On Sunday 19 September 21 of us met at the Old Lighthouse in Dungeness. The weather was overcast but dry and with only a slight breeze. Before leaving the car park a sparrowhawk and kestrel flew over the lighthouse and a peregrine was spotted perching on a pylon. Making our way to the beach small copper and small heath butterflies were seen in the scrub along with a number of sparrows and a couple of stonechats. Climbing up onto the beach and stopping by the hide we saw a sandwich tern and further out to sea gannets plus common scoter flying low in formation. An eagle-eyed Hazel spotted a porpoise and then a seal popped its head up. Moving along to the patch which was barely visible we were hoping for more unusual sightings but it was the usual suspects of herring gull, black-headed and black-backed gulls. On the way back from the beach a clouded yellow butterfly fluttered past and we added pied wagtail to our bird list. The peregrine seen earlier was still perched on the pylon but then a second one appeared being buzzed by a buzzard. Hoping to see some migrants we walked up to the cottages and then around the area known as the “desert”.
We were mostly out of luck but then two splendid looking wheatears were seen sitting on posts. Getting back to butterflies, it seemed that every ragwort plant we came across was covered in small coppers. By now some of the group were fading away due to lack of food, so we stopped for lunch before moving on to the RSPB reserve.
There are currently only two hides open on the reserve – Dennis’ hide and Christmas Dell hide – with two others along Burrows Pit having been turned into open viewing platforms. The hide at the ARC is also closed and the walkway still being repaired. We were lucky enough to have unusually calm weather for Dungeness, but the lack of any cover as well as limited views will make for a miserable visit on a cold, wet and windy day.
For more information on the plans for hides and platforms go to the Dungeness RSPB website. Scroll down and click on “About Dungeness” and click on “updates from Dungeness” or click here
From Dennis’ hide there were a good number of waders and ducks to be seen. These included lapwing, golden plover, ruff, teal, gadwall, shoveler, pochard and tufted ducks. Two Egyptian geese were spotted on one of the islands, and a black tern and great white egret flew past. Outside in the bushes a cetti’s warbler was heard but not seen.
The other standout spots from the two viewing platforms were snipe, black-necked grebe, more ruff and a little stint. Time was pressing so we missed out the other open hide and moved straight on to the mound where we added marsh harrier, another sparrowhawk, a hobby, a solitary greylag, and a speedy kingfisher, which most of us missed, to our tally for the day. Sadly, despite hearing the pinging of bearded tit, none were seen.
Thanks to everyone who came and made it a very enjoyable day, and thanks to Sally, Steve, and Terry for the photographs.
Thanks to Sue and Cliff for leading and the report. How many small copper butterflies can you see in Terry’s picture?