Monday 25 March 2019

Failing to blow the blues away...

Kent: 25th March 2019:
A traditional spring visit to Dungeness saw the weather set fair today but despite the blue skies and occasional fluffy white clouds it was the biting northerly wind that made it a generally less than pleasurable experience.

We convened at the Old Lighthouse at 730am and immediately could hear a couple of Brambling as we got our gear together.  A smart male was picked up ‘dweaking’ away merrily from the lighthouse garden and had already worn off most of his winter edges to reveal the black underneath.

A duo of Wheatears were swiftly found and Meadow Pipits parachuted around us while ten Jackdaws passed high and south.


Meadow Pipit - Mark Vale

The sea was calm and the wind was obviously keeping stuff offshore but we did manage 181 Brent Geese in three wavy lines snaking up Channel and there were quite a few Gannets milling around.  A single Fulmar and adult Med Gull was the only other species of note with not even one Sandwich Tern being seen – all rather odd.

Brent Geese

The Porpoises on the other hand were just great with animals surfacing in all directions and with great frequency so I wonder just how many are out there? With the feeling being lost in fingers and noses we retreated for another look at the Wheatears before trying to find a Black Redstart that was seen by others but with no joy.   

Wheatear - Mark Vale

Wheatear - Mark Vale

Black Redstart - Mark Vale

The lime green Spurges round the lighthouse were magnificent.

A wander out towards the Obs gave us brief views of another fine male Black Redstart and seven more Wheatears and couple of Stonechats but it was the pair of Peregrines sharing a bloody meal on the pylon that captivated the group.

Wheatear - Paul Rigby

Meadow Pipit - Paul Rigby



News of the Kentish Plover at Greatstone tempted us away and a fun hour was spent on the mammoth expanse of deserted beach with the tide full out.  Six stop start plovers in the distance had us heading along the beach for about half a mile only to discover that all six were smart adult Ringed and not the French interloper with pretensions of Britishness.

However, the most amazing thing on the intertidal zone (about half a mile from the actual sea) was a huge mop head sized mass of gelatinous fingers full of eggs.  They were still wet and the tide was on the turn so I had hope that they would survive but had to send an image to Annie to discover what they were. Squid eggs!  Who would have thought it and certainly a new one on me.

Squid eggs
Foggy, Clegg & Compo...

From here it was down to the reserve where Tree Sparrows were ticked off, facilities were utilised and then after a cuppa we decided that the trail was possibly not the most productive use of our day and abandoned the site for pastures new.

Tree Sparrow - Paul Rigby

This entailed a drive north to Grove Ferry where hopefully the Penduline Tit would give itself up... it did not and in fact the reedbeds were very quiet with a couple of pinging Beardies and shouty Cetti’s for our trouble and no sign of any masked bandits whatsoever.

Two Water Pipits dropped in in front of the Feast Hide and vanished and several Snipe tried to blend in but no amount of staring at Reedmace produced the desired results. 

Marsh Harriers saved the day with several males and females on patrol of one immature putting on a truly magical skydance for us high in the blue as he successfully attempted to attract the attention of the two females nearby.

Marsh Harrier

We had all run out of steam by then and called it a day and even a pop into Oare Marshes on the way home failed to balance out the day . 

You can’t always see everything – such is the nature of our hobby – and I should just be grateful to be outdoors in the fresh air and with birds around me.

However, I could have done with a pick-me-up today but nevermind. 

Counting the days to Lesvos, and the weeks to even grander things...

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