May 2019

Thursday 28th

Typical. Leaving Sandwich in bright sunshine for a butterfly walk with WCCP the valley was covered in a dank sea fret, which burned off only once midday had passed. Still, once the sun came out it was quite productive, despite a brisk breeze, with 6 Adonis Blues, 5 Dingy Skippers, 11 Common Blues and a Small Blue among ten species in the valley.

Monday 27th

Bits and pieces continue to turn up; this morning a male Whinchat along Reach Road and a Yellow Wagtail in off the sea. As for butterflies, a good variety on the BMS transect included 10 Common Blues and, curiously, the first Brimstone for over two weeks. moths rather stole the show, however, with a Mother Shipton on Lighthouse Down and this superb Burnet Companion near the lighthouse …..

Karen Hodgson
Burnet Companion by Karen Hodgson

Friday 24th

On another fine morning, albeit with a brisk NW breeze, a Red Kite was bumbling about on a field near Fan Bay, but the highlight of the morning was the sudden appearance of 26 Red Admirals, comfortably the highest count of a single species of butterfly so far this year.

Thursday 23rd

In view of yesterday’s events a raptor watch seemed a good option, but two hours from 9 yielded just one Red Kite, though perhaps that’s being greedy given how scarce in these parts they were not so long ago.

Wednesday 22nd

Interestingly, in view of Monday’s events, Hobbies were seen on three occasions between 0545 and 0600. Apart from a Reed Warbler singing at the back of the valley (a typical date for spring migrants here) and 77 Stock Doves on recently sown barley on the farm, little else happened until no fewer than 18 Red Kites drifted eastward between 0900 and 1010. There is currently a really nice profusion of Nottingham Catchfly along the cliffs:

Nottingham Catchfly – foodplant of White Spot moth. May 2019

Tuesday 21st

A late start, principally to carry out the Butterfly Monitoring Scheme (BMS) transect that covers the South Foreland Valley and Lighthouse Down. The transect was set up in 2006 and this is the first time it has been covered since then. At 300 feet above sea level, this is quite an exposed site and conditions in April and May can make coverage difficult, so to find 19 butterflies along the route, the first double-figure count of the season, was a nice surprise, particularly as they included the year’s first Brown Argus and Small Blue.

Monday 20th

A rather charmless morning, overcast with a chilly NW breeze, saw a trickle of 16 Swallows and 14 House Martins, one of the latter ending up in the clutches of one of two Hobbies that were circling the lighthouse, which ended in a tussle between the prey-carrying Hobby and one of the local Peregrines. A Little Egret flew N over the cliff and down on to the rocks.

Friday 17th

Overcast and with a NE wind it was really quite unpleasant, particularly when light rain set in around 0815. Highlights, such as they were, included a Hobby NE along the cliff and a Turtle Dove purring at the top of the valley.

Wednesday 15th

In terms of avian interest, this morning continued the theme of recent days, this time a Short-eared Owl at Fox Hill Down being the highlight, with singles of Black Redstart, Wheatear and Willow Warbler. On the plus side, as birding subsides it is generally the case that butterflies become increasingly interesting and as it became warm by midday 11 Dingy Skippers, a Red Admiral and 2 Wall Browns were among ten species recorded.

Tuesday 14th

With cloudless skies and the wind stuck in the NE, birding continues to resemble The Radio 4 programme Tweet of the Day, which features a single bird species each morning. Today’s treat was a Nightingale singing very reluctantly on the farm, doubtless aware of the fact that it should have been somewhere else. However, for butterflies the gradually increasing warmth is bring out some of the local specialities, including the spring’s first Adonis Blue. Several Dingy Skippers were also on the wing:

Dingy Skipper, May 2019

Monday 13th

All the signs are that local breeding birds have settled in and against this background the absence of any obvious migration is making things very quiet. However, the odd bit of interest continues to turn up, this morning’s version being a male Marsh Harrier that flew out to sea at 07.15 then thought better of it and hastily disappeared inland. The NE wind continues to take the edge off the temperature but even so the summer’s first Common Blue and Wall Brown butterflies were recorded.

Friday 10th

While early fog did little for visibility it did help by keeping in situ a Golden Oriole that was fluting away from the back of the top wood until the fog lifted and it predictably went quiet. Otherwise, a couple of new Whitethroats and a Garden Warbler were the only signs of continuing immigration.

Wednesday 8th

A SSE breeze with rain prompted a seawatch, which was initially a procession of Gannets (around 140 in all) and Kittiwakes. However, as the rain eased and visibility improved 4 Bonxies flew NE, followed by 2 Manx Shearwaters heading in the opposite direction, then 2 Pomarine Skuas flying upchannel. A handful of Common Scoters, Bar-tailed Godwits and a 1st summer Mediterranean Gull completed an enjoyable, if chilly two and a half hours.

Tuesday 7th

There continues to be a bit of migrant activity, this morning including 10 Lesser Whitethroats, but otherwise 2 locally bred juvenile Mistle Thrushes in the Hollow Wood was the highlight. However, some reluctant warmth brought our first Small Heath of the year.

Monday 6th

A cold start in a NW breeze briefly became quite warm when the sun appeared but went rapidly backwards when it clouded over once again. A few new bits and pieces included a singing Sedge Warbler, a Willow Warbler and a new Lesser Whitethroat, while 21 Swallows flew through. The brief window of relative warmth tempted out our first Green-veined White and Dingy Skipper, but for butterflies it remains a bit of a struggle.

Friday 3rd

An overcast and rather chilly morning was in complete contrast to yesterday, with just 8 Swallows and a singing Willow Warbler above and beyond the usual.

Thursday 2nd

An overcast morning with a light NW breeze started off with 2 Hobbies circling over Lighthouse Down, presumably having roosted there overnight, and a party of 9 Swallows whisking in off the sea. Hirundines continued to arrive all morning, totals of 42 Swallows and 21 House Martins being only slightly representative of an influx that was taking place all along the cliffs. Another Hobby was seen on the farm, 2 Wheatears were hopping about and a White-pinion Spotted appears to be a new moth species for the area, though in reality it has doubtless been overlooked.

Wednesday 1st

A grey, calm but rather chilly start belied what became a reasonable morning. 3 Swifts, 3 Sand Martins and 5 Swallows flew in off the sea and although warbler numbers seemed to have changed little a Garden Warbler was singing on the farm (with another further along the cliff behind the NT café). Just one Wheatear was on the WWI airstrip but of greatest interest were a Long-eared Owl and a few Early Spider Orchids, though whether they will escape the Bank Holiday traffic remains to be seen.

Early Spider Orchid

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