Thankfully the rain promised for the South east stayed clear of Dungeness till we were leaving. The day was cool but bright when we set off from the lighthouse hoping to see a variety of gulls frantically feeding on the ‘patch’. But it wasn’t there! The upsurge of warm water from the power station had been turned off, leaving the gulls to find their own food. The sea was calm and flat, but not bird-less. Soon we spotted gannets, a constant flow of them flying NE. Gannets don’t migrate but at this time of year they leave their breeding grounds and move out to sea to feed. In the 20 minutes we were there 30+ gannets must have passed by. How many over a whole day I wonder?
After our sea-watch we walked around the Observatory ‘moat’ and saw some ‘willowchiffs’ in the willows (no, that doesn’t make them willow warblers…), 2 black redstarts in the gorse bushes, a stonechat on a teasel and several kestrels being mobbed by crows.
We also found this Fox Moth caterpillar, looking for a place to overwinter or perhaps pupate.
At the RSPB reserve after lunch, we were surprised to see so many birds of the ‘heron-egret’ family. 6 great white egrets, 2 little egrets, 6 cattle egrets and at least 2 grey herons were using the reserve. If only we could have spotted a bittern to add to our ‘heron-fest’.
However, delightful as it is to see these huge wading birds, their regular presence now, in the UK, is certainly a bad omen. It is a sign of increasing climate change for, as our weather warms, these southern birds can feed here and survive. Formerly these birds were continental visitors, seen very rarely in Britain and not breeding. So,
nice to see, but worrying.
The bearded tit on the grit tray near Denge Marsh hide, however, was very British and this male in bright plumage was a lovely sight. You can watch Sue’s video of the bearded tit here.
There were few of us on this trip, but it was great to see Roy, Sharon and Gill again, 3 members who moved down to this part of the world some time ago but haven’t forgotten us. Happy Birthday Sharon and thanks for sharing your chocolate cake!
Bearded Tits feed on insects and spiders during the summer months. This is “soft” food but is not so abundant in winter. As bearded tits do not leave the reed beds in winter they have to change their diet to “hard” food ie seeds. So they need grit to help them avoid indigestion! The chocolate cake went down a treat – no grit needed. Thanks Sharon.
Thanks to Sally and Sue for the photographs.