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Local weather


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30th Apr

A cold, wet and windy day. Most of the coverage involved seawatching where three Eiders, 397 Common Scoters, a Black-throated Diver, 12 Manx Shearwaters, three Mediterranean Gulls, nine Great Skuas, three Pomarine Skuas and 16 Arctic Skuas of note were seen.
Very little coverage of the land.

29th Apr

A decent drop of rain in the early hours resulted in a small arrival of migrants on the land with the best being a Redstart, a Garden Warbler, two Sedge Warblers and 15 Willow Warblers. There was also a fair bit of movement offshore at various times during the day with three Eiders, a Great Northern Diver, two Manx Shearwaters, three Little Terns, 13 Great Skuas and seven Arctic Skuas of note while a second calendar year Caspian Gull was seen at the Patch along with three Yellow-legged Gulls.

However, the ornithological event of the day (actually night) passed unseen and unheard but was recorded as "NocMig"on the Audiomoth device. Five hours worth of recording produced some incredible totals including 21 calls (probably six individuals) of Little Ringed Plover, 82 Grey Plovers, 244 Whimbrel, 80 Bar-tailed Godwits, 458 Dunlin, 273 Redshank, two Greenshank, 64 (probably 49 individuals) Common Sandpipers, a remarkable 94 calls (probably 41 individuals) of Wood Sandpiper, 15 Green Sandpipers, two series of Little Gull calls and 54 Tree Pipit calls although possibly relating to just four individuals. There are also a good number of unidentified calls which I shall listen to and look at again over the next few days. 

On the insect front my hands and knees searching of the Moat produced another example of the rare beetle Hister quadrimaculatus and two Geotomus (petiti) shieldbugs.

Hister quadrimaculatus   Dungeness   29th April 2020

28th Apr

Rain arrived in the early hours and continued through the morning but it remained very quiet on the land with barely a migrant to be seen. The sea wasn't much better either with just an Arctic Skua and a party of five Black Terns passing through.

27th Apr

The day started with thick fog but cleared to a bright and sunny afternoon. Passage migrants remain thin on the ground but did include a Turtle Dove, the first Cuckoo of the year and two Sedge Warblers. There was very little movement offshore with just 217 Brent Geese and a Great Skua of note. A German colour-ringed Mediterranean Gull and two Yellow-legged Gulls were seen at the Patch. 

Just four Porpoises and a Grey Seal were feeding offshore this afternoon.

The only Early Spider Orchid growing on Dungeness was in decent condition today despite the drought and desiccating NE winds of late. The colony of Early Purple Orchids is also still in reasonable condition. Another fairly scarce plant coming into flower now is the Small-flowered Buttercup.

Small-flowered Buttercup Ranunculus parviflora   Dungeness   27th April 2020
One of the least inspring scarce plants on Dungeness

Early Spider Orchid Ophrys sphegodes   Dungeness   27th April 2020
Early Purple Orchids Orchis mascula   Dungeness   27th April 2020
Still in decent condition.

26th Apr

The wind had dropped by the morning and resulted in a slow movement of seabirds to start with but things definitely started to pick up in the afternoon and evening. The highlights were a total of seven Pomarine Skuas (including a party of four which floated by on the sea), 22 Great Skuas and 12 Arctic Skuas along with 11 Shoveler, a Pintail, 15 Whimbrel, eight Mediterranean Gulls and a trickle of Sandwich and "commic" Terns. The gulls roosting on the beach at the Patch included a first-summer Caspian Gull and a second-summer Yellow-legged Gull.
It remains very quiet on the land with just a Buzzard, a male Pheasant, a flyover Little Ringed Plover, a Merlin and a Yellow Wagtail of interest. An interloping immature female Peregrine Falcon came into the area but was quickly seen off by the local birds and the local-breeding Ravens have just successfully fledged four young.

There were at least 25 Porpoises and three Grey Seals feeding offshore.

Plenty of Small Coppers were seen and two Grizzled Skippers were found at the southern end of the trapping area. A search for shieldbugs produced six individuals of the Geotomus species in my usual small patch of ground in the moat and also a single Brassica Bug.

Grizzled Skipper Pyrgus malvae   Dungeness   26th April 2020

25th Apr

A return to a brisk and cold NE wind but with cloud for a time. The morning seawatch was fairly slow but it picked up in the late afternoon/evening with six Pomarine Skuas of note while other day totals included two Gadwall, six Red-breasted Mergansers, a Manx Shearwater, four Mediterranean Gulls, 12 Great Skuas and ten Arctic Skuas. Two Yellow-legged Gulls were on the beach at the Patch. Very quiet on the land with just a few "Greenland" Wheatears of interest.

"Greenland" Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe ssp leucorhoa   Dungeness   25th April 2020
Five Porpoises and a Common Seal were seen offshore.

The micro-moth Adela reaumurella are starting to appear in good numbers among the Sallows in the trapping area and good numbers of Small Coppers are on the wing.
Adela reaumurella   Dungeness   25th April 2020

Small Copper Lycaena phlaeas   Dungeness   25th April 2020
A very lightly marked individual perhaps referable to the named variation oblitera

24th Apr

A few bits and pieces around bit nothing of any great note or in numbers. The best on the land were a Buzzard, two Greenshanks, a Merlin, 69 Jackdaws, four Sand Martins, 20 Wheatears, a Yellow Wagtail and a Siskin. Seawatching produced just a Black-throated Diver, 81 Bar-tailed Godwits, 16 Mediterranean Gulls, two Great Skuas and an Arctic Skua of note. A second-winter Yellow-legged Gull was among the gulls at the Patch.
Siskin Carduelis spinus   Dungeness   24th April 2020
 Ten Porpoises and a Grey Seal were feeding offshore.

The first dragonfly of the year, a Hairy Dragonfly, was seen in the Moat.

23rd Apr

The bird of the day was a Red-rumped Swallow which flew quickly north along the beach this afternoon but was unfortunately seen by only one observer. It was otherwise quiet again on the land with a Green Sandpiper, a Sedge Warbler, three Song Thrushes, 12 Wheatears and three Yellow Wagtails being about the best of the rest.
The sea was much more productive with birds passing east for most of the day although overall numbers were not that spectacular. Higher counts included 209 Brent Geese (with one Pale-bellied), 847 Common Scoter, 41 Whimbrel, 429 Bar-tailed Godwits, 37 Mediterranean Gulls, 13 Little Gulls and 919 Common/ic Terns. Variety was provided by five Egyptian Geese, five Eider, two Black-throated Divers, seven Knot, a Little Tern, five Great Skuas and eight Arctic Skuas.

At least ten Porpoises and two Grey Seals were feeding offshore.

The first Grizzled Skipper of the year was seen at the Long Pits where a Terrapin species was also seen.

22nd Apr

A bit calmer this morning but still clear and cold and still very little in the way of grounded migrants but a Glossy Ibis which has been on the RSPB for the last couple of weeks made a couple of flights into Observatory airspace. A Green Sandpiper and three Sand Martins passed through and 92 Carrion Crows flew out to sea. Seawatching remains fairly slow going but did include a Black-throated Diver, two Manx Shearwaters, 35 Whimbrel, 175 Bar-tailed Godwits, eight Mediterranean Gulls and an Arctic Skua.

Six Porpoise and a Grey Seal were feeding offshore.

There were quite a few butterflies on the wing this afternoon with a Holly Blue of note but being totally eclipsed by a super Large Tortoiseshell.

Large Tortoiseshell Aglais polychloros   Dungeness  22nd April 2020

21st Apr

Little change over the last few days in the continuing strong NE wind and clear skies. The highlights of the seawatching were just two Black-throated Divers, 105 Bar-tailed Godwits, eight Mediterranean Gulls and a sole Arctic Skua. Two Yellow Wagtails on the beach were about the only migrants on the land.

Three Porpoises were feeding offshore. The local Red Foxes seem to have become much tamer since the "lockdown". 

Red Fox Vulpes vulpes   Dungeness   21st April 2020

20th Apr

Another day with a howling NE wind and very few birds to be seen. Nearly four hours of seawatching produced just two Shovelers, two Red-breasted Mergansers, 63 Whimbrel, 85 Bar-tailed Godwits, three Mediterranean Gulls, a Great Skua and two Arctic Skuas of note along with two Little Gulls, two Arctic Terns and 160 Common Terns at the Patch. Nothing much to report on the land.

A Porpoise and two Grey Seals were feeding offshore.

19th Apr

Yet another day with barely a migrant on the land but an early morning trickle of birds offshore. The highlights of the seawatching were a Manx Shearwater, three Avocets, 21 Whimbrel, a Greenshank, eight Mediterranean Gulls and three each of both Great and Arctic Skuas. Five Buzzards, three Sand Martins, 33 Swallows, three Song Thrushes and a Yellow Wagtail were the best on offer on the land.

Four Porpoises and a Grey Seal were feeding offshore.

A Brimstone butterfly was of note in the trapping area.

The morning seawatch was also unusual as it provided the sobering sight of a small inflatable boat about two miles offshore which slowly came in towards the beach. Once it had come to within 200m or so of the beach it was intercepted by the Border Patrol and the 13 occupants were carefully transferred to safety. It must have been a pretty frightening night for them as they came through the busy shipping lanes, fully laden and with only a few inches of freeboard to spare. It makes me wonder what they are fleeing from or think they are coming to that it is worth the huge risk involved even with the problems that we are currently facing.   

18th Apr

Most of the interest was offshore again where six hours of watching produced a Gadwall, two Tufted Ducks, 156 Common Scoters, a Black-throated Diver, 14 Fulmars, three Manx Shearwaters, nine Grey Plovers, 226 Bar-tailed Godwits, 69 Whimbrel, 12 Mediterranean Gulls, 79 Little Gulls, 41 Black Terns, 163 Sandwich Terns, 1757 Common/commic" Terns and 23 Arctic Skuas of note.
Landbirds were few and far between but did include three Lesser Whitethroats, two Yellow Wagtails and a summer-plumaged Water Pipit on the beach this morning, 

It was also very quiet overnight with just singles of Water Rail and Oystercatcher recorded.

Six Porpoises were feeding offshore.

Ten Red Admirals were seen and a 30 minute search of a small patch of ground in the moat produced six individuals of the rare Geotomus (petiti?) shieldbug.

Red Admiral Vanessa atalanta and Geotomus shieldbug   Dungeness   18th April 2020

17th Apr

With the Coronavirus Lockdown in full force here it is perfectly possible for us to go all day without coming into "contact" with another person and whilst we are not actively engaged in any ringing activites it does mean we are able to carry out some more general recording in isolation.  

With a return to strong NE winds today's efforts were almost entirely shore-based where 6.5hrs of observations produced some excellent totals. Of note were a Pintail, nine Eiders, four Velvet Scoters, 1007 Common Scoters, (mostly in the morning), a Black-throated Diver, two Manx Shearwaters, 272 Whimbrel, (mainly in the afternoon), 764 Bar-tailed Godwits (again in the afternoon), 106 Little Gulls (mostly morning), 13 Mediterranean Gulls, 229 Sandwich Terns, 426 Common/commic Terns and four Arctic Skuas.Three Black Terns, seven Little Terns and 47 Arctic Terns were also of note and new for the year. A Merlin was also seen.

Eiders Somateria mollissima   Dungeness   17th April 2020
Whilst most birds were passing at some distance this group of Eider
were sufficiently close to attempt a few photos.
The "nocmig" recorder was deployed again last night and whilst very few calls were heard they did include those of Teal, Golden Plover, Redshank, Common Sandpiper (first of the year) and two Song Thrush.

Ten Porpoises and a Grey Seal were feeding offshore and four Brown Hares were seen on the land.

16th Apr

A fine but very hazy morning which produced a steady easterly movement offshore throughout the day but very little on the land again.
A couple of singing Lesser Whitethroats were our first of the spring but just four Willow Warblers were seen. A Greenshank also flew over the area. Several hours of seawatching produced 15 Shelduck, four Gadwall, six Teal, three Pintail, 333 Common Scoters, a Manx Shearwater, 234 Gannets, two Grey Plovers, 84 Whimbrel, two Little Gulls, 54 Mediterranean Gulls, 491 Sandwich Terns, 81 Common Terns, two Great Skuas and 12 Arctic Skuas of interest.

At least 15 Porpoises were feeding offshore.

Our colony of Early Purple Orchids is coming into flower.
Early Purple Orchid Orchis mascula   Dungeness   16th April 2020

15th Apr

Another day of clear skies and north-easterly winds and very few migrants to be seen. The day was pretty much saved by a Long-eared Owl found in the Moat at dusk and 12 Buzzards passing overhead. A few Swallows also passed through and the early morning seawatch produced 23 Fulmars, three Manx Shearwaters, four Whimbrel, four Bar-tailed Godwits, three Mediterranean Gulls, five Little Gulls and 147 Sandwich Terns

A Porpoise was feeding offshore and a Weasel was seen in the trapping area.

I also found this very small nomad bee today which I think is Nomada flavoguttata. Whilst this is described as common in southern England this may actually be new to Observatory recording area. Neither the Kent Atlas nor the latest distribution map on NBN Gateway show any records for here.
Nomada flavoguttata   Dungeness   15th April 2020

14th Apr

The strange spring continues with a very quiet sea and hardly any migrants on the land to speak of but another fine surprise in the form of our third Short-toed Treecreeper of the season. It was pretty elusive but I was eventually able to get a few shots and Sam managed to get some nice recordings of the calls which can be heard here Other bits and pieces included a Buzzard, seven Blackcaps and four Wheatears.

Short-toed Treecreeper Certhia brachydactyla   Dungeness   14th April 2020
A Manx Shearwater, seven Mediterranean Gulls and 169 Sandwich Terns was the best on the sea this morning.

Six Porpoises were feeding offshore.

13th Apr

A very uncomfortable day with a howling, cold NE wind throughout and making coverage difficult. The bit of seawatching that was carried out produced four Grey Plovers, five Whimbrel , a Knot, 11 Mediterranean Gulls and 85 Sandwich Terns of interest. A 2cy Yellow-legged Gull was roosting on the beach at the Patch. A male Peregrine Falcon came into the area but was quickly seen off by the resident male and a Yellow Wagtail was seen on the power station wall.

A sound recorder was put out overnight but it was very quiet with just singles of Oystercatcher, Mediterranean Gull, Sandwich Tern and Common Tern noted.

Four Porpoises were feeding offshore.

The very local water beetle Dytiscus dimidiatus also came to the moth trap overnight.

Dytiscus didimatus   Dungeness   14th  April 2020

12th Apr

Another day of bits and pieces but nothing in any numbers. The highlights on the land were two Crossbills in the trapping area, our first Ring Ouzel of the spring and a Buzzard hunting in the Desert. An Avocet was roosting on the beach at the Patch along with a second year Caspian Gull and a third year Yellow-legged Gull. A Little Ringed Plover was also seen at the fishing boats and a Black-throated Diver flew east.

Crossbills Loxia curvirostra   Dungeness   12th April 2020

Eight Porpoises were feeding offshore and two Brown Hares were seen on the land.

Only six moths were trapped overnight but they did include what was only our fifth Red Chestnut
Red Chestnut Cerastis rubricosa   Dungeness   12th April 2020
Further searches for shieldbugs produced another Geotomus species (presumed) petiti and the scarce beetle Opatura sabulosa in the moat.  Speckled Woods are starting to appear.

Geotomus species (petiti)   Dungeness   12th April 2020

Opatura sabulosum   Dungeness   12th April 2020
Speckled Wood  Parage aegeria   Dungeness   12th April 2020