tuesday for RSPB, in heavy rain, was pretty much a washout apart from an adult Little Gull and a very elusive Slavonian Grebe on Burrowes, where a Great Northern Diver also turned up later in the day and was still there today. A couple of visits to Dungeness to scan the sea were notable for further views of the adult Sabine`s Gull and a light passage of Brent Geese from the hide on Monday. A check of Scotney on Wednesday revealed the usual couple of thousand feral geese, Lapwings and Golden Plovers on the front sward. Late this afternoon we headed down to Littlestone golf links where at least three Short-eared Owls have taken up residence, with one showing reasonably well quartering the rough grassland just before sunset. 

Sunday 12 November 2023

Winter thrushes

New Romney - mild, overcast SE2 - Spent the weekend tramping the local farmland with Ted, north and south of the town. Yesterday the weather was superb with an early morning frost and sunshine throughout, while today it reverted to type, dull and drizzly. There was a subtle change to the birding scene as we slip into winter mode with far less overhead passage than of late, although there were some decent numbers of grounded Skylarks and Meadow Pipits about, particularly on the Salts yesterday. This morning I had my first winter thrushes of the season by Hope Lane bridge comprising a grand total of five Fieldfares and two Redwings. Several Stonechats were noted along the sewer margins, two Grey Wagtails over, a Sparrowhawk chasing Pied Wagtails in a paddock field and a couple of hedgerow Yellowhammers. The turf fields continue to attract hundreds of Black-headed, Common and Mediterranean Gulls, while Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers were noted daily..

                                 Stonechat, Hope Lane

                                 Rook, Hope Lane

                                 Ted ratting

                                 Mediterranean Gull, NR

Friday 10 November 2023

Red-breasted Mergansers

Dungeness - cool, cloudy, heavy rain, SW3 - For the third day running the winner was the rain with torrential downpours throughout the morning. En-route to the RSPB reserve I noted six Cattle and two Little Egrets in a field opposite Lydd golf club with another 20 odd Cattle and a Great White Egret in the flooded fields by Cockles Bridge. A guided walk for a U3A group from north Kent was a non-starter as nobody turned up, so I spent a couple of hours nipping between Dennis`s, the VC and Firth washout trying to keep dry and scanning Burrowes; the highlight was a pair of Red-breasted Mergansers (rare on the lakes here) that flew in and settled for about ten minutes before flying back out to sea. Three Goldeneyes, six Dunlins and an adult Little Gull were the only other birds of note, plus a count of 650 Teal. A scan from Hanson hide revealed all the islands under water and just the usual ducks, grebes and Coots.

                                   Wigeon, ARC

Thursday 9 November 2023

Arctic Tern

Dungeness - cool and cloudy, heavy showers, W3 - Following on from yesterdays deluge, this morning the rain was pretty much constant apart from a brief two hour window around midday when the sun poked through the clouds. Firstly we checked out Lade where a flock of 50 Wigeon was noteworthy, flying around the lake as though they`d just arrived. Moving onto the point and a late Swallow hurried out to sea off the lifeboat station. We walked the foreshore up to the fishing boats where the juvenile Arctic Tern was still present flying up and down the tideline along with a scattering of gulls, Cormorants and Great Crested Grebes on the water; but there was little else on the move apart from a few distant Gannets and auks. 

                                  Arctic Tern, Dungeness

                                 Ted on the turf

                                 Mediterranean Gull, Hope Lane, NR

                                 Common Gull, Hope Lane, NR

Ted has enjoyed his walks over the local turf field this week, running around and splashing in the pools of standing water like a school kid. On Tuesday in the sunshine there was around 500 gulls feeding on the field, mainly Common and Black-headed, plus a sprinkling of Mediterranean, Herring and Lesser Black-backed Gulls. 

Monday 6 November 2023

Cattle Egrets

Dengemarsh - warm, dry and sunny, W 3 - Following on from last weeks deluge the past two days have been most pleasant with sunshine throughout; however, needless to say to get anywhere in the dry welly boots are the order of the day due to the extensive flooding across the Marsh. First thing this morning our Ted walk took in the circular route around the wetlands and adjacent farmland at Dengemarsh where all three species of egrets were noted along with several Marsh Harriers, Ravens and a light overhead passage of Skylarks, Meadow Pipits, Redpolls and Chaffinches. There was plenty of activity in the reedbeds from Bearded Tits, Reed Buntings, Cetti`s Warblers and Water Rails. The arable lands delivered more larks and buntings and three tardy Swallows by Manor Farm. A roadside scan of the flooded sward at Scotney revealed up to 1,000 feral geese, mostly Greylags, 30 Barnacles and a single Brent, plus several hundred Lapwings and Golden Plovers, two Redshanks and a Ruff. A sheep field opposite Cockle`s Bridge attracted 26 Cattle Egrets, which is the largest number I`ve seen down here, and the `regular` three Glossy Ibises had been joined by a fourth bird in the Boulderwall fields where three more Swallows were seen.

                                 Flooded hayfield 3

                                  Ted loves a puddle!

    Scotney sward

    Cattle Egrets, nr Cockles Bridge
    Two of the four Glossy Ibis, Boulderwall fields

Yesterday we walked the farmland out towards St Mary-in-the-Marsh where many of the fields were flooded, none more so than the turf field along Hope Lane, attracting up to a thousand gulls, mainly Black-headed and Common, as well as at least 100 Mediterranean Gulls. Common Buzzard and Sparrowhawk were also noted, plus two Swallows, a Chiffchaff and a Cetti`s Warbler.

                                 Flooded turf field, Hope Lane, NR

                                  Blizzard of gulls

                                 New Sewer

Saturday 4 November 2023


Lade/Dungeness - Heavy rain showers, WSW 4 - The past couple of days our Ted walks have commenced at Littlestone, dipping in and out along the bay before ending up at Dungeness. All ten `regular` species of waders have been noted on the sands, although Knot and Ringed Plover took some finding; a count of 65 Turnstones at the Varne was of note yesterday. None of the storm-blown seabirds came into the bay as far as I could see, apart from an Arctic Skua today, although the visibility was dreadful due to the rain and spray over the sea. The highlight for me at the fishing boats yesterday afternoon was the westward gull passage with many Little Gulls and Kittiwakes just offshore; in all nine species were logged including hundreds of Common and Mediterranean Gulls, plus the juvenile Sabine`s Gull that has been present all week, periodically flying up and down the beach. This afternoon was spoilt by the lashing rain but I did manage to see 10 Little Gulls, three Arctic Skuas, a Bonxie and a Leach`s Petrel, plus a flyby Purple Sandpiper near the `dustbin`, courtesy of JTM. Although the petrel passage slowed up today, more were reported earlier this morning along with a few Sooty Shearwaters and a Long-tailed Skua.

                                 Little Gull off the fishing boats

                                 Arctic Skua off Dungeness

PS  - Petrel `wreck` - The pelagic fallout resulting from the recent Storm Ciaran has revealed some fascinating statistics (thanks to Martin C and David W for updating the various blogs). The main players have undoubtedly been the `wrecked` Storm and Leach`s Petrels (in unprecedented numbers for Dungeness) with 84 and 203 respectively on Thursday, nearly all heading east; followed by 44 and 57 respectively on Friday (and a few more today), mostly heading west as they re-orientated and returned to the open ocean to continue their southward migrations. Storm Petrels are thought to winter in the great Southern Ocean off South Africa, while Leach`s Petrels prefer the milder waters of the tropics, although some may winter in the north Atlantic. In contrast there was only one Grey Phalarope and two Sabine`s Gulls, and hardly any skuas and no shearwaters on the first two days, although it was good to see plenty of Little Gulls throughout as they`ve been few and far between this autumn. The wind direction on Thursday was SSW Force 10 and WSW Force 5 on Friday, which favoured `our side` of the Channel for seawatching in the shelter of the fishing boats etc, but not so on the opposite side at Cap-Griz-Nez where you have to scramble down a slippery, chalk cliff to the seawatch site! However, on Friday the locals made it down the cliffs and logged 24 Leach`s and 11 Storm Petrels, which begs the question as to how many more petrels passed through the Channel unseen during the storm in troughs and at night time; probably thousands, but we shall never know... Petrels are something of an avian enigma to most southern birders, turning up briefly after autumn storms and disappearing back to the ocean almost as quickly as they came - just how a bird the size of a sparrow can survive in one of the most hostile environments on Earth, the Southern Ocean, is a mystery to me, but in the words of Richard Dawkins that is, "the magic of reality". 

Thursday 2 November 2023

Storm Ciaran

Dungeness/Lade - mild, cloudy, W6 - Storm Ciaran barrelled up-Channel today with the strongest winds and heaviest of the rain this morning, especially around dawn; we waited for the worst of the weather to pass before venturing out on our Ted walk just before noon. A quick look at the bay on the incoming tide from the Tavern viewpoint revealed the Curlew and Oystercatcher flocks heading off to roost, while smaller numbers of Dunlin, Sanderling, Turnstone and Grey Plover lingered along the foreshore. Our next stop was the fishing boats where a big sea was running causing some large waves to break over the beach in spectacular fashion, ripping and rolling huge quantities of shingle towards the `dustbin` in front of the lifeboat station in a fearful din. 

                                 Dungeness beach

                                 Seawatching from the boats

                                 Storm clouds gathering over the Channel 

In the lee of a fishing boat we joined the regular seawatcher`s where an unprecedented (yet not entirely unexpected given the storm strength) passage of petrels was underway. While the majority were Leach`s Petrels there was also a few Stormies in the mix, a very rare bird in this part of the Channel. During my 90 minutes on site two Storm and 12 Leach`s passed east, mostly a good way out but several close enough to be viewed through binoculars. Hundreds of Gannets streamed west along with a few Brent Geese, several flocks of 30 each of Dunlins and a few Sanderlings, two Red-breasted Mergansers and an Arctic Tern offshore. Also noted before I arrived, a Grey Phalarope and the Sabine`s Gull from earlier this week (for full details of today`s seabird count see the Trektellen website later). Afterwards we checked the bay from the Lade boardwalk to see if any of the petrels had lingered, of which there was no sign, although a Merlin showed well over the beach.

      Lade Bay looking towards Dungeness

                                  Ted at Lade 

    White horses, Lade Bay