So where to go for our last Wednesday walk of the year? . . . . . We decided on one of our old favourites – Dungeness.
Our first sighting was a vey sad one indeed. From the road we saw a great white egret trying to land on the edge of one if the pools, but it had unfortunately broken a leg and had to balance by flapping it’s wings. Birds were mobbing it – presumably because the behaviour was unnatural. After a few minutes it flew off, we did report it to the RSPB, but the fate of the unfortunate individual is sealed. We spotted two birds one a goosander and the other a long-tailed duck.
We moved on to the beach area near the fishing boats looking for gulls. There were large flocks of black-headed, great black-backed and more interestingly, herring gulls, on the shingle. They were huddled close to the ground as the wind whipped across the open landscape. We had to hold onto the telescopes to prevent them blowing over, and the gusts of wind were almost enough to blow us over.
We had heard that there was a caspian gull in the area, but try as we might – having studied the guide books – we couldn’t find anything different in the first flock, or the third, but in the second Malcolm found an old friend – the glaucous gull which we had seen in January. With another year’s plumage it is starting to look very smart, with a more creamy white colour to the wings than earlier in the year. We did some sea-watching in the lee of one of the boats – gannets and guillemot were moving some way out, but large numbers of kittiwake appeared to be enjoying the strong winds flying close into the shore above the fishermen, and showing the various ages of plumage well. Their blue-grey plumage showing well as they banked along with the M/W shapes on the juveniles.
Large number of cormorants were flying inland, and we found them later on the reserve. On the feeders near the car park we had chaffinch, great tit, blue tit and a single tree sparrow which was a nice surprise. We took lunch in one of the hides and watched over 70 shoveler, mixed with gadwall and a few coot. Malcolm counted over 100 cormorants roosting on an island in the middle of the pool.
Having checked at the visitor centre it appeared that the Hanson hide would be our best option next with penduline tit, smew, and bittern all being seen recently. The rain descended as we arrived and we wasted no time getting to the shelter of the hide. Gadwall, moorhen, tufted duck, shoveler, lapwing, teal, canada geese, and one lone black-tailed godwit were our initial sightings. A cetti’s warbler called from a nearby bush, but declined to appear. The penduline tit eluded us, but Malcolm found three smew at the far side of the pool – a telescope being necessary for identification. There were a couple of new birdwatchers in the hide so we encouraged them to look through our ‘scopes as the birds were so distant.
Irene spotted a strange looking tufted duck which had a lot of white around the bill, and we toyed with the idea of scaup for a few minutes, but once we had got the telescopes on it, we realised it was a generously marked tufted female.
Eventually we took our leave – meeting Jeff and Wendy on the path towards the car park. We wanted to look at some fields around Lydd village for swan and geese.
We found a flock of bewick’s with a couple of mute swan, and also a flock of redwing in a tree near the lane, but very little else apart from a few rather speedy drivers racing around the lanes. It was time to go home, with the end of our year’s walks and huge anticipation for a new year to come.