Monday 29 January 2024

Pink-footed Geese

Mild, overcast, S2 - A grim, dank morning for a circuit of Dengeamarsh with Ted where he encountered an electrified sheep fence for the first, and hopefully for him judging by his reaction, the last time! A flock of 50 Corn Buntings in a rank field at the back of Hookers was the best of the passerines that also included a few Reed Buntings, Skylarks, Pied Wagtails, Meadow Pipits, Song Thrushes and a pair of Stonechats. The flooded hayfields held hundreds of Lapwings, Shovelers, Wigeons and Teals, plus a pair of Shelducks while several Marsh Harriers, Great White Egrets and Grey Herons were noted during the walk. Back at Lydd a pause for a natter with Martin C delivered six distant Pink-footed Geese in the misty, arable fields opposite, plus 10 Golden Plovers, 20 Stock Doves and a couple of hundred Greylags. A check of the Scotney front lakes and sward revealed few feral geese, but hundreds of Golden Plovers, Lapwings and common wintering ducks. On the bird reserve the two divers remained on Burrowes.

                                 Great White Egret, Dengemarsh

                                 Pink-footed Geese in the mist, Lydd

Sunday 28 January 2024

Long-tailed Tits

 New Romney - mild, dry and sunny, SE2 - This weekend was the RSPB`s annual garden bird survey, so I spent an hour counting the birds from the kitchen window in our small, town garden. Most of the activity was on or around the feeders where 32 birds of 10 species were recorded. I was thrilled to bits when `our` regular flock of Long-tailed Tits came through whilst counting, all six of them, and as the fat ball hanger is only 10 feet from the window I managed a few half-decent pics, and what super little birds they are. There was a typical absence of finches, and whilst Goldfinches are irregular visitors I`ve only noted Chaffinch twice and have yet to log a Greenfinch in just over two years. 

                                 Long-tailed Tits, New Romney

Elsewhere this weekend our farmland Ted walks out to St-Mary-in-the-Marsh have yielded few birds apart from several singing Skylarks today in the warm sunshine and a Chiffchaff along Hope Lane. A flock of 500 Woodpigeons on the Salts yesterday was noteworthy, plus a handful of Yellowhammers and Song Thrushes. Three each of Common Buzzard and Kestrel at both sites were making the most of the fine weather to hunt for prey.

                                  Kestrel and Common Buzzard, New Romney

Friday 26 January 2024

Great Crested Grebes

Lade - mild, dry and sunny, W 3 - A fine day for our second visit of the week to the local patch where little had changed to the duck population with Pochard the most numerous at 130. One subtle change however was the first returning pair of Great Crested Grebes to their breeding lake, having probably spent the winter offshore feeding alongside hundreds of other grebes on sprats and the like. We walked Mockmill this morning where there was very little on offer apart from a few Blackbirds and Dunnocks. Passerines continue to be few in number just about everywhere, with a Chiffchaff and a Goldcrest around the ponds the only perching birds of  note. 

                                 Great Crested Grebe pair on south lake

                                 Lade `mirrors`

Moving on to Dungeness where a wander along the foreshore scavenging for firewood delivered 50 Turnstones and 20 Sanderlings. I spent some time going through thousands of gulls on the beach and offshore by the `dustbin` hoping for a white-winger, but without success. The Boulderwall fields, in warm sunshine, were packed out with hundreds of Wigeons, Lapwings, and feral geese, 12 Curlews but little else. Elsewhere this week our Ted walks around New Romney have been much of a muchness, apart from a calling Cetti`s Warbler and Green Sandpiper along the New Cutt on Wednesday. Other local news includes the continued presence of the two species of divers on Burrowes and two White-fronts on the Scotney sward today.

                                 Gull blizzard, Dungeness

    Ted eyeing up the gulls

Saturday 20 January 2024

Harriers and swans

 Walland Marsh - cold, sunny, SW4 - With the monthly harrier count scheduled for tomorrow cancelled due to the weather forecast we decided to do our usual count site this afternoon. Together with Chris P we logged 21 Marsh Harriers to roost plus one, possible two, grey Hen Harriers and a ringtail that went through the site heading towards Scotney. Also noted: a Sparrowhawk, a Common Buzzard, a Common Snipe, a few Lapwings, three Great White Egrets, a Little Egret, a Grey Heron and vocalising Water Rail and Cetti`s Warbler. Elsewhere, a mixed flock of swans contained 55 Bewick`s, five Whoopers and 10 Mute Swans; the Bewick`s probably went to roost on the reservoir, while the Whoopers peeled off towards Lydd.  

Friday 19 January 2024

Water Rails

Lade - cold, dry and sunny, light airs - Another clear, still night of sub-zero temperatures resulted in both lakes being covered in ice, apart from the margins on the western side. Duck numbers were low with only Teal and Pochard into three figures, plus two Goldeneyes and two Dabchicks. However, with the reedbeds frozen over several Moorhens and Water Rails were actual seen rather than just heard, including a rail on north lake that was basking in the bright sunshine on the far side. Also trying to gather the sun`s warmth were two Foxes on the mirror apron and a Common Buzzard sat on the rim of the 30 foot dish. Hardly any passerines were noted apart from a few tits and Robins while a wander out onto the Desert produced not a single bird. Back at the car in Taylor Road I watched a Magpie nest-building in a pine tree, a sign of things to come... 

                                   Frozen south lake

This week`s Ted walks around New Romney have delivered few birds in the bitter cold apart from an increase in Common Snipe sightings (which are probably weather related) most being inadvertently flushed from sewer margins where they seem to be able to find unfrozen ground and probe for food.   

Tuesday 16 January 2024

Bearded Tits

Cold, dry and sunny, light airs - En-route to the bird reserve there were three Cattle Egrets in the Cockles Bridge paddock and a Barn Owl quartering the frost-covered fields opposite the entrance, while there was no sign of yesterday`s Pink-footed Geese on the Boulderwall fields. The overnight temperature plummeted to -4C and many of the lakes on the reserve were frozen over except for Burrowes. In bright sunshine with an occasional zephyr the weather conditions were superb for a guided walk around the circular trail for eight RSPB volunteers. The trio of two Great Northern Divers and a Black-throated Diver were still on Burrowes from Dennis`s lookout with two birds approaching right underneath us affording good views as they caught tiny fish. All the usual wildfowl were noted on the lake including six Goldeneyes and five Shelducks, plus a distant perched Kingfisher. The hayfields attracted 10 Lapwings and half a dozen Common Snipes, while several hundred Wigeons and Coots were packed into a small patch of ice-free water on Dengemarsh lake. The highlight of the walk for us all were scope views of two gorgeous Bearded Tits as they picked up grit from the tray in Hooker`s reedbed; cracking birds which my pics do not do justice too. Elsewhere during the walk we recorded several Great White and Little Egrets, a Grey Heron, ten more Common Snipes, four Marsh Harriers, four Curlews and a Raven. Passerines were typically in short supply but did include several each of Blue and Great Tits, Robins and Blackbirds, two Stonechats, a Song Thrush and a Cetti`s Warbler, totalling a respectable 52 species of birds during the three hour walk.  

                                 Great Northern Diver, Burrowes

                                 Black-throated Diver, Burrowes

    View from Christmas Dell hide showing newly formed island

                                 Bearded Tits, Hooker`s reedbed

                                 Relic Holly trees from the Holmstone

Sunday 14 January 2024

Bean Geese

Cold, dry, cloudy, light airs - A day out with Ted commenced at the local patch where we checked out Mockmill and the fields behind the lakes. It was slim pickings apart from a few Song Thrushes, Blackbirds and Great Tits in the scrub, vocalising Cetti`s Warbler and Water Rail, plus Common Buzzard and a flushed Common Snipe. South lake held the usual wildfowl.

                                 Lade desert looking south towards Dungeness

                                 Ted on the charge

Moving onto Walland Marsh where the flooded fields around Hawthorn Corner attracted a number of Egyptian Geese, Teal and Mallard along with three Tree Sparrows and several Fieldfares by the model flying club bend. Hundreds more Fieldfares were noted across the Marsh farmland but only a handful of Redwings. At Clubb`s Lane we paused to view the two Bean Geese of the tundra variety alongside four Bewick`s Swans. Next stop the Woolpack and a walk out towards the wind farm where 10 Common Snipes and one Jack Snipe were the highlights on the sheep folds, plus two Great White Egrets three Marsh Harriers, a Kestrel and a Corn Bunting. A prepared field to the south of Hamstreet continued to harbour a decent flock of around 50 Tree Sparrows and 20 Yellowhammers, while several more Common Buzzards and Kestrels, a Jay and a Great Spotted Woodpecker were noted along the lane to Snargate. Back at the coast Boulderwall fields was full of birds and in amongst a mixed flock of 800 Canada and Greylag Geese were 22 Barnacle Geese, while several hundred Lapwings also harboured 15 Dunlins and four Ruffs. Two more Great White Egrets were on Cook`s Pool and the four divers remained on Burrowe`s. On the way home a check of the airport road delivered six Cattle Egrets and 500 Lapwings. In summary, a decent enough day around the Marsh where it was also good to bump into several birders I`ve not seen for a while and have a natter.

                                  Bean Geese, Clubb`s Lane

                                 Bewick`s Swans, Clubb`s Lane

Friday 12 January 2024

Common Gulls

Lade - cold, cloudy, drizzle, NE 2 - A grim, dank day with poor light throughout, although slightly milder than of late with the temperature peaking at 6C. We spent a couple of hours walking the local patch where the highlight was a flock of 1,100 Common Gulls on south lake, my largest count here for some time and maybe a cold-weather movement and a portent of what lies ahead next week from a forecasted Arctic blast. Goldeneyes were up to five birds across both lakes, plus 150 Teals, 100 Pochards, 50 Tufted Ducks, 20 Shovelers and a pair of Egyptian Geese. Sundries included singles of Marsh Harrier, Common Buzzard, Sparrowhawk and a Ringed Plover over the Desert.

                                 A few of over 1,000 Common Gulls, Lade

Moving onto Scotney where the sward and front lakes delivered small numbers of common ducks, feral geese and Lapwings but little else. The horse paddock and dung heap at the head of the airport road was busy with Magpies, black crows, two Grey Herons and at least six Cattle Egrets, while the adjacent sheep fold held over 500 Lapwings and 250 Golden Plovers, but no sign of a Dotterel.   

Thursday 11 January 2024


Romney Salts - cold, dry, sunny, light airs - It was cracking weather this morning for our Ted walk across the Salts in the company of Chris P that included plenty of anecdotes from the past, as well as a good few birds along the way. The weedy arable fields throughout produced a decent scattering of farmland passerines such as Meadow Pipits, Skylarks and Yellowhammers, plus 20 Goldfinches by the dung heap and a flock of c100 Linnets in game cover, along with several Reed Buntings and a dozen Chaffinches. Small numbers of Blackbirds, Song Thrushes, Redwings and Fieldfares were also seen plus several Stonechats and Pied Wagtails. Black crows, Stock Doves and Woodpigeons were commonplace and at least four Common Buzzards and a Sparrowhawk were noted. Flooded fields delivered a notable flock of ten Dunlins, 20 Lapwings, three Golden Plovers and a flock of 14 overhead, and two Common Snipes flushed from the margins of the Dengemarsh Sewer. Sundry birds included a pair of Egyptian Geese (one leucistic), Pheasants, Common and Black-headed Gulls and a Grey Heron. A very enjoyable walk and one very tired, muddy Ted at the finish!

                                  Common Hawthorn, Romney Salts

                                 Tired Ted

                                 Flowering violets

Monday 8 January 2024

Winter arrives

Lade - cold, wintery showers, NE 4 - Over the weekend there was a perceptible change in the weather as the wind swung away from the mild south-west, through north, to a cold, easterly airflow delivering flurries of hail and snow throughout the day as the temperature hovered just above freezing. This morning a raw-bone easterly wind had forced the wildfowl to forsake their usual loafing area over by the far mirror reedbed and seek shelter closer to the main track and around the willow swamp. I was hoping for something different amongst the ducks but it turned out to be a similar picture to last Friday, without the Black-necked Grebe, although it could still easily be lurking in a secluded reedbed. A Goldcrest by the ponds and a flushed Song Thrush were the only passerines of note. We then had a wander around Dengemarsh seeing very little apart from a few feral geese and Lapwings on the Boulderwalls fields and the usual wildfowl, harriers and egrets across the wetlands. At one stage we copped a blizzard which didn`t seem to bother Ted one bit, being fully equipped for the cold in his thick, Carpathian sheep dog coat. The two Great Northern and a Black-throated Diver remained on Burrowes along with several Goldeneyes. 

                                 Lapwing, Boulderwall

Elsewhere, reported locally over the weekend were: a Dotterel in the Golden Plover flock at Scotney sward, a dozen or so Cattle Egrets on the dung heap at the entrance to the airport road, Bewick`s and Whooper Swans from the Midley wall and a roving ringtail Hen Harrier across the Marsh. Our weekend Ted walk`s around New Romney delivered little of note apart from a Kingfisher flying along a flooded ditch off Hope Lane and a Sparrowhawk trying its luck in the garden.  

I`m not one to make any New Year Resolutions but something I have done is to row back on the socials of late and as a result I`ve kicked X (formerly Twitter) firmly into touch. Originally I joined it, like many birders I guess, for the latest bird news. However, as I`m now not that bothered what`s immediately occurring elsewhere, and we have a very good local Whatsapp group (thanks for setting that up Martin), X  has become largely redundant for me. It also means that I don`t have to read endless self congratulatory re-tweets from twitchers, as well as other garbage that seems to have become more prevalent on this forum. Happy days ahead! 

Friday 5 January 2024

Black-necked Grebe

Lade - Cool and cloudy, NW 2 - Our first visit of the year to the local patch where the highlight was a very elusive Black-necked Grebe which only showed on a second scan of south lake over by the wall mirror where it spent more time submerged than on the surface. Also noted on south lake three Goldeneyes, 40 Shovelers and 300 Teal, plus a Sparrowhawk and Marsh Harrier over the willow swamp and a Chiffchaff by the ponds. At Dungeness, between the lifeboat station and the concrete road, hundreds of gulls feeding on beached crustaceans included at least one 1st winter Caspian Gull and over 100 Turnstones, plus scores of Great Crested Grebes on the sea and auks fizzing to and fro. A walk down to the pines at Tower Pits yielded little apart from a Great Spotted Woodpecker and a Great White Egret from Screen hide.

                                   Goldeneyes, Lade

A Ted walk along the foreshore at St Mary`s Bay yesterday produced plenty of Turnstones, Curlews, Dunlins, Oystercatchers and Common Gulls on the tidal mud and groynes, plus 10 Pied Wagtails on the sea wall and a Grey Wagtail overhead.

Monday 1 January 2024

NYDay Bird Count

Mild, cloudy, dry morning, wet afternoon, W 2-3  - Our traditional NYD outing commenced at daybreak in Park Wood, Appledore (having seen a perched Barn Owl en-route) where the resident woodland birds included hooting Tawny Owls, two Ravens overhead and a mixed flock of Treecreepers, Coal and Long-tailed Tits, Goldcrests and Nuthatches, two Great Spotted Woodpeckers and calling Green Woodpeckers. Moor Lane produced several Yellowhammers, Red-legged Partridges, a Jay, winter thrushes and the first of a number of  Kestrels and Common Buzzards seen throughout the day. Moving down onto the the canal zone where Bullfinch and 19 Little Egrets were noted, but little else. We then crossed the Marsh farmland taking in a prepared field of millet and kale for farmland birds to the south of Hamstreet that attracted a flock of up to 100 Tree Sparrows and 50 Yellowhammers; certainly the largest number of both species I`ve seen in my time living down here. Elsewhere on the Marsh farmland we noted 39 Bewick`s Swans from the Midley wall, three more Tree Sparrows and two Stonechats. 

                                 Kale field near Hamstreet

Next stop Scotney pits where a host of common wildfowl and waders were added to the day list, including Avocet, Redshank, Little Grebe, Shelduck and a surprise Great Northern Diver, while the spectacle was provided by thousands of swirling Goldies and Lapwings. From the Tavern viewpoint at Lade bay on a rising tide, amid hundreds of NYD dog- walkers on the beach (where do they go for the rest of the year!), we added eight species of waders, most notably two Black-tailed Godwits, 50 each of Knot and Sanderling, 20 Bar-tailed Godwits and over 1,000 Dunlins. A seawatch from the fishing boats was very poor on diversity although it was good to see plenty of close Turnstones and Sanderlings foraging along the the tideline. A pause along the airport road and 15 Cattle Egrets made it onto the day list. 

                                 Sanderlings and Turnstones, Dungeness

The bird reserve beckoned next where two more Great Northern Divers and a Black-throated Diver on Burrowes made for a clean sweep of the diver tribe trio (a first on our NYD forays down the years), plus half a dozen Goldeneyes on the lake and a female Marsh Harrier tucking into a dead Coot alongside a couple of expectant Crows at Boulderwall fields where a Brent Goose had attached itself to a Canada Goose flock. We finished the day in some style from the Hanson hide with three Great White Egrets and four Glossy Ibises flying to roost, calling Water Rails and finally a Merlin delivering a respectable 104 species for the day. A great start to the year and many thanks to Chris for driving and Phil for keeping the list. 

    Marsh Harrier on prey, Cook`s Pool

    Wigeon using the buoy rope to anchor their position, ARC