Monday 27 May 2024

Avocets and Shelducks

Scotney - cool, cloudy, SW 4 - Being as it was Bank Holiday Monday the gravel pits and farmland were deserted and as a result we didn`t see another soul all morning. The habitat in the working sand pit at the Camber end was superb for waders, as they often are in the early stages of excavation, where the highlight was a mixed flock of 30 Dunlins and 10 Tundra Ringed Plovers, plus at least 20 Avocets, 10 Oystercatchers, four each of  Ringed and Little Ringed Plovers and singles of Greenshank, Redshank and Lapwing. Wildfowl included 80 Shelducks, 20 Mallards, two Gadwalls and a Shoveler, while around the margins a few Yellow Wagtails, Sedge and Reed Warblers, Reed Buntings, Linnets and a Cetti`s Warbler were present. Also of note, 30 Sand Martins and a first summer Little Gull. The front pits were pretty quiet apart from a large flock of several hundred feral geese, mostly Canada Geese. More Avocets, Black-headed Gulls, Shelducks and 10 Pochards were noted on the large pit out back along with a Marsh Harrier and a few Mediterranean Gulls over calling. It wasn`t that many years ago when the farmland trio of Yellow Wagtail, Corn Bunting and Tree Sparrow could easily be encountered in and around the main farm complex, but not so now such has been their rapid decline in numbers. However, a few Yellow Wagtails were noted along the dung heaps bordering the concrete road beside a pea field, along with one or two Linnets, Skylarks and just two Corn Buntings. We continued to trek out to the abandoned farmhouse and spinney to check on the Tree Sparrow boxes recently erected by Owen and co. While it was good to see activity in at least three boxes with about ten sparrows present I got the feeling that this formerly abundant bird is living on borrowed time down here on the Marsh. 


                                  Corn Bunting

                                  Tree Sparrow boxes


                                 Yellow Wagtail

Sunday 26 May 2024

The Great Stink

Warm, dry and sunny, SW4 - I try not to use the car at the weekend, so its a case of loads of time spent tramping across farmland for our Ted walks seeing pretty much the same stuff; yesterday we clocked all three species of buntings north of the town, plus Sedge, Reed and Cetti`s Warblers and a host of Buzzards soaring overhead. It was also good to hear a single House Martin over the Pearmain estate where hopefully more will follow. 

                                 St Mary`s Bay pollution

                                 Pirate Springs

This morning we checked out Pirate Springs from the St Mary`s Bay end where we were greeted by the noxious smell of untreated sewage wafting along the beach. Southern Water have an outflow pipe at Littlestone from the nearby sewage works and following heavy overnight rain (as if that`s an excuse) routinely pump litres of shit and the like into the bay. Its been well documented that this section of Hythe Bay is one of the most polluted sections of our coastline, but despite a torrent of complaints nothing changes, it appears that the water companies can act with impunity and the environment can go to hell. Anyway, rant over! On the incoming tide, 20 Sanderlings scuttered along the foreshore while further out towards Greatstone distant flocks of Curlews and Oystercatchers were noted. On the land the floral display behind the sea wall was looking in fine fettle and where Skylark, Meadow Pipit and Linnet were all in song.

Friday 24 May 2024

Common Scoters

Dungeness - warm, dry and sunny, SW2 - A superb day to be out and about in the field for a circuit of Dengemarsh in warm sunshine and with a fresh breeze off the sea tempering the heat. A flock of nine Black-tailed Godwits on hayfield 2 was the highlight, along with all the usual wetland birds including displaying Marsh Harriers, `booming` Bittern, calling Cuckoo and at least 10 Yellow Wagtails along Dengemarsh Road.  The viewing ramp overlooking Hookers reedbed continues to be a good spot for observing warblers and Bearded Tits at close range, although on the debit side there was no sign of a Hobby or any evidence of Lapwing success on the hayfields. A plus though was a Brown Hare sighting, my first one for ages. Kerton quarry on the other hand produced both Lapwings and Oystercatchers with well-grown chicks on the main island along with scores of feral goslings and a pair of highly agitated Redshanks. As it was high tide a count of 180 Oystercatchers and 15 Curlews were at roost on the sand bar. A check of Lade bay from the Tavern viewpoint revealed that the Common Scoter  flock was still present; I counted at least 250 birds bobbing on the sea at some distance, and there could have been a few more out of my range, which is an unprecedented number for this time of year when they should be on their northern breeding grounds. The only thing I can think of is that they`re non-breeding birds summering on the bay where they`ve found plenty to feed on, as its far too early for any post-breeding flocks, but it still remains something of a mystery... 

                                  Black-tailed Godwits, hayfield 2

                                  Sedge Warbler, Dengemarsh

                                 Lapwing and Oystercatchers, Kerton quarry

Elsewhere this past week our Ted walks have taken us across the peninsula and around the New Romney farmland, plus an evening visit to Dungeness. The Hammond`s Corner Little Owl and singing Corn Buntings have been noted at several locations nearby, otherwise there has been little else to report. In the garden two broods of Blue Tits have now fledged from nest boxes while another brood of Mistle Thrushes have been seen in the town park and a pair of Sparrowhawks are breeding somewhere nearby judging from the regularity of their forays to the garden bird feeders! Very few Swallows have returned locally and I haven`t seen any further House Martin activity on the Pearmain estate. 

Monday 20 May 2024


Dungeness - warm, dry and sunny, NE 3 - Our morning circuit of Dengemarsh produced all the classics this species-rich walk has to offer including Cuckoo, Hobby, Bittern, Marsh Harrier, Bearded Tit and Yellow Wagtail. The warbler tribe were also in fine voice despite the brisk wind off the sea, while the hayfields held just four Black-tailed Godwits amongst the usual Lapwings and Redshanks, plus four Little Egrets, six Shovelers, four Shelducks and a Pochard. The highlight of the walk was a steady passage of Swifts coming in high off the bay and moving up the coast into the breeze; as always fabulous birds to watch and surely in every birder`s top ten. It was also good to bump into a few old faces from afar and have a catch-up this morning, amongst a forlorn straggle of twitchers searching for yesterdays Woodchat Shrike without success. Elsewhere, Boulderwall fields were quiet as was the ARC where a new tern raft was in position in front of Screen hide. We finished off at Kerton quarry where a cracking Greenshank briefly dropped in joining the massed ranks of roosting Oystercatchers and immature gulls from Lade bay.

                                 Swifts over Dengemarsh

                                 Black-tailed Godwits, hayfield 2

                                 Distant Hobby, Christmas Dell

                                 New tern raft in front of Screen hide, 

Over the weekend our Ted walk`s have taken in the farmland around New Romney, which as ever drives a hard bargain bird wise. A few more Sedge Warblers were on territory and a singing Corn Bunting by the New Cut was noteworthy, as was a Yellow Wagtail over and a Cuckoo calling by the paddock, while Lesser Whitethroats continue to outnumber their commoner congeners. A superb male Marsh Harrier flew over the turf field yesterday and once the sun got going a kettle of up to six Common Buzzards soared over the town, winding up the Herring Gulls! Unfortunately moth numbers in the garden trap continue to be low.

                                 Kestrel, New Romney

                                 Reed Bunting, New Romney

                                 Ted having fun!

Friday 17 May 2024


Dungeness - warm, dry and sunny, SW2 - Spent the day guiding for Diana and Sue from Rolvenden in fine weather once the early morning mist had cleared. We started at the point with a brief seawatch where a cracking Black-throated Diver passing up-Channel was the only seabird of note apart from 10 Common Scoters and handful of Sandwich Terns. On the land Kestrel, Wheatear, Black Redstart, Peregrine, Raven, Stonechat, Meadow Pipit, Linnet, Skylark and Lesser Whitethroat were all noted. The rest of the day was spent on the bird reserve where the highlight was superb views of all the common warblers, including Cetti`s Warbler, and Bearded Tit from the ramp overlooking Hookers. Marsh Harriers, Little and Great White Egrets, Cuckoo, Bittern, Pochard and 10 Common Terns were all logged around Dengemarsh, although the hayfields were disappointingly devoid of waders and wildfowl. Three Hobbies circled over the dipping pond but Burrowes and ARC were quiet due to the high water levels. From Springfield Bridge three Yellow Wagtails and a Corn Bunting were noted, while several parties of Swifts flew over the ARC car park in late afternoon. We eventually finished on 72 species of birds, with the highlight for the day being the confiding Pied Wagtail along Dengemarsh Road!

                                  Kestrel. Old Lighthouse

                                  Juv Meadow Pipit, power station wall

                                  Cetti`s Warbler, Hookers

                                 Bearded Tit, Hookers

                                 Pied Wagtail, Dengemarsh Road

Wednesday 15 May 2024

Bearded Tit

Dungeness RSPB - warm, dry and sunny, S2 - A fine spring morning for a guided walk for six guests around the circular trail. Bird wise there was nothing out of the ordinary, although we had good views of a gorgeous male Bearded Tit from the Hookers ramp and one of two Hobbies hawking insects over the reedbed. Pochard, Little Grebe, Gadwall, Marsh Harriers, Common Whitethroats, Sedge, Reed and Cetti`s Warblers, Reed Buntings all showed well and a Cuckoo was heard. The hayfields delivered the usual Little Egrets, Shelducks, Lapwings, Redshanks, a Shoveler and an Avocet while two Common Terns were noted on Dengemarsh lake; it seems as though its shaping up to be another grim summer for this former common breeding seabird. The only wader noted on Burrowes was a lone Ringed Plover where there was no sign of the recent Spoonbill.

                                 Male Hairy Dragonfly

                                 Hobby, Hookers

However, the recent rain combined with the warm sunshine had brought forth a wealth of plant and invertebrate activity, chiefly numerous damselflies, Silver Ys and St Mark`s flies, plus at least ten smart Hairy Dragonflies, the first of the hawker tribe for the year on the wing. A scattering of butterflies included Red Admirals, Small Coppers and my first Painted Lady and Common Blue of spring. The track between Makepeace and Scott proved to be a good spot for Grass Snake and Common Lizards basking in the sun and Marsh Frogs leaping around in the shallows. On the way home I called in at Dungeness where this mornings Melodious Warbler was a no show, having gone to ground in the gorse by Lloyds, although by late afternoon in was seen back in the Moat. 

                                 Prostrate Broom in full flower

Monday 13 May 2024


Dungeness - warm, dry, overcast, S2 - For this morning`s Ted walk we did a grand tour of the peninsula in humid weather conditions and with the sun occasionally breaking through. Most noticeable were large numbers of Silver Y moths fluttering amongst the ground cover presumably having been wafted over the Channel on last nights gentle southerly airflow. Small Copper butterflies were also on the wing in good numbers while two Grizzled Skippers were noted on the edge of the Trapping Area. As for birds, a Bee-eater discovered earlier by DB showed briefly by the old smokery before flying towards the lighthouse was the undoubted highlight. Otherwise it was the expected Lesser and Common Whitethroats, Cetti`s and Reed Warblers, Stonechats, Meadow Pipits, Skylarks and Linnets. A check of the bird reserve at Boulderwall delivered little of note while a Spoonbill was still at the southern end of Burrowes.

                                 Small Copper, Trapping Area

                                 Grizzled Skipper, Trapping Area

At last the garden moth trap showed some signs of improvement with 12 species of macros overnight including my first record of Orange Footman, plus both Pebble and Swallow Prominent. Checks of Lade, Kerton quarry and elsewhere over what was a warm and sunny weekend produced little new apart from several House Martins prospecting for nest sites on the Pearmain estate to the north of town.

                                 Orange Footman

                                 Dark/Grey Dagger

                                 Swallow Prominent 

                                 Pebble Prominent 

Friday 10 May 2024


Dengemarsh - warm, dry and sunny, E 3 - A pleasant enough morning in hazy sunshine for a circular Ted walk around the farmland and wetlands. Much of the arable lands had been sprayed off with herbicide prior to spring sowing of crops and as a result was devoid of any bird life; apart from one untouched stony field with a few pairs of sitting Lapwings and an Oystercatcher. Around the bird reserve the reedbeds and ditches were full of Sedge, Reed and Cetti`s Warblers, Reed Buntings and Bearded Tits, plus Common and Lesser Whitethroats in the dry scrub. From Hooker`s ramp several Marsh Harriers, two Hobbies and a `booming` Bittern were noted but there was no sign of any Cuckoo activity. Several pairs of Pochard, Gadwall, Shelduck and Tufted Ducks were present along with two Great White Egrets, two Common Buzzards, five Whimbrel over, a Common Tern on Dengemarsh lake, a few more Lapwings and Redshanks and an Avocet on the hayfields.

                                  Common Whitethroat and Sedge Warbler, Hookers

                                  Reed Bunting, Dengemarsh

                                 Little Egret, Hookers

Elsewhere this week I`ve twice seen a Little Owl on the out buildings at Hammonds Corner and singing Corn Buntings nearby. A check from Hanson hide yesterday revealed very little due to high water levels while two visits to Kerton Quarry yielded just the usual breeding waders and wildfowl and up to 150 roosting Oystercatchers. The garden moth trap continues to be disappointing with low numbers, probably due to the chilly nights.

                                 Southern Marsh Orchid, ARC

                                 Marsh Frogs, ARC
                                 Oystercatchers, Kerton Quarry

Tuesday 7 May 2024

Common Sandpipers

 Kerton Road quarry - Warm, cloudy, E2 - A humid, murky start to the morning that had the `feel` of a `rare bird day`; indeed, a trapped Melodious Warbler at the Obs, a flyover Serin and a Spotted Flycatcher at Long Pits gave some encouragement to birder`s at the point. As it was high tide I checked the quarry that attracted around 200 roosting Oystercatchers along with the usual breeding Lapwings and Redshanks, plus three grounded Whimbrels, a Ringed Plover and a Common Sandpiper. Another Common Sandpiper was noted at Lade where a Cuckoo called and where all the usual warblers were present. Well done to RSPB staff for installing a new tern raft on south lake although, unfortunately, but unsurprisingly a pair of Herring Gulls appear to have already taken up station; hopefully, they were only having a recce... 

                                   Tern raft, Lade south

Monday 6 May 2024

Grey Herons

Lydd - cool, overcast, rain and mist, NE2 - I spent the morning assisting with the annual `Heron Watch` atop All Saints church tower, in less than perfect weather conditions; Les and Chris got the first two groups up but after that we had to pause until the afternoon as the heavy rain made it too hazardous. However, together with my ground visits in March and April, I reckon there to be 21 occupied Grey Heron and five Little Egret nests in the heronry, slightly down on last year but still with plenty of `branchers` being fed by the adults before the rain hit. Also noted from the 132 foot viewpoint, a pair of Common Buzzards, a Raven and several House Martins amongst hundreds of Rooks and Jackdaws coming and going with food for their young.

                                 Grey Herons, Lydd heronry


                                  Lydd lakes

                                 Dungeness in the mist

Over the weekend our Ted walks across the farmland tracts around New Romney have resulted in a few more Reed Warblers taking up territories along the sewer margins and several families of Mallards on the water, plus singing Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs, Cetti`s Warbler, a lone Cuckoo and a couple of Whimbrels over calling. Yesterday we visited Park Wood on the Weald in glorious sunshine and where the only Nightingale was a bird singing from the adjacent Great Heron Wood. There were plenty of Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs in song, plus all the expected resident species including Nuthatch, Treecreeper, Great Spotted Woodpecker and Jay. On the way home we paused at Kennardington crossing where at least three Turtle Doves were noted, including a male displaying overhead, another singing Nightingale, a few Linnets, Yellowhammers and a Blackcap.

                                  Bluebells, Park Wood

                                 Mallard ducklings, New Romney