Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Dungeness; migration in full swing.

Saturday 9th September, 2017.
Walland Marsh, MOD ranges, Denge Marsh, the peninsula, Scotney and the ARC pits.

Mike Buckland and I had a very rewarding day's birding in the greater Dungeness area today.
We started on Walland Marsh in cool but dry weather after what looked like a night that saw some heavy rain. It was a bit slow at first with just a scattering of common warblers, a few passing hirundines and the odd Wheatear but just north of Lydd near Horse Bones Farm we had around 100 Yellow Wagtails and a good few White and Pied.
Spurred on we headed to the MOD ranges and were pleased to see at least 20 Whinchat, around 10 Wheatear and more Whitethroats and hirundines.
Around 10.15 we worked our way onto Denge Marsh seeing a few more Whinchat and then set about checking the Gully. It was a bit disappointing with just a few Willow Warblers, a Sedge Warbler, a few Whitethroat and a couple of Wheatear.
We'd been talking all morning about finding a Wryneck, something we've done a few times at Dungeness, and the Ranges, Denge Marsh Gully and the "Desert" in the trapping area are the favoured spots. Mike checked his twitter feed and announced that there was one in the "Desert" on the peninsula near the Point. The place we'd yet to check!
He also noticed a "tweet" that was 11 minutes old that said that an Osprey that had been lingering in the area for a good few days was now over the Denge Marsh side of the RSPB Reserve and a quick scan revealed that it still was!
We sped down Denge Marsh road and stopped at the start of the tarmac to scope it as it hunted over Hookers Pits. It soon dived into the pit and emerged with a small fish and headed slowly away but quickly lost height. We drove down the road and were amazed to find it in the ploughed field between Denge Marsh road and Hookers Pit. It didn't stay long - we stayed in the car but probably our proximity led it to fly over with it's fish and settle on a shingle ridge on the ranges. Fantastic views!
Seeing more Yellow Wags and a Raven en-route we drove around onto the Point and walked across the shingle to join a handful of birders standing around a patch of gorse. Eventually, after a few flight views, we had some views of the Wryneck deep in a patch of elder. It dropped out of sight but Mike soon found it feeding on the ground but deep in cover. With a bit of effort we could see and indeed photograph it through a "window" in the gorse as it fed in dappled sunshine. Over the next hour or so we had better and better looks until it eventually gave itself up, feeding in a small clearing and allowing fairly close approach. Always good to see and a bird I usually connect with every year at Dungeness. I saw my first ever Wryneck back in 1980 when the Dungeness Obs warden pulled one out of a bird bag after a net round much to my surprise and delight.
We headed to Scotney next via Lydd for food. The wind was freshening and cloud cover increasing. At Scotney we had a fair few Yellow Wagtails and several dozen Curlew but little else and we soon headed back to Denge Marsh where we connected with the 2 Cattle Egrets and saw several Hobby.
It was well past 5pm and our next and last port of call was the Hanson Hide on the ARC Pits.
Garganey, Black-necked Grebe, Little Stint and a few other waders were the highlights until Mike picked up a distant Osprey that may have been a different bird to our earlier sighting. By then Barry Wright and John Tilbrook had joined us and Barry remarked that it was the first Osprey he'd seen at Dungeness since the one he and I had seen together as schoolboys in 1983 on the RSPB Reserve over Burrowes Pit which had been my first ever!

Whinchat - MOD ranges


Wheatears on the MOD ranges



Meadow Pipit

Willow Warbler - Denge Marsh Gully

Osprey - juv, Denge Marsh 

Yellow Wagtail





Wednesday, 30 August 2017

August Bank Holiday; Beachy Head & Cuckmere Haven

Monday 28th August, 2017
Beachy Head, Birling Gap & Cuckmere Haven

A family day out on the South Downs exploring Beachy Head, Birling Gap and Cuckmere Haven. We arrived quite early and eventually decided to park at Birling Gap and walk along to Beachy Head and back before lunchtime. We started early enough to avoid the crowds and despite the previous day's mysterious "gas cloud" event which had led to Birling gap being evacuated and closed off it appeared to have done little to deter the tourists.
It was very warm and sunny with little breeze and by the time we'd got back to Birling Gap and had a snack in the NT cafe the boys wanted to go swimming in the sea rather than tackle the cliff walk towards Cuckmere.
After the best part of 2 hours on the beach we opted to drive to Cuckmere and then walked out over the downs to Cliff End and back along the Cuckmere River. It was such a still, sunny day and with no intention of joining the traffic too soon we didn't leave the Cuckmere until after 8pm.
Bird-wise it was fairly quiet; a small passage of Swallows SE and at Cuckmere a scattering of Yellow Wagtails, Wheatear and a few Whinchat. Stonechats have had a really good breeding season and we saw dozens today. Raven, Buzzard and Whimbrel were also seen.

Looking west along the Seven Sisters from Birling Gap

Beachy Head

Downland inland from Beachy Head

Beachy Head

Looking west towards Belle Tout

Wheatear - 1st winter

Small Heath


Birling Gap

Cuckmere Haven

Downland behind Cuckmere Haven

Yellow Wagtail - several dozen seen/heard

Wheatear - c20 present at Cuckmere


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Looking east along the Seven Sisters

Cuckmere Valley from Cliff End

Cuckmere River

Little Egret

Carrion Crow

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

New Forest

Saturday 1st - Sunday 2nd July, 2017.
The New Forest.
We dropped our boys at school at 06.00 to board a bus to Holland/Belgium/Luxembourg on a music tour. Then we headed down to the New Forest for a weekend away without the kids for the first time in many years!

We started at Acres Down where we had really excellent views of Goshawk and spent several hours in the company of Rob Clements who appeared out of the woods on the viewpoint much like he did a couple of years ago when I found a Black-eared Wheatear here!
No such megas today but Honey Buzzard, Hobby, Raven, Hawfinch, Tree Pipit and Woodlark were the highlights of a very productive 5 hours. A couple of Wood Warblers were still singing along the bottom path from the car park early morning but as you might expect most song has finished and birds were largely feeding young.
It was mid-afternoon and getting very warm by the time we left Acres Down and we drove leisurely around The Forest for a couple of hours stopping occasionally before checking into our hotel in Lyndhurst.
Late afternoon we headed down to Beaulieu via Denny Wood (lots of Redstarts) and across Beaulieu Heath to Bucklers Hard before finding a pub in East Boldre, the Turfcutters Arms, for dinner. It was a perfect summers evening and after eating in the pubs garden we drove the short distance to Beaulieu Heath and wandered until dark and the Nightjars started churring.

It was to prove even sunnier and hotter today and bird activity quickly diminished. We walked a circuit from Beaulieu Road station to Denny Wood via a series of bogs, a walk I've done many times before over the years. Being high-summer it was fairly quiet but Redshank and Lapwing both had young and there were plenty of Redstart about. There were hundreds of Silver-studded Blue butterflies on the wing and I spent a good while trying to photograph them. We also had Keeled Skimmers and a number of common damselflies and other dragonflies.
Early afternoon we wandered along Rhinefield Ornamental Drive in the cool shade of the huge Douglas Firs and explored the arboretum. A Spotted Flycatcher and several Firecrest were added to the weekends list.
To finish we went to Fritham and walked across the plain in the late afternoon. Woodlark and Dartford Warblers were the highlights and once again walk a few hundred yards from a car park and you have the place to yourself.

Acres Down

Acres Down


Denny Wood

Beaulieu Road

Beaulieu Road

Beaulieu Road

Beaulieu Road

Fallow Deer

Silver-studded Blue

Silver-studded Blues

Keeled Skimmer

Rhinefield Ornamental Drive

Douglas Fir c125 years old

Fritham Plain

New Forest ponies on Fritham Common