03/01/22 Dover Caspian Gulls

Since the end of the November my attention has been centred on local Gulls. The inner harbour nearest my house has been good and Ive seen 2 different 1st Winter Caspian Gulls there since Christmas (one of which found by GS) Shakespeare beach to the West of the port has been very production and Ive come across 7 different Caspian gulls there in the past week or so, aswell as a handful of Yellow-Legged Gulls and multiple Argentatus Herrings. I should also mention that I’ve seen5 or 6 different Casps moving along the cliffs between Langdon and Southforeland however photo opportunities are not so good as its really a 10 second look at each, like the below 2nd winter, one of three all flying East on the 17th December.

Below are some recent photos, taken at Shakey Beach where the birds come in to bread. A different bird is denoted by the use of ‘ ///// ‘

///// An elegant long winged bird seen on 30/12/21

///// A small presumed female with nice deep tail band seen on the 02/01/22

///// A large scruffy male also seen on the 31/12/21

///// A darker bird with a lovely white underwing and beautifully delicate scapular pattern.

///// A stunningly white 2nd Winter. 02/01/22

/////A Large long necked and nosy presumed male. 03/01/22

////An adult bird from the 28/12/21 showing no Black band on p5 suggesting some Herring influence perhaps although the rest of the Primary pattern seems good with a decent pattern to the underside of p10 and long grey tongues throughout.

///// A first winter from the inner harbour near the house on the 29/12/21 great caspo skeletal expression, quite a small and dark bird.

My appetite for Caspian Gulls during winter remains unsatisfiable! However some other species of interest have been noted: several Yellow Legged Gulls like the below 1st winter and adult (seen alongside an adult Argentatus) were from the inner harbour and shakey beach in the past week.

Also I’d like to make a point about how many Argentatus Herring Gulls I see here. Its alot more than I noticed in London, perhaps a coastal thing but Im recording numerous birds of all ages each session. Below is a striking pale Northern Argie and a smart 4th winter.

Theres probably going to be more Gulls on this blog before spring although I did check the valley briefly today and had Coal tit, 2 Firecrests and 3 Chiffies before quickly twitching the Bockhill Humes warbler, my first trip to Bockhill! not sure If I like knowing whats round the corner so have been putting off visiting since moving here.

29/12/21 Looking back at 2021’s Rare and Scarce

In feburary of this year we got the keys to our new home here under the cliffs just a few minutes walk from Langdon Hole. Since mid May I have been birding almost every day between Langdon and the South Foreland Valley, bar a few weeks working or away on the Scillies and It’s been fantastic, something i’d been hoping to do for a few years since first visiting the site with Rich B in 2017.

Below are links to my Rare and Scarce birding highlights from this year on the patch. I dont imagine I’ll come across so many decent birds in a year here again but I’d like to think its possible!

9th May – Golden Oriole A singing bird heard as I walked towards the old windmill on lighthouse down turned out to be a smart male seen briefly in the canopy. Lucy L joined me soon after but the bird didn’t stick around for long.

2nd June – 5(!) Rosy Starling

As far as I know this is the largest group of Rosy starlings to be recorded together at once in mainland UK. I picked them up whilst walking west from the Lighthouse, with wanting to find a rosy starling at the time I was on the look out for single starlings which are hard to see on the patch in June. First glimpse of these birds was a tight ball of 5 obvious Rosy’s and a scene that will stay with me forever, unfortunately the camera didnt want to focus for a good few seconds so they became a little distant by the time I photographed them but a brilliant record all the same.

2nd June – Bee Eater

20 or so minutes after the Rosy starlings I was hoping to re-find them when I heard the familiar and arresting call of a Bee eater coming my way. Over the radar station and along reach road heading East. An exciting find and a similar situation to finding one last year above Fan Bay with Dante. I also had a heard only flock heading East, a week or so later, the same morning Ian R had 9 fly in off at folkestone, presumably the same birds.

3rd June – Black Stork

Initially Picked up by Rich Bonser as we stood on lighthouse down, this excellent Black Stork emerged from the mist and flew out into the Channel.

16th June – Serin Same spot as the Black Stork but this time a familiar and distinctive call alerted me to an incoming Serin, I had time to get a flight shot as it carried on West.

23rd June Red-Backed Shrike A surprise on a ‘nothing special’ kind of morning and after a few days of NE winds. This female Redbacked shrike popped up in front of me near the Radar station. I watched it for almost an hour on and off before the dog walkers and public arrived.

15th July – Black Stork ii Another un-expected bird to pick up whilst I walked over Foxhill down and the first bird I put my bins on that day. Assumed to be the bird that had been frequently seen in East kent and was seen by others after this sightings here and there.

3rd November – Radde’s Warbler Just back from 3 and a half weeks on Scilly and enjoying the early November cover on the patch, this lovely Radde’s warbler found me whilst I birded the north side of the valley. Glimpsed a wing and tail flicking phyllosc with a stout bill and long Radde’s like super and then heard “quip, quip” , shakey legs moment! the bird showed nicely for a few people including Brendan who took this lovley photo. A bird Ive wanted to find for ages and so happy to have done so on the patch.

24th November – Pallas’s Warbler Another lucky phyllosc find and in the exact same spot I found the Radde’s. This Pallas’s flitted between dense and sparse cover calling occasionally, a nice bright bird full of character. Seen by others in the following days and coming after a report of one in the valley 9 days previous which may or may not have been the same bird and which i or no one else saw despite looking every day.

The list above doesnt include birds found by others (mainly due to the fact Ive been sat at this computer for ages trying to write this!) that I wasnt able to see which includes 2 Melodious warblers (RB, MK) , numerous Wrynecks (multiple observers) a Rough-Legged Buzzard (CJ) and a male Woodchat shrike (AH) It also doesnt mention the fantastic Hume’s Warbler (BR,GS) or things like the 3 Honey Buzzards I had between june and september one of which came an hour or so after hearing a flock of Bee eaters, nor the number of migrant Caspian Gulls, Snow Buntings, Hen Harriers Hawfinch, Woodlark, White Tailed eagle (IOW bird) nor the common migrants; Pied Flys tree pipits Redstarts etc.

Combined and all told its a fantastic set of birds to see on an inland patch and with some amazing birds turning up at sites nearby too, Ive fallen in love with the place and Im very happy to have made the move. Bring on 2022!

20/12/21 Catch up

Ive not been able to get out regularly since returning from Miami and most of my birding has been checking the cliffs behind the house (A juv Black Redstart is regularly in the garden) and the Gulls in the Harbour, but a walk along the cliffs from Langdon to South foreland lighthouse on the 17th produced a decent bit of Gull movement, with 100’s of birds moving from West to East along the cliffs, highlighted by 3 Caspian Gulls, (2 second winters and a large pot bellied first winter) a single first winter Yellow legged Gull aswell as multiple argentatus Herrings.

2nd w Caspian Gull
1st w Yellow Legged Gull

Theres been a thick sea-fog inlace the past few days, hugging the cliff top and so despite seeing many gulls continuing to move in the same direction over my house I didnt go up to look through them as its already tricky enough to pick out the birds of intrest in a matter of seconds as they fly past without fog complicating things further.

Fast forward to this morning and a clear day unfolded, the same cliff top walk however no gulls moving, instead an active sea on the East side of the port: 55 Red throated Divers, 25 Brent Geese West, many Gannets, Auks and Kittiwakes too. The valley seems to have a few Firecrest and perhaps c10 Chiffchaff wintering with Langdon holding 2 Black Redstart, 3 Fieldfares 7/8 Reed buntings but sadly no Tree sparrow this year.

A quick check of the Harbour this afternoon was highlighted by the above juv Great Northern Diver, the first I’ve seen in the harbour itself, also present a single Shag, 6 Great crested Grebes and a Razorbill.

1st cylce American Herring Gulls, Miami

Not really relevant to those who follow this blog for South East Kent bird news and photos but I couldn’t help putting it together as it focuses on one of my favourite Gull species. I hope its enjoyable and useful to those who appreciate the big old ugly larids.

I don’t often see American Herrings up close on these regular work trips to Miami in late November but this visit I did and a nice range too with both unworn northern types and bleached worn scruffier birds too. Enjoy!

Some nice dumpy postures and quite a recognisable facial expression to some of these. A range of the scapular and greater covert patterns shown by 1st winter AHG.

Retrices and Upper tail coverts; Tails all black or with limited white patterning in outer 3/4 feathers at most. The brown bars thicker than the white in the upper tail coverts.

Below, a photo showing nice smooth brown axilleires, dark belly and densely barred under and upper tail coverts.

Under tail coverts; all important for AHG identification, similar rule to the uppers although the longest under tail coverts are mostly brown with small white lozenges or jagged triangular shapes out of them.

Miami is a brilliant place to see birds and if gulls isnt your thing you can see warblers basically everywhere, see some previous posts for more on that and here a few warbler photos from this year too.

Yellow throated warbler

Common Yellowthroat

American Redstart & Black-and-White warbler

24/11/21 Pallas’s Warbler !

My last bash around the headland for almost a fortnight today as I’m working away until early December from tomorrow. I woke to more gloomy skies but gladly a very light NW wind. A Black Redstart greeted me as I made my way up the cliff path and as I checked the vertical chalk cliff faces (as I do everyday at the moment) I counted up another 3. Fast forward to the valley and I was noticing numbers of Goldcrests for the first time this autumn, probably 10 between the bottom path and the hollow wood. Im currently checking the spot where I came across the Radde’s warbler in early November everyday and whilst doing so today, a bright and beautiful Pallas’s warbler flitted infront of me between a dense privet and a conifer. My first look at it was head-on in all its glory. Views were really enjoyable but it moved about abit, as they do, and in the low light photos were hard work so I only took a few.

I saw it 2 more times in the strip of varied cover along Sea view road. It fed low down mostly and called sporadically whilst on show.

Another fantastic phyllosc to add to the list that have turned up in that small area this november. This bird follows a report of one present 9 days ago but despite 4/5 people looking at the time, and me checking everyday since hasn’t been seen. I like to think the obvious arrival of Goldcrests might have something to do with todays bird, but but who knows.

17/11/21 4th Hen Harrier

Finally a day without thick cloud cover. Another light NW wind, which Im seeing more and more to be a good wind for the site. 4 Black Redstarts including an excellent male were along the undercliff at Langdon, 6 Grey Partridges flew out of cover near the harbour field and as I walked the cliff edge just east of the hole, a new Hen Harrier appeared along the cliffs.

Quite pale, peachy underparts which very briefly gave me a fright as I picked it up, although its an obvious Hen Harrier and appears to be a juv female. Different still from the other 3 birds in the last 2 weeks. It circled and flew out to sea just East of the port.

A Ring Ouzel was in Fan bay for the 2nd day running and just as I got to the lighthouse I heard the (currently very) familiar call of a Snow bunting out over the sea to the East; a female came in and flew around the lighthouse briefly before continuing West.

A Firecrest was all the valley had to offer really although c35 Redpolls and c50 Siskins (over 100 yesterday) flew both East and West whilst I walked around.

A pair of Snow Buntings announced themselves as I walked past the old airstrip at Reach road, Landing on the fence occasionally. Presumably there are several birds moving around the greater area as Im hearing and seeing them in differing numbers most days.

14/11/21

An overcast gloomy start to the day with light Northerlies and the first bird I put my bins on was this late House Martin. Presumably having roosted on the cliff above the Port it fed for 20 mins before the light was good enough for decent pics but its black upper tail coverts, size of rump to tail length ratio and underwing seem to be ruling out either of the eastern taxa.

My walk East was mostly quiet but 3 Brambling flew west and when I reached lighthouse down I heard a Snow Bunting calling whilst it headed towards st Margarets mid morning. At least 4 Firecrests were between the valley and the top wood along with a few Chiffies.

I picked up the below Hen Harrier high over the farm, it continued west without loosing much height and doesn’t look like either of the two recent birds to me.

11/11/21 More Snow Buntings

A virtually windless morning here and my circuit of the patch was fairly quiet albeit for 4 Firecrests (2 As I climbed up the cliff path first thing and 2 more in the Valley). A single Swallow hawking over the top field, c30 Siskin and 3 Redpoll and then 5 Snow Bunting over Reach road old airstrip.

I thought I could hear Snow/Lapland type call earlier on, distantly but couldn’t see anything at the time. The birds flew around over the field with the cattle in and seemed to settle towards the airstrip.

10/11/21 Hawfinches and White-tailed Eagle

Another great morning up on the cliffs with significant birds for me here, this has been an excellent week!

Damp, dark and overcast with the continuing NW wind a little stronger today. Very Little in Langdon again and nothing to report untill I reached the valley where I picked up a Hawfinch calling as it flew towards the lighthouse.

Into the light but a bird that I’ve been hoping to find here. I could still hear it calling a few minutes later, presumed it to be perched up and whilst scanning for it in the tree tops I had 2 more fly high in the direction of st Margarets. A beautifully subtle and silvery call.

Whilst walking back home to begin work on the house I bumped into Steve R and whilst chatting this monstrous Whitetailed Eagle came along the cliffs over the harbour field at Langdon!

It headed inland towards the north after initially heading towards Dover, Raven’s in pursuit and every Gull in the area going berserk.

It looks like it has a radio tag, so likely form the Ilse of Wight release programme but hopefully i’ll have more info this evening. An exciting bird to see either way.

09/11/21 Woodlark

A damp overcast NW’ly start with mizzle turning to rain by 10 am. 3 Brambling ,6 Siskin and c10 Redpoll were all of note in Langdon hole and a fairly uneventful trudge east was highlighted by 2 or 3 Firecrest on lighthouse down and the valley. Also at that end of the patch I had a 5 second view of a Coal tit (unusual here) resembling the continental race: small crest and slate grey upper parts but I didnt see it again.

Whilst walking back West I heard the sweet fluting call of a Woodlark which I picked up heading west towards the farm, a new bird here for me, poor pic below.

A quick check of the harbour area and the juv Arctic tern was fishing along the main beach, 4 Guillemots were in the new marina along with a Grey seal. A first winter YellowLegged Gull and this 2nd winter Caspian Gull were flying around at the end of the western pier as the light faded and among the streams of Blackheaded Gulls filing into the harbour were dozens of Med Gulls.