09/05/21 Golden Oriole

Wide awake at 04.50 this am with the promise of southerlies and some rain. The headland was fairly quiet but a few hours into my morning’s birding (at around 08.15) I heard a Golden Oriole singing from the old windmill garden just East of South Foreland Lighthouse.

Moments before hearing it I was sheltering from a heavy rain, thunder and lightening, evocative stuff and A much anticipated find for the patch. The bird moved closer towards me and the volume increased. A few minutes later Lucy L joined me, she had heard the bird too from her house nearby. I glimpsed it moving through the canopy briefly; a bright male and heard it once again after that, then nothing.

Other birds of note were 5 Yellow Wagtails over, a Summer Plumage Black throated diver that flew East high above the horizon, c25 Swallows, 10 House Martins, a Firecrest was calling in top wood, 2 Wheatear a Red Kite East over the castle and 2 Lesser Redpolls were flying around together first thing.

07/05/21

Another fairly still start to the day with light NW winds increasing in strength and turning West. Another 5.30 am start with most of the good birding limited to the first part of the day.

A Tree pipit was heard calling, and located perched in a hedge at the top of the stairs up the cliff. I watched it in the dawn light untill it flew off North, a Garden Warbler was also singing along the same path. c12 Willow Warblers (below) were scattered around, A single female Wheatear, c50 Swallows flew mostly West, single Sand and House martin, Single Yellow Wagtail North, 2 White Wagtail East, 11 Swifts in off the Sea.

5 Common Buzzards and 3 Sparrowhawks were all counted from a skywatch on the farm however whilst walking just west of Fan Bay; I picked up a Marsh Harrier low down out at sea being harassed by a Herring Gull, before too long it had gained height and was above the cliffs heading NW inland.

The Bird had what looked like orange Wing tags but the heat hazed photographs do not reveal any colour or codes unfortunately. A 2cy female I think.

I bumped into local birder Lucy L who told me she had a singing Serin in her garden on lighthouse down the previous evening. Sadly there was no sign today.

03/05/21

Light SW winds and abit of a sea fog produced one of the better days for me here so far this spring.

A 5.30 am start up top produced a male Ring Ouzel (in a similar place to y’day’s female) my first Spotted Flycatcher of the year, which was perched in Langdon hole briefly before vanishing, 2 Male Black Redstarts, 7 Wheatears, c15 Willow Warblers, Garden Warbler, c30 Swallow mostly East and a Lesser Redpoll feeding with Linnets on the deck was nice.

Winds got up and the place was blown out so no Skywatching etc. Im only down on weekends untill the end of the month so might miss some decent weather, it seems to get windy for weekends only at the moment!

02/05/21

The 2nd of May and still temperatures are struggling to get into double figures but a 5.45 am start and a long day out and about was enjoyed. Highlights were a female Ring Ouzel that flew over my head, perhced briefly before carrying on toward Foxhill down first thing, a smart male Common Redstart on Lighthouse down, 2 Tree pipits over N, 3 or 4 Yellow Wagtails, a Siskin flew East and a Garden Warbler was an added to the year list near the NT Car park.

Many Whitethroats and Lesser whitethroats were in song and perhaps 15-20 Swallows flew East over the day plus a single House martin. I also saw a pair of White Wagtails on lighthouse down, which could be the pair that bred there last year retuning. A Black Redstart was also heard singing out on my wanderings in Dover this evening.

25/04/21

This blog has been too quiet of late. Work commitments in London, Builders tearing the house apart and strong North Easterlies haven’t given me much to shout about BUT this weekend I’ve put in some time on the headland.

Western limit of Langdon cliffs, Looking West towards the house.

A late start on Saturday produced my first 4 Lesser Whitethroats of the year, each in song between the path up form the house to Langdon Hole with another on the Farm. A burst of 25 Swallows and my first Common Swift of the year flew over the Lighthouse after lunch, a Greenlandtype Wheatear was on the fields and an hours skywatch from the farm produced a Tree Pipit over N, c35 Stock Doves NE and an adult female Marsh Harrier that appeared from the West, flew towards st Margarets and decided to head back East along Reach Road. (I think Ian Hodgson mentioned that this is often what often what Raptors do viewed from this spot). I’ll add that the aforementioned Local had a RoughLegged Buzzard over the area on the 19th which was also seen in the Sandwich area. Gripped!

It seems like Saturday morning was a good time to be watching the sea. I, however didnt have free time then so attempted my first seawatches from the new patch Saturday eve and Sunday Morning. I think the combination of not figuring out where I’m going to look from and missing the push of activity on the sea made it a little lack lustre but between the two brief sessions the highlights were an Arctic Skua following a ferry with the Gulls, A summer Plumage Black throated Diver, a single Shag, 10 Arctic terns, small numbers of Brent Geese and Common Scoter, commic and sandwich terns were moving further out along with small numbers of Auks. some Swallows in off all to the soundtrack of Black Redstart Song from my Sheltered spot. I probably would have benefitted from joining other locals at better known seawatching sites but hey.

Today was very windy with gusts up to 30mph apparently, with so little to look at on the land and not lots on the sea I Sky watched after lunch for an hour or so. A few migrants appeared to come in off the sea including My first Hobby of the year followed by 2 Common Swifts and several Swallows plus a female Wheatear that made landfall just to the east of my seat.

Butterflies and Lizards everywhere, more on that soon.

Slow Start

A slow first half of April for me down here despite taking this week off work I’ve struggled to find many migrants since the previous post beyond the trickle of Swallows, a handful of Common Whitethroats and a high count of 9 Wheatears at Reach road and 1 or 2 Black Redstarts remaining. The weathers not really conducive for coastal falls here but today’s light winds and poor(er) visibility first thing helped a little with (at last) 6/7 Willow Warblers and a noticeable increase in Blackcaps. Still loving it though!

5/04/21 White Tailed Eagle

Another windy and cold weekend delivered a mere morsel of migrants including my first of the year Common Whitethroats (one on Saturday and another today) and half a dozen Swallows in of the sea, 2 White Wagtails, a few freshly arrived Chiffchaff (complete with Pollen horn) and Blackcap but Im still to see or hear a Willow Warbler.

Black Redstarts continue to be present and entertaining with a high count of 9 today including a singing male.

The highlight of the weekend was picking up a White tailed Eagle that had reportedly flown in off the sea at Samphire Hoe 5 minutes beforehand. It came in high over Dover Castle, drifted over my house and got higher higher. I lost it in the sky whilst dicking around with the camera, poor shots as a result but enjoyed the views and Ive just learned that its an Ilse of White bird that flew out into the Channel before coming back inland.

The Ravens have been hassling the Peregrines near me for the past few days, you can hear the stress in the female Peregrine’s calls, I wonder what their up to.

The Iceland Gull was flying around the eastern end of the Harbour after not seeing it for a week. I had nothing more interesting than two Argentatus Herring Gulls at my Gull spot, a 2nd Winter and a 4th winter, big northern looking beasts. Numbers of small gulls really down.

P10 mirrors on the 2nd winter is pretty cool and black on p5 of the 4th winter, both were large birds.

27th-28th March, Wheatears etc

A blustery weekend with Friday and Sunday being abit too windy for my liking although Saturday was bearable with bright sun and some sheltered spots as the wind was a straight westerly.

A little arrival of Black Redstarts was apparent with 6 or 7 birds seen including a very smart adult male, between the undercliff and south Foreland lighthouse with most present in Langdon Hole itself.

I checked the old airfield strip at Reach road, as the spot is a migrant Wheatear’s heaven and had 4 smart males, my first of the year – an uplifting 20 mins watching them sheltering on the lee side of the mound there.

Skylarks, Corn buntings and Yellow hammers were all in good numbers and good voice though the Tree sparrows seem to have moved on heres a photo of a few from back in Feb.

Peregrines were entertaining to say the least and I’ve managed to figure out where a nest is, the male was mainly patrolling and calling to the female who I think might be on eggs although she made an appearance briefly.

A Black Redstart was heard singing from the bedroom window early Sunday morning, I couldn’t locate it and it appeared to have moved on by 11am. Another exciting house tick came in the form of a Wall lizard! my neighbour says there’s lots of them!

More working in London for me so I wont be around till next weekend but I have some time off from the 10th so looking forward to that.

A new era.

In mid February we got the keys to our new house, a couple of minutes walk from Langdon hole and the cliffs to the east leading to South Foreland. Ive wanted to move to the coast to get more out of birding for a while and we have friends down here so it made sense. The house itself is situated under the ‘East Cliff’ and directly below Dover Castle. It needs alot of work! but theres been some time for birding so far.

Ive been keen to catch up with some interesting birds wintering locally; a pale juv Iceland gull that is very faithful to the east side of Dover Harbour, usually following each ferry out a few hundred metres and then following the next one in, easily picked up with bins from the cliff. Also notable is up to 4 Lapland Buntings that are frequenting the stubble fields and along the main path, One bird approaching summer plumage and was in subsong a week or two ago.

Theres a small flock of Tree Sparrows wintering in Langdon hole also, high counts are around 12/13, I’ve only seen them on passage here before but it seems whatever the national trust are up to its working as theres good numbers of the kind of birds they want to attract (Corn buntings, YellowHammer, Tree Sparrow etc)

The other morning there was a notable passage of Chaffinch, c1,000 east, a few siskin, 3 Golden Plover in off, a Woodcock east that was chased by a patrolling Peregrine (not sure of the outcome) and a ChiffChaff that appeared to be freshly in. Springs not far off.

I also gave the Gulls a quick blast on Sunday evening . Dover harbour itself seems to be a decent roost , 1,000+ small gulls including a few Meds and Kittiwakes, large Gulls where slightly less well represented but this smart 1st winter Caspian Gull made a loud entrance after 20 mins or so. A significant moment for me, with a Casp only seconds away from my new home, feels good.

2 x Snaresbrook Casps

I made an effort to go and look at the regular and returning Caspian Gull (now in it’s 6th calendar yr) at Eagle pond Snaresbrook today. As I arrived, with a loaf of bread or two, I could see what I thought was the bird towards the back with the naked eye, as soon as I threw some bread the original adult flew in calling from the other end and I realised the first bird I’d seen was an apparently ‘new’ 3rd winter bird.

Above, alongside the returning adult. It’s almost certainly a bird seen last year, as a 2nd winter, by Josh and Dante and also close by on Wanstead flats by Tony Brown. I recognise the head shape, nice delicate structure and it being quite a streaky bird, these points remain notable into its 3rd winter. Mad to think there will be 2 returning adults here in a couple years. they were the ONLY large gulls on the pond today, pretty cool. Adult below.

Heres a few Caspian gulls from various Thames sites since I came back from Scilly in late October, enjoy!

Sub adult, late October – hence still growing p10.

First winter, December

Advanced first winter, December

First winter, December