Monday, 30 April 2018


28th April 

Dungeness 06:15 - 12:30

Foggy to start with poor visibility, clearing out with occasional sunny intervals, mod SW wind

I got to the all ready busy sea watch hide just in time to see 4 Arctic Skuas pass in the fog up Channel, a good start to the day but that was about as good as it got. The fog hampered viewing with only the Cardinal Buoy just about clear of the fog. A 3 hour watch produced 8 Arctic Skuas, Hobby in off, 100+ Scoter, 3 Brent Geese, 3 RT Divers, 4 Fulmars, 7 GC Grebes, Common and Sandwich Terns, a few Arctic Terns, 5 Swallows and a single House Martin in off.
A Peregrine landed briefly on the power station and 2 singing Black Redstarts also around the power station. A pair of Wheatear were between the moat and trapping area, the trapping area was quite with just 6 Lesser Whitethroats, 2 Cetti’s, 1 Willow and 1 Sedge Warbler and a few Blackcaps and Chiffchaff. A Slow Worm was under one of the corrugated tins and the only Butterfly was a Small Copper.

A look along Dengemarsh road saw 4 Yellow Wagtails and a Marsh Harrier.

Thursday, 5 April 2018


Sevenoaks NR  06:15 - 09:15

Arrived at the reserve in hope of seeing some spring migrants which so far this year have been thin on the ground. With a chilly NW wind and extensive cloud cover I didn’t expect to see much, first bird of note was a female Sparrowhawk skimming the tops of the trees quickly followed by a male. As I approached the Tyler hide a small group of Siskins flew over with a couple of calling Lesser Redpolls mixed in, not much of note from the hide the usual Teal, Gadwall, Shoveler, Wigeon and several Great-crested Grebe including a mating pair. 

The walk round to Tower hide was very unproductive except for a singing Chiffchaff and nothing from the hide itself, except for a Shelduck and a noisy gaggle of Canada Geese, by the time I left the hide the clouds had dispersed and the sun was starting to warm the morning up. I took another look from Tyler hide on the way back and as I scanned the islands I heard the unmistakable call of a Little Ringed Plover after several minutes more scanning I found two Little Ringed Plovers feeding on a distant island 

The sun seemed to have the desired effect and the trees between the hide and the visitors centre were now alive with Warblers, several singing Chiffchaff, 5 Blackcaps and 3 Willow Warblers we’re feeding on the insects that the sun had brought out. I stood there for some time watching and listening to these newly arrived birds, it finally felt like spring

Yesterday a family trip down to Margate saw a Black Redstart on the cliffs by Botany Bay and an Osprey flew over Margate seafront being escorted away by the local Gulls 

Thursday, 22 March 2018


Monday 19th March


The last Bluethroat I saw was in May 1993 at Holme Dunes on the Norfolk coast, so with news of 2 birds at Dungeness I decided it was about time that I had another look at these beautiful birds.
I reached Denge Gully just before 7am, the strong bitingly cold east wind was still blowing a few light flurries of snow over the peninsula and the light was very poor as you will see from the quality of my pictures.
As I approached the gully I immediately saw a bird take flight and land few meters further up, it was a superb male White-spotted Bluethroat. I watched the bird feeding along the waters edge for a few minutes as it slowly made its way back towards me. As other birders arrived to view the bird I noticed that the bird would take flight and land about 20 meters or so further down the gully and then work its way back up towards the waiting birders and photographers.
With this in mind and the need to get out of the bone chilling wind I made my way up along the track away from the main group of birders and found a place to sit down amongst the gorse bushes over looking the gully but more importantly out of the wind. My hope was that as the birders moved about near the bridge that they would flush the bird in my direction. As I sat there quietly a group of six Firecrests moved through the gorse bushes and a Raven flew over in the direction of the power station, after about thirty minutes my plan had worked the Bluethroat was flushed and landed directly in front of me affording great views as it feed. It was lovely to sit there and have this beautiful bird all to myself and within about 5 meters of where I sat, with a little thought and field craft you can obtain good views of birds without disturbing them.
After about an hour of watching this handsome bird I headed over to Lade GP to look for the Long-tailed Duck that has been there for most of the winter, as with my previous three visits to to look for this bird I failed to find it. A summer plumaged Black-necked Grebe was fine consolation though and a couple of Chiffchaff in the Willow swamp were probably fresh in.


Sunday 18th March

The overnight snow had left a slight covering in Kelsey Park, Bromley. A walk round didn’t produce the hoped for Firecrest, but Nuthatch, Green Woodpecker and Siskin were noteworthy

Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Catching Up

What with working nights and two daughters who seem to keep me busy all the time, it’s hard to find the time to keep my blog up to date. So will do a brief summary of trips that I’ve made in the last couple of weeks.

11th March
I spent the day in Norfolk on my old stomping grounds in the Brecks, I started of early to a part of Thetford Forest south-west of Swaffham. It was still dark when I arrived so I just sat in the car for a while just listening to the sounds of the forest, a Woodcock flew over and as the day grew lighter a Barn Owl flew right in front of my car affording fantastic views as it hunted the roadside verges.
By the time I had reached my destination most of the commoner bird species had been seen including fly over Redpolls and Brambling, my destination was a bird feeder in the middle of the forest. These feeders have been set up to help monitor Willow Tits that make this part of the forest their home, the Willow Tit was once a common species in Norfolk but has declined at an alarming rate over the last few years. This part of the forest is possibly one of the last places in Norfolk where these birds breed though a few are seen at one or two other locations across the county.
The feeders were busy with all of the commoner species of Tits, along with Siskins and Chaffinchs, a Buzzard and Red Kite flew over. After about an hour I finally heard the call of a Willow Tit, it flew onto the feeder grabbed some food and was gone again, a brief but satisfying view of this scarce species.
As I walked back to the car a bird of prey started to call loudly from close by, a large female Goshawk glided along the edge of a fire break closely followed by a male both calling loudly as they disappeared through the trees.
I then headed to Santon Downham, as I got of the car I heard call and to my bemusement a Willow Tit sat right by the car calling loudly, before I could get my camera it was gone! My target species at Santon Downham was Woodlark and it didn’t take me long before I found them, two birds were displaying high in the sky, they then plunged to the ground where they squabbled and gestured to each other for some time.
As I stood there I heard a Crossbill calling, it’s call was different from the Common Crossbill a more slurred, louder ‘gyp’ the bird landed atop a nearby Scott’s Pine allowing me good scoped views of the bird, it was a male and what was very obvious was its heavy deep beak confirming that it was indeed a Parrot Crossbill. A group of these birds have spent the winter in the area and I wouldn’t be surprised if one or two pairs will stay and breed in the area.
A quick walk along the Little Ouse before I needed to head home saw a hunting Kingfisher and a Grey Wagtail.

Monday 12th March

On a wet morning I headed out to the London Wetlands Centre in Barnes, what with the weather and it being a weekday the reserve was very quite and I hardly saw a soul whilst I was there. I scanned the reeds around the main lagoon and eventually found two Bitterns, on the wader scrape I managed to count at least four Jack Snipe and several Common Snipe. At least 12 Pintail were seen along with Wigeon, Gadwall, Little Egret and three Red-crested Pochard.

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Turtle Dove!

On Monday I visited the RSPB reserve at Cliffe on the north Kent coast. I arrived just after 06:00  there was a slight chill in the air, but it was nowhere near as cold as last week. There was still some snow on the ground and most of the ditches were still frozen but the main pools were largely ice free.

The first birds of note were a pair of Scaup, they were close to the east bank of Radar Pool and were associating with a group of Tufted Ducks. Scaup are becoming a less frequent visitor to Kent in recent years, gone are the days when large rafts of them would spend the winter in this county.

As I walked along the track heading up towards Black Barns, a Dove landed on the telephone wires above my head, at first I didn’t pay much attention to it as I assumed it was just a Collared Dove which are frequently seen in the area but as I looked at it again I could see that it had a brown back. A look through my bins confirmed it was a Turtle Dove! To say I was surprised was an understatement, the bird sat on the wire for a couple of minutes before flying of hard to say for sure but I would guess that this bird has probably spent the winter in the area rather than a early migrant bird.
From the first viewing mound just a few Teal, Shoveler and Lapwings were on show, with the sun now shining brightly the song of the Skylark accompanied me on the walk up to the Thames and a male Stonechat stood on sentry atop a nearby bush.

With the tide out most of the waders had dispersed to feed along the Thames, Avocet, Dunlin, Black-tailed Godwits, Oystercatchers and Redshanks all busily feed on the exposed mud. On the edges of Flamingo Pool at least 20 Ringed Plovers could be seen, I checked through them but no Little Ringed Plovers yet. Two male Scaup preened themselves as Goldeneye dived around them and a group of about 20 Pintail dabbled on

Sunday, 4 March 2018


With the glimmer of first light illuminating the eastern sky I set off for my local park, Ladywell Fields, there was a light frost and still a few patches of dirty snow on the ground. I love being in the park early in the morning as even though I’m in an urban environment there was no one else around, and for the first hour I had the whole park to myself.
My goal today was to check the margins of the River Ravensbourne that runs through the park for Snipe, the recent snow and freezing temperatures affecting large parts of England would have made it impossible for the Snipe to feed, this results in the birds turning up in unusual places looking for food.
The first stretch of the river just produced the obligatory Mallards and a couple of Moorhens but halfway along the second stretch on the bank I saw some movement, it was a Snipe, it’s cryptic plumage rendering it almost invisible. This was the first time I have seen a Snipe in the park, so a good patch tick for me! I later found a second Snipe on another stretch of the river.
Another sign of the recent inclement weather was the amount of Redwings and Fieldfare in the park, at least 150 Redwing and 20 Fieldfare feeding on the open areas of grass, a Green Woodpecker called, the first I’ve heard here for a couple of years and the Kingfisher darted upstream and as the first joggers and dog walkers made their way into the park I headed home for breakfast.