Wednesday 31 August 2022

Kentish Nature Walks #56 - Dungeness NNR - 31st August 2022

We met down at Dungeness NNR not long before 8am and set out to explore the ARC pit.  The light was a bit tricky but it was certainly worth the effort with the newly landscaped areas holding a surprisingly good selection of waders with at least 140 Golden Plover in various states of plumage up on one of the desiccated islands with green shimmering Lapwings amongst them. 

Golden Plover and two Blackwit for the keen of eye

Two juvenile Curlew Sandpipers flew in calling and flashing white rumps and showed delicately scaled upperparts with a peachy breast flush upon landing.  Five Dunlin were also found but there was no sign of the Little Stints.  Two Common Sandpipers and three chequered Wood Sandpipers and a Redshank were also seen along with a lone Avocet, nine Black-tailed Godwits and three Snipe while a well-marked juvenile Spotted Redshank kept popping momentarily into view.

Curlew Sandpipers

Wood Sandpiper

I scanned the brown ducks for a Garganey but found none although it was good to see the first Wigeon of the season amongst the majority Gadwall and Teal.  A Fox was snoozing under the reeds out of the breeze on the back edge and a Water Rail was heading straight towards it before realising its mistake and scampering the other way.

Strangely there were no Great White Egrets visible and the Glossy Ibises were obviously elsewhere at this stage.  We walked back with Sand Martins playing chase above us with the odd Swallow in the mix but there were no House Martins.

Evening Primrose

The Sallows were a little livelier on the return walk with a couple of calling Willow Warblers and Blackcaps and the brief fiery tail of a Redstart but at least the Spotted Flycatcher showed well enough for us all to get onto.  Cetti’s Warblers shouted from both sides and I heard Reed Bunting from one of the pools but there were no Tree Sparrows zipping over at all.

Down to the sea for a walk out from the old Lighthouse.  Linnets bimbled through the dried Bugloss, lime green Rock Samphire and glaucous Sea Cabbage and a Pied Wagtails scurried on clockwork legs along the concrete ahead of us.  As regularly seems to be the case at Dunge for me, the sea was dead.  The Patch is still off and the only Terns were several mid distance Sandwich.  There were no small gulls and only a smattering of the regular larger species around a fishing boat gutting his catch just offshore.

Rock Samphire

Several Gannets headed east and a lone male Scoter barrelled past in the same direction. Grey Seal heads with long  noses surfaced every now and then and then and I saw a couple of Harbour Porpoises surface at a similar range.

A Hummingbird Hawkmoth was so tired that it kept stopping to rest on the shingle and we hoped that it would find a few Valerian flowers soon.  

Hummingbird Hawkmoth

Large White

The north-easterly had picked up and I forwent the Gorse and bushes between the lighthouse and the Obs and headed back towards the ARC from where we set out on the Public Bridleway past Boulderwall.  The first herd of cows were liberally dotted with Cattle Egrets and seven were visible on and around their mobile food attractors.  It is amazing how blaze we are already about this once rare species. To continue the theme three Great White Egrets were milling around and a at least one Glossy Ibis came up and down twice in the obscured corner.

Cattle Egrets - heads down whenever I clicked!

Great White Egret

Great White Egret

There were Yellow Wagtails with the cows too and Starlings were swirling around in every increasing gangs of boisterous Blackberry raiders.  The water level on Denge Marsh was spot on with muddy islands and deeper channels.  The Pectoral Sandpiper was quickly picked up as it methodically fed on its chosen patch with two more juvenile Curlew Sandpipers and six Ruff (one adult male).  There were six Black-tailed Godwits and four Snipe closer to the edges and a Ringed Plover called ‘pluip’ as it flew around.

A late family of Common Terns still had begging young and three Great White Egrets were grumpily sat into the reeds. I had a feeling that they did not like the wind.  A juvenile Marsh Harrier spooked the gulls and waders but then they dreaded from the opposite end of the pit too and I looked up to see an adult Osprey gliding by!

Common Tern


I thought it would keep going but it actually circled round and came back and hovered a couple of times before dropping down in what looked like a half hearted attempt. The splash subsided and the Osprey climbed back up again with a small fish in each foot and looking especially smug with itself.  I think that it could have been a male due to the rather weak breast band.  After this it headed way off over the firing ranges in search of a quiet post on which to consume its prizes.


Double catch!

When I popped outside to follow the Osprey I glanced up and called 'Caspian Gull!' as a huge, beautifully marked 1st winter flew over our heads.  I can see a yellow ring in one of the images.

Caspian Gull

We retraced our steps with big smiles as there is always something special about an unexpected Osprey encounter.  There were plenty of Migrant Hawkers on the wing (we saw a Brown Hawker earlier too) and two Clouded Yellows added some butterfly colour. Unfortunately there were no Chats of any sort to be seen.  One of the Ibises did a mini loop again on the walk back and there were at least eight Cattle Egrets now and a couple of sparring Common Buzzards.

Time for lunch and then another walk towards the Water Tower where at last a Glossy Ibis was seen out in the open along with better views of the two juvenile Spotted Redshanks and a Little Ringed Plover while a solitary Pintail was the first of the autumn.

Hazy Ibis

Spotted Redshank

I decided to head up to Oare but once again despite it being well off of actual high tide, the mud was all gone and the wind was whipping up the waves.  I hoped for some action into the Swale but we only saw a few distant Sandwich Terns and so retreated to the East Flood which was frankly disappointing given the tide, wind and time of year.  The Godwits and Redshank were packed tightly together and we found just four Dunlin and Ruff and five Greenshank.  There were no other Caladrids or even a Green Sandpiper or one Golden Plover.   I could not find the Bonaparte’s  this time with the recumbent Black-heads with only an adult Med Gull for my scrutiny. It was all very odd but we stuck it out till high tide had passed and then called it a day and headed for our home as not a single extra wader had arrived.  That withstanding we had had a fantastic day out and a grand way to end my otherwise quiet August.

Saturday 27 August 2022

Kentish Nature Walks #55 - Queendown Warren 27th August 2022

It has been a quiet week with a failed day out to Essex on Monday and a family outing to a crispy Wimpole Hall in Cambridgeshire on Tuesday where a host of Tachina fera on some Spearmint and some mighty fine Shire Horses were the highlight.  Now, I normally hide over the course of Bank Holidays but the unexpected appearance of the Senior Wrens (minus Wrenlings) this morning resulted in Antony and I heading out to Queendown Warren while the ladies went shopping.

It was warm and generally bright and we were pleasantly surprised by the profusion of butterflies still on the wing and in the course of our circuit we found good numbers of Meadow Brown, Gatekeeper and in particular, Brown Argus along with vivid Common Bluestatty lightening blue Chalkhills and gleaming electric blue Adonis.  Some of the latter were still exceptionally vibrant. 

Adonis Blue

Adonis Blue

Adonis Blue

Adonis Blue - so good to see after just a worm spring one

Chalkhill Blue

Chalkhill Blue

Chalkhill Blue

Chalkhill Blue

Common Blue

All three Whites, Speckled Wood, an immaculate Small Copper, Brimstone and at least four Silver Spotted Skippers were seen across the warren. 

Silver Spotted Skipper

Silver Spotted Skipper

Silver Spotted Skipper

Small Copper

Brown Argus

Brown Argus

Brown Argus

Meadow Brown 

Pyrausta purpuralis and aurata were regularly put up and the grass moth, Agriphila tristella were noted amongst many migrant Grass Veneers.  Antony found two other smart little moths with the Pyrausta shaped Evergestis limbata and the dinky strawberries and cream of a Neocochylis hybridella.  Several Hummingbird Hawkmoths careened up and down the woodland edge where Migrant Hawkers patrolled in packs and a Mother of Pearl did the usual trick of alighting upside down out of view.

Agriphila tristella 

Evergestis limbata 

Neocochylis hybridella

Rush Veneer -  Nomophila noctuella

Pyrausta purpuralis 

The usual Grasshoppers were still around and Melitta tricincta was still attending the last of the Red Bartsia along with a few small Bombus pascuorum.  There were a few small Hoverflies along with a couple of Xanthogramma that only posed for flight shots which made further scrutiny difficult as they hold the front legs up over the all important collection of yellow spots!

Meadow Grasshopper

Xanthogramma pedissequum agg

Machimus atricapillis

A few Autumn Ladies Tresses were in flower but the dry weather has, I suspect kept the numbers down this year but had not deterred the Dwarf Thistles from forming painful rosettes wherever you wished to put a knee or elbow.

Autumn Ladies Tresses

Black Bryony string of red pearls

Common Gromwell

Ploughman's Spikenard going to seed

The young Buzzards were still mewing in the main wood and we found at least two or possibly even three Pied Flycatchers although we never saw even the briefest glimpse but it is an unmistakeable call once you know it and Antony found over 20 the other day in the small cemetery near his Lowestoft house so also already had his ear in.  Invisiblefinches came in two species with the obviously leaf coloured cryptic local form of Bullfinch calling around us all the time and a couple of Kentish sky hued Crossbills that we heard calling on a two occasions.

Pied Fly in there somewhere

Some leafmine time produced a good selection of Beech, Hornbeam and Norway Maple before lunch called us back to Strood but not before a huge Hornet Robberfly - Asilus crabroniformis briefly appeared on the path - Antony was most impressed. 

Parornix fagivora  on Beech 

Phyllonorycter esperella on Hornbeam

Phyllonorycter joanisii on Norway Maple 

Phyllonorycter maestingella on Beech

Phyllonorycter maestingella on Beech

Stigmella aceris on Norway Maple

Stigmella tityrella on Beech

Some quality garden lunch time added a few more mines (whilst sitting down and checking reachable leaves!) and a couple more species were added to the garden list by Antony while a Slow-worm showed its displeasure at being handled by Antony and Andrea found a garden first Southern Oak Bush Cricket under the umbrella.

Callisto denticulella folds on Crab Apple

Southern Oak Bush Cricket - female

Araneus diadematus were strung across every gap and Pisaura mirabilis and a female Steatoda nobilis with an egg sac were seen.  The Zygiella x-notata that I found yesterday was in a new web between the vine strings and Speckled Woods, Whites, Comma and a couple of Holly Blues paid a visit.  A different Willow Emerald to yesterday and a Common Darter hunted the aging Blackberries and Migrant Hawkers patrolled the next level up while higher still Hobby, Sparrowhawk and a growling Merlin cut through the blue.

Steatoda nobilis

Zygiella x-notata  - you can see the missing segment in the web

Zygiella x-notata 

Araneus diadematus 

Pisaura mirabilis

Speckled Wood

A most enjoyable day...