Gordon and I took a trip to Dungeness and Rye Harbour today and it turned out to be well worth the effort.
Starting out from home at 5 a.m., we avoided the worst of the traffic and were soon up at the Patch at Dungeness for a seawatch.
In the distance, about 15 Gannets were cruising back and forth, occasionally diving for fish, whilst one Little Tern, 3 Sandwich Terns, around 80 Common Terns and 3 Arctic Terns were closer to the shore. Two Fulmars were present and a winter-plumaged Guillemot was on the sea whilst a first-year Kittiwake was on the beach with some Common Terns. Eighteen Common Scoters headed east in two groups.
We were soon joined by Dave Walker, the Dungeness Bird Observatory warden, and we soon picked out 2 Red-throated Divers in the distance on the water and Dave located 3 Shelducks heading east. Six Oystercatchers also passed by. The bright, clear conditions were soon transformed when a thick mist rolled in off the sea. Several Porpoises were feeding in the area.
GORDON & DAVE WALKER
A pair of Black Redstarts were at the power station and possibly a second pair were near the observatory. Five Wheatears were noted around the estate and a Hare, a Skylark and 2 Red-legged Partridges were on the beach not far from the fishing boats.
Heading on to the RSPB reserve, where the mist had not reached, 4 Red-legged Partridges were by the access track. Burrowes Pit was very quiet with little of note, the water level being very high at present, but a Cuckoo was heard calling in that area. A very smart Wood Sandpiper was on the partially flooded field by Christmas Dell.
At Christmas Dell hide we hit the jackpot when Gordon spotted the Purple Heron in flight. It landed in a reeded area at the back of the pit and remained elusive for some time. Eventually it appeared in a clearing and eventually flew passed us. Distant views, but good enough to see all the features for a possitive ID.
At Dengemarsh Hide, a male Marsh Harrier was patrolling and we later saw a female. A pair of Common Terns were on one of the rafts, the male having caught a Rudd that was obviously too large. He tried presenting it to the female, who refused it, so he endeavoured to swallow it himself. This took some time and he eventually manged to devour it, but not without some obvious discomfort. A Black-tailed Godwit and a few Oystercatchers were present in this area.
Cetti's Warblers were calling all around the reserve and we counted at least nine birds and got views of two of them.
By Hookers Pit, a Lesser Whitethroat gave its rattling song and at the viewing ramp, 2 Bearded Tits gave brief views whilst 2 Hobbies were circling overhead.
Near the return trail, a Tree Sparrow was feeding on the ground and 2 Mediterranean Gulls flew over calling.
We returned to the car and headed for the Hanson-ARC Pit. A Little Egret was by one of the pools near Boulderwall Farm. The Hanson-ARC Pit proved to be very quite, with little on show so we decided to head for Rye Harbour reserve.
Rye Harbour proved worthwhile, although visbility was poor with mist shrouding the area.
Around 10 Avocets, many Oystercatchers (probably reaching three figures), 10 plus Redshanks, 5 Turnstones, around 20 Mediterranean Gulls, 30 plus Ringed Plovers, 53 Dunlin, 2 male Wheatears, about 50 Common Terns, 3 Little Terns, 40 Sandwich Terns, 9 Black-tailed Godwits, 15 Bar-tailed Godwits, 3 Sanderling, 4 Whimbrel, 3 Grey Plover, 1 Knot, a male Shoveler and 2 Cuckoos were all on show.
Gordon & Graham