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 present.
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|