18/03/22

A light NE wind, bright sunshine and a great morning for Chaffinch movement locally.

m Chaffinch

3,470 ENE from the top of Harbour field, Langdon cliffs area. Plus 18 Brambling, 250 Siskin, single Crossbill + Greenfinch+ White Wagtail. Whilst 3 Red Kites, 2 Black Redstart and a single Firecrest were noted during the morning.

m Brambling, f Chaffinch
m Brambling
f Brambling

The previous day was another bright warm day with winds from my usual favourite direction here (NW) but little migration was noted although siskin and chaffinch were heard high up throughout the morning. I spent some time looking at common birds in nice light. The below Jay was one of 5 on lighthouse down where a singing Firecrest and female Black Redstart remained.

16/03/22

An eerie glow in the air today with the Saharan Dust cloud having an effect on visibility but it didn’t stop some 900 Chaffinches, 260 Siskin, 9 Brambling and up to 300 Redwing moving. From first thing till around 9am all finch and thrush movement was in a steady NE direction, some higher than usual. After this point birds were coming in high off the sea and circling, some flocks in off and straight west , others due North, they were all over the place which made counting harder.

Redwing moving East first thing.
Siskins in off the sea at Lighthouse down

A Red Kite flew West over Reach road, a single Black Redstart was on Lighthouse down, where a Grey Wagtail flew west. 3 Firecrests were vocal in Langdon hole, c200 Brent Geese in 3 flocks were fairly close in flying North East and a flock of 15 Greylags flew West as I walked East from Fan Bay and a smart first winter Caspian Gull flew towards the port as I walked back.

15/03/22 Woodlark

On the 15th of March 1969 an Alpine Swift was found over Dover town. This is my number one top of my list ‘Bird to find’ here this spring but unfortunately it wasn’t to be repeated today…

Looking West from the Harbour field

The highlight of the mild and still morning was a Woodlark that fluted its way East near the Radar station first thing. Best of my poor pics below.

A conservative count of 870 Chaffinches flew North East between 06.45 and about 9am. Much higher and about 200m further in land than last weeks larger numbers, c150 Siskin also took a similar line though a flock of 25 of these charming little finches came through at head height and flew right past me which was nice.

2 Brambling (one of which was perched up calling in Langdon hole early on) 2 Black Redstart (including a killer male) and 2 White wagtails (along the cliff tops at eye level) 2 Firecrest and 2 Red Kite were also noted , as was a Kettle of 11 Common Buzzards including the pale bird which ive seen a couple times recently. The lonely Treecreeper was still singing in middle wood.

Sea watching on windier days (yesterday and sunday) produced a number of Brent Geese at slightly closer range with the Easterly element to the wind. 5 Drake Eider and a 1st Winter Caspian Gull were nice and a handful of Common scoter plus 20+ Red throated Divers.

12/03/22

The southerly wind continues with varying strengths over the past 3 days. The 10th was a calm warm morning with 2 Marsh Harriers and 3 Red Kites the highlights of my walk around the patch. All 3 Kites and one of the Marsh Harriers headed South and out to sea bizarrely. I wish I understood why!

3 Brimstones, a Comma,3 Peacocks and a few Whites were also taking advantage of the mild and still weather as were the local Wall Lizard population.

3 White Wagtails along the cliffs, c50 Siskin a single Greenfinch, c100 Chaffinch, single Brambling and a Black Redstart were noted on the 11th aswell as a jump in Stonechat numbers (7) and some continental looking males while this morning’s efforts were aimed at the Sea where c750 Brent Geese were counted between 7am and 9ish. flying East some at great distance and others abit closer. 26 Redthroated divers also East.

One of the closer flocks contained a lone PaleBellied Brent bringing up the rear. A bird was reported from Reculver later in the day. I wonder if it could be the same bird?

The winds dropped mid afternoon and I broke from working on the house to check the headland quickly for a Wheatear. Alas it was not to be but 2 Firecrests on Foxhill down and a pocket of 3 ChiffChaffs along the fence on Reach Road were welcomed migrants to look at.

09/03/22

A strong SSE breeze met me as I climbed the cliff path early doors and as I reached Langdon cliffs I realised a semi-shift in the seasons had occurred : the headland was full of birdsong. Yellowhammers were dotted about singing away (after not seeing one for over a month!) As were up to 10 Corn Buntings. Linnets seemed to have arrived overnight and were muttering to each other in flocks aswell as fully singing in a couple of places. Meadow Pipits song flighting along the cliffs, joining the already enthusiastic Skylarks, It sounded great.

A Snow bunting was heard overhead as I walked along Reach road which appeared a few minutes later on the fenceline near the old Airstrip so presumably the wintering bird which I havent seen for a while.

A Brambling flew over Langdon Hole in circles calling but other than 2 Redpoll East there was little other Finch movement. The herd of cattle on the cliffs near the lighthouse did exactly what I had hoped for in attracting migrant insectivores in the form of 2 White Wagtails. Hopefully more of that kind of thing as spring progresses.

A single Chiffchaff was noted in top wood and in lower wood a Eurasian Treecreeper was singing. 3 Firecrest and a Coal tit were also counted here.

Whislt chatting to Lucy L near her home we picked up a Red kite low over the old windmill garden, then another 2 very high with a Common Buzzard heading Northish. A quick scan of the sea got me a nice flock of 50 or so Brent Geese east aswell as many Great crested Grebes and 2 Red throated Divers on the water near Fan Bay.

A trip to the timber merchants in Deal was interrupted by a Text from Gerald S letting me know of a juv Glaucous Gull he had found on deal beach a few minutes away from where i was standing so I raced over and we watched it for a while before it was chased away by the local Herring gulls. Fantastic bird; my first and only White winged Gull of the winter.

06/03/22

Northerly and North Easterly winds dominated the weekend and finch movement was apparently going ahead on Saturday throughout the morning with c1,300 Chaffinches East in flocks of 20-80 birds every few minutes and mostly at cliff height which meant each flock could be easily scanned for brambling (2 of which were seen).

Several Firecrests and Chiffchaffs have been noted recently but no sign of migrant Black Redstarts, White wagtails or Blackcaps. I’m hopeful next week will provide these and a Wheatear or two.

Finch movement today seemed to be non existent in comparison to yesterday, if it was happening it must have been further inland and the movement along the cliffs was dominated by large gulls. Many Lesser Black backs and 2 Caspian Gulls (A 1st winter and a 2nd Winter) glided East during the morning.

1st w Caspian Gull

2nd Winter Caspian Gull

The harbour is hosting a roost of several thousand Gulls in the evenings. Mostly small Gulls and despite a good look through I havent managed to find anything of interest beyond 100+ Med gulls this evening.

08/02/22 Snow Bunting

This morning I aimed to look for the Snow Buntings that have on-and -off frequented the old WW2 airstrip at Reach Road before hopefully getting better views of yesterday’s Lapland buntings and thus seeing both species in a day here…I failed at both attempts and the high winds were no help but just as I was driving back from an errand later in the day Rob R reported one of the Snow Buntings to be showing at Reach Road so I diverted and had a look. The bird was perched on the fence right next to the pull in and was very tame, which made me think perhaps it was not one of the two that sometimes put in an appearance here.

A quick trip to Shakey Beach before dusk resulted in a new 1st winter Caspian Gull, weirdly a bird I recognized from photos of it at Dungeness and also Hastings beach in the past month or so. Who needs rings when your totally obsessed with casps eh?

See Martin C’s pics of it here and m’old pal Larry’s of it here.

07/02/22 Lapland Buntings

With little to post about beyond a few Caspian Gulls and the long staying Great Northern Diver here in Dover this blog has been quiet for the past month. However todays still and bright start with a light NW breeze gave me the motivation to get up the cliff and walk the entire length of the patch and back. The highlight was 2 Lapland Buntings that flew over calling from the lighthouse towards ‘the field with 2 thickets’ late morning.

The birds were not approachable and landed only briefly in stubble fields a couple of times. I lost them towards fan ban only to hear them coming back overhead 25 mins later. Something gave me the impression there may be more than 2 but perhaps that will all become clear if they stick around.

Other things of note were the first singing Corn Buntings I’ve heard this year. Skylarks were also performing and other singers included a Eurasian Treecreeper (a bird ive seen and heard on recent visits to the valley) Firecrest Stock dove and Chaffinch all in the valley.

Ravens appeared frisky and vocal along the cliff tops and a local Peregrine was having none of it as usual, After mobbing a ‘fastbacking’ Raven it went on to dive bomb a displaying Common Buzzard near the Castle all in one movement.

A notable drought of interesting gulls recently has resulted in only 4 Caspian Gulls since my last post in early Jan. 2x 1st winters at Shakey beach, and 2 2nd winters just off the patch at st Margarets, here they are:

Above bird was present on 30th Jan, Bird below Jan 16th.

One of the 2 second winters from st Margarets, this one 17th Jan, the other on the 13th.

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 together on lighthouse down; his expletives made me look up and see this excellent Black Stork emerge from the mist and fly 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!