Monday, 23 May 2016

Gull-billed makes the weekend!

Saturday morning walk along the beach found a pair of Wheatears collecting food, a couple of Meadow Pipits a Skylark and several handsome Linnets. 
Wheatear collecting food on the beach
At the ARC a Fox was on the look out for an easy meal, the highlight though was 11+ Hobby's over the Tower Pits, most feeding at height, those that did come down low were always into the light thus evading the camera. There are still plenty of Warblers singing in the reeds and sallow, mainly Common Whitethroats, Reed and Sedge Warblers with a smattering of Cetti's Warblers, Lesser Whitethroats, Blackcaps and a Garden Warbler. A Bittern is still booming occasionally in the Tower Pits but remains unseen.
Dengemarsh was feast of Hobby's with at least another 11 there, a pair of Yellow Wagtails were in Hay field 3. If all the birds have as much breeding success as the Greylag Geese then it will be a good year, but I have my doubts. 
A late afternoon sea watch was just that! 30 minutes staring at a blank sea.
 Looking for a meal at the ARC
 Gull-billed Tern taken from Makepiece in the the failing light and heavy rain
An hour Sunday morning from the sea watch hide was predictably slow with a single Great Skua being the highlight, though it seems I let a Pomarine Skua fly past right under my nose!
In the cold NW wind I only had a cursory look around the ARC seeing the sam as Saturday. Parking at Springfield Bridge I scanned Dengemarsh from the bridge, realising within seconds I was woefully under dressed for the biting NW wind so quickly retreated to the car and home for a late breakfast.
As I had to go to West Sussex Sunday afternoon, I was not best pleased to get a call from MH as I was driving around the Brighton by pass, telling me Mike Puxley had found a Gull-billed Tern on Burrowes! It's amazing how many times I think there is absolutely nothing around, leave the peninsula. Fortunately the Tern was still present when I got back in the evening, an excellent bird and find by Mike Puxley, also a very nice Dungeness tick for me. 
Gull-billed Tern taken from Makepiece in the the failing light and heavy rain
Little Owl, Lydd Camp
First thing this morning I checked Burrowes to see if the Gull-billed Tern had returned without success. As it flew off north last night I also checked Dengemarsh, Brett's Marina and Scotney to no avail, but I did finally catch up with the Lydd Camp Little Owl.
A 30 minute sea watch produced a few a trickle of Gannets though most were probably in French territorial waters, the highlight was a raft of 46 Great-crested Grebes presumably non breeders.
Still plenty of Hobby's at the ARC, with one very bedraggled individual sitting in The Pines. With more rain this afternoon I was watching up to 5 Hobby's from the garden, also a superb male Marsh Harrier, 2 Common Buzzards a pair of Yellow Wagtail also a bedraggled juvenile Robin.
1st year Hobby at The Pines, ARC 
Bedraggled juvenile Robin

Friday, 20 May 2016

08.00-09.00 from the sea watch :
Common Scoter: 3W
Great Northern Diver: 1E
Fulmar: 1E
Gannet: 126E       24W
Oystercatcher: 2E
Common Tern: n/c
Sandwich Tern: n/c
Guillemot: 2E
Swallow: 6 in
A look around the bushes at the point found no migrants. After a cup of tea and a chat at the observatory I drove down to Dennis's hide seeing at least 3 Hobby's by the entrance track, from the hide a pair of Wigeon, 3 Teal, 2 Gadwall and a Shoveler on a small island that has already been taken by a pair of Herring Gulls just like the Tern raft, they should be re-named Gull rafts as on Dengemarsh they have now all been taken over  by Common Gulls. With the lack of islands there probably wont be any nesting Terns this year and with the Marsh Harriers snaffling the Lapwing chicks.....
On a brighter note at least the Hobby's are putting on a show for the visitors and there seems to be plenty of Reed, Sedge and Cetti's Warblers, Common Whitethroats, Lesser Whitethroats, Reed Buntings and with a little persistence you can usually find Bearded Tits and hear a Bittern.
The track between the ARC car park and the pines produced 3 more Hobby's, several Swifts another booming Bittern and the same warblers as the other side.
Another sea watch this afternoon from the fishing boats was very poor, but it gave me and MH a chance to put the world right.
14.40-16.10 with MH
Great-crested Grebe: 30 o/s  inc. Raft of 23
Fulmar: 1W
Gannet: 18E      21W
Sandwich Tern: c 15 feeding o/s
Swallow: 9 in
Harbour Porpoise: 3+

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Spring Poms last Hurrah?

The 7 Pomarine Skuas past Dungeness today may well be the last of the spring, they were joined by 6 Arctic Skuas, 3 Great Skuas, 2 Great Northern Divers, a Black-throated Diver, Red-throated Diver, a Velvet Scoter, 100+ Common Scoter, several 100s of Common Terns, a few each of Sandwich and Little Terns. For full details see
Over the lakes during the rain many Swifts and small numbers of Swallow, House Martins and Sand Martins. On a very small island on Burrowes 5 Sanderling, 3 Ringed Plovers and a Turnstone.
Late afternoon after the rain at Dengemarsh, 6+ Hobby's, 2 Marsh Harriers, 20+ Common Terns and a Cuckoo of note.

Monday, 16 May 2016

I joined AJG who kindly collated the numbers in the sea watch hide this morning, wishing I had donned hat and gloves. 
0620 to 10.10 with an hours break for a cup of tea and a warm up.
Brent Goose: 15E
Gadwall: 1E
Garganey: 1E
Common Scoter: 78E
Great Crested Grebe: 7 around
Fulmar: 2E
Gannet: 63E 
Cormorant: c15 around
Oystercatcher: 5E
Sanderling: 20E
Dunlin: 4E
Curlew: 2E
Whimbrel: 3E
Great Skua: 2E
Little Gull: 1 Around
Little Tern: 2E
Common Tern: 177E
Sandwich Tern: c30 Tooing and Froing
Guillemot: 8E
Auk sp: 6E
Swallow: 2 around
 Cuckoo by the entrance track
A walk from the ARC car park to the Pines found lots of singing Reed, Sedge and Cetti's Warblers, along with Reed Buntings, Chaffinches, Common and Lesser Whitethroats, Blackcap and even a Garden Warbler. A  Cuckoo flew over as did a Marsh Harrier and 2 Hobbies.
From Dennis's a Black-necked Grebe occasionally coming out from under the bushes, plenty of Common Terns lining up to settle on the  Tern Raft, unfortunately it has been taken over by a pair of Herring Gulls, so unless it is persuaded to move elsewhere it will be another year without any Terns nesting on Burrowes. Maybe next year there might be some islands. It seems that the Common Gulls and Herring Gulls have taken over all but one of the rafts on Dengemarsh. Perhaps a little persuasion there as well. 
Corn Bunting at Cockles Bridge
At Cockles Bridge a lone Corn Bunting singing, 3 Yellow Wagtails and a Common Buzzard of note. there.
From Springfield Bridge 7 Hobby's, 3 Marsh Harriers, a booming Bittern and 2 Little Egrets of note.
Around the back of Scotney Yellow Wagtails, Corn Buntings and Skylarks appear to be doing well. On the island 6 pairs of Avocets among the Black-headed Gulls and a pair of Herring Gulls.
Another sea watch this afternoon with MH and AJG was very slow:
Gannet: 20E
Oystercatcher: 1E
Sanderling: 2E
Common Tern: 20E         9W
Sandwich Tern: 18E         16W
Black Tern: 1E
Swallow: 4 in
Harbour Porpoise: 2

Sunday, 15 May 2016


Rissani area gave us superb views of Maghreb Larks, White-crowned Wheatears, Lanners, Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters, Cream Coloured Courser, Fulvous Babbler, Red-rumped Swallows, Bonelli's Eagle and lots more. I found photography very difficult due to the intense heat haze and the effects of the heat on my camera.
 Maghreb Lark (Long-billed Crested Lark)

 1st yr White-crowned Wheatear
Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters

Bathing on the wing
Juvenile Cream Coloured Courser
At lunch time Brahim invited us into his home in Rissani, where his sister provided us with an excellent Berber lunch. The afternoon was very hot, so myself and Chris once again availed ourselves of the hotel pool.
Our Hotel Pool
View from our rooms
In the mornings and evenings we visited the outfall from the hotel waste system. There was only a very small pool and a c20m overspill stream. This was more than enough to bring in the birds. 3 Red-throated Pipits, several Yellow Wagtails (mainly iberiae but also a cinereocaopilla), many Melodious Warblers and Olivacious Warblers, Reed Warblers, Subalpine Warbler, Pied and spotted Flycatchers, 2 Little Ringed Plovers, Southern Grey Shrike, Woodchat Shrike, Bee-eaters, White-crowned and Desert Wheatears let alone the overhead birds.
Red-throated Pipit
 Yellow Wagtail (iberiae)
Southern Grey shrike

Saturday, 14 May 2016

Todra Gorge and the Sahara!

A long drive from Boumalne du Dades to the Erg Chebbi Dunes via the Todra Gorge. In the gorge we great views of Scrub Warbler, Tristram's Warbler which evaded the camera, also Blue Rock Thrush, House Bunting, Alpine Swift, Crag Martin, Bee-eaters and more. 
Scrub Warbler
Just before arriving at our hotel we stopped in an area of semi desert  where we saw our first Fulvous Babblers and Spotted Sandgrouse, also Hoopoe Lark, Bar-tailed Desert Lark and Cream Coloured Courser.
Fulvous Babbler
Spotted Sandgrouse
Spotted Sandgrouse
Our hotel for 3 nights in the Sahara the Auberge Les Dunes D'or
One morning we drove out into the Sahara heading for spot where Brahim ( our brilliant guide told us we would see roosting Egyptian Nightjar. He was so confident because one of his Berber Nomad friend Barak had spent the night staking out the Nightjars for us. As we drove out into the desert we saw a man standing in the distance, we drove towards him parked near by then walked over to him. He casually pointed to some vegetation a few metres away where we could see not just 1 Egyptian Nightjar but 2 brilliant!!!  After spending time enjoying the them both we moved away to a nearby area for Desert Warbler which we saw very well but once again eluded the camera, also there incredibly more Melodious Warblers!! along with Desert Wheatear, White Crowned Wheatears, Southern Grey Shrike, Woodchat Shrikes, Rufous Bushchats and  the superb Hoopoe Larks. 
 Egyptian Nightjars
 Hoopoe Lark
 Hoopoe Lark
 Hoopoe Lark

 Hoopoe Lark doing its fantastic display flight

Rufous Bushchat
Desert Sparrow(my camera refused to focus lock I think the extreme heat was the cause)
As we made our way back to our hotel for lunch we stopped at a Nomad camp where we saw a couple of Desert Sparrows, more Turtle Doves, Bee-eaters, Melodious Warblers, Olivaceous Warblers and more.
Brown Necked Raven and friend.
After lunch Chris and I made use of the hotels swimming pool till late afternoon when we drove the short distance to Merzouga, where we visited the what I can only describe as their equivalent of allotments, only these ones were fantastically bird rich. It was alive with Pied  Flycatchers, Melodious Warblers, Olivaceous Warblers, Rufous Bushchats, Nightingales, Reed and Sedge Warblers, Laughing Doves, Turtle Doves, Hoopoe's, Woodchat Shrikes, Blackcaps, Blackbirds and so much more. As we came out of the site 100+ Bee-eaters appeared, ans absolutely amazing site.
 1 of many Pied Flycatchers
Rufous Bushchat also 1 of many
Laughing Dove
Superb Bee-eaters

Friday, 13 May 2016


Serin by West Beach
With a brisk northerly wind blowing this morning I did not have high hopes of a good sea watch, I joined AJG in the hide where a few Gannets and Kittiwakes flew West, a Hobby and 2 Shelduck came in and c100 Common Terns were over The Patch. Our sea watch was mercifully cut short by a call from David Campbell who had found a Serin loosely associating with a couple of Linnets by West Beach. As we approached West Beach the Serin flew over our heads, disappearing behind the Britannia PH. We only got as far as the old lighthouse when the Serin flew back over us and back to West Beach where it showed quite well briefly before being flushed by a car.
We made our way to Harry's bench, where another call from David Campbell alerted us to 2 Red Kites over the trapping area, despite much scanning we failed to see the Kites probable due to ineptness on our part. Yet another alert from David got us onto a newly arrived Ring-tail Hen Harrier. As Red Kites were being widely reported I went home and set up my scope over looking the fields and marsh. Red Kites were now being reported behind, to the side and in front of me, despite spending 2hrs scanning not a Kite was seen by me, though I did see 4+ Hobby's, Marsh Harriers, Common Buzzards, lots of Swifts and a Yellow Wagtail.
A stroll around the hay fields this afternoon in the increasingly strong northerly wind was unpleasant and basically a waste of time as apart from a couple of Hobby's and Swifts battling the wind everything else was keeping in shelter.

Thursday, 12 May 2016


 When I arrived at the sea watch hide a around 07.30 it was empty which told me all I needed to know about the off shore passage this morning. I moved onto The Patch where c100 Common Terns were feeding and c150 Herring Gulls with a few Great and Lesser Black Backed Gulls were loafing on the shore. I carried on to the open ground at the west end of the power station, where a single male Wheatear was feeding, hopefully its mate was nearby on eggs, a flock of c35 Linnets were present and several Ravens could be heard but not seen. At the observatory DW was ringing a Chiffchaff and Blackcap, a Black Redstart was  on the wires. A stroll around The Desert saw a few resident Common Whitethroats, 3 Chiffchaffs and 4 Swallows very meagre fare.
A look around Scotney saw 3 Grey Plover, 2 Marsh Harriers, 4 Yellow Wagtails by the road and the usual feral Geese.
While emptying my MV, Steve Gale phoned to say a female Montagu's Harrier was circling the fields SW of my house. My scope was already set up in the drive, as I scanned across the fields all I could find was  Marsh Harriers and Common Buzzards, in desperation I drove down towards the Go Cart track, as I did so the Harrier passed me heading for house, a very quick about turn and even quicker drive back to the house where I could see the harrier coming closer and closer, very quickly it circled in front the house before flying over at c60 feet giving fantastic views, unfortunately I was looking straight into the sun.
 Montagu's Harrier
Montagu's Harrier
Montagu's Harrier
A few minutes after the Harrier went over this Common Buzzard did the same.
I joined AJG at the fishing boats 14.00-15.30
Gannet: 9E
Oystercatcher: 3E   1W
Whimbrel: 35E
Bar-tailed Godwit: 1E
Arctic Skua: 1E
Little Tern: 5E
Common Tern: 41E
Sandwich Tern: 9E
Swallow:17 coasting  E
House Martin: 1 E with Swallows

This evening I visited The Midrips, after climbing over the new sea defence wall and negotiating the Norwegian Boulders I made my way along the sea wall to the lagoons where 17 Avocet, 4 Greenshanks, 3 Whimbrel, 2 Curlew, a Knot, 12 Black-tailed Godwits, 4 Grey Plover, 22 Redshank, 12 Dunlin, 2 Sanderling, 9 Ringed Plovers and 14 Oystercatchers were all feeding. 2 male Wheatears were feeding near the entrance, while along the bank Common Whitethroats, Reed Buntings and Meadow Pipits were singing. Then I had to negotiate the obstacle course to get out! Due to the new sea defence work this site is not for the infirm! Of course the MOD could just take the padlock off the gate when they are not using the ranges.