Saturday, 5 January 2008

January 4th

James Bushnell, a fellow birder from West Malling, had texted me earlier in the week suggesting a trip down to Dungeness et environs. My wife realising I had a bad case of Christmas claustrophobia positively encouraged me to go! So a 7am start saw us making our way down to Rye Harbour NR, where the visting Shore Lark dutifully showed itself amongst a flock of 20+ Skylarks. We paused at Scotney GPs en route in the forlon hope of connecting with the reported Long-tailed duck, but if it was there amongst the hundreds of Wigeon we didn't see it. A Marsh Harrier obligingly appeared before we left.

A quick stop at the Long Pits allowed us to have good views of the Red-necked Grebe which appeared more settled than last week and hardly dived at all. On to 'the point' for a spot of seawatching - the wind was strong SW and with no effective shelter, and streaming eyes, we had a brief scan out towards the buoy and 'the patch'. A small flock of Common Scoter flew west, along with a steady stream of Guillemots and a peppering of Gannets. Up to four Red-throated Diver were also fighting a passage west. I'm ashamed to say the wind got the better of me and I failed to check each individual gull on the beach, probably missing Caspain, Med, Little and Glaucous in the process! A single Guillemot was also close in, diving in the surf opposite 'the patch' hide.
Back to RSPB Dungeness where James found a Black-necked Grebe on the New Excavation Pit 1 adjacent to the Scott Hide. The Smew were present on Burrowes pit although more mobile and distant than of late. Scanning for the Red-crested Pochard we managed to pick out at least 4 Goosander (inc 1 drake) and a female Goldeneye, but after 20 minutes of scanning Cormorants we decided that we weren't that desperate for a Shag (a juvenile was apparently present on the reserve today). The Christmas Dell was as tranquil as ever, until James spotted the Red-creasted Pochard he so desperately wanted and 4 more Smew (1 drake and 3 hens). On the ARC pit we were rewarded with a second Goldeneye, and 2 Redshanks, about the only waders we'd seen on the RSPB site today. With the lack of waders in mind we headed off to Lade Sands but was met with a very distant sea, and equally distant waders, Curlew and Dunlin being the only discernable species. Onto Lade Pits where our second Black-necked Grebe of the day appeared rather lonely and lost in the middle of the pit.

Daylight was fading so a trip across Walland Marsh seemed the best option and it paid off in the form of Whooper Swan with Mutes just ouside Lydd and before Hawthorn Corner and a small flock of Tree Sparrows (the highlight of my day believe it or not!) in a hedgerow just east of Old Cheyne Court. An intended refreshment stop at The Woolpack was thwarted by the pub being closed (quite a common occurence for me at the moment!), so in a desperate attempt to make up the species numbers for the day James checked out the hedgerows, and came up with Long-tailed Tits (which I failed to see or hear) while I scanned across to Walland Marsh and picked out 2 Marsh Harriers and a fantastic male Hen Harrier. With dusk rapidly approaching we made a decision to check out the fields around Brenzett Green/Snave to see if we couldn't pick up the Berwick's Swans I'd seen in the area last week. We were lucky and found 6 Berwick's Swans with 4 Mutes very quickly in a field just north of Brenzett Green church. Confident that was it for the day we were pleasantly suprised to have a Kingfisher dart across the roadside as we packed up the car for the journey back, but it wasn't the last species of the day-that went to a Robin (!) that sat and sang it's rather melancholy song on a fence post by the church. A fantastic day out and without getting to concerned about species count we totted up a respectable 73 species for the day.

I'm back at work on Monday after a very relaxing Christmas break, so I'll be doing less trips out the area and should resume some local patch watching.


Steve of Kingsdown said...

An enthusiastic report of a great day - I'm so envious!
I agree with you about the Tree Sparrows, and often make a detour from the Woolpack to see them.
Hopefully the swans will stay around Brenzett for my next trip that way.

Steve said...

Yeah I am envious too...I used to pay regular visits to Dunge...realised the other day that with all my other commitment I haven't been there for 2 years!! Really enjoyed reading your report.