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Local weather


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August 2015

1stThe month started with a nice arrival of migrants with 30 Willow Warblers, six Lesser Whitethroats, 65 Whitethroats and a Wheatear whilst birds passing overhead included a party of six Green Sandpipers and 30 Swifts,
2ndVery little in the way of migrants today with just a Marsh Harrier flying east offshore, aGreat Spotted Woodpecker and 12 Willow Warblers on the land and five Yellow Wagtails over.
3rdA very disappointing morning with barely a migrant to be seen but things picked up a bit in the afternoon with a large movement of south and west bound Swifts with at least 2000 birds counted. The locally-bred Peregrine Falcons youngsters seem to have taken up residence around the power stations and are in almost constant view throughout the day.There was very little movement offshore but a dark-phase Arctic Skua was lingering during the morning and seven Whimbrel flew west in the afternoon. An adultMediterranean Gull and a juvenile Yellow-legged Gull were also seen.
The overnight moth catch was also small but did include a Small Rivulet and aLangmaid's Yellow Underwing.
4thDecent conditions this morning failed to deliver on the land where 100 Swifts, 25 Sand Martins and four Yellow Wagtails passed through and just five Willow Warblers and a Lesser Whitethroat were seen in the bushes.A juvenile Yellow-legged Gull was seen at the fishing boats and three Whimbrel flew west.
Of note on the moth front were an Oak Hook-tip, a Pine Hawk-moth, a Bordered Straw and four Small Mottled Willows.
5thPerfect conditions for an arrival of migrants again this morning but very few did so. The best we could muster from the trapping area was ten Willow Warblers, a Lesser Whitethroat and a Garden Warbler. Overhead, 70 Swifts, 250 Sand Martins and sixYellow Wagtails passed through.As if to confuse things further, despite the light winds and calm sea, there was a good deal of interest offshore with six Balearic Shearwaters and a Sooty Shearwater, 36Kittiwakes, two Little Terns, 213 Common Terns and even a Mute Swan floating by.
6thExtremely quiet on the land despite the seemingly good conditions for an arrival of migrants. The only birds of note were a Hobby and a juvenile Cuckoo.However, after a fairly slow start the seawatching picked up a fair bit in the afternoon with large numbers of Common Terns, 78 Black Terns and the highlight of the day for one lucky observer in the form of a moulting adult Whiskered Tern flying west.
The moth trap produced a Chocolate-tip which is less than annual in appearances at the Observatory.
7thA slight improvement in the numbers of migrants this morning with 12 Willow Warblers, a Garden Warbler, a Lesser Whitethroat, three Reed Warblers and 12Robins in the bushes and six Yellow Wagtails overhead. However, things improved considerably from midday when a party of three Common Buzzards were followed by a Honey Buzzard and then a superb Black Stork. The latter had first been seen over Hythe so all eyes were looking skywards when it was eventually found flying over Lydd Ranges. It then flew across the RSPB Reserve and then made a slow circuit of the Point before eventually heading north over Lade and onto New Romney.
Black Stork Ciconia nigra   Dungeness   7th August 2015

Seawatching produced another westerly movement of terns during the early morning with six Black Terns and 474 Common Terns but this was reduced almost to a trickle by the afternoon when a single Little Tern was of note.

Moth trapping produced one Bordered Straw of note but a Jersey Tiger seen in the trapping area was only the fourth Observatory record..
8thHoney Buzzard flew east over the trapping area at 0640hrs where a Grey Wagtailwas also seen and a Whinchat was also feeding in the scrub to the south of the trapping area.Three juvenile Yellow-legged Gulls and two Mediterranean Gulls were also feeding offshore.
Bordered Straw was the only moth of any real significance from a very small catch.
9thThere were a few migrants in the bushes but they were mainly at the northern end of the Long Pits and included 25 Willow Warblers, 60 Whitethroats, four Sedge Warblers and 20 Reed Warblers. A Marsh Harrier and a Kingfisher were also feeding there. Five Yellow Wagtails, a Grey Wagtail and 275 Sand Martins passed overhead. A Black Tern and a juvenile Arctic Tern were feeding offshore.Another Bordered Straw was trapped along with the tortrix Ancylis diminutana.
10thThe morning seawatch produced an excellent total of nine Balearic Shearwater flying west shortly after dawn along with ten Black Terns and 530 Common Terns through the day. An Arctic Skua and a juvenile Yellow-legged Gull were lingering offshore during the evening.Small numbers of migrants again but with just 32 Willow Warblers of note. AKingfisher was fishing at the Long Pits where two Marsh Harriers also flew over.
Of note on the moth front was a Ni Moth.
11thAnother excellent morning on paper with light winds and rain from around 0500hrs but which failed to produce anything more on the land than a dozen or so Willow Warblers.Most of the interest turned out to be on the sea where there was a steady westerly movement throughout the day with three Balearic Shearwaters, a Manx Shearwaters, a juvenile Mediterranean Gull, 1510 Commic Terns, three Arctic Terns and 25 Black Terns. A juvenile Yellow-legged Gull was feeding around the fishing boats.
Highlights from the moth-trap included three Bordered Straws and a Langmaid's Yellow Underwing.
12thAnother disappointing day given the light to fresh NE breeze and early morning rain. On the land, only ten Willow Warblers and a Lesser Whitethroat were of interest whilst several hours of seawatching produced just two Black-tailed Godwits, oneArctic Skua and a juvenile Arctic Tern.
13thA day of spectacular weather and very few birds. Over 30mm of rain fell in less than two hours this morning along with violent thunder and several near misses from lightning strikes. Couple this with near darkness during the worst of the weather and it really was unbirdable at times. Much of the day was spent on some much needed office work.
14thThe morning began with thick fog after more overnight rain and again failed to deliver very much with just 12 Willow Warblers, a Garden Warbler, three Whinchats and 15Wheatears of interest. Afternoon seawatching in calm conditions produced a Balearic Shearwater and a Great Skua whilst singles of Black and Arctic Terns and twoMediterranean Gulls were feeding at the Patch. 
Whinchat   Saxicola rubetra   Dungeness   14th August 2015
15thAt last, a nice little arrival of migrants this morning with singles of Pied and Spotted Flycatcher, four Whinchats, 60 Willow Warblers, two Garden Warblers, six Lesser Whitethroats,and a Little Owl whilst overhead, a Hobby and 21 Yellow Wagtailspassed through. A few waders were also seen including a Greenshank and aCommon Sandpiper and a bit of offshore movement this afternoon produced four Arctic Skuas, two Little Terns and 62 Black Terns of note.Moth trapping produced a Small Mottled Willow of note.
16thA reasonable arrival of migrants this morning produced 80 Willow Warblers, nineLesser Whitethroats, five Garden Warblers, two Spotted Flycatcher. two Redstartsand two Whinchats. The sea was very quiet with just two Little Gulls and two Little Terns of interest.Two Bordered Straws and a Small Mottled Willow were trapped overnight and aJersey Tiger was seen in a private garden during the day.
17thAnother reasonable scatter of migrants although mostly around the Long Pits rather than in the Trapping Area. Of note were 40 Willow Warblers, a Garden Warbler, 12Lesser Whitethroats and two Spotted Flycatchers.The sea was generally very quiet although two lucky observers saw a juvenile White-winged Black Tern head north past the fishing boats in the afternoon. A Pomarine Skua also flew east.
Moth trapping produced just an Oak Hook-tip and a Bordered Straw of interest.
Ten Small Red-eyed Damselflies were seen at the southern end of the Long Pits.
18thA very quiet day with rain for much of it. The only migrants on the land were a fewWillow Warblers and a Garden Warbler. At sea there was a steady westerly movement of Gannets and Sandwich Terns and two Redshanks and two juvenileArctic Terns of more interest.Moth trapping produced a Fern (fifth Observatory record), a Scarce Bordered Strawand a Bordered Straw of note.

The Fern Horisme tersata and Scarce Bordered Straw Helicoverpa armigera  
Dungeness   18th August 2015
19thAnother good looking morning but still hardly any migrants to speak of. A few Yellow Wagtails and Sand Martins passed through during the day. Seawatching produced singles of Balearic Shearwater and Arctic Skua and a steady westerly passage ofSandwich Terns.Pine Hawk-moth was noteworthy this morning.
Two Small Red-eyed Damselflies were seen at the southern end of the Long Pits.
20thAlthough six hours of seawatching were recorded it was actually fairly quiet except for a short spell in mid-morning when 17 Grey Plovers, 111 Knot, 110 Bar-tailed Godwits, two Whimbrel, two Arctic Skuas, five Little Gulls, 13 Arctic Terns, nineLittle Terns and 46 Black Terns flew west.The overnight moth trapping produced  four species of hawk-moth including this spectacular Bedstraw Hawk-moth which is a new species for the Observatory. Also in the trap was a Pine Hawk-moth. Seven Clouded Yellows and four Hummingbird Hawk-moths were seen during the day.
Bedstraw Hawk-moth Hyles gallii   Dungeness   20th August 2015
21stLimited coverage but 28 Teal, three Shoveler and six Wigeon and singles of Arctic SkuaBlack Tern and Little Tern flew west. Two Balearic Shearwaters also flew west in the afternoon. A flock of 24 Swifts were flying over the seawatch hide in the evening.
22ndA quiet day in very hot conditions. Land migrants were limited to a few Willow Warblers and grounded Yellow Wagtails whilst 130 Swallows flew south.The sea was very quiet in the morning although a female Hen Harrier flew out but improved in the late afternoon with five Balearic Shearwaters flying west and aPomarine, two Arctics  and a Great Skua lingering offshore. Three Mediterranean Gulls and two Black Terns also flew west.
Overnight moth-trapping produced singles of The FernBordered Straw and a Small Mottled Willow.
Two Small Red-eyed Damselflies were seen at the southern end of the Long Pits.
23rdThere was a decent arrival of migrants this morning with at least 500 Yellow Wagtails(grounded and passing through) and seven Whinchats along with two Pied Flycatchers whilst 160 Swifts and 250 Swallows also flew south.Seawatching was fairly productive at various times during the day with nearly 800Gannets, a Balearic Shearwater, a flock of four Greenshanks and five Redshanks, single Pomarine and Great Skuas, about 20 Arctic Skuas and two juvenile Arctic Terns.
Overnight moth-trapping revealed a Scarce Bordered Straw, five Bordered Strawsand four Dark Sword-grasses. A Convolvulus Hawk-moth came into the garden and fed at the Nicotianas just before the moth traps were switched on.
An evening visit to the colony of "TreeCrickets was made where singing began at 1950hrs.
Posted early afternoon.
Also some significant news on the insect front. Whilst walking back from the pub across the Desert on Thursday (20th) night Roger Morris and I came across a colony of singing crickets but we did not recognize the song although it sounded distinctly Mediterranean. It was nearly dark and we did not have torches so we were unable to see anything. I was at the Birdfair on Friday so last night was the first opportunity I have had to go and investigate further. Myself, Glll Hollamby, Tim Cleeves and Steve Holliday went out at 1915hrs to the site and almost immediately I heard the song again and it quickly became apparent that there were large numbers (possibly 100's) of the culprit singing from low vegetation all around us. We eventually saw a few individuals and were able to catch one and GH also recorded the song on her phone. We returned to the Observatory pretty certain that we had something very exciting in our hands. A quick check of my limited literature and the internet showed it was not something on the British list and that it looked likely to be a Tree Cricket of the genus Oecanthusand presumably species pellucens. However, at this stage it still needs to be confirmed to species level. 
[Further reading has revealed that there have been at least two previous records, in Cambridgeshire in 1996 and at Sittingbourne, Kent in 2005, although neither of these seem to have found their way onto the Official British list]
Images of two individuals are shown below:
Tree Cricket sp Oecanthus pellucens?

A sound recording made by Gill Hollamby is available here. It is fairly quiet so you may need to turn up the volume.

In addition, there were also large numbers of a small dark cockroach at the same site which I have never seen before. At the time I thought they may be Dusky CockroachEctobius lapponicus but having looked at the illustrations in Marshall and Haes Grasshoppers and Allied Insects I am now very unsure about this identification. Again I have no knowledge or literature concerning possible continental species. An image of one of these is also shown below:
Cockroach sp
Any help with identifications of both these insects would be appreciated.
24thA pretty miserable day with rain, often very heavy, for most of it. There was not a great deal of coverage on the land although a Pied Flycatcher, a Redstart and twoWhinchats were found this evening. The main feature of the morning was another large movement of Yellow Wagtails with over 400 passing through. In the evening a flock of 20 Swifts were trying to roost on the Old Lighthouse.Seawatching was pretty quiet except for large numbers of Gannets along with aBalearic Shearwater, a few Arctic Skuas and two Black Terns of note. 
In addition to the the Convolvulus Hawk-moth mentioned in yesterdays posting there were further migrants in the form of the first Vestal of the year, a Jersey Tiger,  twoBordered Straws, a Hummingbird Hawk-moth (in the trap), a Dark Sword-grass and 11 Nomophila noctuella.
Convolvulus Hawkmoth Agrion convolvuli, Vestal Rhodometra sacraria and 
Jersey Tiger Euplagia quadripunctaria   Dungeness  24th August 2015
A number of people have now commented on the photographs of the crickets found a few days ago and they confirm that they are, as suspected, Italian Tree CricketsOecanthus pellucens. However I have made no progress with the cockroach so far.
25thAn uninspiring morning followed by another dismal afternoon and evening of torrential rain and strong winds.Before the rain started the first Firecrest of the autumn was found along with fiveWhinchats and a Garden Warbler. Two Marsh Harriers, 100 Yellow Wagtails and aTree Pipit also flew over the area. Seawatching was almost as poor but seven hrs of observations eventually produced totals of seven Teal, a Balearic Shearwater, eightRedshanks, a Common Sandpiper 15 Arctic Skuas, three Great Skuas, aMediterranean Gull and five Black Terns.
26thSeawatching was very much the order of the day in fairly miserable conditions of strong southerly winds and frequent heavy rain with thunder and lightning at times.A total of 14 hours of seawatching produced a day record total for Balearic Shearwater with 92 passing west whilst other notable records included 12 Sooty Shearwaters, 489 Gannets, 27 Arctic Skuas, five Pomarine Skuas, six Great Skuas, two Little Gulls, ten Black Terns (plus one lingering offshore), six Little Terns, 815 Sandwich Terns, 515 Common/ic Terns and six Arctic Terns.
Very quiet on the land with a Whinchat being the best on offer.
I went out this evening to check up on the Tree Crickets. The first one started singing at 1955hrs but it wasn't until 2015hrs that they got really active and by 2045hrs it was like being in the Mediterranean with crickets calling from all directions. However I could not see any - I think the days weather and cooler temperatures may have been keeping them inside the vegetation. However, I did come up with another completely unexpected find in the form of a female Sickle-bearing Bush Cricket Phaneroptera falcata. This is another extremely rare cricket in this country but did breed in East Sussex in 2006 (at least). Further searches will now be needed to try and establish whether this is also breeding in the area or whether it is a vagrant individual.
Sickle-bearing Bush Cricket Phaneroptera falcata  Dungeness   26th August 2015
27thSeawatching remained the best option  by far today in the continuing poor weather with coverage for much of the day producing 55 Balearics and three Sooty Shearwaters, 468 Gannets, two Ruff (very scarce in the Observatory recording area), 22 Arctic and two Pomarine Skuas, four Mediterranean Gulls and 20 Black Terns.The only birds of interest on the land were a Spotted Flycatcher and a Whinchat.
Elsewhere, a juvenile White-winged Black Tern spent the afternoon at the ARC Pit.
Overnight moth-trapping produced a Bordered Straw and a Hummingbird Hawk-moth whilst another search of the trapping area this evening confirmed the restricted range of the Tree Cricket colony and with insects starting to sing at 2005hrs.
28thThe first nice morning for some time produced a nice arrival of migrants on the land with a Pied Flycatcher, six Sedge Warblers, five Whinchats, 20 Wheatears, twoRedstarts and three Spotted Flycatchers of note and numbers provided by 75 Willow Warblers, ten Lesser Whitethroats and 100 Whitethroats. Birds passing overhead included five Buzzards, six Grey Wagtails, 40 Yellow Wagtails, a Tree Pipit and aSiskin. The sea was fairly quiet but several hours of seawatching eventually produced nine Balearic Shearwaters, six Arctic Skuas and five Black Terns.The interest in the rare orthoptera continues with a fine evening display from the Tree Crickets whilst earlier in the day another female Sickle-bearing Bush Cricket was found at the same location as the female found two days ago.
Tree Cricket Oecanthus pellucens   Dungeness   28th September 2015
This image shows a male "singing" during which it raises its wings over its back and vibrates them together. This is actually very difficult to observe as they seem to sing from deep inside the vegetation and usually on the underside of a leaf.
A cool night reduced the moth catch but two Scarce Bordered Straws were noteworthy and four Humming-bird Hawk-moths were seen during the day.
Clouded Yellow and a Holly Blue were seen.
A single male Small Red-eyed Damselfly was seen at the southern end of the Long Pits.
29thA quieter day on the land with just 20 Willow Warbler, five Whinchats and 20Wheatears of note whilst overhead passage included a Honey Buzzard and a Common Buzzard, 690 Sand Martins, 200 Swallows, 50 Yellow Wagtails, a Grey Wagtail and a Tree Pipit.The sea was also much quieter than of late but several hours of watching eventually produced totals of nine Balearic Shearwaters, a Pomarine and nine Arctic Skuas and also a couple of Black Tens feeding offshore. 
Moth trapping produced another Convolvulus Hawk-moth along with singles ofVestalBordered Straw and and Small Mottled Willow and a couple of less common moths for us with Dark Spinach and Lesser Treble-bar. Butterflies seen today included a Clouded Yellow and a Holly Blue.
30thA small movement of raptors during the day produced a couple of Honey Buzzards(five seen over the whole area during the day) and three Common Buzzards. At least 2000 Swallows also passed overhead. Grounded migrants of note were limited to aRedstart and a Whinchat. A Little Egret was also seen and a Balearic Shearwaterwas seen offshore.Moth trapping produced another two Vestals but at least ten more were flushed from vegetation during the day. A Holly Blue was also seen.
The two White-winged Black Terns were still showing well at ARC.
Another night-time visit to the rare orthoptera site produced two more female Sickle-bearing Bush Crickets.
Sickle-bearing Bush Cricket Phaneroptera falcata    Dungeness   30th August 2015. 
The third individual to be found.
31stA dismal day for the most part but a Pied and a Spotted Flycatcher and four Tree Pipits flew over. A brief spell of seabird passage produced two Sooty and two Balearic Shearwaters, 13 Arctic Skuas, two Great Skuas and 13 Black Terns and threeBlack-tailed Godwits came in. A Little Ringed Plover and a Common Sandpiperflew over in the early hours. Elsewhere, both the White-winged Black Terns were showing well at the ARC Pit and an Icterine Warbler was seen a couple of times in bushes near the RSPB Visitors Centre.
A remarkable night at the moth traps (four in operation)  in warm, thundery conditions produced yet another Convolvulus Hawk-moth and a Scarce Bordered Straw but more remarkable was a total of at least 35 Vestals. A Fern was also unusual. A rare migrant micro-moth, Tebenna micalis was also trapped and is new species for Dungeness. 
Tebenna micalis and Convolvulus Hawk-moth Agrius convolvuli   Dungeness   31st August 2015