Thursday 28 March 2024

Common Scoters

Dungeness - cold, overcast, showery, SW5 - 0615-0815hrs - With a lively sea and a perishing cold wind conditions were not exactly favourable for a classic seawatch from the hide, and so it proved to be with little variety of seabirds on offer. The highlight was a steady up-Channel passage of scoters and divers, although most were well offshore, and countless Gannets even further out on the horizon as distant specks. Numbers during the two hour watch as follows: Common Scoter 210, Red-throated Diver 37, Gannet 55, Brent Goose 100, Sandwich Tern 10, Kittiwake 5, Med Gull 3, Fulmar 4, Oystercatcher 3, Red-breasted Merganser 2 (west). Three close Guillemots showed well on the sea along with the usual Great Crested Grebes, Cormorants and two Harbour Porpoises. 

                                   Common Scoter, Lydd-on-Sea, 2014

The usual view of a Common Scoter in spring at Dungeness is of a small black duck fizzing past the point in straggling lines, just like this morning. While there is a tiny breeding population in northern Scotland most of these migrants will probably be heading for the tundra wetlands of northern Europe and Russia to breed, having wintered along the western seaboard of Europe and Africa. However, back in 2014 when living by Lade bay the above drake was beached on the shingle (presumably exhausted) enabling close inspection of its impressive bill. After an overnight stay in a cardboard box I`m pleased to report that it was released the following day and seen to fly strongly back out to sea, apparently none the worse for its encounter with humanity. 

Monday 25 March 2024

Brent Geese

Cold, cloudy, SE4 - We started the day at Lade with a thorough search of the local patch for any passage grebes, bearing in mind the influx of Black-necks and a Slavonian Grebe on ARC last weekend. While there was at least 12 pairs of Great Crested Grebes across both waters and several Dabchicks there was no sign of the scarcer two species. Moving onto Dungeness where a decent passage of Brent Geese was underway involving at least 2,000 birds during the morning (per Martin C) from the seawatch hide. During the hour (1000-1100hrs) I was present c 400 Brents were counted, many close inshore clipping the point, courtesy of the brisk onshore wind. Also noted a steady procession of Red-throated Divers and Common Scoters, a few Sandwich Terns, Gannets and auks, five Teals and two Red-breasted Mergansers. We spent the remainder of the morning walking Dengemarsh where a Water Pipit and two Bearded Tits were the highlights around the hayfields, plus all the usual wildfowl, several Marsh Harriers, 20 Curlews, 12 Redshanks, 10 Lapwings, 10 Little Egrets, 5 Grey Herons and a handful of singing Reed Buntings, Linnets, Skylarks, Cetti`s Warblers and Chiffchaffs.

                                Migrating Brents of Dungeness

Over the weekend our Ted walks around the New Romney farmland were largely uneventful apart from a Yellow Wagtail flying over a corn field off Hope Lane, my earliest ever record of this species.

Friday 22 March 2024

Spring Migrants

Mild, overcast, drizzle, light airs - A gloomy, misty morning with light rain throughout delivered a scattering of spring migrants across the Dungeness peninsula. We started at Lade where at least 12 Chiffchaffs had dropped in overnight with several in the dry scrub but the majority around the ponds along with two singing Cetti`s Warblers. At least three Goldeneyes remained on south lake along with a host of common diving ducks, grebes, Coots, 30 Shovelers and four Teals. It was then on for a hike around Dengemarsh where the highlight was our first Sedge Warbler of spring singing from Hookers. The hayfields attracted a mixed flock of 100 Wigeons, Shovelers, Shelducks and Teals, plus two Water Pipits and a Glossy Ibis on hayfield 2. More Wigeons and Shelducks were noted on the wet fields behind the lake and at Boulderwall as well as 20 Curlews, four Redshanks, several pairs of displaying Lapwings, 50 feral geese, a Common Buzzard and a Marsh Harrier. Over the road a Willow Warbler in song at Tower Pits and a Swallow and a Sand Martin from Screen hide over the lake completed a fine suite of spring firsts. At least ten more Chiffchaffs were also noted and two Ravens.

                                   Brimstone, New Romney

Last Wednesday we had the warmest day of the year so far with the temperature into the mid-teens. As a result it brought forth a rash of insects in the garden and on our Ted walks including several Brimstones, Peacocks and Small Tortoiseshells. 

Tuesday 19 March 2024

Arctic Skua

Dungeness - mild, cloudy, SW3 - 0630-0830hrs - I`ve got mixed feelings regarding the black avian art of `seawatching` as more often than not it is just that - peering out over the sea and watching the waves, although sometimes it can be sensational, but that`s another story... Anyhow, I thought it was about time I went for an early morning watch from the hide and if nothing else there`s normally a bit of banter and its an opportunity to catch up on the latest gossip. Two hours of sitting down is about my limit, but to be fair there was a trickle of stuff moving up-Channel including a couple of year ticks (not that I keep a year list of course!) in the shape of Arctic Skua and Sandwich Tern: Gannet - 15, Red-throated Diver 23, Kittiwake 14, Oystercatcher 7, Arctic Skua 1, Brent Goose 80, Med Gull, 5, Common Scoter 18, Sandwich Tern 3, Black-headed Gull 8, auks 10. 

                                  High flying Brents

                                 Corn Bunting, Romney Salts.

After two hours of inertia in the seawatch hide, followed by breakfast, it was time for a brisk Ted walk over Romney Salts. Subtle changes since our last visit included a singing Corn Bunting and a few more pairs of Linnets settling in for spring, but precious little else on the farmland apart from a few Skylarks on high. The spinney produced a couple of Chiffchaffs and a Green Woodpecker. 

Monday 18 March 2024


Mild, cloudy, dry SW3 - We started the morning on the local patch at Lade where a decent spread of common diving and dabbling ducks were still present, mostly on south lake, that included 35 Shovelers and seven Goldeneyes. At least ten pairs of Great Crested Grebes have taken up territories while several Little Grebes could be heard trilling around the willow swamp. Passerines were in short supply with a couple of singing Skylarks and a Stonechat on the Desert, plus two each of Chiffchaff and Cetti`s Warblers around the ponds. However, the highlight was a person playing the pan-pipes by the swing-bridge, a first for me here!

                                  Wheatears, Dungeness

Moving onto Dungeness where a walk along the beach produced our first three Wheatears of spring by the new lighthouse. It was also good to see the first returning Linnets, plus Stonechat, Meadow Pipit, Skylark and Pied Wagtail all ramping up for the forthcoming breeding season. A singing Chiffchaff in the old lighthouse garden and a Peregrine perched on a pylon were the only other birds of note. On the bird reserve the Boulderwall fields were busy with the usual feral geese, Wigeons, Lapwings and a Great white Egret, while the Black-necked Grebe was reported from Denegemarsh and the two divers on Burrowes.

Sunday 17 March 2024


Mild, rain, S 3 - Another wet start to the day but remaining mild. Fieldfares have been far more numerous than Redwings this past winter across the Marsh countryside but recently the latter thrush has been in the ascendency. This past week, first thing in the mornings, small parties of Redwings have been seen in the town park, having presumably dropped in overnight; while last night more birds were heard passing over heading eastwards. A few more singing Chiffchaffs have been noted during our Ted walks, plus daily Raven sightings, my first Brown Hare and a flock of 20 alba wagtails on a horse paddock on Thursday that contained a spanking White Wagtail. 

This evening I joined Chris P for the final harrier roost count of winter on Walland Marsh where 15 Marsh Harriers came to roost along with a male and female Hen Harrier. Very little else was noted in the general area apart from the usual vocalising Cetti`s Warblers, Reed Buntings and Waters Rails, plus several Common Buzzards, a Grey Heron, a Great White Egret and a Barn Owl at Midley on the way home. 

Saturday 16 March 2024


 Warm, dry and sunny, light airs - Perfect weather for a birding session with my 13 year old grandson. We kicked off at the ARC in the Hanson hide where the highlight was superb views of Common Buzzards and Marsh Harriers over the main reed bed and a pair of each thermalling over the shingle towards the airport. All the usual wildfowl seen but no sign of any divers. Moving onto Boulderwall fields where we jammed in on the Glossy Ibis that flew over the Lydd Road and landed at the far end of the pool along with a host of feral geese, Wigeons, Teals and Shovelers, plus several Lapwings and Curlews and a Great White Egret. Burrowes yielded a Great Northern Diver at the Makepeace end of the lake along with a Goldeneye and a 3rd year Yellow-legged Gull on an island in front of the VC. We finished the afternoon with a Scaup on the lake behind the caravan park at Scotney. Apparently, we noted 55 species (he does love a list!) during the three hours in the field. 

                                 Sleepy Great Northern Diver, Burrowes

                                 Marsh Frog, ARC

                                 Ticking off the Scaup!

Friday 15 March 2024

Jack Snipe

Dungeness - mild, cloudy, SW 3 - We spent the morning on the peninsula walking the Long Pits where at least ten Chiffchaffs were present, across towards the lighthouse and back through the flooded Trapping Area and Desert where the highlight was a Jack Snipe flushed by Ted, a scarce bird this winter. Precious few land birds were noted apart from several each of  Meadow Pipit, Pied Wagtail, Skylark and Stonechat, a Sparrowhawk and a Black Redstart on the power station fence. We searched for a reported Wheatear by the war memorial without success, although two were seen later in the day. An hour from the seawatch hide delivered the expected Kittiwakes, auks, Red-throated Divers and Gannets, plus five Harbour Porpoises and a Grey Seal.

                                   Jack Snipe (from the archives) ARC, 2013

Wednesday 13 March 2024

Black-necked Grebes

Dungeness RSPB - mild, overcast, SW4 - Following on from yesterday`s deluge at least it was dry this morning for my monthly guided walk around the circular route for six guests. There was still plenty of wildfowl on Burrowes, mainly comprising hundreds of Shovelers, Teals, Gadwalls, Pochards and Tufted Ducks across the lake, plus four Goldeneyes and two Shelducks. A distant Black-necked Grebe in breeding plumage was the highlight along with an adult Little Gull within a flock of 100 Black-headed Gulls, while several pairs of Common Gulls were inspecting the nesting boxes. The hayfields were disappointing with only a single Water Pipit and several Curlews, Lapwings and Shelducks of note. From the hide at Dengemarsh another distant Black-necked Grebe and a Goldeneye were present, plus 50 Wigeons and 20 Shelducks in the back field and two Great White Egrets and a Marsh Harrier from Hookers ramp. Other sundries noted during the three hour walk included at least 20 singing Cetti`s Warblers (only one actually seen!), a Grey Heron, a Little Egret, five Pintails overhead, several Reed Buntings and a Sparrowhawk.

                                   Common Gulls, Burrowes

Monday evening whilst letting Ted out in the garden I could hear the sound of Redwings migrating over New Romney in the dark. They have been few and far between hereabouts this winter but were certainly on the move two nights ago, as testified by the 4,000 recorded over Dungeness Bird Observatory. 

Monday 11 March 2024

Black Redstart

Dungeness - mild, misty, drizzle, NW2 - After walking the local farmland over the weekend and not seeing very much at all, a change of scene was in order, despite grotty weather conditions. However, we walked a circular route along the foreshore from the lifeboat station to the seawatch hide, around the trapping area, which was still widely flooded, and back across the desert where we flushed a Common Snipe. I was hoping for an early Wheatear, but instead had to be satisfied with my first Black Redstart of the year by the war memorial. Also noted two Chiffchaffs in the lighthouse garden, plus six pairs of Stonechats and a sprinkling of Pied Wagtails, Meadow Pipits, Skylarks and Chaffinches along the way. A cursory look at the sea in poor visibility produced the usual Cormorants and Great Crested Grebes on the water, a few distant Gannets, Red-throated Divers, auks and a Grey Seal. We also called in at the Obs to say hello to Tom the new assistant warden.

                                 Flood water on the desert

On the bird reserve the Boulderwall fields attracted the usual numbers of feral geese, Wigeons, Shovelers, Shelducks, Curlews and a Great White Egret. Burrowes still had hundreds more Shovelers on the lake along with numerous Teals, Gadwalls and diving ducks; I couldn`t see any Great Northern Divers, although two were reported on ARC this morning.

                                  Ted relaxing after a hectic morning at Dungeness! 

Friday 8 March 2024

Water Pipit

Dengemarsh - cold, dry and sunny, E4 - The circular walk around the wetlands, mercifully in dry weather conditions, was pleasant enough despite the brisk wind out of the east. Passerines were few in number with only a handful of Skylarks, Reed Buntings, Pied Wagtails, Great Tits and Cetti`s Warblers on offer along the way, plus a Water Pipit in the flooded field by Springfield Bridge. The hayfields held 150 Teals, 20 Wigeons, 20 Shelducks, 10 Shovelers, 50 Curlews, 10 Lapwings, a Redshank, Little and Great White Egrets, while the obligatory Marsh Harriers and Common Buzzards were on the wing. The highlight of the walk was a pair of Brown Hares, a scarce mammal in these parts nowadays no thanks to the illegal coursers, and my first of the year. All the usual feral geese and ducks were at Scotney, but I could find no sign of the Scaup on the pit behind the caravan park, although it could easily have been lurking in the reeds out of the wind.

                                 Shelducks, Hayfield 2

                                 Leucistic Badger, Lydd Road

It`s that time of year when Badgers become more active, particularly the sows as they seek out food and bedding prior to cubbing. The other day travelling from New Romney to Ashford I counted eight dead Badgers along the A259 alone, while this morning there was another two along the Lydd Road, including the leucistic animal above.

Tuesday 5 March 2024


Rye Harbour NR - mild, rain, light airs - Had to go to Rye this morning so we decided to take Ted along and do the circular walk around the Beach Reserve first, in the rain... (by the way, anyone planning to visit Rye from this neck of the woods would be well advised NOT to use the coast road as it is badly pot-holed and broken up in places, particularly around Camber). However, I`m ashamed to admit it that this was my first visit of the year to the harbour, but despite the weather we could take shelter in the dog-friendly hides and still enjoy the multitude of shorebirds and wildfowl on offer; it was also good to see that the bird information in the hides was bang up to date. Well done to all concerned. Twelve species of waders were noted including 20 Avocets, 200 Dunlins, 100 Golden Plovers and a Black-tailed Godwit. The Flat Beach hosted most of the waders along with hundreds of Shovelers, Gadwalls, Wigeons and Pintails, Little and Great White Egrets, Little and Great Crested Grebes, Great White and Little Egrets, plus 20 Shelducks, singing Skylarks and five Brent Geese. We can also recommend the coffee and cake from the cafe, while a sausage roll met with Ted`s approval!

                                 Dunlins from Gooder`s hide

                                  Flooded Salt Pool

                                  High water levels on Ternery Pool 

                                  Black-tailed Godwit from Gooder`s hide

                                 Species` status info in Parke`s hide

                                  Avocets, New Saltmarsh

                                 Golden Plovers and Dunlins, Flat Beach

Elsewhere these past few days we`ve noticed increasing numbers of Mediterranean Gulls on the turf fields around New Romney, singing Chiffchaffs at two locations and Yellowhammers also in song. A visit to Lade yesterday yielded four Goldeneyes and two Marsh Harriers. News from the bird reserve today confirmed that the divers and ibis are still present, while singles of Swallow, Black Redstart and Firecrest were reported across the peninsula on Monday, heralding the coming spring, and a Scaup was at Scotney pits. 

Friday 1 March 2024

Ted Walks

Cold, wet and windy - A year ago today we took delivery of a bundle of energy and mischief that had just completed a one thousand mile journey across the European continent from Rumania; to be precise, it was actually two bundles, as we also took possession of a cat! To say its been a `challenging` year is something of an understatement, but after much hard work, patience and training both Ted the rescue dog and Polly the cat have been tamed (just about!) and transformed our lives along the way. I`ve been around or owned dogs most of my life but can honestly say that taking on a six month old, feral street dog has been a challenge that is not for the faint hearted! 

                                  Ted, in the garden

                                  Ted, Belgar Farm

A sheep dog that has boundless energy such as Ted needs regular exercise and plenty of it, and as a result we`ve spent much time walking out from home and exploring the countryside around New Romney. Further afield he`s been to woodlands on the Weald and North Downs, Scotney, the canal zone, the foreshore between St Mary`s Bay and Dungeness, Dengemarsh and Lade Pits, so we`ve seen a fair old bit of the Marsh this past year, including a few places that I`ve not ventured to before. The majority of our walks have taken place on the farmland tracts around town, which is mostly arable, so winter wheat and barley, oil-seed rape, linseed and turf fields. Drainage sewers and ditches criss-cross the flatlands, many with reed-fringed margins and a few stunted hawthorns or willows here and there. Hedgerows are few with the ones in Hope Lane and the overgrown green lane to Old Romney the best of the bunch. Several  heavily-stocked sheep-folds and a couple of horse paddocks complete the rural ensemble. 

What would farmers do without baler twine!

Needless to say that it was hardly surprising how nature depleted I found the intensively farmed land hereabouts; not once during the many hours in the field did I see a Brown Hare on the dry or a Water Vole in the wet. Tree Sparrows were absent and I`ve still yet to encounter a Little Owl or a Turtle Dove, while many former `common` resident and summer visitors were in pitifully low numbers. However, the highlights have been: Barn Owl, Kingfisher, Green Sandpiper, Common Snipe and Little Grebe along the sewers and ditches; a scattering of breeding Yellow Wagtails, Corn Buntings and Yellowhammers amongst the crops and a singing Quail; on passage, several Wheatears and singles of Ring Ouzel and Whinchat; and a flock of 1,200 Mediterranean Gulls loafing on a turf field in the autumn.