After an interesting slightly countryfied journey we made it to Dungeness before nine and went for a walk at the ARC and by working with the surprisingly bright sunshine we were able to encounter all of our targets with up to a dozen Great White Egrets, two shimmering Glossy Ibis and a drab my most welcome female type Long-tailed Duck. The Great Whites were feeding together at one point before dispersing to new feeding grounds. I still find it strange to be so blasé about this once rare species.
|Eight Great White Egrets and a Grey Heron
|Great White Egret
The two Ibis were spooked by a striking male Marsh Harrier
and although never that close still shone green and almost purply bronze. The usual dabbling ducks were all present and
correct including several obliging Pintail still in various states of eclipse
and the larger islands were hosting a blanket of Lapwing with a smattering of
Golden Plover dotted amongst them. The
breeze was making then very ‘chatty’ and both species were constantly
vocal. Two Little Stints and a Dunlin
were amongst them and when the flocks were spooked and circled above you could
even hear the chittering of the Stints as they too flew around. Three Black-tailed Godwits came in and started to feed just outside the hide and a couple of Teal were following them around to see what they stirred up.
|Black-tailed Godwits and Teal
|Little Stints and Lapwings
|Little Stints and Lapwings
|Male Marsh Harrier
|Great White Egret - Julie Dent
Most times there was as usual no reason whatsoever for the
waders to dread but a large male Peregrine was certainly responsible on at
least one occasion leaving the sky shimmering with the flickering black and
white of agitated Lapwings.
|Peregrine - what a beast
The wind was making finding small birds very tricky but we
could hear Chiffchaffs, Blue, Great and Long-tailed Tits and both Goldcrest and Firecrest
but we saw none. Skylarks, Meadow
Pipits, Goldfinches, Linnets and a few Siskins bimbled south and a Sparrowhawk
was seen off by the Carrion Crows while a Buzzard surveyed from a small tree.
The diversity of plants in flower was amazing for late
October but it was pushing 20c and there were still plenty of insects on the
wing with numerous flies (Syrphus and Neomyia amongst them) and Wasps and the
odd Rush Veneer, Red Admiral and Speckled Wood.
Common Darters were everywhere and I counted 42 on our walk.
|Large Flowered Evening-Primrose
We crossed the road to check on Boulderwall and the two
Glossy Ibises chose that moment to fly right over us before dropping out of view. There were no Cattle Egrets with the
livestock but the Bearded Tits were vocal but inevitably invisible in the
swaying reeds so we headed for the fishing boats for lunch and a seawatch
passing two Kestrels and amazingly a Hobby interacting alongside the ARC. This
is by far the latest one I have ever seen in the UK.
The tide was in and the wind was blowing onto the point and
with fantastic light it made our views of a red-eyed Red-throated Diver even
better as it fished energetically just offshore along with several Great Crested
Grebes and Cormorants. Gannets flew both
ways across the view with some making a beeline for a small inshore fishing boat
that they circled with the melee of gulls which included a second winter
Yellow-legged. Three single Sandwich
Terns, Grey Plover and a Turnstone were seen too but once again there were none of the hoped for Little
|Great Crested Grebe
A Meadow Pipit posed on the shingle and a Water Pipit flew
over calling low enough to see its shiny white belly. I was consciously looking for a Crimson Speckled
but was still pleased to find another beautiful Palpita vitrealis that
momentarily gave me palpitations.
|Perennial Wall Rocket
The RH&D steam train chugged through filling the air
with the smell of coal and the steady chuff chuff of its progress and taking
Pat back to his childhood in Yorkshire.
It was now too windy to check any bushes whatsoever so we
drove around the block to Springfield Bridge to have a look across Denge Marsh with
the wind and sun behind us. A very clean and actually quite small
first-winter Caspian Gull was found playing with sticks behind the main group of roosting big gulls,
flashing those long pink legs and silky white underwings.
Little Egret and Stonechat were added to the day tally but
of Cattle Egrets there was still no sign.
I decided that the south coast was not going to add much more to the day
with the ever increasing wind so we headed cross country on a lovely route
through the autumnal countryside up to Grove Ferry.
I knew we could not stay late enough to see the incoming roosting
Crane but I thought that there would still be some duck and possibly even
waders to search through from the ramp but alas the lagoon was completely full
and only two Mute Swans were present.
However it was still a pleasant end to the day with the golden
low light shimmering through the silver heads of waving Phragmites and the air
filled with their seeds drifted with a will of their own across the marsh.
I found three Cattle Egrets way off behind Harrisons Drove with
the first seen perched up on a gate post and Marsh Harriers were constantly
quartering with the odd Buzzard in tow.
Gadwall were the most numerous duck from the Feast hide and many were
engaged in group displays. Close up you
could hear a quiet little sound given before the classic ‘Gadwall fart’ as well
as the whistle. They are often thought
of a drab but the complexity of plumage pattern and tone is exquisite.
A female Pintail tried to blend in with the Mallards and two
Lapwing were the only wader that we saw.
We walked back to the ramp adding a Stonechat hunting from the very top of
a spindly dead tree within the reeds and a lumbering Raven that was seen off by
a group of Jackdaws. The hundreds of
Rooks took no part in the chase and simply swirled over the trees from which
they had been disturbed.
|Stonechat falling off his towering watchpoint
|And an Ox-eye Daisy as the last flowering plant of the day
Beardies called and a Water Pipit flew over while a very
atmospheric Kingfisher was on the stick placed just for it in the main channel. The whole scene looked sublime in the golden
light. A Tit flock followed us back to
the car with peeping Goldcrests and bounding Long-tails and was a lovely way to
round up the day out.