Dungeness, Kent ... Thursday 28th October 2010

Arriving at Dungeness at around 7.05 a.m., we headed straight to the point for a seawatch.
A very brisk onshore wind and a choppy sea was promising but the tide was low and little was passing though except for three Kittiwakes.

DUNGENESS at dawn (Graham)

Sunrise at DUNGENESS POINT (Paul)

As we moved along to the ‘Patch’, we spotted a Black Redstart on the power station wall.
There were plenty of gulls at the Patch with a few more Kittiwakes and an adult and a first-winter LITTLE GULL amongst the throng of Black-headed, Herring and Great Black-backed Gulls.
We decided to return when the tide was higher and set off to the bird observatory and to The Moat, where a lone Chiffchaff was present and four Swallows flew over. There were may Blackbirds and Robins showing but not much else.
Heading towards the trapping area, a female Peregrine appeared being mobbed by a Carrion Crow and then a male Peregrine joined them before both falcons flew off towards the power station. A couple of Skylarks flew over and, in the trapping area, a roving flock of about ten Long-tailed Tits were seen and a party of Goldcrests were heard near the Long Pits but remained concealed from view.


Heading back toward the Old Lighthouse, 6 Siskins flew over calling but we were already sensing that the area was hardly alive with birds today.
We then drove to the ARC Pit (on the way noting two Little Egrets on the New Diggings) and installed ourselves in the Hanson-ARC hide, which was already pretty full of birders looking for the Penduline Tit that had been seen yesterday but nobody had seen it so far today.
A female MARSH HARRIER was present and also a Little Egret, a GOLDENEYE (probably a first-winter male) and a female Pintail. There were plenty of Wigeon and Pochard and a few Teal and a Water Rail was squealing from somewhere to the right of the hide. A wander round the Willow Trail to look for yesterday’s Pallas’s Warbler proved fruitless so we headed for the reserve. At least 6 Cetti’s Warblers were heard and another female MARSH HARRIER was seen. A Kingfisher skimmed over Hookers Pit and a Little Egret was perched in the bushes. Another Water Rail was squealing and a Little Egret was seen from the Dengemarsh Hide. Around 80 Golden Plovers were over Burrowes Pit but it was pretty quiet in general.

GOLDENEYE at the ARC Pit (Graham)

LITTLE EGRET at Hookers Pit (Graham)

About an hour before high tide we headed back to the beach, this time to the fishing boats, where six Turnstones and a Sandwich Tern were the best birds present.
We had heard that a Grey Phalarope had been seen close in during the morning but there was no sign of it now.
We spent about an hour there before returning to the Point and then to The Patch where we saw another first-winter Kittiwake and the two LITTLE GULLS again. As we headed back by the power station wall, we spotted two more Black Redstarts.


Distant BLACK REDSTART (Graham)

We decided to spend the last hour or so of daylight back at the ARC Pit, where the GOLDENEYE was still present and a female MARSH HARRIER gave us good views.

MARSH HARRIER at the ARC Pit (Graham)

MARSH HARRIER at the ARC Pit (Paul)

The last half hour before the darkness closed in was spent by the entrance to the reserve at Boulderwall Farm where we watched large skeins of Greylag Geese heading in from the north and dropping into to roost somewhere on the reserve.


It turned out that neither the Penduline Tit or the Pallas’s Warbler were seen during the day and we only really missed out on the Grey Phalarope.

Paul & Graham

Pallas's Warbler, East Sussex ... Friday 15th October 2010

We set off early on a quest to find the Pallas’s Warbler reported yesterday at Horseshoe Plantation between Birling Gap and Beachy Head in East Sussex.
Neither of us had this species on our life lists and it looked like we had a good chance of finding this bird.
Arriving at the Birling Gap Hotel car park just before 7 a.m., we headed for the wood.
A Peregrine circled over the cliff edge and two Kestrels and a Sparrowhawk were also up early.
We spent some time staring up at the trees at the eastern edge of the wood (it was still a bit too dark too look from inside the wood) but, apart from a few Chiffchaffs, nothing much was moving yet. Up the slope above the wood we heard crests calling from the eastern edge of the wood but couldn’t see a single one.

KESTREL (Graham)

A couple of other birders had just seen a Short-eared Owl heading over the cliff-edge at height so we decided to see if it had dropped into the gully near the edge. No such luck but there were 27 Gannets flying back and forth close in over the sea - surprising considering the offshore wind.

GANNETS (Graham)

We spent a while longer in the wood with a few other birders but there was still no sign of the warbler.

Feeling a little less than hopeful of connecting with the Pallas’s Warbler, we headed east to Shooters Bottom to see if any RING OUZELS were in that area. We soon spotted a 1st-winter bird feeding on a hawthorn bush and this was joined later (and very briefly) by an adult male.



A few Chiffchaffs and a female Blackcap were in the gully and a male Sparrowhawk flew through low. A RAVEN passed high over calling and heading west, as did three Skylarks.
Hirundines were still in reasonable numbers, with at least 50 Swallows and 30-plus House Martins present.
After about an hour or so, we headed back towards Birling Gap, hoping the Pallas’s Warbler would still put in an appearance.
On the way, we counted 5 Stonechats and back at the wood there was now quite a few birders present.


We were told that the Pallas’s had been seen about half an hour prior to our return, so we staked out the wood. A few Goldcrests appeared but no Pallas’s Warbler.
After a long wait, Paul decided to check the bushes on the slope to the west of the wood and soon returned in a rush to say he had located the PALLAS'S WARBLER with a party of Goldcrests.
We were soon on to the bird which gave good, fairly close but brief views, often darting back into the wood and re-emerging with the Goldcrests and Chiffchaffs.

PALLAS'S WARBLER a stunning gem of a bird that this photo really
doesn't do justice to.


GOLDCREST rather a sickly-looking bird (Paul)


Tony Cook (standing at the right of this shot)
originally found the Pallas's Warbler yesterday.

A flock of about 60 Redwings flew over heading north-west.
After about four sightings, and one less than successful photo, we headed back to the car as Paul needed a cup of tea. We then returned to the gathering of birders for another look at the warbler but there had been no further sightings so we decided to try for the Rose-coloured Starling at Newhaven. One of the birders that had arrived for the Pallas’s had seen the starling at 2.30 p.m. but, by the time we had arrived at the coastguards tower at Newhaven Heights, there were no birders present and no sign of the bird – it must have gone to roost.

It was getting pretty dark by the time we left Newhaven Heights.

Having added Pallas’s Warbler to our life lists we were not too disappointed by this.
We suspect that Beachy Head and Birling Gap will have more than its fair share of birders visiting this weekend.

Paul & Graham

Reculver and Oare Marshes, North Kent ... Wednesday 13th October 2010

We arrived at Reculver just after dawn and parked in the car park near Reculver Towers.
Overcast, chilly and with a brisk wind blowing in off the sea, we sheltered behind the towers for a seawatch which was less than productive with just a few Brent Geese and 3 Common Scoters flying east.


We walked along the seawall to Coldharbour Lagoon and noted 5 Little Egrets, a Common Snipe, 10 Oystercatchers, around 15 Redshanks, 2 Turnstones, 10 Grey Plovers and a Shelduck. Disappointing but, as high tide had been before dawn, not that surprising.
We then headed along the embankment know as the Green Wall and noted one Stonechat, but little else was showing. On reaching the railway, we crossed the line and headed along the scrub-lined track.


The bushes held many Goldcrests with at least nine birds seen and others heard. There were also plenty of Redwings flying out of the hawthorn bushes, but no Ring Ouzels as we had hoped for. Fifteen or more Skylarks were over the fields and a male Pheasant was along the field-edge whilst a female Sparrowhawk flew low past us and at least 3 Chiffchaffs were in the bushes.

MUTE SWAN (Graham)

On the way back to Reculver Towers a flock of around 70 Golden Plovers flew overhead but we failed to locate any Grey Partridges, as we had hoped to do, so we had a drive around the lanes in the hope that some would make an appearance, but no such luck.
On turning down one lane near Chislet, we found that we had inadvertently driven down a private farm track so we looked for somewhere to turn round. Paul suddenly noticed a flock of finches flying up into trees on the edge of a field close to the road. A few white rumps were amongst them and before long we were looking at a flock of around 30 Bramblings feeding with a few Chaffinches. It is many years since either of us have seen a flock that large. Many males were amongst them and, although we could have stopped and got photos, we decided not to push our luck as we were inadvertently trespassing so we turned round and headed back. By then, the flock had flown to the other end of the field and were flying off the stubble and perching on a hedge. A superb sight.
We drove along the Thanet Way to St. Nicholas-at Wade and turned round and headed back to the M2 and then turned off towards Faversham. Our destination, and one of our regular favourite sites, was Oare Marshes NR.
As we got out of the car at the car park, we were greeted by a loud burst of Cetti’s Warbler song and just along the access road 3 Bearded Tits flew high out the reeds by the ditch before dropping down again on the west side of the reserve. Another male was in the reeds near the road by the East Flood.
Out on the East Flood, we noted 6 Ruff, a Common Snipe, 250+ Black-tailed Godwits, 2 Grey Plovers, 40+ Golden Plovers, 15 Ringed Plovers, 40+ Dunlin and 2 LITTLE STINTS. Two Marsh Harriers and two Kestrels were also in the area.



A watch for the last hour or so of the rising tide from the seawall hide produced many hundreds of Brent Geese, a Red-throated Diver on The Swale (still showing much of its summer plumage), ten Common Scoters (all appeared to be females), 2 Turnstones, 6 Avocets, 12 Little Egrets and 2 SPOONBILLS (on the Sheppey side of The Swale), 3 adult and 4 immature Gannets (distantly towards Shellness), a Common Buzzard (circling over The Swale from Sheppey and heading south) and a SHORT-EARED OWL being mobbed by crows over the area between the Harty Ferry Inn and Harty Church on Sheppey.





With the stiff breeze and overcast conditions it was not the best of days for digiscoping, so many attempts to photograph the birds resulted in blurred shots.

We left Oare and headed home just after sunset (one of the few times we had glimpsed the sun during the day).


Paul & Graham

Dungeness & Scotney GPs, Kent ... Friday 9th October 2010

Fog was a problem on the way to Dungeness today and slowed the journey down somewhat, but I was convinced that it would clear by the time we arrived at Dungeness Point …. I was wrong!
At dawn, Dunge was shrouded in thick mist and it took some time to clear enough to begin seawatching.

At least 5 Black Redstarts were along the wall by the power station, including a stunning male, and there had been a small fall of Robins and Goldcrests plus a tired-looking Song Thrush and a Chiffchaff.


At The Patch there were plenty of birds including at least 9 Sandwich Terns, 5 juvenile Common Terns, an Arctic Tern, 2 BLACK TERNS, 2 juvenile Kittiwakes, a LITTLE GULL and three Mediterranean Gulls. In the distance, a Red-breasted Merganser and an ARCTIC SKUA headed east.
A wander around the scrub between the old lighthouse and the observatory produced a Sparrowhawk, 2 more Goldcrests, 2 Chiffchaffs, a Wheatear and a Swallow, plus a male Black Redstart.


We decided to return later for another seawatch, when the tide would be higher, and so we then headed for the New Diggings where we located the juvenile BLACK-THROATED DIVER that had been present during the past couple of days.



At the ARC Pit, 8 Black-tailed Godwits, 3 Little Egrets and a juvenile LITTLE GULL were present.
By now the thick mist had lifted somewhat so we headed back to the beach near the fishing boats. Six Turnstones and an adult YELLOW-LEGGED GULL were on the beach and we noted 5 Gannets, a GREAT SKUA, a female Common Scoter, 40+ Brent Geese, a LITTLE GULL , a juvenile Kittiwake and an Avocet that all passed over the sea. We also saw a couple of skuas that we could not ID for certain, but they were probably Pomarines. A Wheatear was on the beach.




As it was obvious that birds were on the move, we headed back to Dungeness Point where there was a Swallow, 3 Gannets and 3 LITTLE GULLS . Back at The Patch we counted 13 LITTLE GULLS and a Gannet and two possible Pomarine Skuas passed by.
Time to try for the Barred Warbler that had been reported at the RSPB reserve – no luck, but we did note 2 Swallows, 2 Stonechats, 2 Kestrels, a Little Egret we heard a Water Rail squealing.
Paul then kindly took me to Scotney Gravel Pits to see the BUFF-BREASTED SANDPIPERS that had been present for a few days. He already had one at Dungeness on his year list but it was a species missing from my life list. We parked up in a lay-by on the Kent side of the pit and soon were on to one bird near the water’s edge amongst the hundreds of Golden Plovers. A distant view but I was happy with that. I soon picked out two more birds closer to the road and they provided us with the chance of a few photos. A couple of Ruff were also present.





After having our fill of these superb waders, we headed back to the power station where we saw a couple Black Redstarts and four Goldcrests again.


A last watch at The Patch produced 4 Sandwich Terns and an adult Mediterranean Gull on the beach and there were 2 more adult Mediterranean Gulls over The Patch and a probable Arctic Skua flew east.


A full day’s birding that proved very rewarding.

Graham & Paul