The day had an ominous start; broken alarm clock, damaged window blinds, temporarily mislaid credit cards, a chipped windscreen – none of that heralded the greatest of days, but hopefully Dungeness would improve things.
As we drove past the ARC pits I spotted a Great White Egret by the side of the road and we stopped to watch it for a while. Nothing else was in evidence at this end of the pool – the water level was probably too high for all but ducks – so we moved on towards the lighthouse. The gulls were not in their usual spot so we continued to The Patch, passing a healthy population of House Sparrow on the way.
A blustery wind coming off the sea at Dungeness Power Station blew my telescope over – perhaps I should have stayed in bed after all? Still, we had made the effort to stand in the full force of the wind to watch birds and watch them we would!
Malcolm spotted a Red-throated Diver skimming the surface of the water, then Kittiwake flying through in huge numbers – 600 were counted the previous day – all moving in a westerly direction. There was probably the largest number of gulls I have ever seen over the patch. Mainly Herring Gull, but Black-headed, and Great Black-backed were also present. We counted over 20 auks, but only Malcolm managed to get on one long enough for identification; a Razorbill, [having checked some photos – I think that is what I saw too]. Several Cormorants also flew to the West, some of them coming right over our heads.
By the fishing boats we found a couple of groups of gulls, and scanned from the car for our old friend the Glaucous Gull. No sign at the first stop, but at the second we sent Malcolm out for a recce whilst we ladies viewed from the shelter of the car. I found a potential bird so we donned our coats and joined Himself out in the wind. Sure enough, Malcolm was looking at the same individual and we had found it. Not the most handsome of birds, but he’s getting there – almost adult now.
After a picnic lunch at the Reserve (with Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Blue Tit, Great Tit and Moorhen by the feeders; Green Woodpecker calling in the distance) we were off to try the hides. Goldeneye, Tufted Duck, Coot, Mute Swan, Gadwall, Shoveler, Pintail and Great Crested Grebe were on the water. A Dunnock fed just in front of Firth Hide and whilst we watched that Sally spotted our first Chiffchaff of the year. Marsh Harrier, Wigeon, Pintail, Lapwing, Golden Plover, Canada Geese and Fieldfare completed this part of our day.
On the way to the Hanson Hide we stopped to look for Tree Sparrow and found a flock of about 25 – none seemed to have the blue colour-rings which are being used locally to study the species. From the Hide we could see more Wigeon, Gadwall, Pochard, Tufted Duck, Coot, Marsh Harrier, Little Egret and Smew. Irene found an odd looking bird and after getting two telescopes and three people (one male two female) Malcolm decided it was a Red-crested Pochard – well spotted Irene.
On the way home a Kestrel was seen on a telegraph cable – a welcome addition as Malcolm and Sally are doing a Kestrel count this year so every sighting is meticulously logged. Irene spotted a second individual as we sped along the Brenzett Road on the way home.