Twenty of us met at the Old Lighthouse at Dungeness on a sunny, crisp and clear day. On our way to the beach starling and magpie were spotted but it was otherwise quiet. We stopped at the first bird hide and from there we had good views of gannets and juvenile kittiwakes plus lots of cormorants. Chris missed the kittiwakes but managed a picture of a common gull flying along the beach. Deciding not to go on to the patch, we went to the fishing boats to continue our sea watch. There we had a great crested grebe and guillemot on the sea. A number of divers flew past. It was generally agreed these were most likely red throated divers, but they were not positively identified. By now hunger was taking hold, so we moved onto the Dungeness RSPB reserve to have lunch.
Blue tits, great tits and a reed bunting were making the most of the feeders in the car park. After lunch we made our way to the hides along Burrows Pit. Although the water was high, the new islands were still visible and covered in lapwing, herring, black headed and great black backed gulls, and as ever lots of cormorants, both on the islands and in the trees. Although there were still a large number present, the population of cormorants was much reduced from the thousands that had been visiting the reserve over the last few weeks. There was a good mix of ducks including shoveler, gadwall, pochard, tufted, wigeon, teal, goldeneye, and two pintail. However, we had still not seen the smew which had arrived a couple of weeks earlier. We set off to Scott hide and along the path a cetti’s warbler was heard, 3 goldcrests were spotted in the bushes and a robin dropped down onto the path.
Finally, at Scott hide we were rewarded with good views of the drake smew. One of the group happened to mention the lack of marsh harriers, and, as if on cue, one appeared. Moving on we made a short stop at Christmas Dell hide where we added great white egret to our list plus a green woodpecker moving at pace to avoid another marsh harrier. From Denge Marsh hide canada and greylag geese and curlew were seen feeding on the marsh, and on the way out a stonechat was briefly glimpsed on a fence post. A stop at the mound produced mute swan, and a bittern making two short flights into the reeds, which sadly, only a few of us managed to see. I wasn’t one of them! We made a short visit to the ARC hide where we had another great white egret, a marsh harrier, goldeneye and, to round off the day very nicely, good views of a black necked grebe.
Sue and Cliff
Thanks to Sue and Cliff for leading and the report.