Monday, 8 May 2017

May Day Weekend ; Dungeness.

Saturday 29th April, 2017.
Dungeness; sea-watch, Walland Marsh, Denge Marsh, ARC, sea-watch, trapping area & RSPB Reserve.

The annual Dunge weekend; the gathering of a dwindling band of birders to catch-up, hopefully see some good birds and celebrate that we've been doing this for nearly 30 years!
Marcus and Andy Lawson, Mike Buckland and I were the main participants this year though Gary Taylor made it for the traditional Saturday night curry and the next days sea-watch.
Dungeness Bird Observatory Warden Dave Walker has put up with us for much of those 30 years and it was good to meet the new assistant warden Lee Gregory and catch up with Gill Hollamby, Martin Casemore, Tony Greenland, Stephen Message et al!

I'd arrived in time for "large cods" in the Pilot on Friday night and was in place in the sea-watch hide at 05.30 the next morning. In light southerlies we spent until 08.00 sea-watching with a modest return for our efforts. Highlights; 26 Bonxies, 6 Arctic Skuas, 4 Velvet Scoter, B T Diver, a couple of Black and Little Terns, a few hundred Commics and a handful of Whimbrel and Barwits.
After a quick look at the "patch" (the warm-water outflow from the nuclear power station) we headed out across Romney Marsh to the Oasis Cafe at Old Romney.
A slow drive across Walland to Denge Marsh followed. On Walland we saw 10+ Yellow Wags, Tree Sparrows in several locations and a good selection of warblers sang from hedgerows and copse.
Onto Denge we worked our way out to the Gully and even managed a saunter into the no-mans land between the ranges and the power station. Our haul was modest; 15+ Wheatear, a female Redstart, Peregrine and Corn Bunting. At least 6 Hobby's were hunting over the Reserve.
At the end of Denge Marsh Gully it was apparent that tern passage had increased so we headed slowly back to the Obs and then back down to the sea, this time watching from the point.
In 2 hours to 17.30 we had a steady passage of Arctic Terns 220+ and close to that number of Common's and "Commics". Skua's were less remarkable; 1 Arctic and 7 Bonxies. It was slow but warm and dry.
Early evening saw us at the top of the Long Pits watching a Spotted Flycatcher before heading onto the RSPB Reserve which we had virtually to ourselves. The drake Ring-necked Duck was on view and a scattering of waders including Grey Plover (5), Dunlin and a few Whimbrel.
We rounded the evening off in usual Dunge weekend fashion with a curry in New Romney.

Walland Marsh

Yellow Wagtail

bluebells on the edge of the shingle peninsula 

Denge Marsh Gully

Wheatear - male

White Wagtail

the new lighthouse on the Point

Spotted Flycatcher - top end of the trapping area

Spotted Flycatcher

Whimbrel - RSPB Reserve

Whimbrel - RSPB Reserve

Sunday 30th April, 2017.
Dungeness; sea-watch, Walland Marsh, Denge Marsh, sea-watch, RSPB Reserve.

Pomarine Skua passage past Dunge in the Spring is rather special and something of a highlight in many Kent birders years. Our residence at the Obs over the Spring Bank Holiday has not always coincided with the best days on the sea but we usually get a Pom.
The weather forecast was rather interesting for the next two days; strong southerly/southeasterly winds and we had high hopes that the sea might be rather good and it did not disappoint!
I was in the sea-watch hide by 05.30 and at 05.42 the first Pom passed the Buoy. At 05.45 8 flew past and by 11.00 when we retired for breakfast and a rest we'd had 79! It wasn't just about Poms either with 21 Arctic Skua's, 10 Bonxies, 5 B T Divers, 19 Velvet Scoter, hundreds of Gannet, Commic Terns and Common Scoter, 21 Black Terns, 23 Little Terns, 28 Little Gulls and small numbers of waders and ducks including Avocet(5), Knot (50), Whimbrel (16) and Barwits (29).
After breakfast, again at the Oasis, we explored Walland & Denge hoping that the strong south-easterly might have delivered something on the land but it was rather quiet producing no surprises. With the news that Poms were still passing and knowing that the afternoon light would now be kinder some of us returned to the sea-watch hide for a late afternoon session (15.10 to 17.45). We had 5 Poms in the first hour but none thereafter and just 1 Bonxie and 8 Arctic Skuas. Waders, ducks, gulls and terns were in short supply.
To finish the day I went to the Reserve where we had cracking looks at Black Tern and a couple of Little Gulls. There was also a couple of Yellow-legged Gulls and a few waders including Sanderling and LRP.


the range patrol boat passes behind the Buoy, which lies 400 yards offshore.

Pomarine Skuas

Pomarine Skuas

Arctic Skua



Whimbrel & a Barwit

Fox on the beach ! Not an everyday sight.

Monday 1st May, 2017.
Dungeness; sea-watch, Walland Marsh, Scotney, Ranges, ARC/New Diggings,
drive across Marsh: Lydd, Brookland,Fairfield,Appledore & Kenardington.

I was in the sea-watch hide at 05.20 and barely moved for nearly 6 hours as sea-watching once again dominated proceedings. The wind was southerly, around 20mph and gusting much stronger with occasional squally showers.
It was good though not up to yesterday's standard though we did add a few new species for the weekends tally.
11 Poms passed by, 26 Arctic Skua's and 10 Bonxies. There was still a good variety of species passing but numbers were much lower than on Sunday. A distant Manx Shearwater was picked up by Marcus. We had over 20 Kittiwake which seems shockingly low but no doubt reflects that species fortunes on the south coast; the noisy cliffs at St Margaret's which not many decades ago held a couple of thousand pairs are now empty.
Another species sadly very scarce on Kent's coast is the Eider so the flock of 18 was a lovely surprise and the most I've seen here in many years.
Just for a change we went to the Oasis Cafe for a late breakfast and then went our separate ways.
I drove across Walland to Scotney Gravel Pits and checked out the waders on the grass in front of the pits; 25 Barwits, 15 Whimbrel and 2 Grey Plover.
The Ranges were open so I explored those but the wind was so strong it was pretty hopeless looking for passerines. On New Diggings I finally caught up with the sum plum Slav Grebe before turning for home.
I drove home via a good chunk of Walland and Romney Marsh where the wind was a little calmer. Another excellent Dunge weekend.

Gannets moved through in small numbers

Gannet - this adult flew close in along the shoreline

Bonxie beating its way east into the strong wind

Eider - now rather scarce in Kent and I can't remember when I last saw this many in the county!

Ranges from Galloways 

At high-tide the sea looked quite menacing in 25+ mph south-easterlies

Fairfield on Romney Marsh

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