After the exertions of our autumn fair at Rainham on Sunday,
I headed down to Dungeness today for some fresh air and hopefully a few birds
too. While waiting for Pete and Mark I ambled across the road from the ARC car park
to have a look for the Cattle Egret. It was not long after seven and it seemed
like almost nothing was up although I could hear chattering from the Tree and
House Sparrows in the brambles.
No egrets but countless hirundines already moving and a
couple of Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps called. It was also blooming freezing and
the decision to stick with shorts and sandals was being slightly rued at that
stage in the day!
We walked down to the Hanson Hide past lemon yellow Evening
Primroses that were still fully open after their night’s work. Chiffchaffs and
Willow Warblers called providing useful comparisons and a Lesser Whitethroat
squelchily tacked from the scrub while Cetti’s were back to their boisterous
best after the late summer lull.
Water levels seem quite high on the ARC so the only waders
were Lapwings and a lovely flock of mixed plumaged Golden Plovers musically
chatting with each other on one of the islands. There were no terns or large
egrets but the number of martins and swallows was immense with thousands
The sea beckoned and a forty minute session from the beach
produced plenty of Common Terns along with a few squeaky young and erikking
adult Sandwich Terns as well as two bouncy juvenile Blacks. A pale juvenile
Arctic Skua patrolled the Gannet line half way out and two male Scoter played
catch up as they headed east. More
hirundines were trickling along the coast and panic from the gulls suggested
trouble and a few minutes later a female Merlin appeared over the waves and
seemed to be coming back from a hunting sortie. Alba Wagtails and Linnets fed
on the beach and a big flock of roving Starlings did not contain the juvenile
Rosy that I still long to find.
Heading out towards the Obs was actually quite productive
with a few Chiffs and Willows, two each of both ‘throats, mobile Black Redstart
and Whinchat and Siskin and Yellow Wagtail were both heard overhead.
Back to the ARC and a look in better light from the southern
end and after three quick Marsh Harriers, it was straight onto the juvenile
White-winged Black Tern as it buoyantly fed across the choppy waters. It was
not reported yesterday so I was pleased to have re-found this. Still no Cattle
Egret and the Red-backed Shrike along the approach road to the centre had also
apparently done a bunk (blame Mark for that one as he always misses them!) but
our walk got off to a very nice start with two separate Great White Egrets. It
is so nice to come down here and expect to see them nowadays.
The circuit was fairly quiet although we did find another
good phyllosc flock with both ‘throats and some engaging Long-tailed Tits as well as
pinging Beardies, peeping Kingfishers, a third Great White Egret, two distant thermalling
Ravens and some wonderful insects.
|Great White and approaching Little Egret|
|Long-tailed Tit - posing tastefully|
|Our only Wheatear|
|oh look... another Great White Egret|
Gatekeeper and Meadow Brown were still on the wing and we
saw several Small Heath and immaculate Small Coppers as well as Whites and Red
Admirals. There were countless Ruddy and Common Darters and Migrant Hawkers
were out in very good numbers but keeping low in the breezy conditions.
Southern Hawkers and even a late Emperor were seen but I was surprised to find
a Black-tailed Skimmer.
|A very large Small Heath|
|A gleaming Small Copper|
Lunch in the sunshine and then back to the Hanson Hide were
much better views were had of the White-winged Black Tern along with a brief
juvenile Black Tern and a pretty much summer plumaged Black-necked Grebe.
|Marsh Harrier spooking Lapwings|
|White-winged Black Tern|
A young Lizard was almost on the roof of the hide in its
attempt to access the sunshine and be out of the wind and Speckled Woods danced
along the Willow Trail.
A quick stop on the road side for closer tern views had us
moved on quickly by an unmarked Police car so we headed down to the Obs again
for another scout around which gained us far better views of now two smart
Black Redstarts leaving us with just the 'Typhoon' steam train arriving at the
station to finish up a fine day in this most captivating of landscapes.
|Black Redstart number one|
|Black Redstart number two|
|Dark-lipped Hedge Snail - deceased|