Tuesday 8 June 2021

Kentish Nature Walks #11 - Dungeness to Folkestone - 8th June 2021

I may be wrong but I think that today was my first day out birding with another human being since way back in November with Pat so the chance to be picked up nice and early by Neil P for a jaunt around Kent was great appreciated.

By just after seven we were in a very murky ARC car park at Dungeness with the sea fret that has plagued this bit of the coast for a few days making visibility somewhat challenging. 

Finding three Collared Pratincoles was not going to be an easy class and being lazy birds they tend not to get up and about unless the sun is shining and their food is flying.

We walked down alongside the pools beyond Boulderwall with the eerie sound of keeping Osytercatchers echoing through the veil of drifting fog that took great delight in thinning momentarily before closing back in again.


Every webs of Larinioides cornutus were hung at jaunty angles between reed stems and every one was hanging heavy with dew droplets.  Ghostly Reed Buntings and Sedge Warblers sang boldly from the tops almost in the knowledge that they were obscured by the blanket and also that we would only fail to take any pictures.



Reed Bunting

It was not that cool and the Marsh Frogs were certainly already in fine voice and we spent some time checking out the Nottingham Catchfly, Biting Stonecrop and Horseshoe Vetch.

Horseshoe Vetch.

Nottingham Catchfly

Yellow Flag

Biting Stonecrop

Down at Hookers Pit we decided to spend some time on the ramp where I was delighted to find the Scarce Jono Lethbridge, a species rarely seen south of Wanstead Flats nowadays.

An enjoyable time was spent surveying the marsh and willing the sun to burn through but there was so much going on.  Sedge Warblers and Reed Buntings were nesting just feet apart in the Brambles below us and affording superb views while some already fledged Sedgies boldly posed as they looked for insects under their own steam.  Reed and Cetti’s Warblers popped up now and again and Bearded Tits were constantly calling and zipping to and fro.

Sedge Warblers

Reed Warbler

Reed Warbler

Bearded Tit

Reed Bunting

A Great White Egret briefly became visible on the back of Denge Marsh and allowed me to get my traditional Essence of GWE image.

Quality Great White Egret moment


A Bittern was somewhere not too far away and was booming with gusto.  You could even hear him sucking up his breath before getting started and the sound reverberated across the pools and I suspect the air conditions were helping it travel.  A second bird appeared from the reeds and flew straight towards us before landing in the far corner and was one of those ‘if the light had been better’ moments.



Cuckoos called and played chase and the Great Crested Grebes were very vocal.  Every now and then the fret would lift and the distant fields would become visible and although we could see some Lapwings there were no Pratincole shaped lumps with them but then suddenly one was flying in front of us, giving a 15 second low circuit before disappearing back off towards the reserve hayfields.




We followed not long afterwards and plodded around checking muddy patches in the fields but with no joy.  It was not birdless with a few roving Starling flocks to check for Pink ones, a dashing Kingfisher and a heap of Warblers and Beardies.  Two breeding plumaged Cattle Egrets stalked around a sedgy field but not the one with the cows and impressive bull and both Little Egret and Grey Heron kept the heron theme going.

More quality Egret action...

A mighty fine beast


We left Jono to go back to his car on the Denge Road and retraced our steps.  Visibility was slowly improving and back at the ramp three Great White Egrets were seen and all had darkish bills and yellowy legs indicating breeding condition.  It would be great if this species is at last colonising the reserve after so many years of increasing numbers.

Great White Egrets

A couple of Marsh Harriers cruised around and a Hobby whizzed over and it was good to see some House Martins and Swallows start to appear.

A Pratincole reappeared over the back towards Denge Marsh Road and we watched it hawk the fields before heading back left once again.  At this point Jono text to say that he had one over the pools at Boulderwall so two were definitely still on site.  The sun was at last doing its job and blue was slowly appearing so we ambled back towards the farm and enjoyed some great views as it hunted effortlessly and energetically over the meadows.  It never came that close but was simply a joy to watch.  They are always one of the highlights of any Mediterranean trip.  

Collared Pratincole

Neil had never seen a Pratincole before and was very happy with this and the haul of good birds so far and we topped this off with the Glossy Ibis on its favourite island exactly where I saw it on my last very trip out with Sam back in September.


Glossy Ibis

Bird's Foot Trefoil

News from Jason of a flock of ten Bee-eaters on one of his new work reserves above Dover determined an easterly travel direction but they did not linger so we stuck with our plan of some Late Spider Orchids up on Folkestone Downs.  Jason’s directions were spot on and we soon found them safely tucked in their little compound.  They were so much better than the Wye ones with tall stems and multiple flowers but all were as wondrously odd and compelling to look at.

Late Spider Orchids


Alfie the Ranger very kindly showed us a couple outside of the fence and we had a good chat about scarce bees and botany before heading our separate ways.   There were a a few Man Orchids, a couple of Common Spotted spikes and the first Pyramidal Orchids were just starting to open up.  Kidney Wetch, Grass Vetchling, Rock Rose, Common Milkwort, Fairy Flax and Salad Burnet were also in flower and electric blue Adonis Blues dazzled us with their shimmer as they stopped to feed.  Apparently there are hundreds across the various Folkestone Downs sites at the moment.  Wall Browns, Brown Argus, Brimstone, Green veined White, Speckled Wood, Small Heath, Dingy Skipper and Common Blue were also seen along with a very tatty Painted Lady.

Man Orchids


Common Spotted

Common Rock Rose

Yellow Wort

Kidney Vetch

Common Rock Rose and Salad Burnet

Adonis Blues

Dingy Skipper

Dingy Skipper

Brown Argus

The view down to the town was pretty fine too but that sea fret was still present and tendrils were creeping into and through the town in a very creepy manner.  Yellowhammers sang and a Great Spotted Woodpecker was drumming from a copse where a Lesser Whitethroat rattled from the margins.

The Fog...


One more stop was on the cards down at Folkestone Warren or to be more precise, Little Switzerland camp site.  You can park at the end of their if you are going to use their cafe which is just perfect for a magnificent view across the wooded and scrub filled undercliff.  I think I last came here about 30 years ago when this was the other site to look for Marsh Warblers if you did not fancy St Margarets.   


The fret was here too but amazingly there was a bubble of blue and sun around the cafe and immediate view although the sea was lost to view.  I can only imagine the birds that go through this valley and can see the attraction this whole coastal stretch has to such dedicated scarcity hunters like Bonser and Jamie P.  However the reason for coming here were no avian (not including the cup of tea) and immediately Common Wall Lizards were on show around the out buildings and with a bit of patience they would let you get quite close.  


Compared to the ones Sam and I saw on Ospringe church last year, these were strikingly different and rather than being shades of greys and browns these were decked out in a variety of greens.  The males were even more stunning having a green and black chequer board pattern and even blue spots on the flanks. It seems that these are still Common Wall Lizards but of the Italian race, hence the amazing colours. 

Their long toes certainly give them the agility to climb almost any surface and we saw them jump up on to fences posts and leap up walls after an insect snack as well as scampering through a bramble clump where she stopped to lick moisture from a leaf.

Common Wall Lizards

 It was a fine way to end the day and the journey back home was swift and trouble free.

A quick pop out after dinner to Motney Hill was quite pleasant but it was actually hotter than I had exerienced all day but it did not deter a male Turtle Dove from purring beautifully from the wires while a fine Red Admiral and a good selection of Hoverflies were on the first of the Bramble flowers.

Turtle Dove

Red Admiral

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