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Monday, 23 January 2012

An E-Great Weekend

Pulling back the curtains on Saturday morning (21st) made me less than optimistic as it was a windy, overcast scene that greeted me. However I had promised Angela that I would show her a Barn Owl, not an easy task in recent years - as a result of cold winters, food supply and some habitat destruction across the Romney Marsh they have become very scarce in the south of Kent.

Leaving Ashford c10am our first stop was the Rother Levels between Northiam and Newenden on the Kent/Sussex border, looking for the reported Whooper Swan that appears to have returned for another winter. Sadly there was no sign of this bird so we made our way to Rye via Peasmarsh, noting a Common Buzzard over the car. Skirting around the edge of Rye, we made our next stop at Northpoint Gravel Pits where we noted 31 Curlew and a single Golden Plover. Further on there were more, distant Curlew at Camber Pits along with a Green Woodpecker, 5 Shoveler, several Gadwall and a Great-Crested Grebe. Jury's Gap held a Mute Swan flock but no other wild swans could be found amongst them. Scotney Gravel Pits contained the usual masses of Lapwing, Golden Plover, Wigeon and Geese, including the feral Barnacle population, with highlights being 6+ Dunlin and a Redshank on the flooded fields.

Back into Kent, Angela spotted a Sparrowhawk sitting on a bungalow roof in Lydd and a Marsh Harrier was spotted over Dengemarsh with another 2 seen later at Boulderwall Farm. Lunch was spent in the presence of Gulls, with the 1st winter Caspian Gull taking top billing, in the gull roost nearest the new lighthouse at Dungeness. Taking a walk over to the fishing boats we also noted several Kittiwakes (both adults and 1st winters) and a smart 2nd Winter Little Gull. Guillemots, Cormorants and a group of Turnstone were noted in the strong blustery wind before we retreated to the calm and warmth of the Car. The Glaucous Gull will have to wait for another day. Missed it twice now this year!

One of the birds I had mentioned to Angela, that we might see, was the drake Smew that had been frequenting the ARC Pit. Fortunately we soon found the bird amongst a flock of dosing Pochard, sheltering close to the road. The Smew was wide awake however and showed brilliantly in the scope. The Long-tailed Duck was also scoped along with several Goldeneye, Shelduck and many Teal. Heading to the visitor centre on the RSPB reserve, 2 Tree sparrows were noted in the brambles around Boulderwall. Lots of common birds on the feeders, a Moorhen being particularly showy.

From the reserve we then made our way to Lydd airport to see if the Black Redstart was still present. It was - almost in exactly the same place as last weekend, catching insects around a small puddle near the hangar. 3 Meadow pipits were also present with Golden Plover and Lapwing again showing on the sheep fields. A phone call/voicemail here from the parents alerted us to the presence of a Great White Egret, once again along the RM Canal between Appledore and Stone (cliff). More on that bird later.

Angela was on top raptor spotting form again as we crossed the marsh with a Peregrine zooming across in front of the car as we drove along Caldecott Lane. At Midley, Walland Marsh, the Bewick's Swan flock numbered 53 with 5 juveniles noted (record shot below). A flock of Fieldfare were near the Woolpack Inn.

Bewick's Swans on Walland Marsh
Driving across Fairfield, towards Appledore, there was a large mixed flock of Jackdaw, Rook and Starling. Quite a sight and sound. The RM Canal at Appledore was always going to be our last port of call, as my parents had seen a Barn Owl here on New Year's Day. A Kestrel was seen - sadly the Owl didn't show, but with the water levels in the canal once again dropping, the habitat around the sluice between Appledore and Stone proved excellent, producing good views of the Great White Egret, 2 Little Egrets, 2 Grey Herons and a Green Sandpiper. Both the GWE and Green Sand were present here late last year. The light was fading fast but a shot of the GWE was obtained. A fine end to the day.... still got to find Angela a Barn Owl though - the hunt goes on!

Great White Egret in flight

Mum and Dad were also out across the Marsh and Dungeness. Additionally they saw 6 Little Egrets at Hamstreet, Common Buzzard on Walland, Kingfisher from the ARC screen and another Great White Egret at Dengemarsh. 


  1. A cracking list of birds for the day, please send some towards a quiet Reculver please.

  2. As Marc says great list Neil, pretty good considering it must have been very windy!!