Trip reports

Dungeness, Kent on Sunday, 11 May, 2014

Saturday, 31 May 2014

Indeed, the weather did thwart our plan to begin the day with a sea-watching session from the shingle bank behind the power stations; a fierce westerly made standing, or even sitting, upright just too challenging and visibility out to sea was also very poor. To add insult to injury, the warm water supply powering the Patch had been turned off! Thereafter, however, the birding gradually improved, initially when a walk down the lee-side of the huge structures producing sightings of a smart male Black Redstart, a male Kestrel, both male and female Peregrines, one or two Linnets, and a Sparrowhawk in hot but unsuccessful pursuit of a White Wagtail. A few rays of sunshine even enticed half a dozen Small Copper butterflies into life! Even so, it was obvious that bird activity this near the point was going to be limited today and we soon moved inland a little to the ARC Pit. Cetti's, Sedge and Reed Warblers were singing strongly beside the path to the hide there, though they stayed well hidden. Looking out over the pit, it was clear that the water-table beneath the vast areas of shingle on the peninsula was still unusually high after the wet winter and that potentially muddy shorelines and many of the usual islands were still totally submerged. Consequently we found no waders at the ARC, just commoner species of waterfowl and gulls, with a few Swallows and both Sand and House Martins to broaden the interest.

After moving on across the road to the main part of the RSPB reserve, picnic lunch in a suntrap outside Dennis's Hide was enlivened by a constant movement of Common Terns over Burrowes Pit and at least one Tree Sparrow (bearing a blue ring) was noticed visiting the nearby feeding station - a particularly welcome sighting following the abrupt disappearance of our home TS population at Beddington! On around the nature trail we soon caught up with Reed Bunting, Yellowhammer and Common and Lesser Whitethroats, and a Hobby was spied on the ground, sheltering in the lee of a shingle bank. Even better was to come when we branched off onto the footpath towards Dengemarsh Road and enjoyed views of a Black-winged Stilt (a national rarity!), a Greenshank and a pair of Garganeys keeping the regular Shelducks, Redshanks and Lapwings company in the semi-flooded hayfields. The gusty wind was forcing the numerous Swifts over the lake in front of Dengemarsh Hide into some remarkable aerial manoeuvres and a male Marsh Harrier patrolling over the reedbeds also had to bank steeply from side to side to make headway, providing us with perfect views of his upper and lower wing patterns. Finally, while completing the circular route back to the visitor centre, we came upon a flock of seven Whimbrel, flushing them briefly before they dropped quickly back into a sheltered hollow in the shingle. So, after a rather unpromising start, it had become a satisfying day's birding after all, our 10 participants having accumulated a day list of 64 species between them. Dunge had done it again!