Monday, 12 October 2015

All the Sprites!

I spent another excellent day at Dungeness plodding between the Lighthouse and the Pumping Station at the Long Pits. I parked at the observatory and wandered towards the bushes. Immediately 4 Ring Ouzels flew over, I hadn't gone far when I met DW carrying bird bags one of which contained a Yellow-browed Warbler. 
Another wander out among the bushes with AJG found more Ring Ouzels (43 my day total) and more Thrushes arriving, c30 Song Thrushes, 6 Redwing, 24 Fieldfare, a Mistle Thrush, Brambling, 100+ Siskin, 300+ Goldfinches, lesser numbers of  Redpoll, Linnet and Chaffinch. Goldcrests are seemingly abundant this year. Other sightings of note there this morning were 2 Marsh Harriers, 131 Swallows, 27 House Martins and 3 Black Redstarts.

 Yellow-browed Warbler
 Pallas's Warbler (in the hand pics don't do it justice)
This afternoon a Pallas's Warbler made its way into one of the nets and was duly processed and admired by most of the locals. Also a Short-eared Owl was seen briefly being hotly pursued and harried across The Desert by several Magpies.

 Firecrest another Gem!
The Yellow-browed Warbler and the Pallas's Warbler were both released into The Moat neither were seen again. However there were 2 fairly showy Firecrests one of which was ringed, lots of Goldcrests, some Chiffchaffs mostly ringed, an unringed Common Whitethroat and another Ring Ouzel.
 Goldcrest (abundant this autumn)
 Flighty Ring Ouzels

 Short-eared Owl being pestered by Magpie's
Poor shot of a Brambling but the first this year for me (No.210) on the local patch.

Sunday, 11 October 2015


First stop this morning was the old lighthouse, AJG was already there staring into the garden at the few Goldcrests and Chiffchaffs present, overhead passage was virtually non existent. We made our way to the observatory where DW had heard a Woodlark over The Desert. We hadn't got far into The Desert when we heard loud distress calls very nearby. 2 Crows and 2 Magpies were attacking and obviously trying to kill a medium size passerine, we quickly chased off the attackers and found an exhausted 1w Blackbird cowering in tiny piece of scrub. It allowed me to pick it up, on examination it was bleeding slightly from a wound behind its eye. We abandoned our Woodlark search in The desert to take the Blackbird into the trapping area to release it into the safety of the dense Sallows. On release it flew deep inside the Sallows, so hopefully it will recover from its ordeal. As we were now in the trapping area we carried on along the Pilot Path, as we came to the eastern edge of the Sallows AJG spotted a Pallas's Warbler which showed its self briefly before disappearing back into the depth of the Sallows. I'd like to think that the Pallas's Warbler was the birding gods reward to us for saving the Blackbird, fate certainly led us to it.The rest of the morning was uneventful.
This afternoon I had a look around Dengemarsh and surrounding fields, apart from Marsh Harriers and the briefest of flight views of a Bittern I saw little of note. I checked the stubble fields for the Crane but were several tractors ploughing them and no sign of the Crane. 
Mid afternoon by the fishing boats Mick and the 2 Richards had attracted a 2 Caspian Gulls with there bucket of fish, Popcorn and loaves of bread. A short video of the 1w bird can be seen Here  .    
 1w Caspian Gull
 1w Caspian Gull with full crop
 2w Caspian Gull
Another victim of anglers!
 Herring Gull that has swallowed a hook with at least 2 more wrapped around its body.
 On the reserve a minimum of 10 Great White Egrets, also a steady build up of Wigeon, Pintail and other winter wildfowl. At the ARC by the track to the Pines several Cetti's Warblers were calling, also a few each of  Chiffchaffs, Goldcrests and Blackcaps.
Wheatear behind the fishing boats!

Friday, 9 October 2015

Common Crane on the garden list!

I joined MH at The Point this morning for more vis migging/sea watching. The sea was very quiet, the only interest was the juvenile Pomarine Skua beating up the gulls. Overhead passage was much slower than yesterday with no exceptional numbers of passerines. 
At the observatory plenty of Goldcrests and Chiffchaffs being ringed along with a few Redpolls, though the trapping area was seemingly quiet but plenty of migrants in the Moat.
PB had seen 2 Dartford Warblers at Galloways, after missing yesterdays one I made my way there dropping in home on the way. While having a coffee in the garden 4 Common Buzzards flew low over.  
1 of 4 Common Buzzards over Plodland. Pity they were all straight into the sun.
At Galloways I joined Dave brown and family but the Dartford Warblers were long gone, however we did see 9+ Stonechats, 2 Whinchats and 13+ Common Buzzards.
I went back home for lunch and had just started eating when Dave Brown phoned me to say a Crane was flying over reserve, I dashed out of the house and scanned across the fields, spotting it and firing some long distance record shots.  
 Common Crane from the Plodland garden(Heavily cropped)
 Common Crane Dengemarsh
After calling other locals I drove to Dengemarsh, where I had some better views of the bird as it circled around causing the 100s of Greylag Geese to take to the air all calling loudly also a Bittern. It eventually landed in the fields at the back of Dengemarsh out of view, so myself and CT parked at Springfield Bridge and started to walk around to the hide. As we crossed the bridge the Crane flew across the lake spooking all the Greylags again, then landed in the field in front of us giving us superb views. A short video of the Crane can be seen HERE .  Thanks to Dave for the call and Steve for spotting it coming in over the power station.
  Common Crane Dengemarsh
 Common Crane Dengemarsh
This evening at the Egret roost 10 Great White Egrets and 19 Little Egrets came into the ARC roost but no Cattle Egret.

Thursday, 8 October 2015


This morning I met AJG and MH at The Point for more vis migging/sea watching. A light NW wind was blowing and the sky was cloudless, 100s of passerines were passing overhead calling constantly mostly stratospheric and unseen. Linnets and Goldfinches seemed to be in the majority, but also Meadow Pipits, Pied Wagtails, Reed Buntings, Greenfinches, Swallows, a few Skylarks, a Grey Wagtail also 2 Wheatears on the beach. The gull roost held 2 Mediterranean Gulls and 1w Yellow-legged Gull, while on the sea of note 3 Arctic Skuas and the lingering Pomarine Skua. 
 Siskin at the Long Pits
A walk with AJG from the observatory to the northern end of the Long Pits and back, produced 52 Chiffchaffs, more Siskins and Redpolls over, 2 Grey Wagtail, a few each of Goldcrests and Blackcaps, a Firecrest and 2 Sparrowhawks of note. A Dartford Warbler was seen at West Beach but had vanished by the time I arrived, though there was still plenty of Chiffchaffs and Goldcrests in the Gorse as well as a Black Redstart. 
Black Redstart at Lloyds
While I was at home having lunch, DB called me to say 11 Common Buzzards were thermalling over the fields opposite my house. I went outside and scanned around finding 12+ Common Buzzards and a Peregrine.

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Vis Mig and a Bat!

 Juvenile Pomarine Skua
Vis migging today from The Point with MH,DW and AJG who kindly collated the numbers
07.00-10.45                                                     14.30-16.00                                                            
Wigeon:    3W
Common Scoter:  10E    8W
Great-crested Grebe:                                           13 around
Gannet:       65W                                                 36W
Kestrel: 1W coasting
Merlin: 1 hunting offshore
Sparrowhawk: 1E coasting
Oystercatcher: 3E
Turnstone: 1 around                                             2 around
Bar-tailed Godwit: 2W
Pomarine Skua: 1 juv around                               1 juv around
Arctic Skua: 4W  2 around                                   2W   2 around                                
Sandwich Tern:   76W                                          42W        33E
Auk sp: 3W                                                            5W
House Martin: 72 out
Swallow: 164 out
Skylark: 10W
Pied Wagtail: 27W
Meadow Pipit: 204W
Goldfinch: 12W
Redpoll: 33W
Siskin: heard only on six occasions
Linnet: 209W
Reed Bunting: 5W
Grey Seal:                                                                1
Harbour Porpoise: 2+                                              3+
Juvenile Pomarine Skua
Whiskered Bat???
News of a Bat species in Makepiece Hide changed my plans of going to The Patch. On arrival at the hide it was very easy to see and totally oblivious to visitors. Tentative identification is a Whiskered Bat, hopefully the experts will let know.
Also from Makepiece a Little Grebe below the hide, also 5 of the 8 Great white Egrets on the reserve could be seen.
Little Grebe
From the entrance track of the reserve a satellite tagged Lesser Black Backed Gull in the reserve along with several colour ringed Gulls. 
Satellite tagged Lesser-black Backed Gull JE9C

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

With southerlies being forecasted for all of today I thought most avian interest would be on the sea. I was joined by AJG, MH and PT at different times through the day.                        
                              07.50-09.00              10.30-11.00          14.30-16.00
Brent Goose:              5W                            2E                                    
Common Scoter:        9W                            4W                   12E     3W
Red-throated Diver:   1W
Great-crested Grebe:  7 around
Gannet:                     42W                           5W                      6W
Kestrel:                                                                                   1 out
Oystercatcher:         16E
Turnstone:                 1 around
Whimbrel:                                                                               1W
Great Skua:                1W
Pomarine Skua:          1W
Arctic Skua:                2 around                  3 Around              3 around
Kittiwake:                   1W                                                        1W
Mediterranean Gull:   2  around                 2 around                3 around
Sandwich Tern:        32W                         37W                       36W
Guillemot:                                                                                 4W                                
Auk sp:                       1W                                                         2W
Swallow:                   57 out                      13W                       17W
Meadow Pipit:         208 out                      53 out
Harbour Porpoise:      2+                             2+                          3+
Grey Seal:                  1                                                             1

A short look around the bushes found very little though the Pied flycatcher was still present per DB.
This Scarce Bordered Straw was the highlight of an otherwise very quiet night in the moth trap.

Monday, 5 October 2015

Another Flycatcher!

07.25-09.55 from the fishing boats with MH,DW, AJG (Southerly 4-5) 
Brent Goose: 5E   19W
Pintail: 1W
Common Scoter: 2W
Eider: 1 around
Manx Shearwater: 1W
Gannet: 161W       22E
Oystercatcher: 9E    2W
Purple Sandpiper: 1W
Turnstone: 3 around
Great Skua: 3W
Arctic Skua: 2 around
Mediterranean Gull: 2W
Kittiwake: 5W
Sandwich Tern: 86W     13E
Common Tern: 3W
Guillemot: 3W
Auk sp: 10W
Swallow: 7 out
Harbour Porpoise: 2+ around
After the sea watch I parked at the Power Station car park, was just about to go to The Patch when my phone beeped a tweet from SB regarding a Pied flycatcher at West Beach, as I was only 100yds away I was quickly there and watching the Flycatcher. A walk around some of the other bushes found a Firecrest and several Goldcrests and Chiffchaffs but little else.  
 Pied Flycatcher at West Beach
 On the reserve from Dennis's hide 8 Great White Egrets could be seen along with 7 Little Egrets, also a flotilla of 138 Cormorants were feeding together on the lake testifying to the huge amount of fish that must be there.
 Great White Egret from Dennis's
 Arctic Skua 
14.15-16.00 from the fishing boats joined by MH (southerly 4-5 drizzle)
Common Scoter: 2W
Eider: 1 around
Red-throated Diver: 1E
Turnstone: 3 around
Arctic Skua: 6+ around
Gannet: 5W
Sandwich Tern: 76W
Grey Seal: 1 around
Harbour Porpoise: 2+ around
1 of the Arctic Skuas a 2nd year I think gave a fairly close fly by.

Sunday, 4 October 2015

DNA confirms Acadian Flycatcher ID!

Below is a copy of an e-mail I received from Professor Jon Martin Collinson, Professor in Genetics at the University of Aberdeen, explaining the process he used to confirm the Acadian Flycatchers identity. 

When the fecal sample arrived at University of Aberdeen we digested it using enzymes to make a soup of the bird’s DNA and then used a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) reaction to make enough of the mitochondrial DNA for sequencing. The problem with poo samples is that the DNA is rapidly degraded into tiny fragments, so the normal PCRs we use to isolate big pieces of DNA from feathers often do not work, and true to form they did not work for the Dungeness bird.  We therefore designed a PCR protocol that would allow us to sequence small fragments of the DNA mitochondrial cytb gene from any Empidonax species.  The sequence we got was fed into the online database of every bird that has ever been sequenced and was identical to 3 of the 4 individuals of Acadian Flycatcher from USA and Mexico that were in there, and 1 base pair different from the fourth bird,. In contrast all other species of Empidonax, including Alder and Willow, were at least 8-9% different.  On this basis, we can say with 100% confidence that the Dungeness bird was genetically an Acadian Flycatcher.

Many thanks Professor Collinson for processing the sample so quickly.

Most of my weekend has been tied with domestic stuff. On Saturday I did manage to see c10 Continental Coal Tits, 8 Firecrests, many Goldcrests and Chiffchaffs, 5 Wheatears and 2 Black Redstarts of note around The Point. Elsewhere around the peninsular 6+ Great White Egrets and a Cattle Egret on the reserve. Scotney had c100 Golden Plover, 2 Dunlin, a Ruff among the feral Geese. Yellow Wagtails and Hobby at Dengemarsh per DB and Jack Snipe at the ARC per CE.

Late this afternoon a Jay came in over the old lighthouse. Off the fishing  a drake Eider was drifting off shore also a Guillemot, 36 Brent Geese flew west as did 6 Teal, a few Gannets and Sandwich Terns were tooing and froing. 
 Eider Scarce at Dungeness.
I only put this on as it is the first of the autumn for me.

Friday, 2 October 2015

More Sprites!!

I spent the morning around The Point, where in the beautiful sunshine and much lighter winds, it was lovely to see loads of Goldcrests wherever I went especially after last autumns dearth. It was difficult to ascertain the numbers involved on the Point and the Peninsular but in the 100s I suspect. Also seen 13+ Continental Coal Tits, 8+ Firecrests, 11 Wheatears, a Whinchat, 2 Black Redstarts, only 2 Blackcaps seen but many heard, Siskins and Redpolls mainly heard, c150 Swallows, 2 Sparrowhawks and a surprise in the form of 2 Pink-footed Geese flying SE over The Desert.
At The Patch the Grey Phalarope was showing well, also there a 2w Mediterranean Gull and 3 Common Terns among many Herring and Black-headed Gulls.


 Pink-footed Geese over The Desert 
 Continental Coal Tit
newly ringed Firecrest
I visited Ketchley Copse(Lydd Wood) The pines and the north end of the Long Pits this afternoon, Goldcrests were very apparent as were Chiffchaffs but little else.
A sea watch 16.10 -17.10 was pitiful: 
Brent Goose: 6E
Great-crested Grebe: 1 around
Gannet: 17E
Sandwich Tern: 15E
Swallow: 19 out
Harbour Porpoise 2+

Watching the Egret roost at the ARC from 18.00-19.10 saw:
Cattle Egret: 1
Great White Egret: 7
Little Egret: 15
Marsh Harrier: 7
Peregrine: 1
Sparrowhawk: 2

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Windswept Dungeness!

First thing this morning at the lighthouse the Yellow-browed Warbler was showing well, along with several Firecrests and many Goldcrests as well as a couple of Continental Coal Tits.
 Grey Phalarope at The Patch
I joined BH in a windswept walk to The Patch where we quickly located the Grey Phalarope which was showing by the boil, 3 Common Terns were there, 17 Brent Geese flew west and a Wheatear was on the beach.

 We then had a look around the bushes seeing and hearing many Firecrests and Goldcrests, 4 more Wheatears, a couple of Redpoll over.We saw little in the trapping area but lots of Crests, Chiffchaffs,  Blackcaps were heard and single Common Whitethroat was seen, also c50 Swallows.
Opposite Jarmans another 6 Wheatears, 2 Stonechats and more Goldcrests in the Broom.
 Firecrest with Crane Fly
 Sleepy Firecrest
Scotney held, c200 Golden Plover, 17 Curlew, 100+ Wigeon along with all the feral Geese. Dengemarsh was very quiet in the strong winds, the usual Marsh Harriers and more Swallows over.
 Continental Coal Tit
Early afternoon in Ketchley Copse(Lydd Wood) was disappointing with a just a few Chiffchaffs being seen and heard. At the ARC more Chiffchaffs and Goldcrests in the Willow trail and at the Pines but viewing was very difficult in the strong easterly wind.
Although todays birds were much the same as yesterdays, it was thoroughly enjoyable day with quality birds and many posers
 Yellow-browed Warbler