Saturday, 16 February 2013

I 'Kent' Believe It!

Dungeness is famous for birdwatching.  Some people have seen over 100 species of bird in one day there. No surprise as just a few miles from the reserve is the beach, where you can get Gannets, Auks and Gulls, which are probably allowed on your list.
  Yesterday morning I went with my father and uncle Iain.  We left before 8:00 and arrived at 9:30. First we went to the ARC Pit.
 As we walked to the hide my uncle and I saw a large bird alight into a ditch by the road.  It looked very Bittern like, but it was not to be seen again, even when Iain walked past that area by the road.
 As we went by a Reed-bed I heard a Cetti's Warbler, the second time I had heard one.  Personally I don't tick birds heard but not seen.  Otherwise I would have Tawny Owl and Cuckoo!
  We were told by someone who had left the hide, that a drake Smew could be seen, a great bird to see, and so in high spirits we entered the hide.  As I was getting my scope out (I must admit that it was the first time this year) I heard a high piping call and a tiny looking Kingfisher flew up and landed on a perfect perch.  As I lifted the camera though it took flight and I only managed to get it disappearing, one day I will get lucky.
 On the water were several year-ticks, and some of my favourite waterfowl:  Goldeneye, Wigeon, Pintail. Teal.  When suddenly my father pointed out a duck flying quickly across the water.  Locking my scope on it revealed a Red-head Smew!  My first life-tick of the day.  I did a short while later find the Drake Smew, but he was extremely distant, so only an extreme record shot was achievable.
 this Coot was the only bird close enough for a decent shot.

 We then checked out the other viewing area, but nothing new was seen.
 From here we went across the road to see Tree Sparrows.  They were elusive, but nice to see them in decent numbers, and my second life-tick!
  As we were driving up the track to the reserve itself, we saw some people on the side of the road with there scopes out.  I got out to see what they were looking at, and I'm glad we did.  First off one of them showed me some Bean Geese! (Lifer 3) Then two Marsh Harriers over head (4), a Buzzard, and finally when looking at the Beans again a group of Barnacle Geese! 5 Life-ticks in about one hour!

 I did manage a few record shots of the Geese, but way too bad to put up.  As we got back in the car they suddenly called us and pointed out two Ravens!  My favourite Corvid, mainly because of their call!  Yet again, this shows how keen birdwatchers often are to help others.

Around the main reserve there was little to be seen, a Kestrel, some Curlews and Gadwall the only species of note.
 So we decided to head to the beach.  On the way we had another crack at the Tree sparrows, but nothing good was possible.  For some reason they were not using the feeders, this I can not understand, as just a few weeks ago I saw pictures of them on the feeders.  But perhaps, with the warmth of the weather, they had Spring on their minds and were busy holding territories.

The area you have to drive through to get to the beach was like an Old Western Town, dilapidated buildings, boats -often upturned- surrounded by a vast scrub-land.

After pulling up outside Dungeness Nuclear Power Station, we walked along the wall to the beach.  There were 5 Pied Wagtails walking up and down eating tiny insects, who were probably attracted by the heat produced by the N-P Station.
 Upon arriving at the beach I tried to photograph the smaller gulls who were going by, I kept losing focus, but when I finally got one it was an immature Kittiwake!  Life-tick 6!  Almost every time I photographed the smaller gulls they turned out to be Kittiwake, immature and winter adults.

As both the hides were locked I set up the scope on the beach and soon located a Guillemot!  Life-tick 7.  It was hard to get a digiscoped image as it kept disappearing behind waves.
 As we walked back -round the corner from the way we walked to the beach as we left it earlier- I saw a black bird fly towards us, it suddenly turned away from us -as it realised we were there- and flashed red, two key ID points for Black Redstart, and sure enough there was a beautiful male on the wall of the Nuclear Power Station, a typical habitat for this bird, the large buildings are like the cliffs in their natural habitat.  And life-tick 8.  The flash of red tail against black so characteristic for this bird was a sight I had long wanted to see.

Terrible shot, but the best I could get over the distance, at least it shows its urban settings.

My father and Iain both wanted to see the Sound Mirrors used in the 2nd World War for detecting the noise of enemy aircraft.  We parked up further down the coast and had a 20 minute walk over shingle heading away from the coast.  It was again a desolate scrubland, and I doubted I would see any birds.  Until we found a large lake, on this there were Pochard, Tufted Duck, Great-crested Grebe, Black-headed Gull and Herring Gull.  After lugging the camera round for 6 hours that day I sat down for a while looking at the waterfowl, glad I that had not lugged my Tripod or scope with me here, a couple more kilos!  And just like last week at Bushy Park they suddenly started calling me. I quickly walked over to them, expecting to see an owl -probably because that's what happened last time- but when I arrived they said they had seen an Egret, but it had flown off, I thought, that yet again I had missed the bird by being behind for some reason or other but no!  It came back but as I got the camera on it it disappeared behind my father - who I was standing a few feet behind- and into a reed bed.  Suddenly it could be seen standing in the reeds and I took a burst of shots, and looking through my lens I realised that this was no Little Egret, but a Great-white Egret!  An incredible find by my uncle, who had at first assumed it to be a Little. It flew off and round the lake, but when it came back into the reeds something chased it off, and no, it was not a Bittern, but a Grey Heron, I'm not that lucky! It then landed in a bush, before circling the lake again.

By now the sun was setting, and so the ISO was higher than I liked, hence the noise visible in this shot.
 So, 9 lifers in one day puts my life-list on 142, so I have 10 months to get 8 life-ticks to get me to 150, hopefully possible!  My year-list is now 89, hopefully 100 isn't too far away.

 I went through the patch on Valentines day, and the Mute Swans put on a great show!  There was one, a large Cob, who was chasing another -supposed - Cob around the lake.  Fortunately the light was decent so a highish shutter-speed was possible.  Several times the resident pair both took on the intruder, one -I reckon the hen- often chased the intruder into the Cob's path were he would the charge, thrusting his breast forward for momentum!

A little Grebe also allowed me to get a photograph, which is a change!

If you have managed to get this far I must commend you, as this must be the longest post I have ever done!



  1. Hi Gideon , a great days birding you had there with excellent photos , Dungeness is one of my favourite birding sites . cheers Rob

  2. Nice set of shots and compositions.

  3. I like your blog. A young man after my own old man's heart. Entirely my views on twitching. I only go and see the ones I like the look of and don't like to travel to far. Probably explains why my life list is only about 200 and most of those are Essex! Keep up the nice work on the blog,
    Dave Cornwell

    1. Thanks! I'm glad I'm not the only one with these views!


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